Friday, April 11, 2008

Weekend Getaway, Sutter Creek

For anyone living in the San Francisco Bay Area, a quiet weekend in the country is always appreciated. Life in the city is filled with activity, but sometimes you just need a slower pace and Sutter Creek fills the bill. Only 2 1/2 hours northeast of San Francisco, Old Highway 49 leads you through the "necklace of gold", small towns in Amador County including Jackson, Amador City, and Sutter Creek. Nearby you can find other little gems like Volcano and Plymouth.

Creek is small town America, and I do mean small, at its most quaint and appealing. Neighbors really know one another and treat visitors like welcome guests. I stopped counting the number of times I was warmly greeted by citizens on the street and not just people providing tourist services. This town is surrounded by goldmines, some even tunneling under it. Many of the stone buildings were built by Italian stone masons during the Gold Rush, while many others are Victorian Era buildings or early 20th century cottages. If charm had an aroma, this town would be reeking with it.

The photo above was taken of one of many plaques that identify Gold Rush buildings and tell a bit of local history. This one tells us that the building now housing a shop was once the Opera House, a clear indication of the importance of Sutter Creek, even if we didn't know it was epicenter of the Gold Rush. The non commercial areas of town are heavily planted with dogwood and wisteria, making Spring a perfect time to visit. Nearby Daffodil Hill, only open several weeks per year adds to the Springtime pleasures of this area. The weather in Spring is warm, but it cools down in the evening.

, no recommendation can be made for Berlotti's, perhaps the oldest of Sutter Creek's restaurants. They have remodeled, but would have been better served to revamp the menu instead. Finding nothing of real interest on their menu I ordered a warm spinach salad that was drowning in a flavorless oil, and a small pizza that was mostly poorly cooked, tough dough. The Cesar salad was also sub standard. Slow service killed any positive comment, except for the following: the bench outside the American Exchange hotel, the building that houses Berlotti's, was a nice place to sit that evening to watch the slow pace of the town.

Susan's Place on Eureka Street was a horse of a different color. Speaking of color, those lively looking salads were beautifully balanced in flavor as well as color. Chicken salad with a raspberry chipotle dressing was composed of mixed greens, tender grilled chicken breast, strawberries, pear, red onion and Feta. The grilled shrimp salad was composed of mixed greens, tomatoes, and lightly grilled shrimp with a lemon dressing. Both were in the $15 ballpark.
The rest of the menu in this Mediterranean inspired restaurant was quite unusual in the respect that you may select from a variety of different sauces for your entree, as well as side dishes, if I'm not mistaken. The next time we visit I plan to order my entree and request the "chef's choice" for the variables.

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