Monday, August 24, 2009

A Palace With a Past

We (Chuck, his cousin Barbara Pauly, and I) arrived in Sutter Creek hungry and in need of immediate nourishment. We quickly grabbed a parking place on Main Street and departed for our luncheon destination. As we neared, something seemed amiss. The restaurant looked dark. We got closer and realized that this cafe was closed. Was it closed that day? Was it closed for good? Who knows? But it was time for Plan B.

Plan B was to walk down Main Street looking for a reasonable alternative. After a three block walk, we happened upon the Sutter Creek Palace and a quick scan of the menu posted outside the doors told us: “This is the place.” And what a small gem this proved to be.

In 1860, there was a small livery and store on this site, but in 1864 a fire swept through town, destroying the livery and store along with most of the town. After the fire, Mr. I. N. Randolph built his saloon here, serving the miners during the gold rush era. Randolph’s saloon was replaced by Charles Boros’ saloon in 1884. This is the building which still stands today as the Sutter Creek Palace.

A bordello operated upstairs in the six rooms above the saloon. Gentlemen could enter the bordello here from a tunnel, and by using the tunnel, upstanding citizens would not be seen coming or going from the bordello.

The restaurant is believed to be haunted by the spirit of Angelo Meve (owner in the 1940’s and 1950’s), who is believed to have died in his room upstairs. And an apparition of a lady in a long dark dress has been seen in the dining rooms on several occasions.

Upon entering, you immediately notice that all of the plaster walls have been painted a bright pink. This is somewhat incongruous in the front room which is dominated by a large oak-mirrored bar, two rifles, and a “Chew Red Man Tobacco” sign. We were seated in one the back dining rooms, which with their white wainscoting, seemed more compatible to the pink paint. The walls in our room contained numerous posters of women in turn-of-the-century dress; only after further study does one notice that all of the posters are ads for beer.

The lunch menu is sandwich-centric, thus so were our lunch choices. Barb ordered the Grilled Shrimp and Crab Sandwich on sourdough with jack cheese, lettuce, and tomato and a side of sweet potato fries (above). Chuck chose the French Dip – thin and rare slices of beef with Swiss cheese on a good crusty roll accompanied by regular fries.

I was inspired by Hank and Phyllis Dannenberg’s Stewartville sandwich from our recent lunch at Rick’s on Second (in Antioch, CA), which contained fresh veggies and cream cheese on wheat bread. My Sierra Sunrise was whole wheat bread spread with olive cream cheese and layered with avocado, cucumbers, and tomato. My choice of side was the sweet potato fries.

Chuck’s French dip was a very good version of this sandwich which has its origins in Los Angeles. The meat was still pink and was very tender. And the crusty roll held up well to being dipped in the au jus.

My sandwich was the perfect choice for a hot California summer day. There was just enough olive in the cream cheese to produce the briny, salty flavor without being so strong to overwhelm the rest of the sandwich ingredients. And the textural contrast between the soft and buttery avocado with the crisp cucumbers was inspired.

The sweet potato fries came as an enormous portion and may have been the best sweet potato fries I have eaten. These had an especially nutty flavor which enhanced the naturally sweet taste of the potatoes.

So while Sutter Creek Palace was Plan B we had an A-One lunch which earns a score of 4.0 Addies.

Sunday in Rio Vista

One Sunday, Barbara Pauly hosted assorted members of the Dannenberg clan at her home for great food and great conversation. Present were (l. to r.) Chuck’s Uncle Hank Dannenberg, Barbara, Laura (Jane Calhoun' daughter), and Jane (Hank and Phyllis' daughter). Aunt Phyllis is seated. Chuck and I are behind the camera.

Barb has a beautiful home located on the banks of the Sacramento River and has views of the river from the entrance foyer, the family room, and the master bedroom. While the house is semi-modern in design, its clean lines and white walls are the perfect background for her wonderful collection of antique furniture. And, for even more warmth, displayed throughout the home are examples of quilts that Barb has designed and made.

Lunch that afternoon was a feast. Our main course was barbecued ribs – some of the meatiest ribs I have eaten. With them, Barb served oven roasted red potatoes, cole slaw, baked beans, and corn bread. And for dessert – apple crumb pie and (one of my all-time favorites) pecan pie.

We said our good-byes to Hank and Phyllis (shown here during a visit to our RV) and Barbara and made plans to head to Yosemite.