“In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running.”
— Jeff Bezos
Small plates at Centro
Last week I came home to find a message on my answering machine from Greg Phelps, the owner of Centro, the “more than just a coffee shop” at 385 Main S, right on the corner across from the Belltower in Placerville.
In mid-December Centro added small plates to the menu, generous servings of gourmet treats, beautifully presented, that are served during “happy hours,” from 5 until 8 p.m., on Thursday through Sunday evenings. To accompany them a wine bar serving 14 premium local wines was also added.
“There was nothing on Main Street like this,” said Phelps, “so I got some recipes, made them up and taste tested them, augmenting them as I saw fit. I use the finest ingredients in my dishes. I think they are all fun and perfect for sharing.”
The menu includes seven different small plates, along with the soup of the day and three desserts that serve two: the dolce Centro, a shot of espresso over vanilla bean ice cream; a lemon tart, wonderful lemon filling in a flaky, all butter shortbread crust, and Lana Lane’s cheese cake, an all butter graham cracker crust with a cream cheese filling.
The first small plate I tried was the dolmas, which had a nice flavor and a nice vinegary bite. Like two of the other items, they came with, what my editor would call “the cutest gourmet crackers ever.” Next I tried some of the “Sierra Blend” of Kalamata and feta cheese stuffed cured olives. I don’t know where they come from, but they were really, really good. My third treat was a large serving of duck cognac pate, which came with fresh baked little toasts of La Brea bread. It was smooth and flavorful, a perfect accompaniment for the glass of Oakstone pinot grigio I was sipping.
Next I tried the four different kinds of crostini that are served on fresh baked little toasts, eight of them to a serving. Each one of them was a cavalcade of flavors to savor, as you will see by the list of ingredients and I loved them. They were far above any I have tasted before.
The cannellini bean crostini is made with white cannellini beans, arugula, rosemary olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar; the artichoke crostini has fresh ricotta cheese and artichoke hearts topped with pine nut-currant relish; the eggplant crostini is made of grilled eggplant, red bell pepper, garlic, balsamic vinegar and a thin slice of Pecorino Romano cheese, and the prosciutto crostini consists of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, arugula and black olive tapenade.
I topped everything off with just a few bites of Lana Lane’s cheese cake: smooth, delicious and decadent. Lana Lane, by the way, is Phelps’ sister, who just happened to be there that evening to appreciate to my accolades.
Centro is, as I mentioned, more than a coffee house. In addition to the list of Jeremiah’s Pick organic coffees, coffee drinks and chai tea (the favorite) that are served, along with the fresh baked pastries and more, it is open for lunch with four gourmet sandwiches on the menu. These include roasted turkey breast with Swiss cheese, lettuce, onions and whole grain mustard on a rustic roll; tuna with marinated artichoke hearts, caper-olive tapenade sauce and arugula, on a rustic roll; Soppressata salame with pesto and Havarti cheese on a demi baguette and Black Forest ham with brie and Dijon mustard on a demi baguette.
In addition to the coffee drinks, they have quite a selection of common and uncommon sodas, juices and other drinks, along with a number of beers and, of course, the wine bar.
I complemented Phelps on the place being spotlessly clean, warm and that from the inside and outside (weather permitting) seating Centro has the best view of Placerville around.
Including “happy hours,” business hours are Monday through Wednesday, from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., and 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 530-626-5500.
Bring out the Barrel 2012: Good Wine Hunting
This is the weekend for the annual Bring Out the Barrel event, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28 and 29. Bring Out the Barrel is a self-guided tour of El Dorado County wineries with each winery offering wine tastings from both the barrels and bottled wines, light hors d’oeuvres, and the opportunity to learn more about wine and wine making.
For more information contact the El Dorado Winery Association at 800-306-3956.
Obscurity Cellars barrel tasting and futures celebration
Obscurity Cellars will be holding a barrel tasting and futures celebration in Oakstone Winery’s barrel room Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28 and 29, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day.
Obscurity will feature six of the most obscure wines ever offered as barrel samples: the 2010 Petit Verdot from the estate vineyard (first time since 2003), Tannat, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao, Carmenere and Alicante Bouschet.
Obscurity will also be releasing the new wine club selections: 2009 Estate Malbec
and the Estate 2009 Alicante Bouschet (winner of three gold medals).
Special discounts on current releases with the purchase of a case of futures and, as always, Susan’s Gourmet Snacks will accompany the wines, everyone is welcome, and there is no charge for this event.
Oakstone Winery’s barrel room is located at 6440 Slug Gulch Road in Fair Play and can be reached at 530-620-5303.
This is not a part of the “Bring out the Barrel” winery event and no tickets are required.
My good friend Russ Salazar and I went to Buttercup Pantry last week just to try the deep fried hot dog. When it comes to hot dogs, Russ is a gourmet and always leads me to the best of them. We tried two things: the Salty Dog, a bacon wrapped Miller hot dog that is beer battered and deep fried, then served in a garlic cheese French roll with a good homemade barbecue sauce, and the Texarkana Ham Dog, a Salty Dog and roll topped with a burger patty, cheese, homemade chili and a fried egg. I have to say that we both agreed they were very good, but a bit much for one meal.
With several customers and some staff watching, we split them and dug in. Russ came close to finishing them, but I took home my half of the Salty Dog.
Owner Bob Huston told me the Texarkana, along with the Triple Bypass Burger (three patties plus) and the Whatafarm Burger, made with a burger patty, grilled chicken breast, cheese, egg and bacon, were put on the menu as more of a joke, but have become very popular, especially with the younger set.
On another subject, after my earlier lunch reunion at Buttercup Pantry with my college professor, we continued our conversation over dinner at Fresh Mex Express, across from K-Mart, where I had a adovada taco and he had a shrimp burrito bowl. He had never had a burrito in a bowl before and was delighted he could choose just exactly what he wanted in it. I always enjoy a meal there and he was so delighted with his dinner that he went out of his way to tell me how good it was several times and complemented the staff.
Celebrate the day
Birthdays to celebrate today: English mathematician and author, better known by his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832); American composer Jerome Kern (1885); one of the world’s greatest music makers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756); American naval officer known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Hyman George Rickover (1900); dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948); pacifist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan (1944) and orchestra leader Skitch Henderson (1918). It is also the anniversary of the signing in 1973 of the agreement to end the Vietnam War and the liberation of Leningrad in 1944. And, it is the anniversary of the 1910 death of the man who developed the flush toilet mechanism, Thomas Crapper (yes, that really was his name).