The Sierra Foothills
The Restaurant: Mineral
Warm Heirloom Marble Potatoes
1 pound marble potatoes, preferably a multicolored heirloom variety
3 cups mushroom stock
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 lime leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to toss
Salt and black pepper, to taste
¼ cup Vegenaise or mayonnaise infused with crushed garlic and chopped rosemary to taste
½ cup smoked pitted Rainier cherries
2 tablespoons oven-dried Kalamata olives
Pea shoots or micro greens, to garnis
Combine the potatoes, mushroom stock, crushed garlic, black pepper and lime leaves in a medium stockpot and cook together until tender. Remove from heat and let cool in the cooking liquid.
Once cooled, strain the potatoes and pat dry. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste.
In a medium-sized sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the potatoes and sear until cooked through.
Let cool to touch, then toss with Vegenaise/mayonnaise, cherries and olives while still slightly warm.
Garnish with pea shoots or micro greens and serve warm. Serves 6.
Chatom Vineyards Gitano Sangiovese (Calaveras County)
The Chef: Steve Rinauro, Mineral
Part of the charm of the Sierra Foothills lies in the sense of remoteness punctuated by a lack of glitz. Until recently, that also translated into a dearth of fine food. The glitz is still largely at bay, but thankfully, where there is wine there will eventually be food.
In the Amador County town of Plymouth, Mark and Tracey Berkner of Taste Restaurant are proving that if you build a wonderful restaurant with ambience and culinary gumption, the winemakers and all their guests and friends will come. Lunch, brunch and dinner are served, as well as small plates at the bar, with Monday Night Suppers the best way to bump into locals.
Taste also hosts wine dinners and free-corkage nights. The couple’s sister Volcano Union Pub and Inn in nearby Volcano is more casual, but equally good.
Most of all, the food scene has exploded in Calaveras County, centered in and around the town of Murphys. The main drag is populated almost entirely with inspired food and wine tasting options.
Many come to dine at Mineral Restaurant, a pristine, highly conceptualized vegetarian restaurant run by Steve and Maya Rinauro on Main Street. This intimate eatery puts its focus on California fusion cuisine with a constantly changing and evolving menu tied to what’s in season.
The best option at Mineral is to order A Chef’s Tour, an innovative array of Steve Rinauro’s favorite dishes. These might range from green papaya salad with a house-smoked achiote tofu, cilantro and citrus-Sriracha marinade, to the Mineral burger, housemade with organic cheddar, caramelized onions, Napa slaw, garlic aioli and cider barbecue sauce. The truffle burger is all that, with Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor goat cheese melted on top.
For Mineral’s warm heirloom potato salad, the Rinauros like to pair Calaveras County producer Chatom Vineyards’s Sangiovese. Rustic bright cherry notes in the wine seamlessly accent the Rainier cherries in the salad’s dressing. The little bite-size Marble potatoes called for are grown widely in the nearby Sacramento Valley.
Favorite Farm-to-Table Finds
Bread: Andrae’s Bakery in Amador City supplies all of Taste’s daily bread and makes pastries and desserts from scratch using locally grown products whenever possible.
Charcuterie: Smokey Ridge Charcuterie in Placerville makes artisan sausages, English-style bangers, duck confit, pâtés from Mary’s free-range chicken livers and slab bacon as well as condiments for those meaty dishes.
Mandarins: The state’s first mandarin trees were planted in Placer County around the turn of the century and dozens of mandarin growers remain in the area.
Olive Oil: Like so many California wine regions, the Sierra Foothills can grow olives and Amador Olive Oil is the best, made from a mix of ancient, never-sprayed trees and new Italian varieties.—Virginie Boone