Saturday, December 20, 2014

PANNING FOR GOLD - Camps Restaurant at Greenhorn Creek

Camps Restaurant at  Greenhorn Creek

Writing about my major birthday adventure in Mark Twain/Gold Rush country has taken longer than the adventure itself, but we had one more food stop to make before we headed out for home and hearth and what better place than a restaurant named "Camps?"  Full disclosure:  no relation to Richard with or without the "s."

On the other side of the golf course from our hotel, we were greeted by ol' Mark, himself relaxing on a bench reading a book.

Curious to see what he was reading ("Huck Finn"), we sat down for a minute to discuss the relevance of the book today.  Having just reread it in my Book Group, I let him know that we thought it was still quite relevant.  He seemed pleased and posed for pictures.

On to the restaurant...

... and the discovery of a Mark Twain library with copies of his books, memorabilia and quotes stenciled on the walls and ceiling beams.  No wonder he was hanging out out front.  If anyone had a question, he was there to answer it.

The large main room consisted of a bar/lounge and a dining room, divided by an impressive fireplace against the far wall.

 Rugs and artwork hung along a wall in the dining room alongside built-in display cabinets.

Through the glass doors was the terrace overlooking one of the golf course's beautiful greens.

We opted to eat inside.  Camps is a steak, seafood, burger place that serves mostly "manly" fare... its lunch menu included sandwiches such as a "classic" Reuben and a turkey club... entrees included fish & chips... "French Onion" dip w/ shaved rib eye braised in French onion soup, topped w/ jack cheese and sauteed onions... steak and eggs w/ country gravy and breakfast potatoes... omelets and caramelized apple French toast, but the menu also included hearty salads, homemade soups and "lighter" fare such as parmesan truffle fries and beer battered onion rings, flash fried calamari and fresh dungeness crab cakes.  None of these light dishes will help you stay light, but sounded oh so good. 

Did I mention the burgers?  There were a few listed on the lunch menu - a seared sesame ginger ahi burger w/ wasabi aioli and Asian slaw, a portabella mushroom burger, and Camps "CR" local 1/2 lb cheddar burger made w/ grass fed, free range local beef.  OK, since I'm always on the quest for the perfect cheeseburger, I had to try the "CR."  Nguyen decided to have one, too.  I can't say it was the "perfect" cheeseburger, but it came close.  Cooked to a perfect medium rare with enough melty cheese to fill a fondue pot.  Well, not quite, but enough to make me happy.

Richard had the Mahi Mahi fish and chips with tartar sauce and fries...  Of course, I had a bite.  Blimey it was good!  It was so good, it was gone before I could take a picture.

Bob opted for the toasted turkey clubhouse made with roasted sliced turkey breast, applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce & tomato.  It's a club I might join the next time I eat there.

The dinner menu continued the hearty "manly" theme and had listings for "Grazings" that included flash fried calamari, ginger chicken spring rolls and wild mushroom pappardelle pasta w/ parmesan and white truffle oil.  "Salads & Soups" listed the onion soup, apple romaine salad and two caesar salads.  "From the Grill"  included prime rib, a variety of steaks and burgers.  "Cluck & Quack"  a roasted chicken breast dish and a pan-seared Muscovy duck breast.  And last, but not least, "Seafood" dishes such as broiled prawn &amp sea scallop skewers, pan-seared Mahi Mahi and seared ginger glazed ahi.  I wanted to stay a few more days and try everything.  They also have live music every Friday and Saturday night. After a few drinks, Mr. Twain is said to sit in for a few sessions. 

So... whether you're playing golf and stop in for a 19th hole "refreshment" or just tooling around Angels Camp panning for gold, definitely stop in for lunch or dinner.  The food does ol' Mark proud.

CAMPS RESTAURANT - Greenhorn Creek
676 McCauley Ranch Road
Angels Camp, California  95222

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Hovey Winery

My Mark Twain country adventure panning for gold and searching for jumping frogs in Gold Rush/Calaveras County was almost over.  I found no gold and didn't see one frog, jumping or otherwise, but I did find liquid gold up in them thar hills and I had one last winery I wanted to check out.

Tucked back off Main Street in the quaint town of Murphys, Richard, Bob, Nguyen and I walked down the path to a charming little bungalow that serves as Hovey's tasting room.

Inside, the room is bright and cheerful.

Neriah was our knowledgeable and lovely barista.

As she poured our flight she told us that after being a respected winemaker for 30 years, Chuck Hovey launched his own label in 2008 and I have to say, the wine is definitely fine.  It seems we saved the best for last.

We started off with the 2013 White Blend ($20) consisting of 55% verdego, 25% vermentino and 20% viognier, aged in stainless steel to a crisp fruity flavor.  Perfect to sip sitting by a tennis court, under an umbrella, after a tough doubles match... order a cheese plate and fruit to "go with."

Next up was the 2013 Chardonnay ($20) which was voted the best white wine in the Mother Lode Gold, 2014 Orange County Fair and I loved it.  Fruity, yes - tastes of pineapple and mangos - but buttery, the way I like it.

The reds were equally impressive.  The 2012 C2 Red Blend ($26) is 38% cinsaut, 24% graciano, 24% syrah, and 14% petite syrah...  hurrah, hurrah!  OK, bad rhyme, but delish wine with a jammy, red fruit flavor.

Then came the 2012 Barbera ($26) voted best red wine & double gold at the 2014 Calaveras County Fair and silver at the Orange County Fair.  Rich berry flavor, wonderful nose - all and all, a lovely red.

The 2012 Zinfandel ($26) won gold at the 2014 Orange County Fair and it hit all the right zin notes... blackberries and ripe plums danced in my head, sans fairies. Good thing, though, the fairies might have diverted my attention and I would have missed that wonderful taste of toasty mocha.

The last two tastes were "off-the-flight" but true flights of fancy.  The first was Hovey Block 9 Petite Syrah ($36) - definitely a fine wine.

And last, but so not the least, was the Isabel 2012 Cabernet ($36) - named for Chuck Hovey's beautiful grandmother, this wine is just plain luscious with wonderful tastes of black current and dark chocolate.  Straw please!

To paraphrase wine reviewers...   Hovey gets 99 points!!!  (Well, nothing's perfect).

Hovey Winery
350 A Main Steet
Murphys, Calif.  95247

Check out the wine club:


Thursday, November 20, 2014



"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree..."  Thank you Joyce Kilmer.
I love trees.  I like flowers OK, white or faded pink peonies come to mind... or white or pink French tulips... but I love trees... the firs, oaks, maples, even dogwoods and birches I grew up with in Bayside, Queens, Long Island, New York... and all the trees I've met on the roads I've traveled. I love hiking, or just meandering in woods and forests, but nothing prepared me for the 10.15 square miles of Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Mark Twain country.

At the suggestion of my brother Bob, we all decided to take a break from wine tasting, get a picnic lunch and go to Big Trees, a forest he had explored before.  We set out early, making a pit stop for sandwiches at the deli in the Ironstone Vineyards tasting room and set out for our adventure in the woods.

I've seen tall trees before -- stately redwoods along side the road to Mendocino for example, but nothing prepared me for Sequoias.  Tall, yes!  But the circumferences of these trees were staggering! 

This 'stump' was once used as a dance floor

 Hollow out the lower part of the trunk and there would be enough room for a family of four to live comfortably.  Well, maybe not comfortably, but you get my point.

Tunnel in fallen tree trunk

Grab a cot and move in
We hiked the trails as I continued to be awed at the Sequoia's size and beauty.

And like most forests, the aroma was sooooo sweet.  It was the best of times.

Did I mention I love trees?  Here's a pictorial ode to them.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park
1170 California 4
Arnold, California 95223

Saturday, November 8, 2014

PANNING FOR GOLD - Ironstone Vineyards

Ironstone Vineyards

Who knew when my brother Bob suggested we all meet in Angel's Camp, California, Gold Rush country, that we'd find liquid gold?  Well, Bob did even if I didn't.  Mark Twain might have lived here in his one room cabin and panned for the elusive nugget with the miners back in the day...

...but today's gold is definitely the wine made from the region's thriving vineyards. 

Ironstone is no exception. But Ironstone offers more than good wine.... it's a cornucopia of caves...

Bob & Nguyen exploring the caves

... waterfalls...

... wooded paths...

... a museum...

... a gift shop, a terrific deli, and one of the largest gold nuggets on the planet. This is what a 44-pound gold nugget looks like!

It's almost as tall as Nguyen
Put in a cot, throw in a pillow and you could live there.

And just below the tasting room is the Alhambra "Robert Morton" pipe organ saved from the Sacramento famed Alhambra Theatre before it was demolished.

Just sit down...

... turn it on and be engulfed in the "Phantom of the Opera."

To reach Ironstone, you drive past the vineyard...

 ...and up to the beautiful stone building that houses the tasting room/museum/gift shop/deli. 

 Inside, you find yourself in a vast room with a tasting bar, wine displays, stone fireplace and that deli.

 Richard, Bob, Nguyen and I would explore the rest of the property later -- but first it was time to do a little wine tasting.

Kathy was our barista...

...and the first pour of our flight was the 2011 Elevation White ($17.85), a viognier blend that had a hint of nutmeg.  Loved it.

The 2013 Chardonnay ($11.99) was a tarty apple and pear wine with vanilla and oak notes.  Lovely.

Next was the 2013 Obsession "Symphony," a blend of muscat and grenache grapes that would pair well with Thai or Indian food.

On to the reds:  The 2013 Cabernet Franc ($11.99)  had rich berry flavors, coupled with a toasty vanilla 'nose.'  Sound good?  It was.

The 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel ($11.99) is a wine with subtle pepper flavors mingled with hints of ripe red fruit.  Rich and delicious.

2010 Elevation Red ($23.00) is a medium bodied wine, with spice and clove aromas and tastes of chocolate and vanilla.  This Elevation was a revelation.

Next was the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($25.00) with dark blackberry and plum flavors and scents of cassis, black currents and vanilla beans.  My nose and tongue were both happy.

My favorite wine of the flight was the 2010 Reserve Deaver Old Wine Zinfandel ($28.00) which had all the aromas and flavors of a fine zin... berries, cherries and chocolate.  Delicious.

If you find yourself in the Sierra Foothills, venture over to Ironstone in the town of Murphys.  Enjoy the museum, walk the paths, explore the caves, have lunch - but most of all - try the wine.  Moderately priced with expensive 'tastes' this is one time you'll get champagne taste on a beer pocketbook.


Ironstone Vineyards
3675 Six Mile Road
Murphys, California