Perfect for the Holidays- or Anytime!Posted on December 1, 2009 – 3:15 PM | by OldManFoster
Story and photos by Liv Moe
Amador County is a region I’ve spent a lot of time in over that past few years. Between cute little towns like Sutter Creek, Amador City, and Jackson, wine tasting in the Shenandoah Valley, and Christmas tree procurement in Sloughhouse, one could visit the area at least once every season and never run short of things to do. With a day that started around 11AM and ended at 9PM or so we hit every one of the above mentioned locales beginning with Davis Ranch.
Located in Sloughhouse, Davis Ranch is about a thirty minute drive from Midtown on the Jackson highway. Founded in 1972, the ranch was originally known for its sweet corn, which was transported around the property on motorcycles. As the business grew, the farm expanded to included other seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as Christmas trees. Thirty-five dollars plus tax gets you a ready-to-trim tree, in one of four varieties: fir, pine, redwood, or cedar. In addition to the trees they also offer seasonal wreaths and produce, so if you skipped the Sunday farmer’s market for this excursion (like we did) you’re covered.
Now, at this stage of the game you could slap the tree on the roof, collect some apple cider, and head back to Sacto. Or, if you’re like us you’ll strap the tree down extra securely and venture further into the Foothills in search of the region’s bounty of antique treasures, delicious Italian cuisine, and local wines. Most of the time we like to avoid backtracking but in this instance it was unavoidable; we headed to Sutter Creek for lunch at Thomi’s Cafe. (Later, when you’re rockin’ a solid wine buzz you’ll thank me for the sustenance detour.)
‘Quaint’ is a word I almost never employ but in this instance it’s totally apt in describing Thomi’s. The atmosphere is cozy but disheveled and the wait staff were some of the friendliest I’ve encountered in some time. My hubby and I split the portabella mushroom sandwich with fries and left perfectly satisfied. The sandwich was large, with fresh produce on a soft roll with plenty of crispy fries to share. All together with a cup of coffee lunch was about ten bucks.
Stumbling out of Thomi’s you’ll be confronted with Sutter Creek’s main street, which boasts some fantastic antique stores. Chief among them is Old West Antiques whose prices were quite reasonable given the quality of items on offer. I picked up several pieces of jewelry for me as well as a Christmas present for a loved one all for around thirty dollars.
Now for the backtracking, (trust me though this only about an eleven minute diversion.) Heading down Sutter Creek’s main street you’ll weave through the town of Amador back toward the 16 and follow the signs to Plymouth. At Plymouth you see signs for the Shenandoah Valley. Once you turn onto the road to Shenandoah, follow it for about five minutes all the while keeping your eye out for Vino Noceto which will appear on your left. Turn in when you get there.
Here’s what I love about Vino Noceto; A. they have one of the last remaining Doggie Diner heads in their courtyard; B. their staff is friendly, knowledgable, and welcoming; C. the wine is excellent, and very often they’re hosting some crazy deal on a closeout year. This time around they featured a Sangiovese that needs to be drunk RIGHT NOW for $5 a bottle. In addition to that I also picked up a bottle of their Mistura Barbera for twenty-six bucks.
Now, employ your designated driver to backtrack you in the direction of Sutter Creek because the light lunch you shared wasn’t enough to fight off a pleasant giggly wine buzz.
From here you will head to Jackson to visit Jim Vinciguerra, owner and proprietor of Vinciguerra’s Ravioli Company. Vinciguerra is, in a word, charming and knows what’s up when it comes to handmade pasta. We snatched up a box of the seasonal pumpkin ravs, gnocchi, and fresh pesto. After selecting the pumpkin ravioli Vinciguerra sent us in the direction of a large sage plant in front of the store and commanded us to select four leaves. We did as instructed and walked back to discover that Vinciguerra was writing his recipe for butter sage sauce on the box we were about to take home.*
All told, this bag of fresh-made heaven set us back about thirteen smackers, leaving me to decide that a future daytrip built around Vinciguerra’s homemade ravioli and Shenandoah wine would be enough in itself. If heading to Vinciguerra’s around the holidays call ahead as Jim often runs out. I recommend bringing a cooler if you’ll be traveling most of the day to keep your ravs nice and chill.
At this point you have more choices. You can either soldier on through Amador county as the old man and I did or you could take your beautiful pasta dinner, complete with wine, straight back home and feast while you erect your tree.
If you decide not to zip straight back home, Main street Jackson is certainly worth an eyeball although the National Hotel has gone dark which is beyond sad. Like Sutter Creek and Amador City, Jackon’s antique stores are definitely worth a peek as is The Biggest Little Kitchen Store on Main Street.
At this point all that’s left is dinner and home. When we picked up our raviolis we asked Vinciguerra for dinner suggestions which seemed much wiser and more enjoyable than consulting Yelp. Of the two options he threw out, the Italian pot roast at the Twisted Fork was the victor.
Located back in Sutter Creek, The Twisted Fork is an old school, family style Italian restaurant, specializing in large portions preceded by a soup and salad course. The atmosphere was relaxed with friendly, competent wait staff and a wine list which served as a solid, though not particularly exciting, accompaniment to the fare on offer.
Really, all this is beside the point. The star of the show was definitely the pot roast. Soft, garlicky, and rich, the pot roast fell apart on my fork mixing well with the bed of creamy mashed potatoes it rested on. The leftovers were equally good the next day eaten on crusty bread. Dinner for two with wine and more food than we could eat in one serving came out to $31.64.
Now you should be full, relaxed, and ready to face the holiday with a freshly cut tree, maybe a few gifts, and some tasty pasta in tow, not to mention a day to look back on fondly!
Davis Ranch, 13211 Jackson Road, Sloughhouse, CA 95683
Thomi’s Cafe, 40 Hanford Street, Sutter Creek, CA 95685
Old West Antiques, 72 Main Street, Sutter Creek, CA 95685
Vino Noceto, 11011 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, CA 95669
Vinciguerra Ravioli Company, 225 Sutter Street, Jackson, CA 95642
The Biggest Little Kitchen Store, 215 N. Main Street Jackson, CA 95642
The Twisted Fork, 53 Main St, Sutter Creek, CA 95685