Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Jaunt in Sutter Creek; subtitle: They did WHAT to the Bread?

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of driving down to Sutter Creek in the Mother Lode Country to see a concert by Old Time Musician Bruce Molsky. I was to meet up with my daughter there and enjoy dinner together before the show. Always keeping in mind the possibility of new material for my blog!

My daughter was running late, so I took advantage of my time to visit a little wine tasting shop that carried wines for three local wineries. One nice thing about these little places is that the tasting is free, so you don’t have to worry about which ones to try or how much it will cost (thinking of Napa Valley 5 or 6 tastes for $25). I know what I like, so I went for the Chardonnay, the Zinfandel and the Cabernet Sauvignon, in that order. I ended up purchasing a very nicely complex and oaky Chardonnay and a fairly intense Zinfandel. While I was there, a younger woman and her mother came in. I knew they were in over their heads when they asked for something “sweet.” The first pour, a blush, was too “sour,” and the next, a chenin blanc was also too sour. They should head straight for the supermarket and pick up some Boone Hill or Wild Vines Peach.

With my daughter’s arrival, I stashed my bag in the truck and we walked the block to the restaurant. I had chosen “Susan’s Place.” It was totally charming. We ate in the patio, though I’m not sure if you can call it a patio, since it was at the front of the restaurant itself. All was rustic with lots of greenery and checked tablecloths and patio lights. Green market umbrellas hung from the translucent roof panels instead of sticking up on poles. At this point, the review will be divided—the food and the service.

The dinner entrees were cleverly designed. You chose the entrée itself, the sauce, and the side that the entrée would be arranged on top of. I chose an eggplant portabella entree, Mediterranean sauce, and a side of polenta slices. It was excellent. The sauce was garlicky and tangy pesto-ish and the polenta was browned on the outside and creamy on the inside. I ate every crumb. A Greek salad came with it. The dressing was another pesto-ish creation. I made a note to myself to copy it at home. Pesto, lemon juice, some sort of garlic seasoning, olive oil, white wine vinegar perhaps. As you would expect in a nice little place like this, a platter of bread and garlic butter was served while we were waiting for our food. More on the bread later…

When we went in at 6:15, the place was about half full. We were seated promptly and cheerfully by the greeter. And then waited. And waited. Now I have been in places that you are legitimately afraid that they don’t notice you, or that you have been placed to make you conveniently unnoticeable. But this wasn’t the case. It was like being at a garden party with the wait staff walking by you every time they have to do something. After about 5 minutes she came by and said she could take our orders in about 2 minutes. She forgot to add a zero, because that was how long it took. In the meantime, she served food to 2 different tables. I kept thinking, if she would just take our orders (obviously we knew what we wanted, as our menus were folded beside us) then the kitchen could get started on our meals!

She came by, with an apology for the delay, and took our orders. About 10 minutes later, the bread came. More on the bread later… With pleasant efficiency, the salad followed and then the entrée arrived. While we were eating, the most astonishing thing happened. My daughter and I were in deep discussion over a topic of personal interest, when the waitress, who had overheard a fragment of the conversation, injected herself into our talk with a mistaken impression of what we were talking about! I was speechless. My daughter managed to stammer out something like, “That’s not what we were talking about.” And then we just waited for her to leave. Now you would think that a new 17 year old waitress might make this mistake, but she was about 45. Hmm.

This particular trait of customer service-type folks to insert themselves into your purchases and your conversations really annoys me. I just had that experience at the Goodwill when a young clerk had a good look-over at the movies I was buying as she rang them up. “Oh, I saw that one, it was good.” “I haven’t seen that one yet, what’s it about?” I thought, what would she say if one of them was a sex movie? And the time I was buying a sack of groceries and the young bagger wouldn’t let up on trying to discuss all my items with me. Maybe some people like this, but I think it is unprofessional.

Anyway, back to the bread…

It was warm. It was microwaved! How do I know? Of course I know! It was chewy, darn it! Rubbery chewy, as you’d know if you ever microwaved sourdough bread! Now that is a crime, when it doesn’t take that much to pop the loaf into an oven!

So out of 5 stars, I’d give Susan’s Place a 4 in food, a 2 in service and a 1 in bread.


  1. ah yes, talking to customers. It is an art. It is best, sometimes not to say anything, or to ask them about their pets, everyone likes to talk about their pets.

  2. It's one thing passing the time of day while you are waiting for the purchases to flow by the scanner. But why would a wait staff think that a couple having dinner together would want to enter into conversation with her if there was no indication of that?

  3. Just goes to show you-you aren't born with good taste.