One of the newest restaurants to create a stir in the region is the recent opening of Element in the Hanford House in downtown Sutter Creek.
Having first established itself as a terrific stop for breakfast or brunch, it opened for dinner over the summer and is gradually building a solid reputation for an innovative menu and service.
Robert and Athena Gordon purchased the Hanford House more than seven years ago and have focused on upgrading the bed and breakfast inn.
“We developed the operation slowly and felt we needed to create goodwill in our community before doing the yearlong renovation of the restaurant,” Athena recalls. “We wear many hats in an operation of this size, from being a cook on the line to acting as a human resource person.” Her kitchen team has ownership of the menu. The approach to preparations would make you think you were in the Bay Area or Napa Valley. Menu selections such as the Arancini with tomato marmalade appetizer, the grilled sturgeon with tomato dashi and shrimp dumpling or Bucatini pasta with chimichurri, fava bean and ricotta salata entrees take foothill wine country cuisine to another level.
“The farm-to-fork theme is now expected by many patrons in our region. Great service with it is just as challenging and a very complex topic,” Athena said.
She sees the Amador wine region as a destination that’s still up and coming. She is trying to create multiple night stays for visitors to the area.
“With ample wine tasting, including a number of spots within walking distance of the inn, there are many more options than just a few years ago.”
From Tuolumne County to Amador County, the foothill culinary options as of late are wide reaching and in tune with the expansion of wineries, specialty products and the local farm movement. Yes, you can still find downhome menus that haven’t changed much over the years, but food items considered trendy just a few years ago have even made it to your simple mom and pop eateries.
There’s definitely a new food vibe in the foothills and this is evident in a number of popular restaurants. “Have you tried so and so?” or “This is as good as anything in the Bay Area” pops up more frequently online today. And then there are the bakeries, cheese shops, regional meat markets and olive oil producers who are found at the growing number of farmers markets and specialty shops throughout the region.
Sutter Creek and the Jackson area were once known for a large number of family-style Italian eateries. Large portions and multiple course menus were part of their traditional menus. How things have changed. Winery cuisine – or farm-to-fork menus, as they are called – has sprung up in small towns from Sonora to Murphys and north to Sutter Creek and Plymouth.
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