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Exploring California Gold Country, Part II

Mushroom cigars at Taste Restaurant.

Mushroom cigars at Taste Restaurant.

In the Bay Area, we admittedly get spoiled by the plethora of restaurants in our midst.

But Gold Country definitely has got it going on with good eats, too.

Thanks to the tourism bureaus in Folsom, El Dorado, Amador and Sacramento for inviting me to be their guest on a three-day trip (including meals and accommodations) to explore the restaurant scene. Here are the highlights:

Taste Restaurant in Plymouth

With less than 1,000 residents and a dusty main street so compact you would almost miss it if you blinked, Plymouth in Amador County is hardly the place you’d expect to find as stylish and creative a farm-to-table restaurant as Taste.

Chef Mark Berkner and wife Tracey, who runs the front of the house, have created nothing less than a true gem here.  It’s lured tourists from afar, locals day after day, and even merited a mention in the New York Times. The couple has a real knack for opening places in what some might deem nowhere’s-ville and turning them into destination dining. Consider that before they opened Taste, they owned and operated the St. George Hotel and its restaurant in Volcano, CA — population 115. Yes, you read that right.

Dining at Taste is a warm, welcoming experience with dishes that will delight.

You can graze on small plates or order a full-on entree. The menu changes seasonally and features house-cured lamb bacon and duck prosciutto.

Sweetbreads and waffles? Yes, yes, yes!

Sweetbreads and waffles? Yes, yes, yes!

The night I was there, the restaurant featured a clever take on chicken and waffles. Only the chicken was swapped out for fried sweetbreads ($14) atop a vanilla-infused waffle all crowned with grilled nectarines, smoked maple syrup and salted peanut brittle. It was down-home yet uptown at the same time. An amazing dish.

The one dish that never leaves the menu is the Mushroom Cigars ($9.5). The crisp, phyllo logs hold a center of crimini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms fortified with creamy goat cheese.

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