A charming and historic Mother Lode town, Placerville was named for the placer gold deposits found by miners in nearby hills and riverbeds. The pretty downtown, a popular tourist destination, has a number of entertaining shops for food aficionados.
A warm pot pie epitomizes comfort food—who could resist plunging their fork into that flaky crust, and scooping out the rib-sticking stew within? And while most of us are familiar with the chicken pot pie, folks who live in Placerville know there’s a lot more variety than that. Check out busy little Z Pie, which bakes items like the feisty Jamabalaya pot pie, packed with andouille sausage, shrimp, crayfish and ham; and the hefty beef fajita pot pie, filled with top round steak, tomatoes, peppers, black beans and corn. Vegetarians have their own selections (try the spicy black bean chili with tofu) and the kitchen also offers some sweet treats like “The Berry” (blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, apples and rhubarb with an oatmeal-brown sugar crumble topping). The pot pies can be purchased hot or frozen, and while many customers take their items to go, Z Pie also has a dining area with a menu that includes soups and salads—to accompany the pot pies, of course.
3182 Center St., Placerville, (530) 621-2626, www.z-pie.com
Winterhill Tasting Room
This delightful shop features luscious extra virgin olive oil that has been produced on the owners’ Placerville farm. The oils are available to taste, in bulk (bring in your own bottle to fill or buy bottles at the shop) and pre-bottled in hauntingly beautiful packaging created by local developmentally challenged artists. (A percentage of the bottled olive oil profits are donated to the artists’ schools.) Come in hungry and sample the flavored, cold-pressed oils (including lemon, garlic, blood orange, lime and rosemary). There’s also a local honey tasting available, and a nice selection of preserves and handcrafted vinegars.
321 Main St., Placerville, (530) 626-6369, www.winterhillfarms.com
Gelato D’Oro Café
Hot and cranky from too much sightseeing? Slip into friendly Gelato D’Oro Café, where you can find a dizzying selection of creamy gelato flavors, from banana-walnut and green tea to white pistachio. If you can manage to wait and eat lunch first, try the cafe’s chicken Alfredo linguine, the dill tuna sandwich (made delightfully crunchy with diced pickle, celery and red onion) or one of the kitchen’s popular salads. Gelato D’Oro also has a nice line-up of espresso drinks and morning pastries. With its pitted wood floors and modest décor, the cafe offers a casual and quick dining experience that’s sure to please the whole family.
311 Main St., Placerville, (530) 626-8097
Strikingly contemporary in this old-fashioned downtown, Tony Matthews (“Fine Goods for Fine Living”) offers a gorgeous selection of cookware, cookbooks and a raft of kitchen accoutrements. This is the place to visit if you need a fancy French casserole dish, pretty napkins for your upcoming dinner party, or a special collection of wine glasses. The high-ceilinged, sun-splashed store also offers cooking demonstrations in its commercial kitchen space on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.
447 Main St., Placerville, (530) 626-9161
Licorice lovers, take note: Candy Strike may have the biggest collection of your favorite sweet in California. This quirky establishment, filled to the rafters with every candy you can imagine, has a spectacular collection of black licorice in a small room at the back of the store. We counted almost 50 varieties, from Finnsky Ripples and Anise Bears to the intriguing Pontefract Cakes. Many licorice varieties are from Europe, and you’ll marvel at the medley of shapes, sizes and textures. Candy Strike also has a great selection of fudge (adventurous treat-seekers should try the margarita and cappuccino fudge), salt water taffy and huge, speckled jaw-breakers.
492 Main St., Placerville, (530) 295-1007, www.candystrike.com