Mount Shasta City, August 31, 2012—I LIKE THIS PLACE; I always have. When we first happened upon it, surely a dozen years ago or more, it was recently opened by Maddalena Serra, a young woman with a keen intellectual curiosity, of Sicilian parentage or perhaps Sard, I don't remember now. She was in the habit of running her restaurant in the tourist season, feeding hunters, fishermen, mountain climbers, and folks like us shuttling between the Bay Area and Portland.
In the off season she spent months in Mediterranean countries, gathering recipes and ideas. As I recall she'd made nearly the complete circuit, from Cadiz up the coast to Barcelona, across to Marseilles, Genoa, Rome, Bari, Athens, Istanbul; then down the Syrian coast to Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia… not forgetting the islands, of course; Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, Cyprus…
Alas she gave the place up a number of years ago, returned to her native Los Angeles, and dropped out of my ken. (I just Googled her, though, at it looks as if she may be at Café Zoetrope in San Francisco -- maddeningly, you never know the dates of webpages; I don't even know if C.Z. is still in business.)
When she left it didn't take long for Brett LaMott to take over. We'd run into him in a place he'd run here in Mount Shasta City: a skillful, attentive man, fond of period jazz and girl singers, and a good man at the stove. He was careful to make very few changes in the delightful interior Maddalena had installed, and allowed a little of her Mediterraneity to influence his otherwise rather Gallic sensibility.
There was a number of enticing options on the menu. I started with a white bean soup with a fried sage leaf on it, a drizzle of good olive oil -- a nice execution of a simple but perfect concept, which hereby goes to the list of the Hundred Plates. Afterward, the short ribs you see here, braised all afternoon with carrots and onions and leeks, I think, and served with undersalted but nicely cooked polenta. Dessert was a fig-and-almond tart, in fact more like a shortcake, the pastry layered with frangipane and fig jam. Yes yes: one of the Hundred Restaurants.
water (and delicious water it is here in Shasta country)• Café Maddalena, 5801 Sacramento Avenue, Dunsmuir, California; 530.235.2725