Forget Carmel’s famed 17-mile drive. The 17-mile drive from Interstate 80 in Auburn to Robber’s Roost in Foresthill is newly-paved, gorgeously scenic, full of historical landmarks and culminates in a world-class restaurant that will satisfy even the most testy of taste buds.
What is a gourmet restaurant doing in Foresthill, anyway? More about that later. Let’s get right to the food.
My personal favorite is the Pork Prime Rib Chop, cooked with brown sugar and chipotle chili, rubbed – then lightly smoked – and finished on the grill. It’s served with a house-made apple chutney, warm homemade bread, seasonal vegetables and rice, baked potato or potato du jour. Or, if you fancy a steak, how about ordering it topped with roasted garlic, gorgonzola and walnut compound butter?
Seafood aficionados will drool over the Alaskan King Crab Legs, Maine Lobster Tail and Prawns. The chef also offers Salmon or Trout, served with one of five different exquisite sauces. You could order your fish cooked with lemon, dill and chive compound butter, or perhaps a wasabi and teriyaki sauce?
The great thing about Robber’s Roost is the variety of rubs, sauces and cooking techniques available to order on most of its menu selections. The five cuts of steak come with a selection of seven sauces – that’s 35 different dinners in the steak category alone!
One of my dining partners ordered the Crab and Shrimp Cakes appetizer, which was served with mango pineapple chutney. The three of us devoured that in short order and were still raving about the flavors and slightly spicy taste when the Warm Pear Salad arrived. It was prepared with pan-seared pear, drizzled with a port wine reduction and served with butter leaf lettuce tossed with gorgonzola cheese, toasted pecans and raspberry vinaigrette. Salad doesn’t get much better than that.
If you fancy desserts, Robber’s Roost is the place to indulge. Our trio shared Caramel Cheesecake, Creme Brulee and Country Berry Cobbler. We took some of our dinner home for later, but there wasn’t a smidgen of dessert left to put in the ‘Doggie’ Bags.
There is so much to rave about when it comes to Robber’s Roost. Even the name makes for an interesting story. As the legend goes, Robber’s Roost is the name of a prominent local limestone rock formation that sits perched above nearby Lake Clementine. During the Gold Rush, the wagon trains would travel with gold from the mines on a trail that followed the North Fork of the American River. A bandit would perch on the Robber’s Roost rock, where he had a good view of the trail and could see if the wagons were escorted by an armed posse. If the wagons were traveling without protection, the bad guy would signal with a bright colored cloth to an accomplice down below that it was prime time to heist the gold.
While there are no longer covered wagons laden with gold on dusty dirt trails, the Robber’s Roost rock still stands as a Foresthill landmark. It is one of many – including a monument to a cowboy’s dead horse (‘Old Joe’) – that line the beautiful 17-mile drive from the highway to the restaurant.
A review of Robber’s Roost wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the beverages available to accompany your meal. Restaurant General Manager Tim Pratt, a fourth-generation Californian whose grandfather and great-grandfather both worked at the Empire Mine in the 1930s, is a self-professed “beer guy.” So, Robber’s Roost not only has an excellent wine list, but a beer list the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else around here.
The eatery carries 12 beers on draft and another 20 bottles selected from around the world including bottle-conditioned Belgium-style ales.
One, for instance, is Maudite, a 750 ml beer from Quebec. The menu states, “From first sip to lingering aftertaste, this full-flavored, award-winning beer has champagne-like carbonation and shades of amber that redefine the meaning of mellow. A world-class must try for any beer lover.”
The atmosphere and ambience at Robber’s Roost is wonderful and the prices are reasonable for the quality of the cuisine. The chef’s favorite dish, Linguini and Portabella Mushroom, costs $8.95 at dinner. The Pork Prime Rib Chop with salad, potato and bread is $15.95. The service is friendly and prompt, probably because the waitstaff consists of almost all of the original hires when the restaurant opened four years ago. There is an on-site Cafe and Gift Shop and the restaurant received its full-bar liquor license in February of 2002.
On my last visit, as I swung my car into the spacious parking lot, I noticed a horse trailer hitched to a pickup with two horses inside. No one was in the pickup – the horse’s owners were in Robber’s Roost, having lunch.
Robber’s Roost is located at 23990 Foresthill Road in Foresthill. Phone (530) 367-2455; e-mail http://www.robbersroost.net. Closed Mondays; Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday; Saturday and Sunday breakfast. Credit cards accepted.
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