Readers’ corner |

Readers’ corner

Some days, this job is made in heaven. Grass Valley native Sylvia Crane invited me on an outing with her Red Hat Society chapter – Les Rouge Chapeaus – last week. This is such a fun group of women that I’ve been banned from repeating any of our conversations in the car, so you can imagine they were very interesting!

Anyway, our destination was Big Springs Gardens three miles outside Sierra City. If you have never heard of it it’s not surprising because it is strictly word-of-mouth. For the first two years, there wasn’t even a sign on Highway 49, and the one there now is small and easily missed.

Big Springs Gardens is the masterpiece of Don Phillips, a blue-eyed charmer who claims to be 80 but I don’t believe it. He’s been a developer and an assistant dean at Stanford, but his love is this 118 acres of pristine property. He built a lovely home and then spent 15 years developing the gardens – which encompass more than 20 acres. He and his crews have been planting all this time, building gravel trails, a pond stocked with beautiful Rainbow trout (“The eagles and osprey eat the biggest ones,” Don says) and waterfalls. It truly looks like something Monet would have designed, complete with a lovely footbridge over the expansive pond.

Don is a sharp cookie, and although he knew people would love his gardens, he also knew he needed a lure to get people out to Sierra City. Being a bit of a gourmet cook, he built a high-end kitchen right into the side of the hill and started experimenting. The result is fabulous – poached salmon with dill dressing, shrimp salad, gourmet cheeses, lox, fresh fruit, berry cobbler and peach cobbler, both with ice cream, a salad bar that is longer and more complete than any you’ve been to including more shrimp, large slices of avocado, crab apple, chicken, two types of grated cheese and every vegetable imaginable. That’s just lunch – and there’s more food than what I listed. (Lunch is available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.) On Sunday he does two brunch seatings and there is so much more food I can’t even list it all, but you won’t be disappointed.

We Red Hat ladies enjoyed the entire experience: the drive, the gardens, the food and Don himself. Besides Sylvia, the following Red Hatters attending were: Sylvia Aunger, Kathy Borncamp, Allie Irwin, Mary Krill, Joan Kuhn, Penny Matthews, Sue Motter, Bobbie Williams and Sandy White.

Reservations are a must. Don can be reached at 862-1333. Check out the beauty of the place – also available for weddings and special occasions – at on the Web.


Dixie Redfearn can be reached at 477-4238 or by email at, or by fax at 477-4292.

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