Summer is a time for salads. Summer is a time for lighter meals.
Those facts became more apparent after a call from Michelle Schanel, owner and chef at The Snooty Frog in Cameron Park’s Burke Junction, regarding exactly that and her solution.
“It is becoming more common during the summer months for people to ask me if it is OK for them to just order a salad for dinner,” said Schanel. “I tell them yes, and the more I thought about it I decided to add some new salads to the menu just for them.”
Making the decision to serve salads as a focal point of a meal makes sense for a foothill restaurant.
“We in California are fortunate since we live in the ‘salad bowl’ of the nation, but that is not all. Other crops, such as stone fruits, apples, melons, and more, also do well here,” Schanel said.
Now, that is not to say that the rest of the nation doesn’t get fresh, delicious and nutritious summer fruit and produce, but remember, the average item on a dinner table traveled 1,500 to 2,500 miles to get there. Fortunately for California residents the distance for food to go from field to table is shorter.
Chef Schanel served several of the summer salads to get feedback on her selections.
A gracious hostess, she presented the salads, each plated beautifully and served with a Skinner Vineyards Syrah, and later a taste of the same vineyards’ new mourvedre.
Among the salads now being served at the Snooty Frog are the old-fashioned wedge salad, a large wedge of iceberg lettuce with the diner’s choice of dressing and bacon; the park salad, with chopped tomato, cucumber, blue cheese and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette; the Napa salad, with chopped egg, beets and almonds with a housemade ranch dressing (she created this one while working in Napa if you are wondering why the name); the classic Oriental, with grilled chicken, cabbage, rice noodles and almonds with Oriental dressing; the always popular Cobb, with grilled chicken, bacon, tomato, cucumber, egg and blue cheese with a side of housemade ranch dressing; the jumbo shrimp Louie or crab Louie, a delicious offering properly served with a side of housemade Louie dressing; the Pacific rim, house smoked salmon, tomato, cucumber and blue cheese, topped with raspberry vinaigrette; and another classic, the Caprese salad, ripe tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil with extra virgin olive oil.
The first salad sampled was the Pacific rim. Everything just comes together in that salad, all the ingredients complementing each other. The crowning touch is making it with the house smoked salmon.
The second treat was the Napa salad. It is not only a delicious combination of flavors, but of textures, varying from the softness of the egg to the medium texture of the beets and then the crunchiness of the almonds.
The Wedge salad is a memory on a plate and something that is hardly ever served anymore, except maybe at grandma’s house. The crisp moistness that only iceberg lettuce has makes it one of the most refreshing of all the salads and it works well with all dressings. The bacon crumbles add a special touch.
The final salad was the Caprese, which loosely translates to “a salad in the style of Capri,” a salad believed to have been invented in the Campania region of Italy. The olive oil and basil give it a bit of a bite that provides a contrast to the mozzarella and tomatoes.
Schanel pointed out that the reason her food is so fresh is that she personally shops for and picks out everything she uses at the restaurant, especially the produce.
After the salads, Schanel capped off the sampling of salads with one of the Snooty Frog’s most popular desserts, the chocolate lover’s sundae — bite-sized brownies, caramel candies, and ice cream topped with hot fudge and walnuts. It was a superb finish to a superb summer salad meal.
The wines were very nice, but as suspected went better with some salads than others. When they worked, they were great, when they didn’t, they were still good.
The Snooty Frog is located at 3300 Coach Lane, E-3 in Cameron Park’s Burke Junction and is open for dinner from 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday.
The Snooty Frog also has a full bar and a great mixologist in John Sanders. His speciality is martinis — many kinds of martinis.
For more information or reservations call (530) 677-9025 or visit snootyfrog.com.