As usual, Neoma Wiggins was at the restaurant Zachary Jacques in the El Dorado County hamlet of Diamond Springs last night. Not so usual, however, she was there as honored guest rather than server, a role she's performed with knowledge, sincerity and charm for nearly 30 years. She began in 1981, and shortly after the start of the new year will call it quits, though she seems to have the vigor and humor to continue another decade or two. That energy henceforth will be focused on her garden.
During her three decades at Zachary Jacques she's seen five different owners, changes in the style of cooking coming from the kitchen, and shifts in the composition of the clientele. While local residents continue to frequent Zachary Jacques regularly, the restaurant also attracts several touring wine enthusiasts drawn to the growing number of wineries in nearby Pleasant Valley, Placerville, Somerset and Fair Play.
That's what we did yesterday, after which we stopped by Zachary Jacques to help acknowledge the long and important contributions that Neoma Wiggins has made to the fun of dining out in the El Dorado hinterland. John and Lynnette Evans, in their sixth year as owners of Zachary Jacques, put out a buffet spread so varied and long it stretched outside, where the ice carving didn't look to be thawing in the cold of the night. In the photo here, that's Neoma Wiggins in the middle, flanked by John and Lynnette Evans on the left, Christian and Jennifer Masse on the right, who owned Zachary Jacques for nearly 17 years before selling it and establishing the popular takeout spot Allez! in neighboring El Dorado.
On our next visit to Zachary Jacques we will miss the amiability and grace of Neoma Wiggins, but based on last night's buffet we have several dishes to look forward to, starting with the grilled duck. Zachary Jacques, incidentally, is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday, breakfast weekends, and is the setting for frequent winemaker events and holiday specials. It's at 1821 Pleasant Valley Road; 530.626.8045.
While at Zachary Jacques, incidentally, we heard that the online reservation service OpenTable included the Elk Grove restaurant Boulevard Bistro in its list of the top 50 restaurants of the United States for 2010. In later checking the list, which is based on more than 7 million reviews by OpenTable diners, we found two other local restaurants - Ambience in Carmichael and The Kitchen in Sacramento. Other Northern California restaurants on the list are The French Laundry in Yountville, and Madrona Manor and Cyrus, both of Healdsburg.