Two interesting things about living in a smaller town intersected in my mind this week. One is how much I form relationships with buildings. People do this in cities, too, but because there are so many options in cities, it can be overwhelming. In smaller places, your choices are more manageable. There are five buildings in Nevada City, CA that I especially like, and one is an old stone brewery.
The other feature of small-town life is that if you stay somewhere long enough, everything changes around you. I’m now in my twentieth year in Nevada City, watching this particular building be turned into a bar and restaurant by its fourth owner during my tenure. It was built in the 19th century, so there were obviously many proprietors before, but that fact seems very different when you watch the changes taking place with your own eyes.
The Stone House, as it’s now called, is having a soft opening this week… that is, they’re open, but not advertising at all, just letting whoever wanders in help them test out their drink mixing, their cash register foibles, and how many mushrooms ought to be served as an appetizer.
The answer on the day we were there was ten, and they were delicious: crimini mushroom caps stuffed with arugula pesto, some kind of cheese, and toasted walnuts. We thought there should be an accompaniment of bread to soak up the ensuing juice on the plate, and this recommendation was eagerly written down by our bartender, Brooke, although there was no bread in the house to serve us. We ate some home-made crackers instead, to help test them, but those weren’t useful for sopping.
I am not what you’d ever call an early adopter. My preference is usually to wait a decade or two before I dive into whatever the new trend might be. But this is the building where I hosted a celebration after winning my National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1998. One of my book jacket photos was taken leaning against a beautiful exterior stone wall. And my life coaching office is right up the street! I park in this restaurant’s parking lot. So I had to come in and see what was going on. I brought my friend Susanna, who is 99% available to go on a lark.
She had an “Old Brunswick,” which might be an Old-Fashioned type of drink with a local name attached (Brunswick Basin being an odd zone between Nevada City and Grass Valley where all the fast food joints reside). I had something I invented: orange juice, fizzy water, and two splashes of the house-made pomegranate syrup over ice. We called it Poet’s Punch.
Two couples came in while we were sipping our drinks, and a few of the staff wandered by. There was some discussion about shifts and credit cards that I didn’t really catch. It was lovely to be in a big old cool spacious building full of history, and lovely to see something slightly battered be given a metaphoric new lease on life.
The fancy restaurant being built on the second floor should be ready by early May, and that’s when they’ll make a lot of noise about opening their doors. Until then, I vote you slip in for a visit any time between 3 and 10 p.m. and see how it’s going.
If you don’t drink alcohol, any of these can be ordered “virgin,” as they say, or Brooke will make you something delicious of her own design. And you can always fall back on Poet’s Punch. Just tell her Molly said to order it.