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Alchemy Market And Café: Comfort food with a twist

At the south end of a thriving Main Street in Murphys stands the perfect setting to dine on hearty fare, sip local wines, or enjoy “a nice cold one” from the over 120 beers offered in a charming dining atmosphere.

Alchemy Market and Café, a rustic yet stylish setting with a marble top bar, wood floors, vaulted ceiling, chandelier lighting, and fireplace, at 191 Main St., has an extensive menu of reasonably priced appetizers and entrées.

The only problem — there’s so many delicious cuisine items to choose from in just one setting you’ll have to return as one dish seems to outdo the other.

Chef and owner Jason Wright describes his creations as “comfort food with a twist” as he takes something familiar and presents it in a way to exceed expectations.

Wright’s Golden Nugget Cheese Bread, with its mixture of butter, corn kernels, serrano chilies, garlic, cilantro, and green onion combined with white cheddar and Parmesan cheese spread over a golden ciabatta bread captures your attention and palate when you commence your dining experience.

Appetizers feature a calamari with sliced jalapenos, Parmesan cheese, and chipotle aioli is a specialty that Wright takes pride in using only the tubes and no tentacles of the octopus or a Greek ahi salad with fennel-crusted seared ahi tuna, served rare and cool over mixed lettuces, Kalamata olives, marinated red onion, oranges, feta, and a lemon-oregano vinaigrette, with spanakopita –a spinach-cheese pastry – on the side.

Both are paired well with a Lavender Ridge Cotes du Calaveras Blanc white blend in a chilled glass.

With 30 wineries in the area, the Alchemy wine list features only Murphys area wines, and only by the glass. Wright said the by-the-glass sale gives patrons a chance to sample and mix from white to red.

Entrées sampled on a July visit included a scrumptious crab macaroni and cheese prepared with rotini and a creamy white cheddar and Parmesan sauce, Dungeness crab meat, with Parmesan gratinée served in a skillet. Also a specialty of Alchemy, the Ultimate Meatloaf which was bacon wrapped in a barbeque demi-glace served steak like with real mashed potatoes and snap peas.

Both dishes were tasted with a medium-bodied Lavender Bunting Red Mourvedre.

The Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Salmon with an arugula, pecan and strawberry salad is a popular entre for the warm afternoons of Murphys.

Wright purchased Alchemy in 2007 when the establishment was only a deli and wine bar.

“It wasn’t full service like it is now,” said Wright, who trained at the San Francisco Culinary Academy and previously owned award-winning Bahama Billy’s Island Steakhouse in Carmel Valley.

With time, Wright converted the establishment into a restaurant setting, diminishing the store area and bringing in dishes he had compiled over the years that were favorites of previous patrons.

“It’s a collection of favorite items that stays the same,” Wright said. “A lot of times we have specials that the staff recommends should be on the menu but when we look at what it should replace, we can’t find one to sacrifice.”

Another pride of Wright is the fact that he carries an extensive selection of over 150 types of beer and 12 rotating taps.

“The beer geek will be in heaven here,” said Wright. “We carry hard to find stuff. I have a good relationship with my distributor who gets me hard to get beers.”

Alchemy hosts beer dinners in January as well as pint nights and keg tap parties to introduce their ales and beers. They also have winemaker nights throughout the year featuring local winemakers that are present and pouring.

Alchemy has established itself as an exceptional, must-do dining experience when visiting Murphys that keep visitors and locals alike returning for more.

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