Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat

A special dinner featuring 19th century writer and humorist Mark Twain - as channeled by impersonator Pat Kaunert - will mark the Jan. 15 grand opening celebration for Columbia's City Hotel restaurant.

The grand opening three-course dinner and program is offered at $35 per person.

The first course will be spicy candied walnuts, stilton cheese and organic greens with quince vinaigrette, and the second course will be cream of carrot and ginger soup. The entree will be a choice of poached pacific salmon and roasted root vegetables with an arugula pistou, roasted duck with butternut squash, crepes and green beans, or grilled flat iron steak bordelaise with chanterelles, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and fresh thyme. Dessert will be maple pots de creme with almond praline.

In Kaunert's portrayal, Twain returns to 1880 Columbia to deliver a lecture on his adventures out West, including mining on the Nevada Comstock, big trouble in San Francisco, pocket mining near Tuttletown and spinning yarns at Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County.

Call 532-1479 for reservations.

The City Hotel restaurant was closed for nearly two years until owners

Jeff and Jackie Briggs reopened it in mid-November in time to bring

back the hotel's traditional Victorian Christmas Feast.

The restaurant dates back to 1854, and has been known for many years as one of the Gold Country's favorite dining spots.

For 31 years, the nonprofit Columbia City Hotel Corp. ran the

concession, which included City Hotel, its restaurant, What Cheer

Saloon, Fallon Hotel, Fallon Ice Cream Parlor and Fallon Theater. The

Jenny Lind Restaurant and Angelo's Hall were added later, as were three

renovated cabins.

One of the corporation's missions was to provide training ground

where Columbia College hospitality management students could get

hands-on experience.

That relationship ended when Forever Resorts took over the

operations around April 2006. The City Hotel Corp. was dissolved after

struggling financially for several years, and the Columbia College

culinary arts program was moved onto the campus.

Forever Resorts pulled out of the park almost two years ago, and

Jeff and Jackie Briggs signed on about a year ago to take over the

multi-business City Hotel concession. They renamed the Jenny Lind

Bart's Black Skillet, and since taking over have opened all parts of

the concession.

The delay in opening the restaurant was because of renovations, mostly to meet fire marshal mandates.

"Things are going well now," Jackie Briggs said. "The City Hotel

restaurant open by reservation only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

right now, but by late spring or summer we should be open every day but


She said Bart's Black Skillet is serving lunch Wednesdays through

Fridays and breakfast and lunch on Saturdays until business picks up

during the busy tourist season.

Angelo's hall is available for large groups at no charge if the

Briggs do the catering. Families can bring their own food, but then the

fee is $350 for up to four hours and $100 for every hour after that.

Other caterers are not allowed.

The Fallon Theater and ice cream parlor are temporarily closed. The theater is expected to open for a Valentine's show.

Contact Lenore Rutherford at lrutherford@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585.