by Virginia York

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February 9, 2012
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Valentine's Day opening for Markleeville's new cafe

Bring family, friends and Valentines to this Tuesday's opening of Ali's Cafe, our new eating and drinking place in downtown Markleeville, in the two-story building opposite the general store.

The cafe is open from 7 a.m.-2 p.m., winter hours. Hours will increase in May. Breakfast is served all day and lunch starts at 11a.m. At breakfast you will be happily surprised at the strikingly original offerings, including stuffed bagels and croissants and breakfast burritos with an exquisite mingling of flavors, biscuits and country sausage gravy, and fresh fruit with yogurt and granola. The croissants are made by Ali and I can vouch for their mouth-watering appeal having sampled a fruit version at the Christmas Faire. Lunch features Mexican dishes, including chili verde and fish tacos. There are also choices for kids. Beer and wine will soon be available. Ali is glad to accommodate vegetarians and vegans.

How can a gringa cook Mexican food? Ali used to own a taco truck business in South Lake Tahoe. She leased a building where she kept her supplies and cooked the food. One day a Mexican woman came to Ali with a request. Could she use Ali's commercial kitchen to cook a meal for 20 family members? The two women managed to communicate with the one's lack of English and the other's high school Spanish, but the learning was nonverbal. For five hours Ali watched over the cook's shoulder, paying close attention to ingredients and method while and array of appetizing Mexican dishes was produced. A couple of days later Ali tried to make chili verde on her own. The result was delicious. Subsequently she experimented successfully with reproducing more components of the feast. Over time, Ali varied the recipes, making them her own.

Ali (Alicia Fite) was born in Placerville and grew up in South Lake Tahoe, one of seven children. She graduated from South Tahoe High School, where she took classes with two of our locals; Joyce Devore was her ninth grade English teacher and Randi Makley taught her accounting when she was a senior. She recalls that Randi required that her students dress as if for work and clock in when they came to class. Each student has his/her own work station, simulating a work place. Ali has done her own accounting for her two previous businesses.

Both of Ali's parents died by the time she was 18, and she developed a remarkable ability to take care of herself. She talks things over with her grandmother who is justifiably proud of her granddaughter. Ali's Cafe is her third business in the 10 years since she left high school; the other two are the taco truck operation and a cleaning business. At South Shore she has also worked at Sprouts Cafe, Sports LTD, and at Hot Gossip, which belonged to Leesa who now runs the Hope Valley Cafe. Ali used to visit Leesa at Hope Valley and lend a hand; she eventually went to work there. She met Todd Sodaro at the Hope Valley Cafe which led to her helping to manage the Carson River Resort. No stranger to hard work, Ali has usually worked two or three jobs simultaneously. Her family pet name is Mouche, French for fly, because of her energetic buzzing about. She does, however, find time to go fishing and hikes with her companion, Carson the pug.

While she was working in Alpine County, Ali fell in love with Markleeville. She moved here in March 2011 to the two-story Coyan house on Main Street. She wondered what to do with so much space and came up with the idea of starting a cafe. She is a talented craftswoman and has decorated the new cafe with style and imagination. On sale in the foyer are books of local interest, mugs by Dawn Riddle, hats, aprons and other gifts. She plans on additional seating outside for the warmer weather.

Good luck Ali, in your new enterprise.

Virginia York is a Markleeville resident.

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The Record Courier Updated Feb 9, 2012 05:17PM Published Feb 9, 2012 05:15PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.