Lou’s Sushi

As if Sacramento needed another sushi joint… but we need Lou’s. We need Lou’s like a drunk needs a forty. This place is spectacular and after just one visit, has become my favorite place for sushi. It’s neighborly, friendly, and comfortable. Lacking in distractions in the form of televisions, guests are encouraged to actually talk to each other! Gasp!

Lou’s has taken over the corner of P and 28th previously occupied by Una Mas. Is that chain still around? At any rate, it is tiny, but with high ceilings and some cool industrial art adorning the walls with changing LED lights behind said art, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic.

Starting off with miso soup is always a good idea, right? And this would be no exception. It was unlike any miso I’d had at a sushi joint. Packed with miso, seaweed, and tofu, it wasn’t your average, run-of-the-mill, watery miso you’d get at a lesser place.

I had the very good fortune of landing here on a Tuesday, which is all day happy hour. Yes, you read that right. Rolls, drinks, and all kinds of goodness await you at 8:30 on a Tuesday night. I was the lucky recipient of the BTS: Grilled albacore in a ponzu sauce and a healthy sprinkling of jalapeno peppers. And no, I have no idea why it’s called the BTS since none of the ingredients actually start with a “B,” “T”, or “S.” But who cares. This thing is delicious.

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As for the roll, I tried the Midtown. Panko crusted fried spicy tuna and avocado, with sriracha, sweet sauce and some scallions. I mean, seriously, can you go wrong with those ingredients? Well, I’m sure you could, but Lou’s didn’t. The tuna was quite spicy, but not over powering. However, more delicate [insert: wimpy] palates may prefer a less capsaicin-laced roll.

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May I suggest the Roy-G-Biv, which is a nerd’s way of saying “Rainbow Roll.” Not a nerd, you say? It’s the colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. There. Now you can’t say I only ever talk about food. Or the classic California Roll. This isn’t a boring California Roll, however. Lou’s uses real crab, not that weird, fake, stick-meat you commonly find occupying the space real crab should be.

As a standard practice, I always order agedashi tofu. Somewhere along the way, I decided this was going to be my litmus test for good sushi which is totally ridiculous, since it’s neither raw, nor fish. In case you’re unfamiliar with agedashi, it’s pretty much just fried tofu. Can’t screw that up, right? Well, you’d be surprised. The way it’s served can vary with each restaurant. Lou’s places the tofu in a warm soy broth and tops it with freshly grated ginger and daikon radish. The key to good agedashi, IMHO, is how crunchy it is, and when you bite into it, how much grease gushes forth to dribble down your chin, causing a path of third degree burns. Just wait until it cools down, you say? Well, that’s boring and I’m a “risk taker.” I’m happy to report, Lou’s was just how I like it. The broth wan’t too salty, nor was there too much ginger, another problem that can afflict agedashi.

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Also on the table (at a different time… I love sushi, but even my tummy has limits!) were the Markimoto: spicy tuna with asparagus and albacore, sprinkled with ponzu sauce and scallions.

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Also were mushroom egg rolls, perfect for anyone who doesn’t want a greasy pork eggroll.

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Their nigiri is also the best of the best. I enjoy having a piece of salmon or tuna after rolls, and almost had two orders of their salmon that night. It was buttery, smooth, and flavorful. Wherever they get their fish, I want a piece of that action! Oo, I also want to try their seafood nachos, which I hear are spectacular.

Lest you think the name Lou was chosen by a Japanese guy who idolized Lou Reed and landed on that name while trying to find an American name, Lou looks like he’d be more at home in a pizza joint in Brooklyn, but make no mistake, this guy knows what he’s doing. He even has a great sushi chef with the most un-decidedly non-Asian name of Igor (no, it’s pronounced Eye-gore – name that movie), who is also a huge San Jose Sharks fan.

I absolutely LOVE Lou’s and am willing to wait the 30-45 minutes it may take to get a table or sit at the bar at peak hours. What Lou’s doesn’t have is other Japanese cuisine, like soup or teriyaki, which is fine by me. They do sushi and they do it better than anyone. They also happily do take out. I got enough for my family of out of towners and it was perfect.

Overall impression: 4.5/5
Price: $$/$$$$$

Lou’s Sushi
2801 P Street

http://www.lousushi.com/

916.451.4700

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LouSushi
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lousushi
Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/lous-sushi-sacramento

Oh, Mother!

This isn’t your mom’s vegetarian food… oh wait, actually, it is. Mother at 10th and K makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about vegetarian and vegan food. In a former life, the space was occupied by Blimpie. I find that moderately hilarious.

The space has been revamped with a hip interior covered in chalkboards with tables laid with mismatched silverware and repurposed wine bottles for water, fresh lavender-infused lemonade or kombucha on tap. If Mother were a person, she’d be a hipster lesbian in flannel, chapstick, and Chucks, with a VW beetle and homemade cheese, which was somehow made to be vegan. And I mean that as compliment. Headed by Mike Thiemann, the former chef at one of my absolute favorites, Ella, this is seriously good food, regardless of your personal level of crunchiness.

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After agonizing over the menu, we decided to do the Chef’s Sampler, which consists of 10 total dishes: eight savory and two sweet.

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Starting at the top left is cheesy roasted potatoes with shaved truffles. Next to that is roasted cauliflower and broccoli with harissa. Then comes their watanabe salad: avocado with hearts of palm. Below that is chili verde. Below the chili verde are mushroom hot wings. To the immediate left is their housemade foccacia with roasted garlic puree and chickory slaw. Then comes huaruche. Finally, in the middle is roasted asparagus with chimichurri.

Okay, the cheesy potatoes were splendid. I love truffles and the amount of shaved truffle was just perfect. It wasn’t overwhelming, and they didn’t skimp on the truffle. I really enjoyed the roasted cauliflower, as well. The harissa really livened up the roasted cauliflower, while the broccoli added a wonderful crunch to the experience. Of these, the avocado and heart of palm were my least favorite. It’s a delightful idea, and gorgeous to gaze upon. It includes Miner’s lettuce and red onion, and is served with a lemon vinaigrette that was far too not lemony for my citrus crazed taste. A little bit of salt and pepper may have livened this up a bit. The chili verde… roasted potato, pinto beans, hominy, smoked pickled peppers and a touch of mozzarella. I’m not a big fan of this kind of dish, and would probably not order it, but I’m so very glad I experienced it with this Chef’s Choice spread! Okay, but I have to rush past to get to the mushroom hotwings. Wonderfully crunchy, with a texture that will make wonder why you ever ate real wings in the first place, these were at the top of my fave list. Served in the classic style with a ranch-style dressing, carrots, and celery, I’d want these for my Super Bowl party! Now to the foccacia. Holy heck this was delish! I can’t even begin to express how much I loved this bread. It had the perfect amount of crunch, the mushrooms were cooked perfectly, and the chicory salad was to die for.

I need a break. Whew. Okay.

Next is the huarache with green chiles, mushrooms, black eye peas, and buffalo cheese. If you’ve never experienced huarache, you must! It’s like a savory polenta cake topped with all sorts of goodness. And finally… the roasted asparagus with chimichurri. The heat on this was a nice addition. The asparagus was a bit overdone for my taste, but I like it almost raw.

And finally… dessert!

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Carrot cake with toasted quinoa, candied almonds and fromage blanc. On the right is the signature brown butter cookie with sea salt. Both of these were delicious. The sea salt is just such a nice complement to the brown butter. The carrot cake also had coriander, hence the cilantro… they’re all about the life cycle of a plant, apparently, which I loved.

Honestly, while making this post, I looked over the menu and declared that I can hardly wait to return. There were items like their nut burger, spaghetti, and chicken fried mushroom po-boy… oh! and fried okra, that will make me return to Mother as quickly as I can!

Bottom line: Get your butt to Mother!

Price: $$/$$$$
Ambience: 2/5 (It’s not super fancy, but it’s quite comfortable)
Service: 4.5/5 (They’re super friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful)

Mother
1023 K Street
(916) 594-9812
http://mothersacramento.com
Open until 11 on the weekend, 10 otherwise. Closed Sunday. Dinner only Saturday. Lunch only Monday.

https://www.facebook.com/mothersacramento

Blackbird, Redux

After an abrupt and unceremonious closure last Fall, Blackbird reopened last Wednesday, February 26th, with the slightly altered, and more apropos name of Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery. When I heard they were closing, the only emotion I could say I felt was utter, total, and immense despair. Despondent, [sarcasm: on] I found myself trying my best to enjoy dishes at other establishments, like Ella and Magpie. Tough, I know. [Sarcasm: off.] So when I read that they were reopening, I was happy. No, ecstatic! No, fricking elated! Yes, one of my favorite cold bars was coming back! And come back they have… maybe not with a vengeance, but they have returned.

On a rainy evening, I was greeting with rockstar parking across the street and two lovely men opening Blackbird’s doors for me. I’d heard there were some slight changes to the interior, but nothing too dramatic to make you think you’ve stepped into the wrong restaurant. Along the side wall now sit long, low benches, instead of the high tops that existed there before. Bar seating has been significantly increased with this simple alteration. Also different were the seats in the far back. Inhabiting that space are large, irregularly cut wooden bar height tops.

Seated in the balcony at one of two tables overlooking the space, you truly get a “bird’s eye” view of the place. Seating has also been increased up here, with benches along the back wall. I was presented with more menus than I can count: beer, food, wine, and drinks. Not quite as expansive and obnoxious as The Cheesecake Factory, with the beer selections outstripping the food choices. Yowza! I am not as much of a beer drinker as I am a wine fan, so I was pleased to see the wide variety of beer, particularly local ones, and a selection of ciders; I was sure to find something of interest, and I found many things!

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This is two-sided!

Perusing the menu, I had a hard time figuring out what to order. There are still some of the old favorites like fish tacos and Arctic char, with some new beef additions, including a vegan dish of wild mushrooms and toasted oats. Oysters are still on the menu, but only one kind. I don’t know if this will be a rotating selection, or if they’ll always have kumamotos. I am hoping for more in the future.

Tonight started with some sparkling wine. They have four on the menu, three available by the glass. One of the two we wanted wasn’t deemed cold enough, so an alternative was brought up. Instead of the Chandon, we received a Varichon & Clerc blanc de blanc, which was fine by me.

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For food, first up was Captain’s Chowder, a popular holdover from the original menu. Populated with potatoes, pollock, calamari rings, mussels, and clams, this chowder is rife with variety. However, don’t expect it to be overflowing. The broth is delightful, with a slightly smoky flavor given by the clams, which are house-smoked. It’s not too thick, nor too thin, in my opinion. I prefer a brothy soup, so this suited me just fine. My system generally has a hard time with soups like this, but you’ll be happy to know, I had no problems with what I ate. Just an FYI, in case anyone else has, um, issues like I do.

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From the raw portion of the menu was the also aforementioned Arctic char. I can’t remember how it was served before, but now it’s sliced ever so thin, and placed on a cream cheese sauce that’s lightly dusted with “everything bagel dust.” The char is topped with black roe. The flavors on this were good, and the textures interesting. I particularly enjoyed the bagel dust for its interesting crunch.

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Next was seared Hawaiian butterfish. Butterfish is also known as waloo/walu. It was served with a pillar of daikon with sprouts, some bok choy in a shallow lake of kombu lily broth. I kind of wanted a spoon for the broth! Can you tell I’m a fan of broths and soups?! The butterfish had a nice, slightly crunchy exterior, and was just enough raw in the middle.

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After all this, I was still feeling a little munchy. So instead of dessert, I decided to try the grilled Caesar salad. I’d been craving a Caesar for a while, for utter unknown reasons, and this, unfortunately, did nothing to curb my craving. Why? Because it’s not a traditional Caesar. The trimmed head of lettuce itself is slapped on a grill for a little bit, so it gets a really interesting flavor from the grilling. This also means it’s not cold, so you miss that crunch and temperature. It had a too small dollop of dressing off to the side, and barely any cheese. In lieu of anchovies, Blackbird used fried night smelt. I’m not a big fan of whole fish and refuse to eat them. I tried a piece, but the breading was awkward and they’re just  too big for me.

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This soft open wasn’t without its kinks. But then again, soft opens never are. I didn’t see any familiar faces from before, not that I was expecting to. The servers need a bit more training on the menu and booze, and I’d like to see more desserts and maybe a pizza or two. But I do like their new bar menu that features nachos, tempura, fish tacos, and a burger. I miss the fries, though, and the other seafood items, since I am pescetarian. I don’t know about a happy hour, but I hope they’ll do one! I also was very irritated when my bill came and I was charged for an amount I saw nowhere on the menu. Turns out, they don’t list the price of a pint, the most common size to order, but include three other sizes.

Overall, Blackbird’s new menu and feel reflect their move away from seafood, towards a more robust feel that can stand up to the beer. I have a feeling this will continue to evolve and change until they can truly hit their stride. But, because Carina is such an innovator, who knows where that will be? I, for one, look forward to seeing how Blackbird 2.0 comes into its own.

Dad’s Kitchen

Oh, Dad. How I’m so very sorry I never met you until now. Dad’s Kitchen is an amazing, fun, homey place to drink yourself into beer heaven. I had no idea just how extensive their beer selection was until I saw it for myself. Unfortunately, this post has absolutely nothing to do about beer, but I’m sure I’ll partake in their beer at some point, and post a glowingly drunken review. But today, I’m going to posting a glowingly fat review.

With the closure of two of my brunch staples, Restaurant Thir13en, and the eclectic Bows & Arrows, I lost two of my favorite brunch spots in one fell swoop. However, now that I’ve experienced Dad’s, I will most certainly end up there with friends and family.

Receiving a text at 8:30 am on a Saturday may seem criminal to some, but I was awake, and since it was from a very close friend of mine, I decided to take a break from Words With Friends and see what she wanted. And what she wanted to grab brunch there. Awesome! I thought. I’d never been there and had been wanting to give it a go. So, off I went.

Located off busy Freeport Blvd, which is also 21st, in case you’re wondering, parking can be tricky. But try your luck along the residential streets nearby if you can’t get one of the coveted spots in the parking lot directly in front. Oh, speaking of which, there’s a Pilates/spinning/barre/who-knows-what-else studio right next door if you feel the need to work off some of your indulgence at Dad’s, Subway (or not), Freeport Bakery, or Marie’s Doughnuts, all of which, are within twenty steps. Dangerous days, we’re in, people!

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Dad’s has an awesome back patio, which is enclosed and armed with heat lamps for cooler weather and fans in the warmth. I do suppose it also expertly keeps away pesky flies, mosquitoes and other sorts of flying rodentia. A roll-up door separates the bar from the patio, considerably opening up the place.

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One of the coolest things about Dad’s is that they use grass-fed beef, local produce, free range, organic… pretty much everything a hipster could ask for. This can, however, cause a bit of confusion when the hamburger comes out a wee bit pink in the middle. Apparently this is caused by the fact that the beef is grass-fed and something about the oxidation. I don’t know the veracity of this explanation, but I’m going with it. If any of my dozen readers know the answer, please elucidate!

At any rate, here’s what was on the table that morning!

Coffee (with creamer served out of baby bottles… not quite sure what they’re saying about us who use creamer!) that was really great (I had two cups, and was still able to go to bed that night, miraculously), a mimosa, and a bloody mary(which was spicy, and a generally good bloody) were the beverages, and here are the meals… well, after the photos of the bevs…!

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Clockwise:

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Meatless Marvel: A breakfast sando with hard fried eggs, avocado, tomato, and spinach, stuck to sliced sourdough bread with cheddar cheese and a pepper plant sauce, and served with their signature “breakfast tater,” which is diced potato somehow combined with garlic and/or onion, and fashioned into a large tater tot-looking thing.

Dad’s Gone South of the Border: two eggs, any style (although this was fried), atop their housemade meat or veggie chili (appropriately called “Dad’s Damn Good Chili”), home fries and cheddar, all weighing down on a poor ol’ tostada shell.

Dad’s Burger: This was apparently featured on the Food Network episode of “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.” And OH-EM-GEE. If I was eating meat, this would most definitey be something I’d be ordering! It’s a 12 oz. patty of aforementioned grass fed beef, that’s encrusted with bacon, and topped with bleu cheese, along with the usual accoutrements of tomato, lettuce, and red onion with an allepo chilip spread. Another cool thing about Dad’s? They’ve got gluten-free breads provided by Pushkin’s, located at 29th and S, although they hadn’t gotten their shipment quite yet when we were there.

Vegetarian omelette: This is a pretty standard omelette, with mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes, with jack cheese and served with homefries and one of their homemade biscuits. I had this. It wasn’t any kind of fireworks-immediately-write-home-to-mom kind of omelette, but it was yummy, cooked well, and just perfect for what I wanted. The homefries are about what you’d expect: cubes of potato with onion, bell peppers, and seasoning. I was a little disappointed in the biscuit; it was rather dry and flat. But, honestly, I didn’t care!

Bottom line, Dad’s is a fun, easy, comfortable place, with affordable food, a great waitstaff, and enough beer to keep a beer-aholic satisfied for quite some time!

Bottom line, if you’re a beer-fan, a food fan, or just a fan of comfy food, come on over to Dad’s! Next up, Mother… then Orphan. Haha.

Food: 4/5
Ambience: 2/5 (it’s a casual place!)
Cost: $$/$$$$$ (affordable, everyday kind of place!)

Dad’s Kitchen
2968 Freeport Blvd.
Sacramento, CA  95818
916.447.3237

Device Brewery

There’s a new “kid” on the block… and by “kid,” I mean awesome brewery! In a really obscure and off the beaten path lay Device Brewery, a true mom and pop organization that is run by the ridiculously attractive husband and wife team of Ken and Melissa Anthony. And by “off the beaten path,” I mean it. It’s off Power Inn Road and 14th Avenue, which at this point, resembles a forgotten road in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. But, just a block off busy Power Inn lay Device. This part of Sacramento one might consider the “industrial” area. It’s filled with warehouses, manufacturing plants, body shops, and other businesses of that ilk, with an after work crowd who are much more inclined to grab a pint than a glass of chardonnay! In the corner spot, you’ll find this brewery. There’s plenty of parking and a relaxed, comfortable feel to the place, where I imagine there will be a “Norm” and “Cliff” very soon, if there isn’t already.

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Acquired in spring of 2013, the small, but comfortable tasting room opened late last year. Serving up a small, but craft selection of IPAs, stouts, amber ale, and who knows what else may be coming, this is the definition of hand-crafting. Now, I don’t go to very many breweries, and I’m sad to say I haven’t even checked out New Helvetia and I know nothing about beer week… there is such a thing, right?! I know, bad Sacramentan, bad Sacramentan! But, please, don’t judge me! I’m a wino, through and through. However, I certainly can tell a bad beer from an average one… and these are anything but average!

When I ventured over there, I had a sampling of one of their two stouts, and a mild IPA. The stout was a bit much for me, as stouts can be, and on the sweeter, chocolatey side, but it was delicious and I would have had a small glass if I’d been ready for dessert… or a stout, I suppose. So I was poured an IPA that was mild on the hop. Unlike my palate for wine: chewy, multi-layered, complex and maybe a bit confusing, I like my beer like my men: simple… aren’t they all? Haha. Seriously, though, I prefer pilsners, witbiers, and the like. I shy away from IPAs, and haven’t met one I’d like to spend the night with. However, I think I could have had a go of it with this IPA. Who knows, maybe my beer palate is moving beyond cloudy, pee-hued stuff.

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I don’t know what else they plan on serving, but I’m very excited about this place. It’s close to where I work, friendly, affordable, and about as local as they get. As for food, there are only pretzels to be had, however, I did see a party bring in food, so it would appear they’re amenable to that. I don’t know if they plan on, or have the facilities for food service. But check their website for service, as food trucks do make a stop there.

I’m hoping they expand into lighter beers, offering a larger spectrum, and if they could do a good gluten-free beer, I have several friends who would instantly fall in love with them!

My point? (“I have no point. I often have no point. It’s part of my charm.” If you know that   modified quote, dinner’s on me! Haha.) Get there when you can!

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Device Brewing Company
8166 14th Avenue
Sacramento, CA  95826

http://devicebrewing.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DeviceBrewing

Thursday: 3-7
Friday: 3-8
Saturday: 1-7

Closing?!

Well, here it is. Two of my favorite restaurants are biting the dust. Enotria has closed, and Restaurant Thir13en is set to close at the end of the month. 13 is still participating in Bacon Week, full force, but if you want to experience Chef Pechal’s wares, you’ll have to go to Tuli Bistro. But do try to get to 13 before it closes, if you can!

Needless to say, I am very disappointed to see another restaurant not make it. For the article in the Bee about Enotria’s closure, the article is here. And here’s the article about Thirt13en.

Dine Downtown, January 2014

Ah, Dine Downtown, how I love thee. This edition saw me visit Red Rabbit, GrangeFoundation Restaurant and Bar, and, of course, Ella. You can see my reviews of them in earlier posts, with the exception of Foundation, which is new.

At RED RABBIT, we sat at the bar and enjoyed some excellent conversation and some excellent food. It had been a while, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised!

First up, butternut squash and potato croquettes, with manchego cheese and a sage parsley pesto. These were little balls of heaven. Also, were “Shrimp on the Barbie.” It was pretty much what you’d expect: grilled shrimp. These were skewered with an Asian-inspired slaw and spicy Thai chili glaze. The flavor that grilling imparts was readily apparent and I hope to be able to order these again. And no, they weren’t head-on shrimp. The photo is deceiving; that’s actually just the skewer. Fear not, oh intrepid American diner!

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Next up was a salad. Red Rabbit offered the option of a salad in lieu of dessert, which I found to be a wonderful alternative, since I’m not a huge dessert person. I know, blasphemy! So, we got a mixed green salad with pomegranate seeds, candied walnuts, bleu cheese, and a citrus vinaigrette, and “The Return of Caesar”… and what a triumphant return it was. Take that, Brutus!

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As for the entree, it was easy to select the non-meat ones. These were “The Healer” of pappardelle pasta, brussels sprouts, more of that delightful sage pesto, grana cheese, and topped with a perfectly poached egg. Yum-zilla! The other entree was a butternut squash ravioli with ricotta cheese, pecorino cheese, and sage brown butter. A fairly standard winter dish, done very well. And we all know I’d rather see something “standard” or “simple” done really, super well.

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Two days later was GRANGE. Like Red Rabbit, I’ve been tough on this restaurant before. But that was when they both were new and working out the kinks. This experience at Grange couldn’t have been better. The food was all delightful and Roger, our server who came to California by way of south England, was also delightful. We did the wine pairing, so it was even more delightful! Aieee!!! Delight was oozing out of every pore.

Of course we had to start with oysters. I mean, not doing that seems slightly criminal, don’t you think?! Sharing a glass of bubbles only made it better and our appetites ready.

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First up was a polenta soup with a 2010 David Girard grenache. This paired excellently. I do wish I’d taken better notes on this one, because it was fabulous. Suffice to say, I was too busy ladling its goodness into my face.

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Also was brassica paired with a 2012 Trinchero sauvignon blanc. Brassica is a delightful cruciferous veggie that is crunchy and goes with almost anything.

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For the main course was a vegetable pot pie. I was incredibly excited for this one, and was only a tad disappointed… but in the way that I like my pot pie with lots of sauce for crust-dipping and this was lacking in that department. But overall, the root vegetables, greens, and mustard meshed well. Instead of the Bogle chardonnay that was listed on the pairing, Roger suggested we instead try the Heringer teroldego. By the way, you should go to Heringer. Their tasting room is located at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg. You won’t be disappointed. But I’ll save my glowing words for them for another post! At any rate, the teroldego was definitely the way to go. What in the world is “teroldego,” you say? Well, besides being lots of fun to say and throw out there as insult to the wine philistines of the world, or troglodyte, which sounds delightfully close, tereldego is an Italian varietal that isn’t well known in the US and only grown in a small region of the Northeastern part of Italy. It is meatier and less fruit forward than a pinot, but not as deep as a zinfandel, and definitely doesn’t have the meat of a cabernet. It is soft on the palate and generally great straight out of the bottle.

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As for dessert, lemon meringue tart with a Heringer late harvest chardonnay, and Jodie’s eskimo pie with a Bogle petit sirah port tied the meal into a neat, delicious, insulin-inducing bow. BTW, you can also visit Bogle when you go to Heringer! It’s a little further up the road, but once you get there, it’s worth it!

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Now to the new place: FOUNDATION.

Located at 4th and K, where the 4th Street Grille used to be, it’s a challenge to park, however there is street parking and a parking garage close by. Plus, if you’re making a date of the Crocker, it’s a not too far journey.

We began with parmesan-encrusted artichokes. I really enjoyed these and highly recommend them.

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Our first course was a butternut squash soup with creme fraiche. It was thick without being gravy-ish, and the flavor was both sweet and spicy.

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Also was a beet salad with blood oranges, shaved fennel, and a champagne vinaigrette. I was kind of annoyed when I realized the server hadn’t asked us for fresh ground pepper, but whatever. The main problem with this salad was its lack of flavor. It needed that pepper and it needed more dressing, believe it or not. Yes, I of little dressing thought it needed more! The best part were the blood oranges, which added a nice tang.

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The second course is when things start to fall apart for me.

First is rosemary pappardelle with wild mushrooms, a marsala ragout, and parmesan. It needed some serious oomph. The seasoning was off; I added both salt and pepper. The dish’s temperature was inconsistent, the rim of the plate hadn’t been wiped (I know, I know, it’s just a tiny thing, but something I notice), and it was just too uniform in flavor. The ragout overpowered everything, with the mushrooms a mere afterthought, with very little variation in texture.

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The other dish was “blackened” sea scallops with a chili and cucumber radish on a bed of white corn polenta and roasted grape tomatoes. Okay, the reason I put the quotation marks there is because the scallops weren’t exactly blackened; they were blackened on about 20 percent of each scallop. It was primarily cool by the time it got to the table, and I even had to inspect the scallops a bit more closely just to make sure they were cooked through. The very best part of this was the polenta, although I’m not certain I saw more than a half of a grape tomato. But the polenta was fabulous.

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As for the dessert, this was by far the best course. They were out of the lemon sorbet, so I got raspberry instead. I was a tad bit disappointed, because I love lemon sorbet, but the raspberry was also good. The most delicious was the New York style cheesecake with raspberry coulis. It wasn’t that super thick, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of cheesecake I’m used to from the midwest. This was light, perfectly sweet, and something I can’t wait to try again!

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Overall, I was underwhelmed by Foundation. I will give it some time, though, and see if it can redeem itself in my humble (or not so humble) eyes. It’s still new and there were lots of other interesting things on their regular menu that I’d like to try.

And finally… ELLA. With some good friends, we couldn’t go wrong with the company, and with it being Ella, well, we couldn’t go wrong with the food! Highlighting a vegetarian menu, Chef Ravin Patel crafted an “A” game gastronomical experience for us vegheads.

First up, oysters, again… of course! I can’t go to Ella and not get them! We enjoyed a sampling of beausoleil, Fanny Bay, shigoku, and a variety I hadn’t had before, Steamboat. It took me forever to remember the name of these guys until I associated them with “Steamboat Sam,” a character I once played in a musical! They were a bit too large for my liking, so I don’t think I’ll be getting them again. To accompany them was arguably one of the best champagnes out there (that won’t require you taking out a second loan on your house). It’s called Jacquart and you can read all about it here. I probably shouldn’t tell you about it, because I don’t want them to run out! But I just have to tell you… it’s too dang good to keep to myself!

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My apologies for not taking oyster photos! But we mustn’t wallow in regret.

First course was golden potato leek soup with watercress, and smoked olive oil. OH-EM-GEEEEE. This was out of this world! The smoked olive oil gave it a wonderful, unexpected dimension. Yes, I could’ve devoured a vat of this, and no, I didn’t storm the kitchen in order to obtain said vat. This certainly puts my own potato leek soup to shame! This was paired with a 2008 Terlato Family Vineyards chardonnay from Russian River Valley.

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This was followed by “Pasta Dave’s” fettuccine, with a wild mushroom ragout, lovely bits of ricotta cheese, and just a hint of black truffle. Yum, yum, and yum. I mean, seriously, you can’t go wrong with all of those ingredients! The umami was probably the most prevalent note, but the texture of the pasta, the size, and the ricotta cheese all blended perfectly. Paired with this was a Mouton Noir Pinot Noir, Other People’s Pinot, out of Willamette Valley, OR from 2010. P.S. Willamette Valley has some excellent pinots.

 

 

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Finally was vanilla bean Pavlova, with a blood orange curd, honey cream, and pistachio paired with a 2012 Moscato d’Asti from Vietta Cascinetta in Piedmont, Italy. I absolutely loved the wine, but I’m not a big fan of pavlova, however Ella does it well. The other dessert option was a Dulcey chocolate tart, with bourbon butterscotch, and white chocolate cremoux paired with a Sandeman 20 year tawny port. Loved the port and all its nutty characteristics. Loved this dessert, too, even though I’m not a big fan of chocolate. I know, I know… my second blaspheming sentence of the post.

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So, overall, I LOVE Dine Downtown… and I hope you do, too!