The Press Bistro

Let me just begin by saying I really do like this place. It’s comfortable, casual, and never disappoints. The food is fresh, sustainably sourced, and always delicious.

Located across the street from Paesano’s, with Zocalo for its next door neighbor, The Press is in the space previously occupied by Dragonfly. I’d never been to Dragonfly, but I had heard the spot was a difficult one… I don’t see The Press going anywhere anytime soon. The menu is well designed, the prices aren’t outrageous, the ambience is pleasant, and most importantly, the service and food are superb.

On this night, we had had the challenging task of figuring out a place to eat on a Saturday night, thanks to The Broiler debacle, and arrived around 8:45. The place was definitely packed, with a wait of about 45 minutes for a table. But we weren’t fazed. One of the genius things The Press has is seating at its bar, and the surrounding area. There’s a large community table that seats about 16, plus tables lining the window. A large party had just left the community table, leaving several spots available. This is a great place to sit and enjoy your meal… and who knows, you might end up meeting some new people, which is exactly what happened! After enjoying some time with our dates, and slyly eyeing what the others were ordering, we finally met the fabulous and uniquely named duo of Langston and Hirondina. Langston is named after the poet Langston Hughes, while Hirondina is named after a songbird native to Africa. So don’t be wary of community tables; they can be the source of some unexpected fun!

Not only is the food fabulous, but the mixologists have created some artisan cocktails that you would be hard “pressed” (haha. okay. sorry) to find anywhere else.

The Press menu is crafted so that you can enjoy a selection of tapas or appetizers, which include salads, soups, and items like crispy calamari, and gnocchi. They also serve their pasta in large or small sizes, in addition to full size entrees. This makes it perfect to mix up your meal and try a variety of dishes. Go for some tapas, a small pasta, and an entree. Or maybe two appetizers, and two small pastas… or one tapas and an entree! Mix it up, have some fun, and warn your taste buds they’re in for a treat!

The Press menu

I definitely like their tapas menu which are 1 for $4 or 3 for $10. There are 9-10 things from which to choose… tonight was goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers, crab and parmesan arancini, and roasted beets with goat cheese. They’re the perfect size to share between two people and serve as a fabulous appetizer. They also have other delectable dainties like bacon and onion crostini, marinated olives, and fried meatballs with a garlic yogurt sauce.

The other thing I like about The Press is their ridiculously affordable house wine. An entire 1 liter carafe of their house white is only $18 and is really quite tasty. I’m not as big of a fan of their red, but I definitely do like the white.

As for our entree, this was a no-brainer… pan seared scallops with mushrooms, sun choke puree, and truffle butter. A limited time dish specifically for Valentine’s Day, I’m definitely hoping this becomes a regular on the menu! The scallops were cooked to perfection, crunchy on the outside, thanks to the searing, and sweet and delicate in the middle. The mushrooms were crimini, shiitakes, and oysters… a trifecta of deliciousness! The meaty texture and flavor of the shiitakes, the medium firmness of the criminis, and the unique flavor and texture of the oyster mushrooms combined to make a perfect, umami-ful complement to the scallops. Pulling it all together was a sun choke puree that I could have eaten on toast! The black truffle butter with a hint of fennel, chives and leeks, brought the entire dish to an inhumane level. Okay, that may be hyperbole, but I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. I judge a restaurant on its scallops and The Press passes with flying colors! The only criticism I have is that I wanted some thick bread, like focaccia, to sop up the sauce!

But we were missing one! So we got a lone scallop delivered to us. In’t it cute?

You can't escape my evil clutches!

The whole family… dish complete!

The complete family of four.

For dessert, meyer lemon pie with whipped cream. This did not disappoint. It was tart, yet sweet. The whipped cream added a nice smoothness and neutrality to cut through any residual tartness you may feel on your tongue. I judge pies and pizzas based on the crust… this was one of the best crusts I’ve had. To drink with this, we had two drinks:  a Domaine Fontanel Rivesaltes Ambre and a Ben Rye ’07. The former was all caramel and burnt sugar. The latter, in one word, delicious. It was all apricot and reminded me of a fruit roll up. Made from the Italian varietal called the zibbibo, it is similar to a muscato, so is quite sweet and a wonderful aperitif. I loved this. Obviously.

Langston and Hirondina ordered the other dessert we were eyeing, winter citrus creme brulee, and were kind enough to let us try it. This was really awesome. It had the traditional crunchy top, but the custard had the flavor of a lemon cake, with the smooth texture of pudding, yet was firm enough to stand up to the crunch. There was a dance of burnt orange and sugar flavors. The vanilla custard was taken to a different level with the delightful zing of citrus to make this no ordinary creme brulee! I kind of think that the acidity of the citrus cut through the fat of the creme brulee, kind of like how a sauvignon blanc does that with higher fat dishes.

Bottom line, I love this place. Be sure to sit outside when the weather gets nice. Oh, I should add that once when I was there, Mayor Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee were also having dinner! I guess they know the good places, too! The owner/chef wanders the dining room, making sure everyone is enjoying their meals, but he is also in the trenches cooking and delivering food to tables!

They don’t have a happy hour right now, nor are they open for lunch, and are closed Mondays. Reservations aren’t available online, but they generally do take them over the phone.
They also have a special 3-course dinner on Sunday for $25 a person, 5-9. I’m hoping to try this some day soon!

Overall: 4/5
Price: $$/$$$$
Ambience: 4/5 (can be a bit loud)
Food: 4.5/5

http://thepressbistro.com/
1809 Capital Ave

Twitter: http://thepressbistro.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Press-Bistro/122363554473910

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The Broiler Steakhouse

This will be a relatively short post. Why, you ask? Because I never actually ate here.

Deciding to try a new place without recommendation can be tricky, and hopefully will end well. However, it doesn’t always. This is such a tale. With a restaurants.com voucher in hand, a reservation, and excitement at venturing to a place I hadn’t been, we arrived at The Broiler. Located at 1201 K Street, across the street from Ella, The Broiler is within the doors of the hi-rise at 12th and K and is associated with Gallagher’s Irish Pub. Its location is great… next door neighbors with the IMAX Theater, and super close to the Convention Center and the Community Center Theatre. I’d been wanting to eat here for a while, even though it is a steakhouse; their menu includes one vegetarian option and a few more for the pescetarian. But knowing that it’s an established place in Sacramento, with a history of serving folks since 1962, I was looking forward to the experience.

Upon arrival at a fairly full waiting area, we went up to the hostess station. It was vacant, so we waited for the maitre d’ to appear. This would be the first stop in an evening of waiting. We waited. And waited. The station is right next to the “bar,” a five or six person bar area that looks more like a place holder than a real bar, so there were plenty of people walking past who could have stopped to ask if we had been helped. Indeed, the hostess station is in the main thoroughfare between the kitchen entrance and the dining room. After waiting for almost ten minutes, I was going to give them one more minute before leaving. Someone must have heard my thoughts, because with about 30 seconds to go, the maitre ‘d appeared. I’m not sure if he was also the GM, manager, or otherwise in charge. He told us it would be a little bit before we could be seated. Thirteen minutes later, we finally were shown to our booth. With apologies, he said they were very busy and made awkward small talk, asking if we were celebrating anything. Valentine’s Day, was the reply. With surprise, he said, But it’s not until Tuesday. With my own feeling of shock, I was surprised he thought that it was unusual to take the weekend to observe a holiday that fell in the middle of the week. But whatever. Now that we were seated, menus opened, wine decided on, I was trying to put aside the annoyance I felt at having to wait, then wait some more, followed by the weird conversation. I was excited to try out the scallops, have some oysters and champagne and enjoy the meal with a bottle of voignier. But can you guess what happened next? That’s right, kids, we waited. We waited another fifteen minutes before anyone came by to fill our water glasses. Meanwhile, the table across from ours and the booth adjacent had been cleared, cleaned, new patrons seated, and drink orders placed. Still, no one had so much as stopped by to say a server would be by soon. Checking the time, 7:50, I was willing to give them ten more minutes… 7:56, 7:58, 7:59… 8:00. And we were out of there. We had been in that restaurant for 45 minutes and the best they could do was pour water… once.

Needless to say, I was angry and very disappointed. However, we hustled over to Ella and truly enjoyed a fabulous treat of oysters and champagne before heading over to The Press for dinner.

In fairness, I do plan on trying them out again. Perhaps it was an off night, or they hadn’t planned on it being as busy as it was, though I find that a little hard to believe, given the fact that I saw at least five or six empty tables as we walked out. Plus, any restaurant in that location really should expect to be busy on a Saturday night.

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Magpie Cafe

The yellow-billed magpie, native to this part of California, is from a family of birds purported to be one of the most intelligent animals… smart and lovely, what a fabulous combination! Magpie Caterers also combines two wonderful qualities: a casual, comfortable environment, with simply delicious food.

Located in the mixed use building at 15th and R Streets, its cuisine is American, local, seasonal, and fresh. The menu changes daily, but doesn’t deviate so much that you’ll never see your favorites again.

Menu from 2.2.12

If you are there for lunch, the menu is posted on this pillar. All you need to do is belly on up to the case, make your order, and have a seat! They’ll give you a number and bring your meal to you.

The Case

For dinner, take a seat wherever you’d like. One of the servers will present you with menus and take excellent care of you during your stay.

Green salad with winter squash vinaigrette. Greens, fennel, watermelon radish, and toasted pepita. I enjoyed this salad, but there was a bit too much dressing for my taste. I’d rather have too little than too much and ask for more. However, the toasted pepita was a great textural addition, while the fennel and radish added just enough flavor variation to keep it from being a standard issue baby greens salad.

Wild mushroom and runner bean ragout. Hedge hog mushrooms, cannellini beans, tiny potatoes, winter squash, herbs and marsala sauce. I was expecting this to come with bread, rice, or some other kind of accompaniment that would sop up the very delicious sauce. But then I rethought that and figured the added starch might have been just a bit much.

Chicken with Meyer lemon. Crispy pan-seared breast and confit leg with an heirloom bean and meyer lemon sauce. It’s great that they created this dish so diners can try this organic chicken two ways and experience the differences that preparation and flavor can have on a dish. The sweet meyer lemon pulls together the two styles, while the cannellini beans, neutral in flavor, serve as a nice base and textural variation.

These are something that you absolutely must have when you go to Magpie. Carrot cake cookies! They are rather large, so you might want to split this with someone… or not! The cookies are soft, moist, and perfectly carrot-y, while the filling is a delicious glop of cream cheese frosting goodness. I’ll take this over almost any slice of carrot cake from any bakery.

Overall, I have always enjoyed my meals at Magpie. They serve excellent food without being pretentious or snobby. It’s comfortable, cozy, and the perfect place for a weekday meal with friends.

They open at 7:30am Monday through Friday and serve breakfast until it’s gone! They also do happy hour from 3-6 Monday-Friday with discounts on select glasses of wine, beer, and appetizers.

As their name indicates, they are a catering company as well.

When it’s nice outside, enjoy the patio right outside its front doors. With the varied businesses in the building, there is always good people watching!

Bottom line: Another of my Sacramento favorites!

Overall: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Price: $$/5

http://www.magpiecaterers.com/cafe
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Magpie-Caterers-Market-and-Cafe/144800849518
Twitter: http://twitter.com/magpiecafesacto

1409 R Street
Phone: 916-452-7594

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Tuli Bistro – Brunch

Located on the corner of 21st and S, Tuli Bistro has established itself as a neighborhood “go-to” spot… a place where denizens regularly visit. Many of the employees have been there a while, so you’re almost always guaranteed to see a familiar face. The menu changes daily, and features seasonal, local fare. One of the great things about Tuli is their open kitchen style. Grab a seat at the bar and watch them create your meal from start to finish. This bar seats about a dozen or so, with two other high top tables available for parties of two. The “dining room” is more like a sun room. It remains comfortable year-round though, thanks to the heat lamps that warm it in the winter and ceiling fans for the summer months. Heavy coverings roll open to fully secure the open space between the roof and the railing. It works great to keep out both the rain and hot sun. When the weather is nice, it’s a fabulous place to enjoy a glass of wine and sit outside, without actually sitting outside.

The inside bar

Outside dining room

Tuli is the elder sibling of Restaurant Thir13en, so you’ll see some familiar sounding dishes on the menu if you’ve ever been to 13. They are equally delicious, but very different dining experiences, with Tuli being the more casual place you might regular, and Thir13en being a little fancier and reserved for a special night.

I’ve eaten dinner and brunch several times at Tuli over the years, and it never ceases to impress. The waitstaff is well trained and attentive, presentation is fabulous, and if you ever receive anything that isn’t up to snuff, they will gladly return it from whence it came and make sure you are the happiest you could be with your order.

One of the best things about Tuli’s Sunday brunch? Bottomless mimosas! At $9 a pop with the purchase of an entrée, this is one of the best deals in Sacramento. Before you say, holy cow, how is that a deal? these mimosas aren’t made with Cook’s and Sunny D… Nope! These mimosas consist of Odwalla orange juice and a delicious cava.

Bottomless mimosas FTW!

Brunch menu

I had it on good advice to get the trout benedict. This was amazing. I’m a sucker for a light, lemon-y Hollandaise sauce and this did not disappoint. With thick cut brioche serving as the base, the poached eggs, with a sprinkling of chives and paprika, perched atop a large and long filet of expertly cooked trout. This was all brought together by the aforementioned Hollandaise sauce, of which there was, delightfully, no shortage. Accompanying the benedict was a side of home fries. If you happen to get this, do be cautious of bones. It’s difficult to completely debone a fish like this, so just be on the lookout!

Trout Benedict

The other dish was cheesy grits. Not only were they cheesy, but had a kick like a small mule, so beware, all you non-iron clad stomach sufferers. You might want to have the Prilosec on hand! I also am a sucker for cheesy grits, or grits of just about any hue. These were sticky and thick… just the way I like ‘em! The cheese wasn’t over powering and added just the right amount of savory. Included were two eggs, any style. I went with scrambled. Perhaps next time I’ll get them poached or over medium. Sauteed onions, roasted red peppers, shrimp, tomatoes, and hot links (I got these on the side) completed the dish. This was also extremely filling, but luckily reheats very well, which was good because I ate these grits for a couple of (glorious) days!

Cheesy Grits

Overall, Tuli is an excellent place to go for a great, comfortable meal. They serve lunch and dinner, and brunch on Sundays. It’s pretty affordable, but if it is out of your price range, they do participate in Sacramento Dine Downtown Week if you’d like to take advantage of that.

Adam also does catering for parties of any size, so keep that in mind when you’re looking for someone to feed your group!

Bottom line, Tuli is one of my favorites… a fabulous place to go when I just feel like going out.

Overall: 4.5/5

Price: $$$/5

Ambience: 4.5/5

Note: They do not take reservations. Open seating at the bar. Lunch served Mon-Fri. Sunday brunch only from 9:30-2:00. Dinner 7 days (starts at 5:00 on Sat and Sun).

http://www.tulibistro.com

1031 S Street (on the corner of 21st and S, across from Rite Aid)
916.451.8854

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tuli-Bistro/151660940269

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