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!

Jacquart champagne

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!

Evan’s Kitchen

Located in Antique Row in East Sacramento off Elvas Avenue, Evan’s Kitchen is in a rather odd spot. Tucked amongst antique stores, it isn’t exactly where you might expect to find a restaurant. But here we are. Recommended to me by a guy I knew in high school (in the Midwest!) who also happened to end up in the Sacramento area, I had no idea Evan’s was even there. All I can say is, “Wow.” This place is the offspring of a Midwestern comfort food restaurant and a California cuisine bistro. Or something akin to that. With an interior that was reminiscent of a place  along the St. Croix River I used to go to as a child, and menu items like smoked salmon risotto, I was rather puzzled, and intrigued at the seemingly odd juxtaposition in my psyche of Midwestern youth and Californian adulthood.

On this visit on a Saturday at 7:00, which we all know is typically prime time dining hour, there was no problem getting a table without a reservation. The wonderfully homey dining room was populated with mostly “blue hairs,” both in groups and with their families. I must admit, it felt like I was at a post-church brunch in rural Minnesota. However, the disdain of the older folks in the booth behind us for “the religious right wingers” reminded me that I was, indeed, ensconced in California democratic central.

Furnished in matching heavy oak tables and the kinds of chairs that you might still find in a Midwestern home – indeed, I think we had these chairs growing up – Evan’s is a place that is designed to feel like you’re at someone home, eating up some of the best, heartiest homegrown fare you could possibly want. The walls are decorated with art from local artists, all for sale, and it really does feel super homey and comfortable. Almost like you missed something in your childhood you never realized you missed.

The dining room

The dining room

They immediately ply you with their homestyle yumminess with fresh from the oven buns. They’re warm, gooey on the inside, crunchy on the outside globs of enriched white starchiness. I tried my best not to over indulge, as I knew what was coming for me. First up… helloooo, house smoked salmon appetizer. On a ridiculously yummy potato pancake rested the absolutely amazing, freaking awesome, both texturally and flavor-wise, smoked salmon. Atop that, was an avocado salsa that was out of this world. As I’ve aged, I’ve developed a slight allergy to avocados that really has kind of pissed me off. However, like with heavy dairy items, I will carefully indulge with small bites. This salsa is not to be missed. Ripe avocado and cilantro are a perfect pairing already, and stick a bunch of it on top of the aforementioned, along with strips of fried onion, and you’ve got a sublime mountain comprised of nothing but sheer delight. Mount Doom, you got nothing on this concoction.

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Along with the entrees came side salads. The champagne vinaigrette was quite delightful, and it wasn’t too heavy on stuff like cheese that I’m not that interested in. For a side salad, and at only $1.00 extra, it was quite perfect and a good size.

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For the entrees on the table: (More) Smoked Salmon and cremini mushroom risotto. Forget the rice, can I just have the salmon and mushrooms? Well, okay, so that’s not exactly risotto. For me, the rice was a tad under seasoned; I will assume that’s because the salmon has a lot of sodium to make up for it. However, this salt fiend would have preferred just a touch more. Other than that, I have very little criticism for this dish. Mix almost anything with salmon or mushrooms and I’m a pretty happy camper.

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Also to make an appearance was butternut squash tortellacci in a “light curry and ginger sauce.”  And when they say “light,” I think they mean so creamy your arteries slightly harden the second the plate lands on the table. But who cares. I popped a Lactaid and enjoyed what I could, which wasn’t much, because I was already pretty full from the appetizer and the salad, and could eat less than half. While it had a wonderful flavor, the menu description made it seem like it would be a little less creamy and more curry… which it means. This isn’t Indian curry, this is curry curry, as in yellow curry. Curry. Curry. Curry. The word’s lost all meaning. What hasn’t lost meaning is the crunchy bread that accompanied both dishes. I mean, seriously, this is probably not the best place for a “diet.” (I put the word in quotes, because I don’t believe in “dieting” as a concept, but that’s neither here nor there, at the moment.)

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I am extremely excited to go back to Evan’s for some brunch action. The menu sounds amazing, with more smoked salmon in a benedict, in an omelet, and who knows where else. This smoked salmon could show up in a tire and I’d probably eat it. Maybe I can ask for a “vegan” omelet with tofu, soyrizo… and smoked salmon. Speaking of which, they have both a vegan and vegetarian menu. If you are looking for vegan food, the server may say that they have limited options, but let her know what you’re thinking and she’ll ask the chef what is possible. I get the feeling that you could probably just make up something loosely based on a menu item and they’d try to accommodate you.

Overall, I really liked this place. The portions were incredibly generous and will most likely provide you with two meals at an very reasonable price. In addition to the aforementioned items, a bottle of wine was also included and I don’t believe the check was more than $75 before tip. Again, i can’t wait to go back for brunch, and will most definitely be going back for dinner! With other such delightful sounding items like lobster ravioli, vegetarian burgers, and seafood pasta (cioppino style), I anxiously await my next visit! They also do catering and I believe they have a private room for rent, as well, but don’t quote me on that.

Overall: 4/5
Service: 4/5 (they’re very friendly, prompt, and welcoming)
Price: $$.5/$$$$
Ambience: Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. Not romantic, not swanky, but comfy, nonetheless.

Evan’s Kitchen: http://www.chefevan.com/default.aspx
855 57th Street, Ste. C (between H and J)
(East) Sacramento, CA  95819
(916) 452-3896
Open 8:00-9:00 (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Closed Mondays.

You can't miss the driveway!

You can’t miss the driveway!

Evening with a Chef

Looking for something to do for Second Saturday? Well, how about dinner before and a lovely time chatting it up with new friends?! Chef Adam Pechal of Restaurant Thir13en and Tuli Bistro has partnered with local farm Feeding Crane Farms and Lulu’s Kitchen, formerly Steel Magnolia Kitchen, to put on an event that is both delicious and informative. This night was an evening of oysters and sparkling wine. The former was provided by Drakes Bay Oyster Company, located near Point Reyes, and the sparkling was by Mumm of Napa Valley. I’ve never had the opportunity to visit to Drakes Bay, although now I can’t wait to get there, but I’ve been to Mumm several times and they have one of the best outdoor areas in the Valley. A local mixologist who is a member of the Bartenders’ Guild crafted some wildly delicious champagne cocktails to accompany each dish.

After being seated at one of two community tables, we got a brief introduction to Drakes Bay, the drinks being served, and the partnership between Chef Pechal and Feeding Crane Farms.

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As my lucky Sagittarius vibe would have it, the person sitting right next to me were the wonderful owners of Drakes Bay, Kevin and Nancy, along with Nancy’s mother, Rosie, an East Sac resident. This wasn’t just informative and loads of fun, but also incredibly helpful once these guys were set upon the table…

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Yes, unshucked oysters, harvest a mere hours before, alive (not kicking, thank goodness) and soon to be in my belly! We got a quick lesson in how to become (mother)shuckers and were let loose to practice our newfound skills! So, with oyster glove in my left hand and shucking knife held tightly in my right hand, I made my first lame attempts to shuck. Let’s just say I need a LOT more practice!

After this we strolled into the (very hot) kitchen to see how to make a classic mignonette sauce to accompany the oysters we were about to enjoy.

Paired with this was a drink called the Royal Flush. Gin, fresh strawberry and lemon, along with bitters, and champagne, the unexpected aspect of this beverage was the rinse with absinthe. But, don’t worry. I didn’t see any green fairies dancing around that looked a lot like Kylie Minogue (if you get that movie reference, I’ll be impressed), or Julia Roberts in Hook.

Our next adult beverage was a Shady Garden, a really fabulous blend of vodka, fresh lime and cucumber, with a lavender tincture, and, of course, champagne. This was to go along with the Oyster Po Boys that were to come next. Once again, we sojourned into the kitchen and watched as Chef breaded some very large oysters (ones we hadn’t shucked) in a buttermilk batter with panko bread crumbs. To slather on the toasted slider-sized buns was a fabulous chipotle remoulade, and some simple carrot and radish slaw to cooly crunch it up. I completely enjoyed this.

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Making the remoulade

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Hungry yet? Luckily, I still was! The next item: Oysters Sacramento, a local take on baked oysters. Using arugula from Feeding Crane Farms, Chef Pechal cooked up garlic, bacon, and parmesan and threw them on an oysters to bake all together. This was out of the world.

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The drink with this was a Veronica Rose… Aperol, homemade rosebud syrup, orange bitters, and champagne. I think this was my third favorite drink; the Shady Garden was hands down my favorite, especially with the cool cucumber on a hot night!

Finally, the night wrapped up with Oyster Stew. A single oyster on a tasting spoon with a delicate broth and homemade mustard, including the whole, brined seeds. To drink beside this little nugget was Baja Bubbles. This had tequila, and I’m not a big tequila fan, so it scored at the bottom of my favorite drinks. That being said, it was still delicious. This had tequila and champagne, obviously, grand marnier, grapefruit, and kaffir leaves.

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All in all, I had a wonderful time, left with a goodie bag: reusable tote, happy hour coupons for Restaurant Thir13en, an issue of Edible Sacramento, recipes, and some greens fresh from Feeding Crane Farms, and thrilled about our vibrant food scene that is so closely intertwined with local produce. Suffice it to say, I love living in a place that is supportive of local business, farms, ranches, and vineyards.

I highly recommend checking out one of the classes in the future!

For more information, visit the Eventbrite site, check out Restaurant Thir13en’s Facebook Page, or follow them on Twitter: @ChefAdamPechal, @TuliBistro, @FeedingCrane, @Thir13enSac.

The Shack

Arguably, summer has arrived in Sacramento. With temps in the upper 70s to 80s, the time has come when we start biking everywhere, sit outside, picnic and enjoy the weather before the dead of summer hits and it’s too hot to do anything but sit inside someplace air conditioned. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I met some friends for brunch at The Shack. Having driven past many times, but never been there, I was excited to check it out. The Shack boasts an incredibly impressive beer selection, from cherry ciders, lambics and the like, to medium bodied beers, to dark and nutty… from Belgium, to the US, to ?? This is a beer drinker’s heaven. I know they have wine, too, but I’m not sure what that list looks like.

Located a few yards away from Trader Joe’s on Folsom Boulevard, this East Sacramento hotspot is a regular stop for folks on that side of town. But it’s also very bikeable. Their bike racks are always full with those seeking hoppy libations.

But the best part of The Shack? Its incredible patio. There is a large patio with heavy wood picnic-style tables in the front of the restaurant…

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The front patio

..and even more space along the side.

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Side patio

Some folks were asking about dog-friendly patios in the Sacramento area… and The Shack is one of the best places. In the two and a half hours I was there, I saw about eight dogs enjoying the beautiful day with their people. Labs, golden retrievers, a shih-tzu, and several others. The Shack keeps several dog bowls next to a hose bib right outside their front door, so you immediately know this is a place where Scooby is just as welcome as Shaggy!

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The Shack has a nice selection of breakfast items, including omelets, benedicts, waffles, sandwiches, and salads. It’s an all-inclusive menu with something for everyone… even a vegan! I, however, am not vegan, and ordered the veggie benedict, aka the Jenny Bene. I am rather particular about how my eggs are poached and these were just right. Cooked just enough so that the egg whites weren’t runny on the inside, but not too much that the yolks were hard at all. These expertly poached eggs were atop spinach on an English muffin. The hollandaise sauce, which I always get on the side, was a lighter, lemony sauce that was really delicious. The potatoes were classic breakfast potatoes.

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Veggie benedict

The other item was “The Veg.” Pesto cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onion usually on toasted whole wheat, although this version is on toasted sour dough.

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“The Veg” sandwich

Now onto the beer! I wanted a hard apple cider, but there wasn’t anything available that day, so the server brought out this extremely unique beer. It was sweet, sour, and totally unique. I initially balked at the $8.50 price tag, but  it is worth every penny.

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My second beer…

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I had told the server I liked lighter ales, Belgian whites, and pilsners. After she (Charlie, and she’s awesome) gave her recommendations, all of which I had already tried, I asked her to surprise me. The Fin du Monde was floral, a little bit sweet, and a nice way to close out brunch.

Bottom line, The Shack is a great place to hang out with your friends over a leisurely meal, whether it’s comprised of food, or just the liquid kind, and has better than average fare for a beer garden, an amazing selection of beer, super friendly staff, and lots of fun events for the beer lover, the dog lover, and the lover of life! I am very excited to go back!

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Front door

Overall: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Price: $$/$$$$

The Shack
5201 Folsom Boulevard
(East) Sacramento, CA  95819

916.457.5997

Monday 11am-3pm
Tuesday through Friday 11am-9pm
Saturday and Sunday Brunch 8am-3pm

website: http://eastsacshack.com/

Hock Farm Craft & Provisions

I was a fan of Spataro. I loved their happy hour and spent many an hour there with various friends. In fact, it was a spot that saw me meet new friends, say good bye to some, and introduce others. It was a place where I spent birthday parties, had impromptu knitting parties, and enjoyed drinks, dishes, and time with friends. In retrospect, it was kind of an important place for me. So when I heard they were closing, I was, of course, disappointed. However, when I visited Hock Farm Craft & Provisions, I said, “Spa-what-ar-o?”

Thanks to Cowtown Eats, I discovered Hock Farm was opening and taking reservations only for Thursday through Saturday, ahead of their grand opening. Perfect, I thought. I’m taking a special someone to see Billy Elliot at the Sacramento Community Center Theater on Saturday and it would be a perfect spot to enjoy a pre-show dinner.

Though still owned by the Paragary Restaurant Group, the entire look and feel of the restaurant has changed. The interior has had a much better facelift than Joan Rivers, and reflects the brand of Hock Farm. It is open, airy, with lots of windows. Community tables dot the center of the space, with two “chef’s tables” sitting perpendicular to the kitchen window. Where the private room of Spataro was now resides Hock Farm’s bar. I really love the new interior. It’s homey, warm, welcoming, and just generally a pleasant space.

The bar area

The entrance and bar area

The dining room

The dining room

Okay, so how’s the food? Oh-Em-Gee. That’s all I have to say.

First up, from the Bites menu:
Dressed egg. This is basically a super delicious, gourmet version of your classic deviled egg. With capers and mayo, with a perfect spot of anchovy, this was divine. I am a huge fan of deviled eggs – one of the reasons I could never be vegan! These had a wonderful side of picked golden beets, which were a nice palate cleanser and a wonderful counterpoint to the egg “stuffing.” The anchovies really made this. The filling wasn’t too heavy, like some deviled eggs can be. It was relatively light – whipped, even – and expertly seasoned.

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Second, was smoked salmon croquettes. Holy hell these were tasty. With a bit of dilled creme fraiche and some chives, this was insanely yummy. Instead of the usual reaction of “where the hell is the fish,” this had clear, obvious, and visible pieces of salmon. The croquettes were perfect spheres of crunchy goodness. They weren’t greasy, but had just enough crunch to give them the textural desire of a croquette.

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Next came three items off the Small Plate menu.
Of course I have to get the Macaroni and Cheese. This is made with bleu, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses, with some pieces of crispy prosciutto and sage breadcrumbs. I have had mac and cheese at several local restaurants and this does rank in the top. However, I still rank Restaurant Thir13en’s just a bit higher. The reason is because this was prepared more in the style of a pasta dish and not a casserole; I prefer the casserole. The cheese sauce was a bit runny for me and I wanted more breadcrumbs. There were a few pieces of prosciutto, which felt as though they were suddenly remembered and tossed on top, and I also felt like the breadcrumbs were tossed on immediately prior to serving, instead of baking in. This may not be a big deal to some people, but to me, it was a detracting factor. I also wish there was more of a bite. But, keep in mind, I like my mac and cheese to be baked, casserole style, and with lots of sharp, bitey, stinky cheese, which most definitely isn’t everyone’s taste. However, that being said, it was still tasty. The decision to use orchiette instead of a different kind of pasta is always a good idea with a runnier sauce, since the shape of the pasta lends itself to scooping up yummy sauce.

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Second up was kampachi. Kampachi is a kind of yellow jack or amber jack and reminiscent of Tai, or red snapper, but much softer.  It is a white fish, with a mild flavor. Hock Farm prepares theirs raw (best choice), with avocado, thinly sliced red radish, a piece of celery heart, a Marcona almond, smoked sea salt, and lemon infused olive oil. All components came together for a wonderfully rich mouth feel and flavor party. The kampachi is pretty mild, but provides a gentle fishy taste, along with a firm texture. I loved the spicy feeling the radish lended, while the almond was a fabulous textural and flavor addition. The smoked sea salt was really fabulous, giving each bite a wonderfully unexpected dimension. The avocado gave unselfishly of itself. The fat content made the mouthfeel rich and sensuous, while the flavor tied all the others together. The only thing I would say about this was that you need just a little bit of avocado to accomplish this. The amount in each bite of kampachi was a bit much. Just cut it into a third and give that a try.

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The final selection was Gulf Shrimp. This was served on a bed with creamy Arbuckle grits, and Tasso ham. Slightly spicy, which expertly cut through the cream of the grits, with aesthetically pleasing spirally cut shrimp, this had a delicious smoky flavor. It made me think of chipotle Tabasco sauce. By this time, I was quite full, but not to the point of hailing a wheelbarrow.

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Indeed, I just enough room left for dessert. And the two-scoop gelato was it! They always have vanilla and chocolate, with a rotating third flavor. If you can get their strawberry, do it! They get their gelato from a place in Berkeley; I was sad to discover it wasn’t someplace local, so I could go there whenever I had a hankering for delicious gelato! The chocolate had little bits of chips and the strawberry was super fresh and refreshing. Put the two together and you get chocolate covered strawberries! So awesome. But if you choose this combo, get more strawberry than chocolate on your spoon! The finishing touch is a house made sugar-encrusted shortbread cookie. Is it bad that I wanted an entire sheet of these?!

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I get the feeling that there are several employees of Spataro who work at Hock Farm and are accustomed to the rush that sometimes accompanies making it to a show on time, so this will still be a great place to visit pre-show.

The bar area that Spataro had separate from their restaurant space will be used by the same guy who owns BarWest. It will be a high end, high-cover charge night club, separate from Hock Farm. Hock Farm has their own happy hour, which includes a selection of artisan cocktails and about half a dozen bites.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with my experience at Hock Farm and I’m looking forward to going back and trying out some of their Large Plates!

The only “negative” I would say is that the food came out in really quick succession. However, it is because our server knew we were going to  see a show, and she thought it started earlier than it actually did. This was a nice surprise, which showed she was aware of a time constraint without anyone telling her, and if we had needed it to arrive as quickly as it did, we would have had no problem making it on time to the show.

Overall, I am so excited to go again and experience more of the menu!

Overall: 4/5

Ambience: 4/5. It was a lot noisier than Spataro, but I absolutely love the new decor.

Price: $$.5/$$$$. Each appetizer was only $5, while the small plates ran no higher than $14 for scallops. Entrees went up to $23 for the salmon and asparagus dish. Bottles of wine are also priced where you’d expect. Overall, I was very pleased with the value. Portions were generous without being overwhelming.

Service 4/5

1415 L Street
Sacramento, CA  95814

916.440.8888

Restaurant hours
Monday-Thursday: 11am-9pm
Friday: 11am-10pm
Saturday: 5pm-10pm

Bar hours
Monday-Thursday: 11am-close
Friday: 11am-close
Saturday: 4pm-close

Website: http://www.paragarys.com/sacramento-restaurants/hock-farm/about/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HockFarm

The new facade

The new facade

he dining room
Towards the kitchen

Towards the kitchen

Ceiling treatment

Ceiling treatment

A local chef in Hollywood

Another short post from me!

Longing for something to watch on a Tuesday night? Castle has already aired, you’ve already watched New Girl, and it’s another two nights until Glee… Search no longer! Stop your channel surfing tonight at 8pm for ABC’s The Taste, as local chef, Adam Pechal, dukes it out with other chefs to showcase their chops in front of judges that include gastronomic heavyweights like Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson.

You can catch my reviews of both his restaurants, Restaurant Thir13en: here and here (brunch) and the neighborhood favorite, Tuli Bistro.

Go, chef!!!

Hook and Ladder Happy Hour

This is a ridiculously short blog post with the sole purpose of this… Hook and Ladder now has a happy hour! Yay!

Belly up to the bar and pay my friend Brian a visit. If you go there for brunch, which I highly recommend, be sure to order his Red Snapper, an “eastern” version of the traditional bloody mary.

Anyway, I’ll be posting about my brunch experience there soon enough, so stay tuned!

Check out the menu via CowTown Eats, which is a fabulous resource for all the goings on in the Sacramento food scene!

http://www.cowtowneats.com/2013/01/happy-hour-at-hook-ladder-manufacturing-co.html

Downtown and Vine

Wine, anyone? Downtown and Vine, the brainchild of an Amadorian and a Napa-ite, is the perfect blend of urban desires, with old-world sensibilities. What the heck does that mean? It means that this is a comfortable place where you can hang out for hours, or just pop in for a quick 3 oz. taste. Maybe you want to enjoy an awesome cheese plate, or a simple handful of olives. You can have a bottle of wine before joining a hobbit and a band of dwarves on an “unexpected journey” in 3D at the IMAX, or a flight in between showings during the French Film Festival at the Crest.

Located at 1200 K Street, Suite 8, the location couldn’t get more perfect. It’s close to the convention center, the aforementioned theaters, the Community Theater, the Capitol and light rail. It is also in an area that is bereft of wine bars. With Revolution Wines on the south east corner of the grid, and 58 and Holding in the heart of midtown, Downtown and Vine is on the downtown side of the grid.

What sets this apart from other wine bars is its designation as a licensed tasting room. Currently they taste from 10 wineries of Napa and Amador. Once they get their tasting room clearances from the various wineries, there will be selections from 12 wineries.

Gregg Lamar, of Amador and a Certified Sommelier, and Kate Chomko, a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef from Napa, opened the wine bar next to Blush Ultra Lounge in early December of 2012.

Thanks to the power of social media, Twitter in this case, I had heard about it via @CowtownEats and was anxious to give it a go. After a delightful dinner at Blackbird Kitchen + Bar (click here for a post on Blackbird), we were pretty full from dinner, but decided to check out the cheese plate anyway. They exclusively use artisan cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. There are two choices: a red wine plate, or a white wine plate. This was the red wine plate, which included Mt. Tam, a triple cream, a blue from near Point Reyes, and an aged gouda. This is a generous cheese plate that would serve two hungry people well, or a small group. The accoutrements include fig bread, nuts, and natural honey.

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We chose the flights from Fiddletown Cellars and Dillian.

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The bar is a very comfortable place to chat with Kate, Tom, or Jenna (that night). But if you choose to sit elsewhere, there are other options. In addition to their regular seating, which includes both low and high tops, they have a large community style table that seats 12, plus a private room.

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They are still working out their menu, but it seems that one thing will be a mainstay: grown-up grilled cheese.

This is a wonderful place that I very much look forward to visiting again!

Overall: At this point – 4.5/5
Price: $$/$$$$$
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4.5/5
Food: N/A, but the cheese plate was awesome!

Downtown and Vine
1200 K Street, Suite 8
Sacramento, CA  95814
916/228.4518

Website: http://downtownandvine.com/
Facebook: http://downtownandvine.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DowntownAndVine