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

Mulvaney’s

Mulvaney’s has been on my “to do” list for some time. After hearing much about it, I knew it was a place I had to get to at some point. Up until recently, the only experience I had had was for a lovely wedding that included some truly delicious food. So I was thrilled when I was surprised with dinner there. Located at 19th and L, the front door is a single door that barely registers there’s a restaurant in the building. But once you walk through, the sounds and smells of a busy restaurant let you know you’ve gotten to the right place! A heavy curtain separates the hostess area from the dining room, keeping the hot air out in the summer, and the cold air at bay during the winter.

I ended up there on St. Patty’s Day. The room was mildly festooned with garlands of green shamrocks. To me, it kind of looked like a half ass way to decorate, but whatever. It’s not like it’s De Vere’s. At any rate, we were immediately seated near the window and next to a table with a very fussy infant. But, because of the ambient noise, I didn’t even notice the poor baby who was crying like there was no tomorrow. She was also ridiculously cute, which never hurts. Nor did her very thoughtful parents and grandparents, who took stabs at calming her down by walking around outside and out of diners’ earshot.

They modified some aspects of their menu to celebrate the holiday. We started with some sparkling wine and the Irish cheese platter. There was Cashel blue, Porter cheddar, Kilbeggan whiskey, and gubbeen. On the side were a tangerine marmalade and roasted nuts. All the cheeses were great, but the stand outs were the Kilbeggan whiskey and the gubbeen.

And there was an amuse bouche. Boiled Yukon gold (I think) potato with Irish cheddar and a bit of corned beef (I think).

As a second course, we got a great pasta: Pappardelle with yellow foot, maitake, and king trumpet mushrooms, made with leeks and asparagus and topped with Fiscalini aged white cheddar. They split it for us and the portion was very hearty. After this, I was no longer hungry for the main course! I definitely enjoyed this, but it doesn’t quite stand up to the pappardelle at Ella.

While I really would have liked to indulge in the special corned beef and cabbage special they had that night, that was, obviously, off the table. So the two fish dishes were it. This is grilled Hawaiian walu with asparagus from the Delta. It included beans from Galt, and made with lemon and tarragon. There was also some kind of mousse, but the menu didn’t say. It tasted like it was probably also asparagus, or possibly even avocado. For me, there was too much of it. The asparagus was perfectly done, and the fish expertly grilled. The beans were an odd addition, in my mind. Although I can see adding it for a textural balance to the crunchy asparagus, the mushiness of beans, which I love, didn’t pair all that well with the fish. From a taste perspective, this dish lacked overall flavor. It definitely needed more seasoning.

The other fish on the table was Canary rock fish on a bed of wild rice from Sutter Rice Co., fennel, sea beans, and saffron, all with a lemon verbena coconut sauce. This was rather bland. The fried plantains, which, like the mouse in the above, weren’t listed on the menu. Luckily there were no aversions to them! Luckily so, because these were delicious and the best part of the dish. The sauce was boring and lacked punch, while the pilaf was meh.

Dessert was at another location, so I can’t speak to that. There was a panna cotta that sounded yummy, but gelato at Devine was on the docket.

Overall, this was a disappointment. The fish dishes lacked flavor, interest, and needed more seasoning. I really hate having to reach for the salt or pepper at any fancier place, but especially a restaurant that calls themselves “culinary specialists.” I expected more, particularly after the great food I had had at the wedding, and the recommendations from friends. Were said expectations too high? Perhaps, but it’s not like this was built up like Episode I of Star Wars, or something. Well, nor was it George Lucas, but that’s an entirely different subject, more fit for my Rants, Raves, and Various Sundries… blog!

It was rather noisy, as mentioned earlier, but it also was somehow not difficult to carry on a conversation. If you’re like me, you also will need to know where the restroom is. You have to walk to the rear of the restaurant and down a hallway to find the single-person ladies’ room. No, not “single person” as in “If you like it, you better put a ring on it.” Haha. And if you’re wearing the wrong shoes, you might end up slipping. The heels I wore slipped on the slick floor and I nearly had an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment in the middle of the restaurant.

While I wan’t bowled over this time, I would like to give it another try and see what happens.

Overall: 3/5 stars
Food: 2.5/5 stars
Ambience: 4/5 stars
Price: $$$.5/5
Service: 4.5/5 stars The service was excellent.

http://www.culinaryspecialists.com/

 

 

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The Red Rabbit Kitchen + Bar

In a building with several other restaurants, you really have to distinguish yourself from the other guys. Red Rabbit is the newest kid on the block along J Street between 27th and 28th Streets. A veritable stripmall of restaurants and night life, with spots like Harlow’s, Blue Cue, and Bar West, The Red Rabbit Kitchen + Bar fits right in. Located in the spot vacated by Red Lotus, the new owners haven’t had to make very many changes to update the look or feel of the place. If you didn’t make it to Red Lotus, the main focal point of the entire restaurant is its huge semi-circle bar, where the bartenders of Red Rabbit mix up hand crafted libations to clamoring guests. They’ve also removed the low tables to the right of the bar and replaced them with hi-tops. The space also boasts a fabulous patio out back with a bar to serve folks out there.

On this particular visit, it was a snap decision to go there. We had made plans to attend their grand opening the week before, but that fell through and I was anxious to give it a go.

When we arrived at about 7:45 (this was a Friday night), the wait was only about 20 minutes, which made my grumbling stomach delighted to hear. We decided to grab a drink and sit at the bar. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of room there; apparently everyone else had the exact same idea. It took a while to get anyone’s attention, and when we finally did get to order a drink, we were being seated. This, however, was no big deal for me. They were extremely busy and I think the bartenders were still getting used to some of the drink recipes (I saw mine stealing glances to his cheat sheet). They’ve separated the drinks into four categories: Bright and Tart, Juicy, Bitter, and Rich. The two drinks at the table tonight were the Army Navy: gin, lemon, and orgeat. The other was the Chappelle Cocktail: gin, sweet vermouth, falernum, pineapple, and lime. They fit very well into their respective categories of bright and tart, and juicy.

For appetizers, the Portobello Frites and Vegetarian Spring Rolls. The frites weren’t quite what I was expecting. They were crunchy and not too oily, but there was an excess of flour. It almost tasted mealy. I would have preferred a panko crust. I also thought that the portobellos kind of got lost in the dish… like a five year old in her mom’s dress. Maybe shiitakes would be better? But that might also be a little too meaty. What the breading did do was add a really pleasant textural contrast. They were perfectly seasoned and served atop an arugula base, which was really yummy.

The spring rolls were a tad bland on their own, so the ponzu sauce was just what the doctor ordered. It was a little light on the quantity, so I definitely would have liked more of it.

For the main dishes: Beer and Onion Soup Cheese Melt with fries, and The Ramen. The melt is a sandwich, so don’t think it’s some kind of soup and sandwich combo, even though the description on the menu says, “beer braised onion soup.” This is a portable version of onion soup. Carmelized onions and melted gruyere cheese are between two slices of toasted sourdough. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a disappointment. The onions completely overpowered any other flavors that may have been present and there was a deficiency of cheese. The french fries that accompanied the sandwich were only slightly better than In ‘n Out’s in their crispy factor.

The Ramen was very good. With vegan noodles made from Sacramento’s “Pasta” Dave Brochier, they were excellent. He is the main reason I ordered this! The first time I met him, he crafted a fabulous dish just for me and I fell in love with his pasta. The Ramen also included a good amount of shrimp and shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and just the right amount of ginger. The portion size was generous, the broth really tasty and savory, though a teeny bit on the salty side, although I’ve never complained about that in a dish! I definitely liked this the best of the four dishes I’d tried.

Overall, there is room for improvement, but I will definitely be back to see how it progresses. Expect more blog posts about Red Rabbit from me!

The most expensive thing on the menu is $18 and from what I understand, it’s enough to make a couple meals. The idea is to be a comfortable, affordable spot for locals to frequently enjoy without breaking the bank.

https://www.facebook.com/SacRabbit
http://theredrabbit.net/

2718 J Street
916.706.2275
hello@theredrabbit.net

The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

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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