Taste Restaurant

It’s always hard to say goodbye to friends, and even more so when they’re new friends.

It was a warm Sunday afternoon during an Indian summer that we were enjoying the patio at 58 and Holding. Next to us sat a couple reading the newspaper and soaking in the last rays of this unusually warm October day. “Excuse me, what are you drinking,” the woman asked, and with that began a friendship! New to town, Jeb and Lea accepted my list of favorite area restaurants, we exchanged information and promised to meet at one of the restaurants in a couple weeks. Since then, we have bonded over wine, food, politics, and a love for discussion… and food. Did I mention wine?

So, needless to say, we were sad when they decided to move out of state, feeling like we hadn’t had nearly enough time to go to all the restaurants and wineries this area has to offer.

Luckily, we were able to get together one of their last weekends in town for a quick trip to Amador. This excursion involved a stop at Vino Noceto – just in time for their Frivolo release! – and Amador Cellars, where we were able to experience the bottling process with our own bottle of Zinfandel. Though close to closing time, they were kind enough to let us stay to sip on a bottle of wine, nosh on the complimentary goodies they offer, chat with the wine maker, and give lots of belly rubs to the two winery doggies.

Dinner that night was the highly anticipated Taste Restaurant. Located along the main street of the tiny town of Plymouth, it is across Highway 49  from the right turn you take on Plymouth Shenandoah Valley Road to get to the wineries. I know several people who have enjoyed their food, plus they are a frequent participant in Sacramento area restaurant events.

We were early for our reservation, but had to check out the Christmas tree located across the street in the square in all its finery!

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It was warm and cozy in the restaurant, a nice respite from the cold outside. This is scene at the front of the restaurant, with the bar on the right and tables to the left. We were seated in the back room, a cozy, romantically lit room with seating for no more than 40, if memory serves me correct.

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I was ecstatic to discover they have both vegetarian and vegan menus, plus a gluten free one, if you need that.

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First off, Mushroom Cigars.

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Oyster mushrooms, crimini, and shiitakes wrapped up with herbs and goat cheese in phyllo dough. This was voted “Best Appetizer” by editors of Sacramento magazine… and I can see why. They were absolutely delicious. The sauce was a wonderful complement to the super umami-ness of the mushrooms, while the clover greens added a nice refreshing touch.

These were followed up with argula & persimmon salad for Jeb and Lea, which also included a healthy dose of Grimaud Farms smoked duck breast.

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The sweet potato gnocchi was really yummy. This is a modern twist on the classic sage, browned butter gnocchi. This version includes house made duck and fennel sausage, pear, and winter greens. The vegetarian version just has the sausage left off.

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Roasted Grimaud Farms Guinea Hen. Winter squash gratin, crispy pork belly, Del Rio arugula, cranberry gastrique. This was certainly a healthy portion and Lea enjoyed this very much.

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Pacific Swordfish. This was quite tasty, but not quite as good as I was expecting. I would say the best part of this was the flageolet beans! Broccoli romansesco added texture, while the blood orange gastrique served to tie it all together.

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I ended up with a vegetarianized version of the Steak. Instead of steak, they substituted grilled squash. Otherwise, the dish stayed relatively the same, with the exception of the addition of sauteed pumpkin with shallots and crispy leeks for me. Creekstone Farms New York Steak is the meat eater version. I can’t speak to the tastiness of this guy, either, but I do know it was very much enjoyed! The rare steak sits atop a mix of red French pumpkin puree and sage risotto. The black garlic demi glace ties everything together, while the house cured bacon adds that wonderful… well, come on now. I guess you never really need a justification for adding bacon, right?

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Dessert entailed Trio of Crème Brulee and two dessert wines. The featured flavors this evening were orange, persimmon, and vanilla bean. They were deliciously creamy and rich, with just the right amount of their respective flavor to really make this a wonderful dessert. The dessert wines were an orange muscat and… I can’t remember what the other one was. Oops.

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The other dessert on the table was their “allergan free” selection. This was tropical green tea genoa cake, with a dollop of passion fruit sorbet on a bed of chocolate crumbs, chocolate mousse, a chocolate tuille, and finally, it is all tied up together in a nice passionfruit gel bow.

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Overall, this wasn’t quite up to what I was expecting, but it did have a lot to live up to! Let’s just put it this way, I was much more disappointed by Episode I than this dining experience! The service was great, and the ambience was very intimate. Low lighting enhanced the dark wood of the dining room we were in, and there wasn’t an abundance of ambient noise – I like it when I don’t have to yell or read lips. It’s pretty much the opposite of the modernist decorations of some spots. I will definitely be back!

Overall: 3.5/5
Price: $$$$/$$$$$
Service: 4.5/5
Food: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

Taste Restaurant
9402 Main Street
Plymouth, CA  95669
Phone: 209.245.DINE (3463)

Website: http://restauranttaste.com/pages/home.cgi

The Firehouse Restaurant

I have fond memories of the Firehouse. It was the first really nice place I went to after moving to Sacramento. I’ve enjoyed family dinners, and dinner with some great people (non-relatives, not that my family isn’t great!). It was where a complete stranger bought me a bottle of 1995 Merryvale Profile as a birthday gift. On this occasion, which wasn’t a real occasion, other than to experience some fabulous food, I enjoyed the January Chef’s Tasting Menu with paired wines.

Located on Second Street, between K and L, it’s easy to get to and has valet parking available for a relatively small amount. Otherwise there is metered parking along the street that is monitored until six, I believe.

If you’ve never been to the Firehouse, it has a very unique decor. It is heavy and dark, with super-sized prints decorating the walls. I liken it to the salon of a wealthy Victorian nobleman… but never fear, there are no heads, furs, or shotguns next to these prints. It’s velvet, mahogany, deep red and just the type of place to go for an amazing meal, service, and wine. The booths against the wall are half moon-shaped, and set comfortably apart, so you can easily enjoy your meal without having to worry about your neighbor pulling a Samwise Gamgee and eavesdropping. These are also very cushy, which is good, since you’ll want to settle in and enjoy this dining experience!

Place setting

First came an amuse bouche of warm carrot and coconut soup garnished with parsley. It was sweet and perfect to prepare the mind and stomach!

Amuse bouche

Next up (not on the Tasting Menu) were half dozen oysters and sparkling wine, which was a delicious Brut from Argentina. My complaint with these was that they were a bit too large. In this case, bigger is definitely NOT better.

Oysters and sparkling wine

First course: Parsnip-apple bisque with calvados syrup and prosciutto-apple fritter paired with a 2007 Pio Cesare Moscato d’Asti. If you’ve never had this kind of wine, be sure to at some point. It is refreshing, light, and pairs excellently with intensely rich flavors. Its effervescence and acidity cut through the richness (insert: fat)  of this bisque and brought umami to the fore.

Parsnip-Apple Bisque

Second course: Layer “cake” beet salad with roasted beets and chevre-shallot mousseline, candied pecans, watercress and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Paired with a 2010 Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara D.O.P. I loved this salad. The flavors and textures melded and mixed together perfectly, with the sweetness of the beets counterpointed by the tart pomegranate, and the crunchy pecans balanced by the creamy chevre. The wine, a tart sparkling red, worked surprisingly well. I’d never had a sparkling red like this, and I’m not sure I’d have it again, but it was excellent here.

"layer cake" beet salad

“Layer,” because…

Next came a palate-cleansing intermission of pomegranate sorbet. The serving size was a bit much and made me feel like I was already at dessert. It also cooled off my mouth a bit too much. But then again, who cares, it was delicious!

Pomegranate sorbet

Third Course: Duck with huckleberries. Pan roasted duck breast with toasted coriander and fennel seed, yam gratinee with tarragon beurre rouge. Paired with a 2009 Bonneau Sangiacomo vineyard Pinot Noir from Carneros. Artfully presented, it was… well… ducky. But not the way I remembered duck. It wasn’t at all gamey, but was rich and fatty. It came complete with skin and fat, from which I completely stayed away, but I tried some of the meat, and the accoutrements were quite nice. This was probably my least favorite of the courses. The paired wine was a lovely deep red ruby, that started out complex, but ended up a wee bland at the end. However, it was one of those American wines that stands up well on its own. I would have liked to enjoy a glass of this by itself.

Duck with huckleberries

Fourth course: Chargrilled filet mignon with wild mushroom demi-glace, bacon leek bread pudding and brussel sprouts. Paired with a 2008 Edge Cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley.

Filet mignon

My version was made with a gigantic and ridiculously delicious scallop. This was also fabulous. Since I’m such a big fan of mushrooms, I loved the demi-glacé and the brussel sprouts were also an excellent addition, giving it just a bit of crunch with the mushrooms. But what took the proverbial cake was the bacon-leek “bread pudding” that served as the foundation for this building of gastronomic delight. Perfect chunks of bacon (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!) were suspended in pillowy soft, savory bread. I ended up eating this for lunch the next day… and it was STILL delightful. If you go to the Firehouse and this is on the menu, I highly recommend it. The filet wasn’t quite as good, but the last time I had a bite of filet was at The Kitchen, so this may be a slightly unfair comparison! The paired wine was kind of meh; I think it was too young. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that they’d include a 2008 on this menu. I’d lay down a bottle like this for at least a couple more years.

Scallop with mushroom demi glacé

Final course: Tres leches de chocolate. Chocolate three-milks’ cake with butter pecan crust, port fruit compote and a vanilla anglaise. Paired with a 1927 sherry from Pedro Ximenez Solera from Montilla-Moriles. This was one of the thickest, most flavorful sherries I’d ever tasted. The legs on this were longer than Cindy Crawford’s! It was viscous, and had the color of motor oil (a good thing!) and had an intense, but not unpleasant, black licorice flavor. With the dessert, it was brown sugar on my face. This cake was extremely rich, and for someone who isn’t the biggest chocolate fan, a bit much, even with the anglaise. However, if you are a choco-holic, this is most definitely the dessert for you! I had about half of it and called it a night.

Tres leches de chocolate

To end the meal, as if you can stuff any more into your belly (no images of Mr. Creosote, please!), a pistachio orange blondie cookie. I very much enjoyed this little bit of crunchy neutrality as I cried “Uncle” for the evening.

Sweet ending

The Firehouse is a perfect locale to mark an Anniversary, get engaged, or to celebrate just about anything. They have a lovely courtyard area that also serves as a wedding/reception venue and is a great place for lunch during the warmer months. Mario Ortiz, the wine director/sommelier, who I thought was retiring, but whose name is still on the menu, would be happy to show you the downstairs wine cellar and talk about wine until the cows come home. This is a restaurant with impeccable service, presentation, attention to detail, and a desire to make your meal a memorable one. They also have various events, such as special winemaker dinners and wine tastings. While it is not exactly cheap to eat there, they do participate in Sacramento Dine Downtown Week and they just started a weekly lunch deal that looks pretty killer. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, they communicate specials and events quite frequently.

Overall: 4.5 stars
Price: $$$$.5/5
Ambience: 5/5 (if you like old-world charm)
Food: 4.75/5

http://www.firehouseoldsac.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TheFirehouseRestaurant
https://twitter.com/#!/FirehouseOldSac

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