Sac Beer Week, No. 2

Ahhhh… beer. So my second day of experiencing Sac Beer Week took me to Rocklin and a visit to Out of Bounds Brewery. A tad off that grid? Yes, but who cares?! It’s Beer Week!

My good friend and colleague appreciates this place, and when I saw that Cousins Maine Lobster truck was going to be there, the deal was completely sealed.

OOB Cousins

Lobstah rolls fah dayyyys! Not just lobster rolls, but an amazing clam chowder, lobster tacos, quesadillas, and more. But one of my favorite items turned out to be the lobster tots. Yes, you read that right. LOBSTER TOTS. Sorry I didn’t have time to snap a photo before they disappeared into thin air. Honestly, I have no idea where they went.

OOB glasses

This was a delicious grapefruit IPA and their chocolate cherry milk stout. I also had the brobdingnagian “the Brob” oaked strong ale, and their vanilla porter. I immensely enjoyed them all. In fact, I am discovering a change in my palate from light pilsners to dark and stormy brews.

The other great thing about this place is that it has a wonderful space in the back where you can play ping pong, foosball, or corn hole.

So, next up will be New Glory on Wednesday… and the same food truck! I will try to remember to get some photos of it this time. (FYI, New Glory is usually closed Wednesday, but is open for Beer Week. Thursday night trivia is also a blast.)


Sac Beer Week, No. 1

I love a good beer. And I love good food. So what happens when you put an entire week and a half together of both? My head exploding, that’s what.

We in Sacramento seem to enjoy these themed weeks: Restaurant Week, Dine Downtown, Beer Week. I love them all!

The first unofficial stop I made was Friday night at Revolution Wines, but no beer was consumed, so I’ll skip that one.

The first official stop was BarWest’s patio for some Lagunitas. Now, if you know me, you’ll know how much this place IS NOT my scene; its nickname is “BroWest,” and I wouldn’t be caught dead there after dark. However, when they tell me they’re going to donate a dollar from every sale of Lagunitas to the Front Street Animal Shelter, and there will be some doggies on the patio… well, I have to go. Unfortunately I missed the pups, but I still got some drinks and my first food of the day (so what if it was 4:30?!): chili cheese tater tots.


Stop number 2: Der Biergarten. I was in the mood for some pretzels and this is THE spot for one. Sorry I don’t have a photo; I was too excited to stuff my face with one to remember to snap a pic. Guess you’ll just have to go there yourselves!

On the docket was a delicious stout, followed by a Weihenstephaner. Pictured here in the middle, like a tall tower of goodness, is their signature mix of grapefruit lager with cider on top. Kind of like a Maraschino cherry on top, but without the formaldehyde.

Biergarten Beer Week 2016

To close out the night… The Rind. It was either this or Broderick. The latter had a half hour wait, while The Rind miraculously had a table for four just sitting there! After some perusal of the menu, I settled on their beer flight with accompanying cheeses.

Rind Beer Week 2016

As always, The Rind didn’t disappoint. The three beers were delicious and expertly paired with the cheese. For the life of me, I can’t remember what they were, other than the first one was like eating coconut cheese, the second one was a creamy Brie-ish number, and the third was a smoked cheddar. Beer and cheese make awesome bedfellows!

The Rind cheeses

Stay tuned for more Beer Week adventures! I’m heading to Rocklin to check out Out of Bounds Brewery and Cousins Maine Lobster food truck, followed by more fun later this week!

Blackbird, Redux

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

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

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


This is two-sided!

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?!


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


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

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


The new facade

The new facade

he dining room
Towards the kitchen

Towards the kitchen

Ceiling treatment

Ceiling treatment

Wine and Dine Week Jun 12- Mulvaney’s

Okay, so we all remember what I thought of Mulvaney’s the first time. If not, go here to read how utterly underwhelmed I was. But when the menus were released for Sacramento’s Wine and Dine Week, I had to check out Mulvaney’s. First off, all the dishes were suited to my pescetarianism, and second, the featured wine pairings were from Easton/Terre Rouge, a favorite of mine that is located up in Amador. “What IS Sacramento Wine and Dine Week,” you ask… Well, it’s the best way to try out restaurants you may otherwise have avoided due to cost, generally. The participating restaurants create an affordable prix fixe menu, consisting of at least three courses, and include wine pairings with each course. Places like Ella, Tuli Bistro, and the Firehouse are all joining in the fun. I absolutely LOVE Wine and Dine and Dine Downtown weeks! There are many excellent spots this year, and I plan on hitting up two more this week! In the end, it all comes down to what you like to eat and how much you want to spend. Generally, the menus are around $35, with wine pairing costing an additional $15. Sometimes it’s included, sometimes not. Some restaurants are offering more than three courses, so I usually look at my faves first, then peek at other places to see what speaks to me. Hopefully it’s not swearing at me in another language.

But back to Mulvaney’s… This time around, it was an entirely new experience.

If you frequently dine out, making reservations through Open Table works great. You make your reservation online, making it easy to modify it, and you also earn money back in the form of a check you can redeem at any participating restaurant. They also have a mobile app for both iPhone and Droid. “Why am I talking about Open Table,” you ask… boy, you’re full of questions today. The reason is that after seeing no slots were available within a two hour window, we made reservations at Cafeteria on L, but decided to run over to Mulvaney’s to see if we could get seated. That worked out well!

Instead of sitting in the regular dining area, we got to sit at the bar (not the boozy one), also known as the chef’s table. It’s butted up next to the kitchen and is where the “cold” stuff happens: salads, desserts, the cheese plate… those sorts of things. We watched the chef adroitly mandoline slice squash, wondering if she’d ever sliced off a piece of her fingers… hoping that if she did, it wasn’t into our salad. The silverware is also kept within the bar-height table, so there are alsways servers hustling to and fro, so service here was super quick and excellent. Our bread got refilled at an alarming rate, our water glasses were always full, and it was a great spot to watch the near-misses of servers running out of the kitchen door and others running towards the fridge at the back of the wall.

As with our first visit, we started off with a beef amuse bouche… some kind of steak tartare.

We were starving and decided to start with a cheese plate and bubbly. There were four cheeses: two goat’s milk, one brie, and a delicious blue.

We followed that up by simply saying to the server,”One of everything,” on the prix fixe menu. Our server also happened to be the same one we’d had before, and even better is that she remembered us.

First off were the salads.
Here is Shaved Summer Squash with Fiscalini cheddar. Mint, cherry tomatoes, and EVOO rounded out the flavors. This was refreshment on a plate. I generally am not a huge fan of squash, but the zucchini and yellow squash were really delicious with the tangy cherry tomatoes. The mint added the perfect amount of sweetness and flavor complement, while the EVOO was all it needed to dress it.

The other salad was Feeding Crane Farms Lettuce with Frico, which is just a fancy pants way of saying “fried cheese cracker,” and topped with anchovies and a lemon dressing. So this was basically a Caesar salad… but one of the best you’ve ever had. The anchovies were delicate and tasty, the dressing perfectly lemony, and even though I’d consumed a boat load of fried cheese the night before, this frico was freaking good.

For the main courses, one fish and one vegetarian… perfect!
Passmore Ranch Trout with Roasted Carrot Coulis, served with fingerling potatoes and snap peas. I could have eaten this entire plate. It was a generous serving of yet more fabulous fish from Passmore Ranch. The snap peas were really exquisite and all the ingredients meshed well together. I’m a big fan of trout (not Trouty Mouth, folks, though it was a pretty funny song) and enjoyed the preparation very much.

Hen of the Woods Mushroom Ravioli with grilled asparagus and leeks.
Another hearty portion! I’m a huge mushroom fan and I’ll take them almost any way I can get them! The ravioli were stuffed with a mixture of mushrooms, cheese, and some other ingredient I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The overall effect was texturally a little off for me. The flavors were fabulous, but it almost seemed like the balance and consistency weren’t quite right: too much mushroom in one ravioli, not enough in the other, etc. There was lots of parmesan on top, which I loved, and the leeks added a nice sweetness to the overall dish. While I liked this very much, I think I probably ate more of the trout. I mean, ravioli reheats so much better for tomorrow’s lunch, right?!

For dessert: Vanilla Panna Cotta with apricot cherry compote and lavender shortbread cookie. Okay, I already was full, but I finished this. The cookie was my favorite part – crunchy, sweet, and I absolutely loved the lavender. The compote was also fabulous.

And one of my favorite parts of the meal? The way they present you with the bill!

My “motive” this time around? Great food! And I got it this time at Mulvaney’s.

The view from the Chef’s Table towards the front door

The menu for the week of Wine and Dine

1215 19th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 441-6022

Menu for Wine and Dine Week:

Cost (food only): $35
Wine Pairing: $15

Blackbird Kitchen + Bar

On the arguably hottest day of (the ridiculously early) spring, I decided it sounded like a great idea to ride my bike all the way to Blackbird Kitchen + Bar, a new restaurant in downtown. Yah… not so much. But the fact that I was sweaty, hungry, and in desperate need of something cold to drink wasn’t going to dampen my excitement! I couldn’t wait to try this new spot that looked like it had all the makings for a great new haunt. And let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.

Located on 9th between J and K, you can’t miss the facade. It’s quite stunning, in fact. The mural is at the same time noticeable, and yet not. Okay, so I guess you can miss it, because I rode my bike past it without even knowing it. Then when I crossed the street to park my bike, I was stunned I hadn’t noticed it before. Open your eyes, Quaid, open your eyes. Okay, I know he says “mind,” but just go with me here.

Upon walking in, I immediately felt the vibe of the place: fun, accessible, and, I can’t think of any other word to use… “nice.” The intial “taste” of a restaurant you get is the first person you see when you walk through the door. How you are greeted can set the stage for the entire experience and make or break it for me. On this evening, the hostess was ready with a friendly smile and gave me even better news: we were getting the last table. I guess the patron saint of Women-who-stupidly-think-it’s-a-great-idea-to-bike-across-town-on-a-freakishly-hot-day-in-April was watching over me.

Chef/owner Carina Lampkin gets inspiration from the sea and the local farmers’ market. Which, along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,  just happen to be two of my favorite things.  It’s a great place for a pescetarian like me. If you’re a full-on vegetarian… maybe not so much. The vegetarian items include a salad and a soup, which is typically served with an egg. However, if you enjoy the bounty of the sea (try saying that seriously without laughing), then this is the place for you.

Happy hour is a fabulous time to try it out. Their offerings include $1 miyagi oysters, $2 fish tacos, and $5 lobster mini roll. For the drinkers out there, they have $4 glasses of red or white (these supposedly change daily), $4 margaritas, and $3 beer. The full menu is also available, so you can mix and match to your heart’s content.

Today, we decided to go with 6 miyagi, and mix with 4 beau soleil and 4 kumamotos. They’re served with the traditional accoutrements of mignonette, lemon, and cocktail sauce. I really enjoy tasting a restaurant’s mignonette and this was quite good!

Kumamoto and Beau soleil

As for the other two selections, the aforementioned fish taco and lobster roll filled the bill. The lobster roll is on griddled brioche with upland cress. I really enjoyed this, though wish I could have gotten two. Two for the price of $10 was a bit much for me to swallow, however, no pun intended. The fish tacos were really tasty… fried cod with cabbage and a chipotle crema. The fish was crunchy, without being overly breaded, and the proportions were perfect. Not too much cabbage, not too little spread.

It was a difficult decision of what to get from the regular menu, but we settled on arctic char and dayboat scallops. I was extremely curious about the arctic char after seeing on the menu online and knew I had to get this. It’s served with housemade kimchi, a honey-soy reduction, micro cilantro, and black lava salt.

It’s difficult to properly cook scallops and even more challenging, I suppose, to find scallops that are good enough to serve raw. This dish was served with a green pea puree, pink peppercorns, and asparagus, with lemon oil. The textural variety on this was excellent. The softness of the scallops was perfectly balanced by the crunchiness of the asparagus. There was also a special surprise of a bit of radish to really add more punch to it and balance the sweetness of the scallops.

Moving on to ambience and service. These were both stellar. The server, whom I had known from another restaurant, was spot on with everything. The only negative I could say would be the noise level. We were seated upstairs against the back wall, with sound freely bouncing off the walls. This was only punctuated by the shrill voice of a woman at the table next to us.

Upstairs – lady with shrill voice not pictured

I am anxious to go back and try out their cooked items, like the asparagus soup, beer popped mussels, lobster and beet salad, and squid ink fettucini. Oh and the applewood smoked clam and seafood chowder. And the kona kampachi… and the… okay, pretty much everything but the blackbird burger, which, if I ate beef, sounds delish (bacon, avo, onion, white cheddar, pickled vegetables).

Overall: 4.5/5
Food: 4.5/5
Ambience: 4/5
Price: $$.5/5 (note: the two non-happy hour plates we got were $9, which is incredible for what you’re getting. Good luck getting the quality and amount at a place like Mikuni. In addition to that, the oysters are very competitively priced.)
Service:  4.5/5

Happy hour: Tues-Fri, 4:00-6:00
1015 9th Street

I don’t know if they take reservations or not. But go check it out… but don’t take my table! ;-p

Looking down onto the bar

How did I miss this facade?!

Blackbird Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon


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.



Mulvaney's Building and Loan on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Thir13en – Brunch

The long and short of it? Go to Thir13en for brunch!

With a ridiculously fresh menu that changes daily, Thir13en isn’t just a great place for dinner… now you can have your brunch and eat it, too! It was a beautiful day and the patio was open for business! Meeting up with a couple of friends, we grabbed some bloody marys, which were a veritable salad onto themselves, and blood orange/prosecco mimosas and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

While Chef/owner Adam Pechal is still trying out some new things for the menu, he’s got some wonderful dishes like Chicken Little, his take on the classic comfort food of chicken and waffles. But this is no fake syrup with cardboard waffles, nope! His are buttermilk fried young chicken with goat cheese-herb waffles and a bacon-maple syrup. Also are staples like Steak and Eggs, and another twist on a classic dish: Eggs Benedict, Tuscan style (I kind if felt like the narrator on the original Iron Chef there for a second!) Also is the more unusual chilaquiles – tortilla chips with salsa, eggs, grilled chicken, cotija cheese, avocado, and sour cream. Adorning the table today: Tuscan Benedict and Joe Pruner’s Special.

The Tuscan Benedict was made with prosciutto, peperonata, and poached eggs atop an English muffin with a meyer lemon hollandaise sauce smothering the entire creation. The prosciutto is more like a ham than the thinly sliced prosciutto you might be accustomed to seeing. Because of this, it’s heartier and stands up well to the peperonata. Speaking of which, the peperonata was fabulous. Its sweet and tangy flavors mixed well with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the hollandaise sauce.

At first glance, the menu does not appear to be veghead friendly. However, Adam is more than happy to accommodate any substitutions to make something vegetarian. In this case, he suggested making the scramble with a multitude of mushrooms in place of the usual beef. This was fabulous. It was 3 scrambled eggs and thrown together with delicious carmelized onions, bloomsdale spinach and just the right amount of white cheddar to hold it all together in cheesy goodness. I think the standout in this dish was the onions. There were just enough to bring out the flavor of the onions, while also bringing out the best in the other ingredients. But my favorite thing? The potatoes! It was a serving of the most perfectly fried potatoes I’d ever had. Cubed and with a sublime crunch, gently seasoned with rosemary from their herb garden, and perfectly salted with large grains of sea salt, I’ve found my perfect potato! A friend of mine put it well: There really is nothing like something simple done right. This is just such an example… few ingredients done absolutely perfectly.

I admit it, I’m a total sucker for biscuits and gravy, and macaroni and cheese. Well, 13 does both… really well. I mean, seriously. It’s a little bit ridiculous. There was some miscommunication about my scramble, so to appease me (because I’m such a raging bitch, or something, haha), Adam brought out some of his heavenly biscuits and gravy. These were cheddar, chive and smothered in Sawmill gravy. (I don’t know what recipe he uses, but whatever it is, it’s delicious.) I couldn’t really eat much of this, since it had large chunks of sausage, but did taste it. Warning: The large is big enough to feed a Mormon family, or my office mate’s 16 year old son! It did reheat well, however, so your mouth can go for a delectable dip in Sawmill gravy for a few days after your visit.

Adam is still tweaking the menu a bit, so don’t be surprised if you see some new, fun stuff! And he’s willing to hear what you’ve got to say… suggestions are most definitely welcome! Adam flits from table to table, doing his chef shmoozing only like he can. During my visit, the co-owner of Tuli was on the patio enjoying brunch, as was server from Tuli. Clearly they believe in these two restaurants as much as anyone, which speaks volumes to me. So, get thee to Restaurant 13’s Sunday brunch with all speed!

1300 H Street
Reservations available through Open Table or their website.

This says it all!

This says it all!

Inside dining area

Inside dining area

Community table and bar

Community table and bar

Herb garden out front

Herb garden out front

He'll bop you on the head with his wing if you're a jerk

He'll bop you on the head with his wing if you're a jerk

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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.

2718 J Street

The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

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
1809 Capital Ave


The Press Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon