The James Beard awards are to the food world what the Oscars are to movies. It's a huge honor just to be nominated, let alone actually win.
Sacramento mainstay Frank Fat's will receive a Lifetime Achievement award in the America's Classics category in early May. Sac Bee restaurant critic Blair Anthony Robertson went to see if Frank Fat's is "a restaurant icon … or a restaurant dinosaur."
During our recent visits, it didn't take long to arrive at an answer. Frank Fat's may not be as cool as a place like Hook & Ladder or Red Rabbit, as elegant as Ella, as influential as Mulvaney's or as adored as Biba.
But it continues to stand tall for a reason. The food is consistently delicious and eminently accessible, with flavors and ingredients that straddle the line between American and Chinese.
Who cares where bacon-wrapped scallops come from or whether they get the foodie stamp of approval for being authentic? At Frank Fat's, they're pretty darn amazing – tender, delicate, meaty, salty and just a tad smoky going down. And they pair nicely with a lychee martini, a nice stiff mai tai cocktail or something from the abbreviated but nicely balanced wine list.
The salt-and-pepper calamari is light and crisp and mildly delicious without being greasy or chewy. And Fat's brandy fried chicken is right up there with the best fried chicken in town – perfectly tender, golden brown, crispy, tasty – and lots of it.
Know what makes all this food taste even better? They treat you like a million bucks. Frank Fat's has been a refuge for movers and shakers practically since the day it opened on L Street. Every governor since has eaten there. Celebrities often drop by. Deals get done.
To my taste buds, Robertson's pretty much nailed his assessment. While Frank Fat's may not be as authentic as the dim sum Asian Pearl 2009 on Stockton Blvd. or CF Cheng in Natomas, that doesn't mean that it's still not good and worth a visit once in a while.
Popular beer spot Pangaea Two Brews Cafe opens new lambic bar - At the small event to inaugurate the new sour-beer lambic bar in the
back room of Pangaea Two Brews Cafe, owner Rob Archie raised a glass of
ultra-rare Cantillon Lou Pepe and, with eyes shining, thanked everyone
for their support. (Briefly, the category of “sour” beers are those with
a tart taste that is a result of fermentation with either Brettanomyces
yeast or Lactobacillus bacteria. Mmm, bacteria.) Becky Gruenwald in Sac News Review.
Review: Seasons 52 - Watching your weight? This restaurant is a calorie-counter's dream. As a serious food fan, I usually avoid thinking about calories in my quest for a fabulous meal. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty (sometimes) when powering through a plate of crispy fries or a creamy bowl of fettuccine Alfredo, but—call me a glutton—great flavor trumps potential cellulite for me any day of the week. However, plenty of people do count calories but also want to eat well. One restaurant chain has crafted its brand to serve that demographic. Kira O'Donnell in Sac Mag.
I saw Andrew Blaskovich outside his namesake truck last week, but didn't get a chance to say hi because he was on his cell phone running his food truck empire while keeping an eye on his truck. Well, now we know one of the things keeping Drewski busy, and Blair Anthony Robertson has details in the Sac Bee.
But before he could even open that second location, Blaskovich has worked out plans for a third - he's getting the keys Saturday and will be ready to start building out a full-service restaurant at McClellan Office Park (formerly McClellan Air Force Base). This Drewski's will begin serving lunch only but could expand its hours if demand warrants. Both this place and the one in Folsom are slated to open sometime in June, Blaskovich said Thursday.
The restaurant at McClellan will be up to 5,000 square feet and will have a large patio. Blaskovich plans to have a beer and wine license.
While some might consider McClellan off the beaten path, Blaskovich says 15,000 people work on the sprawling property, which converted to mostly non-military use after the air force base closed in 2001 (the U.S. Coast Guard continues to use the airport there). The restaurant will be at 5504 Dudley Ave. Unlike the Republic, which is a partnership, these two other brick-and-mortar eateries are by Blaskovich as a solo businessman.
Commercial Real Estate Broker Brian Jacks, whom from what I can tell is the leasing agent on the transaction, gives a little more detail, on a Commercial Real Estate Blog.
Around June 1st, the highly followed and well-known food truck operator will open a free-standing Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen at McClellan Park in Sacramento County. Drewski will be taking over the restaurant space formerly occupied by Café Le Monde at 5504 Dudley Blvd. Drewski is excited because he now controls a large physical restaurant location (including outdoor patio).
According to Drewski, “the new space offers significant advantages and makes all the sense in the world”. Here’s a few of the benefits: 1) Drewski now has access to a larger kitchen facility, where all the food will be prepared and distributed from one convenient location for the brick-and-mortars, food trucks, and full service catering events. Logistically, 2) he can store his food trucks onsite (including a brand new $80,000 high capacity mobile kitchen) without having to rent parking space elsewhere, saving over $1,000 per month. And to top it all off, 3) McClellan Park is now home to a new 72,000 square foot sports venue, which opened last December.
Jackson Sports Academy (JSA) primarily hosts girls “club” volleyball with 12 indoor courts that attract thousands of players and spectators each weekend. Many other sports, activities and events utilize the facility year round, including wrestling, boxing, and mixed martial arts. Later this year, JSA plans to expand to approximately 200,000 square feet and will offer indoor basketball and soccer as well. With the masses of people now flocking to McClellan Park for sporting events, Ken Giannotti (Senior Vice President, McClellan Park) said “it was a natural to welcome a popular food operator that we’re confident will serve both our growing business community and new found sports enthusiasts alike”.
Capital cooking up weeklong Farm-to-Fork celebration - Plans are far from complete, but the dates are set for Sacramento’s
region-wide celebration of being the nation’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. The
big event will be a Saturday festival on Sept. 28 running along Capitol
Mall in downtown Sacramento. Mark Anderson in Sac Biz Journal.
Staff picks: Corti Brothers sandwiches - Corti
Brothers is a grocery store with a deli that serves affordable and meaty
sandwiches that is close to campus. Established in 1947, the Italian
grocery store has maintained its old fashion appeal while offering
customers a wide selection of meats, cheeses and specialty sandwiches. Cristina Lule in the Sac State Hornet.
Earlier this month, the Sac Bee reviewedHook & Ladder, saying that soon, "it could be up there with the best in the city." Sac News & Review's Ann Martin Rolke gives the place a very mixed review. Calling it a restaurant "for adults who want to socialize in style in Sacramento," it seems that she likes the concept, but has issues with the food, including the "dry" muffins, "disappointing" biscuits, "scant" meat on the pizzas and "overcooked" pastas.
Here's an exerpt:
The brunch menu is heavy on the eggs, but they’re prepared in lots of ways. One option is the Croque Madame, a ham-and-Gruyere sandwich usually battered with egg. This one had a fried egg and béchamel, with a generous smear of mustard inside. The mountain of potato hash alongside tasted flavorful and not too greasy...
The revelations of the dinner included the excellent smoked-eggplant baba ganoush, which is smoky and garlicky and served with warm flatbread wedges and oil-cured olives.
The bananas foster bread pudding is equally transcendent, accompanied by very salty caramel gelato and slivers of brûléed bananas. Chunks of banana and pecan studded the tender, custardy pudding.
Perhaps like the volunteer 1850s Mutual Hook & Ladder Company for which it is named, the restaurant is a great idea that needs a bit more coordination. A few tweaks to quality and detail will have it rescuing diners from hunger for years to come.
I want Hook & Ladder to succeed and hope they iron out their issues. They're a great place to drink with a few friends after work. I'm just not sure they're a great place to eat yet.
Gluten-free bakery at center of Sacramento couple's love story - The bakery has become the focal point of their lives. Ever since
Valentine's Day, when they sold out of their first-day inventory,
business has been steady and growing, they said. Olga does most of the
baking and handles the finances. Danny handles the marketing, the online
component, works on the bakery's image and takes orders behind the
counter. Olga said all of the recipes are original, based on trial and
error and plenty of feedback from Danny. After five weeks in business,
the bakery has 15 gluten-free items and counting, including banana
bread, a peanut butter cookie, several varieties of scones, various
cupcakes and an oversized peanut butter-and-chocolate sandwich cookie,
among others. The baked goods are so tasty and uncompromising that many
would be hard-pressed to identify them as gluten- and dairy-free. Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee.
Plenty of exposure means cleaned-out shelves for bakery - Thursday was a big day for Pushkin's Bakery, the fledgling
gluten-free/dairy-free bakery that opened on Valentine's Day. We
featured the bakery in The Bee, complete with several photos and a story
about the very likable young couple that opened the business, and an
online photo slideshow. Needless to say, the media exposure brought in
plenty of new customers. Gluten-free eating is a growing business, not
only for those with serious food allergies but for countless others
looking for alternatives to wheat flour...Turner and his wife Olga, the
baker, had heard that such an article would mean a busy day, so they
baked twice as many items - and sold out by 5:30 p.m. They close at 7
p.m. Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee.
In their third installment of their Cheap Eats feature, Sac Mag continues to scour the area for bites that will satisfy your appetite without emptying your wallet. Here are a couple that are convenient for those who live or work near the city center.
Pesto Veggie Combo Slice ($6.50) - Pieces Pizza by the Slice offers a fun and creative selection of (huge) pizza slices. One of the most electrifyingly delicious is the garlicky pesto pizza, loaded with a raft of vegetables: eggplant, spinach, tomato, zucchini and red onions. When you order, make sure to ask for an addition of feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes—they’re the perfect embellishment. 1309 21st St.; (916) 441-1949
The Angie ($6.25) - Downtown workers love THE LEAVEN & EARTH SANDWICH FOOD TRUCK, which has been parked at the same corner for nearly 10 years. The innovative, made-to-order sandwiches are terrific, especially The Angie, whose delicious addition of garlic herb sauce may require a brisk tooth brushing back at the office. Filled with pulled roasted chicken, artichoke hearts, provolone cheese and a thin slice of prosciutto, it’s an elegant and savory lunch treat. Ninth and G streets; (916) 613-4493
BBQ Pork Báhn Mì ($2.75) - If you’re seeking a sandwich with some zing, make your way to HUONG LAN SANDWICHES in South Sac. Food lovers flock to this busy restaurant and market for its delectable Vietnamese báhn mì sandwiches. One of the most popular is the barbecued pork báhn mì, composed on a soft French bun and partnered with pickled daikon and carrot, fresh cilantro, slivers of cucumber and jalapeño peppers. This captivating sandwich is exuberantly flavorful and delivers a spicy smack to the palate for less than 3 bucks. 6930 65th St.; (916) 429-9999
Chango Chicken Melt ($7) - At SERRANO'S CAFE, this hefty sandwich is the perfect choice for a cold, blustery day. Prepared on rye bread, it contains thick chunks of moist chicken breast smothered in melted Swiss cheese, bolstered with bacon strips and roasted green chilies. Almost too thick to bite into, it’s some serious comfort food. 3021 W. Capitol Ave., West Sacramento; (916) 376-0860; serranoscafe.net
VIDEO: Sacramento brewery to celebrate grand opening - The owner of New Helvetia Brewery David Gull introduces some of the beers that will be served at the grand opening. On KCRA.
Daring Parings” on ABC’s “The Taste” - ABC’s new
cooking competition series, “The Taste,” premiered on January 22nd to
rave reviews. Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre and Brian
Malarkey, four of the most acclaimed masters in the food world, act as
mentors to teams of contestants made up of professional chefs and home
cooks. The catch? The mentors must judge the competitors’ dishes blind
with no knowledge of whose creation they’re sampling or who they could
be sending home each week...We enjoyed a delicious menu prepared by Chef
Pechal and his Restaurant Thir13teen team, including Honey-nut Squash
Soup with Salted Cream, Bouillabaisse with Saffron Rouille, Drunken
Sirloin with Chimichurri and Chocolate Blackout Cake for dessert. Liz Conant on Sac Foodies.
Red Rabbit celebrats its first anniversary on Saturday. I loved its concept and execution so much that that's where we went for Valentine's Day dinner last year.
A year later, Sac Bee restaurant critic Blair Anthony Robertson takes a look at the maturing restaurant.
The food, the drinks, the service, the décor, the energy in the room, even the name (a nod to the giant red rabbit art installation at the airport) – it all works. And there's room for improvement.
The braised lamb shank ($22.50) with creamy white polenta and braised Swiss chard was an excellent example of good ingredients and skillful execution. The thick, crispy square of pork belly ($9) with a lemon caper sauce was a tender, tasty, rustic, comforting appetizer. The eye-catching "winter is coming caprese salad" ($7), featuring slabs of tender golden beets instead of tomato slices, along with croquettes of warmed goat cheese, was clever and beautifully done, even if the pickled red onions threatened to overwhelm the dish with their acidity...
The food here does indeed have an edge. It's creative and thoughtful. It's all over the map with flavors, textures and ingredients. Service is solid and sometimes well above average. The menu features several winners and a few clunkers.
Orphan Breakfast House - Some mornings just call for
a sit-down, ignore-the-world, enjoy-yourself kind of breakfast. When
those mornings call, Orphan Breakfast House answers. From fresh daily
specials using seasonal ingredients like the Meyer Lemon Poppyseed
Pancakes (three Meyer lemon poppyseed pancakes baked with fresh
raspberries and surrounded by house-made Meyer lemon curd) to menu
standbys like the Papas Loco (rosemary potatoes grilled with jalapenos
and scallions, topped with black beans, jack cheese, fresh salsa, sour
cream, avocado, cilantro and Roma tomatoes), Orphan doesn’t disappoint. Jenna Buhagiar in Sac Foodies.
Inside the performance at The Kitchen - Dining at The Kitchen Restaurant is like watching a celebrity chef
cooking show — but you actually get to eat the food. Like a foodie
celebration, The Kitchen is dinner and a show in one. In fact, dinner is
the show. The story of that show begins with what goes into the menu
and it includes with how a dish is made and then presented. The ending,
fittingly, is dessert. Mark Anderson in Sac Biz Journal.
Seasons 52 opened at Arden Fair mall on Monday, and they graciously invited me to a hosted meal to check out their restaurant and to let their kitchen and wait staff get some practice in before they opened to the public.
When you first walk in, you know they aren't a shoestring mom and pop operation. They've invested heavily into creating an elegant space fitting of a higher end restaurant. With its dark wood interior and a pianist playing in the bar area, it's a setting that you'd expect to find businessmen sipping scotch while traveling for work.
As part of their preview, they served us seven small courses. All the items weren't on the menu, but were supposed to be representative of their cuisine in general.