Sac Beer Week

Dining News: Sac Bee Critic Dings Dime, Defends Review


Sac Bee restaurant critic Blair Anthony Robertson recently reviewed Capital Dime, which underwent a change in chefs from opening chef Noah Zonca to former Tuli chef Stan Moore. Based on media reports, the switch happened around the beginning of March.

This is what Robertson wrote in the Sac Bee on April 20:

But we began to wonder if Moore was as attentive as he needed to be, as we encountered many inconsistencies and outright cooking miscues – overdressed salads, under-seasoned chicken and improperly cooked waffles. Over three recent visits, the food ranged from mediocre to disappointing...

The poutine – yes, everyone’s doing a version of French fries, gravy and cheese these day – was one of the worst dishes I can remember eating. The fries were bland. The gravy was lukewarm. The mozzarella was cold, and so was the braised veal. The whole thing was awash in soggy saltiness. As luck would have it, I had just eaten a tremendous poutine with duck at Carpe Vino in Auburn, and Capital Dime’s was nowhere close. Is this a Dime dish? No, it’s $15.

Because the fried chicken and poutine were both miscues the first go-round, I felt obligated, given Moore’s reputation, to order them again during my next visit. Maybe it was simply an off night in the kitchen. The chicken the next time was slightly more flavorful, but the waffles remained overcooked and dense, rather than crisp and light. The poutine was identical.

Read the entire review in the Sac Bee.

I generally agree with Robertson's review. I've eaten there twice in the last month, and found much room for improvement on the service and food side. But I hold out hope that the new chef will be able to fix some of these issues as he settles in.

In the week and a half since the review ran, I've talked to a lot of people around town about the review. I've talked to people in the restaurant industry, media and frequent restaurant-goers. The one comment that everybody talked about was why the focus on a Zonca, who was no longer with Dime? Out of the nearly 1,700 words in Robertson's review, more than 600 were spent on a chef whose food and service diners who read his review would not encounter.

(Note: Another common, although not universal, comment was that Robertson should have given new chef Moore additional time to fix the kitchen. I don't agree with that. If they're taking your money, they should be willing to be judged on their food, service and experience.)

Apparently, it wasn't just the people I associate with who wondered about the extended section on Zonca. The Bee published a letter to the editor on Sunday taking Robertson to task.

When I open the paper to read a restaurant review, I expect to be directed to the establishment based on the reviewer's opinion of the food, the server and the ambiance. Opinions I sometimes ignore, often to my chagrin or delight.

Imagine my surprise to find I was treated to the reviewer's personal opinion of the past owner, Noah Zonca.

How in the world is that relevant or pertinent to driving Sacramentans or visitors to our city to this restaurant?

Read the entire Letter to the Editor in the Sac Bee.

While I agree with the portion of the letter I excerpted, the rest of the letter accuses Robertson of being biased. I don't think Robertson was biased in this case. As I said above, his experience was generally in line with the ones I had.

Catherine Enfield, aka Ms. Munchie, asked Robertson on Twitter about it. Here's their short exchange.

@ms_munchie He designed the concept. He was the front man. He created the buzz. He took it in a different direction. Then he left.

— Blair A. Robertson (@Blarob) April 29, 2014

Robertson is a much better reviewer than I'll ever be. He's a better writer than I'll ever be, and he has the budget and time to eat at restaurants multiple times before writing about it. But I think he's wrong about this. Devoting more than a third of a review to a chef who isn't even with the restaurant as part of an overall negative review seems excessive to me.

Capital Dime is located at 1801 L Street, and can be found online at

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Killin It: Dan Scott - Did you enjoy any of the trillion Sacramento Beer Week events this year? If you did you have the guy above, Dan Scott, to thank. He’s very modest, so he probably wouldn’t agree with that and would point to everyone else involved, etc., but he has been MacGyvering this thing together with chewing gum and baling wire for the last five years. Becky Gruenwald in Sac Foodways.

VIDEO: Fresh Crab Omelet - Eric Rucker whipping up a fresh crab omelet with Chef Jay Veregge from Ten 22. On FOX 40.

VIDEO: Dishin' With Tina: La Huaca - On this week's Dishin', Tina heads to La Huaca to eat some fantastic Peruvian food! On Good Day Sac.

VIDEO: Dishin' With Tina: Block Butcher And Bar - Tina Macuha is checking out a place that is taking Italian deli to another level! Welcome to Block Butcher and Bar! On Good Day Sac.

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Dining News: Aioli Menu is 'A Proven Winner'


In this week's review, Sac Bee restaurant critic Blair Anthony Robertson takes on the venerable Aioli, located at 18th & L.

There’s more to it than food, however. Aïoli has mastered the art of the dining experience in a very special way, complete with charm, polish and eccentricities. Brimming with all that is old-school and nothing that is newfangled or trendy, this Spanish tapas restaurant marries food, wine, service, setting and all kinds of intangibles into something that only gets better with each visit.

You don’t necessarily judge Aïoli by your first time here because, like a good relationship or a fine pair of shoes, there is a break-in period. In fact, my first visit years ago was a disappointment, due in part to my own clunky navigation of the imposing menu. I took a stab at it, ordered haphazardly and wound up with too many cold dishes for my liking and too many flavors that seemed repetitive rather than complimentary.

The way to embrace Aïoli is to go and return and eventually slot in as a regular, as if coming back to a second home where all your needs are anticipated. You’ll soon become friends with the entire staff. You’ll get hugs from the owner. You’ll sit at your favorite table. You’ll go through the menu backward and forward, trying new things and returning to old favorites.

Read the entire review in the Sac Bee.

I, too, have had a complicated relationship with Aioli. To me, it's kind of the Napoleon Dynamite of Sacramento restaurants. You may not like it the first time you eat there, but eventually, it wins you over.

Over the last 10 years, I've eaten there a half dozen times. The first four times, I really didn't get why friends and colleagues heaped praise on the place. The last two times were this year, and I ate there with a regular. We left the menu and wine selection both times in the hands of the waiter, and I was blown away both times.

Most recently, I had one of their pastas (among many other dishes), and it was expertly cooked. The sauces were flavorful and complex. The pasta was perfectly al dente. We were practically licking the plate.

If you would have asked me three months ago, I wouldn't have recommended Aioli. But with my most recent experiences, if you're the kind of person who can trust the waiter with what you're going to eat or you know somebody who is a regular there, you'll have a great time.

Photo via

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Sacramento earns two spots on Yelp’s best 100 restaurants list - Sacramento’s dining scene hasn’t made a mark with Michelin, but it’s getting some help from Yelp. For the first time, has complied its list of 100 best places to eat in America, and two well-regarded Sacramento restaurants have made the cut: The Kitchen (No. 30) and Cafe Rolle (No. 36). Tim Swanson in the Sac Bee.

25 questions about Sacramento Beer Week with founder Dan Scott - Football fans have the Super Bowl. Techies have CES. Fantasy and sci-fi fanatics have Comic-Con. And for each of the past five years, craft beer lovers within reach of California's capital city have had Sacramento Beer Week to look forward to every February. Dan Scott, the founder and executive director of the annual gathering of beer geeks and foodies, spared a few precious moments from his frantic February schedule to discuss the origins of the event, what's new this year and how to get the most out of the 2014 edition of the 11-day celebration of craft beer. On News 10.

West Sacramento's Bike Dog Brewing Company succeeds out of the gate with community-taproom model - It's become a formula: beer plus bikes, plus food trucks, plus kids, plus dogs equals brewery. Bike Dog Brewery Company is on trend with all of these things, right down to its name. It has the typical chalkboard menu, brewers in rubber boots, long benches and picnic tables, and ’90s rock coming from the speakers. The way it distinguishes itself is with its beer (as evinced by its second-place finish in this paper’s Beer Issue competition; see page 21), despite the business only being open for five months. Becky Gruenwald in Sac News & Review.

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Dining News: Sac Beer Week Edition

Sac Beer Week kicked off on Wednesday, and it's a celebration of all the new local breweries we have popping up all over the city. By the time it ends on Sunday, March 9, there would have been hundreds of events held at local restaurants and other venues. But with so many events, which ones are worth going to?

Both Sactown Mag and Sac News & Review made lists of events not to miss, but due to the sheer number of events, no two events made both lists.

Here are a couple that seemed interesting to me from Sactown Mag:

Mardi Gras at The Shack
March 4: The Big Easy comes to Sactown next week. Celebrate Fat Tuesday in true Bourbon Street fashion with authentic Cajun and creole food, beer from New Orleans’ own Abita brewery, and live jazz from the Crescent Cats. Costumes are encouraged. 5-9 p.m. The Shack. 5201 Folsom Blvd. 457-5997.

Cider and Charcuterie
March 5: Beer Week’s Farm-to-Fork favorite pairs local Two Rivers cider (made form local, organic apples) with artisan meat and cheese samples from Sacramento’s The Cultured and the Cured. Stop by for a sip and a snack with Two Rivers’ cider master Vince Sterne. 3-7 p.m. Hock Farm. 1415 L St. 440-8888.

And here are two more suggestions from the Sac News & Review:

Udderly delightful
How does a chili-milk stout sound? Or a cocoa-nib, orange-peel stout? Or perhaps one with bourbon is more your speed? Try ’em all, side by side at Bike Dog Brewing Company, as the brewers take its milk stout and flavor it eight different ways. 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 1; 2534 Industrial Boulevard, Suite 110 in West Sacramento; (916) 432-3376;

Hoppin’ party
To celebrate Hops to Table magazine’s birthday, Capitol Beer and Tap Room is throwing a party with some notably rare, highly rated and highly alcoholic brews. Among them: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Sucaba, and Hangar 24 Craft Brewery’s Pugachev’s Cobra. 7 p.m. on Friday, March 7; 2222 Fair Oaks Boulevard, (916) 922-1745,

As for me, the event at the top of my list is a collaboration between Billy Ngo of Kru and Pangaea Two Brews Cafe. From the Sac News & Review's description:

Surf and turf
Last year, Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine’s Billy Ngo invaded Pangaea Two Brews Cafe for a little sushi-beer action. This time around, Ngo joins Pangaea chef Robb Venditti for an evening of sushi and steak, appropriately paired with Hitachino Nest beers. 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4; 2743 Franklin Boulevard, (916) 454-4942,

I'd eat anything Chef Ngo cooked - even if it was scrambled eggs or toast because I know it'd be good.

Read the entire lists in Sactown Magazine and Sac News & Review.

Check out the entire schedule of events at

More News:

Sacramento Beer Week gains a head of steam - Dan Scott was a beer enthusiast – albeit a really enthusiastic one – when he decided to start Sacramento Beer Week in 2010. It was a grass-roots venture and, at the time, the region had about a dozen craft breweries. His idea was simple: Let’s take a week to recognize and celebrate the quality beer being brewed right here. Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee.

On how the Sacramento craft beer scene exploded—and will it last? - Rick Sellers says people ask him all the time: “How many breweries are there in Sacramento these days?” It’s a fair question, because five years ago, there were fewer than 10, but now it’s apparent to even a Coors Light guzzler that the craft-beer businesses is multiplying. What a buzzkill to keep track. Nick Miller in Sac News & Review.

SN&R’s first ever Beer Issue IPA competition ranks the region’s best (and worst) hopped beers - There were, of course, standouts—Berryessa Brewing Co. in Winters took the big prize—but it’s also worth noting that the B- and C-grade beers largely proffered drinkability. The Sacto beer scene in a handful of years is an exciting prospect. Sadly, there were some really bad brews. River City Brewing Company’s IPA, what with its incongruous smokiness and medicinal aftertaste, should not be seeing the light of pints. Ditto the Hop Sac by Ruhstaller Beer, a company that otherwise brews potable suds. This wet-hop ale, which is supposed to celebrate this region’s hop terroir, needs to be pulled from shelves. In Sac News & Review.

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Dining News: Revamped Blackbird to Open on Tuesday


The second iteration of Blackbird, now known as Blackbird Kitchen & Beer Gallery, is scheduled to open on Tuesday, Feb. 25, reports Janelle Bitker in Sac News & Review.

The daily dinner menu will remain seafood-focused, but Lampkin is lacing more beer into the food and adding a bar menu to match a more casual, and hopefully lively, off-hours vibe. (There are new wooden community tables in the back, for example.)

“It’s kind of like a no-duh,” Lampkin said. “People would come in asking for fish tacos all night but we wouldn’t sell them after 6 p.m.”

Expect other elevated bar classics, like Lampkin’s “Little Cochina,” a dish of pork braised in porter with avocado mousse, tomatillo pico de gallo, queso fresco and chips on the side. “It’s like nachos, but 100 times better,” she said.

Read the entire story in Sac News & Review.

Related Story: Blackbird Chef Says She Played No Role in Mass E-mail Dismissing Staff

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Get Thirsty: 5th Annual Sacramento Beer Week Starts Feb. 27 - Craft beer and cider lovers, rejoice: your favorite beverages will be celebrated in grand style during Sacramento Beer Week, which takes place from Feb. 27 through March 9. According to Dan Scott, executive director of Sacramento Beer Week, more than 100 breweries, pubs, restaurants and grocers throughout the region will participate in hundreds of events featuring craft beer and cider. Mark your calendars for two “cornerstone” events. Kira O'Donnell in Sac Mag.

Picture a honky-tonk on J Street - Could there be a honky-tonk in J Street's future? The promoters behind live music venues Ace of Spades and The Assembly are working on a new bar, restaurant and live music concept in the former home of Hamburger Patties at 17th and J streets in midtown Sacramento - Cowboys & Angels Saloon. Mark Anderson in Sac Biz Journal.

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Dining News: RIP Pyramid Alehouse

Pyramid Alehouse, a K Street mainstay for the last decade, announced on Facebook on Monday that it had closed its doors for the last time on Sunday.

While the timing was a little abrupt, it's not really a surprise to me. The food was mediocre and its beer wasn't able to compete with the flood of new microbrews.

The company gave the Sac Bee this statement for its closing:

"The Pyramid Sacramento Alehouse business has declined due to economic, social and competitive factors affecting downtown businesses in the area. The Sacramento location will close on March 4, 2013. Employees have been notified and offered severance," said Glenn Hancock, Pyramid Breweries.

"We want to thank all of our Sacramento employees for their hard work and years of service and the Sacramento community for their patronage," said Hancock. "Pyramid Breweries will focus resources on Alehouse locations with breweries in California, Oregon and Washington, along with our successful location in Walnut Creek. Brewing beer and creating an experience around beer is at the heart of what we do."

Honestly, I'm not going to miss the place. The location is amazing, and I'm sure it won't be vacant for long. I hope another amazing restaurant comes to take its place. Personally, I'm rooting for a Yardhouse on K St.

Everybody covered the event this week, but the two best were the stories by Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee and David Bienick on KCRA (with video).

Click here for additional posts about Pyramid Alehouse.

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Sacramento Beer Week wrap-up: long lines, big business for festivities - Sacramento Beer Week, a celebration of all-things ale that brought significant boosts to many area businesses, wrapped up Sunday with long lines and a few logistical challenges. More than 76 area businesses participated in the 10-day event, offering a selection of happy hour specials, beer dinners and tastings geared towards enthusiastic hopsheads. Dylan Mauro, owner of Samuel Horne's Tavern in Folsom, was surrounded Monday morning by tapped kegs left over from Beer Week. He said that business doubled during the event, including a line 100 deep for a "Hop Rodeo" event on Saturday featuring coveted craft beers. Chris Macias in the Sac Bee.

Placerville Brewing Company: Where Barbeque and Beer Meet - You know that yearning after a long week where you just want to kick off your boots, enjoy some good ol’ fashion barbecue comfort food, and wash it down with a delicious microbrew? Yeah, you know what we’re talking about. May we suggest Placerville Brewing Company… Down the street from the El Dorado  Fairgrounds and established in 2005, the award-winning Placerville Brewing Company is one-part family restaurant, one-part microbrewery. Cherise Henry in Style Mag.

Continue reading "Dining News: RIP Pyramid Alehouse" »

Dining News: How's Sac Beer Week Going?

There are still 3 days left in Sac Beer Week, and according to the Sac Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson, people have beeen having a great time.

The 4th annual Sacramento Beer Week is off to a splendid start throughout the region, and we're starting to see a trend wherever we go: enthusiastic but laid-back crowds, great beer, good times.

We dropped by Track 7 Brewing Co. on Saturday to find a rather amazing site - folks lining up for the excellent beer brewed on-site at a facility that was once an industrial park but is now on the verge of being something very special. If you're looking to visit -- and you should if you're into craft beer -- Track 7 is at 3747 W. Pacific Ave., Sacramento (if it feels like you've made a wrong turn and it looks like the wrong place, you're there; dogs and kids welcome, too). While there, we bumped into the affable Brian Guido, one of the forces behind the recent and highly successful Sacramento BaconFest. He convinced us to take light rail out to Folsom to hit the happy hour at Samuel Horne's Tavern -- we'll be doing that sometime this week.

He also raves about Hot City Pizza.

On Sunday, our day revolved around stopping in at Hot City Pizza in East Sacramento for the wide array of sour and barrel-aged beers on tap. This was another very enjoyable outing, as the crowds were great throughout the day. There was a good line, but it wasn't crazy, and we were lucky enough to find a table and enjoy our pizza. The "Angry Pig," by the way, is one very good - and very spicy - pie, with jalapenos and spicy sausage adding the kind of heat that pushes this pizza right to the edge...

If you haven't been to Hot City yet, you owe it to yourself to drop by. Hot City is at 5642 J St., Sacramento (if you pull up and think, "No way a place this small could have such a large and eclectic beer selection," don't worry -- you found it).

Read more in the Sac Bee.

Sac Beer Week is capped by Capital Beer Fest at Cal Expo, where 90 breweries are expected to attend. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased online at

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Tasty Tidbit - Tidbit, a modest-looking cafe that opened this past September on a restaurant-rich stretch of Capitol Avenue near 19th Street, is making a small if indelible mark on the midtown dining scene. After all, there aren’t many places where budget-conscious diners can enjoy a high-quality lunch with dessert for $10, but this joint gets it done. Catherine Warmerdam in Sac Mag.

VIDEO: Deep fried mac and cheese  - David Rowe from Renwood Winery whips up some gourmet Mac and Cheese lollipops in the KCRA kitchen. On KCRA.

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Dining News: Sac Beer Week Edition

Sac Beer Week, the fourth edition of the annual event where all things lager and ale are celebrated, ends on Sunday, March 3. But judging by the press they're received, the beer-stravaganza is off to a great start.

First up, News 10 reports that Sac Beer Week is spotlighting some of our newest craft breweries.

Ryan Graham of Sacramento's Track 7 brewery, which opened at the end of 2011, gives credit to early craft breweries like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium for paving the way.

"This is kind of a second golden age for craft beer and we'll see ultimately how the industry is able to absorb us all," Graham said.

The New Helvetia Brewing Company celebrated its grand opening last weekend, and founder David Gull believes all the other craft breweries will only help his business by introducing more people to local beers.

"Not only is there room for everybody.  There's room for more," Gull said.

Read the entire story on News 10, or watch the video above.

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Sacramento Beer Week: Tap into the craft beer culture - The boom time continues for local craft beer culture. Sacramento has always been a great beer city, from its breweries and hops production of a century ago to a new wave of local brewmasters and entrepreneurs. Nearly two dozen breweries now call this area home, with umpteen more a quick day trip away. No wonder Sacramento Beer Week has grown into one of the region's signature festivals. Now approaching its fourth year, it encompasses hundreds of happenings, including special brews made just for the week, inventive beer and food pairings and a mammoth Capital Beerfest on March 2 at Cal Expo that's expected to draw close to 100 breweries. Chris Macias in the Sac Bee.

Beer with food: All kinds of events during Sacramento Beer Week - When my editor asked me to compile a list of food events that interested me during Sacramento Beer Week, I immediately said "No problem." Then I started to look at all that's happening in the region during this great week of beer. Yikes! Hundreds of cool events. Big ones. Little ones. Pricey ones. Bargain ones. That's the good news. It's easy to find things to do that center on good beer and trying new beers from today through next weekend. Here's a sampling of what I came up with in today's Ticket section. I went with food-beer events at a variety of price points. But I also asked Dan Scott, executive director of Sacramento Beer Week, to weigh in with beer dinners that interest him. Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee.

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