Venue Review: Bows and Arrows

It is hard to categorize this place, which is why I titled this piece “Venue Review.”

An odd concept: clothing (some new, some consignment) for sale up front, the a large empty space (for performances), local artist endeavors on the walls, a lounge/cafe selling some alcohol, soups, salads, sandwiches, and then an adorable patio out back.  It all seems oddly disjointed, and I never feel quite comfortable enough when I go there.

I’ve attended a couple of events there over the past few months, most recently to watch a friend’s husband’s trio perform.  It seems to be a popular space for local writing groups or performance artists to use for their events, and I look forward to attending more events there in the future.

1815 19th St
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 822-5668


Review: Downtown & Vine

This little wine bar occupies a beautiful space in the pedestrian mall area of K street downtown.  This is a welcome addition to the area, a perfect spot to grab a drink before a movie at the IMAX across the way.  There is a parking garage right next door, so if you don’t grab street parking, you still don’t have far to walk (the garage is spendy…for 2 hours, I paid $14).I attended the Yelp Wine tasting event here last night, with a large group of people.  Good mix of wine connoisseurs and relative newbies; we all got great treatment from the staff.  Gregg, the owner, went over his and Kate’s reasons for selecting their business, as well as why they chose the various wine regions they represent in their collection.  

We were given pours of the following:
2008 Iron Horse Classic Brut sparkling wine (Sonoma).  Did you know that Iron Horse is the wine of choice for American Presidents to serve to visiting dignitaries?  No?  Read more about that here…I was very impressed by the wine, by the way.…
2011 Neyers Chardonnay Carneros)
2010 De Loach Pinot Noir (Green Valley)
2010 Dillian Barbera (Plymouth, Amador County)
2008 Michael Mondavi Family Emblem “Oso” Cabernet Sauvignon

They also gave us little bites of bread, cheese and meat to augment the wine tasting experience.  Delicious.

I was torn between the De Loach Pinot and the Dillian Barbera, but in the end, the Barbera won (I love Barberas, what can I say!)  We also got a 15% yelp check-in discount.

The wine bar is not that large, but the owners have done a great job of making it look spacious: light woods, beautiful white armchairs in little groupings, a long bar along the left as you walk into the main room, a glassed-in room towards the back…all make for interesting vignettes and keep your eye moving around the space.

I look forward to visiting this place again!

Downtown & Vine
1200 K St
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 228-4518

Review: Glenfiddich Tasting at the Citizen Hotel

Glenfid-DICK.  That’s how you say it.  If nothing else, that pronunciation lesson alone was worth the trip to this event.  However, as with any event hosted by Alex, the Yelp community manager (Sacramento), the Glenfiddich Scotch Tasting at the Citizen Hotel was nothing short of classy and amazing.  The location was the perfect setting…the mezzanine above and surrounding the reception desk of the hotel was oddly intimate.  The plush carpeting and dark walls added to the smoking lounge feel, and the tables were set beautifully with platters of meats and cheeses, and tumblers filled with single drams of the four whiskeys we would taste.  A tall glass of water and a surprising addition of a medicine dropper rounded out each place setting.A medicine dropper?  Yes.  Very necessary.  Because that’s how you add water to whiskey.  With a medicine dropper.  And yes, it is now a part of my whiskey tasting accoutrements, accompanying me on my nights out, discretely couched within its plastic sleeve, ready to be whipped out for a quick addition of the perfect amount of water to my dram of whiskey.

We tasted aged single malt whiskeys, from 12 years up to 21, and as the age progressed, so did the amount of water that got added to my whiskey to make it palatable for my sensitive throat.  Water cuts the burn, y’all!  They were all delicious, but I found myself partial to the 12 year old.  

The Glenfiddich rep, Mitch, was appropriately irreverant and unintelligible, as per his scottish heritage, and exceedingly funny.  After the tutorial, he visited all the tables and answered a few more questions, some of which were influenced heavily by the amount of whiskey imbibed earlier, leading to some amusing conversations around our table.

It was all over much too soon, within an hour, but of course, the party was just getting started for my table mates….I however, was a good girl and went straight home.  

Thanks, Yelp and Alex, for another delicously extravagant experience.

The Citizen Hotel
926 J St
Sacramento, CA 95814

Review: The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar

Formerly the Red Lotus, this space is thriving in its current avatar as the Red Rabbit.  I’ve been here for happy hour, a special event (the Sac Social Media event in December 2012), and spent a few hours there tonight with a friend.  Great service on all nights, from the servers to the bartenders.

The restaurant is on a little square, next to Harlow’s and Momo’s, down the street from the Blue Cue, around the corner from the UCD Extension (yes, I have come here after a night class…)  The large windows and the enclosed patio on the sidewalk frame a large open loft/warehouse style space.  The interior has lots of exposed brick, hardwood floors, warm lighting, gorgeous large paintings.   As you walk in, there is booth seating along the wall and high tables off to the right in the bar area along the windows, each seating around 8 people: conducive to happy hour mingling with your neighbors.  The bar itself is enormous, taking up a large footprint of the restaurant, but it is not overwhelming.

There are a few tables in the back and then you can go through the french doors to a private patio where there is an outdoor bar, heated lamps, and additional seating.  Fun in the summer and fall, I’m sure.

On my first visit, upon hearing that I had recently tried whiskey and was a fan, the bartender referred me to the Buck Hunter, a delicious concoction of whiskey, ginger beer, blackberry jam, vanilla bitters and lemon juice.  Two of those about knocked me on my ass.  In a good way.  I’ve tried and love the risotto croquettes, the polenta cakes and the shrimp tacos.  The Ramen (with shrimp) is slurp-worthily delicious!

One of my indicators of a good restaurant is the coffee.  It’s been my general experience that unless a place has an espresso machine, their coffee is subpar to mediocre.  Not the Red Rabbit!  They serve Temple coffee in a french press.  Another delicious win.

Definitely one of my favorite restaurants on the grid.

The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar
2718 J St
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 706-2275

Review: The Shady Lady Saloon

Located on one of my favorite corners in midtown (sounds worse than I intended, I know), The Shady Lady is a favorite place to end the night.  Relaxed atmosphere, large comfortable horseshoe booths, lots of room at the bar, a little stage off to the right as you enter for live music (or grandstanding, if you feel the urge), and my favorite place to hang out: front and center, the luxe red couch with armchairs and coffee table…makes me feel like I’m at home, but on stage, with the warm spotlights on me, the first thing people see when they walk in the doors.  (No, I am not a diva, but I play one at night.)

My girlfriends and I were there late on Saturday night, St. Paddy’s weekend (because, really, he deserves more than a day).  As I walked in the door, the warm lights, the red glow from my favorite above-mentioned seating, the buzz from the crowds, the music from the trio (appropriately, they were singing happy birthday, you know, for me)…all washed over me and surrounded me in this cocoon of welcome.  Instant relaxation.

As though they knew the couch was mine and they were trespassing, the occupants immediately got up and made room for us…somebody bought me a drink, and all was right with the world.  I checked in on yelp, and whaddya know, Johnna was there too!  So I ran over to talk to her and she introduced me to her sweet bartender friend, Brandon who quickly made me another drink: a Seraphim.  Appropriately divine.

We spent a couple hours there, meeting and talking to various people, made some new friends (you know who you are!), watched the bouncers dispose off a few overly demonstrative and inappropriately affectionate clientele (thanks!), and left feeling relaxed and satisfied with the knowledge that we had done everything we could to eke every bit of pleasure out of a beautiful night.

The Shady Lady Saloon
1409 R St
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 231-9121

Review: 36 Handles

New name, new owner for the old Kinee O’Reilly pub in the Montano plaza in El Dorado Hills.  Richard Righton, who also owns Relish Burger (in the same plaza) and Bidwell Street Bistro (another favorite of mine), will hopefully bring some of his magic to this restaurant!  

Opening day could not have been more British…gray gloomy day, non-stop drizzle, cold, perfect pub-going weather.  The pub is beautiful…­perfectly decorated by the former owners, careful and authentic details from Ireland, split up into several areas, just like back home.  Only jarring feature: the lights were too bright…I like pub lighting to be a little subdued, helps the sozzled patrons from hurting their eyes 😉  

The usual opening day/night awkwardness from the servers, but nothing that won’t get worked out, I’m sure.  Justin, the manager, seems very competent, and personable.  I particularly liked how the servers had on british sports jerseys, a nice touch.  (Side note: why are most wait staff so damn attractive? Oh, right.  So that we go back…)

My friend had a salad and I had the fish and chips.  Biggest damn pieces of fish I’ve ever seen served in a fish/chip order.  Tasty, but the chips were a bit limp, which actually makes it authentic for me 😉  Tried the cider, not a fan.  Will have to stick to Newcastle ale…  Would like to see more authentic pub fare (chicken tikka masala, Richard!) instead of the California-like food.  If I want BJs or Bennigans, I’ll go to BJs or Bennigans.  Also hope they open for breakfast soon…and become my local Fox and Goose!!

After dinner, we went over to the darts area (surprisingly empty) and played for a while.  Was a little surprised that no one else wandered over to watch or join us…very un-pub like.  May be the suburban angst?  Hopefully, that will loosen up..

The place was full the entire time we were there, but not crowded, and the atmosphere was quiet, but the weather may have had something to do with it.  The guests had that awkward, first-time-at-a-­restaurant look about them, but that should dissipate soon.

36 Handles
1010 White Rock Rd
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
(916) 941-3606

Review: Capital Beer and Tap Room

Full disclaimer: I am not a beer drinker.  I know very little about beer except for the fact that I don’t like the ones that look like piss and have lite in their name, and I tend to like the ones that are smooth and dark and full-bodied.  
I was invited to go to the Capitol Beer and Tap last night by a friend who is ALL BEER ALL THE TIME.  His yelp quote is “I’ll have the IPA.”  His profile pics on yelp and Facebook generally show him drinking a beer or making beer.  Yeah, that’s right, he makes beer.  Out of his house.  Every month, because he needs to keep his supply coming.  He brews 50 bottles worth.  I told him he should say he makes boutique beers.  Sounds far better than some of the alternatives I was thinking (considering he stores the beer making thingy in the spare bathroom.  See earlier comment about beer that looks like piss.)Why wax rhapsodical about my friend, you ask?  Isn’t this a review about Capitol Beer and Tap?  Why yes, yes it is.  However, I wanted to provide an offset to my disclaimer about my inexperience with beer, with my friend’s obsessive immersion in the stuff.  See, now it all makes sense, doesn’t it?

Okay.  So I had to circle the block (or triangle) of Howe/University/Fair Oaks a couple times looking for parking and finally scored with one right out front.  The place is set back from the front of the buildings, tucked away on the side, but you can’t miss the frenetic energy you sense almost immediately as you approach the patio.  The place is packed with men between the ages of 24 and 60.  Score.  Wait, I’m here for the beer.

I entered the place and it looks like I entered the wrong place, initially.  I was expecting to be dumped right into a bar/pub area but instead I was greeted by a small grocery store looking place, walls lined with refrigerators and shelves showcasing beers from all over.  I quickly walked through to the back, where I saw the crowds of people.  Seriously, ladies, you have no idea.  Don’t hang out at Fats or Sienna or even Bandera next door… Capitol Beer and Tap is where all the men are!  I saw maybe three women guests, and maybe 3 to 4 female servers.  That was it.

Anyway,  Found my friend quickly, tucked away in a prime corner spot with his bud (who deserves a review of his own.  Really.  He’s a golf blogger.  Oh the stories that are just waiting to be unearthed.)  My friend was already pretty happy after having been there since 5pm, and was insistent that I try the beer he had, and what he called the “elixir of the gods.”  Yes, an India Pale Ale, also known to the beer afficionados as an IPA.  I’m an accountant.  To me, an IPA sounds very close to an IPO, an Initial Public Offering, which makes me sit up and take notice.  This, my friends, would have bombed on opening day in the stock market.  I tried it, and the bitterness settled in the back of my mouth and I couldn’t hide my distaste.  Luckily, my friend, let’s call him R for ease, didn’t take offense and instead asked me what I liked.  So I explained what I said up there in my disclaimer.  He was able to translate that into a glass of a pretty awesome Obovoid (by the Boulder Brewing Company.)  Dark, nitro enhanced creamy head, delicious.  Now we’re talking!  Quickly realized that the place doesn’t serve food, but you can order in food from Tokyo Fro’s next door.  Pretty accommodating.

Oh…I forgot to mention why I was even dragged over there…for the Knee Deep Tap Takeover.  Something I knew nothing about until two days earlier, when R explained it to me: when a local brewery brings several of their beers and “takes over” the taps at the pub, and then the pub is swarming with beery men salivating for a taste of the manna from heaven.  Or something like that.

The place had a great energy, lots of conversations going on, happy, excited, unrestrained.  So this is what its like when women aren’t around.  Interesting.  The counter ran along the entire length of one wall, but the bar only came to half the distance…looked a little awkward to me, but the patrons had enough to look at on the wall…lots of little framed chalkboards with great drawings by one of the servers…who draws tributes to the beer being highlighted at the moment.  Not bad, supporting the arts…I am liking this place more and more!

I stayed for little over an hour, good conversations with my friends, a lot of beer knowledge was imparted (in one direction, to me, the novice) and then I headed off to midtown to meet another group at the Pour House.  From beer to whiskey.  That’s the life.

I will definitely be back.  And I’m not sure if I will bring my girlfriends with me.  Kinda want to keep this all to myself and my guy friends.  Selfish?  Maybe.

Capital Beer and Tap Room
2222 Fair Oaks Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 922-1745