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.  http://inside-sonoma.com…
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

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Review: Seasons 52

Arden Fair Mall.  

Alex Lane, Yelp Community Manager (Sacramento), performed a small miracle there yesterday.  

He was able to get a large group of fun people to attend a Yelp Elite event there.  And managed to do it with his usual understated, classy, effortless panache.

Honestly, that was the only reason I ventured into the area; the promise of another fun event hosted by Alex.  And I stayed because I was pleasantly surprised by the casual elegance of the restaurant, Seasons 52, and its welcoming and attentive staff.  From the servers pouring the drinks, to the ones walking around the appetizers, all of them were uniformly polite, sweet, attentive, and genuinely interested in making our experience memorable and enjoyable.  The patio was beautifully decorated and the glass panels strategically placed along the half wall separating the patio from the sidewalk worked perfectly to keep the traffic noise out and the sounds of the party in.  The heat lamps worked almost too well…I had to move away from under a couple because they were getting uncomfortably warm.  Strategic positioning on my part was all that was needed!

The appetizers were so delicious: I tried the stuffed mushrooms, the chipotle shrimp quesadillas (never-ending supply!), and the artichoke pesto flatbread.  

After the event, we moved into the main dining room and had dinner and dessert.  Tierra and Bryan, our servers, were extremely helpful, explaining the vision behind the restaurant, talking about the meals being under 475 calories each, and pouring tastes of their favorite wines for us.  The desserts were the highlight of my dinner: little works of art displayed in shot glasses…I wanted all of them.  

One small but exquisite touch: after we were seated, Tierra asked us if we wanted black or white napkins.  I have NEVER heard of a restaurant doing this, and I’ve been to some phenomenal ones all over the world.  So impressed.  Why?  Because if you are wearing a dark skirt or dress, as I was, the white linen napkins leave a lint residue on your clothes, and to avoid that, they offer black linen napkins.  

Effortless, and classy.

Count on seeing me again, Seasons 52, and with my posse!

Seasons 52

1689 Arden Way, Ste 1065
Sacramento, CA 95815

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