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

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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: Studio 24

One of my personal goals for the year was to attend an improv.  Dear god why, you ask?  Well, a new actor friend touted it as the best thing for me, given how much I feel the need to be in control of a situation.  And improv is the very antithesis of control.

So, while we were perusing http://sacramento365.com for things to do one weekend, the Improv Night at Studio 24 jumped out of the screen at my friend.  I tried to scroll quickly through and deflect his attention, but once his sights are locked, it is almost impossible to get out of his missile-like focus.

“We are going to this.” he said.
“No, we are not,” said I.
“Yes.  You’ll love it.  It will be good for you,” he said.
“No, HELL no, I won’t, and no, it will not be good for me,” said I.

So we went.  And I was a ball of nerves as we walked into the studio. It helped that my  confident actor friend couldn’t open the front door.  He kept pushing on it, and the secretary finally had to motion him to pull the door open.  (That boosted my self-confidence to no end, let me tell you!)  Once inside, we joined several people milling about in the large waiting area, making idle conversation, until we were directed to go upstairs to the little theatre, where we sat facing a brightly lit stage.

Cody, the main guy, walked us through what to expect: basically, an opening ice-breaker session where we would all HAVE to participate, and then a series of little vignettes that we could volunteer to participate in.  I felt like I had taken a plunge in ice water…I was that nervous.

The ice breaker went well (again, it helped that my actor friend got eliminated well before I did), and then I sat back to enjoy the rest of the two hours.  And it was enjoyable: got to see actors and wannabe actors of all different ages, sizes, and levels of attractiveness get up on the stage, make fools of themselves, show moments of brilliance, bore us silly, make us laugh….

It was a good introduction to improv.  Cody and his staff did a great job of keeping the momentum going, and engaging the audience.  Will I go back?  Maybe, with a group of friends, so we can all look silly together!

Studio 24
2220 K St
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 442-8262

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: The Rind

What do you do when you find a place that marries excellent service, delightful ambiance, high quality food and drink, and then wraps it all up in the warm glow of welcome?

You go back.  Again and again.

Which is what I did.  I met my friend, Marina, at The Rind last week for a long overdue catchup session, and had a hard time keeping my mind on the conversation (don’t think she noticed…well, the cat’s out of the bag now…sorry Marina!) because I kept looking around, absorbing the decor, the vibes given off by the other happy (they had to be…) customers, and the friendly faces of the owners and servers.  I loved my time there so much, I dragged my SO back there the next night, who loved it as much as I did, if not more so.

The space is small but beautifully decorated by the owners themselves.  Sara designed the graphics on the wall to the right by the (sole) restroom, she designed the cabinetry behind the bar, the sign was lovingly corked by them (you have to see it…it’s a work of art), and a friend took the photos which they framed and put up on the wall to the left of the bar.  The bar itself?  Another work of art…the idea designed again by Sara.  The tabletops are repurposed as well, and the rustic nature lends itself to the homey, eclectic, and welcoming feel of the place.  Steve pointed out the display shelves against the far wall, self-deprecating as he wished he’d done them differently.  As we told him, they looked perfect.

Lots of serendipitous stories came pouring out of the happy couple as they shared their journey from a year ago to today…proud owners of a delightful nook in midtown.  The people they met that helped them, the struggles that were quickly overcome, the pleasure and joy that they feel in creating a space for people to gather, the plans they have for future events.  Our server, Jason, was very knowledgeable about the menu, and made sure to check in on us frequently.  He shared with us how happy he was to work with Sara and Steve, that he’d been so eager for the place to open, he had haunted the location, going so far as to knock on the window when he saw Sara painting the place one day, and telling her he wanted to be a part of the Rind experience.  You know you are in the presence of a special couple…so authentic and sincere, they are magnets to the rest of us.

The menu is appropriately cheese-fillled.  While I expected to see a wide array of cheeses to taste, and wine to accompany them, I didn’t expect to see the variety available for retail sales, as well as the salads, sandwiches, soups and dessert.  While not a big menu, it is surprisingly satisfying in its variety and depth of choice.

We tried the Diving Board and got a bottle of the cabernet/cabernet franc/merlot blend they carried, Ralbridge Lattice. The cheeses we got were delicious…a four year aged Gouda, the Mobiere (with vegetable ash), a delicious cheese that was coated in coffee and infused with lavender, and a couple others whose names escape me.  Steve and my SO spent a good amount of time getting giddy about beer, and talking about the various beers he wants to bring in over time.  While he has 3 taps, he make them count.

Keeping the menu minimal yet satisfying, adds to the boutique-like nature of The Rind.  They have done well in avoiding the obvious mistake of trying to please everybody.  While they are closed on Mondays, their hours are perfect: 11am through midnight, Thursday through Saturday, 11am through 10pm, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  The kitchen closes at 9 for prepared foods, but the cheese and wine menu is available until closing (and we experienced that the second night I was there).

As Sara puts it, she wanted to create a space that she could escape to, something that celebrated her passions, and that would give her the ability to share her passions with others.

I think she’s succeeded.

The Rind
1801 L St
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 441-7463

Review: Fringe

I love this place.  Every time I come here, I end up buying something.  While the prices are not cheap, I find things that I don’t see elsewhere, so that makes it worthwhile for me.  Browsing through the racks of one-of-a-kind vintage dresses, tops and skirts, trying on Louboutin shoes, posing in designer bags and belts, all makes for a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

The owner, Audrey Wells, was working this past Sunday when I stopped in for a few minutes.  She immediately zoomed in on my vintage Chloe bag, which I’d bought at Fringe back in March, recognizing it as one of hers.  Now that’s a savvy shop owner!  She is very easy to talk to, giving suggestions for ways to wear different pieces of clothing, helping me find non-traditional ways to look at clothing options.

You know how you’re supposed to walk away from potential purchases, and only get them if you think about them over the next few days?  Well, there’s a pair of parrot green 4 inch heels made in Spain that fit me beautifully.  I can’t stop thinking about them.

Hmmmm.

Fringe
2409 21st St
Sacramento, CA 95818
(916) 706-0216

Review: Pre-Opening Event- Capital Dime

Noah Zonca.

Need I say anything more?

The Kitchen will never be the same, now that Noah has followed his dream of starting his own restaurant, the Capital Dime.  One of the power chefs in Sacramento, Noah has created a sparkling new gem in the local dining scene…one that I can’t wait to visit again.

Lucky enough to get invited to the pre-opening last night, my friend Rhonda and I walked up 18th, excited to experience the first taste of one of the more eagerly-anticipated restaurant openings in recent history.  For the past few months, the name and even the owner of the space was under wraps, creating a delicious buzz of mystery.  And last week, when the news splashed across foodie blogs and papers that it was a Noah Zonca endeavor, I hugged myself with giddy anticipation when I realized that the Yelp Elite Event (YEE) that I had just RSVP’ed to was the very same restaurant.

It was one the most well attended YEEs I’ve ever been to.  We got there right at 7pm, and as we were waiting for the pearly gates (appropriately named as such by Michelangelo) to open, I watched as the well-dressed yelpers walked up the steps, happy to see so many familiar faces.  We walked in to see beautifully arranged white-tablecloth-covered tables set for four each dotting the patio, red yelp balloons and the yelp banner providing the decorations, and the wait staff smiling, with trays balancing champagne flutes holding pretty red prosecco cocktails.  We were seated around the patio and the loft area indoors.  The rest of the space was still under construction, but we were able to sneak a look: gorgeously appointed with accessories from Restoration Hardware, dark wood, raised banquette benches by the bar area, I can’t wait to see it when it is done.

The evening progressed beautifully, with the servers bringing various appetizers around to us, and four (yes, four!) cocktails.  My favorite had to be the last one, a sublime concoction of vanilla vodka, milk, and lavender cream.  I would like one of those every night at bedtime, please.  The food was delicious: lemon mousse shrimp and caviar crostini, calamari, watermelon shrimp and mozzarella cheese salad, and sliders with fries.

I had a wonderful time, catching up with my yelp friends and meeting new Elites.  There was a sparkling feel to the moment as I sat there, taking in the sounds of the tinkling glasses, the laughter, the happy conversations, looking around at the fairy lights on the trees around the patio, watching Noah and his crew mingling amongst the guests, excitedly sharing their vision for this place…it was exhilarating to be a part of it all.

Once again, Alex, the Yelp Community Manager, and Yelp hit it out of the park, planning a wonderful event to introduce a new restaurant to the community.  And the Capital Dime showed us how masterful they were at putting on an event even while the bulk of the space was still under construction.  A wonderful experience, overall.

Capital Dime
1801 L St
Sacramento, CA 95811