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

Review: Naked Lounge

After seeing so many reviewers talk about the amazing “Bowl of Soul” at the Naked Lounge, I added the place to my bookmarks.  So when my friend tossed out Naked Lounge as an option to finish up the evening, I jumped at the chance.  Bright and cheery place, on the corner of 15th and Q.  The large windows along the street sides frame a vision of a cozy, warm, eclectic, and welcoming family room in someone’s home…and guess what, you get to go in!  Lots of seating…worn (read: comfortable) couches, small tables and chairs, benches along the windows, but it doesn’t seem crowded.  And people are open to being asked to scoot in, or borrow a chair, without giving you a put-upon glare.  The art on the walls are seemingly randomly selected, but they all work together.  The place has a mix of people hanging out: couples, friends, loners on their laptops.  

Lots of drink options on the board, but my eyes make a beeline for the top drink and I don’t move down the list.  I am having the Bowl of Soul.  But then I look at the ingredients, and I gag slightly.  Chamomile tea?  Heresy.  I can’t drink Chamomile tea!  Then to make it worse, soy milk.  Gag me some more.  The honey and dusting of ibarra chocolate redeem the whole thing.  Slightly.  Can I do this, I ask myself?  If I don’t do it now, I won’t ever come back.  And in the grand scheme of things, what’s choking down one chamomile tea/soy milk concoction going to really do to me.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.

So I gather up my courage, cross the rubicon, and order the damn drink.

We find a table and while our time away, looking through my friend’s instagram pics.  And then it arrives.  A really tall cup with a skewered tea bag resting on the top of a thick head of (soy!) foam, with a stylish chocolate heart dusted over it all.

I nonchalantly let it sit there…cooling…don’t want to burn my tongue, I’m sure it’s really hot.  Finally, I can’t stall any longer.  I take a tentative sip.  And then another more assured one…and yeah, okay, it’s not bad.  

It’s not bad at all.  In fact, it’s flipping AWESOME!  I love it.  Really.  

I drank chamomile tea with soy milk and I liked it.  A LOT.

 
Naked Lounge
1500 Q St
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 442-0174

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