Restaurant Review: Seasons 52

I recently attended a low-key, understated, yet elegant affair hosted by Yelp at Seasons 52 to welcome in the Fall food selections on their seasonally-changing menu.  It was such a treat to be able to mingle with the other elite members, have conversations that lasted beyond a quick hello, and to not have to defend myself from flying elbows and spilled drinks.  Keeping the guests to 70 or so elites made this a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable event, one that helped showcase the beautiful and intimate banquet room we were in.  Wood paneling, rich shades in the carpeting, wood, and muted decorations all made it feel very elegant.  The floor to ceiling windows were left open; though we could see the mall shoppers walk by and look in, it still managed to keep the setting elegant…nicely done, Seasons 52.

I was very impressed, as before, by their knowledgeable and approachable staff, some of whom I remember from prior visits: Michael (serving up the amazing Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with pesto) and Mingo (clearing the plates and helping out in general).  Passed appetizers included flat-breads (Garlic Pesto Chicken, Trio of Mushroom, Artichoke & Goat Cheese, Blackened Steak & Blue Cheese), Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms (delicious), Tuna Tartare Sushi Rolls, Braised Beef Crostini and Cider Glazed Chicken Skewers.  I enjoyed the Macedon Pinot and made a note of the Viognier, one of my favorite types of wine.

1689 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95815

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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

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: 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: 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