Hot Eats, Cool Treats

Posted on June 3, 2011 – 6:31 AM | by Admin
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By Becky Grunewald  Photos by Scott Duncan

When Sacramento’s crushing summer heat is in full attack mode the last thing anyone wants is to sit down to a steaming hot meal.It’s much nicer to just nibble, nosh and sip your way through summer.  Here are some small plates and cool drinks that will refresh you like a Delta breeze.

El Manantial

“El Manatial” means “the spring” and it really is an icy fountain of refreshment on this hot, treeless avenue.  El Manantial specializes in raspados, which are Mexican snow cones, rough-shaved by hand.  There are many fun flavors, including cucumber, cajeta (caramelized milk), rompope (eggnog), and arroz con leche.  The specialty is “El Diablito” – a tower of chunky ice, ladled with viscous mango syrup, striped with tamarind, and sprinkled with that ubiquitous duo, salt and chili.  It’s spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and cold all at the same time.  Confuse your taste buds with one today.

1620 West Capitol Ave, West Sacramento

Magpie Café

Magpie chef Ed Roehr decided to get off the Pliny the Elder crazytrain and pour what is being touted in some circles as the new Pliny: Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego. Roehr thinks Sculpin is more “food friendly” than Pliny and that it has a “more fruity than floral nose.”  His recommended pairing is Magpie’s new fried steelhead trout sandwich; with a squeeze of the lemon on the pink, fresh-fried fish, it’s a citrus-y match made in heaven.

1409 R St.

Masullo's Bresaola

Masullo Pizza

“I don’t know how to say it right,” sighs ex-Sac Bee columnist Bob Masullo, Robert Masullo’s dad, and sometime-server at the restaurant. “Brez-oh-la?”  Then, Masullo’s native Italian server, Andrea Vedovato, corrects him with a trilling, “brezh-ow-la.” This bresaola, Masullo’s first foray into house-cured charcuterie, is presented as a rosy ring of paper-thin meat, arranged around a pile of arugula, lashed with olive oil, and strewn with parmesan shavings. Masullo chose this type of charcuterie, which he makes from an American Kobe-style Wagyu cattle eye of round, because he can cure the whole piece at one time, without grinding.  However you pronounce it, it’s delicious.

2711 Riverside Blvd.

The Press Bistro

If you’ve ever trimmed an artichoke, you know that it’s barely worth the Herculean effort to garner the tiny morsels that result.  At Press Bistro, they’ll trim them for you, AND marinate them in an herbed red wine vinaigrette AND serve them on a bed of glistening couscous studded with perfectly sweet, plump Coos Bay shrimp and lightly pickled fennel- all for four dollars.  Chef David English admits that with all the work involved, the cooks “are glad when the artichokes are out of season.”  Hurry in and order this dish before that day arrives.

1809 Capitol Ave.

Press Bistro's delicacy

Red Lotus

Organic tofu salad.  Are you asleep yet?  Wake up, because if Billy Ngo is involved, you know it’s going to be more exciting than that sounds.  As Ngo serves it, it’s a composed salad of a brick of tofu topped with briny crab, avocado, and various little crunchy bits (e.g. arare, or rice puffs), swimming in a sweet soy reduction.  Once the salad is mixed, the flavors meld and cohere, and the creamy tofu lends a wonderfully rich mouthful.  You’ll swear you’re eating something bad for you.

2718 G St.

River City Root Beer

Robert and Janet Lake, who distribute “nostalgic sodas” for other companies, decided it was high time they developed their own.  They worked for a year on the recipe for this root beer; Janet describes it as “super creamy with a black licorice and molasses profile.”  Robet Masullo was an early adopter; he likes River City Root Beer because of the subtle vanilla and caramel flavor and recommends pairing it with one of his bacon-topped pizzas. Janet Lake says it goes well with vanilla ice cream.  Either way, you win!

Various markets and restaurants throughout Sac, including Taylors, Corti Brothers, and the Weatherstone

Ginger Elizabeth

Here’s a riddle: What is creamy like pudding and frozen like ice cream?  Ginger Elizabeth Hahn’s hot chocolate parfait.  Her hot chocolate (with house made marshmallows, natch) has rightfully entered the pantheon of Sacramento sweets, but what to do when the weather is warm (AKA most of the time in Sac)? Get the frozen version.  As with everything at Ginger Elizabeth, what is deceptively simple is revealed to require a Ph.D. in chocolate-ology to manufacture.   Hahn explains, “It is made with something called a ‘pate a bombe’, which is egg yolks that have been heated to pasteurize and then whipped.  Sugar syrup at 240F is slowly poured into the egg yolks and beaten to a beautiful pale yellow.  To this we add the chocolate and whipped cream.  It has a very silky texture – even more silky than ice cream.  It is quite a treat!” This parfait is so smooth it makes ice cream seem uncouth.

1801 L St.

58 Degrees and Holding

The tomato salad that 58 Degrees chef F.J. Villalobos created for his June menu has got a lot going on.  Heirloom tomatoes from Yeung’s Farm in West Sac are atop a bed of saffron-kissed farro (a grain with a risotto-like bite), nestled next to a gooey wad of rich burrata cheese, sprinkled with fines herbs, and accessorized with a molecular gastronomy touch: a torched balsamic vinegar foam.  Each bite yields a completely different taste combo; the best include a bit of basil, a smidge of burrata, and a dollop of the port-like torched vinegar.

1217 18th St.

Kupros' bruschetta

Kupros Bistro

For this seasonal bruschetta, Kupros chef Matthew Robinson wanted to play off of the traditional pairing of peas and, ham, but he knew that if he tried to place peas on a piece of bread that gravity would intervene.  His solution was to create a “shmear” of smushed peas and ricotta cheese piled on a slice of lightly charred Grateful Bread.  The ham stand-in is prosciutto, and the bruschetta is finished with some balsamic roasted onions and a light drizzle of local Bariani olive oil.  It’s an addictive bar bite, available at happy hour and on the late-night menu.

1217 21st St.

Ella Restaurant

Chris Dooley eschews the term “mixologist,” but it’s hard to place him in the same category as a Pabst-slinging “bartender” when he details the path that led to Ella’s new, seasonal strawberry cocktail.  I’ll give the short version: Dooley lets fresh strawberries steep overnight in some leftover rhubarb juice hijacked from the pastry station, gently heats the strawberries and dunks in a tea bag filled with (and this is just a partial list) clove, allspice, coriander, and local chamomile, and then mixes the resulting fruity concoction with vodka, aperol (a Campari-like aperitif), and oloroso sherry.  This lovely, tangerine-colored cocktail has a fragrant, full strawberry flavor initially, which rounds out to a nutty dry finish.  Dooley often relies on dry sherry to provide that final, clean note and keep the palate refreshed and ready for more.  His description concludes simply, “It looks like California to me.”

1131 K Street  

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