It was a very hectic weekend over at cavegrrl.com headquarters, so I apologize for no gift idea yesterday. I will make up for this with two blog posts today and two gift ideas (day eight and day nine of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover).
I’ll begin with Day eight’s idea: eGiftcards from Piatti Ristorante and Bar. The best thing about this gift idea is that you don’t even have to get in your car to buy one. You can complete your transaction entirely online and the eGiftcard is delivered immediately into the recipient’s email inbox. You can personalize it and choose your own design like this:
The eGiftcard is the easiest and most convenient way to treat friends and family with the gift of dining at all Piatti locations:
Northern California: Mill Valley, Danville, Sacramento, & Santa Clara
Southern California: La Jolla
Texas: San Antonio: The Quarry
You can purchase a Piatti eGiftcard here.
Last night, Andy and I were treated to a sampling of Frank Fat’s very best dishes in promotion of their 75th Anniversary Dinner Special.
We met Head Chef Mike Lim and he spoke with us before our meal, not only about the food on the 75th Anniversary menu (below), but some other dishes available at Fat’s (a seasonal King Salmon dish and Farm to Fork People’s Choice Award recipient called Forbidden Salmon) and a Peach and Chicken Salad. Chef Lim will also be contributing a dish at this Sunday’s Farm-to-Fork’s Tower Bridge fundraising dinner.
Before I dive into the food we had, I will discuss the wine. I was distracted by making sure we had reported in with social media via Swarm, Twitter, Facebook, etc., Andy chose a 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer. He did this because a slightly sweeter (but not too sweet) wine was going to pair very well with almost all of the food we were going to try (a lot of sweet and sour ingredients). He figured this wine would strike the most balance and it did.
First course on the 75th Anniversary menu is a Chinese Chicken Salad: Shredded chicken breast with pickled cucumber, almonds, and a sweet and sour vinaigrette. The chicken is moist and cut in thin strips and there are crunchy fried wontons on top to give the salad multiple textures. The dressing on the salad was an amazing pairing with our wine (as Andy predicted). :)
So instead of having to choose one main course each (as one would do if ordering from the pre-fixe menu, Chef Mike food bombed us with ALL of the dishes on the menu. Um, OK, twist my arm. (Everything you will see in this editorial except for the Yu Kwoks, Peach Chicken Salad, and Forbidden Salmon were inclusive on the pre-fixe.) Next up was the Honey Walnut Prawns: Lightly fried prawns glazed with honey sauce, walnuts, sesame seeds. This dish is probably one of the most iconic at Fat’s, so no wonder it’s on the 75th Anniversary menu. It’s sweet, crunchy, and tangy. Again, a great pairing with the Gewürztraminer.
Then came the Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry: Chicken breast and mixed vegetables in a Garlic Sauce–the one thing I didn’t feel guilty about eating! :) I love stir fry dishes because of their high protein and vegetables as carb ratio. But of course, tonight would be different and I would have real carbs, as we also sampled the fried rice on the pre-fixe menu.
Next the Fried Rice dish: Young Shew Fried Rice: With barbecued pork, Chinese sausage, lettuce, and shrimp. It was nutty in flavor and had hints of sesame oil. The pork in the rice had been rendered so it was slightly crispy. The shrimp were small but plump and the little peas were bright green and fresh––they burst like little caviar when chewed.
At that point in the meal, I knew it would be extremely easy to write about. I sat there and realized how much I was enjoying the food because I hardly ever eat foods like fried rice or shrimp with carmelized walnuts. And hardly ever eating them makes them taste so much better when you do treat yourself!
Then, the eagerly awaited (and another signature menu item at Fat’s): Frank’s Style New York Steak: A 5-ounce NY steak smothered in sauteed onions and oyster sauce. We ordered it rare, as you really should. You can’t see in the picture, but it really did come out rare. It was tender and juicy and piled high with onions and the sweet oyster sauce. This also arguably went with the Gewürztraminer.
The 75th Anniversary menu ends in Banana Creme Pie, the ever popular classic dessert at Frank Fat’s. At $27.95 per person, it’s a real bargain and a nice sampling of the food that made Frank Fat’s the empire it is today.
Other food we sampled during the evening that was not on the pre-fixe menu:
Yu Kwok Dumpling: Frank’s special beef and pork dumpling, a Frank Fat specialty. I stopped at two of them, but I would have been happy to have them all. I had been craving dim sum for quite a while, and these really hit the spot. They are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle, and filled with spiced ground beef and pork. They came with an array of dipping sauces–most interesting a chili sauce with some nice heat and a very interesting flavor that Chef Mike told me came from salted back bean. Yum! :)
We were also able to try the Peach and Chicken Salad with honey walnuts and what? Feta cheese. Super seasonal and very Farm-to-Fork–and off the wall, as I have never seen Feta cheese in a Chinese restaurant. Loved it!
My favorite dish of the evening was the “Forbidden King Salmon”: Salmon a la Plancha (grilled on a metal plate) and served with with Black Forbidden Rice, Heirloom Tomato and Lemongrass Veloute, Cilantro. It was with this plate I could truly see what Chef Mike is trying to do (and succeeding in doing) at Fat’s. He is using traditional Chinese techniques to make farm-to-fork cuisine. It’s not really a fusion thing, it’s more of using the methods already in place to elevate our bounty of seasonal ingredients.
The salmon dish was also a great example of incorporating different textures. The fish was perfectly cooked and flakey on top, the forbidden rice was almost a little sticky, but not as sticky as sushi rice, and there was a tomato and lemongrass veloute sauce on the bottom that brought the whole plate together.
It was all makings for a course I will not soon forget. Sadly, it won’t be available much longer, as salmon season is fleeting. So do yourself a favor and stop in for lunch to try the Forbidden Salmon. Take a half day off if you have to. It’s really that special.
Thanks to Frank Fat’s restaurant for hosting us, Chef Mike for stopping in the middle of a slightly busy dinner service to talk to us about the food, and thanks to Rosie, our server, who took very good care of us.
The fortune inside my fortune cookie really summed up the whole night:
Though the 75th Anniversary Menu promotion ends October 31st and from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, Fat’s will be hiding a $75 gift card in different locations around Sacramento that are noteworthy to the Fat family’s history. Clues for the “15 days of Fat’s” promotion will be posted on the Frank Fat’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as on the frankfats75.com website.
I am very excited to share this event with you put on by my long time advertiser, Piatti Sacramento.
I’ll be attending the dinner and writing about it afterwards. I am really looking forward to the pairing of some of my very favorite wines with food by one of Sacramento’s best chefs, Lance Carlini! If you want to attend, call 916-649-8885. Hurry, space is limited and will sell out!
I can say in all honesty that out of the whole year, I love the months of September and October most. There are several reasons for that. One of them is the weather. It starts to cool off just enough and the mornings are perfect for running. Another reason is that it is harvest time–more importantly to me, crush time in the vineyards. It’s also getting to be around the time I met Andy, and I am very excited to celebrate our 3rd anniversary this year.
September is also California Wine Month and the month Sacramento celebrates Farm-t0-Fork week from September 13th-28th, featuring several events to celebrate the local sustainability and food production of the Sacramento region by featuring the farmers, chefs and culinary community that make the Sacramento region the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America.
One of the not-to-be-missed events is Farm-to-Fork Legends of Wine featuring wines selected by Darrell Corti and David Berkley. It takes place on Thursday, September 18th 6pm – 8:30pm on the State Capitol West Steps.
Darrell Corti, who was recognized by Saveur magazine as the man “Who knows more about food and wine than anyone else in the world,” and David Berkley, once recognized as “the man behind the White House wine list,” will host an evening of great wines and cheeses during Sacramento inaugural Farm-to-Fork Week.
Paired along-side artisan cheeses and breads, this event will offer free tastes from some of the region’s most celebrated wineries listed below:
Sierra Starr Vineyard & Winery
Six Hands Winery
Michael David Winery
Sobon Family Wines
Casey Flat Ranch Winery
New Clairvaux Vineyards
Terra d’Oro Winery
Dancing Coyote Wines
Putah Creek Winery
Terre Rouge & Easton Wines
David Girard Vineyard
Jeff Runquist Wines
Scott Harvey Wines
Vino Noceto Winery
LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards
Seka Hills Wines
To purchase tickets ($50 per person) head over to the Farm-to-Fork website and the Legends of Wine event page (click here).
You can keep up with all the events during the Farm-to-Fork celebration by liking their Facebook page here and follow SacFarm2Fork on twitter here. If wine and fancy dinners aren’t your speed, there is a free festival on September 27th featuring food demos and fun for the whole family!
SACRAMENTO – As food and wine pairings continue to rise in popularity, the farm-to-fork capital is offering a different kind of pairing: food and film. The 3rd Annual Sacramento Food Film Festival will take place March 20-30 and will include food, wine and beer pairings with seven films about food. Festival proceeds will benefit California Food Literacy Center, a Sacramento nonprofit providing food literacy education to local low-income children.
“This is a chance for guests to soak up the amazing food and drinks that Sacramento has to offer while also feeding their minds,” said Catherine Enfield, festival founder and food writer.
Movies and Venues:
Ten 22, March 20
The festival’s red carpet premier at Ten22 on March 20 features appetizers, drinks and screening of the award-winning movie, “Spinning Plates.” Cost is $40.
Sterling Hotel, March 22
On March 22, the festival continues at the Sterling Hotel, featuring a sneak preview of the highly anticipated, new Ruhstaller Nugget hop beer, bites from Adam Pechal and screening of “Beer Wars.” Cost is $30.
Lucca, March 25
“Bottle Shock” will be screened at Lucca on March 25 and will include a four-course dinner based on the film. Cost is $40, and $50 if including a wine pairing.
The Guild Theater, March 26
On March 26 the “Cafeteria Man” will be shown at The Guild Theater and will include appetizers, an appearance from the film’s star, Tony Geraci and a panel discussion with local leaders in food literacy education.
Clunie Center at McKinley Park, March 28
Selland’s will offer a family spaghetti dinner on March 28 and screening of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” at McKinley Park’s Clunie Center. Cost is $15 for children, $25 for adults.
The Guild Theater, March 29
The Guild Theater will screen “The Slow Food Story” for free on March 29.
Sunh Fish, March 30
The festival wraps up on March 30 with a sushi and uni tasting by Billy Ngo from Kru, and Q & A with the film’s producer, Alexander Finden, at Sunh Fish and screening of “Sweet, Sexy Ocean.” Cost is $35.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.sacfoodfilmfest.com.
“We are proud to be the beneficiary of such a creative event that not only gives people the opportunity to enjoy the amazing food of the Sacramento region, but also helps spread food literacy through the creative medium of film,” said Amber Stott, founding executive director, California Food Literacy. “We look forward to good food and good conversations.”
California Food Literacy Center was established in July 2011 to educate and inspire low-income children to eat healthy food. Students learn fruit and vegetable appreciation, how to read nutrition labels, basic cooking skills and environmental impacts of their food choices. The nonprofit also runs the Food Literacy Academy, which trains community members as food literacy teachers. To date, the nonprofit has 60 active volunteers and serves 2,400 kids annually. After just three months of food literacy education, 70 percent of students request the foods they have tasted in class, including broccoli, celery and oranges. Ninety-two percent of K-1st grade students say healthy food tastes good, and 88 percent of children understand how to read a nutrition label. To make a donation: www.californiafoodliteracy.org.
Lately, I have been very selective in the events I attend and the restaurants, products, services, et cetera I choose to promote, but last week when I was invited to attend the monthly wine dinner held at Dawson’s at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sacramento, I jumped at the opportunity.
For a while now, Dawson’s has been one of the most underrated restaurants in town. Andy and I had attended a few of the Dawson’s wine dinners last year and found them to be quite economical (despite a $79 per person price which might seem like a lot of money to spend on a Thursday night). The value is to be found in the quality and amount of the food (4 courses with wine pairings), the wine featured (always a higher-end label) and the service (look for Ardy and tip him well–he’s terrific). Dawson’s even offers free valet parking to wine dinner guests upon arrival. I am not sure you can get a better deal anywhere else.
Before dinner, we were treated to a charcuterie, cheese, fruit, and sparkling wine reception. Andy and I were then introduced to the chef (Jason Poole) and the wine representative (LT Nedjar) Mr. Nedjar was there representing the label featured that night: Goldschmidt Vineyards. Follwing our introduction, both gentlemen returned to going over the menu and the wines one last time to make sure the experience would be seamless for the dinner guests.
Upon seating, we were presented with the menu. Typically, the menu and the pairings get published online and via an email blast before the dinner. I love the email blasts because I can sit at my desk at work and daydream about what I am going to eat that evening! ;) Below is the menu from Thursday night’s dinner:
Just before our seating, the sous chef Michael Grande walked us through the menu. Both times I have seen Chef Grande, he has been so enthusiastic about the wine dinner’s course line-up and his excitement is contagious. :) Soon, we were invited into the dining room for the meal to begin.
The first course of the evening was a Hamachi Crudo with baby coconut, Rising C Ranch Melogold Grapefruit, Blood Orange and Avocado Oil, Yuzu Emulsion, and it was paired with the Boulder Bank (a label owned by Goldschmidt) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2011. The acidity and fats in the dish balanced very well with the Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand-style, high acidity, though not a complete grapefruit bomb. I was actually reminded more of canned peaches, as the wine was a touch sweet.) Still, it was a perfect compliment to the hamachi and the fruit essences in the dish.
The second course was a Coke Farms Baby Beet Caprese Salad with house-made mozzarella (yes!!), an herb salad, morel ash, and finished with double Solera Vinegar. It was paired with the Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot, Dry Creek Valley 2011. We were told that the grapes that go into this particular merlot are literally on the front of the property at the winemaker’s residence, so they get extra attention. My only complaint about this course was that I wish I had been served a little more of it. :) The cheese had the wonderful elasticity that fresh mozzarella has, with just a hint of salt. The beets were earthy and al dente. The merlot was a delightful pairing for this course.
And then the third course happened. And I was officially wowed. It was a Cranberry Bean Cassoulet with a Confit Duck (leg), house-made boudin blanc, Tails and Trotters Pork Belly, and County Line Farms Baby Mustards. It was paired with two different wines to highlight the different proteins and flavor profiles in the bowl. The first wine was the Forefathers Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2009, and the second wine was the Hillary Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville 2011. The last time I had duck as part of an entrée was back in the fall at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was a grilled breast and braised leg served with roasted wine grapes. As memorable as the main course was at Chez Panisse, I will say without hesitation that the cassoulet at Dawson’s was the better dish. I am still thinking about the slice of crispy pork belly that topped the cassoulet at Dawson’s. For me, it was the best bite of food of the night, and I will be daydreaming about the cassoulet for a long time to come! I could have used an extra slice of that salty, rich pork belly instead of the sausage that was nestled underneath the duck. I am not sure how the dish was intended to eat, but I enjoyed its components one at a time. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but everything tasted oh so right! ;)
Ultimately, to me, the food was more remarkable than the wine (sorry, Goldschmidt!), but there are some really great things going on in the kitchen at Dawson’s. However, the wine made a terrific impression with Andy, as he purchased a case of Cabernet that evening before we left.
But before our exit, we were served coffee and one last course, the dessert. Usually, there is a dessert wine presented at the Dawson’s wine dinner, but this time it was suggested we save a little of the Forefathers Cabernet to pair with our dessert. The dessert was a Dark Fruit Consommé (interesting concept there!) with a Crispy Hazelnut Cake, Dark Chocolate Pave, and Toasted Fennel Oil.
I loved the texture of the cake–it was spongey and soaked up the fruit consommé’s vibrant flavor. The chocolate on top served as a ganache-type frosting. It was a well-executed part of the meal and a memorable finish.
About the winemaker: Nick Goldschmidt, originally from New Zealand, gained international notoriety as winemaker at Simi Winery. Since 2007 he has been a consulting winemaker for several premium brands around the world, and is very well known for his single vineyard, handcrafted, small production artisanal wines that consistently score in the 90s in most wine publications. In fact, all his wines are 100% single variety, 100% single vintage, 100% single vineyard. You can find more information on their website here, or find them on Facebook here.
Dawson’s wine dinners are held every third Thursday of the month and have featured labels such as Alpha Omega, Far Niente/Nickel & Nickel, Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Hall Vineyards, Palmaz Vineyards, and Rodney Strong.
Tip: Check into Dawson’s using your smartphone and receive special perks for being a loyal customer. A free glass of select draft beer using Foursquare or a free glass of select wines using Yelp!