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!
Sacramento’s Dine Downtown Week is now in full swing and it has been so much fun so far! Andy and I have had the privilege of trying out three different menus from a list of nearly 30 restaurants, and last night’s trip to Blackbird Restaurant and Bar was incredible!
I am only disappointed it took me this long to discover them. Since their opening in April last year, I had heard so many great things about the food and the atmosphere, the art on the walls, and so on. I kept reading Blackbird’s menu and wanting to go because almost everything on it was paleo! Now that I have a few more hours a week (since my work commute time has been drastically cut), it’s fun to be able to spend a little bit more time with Andy and hit some new-ish places like this one.
Here’s the Dine Downtown menu we enjoyed (understatement of the year so far) at Blackbird:
Tip: If you like wine (even remotely), do yourself a favor and spend the extra $15 for the wine pairing. You get three full glasses of wine. If you don’t think you can manage three full glasses, split the pairing with someone. It’s so worth it!
The first course was a Japanese Hamachi. It was some of the best raw fish I have eaten, and reminded me of dishes I have had at both Yoshi’s in Oakland, and at Taro’s here in Sacramento, but this was superior. The hamachi was topped with kumquat, castreltrevano olives, fine herb and maldon sea salt. It was paired with a glass of Forlorn Hope Semillon (2009) “Nacre-Yount Mill Vineyard.” The wine was very dry and the perfect platform for the hamachi. I couldn’t believe how beautifully the flavors paired up. I must have liked it, because it was the first time I ever finished a dish before Andy.
Blackbird Kitchen and Bar is open for business Tue-Thur 11:30am-10pm, on Friday 11:30am-11pm and on Saturday 4pm-11pm. They are closed on Sunday and Monday. Their Happy Hour runs from 3-6pm, Tuesdays through Friday.
It’s that time again! Sacramento’s Dine Downtown week began yesterday, January 9th and runs through January 18th, 2012. For 10 days only, you can enjoy a special three-course dinner menu at some of downtown Sacramento’s hottest restaurants for only $30 per person.
I returned to both of the restaurants I visited last year because I really enjoyed working with both the owners and chefs, and because Andy and enjoyed the menus very much. So, I’d like to present to you: Blue Prynt Restaurant and Bar.
First, here’s what you’ll have to choose from* this year:
*Please note that only the mashed potatoes are available with the Prime Rib. 🙂
We chose a 2009 Rosenblum Syrah Vintner’s Cuvée to go with our entrée. Hint: We didn’t choose the tilapia for dinner. The wine was spicy, yet balanced with notes of cherry and licorice, and would pair well with any game meat. The alcohol on this wine is 15.9%.
For our appetizer, we ordered the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp (poached in lemon) were fresh and plump and the cocktail sauce was spiced with lots of horseradish.
We were also brought a basket of house-made foccacia, and though Andy and I don’t normally eat bread, I tasted some and took a photo of the basket so that you will know exactly everything you get for the dine downtown menu. The bread is baked, sliced and then toasted again for your table, and served with butter. A few bites of it made for a good palate cleanser for the wine after eating the spicy cocktail sauce. Another little detail I love about Blue Prynt is their water. Yes, the simple water they pour for you at the table. They flavor it with sliced cucumber. Such a great departure from lemon wedges. 🙂
For the second course (by the way, you get more food for $30 here at Blue Prynt than at any other restaurant participating in Dine Downtown), we ordered the seafood chowder and a mixed greens salad.
The chowder is made with a blend of halibut, shrimp, and salmon with bacon and potatoes rounding out the flavor. Andy ordered it, and suggested I try some. I was pleasantly surprised because I am not a chowder or even a soup fan, and I enjoyed it very much. Especially last night. It was a perfect match for the chilly weather we are currently having. 🙂
The salad was pretty standard (but loved it). It became more of my main course (so that I don’t overeat). I love ordering an entrée and slicing whatever meat I get on the dinner plate and putting it on top of my salad. That’s exactly what I did last night. The salad comes with cheddar cheese and olives on it. I also ordered blue cheese dressing on the side.
The stars of the meal were the main courses. Both entrée plates were very sizable portions. I ordered the prime rib. It came with blue cheese and bacon mashed potatoes, asparagus and some au jus for the meat. I really loved the spice rub on the prime!!
Andy ordered the pan seared venison also served with grilled asparagus and blue cheese bacon mashed potatoes. The venison was so tender and perfectly cooked. Andy let me have a whole medallion! 🙂 The particular cut being served comes from the thigh and the meat was sourced from Australia. The venison also comes with a flavorful mushroom sauce. The mashed potatoes were a great little bed for both entrées, and took on some of the flavor of the different meats on the plate. And anything with blue cheese and bacon makes the world a better place. 🙂
As if that wasn’t enough food, it was on to dessert. Andy let me have the rest of his wine (thanks, honey) as he moved on to a giant phyllo dough flower with ice cream and both caramel and chocolate sauces. It’s almost becoming a joke with how much food he can get away with and not gain any weight. I actually like having him around because I can order food I would not normally try, have a few bites, and pass the rest to him. The phyllo flower was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of fried ice cream you would get at a Mexican restaurant.
I ordered the chocolate-covered strawberries as I did last year. This time, the chocolate was flavored with a little mint. I really liked them. I had two of them, and Andy must have really liked them as well because he had the rest of them… along with about 95% of the phyllo flower and ice cream. 😛
So there you have it. The Dine Downtown menu at Blue Prynt. You have until Friday, January 18th to enjoy the pre fixe menu above, and Chef Jason reports the main entrées will be available on the regular menu in case you’d like to try them after the promotion ends.
I’d also like to mention Blue Prynt’s all-you-can-eat crab feed on February 9th (yes, please!) for $35 per person. PS: That the price didn’t go up from last year. Call the restaurant at (916) 492-2969 for more information.
Blue Prynt’s Facebook page is located here and you can follow them on twitter here. Here is a link to their Happy Hour page. Join them from 4:30-7:00pm for $4 house wine, $3 well cocktails, $2 PBR, and $2 side-car shot with the purchase of a drink (see shot shelf at the restaurant for options).
For a full list of the Dine Downtown participating restaurants and their menus, you can click here.
Check in here on Saturday for my review of Blackbird Kitchen and Bar’s Dine Downtown menu!
Dine Downtown kicks off tomorrow (Wednesday, January 9th, running though Friday, January 18th), and I was happy to have been asked by the owner of the downtown gem Mayahuel (Ernesto Delgado), to preview the menu he is offering for the special event.
Mayahuel (which is named after Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of the agave plant and fertility) has been a dining destination in Sacramento since March of 2011, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite places to go for dinner.
You might remember my preview of Mayahuel’s pre fixe menu from last year, and how much I loved their chorizo-topped rib eye. If you didn’t get to try the steak last year, have no fear! It’s on the Dine Downtown menu again this year. If you’re not a steak fan, Mayahuel has some tasty alternatives, as well as some vegetarian and vegan options.
Andy and I had dinner at Mayahuel on Friday (we had a Groupon and I treated us for our Monthaversary dinner). Then it was back to Mayahuel last night for more Mexican food and the Dine Downtown preview. Since I could eat Mexican food everyday and not tire of it, I was in heaven. 🙂
Here’s a shot of Mayahuel’s Dine Downtown menu and your choices for $30 per person:
Here’s the low down on what we enjoyed and some pictures of our selections:
Andy threw out a few wines and I immediately went for a 2008 Tempranillo made by Vina dos Rios, (Crestwood Monarch Winery) in El Dorado County.
Then we were served an amuse bouche (which changes nightly). It was a spicy tomato broth with pasta.
Then we were served some house made chips accompanied by some tomato salsa. I really love the thickness of the chips and that they almost taste sweet.
For his appetizer, Andy chose the Flor de Calabaza: Creamy Squash Blossom soup with infused tequila. It was very rich and probably not for the calorie conscious (which Andy is not)! 😉
My appetizer choice was the Dios de Maíz: Crisp baby spinach, romaine lettuce, sweet corn, black beans, panela cheese, sesame seeds and chile ancho peppers, served with a lime-cilantro vinaigrette. I had the same salad for my entrée on Friday night with chicken added to it, so I already knew what to expect. I am addicted to those cheese cubes!
Andy is pretty nice about sharing with me, so this time he ordered the Rib Eye with Chorizo: (Rib eye steak topped with chorizo crust, a bed of seasoned mushrooms in adobo salsa). Once again, the steak was cooked perfectly and the chorizo was really packed with flavor and spice.
For my entrée I went with the Pollo en Adobo: Chicken and mushrooms with nopales in a Guajillo, Pasilla, Morita chile Adobo sauce, served with white rice and black beans. How I missed you rice and black beans. It was such a treat for me, I probably could have had more of them for dessert.
But for dessert, I ordered the Nieve Flor de la Rosa: a Vanilla ice cream served with Mazapán (a peanut candy) drizzled with caramel and almonds. It was delectable, but I won’t throw Andy under the bus and let you know that he had most of it (oops). I was only in it for the yummy peanut candy (a lot like peanut flavored powdered sugar in a disc shape).
Andy ordered the Arroz con Leche. It’s rice that is simmered in sweetened milk and flavored with cinnamon, and topped with raisins. That’s me in the background waiting to have a taste. Once I did, I loved the cinnamon and the texture of the rice. And then Andy stole it back and polished it off. Whatever!! 😉
Notable: Try their NapaToro wine. It is made exclusively for Mayahuel. If you don’t like wine, by all means, have a margarita or ask the bartender about trying some tequila. The staff at Mayahuel is very knowledgeable on the food and beverages they serve and are willing to answer any questions you might have.
For more information on Dine Downtown, you can click here.
Sacramento has really come a long way in the restaurant world in the nine years I have lived here. It’s been an exciting progression to see, especially because one of the reasons I moved here is because of all the different cuisines available within a 10 minute or less drive, or even a walk or bike ride. What’s even more exciting is that I am now working downtown near Old Sacramento and I can afford (financially) to try a few places this year (and also calorically–as long as I run a few more miles on the day I choose to dine out) 😉
Every year in January, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership teams up with downtown area restaurants to showcase their menus for a 10-day dining extravaganza. For $30 per person, you can visit restaurants like Biba, Mayahuel, Blackbird Kitchen & Bar, Blue Prynt, The Broiler Steakhouse, etc. for a 3-course pre-fixe meal that highlights their very best offerings. Some restaurants have included a wine pairing option for an additional fee. (For example, the wine option at Ella is an added $15, but the fee varies from place to place).
This year, I’ll be returning to Mayahuel to sample and report on their menu. It looks like their MIND BLOWING chorizo-topped steak will be a pre-fix option again. ¡Dios Mio! 🙂 For a little trip down memory lane, you can read my review from last year here. Oh, and here’s a little picture of it for old time’s sake:
I’m also considering visits to The Broiler as well as Blackbird Kitchen & Bar. Why? Because one of the restaurants is a Sacramento institution, and one of them is fairly new, but I have heard great things about it. What restaurants would you most like to try and why?
Below is a full list of participating restaurants with links to their menus: