I love food, and Mike Dunne's "Appetizers" section in the Bee is a good place to see what is coming down road in Sacramento culinary future in midtown and downtown. Here are few recent tidbits.
An Agave Blooms Along 20th Street
Enough with all the wine bars in midtown Sacramento. Let's talk tequila bar. The Ulloa brothers - Jose and Carlos - hope to do that on or about Dec. 1. That's when they aim to open their Azul Mexican Food and Tequila Bar in the MARRS building (for Midtown Arts, Retail, Restaurant Scene) along 20th Street between J and K. Construction is to start next week, says family spokeswoman Raquel Gomez.
The Ulloa brothers come from a dairy-farming family in the Mexican state of Jalisco, home to the best tequilas. Azul will be their first restaurant and bar. The restaurant, to seat about 45, will be designed as a taqueria, says Gomez. Several of the dishes will be based on traditional family recipes.
Azul could mean that Sacramentans will have one more place to savor the paloma, which in Jalisco is the tequila-based cocktail of choice, not the margarita. A paloma generally is made by filling a tall tumbler with ice, adding 2 ounces of silver tequila (also called blanco), putting in a pinch of salt, squeezing in an ounce of lime juice, tossing in a wedge of lime, and filling the glass with around 6 ounces of a citrus soda, usually Fresca or Squirt, though sometimes grapefruit juice is used. In contrast to the typically sweet and slushy margarita, with a paloma you actually can taste the tequila. The only other Mexican restaurant in Sacramento where I've been able to find a paloma is Centro Cocina Mexicana.
I checked this out during the first couple of days, love the original Luigi's, but this one missed the mark. Still amazing Portuguese Linguica, but sauce and cheese was off. I don't have any doubts they will get back to the goodness they have on Stockton Blvd though...plus they are open late.
A New Site with History
I went for the pizza, stayed for the cookie. Luigi's Slice, a branch of the landmark Luigi's Pizza Parlor along Stockton Boulevard, has opened in the MARRS building (for Midtown Arts, Retail, Restaurant Scene) along 20th Street between J and K in midtown Sacramento.
To judge by a wide slice of the pepperoni and sausage ($3.50), the pizza has traveled well from the original location to the new, but that shouldn't surprise anyone who has ordered takeout from Luigi's Pizza Parlor. (The midtown pizzas are baked at the new site, but it will take 53 years for the ovens to get as seasoned as the ovens along Stockton Boulevard.)
The midtown quarters are sleek and chic, but the standout design feature is a wall of handsomely displayed photos that trace the history of the Brida family from Italy to Sacramento. The only drawback to the display is the lack of information to identify the principals, a shortcoming the family is looking into correcting, says Linda Brida, the wife of Greg Brida, the son of Sergio Brida, who with his brother Celso has owned Luigi's since 1965.
A more subtle Sacramento connection to Sacramento's culinary history is on the counter near the cash register - jars of fresh cookies, including a delightfully spicy, complex and moist gingersnap ($1.25). They're from Joe Bickie's Baked Goods, but there is no Joe Bickie. That's the nom de plume of baker Amy Alfaro, the sister of Greta Garverick, who for years ran the popular Greta's Cafe in midtown. Garverick does catering these days, and Alfaro helps her out with desserts, for which Greta's Cafe was celebrated.
Luigi's Slice is the only outlet so far for Alfaro's cookies, which also include snickerdoodles, buttermilk and a flaxseed wheatgerm, as well as brownies. Alfaro's dream is to open a cookies-and-milk shop, and the way the midtown culinary scene is developing that would seem a distinct possibility. As for the name Joe Bickie, she says she came up with Joe for coffee and Bickie's for cookies. "I just like the mystery of it all," Alfaro says.
Luigi's Slice, 1050 20th St., is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; (916) 447-1255.
If you love chocolate (guilty), you will love the creations she creates.
Midtown Chocolaterie On Tap
On a cold and foggy winter day in Sacramento nothing is quite as fortifying and soothing as a cup of hot chocolate. This winter, chocolate master Ginger Elizabeth Powers will come to our rescue with no fewer than four kinds of hot chocolate.
She hopes to start serving the hot chocolates, along with assorted hand-crafted chocolates, a couple of chocolate cakes, and the best chocolate-chip cookie she can whip up, around Dec. 1 in tiny quarters she just leased in the 1800 block of L Street in midtown Sacramento. Her chocolaterie, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, will be next to L Wine Lounge and Urban Kitchen.
The four hot chocolates that Powers is to make include a traditional European, a classic American, and a Oaxacan, the latter infused with chile-pepper flakes, fresh ginger, vanilla bean and cinnamon.
Her specialty chocolates are to include such flavors as salty caramel dark chocolate, fresh peppermint, hazelnut praline, orange jasmine and creme brulee.
Until about three weeks ago, Powers was pastry chef at Masque Ristorante in El Dorado Hills. She also owns Courture Chocolates by Ginger Elizabth, which wholesales artisan chocolates to the restaurant Mulvaney's Building & Loan and the wine bar 59 Degrees & Holding Co. She also has been doing favors for weddings. (Her own wedding is Oct. 14, when she marries Tom Hahn, her partner in the new business. Hahn also is a cook, having studied at Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School in northern Thailand and worked at the celebrated restaurants French Laundry in Napa Valley and Manresa in Los Gatos.)
Whether the shop will have seating is uncertain. It's small, but Powers plans to have it built so customers will be able to see the chocolate makers in action in the kitchen.
Downtown To Get Some Soul
Before the end of the month, Ray Smith hopes to start building out a restaurant to bring his busy and broad style of Southern cooking to downtown Sacramento.
Smith is co-owner and chef of Table 260 in Elk Grove. The restaurant's name was inspired by his suite number at the shopping complex Harbour Point. He will keep basically the same name - Table 260 Downtown - when he comes to Sacramento, though he'll be at 800 J St., on the ground floor of a loft high-rise.
"It will be a little more upscale," says Smith of the Sacramento restaurant. The restaurant is to include an urban lounge with blues and jazz, a more extensive wine list, a higher-end menu, and a private VIP room capable of seating 15 to 20 guests.
Ideally, Smith would like to open the new place by the year-end holidays. He will continue to run the Elk Grove restaurant after the Sacramento site opens.
I just had dinner at The Kitchen a couple weeks ago, if Ella's is anything like The Kitchen (with lower $$$$), we are in for a treat.
Ella Nears Debut
The patio isn't likely to be ready, but that isn't stopping the Randall Selland family from opening Ella on Sept. 22. Everything else is expected to be in place by then, says family member Josh Nelson.
One of Sacramento's more eagerly anticipated restaurants this fall, Ella will be at 12th and K, bringing to downtown an upscale hybrid offshoot of the family's two successful operations, the restaurant The Kitchen and the deli and wine shop Selland's Market Cafe.
Nelson says Ella is about set to start accepting reservations, (916) 443-3772.