Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dine Downtown Week: Dinner at Mulvaney's

I'm slowly working my way towards all of the Sacramento restaurants that have received the Slow Food "Snail of Approval". Last week, I noticed that one of the restaurants I've wanted to try for years, Mulvaney's B&L, had a great-sounding prix fixe menu posted for Dine Downtown week. Three courses for $30 sounded like an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

Chef Patrick Mulvaney is heavily involved in the Slow Food scene and is famous for turning whatever comes through the door from local farms that day into dinner that night. Because of the nature of his farm-to-table practices, diners normally don't find out what they will be eating that night until they are handed a dinner menu (although for this week, the same prix fixe menu was offered every night).

The restaurant is housed in a historic firehouse downtown, and the signage is so subtle I could have walked right by it if I wasn't paying attention.

Sometimes the little things make a big difference as far as dining ambiance go. You know it's a nice restaurant when the water and salt/pepper look like this:

The bread and butter sure were pretty to look at. I believe this is pink Himalayan salt sprinkled over butter with a crusty bread on the side.

The amuse bouche was a lamb and pork sausage topped with a spicy sofrito. These flavors were so good, I rather wished to take a whole sausage and the sofrito topping on a nice roll and call it lunch one day.
My salad was an ever-so-slightly bitter frisee salad dressed in a nice vinaigrette, served along side a Wood Ear Mushroom Scaccia. This is a warm Italian tomato and cheese pie, although here it seemed more like a roll with the mushroom in the center. The sauce had a surprising kick to it and I loved the combination of slightly bitter greens with spicy and savory scaccia.

This was NOT my dish - it was my husband's. He opted for a 28-day aged ribeye steak topped with bacon butter (yes, bacon and butter, together) and served with broccoli raabe and carrots. He said it topped the steak at Ruth's Chris and that this will be his new standard for steaks. Clearly, he was a big fan.

Here was my entree - fettuccine with arugula rapini,  fennel sausage, roasted Hatch chile, and Pecorino Romano. The homemade noodles, silky and cooked perfectly, were dressed in a light cream sauce, and all of the flavors of this dish came together beautifully. It was one gorgeous winter pasta dish.

My meal included dessert, a Mexican chocolate bread pudding topped with salted caramel sauce. I can honestly say that I came close to licking every plate clean this evening, this one included.

As we finished our meal, the bill came in a vintage book that we were invited to sign. The comments left by other diners were charming remnants of pleasant dinner conversation, good company, and excellent meals. Ours: "Thanks for a memorable meal, Mulvaney's! Can't wait to come back."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dickens Fair and Russian Food

I haven't posted in some time for a variety of reasons. Reason #1: the first trimester of my first pregnancy hit me hard and I slept during most of my free time for October-December.

Reason #2: I was so thrilled to post on my trip to the Dicken's Fair in late December, only to find out that the Blogger Ap was less than efficient at importing the numerous pictures I took from my cell phone. I spent about an hour trying to make it work and then became so discouraged that I had to take a break from blogging in order to re-group.

Now it is early January, and I wanted to share just one picture from the amazing Dicken's Fair. This San Francisco Bay-area event is held every year during the holidays and constitutes a sort of Disneyland for book lovers. My husband smiled as I wandered around in awe, saying things like, "Look, there's Ebenezer Scrooge and a shackled Jacob Marley!... A Christmas ball with waltzing lessons!...Ooh, roasted chestnuts and Cornish pasties!... Look, an antique bookseller, and there's a shop selling real corsets!" (At over $200, I don't think I'll be lacing one up anytime soon, not to mention they aren't too maternity-friendly.)

In this picture, actors depict Christmastime at the Dickens' family's home, complete with roast goose dinner on the table and a cozy gathering in the parlor:

We loved the Fair so much, we can't wait to return next year. Mark that one off my list of activities to accomplish this year!

Another item that I checked off my "30 before 30" list relates to the goal of trying 3 new kinds of food. I'm a fairly adventurous diner, so I had to think hard on this one. One of my ideas involving a venture into Russian/Ukrainian food as found at the local restaurant Firebird. They serve a plentiful lunch buffet, where I started with a chunky, hot bowl of borscht topped with cream sour cream, then moved on to an overwhelming array of hot foods and cold salads. I walked away from Buffet Round One with the following heaping plate: