Tuesday, July 13, 2010

California Trip – 2010: A Restaurant Experience

I wanted to share a restaurant experience or two from our recent trip to California.  Here is the first.  After I judged the California State Competition, my husband and I, along with two of the other judges, decided to find a nice, more upscale place for dinner one night.  We were very pleased with our selection.

The name of the place is Ella Dining Room and Bar (www.elladiningroomandbar.com).  It is located at 12th and K streets in Sacramento.  The use of the term “Bar” threw me a little because, to me, that usually means drinks and snacks and not necessarily classy.  But this bar is different.  If you choose to, you can be seated at the bar where there is a special menu with chefs right there.  Selections of various fresh seafood and such are displayed in cases at this bar.  The menu was very elegant.
We chose the dining room, however, as it is more conducive to conversation with four people.

For appetizers, each of us chose something different.  The choices were asparagus soup, mushroom soup, smelts, and, of all things, bone marrow.  I personally have never seen bone marrow on a menu, but the person who ordered it said it was fabulous.  The judge who ordered the asparagus soup is exceptionally knowledgeable about culinary things.  He proclaimed the chef “a genius for creating such an incredible soup from the lowly asparagus”.  My husband ordered the mushroom soup, which, after tasting it, I then wished I had also done.  Mushroom soup is one of our favorites and this one was “to die for”.  But I ordered the smelts, as I like them but have not had any in a very long time.  You just don't see them on menus much, if at all.  They were a bit disappointing and fishy.

The wine list is quite pricey, with many wines over $1000.00!  Also, there were a few in the $2,000 and $3000 category, with the top one being over $4,000 a bottle.  Incredible!  But I found a wine I had tasted before that was a real bargain and went with all of our appetizers.  It was the Uvaggio Vermentino from Lodi, CA, at $26.00.  I had posted some comments on this wine in this blog after the American Wine Society Conference where I tasted it in a program there.  This was the 2008 vintage and had great balanced, just the right amount of crispness, and a bit of melon and spice.

For our entrees, two of us ordered the duck confit with shaved asparagus and sherry vinaigrette, one, a steak, and the fourth person ordered the ricotta gnocchi with summer truffles.  The duck was a very generous portion duck leg that was done to perfection, literally falling apart when you cut into it.  This was one of the best duck dishes I have ever eaten.  Once again, our culinary expert deemed his choice, the gnocchi, spectacular.  The steak was also very good, although I am guessing this is not their expertise.

For the wine selection we decided on the Willa-Kenzie Pierre-Leon 2007 Pinot Noir from Oregon.  The price was $72.00. This turned out to be a marriage made in heaven with all four entrees.  We savored every taste.  This rich, fruity, Pinot Noir, is everything you would want in a Pinot.  There was some cherry, a bit of smokiness, and a very light hint of anise, with a long, lovely, silky finish.  It was rich and aromatic.  Truly a lovely wine that I would buy in a heartbeat.

In addition, the service at Ella is impeccable.  One of the things I liked very much was that, if you questioned the character of a wine, they would offer a taste to help you make your choice.  This is a real plus in my book.  The wine and spirits menu is extensive and has something for every taste profile.  If you are going to Sacramento, I highly recommend Ella.

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