What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Trolley Inside Picmonkey

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 10, 2016 – Sterling Transportation has announced the official launch of the Sterling Trolley, a vintage street trolley that will enrich Sacramento’s transportation options for tourists and locals for downtown events, sports games, weddings and private tours.

The Sterling Trolley is Sacramento’s only vintage street trolley, featuring 15 wooden benches accommodating 30 total passengers. With classic origins such as hardwood floors and a backside balcony, this retrofitted trolley possesses modern features such as a Bluetooth stereo, and overhead LED multi-colored lighting.

bike trail Sacto Picmonkey 2Bike trail follows American River for nearly 30 miles

by Matthew Guillory

May 24, 2016 - When you are planning your visit to Sacramento, remember that “California Begins Here.” That does not only refer to the history of California and our designation as the capital city – it also refers to the Sacramento lifestyle. Sacramento celebrates the California lifestyle in a laid-back, approachable way that its visitors can enjoy as well.

Crocker Edited PicmonkeyAllan Houser (American Chiricahua Apache, 1914–1994), Force, 1990. Vermont marble, 26.5 x 26 x 27 inches. Crocker Art Museum, promised gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D.

By Matthew Guillory

February 11, 2016 - There is a lot happening at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum as it heads into the second half of 2016 - exhibitions include glass (from ancient Roman to contemporary American), photography, colonial art, sculpture and European drawings.

Talks, walks and the like are great ways to learn a little more about the art on display. At their monthly noontime “Lunch & Learn,” museum docents dive deep into a specific exhibition for 30-minute sprints. And Gallery Bites -- also monthly at noon -- takes a half-hour look at a different gallery each time.

Thursday, 10 September 2015 18:41

Five Reasons to Travel to Sacramento by Train

CapitalCorridor passengers Picmonkeyby Matthew Guillory

What if your trip to Sacramento was part of the fun? The Capitol Corridor is an excellent and convenient way to travel to Sacramento from the Bay Area and the Central Valley. Whether you are planning a trip for a large group or a small family gathering, there are several reasons you should consider using Amtrak and the Capitol Corridor when planning your next trip to Sacramento.

Buffalo Brewery lithoSacramento's Buffalo Brewery

TASTE News Service, May 14, 2015 - Once home to the largest brewery in the Golden State, Sacramento's beer scene is back – in a big way. Home to more than 40 breweries, the Sacramento region is embracing its agricultural roots to create homegrown beers that are quickly attracting international attention. Beyond a staggering selection of local brews to choose from, Sacramento visitors will find some of the country's best beer events and activities that are sure to quench their thirst.

“In many ways, Sacramento is the birthplace of beer in California,” said Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau Tourism Director Nick Leonti. “It's only fitting that the region has reclaimed its title as one of the best craft beer destinations in the Golden State. There's enough variety here to please any beer fan, and it's not every day that you can enjoy an ale that was crafted from hops grown only a few miles away.”  

History

Prior to prohibition, Sacramento was the beer capital of the West. The region's abundant fresh water supply, coupled with ideal growing conditions for California's first hops fields, led to more than 16 breweries in the city's downtown alone. Chief among them was Buffalo Brewing Company, the largest brewery west of the Mississippi River. Captain Frank Ruhstaller was a leader in Sacramento's beer production, helping to found several breweries including his namesake, Ruhstaller Brewery. Prohibition came, and the land formerly used to grow hops was converted to other crops. These crops can still be found throughout the region's farmland today, including almonds, pears, tomatoes and rice.

The Return of Sacramento's Beer Scene

Today's Sacramento beer scene is vibrant, and craft brew tasting rooms are scattered throughout the city's downtown and Midtown core, and across the region. Stalwart Sacramento breweries such as River City Brewing and Rubicon Brewing Company have been around for more than a decade, and they're still going strong as new breweries join the scene. Over the past five years, beer makers such as Track 7 and Bike Dog have added to the mix, while Ruhstaller Beer and New Helvetia Brewing Company have also opened, paying homage to Sacramento's rich brewing past.

Ruhstallers beer sign PicmonkeyHops-to-Pint

Captain Ruhstaller's legacy can still be seen today in the region's remerging brew scene, with a new iteration of Ruhstaller returning to Sacramento in 2013. The modern day Ruhstaller's founder J-E Paino established a hops farm and yard in 2013 just outside of the city, and brews his beer locally. During harvest season, beer fans can tour the farm and see how the growing hops go on to become of the region's most popular brews. And Ruhstaller's fan base extends well beyond the Sacramento region, with distribution of its brews extending as far as Great Britain.

Beer Events

It's no surprise that the Sacramento region is also home to some of the country's best beer events. From the annual Sacramento Beer & Chili Festival, to the city’s own “Sactoberfest,” there's always something beer-related on the Sacramento region's calendar.

In March, beer fans flock to Sacramento for Beer Week – a non-stop, city-wide party designed to showcase the region's brews. Run by the Northern California Brewers Guild, Sacramento Beer Week is an 11-day celebration boasting everything from beer and food pairings to a festival on Capitol Mall with breweries from all over the state and beyond.

Coming to Sacramento in 2015 is the first annual California Craft Beer Summit and Showcase,Sac Brew Bike Picmonkey hosted by the California Craft Brewers Association. The new event, open to both the industry and the public, will be the first time craft beer enthusiasts can come together in the same room with the master brewers to see, touch, taste and learn the process of creating craft beers.

Sacramento's food scene hits a high point in September during the annual Farm-to-Fork Celebration, a two-week event designed to highlight the region's robust agriculture and fresh-food scene. A favorite attraction during the Celebration is the Farm-to-Fork Festival, a massive outdoor fair held on the city's Capitol Mall featuring booths and interactive exhibits from farms, restaurants, grocers and more. As one would expect, food and drink take center stage at the Farm-to-Fork Festival, and beer is a main attraction. The Festival boasts a packed brewer's alley that showcases beers from across the region, and many of the 20,000+ attendees head straight for the alley to get a glass of their favorite ale to enjoy while checking out the Festival.

Beer Activities

Beer-enthusiasts can do more than just sip their pints in Sacramento; the region offers a host of activities that showcase the region's brew scene. Thirsty fans can tour the region's breweries and pedal for their pints aboard Sac Brew Bike, a newer addition to the city. Or, you can sit back and sip your craft brew aboard the Sacramento Beer Train, which takes travelers along the rails through rural West Sacramento. Restaurants across the region also offer monthly beer pairing dinners, providing beer fans with a chance to sample the region's cuisine and local brews.

Editor’s Note: Planning a beer-inspired visit to the state capital? First check out California Wine and Food’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of local craft beer purveyors and area wineries.

Ella dining room interior PicmonkeyUrban and airy feeling at Ella

TASTE News Service May 4, 2015 - Local, seasonal, sustainable: These may be culinary buzzwords in many places, but Sacramento restaurateurs have been cooking by these principles for decades. Surrounded by unparalleled agricultural bounty, Sacramento's restaurants showcase the region's best products, from juicy tomatoes to lush old-vine Zinfandel, sweet peaches to crisp corn, nutty almonds to succulent lamb. That cornucopia inspires Sacramento's talented chefs year-round, and the city's dining scene—especially in the convenient, central downtown and Midtown areas—has boomed in recent years. The city's fresh, new dining venues and its longtime favorite haunts alike offer top-notch, inventive fare and high style, together with the welcoming vibe that characterizes this friendly city.

Downtown

In the neighborhood that surrounds the State Capitol, power-lunch places are now jointed by happening hot spots like Ella Dining Room and Bar, a venture from Randall Selland and family (the powers behind high-end stalwart The Kitchen). Ella's refined, luxe style (its signature is hundreds of wooden shutters, sourced from Europe) was created by an Amsterdam design team, and its distinctive look has been featured in magazines worldwide. The perfectly crafted small-plates fare and upscale cocktails (like a refreshing gin with house-made tonic) are just as sophisticated as the airy interior. Grange, situated in the showpiece Citizen Hotel, serves ever-changing, strictly local menus at breakfast, lunch, and dinner including well-priced nightly prix-fixe specials. The warmly lit, mod interior is framed by dramatic high windows and carved from the Citizen's renovated historic quarters. New to Sacramento in January 2014, Mother is now the can't-miss place to dine in the area. The restaurant offers a full, locally-sourced vegetarian and vegan menu.

Zocalo sidewalk dining PicmonkeySidewalk dining at ZocaloMidtown

Sacramento's hippest neighborhood draws nightly crowds not just to its art galleries and boutiques, but its hot restaurants as well. Gems abound in this dining-rich neighborhood, but two local favorites are Mulvaney's Building and Loan and The Waterboy, both of which reflect the personalities of their chef-owners with fresh, seasonal cooking. Patrick Mulvaney's intimate restaurant, which features a central display kitchen, is located in a historic brick firehouse and showcases local producers like Bledsoe Pork and Riverdog Farms on its compact but inviting menu. Rick Mahan's airy Waterboy is a favorite of locals, thanks to Mahan's local sourcing and impeccable but often adventurous California-Mediterranean cooking; the menu changes often, but he's as well known for dishes like steak tartare and sweetbreads as for a luscious, perfect burger. Local favorite Shady Lady, a speakeasy-style bar-restaurant pouring just-so traditional cocktails and serving small plates inspired by classic American fare, is the anchor for the vibrant, revitalized R Street Corridor, now packed with fun restaurants and bars that draw young crowds. Nearby Hook & Ladder highlights handcrafted cocktails and local craft beer along with its farm-fresh California cuisine. More top Midtown destinations include the longtime favorite Biba, featuring seasonally driven, meticulous Northern Italian specialties from cookbook author and TV personality Biba Caggiano; popular wine bar 58 Degrees & Holding Co., and bustling, beautifully decorated Mexican spot Zocalo. When it's time for dessert, tempt your sweet-tooth at Ginger Elizabeth. This downtown chocolatier and sweet shop, specializes in chocolates and macaroons, and many of the boutique's offerings are made with locally-sourced ingredients.

Old Sacramento and Other Areas

Squash BisqueFirehouse Squash BisqueDowntown and Midtown Sacramento may be replete with great food, but Sacramento's other neighborhoods are equally mouthwatering. Historic Old Sacramento is home to the ultra-refined The Firehouse, famed for its deep wine cellar, high-end fare from award-winning chef Deneb Williams, and special-occasion-worthy tasting menus. Another perfect pick for a big night out is The Kitchen in Arden-Arcade, where the spectacular multicourse dinners are a show in and of themselves. Plan your visit a few weeks in advance! Craving a waterfront table? Try Pearl on the River, which overlooks the romantic Sacramento River and features impeccable service and a changing “live menu” concept of locally sourced ingredients. All these, and many more, combine to make Sacramento and its diverse restaurant scene a delicious destination.

 

Editor’s Note: To meet some of the people responsible for creating Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork identity, see article by Dan Clarke. If you’re planning on visiting Sacramento visit Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory first. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area Wineries and Craft Beer Purveyors.

Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:19

Jack-O-Lanterns and More

David Vierra with wolf pumpkin PicmonkeyDavid Vierra with wolf pumpkin

TASTE News Service October 8, 2014 - Growers up and down California have created seasonal, small-scale agricultural amusement parks built around pumpkin patches. A visit givers urban families a chance to commune with nature, expose their children to a simplified version of farming and, or course, buy pumpkins right at the source. Additional activities like hay rides, corn maze navigation and cider tasting tend to justify taking a ride into the country and also provide the grower with income additional to the sale of pumpkins.

Dave's Pumpkin Patch is one such place. Though just 10 minutes from downtown Sacramento, the Yolo County property is a real farm and maybe the only one that visiting city folks ever will have seen. Admission to the pumpkin patch is free, but other activities are available for which a charge is made. Hay rides, pig races, baby goats, pony rides and the Haunted Corn Maze are among the options.

Some pumpkin growing areas have given rise to bigger, collective events. Perhaps the best known of these is the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, which is held each October (the 18th and 19th of the month this year). Tim Beeman, whose Miramar Events organizes the two-day festival, explains that although this part of the county is within an hour's drive or less for the San Francisco Bay Area's 3-4 million people, it is still a very agricultural area. “Half Moon Bay has become known as the spot for families to go and pick their pumpkin,” he comments. “It's a Disneyland of pumpkins around here at this time of year. It's like a sea of orange. Half Moon Bay has become known as the spot for families to go and pick their pumpkin.”

family at Farmer Johns Pumpkin Farm pcmonkeyFamily visit to Farmer John'sActually, pumpkin farmers in this area welcome visitors all through the autumn. John Muller, a diversified small grower who operates Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm, stresses a strictly agricultural experience for his visitors and eschews the peripheral entertainment that many pumpkin patches offer. Muller enjoys hosting school groups and families and sees many long-distance travelers. His world globe—a map drawn on an 1800-pound pumpkin—logs where his international visitors are coming from. “It has 40 pins on it already,” he says. “They represent people who've come this year from Europe, China, Australia, even Brazil.”

Chris Gounalakis has been at Arata's Pumpkin Farm for 22 seasons. The property has been a diversified farming operation for nearly a century. Gounalakis and his wife are in the process of purchasing the farm and now concentrate on corn and pumpkin production. People may be come to his farm because of such attractions as the Minotaur's Labyrinth Hay Maze, but Gounalakis feels that, once there, “Kids learn a lot about agriculture.”

Maze at Aratas Pumpkin Farm PicmonkeyMaze at Arata's Pumpkin Farm

Each Monday preceding the Festival, the Safeway World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off is held on Half Moon Bay's Main Street. The current world record holder—a 2,096.6 pound monster—was grown in Switzerland and certified at Mainz, Germany in September. Over $30,000 in prize money is on the line if this year's local champion can break that record. Win or lose, the sight of pumpkins weighing upwards of a ton each creates a buzz in the nationwide media. Later, photo-ops with the display of the top five placing pumpkins at the festival keep stoking the PR fires. Beeman claims that as many as 250,000 people visit during the festival, adding, “It's hard to be sure because it's not a turnstile event.” However many attend, the event creates substantial revenue for the area. Now in its 44th year, the festival brings in major dollars to the community, buoying its economy and helping underwrite local civic projects. And it sells a whole lot of pumpkins.

Editor's note: If you're thinking of a visit to any of California's “Pumpkin Countries,” you should check out the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options displayed geographically. Also in the Resource Directory are links to wineries and craft beer specialists.

Best of Show cheese 2nd place PicmonkeyPt Reyes Bay Blue, judged 2nd Place in Best of Show competition

by Dan Clarke

Sacramento, CA August 2, 2014 - Never have I seen so much cheese. By the time I left Exhibit Hall C in the Sacramento Convention Center it was filled with tasters. Most seemed to be involved with cheese in some professional way, but there were media types and folks who just liked cheese.

Last night's tasting was the culmination of the 31st annual meeting of the American Cheese Society (ACS). Any organization which brackets several days of academic sessions with a Tuesday evening California Cheesemaker Pubcrawl and Friday's concluding Festival of Cheese is ok in my book. As with winemaking and brewing, substantial science is involved in cheesemaking, but the products of all these endeavors are designed to give pleasure to the end users. Cheesemakers, I discovered, are every bit as fun-loving as their brewer and winemaker cousins. Maybe even more so.

A Keynote Chat

California is home to a substantial dairy industry, but until recent years it has lagged behind other states like Vermont and Wisconsin in its attention to cheese. Two fellows who know as much as anyone about the evolution of food in this state open Wednesday's sessions with what is billed as a “Keynote Chat.” Narsai David is a former restaurateur, PBS television personality and current KCBS radio commentator. Darrell Corti is owner of Corti Brothers, a retailer of wine and specialty foods. They trace the evolution of California's cuisine over the last half-century in a low-key and anecdotal style. “I don't know what we can tell you,” Darrell begins, “You're the experts.” Indeed, the banquet room is filled with cheesemakers with great knowledge of technical processes. However, few, if any, have the perspective on America's changing food scene that Darrell and Narsai can provide.

Darrell and Narsai PicmonkeyDarrell and Narsai--a wealth of experience

It may be a given that California can produce food and wine of world standard. But that's now. It wasn't always the case. Narsai references a blind tasting at his Pot Luck restaurant in the early 70's. Eight wines from Chardonnay grapes were poured—four great Montrachets and four Sonoma Chardonnay from Hanzell. “None of us could say which wine was which,” he reminisces. “We had a great Chardonnay that was every bit as good as great white Burgundy.” In that era Gourmet magazine observed that Pot Luck and Chez Panisse were doing “California Cuisine,” he says. “We were doing what we felt like doing. We simply were not (constrained by) the rules and limitations that burdened French chefs.” Such freedom may have led to some fads and excesses, but it also provided a sharp learning curve.

Darrell Corti is celebrating 50-years as a professional in food and wine retailing, but his experience predates that, as he grew up in the family business. “Cheese, much like winemaking, has changed. Sometimes for the better, “ he observes. “And sometimes not.” As the breadth and diversity of American cheesemaking has expanded, so have the problems and opportunities for marketing these cheeses. Noting that California wine names have evolved from European place names such as Burgundy and Chianti to wines labeled by the grapes used (Pinot Noir, Sangiovese) or by proprietary names, Corti suggests that American cheesemakers might want to develop nomenclature that wouldn't imply their products are copies or derivatives of time-honored European cheeses. If quality is good we should want our own identity, he suggests.

“We are doing things now that are the envy of the world,” Narsai David concludes. “And you are to be applauded for the direction that the American Cheese Society and all of you are a part of.”

Tbl Setting CA wine and cheese PicmonkeyThe why of wine with cheese

Wine and Cheese

The pairing of wine and cheese is accepted as tradition. But maybe not all combinations are equal. A seminar entitled “California Wine & Cheese: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why” brings experiential learning, as well as academic. Anita Oberholster of the Viticulture and Enology Department at UC Davis and Kirstin Jackson, a wine and cheese consultant, author and educator, take a sold out room through a tasting of four cheeses and four wines—two whites and two reds. Opportunity to taste a wine with the cheese likely to be the most complementary, as well as one less likely to work, is a palate-opening experience, especially when accompanied by explanation of the chemistry involved.

Winners, but Maybe no LosersBleating Heart cheesemakers PicmonkeySeana Doughty and Dave Dalton took blue ribbon for Bleating Heart's "Fat Bottom Girl"

A big part of these annual meetings is the awards. This year there are 1685 entries from 248 companies. Submissions come from 39 states of the US, four Canadian provinces and even the nation of Colombia. Ribbons are awarded to 325 of these entries. The awards ceremony is held Thursday afternoon in the ballroom of the adjacent Hyatt Regency Hotel. Waiting for the doors to open, cheese people gathered in the lobby and seem in remarkably good humor. An award can make a big difference. A cheesemaker from the Midwest tells me his fairly new company was out of money a few years ago when a blue ribbon was such a spur to sales that they turned the corner and are now stable in their eighth year of business. Once inside the room the audience whoops, hollers and waves pennants. They're having a great time and are partial to entrants from their own states, but they seem genuinely happy for every winner.

Festival of Cheese

Steve Graham pours at cheese tasting PicmonkeySteve Graham pours J Lohr Pinot NoirOrganizers have arranged for the media to have a half-hour head start to check out the displays at this finale. We may enter at 5:30. In this staged admission, ACS members are welcome at 6:00 and the general public from 7:00 forward. Vendors of complementary products, such as charcuterie, crackers and beer line the perimeter of this room and provide samples, but the centerpiece of this event is the cheese. Displays are attractively presented, all products are identified as to the category entered, the name of the cheese and the company that produced it. Those who've received honors in Thursday's judging proudly display their ribbons. Thirsty, I scan the tables beyond the cheeses and notice a friend of mine. Steve Graham, a wine steward for Nugget Markets, is pouring medal winners from the recent California State Fair wine judging. Nugget also has cheeses displayed and can make suggestions of which to sample with each wine. At the other end of the Nugget table are beer experts pouring tastes similarly paired with different cheeses.

All the cheeses taste good to me. Their quality is excellent and the variety is endless. I have a good time, but almost envy the cheese professionals who're here. They're so much more cheese-savvy than I am and I hope that they're enjoying the moment, more than analyzing too closely. Cheesemaking—it sounds like a pretty good gig. Sort of like a writer whose work requires he sample foods and wines.

Niello Concours 2014 Poster Picmonkey

TASTE News Service May 30, 2014 – Featured marque at the 2014 edition of the Niello Concours d'Elegance will be Packard. The show will also be celebrating Maserati's 100th anniversary. Serrano, just east of Sacramento in El Dorado Hills, is the host venue for the October 5th gathering.

A series of low-key events for car owners and car appreciators defined as Concours Raduno are summer preliminaries to the main event. These will be held at locations not too far from Serrano and are casual affairs where people can enjoy a drink and an appetizer and maybe hear a little music while admiring some beautiful cars. The locations include 36 Handles Pub and Eatery on White Rock Rd. in El Dorado Hills on June 10, the Design Galleria by Valentine on Fair Oaks Blvd. in Sacramento July 8 and Grebitus Jewelers at the Palladio in Folsom on August 5th.

Maserati grill at 36 Handles PicmonkeyAnother opportunity to preview some of these beautiful automobiles will come on October 3rd, just two days before the Niello Concours, when Northridge Country Club hosts Viva L'Auto Gala, a fund raiser for Sacramento Children's Home Crisis Nurseries. Further information about the Niello Concours d'Elegance can be found at www.theconcours.net.

Editor's note: If you are planing to visit the Sacramento/El Dorado Hills area for any of these events, you may want to check out the Central Valley and Gold Country sections of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area wineries and craft beer purveyors.

Chenin Blanc Tasters at Revolution PicmonkeyClose inspections before the first sips

TASTE News Service May 23, 2014 - Chenin Blanc may be considered the signature grape of Clarksburg.

Though trendier varieties account for more vineyard acreage in the Clarksburg region, this area just southwest of Sacramento is believed to be one of the few areas in the world capable of producing great Chenin Blanc. Grown in other parts of the world, too—most notably in France's Loire Valley and in South Africa, where it was first planted in 1655 and is also known as “Steen,” this white wine variety is versatile and can be made into sparkling wine, both dry and off-dry table wine styles and even late-harvest dessert wines.

On Tuesday, Chenin fans in the know visited Revolution, an urban winery near the corner of 29th and S Streets in Sacramento, where they had opportunity to sample an array of Chenin Blanc wines. All were grown in the Clarksburg area, though some were actually vinified by wineries in other parts of the state. While Revolution Wines also makes other varieties, its overall production is small. Their 2013 Chenin Blanc (about 300 cases produced) scored quite a coup recently when it was chosen as one of the 10 best West Coast wines to enjoy with oysters. The annual competition, sponsored by Taylor Shellfish in Washington, is usually dominated by leaner versions of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, with an occasional Pinot Grigio or Semillon in the mix. A frequent winner in past years has been a Chenin Blanc made from Clarksburg fruit by the Sonoma's Dry Creek Vineyard. This year Dry Creek was not among the top ten, but Revolution's entry was. It was poured at the Sacramento tasting, as were Chenin Blancs made in various styles from other producers. A few of them blended with the white Rhône grape Viognier showed a more aromatic side to their personalites.

Slow Food rep and David Baker PicmonkeyCharity Kenyon of Slow Food and David Baker share concerns about sustainability

One of the sponsors of this tasting was GRAS, an acronym for “Green Restaurant Alliance Sacramento,” whose mission includes educating both the public and the restaurant community about sustainable practices for the restaurant industry. David Baker, who heads the wine program for Selland's Market and Café, is also the director and a co-founder of GRAS and has the ambitious goal of returning all the community's restaurant waste to the land via composting.

 

Editor's note: Want to learn more about this wine region? In the Central Valley sections of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory you will find links to the websites of Clarksburg and Delta wineries, as well as links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the Sacramento area. The Directory has recently added a section for craft beer purveyors, too.

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