Monday, May 23, 2011

The Eagle Cafe | West Sacramento, CA

NOW SERVING OMELETTES. Funny how these three words can prompt one to stop into a neighborhood coffee shop and pull up a chair. That's just what happened to us when we noticed these three magical words outside The Eagle Cafe, a favorite stop of ours in the West Sacramento area. We've known for some time about the cafe's great tasting beverages and savory panini sandwiches, but when we learned that they added five different omelettes to their menu, our appreciation was renewed for this quaint neighborhood eatery.

The Eagle Cafe is still very much in its infancy having opened its doors in February 2010. That aside, however, owner Altin Shquti has gone to great lengths to create a relaxing environment where one can feel welcome whether its kicking off a good morning or soaking up the sun's rays in the afternoon. There's ample seating for such a little place, including a lounge area situated at one side of the cafe's common area. It's an ideal spot to catch up with good friends or perhaps to hold mini meetings with colleagues. During our recent visit, we observed a group of young thirty-somethings musing over the books in their hands. Book club, perhaps? Why not.

The beverage bar is quite extensive. The coffee used by The Eagle Cafe is provided by Vaneli's Handcrafted Coffee, a local roastery located in Rocklin, CA, where much of their fair trade blends are organic and fired slowly to ensure balance among bold, complex flavors. If blended beverages are more to your liking, Shquti and his staff can whip up any one of their iced drinks, smoothies, or blended cremes. Flavor choices include coconut, java chip, taro, green tea, chocolate peanut butter, mango, pralines and cream, belgium chocolate, strawberry, etc. etc. etc. Definitely something for everyone!

But let's not forget, we were enticed by those three words, NOW SERVING OMELETTES. Again, five different kinds to choose from such as the Veggie, the Greek, and the Eagle, which is made with bacon, tomato, cheese, spinach, bell peppers, and roasted turkey. The two remaining choices include simpler favorites such as a gooey 3-cheese offering and their ham-n-cheese combination. Each of their omelettes are complimented with a slice of toast and fresh fruit.

I do have to be honest, however. As satisfying as their omelettes were, and they certainly got our day off to a good start, the real attraction for us at The Eagle Cafe still has to be their panini sandwiches. These are some of the best we've had this side of the Sacramento River. Among our favorites is their breakfast panini made with scrambled eggs, spinach, tomato and bacon served on sourdough bread or a herbed focaccia roll. Couple this with one of their hearty soups of the day such as minestrone, chicken and wild rice, tomato basil, or clam chowder, and you'll walk away in a food coma.

The Eagle Cafe is open daily, but if you're a night owl of sorts or if the craving for caffeine tends to hit you once the sun starts to set, this is not the place for you. While the doors open at 6:00 a.m., they close up for the night at 6:00 p.m. Will the world stop spinning because of this? Of course not. In fact, my mother would put it another way as one who looks out for my health and well-being: "They may be doing you a favor. Drinking all that coffee will just keep you up at night, and you stay up too late as it is." Point taken.

The Eagle Cafe
3150 Jefferson Blvd
West Sacramento, CA 95691

Eagle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hot Italian | Sacramento, CA

Alla ricerca di un posto eccitante per trovare pizza grande degustazione e molto altro ancora? Poi, fermandosi a Caldo Italiano รจ solo il posto per voi. Anche se sono stato solo in giro dal febbraio 2009, i proprietari di Andrea Lepore e Fabrizio Cercatore hanno creato un unico "luogo specificamente progettato per essere un punto di incontro dove le persone possono riunirsi per una cena, godendo di una confortevole e moderno spazio urbano."

Whoops! My apologies for starting my latest entry in Italian, but after visiting our newest discovery, I couldn't help myself. To translate...

Searching for an exciting place to find great tasting pizza and whole lot more? Then, stopping into Hot Italian is just the thing for you. Even though they've only been around since February 2009, owners Andrea Lepore's and Fabrizio Cercatore have created a unique "place specifically designed to be a meeting point where people can gather for a meal while enjoying a comfortable, modern, urban space."

Now, I have to be completely honest in saying that we weren't entirely sure what to expect from Hot Italian. We've seen the gathering crowds outside their doors, and that showed promise. We even read all the press, which added to our curiosity and their popularity. But, we couldn't shake the notion of "judging a book by its cover" because its facade seemed too chic, too modern. Would this be a case of more flash than substance? Not in the least.

Entering from Q Street, we took the long walk through the restaurant and feasted on its sleek interiors that was more reminiscent of a gallery than a place to find good eats. Soon enough, however, we were directed to the dining area with its long blacktop tables, each saddled with medium height bar chars. There's also a large circular table toward the middle of the room that screamed community dining, be it with friends, family, or strangers. Add a helpful staff to the mix, and the stage was set. Bring on the food!

We weren't disappointed with with a variety of selections available in either of four ways: as a pizza, as a calzone, as a panini, or as a salad. If choosing a salad, don't settle on having it served cold. Rather, have it brought to you warm on top of their tossed pizza crust. We chose to do this when ordering the Sozzani (baby spinach, pears, dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, and roasted pine nuts), and we couldn't have been more pleased. The kids couldn't decide between two pizzas, the Bellucci (tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy sausage, and ricotta cheese) or the Stella (prosciutto parma, mozzarella, crescenza cheese, and a mushroom medley). So, they went with both. They went speechless after just one bite.

Quoting my wife after taking a bite of the Bellucci, "This is perhaps the best pizza I've ever had, so far, and I've had my share of great pizza." Strong words, I know, but before we start debating where great pizza can be had, she did say "so far." I mean, we've all had great pizza and have our favorites to tout whether it's from Casa Bianca, Village Bakery, Lou Malnati's, Grimaldi's, Taste Chicago, Gino's East, Bertucci's, Chicago Fire, Extreme Pizza, etc. etc. etc. The list can (and does) go on and on. All we are saying, bottom line, is that we would consider putting Hot Italian alongside these elite establishments.

If that isn't enough, the folks at Hot Italian also have a saying that is quite indicative of its approach and attitude toward food: "Pizza as Art." Beyond what you see on the plate, which, by the way, looks like something painted by Da Vinci himself, the phrase says a lot about them. These words are splashed throughout much of their literature from its take out boxes to their menus to their avant-garde t-shirts. My interpretation, the meaning behind "Pizza as Art" is a message that cleverly describes their flavorful dishes. It's a declaration of their use of simple, fresh ingredients that are as pleasing to one's taste as the music, videos, art, design, and aromas serve our other senses. That, in my mind, is what sets Hot Italian apart from other eateries that we've enjoyed.

By the way, after you've expired the last piece of pizza on your plate, be sure to take stroll around the restaurant to enjoy its other components such as the in-house gelato bar, where no less than 14 succulent flavors are featured. We recommend that you try one of their signature concoctions that dunks scoops of vanilla and espresso gelato into real espresso coffee. If that doesn't get a charge out of you, then perhaps browsing though their Motors & Gears Shop is the thing for you. Here, you can find Italian inspired sportswear and accessories for cyclists.

As I said, searching for a unique place to find great tasting pizza and a whole lot more? Hot Italian is the place to find it. It's a celebration for the senses that fa bene al cuore e per l'anima. Buon divertimento!

Hot Italian
1627 16th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday :: Rocca

In this picture:
Rocca, two scoops of gelato drowned in espresso.
A sweet treat from Hot Italian in Sacramento, CA.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tasty Tuesday :: Fat Face Popsicles

Our kids have never met a popsicle that they didn't like. However, have they ever reached popsicle nirvana? No...At least, until they tasted the ones from Fat Face.

Fat Face is a gourmet popsicle shop that carries original flavors such as strawberry basil lemonade, strawberry coconut, kaffir lime & avocado, Thai tea, and sweet potato. Owner, Jaymes Luu, generally serves six flavors at a time, based on what's fresh and in season. Currently, these original and delectable treats are only available at selected food festivals or during the weekly farmers' market in Davis, CA, where Fat Face originates.

This summer, however, food fans in the Sacramento area won't have to drive out to Davis. Luu is moving to a bigger location in mid-town Sacramento. Partnering with Olivia Coelho and Trisha Rhomberg, Luu will be operating a cafe within a storefront that will also include an art gallery and a clothing boutique.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Carol's Restaurant | West Sacramento, CA

Sometimes, finding good eats requires going no further than one's own backyard. I don't literally mean our backyard, mind you. So, before you start clamoring for the keys to the car and making your way over to our humble home, let me tell you about a West Sacramento staple that has been serving its customers hearty portions of homemade food since it first opened in 1988.

Carol's Restaurant, located along historic West Capitol Avenue, offers savory dishes that would, dare I say, rival any that you may have grown up with as a child. This is comfort food as its best! From classic deli sandwiches, soups, burgers, and salads to varied breakfast favorites as scrambles, omelets, pancakes and waffles, and much much more. All of the menu items are made from original recipes created by Carol herself and her father, George O'Campo, an accomplished chef and restaurant owner in his own right.

In the handful of times that we've visited the restaurant, the kids have found something new to love each time. Our daughter has bounced back and forth from their breakfast burrito (stuffed with sausage, eggs, homefries, mushrooms, onions, green chiles, and cheese) to their breakfast quesadilla (made fresh with scrambled eggs, bacon, green onions, green chiles, and two kinds of cheese that ooze goodness from two grilled tortillas). Our son calls their corned beef brisket hash and eggs a favorite. As good as that gets, however, it is paled only by his love for their breakfast burger, which he has already ranked among his top ten best. And that's saying a lot from a ten-year-old whose certainly had his fair share of gourmet burgers.

But what also adds to the appeal of Carol's Restaurant is its dedication to top notch service that makes you feel right at home. And why wouldn't it, given that the restaurant is operated not only by Carol, but four generations of children and grandchildren who roll up their sleeves everyday.

Carol's Restaurant is open daily Monday through Friday, but don't come knocking after 2:30p on the weekdays or after 1:30p on the weekends. They only serve breakfast and lunch. Whether the family chose to do this by design, who knows and who cares? If providing good wholesome fare during these hours is what they do best, then why mess with a good thing.

Hope to see you there soon! We'll be the ones sitting at the tables nearest the service counter.

1201 West Capitol Ave.
West Sacramento, CA 95691

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants