Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ella Again

1131 K Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Sacramento Bee has brief blurb about Ella in their dining section:

"In the heart of Downtown, the family behind The Kitchen and Selland's Market CafĂ© brings you the region’s most anticipated new dining destination, Ella Dining Room and Bar. Ella offers warm, welcoming ambiance in an inspiring space that evokes effortless European rustic luxury. Our design team from Amsterdam has created an environment that is visionary yet timeless, dramatic yet comforting. Ella brings together the finest quality ingredients from this bountiful region and all over the world to create authentic and honest fine food that will nourish body and soul. Celebrated Chef and Owner Randall Selland welcomes you into his home, where you can savor the joys of friends, family, and great food and wine. Service is earnest, gracious and refined. Ella has signature handcrafted cocktails, an eclectic and impressive wine list, and a fresh seafood Raw Bar. Perfect for business lunches, celebrations, and everyday. Walking distance from Convention Center, Capital, theaters, and hotels.

Executive chef: Randall Selland"

The concept is the sharing of small and large plates family style so everyone gets to taste a wider array of the deliciousness. There are so many wonderful things on the menu it is tough to know where to start, and a first time diner should be willing to take some guidance from their server.

The Friday after Thanksgiving we decided to reward my hard-working, hard-cooking mom for all her efforts by treating her to Ella.

Now among her peers, Ella has a reputation for poor service for some reason. Most of her co-workers go here for lunch on a work day, her office being just a few blocks away, walking distance really. We, however, had an amazing experience here last spring on the night of out 10th anniversary. I have been dying to go back ever since. Fortunately for us, who should greet us as we walked in the door but Steven our waiter from last time. One of the best servers I have had the pleasure of spending time with. He treated us well and made sure we had everything we needed, that our courses came in the right order and the food pairings were well balanced.

We started with the oysters! D, the oyster newb, has fallen head first down the oyster rabbit hole. He now wants to start with oysters everywhere we go. Tonight Ella was featuring Beau Soleil, tiny beautiful oysters, and even Mom tucked into to a few of these. I am so proud.

We sipped at a half bottle of pink champagne with our oysters and starters. Nicolas Feuillate Brut Rose, one of my faves.

I love the attention to detail at Ella. From the pics it seems really fancy-pants. But you would be equally comfy here in jeans and a nice top as you would be hosting a formal event.

Next out were the meatballs. Probably my favorite dish of the night. Beef, pork and prosciutto meatballs with garlic herbs and crushed rec chili pepper flakes.

The perfect balance of meats, herbs and spices with just a little tomato sauce to add some wetness to the texture. These were roasted in the oven to give the balls a nice crustiness, and a sheep's milk ricotta balanced out the acidity of the sauce.

Next we shared a pasta course. Typically D prefers a red sauce, but Steven heartily endorsed the papparedelle with a poached egg, crispy prosciutto and a lemon butter sauce.

He hand mixed the wide housemade ribbons right at out table.

This was truly sublime. Buttery and rich, yet split between three people did not overpower the senses nor our appetites.


For the next course we shared a short rib on pureed sweet potatoes.

I always love a short rib, and I loved sharing this one with three people so we had plenty of room to indulge in the chef's veggies. Steven suggested we pair the luxurious fattiness of the meat and the richness of the sweet potatoes with the bitterness of a broccoli rabe.

Again, we taste crushed red chili pepper flakes, garlic and Parmesan cheese, a classic preparation.

After we finished the champagne we moved onto a Pinot Noir. The boys chose one from the Santa Lucia Highlands that was perfect. With such a run on overly cold red wines recently, it was refreshing to be served a red wine at the correct just slightly cooler than room temperature temp.

I asked for it to be decanted because I am just that god damned fancy.


The last course of the evening was a cod special. I think that is what it was, and since it is not on the menu I cannot reference. However, it was stuffed with crab and accompanied by a few hearty gnocchi.

Just beautiful.

And the last veg was Brussels sprouts with bacon. Oven roasted to perfection, soft on the outside with maybe a trace of caramelization, and firm on the inside.

I have become fascinated with taking pics of bathrooms. I think this started with the bathroom pics last summer in the chaotic Cha Cha room in Echo-Lake.

I have even considered starting a second blog, a bathroom blog.

I toy with the idea.

We had a lovely time and a perfect end to a perfect holiday. Thank you Steve and Ella.

Ella Dining Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

3 Fires Lounge

Around the corner from our favorite dog friendly Sheraton Grand hotel on J Street in Sacramento, there is a new lounge/restaurant/bar called 3 Fires Lounge. We stopped in here Friday evening to meet M and have a drink before dinner.

This new spot is connected to the Residence Inn by Marriott. The lounge is open to the Marriott's lobby. This bar is nicer than the bars at either the Sheraton or the Hyatt, both very close by.

You can peek through the back of the restaurant/lounge/bar right into the Marriott lobby.

Lots of room for lounging. Don't look for any fireplaces. The "3 Fires" refers to the three Native American tribes who own the business.

The bar is gorgeous with a decent Happy Hour for drinks and snacks, with a menu heavily reliant on comfort food.

We snacked on beet root chips with caramelized onion dip.

Really, chips and dip in a prom dress. But tasty tasty tasty.

Great service and big strong drinks.

Thanksgiving at Mom's

When I walked in the door Thursday afternoon, M was at the gravy stage. The turkey was setting on the side counter and the juices for the gravy were being separated from the fat to make a delicious creamy sauce to pour over everything.

She uses a baster and one of those cups that naturally separates the fat from the juices.

Next it all goes into the giant iron pan whose wooden handle has been missing for as long as I can remember.

Cream is added to the roux, fat and juices to fill it out...

And M squeezes every last bit of turkey juice and pan crackling possible to make the gravy deliciously fragrant and savory.

And we stir. The stirring process goes on for about an hour and everyone pitches in.

There are always potatoes, but never enough. These were gone about 15 minutes after we sat down to the table. She puts cream cheese and a butt load of butter in these suckers. Maybe it is for the best that there aren't enough for seconds and thirds, or we might all suffer coronaries sometime in the evening.

The cook drinks wine....and the wine we were swilling:

E started us out with this 1999 Pine Ridge Zin, and he was a little worried it might be too old. But it was sublime.

At the table we poured out this 2005 Cab-Franc....

A 2003 Grenache and,

A 2006 Pinot Noir which, in my opinion, goes perfectly with turkey.

For salad, M made a watercress, pear and pomegranite mixture that was the perfect foil to all the richness on our plates.

Cutting pears....

The legendary potatoes:

And the infamous gravy:

My plate:

It doesn't look like that much food, but by the time I had eaten it I was so full I had a tummy ache. Maybe it was the amazing fresh crab appetizers at B's house.

The table always looks so beautiful. It has always been a dream of M's to open her own B&B. When I look at her holiday table and eat her food I can easily see her being a success. She loves to play hostess.

La Piece de Resistance:

This year she dry brined the turkey instead of wet brining it. It tasted just as good and she said it was much easier. She puts it in a giant bag with Kosher salt and lots of herbs and brines it without liquid breast side down into the salt for three days. The day before Thanksgiving she turns it over so the back gets some salt face time and then pops it into the oven Thanksgiving morning.

K made the dessert and was it delicious.

She treated us to a Martha Stewart apple and cranberry pie....

What I love about this is that it actually looked, tasted and felt in your mouth like real fruit.

Only one thing makes me sad on Thanksgiving night.

I am of the ilk that prefers wait time between dinner and dessert. I think a game should be played and an after dinner drink should be consumed in order for us to work up to our dessert apppetites.

Alas, I could not do this giant slice of beautiful appley-goodness justice. The crust was amazing and I nommed some of that down. All in all it was a wonderful night with amazing food and good company. Even the political conversation did not send the good spirits astray.