Appetizers
January 16, 2008
Chocolate With A Tequila Chaser

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Midtown Sacramento's thriving culinary scene got two bright additions in recent days - Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates and Azul, a Mexican cafe and tequila bar. Ginger Elizabeth Powers, shown here in her small but busy L Street shop, is cranking out all sorts of exotic chocolates, but tequila enthusiasts will have to wait until Friday before they can belly up to the Azul bar for a margarita. That's when Carlos Ulloa, also seen here, and his brother Jose Ulloa are to get their tequila inventory and their liquor license. In the meantime, however, their kitchen is going full blast.

At Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, Powers, former dessert chef at Masque Ristorante in El Dorado Hills, is producing chocolate treats that range from the everyday (bittersweet chocolate bar, chocolate-chip cookies, chocolate covered candied almonds) to the esoteric (gianduja cake, cafe cremeaux, Parisian macaroons in flavors like espresso and almond). Sometimes, she combines the familiar with the unfamiliar, as with her hot chocolate, available in four versions, from milk chocolate to "Oaxacan spicy." On any given day, she will have a dozen or so individual chocolates, including such flavors as lychee rose, raspberry, peppermint, creme brulee, toasted coconut, Meyer lemon and peanut butter. And she's already putting up Valentine's Day gift baskets.

At Azul, the brothers Ulloa, born in Jalisco but longtime Sacramento residents, are calling upon traditional family recipes for many of the dishes on their sweeping menu. They're counting on their tortilla soup with pasilla chile peppers, the carne asada with grilled red onions and a chile ancho sauce, the chile relleno, the housemade tamales and a ceviche of red snapper and shrimp to quickly emerge as signature dishes. And just wait, says Carlos Ulloa, until you get a taste of the margarita made with ancho chile powder and blackberry. The brothers will be stocking around 30 tequilas, all based on blue agave.

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, 1801 L St., is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays; (916)706-1738.

Azul, 1050 20th St., is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays (breakfast is to be served 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays and Sundays); (916) 447-4040.

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