July 10, 2013
Capital Dime preview impresses with concept, execution

IMG_0333.JPGBy Janelle Bitker

Capital Dime is looking promising after a preview event on Wednesday night.

The hotly anticipated restaurant comes from proprietor Noah Zonca, previously of The Kitchen fame. The goal? Make the farm-to-fork movement accessible - and affordable - to a wide audience. Zonca wants it to be a neighborhood restaurant, and the vibe is formal enough for business luncheons without being stiff. Better yet, most of the menu is around $10.

"It's been difficult to pull off," Zonca said. "I can tell you that it's taken 20 plus years of building relationships with my purveyors to be able to get these price points."

Zonca wanted to open a couple weeks ago, but he's still waiting on his liquor license. Once it's in hand, The Dime is ready for business.

Here are some highlights: The Dime will have a wine program with bottles under $50, with some promised to be in the $20 range. Zonca's favorite item on the menu is the pastrami, cured and smoked in house. There will be brunch featuring three different benedicts - a traditional, a country-style on biscuits and a benedict with applewood-smoked and braised pork. At the preview, the pork was served as an appetizer with crème fraîche, and it was smoky and sweet.

"I explain it as the food that chefs eat," he said. "It's going to be fun. I'm excited."

On the farm-to-fork topic, Zonca is working with Delta Island Organic Farm and is hoping to set up a cattle ranch for true grass-fed beef. And behind the bar is Rene Dominguez, formerly of Ella Dining Room & Bar and inventor of the prized White Linen cocktail.

Dominguez was serving up two cocktails on Wednesday - a black Manhattan, with amaro instead of vermouth, and the "Boxers and Bobbysocks," with gin, bitters, muddled cherries and rosemary. It was piney and refreshing.

Food-wise, we were served artichoke dip on crostini, which packed a nice, subtle heat, alongside a sampling of pulled pork, as mentioned above. Then there was a tangy watermelon salad, with shrimp, squash blossoms, fresh mozzarella, salty Bonita flakes and fish sauce, all on a tea leaf. That was followed by a bold pastrami slider alongside fries, which while tasty, did get soggy quickly under melted cheese.

The meal ended with a simple, soft chocolate-chip cookie. Zonca said he won't have a separate dessert menu, and at this point, there's no pastry chef.

Come down to The Dime on July 14 for the Bastille Day celebration. If the liquor license is attained in time, they'll be serving cocktails on their impressive back patio. And check out the video below to hear from Zonca himself, see the space and eye some dishes.

Capital Dime: 1801 L St., Suite 50

November 19, 2012
Live chat: Who makes the best pizza in Sacramento?

August 16, 2012
Bon Appetit chooses its 10 best new restaurans in the U.S.

After traveling, tasting and judging, the culinary experts at Bon Appetit have announced their picks for "The Hot 10: America's Best New Restaurants." Two of them are in California.

Taking the No. 1 spot is State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, co-owned by husband-wife Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski.

The small plates "arrive on either a dim sum-like trolly or a tray," says the Bon Appetit review. "Each dish is identified with a price: whipped smoked trout with croutons and peas, $5; duck neck dumplings, $6; crispy kimchi pork belly in a broth with clams and tofu, $8."

The California state bird is the quail, and State Bird Provisions has an interpretation of it: "Dusted in pumpkin seeds and breadcrumbs, deep-fried, and served with onion jam and Parmigiano-Reggiano."

We called the restaurant, but no one picked up. However, Bon Appetit quoted Brioza: "Eating should be fun. We want to throw a sense of adventure into the dining experience."

State Bird Provisions is at 1529 Fillmore St.; (415) 795-1272,

Recipes and reviews accompany each pick at

The nine other winners are, from No. 2 to No. 10:
Blanca in Brooklyn
Battersby in Brooklyn
Luce in Portland
Catbird Seat in Nashville
Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis
Little Serow in Washington, D.C.
Oxheart in Houston
Baco Mercat in Los Angeles
Cakes & Ale in Decatur, Ga.

May 18, 2012
Nine California restaurants among the nation's most expensive

The eye-opening check at the end of the meal seems not to be an obstacle for high-rolling foodies with a penchant for high-end restaurants.

Now the online Daily Meal - which reports on all things food and drink - has compiled its list of "The 25 Most Expensive Restaurants in America." Nine of them are in California, named here according to their rankings. Not surprisingly, most hold Michelin stars.

The No. 1 spot goes to Masa in New York City, where the average check is $1,269.

April 26, 2012
'Bourbon Experience' takes fans into the heart of Kentucky

kentucky_bourbon.JPGSome whisky isn't just whisky. Over the past 20 years or so, fine bourbons have become the American versions of French cognacs. Imbibers of high-end bourbons have been advised to sip them slowly, savoring their complex characteristics.

Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, declared by Congress in 1964 as "America's only native spirit." As much as bourbon connoisseurs love the fiery, amber-colored liquid, it's not likely that many of them will make the pilgrimage to Kentucky's bourbon country to tour the distilleries.

Perhaps the next best thing is "The Kentucky Bourbon Experience: A Visual Tour of Kentucky's Bourbon Distilleries," with informative text and dramatic photographs by Leon Howlett (Acclaim, $39.95, 192 pages).

Inside, we tour eight bourbon distilleries and get to know their heritages and bourbon-making techniques. Professional photographer Howlett adds drama with striking photos of the countryside surrounding the distilleries. This is a fine visual cocktail.

The bourbon-makers covered in the book are Barton, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve. Cheers.

More information:

March 20, 2012
Following in the footsteps of Olive Garden reviewer Marilyn Hagerty

Columnist Marilyn Hagerty's quaint review of the new-to-her-town Olive Garden restaurant in the March 7 edition of the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota caused a firestorm across cyberspace (

Those observers with not enough to do were quick to show how clever they are by parodying the 85-year-old reporter's straightforward assessment of the restaurant, one of 750 franchises in the national chain.

The negative viral response to her review served to partially pull back the curtain and reveal some of the insular arrogance infused within the national sideshow of uncredentialed culinary snobbery

Then a legion of her defenders (including "No Reservations" host Anthony Bourdain) stepped up, calling Hagerty's review a refreshing reality check. .

Hagerty became an instant celebrity, her review a hot topic. She made the rounds of TV talk shows and was treated to a whirlwind dining tour of New York City. Her casual lunch at a hot dog stand there was duly covered by the New York Times. Still, Hagerty says she remains puzzled over all the fuss.

We took a cue from her review and dropped in on the Olive Garden in Folsom, sort of an "in the footsteps of Marilyn Hagerty" dining adventure.

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