Dine Downtown Sacramento Review – Ella, The Porch, & Chops!

Ella Dining Room & Bar

By Leia Ostermann

 It was my date’s first time at Ella Dining Room and Bar. I was nervous at the prospect of an all vegetarian menu for Dine Downtown, but in typical Ella style, we were impressed and full by the end of our meal.

Ella was at capacity at 8 p.m. when we arrived for our 8:15 p.m. reservation. We were greeted by the host and ushered to the bar where we sampled Ella’s “real” Gin and Tonics before our meal. By the time we were seated, we were hungry and excited. We waved away the general menu and settled down for three courses of pretending to be vegetarians.

The best choice we made was deciding to add wine pairings (an extra $21 per person). The pre-selected wine choices were specifically paired with each option you could choose on the Dine Downtown menu.

The first course was an option between soup and salad. We both chose the garlic, parsnip soup. It was full of flavor and the perfect start for a cold night in January. It was paired with a light, crisp white wine.

The second and main course was a choice between Grilled Cauliflower Gratin and Handcut Papparedelle. We chose both. The pasta was served with a poached egg on the top, fulfilling my desire for protein, and was served in a delicious sauce of leeks and chili and lemon. The cauliflower gratin was served with roasted beets and smoked gouda, reminding me that cauliflower can be delicious under the guidance of a chef. This course was paired with a bold, red wine.

The final course was the highlight of the meal: dessert. Having been to Ella before, I was familiar with the Sticky Toffee Pudding and chose this standing favorite to end my night. My date chose the Passion Fruit Tart with toasted vanilla bean meringue – a fresh, zesty way to end the meal and not nearly as heavy as my toffee pudding. Both were paired with dessert wines that complemented and highlighted our different choices.

It was a great Dine Downtown success by Ella, made even better by our amazing server, Joe, who provided excellent service and conversation (and a great story about a safari in Africa). We left the restaurant happy, warm and full.

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The Porch

By Kelly Conroy

Kelly Rathburn Conroy
Kelly Rathburn Conroy

 

I look forward to Dine Downtown every year. It’s an excuse to eat at a fancy restaurant and participate in a Sacramento event. And this year, with $1 from each meal benefiting the Food Literacy Center, I was doubly excited. Who ddoesn’tlove food-based philanthropy?

As a vegetarian, my options are narrowed a bit during Dine Downtown, but I had never been to The Porch (dine downtown menu here) and their southern twist on vegetarian fare looked awfully tasty. Though the spinach salad did come with bacon infused dressing, it was easily switched out and didn’t taste like it was missing anything. My husband devoured the meat-filled gumbo for his first course, which smelled amazing and I was a little jealous until our main courses arrived.

The vegetarian gnocchi was dense and covered in butter. It would have been enough food to feed two people and it came with three crispy, incredible buttermilk biscuits. I happily took home some leftover gnocchi but ate all three biscuits as quickly as I could. This vegetarian dish was seriously filling comfort food.

The Mississippi Mud Pie arrived in a mason jar and it was as delicious as it was adorable. A thick layer of whipped cream topped layers of chocolate that I savored for as long as I could. I was fat and happy by the end, but I sure would have eaten a second Mississippi Mud Pie had it been offered to me!

theporch
The Porch, 1815 K Street

 


Chops Steak & Seafood Bar

By Shawna Malvini Redden 

Shawna Malvini Redden
Shawna Malvini Redden

 

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it wasn’t until we were nestled in our booth at Chops Steak and Seafood Bar that I realized my husband and I hadn’t enjoyed a proper date night in months. Happily, Dine Downtown 2015 offered the perfect opportunity.

Nestled in our booth across from politicos just off work from the Capitol, we decided to try all of the options on Chops’ Dine Downtown Menu. (To start our meal we sampled the tastiest crab cakes I’ve ever eaten, unfortunately not on the dine downtown menu. Our waiter, Manny, didn’t lie! For those who like the crab-to-bread ratio high on the crab side, these are for you!) For our dine downtown entrees my husband, T, picked the Caesar salad with focaccia croutons and the Brick Chicken. Yours truly tried the Spinach Salad with roasted golden beets, red onions and toasted pepitas, and the Top Sirloin smothered in caramelized onion truffle demi-glace (diet be damned).

All told, the food was very good. Large portions sizes, great flavors (save for some extra salt here and there). The Dine Downtown choices were less adventurous than what we might normally order from a full menu, and I was surprised not to see a fish option.

However, we really enjoyed both entrees. The half chicken was well seasoned with delicately crispy skin, and the Sirloin way more tender than I would have expected from the cut. I love the steak’s caramelized onion sauce which complemented, but didn’t overpower the flavor of the meat. The mashed potatoes—both my whole grain mustard and T’s buttermilk—were to DIE for, made of smashed red potatoes and magic, apparently. I also really appreciated the veggies, which were plentiful and perfectly prepared—tender-crisp broccolini for me, and sautéed green beans and peppers for T.

Rounding out the meal, we enjoyed the single dessert option, a warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and caramel drizzle.  Very tasty, with lots of crunchy topping. Our portions were so generous ,we left with a doggie bag and meals for the next day.

We look forward to returning to Chops, probably in the Spring time to take advantage of the ginormous patio and its fabulous view of the Capitol building!

chopsfood
Chops’ Crab Cakes (not on Dine Downtown menu), Brick Chicken, Top Sirloin Steak and Apple Crisp.

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