#287: Range Kitchen & Tap

420pm, 2/3/2023

https://www.rangeroseville.com/

Yesterday I finally checked out this spot on E. Roseville Parkway at N. Sunrise that I’ve been eyeing for about a year. Its Range Kitchen & Tap, snuggled right in between Bad Bakers and Tandoori Night (both excellent spots BTW). I had this thought in my head about having read about a patio here, and I was imagining it on the back side, looking over Miner’s Ravine, with its bike trail and creek. Once I had arrived and sent my drone up I realized that would be impossible, as there’s an immediate steep drop off into the ravine just past the building. The patio in question was a small one in front, not quite as picturesque as I had been thinking. (Now that I’m about to post this, I see that they have utilized the space in between Starbucks and Bad Bakers as an extended patio, per their website. This must have been what I was remembering)

But not to get off the rails here before we get started, I headed in for a very early dinner around half past four. I stepped inside and was greeted right away from behind the bar. Just inside is a nice little waiting area and a host’s podium. The space is split down the middle with the left side dominated by the front end of the kitchen and the bar. The right side is all dining room, with some high top tables up front by the windows and a room that could probably be reserved for a large group at the back.

There were just a few tables seated and the staff vastly outnumbered the customers at this early hour. Most were getting ready for the impending Friday night dinner rush. The bartender, Marjory(sp?), laid out the beer and dinner menus in front of me. Having already had a few stouts today I decided to get something much lighter, and figured it would go better with the dish I had expected to order. I picked out Hobo Pils (Pilsner, Dust Bowl Brewing Co., Turlock, CA; 5.3%)[$8, -$1 Happy Hour]. It was crisp and clean and just what I was looking for.

With that in hand, Marjory told me about the fresh fish and the wild game options on the menu. The fish was a sea bass that sort of piqued my interest. I can’t recall what the game was, obviously I was focused on the fish vs my other choice, which was the scallops. I asked her recommendation and ultimately decided on the Pan Seared Scallops (wild mushroom risotto with a champagne cream sauce)[$34]. I rarely order scallops outside of sushi but they just called to me this time.

The scallops took just under fifteen minutes to come out. Arranged on a long dish, three good sized (maybe 2in in diameter) scallops were perched atop the fluffy risotto. The risotto had chunks of tasty, earthy mushrooms throughout it. I sliced through the first scallop, using a butter knife, with ease. It was delicate, almost creamy smooth and had a lovely flavor that was complimented nicely with the champagne sauce. The risotto was very nice, especially with the mushrooms, and was great to get a little scallop and mushroom in the same bite. I was very pleased with this dish.

Feeling full I talked myself in and out of asking about dessert a few times before Marjory had presented the little square paper menu, sealing the deal. There were, I think, five options on it. I neglected to snap a picture of it, but some of them were Cheese Cake, Apple Fruit Crisp, and what I ordered, the Chocolate Pot de Crème (all $10). This came out in a little glass jar and was maybe 6-8oz of some of the most dense, rich, decadent chocolate I’ve ever had. I’ve been struggling to come up with an adequate comparison of some substance to describe its substantial texture. The best I’ve come up with is a very cold caramel sauce, yet this was much silkier, somewhere between fudge and mousse. If you like chocolate then you should check this out. Coarse salt sprinkled on top gave the first few bites something extra, an almost peanut buttery flavor. Hell maybe there was peanut butter in it, I don’t know, but it was great.

This is a great little hidden gem of a dinner spot. You won’t see the sign until you’re well into the parking lot, coming from N. Sunrise, as it’s blocked by a tree. I definitely would recommend it.

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#286: University of Beer

12PM, 1/8/2023

https://www.theuob.com/

Hope no one blew away with the wind last night, it was wild! I was able to visit University of Beer before the storm hit for lunch while the weather was quite nice. University of Beer is located on Eureka at Lead Hill in the old Chili’s/Broderick location. We’ve had one of these nearby for a while over by the Blue Oak theaters. I recall when I first saw it I figured it was a huge chain that was just now making its way into our area. To my surprise it turned out to be a relatively small local chain. They have just six locations, the furthest out being Davis and Vacaville.

I’ve been to the Rocklin location a couple times when they were new there, and once to the Sacramento location for trivia. This was my first visit to Roseville’s UoB. One of the reasons I thought this was a chain was the sheer amount of money and effort that clearly goes into building one of these restaurants. Tons of decoration greet you before you have even stepped inside, intricate sculptures formed into beer cans and benches line the pathway to the front door. Inside the decoration fills most flat wall spaces. Hundreds of tap handles are mounted to the walls and ceilings along with sliced up kegs of various sizes. Light fixtures around the bar are made from sliced open beer and liquor bottles. Of all of this, the decoration that I appreciated the most was the little signpost showing all our local breweries. It’s a nice little reminder that this wasn’t a huge corporation that sent over a large container of their standard fixtures to be installed in store #978.

Anyway, I arrived right at noon, and grabbed a seat at the bar and started looking through the 40 or so beers they had on tap. They’ve got a nice mix of styles – IPAs, Stouts, Sours, Lagers, Pilsners, Wheats, Ales, Ciders and Belgians – something for everyone. I started off with the biggest IPA I could find: Juice Sr. from Great Notion, a hazy triple IPA that lives up to its name. This one ranks up there with some of my all time favorite IPAs, bursting with sweet tropical and citrus flavors that hide the sneaky 10.5% ABV. [$10 Goblet, I assume this is about 8oz]. I’m noticing now that they show two prices for all beers. The smaller price might be for flights. I initially thought it was a discounted price for members of their “Mug Club”, but the club page doesn’t say anything about a discount on individual orders, only upgrade specials on pints and some other unrelated benefits. Some clarification on the menu about what these two prices mean would be useful.

Moving on to the food, I hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours and I was ready to get stuffed. Before heading over I had picked out a monster burger and some jazzed up fries to go with it. This was the Beer-Battered Burger (beef patty deep-fried in craft beer-batter, Swiss cheese, citrus jalapeño aioli, topped with waffle fries and spicy ranch)[$20]. I’ve tried a lot of deep-fried things over the years but I think this might be the first burger. I upgraded the standard waffle fries to their Drunken Pig Fries for $5 (crispy waffle fries, beer-braised pulled pork, spicy jalapeño salsa, spicy ranch, melted cheese, sour cream, bacon, and cilantro).

My order took about 14 minutes to prepare and I ordered my second beer just before it arrived. This time I went with Curieux from Allagash, a bourbon barrel-aged Belgian Tripel ($10 Goblet). This was a much lighter beer than the IPA, a bit of a honey sweetness with a dry finish. In hindsight I think I should have ordered these the other way around to have Juice Sr. with the burger.

The upgraded fries were a great choice. The waffle fries were super crisp and stayed that way til the end even with all the toppings. The spicy ranch, bacon and pulled pork all stood out the most in this. The pork was super tender and flavorful. I see they offer this pork in taco and slider options as well.

Getting to the burger, this thing was hefty. The battered patty was golden brown and lent a ton of crispy, crunchy texture to every bite. It sat atop a nice big green leaf of lettuce and hid a couple slices of ripe tomato underneath. Swiss cheese was melted to the top of the patty and held a couple more waffle fries in place nicely. The fries, in turn, held onto the spicy ranch with their many nooks and crannies. This is a wild swing of a burger creation and I think it mostly succeeds. Perhaps the only change I would make is to swap out those fries with some fresh onions and avocado, but that’s partially because I already had waffle fries as a side. It was certainly filling and I cleaned the entire plate up and left very satisfied, again not eating anything for the rest of the day ;).

UoB is such a strange place because it’s so hard not to think of it as a gigantic chain with its meticulous branding and high level of polish. The service was on point throughout my visit. When a patron behind me spilled a drink, two employees sprang into action right away. And when two customers at the bar headed out, there were three staff members descending on the spot to clean up almost before they were out the door. I hope they do well here. I remember being absolutely shocked that Broderick didn’t make it in this location. It’s certainly not a high foot traffic area since it’s the only thing that’s not an office on this block. Maybe that nice big blue sign out front will help entice those driving by to check it out!

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AM28: Melting Grill

1PM, 12/3/2022
https://www.meltinggrillrocklin.com/

I think I saw this place on Yelp or somewhere in passing recently and couldn’t stop thinking about it. This Saturday I got it out of my system with a visit for lunch. Melting Grill is a Korean restaurant located right near the Blue Oaks Century theaters, just across the parking lot. Despite the tasty dishes I had seen photos of, making this place look like a full on table-service type place, it’s more like a fast-casual cafe. They offer a bunch of small-medium plates with a modern take on many traditional dishes. They also offer a large bubble tea menu.

When I arrived and stepped inside there were just a couple customers sitting, waiting for their tea orders. The friendly woman running the front welcomed me in before I had even spotted her behind the counter. The space is medium sized but feels spacious and open. Two long and bright LED strips running the length of the dining room provided a ton of light, so much so that I was distracted by them at first and wasn’t sure where to sit for the best lighting. Once I had settled in I quickly forgot about them though. First things first, up to the counter to order.

I had looked over the menu a bit before heading over and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. I went over the entire menu once more to make sure my selections were there and see if there was anything I had missed. Honestly just about the entire menu looked like stuff I’d order, but I stuck with my earlier choices. These were:

  • Pork Belly Musubi (Slow cooked pork belly topped with Korean spicy BBQ sauce) [$5]
    • Hard for me to pass up something with pork belly. You can order one or two pieces ($5/9.50)
  • Corn Cheese (Korean style of corn cheese; sweet and savory flavor with sweet corn and mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with green onion and sesame seed) [$6.50]
  • Spicy Creamy Salmon (Salmon with spicy creamy sauce, shredded imitation crab, wonton skin chips, lemon wedge and rice) [$18]

My two appetizers arrived together in just under 10 minutes. The pork belly musubi was a pretty big chunk of rice with the belly perched on top. I must not have read the full description because I was a little surprised by the spicy BBQ flavor of the sauce. It was not a flavor I was expecting at all. At the time I had a tough time putting my finger on the exact flavor. On the menu I see a random entree, hanging out in the “Items” section (which seems like more of a sides or catchall for random misc things), called Cajun Seafood. That’s exactly what I was tasting, it was sort of a Cajun spice. It wasn’t all that spicy, but it was tasty. I had hoped for a bit more tender chunk of pork. This needed a bit of work to get a bit out, good thing I had both a fork and chopsticks to work with, because I would have struggled with chopsticks alone.

The corn cheese dish was served in a black square dish with a handle that made me think cast iron skillet, especially because she tested the bottom before setting it down on the table to make sure it wasn’t too hot. Indeed it was quite toasty and the cheese was nicely melted into the loads of corn. This was a delicious appetizer and so simple. A very nice blend of sweet and savory.

On to the main dish, which came out about six minutes after the appetizers, perfect timing. This was incredible. The imitation crab was hard to spot, covered in the orange sauce and blending in with the rice underneath it, but I could smell it as soon as I brought a scoop up to my mouth. The portions were good, although it’s hard to tell in the photo. The salmon was a good 3×4” fillet, perfectly tender. Underneath it was a heaping serving of rice. I was glad to have all of it to soak up all the delicious and creamy sauce. I didn’t really get any spiciness from this at all. The cream sauce tamped down whatever was there. Although I enjoyed the crispy wonton strips, they felt a little out of place in this dish, at least with the fork I had continued using from earlier. Probably easier to grab these with chopsticks but I just used my fingers. I inhaled this dish and picked at some of the remaining corn before the “full” signal made it’s way to my brain.

I very much enjoyed this visit and it mostly lived up to my high-ish expectations, based solely on photos of all the dishes on yelp. I could see myself coming back here for sure, there’s still much to explore on the menu.

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