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Salpicón de Pulpo
Aïoli Bodega Española
A longstanding customer favorite, salpicón de pulpo is one of the kitchen's most delectable tapas. Chunks of octopus are tossed with soft bits of potato, onions and smoky roasted bell peppers, and the ensemble gets a hint of zippy heat from the addition of red chili flakes. I like to pair this small plate with Aïoli's judías blancas con atún, a delicious tumble of white beans with seared tuna, mint and kalamata olives, along with a feisty glass of Spanish red wine. 1800 L St., Sacramento; (916) 447-9440; aiolibodega.com

 

Grand Marnier Soufflé
The Firehouse Restaurant
Want to impress someone? Order a freshly baked, towering Grand Marnier soufflé. This poufy delight is brought to the table with a proud flourish. Then the server makes a hole in the center of the soufflé and pours in vanilla-scented crème anglaise and a drizzle of ruby-red raspberry sauce. Dig in and watch the airy creation slowly deflate as you gobble up its custardy, pillowy interior. If you want to be extra decadent, sip a glass of sparkling wine with this luxurious dessert. (Hint: It takes 20 minutes for the kitchen to prepare the soufflé, so plan accordingly.) 1112 Second St., Old Sacramento; (916) 442-4772; firehouseoldsac.com

 

"Brick" Chicken
Paul Martin's American Bistro
Few dishes are as satisfying as Paul Martin's straightforward, expertly cooked brick chicken. It's not actually baked under a brick; the half chicken is placed in an iron skillet and topped with another iron skillet, then baked until it's nicely browned yet moist. Served with lumpy mashed potatoes and garlic confit, this is an especially good dish to seek out on a cold, wet day or when you simply need some cheering up. 1455 Eureka Road, Roseville; (916) 783-3600; paulmartinsamericanbistro.com

 

Lamb Shawarma
Sam's Restaurant
Funky, colorful Sam's, located just off the UC Davis campus, is a big hit with college students, who cram into the little space to order the restaurant's fantastic shawarmas. These Mediterranean wraps—composed on the freshest, most delicious pita bread I have ever tasted—are stuffed with meat that's been cut off a vertical rotisserie and piled with crisp cucumber slices, fresh tomato and lettuce, then drizzled with your choice of tahini or yogurt sauce. (My advice: Ask for both; the combination is delicious.) I think the lamb shawarma is the best of the bunch, but other customers swear by the chicken and beef versions. Guess you'll just have to decide for yourself. Note: Sam's is a cash-only establishment. 247 Third St., Davis; (530) 758-2855

 

Two Color Fish
Taste of Thai
I'm crazy about this dish, frequently offered as a daily special at this friendly Broadway restaurant. Succulent chunks of salmon and halibut are battered and fried, tempura style, then quickly sautéed with chilies, garlic sauce, red bell peppers and onion. The pretty dish, garnished with delicate fried basil leaves, is large enough to provide ample leftovers—or better yet, to share with a friend. 1628 Broadway, Sacramento; (916) 444-5598; tasteofthaisac.net

 

Rancher's Breakfast
Putah Creek Cafe
Really, really hungry? Make the drive to the charming town of Winters for a sumptuous breakfast at Putah Creek Cafe. This homey restaurant serves some of the best morning food in the region, and it also offers a mouthwatering lineup of house-baked pastries that you can take home to enjoy later. The marvelous Rancher's Breakfast—two eggs, two huge pancakes, your choice of bacon, sausage or ham, a huge pile of Yukon gold home fries and toast—will satisfy even the most ravenous diner. 1 Main St., Winters; (530) 795-2682; putahcreekcafe.com

 

Prawn Croquettes
58 Degrees & Holding Co.
If you like crab cakes, you'll be captivated by 58 Degrees' cute little prawn croquettes. Brown and crunchy on the outside, the dishy discs of seafoody goodness are embellished with diced onion, bell pepper, garlic and bits of bacon and are served three to an order. I like to nibble the croquettes along with the kitchen's addictive spiced nuts and a crisp California Sauvignon Blanc from 58 Degrees' extensive wine selection. 1217 18th St., Sacramento; (916) 442-5858; 58degrees.com

 

Grilled Calamari With White Beans
The Press Bistro & Bar
Respected for its excellent selection of small plates, The Press has an especially deft hand with seafood. I've always relished this elegantly simple grilled calamari appetizer, served with tender white beans, sweet roasted red bell peppers and a peppery tuft of arugula. The smoky calamari is surprisingly tender, and the frisky snap of the arugula is a great foil for the gentle flavors of the beans and bell peppers. 1809 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; (916) 444-2566; thepressbistro.com

 

Handmade Ravioli
Mulvaney's Building & Loan
Handmade raviolis appear frequently on Mulvaney's ever-changing menu, and their fillings and sauces are always a beautiful showcase of seasonal products. The winter greens-stuffed raviolis are some of my favorites, but I was recently blown away by the incredible grilled vegetable ravioli, napped in a vibrant, refreshing pea-and-mint pesto. Unique and always delicious, the raviolis are one dish you won't want to miss when visiting this lauded midtown restaurant. 1215 19th St., Sacramento; (916) 441-6022; mulvaneysbl.com

 

SNAPSHOTS

Capital Stage 10 Anniversary Season Kick-Off

Capital Stage 10 Anniversary Season Kick-Off

Published: Monday, September 15, 2014