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2005 Best of Sacramento -- Editors' Picks


Posted on May 29


Editors' Picks


In what has become our favorite feature of the year, Sacramento magazine's subscribers and editors weigh in with their opinions about Sacramento's best. Subscribers had the exclusive opportunity of voting for bests in a variety of categories, while the editors elected several more that are worthy of recognition. From TV news anchors and radio announcers to salons, shops and more, the winners are as diverse as the region we call home. Congratulations to all!

Best Reason To Believe Life is a Cabaret

Gayiel Von Forbes magazine listed this Sacramento darling as one of the leading ladies in the world of cabaret. Listen to her belt out jazz, blues, torch, standards and show tunes, and you'll understand the Forbes nod; see her live chatting with her enraptured audience, mixing in some shtick with the music, perhaps sassing pianist Jim Fingerz Jordan when he accompanies her during her cabaret shows and you'll think the list could have stopped with Von. Throughout her 25-year career, this singer/actress/vocal coach/producer Von's very involved in encouraging young talent; I'm dedicated to the preservation of live performance, she says has performed in Europe and the United States and alongside Bob Hope, Mel Torme and many others. I have to sing, it's like breathing for me, Von says. Von performs her one-woman cabaret shows four times a year and also makes occasional appearances with Jordan aboard the Delta King. Go to gayielvon.com to find out her next appearance or to book her for an event.

Best Air Hair

CBS 13/UPN 31 KMAX From anchor/reporter Kurtis Ming's sleek, gelled number to anchor/reporter Michele Kane's silky, shiny blond locks to anchor/reporter Marcy Valenzuela's contrasting highlights, the crew at CBS 13 has a lot of good hair days. Over at sister station UPN 31 KMAX, viewers of Good Day Sacramento could tune in for the 'dos almost as much as for the news. Hair divas such as co-host Marianne McClary, traffic anchor and human-interest reporter Tina Macuha and news anchor Abbott Dutton never disappoint. Perhaps both stations' casts take cues from Good Day Sacramento resident funnyman Mark S. Allen who, with his ever-changing styles and his proliferation of hair products, has long reigned as king of Sacramento on-air hair.

Best Drink Reflecting the Restaurant's Name

Jimi Hendrix at Icon Restaurant & Lounge Made with Hendrick's Gin and dry vermouth, this martini goes down smooth much like a Jimi Hendrix guitar riff. We expect nothing less from a restaurant named Icon, where the walls are decoratively plastered with photos of various cultural icons, including Hendrix. (1431 R St., 916-492-0004; iconsacramento.com)

Best Local Designing Women

Jan and Jill Dudensing Designing mostly women's apparel under the label Valentine Gallery (sometimes seen as Val Gal, too), these 35-year-old identical twins have attracted the attention of big-time fashion rag Women's Wear Daily for their innovative designs such as an Italian-wool tweed mini bubble skirt, a pink leather trench coat and, new this season, a detailed military jacket from their fall collection titled Capone. Jill wears the hat of designer, while Jan in her second year of law school handles the business side of things. You can find their duds, which range from $60 to $625, in stores and boutiques across the nation. To find their designs locally, log on to valentinegallery.com.

Best Spot To Shop That Makes It Easier Being Green

Green Sacramento Owned by husband-and-wife team Joy McCrea and Josh Daniels, Green Sacramento is the first store in the area to sell environmentally sensitive building products, flooring, paint, furniture, bedding and more. The couple opened the store this past March after noticing, while remodeling their Sacramento-area home, the dearth of local retail establishments that carry environmentally friendly products. McCrea says most customers are drawn to the store for health concerns but are often pleasantly surprised by the beauty and quality of their products. (1837 Fulton Ave., 916-483-4332; greensacramento.com)

Best Teenaged Swordspeople

Emily Cheng, 15, Anika Davis, 18, and Leonon Reid, 15 This summer, Sacramento hosted the 2005 U.S. Fencing National Championships at the Sacramento Convention Center a competition that attracted more than 3,000 hopefuls from across the country. These three youths, all members of the Sacramento Fencing Club, have made local fencing fans proud. Their results at the 2005 Nationals: Emily Cheng: Bronze Medal, YouthÃÂ'14 Women's Sabre Anika Davis: 12th place, Division I Women's Sabre Leonon Reid: Bronze Medal, YouthÃÂ'14 Men's Sabre

Best Place To Indulge Your Inner Chocoholic

Le Grand Confectionary This small shop in Town & Country Village delivers a big dose of chocolate bliss. All of its award-winning truffles (the Chocolate Decadence truffle is to die for) are made on the premises, and 80 percent of its chocolates, hard candies and sugar-free varieties also are made in-house. Like your chocolate in caricature? Le Grand has more than 500 chocolate molds to choose from, including an edible gift basket. (2605 El Paseo Lane, 916-973-0249; sacchocolate.com)

Best Group of Musical Brainiacs

Bucho These eight lads who perform a finger-tapping, hip-swaying, feet-moving combination of jazz, R&B, neo-soul, Afro-Cuban, hip-hop, Latin and funk have opened for the likes of Michelle Branch, Coolio and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, but they're second to no one in terms of musical education. All have degrees in music or currently are studying it: Lead singer Gerald Pease at UC Santa Cruz; trumpet player Justin Williams at Stanford; trumpet player Anthony Coleman II at The Brubeck Institute in Stockton; trumpet player Leon Moore at Sacramento City College; bass player Josh Lippi, drummer Derek Taylor, organ and piano player Ben Schwier and sax player at San Francisco State University. These guys prove that smart guys rock! (916-442-5344; ibucho.com).

Best Place To Brush Up on Your High School French

Cafe Rolle No reason to pardon your French here: You're welcome to speak or practice, if it's been awhile the world's most romantic language the first Thursday of the month starting at 5:30 p.m. There is no cost to attend (although you'll surely want to partake in Rolle's authentic French cuisine) and all levels of fluency are welcome. Contact Cafe Rolle at (916) 455-9140 or Alliance FranÂÂ'aise de Sacramento at (916) 453-1723 for more information. (5357 H St., caferolle.com)

Best Margarita Accompaniment

Mariachi Jalisco Most of the members of this mariachi band hail from the Mexican state of Jalisco, said to be the birthplace of mariachi. The musicians Hugo Alcala, Leo Alcala, Adan Benitez, Aaron Bernardino, Guadalupe Bernardino, Sergio Chavez, Pedro Galvan, Federico Martinez and Jose Topete are the real deal according Ernesto Jimenez, owner of Ernesto's Mexican Food and Z-calo restaurants. What makes a good mariachi band is that they are traditionalists, Jimenez says. They are classic mariachi. They get it right. You can see Mariachi Jalisco every Friday from 8 to 11 p.m. at Ernesto's and at Z-calo on special occasions. And they're available for hire by calling Leo Alcala at (916) 802-0519.

Best Place To Suds Your Dog

Launder Dog Providing tubs, shampoo, towels, combs, brushes and even hair dryers, Launder Dog is the perfect place to wash that dirty dog. For a few extra coins, you can upgrade the shampoo for your precious pooch perhaps with some Plum Silky, a shampoo and conditioner combo made with silk protein that smells like plumeria. With four separate waist-high tubs (adjustable to fit different-size dogs), there's room for you and three dog-owning friends. (Tubs are available on a first-come, first-served basis.) Or scrub away and maybe strike up a new friendship with a fellow dog lover. Full-service grooming is available by appointment and an extra charge. (2600 Alta Arden, 916-979-9274; launderdog.com)

Best Renaissance Man With Greasy Hands

Doug Brauner He's known as The Car Czar. This certified auto mechanic is a reporter on UPN 31 KMAX's popular morning show Good Day Sacramento (where he does more than just report on cars: he's the computer tech reporter, a general reporter and an occasional anchor); he writes a weekly car column for The Sacramento Bee; he hosts a talk-radio show about what else? cars, on Sports 1140 KHTK AM Sunday mornings from 7 to 10; and he owns his own car repair shops: The CAR CZAR Auto Repair at 2301 El Camino Ave. in Sacramento and at 7433 Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights. If that's not enough, he's the father of 2 1/2-year-old twins! Doug, when do you sleep?!

Best Bellies

Sacred Ground Tribal Bellydance With their sinuous bellies and arms that seem to sculpt the air, the seven women of Sacred Ground Tribal Bellydance make this ancient, physically demanding form of dance look easy. Under the direction of Kari VanderZwaag, Sacred Ground performs and teaches American tribal-style belly-dancing, in which women often dance as a group and wear rich, colorful costuming that's more tasteful than tawdry. Check them out the third Saturday of the month at Marrakech Moroccan Restaurant in Sacramento and at festivals throughout California, book them for your next party or take a class yourself. (916-616-9773; sacredgrounddance.com)

Best Friend to Animals Weighing More Than 6,000 Pounds

Pat Derby This champion of animal welfare witnessed firsthand the mistreatment of animals while working with captive wildlife on TV shows, including Gunsmoke, Lassie and Flipper. Appalled, she wrote a book, The Lady and Her Tiger, an exposŽ on the treatment of performing animals, which won an American Library Association award in 1976. In 1984, she and her husband, Ed Stewart, formed the Performing Animal Welfare Society and a year later opened the PAWS sanctuary, a refuge for abused and abandoned captive wildlife, in Galt. Derby's fight for these animals' welfare has attracted the attention and support of such big-name stars as Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin. In addition, Derby's spoken before Congress and helped pass legislation, and served on committees to set standards for the care and handling of elephants and other exotic species. She's also written a second book, In the Presence of Elephants. Along with the Galt facility, PAWS maintains sanctuaries in Herald and San Andreas. (11435 Simmerhorn Road, Galt, 209-745-2606; pawsweb.org)

Best Drink for a Designated Driver

Mango Raspberry Swirl at Elephant Bar Restaurant Garnished with a bamboo stick and fresh fruit, this concoction of pineapple juice, mango, coconut, sweet and sour cocktail mix and raspberry-purŽe swirls is almost too pretty to drink. Take a sip with a straw, and it's even prettier: Raspberry swirls twirl up, causing a kaleidoscopic effect. It's sweet, but not so icky sweet that you crash into a sugar coma while the rest of the gang gets snockered. It's also the best grown-up drink for young ones who want something fancy to sip. (Elephant Bar Restaurant, 1500 Arden Way, 916-564-2526 and 6063 Sunrise Mall, Citrus Heights, 916-961-3628; elephantbar.com)

Best Values-based Business Change

Andy Nguyen Serving dishes bearing names such as Loving Kindness Soup, Awakening of Mind Eggplant, Good Karma Crispy Tofu Squares and Generating Compassion Rice Paper Wraps, the owner of Andy Nguyen on Broadway made a conscious choice to go with an all-vegetarian menu (most items are vegan) earlier this year. Think it was just to attract Sacramento's veg community (which has been without a sit-down vegetarian restaurant since Mums closed nearly four years ago)? Think again. Owner Lien Thi Nguyen made the switch after years of struggling with serving meat, which conflicts with her Buddhist-based belief against killing and eating animals. (2007 Broadway, 916-736-1157)

Best Group To Sweat With While Watching the Sun Rise

River City Rowing Club Start your morning in an eight-person racing shell at the Port of Sacramento in West Sacramento, where the River City Rowing Club holds daily practice at the crack of dawn. Industrious beginning rowers learn the fundamentals, including technique and execution of the stroke, commands and boat handling all on the water. Kinda vigorous for 5:30 in the morning, but the peacefulness of the water combined with doing something physical (and fun) as the city awakens truly is something special. Beginner's classes start up again next spring. (rivercityrowing.org)

Best Store Name

All Things Right & Relevant Profits from this Davis consignment store along with its sister store, R&R Thrift, located two doors down go toward the funding of mental health programs in Yolo County. The stores feature women's, men's and children's clothing, collectibles and furniture, and are run mainly by volunteers, with the thrift store providing employment for people dealing with mental health issues. Sounds like the right thing to do. And it's very relevant. (All Things Right & Relevant, 1640 E. Eighth St., Davis and R&R Thrift, 1730 E. Eighth St., Davis, 530-759-9648)

Best Country Singer Who Makes Wishes Come True

Kevin Sharp This award-winning country crooner offers more than just an amazing set of vocal chords: He's a cancer survivor, motivational speaker, author (his book, Tragedy's Gift, is available only on kevinsharp.com) and philanthropist. As a teen attending Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, Sharp was diagnosed with Ewings sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, which had spread to his lungs. Sharp, then 18, was told his chance of survival was slim. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, Sharp befriended producer/performer David Foster, who saw him through two years of treatment and helped him to become a country singer. With his cancer in remission since 1991, Sharp, 34, not only is a national spokesperson for Make-A-Wish, but has become a wish request for other wish kids. Now residing in Nashville, Tenn., Sharp has signed a recording contract with Cupit Records, and his third album, Make A Wish, was released this past July.

Best Place To Get Sexy

Sexys Salon We're in the beauty business, not the ugly business, says owner Renzzo Brennan. Offering hair, nail, makeup and waxing services for men and women in a beautiful, upscale environment, Sexys Salon is about drawing out the sexpot in all of us. But getting us gorgeous isn't the only goal of this salon, which has been open since early 2004: The salon staff has donated time and talent for fundraisers for tsunami and Hurricane Katrina relief, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and, as of press time, Brennan was creating an event for the American Cancer Society. (1103 Fulton Ave., 916-481-SEXY (7399); sexyssalon.com)

Best Way To Chill Out

The Party Concierge's ice sculptures With designs that include everything from company logos, swans and hearts to motorcycles and the Statue of Liberty, The Party Concierge's custom-designed ice sculptures add a cool vibe to weddings, company parties, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries and more. Lawrence Crane, who owns the party supply business with his wife, Susan, has more than 20 years of experience in ice sculpting. His biggest feat? Carving, as part of a four-person team, 36,000 pounds of ice into a replica of a mining site complete with mine shaft, coal cars, log cabin, outhouse and more at the 1994 Fairbanks International Ice-Carving Competition. (His team took third place.) Now that's just plain cool. (601 Dos Rios St., 916-440-8080; partysacramento.com)

Best Funny Man With a Funny Name

Moe Better Mann This local comedian named such by his father so that no matter who he stood beside, he'd always be the moe better man makes audiences laugh all about town with his stand-up routines. He entertains as Detective Diesel Foley (a parody of the Axel Foley character from the movie Beverly Hills Cop) at Suspects Murder Mystery Theatre on Fridays and Saturdays and performs with the Institute of Criminal Investigation, portraying a variety of characters in an effort to help student detectives sharpen their skills. He currently is working on the Moe Better Mann Reunion Show, combining old comedy bits and characters with new material.

Best Swing Set

Sister Swing Suited up in vintage attire, these three songsters Paula Chafey-Merrill, Leigh Hannah and Valerie Marston (who, by the way, are not really sisters but say they are as close, and even look a bit alike) have been churning out 1930s- and '40s-inspired music since 1996. According to sister Marston, the trio performs both classics and more obscure songs of the times often adding their own twists (such as replacing bebop, bebop with shoe shop, shoe shop in one number ). Sister Swing also performs tributes to the Andrews Sisters, the Boswell Sisters and USO shows. The ladies sing at private parties, special events including many patriotic-themed events and to packed venues at festivals such as the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the Medford Jazz Jubilee and the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival, where the crowds go wild. (916-379-0105; sisterswing.com)

Best Bang for Your Buck

Sacramento Mandarins Drum and Bugle Corps Boasting 95 members ranging in age from 14 to 22, the Sacramento Mandarins Drum and Bugle Corps has performed internationally and received numerous awards during its 42-year history, including two Spirit of Disney awards for outstanding achievement in education and entertainment programs for youth. See them perform Nov. 13 at the Sacramento Youth Symphony Veterans Day Concert at Memorial Auditorium and Nov. 26 at the Santa Parade in downtown Sacramento. (916-395-8310; mandarins.org)

Best Homegrown Ball Player

Derrek Lee Born and raised in Sacramento, the Chicago Cubs infielder flirted this season with becoming the first National League player to win the league's Triple Crown (most home runs, most runs batted in and highest batting average) in 71 years. While that didn't come to pass, baseball aficionados say this was Lee's best out of his nine-season career. He was the first Chicago Cub to win the National League batting title since 1980; in fact, the El Camino High School grad led the majors in hitting with a .335 average. He also started in the All-Star Game. Maybe it's in the genes: Lee's father, Leon, was a powerful hitter for 10 years in Japan's professional league, and his uncle Leron played eight seasons in the big leagues.

Best Guys in Tights

The Men of The Sacramento Ballet They prove real men do wear tights and look darn good in them, performing this season with their female counterparts in five productions, including the seasonal favorite The Nutcracker, Dec. 10ÃÂ'24. The 10 talented dancers Bobby Briscoe, Stefan Calka, Joo Hwan Cho, Colby Damon, Jack Hansen, Eric Holzworth, Hamilton Nieh, Benjamin Schreivogel, Easton Smith and Michael Vester range in age from 21 to 33 and rehearse 40 hours a week to keep their performances tight and their legs tights-worthy.

Best Sacramento-themed Tattoo

Liberty Tattoo A few years ago, local musician Anthony Zito came to Bill Liberty, the award-winning artist/owner of Liberty Tattoo, seeking a tattoo that represented Sacramento. Liberty, who's been a tattoo artist for nearly 30 years, did not disappoint. Using Zito's upper arm and shoulder as the canvas and working around the praying Godzilla tattoo he previously drew for Zito, Liberty depicted the Tower Bridge, the dome of the state Capitol, the Crest Theatre, the Renaissance Tower and the River Otter Water Taxi. Zito, a native Sacramentan and former member of the band The Lesdystics, was more than pleased with the result: I love it. I totally love it. Zito also praises Liberty's light hand. He doesn't dig the needle into you, Zito says. [It's] the best experience you can have getting a tattoo. He's such a pro. (4544 Auburn Blvd., 916-977-3977; billlibertytattoo.com)

Best Sole Providers

Fleet Feet Sports To ensure proper fit of your running and walking shoes, staffers at this runner's and walker's retail nirvana on busy J Street in midtown measure your feet, manually check their fit, ask about your exercise routines and analyze your gait by asking you to run through the store sometimes even outside on the sidewalk. And that's not all they provide: Need gear? They've got it. Looking for a group to train with? They'll tell you about it perhaps their own Monday evening women's running/walking group or their half- and full-marathon training programs. They've also got the 411 on upcoming races a few of which they organize themselves such as the Midnight Run held on New Year's Eve. (2311 J St., 916-442-3338; fleetfeetsacramento.com)

Best Golden Anniversaries

News10 and KCRA 3 This year, these two award-winning Sacramento TV news institutions share the distinct honor of celebrating 50 years on the air. They've sprouted some of the area's most talented and best-loved TV anchors and reporters and covered big Sacramento-based news stories such as the Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor plane crash in 1972, the assassination attempt on President Ford in Capitol Park in 1975 and the Good Guys hostage standoff in 1991. Cheers to both for jobs well done!

Best Purple Reign

Sacramento Monarchs On Sept. 20, the Sacramento Monarchs made history by giving Sacramento its first WNBA championship title. Arco Arena rocked liked it's never rocked before with the 62ÃÂ'59 defeat of the Connecticut Sun. Players and fans went wild, owners Joe and Gavin Maloof and coach John Whisenant beamed with pride, and silver, white and purple confetti covered the arena floor. It was a well-earned win for the team in it's ninth season which saw half a roster of new players and battled more than its share of injuries this season. All we can say is, You go, girls!

Best Local Mickey Mouse Club

Radio Disney Dancers This all-girl, 14-member dance troop ages 7 to 11 can be seen boogying at various venues around the state such as the California State Fair and the Placer County Fair. The girls are sponsored by and trained at the Rocklin Dance Center and are one of a number of song and dance groups affiliated with Radio Disney stations across the country. (Locally, you can find Radio Disney by tuning to AM 1470 KIID.) Watch closely; there may be a future Annette Funicello or Christina or Britney among them.
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