The Dining Divas: L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen

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Guests: Neil Hagen (husband of Diva Bernice Hagen); Stacey Hodge, director of community relations for Ronald McDonald House Charities; Tim Hodge, who calls himself a soil relocation engineer with T L Hodge Construction

Where:
L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen, 1801 L St., Sacramento; (916) 443-6970; lwinelounge.com
Benefiting organization: Jesuit High School

1-second review:
“Stylish and pretty cutting edge for Sacramento.”—Diva Joan Leineke

Best dishes:
The menu covers the trendy and the traditional. Our favorites included cassoulet with chorizo and duck leg confit (Neil Hagen and Tim Hodge tussled over the duck wishbone; Neil won); gnudi with chanterelles and toasted walnuts; braised short ribs with parsnip purée and horseradish; roasted cauliflower; lamb loin with piquillo marmalade—it’s hard to stop without going through all 14 items ordered. Desserts included an ice cream sandwich; churro with Valrhona chocolate; pear and gingerbread cake; and chocolate cherry bread pudding.

Wine time: Knowledgeable Neil Hagen did the honors, choosing a 2006 Handley Cellars Mendocino Riesling and a 2005 Côtes de Tablas, a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Counoise from Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. His comment: “The Rhone-type blend has body and flavor, exhibiting the power of Paso Robles. Both wines are moderately priced and offered by the glass.”

Extras: There’s a “wow” factor here, especially when you climb the stairs to the second level. In fine weather, sit outside in the courtyard. Outside the restaurant, signage is almost too subtle; owners Marcus and Kolea Marquez hope to change that—subtly, of course. Executive chef Ame Harrington follows the day’s ambitious trends. Server Leon Moore, who has been with the lounge since its opening, described each dish, layer by layer.

Chatter: Sorry, but the gossip at our end of the table was too juicy to share. After our meal, Diva Gayla Mace led a tour of the L Street Lofts just across the street. A studio, with its Murphy bed and a view of the action outside, looked perfect for a pied-à-terre, but the Hodges admitted they have too much stuff to move, and Neil Hagen said he would keep the house he and Bernice built in Fair Oaks. Still, Bernice declared: “I want to live down here so I can come to the L Lounge every night.”

Ambiance: Very uptown—“just what Sacramento needs,” said Diva Paulette Bruce.

Quote of the day:
Taken directly from the muscle shirt Tim Hodge gave to Neil Hagen: “Your hole is our goal,” the motto of Hodge’s big-dig construction company.

The Dining Divas—Gloria Glyer, Paulette Bruce, Bernice Hagen, Joan Leineke, Gayla Mace and Peg Tomlinson-Poswall—have been wining and dining together since 1993. Every month, they lunch at an area restaurant, taking as their guests people who placed winning bids at charity events. To date, they have raised more than $279,000 for local charities and nonprofits.