Russell Michel

Blackberry-jalapeño-glazed pork tenderloin is a specialty at Morgan's.

Counter Culture: Take Mom for a special meal any day of the year

Published: Friday, May. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 34TICKET
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 13, 2012 - 1:01 pm

Mother's Day returns on Sunday, when a projected 75 million of us will leave our homes to dine out. Which leads us to believe that a restaurant brunch with the whole dressed-up family seems mandatory. As does a mimosa or a Bellini.

In last Sunday's a&e section, my colleague Blair Anthony Robertson recommended 10 brunch destinations high on his "favorites" list.

That's not quite what this column is about. Instead, we're offering other options. How about breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner with Mom, Grandma or Auntie on a less-hectic day – say, today or Saturday? Or next weekend, when the Mother's Day dust has settled. Or any time, really. These are places you and she will like.

Caution: Don't let her get away with paying the bill; you know she'll try.

Dianda's Italian Bakery & Cafe, 10131 Fair Oaks Blvd., Old Fair Oaks; (916) 966-3757.

Among the many treats at this family-owned treasure are bomboloni (custard-filled Italian doughnuts), almond torte, rum cake and panettone. Beyond the cold case are salads (fresh pear with orange dressing) and sandwiches (portobello with brie and artichokes).

High Hand Cafe, 3790 Taylor Road, Loomis; (916) 652-2064,

Dine inside (or just outside) a glass-walled conservatory set in a 4.5-acre nursery, with an antique fruit-packing shed, flower market and art gallery nearby.

The tuna melt is made with fresh albacore, but don't stop there: hand-cut potato chips with artichoke-lemon-sour cream dip, Cuban sandwich, rotisseried tri-tip, Mediterranean zucchini salad, and spiced carrot cake with orange- infused cream cheese frosting.

Lake Forest Cafe 3409 Folsom Blvd., Folsom; (916) 985-6780,

For nearly 30 years, this small cottage restaurant has served breakfast and lunch in an atmosphere of "distinct country charm" (cute stuff on the walls).

Best bets are crepes, quiche, blintzes, omelets, kosher beef salami and eggs, knockwurst and pastrami sandwiches, and shrimp, crab and chicken salads. Oh, yeah – soup and biscuits, too.

Mirabelle European Pastry Cafe, 7318 Winding Way, Fair Oaks; (916) 535-0100,

The cold case is a window-shopper's delight – cream puffs, meringues, crème brûlée, eclairs, tarts. A lunch menu revised in January offers luscious soups, salads, crepes, quiches, chicken under a brick, beef short ribs and more.

Morgan's at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, 1230 J St., Sacramento; (916) 341-4100,

Chef Russell Michel oversees a four-star restaurant that happens to be inside a hotel. Consider grilled asparagus with pancetta and poached egg, blackberry- jalapeño-glazed pork tenderloin, sweat pea risotto with fava beans and habanero chile oil, and seared scallops over Dungeness crab risotto.

Ruffhaus Hot Dog Co., 4355 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 941-3647,

If she's a good sport, take her to this emporium for wieners, pork and beef sausages and turkey franks, topped with an encyclopedia of condiments. Add some garlic fries and beer- battered cocktail links with Frank's Original cayenne pepper sauce and everybody's happy.

Zac Jack Bistro, 3275 Coach Lane, Cameron Park; (530) 676-2969,

The "everyday gourmet" menus reflect the fine- dining scene at the mother ship, Zachary Jacques French country dinner house outside Placerville.

Zac Jack has some interesting twists at breakfast (sautéed salmon with eggs), lunch (grilled-cheese with braised short rib) and dinner (Wagyu coulotte steak, abalone-style calamari in cracker crust with Meyer lemon cream sauce). The half-pound burger is among the best.

On the road, and hungry

Out-of-town day trips and weekenders are a regular part of Sacramentans' lifestyles. Next time you're on the road, try:

19 Kitchen-Bar, inside Harveys Resort Casino, Stateline, Nev.: (775) 586-67771,

Views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra are mesmerizing from the 19th floor. The top-end dinner menu offers quality steaks and seafood, but more interesting (and more affordable) are the small plates: scallop, asparagus and spinach risotto; Kobe beef chili and lobster morsels; scampi-style shrimp flatbread; grilled quail.

Petals and Pastries, Mission between Fourth and Fifth streets, Carmel; (831) 620-1400.

If you can get past the piles of house-baked pies, bear claws, croissants, cupcakes and turnovers, look at the breakfast sandwich with chicken-apple sausage, quiches and chicken salad sandwich (celery, currants, curry, spiced pecans, mango chutney).

Scoma's, Pier 47 on Al Scoma Way, San Francisco; (800) 644.5852,

We've found the seafood house to be the least touristy and most old-school of the many on Fisherman's Wharf – though no less expensive. Good choices: clam chowder, Dungeness crab cakes, "lazy man's" cioppino, and hard-to-find clams on the half shell and petrale sole dore-style (egg-washed fillets pan-fried in garlic-lemon butter).

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