We were disappointed when the Cultured & Cured artisan cheese-charcuterie shop in East Sacramento shut its doors in December. We wanted to sample a grilled-cheese sandwich and ramekin of mac ’n’ cheese, but were too late. Reminder to self: Get ’em while they’re hot.
So we segued to the small and friendly Rind cheese bar in midtown to do the same. The wine and beer lists were tempting, but on this occasion we went for the excellent lemon-lime-bitters and ginger-beer flavors from Bundaberg Brewed Drinks ($2.50), from an Aussie company.
We started with a bowl of dark and spicy almonds ($3) and narrowed the five-choice grilled-cheese sandwich list to the Picante ($10). It’s Fiscalini Farmstead San Joaquin gold cheddar and provolone with hot Calabrese salami, pepperoncini and arugula on crispy sourdough. As good as it was, we wanted it thicker, with cheese oozing out the sides.
All five mac ’n’ cheese choices are made with campanelle pasta, defined as “bell-shaped pasta with fluted, petal-like edges and a hollow center for capturing sauce.”
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The Fall mac ’n’ cheese is gooey with a blend of domestic Gruyere, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano and more of that Fiscalini cheddar, with Brussels sprouts and cranberries ($14, add prosciutto for $2.50; what, no turkey?). It was tasty enough, but next time we’ll go for the Mac & Blue, a mix of Point Reyes blue cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, browned butter, walnuts and figs.
Note that most of the Rind’s menu changes every three to four months to keep things seasonal; the next revamp is due shortly.
The Rind, 801 L St., Sacramento; (916) 441-7463, www.therindsacramento.com.
Thai Hut for hot
Thai is among the most popular cuisines in the U.S., right up there with Mexican, Italian and Chinese. When we’re in the mood for a taste of the unpretentious, we head to the homey Thai Hut. There, husband-wife owners Ten and Tuck Siri work hard in their small kitchen to bring heaping plates of fragrant dishes to the tables.
A few lunch pals and I ran through the reasonably priced menu and ordered a bunch of good stuff: chicken-filled steamed pot stickers with ginger sauce; rice paper-wrapped shrimp spring rolls with peanut and plum sauces; marinated shrimp wrapped in rice paper, deep-fried and served with sweet ’n’ sour sauce; a chicken chow mein of pan-fried egg noodles with veggies, tasting better than the versions we’ve had in Chinese restaurants; and yellow coconut-milk curry with tofu, and jasmine brown rice on the side.
I asked Tuck Siri to put some heat on the green curry.
“How hot to you want it, on a scale of one to five?” she asked.
“How about five?” I suggested, looking at the lunch pals for confirmation. Their eyes widened and Tuck Siri laughed. “Even I cannot do five,” she said, so we settled on “three.”
Soon, our lips were burning as we forked into the veggie-and-pork-laden dish, with jasmine white rice on the side.
We finished with slices of golden-skin mangoes, firm, sweet and delicious. Coming soon will be a different variety of mango from Mexico, and we’ll be back for those.
Thai Hut, 5800 Madison Ave., Sacramento, (916) 348-1880, www.thaihut.org.
Great pizza at a chain
Also at the Il Fornaio Italian restaurants in Roseville and Sacramento. But that’s a chain with 23 units in five states, you say. We say: So?
We’ve had pizzas with an assortment of toppings at the Roseville store, and they’re in our top 10 ($15.59 to $18.59). The dough and sauces are house-made daily, and the pies are forged in an adobe-style pizza oven that burns almond wood. The crust is chewy, the ingredients fresh and plentiful. And there’s a bonus: The servers are among the most professional on the local scene. Drop by www.ilfornaio.com for more info.
Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.