We’ve been ricoheting around town recently, stopping here and there on the chance of discovering some choice chews. And we did.
We met third-generation Jim Kobasic at Kobasic’s Candies. He’s a “confection chemist” and artist who sculpts imaginative delicacies from chocolate, heavy cream, butter, sugar, honey, balsamic vinegar, nuts, fruits, herbs and other precious ingredients, many sourced locally. Word of mouth is the driving force behind his business in Sacramento’s Little Pocket neighborhood, where its vintage building looks ordinary till you walk inside.
“I experiment a lot and don’t follow the traditional methods of making candies,” he said in his cluttered kitchen, an alchemist’s den with implements including a grimoire of recipes and a dented copper cauldron. “I do everything the old-fashioned way, by hand, and blend chocolates from around the world according to my tastes. My problem is I run out of product almost daily.”
An impromptu tasting wowed my lunch pals with hand-made truffles (almond-caramel, house-made peanut butter, pomegranate, honey-lemon-lavender), toffees, soft-chew caramels (vanilla-sea salt is the top seller), and two barks: cherry-cranberry-almond-pistachio-walnut in 72 percent chocolate, and blueberry-cranberry in 86 percent chocolate.
Other goodies crowded a display table – chocolate-covered potato chips, pretzels and graham crackers, macadamia-caramel clusters, and the best peanut brittle we’ve tasted.
“I want to set up a chocolate bar, like a sushi bar, (and feature) some of the stuff I’m messing around with,” Kobasic said. “But I have to see what the boss (wife Marilyn) says.”
Kobasic’s Candies, 5324 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 448-3555.
The classic American roadhouse predates the Civil War and was typically on the outskirts of towns and cities where local ordinances didn’t necessarily apply. Though roadhouses served meals to travelers, over the decades they generically came to be viewed as disreputable destinations where the rowdy gathered to enjoy the “sinful” behaviors of the day – drinking, dancing and brawling.
These days, the Nashville-based Logan’s Roadhouse chain captures a sanitized facsimile of that spirit through retro decor and wall murals of plain folks having a good time as country musicians play up a storm. For a taste of the South, a free mini-bucket of in-shell peanuts arrives at each table, where some patrons display their roadhouse edginess by tossing the shells on the wood floor.
The menu is heavy with deep-fried appetizers (pickles, battered mushrooms) and meat-heavy mains (ribs, meatloaf, a 20-ounce bone-in ribeye), but a four-item vegetable plate is an option.
We were there for the “country-style buttermilk chicken,” which turned out to be two buttermilk-marinated chicken breasts, fried to order, and a mound of real mashed potatoes, all covered in white gravy ($14), and a veggie side. The house-breaded well-seasoned chicken was crisp, juicy and surprisingly light, a perfect match for the creamy potatoes. We found actual flavor in the not-too-salty gravy. Satisfying.
Logan’s Roadhouses are at 5511 Sunrise Blvd., Citrus Heights, (916) 965-1249; 9105 W. Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove, (916) 684-8978; and 3698 North Freeway Blvd., Sacramento, (916) 419-8100. Visit www.logansroadhouse.com.
Fabian’s Italian Bistro
Restaurant owners Christian and Mercedes Forte huddled with chef Tom Patterson to debut their summer menu at Fabian’s Italian Bistro. They wisely kept some proven items (sausage-stuffed fried olives, and meatballs with polenta, but why did the exquisite cannelloni disappear?), and added several pasta dishes and an outstanding pork scallopini.
We tasted one of our all-time go-to pasta dishes – linguine and clams – and liked Patterson’s take on it. A bowl of Manila clams joins al dente pasta, house-cured pancetta (bits of crispy pork belly), a splash of pinot grigio, chili flakes, lemon, olive oil and breadcrumbs for a melange of flavors and textures ($18).
As for the restaurant’s name: Christian Forte is the son of Fabian Forte, one of the teen idols of the 1950s and ’60s to come out of Philadelphia.
“My son kept asking me if he should open the restaurant,” Fabian told me at the restaurant’s opening in 2011.
“I said, ‘Go for it, how can I help?’ And he said, ‘Well, I always liked your name …’ ”
“The restaurant is an homage to our heritage and family,” Christian Forte said. “It’s about the food, not about a teen idol.”
Fabian’s Italian Bistro & Bar, 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks; (916) 536-9891, www.fabiansitalianbistro.com.
In January, I gave four stars to Sammy’s restaurant inside Stones Gambling Hall for its diverse menu of excellent fare. We sampled a tableful of items at that lunch, including duck tacos and a New York-style mushroom-sausage pizza smeared with basil pesto, hot out of the oak-fired oven.
We saved the boneless short ribs for another day, which happened to arrive last week. The dark, tender-chewy beef had soaked for 24 hours in a proprietary marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Then it was quick-fired on the broiler-grill, arriving at the table with two marinated slaws (white and red cabbages and carrot, and daikon radish and carrot) and white rice ($12). We splashed the rice with the leftover sauce from the pork dumpling appetizer and made it all vanish.