Counter Culture: Here's where to get the best of fall, winter dishes

11/09/2012 12:00 AM

11/29/2012 8:24 AM

Goodbye, summer. Adios, grilled watermelon salad, corn on the cob and heirloom tomato gazpacho.

Hello, fall and winter. Welcome, braised lamb shanks, mac 'n' cheese and apple turnovers.

In the interest of keeping cozy, let's hop around town and find a few dishes to help chase away the coming overcast, beginning with soup.

We're happy as a clam with multiple chowder ingredients: tender chunks of sea clams, clam broth, white wine, sherry, cream, butter, bacon, potato, fresh thyme, bay leaves, Old Bay seasoning, celery, onion, carrot and coarsely ground black pepper.

Get it at Jamie's Broadway Grille, 427 Broadway, Sacramento; (916) 442-4044; www.jamiesbroadwaygrille. com.

Lemon grass soup, a medley of lemon grass- infused coconut broth, chunks of tender chicken breast, mushrooms, tomato, basil, kaffir lime leaf, galanga (Thai ginger) and a hint of curry, with balanced heat.

Get it at Lemon Grass, 601 Munroe St., Sacramento; (916) 486-4891, www.lemongrass.com.

The broth for this onion soup starts with the cooking down of onions for five hours. Red wine, beef consommé and bay leaf are added to the liquid.

For serving, a crouton and broth are placed in each bowl, then topped with gouda and Gruyère, and broiled to a sizzle.

Get it at Danielle's Creperie, Arden Town Shopping Center (Watt Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard); (916) 972-1911, www.daniellescreperie.com.

"Koi teaw tom yum" is found throughout Thailand. This one is a bowl of sweet-hot broth brimming with thin egg noodles, coarse-ground pork or chicken, green onion, garlic, chili pepper, carrot, celery, fish sauce and lime juice, topped with prawns and ground peanuts.

Get it at Thai Hut, 5800 Madison Ave., Sacramento, (916) 348-1880, www.thaihut.org.

Begin the day with chicken-fried New York steak (hand-cut from a strip loin), breaded and deep-fried, with from-scratch country gravy.

Get it at Evan's Kitchen, 855 57th St., Sacramento; (916) 452-3896, www.chefevan.com.

On a lighter note, consider egg-and-vanilla-battered French toast made with house-baked panettone, a sweet Italian bread studded with raisins and bits of glazed orange and lemon.

Get it at Dianda's Italian Bakery & Cafe, 10131 Fair Oaks Blvd., Old Fair Oaks; (916) 966-3757, www.diandasbakery.com.

Falafel is the top snack food in the Middle East. In this take, ground and mashed garbanzo and fava beans are rolled into balls and "stuffed" with spices, onion and pine nuts, then fried. Crunchy and fragrant, with jolts of cumin and heat. Tahini sauce counters with its cool.

Get it at Maalouf's Taste of Lebanon, 1433 Fulton Ave.; (916) 972-8768, www.maaloufs.com.

Two winners: peppercorn-and-cumin-crusted bavette steak topped with melting blue cheese-infused butter (with perfect mashed potatoes); and luscious citrus-accented salmon that's so fresh it almost swims off the plate.

Get them at Crocker Cafe by Supper Club, Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento; (916) 808-1289, www. supperclubsacramento.com.

Chicken can be great, as in these two offerings:

No. 1: This bird is slowly cooked open-flame-style in an oak-fired rotisserie oven. Luscious, tender, meaty, smoky.

Get it at Bandera, 2232 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 922-3524, www.hillstone.com.

No. 2: Bistro chicken is a deboned, pan-seared half chicken on a bed of smashed fingerling potatoes, shaved Brussels sprouts and applewood smoked bacon.

Get it at Fabian's Italian Bistro, Almond Orchard center, 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks; (916) 536-9891, www.fabiansitalianbistro. com.

The classic French dip sandwich finds new life when chef Clay Purcell piles shaved prime rib on an aioli-smeared hoagie roll (better is grilled rye from Bella Bru), melts Swiss cheese all over it, and serves it with house-made jus and from-scratch coleslaw.

Get it at Marketplace Cafe, Embassy Suites, 100 Capitol Mall, Sacramento; (916) 326-5000, www.embassysuites.hilton. com.

There's a nostalgic, Old World quality to baked spaghetti casserole. And simplicity: a ramekin of meat sauce, mozzarella and pasta, baked until bubbly. Add meatballs or Italian sausages.

Get it at Roma Pizzeria II, 8491 Folsom Blvd., (916) 383-9264, www.roma2pizza.com.

Fried pork ribs may be a staple in the South, but not around here – except for these. Raw pork ribs are coated in seasoned flour and fried in vegetable oil. They come out tasting like a crisp hybrid of pork chop and chicken. Moist, salty, delicious, especially when dunked in the outstanding house-made 'cue sauces.

Get it at T&R Taste of Texas, 3621 Broadway, Sacramento; (916) 739-1669.

Better burger: The patty is a half-pound of Niman Ranch short-rib meat, topped with Spanish sheep's milk manchego cheese, Little Gem lettuce, tomato confit, onion straws and a "dijonnaise" of house-made mayonnaise and Dijon mustard from France. The buttered and grilled-to-a-crunch roll is from Grateful Bread bakery.

Get it at Maranello, 8928 Sunset Ave., Fair Oaks; (916) 241-9365, www.maranellorestaurant. com.

There's a boatload of mediocre fish 'n' chips on the horizon, but these set the standard:

No. 1: Hefty pieces of wild Atlantic cod are dipped in a batter made with Guinness beer and vodka, and deep-fried. The crusty jacket is light, the non-oily fish hot and fresh-tasting.

Get it at Boxing Donkey, 300 Lincoln St., Old Town Roseville; (916) 797-3665, www.theboxingdonkey.com.

No. 2: Big chunks of succulent Icelandic cod are encased in a crunchy, oil-free crust of house-made batter. Splash on Sarson's brand malt vinegar ("Since 1794").

Get it at Touch of Britain, 5712 Watt Ave., North Highlands; (916) 344-8472, www.touchofbritain.com.

Flavors burst with each bite of the "hot Italian," a juicy Italian sausage on a seeded French roll topped with a heap of hot giardineria, the Italian relish of spicy pickled vegetables.

Get it at Capitol Dawg, 1226 20th St., Sacramento; (916) 444-1226, www.capitoldawg.com.

Sandwich shops are everywhere, but the quality of the products is another issue. We're happy to go out of our way for hand-carved prime rib, roast beef, turkey and briskets. One favorite is the juicy "heavyweight" corned beef on rye, with fragrant jus on the side. Horseradish and hot mustard become involved, as do a couple of mugs of draft Hires root beer.

Get it at Sam's Hof Brau, 2500 El Camino Ave.; (916) 482-2175, www.thehofbrau.com.

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