Allen Pierleoni

Counter Culture: It’s love (and lots of flavor) at new cafe in Fair Oaks

A freshly baked biscuit sits atop house-made sausage gravy at Love at First Bite Cafe.
A freshly baked biscuit sits atop house-made sausage gravy at Love at First Bite Cafe. apierleoni@sacbee.com

There’s only one thing Sacramentans clamor for more than barbecue and burgers, and that’s breakfast.

The long-anticipated Love at First Bite Cafe opened seven weeks ago in the semi-hidden Olive Gate Plaza in restaurant-starved Fair Oaks. It’s a find. We took a table and admired its immaculate neatness, welcoming vibe, vases of fresh flowers and natural light flooding through the front windows.

Things were a bit hectic last Saturday morning, as there had been a break-in during the night. The two culprits had 60 seconds to case the place before the alarm went off. After discovering the cash register was empty, the thieves made off with ... Well, not the TV sets or bottles of wine or any equipment in the kitchen. No, they cleaned out the pastry from the cold case and loaded up all the house-baked loaves of bread.

“We have three video cameras,” said owner Tami Wright. “They tried to hide their faces when they left, but the cameras got their car license plate.”

After a round of head-shaking, my lunch pals and I cruised the daily-specials board and to-the-point menu ($4 to $12). We cleared the table for French toast (house-baked, cake-like challah bread dipped in custard and covered in Mexican-style crema and strawberries), a fine breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, chili and queso fresco with salsa and avocado crema), and a massive crunchy-soft biscuit atop a bowl of thick sausage-flecked white gravy. Plus a side of bacon (crisp and smoky) and lean, house-seasoned pork sausage, spiced with fennel and sage. Every bite of breakfast was seriously good.

We also tasted a side of excellent corned beef hash – a pile of shredded brisket, potatoes and sautéed spinach, a combo that worked very well. A 2.0 version of the quinoa-kale patty should be on the menu by now, along with house-made granola with vanilla bean yogurt.

We went back Tuesday to sample some of pastry chef Ozzie Chavez’s creations. We eyed a seldom-seen stromboli (a roulade-style meat and cheese-filled pastry), rugby ball-size loaves of rosemary-garlic bread, and frosted cinnamon rolls, with and without nuts. We settled on a luscious cheese-artichoke frittata and a light, moist blackberry-cream muffin.

We’re looking forward to lunch, with eyes on the Aggressive Grilled Cheese (fontina, Gruyère, spinach, tomato and bacon) and the half-pound ground-chuck burger. And more pastries, of course.

Love at First Bite Cafe, 7405 Winding Way, Fair Oaks; 916-844-7472, www.facebook.com/LoveAtFirstBiteCafe. Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays. Breakfast is served all day.

Add foie gras to that burger

Christian Forte was so impressed by the dark-meat duck burger with a spread of foi gras ($38) at the Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley that he reinterpreted it for his own restaurant, Fabian’s Italian Bistro.

Essentially, the foie gras burger is Fabian’s classic burger ($15) with foie gras added for an extra $10. The classic burger is a hand-formed patty of Angus ground short rib and chuck topped with fontina cheese, red onion-pancetta-tomato jam, aioli, and butter lettuce on a Bella Bru brioche bun.

Forte chewed it over with wife and co-owner Mercedes Forte, and Fabian’s chef, Tom Patterson. “We’re a casual restaurant and wanted to have some fun, but we worried our customers would think we’d turned snobby,” Christian Forte said. “Doing something like this is always a risk, but it’s selling well, and it’s a talking point between our customers and our servers.”

Fabian’s Italian Bistro, 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks; 916-536-9891, www.fabiansitalianbistro.com.

Luscious lobster any time

There’s a new food truck in town, and seafood lovers are lining up. The menu at Cousins Maine Lobster goes like this: two types of lobster roll, lobster quesadilla, lobster taco, lobster bisque and more, including lobster ice cream.

The truck, operated by franchise owners Paul and Vickie Sharkey, is one in a fleet of 15 that roll in 11 cities. Co-founders and cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac started their one-truck company in 2012. Their biz took off after real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran teamed with them on the TV show “Shark Tank” and helped with bookings on “Good Morning, America,” “The Chew” and “The Today Show.”

Keep an eye on the Sharkeys’ calendar of upcoming stops at various locations, www.cousinsmainelobster.com/sacramento.

Peach shakes all month

For the 12th year running, the seasonal sign (“Fresh peach milkshakes”) has gone up at Whitey’s Jolly Kone, the West Sacramento landmark drive-in that opened in 1962. Chunks of tree-ripened freestone peaches are blended with high-quality vanilla ice cream for a throat-freezing milkshake that’s as close to Peach Heaven as one can get.

Through August, owners Steve and Paula Ericson will sell peach shakes as fast as they can make them ($4.25 and $5). While you’re there, try the burgers, onion rings and beer-battered whole mushrooms, and maybe the new salmon burger.

Whitey’s Jolly Kone, 1300 Jefferson Blvd., West Sacramento; 916-371-3605.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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