This is “You Gotta Try This,” The Bee’s series featuring one particular must-have dish at a local restaurant. Each featured dish is nominated by a reader. Got a menu item you want to shine some light on? Comment below or email reporter Benjy Egel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You don’t need to go to The Rind to find burrata, but the midtown restaurant’s seasonal spin on America’s trendiest cheese effectively captures the spirit of a Sacramento summer.
Eight burrata-based dishes have been rotated through The Rind as seasonal appetizers over the last two years; past iterations have paired the cheese with peaches, pickled vegetables or shaved asparagus, executive cheesemonger and co-owner Sara Arbabian said. Served currently in a cup made from a hollowed-out hothouse tomato, it’s the first to be labeled as a salad, since it doesn’t split all that well.
Cooks start by drawing spirals around the bottom of a white bowl with a balsamic reduction and housemade piquillo pepper puree and basil oil. A bed of pea shoots from Natural Trading Co. in Newcastle serves as both a contrasting crunch and a source of stability for the cored tomato.
The Rind gets its 4-ounce glob of burrata from Los Angeles-based Di Stefano Cheese, whose Italian-born founder is credited with first introducing the cheese to the Army. With a mozzarella exterior that oozes cream when cut, the rich, smooth cheese has skyrocketed in popularity across America over the last few years.
“Burrata is a great cheese. It’s not exactly the friendliest cheese for a traditional cheese board unless you’re doctoring it up with other things, since it is very heavy in cream and curds,” Arbabian said. “It’s a very cooking-friendly cheese, so why not demonstrate it in a different way than caprese or pizza? (We’ll) do it in something more special to us, whatever’s ready in season.”
After filling the tomato with burrata, cooks trace the fruit’s rim with more balsamic reduction, piquillo paste and basil oil. The burrata is finished off with a chiffonade of fresh basil before the tomato top is placed back on top – stem base still attached – like a jack-o-lantern lid. Customers sometimes add prosciutto for an extra $2.50, chef Mike Dirain said, and toasted baguette sliced drizzled with basil oil are complimentary.
The Rind started selling tomato burrata cups in early June, Dirain said, and goes through about 40 a week. The dish will remain on the menu until fall, when another burrata appetizer will likely take its place.
Arbabian and husband Steve Tatterson founded The Rind in 2013 and opened La Crosta Pizza Bar in West Sacramento last year. The Bee’s dining critic Kate Washington awarded the Neapolitan-style pizzeria three out of four stars in a January review.
The owners use La Crosta’s 3,000 square feet for large events like Monday night trivia, but host smaller events, such as an upcoming wine-and-cheese pairing class on The Rind’s 280-square foot patio. Tickets for the three-course Aug. 11 event are available for $55 at http://rivercitywineweek.com.
The burrata cup’s divergent flavors lend themselves to a wide array of drinks. Something crisp like a Kolsch, pilsner or a cider will be easy to drink on a hot summer’s day but won’t bury the cheese, Arbarian said; for wine drinkers, a light-bodied red or white wine similar to a Sancerre would do the trick.
The Rind’s fifth birthday coincided with a turn toward organized wellness programs. Arbarian said staff always knew she, Tatterson and their managers had open-door policies, but participation in the “I Got Your Back” program, led by Patrick Mulvaney, formalized their status as the restaurant’s mental health counselors and confidants.
Employees now drop color-coded mood cards in The Rind’s mental health box at the start of each shift. Business cards for Safe Night Out, WEAVE’s new initiative to eliminate sexual and domestic violence in Sacramento nightlife, now sit next to The Rind’s own cards on the bar.
“We definitely want to do what we can (to help),” Arbabian said. “We’re not just a restaurant, we are people and we’re family and we’re part of the community.”
1801 L St. #40, (916) 441-7463
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Pro Tip: Happy hour lasts all day on Sundays.