Get Away for the Weekend

A couple explores the best local food, wine and beer on a Sacramento weekend getaway
By C. Enfield

"Have a great weekend!" With that, my final training class was dismissed. I had been sent to Sacramento for some job training and my boyfriend, Joe, and I figured we'd make a weekend of it. Joe is taking the train from the Bay Area-where we're from-and I had just enough time to meet him at the downtown Amtrak station.

Joe and I have only been dating for a few months; this will be our first weekend getaway together. You know what they say: you never really know someone until you travel with them. I've got a good feeling about him, but I'm eager to see what it's like spending a whole weekend together. This trip couldn't have come at a better time since we had been hearing a lot of buzz about Sacramento lately, with it being named America's Farm-to-Fork Capital. Plus, when we're thirsty, we'll explore the city's lively craft beer scene.

Friday night winery
We chose Friday night relaxation over revelry. Joe and I had been told about Cabana Winery, on the east end of town, which hosts live music on the patio on Friday and Saturday nights. It's a small place featuring its own wines, along with an international selection. There's a bistro, but the evening was so nice that everyone was out on the patio enjoying the music. We split an artisan cheese plate as an appetizer, then ordered Greek salads and a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc. The meal was light and fresh, just what we were craving after a day of training and travel foods. Joe and I happily unwound to the sound of the jazz band-this was easy.

Brunch and a wine shop
Vacations mean sleeping in; sleeping in means brunch. Joe searched for recommendations and brought up Federalist Public House, which had been featured in Sunset magazine. It's a pizza joint-yes, pizza for brunch!-that has been completely constructed out of shipping containers. We ordered a local favorite, the Ben Franklin Deluxe. Topped with smoked tasso ham, Yukon gold hash, fontina, hollandaise, onion and two farm fresh eggs, this inventive pizza hit the spot-it was like a slice of eggs Benedict. As we finished our meal, I spotted the outdoor bocci ball court and challenged Joe to a game. We are both pretty competitive and the battle was fierce but fun. "Loser buys dessert," Joe said. "Who are you calling a loser?" I replied.

Joe lost, with a smile, and we headed to About a Bite Bakery, where all treats are bite sized. Tiny cookies, bars and chocolates, all perfectly sized for a mini treat. Pretty perfect considering we were still full from that breakfast slice of heaven. Downtown & Vine, a wine shop and bistro with a wall of more than 60 wines, was just next door. Most of the wines are from Northern California, but they served some international ones as well. Joe picked up two of the same bottles. "One for tonight, one for back home," he said. "We'll celebrate our first vacation as a couple tonight, and drink the other bottle as we plan our next one."

Going local with brews
I was noticing that Joe likes to plan before he travels. He had done some beer research before our trip and was interested in visiting Ruhstaller, which shares a name with one of Sacramento's original beers; the one Captain Frank Ruhstaller started brewing in 1881. Ruhstaller requires a reservation and we arrived just in time for ours. I may not be into beer myself, but I couldn't help but smile as I watched Joe become completely entranced by his discussion with the brewers. Turns out that in the late 1800s, the Sacramento region was a major hops growing area. Joe soaked up all the information while sipping on their "1881" brew. His verdict? Well balanced and not too strong-just right. 

Second Saturday
When we stepped outside we noticed the streets were more crowded-Second Saturday had begun. Our concierge had told us that this was a great way to experience Sacramento at its best, so we couldn't wait to check it out. Every second Saturday of the month the streets come alive with artists, food trucks, musicians, and open art galleries. Joe and I strolled down tree-lined streets and through a couple of art galleries discussing our favorite pieces. Before long, hunger overcame us and it was time for a meal.

Veggie Dinner
Since we were in the Farm-to-Fork Capital, it seemed that we ought to dine that way for dinner. We had been chatting with locals all day and were told we should really check out Mother. I was unsure about a vegetarian restaurant, but everyone assured us that we wouldn't even notice the lack of meat. We were off!

We opted for the Chef's 10, which gave us a shared 10 dishes for a special price. We actually had fun because each of us had veggies that we hadn't tried before. I also discovered that he was allergic to peppers and he learned about my dislike of mushrooms. It was then that I remembered my initial thoughts about this vacation: "you never really know someone until you travel with them." Better to discover a pepper allergy than, well, pretty much anything else.

Sadly we had to take an early train back on Sunday, but we uncorked the bottle we brought home the very next weekend.

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