A grown-up night out
Sacramento, CA 95814
I’ve never quite understood why the standard format for a date is dinner and a movie. It makes far more sense to go out for a movie and then dinner, so you have something to talk about over dinner. Of course, the interest of a movie date increases greatly when it’s rare, as it is in my life. We felt very grown-up heading to the movies without a toddler, and the feeling was only enhanced when we went to the wine bar, 58 Degrees and Holding Co., for a soignée late dinner.
Fifty-eight Degrees has a small dining area attached to a much larger wine shop; there are outdoor tables, some bar seating and a mix of small tables and cushy armchair areas. Rich wood panels with a slightly undulating pattern soften the otherwise spare décor (though I wish they would lose the TV, which distracts from an atmosphere that otherwise promotes conversation).
Wine is, not surprisingly, the focus of the evening. The food menu is not long, but it offers a nice complement to the list of intriguing wines, available by the three-ounce taste, the glass or the bottle. As has become fairly common, wines are organized not by varietal or region but by descriptors—“light and aromatic” whites are grouped together, fruity reds, and the like. On the list, you’ll find everything from Austrian white to a sweet, sparkling red.
With all this wine, you can order quite a bit of wine-friendly food. A hallmark of the menu is the plenitude of platters that are ideal for sharing, from a cheese plate to a bruschetta trio to a chocolate plate on the dessert list. Most of the menu items are on the light side, with more small plates and appetizer platters designed for nibbling than main courses. That’s befitting at a place where the focus is wine, as it clearly is here, but that doesn’t mean the food is an afterthought. For the most part, it is well-conceived and fairly well-executed.
Starters and “bigger plates” aren’t necessarily all that different in size, so if something in the smaller-plates section of the menu appeals, you can order it as a small entree. That’s just what I did, starting off with a fig and aged-goat-cheese salad and then moving to steak tartare. My husband went with a bowl of steamed mussels spiked with oven-dried tomatoes, followed by squash risotto with “sweet and spicy” shiitake mushrooms.
We both ordered mini-flights from among the tastes of wine: mine red, his white, both chosen with some help and advice from our server. Among the lighter reds, she steered me toward a lovely Ramsey Pinot Noir, made in a quiet old-world style, and a Zantho Zweigelt—an Austrian red—that was leaner. My husband went for an Austrian white, the Laurenz und Sophie Gruner Veltliner, as well as two Rieslings, the tart Annie’s Lane from Australia’s Clare Valley and a German one, the lightly sweet, luscious J.J. Christoffel “Urziger Wurtzgarten” Kabinett.
My reds, the Pinot especially, went nicely with both the salad and the steak tartare. The former was prettily plated, with small, sweet quarters of fig (soft and ripe for this time of year) surrounding a little round of rich, moderately tangy goat cheese on one side of the teardrop-shaped plate. The other side was heaped with ruffly lettuces, like a dish of party dresses, topped with crisp, lacy, ultra-thin rectangular croutons, and napped with sticky sweet-tart reduced balsamic vinegar.
The steak tartare featured similar croutons to go with the round of meat, which clearly was hand-chopped, not ground (it could have been more finely chopped, as some of the bits were a little large and chewy), and was pre-mixed. (Steak tartare is often presented with the accouterments for the diner to dress it themselves.) I liked the mustard and caper flavors of the tartare, which was well seasoned and ultra-fresh tasting. It got a slightly Italian spin from shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano and leaves of arugula accompanying it, which rounded out the flavors with more savory and bitter notes.
My husband’s dish of steamed mussels had plenty of buttery yet slightly spicy sauce, as well as bits of chewy, flavorful sun-dried tomatoes—a nice counterpoint to the briny, tender mussels. The squash risotto was a little less successful. The rice was a bit chalky inside, and the overall texture was too stiff. The pile of roasted mushrooms on the side, however, were great, with a deep savory flavor.
For dessert, we chose the chocolate platter, which includes a dense and silky pot de crème and some perfect chocolates by Ginger Elizabeth, plus a glorious little mess of melty chocolate, light honey, dried cherries, and some shards of chocolate. Perfect for sharing with a bigger group, it managed to get polished off by the two of us. Our server recommended a glass of that sparkling red, the Banfi Rosa Regale d’Acqui, which was lightly sweet with bright red berry flavors. As the server promised, it was a perfect match for the chocolate. It was a lovely, and very grown-up, ending to a night out that would be an equally good match for anyone with an interest in wine and a craving for flavors to pair with it.