There's a new ’cue in town

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Not your backyard barbecue: Just when you thought Enotria had come to terms with its revamped identity—a fancy event space rather than a cutting-edge, fine-dining restaurant—the Del Paso Boulevard space shocks once again! Introducing Cask & Barrel, a Southern and barbecue restaurant expected to open sometime this month.

Chef Gabriel Glasier, whose resume includes Maranello Kitchen in Fair Oaks, Solcum House and Redbud Cafe in Cameron Park, created the menu, which features a mix of high-end appetizers, homey sides and smokin’ ’cue.

A taste of the appetizer selection: duck-liver mousse beignets with huckleberry marmalade and cinnamon, or a beet and pea shoots salad with cured egg yolk, popcorn dressing, carrot mousse and goat cheese. Exciting, surprising stuff. They run $6-$12.

Sides sound traditional, but kicked up a notch: greens braised in beer and ham hock butter; hushpuppies and catfish nuggets with lemon aioli; corn bread with grilled jalapeno pickles. These go for $5-$8. From the smoker, expect the usual artillery with ribs, brisket and cheese-stuffed sausages—most for about $20 per pound.

Keep up with progress online:

Better than cafeteria food: Culinary academy restaurants are known for quality, fine-dining experiences at a fraction of the usual cost. I’ve dined at the now-shuttered Cordon Bleu in San Francisco—three-course lunch for $10—and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley—four-course, obscene dinner for $45.

Enter American River College’s Oak Cafe, with a pretty astounding five-course fixed menu for $15. Its graduates have nonetheless gone on to epic things—Bacon & Butter’s chef-owner Billy Zoellin and Ella’s pastry chef Jane Anderson, for example. The school’s culinary arts facility just got a major overhaul. What was once 2,000 square feet is now more than 13,000 square feet. And that means an expanded, more state-of-the-art Oak Cafe, the hands-on restaurant lab for students. Plus a brand new retail bakery.

This all translates into a potentially even more exciting experience for diners. In its former, cramped space, the restaurant used to turn away as many as 200 diners a month. Oak Cafe holds limited hours and serves lunch Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays when classes are in session. Oak Cafe will reopen on Wednesday, February 11, and you can start making reservations now.