Never Look at Monday’s the Same

Examiner by Tammi Korbmaker

Mondays.  Bah Humbug

Last Monday, however, was an exception to the perceived worst day of the week.  I set aside my Monday blues, grabbed the BFF, and headed out to a food and wine event at Matteo’s, Matt Woolston’s eponymous neighborhood joint at the Five Points center in Carmichael.

As any ‘foodie’ worth their porcini mushroom will tell you, Matt’s been turning out elegant repasts for the last 8 years at the north side’s uber-swanky Supper Club.  The elegant prix-fixe, multi course ‘suppers’  have maintained their popularity (what recession?) despite some lean economic times and an unlikely Gourmet Ghetto location

So with one success under his chef’s coat, and not content to rest on his gastronomic laurels, Matt saw an opportunity in the Five Points center in Carmichael.  Enter Matteo’s, a casual, hip pizza outpost on the on other side of the culinary spectrum.   Matteo’s is pizza, but it’s more Paragary than PizzaHut.   Padded banquettes, modern lighting and brick fired pizzas are de riguere here, with a cool family vibe that’s casual, but not campy; in other words,  if you’re looking for costume-clad mice or video games with your pizza, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

At first glance, the menu reads like your typical pizza place line-up;  further inspection leads to some delightful surprise entries, like pulled pork sliders with chipotle-coconut-pineapple cream cheese spread on a sweet roll with slaw ($9.95); an arugula, roasted beet, goat cheese, orange and pistachio salad, with hibiscus-champagne vinaigrette ($5.95 / $8.95);  a Bledsoe pork chop with apple ginger chutney, southern greens, maple mashed sweet potatoes($15.95).  And of course, there’s the uniquely appointed brick fired pizzas, like The Stu (wild mushrooms, prosciutto, caramelized onions, arugula, Fontina, truffle oil, $14), and the Spaniard (romesco sauce, Serrano ham, potato, green olives, and Manchego,  $13.50).

The wine list is equally surprising and delightful. At about 150 selections (with two dozen by-the-glass choices), it’s extensive, but not unwieldy.  With entries from Lodi to South Africa, it has a decidedly international and hand selected feel to it;  nope, no carafes of ‘house wines’ at this pizza place.

Officially, Monday nights are the one night per week that Matteo’s is not open; unofficially, Monday nights are reserved for the occasional special event at the restaurant. Last Monday was one such night.

The wine tasting began at 6pm.  We were presented with an order form and a glass at the door, and invited to explore the stations and help ourselves to the buffet.  This event was unique in that if you found a wine you couldn’t live without, you could purchase it following the tasting, at 3 bottle- and by the case reduced prices.

There were several tables set up around the restaurant in mixer format; the food lined the bar at the back of the restaurant.  And they’re off!

The wine list for the evening was quite extensive, and included a broad range of producers, including some big names (i.e. Silver Oak and Kistler) as well as some local bonded Sacramento producers, like Soto, James Blake and Starr Johnson.  I steered away from the more familiar names and zeroed in on the many unknowns on the list.

The first taste was a light sparkler, ‘The Bitch’.  Girlie-pink  and fruity, it’s abrasive nom-de-vino was not indicative of it’s delicate and approachable style.

Some noteables from the evening:

  • Cono Sur Pinot Noir, “Colchagua”, Chile, 2008 – a lighter style Chilean Pinot with red berry fruit at the front
  • Castano Monastrel “Yecla”, 2008, Spain – a Spanish Mourvedre, smooth, dark and balanced
  • Belle Glos Pinot Noir, “Las Alturas”, 2008, Santa Lucia – one of the evening’s favorites with bright cherry fruit and a lingering finish
  • Jos. Carr Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Napa – bold with chewy tannins, earthy, smooth

One of the nicest surprises of the evening were the wines from James Blake, one of those local bonded Sacramento wineries I mentioned earlier.  All four of his selections that evening were terrific, my favorite being the Buster Red, a 2007 California blend.   One of the principals of the winery, James Scheller, was pouring, and was friendly, engaging and definitely having fun with his wine-making journey.

The menu that evening was equally impressive.

  • Selection of brick oven-fired Pizzas – toppings were great, very flavorful, but I couldn’t give a fair assessment to the pizza, as by the time I got to them, they’d been out for a while and were cool room temperature.
  • Kobe Beef Sliders with 6 Year White Cheddar, Chipotle Maui Onions, Micro Greens and Blackened Tomato–these were excellent, and were an excellent match to Orin Swift’s Prisoner
  • Mac and Cheese with white truffle oil, toasted breadcrumbs and asparagus –creamy, with a delicate cheese sauce, asparagus contributed a nice crunch and lovely color
  • Port Poached Pears stuffed with Stinky Blue – my favorite dish of the evening—I just love a good poached pear, and these were gorgeous;  the sharp contrast of the blue cheese and the crunch walnuts was just a fantastic combination….
  • Fried skate wing strips with creole aioli & classic cocktail sauce – crispy and not the least bit oily, these had a great flavor even without the aioli
  • Passed Baby red potato skins with caramelized shallot mascarpone and spicy French style pancetta – passed hors d’oeuvres —- a classy touch to any event—-these were single bites of smoky, hot, creamy deliciousness
  • Grilled vegetables with roasted red pepper aioli – perfectly cooked and colorful, a delicious, earthy accompaniment to the heavier apps of the evening, I would’ve been content with just a plate of these by their lonesome

I’ll never look at Monday’s the same again….

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