So, I've got to come clean: I've had a long-running love affair with a promotion in Sacramento called Dine Downtown. The restaurant week and I have been seeing each other for seven years now and, quite frankly, there's no end in sight. It's cool...my husband knows. He's pretty okay with it. In fact, he often accompanies me on annual Dine Downtown dates.You see, I used to work for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership (DSP), which puts together this food lover's paradise every year. I helped manage the promotion for four years and have a deep knowledge of what it takes to bring dozens of restaurants together to offer 10 days of three-course menus for $30. It's not easy. It actually takes a ton of hard work. So, my first order of business is to say thank you to the staff over there for making this event thrive year after year. You all rock.

Now, on to the food!

My husband and I were lucky enough to preview the Dine Downtown menu at Dawson's at The Hyatt. To be perfectly honest, it had been a while. I've always enjoyed the food at Dawson's, but I often forget about the many, many restaurants tucked away in Sacramento's beautiful hotels. Thus, most of Sacramento's hotel restaurants get left off the "where are we going to dinner tonight?" response list. No more! The food and service at Dawson's were both incredible and we will definitely be back.

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{You can download the full menu here.}

Here's the scoop on Dawson's Dine Downtown menu: they offer options for each course, which I always appreciate. We had trouble deciding what to get, but as I jokingly explained to our server, Ardy (who was hilarious and did an impeccable job), my husband and I had already agreed to choose different options so that we could taste more from the menu -- even if my husband and I wanted the same dish. Seems harsh, but this strategy has always served me well during restaurant week.

Starter:

Dawson's offers up a starter of deliciously fresh bread, butter and the most incredible olive tapenade. It's made in-house and Ardy warned us of its addictive powers. True to form, we had a second serving. {Have I mentioned that we never, ever make food-related new year's resolutions because of Dine Downtown? Truth bomb. Food wins every time.}

First Course:

All of the options for the first course sounded amazing, but we decided on the espresso cured tenderloin carpaccio for him and the baby beet and burrata salad for me.

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{Guess who was too excited about the food to adjust her camera for a low-light situation? This girl. The result? Sad face city upon download and some seriously over-edited photos. Here's to embracing the learning curve, my friends! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...}

I'm a big fan of beets and have trouble passing up menu items containing them. They're just so good and I hate preparing them at home. This salad was the perfect first course for me and my husband loved the carpaccio.

Second Course:

The entrée is always where the magic happens for me. There's something so beautiful about artfully plated food and the chef at Dawson's did not disappoint. My husband reluctantly (yes, he was going to order the salmon, but stuck to our agreement) ordered the braised beef short rib and I opted for the charred pacific salmon.

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If I could adequately describe the look on my husband's face when he took his first bite of short ribs, I would. His eyes got really big, he mumbled something resembling "oh man...that's good," and kept eating. Needless to say, he was happy with his choice. I tried a bite of his entrée and I have to say, the combination of incredibly tender beef, perfectly prepared polenta and braised greens was nothing short of amazing. My salmon was also pretty incredible. It was perfectly cooked with a really interesting brussels sprout Caesar perched on top. I love when chefs try something out of the ordinary and that "twist on a Caesar," as Ardy described it, was delicious. The anchovy and garlic puree added the perfect amount of flavor to the dish.

Third Course:

With the third course, we again tested our pact to order different dishes. I opted for the California triple cream camembert because, even though I'm a sucker for a root beer float, my husband had already called dibs on the sweet crab apple fritters.

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The float was made with Dad's Root Beer and vanilla bean gelato. Don't worry, my friends. I definitely got to try it and the float suited the fritters quite nicely. On the cheese dish, the kitchen wisely paired the wonderful camembert with a side of walnut brittle and gooseberry jam. It was the perfect sweet and savory dessert.

Final grade: A+++

We left full and happy. You can't really beat that.

As I mentioned, I'm pretty partial to Dine Downtown. It's just such a great deal. And the food? Well, the food is always top-notch. The promotion is great for participating businesses, it gives food-lovers a chance to live it up without breaking the bank and it's really, really good for the downtown economy. That's a win, win, win. A trifecta of winning, if you will.

So what have we learned here?

  1. Always thank the people who work tirelessly to bring us amazing events and promotions.
  2. Don't forget to try hotel restaurants. They might surprise you!
  3. Always remember to adjust your camera properly for indoor, low-light situations.
  4. Eat at Dawson's often. TRUST me on this.
  5. Go with someone who is up for ordering different options for each course (if the restaurant offers options). That way everyone gets to try more of the menu!

The Scoop:

Dine Downtown Restaurant Week January 9 - 18, 2013 More info: downtownsac.org/dinedowntown Reservations are highly recommended.

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Disclaimer: While our meal was on the house, all opinions are my own. If we were in the same room right now, you'd know that I'm telling the truth. I've been writing through lunchtime and my tummy is growling just thinking about the food! Time to eat!

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