Taste: The region's latest food, drink & restaurant news for Jan. 19

Photo courtesy of Empress Tavern
Empress Tavern's ramen lunch special

Get ready to chow down and drink up. A new outpost of Zocalo just debuted, and Empress Tavern is warming our bellies with new weekly ramen specials. Plus, a VW-bus-themed brewery is about to fling open its doors in Folsom, a mobile coffee venture has launched, and Folsom is hosting its first-ever beer week. Keep reading for all of the crave-worthy details.

Empress Tavern

Ever since this underground restaurant in downtown Sacramento hired sous chef Noah Mansfield (formerly of Hook & Ladder) in November, his obsession with crafting the perfect bowl of ramen has manifested itself in the menu's Blue Plate Special, with new variations of the soul-warming noodle dish popping up nearly every week. The most recent version of Mansfield’s ramen (on the menu through Jan. 19) features spicy pork tan tan, a six-minute soft-boiled egg, black sesame seeds, scallions, Fresno chile peppers and a few dashes of yuzu sauce for sweetness. Previous creations have included everything from an incarnation with smoked pork butt, bacon broth and white soy barbecue sauce to one layering duck confit, enoki mushrooms, pork demi-glace and garlic confit. The dish is only available for lunch during weekdays, and as of last week, the restaurant added it as a to-go item, so you can grab these noodles on the fly. Tip: Follow Empress Tavern on Instagram to see how Mansfield will be using his noodle for future ramen specials. 1013 K St. 916-662-7694. empresstavern.com

Owner Kristin Tedford with her new Farmhouse Coffee trailer (Photo courtesy of Farmhouse Coffee)

Farmhouse Coffee

A former manager at both Peet's Coffee and Starbucks, Newcastle resident Kristin Tedford knows a thing or two about caffeine. In mid-December, she launched a mobile coffee service that brews up hot and cold espresso, mochas and blended drinks using beans from Rocklin roaster Vaneli's. The 8-by-14-foot country-chic trailer decked out in reclaimed wood and corrugated tin siding serves up beverages with cheeky names—like the Muddy Boots, a dark chocolate mocha topped with chocolate shavings and the Totes M’ Goats, a chai latte with espresso—in cups with hand-stamped coffee jackets. Tedford also pours organic tea from Colorado-based Two Leaves and a Bud, and she hopes to soon offer a small menu of breakfast pastries and oatmeal. Check Facebook for Farmhouse Coffee’s upcoming locations in the region. 916-717-3779. farmhousecoffeetrailer.com

Logo courtesy of Red Bus Brewing Company

Red Bus Brewing Company

Erik Schmid, who in 2005 launched Folsom’s home brewing shop The Brewmeister, is hoping to open his new taproom and brewery inspired by Volkswagen buses and German beers at the same location by early February. Large windows into the brewery will give taproom guests a firsthand look at Red Bus Brewing Company’s seven-barrel system, which will create lagers, Czech-style pilsners, porters and IPAs. Schmid’s lifelong passion for German vehicles (he currently owns a 1968 VW Transporter bus) is reflected in the 1,000-square-foot taproom, which will feature a 1972 red-and-white VW bus protruding through the wall, light fixtures made from license plates, framed vintage ads of VWs, tap handles fashioned from stick shift knobs and a spacious concrete bar embedded with aluminum emblems of the VW logo. 802 Reading St. Folsom. 916-985-7299. redbusbrew.com

Folsom Beer Week

Bottom’s up! Folsom will host its inaugural beer week from Jan. 27-Feb. 2, kicking off with Tap Into A Cold One (Jan. 27) at the Palladio shopping center, which will feature unlimited tastings from over 40 regional breweries, including Red Bus, Fort Rock, Loomis Basin, Device and Sudwerk, as well as free samples of fare from Folsom restaurants like Grist Beer Hall, Heckle Alehouse & Eatery, Sutter Street Taqueria and Chicago Fire. The rest of the week will highlight Folsom’s suds scene with events like pint nights at Grist Beer Hall featuring brews from Track 7 (Jan. 30) and Knee Deep (Jan. 31); a Blind Hazy IPA Battle (Feb. 2) at Grist during which hopheads can put their taste buds to the test; and daily rib- and craft beer-pairing nights at Pete's Restaurant & Brewhouse featuring the pub’s St. Louis-style pork ribs and suds like Track 7 Panic IPA. folsombeerweek.com

The buzzy interior of Zocalo's new University Village location (Photo courtesy of Zocalo)


The latest outpost of this local Mexican restaurant chain opened in University Village along Fair Oaks Boulevard and Howe Avenue on Jan. 9. The 6,000-square-foot space, created by Zocalo owner Ernesto Jimenez and Mexican designer Ernesto Cruz, features blue blown glass light fixtures, cushy gray and black booths, an ovular marble bar and the dining room's centerpiece showstopper: a 20-person communal table hewn from the midsection of a Mexican Parota tree. The menu remains the same as the local Mexican chain's other locations, highlighting authentic dishes, from the popular Dos Equis Ambar beer-battered fish tacos and signature green cilantro-lime rice to the succulent cochinita pibil, which blends slow-cooked pork shoulder with achiote, habanero salsa and pickled red onion. 466 Howe Ave. 916-252-0303. zocalosacramento.com

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