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Jul 29, 2012 10:21 AM

New In Chico

Finally, there is a place in Chico to get some excellent small plates and some good wine: Wine Time. Chico mainly relies on 5th Street Steakhouse, Red Tavern and Sierra Nevada Brewery for fine dining. My wife and I are prejudiced for foreign wine and it’s hard to get a good bottle (or any) at a restaurant in Chico. Red Tavern was out of the 3 wines I requested from their list on my last visit. They weren’t very nice about it and were too busy to mark the wines on the list that were “out of stock”. An Italian restaurant we like was out of Chianti Classico for crying out loud. At Wine Time, we tried a 2009 Schlumberger Pinot Blanc, Alsace France - a 2005 Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva, Spain - a 2008 Fattoria dei Barbi, Morellino di Scansano Sole, Montalcino Italy.

We ordered a meat and cheese plate to start. The Rioja was outstanding with this selection and different with every bite. Then, we had a skirt steak and caramelized onion flatbread. The Morellino was the clear winner here, an excellent match. Then came the nightly special of albacore tuna with mango chutney sauce, cherry tomatoes, slivers of sweet green peppers and squash. Surprisingly, the Morellino was the winner here too. I thought the Pinot Blanc would be the one, but I was wrong. Next, we had Tuscan kale stuffed ravioli atop a tomato and sweet pepper sauce garnished with a touch of Orlando Creamery Formage Blanc. This was the dish for the Pinot Blanc, which stood up to the cheese. Finally, we tried a tagliatelle with Bolognese ragu and the Morellino again. With Wine Time, we have a winner!

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  1. Perfect timing. We are heading up to Chico this coming weekend looking for Marysville peaches and thought we would explore this town at the same time. I was chagrined searching for past dining reports so this could not have come at a better time. Thanks.

    3 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Sodaro's on Hwy. 70 north of Marysville, where we get our peaches, report that the Suncrest peaches (our favorites) are over. However, other varieties are delicious right now.

      1. re: BN1

        Thanks for the update - we go looking for those that used to be called locally "Patty's Perfects".

        1. re: glbtrtr

          Those Patty's Perfects were Fay Alberta's at a farm directly opposite Ramierez Road - old Lemke farm, now Joe's (?) fruit stand.

    2. Where is it? Apparently no where I drive by frequently.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bean Counter

        The website has a map. It's just south of Eaton Rd. in a back lot off the Esplanade.

        1. re: BN1

          Thanks - guess the mobile version of the website was a little clunky for me.

      2. Just back from a wonderful stay at the downtown Hotel Diamond ( breakfast included) which was within walking distance to a number of the Chico favorites. We found our own local favorite "Mo's BBQ" a few blocks away so that had to be one of our nights out and it was predictably good.

        The second night we walked over to the 5th Street Steakhouse which was a very lovely, stylish place but food was more in the okay category - overkill on portion size and even though advertised as "prime" beef was surprisingly lacking in flavor.

        I erred ordering their "mole crusted" sirloin (I should have known better) which combo of slightly bitter did nothing to enhance whatever lackluster beef flavor it was encasing. Meat was tender and well-cooked, just not wow factor for such a single entry item menu and namesake. Service friendly and setting could not be beat in this town. DH ordered the regular sirloin and confirmed these may have been graded prime, but fell very much in the ranks of ordinary.

        Picked up our Fey Alberta peaches at "Tony's" in Marysville on the Oroville Highway opposite Ramierez Road - heavenly, peach perfect. All in all this was a very worthy road trip for the peaches.

        4 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          IMO, you have given a perfect review of 5th Street Steakhouse. I avoid it like the plague. The last time I dined there they crammed six of us 60 year olds into one booth. Red Tavern has good food.

          1. re: BN1

            Isn't it always amazing how we out of towners, regardless of good local Chow advice ahead of time often end up ignoring it? Serves us right when we score a bummer. But sometimes other events take over our careful pre-planning and we were just feeling like we wanted a good steak - prime grade, how could it go wrong? It was hot, we didn't want to walk far and there was 5th Street SH right across the parking lot. Not terrible, just not that great. Yes, the Red Tavern did seem to get high marks in the local paper too from their "French" dining columnist. (CNR)

            1. re: glbtrtr

              I recognized your dilemma immediately when you said you were staying at Hotel Diamond. Chico is a college town and the food choices are adjusted accordingly. In Northern CA you have to drive for really good food.. There are some surprises like the old beer bar over on the west side of the Sacramento River, River Glenn. They serve the best prime rib in the Northern Sacramento Valley, IMO. There is Longboards at Graeagle in the mountains, which never fails to provide great food and wine. There is Café Collage in Oregon House outside Marysville with outstanding Mediterranean cooking. Mostly, we have to go to Sacramento, Granite Bay, etc or to the Napa/Sonoma area for excellent food. When we want a steak, we go to Costco, buy a ribeye, bring it home, grill it, drizzle it with 25 year old Balsamic, cover it with sautéed mushrooms, open a bottle of Barbaresco and chow down. This is not available in local steakhouses, so we just have to rough-it and make-do. We got a wood fired pizza oven for our backyard to make our own Italian style, thin crust pizza, but there is a new place in Chico for that, Grana, which we haven’t tried yet. Like finding the little places from the Slow Food Guide in Italy, which we do every winter, the search is the adventure.

              1. re: BN1

                Ah yes, planned many a trip around our Italy Slow Foods guide and also have the one for California. What wonderful suggestions you have added to this topic for anyone else who wants to enjoy a visit to Chico and its surroundings.

        2. Since this seems to have evolved as a Chico thread I'll throw some of my other recent favorites into the mix. I'm a fan of Farm Star pizza because I don't need my pizza overloaded with toppings and I don't have my own pizza oven. I like their salads too. Heard Red Tavern changed ownership recently so not sure if this place did too. Ive never really gotten 5th st but people I know like it and it is convenient to diamond hotel - id probably go to spice creek cafe if I was trying to stay downtown. I've only been there once and it wasn't recently but really enjoyed it. My favorite lunch spot downtown is the Banshee - its a bar so not fancy and the best things are heavy comfort foods like Mac & cheese. My favorite breakfast spot is near downtown but a long walk - Cafe Coda - love the chilaquilas.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Bean Counter

            I am glad this is becoming an evolving Chico thread because as out of towners, we found a lot to like about visiting this pretty, leafy green college town ( between semesters!) And hitting the fruit stands in this area in August is reason enough to make this trip.

            1. re: glbtrtr

              this weekend--Labor Day--is the ginormous beer fest on the river. A bonafide Stay Away From Chico weekend.

              1. re: toodie jane

                I'm headed to Chico this weekend. Is the whole town doomed for the inevitable beer fest, or just the immediate river areas?

                1. re: BecaC

                  Hi beca - hard to say some years are definitely worse than others - obviously stay away from the river but the downtown nightlife will be a little much too. But if you go places on the early side you should be fine. I live here and it's not like I'm changing my whole weekend routine or anything.

                  1. re: BecaC

                    Its a 72 hour long party complete with drunks fighting at 3 am. Take earplugs.

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      By all accounts this year was had significantly less violence in years past. I'd venture to guess there are drunken fights every weekend night in every college town. Most non college students avoid he downtown area after 10 anyway.

                      1. re: Bean Counter

                        If I remember correctly Chico has had 4 alcohol (non driving) deaths
                        so far this year.

                        Lots of young people living on the edge.

                        I live here and if I had a college bound child this would be the last school
                        in the country I would have them go to.

                  2. re: toodie jane

                    Long term local guy here...

                    Good tip to avoid the student craziness.

                    Along those lines you might also avoid...
                    St Pattys Day
                    4th of July
                    Graduation weekend (about 5 days)

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      My wife and I tried the wood-oven pizza restaurant, Grana, which we really liked. We were going to try the pork dish from the menu last Saturday night, but they were having the “Parade of Lights” downtown, a holdover from the long gone Pioneer Days. Everything downtown including Grana was swamped, so we fell back on the nearly full Wine Time for another good meal. Whenever there is a big celebration, all one has to do is avoid downtown to steer clear of any trouble or bother. Angelo's Cucina Trinacria, Basque Norte, Red Tavern, Sierra Nevada Brewery, Wine Time, etc. are all outside the danger zone.