The cooks at Velvet Grill & Creamery understand the timelessness of classic diner fare and a cold scoop of ice cream. All day long, they make breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes from scratch and churn out fresh batches of more than 20 ice-cream flavors. Breakfast seekers satisfy savory cravings with three-egg omelets stuffed with ingredients such as avocado, crab, linguiça, and feta cheese. Sweet teeth tear into Velvet's original pancakes, made with real oatmeal and buttermilk from a special house recipe. Later-day options include classic comfort fare such as chicken-fried steak and smoked pork chops doused with an apricot glaze. Among the sandwich selection, the house-special mega grilled cheese ($7.39) combines four kinds of melted, gooey cheese between three slices of bread to form a meal hefty enough to knock over Mechagodzilla should he return from his semester abroad in Prague. Diners can also lap up the eatery's rotating selection of homemade ice creams, which were spotlighted in the Lodi News-Sentinel for their incorporation of such unconventional ingredients as wine and butternut squash. Customers can also suggest new flavors and request special batches, which in the past have included licorice, bacon, and the sweet, sweet taste of victory over chinese finger traps.
Dream Dinners founders Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna want to help families gather around the table for delicious meals. Like many parents throughout the country, the two women tried to coordinate a family dinner, but their efforts were often thwarted by hectic schedules. As a dinnertime strategy, Stephanie began to prepare meals with fresh, raw ingredients and then freeze them so they could be quickly thawed and cooked during the week. This tactic became popular with her family. Before long, friends, friends of friends, and chimpanzee families that mimicked their friends wanted to learn her secrets. With help from Tina Kuna, she established the first Dream Dinners location, and the successful food-prep business has led to the creation of more than 90 stores in less than three years.
At each Dream Dinners location, customers find all the culinary tools to prepare a nutritious meal—everything from fresh ingredients to meal-packing materials. Each week Dream Dinners features a new menu of fix-and-freeze dinners that can be made for up to six people, providing customers with numerous options for planning quiet meals at home or dinner parties with friends. All ingredients are precut and measured to ensure an error-free fixing.
The seasoned slingers of succulence at Johnathan's Fresh Fish & Meats, who first sharpened their cleavers more than 26 years ago, barbecue bold, smoky flavors into fresh meats to create mouthwatering dinner combos. The combo plate saddles up chicken, pork ribs, or tri-tip beef alongside cowboy beans and a choice of macaroni salad, potato salad, or coleslaw for a gastronomic hootenanny more flavorsome than a gummy-bear rodeo. Barbecue buffs can inhale the scent of grilled meat while dining in at either of the locations from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, or carryout their plates to enjoy at home with their significant other, roommate, or that handsome doppelganger lurking in the mirror.
For more than 30 years, the chefs of De Vinci’s Elk Grove have been hard at work perfecting the traditional Italian recipes that stock their deli counter. They begin every morning with their hands floury, crafting doughs that will form the base of housemade foccacia breads, cheese-filled ravioli, and custom sandwiches. Joined occasionally by a fluffy ravioli mascot in a toque, staff combine dishes into prearranged packages ready for the family dinner table or parcel out single dishes by the pint, quart, gallon, or 10-gallon hat.
SOS Club is an unusually luxurious take on a gym—for one, there's an on-site bar and restaurant. For another, there's not one swimming pool, but three, including a heated one. The array of sports courts, meanwhile, ranges from tennis courts to basketball ones. For a group workout, members can also take to the group fitness studios, for sessions of mini-ball Zumba, Pilates, yoga, or pirate toga.
It has been more than 40 years since the Medina family immigrated to Modesto, although the recipes that they use at Bel Piatto Cucina Italiana remain just as strongly rooted in Italian tradition. The lunch and dinner menus are filled with elegant pasta, seafood, veal, and steak dishes, as well as more casual calzones, which get stuffed with ingredients such as meatballs and spinach before being baked in the oven until their SPF wears off.
Wines ranging from real Italian reds to homegrown California chardonnays pair nicely with the entire spectrum of entrees, from the hearty bistecca di manzo—with wild mushrooms and a cabernet reduction accentuating a 12-ounce rib-eye steak—to the grilled salmon fresca highlighted by white wine, lemon, capers, and cream. Appetizers such as stuffed portobello mushrooms help to launch feasts.
Bel Piatto Cucina Italiana’s atmosphere is just as Italian as its food, surrounding diners with crisp white tablecloths, darkened wood, clerestory windows, and a wall-mounted wine rack.