BY STEPHANIE RILEY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY CALLISTA WENGLER & JOAN CUSICK

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Is it the crispness in the air or the impending end of the year that feeds a desire to share a special meal with loved ones? Perhaps it's both. Sacramento chefs are masters at combining gourmet comfort dishes with handcrafted cocktails that warm you from the inside out. The winter menus at Ella, Shady Lady Saloon and Hock Farm show that you don't need a special occasion to celebrate the bounty of Northern California. Savor a charcuterie plate, a platter of homey fried chicken or a tower of fresh seafood for a festive gathering. This may be a digital age, but there's never been a better time to gather some friends for some true face time.

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Photo 1: Irish Coffee: Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey, cane molasses, Vanelli's locally roasted coffee, cardamom-infused double cream.
Photo 2: Mai Tai: in-house barrel-aged blend of rums, Cointreau triple sec, orgeat syrup and lime, with a rum float and orange garnish.
Photo 3: Pumpkin & Ricotta Ravioli with brown butter, sage-pumpkin seed pesto and Vella Mezzo Secco cheese.
Photo 4: Cheese Plate.


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Photo 1: Pizza with house-cured pancetta, fontina, house-pulled mozzarella, roasted Delicata squash, red onion and arugula pesto.
Photo 2: Zuzu's Petals: vodka, cranberry juice, holiday spices, garnished with candied cranberries.
Photo 3: Grasshopper: vodka, house-made crème de menthe, cacao, cream.
Photo 4: Savory bone marrow served with shallots, capers, honey and toast points.


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Photo 1: Seafood plateau featuring Hog Island oysters, chilled whole Maine lobster, poached shrimp.
Photo 2: Crispy pork belly sliders with smoked honey on house-made biscuits.


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Photo 1: Tall, dark and lovely: Shady Lady's party-ready atmosphere.
Photo 2: Crispy pork rinds served with tangy lime-chile sauce.
Photo 3: Velvet-smooth saffron clam chowder.
Photo 4: Charcuterie board featuring artisanal and house-made meats and cheeses, marrow, cured olives.


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Before the Fall: rye whiskey, apricot liqueur, honey, lemon and a dash of cinnamon. The Alba: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, cynar, topped with grated coffee bean and an orange twist.