Monday, April 7, 2014

Dinnerwire is keeping me busy.

Sadly, my blog has been on low priority of late. I've been a little busy finishing up the Sacramento Food Film Festival (which raised about $10k for CA Food Literacy, thank you) and with my new job.

Perhaps you read yesterday's (4/6/14) Bee article "Rezku has no reservation on challenging OpenTable".  Well as I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is my new employer.  I'll be retiring from my State job to take a gamble that this new start-up company will take care of me and my retirement needs by being a success in the next few years. It's a gamble, but at least I'll be happy with my job.

My new company is Dinnerwire/Rezku.  Dinnerwire is the end user app/webpage where you can look up restaurants and make reservations.  Rezku is the restaurant reservation system used by the restaurants to not only schedule bookings, but alter floorplans, assign servers, move tables, keep analytics on service, etc.

Taking on OpenTable is going to be like an ant going up against a foot. We are starting with less than a dozen employees and they have thousands worldwide. They made $56 million the last quarter of 2013 and have used that wealth to buy up other companies such as Foodspotting.

What we do have is a significantly lower price plan that can save the restaurants hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month. We also have a state-of-the-art system. I'm sorry, but the other guy's looks like it hasn't been touched since it was created in 1998. 

When I leave my State job in July I will start selling the system as well as my current duties. Right now I work for them part time and love my new job. Who wouldn't love filming restaurants?  I'm doing "Ms. Munchie on the street" style videos that we post to the Dinnerwire page. The idea is that other sites have photographs, but we are showing you videos that give you a feel of the place and the food and sometimes include an interview with the owner, manager, or chef.

So with that, let me show you a sampling of what I've been up to.  I'm not able to embed them here, so you will have to follow the links.

Mama Kim Eats

Crawdads River Cantina

Lucca

Even though we are based here, we are signing restaurants up for Rezku nationwide. So if you have any contacts in the restaurant biz who might be interested, let me know.  

We are also hiring sales people for the rest of the country. 

Restaurant owners/managers should go and "claim" their restaurants on Dinnerwire.  If you have your own video, you can post it there and edit your restaurants information.

Lastly, if you are in the Northern California area and would like me to come and film your restaurant, I would be happy to do that - it's my job!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why I want to go on an eight-day Emerald Waterways river cruise through Europe


I like cruising. I like that you only have to unpack once and yet travel to several destinations. I like that your food is included and it's pretty damn good food at that. I like that you can magically wake up in a different city or country every day.

I also like to think of it as travel window shopping.  If you have never been to a selection of countries, you get a small taste of them for a day and then can decide if you want to return to visit them more in-depth in the future. This what we did on our honeymoon cruise, returning to Cozumel for a week several years later.

What I do not like about cruising is getting motion sick, which I have done via all methods of transportation my entire life.

In Europe, though, you can go luxury river cruising! Rivers, the cruising versus the white water type, don't make you motion sick! And because the ships are long and narrow, every room has a view. No inner cabins for the claustrophobic here!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Koreana Plaza and International Food Court



One of my favorite memories of going to the Philippines was going to the food courts they have in shopping centers.  These aren't like American food courts with McDonald's and Sbarro.  These are similar to ones you find throughout Asia where individual vendors have small stands selling their specialty.  There's a grandma over here making rice cakes and over there is an auntie who has special skewers. The next stall over is a girl making halo halo or selling pastries.  Each one is independent and as close to homemade as you can get in a shopping center.

When I read last week in the Bee that Allen Pierleoni had gone to Koreana Plaza for the International food court, I had to check it out too.  I really hoped it might be similar to the kind I remembered. It wasn't, but it was still pretty good.


To find Koreana Plaza you need to get off at Zinfandel and onto Olson Drive. If you are familiar with the Target at Zinfandel, then KP is behind the Target. The next thing to note is the size of the place.  This picture above, it's only a third of it.  Basically it takes up the space that three supermarkets or large stores would occupy!

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Water Conservation

I can remember the drought of 1976-77, even though I was living overseas at the time. That's because the summer of 1977 my family was touring the Southwest National Parks - Zion, Grand Canyon, etc. I even remember we were somewhere in Arizona when we went to see Star Wars.


During our travel through California I can remember the signs at a few motels that told us to reuse our towels and not flush unless we did number 2.  I guess the saying is, "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." 

I've carried that with me my entire life. I appreciate the need to conserve water. Maybe it's because I lived in the desert or maybe because I've traveled the world and seen where clean water is not readily accessible.

So I might be extreme in my water conservation during this drought. But since I live alone, I can be without annoying anyone in my household. Please know that most of this is done when I am alone and that when I have guests, I curtail these practices, for the most part.

1)  I've practiced the "If it's mellow" thing my whole adult life.  I do not flush every time I pee. Rest assured, this will not be the case if you are visiting.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Death Knell of Retail Stores



Hallmark leaves Country Club Plaza and the question is raised - Is Country Club dead? Radio Shack is closing 1100 stores. Staples is closing 225 stores. Shopping malls have huge vacancies. What is happening?

It was made clear to me in an interview I saw on a news show with a retail expert. He explained that no new shopping mall had been built since 2006. Malls across the country are struggling to keep or attract tenants. We see it all the time as we drive down the road - large numbers of vacant storefronts and dying shopping strips and malls. 

The reason for the closing of brick n mortar stores is the ever increasing reliance on internet shopping.

This worries me because the fact is, retail provides a huge number of jobs, especially at the lower end of the pay spectrum. Retail provides great opportunities for part-time work or secondary incomes. Like fast food, they are great first jobs for young people. Retail jobs are immensely important to the local economy. 

In fact, local retail jobs also are important for the taxes of the City or County they are in. The sales taxes of retail purchases fund our social services such as police, fire, schools, and more.

It's a troubling trend. Understandable, yet troubling. After all, I love using Amazon myself. And if you have Prime, the shipping is not an issue anymore. It's now all a matter of convenience.

The brick n mortars can't compete with the low prices that are possible by online comparison shopping. And if you can't find something locally, of course you rely on the internet. 

Is it any wonder the economy is slow to recover?

I have no solutions or suggestions myself. But I thought it was important for people to begin thinking about. What are your thoughts and what can we do with all those empty storefronts?

Update: Discovery of website Deadmalls.com.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cochon Napa 2014 - Another Great Pork-fest


sigh. I forgot this somewhere.

If pork is your favorite meat, like it is for me, then there is no better event than Cochon 555

"Cochon" is French for "pig" and the 555 means - 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 wineries. What could be better? 2014 is the sixth tour of Cochon. It was established as a way to support family farms that raise heritage breed pigs. The tour stops at 10 U.S. cities where the five chosen chefs compete to make the best dishes from their heritage pigs. The winners from each city then go on to compete in the Grand Finale at the Aspen Wine & Food Classic. If you like what you see in this post, then consider going to the final Cochon event in San Francisco scheduled for April 27th.


One of the competing chefs for the Napa event was someone we Sacramentans are familiar with - Kelly McCown, formerly the chef at Ella. Kelly is now the Executive Chef at Goose and Gander in St. Helena. He was assigned one of the most flavorful types of pigs - a Mangalitsa. This wooly pig is known for its abundance of fat. It's 50-percent fat content gives it a coveted marble and buttery flavor. The other breeds were Yorkshire, Red Wattle, Duroc, Mulefoot, and Old Spot.
 

There were actually seven pigs. Along with the five that the chefs used, a group of students under the guide of Larry Forgione of Conservatory for American Food Studies had one for making the late night Asian inspired bites and the last Red Wattle was butchered on site and then the meat sold.  All money raised from the sale was then donated to the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I Can Eat Again!

So raw vegan is hard. At least for me with not the greatest willpower. Honestly, though, to have made it through the first two weeks pretty cleanly is a MAJOR accomplishment in my book. All of my friends agreed with that. To do vegan is one thing. To do raw vegan is something else.

I wrote my experiences at week three and I basically feel the same.  My plan, at this time, is to try to be pescatarian for the most part and limit meat to once or twice a week.

How about my blood work?  My cholesterol went down, but not as much as I hoped considering I had eliminated meat and dairy.  I did cheat a couple of times with hot chocolates for migraine relief.  Here are my results.

BEFORE

Cholesterol<=239 mg/dL264
Triglyceride<=199 mg/dL59
HDL>=45 mg/dL83
Low density lipoprotein calculated<=129 mg/dL169
Glucose, fasting60 - 99 mg/dL91

AFTER 

Cholesterol<=239 mg/dL              242
Triglyceride<=199 mg/dL              76
HDL>=45 mg/dL              76
Low density lipoprotein calculated<=129 mg/dL             151

Glucose, fasting                        60 - 99 mg/dL                90

Hardly a change at all for all that effort. Some are telling me it takes a few months of a new diet. I'm not that patient or interested. What does my doctor say? He says he wants my LDL to get below 130.  That's quite a ways to go.  

"What about your health?" you say? Honestly, I'd prefer to live happy and die young.  HORRIBLE, incapacitating strokes run in my family and I have a Do Not Resuscitate order in my file and my family and ex-husband know why. I would much rather go at 60 then linger to 100.

Keep in mind that I'm single and without kids. So I don't need to be sticking around unnecessarily anyway.

So I guess you can call it laziness and apathy. My choice. 

Meanwhile, I did have tilapia for lunch and ceviche waiting for dinner.








Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week 3 of Raw Vegan

Week 1 was easier than I thought.
Week 2 was tougher, but I only had minor slips.
Week 3 - I've lost interest.

Now I certainly didn't do this raw vegan month to kickstart a raw vegan lifestyle. I did it (see first post) to kinda cleanse, watch my energy levels, and reduce my sugar intake. I also need to lower my cholesterol.

As I said a few days in, the hardest part had been all the liquids in the morning and not eating until the afternoon. But the food was very good and I was happy. Many people experience some cleansing signs as their bodies detox. Such things as headaches, stomach growls, and feeling moody. At the same time, those with more chronic issues experience good things like the reduction of swelling and changes to their bodies. The ONLY thing I noticed during week one is the loss of 4 pounds. Definitely good. But I think that the reason I didn't experience anything else might be because I've always eaten well to begin with. I rarely eat processed foods and generally make my meals from whole ingredients or I eat at places that do. I don't eat at fast food joints.

The second week was still OK, but I was now craving hot food more than anything. Surprisingly it wasn't cravings for meat, sugar, or dairy - it was for hot.  So I cheated and got some French fries. I figured it was hot, but still vegan. My other cheats have been a couple of bites of seafood and hot chocolate when I got migraines - need the caffeine. In the scheme of things, I think I've done well avoiding meat and dairy and grains. Second week was harder, but I got through it.

I always have trouble on weekends when I'm bored. That's when I would cook/bake.  During this diet, weekends are when the urge to cheat is the hardest.

Entering week 3 is where I've run into problems and pretty much decided raw vegan is a very difficult lifestyle for me that I could never do.

While the meals have been good, they've also gotten repetitive. What I mean is that while the meals are all different, the elements to make the meals are becoming repetitive. The same sort of "bread", "cheese", and meat substitute component are returning in different dishes. Now add the fact that the food is still raw and cold, I've gone into rebellion. Yesterday (day 14) I looked at the meal that was packed and I just couldn't do it. Again, I didn't want to go running out for a burger, so I ran to Mother and got a vegan meal there - a salad and the fried okra.  Actually, I did that last week too. I ran to Thai Canteen and got a green mango salad to change things up.

Week 3 is when you are supposed to see the more dramatic changes to energy level, sleep, mood, etc.  I don't know if I will experience those because of my cheating or because I didn't experience those things in week 1 either. I don't want to bail on this diet completely. I paid for a month's worth of meals after all. I will probably continue as best I can, but with the occasional hot food item or bit of seafood. That much I'm determined to do - stay away from meat for the whole month. After all, I still need to lower my cholesterol.

Meanwhile, what do I think about my overall diet at this point?  Well I've learned that I can survive without meat, dairy, and grains pretty well. If I can continue that from now on, that's a win. After all, I had to have meat every day before and RARELY ever did a meatless day. I can also try to keep this willpower up enough to do less or lower sugar desserts.  The test will be to see if I can convert from sweets and meat every day to sweets and meats only one or two days a week - as treats. 

Less than 10 days to go.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cochon Napa has a Sacramento Alumnus Contestant

 
pic courtesy of Cochon555

This year it's round 6 of the annual Cochon 555 tour. "Cochon" is French for "pig" and the 555 means - 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 wineries. What could be better than that?

Cochon 555 was established as a way to support family farms that raise heritage breed pigs. Since the start it has focused on supporting local agriculture as well. There are tour stops in 10 U.S. cities where the five chosen local chefs compete to make the best dishes from their assigned heritage pigs. The winners from each city then go on to compete in the Grand Cochon finale at the Aspen Wine & Food Classic. We are lucky in Northern California to have two stops on their tour: Napa (March 2) and San Francisco (April 27). 


Napa tickets are currently on sale for the March 2nd event and Sacramentans should take note. This year one of the competing chefs is Kelly McCown, formally of Ella and now at Goose & Gander in Napa. Kelly has worked at numerous restaurants throughout the West Coast such as La Folie, Fleur de Lys, Lampreia, Flying Fish, and the Michelin rated Martini House in St. Helena. He's also been spotted foraging ingredients in the Napa Valley area. I'm sure all of us familiar with his cooking know that he is a strong contender to win Cochon Napa. Let's show him some Sacramento support by showing up!


2012
In 2012 another local favorite competed, Michael Tuohy. Recently returned to Sacramento, at the time he was Executive Chef at Dean & DeLuca. One of his assistants that day was James Beard winner, Hank Shaw.

Tickets for Cochon 555 are $125 (general admission) and $200 (VIP). Both ticket prices includes endless drink and tons of food. GA starts at 5pm. VIP starts at 4pm, and includes one-hour early access to all the food (premium access to limited experiences like Punch Kings, wines and spirits), a chance to hang with the celebrity chefs, judges and media. Everyone is invited to the After Party.  

The event is held at the Culinary Institute in St. Helena at the glorious stone structure of Greystone.
 
2555 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574
When: Sunday March 2nd, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

First Days of Raw Vegan Month

I am on Day 4, one of the most difficult days.

Due to a visiting guest and my not picking up my Green Boheme meals until Sunday, I started a day late, on February 2, Sunday. Now I'm on Day 4 at the peak of the initial cleansing phase. Your first 2-4 days are when your body is getting used to a different diet and purging itself of toxins. It's also when you feel hunger pangs the most intensely.  After all, this raw food has a lot less density and so my stomach says, "Put something in here! I'm empty!" 

So far I'm finding the hardest parts to be the daily eating schedule and the amount of liquids. I have juice and smoothie for the first half of my day. I don't get around to actual solid food until around 3:00.  Thing is, I've been waking up at 4:30 or 5 and so I've got a huge break between things. 

5 am  - probiotic drink
5:30 or 6 - green juice
11 am - green smoothie 32 ounces

That's a huge break between 6 and 11! Your mind begins to crave things.

Now add the fact that liquids run right through me and my workplace bathroom is a BLOCK away!  They are remodeling the bathrooms near my office and so we have to trek all the way to the other set, a block away (inside). TMI, but that means with a 32 ounce smoothie I'm running to the bathroom every 15 minutes for the hour after I drink it. Not fun.

Once I get actual food in me later in the afternoon, I'm ok. In fact, there is enough in the meal and snack to fill you up until bed time. It's all that fiber.  And the food is good! Which I knew it would be. I have yet to have anything from Green Boheme that I didn't care for.  One thing I'll say for sure, the food is SOOOO flavorful. I can't get over how good it is and, as I'm eating my savory crepe, thinking about how easy and rather enjoyable this month might be because I took that step to buy the full meal plan.  I don't have to think about what I'm eating each day, or about preparing it. 

In fact, with the opening of Mother showcasing fabulous vegetarian dishes as well, it makes me think about "maybe it wouldn't be too difficult to change my eating habits long-term". But we are only on Day 4 and I love dairy and pork. I guess we'll see.

Here are some examples of my first few meals:

  • fajita filled w/ veggies, Mexican 'rice' and 'beans' and a mango pudding
  • mock 'chicken' salad wraps and a chocolate creme cake
  • shepherd's pie w/ spinach salad
  • savory crepe w/ side salad
I've eaten everything but the shepherd's pie and chocolate cake so far. The fajita and and crepe dishes came with wraps to put the fillings into. Both were surprisingly pliable. They are made by making a puree, spreading thin, and then dehydrating. Rather good. 

I'll try to remember to take some pictures next installment.