Monday, June 20, 2016

Off the Grid arrives in Sacramento

center area is kept clear for lines. everyone else is off to the sides in the shaded areas
One upon a time I wrote frequently on the issues of food trucks in Sacramento. I got interested in the food truck movement after attending one of the very first Off the Grid events in San Francisco back in 2010. It was after that that I joined forces with a couple of partners to create SactoMoFo and stage the first food truck festival in Sacramento.

That seems so long ago. At the time I had met the Off the Grid founder, Matt Cohen, and had often asked him advice in those early years as we tried to get food truck ordinances passed here. He had told me that some day he hoped to bring Off the Grid to Sacramento. Well, that day is here. 

Off the Grid (OtG) is the most respected food truck organization in the country and Matt Cohen is one of the most important food truck advocates. OtG doesn't just accept any truck. Trucks must audition. That is, they must have their food tasted and their trucks inspected. If they aren't up to OtG's high standards, they are given advice to improve their business. Not all truck owners are willing to accept such advice as they can be stubborn. There are plenty of other trucks that welcome OtG's advice. 

It all started in 2010 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Since that time OtG has increased to food truck events in over 20 cities throughout the Bay Area. This month they arrived in (West) Sacramento with weekly events on the West Sacramento Riverwalk, across from Old Sacramento. The location is a nice one because there is lots of public parking (streets and a parking garage), park toilets, green grass, and, of course, the river with a nice Delta breeze on a good day. Crocker Park will be the site for Tuesday nights starting on July 12th. 

Sacramento weather is a lot hotter than the Bay Area and so one nice addition to OtG events here is the ability to rent sun shades and party tents. Sun shades create just enough shade for 2-3 people and come with 2 Adirondack chairs for $75. Party tents are the pop-up tents, come with a picnic table, and run $100. Personally, I would recommend the extra $25 for the tent as it will provide shade for a lot more people and allow breezes through. We had a cabana and while the shade is nice, it blocked off the cooling breeze. For the next couple of weeks, both are on sale at 50% off with code HEYSACRAMENTO until July 10th.  You can reserve them here.

There's plenty of food, of course. Half the vendors are trucks and half are tent vendors. Each week the vendors will be different. They are looking into rotating in a truck or two from the Bay Area to give us trucks we don't regularly see. There is also beer and cocktails available from two bars and music provided by a DJ.

I know most of the truck vendors and definitely have my favorites. Everyone knows favorites such as Chando's Tacos and the Culinerdy Cruzer. If you are a Reuben sandwich lover, you HAVE to get one from Cali Love. Honestly the best Reuben I've had in Sacramento. 

I wanted to try something new and so I chose the paella from Gerard's Paella. While this picture is not the most attractive, it was a heaping big plate of paella with lots of chicken, shrimp, and baby scallops in it. It was very popular as I saw many plates of it. 

I also had a Fat Face popsicle. Jaymes has been around for some time, but it had been ages since I'd had one of his popsicles. My friend had a delicious strawberry coconut one, but we agreed my kaffir lime avocado was the winner. It also happens to be one the most popular. 

It's a great way to spend a Sunday, enjoying sun, friends, and food. It's like having a picnic without having to worry about bringing the food. Off the Grid is every Sunday from 11a - 4p. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Getaway to Virginia City

Next year will be my 30 year anniversary for living in Sacramento. During that time it took me over 20 years before I ever went to the Crocker Museum or Sutter's Fort. Now I love and appreciate them. I've yet to visit Chico. Recently I did get to check off one weekend getaway - Virginia City.

Now we have Old Sacramento, Placerville, Nevada City, and Jackson as nearby pioneer/mining towns that have kept their historic main streets, but nothing compares to Virginia City!

Virginia City is in the Sierra mountains a half hour past Reno. Most people my age think of it as where the Cartrights from the Bonanza TV show would go into town. It's full of history and, these days, events. The two it's most known for are the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry in March and the camel races in September.

Virginia City sits at 6,200 feet on the side of Mount Davidson. The views from there are spectacular, making the town very picturesque. Virginia City was a mining “boomtown” with more than $400 million in gold and silver mined. That’s more than $20 billion dollars in today's money. During it's heyday, there were over 100 saloons for a population of only 25,000! Mark Twain originated here when Samuel Clemens took it as his pen name at the local paper. 

There are many things to do in Virginia City. While we did quite a few during the day, there's plenty more for a return visit.

We started out visiting the pioneer cemetary. Apparently it was actually 13 cemetaries that all occupy the same hill. Picture those western movies where everyone trudges out to cemetary hill. That's what this cemetary perfectly represents. It's on a hill opposite the city and there are many plots surrounded by wrought iron or wooden fencing. It has quite a few wooden tombstones left as well. 

We then ventured to the main street where there are many touristy shops and candy stores but also a large number of saloons. Back in the day it was about one saloon to every 32 people! Keep in mind that the place was full of miners. Just like for our California Gold Rush, these miners were from all over the world trying to make money to send back to their families. Much of the money never left the city as it was quickly gobbled up by the saloons, brothels, and gambling. 

We stopped in a number of saloons. Some were small, others large. One, the Delta I believe, is again what one thinks of from western movies. It had the staircase leading up to the rooms above and you could just picture some madam or prostitutes coming down the stairs.

The Ponderosa Saloon has one of the two underground mine tours. We decided to pay the $7 to check it out. It doesn't go too far in, maybe 50 yards, but it still gives you a sense of what it was like to work in such cramped corners and in the dark. At one point they turned out the light and you have never experienced total blackness as you do in a mine! It was very interesting learning about the mining techniques and how arduous the work was.

We also checked out the Firemen's Museum because it had many Victorian era fire trucks. Virginia City had many fires, but the Great Fire occurred in 1875 and wiped out one square mile of the town, leaving over 2,000 people instantly homeless. There were many interesting artifacts inside including a rope net used to catch people jumping out of windows, just like you'd see in an old silent movie. The trucks ranged from old man-pumped to steam powered. The man-pumped truck had long bars and it would take about 15 men on each side of it to pump up and town. Quite a workout! 

We were told we had to stop at the Bucket of Blood Saloon and were glad we did. Every weekend David John and the Comstock Cowboys are playing from 2-6pm. Old time cowboys with electric guitars. And they're good! The place was hopping and it made a great stop to rest and listen to good music.

On a recommendation from a local we had dinner at the Del Rio Cafe, which is known for its fish tacos. They were definitely good, but their guacamole is a little odd in that it has vinegar versus lime juice. It worked well with the fish though.

There's still so much more to see and do in Virginia City that I look forward to going back and not taking about 30 years to do so. 

the view for 100 miles

Passion Fruit Curd done in the microwave!

Several years ago I posted how to make lemon curd in your microwave. Here is a variation I made - passion fruit curd.

You can find the passion fruit puree in larger Whole Foods freezer sections. (Arden one does not carry.)
Passion Fruit Curd

1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup passion fruit puree
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir in puree and butter. Cook in the microwave for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the microwave, and pour into small sterile jars. Store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.
Tip: If you over cook the mixture a little, or forget to stir, you can pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the bits of cooked egg.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Potato Chip (Oven) Fried Chicken

The saying goes, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." My twist is, when you buy a bag of potato chips you are disappointed in, you make fried chicken.

I bought a bag of a new brand of potato chips. I wanted it because it was sriracha flavored. Now I like Kettle brand sriracha chips, but this brand I was not thrilled with. So I closed the bag and crushed them!

I did these two pieces in my toaster oven and they came out great! Nice and crunchy crust!

Potato Chip Fried Chicken

1 package of chicken pieces
1-2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
1 large bag of crushed potato chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Break eggs into a bowl and whisk.  In another bowl, put the flour and in a third bowl, put the potato chips.
Take each piece of chicken and coat. First dust with a coating of flour. Then dip in the egg mixture. Finally, coat all over with the potato chip crumbs.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until juices are clear.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Ms. Munchie's Avocado Toast

In the big cities avocado toast had been popping up on menus as the trendy breakfast item for a while. Here in Sacramento avocado toast was a dish found in home kitchens. No longer. As mentioned in this week's Sacramento News & Review, you can now find a $6.50 avocado toast at Vibe Health Bar.  Bacon and Butter also has one, although I think it moves into the entrée list as it is quiet large, with two poached eggs, requiring knife and fork to eat it.

I've been making avocado toast for breakfast at my office for about a year now. I make it the same way every day because I really like my version and see no reason to change it. I figured I would share it so that you might join in my healthy breakfast routine.

First you have to have good bread. I don't use bread at home except for this toast. If I eat bread, it's because it's involved in something I ordered at a restaurant (sandwich, burger) or because I love a really fresh baked bread basket set down before me at a fine dining restaurant. Anyway, the bread I choose is the super healthy Dave's Killer Bread from Portland. It is organic, GMO-free, artificial ingredient and preservative free. You can find it at Safeway. I keep it in the freezer.

After the bread and the avocado, I use my chow chow relish I make in the summer. Each batch is different, but the goal is the same — a crunchy, pickle-y topping. You don't need much, just a thin swipe across the top of the mashed avocado.

Finally, sea salt and togarashi, which is a Japanese red pepper blend.

And there you have it. A super healthy breakfast which includes whole grains, vegetables, and healthy monounsaturated fats.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sac Natural Food Co-op offers discounted Essentials

There are many misconceptions concerning the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Some think a membership is necessary. Some think it's too expensive for their budget. Both of these statements are not true, especially with the introduction of their new Essentials program.

The Co-op has been in Sacramento since 1973 and is an integral part of the community. As they quickly approach the opening of the new store (tentative August 24), they want the community to know even more about their participation in helping everyone to eat healthy, whether you are a Co-op member or not. 

First is their Community Discount Program. If you come to the Co-op and are at a low income level, you can get a card to get a 10% discount every time you shop. For the rest of the public, they can enjoy 10% off on the first Friday of every month, or, if they are a senior citizen, have that discount also on Senior Appreciation Day every third Wednesday of the month. 

A new program started in February. The Essentials program features about 70 products that are the main ingredients needed to make healthy meals. (List of Essentials) Think about those lists you sometimes come across on the internet or in magazines - "50 essential items to keep in your kitchen pantry!" We're talking basics such as milk, butter, cereal, beans, rice, pasta, oils, vegetables, bread, canned tomatoes, spices, and even health items such as toothpaste and vitamins. You will find them labeled on the shelves with this logo:

These items are being offered at significantly reduced prices in order to make them affordable for anyone wanting to watch their budget, but especially those with a low, fixed income.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Skool is in session!

For me the basic principle of dining out is to get something that I don't make at home. (Sometimes that includes because I'm lazy.) I'm not interested in going out for grilled salmon and steamed veggies. I can do that at home! I also prefer to try new dishes that I haven't had before or are done in a unique way. That's how I first had bone marrow, foie gras, and sweetbreads. 

This is one of the reasons I'm loving Skool.  As Sacramento's dining scene increases with the new arena and ever blossoming social scene, it's important that new restaurants joining the fray bring something fresh to the party. Skool does this.

In a few words, Skool offers Asian influenced seafood without offering sushi/sashimi. Skool is obviously a play on "a school of fish". Oh, and happy hour is called "detention hall". 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mini review: Binchoyaki Izakaya

mushroom, potato, pork skewers
While I am sad that beloved Doughbot Donuts is no more, I can't be more thrilled with a quality restaurant that took it's place. What's more, it came highly recommended by Bill Ngo, chef extraordinaire of Kru. He was impressed just from the soft opening and we all know that places should (theoretically) get better as they iron out the kinks. Best of all, Binchoyaki is in my neighborhood, just a couple blocks away.

They've done a great job of remodeling the location. Not many people ever got (or needed) to go into the kitchen area or use the bathroom, but the place was pretty ramshackle. One of the (lesser) reasons Doughbot vacated. With the remodel, Binchoyaki is clean, comfortable, and has a nice bathroom!

The name of the place comes from Bincho meaning "charcoal" and Yaki meaning "grill". Therefore, I assume they use Binchō-tan charcoal. 
The fineness and high quality of binchō-tan are attributed to steaming at high temperatures (about 1000 degrees Celsius). Although it is often thought that binchō-tan burns hot, it actually burns at a lower temperature than ordinary charcoal but for a longer period, making it preferable to a number of Japanese chefs.
Meanwhile, "izakaya" is the Japanese equivalent of a gastropub. A social eating house.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Oscar de la Renta at the de Young Museum

courtesy of de Young Museum

You only have til the end of May, but if you are a fashion fan, you need to get to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. 

red carpet dresses

The exhibit has 130 outfits spreading over 60 years. The dresses are sectioned by theme, including Eastern, Spanish, and Russian influenced, day, evening, and, of course, red carpet. 

I'm a tightwad, so the thought of the price of these dresses is beyond my comprehension, but seeing of them up close was pretty impressive. To see the details in embroidery, beading, etc. is just amazing. 

check out the detail work

I loved the sheer layer upon layer

Sunday, April 24, 2016

How I know sugar addiction is like cocaine addiction

This may be a shock to family and childhood classmates, but I took a lot of drugs in college. I want to get that out of the way because that confessional is important to this post. So we'll start with a bit of personal history.

I was raised a good Catholic girl in a very rigid country, Saudi Arabia. So there wasn't a lot of opportunity to act out the same way as in the U.S. Not that I would have. After all, I found out as an adult that there was plenty of acting out going on in our American compound that I never knew about. Probably because I wasn't in the popular crowd. Anyway, I was a good girl at home.

In my all girls high school I did a few crazy things, but it's not until I went to college that I got the true freedom to do whatever I wanted. I, of course, did the college thing and tried drinking and smoking first. Didn't care for smoking, luckily, and soon found out that I had no tolerance for alcohol. I wanted to fit in, have fun, and loosen up, so I turned to drugs.  No need to list them, but among them was marijuana and cocaine. 

After college I still did some drugs, but as life's responsibility got more serious, I gave them up. I would get too paranoid. I did still do cocaine on occasion... because it kept me awake. I don't really do caffeine, so if I went to a concert or wanted to stay up late for a party with friends, I turned to cocaine.

Here's where the addiction showed. I was married at the time and I had never had an addiction craving for any drug.  I never HAD to keep up with any drug and could easily walk away from it...except for cocaine.

Cocaine was the only drug that made me do the following: I would lie about it. I would buy it and not share it with anyone else. In other words, I would hoard it. I would hide it. I would do it at times that I didn't need it, like at work. And cocaine broke up my marriage. I wasn't the only one doing these actions, my husband was too. We were both hoarding, hiding, and using it without telling each other.

That's why I know that sugar addiction is real. I have a sweet tooth. I rarely turn away from dessert. I will seek out sugar. 

I will hoard it. If someone brings a particularly droolworthy dessert that I love, I will watch it, take as much as I can for myself, even hoard it.  Yes, I have taken extra portions and hidden them away so I can enjoy it later. Hoarding, to me, is a huge sign of addiction.

I can even take it back to my elementary years in Saudi. My mother rationed treats, so if I got a few riyals (money) from a babysitting job or something, I would secretly go to the commissary and buy a secret stash of powdered donuts or chocolate. I'd hide them in my drawers under my clothes. 

The reason I'm writing this post now is because I did a seriously warped bit of baked goods hoarding recently. It made me realize I need to admit to my addiction and stop denying the truth. Sugar is just as addicting as cocaine.