Friday, September 19, 2014

Redwood Hill Farm - Part 1 The Farm

There is no sweeter thing than playing with baby animals.  Especially if those babies are as young as four days old. 

I am visiting Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol. Redwood Hill is the first Certified Humane goat dairy in the country and is the where the goats are bred and raised for Redwood Hill Farm goat milk products:  cheeses, yogurts, and kefir. And it happens to be birthing season! Baby goats galore!

4 days old!
Redwood Hill Farm started back in 1968 when Kenneth and Cynthia Bice bought it so that they could get "back to the land" with their nine children. The children soon started to raise and show goats for their local 4-H and quickly they had a goat farm. Eventually the milk was sold to health food stores and the family started producing kefir. Eldest daughter Jennifer took over the farm and business and started to expand it by introducing cheese products. Now RHF includes not only the expanded farm property, but also a creamery/factory to produce the goat milk products, and a new company, Green Valley Organic, that makes lactose free yogurt, sour cream, and kefir.

In Part 2 I will talk about my visit to the creamery, but it all has to start with the goats. There are about 300 of them at the farm consisting of four different breeds. Along with farming the goats for their milk, Redwood Hill also takes them to national shows and often wins awards for best examples of the breeds. Scott Bice, the youngest sibling, gave me a tour of the farm and points out the four breeds...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peruvian Find!!

There's a new Peruvian joint in town and it is worth a visit! Jimmy's Peruvian is a true hole-in-the-wall joint at 3032 Auburn Blvd. Be careful. You'll drive right past it, especially since it's signage says Taqueria. In fact, it's pulling double duty serving both Mexican and Peruvian menus.

I don't know much about Peruvian food, but I do know that since it has a huge coastline, there is a lot of seafood consumption. This is what you'll find at Jimmy's, with the focus on seafood.

Another Peruvian influence is Japan. In the late 1800s Japanese went to Peru after hearing stories of gold and great farming. The gold turned out to be a lie, but the farming wasn't. Many ended up settling there and thus a small ethnic minority of Japanese were now in  Peru.

I started with the ceviche. I love ceviche and will often make it at home because it is easy and super healthy.  I was really pleased with Jimmy's.  It was plentiful, the fish had great texture, and there was a good kick to it.  If you don't like spicy foods, you might need to steer clear. I found it interesting that they also added hominy corn as part of the vegetable component.  I didn't care for those as the texture was too close to lima beans. (yuk).  Overall, a great ceviche.

To drink I ordered their Peruvian beverage, chicha morada.  It's a juice blend made of purple corn, pineapple, apple, and lime juice. Very good, although on the sweet side.  I like to water down my juices.  For something different, give this a try.  They also have some Peruvian sodas and agua frescas available.

Mariscos Salteados
My entree was the Mariscos Salteados.  Mariscos means seafood in Spanish and this was a good variety of mussels, clams, shrimp, and fish. No skimping either. Here is where you'll see a bit of Japanese ingredients. The seafood was sauteed in a sauce of white wine vienegar, soy sauce, red onions, and tomatoes. This entree was served with rice and a choice of French fries, side salad, or beans. I opted for the fries and was glad I did because they sopped up the juices of the dish and were really tasty. This dish is not spicy, but it is flavorful.

deep fried seafood platter
My dining companion had ordered the deep fried seafood.  Basically they battered and fried all the same seafood I had above. What stood out for this dish was their Peruvian salsa that they served beside it. Again, generous on the seafood and the salsa was a great condiment with good heat. 

It's not really in an area of town that I am often in, but I'll definitely go if I have a craving for Peruvian food. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Farm to Fork Restaurant WEEKS

This year the Farm to Fork celebrations last two weeks.  They start Saturday, the 13th, and run through the Tower Bridge Dinner finale on Sunday, the 28th.  During that span of dates you can also find some F2F deals at participating restaurants.

What's nice and different about this F2F Restaurant Weeks is that the restaurants could pick different price points. There's been a lot of conversation that the F2F festivities are skewed to people with higher disposable incomes.  Well there are a few participating restaurants that have items in the $10 range.

For instance, my friends over at Waffle Experience (which I wrote about recently) have 3 waffles around that price point.  Over at de Vere's, they have a Heirloom Tomato Salad with wine that is $10 and runs all day, not just at dinner.  Cabana Winery has a lunch deal and a dinner deal.

There are a few at the higher price ranges also,  $45-59.  You'll guess which restaurants those are.  All of them feature lots of fresh, local produce.  I'm hoping to try a couple places, but September sure is a busy month!

Be sure to check out all of the restaurants and their menus at Farm to Fork

(Oh, and as an extra FYI,  all those Dinnerwire profile pages for the restaurants - that's my handiwork at my new job! Hope you like the videos.  Recently got a new Sony Handycam, so the videos are getting better.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Food Literacy Fair is Sunday

There are a lot of Farm-to-Fork events about to start this weekend. One I will promote is a free event - the Food Literacy Fair happening on Sunday at 9 a.m. at Southside Park.

What's nice is that it is happening at the same time as the farmers market under the freeway. You can get some education on produce and then go buy it across the street! 

The fair, hosted by Food Literacy Center and Assemblymember Roger Dickinson in partnership with Southside Park Neighborhood Association, will include live music from The Hoots, live cooking demonstrations featuring local kids and chefs, crafts, kids games, free food samples, veggie costumes, face painting, a photo booth, awards and the announcement of the Veggie of the Year.

Many of you know that the Food Literacy Center is my charity of choice locally. That's because I want to see children eating vegetables! The Food Literacy Center was established in July 2011 to educate and inspire low-income children to eat healthy food. Students learn fruit and vegetable appreciation, how to read nutrition labels, basic cooking skills and environmental impacts of their food choices. The nonprofit also runs the Food Literacy Academy, which trains community members as food literacy advocates. To date, the nonprofit has 70 active volunteers and serves 2,400 kids annually. After just three months of food literacy education, 70 percent of students request the foods they have tasted in class, including broccoli, celery and oranges. Ninety-one percent of all students say healthy food tastes good, and 88 percent of children understand how to read a nutrition label. To make a donation:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Yay! Maggiano's Comes to Sac!

Years ago my then boyfriend and I went to the Winchester Mystery House for a Halloween night tour. Having arrived early, we were hungry and looked across the street at the Santana Row shopping/condo complex and ended up at Maggiano's for a fantastic Italian dinner.  It was so good, that even though I had no idea if they were independent or a chain or what, I remembered them.

Turns out they are a group of over 40 restaurants now and the latest one, and the fifth for California, has just come to Arden Fair Mall.

Here are some reasons Maggiano's is going to become your new favorite Italian restaurant.

  • They make all their pasta, sauces, and dressings, etc. fresh daily from scratch.
  • They have a new Lighter Take menu where they take some of your favorites and they lighten the calorie load. In my case, I ordered the chicken piccata and it seemed they reduced it by only giving a little fettuccine and instead added nice sauteed spinach. Loved it! 
  • They have gluten-free pasta.
  • They have a thing called On the House Classic Pastas.  You order a pasta dish to eat in the restaurant and then they give you ANOTHER one to take home!  Two for the price of one!
  • If you sign up for their e-newsletter you'll get a $10 coupon to your next visit. And if you complete your profile, you get a free dessert!
If these aren't enough reasons to try them out, plus the fact that Ms. Munchie loves it, then you can keep going to >>>>>> (I'll refrain from naming gross, low level chains and fast food.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Gearing Up for IFBC

There really are no better conferences to go to than those that have some relationship to food.  In my case, I go to food blogger conferences. While there are a few different ones around the country each year, large and small, I can definitively say that IFBC, or the International Food Blogger Conference, is the best that I've gone to and, from what I've heard from others, the best overall in the United States. 

This year it is the sixth one held from Sept 19-21 in Seattle, Washington.  This is where the very first one was held and is where Foodista, the organizers, are headquartered. Since then I've been to almost all of them, including Portland and Santa Monica. It is getting a little bit more difficult for me now that we have Farm to Fork during the same period. 

A very important factor for many is the price. Active bloggers can register for only $95. This compared to other conferences that are in the $300-500 range. 

James Oseland
In past years they have had high quality speakers such as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, James Oseland (then editor of Saveur Magazine), Dorie Greenspan (one of my favorite cookbook authors), and Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer winning food critic).  

And, of course, there's the food. Top brands such as Rodelle, Bob's Red Mill, and Sahale Snacks stop by and supply samples either in our swag bags or via some of our included meals. I see that this year our own local California Endive will be there. So I guess I won't be surprised if I run into owner Rich Collins there. Also sponsoring, my friends from Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics

There's some great sessions this year, including how to self publish an e-book on and how to create good video postings. 

The very best reason to go - to make new friends from all around the country. 

If you are a food blogger and want the best experience with some of the best in the business, then IFBC is for you. And if you are new, look me up and introduce yourself!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

These Waffles Are Out of the Box

Korean fried chicken and waffles
We all know the phrase "out of the box thinking" whereby you think of new and innovative ways to approach a problem or idea. To say that Waffle Experience is out of the box definitely refers to their taking of waffles to a whole new level than just breakfast. It can also refer to the fact that we aren't talking about Eggo toaster waffles either.

No. At Waffle Experience the waffle universe has been expanded to a whole new level...even beyond just the savory and sweet distinctions. The owners are making you think of waffles in a new and exciting way. In fact, in a minor way, they want you to think of waffles as just a crater-filled piece of bread and, like bread, can be used in every meal of the day as a super versatile ingredient.

All this waffling started between two Marine veterans. Like so many military personnel, Jeff Belaski and Michael Donoho developed a brotherly bond that has stretched for 30 years. After their military stints, Michael started cooking and eventually ended up at the Waldorf Astoria in Boca Raton, Florida. He's even cooked alongside some famous names: alongside Iron Chef Morimoto, Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain, David Burke, Charlie Trotter, and Julia Childs.

Michael called up his buddy Jeff and sprang his idea - a waffle restaurant. But not some House of Pancakes type waffle place. No. Something bigger.

Waffle Experience is it and although less than a month open, it's already creating quite the buzz. Currently open just for breakfast through lunch, they will eventually open for dinner too.

Jeff sat down with me to talk about their plans...and they are many.

All of the ingredients are fresh, organic, farm-to-fork. In fact, they don't even have a soda machine and instead serve only all natural sodas. They've even asked the landlord if they can have a small empty dirt patch on the property to start their own garden and are also thinking of bee hives on the roof.

Each morning the waffle batter is made from scratch. This is the yeast risen Belgian style waffle batter that they let rise for two days.  Michael will split the dough for sweet versus savory waffles.  He will then take some and add sweet or savory ingredients. For instance, cocoa waffles, rosemary infused, cheese and jalapeno.

Here's a few examples of what they currently offer:
Jimmy the Greek

Jimmy the Greek: A fresh herb waffle topped with a farm fresh egg, feta cheese, dolmades, olives, sun dried tomatoes, arugula, micro basil, savory onion jam, aged balsamic drizzle, and vine tomatoes

Smor'tella (seen above): Cocoa waffle with Nutella, bananas foster, toasted marshmallow, graham cracker crumbs, and Nutella rum syrup

Cheeses Gone Wild: Sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, Fontina, Swiss, applewood smoked bacon, kale, heirloom tomato fennel confit, roasted garlicky basil aioli, caramelized leek waffles

Strawberry Fields: Lardon studded waffle with organic strawberries, applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese, strawberry cream cheese, arugula, candied almonds, and a balsamic glaze

Yes, there's even a burger, served with waffles as the bun.
Actually, of the four I've described, all but the Smor'tella will be on special for their Farm-to-Fork Restaurant Week menu from Sept 13 - 28.

They are hoping to get everyone up to speed quickly so that they can open for dinner. And the dinner menu will be more formal, sort of like Mother does for dinner service. Dinner will feature things like lamb chops, duck confit, seafood, and more with the waffles taking a minor role on the plate or maybe not at all. Jeff says that they could up just being "the bread basket" component of dinner.

Because they are veterans, all military, veterans, and first responders get a discount on their orders.

You can find Waffle Experience at 4391 Gateway Park Blvd in Natomas. Currently open  T-S from 8am-3pm

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chow Chow Deviled Eggs

Back in July, when sweet corn was just coming out, I made a batch of chow chow, a Southern relish that often has corn and green tomatoes. I knew I would want to eventually make a batch of deviled eggs.

Well, here they are. They are some of the best deviled eggs I've ever had and only have a couple of ingredients.

Chow Chow Deviled Eggs

6 hard boiled eggs, split in half
2 T of mayonnaise
1/3 cup of chow chow
1/8 t salt

Scoop the yolks into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, chow chow, and salt. Mix well until the mixture is nice and smooth. Scoop teaspoonfuls into the yolk voids in the egg whites. Sprinkle with a bit of paprika for color. Chill for an hour before serving.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

If Wings Be Your Thing - Sactown Wings

I cannot think of one friend who does not like chicken wings. They are the quintessential appetizer in that they are the perfect finger food that can be flavored any way you like.  

I, myself, have never been a fan of Buffalo wings. Just don't care for the hot sauce, hate blue cheese, and can take or leave celery. I'm also not a big fan of messy wings. Too much sauce when it's the fatty chicken wing I want to enjoy. But that's the beauty of wings. There's a flavor and style to fit everyone.

If you are interested in going wing crazy on Saturday, then you need to head to Fremont Park for Sactown Wings. This first time event will feature wings from Bar West, Fieldhouse Sports Bar, Chicago Fire, Clark's Corner, the Blue Cue, and Walter'z Wing'z. Beer: Sudwerk, New Glory, Santos, Hoppy, Crispin, MillerCoors, and Lost Coast.

More importantly to me, it supports my favorite charity, the Food Literacy Center. They educate children on proper nutrition and eating habits. 

There's plenty of things to keep you occupied besides eating wings and drinking beer. XOSO Sports will have outdoor games to play. If you are not familiar with XOSO, read about my season of Dodgeball with them.

There's also music. The Golden Cadillacs, The Crescent Katz, and Riotmaker are all scheduled to play. I'll be bringing a blanket and chair to enjoy the late afternoon. Summer is coming to an end and you gotta milk every last bit of it.

Some important notes about the tickets, especially because I misunderstood myself.

You can buy a $30 and get 15 wings (BBQ/Buffalo) prepared by Chicago Fire, plus a souvenir beer mug, two beers, and $2 beer refills.  Note that this does not include wings from the other vendors, you would have to buy those separately.

There are 100 VIP tickets at $40 which get the above, a t-shirt, and up to 10 wings from the other vendors. A limited number of these tickets were left at the time of this writing.

Your last option is to buy an entry ticket for $10 and then buy wings and beer separately. Each vendor will be selling individually and it's probable that a single wing will be $1. And remember, that $10 entry fee goes to a good cause.

The event runs from 2 to 7, so I'll be pacing myself. I'll see you there. 

Disclosure: I received a ticket in exchange for this post.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sacramento Chefs Represent at Heritage Fire

If you are into the paleo diet than you really needed to be at Heritage Fire on Sunday. This meat fest is part of the Cochon555 series of events and basically includes any type of animal protein that can be cooked over open flame. There is everything from sturgeon, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, rabbit, and more.

The cooking is being done by some of Northern California's best chefs. And this year Sacramento had good representation. The Selland Group sent John Griffiths and Randall Selland with assistance from Ravin Patel (Ella) and other Kitchen/Ella staff.  Michael Tuohy was there representing Lowbrau/Block Butcher Bar. Michael Thiemann was there as a pre-view of his upcoming Empress, the new rotisserie place going in on K Street.  He had a crew of Mother employees with him. Michael Passmore was there with his sturgeon and other fish and had assistance from Bill Ngo and Tyler Bond from Kru.

Thiemann, Florence, Selland
There were other familiar faces as well. Tyler Florence made an appearance. If you recall, Florence had temporarily stolen Thiemann from us until Michael decided to come back home. Also, Kelly McCown, Ella's first Executive Chef. He was one of the main organizers of the event and hosted many of the chefs during prep and at the after party at his restaurant Goose & Gander in St. Helena.

So here are images from the event.