There's a new venture in Sacramento that is fun, affordable, leads to making new friends, and includes food! The Sacramento Grub Crawl. Started earlier this year, this new activity is worth taking note of.

The premise is simple. For your $25 fee you get to spend an evening checking out five or six local restaurants. You spend about 45 minutes at each location before moving on to the next. Each location puts out a spread of food and has drink specials. The food is included in your fee, the alcohol is not. During the evening there are also giveaways of wine or gift cards. You could easily recoup your $25 if you are a lucky winner.

We joined the Halloween crawl on Wednesday night downtown. The restaurants for the evening included: River City Brewing, Three Monkeys, Parlare Eurolounge, Sofia, Fuzio, and Zokku. Each place put out a great spread of food and we did not leave hungry, although this might not always be true.

Because it was a Wednesday and started at 5 p.m., the crowd was a bit smaller, about 25 people. According to Cline (more on him in a moment), some crawls have over 100 people and can be quite a rowdy bunch. Personally I was glad of the size because we did get plenty of food and I was able to talk to Cline about his venture. I'm sure the restaurants were a little disappointed, especially because a lot of food was left when we moved on to the next stop.

Cline Moore is your crawl host. On this evening he was dressed as a pimp. He explained that last week's crawl had been on Fair Oaks Blvd. and had included Ruth's Chris, Scott's Seafood, Zinfandel Grille, Piatti, and somewhere else I forget. That one had over 100 people. He's got other crawls planned according to themes and different areas of town like Roseville and Folsom. The restaurants are happy to work with him because it helps to promote their restaurant. In my case I had been to each of the locations before except for Fuzio, which only just opened. But in the group, many had never been to most of the restaurants.

At each spot Cline gives away bottles of wine or gift cards to the spot you are in. I highly recommend that you bring your purse/wallet. I had not brought anything but my license and so missed out on some giveaways. It was like Let's Make a Deal where he would ask you to find a credit card with the most #3's on it, or, be the first to pull out and show him $50. Bring your business card as well as a couple of drawings were picked from those. My friend and I ended up with a couple of gift cards, which was great because we don't drink wine. Lucky for us, the smaller group meant better odds!




Cline says that he's trying to expand this idea to cover company events. Why have a boring office lunch or dinner at one location where you are stuck sitting next to someone the whole evening. Instead you could move from spot to spot and mingle more with your coworkers. Other groups are booking them as well. He's got a fraternity doing it as an activity in November. I'll be skipping that one. LOL.

This is just the kind of activity I want for my meetup group, so I will be adding it to our calendar. I'm looking forward to hitting one a month myself.

October's Daring Bakers Challenge was pretty easy - pizza dough. But it was fun. I've done pizza dough from mixes and from frozen dough before, but not absolutely from scratch. This recipe is a good one, although it was a bit too stretchy for me, as you will see by the video. We were required to put a video showing us tossing.

Did you ever wonder why pizza dough is tossed? It's because by tossing and stretching you are stretching apart the dough molecules so that the crust is nice and tender. If you were to roll it out with a rolling pin, it would be pressed, condensed, and thus, tough.

Earlier this month I had actually posted my pizza creation, I just didn't mention that the dough was for the DB challenge. See my post about my fig pizza.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled -
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast -
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar -
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to three days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
The airline industry is in a sad state. I've been on planes since I was three weeks old. I've traveled all over the world and gone on different airlines. Foreign carriers are still pretty good (I love Singapore Airlines the most) but domestic carriers are sad, sad, sad. Gone are all the freebies that were included in your ticket price. Now you have to pay to check your bags, for your drinks, for your meals (depending on each airline's new policies). A long time ago we lost the hot meals in the little trays. Flying is no fun.

I've really gotten to appreciate Amtrak. I've taken it a few times now and recommend it if you can deal with rail time, which I'll explain first. Rail time means you have patience and your schedule is flexible. You see, Amtrak has a lot of delays. So you have to be able to roll with it. The number one reason for delays is the fact that they don't own their tracks. The tracks are owned by the freight railroad companies. So if a freight train and an Amtrak need to use the same track or cross each other, the freight train gets priority. How stupid is that? Like a trainload of cars, vegetables, cows and ipods need to be on a schedule.

The second part of rail time is the schedule. There is only one train per day that goes along the route (we are not talking about commuter routes like the Capitol Corridor train). So each day in Sacramento there is one train going south from Seattle to L.A. and another one going north from L.A. to Seattle. Basically you need to make your schedule fit the train's.

Once you are on the train, though, you can relax and enjoy the scenery. If you pay the big bucks you can get a roomette which includes a little bunk so you sleep and some privacy. I've only traveled coach so far and it ain't that bad. Airline seats are jammed in there so that you have no leg room and you have to worry about the size of your seatmate in case they start invading your personal space. Not so on Amtrak. There is so much leg room that my short legs can barely reach the footrest on the seat in front of me. I can stow my smaller bags at my feet and still have room. Plus, the seats recline really far and have legrests that come up from underneath so that it's like an extended Barcolounger. Most of the time you can end up with a row (2 seats) to yourself so that you can really spread out. There are overhead bins as well and each coach car has five bathrooms below.

If you've got electronics, outlets are at a premium. The coach cars only have one each and so you have to try and snag that row. There are a couple of outlets in the Lounge car as well, that people compete for. There was also an arcade on the lower level of one of the coach cars, but the games were pretty lame.

Speaking of the lounge car (or observation car)... A lot of people like to hang out there for their entire trip. The upper floor has tons of windows for enjoying the scenery outside. There are different seating arrangements and there are some tables in case you want to play a game of cards. On one trip up to Oregon there were a bunch of volunteer ladies who got on at Klamath Falls and gave a history and trivia talk about Oregon all the way to Eugene. On the lower level of the lounge car is some more table seating and the snack bar. They carry items such as pizza, burgers, breakfast sandwiches, beer, coffee, and other snacks.

The first class passengers (in the sleeping cars) had their own parlor car. I imagine that it is very similar to the lounge car, but perhaps a tad more upscale. During each direction of my trip they offered a wine tasting in the parlor car. For the first class it was $5 and for the coach passengers it was $10.

Then there is the dining car. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A server will walk through the train to take down your desired reservation time. When you arrive at the car you will be seated at a table with other passengers, so it is very social. The tables are set with linens and silverware and you can even have wine with your meals. On my recent trip I went in for dinner. The special for the evening was crab cakes with a lobster cream sauce. The fish was ahi tuna that was fake grilled. (They put grill marks on it, but it is finished in the oven.) The pasta special was cheese ravioli with marinara sauce. There was also a flat iron steak with baked potato and veggies, but I opted for the half herbed chicken. Although the menu said it came with rice, I was given the choice of rice or either mashed or baked potato. We had a nice warm dinner roll, a small salad, and then our entree, which was piping hot. WAAAYYYY better than airplane food (or the lack thereof).

My coworkers might have had a 5 hour roadtrip in cramped cars dealing with traffic and construction, but my 8 hours was a nice relaxing trip where I could walk around, read, sleep, dine, and enjoy the scenery. I think I chose the better choice.
Kabul Kabob on Urbanspoon

My dad lives in Salem, Oregon. A very small city. So small that they don't have a Costsplus, Trader Joes, or other chain stores or restaurants that we have. So when he comes to visit he likes to eat out. It's from dad that I got my foodie ways. On Friday we had gone to L Wine Lounge, which I like and liked, but he was unimpressed with. (Probably cuz he just ordered a boring steak.)

I had offered to take him to an ethnic restaurant as well. He chose Afghani, so I took him over to Kabul Kabob on J Street. Boy, is downtown DEAD on a Sunday night! That is, any street lower than 15th. I was even concerned it would not be open, but it was, just very empty. I could see the owner way in the back, but the only person who worked the front the whole evening was his very Western teenage daughter. We chose a table and she brought out menus and water right away.

After we ordered we received a small salad with a cream dressing and herbs. Very simple. Then came samosas. This version was deep fried in a flaky crust, a bit on the greasy side. But that could be because it was completely filled with ground meat. There were no veggies in it. They were rather bland but were served with a cilantro chutney to add some spice.

We split our main dishes. The first was aushuk - raviolis stuffed with leeks and seasonings and topped with a ground meat and yogurt sauce. The half circle raviolis were very light. I really like this dish. My only complaint is that when they put the yogurt sauce over it, it cools it down. Cold yogurt on the hot raviolis. I'd rather the yogurt be room temperature so that it doesn't kill the heat in the dish so quickly. Our second dish was a chicken curry that came with a side of rice. Nothing special here. Just an Indian style curry. But it was a good choice to compliment the aushuk.

We then tried two Afghani desserts. First was ramalayee - Afghani cheesecake soaked in cream and cardamom syrup and topped with crushed pistachios. This was served in a goblet with little cut squares of their cheesecake. Their cheesecake is very firm and not that great on its own. But it is sitting in a goblet full of the cardamom cream, which was like sweet milk. You could drink the goblet down after finishing the few chunks of cheesecake.

The other dessert was firni - Afghani pudding with rosewater, cardamom and crushed pistachios. We both preferred this one. It was sweet and creamy with bits of cardamom and pistachio in it.

I will note that Kabul Kabob also has a weekday lunch buffet. Do not judge their dinner food based on this lunch buffet. The buffet is simply mediocre. I like Kabul for dinner and a friend keeps going for lunch and saying it stinks. I keep telling him that, yes, the buffet stinks. Go for dinner!
Biba on Urbanspoon

It's been at least 15 years since I last went to Biba. It was time for another visit. I set it up and six of our Meetup group went for a lovely dinner on a Monday night.

Biba is in the same location and still even looks just as I remember it. Hopefully there's been a coat of paint, lol. Seriously, though, it is bright and cheerful versus some other restaurants that are on the dark side. It still has a very tasteful elegance with beautiful flower arrangements and crisp white linens. So nice to walk into after walking through the dust and diverted traffic from the construction just outside its doors.

Laura and I were there first and took a seat in the bar to wait for the others. They had a pianist playing the baby grand piano, even on a Monday night. The bartender came out from behind the bar to serve us. All very nice.

We were escorted to a nice round table at a corner of the restaurant. During the evening I was surprised to see the place pretty much full - for a Monday! We did see Biba come out to greet some bigwig at the next table. Years ago on my last visit, she had come around and visited each table individually.

At the time of this dinner I am in the middle of a two-week detox diet. I haven't eaten carby foods, sugar, salt, fat, or dairy in seven days. But I had this already scheduled and had to try and pick the best thing I could off the menu. That meant I would have to at least take in the fat and salt for a night and probably consume more than my allotted size of protein for the day. Oh well. Besides, I was a Biba's! I had to make the most of it.

I started with a small plate of the sweetbreads. Sweetbreads are the thymus glands of lamb, beef, or pork. They are one of those items that had been on my "to try" list for years and when I had them, I really liked them. At Biba they were sauteed with smoked pancetta in a limoncello sauce. One of the best things about sweetbreads is that they are so tender, they just melt in your mouth. After being completely fat free for a week, the silky saltiness of the pancetta grease was to die for. I was in heaven.

For my entree, I chose the rabbit and vegetables, hold the polenta. It was braised in a roasted bell pepper, tomato, balsamic vinegar and fresh herb sauce. As you see, it was a generous portion with plenty of sauce. My veggies were delivered on the side, green beans and tomatoes. The rabbit was nice and tender and the sauce was full of flavor, a little too much. It was very salty. Of course, I've also been salt free for a week. But Carol had also ordered the rabbit and found it salty as well. It did not decrease my enjoyment of the dish though.

I had to be a good girl and pass on dessert. Laura was the only one who had a dessert there and she chose the tiramisu. I've never been a fan myself, but I will say that the slice was large and both Laura and Carol said that it was "light as air".

Our server had been great as well. She was pleasant and fun with a good memory for our orders. She checked on us just the right amount, not being too intrusive or too neglectful. As for price, I had always considered Biba to be on the high end of local restaurants. Actually it wasn't too bad. My sweetbreads were $13 and my rabbit was $29, and that was one of the highest priced entrees. So it's not a terrible stretch on the pocketbook.

I enjoyed my meal and only wish I could have had the added benefit of bread, pasta, and dessert. Guess that means I'll have to come back another day, just not fifteen years down the road.