I have a Things to do Before I Die List. Have had it for years, long before that Bucket List movie. (Now realize that's an upcoming blog post.) So whenever there is a unique, cool opportunity I try my best to do it.

Such was the case last night. I had the chance to be in a Brad Pitt movie. He's playing Billie Beane, the Oakland A's general manager, in Moneyball. The story is of his unique method of forming a budget team using computer analysis. Also in the film are Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, and Robin Wright (Penn).

Years ago I had gotten on a list for movie extras. Most of the time the announcements are for Los Angeles. But this being about the A's, it was being filmed at Oakland Colisseum. They are shooting nightly for over a week. Each night required signups for people to sit in the bleachers and play the crowd. There are two shifts. the first was supposed to be from 4:30 to 11:30. The second shift was 10:30 to 5 am.

Our day got a late email saying they didn't need us until 6. I arrived at the parking lot at 5:30 and found a line the equivalent of three blocks long - huge! I knew this was gonna be bad. The email said only 300 people per night and you had to pre-register. Forget that. This line was a couple of thousand. I headed for the porta potties  first in preparation of a long wait. I then decided to see if I could get up in line by being adopted by a nice group or family. I approached the front and saw a nice woman and her son and said I had come by myself from Sacramento and was hoping to be adopted. Turns out Karene and Max Richins were from East Sac. They hadn't gotten the email, so they had been there since about 4.

I stood in line with them and we waited and waited. At 6:15 they finally started processing the releases and giving us tickets. Then we stood in another line within the fence. At one point we saw shuttle buses go by with cast. I'm pretty sure I saw Brad in one. As it drove by it honked and he waved out the window. We stood in this line until about 8:30 before we were finally security screened (no cameras) and let into the stadium where we could finally visit the bathroom, get some water, and sit down.

The emails had said given preliminary instructions. It said we would be fed on set. Luckily I had hit Jack in the Box right before the Colisseum just in case. Thank goodness. There was only water, coffee, chex mix, and later on there were hot dogs. There were also going be raffle prizes at the end of the night, a paid walk-on role and a flat screen TV. We were told that throughout the night we would be shuffled around the stadium depending on where they needed background. We were not to take pictures and not to shout at Brad because he was working and not there to give autographs.

Our first shuffle took our group to behind the dugout. We got THE first row behind the dugout and were so excited. Right in front of us in easy conversation distance was Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But they were shooting from an angle and told us that our side of the area was out of shot and we needed to move to a different section up and over. The three of us dragged our feet and didn't go very far from our original seats.

I've always been a good star sighted like when we had seen the stars at Russell Crowe's star. Others had spotted Billy Beane. Soon I noticed a guy wearing a grey hoodie and realized it was Brad. Later someone else realized that it was Angelina standing nearby. It was apparent that Brad wasn't filming, at least not any time soon. He was just wearing a track suit.

We were told that we were representing game 20 of the 20 game 2002 winning streak. This was the 9th inning and the score against Kansas City was 11-11. They did a shot of the players returning from the field and we needed to sound both encouraging and yet frustrated at the score. Then Scott Hatteberg emerges from the dugout and we all cheer encouragement. They did about six takes. Finally we had to cheer as if he was at the plate, a ball, a strike, a hit, HOME RUN! By this time I was getting hoarse.

It was now 11 and time for their lunch break. The extras had shift change and our shift was invited and encouraged to stay. But I had to still drive back to Sac and I had seen what I had come for anyway. I waited for the raffle and then left.

Perhaps Brad had to act later in the night. Who knows. A previous night they had shot Jonah Hill siting in the crowd watching a game. That would have been cool.

So it was another check of my List and someting to share with you.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s World – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

As soon as I saw this challenge I knew that I'd use it for my BFF's birthday. The challenge was when to fit in the making of the components. Luckily I had almost all the ingredients in stock, I only needed to buy bananas and cream. Also, the individual parts were all simple recipes. I just needed to consider things like freezing times between each step.

I really liked the cake element with the chocolate genoise cake. Simple, light, soft and fluffy. On reflection, I think I should have rolled it along the long side instead of along the short side. This would have resulted in more smaller slices which would make a prettier design on the outside of the bowl.

I don't care for chocolate ice cream and so I made a banana one for the bottom layer. I also had some left over vanilla from the big canning weekend and so I used that in addition to making a small batch of vanilla.

I got rave reviews from everyone at the party. One 12 year old said it was 'the best cake EVER!' The host of the party begged to keep the leftovers (about 1/4 of the total). I had no problem with that since I wasn't interested in transporting a melting cake back home on a 15 minute drive.

I would make this again for the right occasion. It's easy, just be sure to allot enough time for the freezings.

I'm not including the ice cream recipes below. You can make whatever you like or just buy some from the store.

Swiss Rolls

6 medium sized eggs
1 C caster sugar
8 oz powdered sugar for rolling
6 T all purpose (plain) flour
5 T natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted together
2 T boiling water
a little oil for brushing the pans

For the filling-

2C whipping cream
1 vanilla pod, cut into small pieces of about 1/2 cm (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
5 T sugar

Pre heat the oven at 400 deg F approximately. Brush the baking pans ( 11 inches by 9 inches ) with a little oil and line with greaseproof baking paper. If you have just one pan, bake one cake and then let the pan cool completely before using it for the next cake.
In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat till very thick; when the beaters are lifted, it should leave a trail on the surface for at least 10 seconds.
Add the flour mixture, in three batches and fold in gently with a spatula. Fold in the water.
Divide the mixture among the two baking pans and spread it out evenly, into the corners of the pans.
Place a pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes or till the center is springy to the touch.
Spread a kitchen towel on the counter and sprinkle a little caster sugar over it. (I prefer using another piece of parchment paper.)
Turn the cake on to the towel and peel away the baking paper. Trim any crisp edges.
Starting from one of the shorter sides, start to make a roll with the towel going inside. Cool the wrapped roll on a rack, seam side down.
Repeat the same for the next cake as well.
Grind together the vanilla pieces and sugar in a food processor till nicely mixed together. If you are using vanilla extract, just grind the sugar on its own and then add the sugar and extract to the cream.
In a large bowl, add the cream and vanilla-sugar mixture and beat till very thick.
Divide the cream mixture between the completely cooled cakes.
Open the rolls and spread the cream mixture, making sure it does not go right to the edges (a border of 1/2 an inch should be fine).
Roll the cakes up again, this time without the towel. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge till needed, seam side down.

Fudge Sauce for center layer

1 C sugar
3 T natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T cornstarch
1 1/2 C water
1 T butter
1 t vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornflour and water.
Place the pan over heat, and stir constantly, till it begins to thicken and is smooth (for about 2 minutes).
Remove from heat and mix in the butter and vanilla. Keep aside to cool .


Cut the Swiss rolls into 20 equal slices.
Cover the bottom and sides of the bowl in which you are going to set the dessert with cling film/plastic wrap.
Arrange two slices at the bottom of the pan, with their seam sides facing each other. Arrange the Swiss roll slices up the bowl, with the seam sides facing away from the bottom, to cover the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm (at least 30 minutes).
Soften the vanilla ice cream. Take the bowl out of the freezer, remove the cling film cover and add the ice cream on top of the cake slices. Spread it out to cover the bottom and sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till firm ( at least 1 hour).
Add the fudge sauce over the vanilla ice cream, cover and freeze till firm.
Soften the chocolate ice cream and spread it over the fudge sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4-5 hours till completely set.
Remove the plastic cover, and place the serving plate on top of the bowl. Turn it upside down and remove the bowl and the plastic lining. If the bowl does not come away easily, wipe the outsides of the bowl with a kitchen towel dampened with hot water. The bowl will come away easily.
It was such a lovely day today. Sunny and warm, staying that way into the evening so that it was my first evening this year without having to don a light jacket. It was a great day to go touring the local taco trucks. This was another tour organized by Sacramento Epicureans Paul. It was meant to showcase the trucks but also bring awareness to a local problem in the City of Sacramento - regulations against food trucks.

When it comes to food trends, one of the biggest nationwide is the increase in gourmet food trucks. Portland has over 400 trucks from simple ice cream to specialized Thai, Vegan, and fried pies. In many cases, chefs have opted to open trucks instead of being confined by leases, hiring, and operating hours that are a part of owning a restaurant. I've mentioned before the blog Vendr.tv which showcases these trucks around the country. But Sacramento, instead of embracing a popular new idea, instead is threatening the existence of food trucks - at least within city limits.

Our guide was Joshua, who has been trying to bring awareness to situation. The City Council has created regulations that make it very difficult for them to operate their businesses in the city, effectively forcing them out. Joshua explains:

If you didn't get the video, trucks can only stay in one place for 30 minutes and must move a minimum of a quarter mile each time. Thirty minutes does not give them time to set up, heat the grills, and cook and so made to order food would be impossible.

Who is behind this? Supposedly some low self esteem restaurant owners who seem to think that the trucks in their vicinities would steal some of their business. There are unsubstantiated arguments that the trucks lead to litter and noise. Another argument is that the trucks are unclean.

In reality, the trucks often bring new business into areas. They have to submit to the same health inspections as restaurants. And since they do go 'home' each night to be cleaned and reloaded, they aren't harboring rats/mice nests and other infestations. Many have arrangements with property owners to allow them to be on their sites. So why can't they stay?

These regulations have hampered the existence of any such food trucks in the City of Sacramento. Currently we mostly have trucks specializing in Mexican food or the type of trucks that move around construction sites serving quick burgers and sandwiches. There are a few other types around as well, supposedly, but I've never seen them. Needless to say, these regulations definitely discourage any of the gourmet style trucks that you can find in New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and many other cities. I, myself, have an interest in opening a gourmet food truck in the future.

Our tour group met at Taqueria Jalisco at the corner of 16th and C. They were closing but had just made a batch of carnitas for the next day and agreed to sell us some of that. We were making several stops, so I had decided to only do a single taco at each stop. These small tacos ranged from $1 - $1.50 at each site we stopped at, so nice and cheap.

Once the group was gathered and ready we drove to the corner of Northgate and Peralta (one block north of West El Camino). There were two trucks parked here. The first was Tacos Piedad which keeps things simple by only selling tacos. I wanted to try new meats and so I had one with cabeza here. Cabeza is beef cheek, which is super tender and pretty fatty. Not fatty as in bits of fat, but as in melted fat that saturates the tender meat. Good, but I'm a pork lover.

Each truck has a little condiments cubby for you to add cilantro, onion, salsa, lime, etc.

At this same lot was another truck which had a more extensive menu. You could get burritos, quesadillas, tortas, etc. At this one I asked for adobada, which was spiced pork.

The last truck was at the corner of El Camino and Ethan. It was the Tres Hermanas truck and I had been told it had good ceviche, so I ordered a ceviche tostada and a buche taco. Buche is pork belly and it was chewy. Not what I was expecting since I was thinking more in the line of being like bacon. But it was still good and so was the ceviche.

We ended at a brick and mortar restaurant just a block down - Puerto Vallarta, which specializes in seafood. By this time I was too full to order anything more. Joshua had said the baby octopus dish here was good and Kate and her husband ordered that. Out came a sizzling platter of octopus looking like you would be ready to make octopus fajitas. After they cooled down they were enjoyed and I was granted a quick taste. These are definitely worth coming back for. They were well seasoned and grilled with plenty of onions and peppers.

So what are hungry Sacramentans to do to change these stupid regulations? Write your city council representative, as Joshua explains:

Hopefully the City Council will see the error of their ways and how much the city is losing out on a fantastic new-but-old business vehicle (pun intended). It's time to change the regulations so we can see these wonderful trucks in Sacramento too.

Repost from archive

Update 10/08: Attention diabetics! I made this recently with stevia! For those that don't know, stevia is a natural plant product that is molecularly structured so that it doesn't enter the bloodstream and mess with your blood sugar levels. I substituted 1/4 cup of stevia for the 1/3 cup of sugar. Also, because this is flourless, you don't get the blood sugar change from the carby flour either!

Today I tried a new recipe and it was a hit. Chestnut Chocolate Truffle Cake - flourless. I was especially thrilled because my best friend's sister is a 5 star pastry chef and she declared it delicious. The recipe, below, is European and in metric. But I've supplied the American equivalents next to it.

Another important aspect is the chestnut piece. You'll see that it is labor intensive with roasting and boiling fresh chestnuts. But my Romanian coworker saved the day. She told me of a European market that sold the chestnut puree in a jar (Marconi and Fair Oaks Blvd.)! Now I can make this cake any time!

The texture of this cake is really light and smooth. And with the chestnut puree, it is a very easy recipe.

Chestnut and chocolate truffle cake

250g (1 c) dark chocolate, in chunks
250g (1 c) unsalted butter, cubed
250g (1 c) peeled, cooked chestnuts
250ml (1 c) whole milk
4 eggs, separated
125g (1/3 c) sugar
Preheat the oven to 170°c/Gas Mark 3 (340 F) and grease and line a 23cm (9 inch)-diameter springform cake tin. (I used a cake pan)

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan over a very gentle heat. In another pan, heat the chestnuts with the milk until just boiling, then mash thoroughly with a potato masher (or process to a rough purée in a machine). This is where I substituted the puree, so I didn't use milk at all.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl and mix with the caster sugar. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the chestnut purée until you have a smooth, blended batter. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter.

Transfer the mixture to the greased, lined tin and bake for about 25–30 minutes until it is just set but still has a slight wobble.
Squeeze Inn on Urbanspoon

Squeeze Inn Cheeseburger

Squeeze Inn has always had quite a reputation and following in Sacramento. I never went because part of that reputation included a small place, long lines, and difficult hours for me to make. Now they not only have a new, bigger location, but they also have two sister restaurants in Galt and Roseville. There also appears to be a copy cat in Napa, but they aren't listed on the true Squeeze Inn's website, so I think they must be fakers.

I figured that Roseville was going to be the easiest for me to experience. Since I was on that side of town, I dropped by for lunch. I found a clean, bright place with plenty of tables, a counter, as well as outdoor seating. I also found that at Saturday early lunch, they were pretty full with a short line for me to wait in. I ordered their famous Squeeze Cheese and took a seat at the counter so I could watch the grill action.

The chain is famous for their cheeseburgers with cheese skirts. Basically they have so much cheese that it creates a melted cheese 'skirt' around the burger on the grill. As I sat on the counter I witnessed the process. The burgers are grilled to almost done and then well spaced on the grill. Next the cook takes a heaping handful of shredded cheddar cheese and piles it on top of and overflowing the patties. The cheese quickly melts creating the skirt. The chef throws a few ice cubes on the grill and then quickly covers all the patties with a bin cover to trap the steam. I guess the steam keeps the cheese from burning.

The end result is the messiest burger I've ever eaten. But it was good! The problem is that the burger is so big with all the toppings and the cheese skirt that it was unwieldy. Basically, you need to rip off the cheese skirt and then take it and stick it back into your burger over the other melted cheese. The skirt is an interesting thing. It's well cooked so that it is almost hard, but just a little flexible, without being burned. This gives it a chewy texture. It can be compared to cheese crisps that are sometimes made for salads and other dish garnishing. But all this cheese plus the beef does make for a very greasy beast and I looked down when I finished to find a pool of it in the bottom of my paper basket.

I did enjoy the burger and yet left feeling overstuffed and wondering how my arteries were doing.  (Have you ever seen the news story where they take a person's blood before and after a burger lunch and then spin it to separate the blood and fat and measure it? Scary.) My one recommendation for the place, provide wetnaps. You'll go through lots of napkins and still end up with very greasy fingers.

Squeeze Inn deserves its well earned reputation.

This week I found out about an event that is going on in San Francisco during the summer.  Called Off the Grid, it's a 'mobile food extravaganza' that brings together favorite gourmet food vendors to different neighborhoods. This Friday it was at Fort Mason. Since I'm doing research on street food, I just had to go. I took along my friend, Rod, and Suzanne Phan from Channel 10. Look later this week for a post on the obstacles we face in Sacramento to get street food here.

The idea of trekking into SF on a Friday evening was daunting. Suzanne and I ended up leaving Sac at 3:30 and lucked out with smooth traffic to the Bay area. We picked up Rod in Richmond and then faced the traffic crush at the Bay Bridge. Bridge tolls changed on July 1st and it was $6. Our event had started at 5 and we lucked out again managing to park right out front of it at 6.

In front of us we found seven trucks and nine tents with food ranging from creme brulee to lamb tacos. There was Indian, Filipino, Korean, Mexican, Argentinian, vegan and more. We were in foodie heaven.

The lines were starting to get long, so we decided to divide and conquer. I got in line for the Filipino truck, Hapa SF, and Suzanne hit Kung Fu Taco, which is  Asian/Latin fusion.

I came back with a sisig rice plate. Even though I'm half Filipina, I'm ignorant about Filipino food. Sisig, it turns out, is pig's head that has been boiled, then the meat taken off and broiled, and then finally fried. That explains the nice crispiness to the pork. Mostly they are using the ears and cheeks. They season the pork with vinegar, kalamansi juice, chopped onions and chicken liver. Filipinos are known for their salty sour dishes and that was evidenced here. This was one of my favorite finds of the night.

Suzanne ordered two tacos, duck and beef. I think we got cheated because our beef taco had no meat. I think we ended up with a veggie taco. We were a bit disappointed with them.

I had spied El Porteno empanadas and made that my next stop while Suzanne got in line for Curry Up now. I brought back two empanadas, beef and chicken. They were fabulous. Super flavorful with nice flaky pastry. I even enjoyed them even though they had olives in them (yuk). Empanadas can be found in many Latin countries. These were Argentinian. The beef was Prather Ranch Organic Dry-Aged Grass Feed Beef, Pimiento Stuffed Olives, Raisins, and Hard-Boiled Eggs. The chicken, Fulton Valley All Natural Chicken, Chicken Chorizo, Raisins, Olives.

Meanwhile, in the curry line, we wanted to get a tikka masala burrito and have them cut it in three for us. But they wouldn't do it. So we opted for the deconstructed samosa. We got a plate of samosa pastry covered with garbanzos, tamarind chutney, jalapenos, mint, and other spices. We asked for spicy and boy, was it. We were definitely needing drinks. Suzanne had already finished off her mango lassi and went in search of chai tea next. Our mouths were on fire. I like the idea of deconstructed dishes, but wasn't too fond of the hunks of hard samosa pastry buried under the toppings.

Rod had wandered off in search of Azalina’s Malaysian crepes that he had heard about. He came with a lacy crepe topped with a Malaysian style chicken curry. I liked the flavor of the curry, but found the crepe difficult to cut and eat the way it was served. Besides, we were still suffering from hot mouth from the Indian.

We had noticed from the get-go that the longest line by far was for Chairman Bao with steamed and baked buns. It was so long that we chose not to get in it even though the food coming from it looked good. Suzanne interviewed a few people in line to see why it was so long. Many said they had never had it, only heard great things. Then, by chance, we met the owner of the truck, Josh Tang, who was standing nearby. Turns out the truck only started in May but the buzz was so good because of the background. He works with a bunch of organizations and companies that specialize in promoting street food. In the case of the trucks they were developing in SF and LA, they were associated with a lot of well known chefs to design great tasting street food, remembering that street food needs to be easy to eat while standing. They also work closely with the biggest manufacturer of catering trucks that is based in LA. Lastly, they do efficiency studies to analyze through-put. In other words, they study how fast it is to take an orders, put it together, cook it, and get it into the hands of the customer. After all, efficiently processing orders means more $$. I'm sure I'll be in touch with Josh as he has knowledge of overcoming municipality objections to street food vendors. More on that in my next street food post later this week.

Now it was time for dessert and we headed right for The Creme Brulee Cart. They had already sold out of regular creme brulee so we had choices of Mexican Chocolate, S'Mores, and Dulce de Loco. I opted for the Dulce which was made with goat's milk. It was delicious and creamy with the slight caramel taste of dulce de leche. Suzanne got the S'Mores, which was the Mexican chocolate topped with graham cracker bits and toasted mini marshmallows. We both didn't care for it. It was too sweet with all the elements and we didn't care for the base Mexican chocolate creme brulee.

Our last stop was Kika's Treats where they were making s'mores with their own chocolate covered graham crackers and marshmallows. I liked the appearance and the crackers, but wished that the marshmallow had been fully melted.

By now it was 8 pm and the place was PACKED. The lines were long and there was nowhere to move. We hit the bathrooms and split. We all agreed it was a great two hours of good food. And we were lucky again with another smooth ride home, back by 10.

There will be more Off the Grid events this summer, so if you are interested, click on their link and get on their mailing list. Meanwhile, on August 21st you can go to the SF Street Food Festival in the city and the following weekend there are a lot of street food vendors at the Eat Real festival at Oakland's Jack London Square.

Read my post on Sacramento's need for an attitude change regarding street food here.

I went to college at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. It's a small, private college and also has a law school. The campus is the former property of the Frank family. In Oregon the equivalent to Macy's was Meier & Frank department stores - same Frank family.  LC is also now known as the college that Monica Lewinsky attended before meeting President Clinton in the White House and staining her blue dress.

The mansion is now the Admissions department and has the office of the President. If you go around to the back, it is laid out down the hill with rose garden, reflecting pond, swimming pool, ending at a flag pole that is positioned so that it goes right up the center of Mt. Hood in the distance. Unfortunately it wasn't a clear enough day to see it in the picture below.

Some of the roads are still cobblestoned. The cobbles came from some of the ships that used them as ballast when they came to the Northwest. They would unload the cobbles and then load up with lumber for their journey back.

The old buildings are now classrooms. For instance, my art classes took place in the old gardening building and greenhouse. My communications classes took place in the old garage/stables area.

This is my dorm where I was a very bad Resident Assistant my junior year. But I did have a really cool loft bed for my single room that my dad built for me.

Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.Image via Wikipedia
Entrance to the library.

Anyway, if you are looking for a small liberal arts college, LC is lovely and very good. I certainly spent the most fun years of my life there.

I went to college in Portland in the 80's. It has changed a LOT in 25 years. There's a whole new neighborhood of high rise condos on the waterfront, a cable car from that neighborhood up to the top of the hill for the hospital, and so many light rail cars. Areas of town that were warehouse districts are new hot loft neighborhoods. And the city is bustling! On Saturday there were so many people downtown. It was busy!

I started at the Saturday Market. It used to be under the Morrison bridge, but has since moved to the Ankeny area.

This plaque talked about Captain Ankeny's influence on Portland architecture having to do with cast iron work (like the frame).

And this building is a prime example of that architecture.

We walked by Voodoo Donuts - the home of the maple bacon donut, and the line was around the block!

I met my college friend and we decided to go to the Chinese Gardens. First we needed to go through Chinatown.

I had been to the Chinese Gardens before and loved them. I highly recommend them.

The entire complex is a Chinese scholar's home transported from Sozhoou, the sister city in China. They took it apart piece by piece and recreated it in Portland. Portland also has a beautiful Japanese garden but the two types are very different. I prefer the Chinese garden. This garden is considered to be the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China.

The Chinese make every section have a theme and place everything for feng shui. When you look through every door and window you are looking at a framed picture. Every garden area is balanced with yin and yang, male and female.

For instance, this courtyard was the crab apple courtyard and this is the pattern for crab apples. Notice the balance of black and white for yin and yang.

There was a very good puppet show while we were there.

After your tour, take some time to enjoy a huge selection of teas at the tea house.

We stopped by Pioneer Square where some family oriented event was going on and the place was a mass of people. I love this sign there.

And to end, a shot of Mt. Hood in the distance. It was a beautiful day for revisiting Portland.