I am a tightwad. This carries over to travel as well. I can be very flexible and put up with a lot for a cheap place to stay so I can have money for food and activities instead. That's why I find couchsurfing so attractive.

To couchsurf is to stay on someone's couch or in their spare room for free anywhere in the world. That's right. You could go to Shanghai, China or Buenos Aires, Argentina and find someone in the network who has a  place you can flop for a couple of nights for free! 

It is a two-way street though. The idea is that if you have a couch, bed, or even floor that you can let a traveler use, you should return the favor.

The best way to start is to go to couchsurfing.org and register.  You don't have to put someone up right away. You could just offer to meet someone for coffee to help be a guide to your hometown/city. Or you could just be looking for a place to stay on your next trip. But if you start hosting, then it builds up credit/references for you for when you need to go somewhere.

Wait! Is it safe?

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

This challenge was very similar to the one we did for the Danish Braid back in 2008, and very time consuming. This is one thing where I prefer to say, "Been there, done that, don't need to do it again." It's just so much easier to go out and buy them!

Stay tuned for November when I host the challenge!
 Sweetwater Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

As soon I walked in the corner door of Sweetwater I was greeted by a loud "hello" from the bar. The bartender, Robert, was a very friendly with a big smile on his face. 

The last time I had been to Sweetwater was when it had been over in the East Sac area, about four years ago. The new location on 19th and S is definitely a nicer spot for grabbing the midtown crowd. Whenever I've been at Safeway across the street I've taken a gander to see people at the bar, so it appears to be surviving quite well. 

The reviews for the food had been rather mixed, and so will mine be. There were good and there was bad, making it a place that falls into a category of hit-or-miss. 

I started with the roasted artichoke. The split medium-sized choke arrived  perfectly cooked, but oily. A little lighter hand with the oil basting brush would have been in order considering that it comes with a small cup of butter and a small cup of aioli. There was a heavy hand with the aioli as well - too much tarragon.

I ordered their Cowboy Steak, a flank steak with chimichurri served with garlic mashed potatoes. This dish I liked. The steak was perfectly cooked to medium rare and sliced against the grain. There were a couple of tough bits, but I forgave that as I enjoyed the sweet chimichurri that graced it. The chimichurri was bright green to indicate the freshness of the parsley and herbs. The mashed potatoes were moist without being mushy and a bit lumpy to prove it was the real thing.

The creme brulee was a definite miss and the worst I've had in ages. Although it had a nice hint of lemon, the texture was gritty and pasty. 

As I said, it was hit and miss. Hit was the steak, miss was the creme brulee, and in the middle was the artichoke. Some have said that Sweetwater is more a watering hole than a restaurant. Perhaps. For a watering hole the food is better than bar food, but for a restaurant it could come up a bit. This was one visit, so it is worth another to give it another chance.

I grew up overseas. It was a big deal to come back to the U.S. on vacation and land on American soil. Usually the first thing we'd do was head to McDonalds. But that was in the 70s when I was a child.

We always loved coming back through California. It usually meant we were going to Disneyland, etc. I remember Anaheim of the 70s - Disneyland and strawberry fields. My father and I loved strawberries and so we would get a flat and it would be gone in a day. Are there any fields even left in Anaheim now?

Those are my first memories of California strawberries. Even today you can still find so many fields throughout the state and pick up fresh berries. Nothing compares to picked-that-morning fresh berries and we are blessed to live amongst them.

Will it surprise you to hear that in as soon as 10-15 years the fields as we know them might all be gone?

Sadly I seem to have lost the photos to this post!!!

Field Workers

In Part 1 of my visit to Tanimura & Antle I described the family history and how the business has spanned over three generations. But it's much more than those two families. They consider their entire workforce part of the family.

Brian Antle's title is Harvest Manager. He has direct contact with many of the field workers that are out harvesting the produce every day. He knows almost all of his workers by name and everything about their families as well. Many of them have continued to work Tanimura & Antle (T&A) fields for over a decade.

A T&A field worker is guaranteed a minimum wage of $9.20/hour, but their paycheck is really calculated on how much is harvested in a day. Each harvest team's wages are based on team effort. It all amounts to how much their team pulls in a 'per piece' calculation based on the number of boxes filled. Because of this, field workers often specialize in a particular produce. You won't find a lettuce worker harvesting onions and vice versa. They have gotten a rhythm and technique down for picking their particular vegetable. Brian said that a lettuce harvester would be in danger of slicing a finger off if he suddenly switched to a cauliflower field. In reality, then, the teams are often making closer to $14-18 an hour.
I don't know about you, but I guess I had been indoctrinated by film footage of food running over large conveyor belts with lots of stops along the way to packaging. This week I was shown that this not the case for many types of produce being grown in California.

I was invited by KnowaCaliforniaFarmer.com to go on tours of a couple of farms down in the Salinas area. What an eye opening day it was. I learned a lot about modern farming from the folks at Tanimura & Antle farms and also from Naturipe, the berry producers. This post will talk about Tanimura & Antle and be broken into two parts (Part 2: Workers & Safety). Then stay tuned for another post about Naturipe.

We were greeted at the headquarters of Tanimura & Antle (T&A) in the town of Spreckles. The building looks like it might have been a golf clubhouse at some time, but now it houses the offices for T&A. Inside hangs a portrait of the founders. Our guide for the morning was Brian Antle, third generation in the business. Brian told us the story of the two families.
holding a manapua, or as we know it, Chinese bao
I love food tours where you get to sample a variety of things from different places for a reasonable price. Every big city seems to have them now. Even in Sacramento we now have Grubcrawl, Dishcrawl, and Local Roots.

In Honolulu there are a couple of food tours as well. I chose to go on the Taste of Chinatown tour with Walter Rhee. Walter grew up a Korean diplomat's son and so he was exposed to a lot of Asian travel, cultures, and food. As an adult he got a degree in marine biology but soon found that his interest in eating his studies was greater. He then got a Master's in food science and has taught it at the University of Illinois and the University of Hawaii. Currently he's been teaching cooking classes, writing a cookbook, and taking people around Chinatown to taste the treasures found there. Due to his food science and cultural background, his tours are full of all sorts of interesting food facts.

What Star products do you have in your pantry? Star is not a brand name that instantly pops into your head, and yet I'll bet you have a few of their products. Perhaps one of their olive oils, a white or red wine vinegar in the global bottles, or a jar of olives or capers.

Just this month they have introduced the first mass produced California extra virgin olive oil. Up til now, all olive oils have been imported from Europe and elsewhere and/or blended with California olive oil. This new California EVOO is produced from three varieties of olives: Arbequina, Arbosana, and Koroneiki.

I was privileged to be contacted by Star Fine Foods last July. They were doing marketing events with food bloggers and restaurants throughout the state. Would I be able to help them in Sacramento. They asked that I choose a restaurant to have the event and that it be Mediterranean, Italian, or Middle Eastern. The chef would be asked to create a menu around Star products.

I chose Greek Village Inn. I thought that it was the appropriate size and has an excellent reputation. I also thought the chef might be flexible enough to create the menu. Owner Cathy Tsakopoulos and chef Matthew Martinez were happy to work with us and created the menu below.

The (semi)-traditional career path in the culinary world is: culinary school, food prep, line chef, sous chef, leading to eventually head chef for a big restaurant or owning one's own restaurant. This path doesn't always work for people, either by choice or by economic conditions.

On my visit to Oahu last month I was introduced to two local chefs that are making their own way in the Honolulu area food scene. Andrew Le and Mark Noguchi have both worked as chefs at Mavro and Mark at Town as well before leaving to pursue divergent paths. Andrew has been doing a pop-up restaurant called The Pig & The Lady while Mark went to the windward side of the island to take over a small 'deli' and general store on He'eia Pier.
(What is a pop-up restaurant? It is another food trend happening mostly in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. That doesn't mean we haven't had them here too. Basically it is a temporary restaurant. Pop-ups happen when a chef is without a restaurant and wants to put together a special menu featured at a temporary location for a few nights. Locally we've had an example with Pajo Bruich when he had been serving out of a commercial kitchen every so often before he moved to Lounge on 20.)
Doughbot on Urbanspoon
vegan doughnuts

Generally the rule is you don't review a place right when it opens. But that's for restaurants who need to work out their dishes, service, timing, quality, etc. Doughbots is a new doughnut shop at 10th and W and right now, they just have the one raised doughnut dough that is used as the base for all the doughnuts.

Well, that's not exactly true. They have a regular and a vegan version of the dough. The doughs are light and fluffy and puff up in the fryer. From those doughs they make about six flavors using glazes and a filling. The flavors they opened with this weekend were cacao, raspberry, maple bacon, vanilla bean, apple fritter, and The Dude.

Puffettes, chimney cakes, and wonton poppers were some of the new street food I got to try at Eat the Street last week in Honolulu. As expected, I found a lot of new items that I had not seen at any of the mainland street vendors I've visited over the last couple of years. And just like Off the Grid and SactoMoFo, people came out in droves to experience a great variety of food in this temporary mobile food pod/event.

Put on by Poni Askew of Streetgrindz, Eat the Street (ETS) happens on the last Friday of the month. It includes the participation of food trucks as well as other street food vendors and has everything from shaved ice to herb encrusted lamb lollipops. With over 30 vendors, there was plenty to choose from.

There were a lot of great things about this event. It was held on a parking lot about the size of a city block, so there was plenty of room for all of the people and for the lines. There was also a lot of tables, both with seating and some standup.

Well, it's been six months. The end of the laser liposuction saga. And here are my pretty satisfying results.

Before we get to that I should reflect back to the beginning when I was told that liposuction was not for weight loss, it was body contouring. Six months later, I understand it on a more personal level. I've also read a few articles on the subject which, with my own experience, only solidifies the concept.

I happen to be lucky enough to always hover around my happy weight point, 122. I can lose weight and come back to 122. I can gain it and come back down again. It's my body's happy place. I thought by removing about 5 pounds of fat would mean my new happy weight would be 118-119. Not so. My body, once again, went to its happy weight of 122. It's just that the fat is now evenly distributed throughout my body instead of all at my waist/belly.
So yes, there was no weight loss, just a new look to my body overall.

And now for the results.

Lychee/Mango with condensed milk and custard
What was your go-to flavor of snow cone as a child? Mine was rainbow. I liked the beautiful array of colors and the thought that I could get more than one flavor. Of course those flavors all melded into one fruit-punchy flavor in reality. Those snow cones were coarse and crude compared to shaved ice.

Most of us grew up with snow cones, not shaved ice. Not so the Hawaiians where shaved ice is another cultural part of their heritage. 
Shave ice traces its history to Japan, where it is known as Kakigori and dates back to the Heian Period.[3] "Shave ice enjoyed world-wide popularity after Japanese plantation workers immigrated to the Hawaiian islands and took their traditional dessert with them, creating shave ice from large blocks of ice and using Japanese swords which were family heirlooms."
Unlike snow cones which are made with crushed ice, shaved ice is just that - ice shaved from an ice block using a fine edged blade. This means that the flavorings are absorbed into the ice crystals instead of just soaking around the crushed ice like in snow cones. Snow cones have that pool of syrup at the bottom of the cup, shaved ice doesn't.