Chairman Truck and Hapa SF
Sacramento has a lot of cultural diversity. We have large Russian, Filipino, and Hmong populations as well as many, many others. So I have to ask - why haven't we gotten more ethnic food trucks in Sacramento yet?

SactoMoFo has had four events over the last year and yet they have to bring Hapa SF, Seoul on Wheels, Chairman Truck, An the Go, and Curry Up Now in from the Bay area. Now I support all gourmet food trucks, but I have to wonder why all we have so far are taco, burger, and sandwich trucks.

I even talked to William of Hapa SF last month about the chance of him being willing to partner with someone locally to start a Sacramento Hapa truck. I need some sisig on a regular basis! I'm dying for some lechon and pancit from a truck!

And wouldn't be it awesome if Mati's from 16th Street had an Indian curry truck?

In Portland I had Norwegian food from the Viking Soul Food trailer. I would die for something like that here!

Russian pieroshkis, Singapore noodles, and on and on and on. 

If you've been thinking of opening such a truck - get on it! There are hungry folk waiting for you out here!

6/4/12:  The slogan for is "If you tweet it, they will come." And so it is true. After posting this article I received the following tweet: "@SacFoodTrucks  @OMKarmabile the first Indian fusion truck in Sac will soon hit the streets. Just working the papers--stay tuned". Hurrah!
Mochi and treats from Osaka-ya
It's always fun to find hidden treasures. Last summer I went exploring some of these treasures with Suzanne Phan. We went hopping around checking out places to get Asian sweet treats. Here are some places you might be unaware of. Keep in mind that most of them operate as cash-only.

Osaka-ya's confection counter

Starting with the most well-known first, Osaka-Ya (2215 10th St.) is just a block from my house and yet it was years before I went in. In business for over 40 years, they state that they are one of only three remaining shops in Northern California that still make traditional Japanese mochii and manju confections from scratch.

What you will probably notice first as you approach is a cluster of people standing outside a small window. This is where Osaka-Ya serves their Japanese style shaved ice. I had learned in Honolulu the history of Hawaiian shaved ice began with the Japanese introducing their shaved ice to the islands. Osaka-ya doesn't have lots of toppings/additions. They have about a dozen flavors of syrup, offer a scoop of ice cream in the middle if you choose, and have azuki beans available for those who like them.

Spring is the time for green garlic. Look quick, because it will be gone from the farmers markets in the next week or so. I've never used it before and so I decided to buy a bunch a try a few things.

I did try some straight green garlic butter sauce on cod earlier in the week, but it occurred to me that maybe I should combine garlics to create something new. I actually wanted to go crazy with a four garlic scampi: regular, roasted, green, and black garlics. I still might due that later in the week, but for now I restrained myself and stuck to green and black, figuring it sounded enticing.
If you were unaware, May is National Burger Month. (It's also National Salad Month as a cosmic kind of joke.) My friend, Rodney AKA @Burgerjunkies, is the leader of the Sacramento burger brigade and is working diligently to bring about Sacramento burger awareness twofold.

Firstly he has his website where he is giving away a great prize: a Canon Digital SLR Camera. Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”): $750. It's easy to enter through a variety of methods, including tweeting with the hashtag #SacBurgerMonth and checking into places on Foursquare, etc. 

dessert burger
There is also a list of participating restaurants. Don't forget to try the burger named after him at The Eatery, the Junky Burger (review). While you are there, ask about the other off-menu item - the dessert burger! There is also the weekly specialty burger at De Vere's Pub. Yesterday we tried the Backwoods Burger (available thru 5/20) which had a chuck patty, fried pimento mac & cheese, crispy kale, red onion, smoked ham, Amer. bacon, and a tomato chutney.

Then in September he's holding a Sac Burger Battle between the some of the top restaurants/chefs in the city. Judged by a panel and by the public, he hopes to award Sacramento's top burger on September 18th, National Cheeseburger Day.

I figured I should post a burger recipe for burger month. Lately I've been eating bunless burgers to try and eliminate those extra carby calories (burgers are dangerous enough), thus no buns in the photos. I've actually found that when you are eating some of these monster restaurant burgers, bunless is both easier to deal with and allows you to focus on the components of their fancy combinations.

As I mentioned in the bread pudding post, I"m not a fan of rice pudding but I like tapioca. Go figure. 

Kheer is an Indian rice pudding that is flavored with cardamon and often has pistachios, raisins, and coconut in it. It's wonderful stuff. 

I decided to make a tapioca version instead. You can use the Minute Tapioca sold at the grocery, but I suggest having some fun with larger pearl tapioca found in the Asian markets. There are many different sizes, the largest usually found in the Asian boba drinks. I used a rather small pearl.

Kheer-style Tapioca

1 can of coconut milk
1 cup of water
1/4 cup Minute Tapioca or small pearl tapioca
4 Tablepoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon rose water (optional)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped 
toasted coconut for garnish

Shake the can of coconut milk well and then open and pour the contents into a medium saucepan. Add water and tapioca and let sit for about 10 minutes. Stir in sugar. Turn heat to medium and stir occasionally to keep tapioca from clumping. Cook for about 10 minutes until the pudding has thickened and the tapioca is cooked. Remove from heat and add rose water, pistachios, and raisins. Serve hot or cold with a bit of toasted coconut for garnish.

What do you get when you mix kim chi with French onion soup? One kickass good soup!

I had just a little bit of my homemade kim chi left and suddenly had a thought to mix the two. What you get is an onion soup that has extra flavor and a bit of a kick. Try it. You might never make another kind at home again.

Note: I'm not sure how this will work with different types of kim chi.

Kim Chi French Onion Soup
make 1 large serving
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup kim chi and juices
2 cups beef broth
stale bread, about 1/4 cup 
1/3 cup shredded fontina cheese
In a medium skillet melt together the oil and butter. Add onion and turned to low heat. Allow the onions to cook with minimal stirring. Cook for 30 minutes until very golden and tender. You want the onions to turn a dark golden brown without crisping or burning. Add kim chi and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Pour in the beef broth and simmer for another 2-3 minutes until soup is hot.
Pour the soup into a large soup bowl. Place pieces of stale bread on top. Spread cheese over the top of bread. Place bowl under broiler and melt the cheese until it is melty, bubbly, and golden. Carefully remove bowl and serve.

Suddenly there is a spike in the ordering of schwarmas based on The Avengers movie. How crazy is that? At the end of the film Ironman says, "Have you ever tried shawarma?...I don't know what it is, but I want to try it." Apparently he's not the only one. I guess many people are going to try it or else it's just reminding the rest of us, "Hey, it's been ages since I've had a schwarma. Thanks for reminding me!"

Today Bee reporter Blair Robertson writes about it in his article "Middle East dish hot new thing after it's served up in 'Avengers'". Yesterday he had Facebooked asking for input on good schwarmas around town. My response to him was - nowhere!

You see, I grew up with schwarmas because of living in Saudi Arabia. I was there from first through ninth grades and back for vacations until my dad retired in 1987, the same time I graduated college. (Side note: My parents actually missed my college graduation because they were busy driving out of the MidEast. Hmmm.  Priorities?) 

Schwarmas were almost always what we had for lunch or dinner when we went in to the neighboring Arab city of Al Khobar. Back in the day (1970s), there would be a schwarma stand every few blocks just like you would see a hot dog stand in New York. The rotisserie of meat is spinning and fresh Arab (pita) bread is ready to be filled. The bread was smaller than what is sold here and so most adults would order two or three. The filling? Lamb, tahini, chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, and mint. For me a schwarma has to have some sprigs of fresh mint.

Updated May 10, 2012

Original post: June 2011
Today’s topic: the relationship between trucks and restaurants both here and throughout the country. I’m not going to get all preachy. I’m just going to point out some facts that I believe emphasize that the food service industry is all related. It should be one, big, happy family versus some dysfunctional family where the siblings are always arguing. 

Our fight for food trucks is not a lonely one. I’ve been keeping tabs on the nation and the same arguments are found across the country: Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami, Dallas, Denver, Charlottesville, Minneapolis, Asheville, and even York, Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday KCRA Channel 3 aired a story regarding food truck safety with the emphasis on how many fail health inspections. In typical TV news fashion, all of the teasers were making it sound scandalous, dangerous, and scary.  And more typical still, it only showed the issues they wanted to emphasize without giving all sides of a three dimensional picture.  So below are some points I would like to make.

1. This story does not distinguish between old style "roach coach" catering trucks and the new gourmet trucks. All of the shots focused on gourmet trucks and there were none of catering trucks. What I want to know is what was the ratio of failures between old school catering trucks versus gourmet? I suspect that, should you break them down into further distinctions, the catering trucks are where the higher percentage of violations occurred. (While I agree with Stitches n Dishes that ALL trucks should be passing inspections, I'm still curious to see if there is a difference in violation occurrences between the two types. And I still take issue with the KCRA's only showing gourmet trucks.)

2. The story fails to mention that whenever there are special events, such as SactoMoFo or Concert in the Park, that the trucks get inspected again. So even though they might officially get inspected only twice a year, in reality they could be inspected six or more times a year depending on how many special events they participate in. 

2b. They get inspected for every county they operate in. In the case of Krushburger, Drewski's, and others, they have permits from not only Sacramento County, but also Placer, and Yolo counties. So they are getting inspected by those health officials as well. In that regard, they're getting inspected way more than restaurants are.

3. The story fails to distinguish the levels of failure in health inspections, whether they be trucks or restaurants. Here in Sacramento a restaurant can get their placard in Green/Pass (everything is good to go), Yellow/Conditional Pass (minor violations that must be fixed within 24-72 hours and then reinspected), and Red/Closure (fail!). When you read a health inspection, which everyone can do via the county website, you can see the level of violations.  

It is important to note that a business can get a Yellow/Conditional Pass notice and continue to sell. They are not forced to close down completely while they fix things. To my knowledge, trucks have always gotten yellow notices. Now I went in to do some random inquiries on the database myself. I won't name restaurants, but the first one I pulled up (in Old Sac) got a Yellow, a Green, a Yellow, and a Green in the span of one week in February. 

What are Yellow violations? Things like the refrigerator not staying at the proper temperature. Fix the thermostat so it chills properly. Or not having the proper separation of hand washing versus dish washing. One thing that restaurants will have that I doubt very much you will ever see in a truck report: pests. Because trucks are cleaned out and stored every night in a licensed commissary, they are not going to be breeding grounds for roaches and rats. I'll pay $20 to anyone who supplies me an inspection notice for any Sacramento gourmet level truck that has signs of pests.

I know that we gourmet truck fans know the truth and won't let KCRA's or any other news story scare us away. Most people have the brains to know that TV stations just want ratings and they will tease and slant a news story to get you to tune in. Where it does a disservice is to those who aren't familiar with gourmet trucks. 

Restaurants and trucks fail inspections, usually only at a Yellow level. If gourmet trucks have higher citation rates it is more likely because they are actually being inspected more frequently, not less, than restaurants.

Don't forget my other site:

Added note: I didn't put it up above because I don't think it should be seen as a reason or excuse, but most of the trucks in Sacramento are used (exception is Krushburger's new truck and the upcoming new Drewski's truck). Old trucks mean a lot of breakdowns, both truck and kitchen. Drew alone has had to replace the transmission and engine of the truck and has ongoing issues with his fryer. But restaurants can have old equipment and breakdowns too and so another reason why I didn't include this point above.

Today is the first Wednesday of the month and the day I get my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box from Farm Fresh to You. It's only my third box and the first two times I was shocked to see it on my doorstep as I was leaving for work. Today I am ready for it and I peak outside and see that, sure enough, it's already there. (During the summer deliveries are made anywhere from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.)

Yesterday I had been out to the Capay Organic farm, home to the Barsotti family and Farm Fresh to You. I had hoped I would be able to see my box being packed for delivery, but found out that the assembly and distribution actually takes place in a facility in West Sacramento. I still got a lovely tour of the farm though with their cousin, Gavin Taylor, Harvest Specialist, and Barbara Archer, Communications Manager.

Originally the farm, or rather weedy acreage, was only twenty acres when Kathleen Barsotti and Martin Barnes bought it in 1976. Kathleen had majored in Ecology at UC Davis and so they wanted to start a pesticide-free farm, much to the chagrin of their farming neighbors. Over the years the family was able to increase their holdings to 80 acres and then to 250 acres that are currently owned and another 100 acres that are leased. Capay Organic, as it was named, became the second California farm to be certified as organic.

I had my six month teeth cleaning last week and arrived home to find something my dental hygienist would not have wanted me to eat right after - a gift bag of treats! I got a lovely bag of samples left for me from About a Bite, an online order bakery. I couldn't resist tasting these treats as I soon discovered I liked them enough to suggest them to anyone who needs to send goodies to someone long distance. Mother's Day and Father's Day are here and maybe your mom or dad is in another state or in the service. About a Bite treats would be a welcome delivery.

About a Bite is based in Gold River where owner Jennifer Kaye makes them in a commercial kitchen. She does not have a storefront. Jennifer always wanted to try bites of several desserts when she was out dining and decided to take that concept and turn it into a business. All of her offerings are bite sized morsels. That's great for those who have portion control - I don't. But I still loved that these were bite sized offerings.

The line-up includes three categories, Bites, Bars, and Between 2 Cookies, with different flavors in each category.

The bars are simple enough - bar cookies cut into bite sized portions. I was sent the Chocolate Caramel Oat Bar and the Toffee Bar. Both were great, but I really liked the oat bar with the chewiness of the oatmeal.

The bites are fun little takes on truffles or chocolates. Small baked bits covered in chocolate. Jennifer sent me the Salted Caramel and the Mocha Crunch. The mocha was lightly noticeable, not too strong. I did make a suggestion that she get a crunchier, larger crystal salt for the Salted Caramel since the granular salt was lost on amongst the cookie crunch and the chewy caramel.

Finally she has Between 2 Cookies which are tiny cookie sandwiches. I received the LLLemon, Ginger Molasses, and the Fleur de Sel Chocolate Chip. If you like ginger, you'll love the Ginger Molasses. I found it a bit too strong for my tastebuds. My favorite was the LLLemon because it was full of lemon flavor, chewy, and I loved the large sugar crystals it was rolled in to give a crunchy contrast to the chewy cookies. Each of these cookies is about the diameter of a silver dollar.

I definitely have a sweet tooth and love to bake, but there is a reason I could never open a bakery or bake professionally for others - I don't have the patience for detail! I'm often eating something before it's even cooled. Jennifer apparently has a lot of patience and attention to detail because each of the packages I received was perfect in size, cut, appearance. The  packages themselves were nicely put together with ribbons and label cards. I was impressed.

When a blogger receives free samples they are not required to write about them. Many bloggers refuse to participate in such exchanges. I only write about products that I really do like. About a Bite impressed me and, because they are local, I wanted to share them with you in case you are looking for something nice, sweet, and that will make an excellent item shipped anywhere to your loved one(s).

An early Happy Mother's Day to all the moms.

Disclosure: Free samples were received of all of the items mentioned.