SOMA Streat Food Park
I have a dream - of a mobile food pod in Sacramento. That dream will hopefully come true within the next six months. You can get a glimpse of the dream this coming Saturday, October 6th.

My most popular blog post over my five years of blogging has been "Mobile Food Pods Revitalize Neighborhoods". First written in August of 2010, this post first explained mobile food pods and how I could see them as being beneficial to areas of Sacramento (and any other city). There have been studies that show that mobile food pods improve property values, decrease crime, and improve neighborhood community by creating family oriented social areas.

Basically permanent food courts for food trucks, they are a common sight in Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas. Usually the property owners just take a vacant parking or empty lot and rent out spaces to food trucks/carts. Sometimes they will add amenities such as shelters, bathrooms, and ATMs. A few months ago San Francisco opened their first permanent one, the SOMA Streat Food Park, which I've visited and posted on.This pod is significantly better in that the property owners built permanent structures and and spent a lot of money to turn the property into an inviting space.

Sacramento is close to allowing our first mobile food pods. Some of the ordinances currently being drafted by the City of Sacramento include a pilot of five mobile food pods within City boundaries. At the Law & Legislation Committee meeting on September 18th Councilman Jay Schenirer mentioned that he was aware of at least three that were in the works. Part of the upcoming ordinances say that the mobile food pods must be run by a mobile food association. So far, in Sacramento, there is only one formally filed association - the CA Mobile Food Association (CalMFA), publicly known as Foodmob

I'm looking at almonds strewn all over the ground and look up to see none in the trees. I wonder why they are there but know that I'm sure to get the answer shortly. I've pulled off the highway for a minute to get water from the trunk of my car and the sight has me curious. I continue just a few more miles to Ripon and pull into the shelling facility of Boersma Brothers, Inc. 

Almonds almost ready for harvest
Brent Boersma walks up to greet me. We've only really known each other via Twitter and through Know a California Farmer. Brent is a third generation almond farmer and has invited me down to see the harvest of this year's almond crop. As we climb into his pickup I am impressed that it's tricked out with a mounted iPad. Brent explained that now that cell service has improved in his area, it has really helped him to keep connected with the office and the goings-on in the fields.

The Boersma Brothers have almond trees on 17 ranches/fields in the Ripon/Modesto area. Most are owned by them, but a few are leased. Brent explains that there are 30 varieties of almonds, but they deal in the 10 major ones with such names as Carmel, Butte, Aldrich, and the most common, Nonpareil. The Nonpareil are the ones that most people are used to eating straight out of a can/jar of nuts as they are the most consistent in size, shape, taste. 

Brent Boersma
Each field will have a minimum of two varieties but more often three or four for the purposes of cross pollination. Most of the fields will have half Nonpareil and the rest will be other varieties. You might have a row of Nonpareil, then Butte, Nonpareil, Carmel, Nonpareil, repeat. Having a mixture of trees in each field means a lot of work as each variety will mature at different rates and each must be harvested separately. They might come through and do all the Nonpareils over a course of a few weeks, then come back another few weeks to do the Carmels and repeat again for the Buttes as they must keep the varieties separate. Only a few varieties are allowed to be mixed together. So a field can have as many as four different harvesting passes, which in itself takes a lot of time. More on that shortly.

Dawson's at the Hyatt on Urbanspoon

OK. So I'm playing with a bit of alliteration to catch your attention. Of course, I could just say, "LOBSTER MAC N CHEESE TOPPED WITH LOCAL CAVIAR" and that would probably do an even better job of getting your attention. It certainly got mine when I tasted it! But that's not the only item worth noting at Dawson's.

Food blogging has its privileges and this was one. I was invited to a special tasting of new menu items that will start on Monday, September 17th. Dawson's has a new Executive Chef, Jason Poole, and Dawn, from Kitchen Travels, and myself were invited to lunch to meet the chef and taste some items. 

Dawson's is the finer restaurant in the Sacramento Hyatt Regency. I recently realized I've now lived in Sacramento 25 years and it turns out the Hyatt will be celebrating 25 years in 2013.  Over the last couple of years the entire hotel went through a complete remodel from top to bottom. That includes all the guest services such as restaurants and bars. Everything is updated with a slick, contemporary look.

Sal de Vida Roasted Habanero Salt
Lately I have been absolutely loving fresh corn on the cob with habanero infused salt! Imagine. Sweet buttered corn with a salt that has some bite to it!

Yes, I have become addicted to a salt. It's a habanero infused salt from Sal de Vida Gourmet. How did I come upon it? Well you may recall that in late July I went to the preview of the San Francisco Street Food Festival. It was there that I met and talked to Adriana.  She had participated in La Cocina's program that assists people to get their food businesses started. Her business is specialty salts.

Many of you probably don't know that there is actually a bunch of salt flats in the Delta.  That's right. Here in the Bay area we have old style, seawater evaporating, salt flats. I first found out about them watching Huell Howser from PBS' California Gold go out and get a tour. Adriana says that the salt she uses comes from the south bay and that these salt flats go back to the Indians. She buys the salt from a distributor who happens to grind it to just the right consistency for Adriana's infused salts.

NO MORE! PLEASE! photo from
I have a complaint. It doesn't have to do with everyday restaurant service, it has to do with restaurants' participation in food oriented fundraisers. I'm talking about fundraisers like The Taste of Sacramento where a whole bunch of restaurants, breweries, and wineries supply eats and drinks for a foodie fundraiser. You know the kind. You pay $50-$100 for a ticket and then go in and graze small bites and appetizers from the many restaurants that are donating food for the event.

The problem is this: the go-to small bites that restaurants are going to are either pulled pork sliders or carnitas tacos. I'm tired of it.

Example: Last Friday I went to the Christian Brothers High School Wine, Beer, Food Extravaganza. It was a great event with good bands, a lovely location (the high school grounds), and plenty of eats and drinks. But I would say as much 70% of the savory items were either carnitas tacos or pulled pork sliders.

Don't get me wrong. I get it. Beef prices are rising, chicken can be tricky, pork is forgiving and cheap. Tacos and sliders are small and easy. Thing is, at an event like this I would think you should regard it as a marketing opportunity to get new customers. You want to stand out and be memorable. You want me to remember that you were participating - that you were even there! 

There was a restaurant that night, for instance, that I had never heard of. We asked questions about where they were for future reference. They happened to be a Mexican restaurant, so guess what? Carnitas tacos.  At the same time, across the way was Tequila Museo Mayahuel. See? I specifically remember them because they had what I considered to be the best 'bite' of the evening. It's a restaurant that I have yet to eat at. I am more interested to eat there now because they served a small cup of their Crema de Chile Poblano soup. It was hot, flavorful, spicy. I loved it!

My point is that if you want to be memorable, if you want me to give your restaurant a try since I've never been there before, then the tacos and sliders are NOT going to do it. With a dozen sliders around the event(s), I'm not going to remember yours. They all blur together.  I even said to people, "You would think we were at a pulled pork slider competition." Honestly, we are tired of it.

So I'm challenging restaurants. I challenge them NOT to serve either carnitas tacos or pulled pork sliders at chartiy food events ANY MORE! Mexican restaurants can do taquitos, flautas, anything but tacos. Other restaurants can do skewers, canapes, etc. Use pork. That's not really the issue (the type of meat). It's how you are using that pork. There are plenty of other inexpensive bites that can be made besides sliders and tacos.

The next big food charity event like this is coming up with The Taste of Sacramento on September 21st. I ask everyone to check and see how many tacos and sliders are there and report back to me (in case I don't go). I really hope restaurants take this message to heart and we see none. But I think that's a dream and there will still be too many.

I had a behind the scenes private tour of Bob's Red Mill last December, but this time I had a behind behind the scenes tour with Bob himself!

Bob's Red Mill
was a sponsor for this year's International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) that was held in Portland, Oregon in late August. The tour for bloggers was held pre-conference and I decided to go again because I wanted to meet Bob.

Bob Moore founded his original mill business in 1972 in Redding, California before moving the operation to Portland in the 80s. Now
Bob's Red Mill has about 400 products and grows about 20% per year, especially in the gluten-free side.