I can pretty safely say that I was the first Sacramentan to use Foodspotting, the app for foodies who like to take pictures of their food.  Since they launched, I have met the founder, the team, and even been to the Foodspotting headquarters in San Francisco. It's a great app and a popular one.

There are other apps related to food that I do not use. I don't check-in with Foursquare and I very rarely Yelp. I never saw any decent return on Foursquare check-ins and only use it now to get the free valet parking at Ella. As for Yelp, I've always hated having to weed through bitchy comments to find worthwhile and helpful reviews. When it comes to helpful foodie reviews, I prefer those on Urbanspoon.

But I'm now switching over to Dinnerwire. Dinnerwire has it all in one place. I can check-in to the restaurant, take pictures of my food and post them, and write reviews or rate them. This is just the tip of the iceberg as it has more, and will be getting more, functionality soon.

In full disclosure, I'm now working for Dinnerwire and have been working as a consultant for them for the last six months.  They are a new app based in Davis and when I started last summer, they were still working on bugs.  That's where I came in.  As a foodie end user, I told them things that needed to be changed and what I wanted to see in the app that weren't there. Some of my suggestions are currently seen in the app.

For instance, before you could add a picture and then it bounced you out to the main menu. But we all know that we take multiple pictures at a restaurant. Now you can post multiple pictures without getting kicked out to the main menu.

During my 14 years of selling Pampered Chef I managed to accumulate a lot of their products. One item that I keep boxed and rarely use is their lovely trifle bowl. It was even featured as an Oprah Favorite Thing. So when I was invited to Garrett's for a holiday dinner, I figured it was time to put it to use.

I also knew I wanted to do a pumpkin trifle with pumpkin cake as the base and eggnog pudding. But I knew it needed more and so that was why I had made the Candied Pumpkin and Candied Pecans yesterday. Put all together, this was one fabulous trifle.  I even went a little overboard in that I reheated the candied pumpkin today, added rum, and then flambeed it. And to add a bit of color and tartness, I threw in some fresh cranberries as well. 

Here, below, are the other two component recipes - the pumpkin cake and eggnog pudding.  I did fold in whipped cream to the eggnog pudding to both increase the volume and stabilize it. To create the trifle I cubed the cake and then layered my trifle bowl: cake, candied pumpkin, pudding, cake, candied pumpkin, chopped candied pecans, final pudding layer with candied pecans and cranberries for decorating the top and a final dusting of fresh nutmeg.

Pumpkin Cake
This cake makes a large 9x14 rectangle cake or you can do 2 9" rounds for a layer cake. 

2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pan(s) by greasing and flouring.

In a large bowl, blend together sugar, oil, and eggs.

In a medium bowl, blend together the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet, blending until smooth.  Stir in pumpkin puree. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Cool for five minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack.

Eggnog Pudding (from Paula Dean)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups milk
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg

Mix together flour, cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of the milk to the flour mixture and stir until smooth. In another saucepan, scald the remaining 2 3/4 cups milk; add to flour mixture. Cook and stir mixture over medium-low heat; do not allow to boil. In a bowl beat the yolks; remove 1/2 cup hot mixture and add to yolks to temper them; mix well and return to pot. Continue to cook over low heat for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla. Let cool and then refrigerate to chill. 

I'm making a complex dessert for a holiday dinner (Pumpkin Trifle w/ Eggnog Pudding) and I needed crunch and fruit. On a whim I decided to look up candied pumpkin and found out that there are recipes out there. These, therefore, are not my creations. They are COMMON recipes, copied over and over, on the internet. So there is no person that I can attribute origin to.

The candied pecans are great to eat on their own. But I'll be using them to add crunch to my final dessert. The candied pumpkin can be eaten with ice cream and over pancakes or other desserts.  You can see my final dessert tomorrow.

Candied Pumpkin

1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1  sugar pumpkin, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Mix everything but the pumpkin together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure sugar is dissolved. Add pumpkin and turn down to simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Turn off heat and allow to cool. Place cooled pan with the pumpkin in the liquid, in the refrigerator to chill.

Candied Pecans

2 cups of pecans, shelled
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon water

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Mix the sugar, spices, and salt in a plastic bag.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and water til frothy.  Put the pecans into the egg white mixture and toss to coat them thoroughly. With a slotted spoon, scoop them into the bag of spiced sugar. Seal the bag and shake to thoroughly coat the nuts. Pour the pecans onto a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring the nuts a bit at the 15 minute mark.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For sushi lovers uni is a delicacy, as it is in nature. Uni is the Japanese word for the gonads, or sex organs, of sea urchins. Uni is, in fact, delicate and must be handled with care. It's very soft and even a bit mushy.  Eaten, it's got a creamy consistency.

In Japan, uni can go for as much as $400 a kilo. Luckily, we have plenty of local sea urchins off of our California coast. At Sunh Fish the uni comes in from Fort Bragg. A small tray of uni is $9.75 and a large tray is under $20. This is for the nice, pretty stuff as you see in the picture above.

But Sunh Fish also sells not-pretty uni for less. They have pint containers of mashed uni for $8.75 and it's perfect for making uni pasta or, if you go to Kru, Bill's uni panna cotta.  

That one pint of frozen uni mash will last me forever for uni pasta.  For a single serving I only need a quarter cup of it. Thus making it a very affordable deal. 

Uni pasta is super easy. And even though it uses no cheese, it's as creamy as if it did. 

Uni pasta

1/4 pound of fresh pasta noodles
1/4 cup of uni
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 T butter
reserved pasta water
caviar for garnish (optional)

Cook pasta until al dente. Before draining, scoop out a quarter cup of hot pasta water. 

In a small bowl mash the uni if it isn't already. Mix in olive oil and pepper flakes. 

Drain the pasta and immediately return it to the hot pot with the butter. After the butter has melted, stir in the uni mixture. If necessary, add a bit of reserved pasta water a little at a time until the uni pasta is nice and creamy.  

If you can, serve with a bit of caviar as garnish. It adds a nice bit of saltiness.
This month marks six years that Munchie Musings has been in existence. To say that it was one of the best things I've ever done is an understatement. Not because I have great reach or because my blog is anything special, but because of the way it has changed my life. I've become friends with so many more people via the blog and the social media groups. I've learned SOOOO much more about the food industry and food in general that I am sometimes a bit overwhelming and scary in food conversations. I've become involved with Sacramento's food community so that I've been able to do such things as the Sacramento Food Film Festival and Have an Offal Day as well as being an active supporter of the food truck movement. 

Along the way, I hope I've shared some useful information with the few that do read my blog of follow me on Facebook and Twitter. The last few years I've made a habit of finding daily news stories on the internet pertaining to food, nutrition, agriculture, restaurant business, and more.  I select the stories that I found the most interesting and thought others might be interested in.

With that in mind, if you like those news postings and follow me on Facebook, you need to know that Facebook, if it doesn't change soon, is going to go the way of MySpace. The reason is, they aren't sharing my posts with you all.   Of the 500 Facebook fans I have, only about 7 at a time ever see a post that I share there. That's because Facebook wants us to buy adds. That's all well and good if you are a business that has money, but bloggers don't. Bloggers are fed up.

So, while I will continue to post things to the FB page, I'm also going to start working more on posting to Google + with the hopes that the reach is better. Please consider following me there at google.com/+MunchiemusingsNet

I know it's so much easier to do what you've always done, but technology is ever changing. America Online and MySpace? Hardly anyone uses those anymore. It's looking like Google + is the next thing as long as Facebook keeps doing what it's doing. Facebook might be good for keeping up with friends, but it's crap from a small business perspective.

But just for the fact that you are even reading this - thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!


Back in September I told you that the California Pear Advisory Board was having a contest for local restaurants to come up with some new pear recipes. The winners were announced yesterday - or winner. Hawks Restaurant  featured California Pear and Endive Salad as its entry in the contest’s “appetizer” category along with a specialty drink called the Turtle Dove entered in the “adult beverage” category. They ended up winning first place in both of the categories and was awarded a total of $3,000 in prize winnings offered by California pear farmers. Be sure and congratulate them and order that drink on your next visit.

Mama Kim Eats on Urbanspoon

If my only complaint is that the place was cold, then I suggest you just dress warmly during the winter. 

My BFF offered to take me out for my birthday and we decided on brunch. My first inclination was to go somewhere downtown, but my birthday fell on the same day as the California International Marathon, which reeks havoc on roadways all the way from Folsom Lake to the State Capitol. For us downtown, it's just another weekend day of detours due to races/runs, except that this one lasts for HOURS and messes up the entire Grid.

Since I wanted to take BFF to the GOOD: Street Food & Design for the first time, I figured we should head for Mama Kim's on Del Paso Blvd. We could conveniently take the freeway and avoid the traffic mess.

MK is just down the way from Enotria and in the same space by the departed Supper Club.  The building is on the industrial side with high ceilings, bare brick walls, and exposed pipes - thus the chilly temperature on this sub-freezing December day. 

We were greeted by the lovely sounds of live music. Phillip Rayburn, (Mama) Kim Scott's business partner, was singing accompanied by his backup trio. They are a fixture and feature of MK, playing both at dinner and brunch service. They are a polished and cohesive group, making it all the more enjoyable.

Service is friendly and attentive. We were quickly seated and given menus with a listing of dishes that makes it hard to choose. The servers here use tablets to take orders and to present the specials. This was the first time I've had a server present an image of the special on the tablet while she described it. Nice touch!
Even so, we opted for menu choices.

BFF enjoyed sipping on her sake Bloody Mary while I had a hot chocolate to warm up a bit. Eventually these two beautiful dishes came out...

Mine (pictured above) was the Poached Eggs with Duck Confit, Sweet Potato Hash and Feeding Crane Greens. Fabulous!  And loaded with duck. There was no skimping here! The duck had been shredded to mix in with the hash vegetables. There was a smear of hot sauce on the side of the plate, which I found added a nice kick of spice so that I asked for a bit more. The braised kale was the perfect bit of bitter greens to compliment the hearty hash and eggs. 

BFF was equally thrilled with her  Smoked Pork with Creole Sauce, Sunnyside Eggs, Aged Cheddar Grits and Feeding Crane Greens. This was a dish that had interested me too, except I'm not a grits fan. Underneath her eggs she found a nice piece of boneless pork with a light smattering of smoky flavor. The Creole sauce was a chunky mixture of tomatoes and winter vegetables with a nice Southern tang. BFF was so happy with our dishes that she declared this her "new favorite brunch place" and "I can't wait to come try it for dinner!"

The sliders on the menu had also caught my eye and then they caught it again when I saw the physical manifestations appeared at the next table. They were so impressive that I had to rudely butt-in and ask if I could take a picture, since I knew I had to blog this wonderful breakfast.

Lamb Sliders with Creole Relish, White Cheddar, and Sweet Potato Chips

Salmon sliders 

All in all it was a wonderful birthday brunch. Luckily I avoided the birthday song that another diner got. Oh, it was a lovely serenade by the talented Phil, but I just didn't want the attention. 

This had actually been my second time brunching at Mama Kim's. I love the food truck food, the brunch, so it's really only a matter of time before I get around to dinner there.  After such a fabulous brunch, it causes me to wonder - why am I taking so long?

Back in 2009 I enjoyed visiting a coffee farm when I was down in Guatemala. At that time I saw the coffee berries on the bushes and through the process until they were the dried beans bagged in 100 pound bags for shipment. It's years later and now I watched as raw, green beans became roasted and ready for grinding.

I was at the newer Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters location on Folsom Boulevard. Mondays and Thursdays are roasting days and with the shiny roasters in the front of the shop, it's something customers can observe while sipping on the final results. 

Nate Welsh was in the back working on the computer when I arrived. He was figuring out what current inventory was and which beans needed to be roasted. Currently they have eight varieties available from Guatemala, Honduras, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Mexico. Nate was going to roast a little of each and then some for their espresso blend. While he was checking his numbers, he was heating the smaller roaster up. 

Chocolate Fish has two Diedrich roasters, one handles 3 kilos (5 pounds) and the other handles 12 kilos (20 pounds).  This day he was running both roasters, starting with the smaller. He weighed out 5 pounds of a Honduras bean for the first batch and once the roaster had reached temp, he poured them in. 

"Each batch will take 12-14 minutes to finish," Nate said. Next to him is a computer that is connected to a thermometer in the roaster.

"We use a program called Roast Logger to track all our roasting profiles," he explained. On the screen I could see a line that dips down drastically before turning and starting to climb up again. Nate told me that when a new coffee first arrives, it will be roasted several times at different temperatures and it is plotted on the graph. Each roasting is then brewed and tasted by himself and the owners, Andy and Edie Baker. Between the three of them, they discuss the flavor attributes of each roast trying to pick out the one that brings out the best flavor. They are trying to find the best balance of acidity and sweetness for each shipment/crop of beans. Once they pinpoint which roast they like the best, they use the computer graph to replicate that roast again and again. Each crop of beans will have a different roasting graph.

Nate pointed out the different parts of the graph. When the cold beans first drop into the roaster it drops the overall temperature, thus the drastic initial drop. At the bottom is the "turning point" when the line starts to move up and the temperature rises again. Now the coffee is roasting at the enzymatic/drying phase where the moisture is removed from the beans until we start hearing popping sounds like when popcorn pops. This is the "crack" (for the sound) sugar browning phase, when the sugars in the bean burst out and coat and caramelize on the surface of the bean. The third phase is dry distillation and none of CF's beans are allowed to go into this range as this is when the sugars start to burn and carbonize. 

from dearcoffeeiloveyou.com

"Coffee tasting is very similar to wine tasting," said Edie. "You need to develop a palate for it." On the wall is a colorful pie chart depicting the phases of roasting and the flavors that come out at different phases: lemony, chocolate, caramel. Edie explained to me that they no longer use the terms "low, medium, and dark roast". Nowadays the focus is on the bean flavor and whatever temperature brings out the best qualities. Dark roasting would be the dry distillation phase that CF avoids. 

Once the roasting is finished the coffee is dumped out and fans blow air so as to cool the beans as quickly as possible. Now completed, the beans are ready for packaging or grinding. 

I asked Edie about blends and she said the only blend they do is for their espresso. Their current blend is with beans from Brazil and Honduras. For espresso they need to roast the beans at a slightly higher temperature, as little as 2-6 degrees. Since espresso is most often mixed with milk, they need to adjust to account from the flavor change when mixed with milk's sweetness.

"That's our only blend. Nowadays coffee is roasted in single origin batches," said Edie. "These beans are such good quality, they stand on their own." 

The Bakers buy their coffee directly from individual farms that they have visited and gotten to know.  These farms will grow many varieties of coffee, but they will separate them according to quality. The lower quality is often sent to cooperatives with other farms' beans and they get all mixed together. The high quality is saved and sold directly to coffee houses, like CF.

The Folsom Boulevard location has the customer side and then the production/roasting side. Near the roasters is a cupping area where the testing/tasting of new roasts is done as well as training of the baristas. This day Scott was there preparing to be tested.

Scott passed!
Chocolate Fish has a rigorous training program. Scott has been with them for four months training. Until he passes the Bakers' test, he can't be behind the counter by himself, but must have another trained barista with him. His test included testing his tamping pressure, pulling espresso shots, and making macchiatos, cappuccinos, and flat whites. The Bakers checked for weight, temperature, flavor, and check the quality of his milk foam and pours.

I asked Edie if it bothers her when baristas they've trained start working at other coffee houses. "We want our baristas to want to work for us and many of those who leave will come back," she said. "I'll often tell an applicant to go to every coffee house and check them out first. They need to get a feel for what each place is offering and the atmosphere." She doesn't know which, if any, of the other coffee houses have such rigorous training or testing, but that's what they pride themselves on and sets them apart. It means that there will always be consistency in a customer's order, no matter which barista is serving. 

"We take a lot of pride in what we do," Edie said.

Chocolate Fish Coffee is served throughout the area at such places as Magpie, Yellowbill, Masullo's, Enotria, Formoli's, and Golden Bear. It's also sold at Whole Foods, Compton's,  and Corti Bros.

Disclosure: Even though I don't drink coffee, I do drink hot chocolate. CF advertises on my site and I enjoy my occasional chocolate chia lattes there. 
You gotta love when you discover some new treat that you never heard of before. Better yet, one that is so simple and with only three ingredients.

This weekend I was watching some cooking show and they started talking about a Brazilian treat that is the equivalent to what cupcakes are to us.  We have cupcake stores, they have brigadeiro stores. Apparently brigadeiros are found at any and every social event. The name comes from them being named after Brigadier Eduardo Gomes.

Turns out, they are basically like our chocolate truffles - chocolate bonbons with three base ingredients.  Our truffles are made with chocolate, heavy cream, and flavoring, usually vanilla. Brigadeiros have sweetened condensed milk, Ovaltine or Nesquik, and butter. While truffles melt in your mouth, brigadeiros are chewier and stickier, so more akin to caramels. Apparently the need for Ovaltine/Nesquik is because the sweetened condensed milk in Brazil is even sweeter than the American version. 

I decided to experiment over the weekend and made three different versions using two different methods - stovetop and microwave.

First the ingredients:  

1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
3 Tablespoons Ovaltine
1 T butter

That was the recipe in its original form.  I wanted to see about using quality cocoa (Scharffenberger) but I didn't want to add more sugar. Instead I added 2 packets of real stevia (Stevia in the Raw).

The third variation I decided to use my chocolate flavored Shakeology. For those unfamiliar with it, it's a shake with 70 natural superfood ingredients such as maca, moringa, camu-camu, etc. People are always submitting recipes using it, so I thought the chocolate powder would work perfectly for this. 

Next was to try both methods of cooking it - stovetop and microwave.  Comments on results later.


Mix together ingredients in a saucepan and put over medium-low heat, stirring CONSTANTLY. It will burn on the bottom and sides and get lumpy if you do not stir constantly. When the mixture reaches a thick stage so that when you draw your spoon through it and you can see the bottom of the pan for a second before it settles, then it is almost done. Cook it for another minute. This will take about 10 minutes total.  You want it the consistency of really thick mud.


Mix together ingredients in a microwave proof bowl and microwave on high at one minute intervals, stirring between each minute. Keep an eye on it as it can boil over and leave a big mess in your microwave! Again, it's done when you can draw your spoon through it and it leaves a valley through it. I found this to be about 5 minutes of incremental microwaving.

cooled and ready to form

Let mixture cool to room temperature. Spray your hands with cooking oil and wipe off excess with a paper towel. Take spoonfuls and roll them in your hands to form balls.  Roll in toppings of choice: nuts, cocoa powder, sprinkles.   I suggest a mixture of 3 T cocoa, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t cayenne pepper for a spicy kick.

Results - stovetop vs microwave

The easier method was the microwave. The tastier method is the stovetop. Here's why.

The microwave doesn't have the problem with having to stir constantly otherwise you risk clumpiness and burned bits. But you do need to still keep an eye on it. I had a boil over on the first batch and it was a sticky mess.

The reason for the stovetop version being tastier makes perfect sense. If you keep cooking sweetened condensed milk you get caramel or dulce de leche. So if you keep cooking this mixture on the stovetop, it develops this lovely caramel flavoring to it that doesn't seem to develop in the microwave version. It also was a bit more chewy.

As for the versions using Ovaltine, cocoa/stevia, and Shakeology?  They all worked and they all tasted good!  Just different.  I think that I would opt for cocoa/stevia myself.  I'd want to use high quality cocoa like Scharffenburger or Guittard while not adding even more sugar. The stevia worked well for adding the extra sweetness (naturally) but not adding more to spiking my blood sugar levels than the sweetened condensed milk already did. A good compromise.

Brigadeiros are super easy, cheap, and different. What could be better for using as holiday treats this year?!

photo: R. Blackwell
REPOST. Original posting date 11/27/11.

News has spread that the founder of Daring Bakers, Lis Cifelli, has passed away.  As a tribute to her, the Daring Bakers community is posting memories and recipes.  I have decided a fitting way would be to repost this as we think of this great learning tool that DB is, but also because of the recent Philippine typhoon. 

It took me almost four years. It took me that long to host the Daring Bakers challenge. This blog will be four years old next month and in the following January I also joined the Daring Bakers. I knew back then what I would use as my challenge for the group and the opportunity finally came.

Let's start with an explanation of what Daring Bakers is. It's an internet group made up mostly of food bloggers, although having a blog is not a requirement. Each month a member hosts the challenge for the month. The idea is that the challenge should teach some baking techniques or introduce us to some baked goods that we might never try otherwise. The challenge is posted on the 1st and for the entire month everyone is busy making it and posting their results on the member forum. On the 27th of each month it goes public and food bloggers all over the world post their results on their blogs. Over the years I've made croissants to danishes to fancy tarts and pastries. Some have been really challenging and other things had been much easier than I would have anticipated.

When I first joined, the host schedule went by seniority according to when you joined the group. Even though the membership was a lot smaller back then, I knew it would be many years before I got to host. But sometime later the scheduling changed and I became aware that I could volunteer to host. This was a year ago and I was told I could have November 2011 if I wanted it. I said yes and spent time over the last year practicing and perfecting which recipes I wanted to put up, even though I had known from the start what recipe it would be. Each recipe needs to be well thought out and documented before posting.

November 1st was posting day. I misunderstood and didn't realize that I was supposed to post the challenge, I thought the group founders would. We in California are at the end of the global spin of timezones. I found out that I was about 18 hours overdue in posting the challenge and people in Australia, Korea, Greece, Spain, etc. were all posting on the member forum - Where is the challenge!! Oops. 

My challenge was titled - Filipino Desserts. I always knew I wanted to do Sans Rival and later I decided to add Bibingka as well. The Sans Rival was meant to challenge skills for those newer members who had never made a meringue dacquoise and French buttercream before. The bibingka was to add a cultural challenge for a flavor/dessert that many would never have had.  Although the desserts had required elements, they were allowed to modify the flavorings and choice of nuts in the Sans Rival.

I've posted these recipes myself over the years, so I won't here, just click the hyperlinks to get to the recipes. Instead I've decided to share some of the results from the other bloggers worldwide in the collage above. What I especially liked was some of the variations of flavor and styling. Some did a more rustic take by leaving the edges unfrosted and others made individual mini cakes versus a large single cake.

I'm happy to say that the results were great and many people commented on how much they liked the Sans Rival. Many of them were served on Thanksgiving. Hardly anyone tried the bibingka, but that's alright. I posted something that I love, was new to them, and represented the Philippines.

We have a tendency to associate Farm-to-Fork with the time when produce is the most abundant - summer and fall harvest. Farm-to-Fork also means eating seasonally, and so, as the weather changes, so do our seasonal ingredients and why certain foods, like pumpkins and cranberries, are associated with the holidays.  

For many people caviar is considered a treat for the holiday season. One of those indulgent foods that you only eat around Christmas. It falls among other holiday indulgences such as prime rib, lobster, and cracked crab or less pricey treats such as Christmas cookies, roasted chestnuts, fruit cakes, and marzipan.

Part of the reason we celebrate with caviar during the holidays revolves around the Rule of R. The Rule of R says that shellfish, in particular oysters, should not be eaten in any month without a R. That basically means May, June, July, and August - all warmer months. Although not a shellfish, the Rule of R has also applied to caviar consumption.

The Rule of R was necessary in the past for two reasons. First was due to the easy spoilage of food prior to refrigeration. All seafood is temperature sensitive and any eater that has gotten food poisoning from seafood knows the horrible consequences. For centuries caviar was harvested and consumed almost immediately before the curing process was introduced. Even then, it was essential that the caviar be well chilled up until the time of consumption, a difficult task for much of the world until the advent of refrigeration and ice making.

The second reason is due to the life cycle of a lot of seafood. Many shellfish spawn in the warmer months, making their flesh mushy and less flavorful than shellfish harvested in cooler months. In the case of caviar, the harvesting season revolves around the time when the eggs of the sturgeon are at their ripest. Here in Sacramento, Sterling Caviar harvests the caviar between late January and beginning of June.
Read about the caviar harvesting process.
Today caviar goes through a curing process where salt is added and the eggs are allowed to sit in tins for at least three months. Curing not only preserves the caviar, but improves the flavor. The curing process means that the finished caviar is ready for consumption in the fall and perfect for the holidays.

Note: Today's post is geared specifically to food truck owners, but applies to general customer service as well. Also, pictures do not pertain to this article except to show trucks conducting business.

In the 1988 movie Coming to America Eddie Murphy plays an African prince who comes to America in search of a bride. He ends up playing the part of an exchange student and gets a job at a fast food joint so that the woman he has his eye on will love him for himself and not for his title. In the Mark Twain tale The Prince and the Pauper, two boys that look the same but come from the different ends of the economic spectrum swap places. The pauper is playing the prince and the prince is living as a pauper. 

A great story is one where Melvin Dummar picked up a bum off the side of the highway one night in 1967. Turns out it was the millionaire Howard Hughes.

The reason I bring up these examples is that you can never know the background of a stranger or customer you meet. Let's extend this a bit further with Six Degrees of Separation.  You never know who they know and who their friends know, etc.

Applying it to the food truck business...

Boulevard Bistro on Urbanspoon

One of the things that most often happens with urban sprawl is that you find entire newly developed communities that consist solely of national chain restaurants. You know what I mean. For a 10-20 mile radius all your dining options are are fast food chains and casual dining along the lines of Chili's and Outback Steakhouse. If you want a good, farm-to-fork style meal from an independent owner, it means getting in your car and driving.

One such gem like this is Elk Grove's Boulevard Bistro. And true to form, it's not in the newer sections of Elk Grove, but in old Elk Grove on Elk Grove Boulevard on the east side of Highway 99. My first time there was for business and I drove right past it. That's because it is housed in a converted bungalow in the midst of insurance companies, banks, etc.

Bungalows are generally small homes and so Boulevard Bistro has an intimate air. There a few tables on the porch and then two small dining rooms on the inside. The decor is tasteful with a touch of simple elegance. It would be the perfect spot for a romantic dinner and a drop to the knee.

This was my very first time to eat at BB, but I should disclose that I do know the chef. Bret Bohlmann was one of the chefs that participated in my Have an Offal Day event in August. He was a last minute addition when another chef dropped out. But I am certainly glad he joined us. For Offal Day he made my favorite of the day - lamb sweetbreads and tongues in a mushroom and wine sauce. Turns out he loves to make offal dishes and usually has one or two on his menu regularly. I was hoping for sweetbreads this night, but was unlucky.


We've grown to accept that dogs were the first animals to be domesticated by man. I would venture that riparian birds were next. After all, both dogs and hawks would have helped early man to catch and kill animals for food. 

For thousands of years man has paired up with hawks, falcons, and eagles to create a unique hunting relationship. This relationship has been a part of Arab culture for most of that time. Having lived in Saudi Arabia for 16 years, I've had a fascination with all sorts of Mideastern themes - camels, palm trees, Arabian horses, salukis, and falconry. A few months ago a half-off deal came up for a basic falconry class and I jumped at the chance.

West Coast Falconry is a facility sitting in the foothills about 20 minutes northeast of Marysville. It is one of only a handful of facilities licensed in the United States and the only one in California with a satellite in San Diego. The six acre property is perched on the hillside with several enclosures. Most contain birds, but there are also dogs and horses. 

Although there are other raptor facilities in California, they are all rescue or wildlife facilities which do not allow public access to the birds. WCF is the only place where you are going to be able to get a hand-on experience with them. WCF has quite a variety of raptors. There was an eagle, a vulture, an owl, and then several hawks and falcons that are used for falconry.

A quick update on where things stand in the truck/restaurant relationship.

Sacramento trucks that now have brick n mortar space:

Drewski's - at McClellan and in Folsom
Krushburger - Krushburger at Lottery bldg
Coast to Coast - Pour House and The Republic
Papa Dale's - Starlite Lounge

Restaurants to trucks:

Mama Kim's
Rudy's Hideway
Streets of London - Big Red Bus
Squeeze Inn
North Border Tacos
Sun Pizza
OMG! Yogurt

Soon to get a truck - Mikuni's and some that can't be announced yet ;-)

Soon to get a B&M - some that can't be announced yet ;-)
I've never done a cookbook review on my blog before. Mostly because it's not what I want my blog to be about or for. But when I was approached about Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free my curiosity got to me. 

Regulars to my blog know that I like to bake gluten-free. The way I figure it, humans have been consuming all sorts of grains for millenia, so why are Americans so wheat and corn-centric?  Because wheat and corn are subsidized by the government!  Why should we limit ourselves when there are so many interesting alternatives out there - often making things much more flavorful and complex than boring bleached wheat flour.

Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free also intrigued me because the cookbook recipes are also dairy-free, vegan, and don't use white or brown sugar.  They are all sweetened in such a way as to have low glycemic influence. That means using stevia, agave nectar, etc. instead. Just like everyone else out there, I'm curious to see if such recipes can really stand up to my dessert taste buds. After all, I love dessert and there is a difference in flavor with different sweeteners.

Please read Part 1 on Sacpress.com regarding the successes and some problems with Farm-to-Fork Week events. (Sadly, now deleted. )

Sell it to the locals

When Mike Testa gave his speech last spring and talked about selling it to the locals first, it made a lot of sense. Sacramentans, he said, need to understand the message so that when they travel to other cities they can talk about it and spread the word with enthusiasm. It’s Sacramentans themselves who have to be the biggest cheerleaders, it can’t all be on the shoulders of the Sacramento Conventions and Visitors Bureau and the restaurants.

Yet as much promotion as there has been all year for F2F week, I became more and more bothered by the emphasis on the dinners and restaurant events and the lack of promotion for the Festival itself. After all, the free Festival on Capitol Mall was the event that was engineered to target the most people and the general populace.

Who was going to be there? What activities were going to take place? What could people expect to find there?  These were all questions I had that had very vague answers up to the day of the event. It wasn’t until several days before the Festival that the first overview went up on the website of what to expect. It wasn’t until about 24 hours before the event that a map and an actual schedule of events went up.

I know. Most of us don't think about it. We just go to the store and pick up our chicken or eggs. But when you do think about it, would you rather have your chicken raised like this...

or this?

I would much rather have my chicken and eggs from happy hens like this...
and this.

These happy hens, about 1,300 of them, live at Taramasso Ranch. The ranch is located on the edge of Napa and I had met the owner, Joan Taramasso, when she was selling the eggs at the Oxbow Market farmers market one Saturday. I was interested in her multi-colored eggs and the photo album of the different breeds of chickens she raises.

Although the Taramasso family has lived on their property for decades, it's only in the last few years that Joan decided to raise chickens to sell their eggs in an expanded capacity. There are sometimes as many as 30 different breeds of heritage chickens and roosters. 

I had no idea that Tillamook  made ice cream. I guess I never noticed because I don't buy ice cream at the store. It turns out that they have 27 flavors! 

This ice cream revelation came to me recently when Tillamook was in town to give a group of bloggers a tasting of six of their flavors along with a little lesson on improving our "visual voice" with social media. After our session we were invited to try our skills at making ice cream sandwiches and photographing them for Instagram. 

The important thing was we got to eat ice cream! Including one of their new flavors, Fireside S'mores. I'm not a chocolate ice cream fan, but I must admit it was pretty tasty. It helps that Tillamook ice cream is made with higher fat content cream and mixed so that it is less fluffed up with air, meaning a smoother, creamier mouth feel. The other flavors they brought included Strawberry, Marionberry Pie, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla, and one more I can't remember. 

I happened to be traveling to Oregon the next week and so I talked to Kelly, their PR Rep, and asked if I could arrange a tour.