Moonstruck Chocolate's case

I realized that there couldn't possibly be a better day to do a chocolate tour than the day before Easter. OK, well maybe Valentines. But definitely after V Day the next one for chocolate is Easter.

I'm in the Portland area helping my elderly parents move into their new home in Vancouver. After endless boxes and sorting, I need a break and a reason to blog. It was pure coincidence that a week before my trip I received an email for Portland Walking Tours, which include three that are food oriented. I opted for the Chocolate Decadence tour. This tour is $49, but I bought the ticket just the day before and it was slightly discounted to $46.99.

You are given directions to park at the lot at Yamhill and 4th Ave, but this is several blocks away from the start and end points of the tour. My tip would be to look for parking between the two Cacao shops as that is where the tours start and end. You start at the Heathman Hotel and end at the 13th Avenue store.

The Heathman Hotel is one of Portland's premiere hotels. You might recognize the name if you've read Fifty Shades of Grey. The tour meets on the mezzanine level in the Library. This day there were 16 attendees that were broken into two groups of eight, each with a guide. Our guide was Dianne and she started us off with flashcards and the basic information on how cacao is grown and prepped for shipping. We then went down to street level for our first stop.

Dok Koon Cuisine on Urbanspoon

My senior parents just moved to Vancouver and we were surprised at the low number of Thai restaurants and none in their immediate neighborhood. Luckily this one had good reviews and was the closest. Dok Koon is found in a residential area called Minnehaha and is in a small strip mall. It's definitely isolated from competition of any restaurant sort.

drunken noodles
We entered to a very friendly greeting and were seated at a booth. The place is a medium sized restaurant and had a constant stream of customers. The service was decent, but a bit slow at times, especially with our green curry. The menus were interesting in that they did not even bother with using Thai names for the dishes. The dishes were just named by the main component: Basil, Ginger, Green Curry, etc.

We ordered the drunken noodles, spicy crispy catfish, green curry, and basil chicken - all medium hot. Even so, I found them to be on the lower side of medium hot.

The drunken noodles came out first and the order was very large. We enjoyed them, but I would have liked a bit more chicken.

Most people who like banana cream pie like coconut cream pie and vice versa. They will never argue against putting the two together. Why not just do it that way all the time? 

For this version I decided that I would meld the two by making the pie crust with the coconut flakes instead of folding them into the custard. The custard itself has coconut flavoring because it incorporates coconut cream, found in Asian groceries.

Banana Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Pie Crust

  • 2 cups coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix together all ingredients thoroughly. Press into shape in a pie pan. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until shell is nicely toasted.


  • 3 bananas
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Cooking Directions
  1. Place cornstarch in a medium bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk Add yolks and whisk until incorporated and smooth.
  2. In a large saucepan whisk together coconut milk, sugar, salt, and remaining milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, slowly whisk in yolk mixture and reduce heat to medium low. Using a rubber spatula, constantly stir until mixture thickens to a thick gravy consistency.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  4. Slice a banana into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place about the top of the cooled pie crust.
  5. Pour 1/2 of the hot custard over banana and pie crust. Slice the other two bananas and arrange them over the half filled pie. Pour the rest of the custard into the pie crust, covering bananas. Let cool to room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon gelatin powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
Cooking Directions
  1. In a medium to large bowl with high sides, pour one cup of whipping cream. Beat on medium until cream starts to just thicken. Gradually add powdered sugar and gelatin powder. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of chilled pie. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

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pomelos and lemons
Have you ever strolled down the streets of Sacramento and marveled at the number of citrus trees? Perhaps, like me, you've been a bit dismayed when you see a tree laden with fruit and rotted fruit below it because the fruit is unharvested, unreachable, and thus wasted. I used to think it must be because these trees have bad, non-edible fruit for some reason. It seemed inconceivable that it would just go to waste. Yet so much of it does.

That's why I want everyone to know about this great thing called Harvest Sacramento. Started in 2009 by Soil Born Farms, it is a volunteer effort to collect this wayward fruit and donate it to those who could use via the Sacramento Food Bank.

materials are supplied, but bring gloves if you have them
I volunteered this last Saturday and plan to do so again on April 6. (There is one this Saturday, March 30th, as well.) We met at McClatchy Park and after a round of icebreakers and a brief overview of the program, we split into teams of about 6-8 people and took off.

If you are bored with the usual strolling through downtown on Second Saturday yet still want to enjoy it with friends, you might want to consider hanging out with Adam Pechal, chef/owner of Tuli Bistro and Thir13een. You won't find him at either of those two restaurants though. Instead he'll be over at Lulu's Kitchen, formerly known as Steel Magnolia Commercial Kitchen, hanging out, doing a little cooking, and sharing some of his Northern California Favorites.

This past Saturday marked the first edition of what is being called "Adam Pechal's Northern California Favorites" and is described as "a monthly class featuring the best of local beer, wine, produce, and more hosted by Chef Adam Pechal". For March they featured "Beer, Beer, Beer: Tasting and Pairing with Berryessa Brewing Co. and brewmaster, Chris Miller".

Now for those who know that I don't drink, we all wonder why I'd go to a beer focused event. Honestly, I did too, but I was assured there would be food involved. There was, but not as much as I hoped for. More on that later.

Let's back up a minute and review the history of Steel-Magnolia-now-Lulu's-Kitchen. As I reported in my post less than a year ago,Steel Magnolia Keeps Cooking, the commercial kitchen was established in 2009 by Gail von Huene. Here was a place that small entrepreneurs could produce their food goods following the State requirement that food sold be produced in a commercial kitchen. The two kitchens were also rented out for pop-up restaurants, food events, even weddings. But the bad economy was hard on the income and last fall Gail sold the kitchen to Feeding Crane Farms to be used for their food production while still being available for rent. 

Shannin Stein, General Manager, is at the kitchen for the event. I asked her about the name Lulu's Kitchen. She explains that it is an homage to owner Brian Shaad's grandmother, the one who gave him his incredible appreciation for food and gardening. 

The event starts at 4 p.m. and a small group gathers in the dining room, starting to sip on some of Berryessa Brewing's beer. I've been to a couple of events now with Pechal and so I'm not too surprised to see him rushing in rather harried. He seems to be a last minute type of guy. But that doesn't take away any of his enthusiasm and charisma. He's in a happy mood as he rushes to set up his first item.

Keep in mind this is a "first-time" event and as always, kinks need to be worked out. That said, more clarification on the event descriptions would be my first critique, which is easy to fix. Some of the Facebook and Twitter promos I was seeing implied cooking classes with Pechal. This evening there was one short cooking demo for making the shrimp fritters, but otherwise we kept to the dining room socializing, drinking beer, and waiting for the next pairing.

And that was what this was, a beer pairing with small bites, not a meal. The foodie-non-drinker in me was disappointed that we just had a few nibbles. The beer drinkers, meanwhile, were happy with the ever-flowing beer. 

So, how the evening progressed was that Pechal would come out with a bite to go with whatever beer matched it. He would describe why he chose the food and Miller would describe the background of the beer. For instance, the shrimp fritter had the Common Sense beer mixed into the batter to give it some lift and that was the beer was served with it. Later the Cease and Desist was served with the house cured sausage and spicy mustard.

The event was scheduled until 6, but we ended at 7. We were all so busy making friends and chatting away. Pechal spent most of the time chatting with us as the rest of the items were simple or pre-made, like the chocolate covered bacon. 

I asked Stein about future Pechal Second Saturday classes and she explained that they will all focus on what of Pechal's favorite products from the region. April will be Sean Minor Wines with cheese and cheese recipes while other months might focus more on a food item. Sometime soon, for instance, they will focus on oysters. 

Everyone left having enjoyed a fun evening. I will personally look forward to some of the upcoming classes - the ones with more food.

The Second Saturday classes are not the only ones available at Lulu's Kitchen. There are many classes throughout the month, many of which are hands-on.

For more information about upcoming events at Lulu's Kitchen, be sure to click on their Facebook and Twitter links.

Love all the family portraits

As I've commented on a lot lately, I've been in Sacramento 25 years now. I found it interesting, then, that the first Mikuni restaurant, the original one in Fair Oaks, opened the year I arrived - 1987. This came to light as I listened to the patriarch of the family, Koki Arai, give a speech in Japanese, translated by his daughter. 

Koki Arai was commenting a little on the history of the location, how they value their customers, have thrived over the years, and that the fire that happened last December was a blessing in disguise. Here was a chance for them to remodel the restaurant, using insurance money to do it. The remodel happened lickety split, in only 45 days time. Impressive. 

My history with Mikuni is an odd one to be sure. I only started to eat sushi about eight years ago. My prior experience had been in college with a classmate making California rolls. I just didn't care for the sticky rice with the vinegar and then, of course, the raw fish. I moved to Sacramento and my ex-husband used to go to that first location all the time. It worked for me in that I would allow him to have his boys night out with his buddies because they would usually end up at Mikuni .

It's because of this that I knew of Mikuni's reputation and that of Taro. Anyone who is in the Sacramento food scene knows about Taro and I did too. I just never happened to meet him over these 25 years. Now, with the Sacramento Food Film Festival coming up next week and Mikuni being a major sponsor, I find myself having been introduced to him just last night and then seeing him five times in the span of the next ten days. Crazy.

And so it was that I was invited to the VIP reopening of the Fair Oaks location last night.  I arrived late to find the place packed. I jumped into the buffet line to find a very impressive spread laid out all along the sushi bar - everything from edamame and sushi to ribs and lamb chops.

In the corner I caught the end of Koki's speech and then a grateful prayer. Taro was excitedly rushing through the restaurant greeting everyone and having a great time. 

Then came the special surprise of a new painting done by David Garibaldi, the Sacramento artist who was a finalist on America's Got Talent. In came a long painting with Elvis and Michael Jackson with Taro in between. 

It was a joyful evening for the Arai family, made even better by a jam packed month. Tomorrow (3/7) Taro is guest chef at Plates Cafe, an event that oversold tickets. Then he'll be at our sushi event at the Sacramento Food Film Festival next Friday, March 15th. Come join us for sushi from Mikuni and Kru and then watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi after, sponsored by Mikuni .


munchie musings cucumber lemonade

If you want something light and refreshing, cucumber flavored water is a good choice. Slice some cucumbers, throw them in a pitcher of water, and let the water become infused with the cucumber flavor.

Another light and refreshing twist? Cucumber lemonade. Now I will tell you that it was from the Papa Dale's Diner truck that I first had it. Keith was serving it last September at Truckin on the River. Meanwhile, I have a Eureka lemon tree with hundreds of lemons on it. My tree is about 25 feet tall, so it's an old one and it is quite fruitful.

Cucumber lemonade

For this version I didn't infuse the water. Instead I pulled out my juicer and juiced half a cucumber. If you don't want the green tinge, then be sure to peel your cucumber first.  If you want to infuse the water, then start the day before by thinly slicing a whole cucumber and let it sit in the 4 cups of water in the refrigerator overnight.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 a cucumber juiced or 1 cucumber thinly sliced
  • 4 cups cold water
Make a simple syrup: Combine the cup of sugar and cup of water in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar is well dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large pitcher, mix together the lemon and cucumber juices with the simple syrup. Add the 4 cups of cold water. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour. Serve cold over extra slices of lemon and cucumber.

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