Anyone who has read my food truck posts knows that I have lamented for some time the lack of ethnic food trucks in Sacramento. Aside from the plethora of taco trucks and the smattering of gyro trucks, I'm still craving crepes, pirogis, curries, and more. I'm happy to say that starting in September we will finally see a new addition, an Asian inspired truck named Slightly Skewed.

I've been waiting on this truck for MONTHS since I found out about it last year. What has taken so long is that they got the truck brand new, custom made. As we know with all such things like construction, there are delays after delays. The manufacturer assures them they will be getting the truck the beginning of September. (Fingers crossed)

This truck is owned by Rob Jong.  Rob just graduated from the Oregon Culinary Institute in foodie city Portland with his sous chef friend,  Kevin Whitmore. 

Photo by Sterling Caviar
One often has preconceived notions about the way things are supposed to be. Until now, my thought of a fish farm was that it would be located on a lake or a river, not in a bunch of industrial buildings on a parcel of rural land. I've driven up Highway 99 to the Elverta exit and after a couple of turns I've arrived. There are a half dozen or so nondescript buildings here. Nothing to indicate that inside hundreds of sturgeon are being raised for their meat...and their eggs. This is the home of Sterling Caviar.

I was privileged enough to recently meet Peter Struffenegger at a fundraising event. Struffenegger is the General Manager for Sterling Caviar and was gracious enough to allow this pushy blogger a fantastic opportunity - to watch them harvest and package fresh caviar.

The United States' west coast is home to two of the 22 species of sturgeon: green and white. From these, California is producing 80% of U.S. Caviar. These bone plated fish have remained fundamentally unchanged for thousands of years. They can live to be over 100 years old and record ones have grown to be over 18 feet long and over 2000 pounds!

These tanks hold 1-2 year olds
At Sterling Caviar the oldest fish they have is a female in their breeding stock. She is 22 years old and has been spawned six times so far. Spawning or breeding stock are completely separate from the stock that is used for caviar and meat production. This is due to some of the breeding stock being injected with hormones to  induce the males and females to spawn. Struffenegger explains that they keep the breeding stock and use them year after year to get the eggs and sperm they need to produce each season's offspring. Whereas the sturgeon used for caviar and meat are grown and then harvested and slaughtered. 

You are tired of crackers with that cheese ball at the potluck. Or maybe you are looking for a new eye-catching garnish for that cocktail or cupcake. Simple & Crisp may be the solution you are looking for.

Simple & Crisp are wafer thin slices of dried fruit that are super crisp enough to be able to substitute for a cracker. They are made from the freshest selected apples, pears, oranges and blood oranges.

I was sent a selection of the crisps to try as I thought they would be a great alternative for people with dietary concerns, such as gluten intolerance or a paleo diet, which means no grains. 

The obvious things to do with them are:

photo by Simple & Crisp
Garnishing desserts

photo by Simple & Crisp
Garnishing beverages

And serving with cheeses and charcuterie

I have no idea how they got them so very crisp, but they are. And pretty strong too, which is important if you are using them with dips and cheeses. My only complaint was that the seeds are left in. While this is not too much of a problem with the apples, it can give you a bitter taste with the citrus seeds.

 Simple & Crisp can be found at certain Whole Foods Markets, Dean & DeLucca, and other specialty stores. You can also order directly from them.

Here is the cheese spread I made for the photos.

1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion

Mix these together.  

To make a cheese log, chill the mixture til firm.  Shape it into a log. Roll the log to cover with 1/2 cup of slivered, toasted almonds or other nuts.

Garnish with a sprinkling of dill weed or sea salt.

Firehouse on Urbanspoon

courtesy of Mumkin
I love old architecture. Give me a 100 year old house any day over a newly constructed one. In fact, if money was of no concern I would have a blast renovating old homes. 

I also love Portland, especially since over that last couple of decades it's gone through a great rebirth and areas that were once blighted have reemerged as hip neighborhoods. When I was in college there in the 80s the Pearl District was a bunch of run down warehouses and scummy. Now it's trendy lofts, bistros and boutiques. Back then all the good restaurants were downtown on the west side of the river. Now most of the best restaurants are sprinkled throughout the revitalized neighborhoods on the east side of the river.

Recently I found an architectural gem in Northeast Portland that is one of the top eateries if you go by Portland. The Firehouse is in the Woodlawn area and was built as a functioning firehouse back in 1913. This beautiful brick structure stands on a triangle block in the middle of what must have been a lively blue collar neighborhood. Inside there is plenty of wood detail and the wonderful garage door that is rolled up when the weather is nice. Sadly they don't have a fire pole (Sacramento's Firehouse restaurant has them beat in that one detail). On the walls there are vintage photos showing past fire brigades that occupied the station. 

I am here to meet my college friend for dinner. The Firehouse garage door is open because for Portland it's a warm day. For Sacramento me, there's a bit of a chill. That's the reason I've opted for indoor seating than outdoor, where they have a nice patio. 

A large wood fire oven has been built in the kitchen area. I can't help to think of the bit of irony of having a small, raging fire in the Firehouse. A nice feature at the bar, a seltzer spout so that I get freshly dispensed soda water in a swingcap liter bottle.

We start off with a plate of blistered peppers. I can't remember what type they were, but they weren't Shishitos, so popular in California. These were smaller  but nicely blistered in a hot pan and then tossed with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. These were handled carefully with the perfect amount of salt. 

My girlfriend saw the pizza oven and knew immediately what she was having. She opted for a Margherita Pizza. We watched the dough being tossed, topped with cheese and a bit of basil, and served quickly from the oven just 10 feet away from our table. 

I chose the wood-grilled hanger steak with crispy potatoes, arugula and grana padan. It was a perfect medium rare and had been rubbed with just some rosemary and salt. I enjoyed the evenly browned, roasted potato slices and the fresh arugula. This was farm to fork Portland style.

I was a little disappointed in my almond cake with berries in that I had expected a more rustic cake made with more almond meal than flour. This was more of an almond pound cake with obvious almond extract added for the flavoring. Still, it was delicious cake paired with fresh Oregon blackberries that are so bountiful here.

Julie has a penchant for buttermilk and so she selected the buttermilk sorbet. She felt the touch of lemon overtook the buttermilk flavoring, but still enjoyed it very much.

Overall, I was very pleased with our visit to the Firehouse. The food is Oregon farm to fork with an emphasis on the pizza oven and wood fired grill. You can't beat it for charm either. It will be off the beaten path for many Portland visitors, but worth a trek away from downtown.