Korean fried chicken and waffles
We all know the phrase "out of the box thinking" whereby you think of new and innovative ways to approach a problem or idea. To say that Waffle Experience is out of the box definitely refers to their taking of waffles to a whole new level than just breakfast. It can also refer to the fact that we aren't talking about Eggo toaster waffles either.

No. At Waffle Experience the waffle universe has been expanded to a whole new level...even beyond just the savory and sweet distinctions. The owners are making you think of waffles in a new and exciting way. In fact, in a minor way, they want you to think of waffles as just a crater-filled piece of bread and, like bread, can be used in every meal of the day as a super versatile ingredient.

All this waffling started between two Marine veterans. Like so many military personnel, Jeff Belaski and Michael Donoho developed a brotherly bond that has stretched for 30 years. After their military stints, Michael started cooking and eventually ended up at the Waldorf Astoria in Boca Raton, Florida. He's even cooked alongside some famous names: alongside Iron Chef Morimoto, Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain, David Burke, Charlie Trotter, and Julia Childs.

Michael called up his buddy Jeff and sprang his idea - a waffle restaurant. But not some House of Pancakes type waffle place. No. Something bigger.

Back in July, when sweet corn was just coming out, I made a batch of chow chow, a Southern relish that often has corn and green tomatoes. I knew I would want to eventually make a batch of deviled eggs.

Well, here they are. They are some of the best deviled eggs I've ever had and only have a couple of ingredients.

Chow Chow Deviled Eggs

6 hard boiled eggs, split in half
2 T of mayonnaise
1/3 cup of chow chow
1/8 t salt

Scoop the yolks into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, chow chow, and salt. Mix well until the mixture is nice and smooth. Scoop teaspoonfuls into the yolk voids in the egg whites. Sprinkle with a bit of paprika for color. Chill for an hour before serving.

If you are into the paleo diet than you really needed to be at Heritage Fire on Sunday. This meat fest is part of the Cochon555 series of events and basically includes any type of animal protein that can be cooked over open flame. There is everything from sturgeon, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, rabbit, and more.

The cooking is being done by some of Northern California's best chefs. And this year Sacramento had good representation. The Selland Group sent John Griffiths and Randall Selland with assistance from Ravin Patel (Ella) and other Kitchen/Ella staff.  Michael Tuohy was there representing Lowbrau/Block Butcher Bar. Michael Thiemann was there as a pre-view of his upcoming Empress, the new rotisserie place going in on K Street.  He had a crew of Mother employees with him. Michael Passmore was there with his sturgeon and other fish and had assistance from Bill Ngo and Tyler Bond from Kru.

Thiemann, Florence, Selland
There were other familiar faces as well. Tyler Florence made an appearance. If you recall, Florence had temporarily stolen Thiemann from us until Michael decided to come back home. Also, Kelly McCown, Ella's first Executive Chef. He was one of the main organizers of the event and hosted many of the chefs during prep and at the after party at his restaurant Goose & Gander in St. Helena.

So here are images from the event.

If you love cheese, then Sacramento was the place you needed to be. Over the last 10 days the American Cheese Society was in town to hold their annual conference. Along with typical seminars and mixers, they also determine the best cheeses of the year for the Americas, both North and South.

As soon as I heard they were coming to Sacramento I immediately emailed them to see if they would need volunteers. Turns out they rely heavily on volunteers and there were plenty of jobs and shifts to choose from.  I worked on three different days and got a good look at the behind the scenes in regards to the actual handling and judging of the cheeses.

The first two days dealt with the arrival of cheeses shipped overnight from all over the United States and other American countries. Over 1,600 cheeses from about 250 cheesemakers are arriving by the truckload in ice chests and other makeshift packaging. 

The sorting takes place in a VERY cold part of the convention center to help keep the cheeses cold. They had the air conditioning cranked! The trucks would come in and we would sort the boxes alphabetically. Someone opens the box and checks the inventory, makes sure the cheeses have arrived within an acceptable temperature range, and then the cheeses are sorted by type. Most of the cheeses had been well packed with ice packs and in Styrofoam coolers, but the most creative and "green" cheesemaker sent his cheeses chilled by recycled soda bottles filled with ice. 

The judging is split into 160 categories and so the cheeses need to be separated.  All of the cheeses have coding on them and are not supposed to have any names, brands, logos, or identifying marks on them if they want to be judged. The code indicates the category, the number assigned for the company, and then a number indicating the number cheese entry it is.  Let's say Cowgirl Creamery is the 152nd company to send in their entry registration months ago, they get a 2 letter code for the category, their number, and the number for the cheese. So an example would be XX-152-09, meaning they sent at least nine cheeses to the conference.