The great thing about Sacramento is that we have food events all year long.  Our name of Farm-to-Fork Capitol is appropriate with everything from Baconfest to the Banana Festival. In fact, sometimes competition is fierce for your attention and your dollar.

We are also blessed to be in the middle of so many destinations. With Napa, Tahoe, Reno, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey/Carmel, and Yosemite so close by, there are events to select from throughout Northern California.

Below is the Foodie Calendar through September's Farm-to-Fork Festival. The ones with comments are my favorites that I return to year after year.

July 17-18 Marysville Peach Festival
July 18 Capay Organic Tomato Festival 
July 24-26 Gilroy Garlic Festival
July 27 Courtland Pear Festival

August 2 Cochon Heritage Fire (Napa)
Probably my favorite of the summer, Heritage Fire is a meat lover's dream event. Plucking the best chefs from the Napa Valley and Sacramento. So far I see Michael Thiemann from Mother/Empress listed again and I'm hoping that we have some good Sacramento representation again this year. 

August 8 Woodland Tomato Festival 
August 8-9 Gravenstein Apple Fair

via Sac Bee
It had been well over a year since I last saw Chando Madrigal. We had met in the early days of the gourmet truck movement here in Sacramento, at the time when we founded SactoMoFo. Chando was one of the first Sacramento trucks on the scene, close on the heels of Krushburger (then Miniburger) and Drewski's.

I was lucky in that my office building where I now work was hosting a luncheon for the tenants and they called in Chando's to cater it. I was happy to see that Chando himself arrived on site and we were able to take a few minutes to catch up.

Chando's been busy since those early days. Since we first met he's opened locations in South Sacramento and in Roseville as well as adding a second truck.

He's also been getting some great national press. Last year the blog FiveThirtyEight did a search for the country's best burrito.  For the entire nation, Chando's came in at a tie for 7th place and in the top 20 overall. (Many of the positions had 2 or 3-way ties.) Then in April Chando's was named in Saveur magazine's article on California's historic tortilla-packed Highway 99

I asked him if he was ready to open location #4, possibly in Folsom and he said he's taking a break. His next project is actually to create a central facility where all of the catering and supply will function out of. At this location he can accept all deliveries, prep for catering events, and even make his own tortillas and more items from scratch. 

Then I wondered if he was ever going to do a regular restaurant versus a fast food/fast casual concept. He says he has an idea in his head, but it will be some time before that comes to fruition.

In the meantime I'll have to head over to the Arden Way stand and try this famous burrito. He says that they don't put beans or rice in them, only all the other fixings. This suits me just fine as I always order mine without rice and beans anyway. It's less carbs and less of a gut bomb. I've always been a regular for his great fish tacos (grilled, not fried) and the mulitas. 

Whatever Chando touches has been golden of late and so as the future unfolds I'm sure we'll see even more great things. 

Click to add a blog post for Iron Horse Tavern on Zomato
Trio of mac n cheese

Last week I wrote about the opening event at Iron Horse Tavern. I was (am) really excited about this particular new restaurant because I was impressed by the look, atmosphere, and the menu. Being that it was a special event, it didn't really count as a review.

Tonight I returned again with a group of old coworkers. I thought it would be fun for us to check out the Asian fusion tavern menu that Iron Horse serves. Now generally it's not good to review a restaurant so soon after opening, but I couldn't wait to really try them out and here was an opportunity to try several items with a group of friends.

Suffice it to say, we had a really great evening with service, food, and drink. We also lucked out.  After we put in our food order the first four dishes magically appeared in literally about a minute. We were like, "Wow! These guys are fast!" But we eventually figured out that our table had been delivered the order from the next table over, which was nearly exactly like our own order. So we got an extra pizza out of the deal. This table/food confusion continued throughout the night making me think I want to be sitting at that table from now on if the table confusion can continue in my favor! Except for that error, the service was very good. The staff were friendly, attentive, and efficient. 

I have to highly recommend Happy Hour. All the pizzas and small plates are half off from 3-6pm. We took advantage of that and for all the food you are about to see, the bill itself was only $68. There are, of course, drink specials as well. The only drawback is that the mocktails are not included in HH pricing, which seems stupid to me. After all, mocktails don't have any alcohol in them in the first place, so why shouldn't they be given a HH discount?

Out of the items you are about to see, the mac n cheese and the desserts are not included in the HH pricing. 

Let's start with the Trio Mac n Cheese seen at the top. Iron Horse has 9 mac n cheeses and for the trio you pick three. Our three were jalapeno, lobster, and chicken chorizo. You can see by the picture that the servings are small (note the spoon size next to the skillet). But mac n cheese is really rich and so do you really need more than that?  To break them down I'll say that the jalapeno either is really mild or they mistakenly gave us the pesto version instead of the jalapeno. It was the creamiest of the three, but not all that flavorful. The lobster was dull although it did have big chunks of lobster in it. The best of the three was the chicken chorizo. The other two needed that bit of spice and salt to waken them up.

The Bavarian Pretzel I had at the opening. It is served with mustard, jalapeno cheese, and bacon peanut butter. My favorite is the jalapeno cheese.

Click to add a blog post for Federalist Public House & Beer Garden on Zomato

destruction of the Marshall and the BFD

In full disclosure, I've known owner Marvin Maldonado and his wife, Bridgitte, for a few years now. Since the time when Bridgette's fashion truck, Gypsy Mobile Boutique, rolled on to the scene. That's why I've declined to write a review before - the association. 

I've gone to Federalist a few times now and the experience has been so good I just have to at least throw in my recommendation for a few pizzas. 

I really like the vibe at Federalist. So much so that I had my summer birthday party there. The inside/outside aspect of the shipping container construction gives it a casual, relaxed feel. Even in the winter it is sheltered enough, with heaters, to make it comfortable. 

I also appreciate the fact that they have non-alcoholic beverages, fresh made strawberry lemonade and kombucha, on tap. 

I thought I was just going to another opening event last night. Instead I ended up leaving feeling pretty excited about the new R Street Complex, the one at 15th & R that includes the brand new Iron Horse Tavern, Roxie Deli & BBQ, and Dos Coyotes. Oh, and European Wax Center. Even better, the event was used to raise funds for the Children's Receiving Home of Sacramento.

Let's start with the big guy in the building, Iron Horse Tavern. Created by the Wong brothers who also have Mix and Cafeteria 15L, it's a great new place that's sure to be a big draw. 

I love the layout. Inside there is a long U-shaped bar with loads of bar stools, flat screens mounted above, and a couple of cozy nooks that would be great to snag if you have a group of friends. Next to it are long communal bar tables before the actual dining room seating starts. There are plenty of tables to feed the crowds that are sure to come.

There's a great patio on the outside with lots of long tables. My only thought on the patio is the lack of shade/cover structure for extreme heat or winter weather. Perhaps that is coming down the road.

the new Paragary's patio

If you've lived in Sacramento for a few decades then at sometime you were sure to have eaten at a Paragary restaurant. For three decades Paragary's has seen a generation grow up, graduate, get married, and start another generation — all while celebrating over a meal with family and friends at the restaurant. Now the flagship restaurant has been overhauled and poised for relaunch this Friday.
Randy Paragary with wife, Stacy

The midtown location at 28th & N streets originally opened in 1983. For me, that's the year I graduated high school. Then I did my four years attending college in Portland before I moved to Sacramento in 1987. Even in college I was eating well and dining out often. My taste in fine dining came with me to Sacramento and I remember how, at the time, Paragary restaurants were the best in town. They were where you went to celebrate special occasions, Valentine's Day, or just wanted a good meal. I had a friend who was a manager for Zinfandel Grill Folsom and even had company Christmas dinners there. (Zinfandel Grills are no longer associated with Randy Paragary.)

Over the last decade (and since I've been food blogging for 7.5 years) I rarely ate at a Paragary restaurant. If I did, it was at their more casual Cafe Bernardo's. Having once been the leader of the Sacramento restaurant scene, it just seemed that they weren't keeping up with the times and were stuck in the late 90s. Not only with food and look, but also by their lack of social media and guest interaction. There were so many other new and more exciting restaurant concepts coming to town.

Last Friday I was invited to a media event to see the revamped Paragary's. Over the decades I probably ate there only a couple of times. I didn't even know they had a patio, although I heard about it. The old restaurant had dark wood, booths, and carpeting. 

You won't even recognize the place now. After being completely gutted and reconfigured, the new restaurant is bright, open, simple, clean. Someone referred to it as Napa French and that seems accurate. A California interpretation of French bistros. 

The most significant change is architectural. The windows were taken out and enlarged and the outside given a French bistro style facade. Inside walls were torn down, including the one that separated the back patio from the restaurant. In its place is now a wide open doorway leading directly into the patio. The bar was moved and also given the French bistro treatment. Even the kitchen was gutted, save for the wood fire pizza oven. All the kitchen equipment is new as well.  

The  menu is not all that different and certainly not edgy except for maybe a bit more use of offal. There's salads and small plates (gnocchi, liver mousse, pizza) and the entrees include French staples such as Steak au Poivre and Salad Nicoise. Paragary classics of their famous mushroom salad and their rosemary pasta remain.

Spataro and Ostrander
The kitchen will be helmed by Scott Ostrander, formerly over at sister restaurant Esquire Grill. Kurt Spataro is part owner of Paragary Restaurant Group and Executive Chef, overseeing the culinary side of all Paragary restaurants.

My feeling was that an important missing element these last few years has been a lack of good social media. Sure they send out email newsletters, but more creative and interactive engagement via Twitter and Facebook is needed to capture today's social media savvy crowd.  A good part about increasing your restaurant's reach is social engagement. This will be an important part of the restaurant's renewal.

It will be interesting to see if the revamp brings them up to date to attract the younger crowd. After all, it's this new generation of diners which will be the next set memorable meals at Paragary's.