When you are a food blogger, critic, or writer, the number one question has got to be, "What are your favorite restaurants in town?" To that end, I hereby submit my current list.

Links are to my posts of each place.

First, The Kitchen cannot be put on a list. I recommend it and like it, but it is so expensive that it is hard for the normal Joe/Jane to pony up unless it is a special occasion. So it is in it's own category.

These restaurants are the ones I return to on a regular basis

- Ella $$$ fine dining, affordable happy hour and lunch specials
- Empress $$$ meat focused fine dining
- Kru $$-$$$ best sushi/Japanese in Sac
- Fish Face $-$$ same owner as Kru, but only serves poke in a fast casual concept
- Lou's Sushi $$ my 2nd favorite sushi, addicted to the seafood nachos
- Broderick's $$ best burgers in Sac
- Raijin Ramen  $$ large selection of ramens
- Viet-ha $ fast casual Vietnamese - banh mi sandwiches and rice/noodle bowls

Fine dining:
- Waterboy $$$
- Mulvaney's $$$

Restaurants I will happily return to when someone wants to go there:

- Hawk's $$$ fine dining in Granite Bay
- Hawks Public House $$-$$$ on Alhambra Blvd.
- Meadowlands - $$-$$$ in Sloughouse
- Localis $$-$$$ exceptional farm to fork
- Skool - $$-$$$ Asian influenced seafood
- Grange $$$ fine dining in the Citizen Hotel
- Matteo's $$-$$$ neighborhood Italian in Carmichael
- The Press $$-$$$ downtown bistro
- Biba's $$-$$$ landmark Italian
- Magpie Caterers $$ a Sacramento bistro favorite
- South $$  Southern cuisine
- Mother $-$$ vegetarian even carnivores love
- Cafe Plan B $$ - French bistro fare
- Boulevard Bistro $$$ CA bistro
- Porch $$-$$$ Southern
- Roxy $$ American
- Lucca $$-$$$ Italian
- Binchoyaki Izakaya $$ Japanese (no sushi)

In the chain restaurant category:
- Texas Roadhouse BBQ - my go-to when I'm in the mood for a ribeye

In the ethnic category:
- Cafe Morocco - favorite Mideastern
- Siam - Thai
- Katmandu Kitchen - Nepal/India
- Boon Boon - Thai
- Jimmy's Peruvian
- Macau Cafe - Chinese
- Yang's Noodles - Chinese
- Vallejo's - the one at 4th and S - Mexican
- Lalo's - very authentic Mexican

Fast food:
- Popeye's Fried Chicken
- La Fiesta Taquerias
- In n Out
- Chando's
- Suzy's
- Buckhorn Grill

- Dad's - American style

- Tower Cafe
- Ettore's

- Bacon and Butter
- Tower Cafe
- Original Pancake House
- Capitol Garage
- Mama Kim's

#1 Alonzo's!!! $$- in Citrus Heights, but the best stuffed pizza
- Federalist $$
- Masullo's $$
- Pizza Rock $$ - every style pizza imaginable
Forget about buttered popcorn. While I am a butter lover, my favorite popcorn is actually Sriracha flavored, followed by Thai curry flavored.

These aren't seasonings you find in ready-made powders to sprinkle on your popcorn. Those seasonings in the grocery store or at the movie theater contain all sorts of artificial seasonings, colors, and preservatives.

Instead I use organic coconut oil.

  • Scoop coconut oil into a mason jar.
  • Add seasoning of choice. More will, of course, mean stronger flavor. It's all up to you!
  • Microwave the jar to melt the coconut oil.
  • Using potholders or a thick towel, add the mason jar lid and shake!
  • Pour and toss over your popcorn!
Super easy! Enjoy!

Is this the new date night for book nerds? Perhaps. The new Barnes and Noble bookstore in Folsom's Palladio becomes one of the first in the country to house a new restaurant.

Folsom residents were out in force for the much anticipated opening. Many were unaware of the restaurant; they were just excited for a bookstore in their area. Located on the behind the Whole Foods, the new store is large, spacious, with a sterile look. It's not as comfy as bookstores of years gone by.

For months we've watched and waited as the Century Cinedomes at Arden and Ethan were demolished and rebuilt as a brand new, shiny theater - the Century Arden 14 and XD as they are known.

As the name denotes, there are 14 theaters. While there is still a medley of big and small, all now have "Luxury Lounges". Basically, they are nice, cushy, wide, electronic recliners. They have buttons on the right so that you can move back and forth. My complaint is that they don't push back very far and have no lumbar support, so I'll be stashing a back pillow in my car for if I ever go to these theaters again.

large theater

The more important thing to note is that every theater is reserved seating, meaning as you buy your ticket, you'll be asked to select a seat. This is going to take some getting used and will definitely encourage people to load the app on their phone. After all, once you make a decision to go to a movie, you should choose your seats because if you wait to the last minute and just show up, all the decent seats might be already assigned. This will mean a real change in thinking and prepping to go to a movie at a Cinemark. 

Since it's opening in October, the new Sacramento Natural Food Co-op has been a busy hive of activity. So much so that they even extended their hours till 11 p.m. While the downstairs is abuzz, there's great things happening upstairs as well.

The second floor houses the Co-op's business offices but also has a wonderful new classroom. The room itself is probably at least four times the size of the old classroom. It houses a demonstration kitchen with all the latest appliances and plenty of counter space. There are a number of tables with wheels that can be moved around for events or set for class. Behind all this is more kitchen where additional grilling, cooking, and prep can done, as well as the washing of all the dishes.

Not all of the classes that are taught are cooking classes. There are also wellness seminars, gardening workshops, and special events. While learning how to make gnocchi is always popular, there are opportunities to take a class on nutrition or how to create a terrarium. 

OK. It's really a double birthday. My birthday is December 8th, but the bigger news is that this blog is 9 years old. One more year and it will be a decade! 

That might not seem like much, but in blog years nine is a big deal. When I started there were only a handful of Sacramento food blogs and about a thousand worldwide. Now there are many thousands and the blogging world has changed a lot.  It's always been more of a hobby based on my love of good food.  

What started as a hobby turned into SactoMoFo, the Sacramento Food Film Festival, and Have an Offal Day. I am so thankful to all the fans, restaurateurs, chefs, and supporters for helping me along the way. Most of all, I send my love to the city I love so much...Sacramento!

Sneak peek disclaimer: This is not a review as I was invited to taste the menu before the official opening. I also know the owners and chefs of this restaurant.

Anyone who drives the Jackson Highway is familiar with the two landmarks in Sloughouse. There's the Davis Ranch farmer's market on the left side and on the right side has always been the Sloughouse Inn.

The Sloughouse Inn is no more and in its place is the new Meadowlands Restaurant from the owners of Lucca, Roxy, and Lucky Dog Ranch. This means you'll get the same great service and food that you've come to love at the other restaurants. Many of the ingredients come from Lucky Dog Ranch. The beef is all grass fed and free of antibiotics and hormones and many of the vegetables come from their own gardens. 

The menu is farm to fork, new American and with similarities to Roxy. For instance, you will find the Elvis Burger and the Lucky Dog Ranch Burger on both menus. The idea here, though, is to showcase the seasonal produce that is produced in the area and that you might find down the road at Davis Ranch market. 

outside Ta Prohm
Many people have a visit to the famed Angkor Wat as part of their bucket list. I have a Things to Do Before I Die List and it's definitely been on there for some years. When my friend told me he was heading there last month, I was a bit jealous. Then I got an awesome airfare and ended up joining him.

Tuk tuk drivers are always on their toes as salesmen. As I've mentioned in Bangkok to Siem Reap - Train or Bus?, drivers will try very hard to become your driver for the duration of your stay. They will also try to sell you sites as distant as they can. Such was the case with Mr. Song who convinced us to go the floating village an hour away. Having him for the afternoon to do so would cost us $15.

We were a bit miffed to arrive, after bumping over unpaved roads, at a boat dock and told it was another $15 each to see the floating village. We had naively been under the impression he would take us ashore from the village. We later discovered why. The floating village really is floating in the middle of Tonle Sap Lake's shallow shores. 

We know the country as Cambodia, but the history and region are Khmer. What's that? The empire that built Angkor Wat and many other temples through Southeast Asia was the Khmer empire. The empire ran through today's Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and ran from about the 8th century to the 13th century. Today the term "Khmer" is still used throughout the country. 

When you walk through areas that cater to tourists the restaurants will often have signs saying what foods they serve: Western, Thai, Khmer. The difference between Thai and Khmer food is primarily spiciness. Thai food uses a lot more peppers to get really firey hot in spice level. Khmer food is spicy in terms of flavor versus heat. Thai curry will be hot spicy, Khmer curry would be considered mild and often doesn't have any peppers in it at all.

The two national dishes would be considered Amok and Lok Lak. Amok can be made with any meat or fish and can be described as close to a green curry, but again, without the spicy heat. Lok Lak, usually beef, is served on a bed of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes and dipped in a sauce consisting of lime juice, salt and black Kampot pepper. 

Khmer BBQ pan

My first post on Cambodian food covered national dishes. This post is mostly photos from my visit to the local food market in Siem Reap. First, let me share a video of a roadside snack. I had read about these rice snacks on the internet and so when I saw them on the road to Tonle Sap Lake, I had our tuk tuk driver stop.

This is a chè vendor. It's a dessert made with sweet syrup or pudding and then whatever you want: beans, jellies, tapioca pearls, fruit, etc. 

I've been eating a lot more Asian food this last year. In particular, I've been ordering a lot of ramen and then making a lot of congee at home with my homemade bone broth. I often use a rotisserie chicken for my congee, but pork is my favorite meat and I wanted something with more flavor to top off the congee.

I've tweaked a recipe I found on the internet by adding a few more ingredients and adjusting the amounts. I wanted the pork to be on the saucier side.

Asian-style Pulled Pork

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp ground allspice
1/3 cup brown or coconut sugar
2 Thai chilis - minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 lbs pork shoulder

In a slow cooker combine all the ingredients except the pork. Turn the heat on to high for about 5 minutes in order to melt the sugar into the liquids.

Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks. Put into slow cooker and toss to coat with the sauce. Lower the heat to low and cook for 6 hours.

Take two forks and shred the tender pork into pieces, coating and mixing with the sauce that has been created.

Use to top noodles, rice, congee, ramen, or to fill steam buns. 

Many times tourists traveling to Thailand will also venture to Cambodia to see the famed Angkor Wat temples. After all, it's only a 30 minute flight or day's journey away. Had I understood my friend's visa predicament, I would have flown directly into Cambodia, but instead I landed in Bangkok and had to make my way to join him.

The city near Angkor Wat is Siem Reap. You can get a connecting flight there from Bangkok for as little as $50, I'm told, but I opted to take the land journey. This gave me two options - train or bus. In the end I took the bus after my friend had taken the train the day before. Here is what we learned and why I recommend the bus.


My friend's Thai visa ran out and so he needed to be out of the country or pay a fine for overstaying his visa. Therefore, he had to cross to Cambodia on the day that I was flying over from the U.S. and he could not wait for me. He opted to take the train and later discouraged me from taking it myself.

There are two daily trains that leave for the border with Cambodia - at 05:55 in the morning and the afternoon one at 1:05. They start at Hualamphong station in downtown Bangkok and make a few stops as it heads out of the city. In fact, when I was deciding, my hotel concierge was telling me not to go all the way downtown so early in the morning when the train was going to pass by a closer station to my airport hotel anyway. The issue, according to my friend Rod, is seats. He got on at the Hualamphong station and ended up with the last seat. He warned me if I got on at a later station, I risked having to stand for part of the journey, who knows how long.

royal palace phnom penh cambodia
We called it Pigeon Park, in front of Royal Palace, because locals sell corn and feed the pigeons

My trip this month to Cambodia had been a spur-of-the-moment decision. A friend is traveling Southeast Asia and when he said he was going to Angkor Wat, I mentioned it was on my Things to Do Before I Die list. When I found an airfare for as low as $522 round trip, I couldn't pass it up. It's been 30 years since I was last in Asia - 1986. In that time the internet and wi-fi have come into existence as well as dozens of new airlines. It's made travel that much easier and affordable.

tuk tuk siem reap cambodia
with our tuk tuk driver, Mr. Song

I've just returned from two weeks in Cambodia and I was pretty impressed. While it's still a developing country, it has a lot going for it. Cambodians are very friendly people and we had nothing but pleasant encounters with everyone.

They work in US Dollars $$$! Talk about making life so much easier! Most of the time you will find things priced in US Dollars, but if you ask, they'll quickly tell you the dollar equivalent price from their Riel. Because they only work with paper money, you may end up getting change back in a mixture of dollars and riels. For instance, if your bill comes to $8.50 and you give them a $10 bill, you'll get $1 and then 2000 riel in change. Basically, 1000 riel equals a quarter. When coming from the U.S., bring nice, crisp bills. They do not want old, raggedy dollars and I even saw a restaurant argue over accepting a $20 with a rip.

In the mood for some Middle Eastern fare this weekend? (Oct 22/23) I have a couple options.

The first one is an annual event, so you only have Saturday in which to attend. The Armenian Food Festival takes place at St. James Church in Midtown from 11am to 8pm. While Armenia does not fall in the Middle East, the foods have merged and reflected the influence of Armenian resettlement communities, namely Persia and Lebanon.

The Festival is a great party bringing together the greater Sacramento community.  Armenians (Hyes) have lived in Sacramento since 1919 when the first residents fleeing the 1915 Genocide arrived. Today over half of the world's 11 millionArmenians live in diaspora, outside the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian Food Fest introduces the community to the contributions of the growing American-Armenian community in Sacramento.

Many of the colorful cuisines featured at the St. James Armenian Food Festival originated and matured in Constantinople (Instanbul) where Armenians had a viable community life during the Byzantine Period. 

DateOctober 22, 2016
Time11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Trinity Cathedral Great Hall, 2620 Capitol Ave, Sacramento, CA 95816
Admission: Free until 5 p.m. After 5 p.m.: $5 General/$2 Seniors/Free for children under 12
Menu: Traditional Armenian foods including shish kebab, pilaf, kufta, lamajhoon, yalanchi, kadif, bourma and more.

The second one is Kasbah on J Street. Kasbah is the hookah lounge located across from Tapa the World. Formerly owned by the same owners as Tapa, it was bought by employees Debbie Chang and Tanya Azar, who have tweaked the menus. 

The food reflects the flavors of the Mediterranean, utilizing spices and flavors of the Middle East and North Africa, and lending themselves to sharing and socializing. You can toast with Kasbah's selection of worldly cocktails and beverages such as BrazilianCaipirinhas, Lebanese wines and a selection of beers from around the world.

Inside there are comfy cushion banks akin to floor seating in the Mideast, or choose regular table dining. 

If you want, you can choose to enjoy smoking a hookah out on the patio. On weekends you can enjoy the dancing of talented belly dancers.

Being a non-drinker, I tried the virgin version of their Moroccan lemonade made with pomegranate juice and fresh mint. (Drinkers can have it with the Gruven Polish vodka.)

At a media event we enjoyed an array of small bites, including hummus, baba ganouj, grilled veggie kabobs, and kefta tagine meatballs. Everything had an abundance of flavor from the adept use of spices. 

The one worrisome bite was the stuffed dates. They are stuffed with chorizo and blue cheese and then battered and deep fried. In all my years eating Mideastern food, that's a new one for me. While I get the need to kinda bind the whole thing together for cooking, I'd rather forgo the batter and roast them in an oven instead.

That aside, we had an enjoyable time and at Kasbah, finishing off with fresh made baklava.

courtesy of Cityscape Lounge
I rarely get the opportunity to stay the night in San Francisco. On the occasions when I was there with my ex-husband or ex-boyfriend, we would end up dancing at the Starlight Room. Located on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, it gave you a great view of Union Square while enjoying a lively night of socializing and dancing.

courtesy of Cityscape

Now there is a new old place for the most spectacular views of San Francisco. Make your way up to the 46th floor of the Hilton at Union Square to the newly reopened Cityscape Lounge.  Originally opened in 1971, it has been closed to the public since 2008 while it was used for private parties only. It is now open to the public from 5 to midnight every day.

What makes Cityscape so outstanding is the breathtaking 360 degree views through 14 foot floor to ceiling windows. It also helps that the Hilton's Tower 1 benefits from not having any other skyscrapers directly around it to obstruct the view. From this vantage point you can see:

  • the Golden Gate Bridge
  • part of the Bay Bridge
  • Angel Island
  • Coit Tower
  • Union Square
  • Nob Hill
  • even Mt. Diablo over the top of the Oakland Hills!
toward Angel Island

The Lounge itself is two levels. The center is where the bar is and there is plenty of seating at a higher level which provides a more expansive vantage point. The lower level has comfy couch seating at the windows for great distance views. All or part of the lounge can be reserved for private parties and events. In our case, we were at the northeast corner of the building with views spanning the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge. 

To get to Cityscape, go to the Hilton on O'Farrell Street and look for the Tower 1 elevators behind registration. 

More pictures:

Some of the highlights from the locally-inspired menu include:
»      Avocado Hummus with farmer’s market vegetables, unfiltered olive oil and lavosh
»      Spiced Cucumbers with sesame, crushed chile, scallion and burnt peanut
»      Ahi-Salmon-Hamachi Poke, sweet onion, inamona jus, micro wasabi and lotus root chips
»      Dungeness Crab with spicy giardineria, natural tobiko and grilled brioche
»      Cheese and Charcuterie with beet pickled egg, quince, grain mustard and lavosh

Signature cocktails include:
»      Nob Hill Manhattan
»      Noe Valley Old Fashioned
»      Pacific Heights – Martell Cordon Bleu Cognac, Cointreau and squeeze of lemon
»      Presidio – Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, St. Germain, ruby red grapefruit and lime

center lounge area


toward Oakland at sunset

Golden Gate to Angel Island

courtesy of Cityscape Lounge

The most anticipated restaurant opening of the fall is not something new, but rather a favorite moved to a new location. The new Kru will open at the beginning of November.

For those unfamiliar with Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine, it's one of the few Sacramento restaurants to earn four full stars from the Sacramento Bee. It's also where you will often find our best area chefs dining when they have a day off. 

Owner Bill Ngo may not be Japanese, but he's doing Japanese in a fresh, contemporary way. Here you will find mixed Asian flavors and techniques using the freshest of seafood and local ingredients. This expertise has led him to not only being a favorite among his peers, but he's also finding recognition elsewhere. He's been invited to both the Pebble Beach and the Los Angeles Food & Wine Shows and you may have also seen him on television on Cutthroat Kitchen.

New to this location:

  • large patio featuring a limited menu, smoking permitted
  • small dining patio, non-smoking
  • large bar featuring craft cocktails
  • private dining room that doubles as a retail bottle shop selling whiskeys and sake
  • much longer sushi bar
  • expanded menu adding izakaya
  • Bill sporting short hair for the first time in ???!!!
Here then are some shots of the new Kru. 

None before, now two patios!

Much longer sushi bar - zigzag shape

butcher block tables with benches and wood seats

pumpkin soup

taro croquettes

fish skin chicharron for garnishing
private dining room/bottle shop

none before, now a large bar!

salmon lomi

unagi and rice

Ms. Munchie's favorite coffee shop changed names for a morning. This morning Chocolate Fish Coffee became Luke's Diner from the TV show, Gilmore Girls. 

I became a Gilmore Girls fan a little late. I didn't discover it until the second or third season. I was immediately captured with the excellent script writing and delivery by the actors. This was a more cerebral show with very quick repartee. Sometimes so quick it was hard to keep up. The script writing was right up there with The West Wing and I loved it. 

It was a sad day when it ended it's run, but it's coming back! Netflix has revived it for a four episode run that will be posted on November 25th. But what about October 5th? Well, that was the original air date of the series and so today is its anniversary.

Netflix teamed with over 200 coffee shops to become Luke's Diner for the day. In Sacramento, it was Chocolate Fish Coffee at its CalPERS location downtown and also at The Trade Coffee.

Edie Baker, owner of Chocolate Fish, said they chose the downtown location to give it a bit more exposure. State workers are well aware of the original Chocolate Fish location, but maybe not enough downtown/midtown residents. 

Netflix is reimbursing the stores for their coffee sales during the promotion. They also supplied promotional collateral such as cups and sleeves. I don't know about The Trade, but the Chocolate Fish location even had their own Luke! Jason, a Chocolate Fish employee who looks remarkably close to Luke, played the part for picture takers and the media. 

The cups had SnapChat codes on them that supposedly unlocked special Luke's Diner filters, but I couldn't get mine to work. 

In the end Edie tells me that they gave away 250 cups of coffee and 500 logo cups.

At 8 a.m., when I stopped by, the line was past the patio and down the block. After my gym class I did a drive by and it was still the same at 10 a.m! I was told that The Trade's line was also around the block.

Apparently there is a large Gilmore Girls following in Sacramento!

Five years ago Portland joined the major food festival game with Feast Portland. It's very similar to the Food and Wine shows across the country: Aspen Food & Wine, Los Angeles Food & Wine, Pebble Beach Food & Wine. It's their big celebration of all the great food and beverages of Portland and Oregon. 

The last four years I couldn't go because it happens in September, the same time as Farm to Fork month here in Sacramento and sometimes the same time as the International Food Bloggers Conference. This year I was excited to be able to attend. After all, next to Sacramento, Portland is my second home, where I went to college, where I've visited off and on since I was a toddler. 

Feast PDX spans a number of days and includes the standard Grand Tasting Tents as well as more intimate, limited seating dinners and classes. I would have loved to attend the dinner done with Chris Cosentino or the Twisted Filipino dinners, but tickets to those type events are the first to go. 

with Ben Ford
On Thursday Sacramentans might have been feasting on 15 burgers at the Sacramento Burger Battle, but up north I was busy tasting 15 different sandwiches in Feast's Sandwich Invitational. While most chefs were local, there are a couple celebrity chefs that are invited as well, such as Tom Douglas from Seattle, and Ben Ford from Los Angeles. 

Like Burger Battle, there is a People's Choice winner and a Judge's Panel winner. I really liked and voted for the Indian influenced one below. It was original, flavorful, was hot and crunchy, and was the People's Choice winner - Tom McCarty of Bollywood Theater. The judges selected Kim Jong Grillin's duck club sandwich. 

On Friday and Saturday afternoons it was time for the Grand Tasting Tent at Pioneer Courthouse Square. I have great memories of Pioneer Square because it was finished and opened in 1984, when I was at nearby Lewis & Clark College. It's a fantastic venue that has many different levels and created in such a way that it has built in amphitheater seating. Located smack in the middle of downtown, it's also the central downtown hub of the Trimet transportation system. 

The Grand Tasting Tent is the showcase for Oregon products, with a few outsiders thrown in. For instance, I saw our own California Olive Oil represented. Oregon has always had great wine, coffee, and beer crafters. They are also known for being very health conscious, so not surprising there were many healthy food companies with booths.

Here are a few that caught my eye. 

I've visited Bob's Red Mill twice in the past. They are always at the forefront for providing ingredients and products for all kinds of dietary restrictions. On Saturday they were showcasing their muesli: regular, paleo, and gluten free. 

Speaking of paleo, Honey Mama's had their paleo chocolate for tasting. Cacao-Nectar Bars are naturally free from soy, eggs, dairy, gluten and grains. Their bars have a nice, soft texture with a deep flavor from a blend of cacao, coconut oil, and honey. 

I was also impressed with Kite Hill. They make vegan 'dairy' products including ricotta and cream cheeses! I'm hoping to learn more about them. 

Oregon is well known for being the berry state. It's climate is perfect for blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. There are berry farms all through the Willamette Valley and a blueberry one just down from my dad's old house. This was a ceviche that featured berries. 

Now that I've been once, I know to get on it with buying tickets for some of the feature events in the future. In the meantime, check out some of the bites from Saturday's Grand Tasting in my Instagram video below.