Almost everyone has had this experience - bowling. You go with the family and there are some of you that are good bowlers and some who get nothing but gutter balls. Maybe you have kids and so you have the bumper lanes inflated or they use that ski jump contraption to roll the ball down. Your family occupies a lane, gets food and drinks, and keeps score on a computer monitor.

Translate that to golf, but upscale it, and you have Topgolf

12 bays on each level - courtesy of Topgolf

The new Topgolf facility opens this Friday in Roseville. Seldom do I get excited about anything new in town other than food, but Topgolf has me excited. It is sure to be a hit!

luxury bays have couches- courtesy of Topgolf

Topgolf is a facility that is three stories high, each level holding 12 driving range 'bays'. (That's 102 bays!) Each is climate controlled so that weather doesn't matter. Like the bowling example, you get a group together and rent a bay. Some are just bar tables and chairs, but the luxury bays actually have comfy couches. You order quality food and drinks (more on that shortly) and have a good time as you each get your turn at driving golf balls.

Just like the bowling, it doesn't matter if you are good or if you stink, if you are an adult or a child. Topgolf is meant for fun! 

The computer has a variety of games to choose from. If you are a golfer, then play like you were on the links. But if you are there with friends just to goof off, then you might want to play ones equivalent to skeeball, where you aim at different targets and depending on where your ball lands is what score you get.

clubs for everyone! - courtesy of Topgolf

You can bring your own clubs, but Topgolf actually has very nice titanium clubs for men and women, kids and lefties. The balls all have microchips in them so they record the distance. The driving range has fun, neon colored targets that flash and change to go with the music. Disco on the golf course!

Price? The bay rental is $25-$45 per hour. That's not bad if you have a party of six people!

There's more to the facility than just the driving range. There's other games like pool, corn hole, and more. There's also live music on the weekends on the lovely third floor patio. 

Want to hold a corporate event or meeting? There are conference rooms available.

talking with the corporate chef - courtesy of Topgolf

injecting donut holes

And the food?  Pretty good! For the media event we were mostly served their catering menu, but the regular menu looks pretty good too. They say that they smoke all their meats and make all their sauces and dressings in-house. For the dessert folk, they have donut holes that come with syringes of chocolate and raspberry sauces. Fun!

There's no doubt that this is going to be a very popular place for parties, birthdays, first dates, and more! 

the bar

the range

paleo pork belly tacos

stuffed potatoes

second level bays

the monitor with games to choose from

Last weekend was another fantastic meat fest at the annual Heritage Fire event at the beautiful  Charles Krug WineryWith over 3,500 pounds of meat and 950 guests, Cochon555’s Heritage Fire made its yearly stop in Napa Valley a hugely successful outing. Over $6,000 was raised for the Piggy Bank farm-in-the-making charity,

Piggy Bank is a pig farming sanctuary. Harboring a Noah’s Ark-worthy selection of heritage breeds, it provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. Piggy Bank aims to change the future of food by creating a community in which small farmers can come to learn about safer, more responsible practices, and can benefit from the sharing of genetics, livestock, and the very information needed to not just survive, but to thrive as small businesses.

While the charity might be pig focused, Heritage Fire is not. If you can roast it, you can find it here. There were dishes with pork, beef, chicken, goat, guinea hen, duck, oysters, shrimp, and more.

Team Ella - courtesy of Jane Anderson
Representing Sacramento this year was Team Ella who were assigned Goat. The goat came from Michael Passmore of Passmore Ranch. They made a paella that featured goat.

Ravin Patel & Rob Lind of Ella

There is usually a fair number of offal dishes at a meat fest like this. Two standouts were the tongue porchetta and this gem....

Yes, that's a deep fried duck embryo. Think Filipino balut — out of the shell. For a person who has never had the guts to eat balut, I did manage to eat this. It was soft and tasted like deep fried anything. 

There was plenty more, of course.  I want to give a particular shout out to Dry Sparkling sodas. For years all I had was water because everyone else was drinking wine and they never cared about us non-drinkers. So kudos to Dry Sparking for making my day so much better with their amazing sodas.

There is always a butchering demonstration where they sell the meat to raise funds for the charity.

Takes a team to flip a pig

courtesy of

courtesy of

Lingcod is sometimes blue and it is delicious!
Disclosure: I was given a credit by Siren Fish to try their CSF service. 

You may be familiar with the term "CSA", which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Generally it's where you buy a subscription to a local farm or farm group and then on a regular basis you receive a box of fresh, seasonal produce. You help the farm sell what's currently being harvested and are guaranteed the freshest of produce.

The twist to that is a CSF, or Community Supported Fishery. This is where you receive a box of super fresh seafood while supporting local fishermen. In Sacramento, you can get a CSF box from Siren Fish.

Here's how it works:

You sign up and decide whether you want to receive shipments weekly or bi-weekly. You also decide how big a share you want. You can a single share that's good for two people, or a double for four people. You also get a choice of whether you want to receive fish fillets, whole fish, or a variety, which can include both fish fillets and/or shellfish. Finally you choose a pick-up location. In the Sacramento area you can pick up at Broadway Coffee on Wednesdays or at Bike Dog Brewing in West Sacramento on Thursdays. 

A few days before your delivery date, you will get an email telling you what this week's catch is. You can either pick what you want, or you can let them pick something for you. Don't worry, you can also log in a vacation hold if you want to skip a week. Then you just go and pick it up. They will suggest recipes for the type of fish, or you can just cook how you like.

Shares run about $21-$28 each and for the past few weeks it was the equivalent of a pound of whatever fish was that week. Things like rockfish and lingcod are at the lower end and the salmon is at the higher end. What I liked was that for someone who doesn't know much about fish selection besides salmon, trout, and halibut, this gave me a chance to try some other fish and see what they were really like. 

It's also nice to get information about the fishermen you are supporting as well as more information about how the fish was caught and prepared. For instance, this is Captain Anthony Ferrari — a second-generation commercial fishermen who has been joining his father, Lou Ferrari, on the F/V Spellbound since he was nine years old. That week he caught black gill rockfish.
You will notice that the eyes of your Black Gill Rockfish appear to have blown up and then rapidly deflated. You might also notice that these fish appear to have tongues. Both of these strange features result from the rapid change in pressure that occurs as these deep ocean fish are reeled up. The deflated goggle eyes look is common for groundfish and does not indicate poor handling or inferior quality. The “tongue” is in fact an over-inflated swim bladder. Despite these drastic physical changes, it is possible for an experienced fisherman to return a landed rockfish unharmed to the water. They are very resilient creatures.
Another week I got the lingcod pictured at the top of this post. "Some of you may notice that your fish is blue. About 30% of all ling cod are some shade of blue, and this load holds true to that statistic. These blue fish, colloquially called “smurfs” turn white when cook and have no discernible difference in taste." It's nice to know these extra facts.

So I did ask them a couple of questions that were of interest to me. First was regarding whether the fish were frozen at all to kill parasites so I can feel safe eating it raw in something like sashimi, poke, or ceviche. The answer is that the fish are well iced, but they are not frozen. If one wishes to use the fish in a raw capacity, it is suggested that the fish be frozen for at least two days first. 

The second had to do with price. After all, $21 per pound for rockfish is pretty pricey when you can find it for less at the supermarket or at Sunh Fish. Of course there is the fact that this is fish being freshly delivered and that you are helping to support specific local fishermen, but there's more to it than that.

First they say that "72 hours out of the water is our maximum time from boat to door". They aren't negotiating with a bunch of boats trying to get the cheapest catch. Their goal is to work with specific fishermen to buy the catch they caught that day.

"We pay a higher price to the boat for superior onboard treatment. We ask fishermen do go above and beyond with onboard treatment of their catch. We ask for fish to be immediately bled and deep iced when your average load of fish would be stored whole under chip ice. These details improve the texture and shelf life of our fish."

I wanted a little more perspective on all this, so I called an expert, Hank Shaw of Hunt, Gather, Cook. We discussed a bit about how the fish are handled on commercial vessels and price. Basically, you are getting super fresh, well handled fish that could be a step above a really good fish market like Sunh Fish, but definitely a lot better than you would get at a supermarket such as Safeway. He reminded me that you could also go buy a day on a fishing boat at about $120, pull in your limits, and come home with, say, 100 pounds of fish. I chuckled at that. I do plan on going fishing with Hank some day, but for the average Joe, we're still going to get fileted fish from a store. It's just a matter of the quality/price we are wanting or willing to pay.

I will say that all the fish I got was super tasty. I made one of those vacuum sealed frozen filets and it was horrible (I probably didn't do the best job cooking it). But the fish I got in my CSF came out perfectly every time I cooked it. So wonderful!

By the way, I made the Asian Style Baked Rockfish (above) that Siren Fish suggested and it was aromatic and delicious!

Disclosure: I was given a credit by Siren Fish to try their CSF service. 

When it comes to foodie cities, Portland, Oregon is definitely near the top. It's come a long way. When I was at Lewis & Clark College in the 80s, everything (dining, nightlife) was pretty much on the west side of the Willamette River. Now, it seems, all the cool stuff is primarily in the revitalized neighborhoods on the east side. Back then I was impressed by a lot of ethnic restaurants, such as Filipino and Ethiopian, but the food scene wasn't as vibrant and impactful as it is today.

To celebrate this great food there is the annual Feast Portland event(s). Occurring in September, this year the event spans from Thursday, September 15 to Sunday, September 18. Feast Portland is one year older than our own Farm to Fork Festival, but seems to be so much bigger and draws in foodies and celebrity chefs from around the country. In past years I've had conflicts so that I couldn't attend, but this year I am conflict free and looking forward to staying with my father and visiting a city that I love. 

I'm looking forward to the Sandwich Invitational which puts Portland chefs up against a few visiting chefs, one of which is Ben Ford, famed Los Angeles chef who happens to be Harrison Ford's son. The idea is to go crazy with the idea of stuff between two pieces of bread, or the loose interpretation of bread. 

Sold Out is the super popular Night Market, featuring a light-strung village of stalls serving up a variety of street food from a hand-picked line-up of inspired chefs from Portland and beyond. Another sold out event I'd love to go to is a dinner with Chris Cosentino. There are also a few hands-on classes as well.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you'll be sure to see me tweeting from the Sandwich Invitational and Grand Tasting tents with blog posts to follow.

Photos courtesy of Feast Portland.
Disclosure: I am receiving a press pass to this event. 

Update December 2016: Masera has left Saddle Rock for Hook & Ladder.

They say that the original Saddle Rock opened as possibly the very first restaurant in Old Sacramento back in the Gold Rush era. Supposedly it was open for about 150 years before closing in the 90s. Saddle Rock 2.0 is now open in Midtown and is successfully mixing old and new thanks to Chef Matt Masera. 

Now I should say that I know both the owner, Chris Jarosz, and the chef. It's my job to disclose that up front. This could lead some to say that I'm biased. Perhaps. The fact is, though, that there will plenty of reviews coming out in the following weeks that will agree with me. The menu is terrific! It's so interesting, that it will take me several visits to try everything!

The concept is to take Gold Rush era dishes and update them for today's palates. Masera is a gifted chef and was up to the challenge. I can guess how excited he was to be given this gift of a challenge. He's done an impressive job.

Take, for instance, the Sacramento Cioppino. Traditional cioppino is made with a variety of salt water seafood and a tomato based broth. Here Masera has localized it by using sturgeon, catfish, and crawdads from our nearby fresh waters and put them in an earthier sauce. Actually, the sturgeon and catfish aren't really coming from the rivers, but from Passmore Ranch's tanks, assuring the freshest and best quality fish.

Other such updated dishes include a Beef Wellington done with short rib and a Masera version of Hangtown Fry, the famed dish named after Placerville. Typically it includes eggs, bacon, and oysters. Masera's includes "dirty bacon, oysters, chive, and goat cheese". 

Passmore Ranch fish is so good that I chose the Stuffed Trout, also featured. It was a nice sized fish that arrived wafting a wonderful, tantalizing aroma. When you opened up the middle you saw it stuffed with lemon slices, cucumber, and kale. On top was a layer of chimichurri. So good!

But I've totally skipped over the appetizers. We were intrigued by the oyster bread thinking there was oyster involved somehow. Not so. It's a popover served with dill butter. A popular choice is the Chicken "Skin" Biscuit served with a pine syrup butter and juniper. It does come with a crisp chip of bacon skin on top. I had a chance to try the Chicken Fried Catfish Nuggets at Bastille Day. These are served with preserved lemon, fried herbs, and summer chilis. 
Note: After some differing accounts, I emailed Masera regarding the oyster bread. Apparently the chopped oysters are in the popover batter. 

Masera is actually one of those chefs that does well with savory, but has made quite a name for himself with his pastry skills. That's why I always leave room for one of his desserts. Here is the Griddle Fried Bread with berries and cream. It may look like French toast, but it's not dunked in egg. Meanwhile, the chocolate cake is scooped out and served with a cremeaux and crushed sablé, giving it that nice textural crunch element. 

They say that the staff were all given history lessons so they can share background information with guests. I kinda wish I had played dumb so I could have heard the spiel. Regardless, the service was very good considering it was their first Saturday night service - well paced and attentive. 

I look forward to several more visits so I can continue through the menu. And mark my words, more praising reviews are soon to follow mine. 

A few years ago I used to write the Sacramento Heatmap for If you are familiar with Eater, they do a Heatmap for every city showing the current hot places to eat. Not necessarily the best, but what's currently the hot new spots everyone is trying out. Every month they add and remove restaurants from the list. Restaurants are less than six months old.

I can no longer write for Eater as it is considered a conflict of interest for my job. At the same time, I referred them to another blogger to do Sacramento for them, but in three years they've never put us back on their Heatmap list.

I've decided it's time to take the matter into my own hands and therefore present to you Sacramento's Hot List à la Ms. Munchie.

August 2016: added Saddle Rock

Saddle Rock
If you are into history, then Saddle Rock is for you. The original Saddle Rock restaurant was located in Old Sacramento back in the Gold Rush era. It was apparently Sacramento's first restaurant and lasted over 150 years, closing in 1995. This new version is in Midtown and takes inspiration from era menus and updates them with contemporary methods and ingredients. For instance, above is the Sacramento Cioppino, made with sturgeon and crawdads found in our rivers and delta along with oysters, which were popular at the time. Another dish includes an updated Hangtown Fry, after the famous dish named after Placerville. Matt Masera is the chef and he not only brings his expertise to savory, but he's particularly known for his desserts, so save room.

courtesy of OBO'

OBO' is the long awaited, new addition to the Selland Family Restaurant Group. Like their Selland Market Cafes, this one is a fast casual restaurant where you order at the counter and then your food is brought to you. The difference is the Italian focus and the fact that this one has a full bar, not just beer and wine. This is a neighborhood restaurant where you can socialize with friends or grab a meal from the prepared case for those nights when you are too lazy to cook. (3145 Folsom Blvd)

A few have tried and not been successful at bringing a Japanese izakaya restaurant to Sac. Binchoyaki looks like it has succeeded. The focus is grilled skewers and small plates that are often found in izakayas, or Japanese style social houses. During lunches the menu is filled with bento box selections while dinner offers the extended menu. (2226 10th St)

courtesy of Coconut

Southside is becoming the hot area of town for new restaurants. The newest addition is the second iteration of Coconut Thai. This one is much larger than the original J St. location. Ms. Munchie hasn't had a chance to visit it yet, but is excited to have Thai in walking distance! (1110 T St)

Ms. Munchie loves restaurants that bring something new to town and Skool has done that. Skool features Asian influenced seafood dishes that we really haven't seen anywhere else but from Kru. Owned by two couples who opened the first Skool in San Francisco, the Sac location has been getting positive reviews from critics and Ms. Munchie. (2319 K St)

courtesy of Coconuts

Another Coconuts? This one is unrelated to the Thai one above. Started by a Sacramento native who was living in Maui, Coconuts Fish Cafe is known for its Hawaiian style fish tacos featuring lean ono, poke with ahi tuna, and grilled mahi mahi as well as many other seafood dishes. Coupled with Hawaiian aloha spirit, it's a friendly, cheerful place to grab a bite and sure to be much more successful than the Noodles & Co. it replaces. (16th & O Sts)

Boiling Crab Downtown
The Patriot
Fish Face at Milagro
Milagro Mercado
Selland's on Broadway
Mimosa House
Kru's new location
El Rey

Every city has their big food events and for San Francisco it is Eat Drink SF.  Coming up August 25-28, Eat Drink SF. is put on by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association each year and includes many of San Francisco's top restaurants and purveyors during a weekend of events. Over 160 restaurants will be participating!

Several years ago the event was known as SF Chefs and included a lot of educational seminars and cooking demos. I had been to a few of those and even interviewed chef Daniel Scherotter of Palio. Those have been sadly reduced. There are still cooking demos and cocktail demonstrations, but they are now held during the The Grand Tastings. 

I am particularly interested in Saturday night's Grand Tasting because chef Andrew Le from Honolulu's The Pig and The Lady will be there for a guest demo. You might recall that I have written two blog posts about him as I've watched his career take off. (Links above)

This year, Eat Drink SF has added a special Grand Tasting on Sunday, to celebrate the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s 80th anniversary and honor the legacy restaurants in the Bay Area. The Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting will feature Bay Area bars and restaurants that have been open for at least 20 years and that have helped shape the distinct flavor of the local culinary experience including Scoma's, Sutro's at the Cliff House, and Tosca.

For a full list of participating restaurants, visit each of the event pages at VIP and General Admission tickets for the Grand Tastings are available for purchase at General Admission tickets are $109 but will increase to $119 on July 25 and VIP tickets are $199 - $209. A limited number of tickets for Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila are still available for $85. For more information, visit

Eat Drink SF benefits the GGRA Scholarship Foundation and CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). GGRA’s scholastic-based scholarship program has given more than $500,000 in the past 14 years alone and was established to encourage and provide assistance for students who wish to further their education in pursuit of careers in the hospitality industry.

Disclosure: I am receiving a press pass to this event. 

You couldn't ask for better weather after the recent heat wave. The temperature, assisted by the Delta Breeze, was in the high 80s. A perfect day for the opening event at The Barn in West Sacramento which included Off the Grid food trucks and music. 

Located on the West Sac side riverbank, The Barn is the new event structure in an area newly named The Bridge District. The wooden structure is just phase one, with more landscaping, stages, and bathrooms to come.

The Barn's swooping curvature is meant to be a bridge on land made from barn material - wood. It's very impressive and I was told that is constructed without a single nail. There are large bolts, but all the wooden shingles that line the exterior are without nails. The underside has a lattice design with lights inside to light up at night. More lights with colors will light up the outside. The unique shape means that wherever you stand around it, you get a totally different view of shape.

Every Friday night through October you can enjoy music and food trucks. Off the Grid will have a rotation of food trucks each week. Within The Barn there are cocktails served by Rye on the Road, a bar service out of San Francisco. They have created a selection of mixed drinks that are made en masse for quick and easy service. This is important because the bar line became long quickly. Later on Drake's Brewing Company will be installed in one side as the brewery tenant.

At the back side of The Barn is a temporary stage built by Off the Grid. This self contained stage has all the equipment and lights contained within. During storage, it's a giant box, but when they need it, the walls lift up to create the roof with lighting. The whole thing can be lifted and moved with a forklift if necessary, but for now it is anchored at the site. Each Friday there will be music curated by Capital Public Radio's Nick Brunner from 5-8 and then a local band will play from 8-10. 

The trucks have plenty of food to choose from with tacos, burgers, tacos, ethnic, and desserts.

Off the Grid continues to open new locations in the area. Their locations are well selected. Sunday's on the West Sac Riverwalk are perfect for family picnics. Taco Tuesdays at the Crocker Art Museum are great for an after work bite, some music, and art. Thursday lunches are being served in Rancho Cordova at Prospect Park and later this month Folsom Outlets will host Saturday afternoons for you to grab a bite while shopping. The Sacramento county locations are to be year round while the West Sacramento locations, unfortunately, will only be until the end of October.