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!