Chopstick Etiquette 101

Thursday, June 29, 2006

So after witnessing way to much abhorrent behavior in chopstick etiquette, I can only say Ms. Manners would not just be rolling in her grave, she's prolly getting ready to rise her corpsey self up and smack you upside your damned head.

Seriously people, you don't scratch your oily face with your fork midway through the salad course, you don't use your knife as a hockey stick to pass the soy sauce, and you wouldn't do it with your chopsticks. It may be okay at home over take out with buddies and a rental of Tron (awesome movie, btw), but not at the restaurant. Therefore please utilize the following tips:

  • Do not hover your chopsticks over a dish, deciding what you want. Figure out what you want beforehand, then grab it.
  • Don't shave down your chopsticks for splinters. If you are being served chopsticks that have splinters, get the hell out of there. The food will probably infect the cuts you get from them. Good places won't give you wooden ones anyways.
  • Do not pass food from your chopsticks to another person's chopsticks. This resembles the passing of bones into an urn after one's death. It's bad juju.
  • Your chopsticks are not a a tool of murder. Do not try to use them to stab or saw your food. Your meal is not a scene from a Rob Zombie film.
  • Don't scratch yourself with your chopsticks. Just, ew... no.
  • Do not pass, push, pull, or generally move dishes or plates around with your chopsticks. Just put the chopsticks down and move it, or ask someone to pass it. Remember your "please" and "thank you."
  • Don't stick your chopsticks in the rice, sticking vertically out. This is the ultimate taboo. Only in offerings to the dead is this done with chopsticks and insence. Bad karma and bad juju.
  • Basically, your chopsticks should only be making a beeline from your plate to your mouth, and back again.
We cool? Good. Thanks for your time. Now go eat, chopstick, and be merry.

Special shout out to Celeste at Chopstick Cinema for assistance with this post!

Turn and Face the Chang's (P.F. Chang's China Bistro - Sacramento, CA)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm generally hesitant when it comes to chain restaurants. Mainly due to the fact that once you get more than about two establishments, everything seems to go into a downward spiral of suck. I am even more hesitant when it comes to places lauding "great Chinese food" as that's usually a verbal ruse for "Panda Express style Orange Chiken - three kinds."

This is why I was nervous when I first went to a P.F. Chang's for dinner. Sure the inside was decked out better than yo' mama, but I didn't really expect it to be much better than any other Americanized Chinese place (or yo' mama). My fears also weren't assuaged when I saw menu items that consisted of both the words "orange" and "chicken" in the same name.

Thank your fortune cookie that P.F. Chang's has overcome the many pitfalls that seem to strike chains. With the same menu prevailing at so many places, the quality can suffer as the chefs seem to stop caring. Service doesn't always meet standards, and the decor can get repetitive *cough cough Denny's/IHOP/Baker's Square cough*. Not so with good ol' Chang's! Each location I have dined in, Irvine, Roseville, and Sacramento have all preformed wonderfully. The interiors like snowflakes, all unique and aiding in providing a darn good eatin' experience.

I went with Rob, and our friend Joshua to check out the Sac location. Lucky for us Joshua knew one of the waiters, a tall drink a water named Brian. He took some extra special care of us, but from what I saw he was taking care of everyone pretty damn well, as were all the wait staff. Brian was on the mark with everything from service to suggestions (plus he was damn fine).

We started with the chicken lettuce wraps. Brian presented them to us and then created a tame "spicy sauce" which was made tame for Rob as Joshua and me and relenquished intense heat to accomodate him. The chicken was a tasty opener, seasoned appropriatly and mixed with water chestnuts, and various other veggies. The lettuce was iceberg, which in my mind in never appropriate, as butter lettuce, or napa cabbage would have really made this dish fly.

My order was a tasty dish consisting of slivers of thick, chewy gnocchi like noodles, with veggies, shrimp, and beef in an abalone sauce. Brian was kind enough to give a warning as apparently, many people do not like the chewy texture of the coin-like noodles, as they aren't "the same old spaghetti noodles" people expect. I appreciate this kind of service. Points given. Regardless, I liked the noodles, though there seemed to be far too many of them and not enough of anything else. The shrip, beef, and veggies all absorbed the flavors of the abalone sauce and truly created a phenomenal taste.

The pan fried noodles with chicken were fine. Fine is a good, neutral word for it. The earthy baby bella mushrooms were yummy, but when are they not? Mmm... mushrooms. The noodles stucks together in one ginormous noodle mass, which made it a chopstick nightmare. Moving on.

We also had a wonderful lamb dish. The lamb had been cut and trimmed into thin little veils with aromatics of mint and coriander. Crusted with seasame seeds, it's a great way mind blow yourself. There was other stuff on the plate, but honestly, I can't recall. Maybe it was so mind blowing I don't remember...

Desserts were pretty darn good. You can't go wrong with fried bananas with vanilla bean ice cream and hot caramel and fresh fruit. Rob and I pretty much looked like we were raised by wolves if you looked at our duel over the bananas. I had to distract him so I could snatch the last one. That's what we call an, "Oh snap." The cheesecake was big enough to bludgeon someone to death. Thats pretty shnazy in my opinion, and the raspberry sauce is totally swass too.

Overall, everything was good, not great, but certainly prepared by skilled hands. I wouldn't mind dropping by again and staring at Brian chowing at Chang's again.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro
1530 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 288-0970

Plank Grilling Events and Book

Friday, June 23, 2006

Plank grilling is starting to become quite the rage, and it seems to be popping up everywhere this summer. For those of you unaware of what plank grilling is, well, it's exactly what it sounds like; grilling on a plank of wood. Basically, the wood gives an added dimension of flavor and aroma to whatever it is you're cooking. Thus a woodsy, smokey taste can be obtained without the hassel of using a traditional smoker or a labor intensive pit.

Clever, no?

Local Nor Cal residents Michelle Lowery and Dina Guillen recently co-authored, The Plank Grilling Cookbook: Infuse Food with More Flavor. The book covers how to add wonderful smokey flavors using an easy and exciting technique thats sure to wow your friends. You'll also find that Plank Grilling is bursting with recipes from fish and beef, to veggies and desserts. If you're a beginner, then no problems there either. These grillin' girls were sure to include plenty of advice on how to pick and choose a good plank, and how to care for it so it'll last grill after grill.

They'll be putting on some demonstrations as well, so make sure you go check them out!
June 29th: Thursday Night Market - Sutter Street, Folsom
July 6th: Thursday Night Market - Sutter Street, Folsom
July 8th: 2 pm, Taylor's Market, 2900 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento

Don't miss a great chance to eat locally, and read locally!

Thai, Thai Again (2K Thai - Davis, CA)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rob and I happened upon 2K Thai, when our favorite Thai place in Davis, Thai Nakorn was closed for some renovations. I was crushed as I had my heart set upon yummy Thai treats. Rob suggested we simply go home. I chuckeled and insisted we could simply go down a few blocks to 2K Thai! I had heard mixed things about the place, but surely it will do, and who knows, may even be better?!

This is called, "tempting fate."

At first walking in the shabby enterance I was shocked. Exceptionally contemporary design on the bar, gorgeous tumeric and saffron colored walls, and lighting that gave the whole place a deep emotion. The wait staff were dressed all in black, with a simple splash of solid pastel color due to their ties. I was impressed, this was the kind of restaurant design you don't find in Davis, and something the entire student crowd craves, what with their rap music and OC addiction.

Anywhose, the fashionably designed menus were delivered and we were seated. The menu opened up to a quick and touching history of the restaurant. The owners, both with names starting with "K" (not a Y2K reference), opened the restaurant in order to give their three children the chance to have a quality American education. The father passed on, and she keeps the restaurant as a standing testament to him and their kids. Sweet. I felt better about this choice.

We sat down and looked around, admiring the decor a little more and we were brought out Thai Iced Teas. The walls were inspiring futrue kitchen desgins, but the art on the wall... like a crack addict blind man obsessed with Thai mythology in a spray paint medium. It just a severe beating for the eyes. Ah well, at least I had my sweet yummy tea; which I finished in about 3 good sips. Apparently it's all show with a very tall glass and a whole lot of ice. Then I was informed that refill's were extra.

Lovely, you cruel fascist bastards.

Soon our Mun Tod came. Deep fried sweet potato battered in coconut batter, served alongside a sweet and sour sauce that had a slight kick to it. This was damn good. Good enough to make ya' slap yer mama good. Plus, the presentation was something you would expect to see in Mikuni's or Dragonfly, not at anywhere in Davis. A welcome surprise all around.

Then our meals came, and all went screaming downhill. Screaming like a schoolgirl screaming. Both meals were presented in a trendy fashionable manner. I approved with glee. Then I bit into it.

I had ordered Gai Yang, charcoal broiled half chicken"marinated" in Thai herbs. I put marinated in quotes because the marinade was fiendishly bland. In fact the marination time was probably a quick 29 seconds. The Thai herbs weren't present. Niether was the heat, and I mean temperature wise. It was just warm. Plus, the trendy plates were not even, so my cutting the chicken served as entertainment for all around.

Rob didn't believe me about the taste so I let him have a try, to which he made the same blank stare I did.

"That's marinated? You sure? Tastes like dry chicken..."

"Yeah, well... I'm hungry, I'll eat it anyways. How's yours?"

Rob took a big bite of his Pad Kee-Mow, a rice noodle dish fried with egg, chicken, and a variety of vegetables. No taste. At all. And again massive heat problems, but this time in both temperature and flavor. I want my Thai food blazing, enough to wake a comatose man and then set him on fire. This almost matched up to a sprinkle of Taco Bell Mild. Second, it had been flash fried, the outside had been toasty warm, but the the core of each piece of food never absorbed any heat, so it cooled rapidly. In five minutes it was stone cold.

This had been the most bland, dissapointing meal I had had in a long time. And, slightly disgusting as we later discovered a hair in my food.

That's it, we were done. I didn't want to argue. (Normally there would have been a storm, people can attest to this, but I had had a long day at work and this was supposed to be quick and simple.) This was over. I wanted to go home. If only the waiter would remember we existed and would give us the bill.

Eventually he did. We paid the damn bill. We left. I carved a quick mark-o-satan on the corner, and left, hopefully dooming the cook's soul. We went to Safeway and bought a box of cereal.

Seriously. We got "Oats and More with Strawberries." Good shit. I highly suggest it.

Overall, I would give 2K Thai a 1.5 out of 5. I only give zeros for food poisoning and attempted murder. This was just food rape. Props to the architecture and plating. The appetizer and Thai iced tea were good (though again, fascist tea). But if you want Thai food in Davis, go to anywhere else.

2K Thai Food
223 G Street
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 759-2255

Ole Mole! (Tres Hermanas - Sacramento, CA)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I have to admit my shameful secret. I hate Italian food and Mexican food. Honestly, I can't really say why, I'm just very picky with it, and for some reason the flavors and tastes just don't do much for me. America and it's overall bland palette I suppose destroyed them for me. So when I found myself suddenly jonse'en for some Mexican, I realized that I would need to find someplace authentic that wouldn't disappoint.

Luckilly, three sisters (and their brother) from Chihuahua, Mexico moved to Sacramento and opened a fabulous little place called Tres Hermanas. And it is through here that Sonia, Dora, and Norma (and Sergio) have given Midtown a new latin flare!

First thing I want to touch upon is the wonderful atmosphere you find upon arriving. Nothing here is tacky Mexican like a pinata theme gone wrong like so many other Mexican restaurants. The outdoor patio is a sight to behold, the murals and painted doors and colorful and tasteful, the awesome lighting truly takes you to Chihuahua, and the interior as a whole playfully calls to you, "Bienvenidos!"

The wait staff matches the decorum. They are friendly, witty, personable, and really know their menu. A staff like this cannot simply be trained to be personable. Each employee is a family friend who is truly happy to welcome you, and pleased to inform you about the history of the dishes, adding a unique dimension to the food. I did however find myself confounded when trying to identify the other ingredients to the Creamy Cilantro Dressing on my salad, to which the unanimous smiling reply was, "It's a secret."

The menu is widely diverse with authentic Northern Mexican dishes. Seafood lovers and vegetarians are more than welcome as they have plenty of dishes for you as well. Many dishes are served with either their Roja, Verde, or Mole sauce. Mole sauce is a traditional spicy sauce made from raw cocoa beans, chilies, and spices; its bittersweet spicy bite is truly something to behold. Warning though, their salsas and sauces are made to Mexican heat standards, meaning their mild is probably your version of hot. Of course, no Mexican menu would be complete without aqua frescas such as horchata (sweet rice milk with cinnamon) and tamarindo (tamarind juice).

While the meal is offered with a homemade Mexican style soup or salad, I couldn't resist the idea of the forementioned cilantro dressing, since cilantro is my main gurl when it comes to spices. In fact, Rob and our friend Joshua all felt the cliantro's warm, earthy and inviting compulsion. The salads came accompanied with our order of fresh guacamole. The guac was pinnacle guac; avocados, tomatoes, garlic, and some salt. The only way I could stop gorging it into my fat face was by reminding myself that there was more to come.

Our orders arrived soon after, which I was surprised as the place was bustleing and expected them to be running behind. These girls obviously have things down pat. The Chile Verde Burrito y Enchilada de Pollo. The burrito came with the deliciously heat intense tomatillo sauce, and the tamale covered in rich cheese and mole. My dish I forgot the name of, but I got C's in my Spanish classes so what do you want from me? Regardless, the dish itself was unforgetable. A tamale with spice, cheese, and ranchero suace, dutifully acccompanied by a firey mole drenched tamale. Both orders came with a generous amount of beans and rice. Rob and I were thankful we had the cooling horchata to help cool the firery flavors. Joshua and his coke were not so lucky.

By then end, we were too darn full for dessert. Forgive me my weakness. I'll make sure to hit up next time, and believe me there will be a next time. The price for three large plates, drinks, and guac was all more than reasonable. We actually thought there was an error on the bill. I was joyed to take my leftovers home and delight myself in culinary sisterly love the next day.

Overall, I would give Tres Hermanas a 5 out of 5. Honestly, for the price, menu variety, taste of the food, and quality of the surroundings and service, I have nothing negative to say. The only downside is that they don't have a website and thus, you can't preview a menu beforehand, however, braving it will be the smartest thing you'll have done all week. Ole' and out.

Tres Hermanas
2416 K Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 443-6919

IKEA and Food Marketing

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The man who decided to put a food court with 50 cent hotdogs (possibly rat) and softserve ice-cream (also possibly rat) at the end of an 8 mile run of cheap, kitschy, yet disturbingly attractive furniture is a marketing genius... and an a**hole.

Stupid yummy rat.

The Essentials of Cookbooks

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A good cookbook in my opinion has to have the following:
1) A wide variety of recipes of various difficulties and allowing for almost any possible occassion, and ranging from appetizers, to desserts.
2) Clear directions. Not for only recipes, but for possible ingredients and techniques I may be unfamiliar with.
3) Clear pictures. Not mandatory, I have plenty without, but it's sometimes nice to know what the end product should be, or what the steps in it's production will look like.
4) Information and history about the food. It adds an extra dimension to the food beyond simply the cooking and flavor.

I highly suggest then you go to Borders and check out their Essential Cookbook series. I stumbled on these back when I worked there, and became hooked to them for a variety of reasons. They do all the above and more.

The Essentials were a set of books commisioned by Borders originally for their holiday sales last Christmas. However, due to their ease, design, accessibility, and price ($10 each!!!) they took off, and have comissioned even more to be made!

Each book opens with a clear foreward, artfully describing what you'll find in each book. For example, The Essential Dessert begins-

Sweet food is one of life's primeval joys. We all know that dessert isn;t strictly necessary, life isn't going to end without it, but then who among us would choose to live on bread and water? Dessert gives us something to look forward to as a child when we plow through our worthy meat and vegetables. It brings a lovely prepared meal to a close with a fanfafre, not a whimper.

Afterwards, and this is where the book really shines, is a complete glossary of practically every meat, fruit, vegetable, and spice utilized in the book. It then goes into each ingredient's use, history, flavor, and preparation. This is a wonderful and welcome aid, expecially in the Seafod or Asian Essentials where one might not know hot to prep baby octopus, or know exactly what the difference between various kinds of chillis, noodles, and wrappers are or what galangal exactly is.

Next, it covers various tools and preparation techniques, their history and how and when to properly utilize each one. The directions are simple, and the descriptions and pictures clear. Each book, is essentially a full course class on it's subject.

Each recipe is also scaled on it's number of servings, difficulty, and approximate time of preparation, making menu planning a breeze. The recipes are also clearly organized in set chapters, with little intermezzos of helpful information such as types of olives or creams, quick and easy dipping sauces, and flavorful cocktails.

The Essentials cover a variety of topics. Currently you can find the Essential Rice, Wok, Seafood, Vegetarian, Finger Food, Dessert, Wok, Baking, Mediterranean, Cake Decorating, Curries, Pasta, and Christmas. With all the choices offered, and at $10, there is a perfect Essential for everyone!

Hot to Trot (Butch-N-Nellie's - Sacramento, CA)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Urban charm and contemporary comfort food personified. Sacramento, and the gay community in particular, has been in dire need of cafe that offers classy coffee, a savory menu, and a swass attitude and atmosphere.

Butch-N-Nellie's Coffee Co. did all that and then some.

A year after it's opening, Butch-N-Nellie's is probably one of the most enjoyable places in Sacramento. This is all thanks to the creative power of Liz Phillips and Kristi Bielski, who had a hell of a time opening the place, but thankfully followed through to the end. Entering the cafe, you'll find it warm and welcoming. The inside is clean and contemporary, with an emo edge. Bold colors invite you in and right away the dessert case entices you with chocolate dog topped treats and an encouraging chalked up menu hangs from above. Yet it's the personal touches that really bring the place together; local artist's canvases cover the colorful walls, and board games await any group of friends wishing to escape their busy lives. The tables are functional and simple, the chairs and couches leather and tempting you to plop down and play with your laptop on the free WiFi and update your blog for hours.

A large flat screen TV can keep you up with the news, or if you need to get a study group or meeting ready, a private room in the back can be reserved. Your favorite pooch is also more than welcome and can even get a treat when they drop by! It's little touches like this that don't make this another run of the mill mom-n-pop's cafe, but a wonderful meeting place and new Sacramento culinary comfort cornerstone.

Ah but the food. First off, it's nice to finally see a cafe staff properly trained. The mocha wasn't burnt in the slightest. It was coffee, some chocolate taste, an artful syrup swirl on a frothy top. It was what a mocha should be. My Mexican Hot Chocolate, one of their many signature drinks, was on the spot. Using whole milk and a bit of cream (per my request), chocolate, real cinnamon and cinnamon syrup. No chilli pepper, but thats a personal thing. Regardless, this was the best hot cocoa ever. Hands. Effin'. Down.

Rob and I both had paninis which were made fresh. No pre-packaged here. Desserts are made by Carina's Creations fresh daily, and everything else is made to order, much unlike many other chain cafes. I had mine with proscuitto and swiss, and Rob had turkey and swiss. Both sandwiches were adorned with garlic mayo, kalamata olives (joy!), mustard, pepper mix, and sundried tomatoes. Total mouth orgy. I was about ready to eat Rob's food too, but he slapped my hands away.

The tomato, basil, and gorgonzola soup was filling. There was so much gogonzola melted in, and so many chunks of tomatoes, that it was a meal in itself and I found myself unable to finish. Rob decided to go sans soup and get more panini and some chips, and lets face it, you can't go wrong with chips.

Each dish was accompanied with a piece of gum as well. A cute personal touch, and as a gum addict, one that made me smile from cheek to cheek to get a free fix.

The only downside of the experience were the smoothies. Nothing but really ice and juice, no fruit or yogurt. I suggest you head to jamba juice for smoothies or make em' yerself. Other than that, everything was very cafe top notch.

I never got to eat any desset, I was too damn stuffed. I plan to head back next time and maybe order a cake for myself, then sinfully gorge myself.

Overall, I would give Butch-N-Nellie's a 4.5 out of 5. Needless to say, no string of superlatives could do this place justice. The food and coffee, top-notch. The staff, friendly and skilled. The atmosphere, snazzy and snuggly. Go grab your favorite four-legged friend, best bud, or laptop, and relax.

Butch-N-Nellie's Coffee Co.
1827 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 443-6133

Food and Art at Second Saturday

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

This Saturday is Second Saturday down in midtown. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's when a bunch of local galleries open their doors late and you walk one of a few paths in the downtown area. The galleries allow you to view a wide spectrum of art mediums, and sometimes offer you a chance to have dinner and talk with the artists. It's also a great chance to check out some of the local restaurants and cafes.

Rob and I plan to check out Butch-N-Nellie's Coffee Co. (on the tour path) before we start gallery hopping. My co-worker knows the owners, and I have heard good things from other people. We'll also try to drop by Temple for some of the fine tea tastings as well, and check out future spots to eat. Make sure you go be sophistimuhcated and see the arts eat the foods this Saturday at Second Saturday!

Apriums With Balsamic Glaze

Monday, June 5, 2006

So I got this recipe from Rachael Ray. Yes, I find her annoying like the rest of you, but I think that because I really wish I were her and had her job. Send me to Monaco with $40, please! Plus, at the same time, I really kinda dig her. (Now Flay on the other hand... *fist trembling with rage*)

Anyways, this recipe she concocted is actually pretty damn good. Loves it and would make it again. I suggest you cut down some of the pepper, and you'll need more that two minutes for it to reduce. I also grilled my apriums rather that use the grill pan I don't own on the gas range I don't have. If you do happen to have these devices, more power to ya'.

Balsamic Glazed Grilled Apriums
Serves 4

What You'll Need...
4 ripe apriums (or any stone fruit)
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the grill until hot. Drizzle fruit with some olive oil. Grill them for about 3 minutes of each side.

2) While fruit is grilling, put vinegar in a pot over medium high heat. When it gets to a boil, reduce it by half (2-4 minutes).

3) Combine sugar, ginger, pepper, vanilla, and lemon in a small bowl. Whisk in warm balsamic vinegar.

4) Place over grilled fruit. It's really yumtastic with some vanilla ice cream or tapioca.

On a similar note, I suggest cutting up some strawberries, covering them with sugar and balsamic vinegar. Let them sit for about an 90 minutes, then crack some pepper over them. Sounds crazy? Well it's crazy good! Totally perfect for the crazy everyday gourmet!

Beautiful Bistro (Gonul's - Sacramento, CA)

Saturday, June 3, 2006

"This place is amazing inside! So Mediterranean and contemporary, and so calm and simple!"

This was the general consensus as we went inside Gonul's J Street Cafe. Celebrating the big 2-3, I decided that this would be the perfect place to dine with Rob, and my friends Penelope and Sarah. We had all been salivating earlier over the menu online and were eager to get our eat on.

Gonul's was opened in 2003 by Gonul Blum, a daughter of the spice trade and raised in Turkey. She opened a successful catering buisness which eventually bloomed into the cafe on J Street. Gonul's prides itself on its healthy food (which will satisfy Atkins and The Zone eaters), and the freshness and seasonal taste of its around the world menu. The aromas wafting by from their signature dishes and brick oven, let you know you're in for a treat, and that Ms. Gonul truly prides herself on her culinary point of view.

The Jessica Simpson lookalike hostess already had our table reserved and ready. I was pleasantly pleased since we were about 45 minutes early, and had called earlier saying we would be late (stupid unpredictable Causeway traffic!). Our waiter arrived with a plate of focaccia covered in hummus, fresh basil, olives, and drizzeled with olive oil. I dove in to the phenomenal bread as he broke the news to us, "The kitchen is a little behind tonight so there might be a little wait. We do apologize."

Fair enough. It is 7:00 on a Friday after all.

Thankfully, you rarely notice that 50 minutes has gone by without your food or even a, "Sorry for the wait," from the waiter. We couldn't even get a second helping of bread, and for someone who likesa the bread, this was just cruel. Luckilly, the atmosphere of Gonul's is simply perfect. Gorgeous paintings from local artists campused the walls, and the beautiful wine rack graciously cradeling members of the extensive wine list fed the eyes. The sounds of live jazz guitar in the background calmed us and made us feel like we were at home.

At 60 minutes, you get tired of waiting. Now, I'm very forgiving, and I understand if they have a small kitchen and are backed up, but they should be prepared for a Friday night rush. It's common sense for any eatery. I also try to go to a restaurant as many times as I can before I critique it, but at the same time, I feel restaurants should only get one chance. Most people can't go out to a restaurant 5 times on the paper's dollar like famous critics. When they go out (like for a birthday) they don't want the kitchen to be having it's off night on their special occassion. Any restaurant, cafe, coffee shop, trattoria should be consistent. Off night or not, 60 minutes is pushing it. Had it not been for the heavenly surroundings and the company of friends, I probably would have complained like the people next to us.

After a rousing political round of gossip n' slander, our food finally arrived. My Chicken Scallopini arrived on a bed of thick and and creamy mashied potatoes covered in dates, currants, apricots, and shallots. It hides a hint of spice and heat that compliments the fruit on the back of the tongue, tantalizing you to taste even more. The fruit were fresh and in season, a perfect partner in crime to the shallots and spice. After letting my dining comapnions try my food, I pretty much had to keep my face in the bowl and growl at nearing hands to keep it safe.

Pear, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken leaves you wondering where the rest of your meal is. Supposedly, you would think a chicken stuffed with all that goodness would be a bit bigger, but a Six Dollar Burger from Carl's Jr. would tower over this. Supposedly, "served with gnocchi with natural jus," is a fancy way of saying, "served with 3 gnocchi and chicken drippings poured into the dish." I suggest you make this at home instead, you'll garuntee yourself an adult serving.

The Moroccan Lamb Stew interlaced with garam masala served upon fresh veggies and couscous was descent. Very mom's home cooking if your mom was Moroccan. Savoury and mouthwatering, Sarah enjoyed every bite. Penelope's Lamb Shish Kabob was dry, and lacked the spice it could have had. I really have nothing more to say about it. I suggest you pass and move on.

The desserts were pretty darned good. Three of us couldn't resist the temptation of the Apricot Almond Cake. Dense and rich with big pieces of apricot, and sinfully drenched in vanilla cream sauce, a lava flow of persimmon and apricot syrup, and hints of marzipan, it was a truly something to behold. The baklava, while yummy, lacked the crisp you'd expect from infinite layers of phyllo dough, and was slightly soggy. So while texturally lacking, it was still damn tasty. My dessert was also free of charge since it was my birthday, and I am happily susceptible to free food and bribery.

Each dish had a sense of being rushed to it though. Everyone's chicken or lamb had been dry and slightly overcooked, and while the flavors worked together, they hadn't been truly melded together. It was tasty, but still a bit dissapointing. There was great potential in every dish, and I suppose on most nights they meet it. Each dish was also rushed away the second you put your fork down, leaving us to feel like they wouldn't mind us leaving so they could ready the table for the next victims who assumedly had time to kill.

Overall, I would give Gonul's a 3 1/2 out of 5. The atmosphere is fantastic and I would love to go back again to sit on the patio and have a glass of wine with a friend. Sadly, the bread and desserts were the best part of the meal. The wait, unacceptable. Bring a friend or a book with you. Give it a shot if you like, you might have a better go at it.

Gonul's J Street Cafe
3839 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 457-1155

Vegan Day

Friday, June 2, 2006

Whole Foods Market is having Vegan Day, tomorrow June 3rd. I won't be able to attend as I adopt a new cat tomorrow, but highly suggest you all go in my stead. I'm not vegan myself, but I heart the fresh and organic tastiness of vegan food and how often it can truly surprise and amaze you! I still never get over what people do with portobello mushrooms.

You can go and expect to see various seminars on organic and vegan living, cooking classes and demonstrations ranging from topics such as Organic Wine Pairing, Healthy Organic Breakfast, Organic Wine Sampling, Raw Food Nutrition, Fresh French Supper with Organic Wine pairing (apparently vegans like to drink). Of course, there will also be plenty of free samples to go around so you can get your vegan grubbin' on. Did I mention the price of all this being nothing?

Vegan, veggie, or omnivore, make sure you go check out Vegan Day!

Vegan Day
June 3rd
Vendor Tables 11AM-4PM
Classes in Salud! and Lifestyle School 10AM-7PM
All events are free, however donations are welcome.
Preregistration is required for classes.

Whole Foods Market
4315 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95864
(916) 488-2800

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