Thursday, August 31, 2006

On a Roll (Dragonfly Restaurant- Sacramento, CA)

Braving the culinary center of 18th and Capitol in Sacramento on a Friday night is not something to take lightly. Zocalo, 58 Degrees and Holding, Aioli Bodega, Sakurabana, it's all there in one spot where droves of the trendy, the pretend to trendy, and the don't care to be trendy gather to dine. I make sure to call ahead for a table, pack my stun gun to get aid me through the herd, and a towline to help myself "find" a goddamn parking spot. Still, for the Dragonfly sushi, I was more than happy to suffer the gauntlet. Plus, my dear partner Rob was parking the car and dropped me off at the front door. I'm spoiled, don't hate me.

Dragonfly is the newest lovechild of Glenn Lew and Rosa Lew who decided to open the trendy Asian-fusion restaurant in what was once an auto showroom. Yet when walking in you see that the once showroom is now a vibrant and tempting open red room with a powerful bar, and the cutest lighting I'm trying to convince Rob to let me install in our kitchen. The overall contemporary Asian decor is like a architechtural freestyle haiku, giving the eyes a total feast. It was also slightly empty, with more empty tables inside that I would expect on Friday at 8 (the patio's people watching tables all taken however).

I had called earlier for a reservation to the voice of a friendly and assuring hostess (I had worried I was calling too late). She was still friendly the second time when I called to push the reservation back a half hour, and again to change the number of people from 4 to 2, and yet again to push back another half hour for traffic. Seriously, the girl had patience, even when I kept her waiting for another 15 minutes so Rob could park before being seated, yet she saved our table. Bra-vo. Our waitress was also top notch. She was very familiar with every single item on the menu and was wonderful in describing plusses and minuses, and personal and popular favorites. She was also a pro when describing and articulating her knowledge about the various sakes from the sake menu, helping me and my sake novice self.

Purusing the menu, you'll find imagination in every entry. Sushi lovers and detractors alike will be more than happy with the wide range of selections. A variety of creative rolls await the sushi lover. These rolls rival Mikuni's though I think that would require an extensive side by side comparison which I will grudgingly submit myself to as judge if the two restaurants ever want to have a formal showdown. The vegetable futomaki roll consisting of burdock root, dried gourd, radish, and a few other veggies has come to my ear as a winner. The terminator roll in honor/levity of the govenor is made up of shrimp tempura and spicy tuna, topped with ahi, yellowtail, salmon, and torched scallops which looked and smelled fabulous as it hovered by our table. Maybe it wasn't hovering, there might have been a wait staff carrying that fabu roll, but I can't recall. I stick with my hovering plate theory.

While waiting for our food we were plagued with some minor annoyances. The table behind us were a bit mowed, and breaking out a choras of the national anthem. I'll stand at a football game, but a drunken run of it over sake led by drunken table is not exactly my idea of a great time. I was a little suprised no one stopped them after that raucous first verse. Was the manager waiting for them to get on the table or something? Second we had been waiting about 20 minutes for our appetizer; a kitchen can be a bit behind at times and I understand this. However, when three grody old men and their trophy wives - you don't pinch your daughter like she's a piece of fruit - sat down, the kitchen manager, maybe owner, and one of the chefs came out right away and presented them with a heaping appetizer and a set of menus. Given, I've gotten to play VIP, and I've gotten to play watch from the line, and in both scenarios I find myself thinking that it's not fair. Seriously, it's not cool. They lose points for that.

The Hai Ku sake I ordered was warm and had a sort of apple taste to it, it was wonderful. However, the bit of burning afterward was not. Still, it was pleasant enough to drink and it put a smile on my face. Rob and I also enoyed the onion bread as an appetizer. The bread was fresh, and covered with a sort of salty and creamy onion and garlic butter and shredded green onions. Served with a side of a coconut milk dipping suace, the sweet and salty was a perfect blend. Our eyes rolled into the back of our heads from total effein' pleasure. May karma bless the creator of this, and bless my attempts to re-create it at home.

Our entrees were also the definition of perfection, earning definite snaps for the chef, and I don't hand out my snaps to freely. I had the dragonfly roll; shrimp tempura and snowcrab rolled up and snuggling with shibby oodles of ahi tuna, avocado, yellowtail, and salmon, then played upon with a spicy special sauce. I literally closed my eyes with every piece. No exaggeration. The eight pieces, a definite meal, was ethereal. Stunning and new texture combinations danced in my mouth. Flavor upon flavor built upon itself. This was poetry on a plate. The only downside, was that the slight spicy sauce overpowered the sake, making the it simply alcohol-y.

Rob had one of the specials, grilled marinated chicken with mangos over a bed of crispy noodles. A colorful dish and well presented, like the sushi it was a piece of art that simple worked with the whole building. Everything had been taken into account to compliment it's various counterparts. The chicken was full and flavorful, the crispy noodles remained crispy, the mango added that sweet and slightly acidic bite, and just a slightest hint of heat on the back of your tongue. Few dishes leave you feeling so complete and satisfied.

Overall, we had a wonderul experience. Though there was a hiccup or two, these in no way really detracted from my experience. I left full and satisfied, and plan to visit again. I highly suggest you go and visit before the unholy line outside of Zocalo realizes the prize waiting next door.

Dragonfly Restaurant
1809 Capitol Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 418-9200

Blog Day 2006

In respect to World Blog Day 2006 I am to suggest to you five blogs that I love to read on a daily basis and/or have recently discovered and have become my own electronic, literary cocaine. So go, go and click on the links I set before you and bless yourself with some quality karma. Cause karma, it's good for you!

Fresh Approach Cooking
A gurl in LA who covers a little bit of everything. Vampire wine, markets, ingredients, and so on. All of it of course wonderfully written and with pictures that capture time and pull you into the scene with her! It really is a fresh approach to blogging.

Waiter Rant
Adventures of a waiter who loves his cigars and scotch. See what it's like on the other side of the table. I have been reading this non-stop, and am surprised I haven't been fired yet. It's clever, smart, funny, and makes you think. Plus, you'll always tip your 15% after reading about some of the people waiters put up with.

Pie is the New Toast
Um... PIE!? Seriously, if you need another excuse you probably have no pulse.

Gastronomy 101
Another LA diva with a penchant for cooking, photography, and writing. She always gives me something to laugh about, or something to think about. Either way I feel satisfied at the end of every post.

Sorry Fugu
Go check out my main girl Willa in Sin-Sin-ati! She's a maniac and keeps on top of everything trendy and hip in the food media, even if she is in Ohio (snap for me, W). She chronicles her adventures often, and informs me of the coolest products and ideas. Check it out, yo.

These are the shibbiest. Now read and be happy!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Olive Onion Bread

All over the Mediterranean, you'll find ever popular olive breads in every bakery and family kitchen. This bread is easy to make, though maybe a bit time consuming. However, it makes a wonderful cure for a boring afternoon or weekend, and fills your home with an embracing aroma.

I like to use oily olives or those marinated in herbs rather than canned ones, though canned olives are just as heavenly. You can also use parsley, mint, or cilantro, though I find cilantro to be the best choice for the subtle earthy play it places on your tongue.

This recipe makes a lot, as in you won't fit it in a bread machine, so you'll be doing this by hand. I use the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid, but even then I split the ingrdients in half and do it in two batches, then combine them when kneading it. Even though the idea of handmaking bread seems scary, it's very zen and relaxing.

During the fall and winter, this bread is a staple here, and it's absolutely wonderful for helping in your cold weather meals. Not only does the simple act of baking it warm your home and give that rustic aromatic, it's versatile for a variety of meals. We've used it for a variety of sandwiches. Dried, it makes for crunchy, flavorful croutons on salds. It compliments any soup, from smooth and creamy cream of onion, to chunky vegetable. Toast it in the morning for what I and many others describe as the best toast ever.

Olive Onion Bread
Adapted from "Mediterranean" by Joanna Farrow
Makes Two 1 1/2-Pound Loaves

What You'll Need...
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups pitted green or black olives
7 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
4 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
3 tablespoons parsley
3 tablespoons cilantro or mint

What You'll Do...
1) Saute' the onions in the oil until soft. Coarsely chop the olives

2) Put the flour, salt, yeast, herbs in a large bowl, Add the olives and onions and pour in 2 cups of water. Do this in two batches if you need to. Mix the dough in a mixer with a dough hook attachment, a bread machine on the dough cycle, or with a round bladed knife. Add water if it feels dry.

3) Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Put in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place for it to double in bulk.

4) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut in two. Shape into two round loaves and place on the sheets. Brush or pat on a light coat of olive oil. Let sit in a warm (not hot, warm) place, cover with plastic wrap, and let them double in size.

5) Slash the top with a knife to scar the top for a rustic appearence or lightly flour or sprinkle with dry or fresh parsley. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack (if you don't have one, go buy a cheap one, this wire rack allows for proper cooling and dispersion of moisture, otherwise the underside of the bread will become a bit wet with moisture).

Variations: If it raises, or stays flat for whatever reason, it's okay, don't panic. Flat or fluffy, it's tasty either way!!! You can also shape the dough into 16 small loaves and reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes.

Yayness! You're done. Snuggle with a good book and a big slice of bread, and be happy.

Picture by Penny, an shibby girl I had the pleasure to meet at the picnic.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bay Area Blogger's Picnic

Yeah, I'm not in the bay area. Sue me. Still, it was nice to finally get down there and meet the truly wicked shibby people I heart so much! Owen, was kind enough to host and allow us all to party. I finally got to put some face and voices with people I now e-mail and comment with on a practically weekly, and in some cases daily, basis. We'll try to sum things up in a few quick and easy blurbs because my tendonitis is kicking in really hard tonight, and I'm still coming in and out of my food coma after filling both of my stomachs.

The food was totally freakin rock my socks awesome. I made a tasty little olive loaf, or well, it's normally tastier, but my new apartment's oven is what I would describe as a sketchy easy-bake built into the wall. Nothing rises, so it was a dense loaf, but good none the less. Recipe to follow in a later post.

Now, when you get 50+ food bloggers together you can guarantee some pretty awesome food is gonna happen. Penny took some shibby photos that you should check out! Joy, my favorite restaurant whore, brought an excellent fruit salad with ginger and mint syrup. Elise brought a stash of wine like she was opening a speakeasy. Quality too, I generally hate wine *gasp!* but I finished about 3 different glasses. (Look mom, I'm a lush!) Though my ability to describe them wasn't so much "oaky" or "a chocolate finish" but rather, "Damn, that's some wicked tasty wine." Shuna also made prolly some of the best dessert ever in existence. There were also some excellent toastettes with cheese and figs... like a party in my mouth and everybody was invited. Basically, it was like christmas, my birthday, and the day I got my Kitchen Aid all wrapped into one.

Everyone was armed with a camera; it was like a red carpet photo shoot. Heidi of 101 Cookbooks also gave me some camera advice. Who knew my costco camera could take quality pictures? For example, here is my bread when I photographed it with my camera:

Here is heidi's pic:
Yeeeeeeeeah. A bit below is my first pic with her advice. The shot could be a better angle, and more close up, but at least it's not all grainy and gross my pics usually are. Dramatic improvement, so thanks a ton Heidi! Ya'll should expect more pics here now from various recipes and restaurant adventures. I have to say, I am really excited!

I got him to socialize. He actually had fun. He even got some inspiration to contribute a bit to this blog with his granny's recipes from Lebanon! Yayness!

I don't think I can say anything that would do them justice. Like I said, I heart these people. You guys are awesome and incredibly shibby! *huggles to you all*

You can see a few more pics here! Few because my camera battery died. :(

Friday, August 25, 2006

5 Must Have Ingredients!

I was helping out a friend recently who is learning to cook. She asked me what I insisted on keeping in my fridge. Aside from the basics such as salt, olive oil, eggs, butter, rice and so on what did I have that I could absolutely not live without and would easily help me bam out a quick, yet flavorful meal. I narrowed it down to five ingredients aside from garlic (whole and chopped) and vanilla (extract, beans, ice cream) because you can guarantee that I'll shrivel up and die without them.

1) Bacon: Be it pancetta, proscuitto, smoked bacon or whatever, I like to buy large amounts made by local pig farmers, split it up and freeze certain portions in air tight containers. Come winter I use it on meatloafs or cut it over winter squash and fruits with maple syrup and bake it. In summer, I use it to tie up bundles of green beans, or crumble it over pea soup.

2) Limes and lime juice: Perfect for a quick asparagus sautee, salsa, limeade, fish, and chutney! Let's also not forget mojitos, a gurl's best friend. Seriously, can you go wrong with limes?

3) Cilantro: This spicy and herby herb is great all year round. I use it in soups come every season, and even makes for an excellent garnish. Perfect for Mexican, Indian, North American Indian, Cajun, and various Asian cuisines! It's one of the most versatile things you can have in your fridge!

4) Frozen Fruit: Smoothies, Pies, Cakes, Tarts, Smoothies, Soups, Cocktails, and most importantly Smoothies. It's not fresh, but come winter, it does the job!

5) Udon Noodles: We do a lot of stirfrys and soups in this house. Lots. So Udon noodles and a must. They're quick, tasty, and complement any dish and flavor! I highly suggest stir-frying some with some fave veggies, roasted red pepper paste, brown sugar, and garlic.

Other staples I like to have, but not in the my top 5: Curry powder, cumin, tarragon, coconut milk, ancho chilis, chai, mint, and blood orange oil which I know is esoteric but shut up, it makes for awesome salads.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Eat, for Charity's Sake!

So many of you may know about this, but many of you may not. Restaurants all over the city are helping in the relief efforts on the Gulf Coast in the second Restaurants for Relief! How do you participate? Well all you have to do is get together with your friends and loved ones and go dine out at a participating restaruant! Pretty sweet, no?

There are restaurants in Sacramento, Elk Grove, Fairfield, and Roseville participating! Buca restaurants are donating 5% of their total sales for the day! Il Fornaio restaurants are donating 100% of the proceeds from every order of their lip smacking La Tempesta drinks (aptly named drink I would say). Celestin's Restaurant and Voodou Lounge is donating 10% of their daily sales; a perfect excuse for some fun food and tropic atmosphere. Ruth's Chris Steak House is donating all proceeds from their wine sales for those who love their steak and wine. Last but not least, Red Robin is donating up to $20,000!

The whole thing takes place on Tuesday, August 29th! Have fun, eat, and help some people out who really need it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Eat Beast

This is Mace. He's an eat beast. Not only does he fly into his food so hard, face first, that his food literally explodes across the floor, he is fat. Fat and dense; the density hides how heavy he really is. He doesn't look it but he weighs about the size of a small moon, complete with his own gravatational pull. Spiders and pink catnip mice orbit his furry girth.

He's also more of a foodie than me or anyone reading this. How is that you ask? Well, the little fat bastard will steal grilled cheese sandwiches, chopped onions, bacon grease, jalepenos, chocolate, and anything you don't stop watching. He also will stalk and then leap head first into the television in order to eat the ground hogs on Animal Planet, causing some likely head trauma. We also have to watch him like a hawk around poor Cid's food bowl or Cid won't eat. I mean lord, Rob and I don't even eat like this.

He will sit by his food dish regardless how much water you spray at him, shake a can of pennies at him, blow with a can of air, and generally refuse to budge until he eats. And he lets you know this by meowing. A lot. I mean A LOT. I have even tried a light form of garlic and cayenne pepper, and all it's done is give him a love of Mexican food and the inspiration to steal my enchiladas.

Anyone have any advice?

P.S. For pictures of a hilarious fat pug, go here.

Update 8/23/06: I came home to find he ate an ENTIRE LOAF OF BREAD! What the hell?! Little fatty. Hmm... maybe a trip to the vet is in order. We're definetly feeding him enough, so maybe it's a thyroid thing. Still, a whole loaf of bread?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Garlic & Shallots & Scapes, Oh My!

While this little food blog normally focuses on Sacramento and it's surrounding areas, I figured we would take a little field trip up north to the Klamath Basin in Oregon where we find the WC Ranch. Why have we traveled here you ask? Well this frosty and fertile piece of land is home to Big John's Garden, a little family owned organic farm producing some of the tastiest, sulfenic little bits you ever did try!

While Big John and his family are loved by many for their greenhouse produced-with-love chard, cucumbers, and other various yumtastic greens, they're famous for their garlic, shallots, and scapes (the greenery above the garlic bulb, perfect in lasagna and tamales). Garlic and shallots originate from Siberia and lurv themselves some cold, cold ground. The colder the area, the stronger the flavor. Add some tender lovin' care, labor intensive work, and organic growing conditions and you have a recipe for some rockin' tasty treats.

I personally heart garlic, as obvious by the blog title (as I am to cumin, tarragon, and a few others but that would just be too long for a title I guess) and so I talked to Alexandra Day, a member of Big John's family, about the recent website creation of theirs and their work with the various types of shallots and garlic they have to offer;

This has been such a fun (and hard at the same time) project, and I wonder whether much of that has to do with the fact that garlic seems to get such a positive reception wherever it goes. ...I've had some of the garlic and shallots and I can almost taste all of the care that went it to them!

The new website offers a background of Big John's outlook on organic farming, snippits of the family gorwing them, and even information on how to grow your own garlic and shallots, spreadin' the luv! As I've said before, background and the story behind food is what give it that extra flavor, that knowledge of each flavor's past and existence creating the subtle play on the back of your tongue. It give's food, and in respect each flavor, life.

After talking to Alex and checking out images of the farm I, if anything, gained more appreciation for the American farmer. The time and trial it takes to grow something organic and pure, something I haven't really grasped in a long time since reading Epitaph for a Peach. This visual choras of a shallot brings the "Eat Local" idea home. It gives me more respect for the farmers here around Sacramento, Davis, and all those mom-n-pop garlic farms down in Gilroy where most garlic has become industry grown. I also found myself roasting garlic later that night for some crostini and blue cheese, a snack that is a joy of a thousand joys and a delectable treat to reflect with.

Go check it out for yourself, and please remember go to your nearby farmer's market or fruit stand to eat local!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Let's Thai Again (Sophia's Thai Kitchen - Davis, CA)

Sophia's Thai Kitchen is considered by many of Davis' residents to be the best in Thai restaurant in Davis; the interior decoration has a sense of authenticity, there is a wonderful little room adorned with pillows where you can sit on the floor, and an open patio sitting area. It even has a separate bar, with it's own exotic interior, and wooden deck for seating as well. I was there with my friends and co-workers hanging out for a few reasons, 1) Cara was leaving and we wanted to get her drunk and full to show our love, 2) It was also her birthday coming up, 3) An un-official reason, Kristin got a night semi-baby free, 4) Another un-official reason, we all were wanting some Thai food lovin' and to get a little bit mowed.

The bar is known for it's live music, skilled bartenders, hot n' sexy wait staff, and dollar tequilla night (defining the quality of the tequilla, and inebreiated eagerness of the student population). Thus we were all more than happy to sample some of their drinks. We sat on the relaxing wooden bar patio for a while, people watching and chatting it up. Sophia's offers a wide range of beers, local and imported, so everyone was pretty darned happy.

Appetizers like spring rolls, corn and shrimp fitters, and beef satay can be ordered at the bar as well (thai iced tea cannot). Each of the appetizers are a small meal in themselves and served with it's own unique sauces, providing an flavorful experience. The beef satay is well flavored with a perfect bit of spice and sweet peanut sauce, it has a taste of authenticity and Thai flare that goes perfect with beer. The thai springrolls with chili sauce also worked perfect with my cosmo, which was the best cosmo I ever had.

We soon moved to the restaurant section (a different building across the patio) and luckilly due to knowing the hostess, got to the floor seating room. Here a lovely mural on all walls give a plesant visual treat while you eat. We all placed our orders and made ourselves comfortable. Thai iced tea here is very flavorful, and proof God exists. It's also free refills, FREE REFILLS! Something other restaurants should learn to do.

The food here is of good quality, and Davis residents laud over it constantly. However, in my own opinion, you can find better. Each dish seems to rely to much on lime, cilantro, and galangal. The curries, while flavorful, are a slight bit bland on the spice, but sweet and savoury and will definetly please you.

Almost all of the dishes give you the option of adding chicken, tofu, beef, or shrimp. The Pad Thai is often bland and lifeless, a mound of noodles and peanut sauce, garunteed to leave you dissappointed. The Chicken Laap I had was a perfect toss of chicken and red onions, and exploding with lime, cilantro, and spices. It's bold and strong, and won't leave you dissappointed. The glass noodles with steamed tofu, a perfect vegetarian dish, was warm with citrus and cilantro, and a cool relaxing texture, and not boring like one would expect.

The whole restaurant and bar was also very baby friendly (it was 5:30 at the bar, no worries), and little Audrey for the short amount of time she was there before the mommy trade occurred, was happy and the staff were more than accommadating.

Would I come again? Yeah, the place is great for a group or for a quick drink. It's all a matter of taste when it comes to Thai food, so give Sophia's a try.

Sophia's Thai Kitchen
129 E Street, Suite E
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 758-4333

Friday, August 18, 2006

This is as stupid as that movie "Sideways"

Read this article written by Mike Dunne, the paper's food whiz, over at the Sac Bee:

Zinfandel is a step closer to being designated California's historic wine. The Assembly voted 45-20 to send to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a measure to recognize zinfandel as the wine that has contributed most historically to the development of the state's wine trade.

Schwarzennegger hasn't taken a position on the matter but is expected to act on the measure within the next two weeks, said a spokesman from the governor's office.

Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, the bill's author, remarked upon passage of the proposal, "Now we know there's at least one thing that Democrats and Republicans can come together over -- wine. What could be more Californian than that?"

The measure has stirred spirited debate within the state's wine community. Some vintners have argued that other varieties, such as mission and petite sirah, also have played significant roles in California's emergence as a world wine power and deserve similar recognition. The Family Winemakers of California, a trade group, opposed the measure on the grounds that its passage would give zinfandel an unfair advantage over other varietals in the marketplace.

On the other hand, Sen. Migden has noted that, unlike other wine-grape varieties, zinfandel is grown more extensively in California than in any other wine region in the world; that in contrast to other varieties zinfandel has adapted well to most of the state's viticultural areas; and that zinfandel accounts for many of the older vineyards in the state, several more than a century old.

First off Senator, well played. Second, it's nice to know that my Govenor is taking his time to take a stance on if zinfandel should be put alongside the words like oranges and almonds in a 4th grade state history book. I mean, I understand the importance to the farmers and winemakers. I would be pissed too and it does make some sense, but still. It's like, "Well, education testing scores are below that of Peru, housing is drastically higher than the reasonable rate when contrasted with the average Californian's income, and we have an election to gear up for, but what about the zinfandel?!"

I mean can't this whole measure, instead of taking time up in the capitol building simply just be proven by some statisticians, accountants, and financial detectives? Or through a grad student's thesis?

Plus, I much prefer reds and dessert wines.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

So here's what...

I'm at home right now, and not at work. Why, you ask? Well, aside from changing banks since my BofA account was compromised, I'm listening to the sounds of my bathroom walls being ripped off. You see, I woke up this morning to find the bathroom ceiling dark brown, ripping apart, and buldging 6 inches from where it should be, the adjoining wall equally puffy.

So I'm here, at home, watching season 6 of Xena and trying to kill time so I can be here with the repair guys. Goodie. But ah well, I figure why not use some of this time to post and do some cleaning and cooking. However, right now the cabinets are bare and I haven't had time in the past few days to really go to the market (I'm eating cold pizza as we speak).

Fortunately, Rob had the most perfect little recipe on hand that's great as a breakfast, dessert, or a follow up to cold pizza. It's like rice pudding, but not, so we'll just call it a Ricepertif. Yeah, that works (took me a few minutes on that one).

The recipe is basic, but can easily be customized to please anyone. We recently had some zante currants on hand, but raisins, citrus zest, berries, etc. would all be perfect add-in's. We have also replaced granulated sugar with brown sugar, and added maple syrup. The recipe can easily be doubled if needed. It's all very shibby. Sorry for the lack of picture, so you'll just have to take me on faith that it's white and yumtastic.

Serves 2-4

What You'll Need...
1 cup of rice
2 cups of water
milk or cream
granulated sugar or brown sugar to taste

What You'll Do...
1) Put the rice and water in a microwave safe bowl (Like I said, this is a quickie recipe we use before goin' to work.) Microwave for 13-16 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave.

2) Let cool, or serve hot. Your call. Add milk or cream until rice is just covered. Add sugar and any additions you like. Eat it. Smile. Be happy.

It's pretty darned tasty, and perfect for those crisp Autumn nights we should be expecting in a few weeks. Give it a try!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Doggy Bag's Fate

Leaving a restaurant one day, I was happily tugging away in my hand a large piece of steak I couldn't finish, some veggies I barely touched, and some damn good steak fries. It's not that it was a bad meal, for had it been I certainly wouldn't be carrying the remains with me. I just simply had to large a lunch and planned to devour this excellent meal at a later time.

On the way back to the car, we passed by several of Sacramento's homeless population, some eating out of take-home boxes and bags much like my own. I paused a moment and saw one gentleman, his weathered camo pants, and haggard beanie looking like they had little chance of protecting anyone from the biting cold, staring with a forelorn face across the street. A lady with a coat too large and a swollen black eye eating steaming noodles out of a bag from the same place I just left sat on the curb. As I walked by I paused for a quick moment to give him my take-home bag, and continued on my way.

I didn't want to act cold, I just didn't know what to say. All I could think to do was give him a quick look, a small smile, pass him the bag, and go on.

I don't think I've ever given money to the homeless, mainly due to the fact I never carry cash on me as it burns holes in my pockets. I have gone into the market though on multiple occasions and bought a bag of oranges, loaves of bread, or cans of food for their pets. Each time, I simply just gave them the food and moved on with little more than a hello. I'm not sure if I do it out of guilt, piety, pity, or well... I dunno. I'm also not trying to make myself feel better, but maybe is a little of that and all of the above as well. But I know I do feel a better that they'll be eating something that day.

But, at least, judging from the other homeless with their bags, that at least other people were willing to part with their food, and those receiving the bags were more than happy to have what were literally warm scraps and leftovers. This is at least encouraging to know, that there are enough people out there who actually care. Who give a damn. Take Sam of Becks and Posh and her recent blogathon in order to raise money for Food Runners. Take Wind Youth Services, helping to shelter, feed, and give hope to Sac's homeless teens. Take the volunteers at Davis Community Meals. They're willing to take their time to do something.

There were also some people in front of me that night. They shied away from the homeless on the street, and hugged their doggy bags close to them. I and my fellow diners followed behind and we all ended up in the same parking lot. A bit of laughter a few cars away. An arm flew up and the doggy bags landed in the trash. Apparently, they had changed their minds. The bags of food were no longer wanted.

They would have just sat in the fridge and gone bad anyways.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sushi, Lemonade, Pesto, & Tea

1) For a quick lunch on the go, hand made, fresh sushi from the little old lady at Safeway rocks my socks. Seriously, you wouldn't think Safeway, but there it is.

2) Wanna impress everybody quickly, cool down a summer afternoon, or get laid? Homemade lemonade is the way to go.
Homemade Lemonade
1 cup of lemon juice (6 lemons)
1/2 cup of sugar
4 cups water
And stir that puppy! I mash up watermelon and freeze it in ice cube trays, or freeze whole berries and use them as ice cubes to keep it cool. Rob enjoys a splash of grenadine for pink lemonade.

3) Rob has a new burger creation via the Semi-Homemade approach. This will make your neighbors turn to zombies when they smell how good it is. Get yer' zombie shotgun ready, cause you won't wanna share.
Pesto Burgers!
1 pound of ground hamburger
1 packet of dry pesto sauce mix
1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
3-4 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Mix together and grill. Use fresh basil to garnish!

4) I found an excellent new blog, or rather it found me. Tea and Cookies is written by Tea, a shibby girl down in S.F., food blogger capital of the world (or so it seems). If you want to read some high quality writing accompanied by top notch photography, make sure you go check her out.

Dining Guide!

I finally got around to putting up a dining guide. The links are in the sidebar and can be searched by price range, cuisine, and location. I know it's kinda sparse now, but you can expect them all to grow as time goes by. I also realize the location section doesn't go past Sacramento or Davis, but I rarely have a reason to be outside those areas. Poo. So hey, if you know a good place in a surrounding Sac or Nor Cal area like Natomas, West Sac, Roseville, Elk Grove or wherever, then comment or e-mail me, dining with new friends is always a welcome event! It can be an old favorite or be a brand new place you've never, and I most certainly have never, been too!

Even if you're not in the Nor Cal area, feel free to comment in any of the dining guide or on this post of any great place (or warnings of places to avoid like the plague).

Now get out there and eat!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Duking It Out (Duke's Sports Bar & Grill - Davis, CA)

I remember the first time I went to Duke's, the food was damn good. The burger came with thick pieces of bacon, large wedges of avocado, and the burger was thick and juicy. It came with a delectable side of fries tossed with garlic and flat leaf parsely. This was samsara, nirvana, and heaven all on a plate.

But what happened? Apparently over an eight month period, things just fell down the slippery slope. Sports bars are supposed to have awesome food, good cheap beer spilling over the pitchers, and a game on the screen. Well, two out of three ain't bad. And honestly, the food isn't bad after a few drinks or with a beer, but on it's own it lacks that Americana gusto bar food should have the quality of.

Rob and I went down for a quick bite to eat. I had the pork ribs, and Rob had the skirt steak. Both came with the general vegetable medly you expect at a steakhouse, they were good, they were vegetables. Nothing more. The garlic fries this time were dissapointing, Robs were only just warm, and both of ours had the garlic burnt. I do believe they tossed the fries with the garlic first, then cooked them. Bleh.

The ribs were meaty though a bit too wet, and covered in general BBQ sauce. Nothing to rave about, but nothing to put down either; all in all they were good. Rob's steak however, I must admit was damn fine. Damn fine! We were both genuinely surprised. I tried to steal some from Rob, but the bastard kept shooing me away, and wasn't falling for the, "Hey, look over there!" routine.

We also ordered some spinach dip before hand. Skip this one. It's the very definition of bland. I even took the time to write on the check that it needed garlic and tobasco, an action I would normally deem rude, but the fact that they had the nerve to serve it was license enough. I was even shocked that I did that, but then again, I doubt that Judy Rodgers is heading up the kitchen rather than some frat boy with a part time job over a stove. I'm sure the note was ignored.

The burgers there are still pretty good, but you can do better at the Grad in Davis, or Hamburger Mary's in downtown Sac. If you want a sports bar with sports bar food, Duke's will do the job. Basically stick to the lunch menu, but ignore dinner. And get a pitcher, regardless what you think of Duke's, a pitcher makes everything better!

Duke's Sports Bar & Grill
2171 Cowell Blvd.
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 297-7100

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sendback 101

We've all had it happen at least one. The dirty martini comes sparkling clean. The spinach dip comes bland; a green, spiceless goo. The jerk chicken comes luke warm, begging for even a paltry glow of a heat lamp to keep it toasty for your tastebuds.

The wrong dish. It's an insufferable dilemma. Most of us when we go out are creatures of pleasure and simplicity. We want to enjoy the dining experience, not draw attention to ourselves or attract the scorn of the kitchen and wait staff. But when is enough enough? When is it time to just send the damn dish back?

I think the main reason people rarely send food back, even when they know they should, is they fear embarressment and admonishment. Embarressement for themselves and for their dining guests, and fear that the wait staff will develop a seething hatred for you. But think of it this way: You are a paying guest. You are there paying for a service and a meal, and if it isn't delivered in the way you expected, then what are you paying for? You wouldn't pay for bad producee, so why would you pay for an incorrect order?

Given though, there are limits. You don't send it back because its lacking that extra dash of salt, that's why there's some on the table. You also don't send it back just because you wanna score a free meal. So when do you send a meal or drink back? Well, here are some guidelines to help you through that decision, but keep in mind there are always exceptions:

  • Is the order completely wrong? Send it back, but don't eat half of it first then "discover" the mistake and expect the kitchen to take it back.
  • Cocktails are finicky creations, if the balance of ingredients isn't right for you don't worry, the bartender will understand and will be happy to modify it for you.
  • Don't make a show of sending anything back, and don't be embarressed.
  • Take your dining guests' feelings into consideration. Will they be mortified? Probably not, and if you let them all taste as well, 10-1 they'll encourage you to send it back too.
  • Don't be a snob. Sending everything back due to it being too hot or cold, too spicy, too bland, and so on, salad to dessert will garuntee the animosity of the wait staff, kitchen, and other patrons. Plus, you're obviously anal.
  • Make sure to check the menu and ask the captain if what you want to order contains any allergens or ingredients you don't care for, and see if the dish can be altered as such beforehand.
  • Are you in a different country? Be aware that the way they prepare food, and the ingredients they use may be very different to what you're used to. Be willing to take a risk, but try to ask beforehand what your order is all about.
This should help, but again, there are exceptions. I went out to dinner with some friends once and sent back a cosmo 3 times before the waitress admitted the bartender didn't even know how to make one, which in my opinion would be grounds to hire a new bartender. I checked in with my fellow diners and they all tasted and admitted it was just wrong (one time it came back blue). I had to write down the recipe on a napkin and send it to the bartender.

Use your best judgement, and make sure you enjoy your meal!

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Behind-The-Counter and the Tip Jar

Today at Seattle's Best, some nasty man was just yelling at the poor coffee-person-behind-the-counter. She was about to cry, she was scared, and it was probably her first day. He just went off, then stormed out the door, almost knocking a little kid down. In-ex-cuseable. She then looked down, she then looked very upset. He had stolen the tip jar when no one was looking.

I worked behind a coffee counter at a Seattle's Best and at a mom-n-pop shop. I loved working back there actually, and might still be doing so if the pay didn't suck so bad and people tipped like shit. I knew my regulars' orders and could have them hot and ready before they even got in the store. I loved going to work and working in food service. We all even knew how to make a heart in your cappuccino with the foam.

Thus, you can see why I have feelings and sympathy for the people who now work behind those counters and you can understand when I get pissed off when coffee gnomes come in and treat them like crap because their cappuccino w/ no foam (which is called a latte, btw) with extra espresso, two shots of caramel, soy milk, and an extra dose of anal is not exactly 102.4 degrees. Who knows why they're like this? Maybe they were picked last at kickball back in the day.

(Side note: No one likes the word "barista." It's gay. Rurl Gay. I'm gay. I'm allowed to say that. And "barista" is the gayest word ever. It's "coffee-person-behind-the-counter".)

I found an old rant I wrote after a particular foul day filled with such angry coffee gnomes yelling at me and the other coffee-people-behind-the-counter because of whatever piddly inexcuseable reason they had and after someone took the tip jar and ran out the door.

Here's the rant:
Anyways... I now smell like coffee. Literally, I now have espresso in my bloodstream, somehow absorbing it through my skin. And it's a good thing that everything smells like coffee, including myself, because it distracts me from the fact that people can be total idiots. For example, the tip jar is not a spot to throw extra pennies or TAKE quarters if you are short of change, or worse yet STEAL FROM it! Surprisingly, this maudlin state behind the counter has given me new respect for servers and the crap they put up with so that I will give a dollar if the service is decent, cause sometimes decent is very hard to muster for people, especially those who bitch about tax or want a drink re-made a zillion times because they're a neuvo riche, snobby, European, parvenue asshole. The tip jar makes me forget about the coffee smell, and reminds me that I am an appreciated human being. A human being! Not some slave with a Buddhist cursed apron which will cause me to burst into flames should I step out of the tile prison of the cafe'. So F*** you world. Damn your ignorance and horrid treatment of the tip jar. And clinique'... make something to cover up, or at least compliment the coffee smell I have unwillingly taken into my being. Thank you. Condiments and creamer are to your left. Have a nice day.

I was very angry that day...

A quick note on tip jar etiquette; I tip in the tip jar, you should to if the service is good. Not just my pennies either. Always 25 cents to a dollar, depending on the service. I rescently saw one jar that said, "Karma is a Boomerang," at a local coffee shop. "That is so true!" I said to myself as I passed my hand over the tip jar and placed my change in my pocket. I walked away in hurry since I was late, sipping my luke warm, incorrect order. If the service sucks. No tip. That simple.

Don't be one of those mean people. Be nice, be friendly, and let the coffee-person-behind-the-counter know you appreciate them. They'll learn your name, your drink, and go out of their way to make sure you're happy. Like free drinks.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Jacked by a Jackfruit

"It's actually quite good!"

My co-worker David smiled as he brought out a small baggy of oddly shaped orange, fruit, I guessed. "It's called a jackfruit."

"Fascinating," I thought. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but nowadays, few foods actually strike me as new or unheard of so David easily wrested my attention away from whatever it is I'm paid to do (also anything shiny, pretty, noisy, alive, or edible will easily grab my attention). It also shows I watch way too much Food Network, and read too many cookbooks.

Jackfruit is a fruit often found in Brazil and Southeat Asia, and these bad boys are huge. Imagine the fattest baby you've ever seen, and then double that. That is the size of full blown jackfruit. It's actually used often in cooking in these areas for curries, puddings, and in dried strips. It's a basic staple in Southeast Asia since they're so cheap ($3) and when tried or boiled can last for prolonged periods of time and feed whole families. The most common way to prepare it is to simply peel the leathery strips out and let them ripen, and boil the seeds.

In the U.S. however, they can cost about $40 fresh for a medium sized one. Other than that, you might be able to find them canned in syrup or in pre-dried strips. By in the U.S. I also mean on the west or east coast. Sorry middle America, but your chances of finding it are slim to none.

Anyways, I took the slightly slippery orange fruit and down the hatch it went.

Now I was raised on good manners, you never spit out food unless you are choking. Period. However, apparently jackfruit tastes like cantaloupe. Cantaloupe makes me yak. I tried my best to hold it in, and chew it while feigning interest in whatever David was saying, but my eyes were staring at the trash can and all I could think was, "OH MY GOD! IT TASTES LIKE CANTALOUPE! WHY, MERCIFUL GOD, WHY?! WHAT HAVE I DONE TO ANGER THEE!? oh that, WELL STILL!"

I finally said, "It tastes like cantaloupe."

"It does!" David replied with a smile, happy I recognized the familiar taste sensation.

"I'm sorry, I hate cantaloupe." And promptly spit it into the trash. "I'm so sorry, I really don't mean to be rude," wiping the remains off my tongue with a tissue.

Luckilly, he was not offended. We all learned I am not a fan of the fleshy, sticky strips of jackfruit. He then offered me the seeds. Jackfruit seeds look like brazil nuts, and once boiled, are perfectly edible. They taste like garbanzo beans, and are quite tasty. With a very slight hint of cantaloupe on the back of the tongue. Nummers. Another scream / prayer in my head.

It's always fun to try new things, and it's my belief you always should. But hey, I guess the occassional bad fruit (and I suppose food poisoning) are the prices food lovers pay.

Jackfruit Links

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Well, HOT DOG!!! (The Hotdogger - Davis, CA)

Ivan and Cheryl Frank, as demonstrated by their last name, know their hot dogs. It's therefore no wonder that The Hotdogger is a cornerstone and landmark in Davis. The place occupies a closet sized niche in downtown, and can seat maybe two lucky patrons and offers a few tables outside, but you can promise yourself a well worth it line at lunch time everyday.

Personally, few things are as good as hot dogs. I mean, I love having etc. etc. fruit compote, ethnic cured food from mama's hands, and prix fixe meals, but hot dogs have that tasty urban simplicity you just can't really match with anything else. This tasty insight isn't lost at The Hotdogger, and simple flares lets your chili dog runneth over!

They offer the basic hot dog, but if you want to switch it up a bit you can get a Polish sausage, Loisianna hot link, lemon garlic chicken sausage, or a Portugese wine sausage made with red wine and crushed red pepper. Veggies can lurv the hot dogs too, and get the tasty tofu dog which is actually tasty! Resist the temptation to make out with the person serving you your dog.

Afterward you can adorn them with pickles, relish, kraut, ketchup, mayo, onions and so on. OR you could go with one of their menu options like the Chicago Dog - a dog with Dusseldorf mustard, relish, onion, tomato, dill pickle, and celery salt. Another favorite is the Gut Bomb! (exclamation point!!!); a hot link with hot salsa, hot peppers, chili and chesse, all topped with tomatoes and onions.

Regardless what you want, everything is fully customizable, and the dude/dudette behind the counter will make sure you're happy and leave with a smile. In fact, that's half the reason to go! The person behind the counter is sure to put a smile on your face, engaging you and everyone in line in bolsterous and fun conversation. I've sat down with perfect strangers over lunch due to this. Even on your most grumbly of days, you'll part ways with The Hotdogger and it's other patrons with a full belly and glowing disposition.

They have, like yours truly, some pretty sweet buns, and are legend for their variety of mustards. Last I counted 6, and I had the frezty (fruity & zesty) hawaiian pineapple adorning my dog. Side of potato salad, fries, and chili are also available to you, if you need something quick.

The whole thing is deliciously shibby and it's a great option if you only have a few bucks in your pocket. Make sure to drop by, sit down, and just relax with a good ol' dog.

The Hotdogger
129 E Street A-1
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 753-6291


BTW: Side note as pertaining to the Butterfly Effect meme post, I also tagged Willa at Sorry Fugu, who is recovering well from her stroke and ready to start blogging once more!

Friday, August 4, 2006

Italian & Japanese Food Fests!

Italian Cultural Society Festa Italiana
I love cannoli. It gives me joy, and I'll be able to get plenty of it during the Festa Italiana. All day food and dessert will be there for you to try, not to mention Italian wines and beers, and some of Sac's best Italian restaurants and chefs will be strutting their stuff and doing cooking demos. Children will be able to enjoy plenty of activities and games, and the adults can enjoy the Italian Marketplace and shop for Italian goods! Expect plenty of music and entertainment to chow to as well!

Saturday, August 5th, 11am-12pm &
Sunday, August 6th, 11am-6pm
Croatian Park
3730 Auburn Blvd.
Admission is $7 for adults and free for kids 15 and under.

Japanese Food and Cultural Bazaar
Held at one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the U.S. this is the 60th annual festival. Go and try traditional Japanese food, sushi, and some Japanese American favorites! Plus learn and watch tea ceremony, ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), odori (classical dancing), taiko drums, and fashion shows!

August 11th and 12th
2401 Riverside Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95818
Free Admission!

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Kabob Krazy (Kabul Restaurant - Davis, CA)

When Hing's closed down in Davis, I was visibly upset. This was the very first restaurant I had ever been to in Davis, and in my opinion the best Chinese food to. Soon many years went by, and I never dropped by the old haunt.

"Let's go get Aghani food."

I sat a little dumbstruck for a moment. Afghani? First off, I had no idea what this style of cuisine consisted of. Second, there was a new Afghani restaurant in Davis? And I didn't know about it? "Sure, sounds good. What kind of food is Afghani food?"

"Afghani food." I could hear her smile over the phone, amused by her own little snap. "I'll see you at 6."

Apparently, Kabul Restaurant had moved into Hing's old place, and right away I was more than glad. The inside had been lavishly decked out in ornate and richly colored rugs, a slight ersatz, but enjoyable and garunteed to put a smile on your face. The smiling hostess led Sarah and I up stairs to the raised seating area. We left our shoes behind us and sat on the floor amongst some squishy pillows on another rustic rug.

Afghani food definetly stands out in my mind amongst the various styles of middle eastern food. Each ingredient has been cooked to leave it feeling light, allowing each flavor and texture to be delicately dissected by your mouth. No dish is to glitzy or esoteric, relying on only three or four complimentary flavors to bring the whole dish together. It's quite amazing really. Plus, many of the dishes were IBS okay, and the kitchen was more than happy to offer veggie dishes, or alter any they had for you veggies out there.

I decided to start my meal with sheer chai. I heart chai. I even grind my own once in a blue moon, and love to make chai chocolate cupcakes, and chai truffles. Of course I would have to try a different variety when presented with it. The full flavored black tea, milk, with hints of sugar and cardamom and sugar, it tastes like a drink only a child's imagination could create. Refreshing, cool, sweet, and *sigh* can I even go on?

The Kabul Special Fish was a perfect example. Cat fish that was lightly flavored with saffron and admittedly, a spice completely foreign to us both, but heavenly. Served with rice and light veggies, the whole experience transported you to a little Afghani grandma's kitchen.

The Quabuli Palau was awesome. It's a traditional meal of sauteed lamb underneath basmati rice with slivers of carrots and raisins. Mint and turmeric gave this a definite pop, with a slight cool undertaste waiting to surprise you in the back, only to calm you down with the sweet pulp of the raisins.

Service was quick, prices were perfect for generous and tasty portions, and the hostess was able to awnser any and all questions I threw at her about the food and the establishment. Props to the knowledgable staff.

One visit was not enough, I soon returned with Rob to sit down once again, this time to a full house and belly dancers. Lots of patrons and belly dancers do make this place a tad bit loud, and we had to struggle a bit to hear each other, but I had a feeling this was an exceptionally raucous evening.

The Bolani Grandana were delicious turnover and eggplant, filled with chopped leeks, cilantro, and "special seasoning" which I didn't bother to ask about as I doubt the waitress knew sign language and I wasn't about to shout out my inquisition.

The Shaami Kabob was a skewer of ground sirloin served with sauteed vegetables, yogurt, a cilantro sauce, and topped with sumac. Honestly I never had sumac before, and all I knew was that it could cause blindness if it gets in your eyes, but damn, there's no way to put it. It has a slightly tangy, fruity, tart flavor with a subtle undertone of pine.

Sarah was dead on the money with this place. The only real downside I found was the afghani bread. Dry, hard, and really flavorless. Adding just some herb, salt, or oil would dramatically improve this.

For a new flavor at a great price (between $8-$13) and great portions, I highly suggest you kick off your shoes, sit down with some sheer chai, and order yourself some kabobs from Kabul.

Kabul Restaurant: Afghan Cuisine
707 2nd Street
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 756-0666

Garlic in Gilroy Kinda' Stinks

The Gilroy Garlic Festival has become for the food world what the Rocky Horror Picture Show has for B-Movie lovers and college students; epic with a cult following. Some prefer to dress in a yellow sequined speedo, others like to wear garlic hats (I like to go as Dr. Frankenfurter myself).

Yet, in my opinion doing the Time Warp is way more fun. Not that the Garlic Fest wasn't an enjoyable experience, it's just that I would rather call it "Fair" more than a "Festival." I call it this because it was a more of an arts and crafts show, surrounded by thousands of garlic food booths. Not that the food wasn't good, it was delish and will be covered shortly, it's the fact that I expected cooking and food demos, maybe something educational, or something that wasn't two separate beer gardens taking up a good portion of the park, and a freaking two mile hike in the powedry dust in my good flip flops. Just what I wanted after a two hour drive from Davis. It was worth my spending 90 minutes there to make the two mile hike back to the car, my feeties caked in dust, and drive the two hours back.

The food did kick quite a bit of ass though. Crawdads, crab, steak, fries, ice cream, cakes, and anything you can think of was infused with garlic. Seriously, the food made me starry eyed.
Due to the festival prices we only got three things to eat, but hey, it's festival food and the awesome taste and grease of it is what makes it so good and worth it.* Rob and I had some garlic fries, and some key lime and garlic deep fried calamari with a key lime dip/sauce/pesto. Seriously, tasted like garlicky, tangy, I dunno... if you could dice up unicorn giggles and deep-fry em', this is what they would taste like. Serious magic here people. MA-GIC.

We also had some garlic and almond ice cream. Quite tasty. Like almond vanilla ice cream with a very subtle garlic flavor that sneaks up on you in the back. Why hasn't Baskin Robbins picked up on this?

In the end, we smelled like garlic all weekend and we're happy for it. If you're in the area or a hardcore food lover, make the trip at least once in your life to try the food and check things out. However, in my opinion, it's definetly a one-time thing.

*With the exception of those deep fried Twinkies. Seriously, those things taste like choking.