Affordable Vanilla Beans and Saffron

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm not sure how many people are near a Cost Plus World's Market, but if you haven't been there are two good reasons to go. Vanilla Beans and saffron.

While normally these go for about oh, $16, you can find them for about $4 there. Why? Honestly, I have no clue. The vanilla beans are a tad bit drier than usual, but they are still perfectly fine, and honestly I have had no issues with them. Just make sure to check that the beans you get are still pliable, and then once you get them home, put them in an airtight jar in a dark cool place. The saffron seems pretty top notch too. A tad bit of grit seems to accompany the bountiful stands, but nothing to complain about when you save yourself about $9.

Another item or two you might want to invest in is the pink Himalayan salt for decoration and presentaion, and the steak/meat seasoning. Rob and I swear by this seasoning, as it makes for amazing stir-frys and astounding steaks! We always make sure to keep a jar full of it.

Do yourself a favor and drop on by and pick this stuff up if you can!

Medley of Orange in the Key of Cupcake

Thursday, September 28, 2006

After the warm reception to the last cupcake, I decided to give another of Cheryl's cupcakes a go (and to make sure that last time wasn't a fluke). Apparently, it wasn't. I think I've figured out some of the tricks to baking, and the main points being confidence, and following measurements and cooking times to a fine "T".

I also think that the recipes in the Cupcake Bakeshop are also very tried and tested, so she doesn't put them out until she knows they'll come out well. Regardless, her various exotic and tasty recipes are thrilling to make. They are a tad bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. If you want to bring a smile to your face and those of the people you mean to impress with your new yumtastic baking skills, try one out.

This time I gave her Carrot Orange Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Orange Peel a try. I did make a few changes though; for one, I skipped the candy egg (it's almost October, Easter candy is a bit hard to find right now). Second, I also added more allspice and nutmeg because while subtleties of flavor are fine, but I'm a member of the cold cocked in the face with a punch of flavor school.

These cupcakes were very tasty and well received by everyone at work. I think the best response was when someone went all washed faced, grabbed me by the arms, and uttered, "That... was the best... cupcake... ever." Rob took quite a few cupcakes down on his own as well, leaving no survivors.

I've been inspired to try and make my own cupcake recipe soon. I'm thinking something with gingerbread cake, cranberries, and lemon in some way. I love those flavors, and I've had them combined before. With some tinkering, and a lot of trial and error, it could be made into something totally shibby.

Before that however, I am going to take a small cupcake break. Rob and I have been feeling the call of truffle making again. We love experimenting with chocolate. I think our favorites so far have been our chai truffles, and the bittersweet mint truffles. It's time to get down and dirty in the kitchen, and covered in chocolate! I will visit cupcakes again soon though, as I have become enamored with them, it's just time for something else for a bit. I have a cupboard filled with spices right now that I think will make for some fabulous truffles.

I highly suggest you all go to the Cupcake Bakeshop and give one a try! You won't be disappointed!

Food Blogger Battle to the Death

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So I recently went to KT's blog and made a comment to her about her spreading her food writing out to more sources. She commented back to me, then I to her, and so on. This all eventually lead to her plans to take over the food blogging world, flamethrower-esque brulee torches, and theme songs. Poor Pim and Sam were also unknowingly dragged into the fray.

It was too funny not to share.

Congrats on spreading out your work! I'm sure it'll only bring you more opportunities!

Thank you! This is all part of my plan to take over the food blogging world, one step at a time. Like an even smaller, tastier Napoleon.

Take over the food blogger world? Hmm... Let's do the Battle Royal thing (rent the Japanese movie for reference). We put, you, Pim, and Sam on an island. All armed with just one random kitchen utensil. Only one of you leaves; either because you cooked the best meal, or killed the other two.

Oh dear... I read those blogs. I think I will have to opt for the violence option. I will bring my Kitchen-Aide mixer with a really long and pointy attachment (coated with deadly poison, of course) so that I can just stand far away and let my appliance go to work. Either that or a souped up brulee torch that ends up being more like a flamethrower.

And some stilettos. And a really cute kicking-ass outfit. Because really... if you're about to kill for the sake of food blogging, you had BETTER look good while you do it. Or else it's just a joke.

I agree. A mask and a theme song couldn't hurt either.

OMG, I think I have to post this conversation. It's too awesome not to. (As you can see, I have...)

Yes! I've always wanted a theme song, anyway ... I already have a theme song in my head, composed by Henry Mancini. I just don't know how to get it outside of my head and into the real world. I also would appreciate a theme song's magical powers of speeding up time and making every day life more interesting.

I would pick something with a built in light show, rock violin, and maybe an action pose or two. Shoot, I'm entering the compeition too now. Equipped with either a set of sharp forks (how me mother taught us kids table manners; a fork in the arm. ouch.) or a giant insane sheet of super nori to wrap up my foes and then toss them into the ocean. Sweeeeet.

Oh oh... sounds deadly... I'd better start training now. I do hope that your theme music comes with lasers and that your outfit incorporates some kind of cape.

But of course! No cape though. I watched The Incredibles. "No! NO CAPES!"

Two Tasty Bits

Monday, September 25, 2006

I was going to write a great post today. Seriously, it was gonna change yer life. However, I got zero sleep last night and I forgot the whole thing. Can't even remember the topic. So instead, here are two bits to amuse you until I have time to write something fun from jail after me and Mister Curtain Rod take care of my noisy neighbors who think 2 am is an acceptable time to start to have a rave, box social, or whatever the kids do nowadays that keeps me awake. I needs my beauty sleep.

Penelope sent me this quote by Geoffrey Chaucer. If you get a chance, find a good Contemporary English translation of The Canterbury Tales, it's definetly a good read (it was written in Middle English, which really is a different language, but if you understand how to read words before the Great Vowel Shift and know a bit of German, go for the original).

Ah, but the quote, "Woe to the cook whose sauce has no sting." Humorous, clever, and true.

Second, here's a fun little kitchen comic by Natalie Dee. Go read it, as I'm sure we can all relate. There is sometimes language in her comics, so if that bothers you then it might not be your cup of tea. I swear like a gothy/indie catholic school girl who was raised by a sailor, so I think it only makes it funnier.

Ciao for now! >^.^<

Taste of Italy (Zia's Delicatessen - Davis, CA)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I think one of the best little moments in life is when you discover one of your new favorite places to eat for the first time. It's almost sacred taking the first bite of the food that you know will call you again and again. Breathing the aroma of the air, sweetened by air cured meats, fresh baked pastries, and pungent cheeses encourage you to bask in the perfume. Your eyes feast on every piece of eye candy the haven has to offer.

This is how I felt when I first stumbled into Zia's. I had passed by the place before on many occasions, never really giving the place a second thought, but on my recent mental health day, I figured to myself, "Why not?" I had been hankering for a good sandwich that day so the hanging sign was definitly calling my name.

Zia's Delicatessen was opened in 1996 by Anne Marie Crilly, and after 10 years has withstood the test of time and the trial of college town summers, establishing it as a permanent player in the Davis restaurant scene. Stepping inside, you'll understand why.

Apparently the door is a little winkle in time to an Italian trattoria, because that's where I found myself. "Buongiorno!" called the adorable lady behind the counter. I nodded my hello, unable to speak as I approached the ginormous freaking deli counter. It was filled to the brim with smoked, brined, and dry cured meats, slabs of proscuitto and pancetta tempted my mouth and my wallet. Cheeses of all kinds were available for take home. Various pasta salads, side dishes, and desserts were laid out. There was even a gelato counter! *Le sigh* indeed! This was like the restaurant I had dreamed of opening! (I want to open a soup/sandwich/coffee shop someday.)

After scrolling through the throughly enticing chalk written menu, and finally asked the lady behind the counter to just give me whatever the popular choice was. She smiled and told me she knew exactly what to do. She then went and started deli-slicing paper thin sheets of turkey and smoked mozarella, the then took an Italian roll, slathered it up with some pesto mayo, looseleaf lettuce and tomato. It was thick and stacked high; the way a sandwich should be! I also got a sparkling orange juice, popping the top off on the little bottle cap removed attached to the side of the counter. All for a measly $7.50, a shibby price for a shibby meal!

The whole thing was perfectly delicious, and after plopping myself down in one of their tables, I was complacent to people watch as various Davis denizens met with each other and went up and down the street. I also watched the line in Zia's. For a Thursday, this place was getting a lot of buisness and a lot of traffic, but no one seemed to wait more than a minute. A picture of efficiency.

Aside from being an eatery and deli, Zia's is also a little Italian grocery where you can find anchovies, olives, oil, and various Italian goods. I have to admit I caved a little and bought some fig balsamic vinegar. I figured this would be perfect on grilled cheese sandwiches, and various desserts and salads! A small rebellion against the coming cold weather!

Eventually, I had to walk through the door and step back into California, but it's always nice to know that a door to Italy is only a short ways away. I'll be sure to bring my tour book next time.

Zia's Delicatessen
616 3rd Street
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 750-7870

Day of Sun and Zen

Friday, September 22, 2006

Recently life has been rather stressful. With my new gimpness at work due to the tendonitis, I find myself slipping behind, struggling to keep up. I'm also getting myself ready for going back to grad school for next fall, which means locating transcripts, seeing if my old professors remember me, and trying to gather grad application info from an advisor who is never there. Various other little aspects of life are beginning to weigh me down, making me feel that I not only have a monkey on my back, it's a family of howler monkeys playing congo.

I needed a day off. A day of sun and zen. So I went out into downtown Davis on my own.

I can't believe how I forgot how peaceful downtown can be. To begin with, this was one of those days that isn't quite summer, and isn't quite fall. The sun is out with a few clouds in the sky, and a crisp breeze blows through the streets and in between the trees. People greeted each other on the street, held doors for each other, and were genially kind.

I was able to discover a little trattoria right in downtown; they served an excellent lunch which I will cover in a later post. I stopped in the knitting store as I have recently decided to learn to knit. We'll see if I accidentally noose myself or not.

I sat out on the grass and read a book, something I haven't relaxed and done in months! I forgot how wonderful it is to make the soft earth your bed and a cool wind and placid sun your blanket. It's ephemeral letting your imagination be absorbed in written word.

I dropped by my old work and said hello to my old boss over a cup of ice cold, and strikingly sweet chai, which made me miss the musty old books and serving up espressos. Sadly many of the people I worked with are no longer there, yet some are, and those little constants in life give me sound mind. (It's Seattle's Best inside the Davis Borders Books, btw.)

I lounged about the UCD campus and immersed myself in memories of academia, sitting in the English building's plaza, and watching a troupe of shirtless frat boys fix their house. (Nothing wrong with a bit of window shopping, just no trying on or purchasing.) I then went to the Memorial Union and picked up grossly processed, yet yummy ice cream in colors which do not occur in nature.

When I got home, I found the cookbooks I ordered, one on salsas and one on grilled cheese, from Amazon sitting in the mailbox. An extra little bonus that cost me $10 total. Yayness! You can expect posts on those as well. >^.^<

I literally stopped an smelled the roses.

I suggest you try it yourself.

Like Wine? Like Kids? Combine the Two!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

So this is a plug for my work, and as shameless as the plug is, it really is for a good cause, and I hope anyone in the area who can afford to go will. These are children from families who truly depend on organizations and programs like this to help their families function and survive. Sometimes it's the very last option.

Please help if you can. Enjoy a lot of wine from over thirty vineyards. Enjoy a variety of meat, produce, and cheeses from local producers. Help a few people out. >^.^<

Best of the Barrel Benefit Wine Tasting

Friday, October 13, 2006
5-8 PM
Nugget Market on Covell in Davis
Tickets are $30
(530) 750-3800 or go to either Nugget Market in Davis for tickets.

If you would like more information on, or would like to help the Yolo Crisis Nursery program, or FamiliesFirst, please visit the links below.
Yolo Crisis Nursery

Holy Hummus & Other Foods Good for the Soul

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Holy Virgin Mary's 2nd Annual Mediterranean Food Festival
(taken from my fabu Cake Grrl, taken from a flyer she picked up at the Mediterranean Market) September 30th & October 1st, 3060 Jefferson Blvd, West Sacramento, from 11am-8pm. Live music, raffle and prizes, take out available. Falafel, chicken kabob, dolmas, hummus, etc.

Other Food Events/Classes You Might Have Particular Interest In
The Sac Bee also have an excellent listing of events going on in the next few days, so make plans fast! Though I do wish the Bee would post these food events with a bit more than one day of notice for some of these.

(Hey, I get my news for events by scouring the internet and every other source of media, I'm not psychic!)

Sit Down and Feel at Ohm (Temple - Sacramento, CA)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Even offering three hundred bowls of food three times a day does not match the spiritual merit gained in one moment of love. -Nagarjuna

Nagarjuna was definitely on to something. Too bad he didn't get to have tea at Temple, Sacramento's shibbiest tea house. I bet he would have achieved Nirvana right after he had his first sip or nibbled his first scone. Here, it's moment after moment of love.

I was lucky enough to meet my uber adorable Cake Grrl there and chat it up for a lovely brunch recently. She suggested the place and I had always wanted to drop by after hearing such fabu reviews about it. Let me tell you, it certainly lives up to its reputation! Sitting down, we were able to experience a few moments of tranquility and unravel a few of life's lessons. Let me share a few...

Bliss is attained through stillness and acceptance. Dried, pure mint leaves steeped in steamed coconut milk and honey, is also an acceptable form of Bliss. Just sweet and herbal enough, to allow one to truly flow through samsara.

Man cannot live on bread alone, but a tasty fresh strawberry scone will do in a pinch. As will any of the other yummy pastries.

Venerable Cheng Yen notes, "Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little." Yet, one can easily be attached to the various chai mixes that adorn the shelves. Cardamom chai is always a welcome source of happiness.

Take nothing with you, for the only important possession is wisdom... and a bag of tea for the road, as Temple has a wide variety of herbal, black, green, and chai teas which can easily be purchased in whatever quantities. Perfect for the longest of journeys of self awareness.

Rely on the meaning, not just the words. Rely on the subtlety of taste, not just the caffeine. The variety of coffees and preparations will please the casual drinker or the aficionado.

The 14th Dalai Lama notes, "The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world." Yet he has not dealt with the flies of Temple. An open door policy is always welcome, but one does not want to incur bad karma after killing too many flies disturbing one's meal.

"Admire the beauty around you," a task that has never been so easy. Temple allows for the pinnacle of relaxation with their cozy easy chairs and booths, exposed brick, clever paint, and abundance of pillows and even a blanket or two. A perfect place to meditate.

Be one with the world and all that is in it, which is easy to do with knowledgeable staff, free WiFi, and being open 365 days a year. The people behind the counter are the perfect teachers, listen to not just what they say, but the knowledge they grant.

After chatting a bit and absorbing the universe's knowledge, it dawned on CG and I that over 90 minutes had passed. We snapped a picture or two, realizing we inhaled the tea before we knew it, and parted down our separate paths. Each more enlightened than before.

Temple Fine Coffee and Tea
1014 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 443-4960

Wontons not so Wanton

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I recently got together with my friend Penelope to hang out and catch up. Penelope has recently taken to learn how to cook, and is making amazing progress. We decided that with the cold weather approaching a quick, warm, and hardy recipe would be just perfect to learn.

I have a fondness for wontons mainly due to the fact that they're an easy go-to for a picnic or potluck, and make plenty of leftovers to take to lunch for work. They're also ridiculously easy to put together, and are versatile enough to appease everyone as the fillings can be composed of whatever fits your fancy. We decicded to go with ground pork for the filling, deciding that we wanted something hardier than say, cream cheese and fake crab, or ground chicken and veggies.

Pork Wontons
Makes about a 30-40

What You'll Need...
1 lb. ground pork
2 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of green onions, minced
2 teaspoons of fresh ginger
1 package of wonton wrappers
vegetable oil
salt and pepper

What You'll Do...

1) Combine the pork, onions, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper together in a bowl.

2) Layout the wonton wrappers, and set aside a bowl of water. Put a small chunk of the pork into the center of the wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in the water and wet the outer rim of half the wonton, which will act as a glue. Fold the wonton wrapper over and press, sealing the edges together. Try to press out as much air trapped inside as possible.

3) Pour oil into a wok or pan, heat to high, then reduce to medium heat. Drop in wontons, six at a time, and let sit until golden brown. Use a spider or slotted spoon to get them out and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the extra oily drippings.

4) Enjoy the deep fried fatty goodness.

This is also a great get together recipe as folding the zillion wontons can get a bit tedious if you do it by yourself. Throw on the radio and make a party of it! The folding is also a great way to get your kids in the kitchen and get them into cooking, just make sure the adult takes care of the oil.

The Sweet, The Savory, The Cupcake

Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm not exactly the world's best baker. I mean I have a few select recipes that I can pump out without much problem, those being my rhubarb cake, a few cookie recipes, and the olive onion bread. Everything else usually has a penchant to taste like burning.

I however, decided to take on something a little more ambitious and attempt a gourmet cupcake. I've always admired the cupcakes designed by Chockylit over at the Cupcake Bakeshop, and finally decided to give one a try. Her Late Summer Peach, Blueberry and Thyme Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting seemed like the perfect place to start.

I won't write the recipe as you can easy follow the link, but let me just comment about it and the experience. To begin with I had good feelings about this one as it seemed like a good place to start with gourmet baking; just difficult enough, yet good for a beginner. Plus it sounded darn tasty. After shopping for the ingredients, and getting cruised at Safeway (a shot for my ego, yayness!), I began the sweet n' savory cupcake mission.

The cupcakes turned out a-freakin'-mazing. I don't think I've ever had a better cupcake. Homemade beats out store bought and "from a box" cupcakes hands down. I had to substitute raspberries for blueberries, but it didn't matter. The smooth cream cheese frosting with the sweet-tart bursts of fruit folded into the vanilla cake was perfectly complimented by the subtle bite of thyme. The whole experience was this adalusian sensation.

Taking them into work, everyone raved about them and even came to me for seconds. I've promised to attempt another Chockylit recipe, and bring it into work once again. This is a train that may runaway from me, but I don't think I care. I mean hell, it's a train of frosting and moist fluffy goodness, what's not to love?

This recipe also helped me conquer my fear of baking, and given me the gusto to try anything and everything. Plus I figured out how to really get the most out of the sketchy easy bake built into the wall I call an oven! Yayness! And I only burnt myself once!

It was a shibby experience to be sure. One I hope to have again and again!

Blog Roll! (like a sushi roll, but not)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sadly, during Blog Day, I didn't have a chance to get to everybody I love, hence this post. You'll notice that the Sacramento Area Food Blogs section has grown quite a bit recently, as has the Other Food Blogs I Heart section over in the sidebar. It's starting to become quite a list, and you'll probably notice some blogs you all know and love like Sam's Beck and Posh, or the lovable Shuna from Eggbeater, and friendly and local (for me) Elise at Simply Recipes, but I would like to introduce you to some of my other favorite food bloggers (can that be shortened to floggers, or is that too kinky?).

If you are looking for something really complete that covers all the little and big going-ons in Sacramento's food and restaurant worlds, go check out the Sac Bee's food writer Mike Dunne and his blog Appetizers with Mike Dunne! It's informative, concise, clever, and will always give you the lowdown of what Sacramento should expect to see in its foodie future. However, if you want to walk down a different writer's path for a more with-the-people feel, go check out Kristy over at Cake Grrl. She'll soon be starting a food podcast as well, and trust me, she'll treat you right.

Looking for some food and blogs that are off the beaten English path? Check out Chucrute com Salsicha, it might be what you're looking for! Fer Guimaraes Rosa writes a fabulous blog in Portuguese, utilizing fantastic prose, gorgeous posts, and simple and tasty recipes. Don't speak the language? Don't let that stop you, just go visit it via BabelFish. You can also checkout Fethiye's blog Yogurt Land to discover the delightful design of Turkish food. Each post stirs up my own memories of my visit there. *le sigh* The blog is written in both Turkish and English.

Need something tasty and organic and possibly gluten free? Then I highly suggest you go check out Brendon at Something in Season, or Sher at What Did You Eat? Both located in the Davis area! My home girl Karina over in New Mexico has a certain spicy flare as the Gluten Free Goddess!

My girl Liz at Good Stuff is also pretty wicked and makes me smile with her posts! She's hilarious, and writes one of the most entertaining blogs around! Jen at Jennifer Jeffery is another professional writer with plenty to say. Get some insight at the process of writing a cook book there as well. Plus she's fabulous and that's reason enough to adore her.

I stumbled on most of these by accident, but you don't have to. Do yourself a favor and visit these shibby culinary chronicles, it'll do you some good!

Guilty Foodie Confession

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

We all have one. Some act we are ashamed of that occurred in the kitchen (food wise). So here it is, I air out my dirty laundry for you all...

In high school and college on more than a few occassions, my friends and I made a whole batch of chocolate chip cookie dough from scratch. We didn't bake it though, we just ate the whole bowl of dough along with a gallon of milk to bad B-Horror Movies on the TV/DVD player we dragged to the kitchen.

We watched Squirm last night. I feel absolutely sick. I regret nothing, and I'd do it again.

The Cooking Show Criterion

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I'm watching "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello," and once again, I'm not quite sure what to think. I like everything he cooks, and I am rarely, if ever, disappointed with his recipes in their taste and appearance. However, it really is the cliche cooking show, I.E. "Today we will be cooking with ingredients you've never heard of, using tools you can niether afford nor find, in a kitchen bigger than your entire house!"

I'm lucky to live in California, where practically everything is available to me within a short drive. However, if you're in Kansas or Paris, I don't think you'll be reaching out your window for that fresh buttery avocado, or driving to the local Chinatown for a black market mangosteen. I know that my sketchy easy bake oven built into the wall isn't even close to reliable, and the electric stovetop's reliability comes and goes with the faces of the moon. Then there is that one truly esoteric ingredient that is so hard to find that your only chance of obtaining it is by selling your left kidney to a specialty grocer on the internet. I recall one particular hunt for fennel pollen (aka: "the spice of angels", que the eye-roll), anise fronds eventually being used as a substitute.

Let's also take into consideration that Mr. Chiarello was raised on a very prominent and successful vineyard in the Napa Valley, and the winery has now expanded into also selling Napa Style, collections of Napa Valley inspired furniture, foods, and kitchen paraphernalia. Yeah, I'm thinking he has the time, staff, and resources to create such awesome food. Plus, most of what he makes is simply out of my humble budget's reach.

But Michael is not alone, lets look at a the Barefoot Contessa and her east coast Hampton home on the beach (or Martha's Vineyard, or wherever it is). Have you seen Sandra Dee's lifestyle? I'm amazed she can even do the show since it's always cocktail time for her it seems. Many of these culinary stars simply have access and excess that the everyday viewer does not.

But ah, I must confess, I still watch the shows. We observe the techniques, absorb the information, memorize the quick and easy to alterate recipes, and through osmosis learn of new and exciting flavors! It's a guilty and enjoyable pleasure!

I remember in college the Iron Chef Ramen competition we had. My friend and I made strudel, chilled ramen with spicy salsa, Thai Ramen, and of course pasghetti (never spaghetti). We need a cooking show thats a bit more every day: "Well, we have half a jar of jelly, a stick of butter, and some stale pizza crusts still sitting in the original box. Oh, and that ancient box of baking soda in the back. You also seem to have a zillion spices in your spice rack for the food you don't have."

"I've got some Starbursts and vodka in the freezer if that helps..."

"Excellent! Perfect for a dessert reduction sauce!" says our chipper celebrity chef. Twently minutes later we have some sort of edible, and possibly tasty meal. A cooking show for college students and for the weeks we just don't have a chance to get to the market would be awesome. I'm sure it's been done, but seriously, in college we made some crazy food that I still make once in a while.

Tune in this fall for "The Poor and Lazy Kitchen" with So-and-So on Food Network! Yeah... I would watch that.

Thai Ramen
Serves one, add one serving of each ingredient for each person.
This tastes like college food, btw, but great if you don't wanna move much or nuthin'.

What You'll Need...
1 package of instant ramen of any flavor
1/2 can coconut milk
1/2 can of chicken stock
1 cup each of milk and cream (or 2 cups of one or the other)
Dry unsweetened shredded coconut
pepper, sugar, salt

What You'll Do...
No real directions here. Cook the ramen and throw out the flavor packet; too many calories anyway. Drain the ramen and wash under cold water. Throw it into a bowl, add the liquids. Add sugar, pepper and salt to taste. Add the shredded coconut. Throw in some cilantro for appearance and taste. Boom, boom, boom, yer done. Feel free to alter this as you see fit, I can see lime or chili peppers working well.

2004 Amelie Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot (Mankas Hills Vineyard)

Friday, September 8, 2006

Mankas Hills Vineyard has recently been doing a special offer for food bloggers in which they send a bottle of their Amelie 2004 to the blogger. The whole idea is pretty shibby.

Amelie is a a mixture of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 25% Merlot grapes and pretty darn tasty. After getting together with a few friends from work, we popped it open and gave it a swirl. Hailing from the Suisun Valley, we were intrigued to try a wine from such a close proximity to Sacramento, adding to the excitement as we all raised our glasses. Now, while none of us are wine experts in any sort of way, we do know what we like, so here goes our collective analysis:

The color was that of black cherry and garnet. Definetly eye candy, I can picture this on a magazine cover. The smell was very berry-like, and fruity, it was welcoming from the beginning. It had a strong smokey taste, accompanied by flavors of vanilla, plums, and especially currants. We all loved it! I can see this going very well with a steak dinner type meal, but it was also very excellent with chips and cilantro guacamole. The only downside is that it does have a bit of an alcoholic bite, we were surprised it was only 13%. It is slight though and nothing that would really detract me from buying another bottle.

I'm only recently learning to buy and drink wine (as in a few weeks). I did take quite a few classes on wine back in school at UCD, where the viticulture and enology department rule supreme, funded by the Mondavi empire, so I know about wine, but never put it into practice. It was fun to finally do so, and I'm starting to really enjoy the stuff. However had I had the education or not, you either like a certain wine, or you don't. This, I like. Nuff said.

The History of Dining in Sacramento

If you haven't picked up the latest sopy of the Sacramento News and Review, make sure you do so, or at least follow this link. SN&R's delectable Kate Washington has composed a thurough and engaging piece tracking the history and evolution of Sacramento's dining scene. From it's humble beginnings as a steak house town due to the Gold Rush and politicians, to the ground breaking raising of Biba, to the explosion of immigration creating a wave of new ethnic cuisine she tracks the slow but sure diversity bourgeoning from the underneath the snow. The ever changing restaurants, food themes, and even the patrons themsevles are enjoying the restaurant boom which will only keep expanding. Make sure to read up, check it out, and once inspired go out!

I Have Reservations!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

"What do you mean you don't have a table?!"

"Ma'am, it's 9:00 Friday night, we simply don't have a table. I'm sorry."

The the lady yells, makes a scene, demands that she is a personal friend of the owner (he's never heard of her), ruins the dining experience of everyone else there, and is generally, an ass.

We've all seen it, and some of us have been it or with it, but let's think about the "it" for a minute. Reservations are there to guarantee you a seat, and early enough, the best seat in the house. It promises a table on the busiest of nights. Thus, how is it not fair that the restaurant not have a table when everyone else was sure to call ahead? Answer: it's perfectly fair that you not get a table.

This is preaching to the choir, I'm sure each of you know good restaurant decorum, but remember a few things.
  • Some restaurants, especially the newest, trendiest ones, will probably have a wait regardless of your reservation. You're promised a table, no worries, it just may not be at the exact time you wanted.
  • Get there early, you might be able to get seated early.
  • If you are early or your table isn't ready, take some time at the bar and check out the menu.
  • Don't make scene, it bothers other patrons, annoys the wait staff, upsets the host/hostess, and may embarass your dining companions.
  • You may want a specific table, make sure you note that in the reservation.
  • Check out the website first if they have one, some places require reservations months in advance. However, on average, call at least 5-7 days ahead.
  • Do not slip the host or hostess a $20. This is just tacky. Sure it may score you a table, but ten to one, the hostess may just give you a quizzical look of, "Is this guy serious?"


Tuesday, September 5, 2006

It's all good now. I have Sam to thank for all her advice and the people at Food Blog S'cool. There is still some tinkering to do, but it's back. I think I lost a few weeks of life there.

I'm going to Carl's Jr. to stuff my face now.

I suggest from now on, any other bloggers out there, make sure you make copies of your template and your posts!

Vanilla Garlic Chipotle Sauce

After being asked about 8 bajillion times if I ever use vanilla and garlic in the same recipe, I finally decided to post an answer. This recipe comes from the Vanilla Queen and it's pretty tasty. She offers it forth as a BBQ sauce and salsa, but in my opinion this really only works as the BBQ sauce. Salsa wise, it's simply too runny, and uncooked the vinegar still has a bit to much bite. If it's getting too cold for grilling, this works shibby as a marinade.

And the taste? The chipotle chiles add a definite smoky backdrop, the garlic is nice and subtle underneath it, the vanilla gets you a few seconds later at the back of your tongue. It's spicy and sweet. This sauce is definetly different so feel free to customize it as you need. One friend of mine likes to add dry mustard powder to this, another adds some garlic powder. I like to add some shredded green onion for texture and appearance. Expirement with it as you need, and let your taste buds tingle!

Vanilla Garlic Chipotle Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce

What You'll Need...
4-7 medium chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (use as many as needed for desired heat)
3-5 cloves of garlic (to taste)
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of honey
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/4 - 1/2 cup of water (also for desired heat)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
juice from half of a lime
salt and pepper to taste

What You'll Do...
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Do not wash the sauce off of the chilis.
Puree until smooth. This can be refrigerated for a week.

The Big City has Arrived (Mason's - Sacramento, CA)

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Sacramento isn't necessarily known for it's restaurant scene, but that's slowly changing, and Mason's in downtown is doing an exhilarating job bringing about that change. Mason's is located in The Park Downtown, a sort of culinary hot spot which also features Ma Jong's Asian Diner, The Park Lounge, and The Park To Go with each one bringing it's own chic and trendy design and culinary outlook, developing an emulsion that dazzles the senses and blows the mind.

"I still can't believe how amazing that meal was," stated Rob as we drove away back home, him fighting the onsetting food coma, and trying to snap out of the euphoric state the previous two hours had placed us in.

"I think we knew we were going to be well treated and pretty happy the second we walked in." I had made the reservation for our anniversary a few days earlier over at, and had been looking forward to this meal. The eccentric lighting, marble counters, and throughly creative design was intense. The abundance of couched seating and and use of various textures and materials was a casual, yet inviting and fashionable. The drama of the room was intense and electric, as if a runway show model should soon glide out and lead us to our table.

"I can't believe how spot on the service was too. I wasn't annoyed in any possible way!" And it was so true, the service was impeccable. The manager had read our OpenTable comments, and came up to congradualte us on our anniversary, which surprised me as it always seemed that no restaurant ever took the time to read them. Every action from each hostess, bartender, waiter and waitress was smooth and practiced like a well choreographed dance. Even the smallest details were noticed, such as the bartender addressing us by our names after checking our ID's. Even though we weren't dressed to the nines, like many of the other high and powerful patrons, we were treated as if we were the only ones that mattered. Seemless from start to finish.

"Seriously, I know we got there early, and I wasn't exactly keen on waiting but damn, that bartender! I was glad for the wait!" She had effortlessly created the most perfect whiskey sour for Rob, allowing just the right amount of sweet and sour to warm your throat. She also solved my cocktail indecision with a creation of hers involving pomegranate juice, blueberry Stoli, and sprite. I declared the drink a success, the bartender a genius, and announced my intention to pick up the ingredients to recreate this later. The gentle shock at the expert creations lingered in our minds. "That was the best whiskey sour I've ever had," sided Rob. We were even further surprised with the tea service presented with the iced tea, bring a small bottle of simple syrup, lumps of raw, organic sugar, and lemon wrapped in cheesecloth.

"What was that little thingy they offered us when we sat down?" I rested my chin on my hand and stared out the window, struggling to recall. Compliments of the chef had been sent to our table, whether for our anniversary or just beecause, and acted as a savory teaser of what was to come. A simple toastette with slices of smoked salmon, a creamy sauce, and bits of baby wild greens became the object of our affections.

"Oh and that tomato-"

"Golden tomato." I couldn't help but correct him.

"-with the avocado and dungeness crab that I had for an appetizer!" A powerful and subtle statement of food. A small cylindical sculpture of crab and avocado in a bowl had been set before Rob, arousing concern that they had at first gotten the order wrong. Yet the flare of presentation had not been overlooked, as our concern was washed away when a pitcher slowly poured out the chilled golden soup, allowing the little island of crab to pop into the scene with renewed vigor amongst the colorful backdrop.

"And my salad! Dear God, we need to cook with figs more often!" A fresh mixed micro green salad with toasted almonds, striped figs, crumbled blue cheese and pickled bing cherries had been plated to be the central display in an art gallery. The gentle sweet embrace of the figs, with the pungent bite of the cheese delivered spark after spark of excitement. We could tell that this was the handiwork of a gifted chef.

Executive chef Philip Wang has worked in some of the most renowned restaurants such as Daniel in Manhattan and Jardiniere in San Francisco has recently stole himself away to Sacramento to aide in making way for the city's restaurant revival. Utilizing modern American cuisine, and relying on seasonal ingredients - leading to an ever changing and always glorious menu - Wang has made Mason's a dynamo, rivaling restaurant found in nearby San Francisco.

The seared duck with crispy roasted skin, served with foie gras, plums, and glazed vegetables all luciously eneveloped in a plum-port reduction is a total mind blow. I've never had foie gras before, but now I can see what all the damn fuss is about; grilled it provided this umami sensation that was astonishing, I couldn't help but moan with each seductive bite. The duck was cooked perfectly with just the right hint of gamey flavor, the slightly chared skin adding a bittersweet juxtaposition to the flavorful flesh of the duck. It was magical, and an exemplarary illustration of Wang's mad skillz.

"And to think, that barracuda! I've never had a fish so flavorful!" It was the truth, I recollect in my mind the fish dish. Originally the dish was to be swordfish, but the kitchen had run out and offered the barracuda in its steed. Served amongst baby vegetables and in a delicate citrus sauce, the dish tantalized with it's blend of down home local ingredients, pacific hearty fish, and slightly tropic sauce.

"It really was too bad about that dessert though, I was so looking forward to it." We had decided on the marscarpone and honey ice cream with so and so extravagancy, yet we were sadly informed that the kitchen had run out of that as well. While the other desserts looked yummy as well (except the warm peanut butter doughnuts and raspberry sauce, but I'm not a fan of PB&J) we had our hearts set on that one and skipped dessert. Rob however did enjoy an expertly crafted and exceptionally strong espresso.

"I'm still full," Rob said, pulling into the driveway a glaze over his eyes. "I've never eaten in a restaurant like that before."

"That was amazing. But now we're gonna judge every place in comparison to Mason's."

"Damn, that is going to be a problem..."

It's a cross I'm more than willing to bear.

See Second Review

The Park Downtown
1116 15th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 492-1960

On Anniversaries...

Friday, September 1, 2006

Today is my second anniversary with Rob. It's an event that can only be expressed in smiles, and not so much in words. This will be a short post because 1) I detest getting all emotional and then attempting to actually put it on paper for people. It's like a car wreck in slow motion. 2) My hands are wrapped in my tendonitis gauntlets so I ain't typing a lot. *popping another Ibuprofen*

Tonight we're going to go to Mason's for a romantic anniversary dinner (which will be posted about in the following days of course). For many of you, two years might not be very long. Some of you may be in your tenth, twentieth, or even more and look on with amusement and recollection at your earlier anniversaries. Some of you may have just reach your first month, and look forward to when you meet that first year. And for any other homos out there, they think two years is FOREVER and that I'm f***ing crazy (gay relationships, like retail jobs, have a high turnover rate). But to me, it's just, I dunno. Special.

It's two years that Rob has put up with my numerous and sporatic tantrums. Quietly ignored my grumpy morning Grim Reaper-esque personality every 6 a.m. since we started living together. Taken care of me when I'm sick and bitchy. Put up with my reading, cooking, Xena, and Final Fantasy obsessions and other nerdisms which any normal human being would have left me for by now. And let's not get into our differing and oppositional opinions on quite a few things.

Yet he still loves me and my allowing him to kiss my nose. He is endlessly entertained at my ability to peel and eat a banana with my toes (I can). He enjoys watching me get excited and worked up over the history of grammar. He smiles when I try to convince him to go see Shakespeare, even though he hates it. He loves to cook and derives pleasure in teasing me by saying I'm his sous chef, which means I get the dishes. Plus, we have as much in common as we do different. It allows for balance and keeps things fresh and exciting each day.

I love him for a variety of reasons, and really I have to admit, I'm damn lucky that he's still around. I guess Pascal was right when he said, "The heart has reasons that reason knows not of." Either way, I'm very happy.

That and the roofies I put in his food help. >^.^<

September Events - All Things Greek and Sushi

Go Greek!
This Labor Day, go Greek at the Greek Food Festival! Food, cultural displays, and films on Greek life. Throw in some baklava and you're set! Expect enough food to feed every God on Olympus, and maybe a Titan or two. Celebrate everything Hellenic and get shibby

Sacramento Convention Center
13th and J St.
September 1-3, 12:00 pm - 11:00 pm
$5 general, $4 for seniors, Free for children 12 and under
(916) 443-2033

Sushi Showdown!
It's the 2nd Annual California State Sushi Competition! Enjoy an exciting and elegant evening honoring the deep traditions and of sushi and the amazing ingenuity and creativity that chefs are bringing to modern sushi restaurants. Join our emcees Narsai David, famed KCBS-AM Food Critic, Randall Selland of The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento and Tim Johnson of the California Rice Commission for this action-packed evening!

Tickets are $50 and include admission to the live sushi-rolling competition among eight of California's top sushi chefs, amazing sushi, culinary dishes featuring California rice, a wine and beer bar (two drink tickets per admission), sake-tasting and taiko drumming. Roving cameras will project all the action on the floor onto a huge screen over the stage and Taro Arai from Sacramento's Mikuni Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar will guest-host an amateur 'mini sushi competition.'

Come and support Sacramento's own Sushi Chef Watanabe of Taka's Sushi and Kru!

For event and ticket information go to

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