Ally


Rainy days make some people antsy but I always find them to be a great time to catch up on projects that I've been meaning to get around to doing...like this one for pickling garlic. I love pickled garlic and bookmarked this recipe last year after I attended a Master Canner's seminar with some friends but I never got around to making it...well, what better time than a rainy leap day to get it done?

And speaking of garlic, if you haven't read Ruth Reichl's Garlic & Sapphires yet...get to it. Reichl used to be the food critic for the NYT and then was the editor-in-chief for Gourmet magazine. She's such an eloquent writer and one of my favorite authors. If you love food memoirs, you'll love her books. Also check out: Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples, which talks about her childhood. You can find her books at your local bookstore or library.


Spicy Pickled Garlic  (recipe from Pinch My Salt)

Ingredients

Approximately 1 1/2 cups peeled garlic cloves (4 – 5 heads of garlic)

3 dried chilies

2 cups white wine vinegar

2 scant teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

special equipment: 3 sterilized half-pint jars with lids


Instructions

- Fill jars with garlic cloves and add one dried chili to each jar.

- In a small saucepan, combine vinegars, sugar, and salt.

- Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.

- Fill jars with hot liquid and screw lids onto the jars. Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate.

- Garlic should be ready to eat in about 3-4 weeks and will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 months.
Ally

Recently, I had a few hours to kill at an appointment and started watching Sons of Anarchy on my Kindle Fire (via Netflix streaming). I was instantly hooked and have been obsessively devouring episodes whenever I have a few moments to sit down and watch some TV. The show is extremely well written and has a great cast, not to mention Charlie Hunnam who plays Jax Teller is pretty easy on the eyes. Anyhow, the other night I had a free evening and wanted to make a simple and quick dinner so I could catch up on a few episodes. I figured the dish should be something hot but sweet (like Jax...just kidding) and decided to try out this recipe by food blogger Rosemarried for Roasted Broccoli with Sriracha and Honey. I liked that it used things that I already had in my fridge and in my pantry. I just left out the green onions and subbed in cashews for the almonds and it turned out to be the perfect "TV dinner."


(Jax Teller, played by Charlie Hunnam)


Roasted Broccoli with Sriracha and Honey (adapted from recipe by Rosemarried)

Instructions

1 small crown of broccoli, cut into bite size florets

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup roasted, unsalted cashews


Instructions

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

- In a bowl, combine: soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, Sriracha and black pepper. Pour this sauce over the broccoli florets and toss to coat.

- Place coated broccoli florets in an even layer across the baking sheet.

- Roast for about 8-10 minutes, until broccoli is tender.

- Transfer broccoli from the baking sheet to a bowl. Toss with roasted cashews. Taste and adjusting seasonings if necessary.

-Serve immediately while still warm.  (I like it over steamed white rice or with a fried egg.)
Ally
(Photo: Source)


Mark your calendars for March 5 and 6th. Remember that cool event that I blogged about last year that I attended with my friend Gretchen where we got to taste delicious soups made by some of the best restaurants in town, choose a beautiful handmade bowl to take home and the money went to a great cause? Well, that was the River City Food Bank's Empty Bowl's event. This is it's ninth year running and it's gotten so big it's moving from the Masonic Center, where it was held last year, over to the Convention Center. Their goal is to raise $125,000 to provide emergency 3-day food supplies to the increasing numbers of families and seniors who need help getting by and with your help they may be able to do it. So talk to your friends, families, and coworkers and make plans to purchase your tickets soon as it's sure to be a popular event. There's a dinner on Monday night (the 5th) and two lunch seatings on Tuesday (the 6th) for you to choose from.

Here's the specifics:

When: Supper: Monday, March 5, 5:30-7:30 p.m., $60 per person or Luncheon: Tuesday, March 6, 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. seatings, $30 per person

Where: Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J Street  Sacramento, CA 95814
Tickets: Tickets are now on sale online as well as two retail locations: The Cathedral Bookshop at 2620 Capitol Avenue, and the Avid Reader at the Tower, 1600 Broadway

Soup Sponsors: Classique Catering, Vizcaya, Michelangelo’s, CafĂ© Bernardo, R15, Scott’s Seafood Grill & Bar, Lucca Restaurant & Bar, The Broiler Steakhouse, Greek Village Inn, Grange Restaurant & Bar.

Ticket includes:

· A beautiful handmade bowl of your own choosing, a reminder of the many empty bowls in our community.
· Delicious soup supper or luncheon featuring soups created by Sacramento’s best chefs as well as dessert.
· At the soup supper, wine and hors d’oeuvres in addition to gourmet soups.
Ally
2718 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816. (916) 706-2275.
http://www.theredrabbit.net

You know when you hear about a new place that's going to open up in town and there's hype for months and months? You start to anticipate something pretty fabulous and formulate some lofty expectations, then you go visit and that bubble gets burst? Well, fortunately Red Rabbit lived up to the hype and sure didn't burst my bubble last Thursday night. I had plans to get together with my friend, Michelle, for a bite to eat and some girltalk- I suggested checking out Red Rabbit. Since it was a Thursday night and Red Rabbit's located in the Grid, I figured I better make a reservation just in case it was busy. When I checked out their webpage, their reservation system caught my eye- there was no OpenTable or any other fancy-schmancy system in place, it was just an old school "send us an email and we'll get back to you" or call. So I dropped them an email and within a few minutes, I received an email back from Matt Nurge at the Red Rabbit with the words, "Done!" For me, there was something refreshing in the simplicity of their system.

Our reservations were for 6pm, so it was still relatively quiet when I got there. I was greeted immediately by a friendly gentleman upon walking through the door and directed to where my friend was sitting. Michelle had already ordered the Krakow, one of their hand-crafted cocktails (made with Zubrowka, apple butter, lemon and ginger beer). I perused the drink list- there were some great California brews on draft and local wines (like Berryessa Gap) on there...but after chatting with our waiter, James, I decided to try a cocktail first- an Army Navy. Made with gin, lemon and orgeat...this cocktail was delicious, a great choice if you like citrus. Michelle was kind enough to allow me to take a sip of her drink which was amazing- it tasted like a baked apple with a hint of ginger and cinnamon (in fact it was so tasty, I too ordered a Krakow on our next round). Whoever was bartending that night did a great job on our cocktails, they tasted smooth and sweet yet were strong as hell. Perfect. My only suggestion would be- those drinks need to come a little faster, there was some serious lag time on our beverages. Our server was wonderful on keeping us posted on their progress (without us asking), but the long wait was noticeable each time we ordered.

For our eats, we started with the "farm-animal lollipops" which consisted of three meatballs (beef, lamb and one of chicken wrapped in bacon) paired with a sauce- a rich marinara, a spicy mint chimichurri and an onion aioli. All three meatballs were perfectly cooked and the sauces were flavorful. I did think they could have done without the gimmicky wooden sticks and perhaps added another meatball (or two) to make it worth the $8 price tag.


For our dinners, Michelle went with the ramen and I, after much hemming and hawing, opted for the lamb bocadillas. I was a bit curious on what Michelle's take on the ramen would be; after all, ramen in a non-Asian restaurant? I was a bit skeptical. Turned out she loved it. She commented that the broth was quite flavorful and the shiitakes, fried shrimp and green onions were the perfect accompaniment to the steamy noodle dish. For my main course, I ordered the lamb bocadillos...(how can you resist saying bocadillos? It's such a cute word- bocadillos-bocadillos-bocadillos!) The dish came with two perfectly cooked mini-lamb sliders topped with some lip-smacking chimichurri and gooey Manchego cheese. I quickly laid waste to both sliders; however, the limp fries that came with them didn't do much for me. Someone in the cocina needs to learn how to crisp those suckers up- a pretty easy thing to fix.



You'd think the top button on my jeans would be ready to pop by now, but I had consumed something sour, something spicy and something savory...and now I was craving something sweet. Michelle and I decided to go all out and order TWO desserts. We ordered the mini-brioche doughnuts and a plate of the croquettes. The  former were served in a set of three, warm and on a plate sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. They were nice...but the latter- the croquettes. Holy balls! They were good. The croquettes were three crispy deep-fried little balls filled with a luscious melted dark chocolate ganache, served with a scoop of ice cream mixed with pralines. Talk about a sexy dessert, your eyes'll roll back in your head once you taste these.

The owners of Red Rabbit have done a terrific job of revitalizing the old Red Lotus location. They've created a restaurant that looks modern yet not overly trendy. The exposed brickwork, intimate lighting and cushy booths create a comfortable environment that works well for both the dining and the bar crowd and I'm sure the two patios- in the front and the back- will be a big hit in the spring (we Sacramentans love our outdoor dining). The randomness of the menu choices ensures that there's something that appeals to everyone and the prices are actually reasonable. Service throughout our meal was attentive and pleasant, I liked that the manager would stop by and check on tables periodically. It seemed like they were really trying to put forth the effort to make sure guests were happy and any hiccups were quickly addressed.

When I looked around during dinner, I saw an array of diners- the after work business suits, the local Midtown tatted bar crowd, families with children, hipsters, couples on dates...all happily eating under the same roof. It looks like in the short time that it's been open, Red Rabbit has perhaps stumbled on the perfect recipe for creating a friendly neighborhood gathering place. I hope they hold fast to that particular recipe as they continue to evolve their menu and restaurant.
Ally


A bit off topic but we watched the semi-finale episode of Top Chef Wednesday night...I'm trying hard to get excited about someone winning but I haven't really been feeling any of the contestants this season. Although Paul's overgrown shaggy comb over hairdo in the latter part of the season is driving Mr.S. ABSOLUTELY bonkers which has been cracking me up. I mean, it bothers him so much that he's actually been yelling at the TV about it. It's hilarious (usually I'm the one who yells at the TV during Top Chef). How about you guys---do you have a fav contestant this season?

Well these peanut butter bars probably won't land you on Top Chef but they are really good. I recently made them to take over to my friend Melanie's for our Audrey Hepburn movie watching day. I made way too many and took a few of the leftovers over to Mr.S.'s for the kidlets to share, the treats didn't last very long. Ever watch Battle Royale? Yeah, it looked like a scene from that.


Peanut Butter Bars (recipe from Ezra Pound Cake)

Ingredients

Bottom Layer:

1 egg

1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Peanut Butter Filling:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup confectioner's sugar

1 tablespoon milk

pinch of salt


Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsalted butter


Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. For the Bottom Layer: Combine all of the ingredients for the bottom layer in a large bowl until a soft dough forms. Press dough evenly in the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour.

3. For the Peanut Butter Filling: Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Alternate adding the confectioner’s sugar and milk. Spread mixture evenly over cooled bottom layer.

4. For the Chocolate Glaze: Measure the chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butter into a microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. If the chocolate chips haven’t completely melted, microwave and stir in 10 second increments, just until the glaze is smooth. (Don’t burn the chocolate!) Spread the glaze over the peanut butter filling.

5. Refrigerate the bars for 30 minutes, or until chocolate glaze is set.
Ally


Can you believe we're in the middle of February, Sacramento? The daffodils in my courtyard are blooming like crazy and it was so sunny outside that I opened all the windows in the cottage yesterday. In fact the weather was so springlike that Mr.S. and I decided to do a little outdoor grilling last night. He grilled up some fresh black cod from Oto's and I whipped up some tangy roasted Meyer lemon salsa to put on top of it. Have you ever had black cod before? If not, give it a try. We love it, it's really mild not fishy tasting at all and the texture is velvety. We paired it with sauteed mushrooms (hen-of-the-woods, oyster and shimeji in olive oil and garlic) and some roasted romanesco (we can't get enough of this stuff). An easy and healthy dinner.

Roasted Lemon Salsa ("Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food From a Master Teacher," by John Ash)

Ingredients

2 large lemons (about 1/2 pound), scrubbed*

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or scallion (white part only)

1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste


Instructions

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

- Cut the lemons in half and pick out the seeds. Lightly coat the lemons with a tablespoon of the oil. Place the lemons cut side down in a baking dish and roast uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove, cool and cut the lemons into 1/4-inch dice.

- In a bowl, combine the lemons, the remaining olive oil, shallots, sugar and salt and stir gently. Cover and set aside for at least 3 hours so the flavors can marry and mellow. Initially, the lemons may seem a little harsh or bitter but as they sit the flavor changes markedly. Taste it a couple of times throughout the rest period and you'll see. Adjust the seasonings with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

*NOTE: Commercially grown citrus is coated with a wax that gives it a nice shine and also helps extend its shelf life -- fruits don't dry out as quickly when waxed. Although it's "food-grade" wax, none of us needs to consume it. The best way to remove it is to use a mild detergent solution and a clean pot-scrubber sponge. Rinse thoroughly, of course.
Ally

One of the other amazing dishes I had the pleasure of learning how to make this past weekend during our Mediterranean cooking extravaganza was a dish called sigara borek. Sigara borek can loosely be described as a Turkish spring roll...it's a thin, cylindrical, deep fried pastry stuffed with cheese, herbs, spices and/or vegetables. We made two kinds: one with spinach and cheese and another with herbs, green onion and cheese. Both were equally delicious.

Sigara borek

Ingredients

Yufka, thawed (cut in triangles)

1 lb. Turkish feta, crumbled

1/4 lb. Kasseri cheese, grated

3 large eggs

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch green onion, finely sliced

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

Canola or sunflower oil


Instructions

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the cheeses, green onion and herbs together (use a fork or your fingers so it mashes together thoroughly).

2. Prepare your oil to fry (approx 350-375 degrees).

3. Take a triangle of yufka, place the wider end closer to you. Place a tablespoon of mixture at the base in a line. Fold the ends from the outside to the inside then roll up. Smear the top inch with water, press and seal. (Elif demonstrates below.)

4 Fry in batches in about 2 inches of oil for 2-4 minutes or a nice golden brown. Drain on a plate layered with paper towels. Serve immediately while still hot.






Ally


Is everyone still recovering from the 3-day weekend? I know I am. I think I had too much raki. Oy! Yesterday, my friend Elif invited me and my friend Cate over for a full day of Mediterranean cooking. We made dolma (which she showed me how to make last year and are probably still the best dolma I've ever had), tarama, sigara borek and baklava. It was a lot of cooking but it was also a lot of fun. While cooking throughout the day, we of course took several breaks to fuel up on strong Turkish coffee in cute tiny cups (Elif even read our fortunes for us) and knock back a whole bottle of Turkish raki. We were feeling pretty jolly by the time we were done chopping, stirring, rolling and baking...and hungry! Dinnertime felt like a celebration with numerous candles, wonderful wine, Turkish music and various plates of delicious edibles. The baklava recipe we made is posted below and I'll post the sigara borek recipe this week. I'll admit I've always been kind of take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to baklava. There's just too much honey drenching it, but Turkish baklava doesn't use honey and it includes a wee bit of citrus, I really enjoyed it. Give it a go- invite some friends over and have a group cooking event, there's nothing better than laughing and feasting with friends!


Baklava

Ingredients

2 packages of yufka (Turkish pastry sheets)  (you will need 10 full sheet "rounds")*

1/2 lb. unsalted, shelled walnuts- lightly toasted

1/4 lb. unsalted, shelled pistachios-lightly toasted

2 cups granulated sugar

1 large lemon

1 tablespoon rosewater

1 tablespoon orange blossom water

2-3 sticks of unsalted butter, melted

* You can find yufka at most Mediterranean markets.


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Place walnuts and pistachios in food processor and pulse. You want them finely chopped, but not ground.

3. In a saucepan on med-high, mix: 2 cups of sugar, 2.5 cups of water, the juice of 1 large lemon, 1 T of rosewater and 1 T of orange blossom water. Stir frequently.




4. Place a sheet of yufka on your aluminum pan, use your fingers and sprinkle it heavily with melted butter. You want to make sure this sheet covers the entire bottom of the pan.

5. For the next 4 sheets, you can "rumple" them up a bit. Sprinkle these heavily with melted butter as well. You want the sheets to be very buttery.


6. Place the chopped nuts on top of the 5 buttered sheets.


7. Layer the next 4 sheets in the rumpled fashion like before. On the fifth and last sheet, make sure it covers the entire pan (like above).

8. Trim off any edges of dough that hang over the edge of the pan.

9. Place the baklava in the oven and bake for 15-20 or until golden brown.

10. Back to your saucepan- when the syrup takes on a slight yellow tinge and the consistency of simple syrup, it's done. (It'll thicken a bit and won't run off the spoon.) Remove from heat.


11. Pour the warm syrup over the baklava. Then cut the hot bakalava into even pieces. The syrup will soak into the pastry. Set it aside and let it cool, uncovered.

Tip: The longer it has time to soak, the better it'll be.

Ally


5045 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95820. (916) 452-0126.

Sometimes I wonder what the heck is going through my brain when I go chasing after good grub, like the other day when I got a hankering for a juicy torta. I had heard about a place called El Abuelo from a friend quite awhile back that was supposedly located out on Franklin and I figured I'd ventured out there. Well, the "what the heck was I thinking" part came when I pulled up into this teeny-tiny parking lot that only had one parking spot open and it was next to a cluster of hobos. Yep, that's right a cluster of hobos...drinking 40's, yelling stuff I couldn't quite make out at me (although I think it was complimentary) and one was playing a harmonica-- I kid you not. Since I was by myself, I scooted quickly into the small building sporting bright banana yellow colored paint, a weathered shake roof and a thickly barred security door. Inside, I was greeted with Halloween orange walls, 2 TV's showcasing the afternoon's futbol games, and several families sitting in booths happily munching on a late afternoon lunch. I headed toward the back counter where I was greeted by a friendly young man who handed me a menu. Since the menu was entirely in spanish (it did have photos), I asked a few questions and eventually settled on the Cubana, with everything on it. This puppy came with pretty much everything and the ding-dang kitchen sink- beef, smoked ham, mozzarella cheese, sliced hot dogs, American cheese, egg, ham, tomatoes, avocado, jalapenos and onions...all sandwiched between a warm, soft telera. Did I forget to mention that this thing was also as big as my head? I took it home and made it through half of it, gave up and ended up wrapped up the other half to eat later for dinner. The torta was fabulous (although I might skip the hot dogs on it next time- they just didn't do it for me). The only thing missing from my Torta-Fest was a nice cold horchata...next time I'll have to remember to order one.

Crazy, drunk, musical hobos or no hobos, I plan on going back to my new torta heaven. It does a terrific job of quelling my grease fix. Next time though I'll be prepared, I'll make sure to be extra hungry when I go in there- maybe I can skip a meal, or two, or three in preparation....
Ally
Photo: Source

February 18th, 4pm, $10: Live Music & Pre-Carnaval Feijoada Dinner at the Brazilian Center, (916) 387-7344.

February 19th, 7pm, Free : Beer historian & author of Sacramento's Breweries, Ed Carroll will be speaking at Time Tested Books, (916) 447-5696.

February 19th, 5:30pm, $25: Soup Line fundraiser @ Mulvaney's B&L, (916) 441-6022.

February 20-26: Eat to Feed the Hungry

February 24-March 4: Third Annual Sacramento Beer Week

March 3, 9am-1pm: Pig Day at the Davis Farmers Market

March 3, 12pm: Sacramento Beer & Chili Festival @ Southside Park.

*Dates, times & locations for events subject to change so please check with appropriate websites before attending.
Ally

3110 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95817.

When I heard another new eatery was going in at the corner of Alhambra and Broadway to replace Broadway Wings and Things recently I didn't pay much mind. After all, places have come and gone as far back as I can remember on that odd little island at the entry of Oak Park; but when I heard that the owners were going to be offering up authentic New Orleans fare, that's when they had my attention. I love shrimp po boys and beignets. There's nothing better than biting into the crackling crust of a soft-fluffy French roll and your tongue hitting the inner layer of remoulade and fresh Gulf shrimp with crisp cornmeal breading. Damn! If I'm feeling sassy, I might squirt some Crystal hot sauce on it too. Oh and don't forget to chase it all down with an ice cold Dixie beer. *Sigh, nostalgia* Anyhow, my hopes soared and I made plans to check the joint out ASAP.

So last week, the super awesome Emily from Community Tap and Table joined me over at Original PoBoys for a bite. Parking was a bit of an issue for me as the restaurant is in a bit of an awkward location- there isn't much nearby street parking, there's extremely limited parking in their lot and it's not the safest neighborhood for a woman to be walking around by herself at night. I did notice that once I got near the restaurant, the area surrounding the restaurant was well lit. Inside, although the basic architecture was still reminiscent of when the place was a KFC back in the day, the owner had done a nice job of renovating and cleaning it up. I found the staff to be polite and service to be quick. I decided to order a 8" shrimp po boy (the smallest size) and a soda (I had also inquired about the beignets but was advised that they were only served before 1030am). Wow, an 8 inch sandwich sounds small until they bring that sandwich to your table, holy moly! That was one giant sandwich. Unfortunately, that's about where my rave ends. I had visions of past phenomenal po boys dancing in my head (and on my taste buds) and after my first bite of this one, they were dashed. The bread was bland, the shrimp were soggy and tasteless...the po boy was completely lackluster. I ended up pulling the bread off and just eating the shrimp. My po boy was a clunker. When I looked across the table, I noticed Emily doing the same as well. What a bummer.

Considering that Original PoBoys is still in their first month of operation, I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they're still trying to find their footing. Hopefully over time they'll be able to iron out the kinks and get their po boys up to speed and then they can,"Laissez les bon temps rouler!"
Ally

7600 Greenhaven Drive, Sacramento, CA 95831. (916) 399-9309.
http://www.ravenouscafe.com/

If you follow my blog, you know that Mr.S. and I walked out prior to ordering our meal at Chez Daniel because of some pretty horrid service issues Saturday night...but our night didn't end there. It was 7pm, we were dressed up, now stuck without reservations on Valentine's Day weekend and I was getting pretty hangry (a cross between angry and hungry...you know the feeling). While he was driving, I kicked off my heels and starting racking my brain for restaurants to call...we tried Waterboy- booked, Mulvaney's-booked and then I tried to think outside of the Grid--that's when I thought of Ravenous Cafe. I hadn't been out there in a few years (I ate at Ravenous last back when it was owned by Mark Helms, it's since been sold to Wade Sawaya) but had been curious to check it out again and hey, tonight would be as good of a night as any, right? I dialed and was greeted on the other end by a cheerful voice and was told that they could certainly accommodate us. We headed out to the Pocket area with our stomachs growling.

We walked in and the vibe of the restaurant was so different then what we had just experienced. Customers were seated, eating and smiling. We were immediately welcomed and directed to our table, a nice two top by the window. Within seconds menus and waters were delivered and in mere minutes I had a glass of wine in my hand. Quickly, I could feel our Valentine's evening turning around and some of the night's tension starting to wash away. Justin, our waiter, who turned out to also be the fellow who I spoke to on the phone was terrific...he was friendly, courteous and efficient. We were well taken care of from start to finish.

Mr.S. was ravenous so we started off with two simple appetizers- the Brussels sprouts with thick-cut bacon and also the mushrooms sauteed in garlic, wine and olive oil. Both were good sized portions. I favored the Brussels sprouts which were nicely cooked all the way through (a lot of places miss the mark on that), while Mr. S. was quite enamored with the mixed mushrooms. For dinner, Mr. S. opted for the Coq Au Vin Blanc...it must have truly been a winner chicken dinner because he ate all of it and didn't even offer to share a bite! I decided to go all out and order the braised lamb shank in a cocoa lamb jus. Remember the fussy aunt in the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," that said, "What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Oh, that's okay. I make lamb?" Well, I bet if the lamb tasted as good as this lamb shank did then all vegetarians would eat lamb...good lordy, this lamb was good. The meat was tender and the sauce was absolutely heavenly. The dish was supposed to come with some roasted baby carrots and some garlic-leek mashed potatoes but unfortunately they were out of the mashed potatoes and had subbed in roasted mini-potatoes. I'll be honest, I was a bit devastated...I LOVE garlic-leek mashed potatoes and I was looking forward to sopping up some of that delectable jus with it. Our waiter, Justin, seeing my pitiful look apologized and offered to give us a dessert on the house. I'm not much of a sweets girl, so I let Mr. S. choose and he picked a chocolate mousse adorned with fresh raspberries and blueberries. Sweet Baby Jesus, that mousse was amazing! I took one small scoop thinking, "Eh, I'll have one eensy taste,"...next thing I knew, Mr.S. and I were having spoon wars over the last bite. He actually made a comment about wanting to pick up the parfait glass and lick it clean---that folks, tells you how tasty it was. Lucky for me, he's a classy guy and restrained himself from such actions.

So our initial plans to eat at Chez Daniel may have turned out be the suck but Cupid must have liked us a little because we landed at Ravenous where we ended up having an absolutely wonderful evening. Thanks Ravenous for saving our Valentine's Day dinner, we owe you one and we'll definitely be back...and this time you better have those mashed potatoes!  ;)
Ally


49 Natoma Street, Folsom, CA 95630. (916) 353-1938

If you ever want to waste a gallon of gas, a half an hour of your time and REALLY piss yourself off then by all means book a reservation at Chez Daniel.

This past Saturday night, Mr.S. and I had plans on going out and enjoying a romantic (early) Valentine's Day dinner. We wanted to try somewhere new and even though Chez Daniel was across town and was a bit of a drive for us, we decided to book reservations there. Unlike BAR and Kira O'Donnell,  we didn't seem to have any issues with trying to get reservations- we called, someone answered and we were on the books. The problems actually arose once we got there.

Now, I'm pretty unfamiliar with my way around the city of Folsom so I was lucky that Mr.S. is great with maps. We zig-zagged down a few streets after we exited 50 and Chez Daniel turned out to be in the heart of the older Folsom district in a dimly lit strip mall, right next to a massage parlor and a Golden 1 ATM. We showed up on time and entered the small restaurant which was nicely decorated with white linens and whimsically lit small Eiffel towers. The woman running the hostess stand didn't offer a greeting as we stood there so I advised her we had a reservation; she seemed extremely put out in response and then advised me that people were still eating at the table she had reserved for us and we could look at a menu while we waited. There was no "waiting area" per se except a small bare area by the door so we stood squished next to another couple, also looking at a menu. As we looked at the night's menu, I noticed the restaurant housed about nine tables, two of which were empty- a four-top and a two-top. While we were waiting, the hostess brusquely asked the other couple if they wanted the two-top which was near the entrance door, they politely refused and said they would wait. At this point, the restaurant's only waiter came out of the back, he took one look at both of us couples huddled uncomfortably in the entryway and hissed at the hostess to seat both parties immediately. So she seated the other couple at the four-top and then told us we had to sit at the two-top by the door (this is after having us wait for fifteen minutes by the door for the table that was occupied). Once I was seated, I had my napkin in my hand and was unfolding it, she grabbed it out of my hand and in a extremely rude tone advised me, "Let me do that." Mr.S. was watching me at this point because according to him (as he told me later) I was mashing my lips together, which is something I do usually when I'm furious. So we sat there and looked at our menus for a half a second; after all, we had ample time to study them by the door. Five minutes passed...ten minutes passed...fifteen minutes passed since we sat down...still no one came by our table to greet us, bring us water, bread, take our order or anything. I'm starving and it's like we're the invisible couple. I look over, they're ignoring the other newly sat couple as well. The waiter's ambling around pouring wine and chatting with one of the other tables and the hostess is at the stand next to our table shuffling papers about. Finally it's been over fifteen minutes and I can feel myself ready to pop with anger like a champagne bottle, I give Mr.S. a look (a look that rarely flashes across my face) and tell him I want to leave. I feel like Chez Daniel has ruined my romantic Valentine's Day dinner and if I stay there one more millisecond, they'll ruin my entire evening. We decide to leave; luckily, we were able to secure reservations at another restaurant (which I'll write about soon) where the service was exemplary, the food was delicious and they seemed happy to have our business.

I've always been a huge supporter of Chef Pont for years despite his quirks when he ran La Bonne Soupe, but this visit at Chez Daniel left a rancid taste in my mouth and I won't be trekking out to Folsom to try his new place out again. Obviously, his front of the house staff has never heard of the old adage, "Politeness goes far, yet costs nothing."
Ally

I came across an article about the Sumo Citrus in the LA Times last year and I've been slightly obsessed with the fruit since. Now it's no secret that I'm a bit of a Satsuma junkie so when I heard that the Sumo Citrus was even sweeter, I was intrigued. Luckily, an article in The Kitchn mentioned that the Northern California Whole Foods Markets would be carrying the fruit so I contacted the store nearest to me (WF at Arden & Eastern) and was advised by their friendly representative that they should be getting some in around February. Well, (sound the trumpets) they finally came in!

A little back history...the Sumo Citrus isn't actually anything new. It was developed way back in the 70's in Japan, where it went under the name Dekopon (sounds like a creature that should be battling it out in a Godzilla movie or maybe some sort of new birth control injection, no?). However, it has just recently started being grown in California's San Joaquin Valley and marketed under the name, Sumo Citrus. The Sumo Citrus is quite large, with a bumpy loose rind that peels easily and it's adorned with a "top knot." It's seedless, juicy and the plump pulp is similar to that of the navel orange. The taste, however, is incredibly sweet and what sets it apart- sweeter than my beloved Satsumas. Their season/availability is relatively short, so if you're interested in trying them I wouldn't wait long!
Ally


2155 Town Center Place, Suite E110, West Sacramento, CA 95691. (916) 372-2240.

Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my favorite people on Earth- Gretchen, the Wonder Woman behind those great posts we see on Sac Mod. We decided to venture out West...to West Sacramento and The Eatery for our nosh and conversation. I ended up getting there a tad early. The restaurant which was located on the far side of the Nugget stripmall had not opened quite yet but the friendly staff was still willing to seat it's early bird customers, which I thought was a nice move. I opted to take a load off on one of the chairs in the entryway, wait for G and scope out the joint a bit since I had a few minutes. Now I know you're thinking stripmall...and are probably picturing stark walls, fast food wall menus and perhaps some cheesy artificial plants. Well, The Eatery's decor is anything but that. It's tastefully decorated and exudes a charming ambiance - much like you'd find in any upscale cafe you'd find in East Sacramento (designer lighting, wood flooring, and floral pieces on the tables).

The lunch menu was pretty light, consisting mostly of sandwiches and salads. Gretchen opted to go with a mushroom and white cheddar risotto, which she allowed me to taste when it arrived. It was a good sized portion, cooked perfectly and delicious! I decided to go with the much touted about Eatery Burger, which is cooked to order. The burger was seasoned well and accompanied by fresh butter lettuce, sliced tomatoes, red onions and zingy zucchini pickles. I thought the burger tasted pretty good but wasn't crazy about the bun which was cold and a bit doughy tasting...after a few bites, I ended up discarding the bun and eating the burger solo. The homemade fries were great, however, hot and crisp- just the way I like them. For dessert, I had a glass of moscato (hey, it was past noon!) and Miss G went with the S'More which was a work of art- a dense chocolate cake accompanied by a toasted marshmallow cloud and some caramel loop-di-loops. I caved and snuck a bite...the cake was so decadent and scrumptious! Wowzers, a definite winner!



The service at The Eatery seems to see-saw back and forth during our visit. Our server was nice but a bit unpolished. At the beginning of our meal, he came over to tell us about the special, which he described as, "a shrimp wrap with- mayo, shrimp and other stuff."  Yes, "other stuff." Then I listened as he told the next table the same thing. While some may be intrigued by, "other stuff," it tends to not make me want to jump on ordering it. Other small slips occurred during the meal as well, such as- I was brought the wrong wine and we were never offered a dessert menu (we inquired about the desserts after the bill had been left on our table.) But on the other hand, there were some pluses- I felt like our waiter checked back on us frequently despite the restaurant being busy, we were never rushed to vacate our table after we finished, and when the wine error was pointed out, we were advised to enjoy the port on the house (as it paired well with our dessert) and he'd be right out with my moscato. Anyhow, good service overall, just needs some fine tuning.

So, this "lady of leisure" had a nice time at The Eatery with Gretchen. If I was in the area already and wanted something more substantial than a panini at Nugget then I would probably stop in but I don't see this girl driving from the Grid to specifically eat there. It didn't wow me that much. I do hope it does well though as it would be nice to see more upscale restaurants opening up in West Sac...enough with the chain restaurants and fast food shops in the 95691.


* As a side note, I just wanted to mention this cool Dwell contest/project that Gretchen was telling me about during lunch, The contest is in regards to trying to save the Sacramento Zoo entrance as a MCM landmark. The entrance has three hyperbolic paraboloids which are rare, did you know that? I didn't! Fascinating! (Anyhow, the contest is only going on for one more week and could use your help. It'll just take a second, so vote now and vote often! You don't even have to register- just click! - Dwell Contest: Sacramento Zoo). Thank you. :)
Ally
Photo: Source

The 23rd Annual Sweet Potato Festival Sat., Feb 11@ Samuel C. Pannell Community Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vendors, Community Talent, Sweet Potato Pies by the Sacramento Job Corps for sale, Gunther's Sweet Potato Ice Cream Sweet Potato Pie Contest and Guest MC's. Free and open to the public. 916-491-6850, www.svsncns.org, ncnwsvs@hotmail.com.



Ally



It's been a hectic week, I've been staying the last few nights at Mr.S.'s so I was looking forward to a nice, quiet night in at my cottage. I decided to stream a movie tonight (Romantics Anonymous, a cute French flick- perfect for Valentine's week) and bake a batch of these savory sun-dried tomato and basil cottage cheese muffins. These muffins are vegetarian and use cottage cheese and ground almonds as their base (yummy!). As they cooked they filled the cottage with such delicious aromas that when my neighbor stopped by to deliver some mail that was mistakenly put in her mailbox, she just had to ask what was baking. Her eyes lit up like a Lite-Brite when I offered to send her home with a few fresh out of the oven. ;)  I'll definitely have to make these again (they'd be perfect for a brunch) only next time I'll have to remember to use silicone non-stick baking cups...the muffins were a bit difficult to get out of the paper cups- but delicious nontheless!

Savory Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Cottage Cheese Muffins (adapted from Vegetarian Supercook by Rose Elliot)

Ingredients

1 cup plain cottage cheese

3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1/4 cup AP flour (soy flour or white whole wheat flour can be substituted)

1 cup almonds, very finely ground (flour-like consistency)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), finely chopped

1/4 cup basil, finely chopped

1/4 cup water

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt


Instructions

-Preheat oven to 400F degrees. *Line a muffin pan with silcone non-stick baking cups.

-Put the cottage cheese into a bowl with all but 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, water, and eggs, and season with salt, then mix all together.

-Spoon the mixture into the muffing cups 3/4 full, scatter with the remaining Parmesan, and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until set, risen, and golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Ally


There was such a smokin' good deal on fresh chard this weekend at the farmers' market that I went a bit overboard and bought a ton of the leafy greens. Lucky for me, I never get tired of eating chard. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is in a heavenly red wine vinegar cream sauce. Cream...I know, I know- it's not exactly the most low-cal route to go, but to quote our boy James Beard, "A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch."  So live a little. ;)

Fresh Chard in Red Wine Vinegar Cream Sauce

Ingredients

1.5 bunches fresh chard

1/3 cup heavy cream

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon best quality red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

kosher salt & freshly ground pepper


Instructions

- Wash chard. Dry leaves. Remove stems and slice leaves into ribbons.

- In a saute pan on medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.

- When oil begins to shimmer, add minced garlic.

- Cook until garlic is fragrant, reduce heat to medium and add chard. Stir occassionally until leaves soften, 2-3 minutes.

- In a bowl, fold 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar into 1/3 cup heavy cream. Whisk.

- Pour cream/red wine vinegar mixture into saute pan with chard. Stir until heated through. (The chard will absorb a lot of the sauce.)

- Add salt and pepper to taste.

- Serve warm.
Ally
(Doesn't it look like it's waving hello?)

Sunday morning, while we were meandering around the W Street farmers' market, Mr. S. and I came upon some Romanesco. I was ten shades of excited (I love the stuff); whereas, he raised a skeptical eyebrow at my crazy exuberance over the alien-looking vegetable. Besides being tasty, Romanesco to me are the coolest looking vegetables. The electric lime-green fractals make them look like something straight out of a video game...like some sort of chartreuse nubbin-covered cauliflower asteroid.  I bought one from the vendor, figuring the kidlets would get a kick out of it and Mr.S. could sample one. 

When it was time to cook the sucker up, I decided to go simple in the preparation-- small florets, lightly roasted with just a few basic spices. Mr.S., Kidlet #1 and I ended up eating the entire head as a snack. It was tender, delicate tasting (it tastes like a cross between broccoli & cauliflower) and absolutely delicious!


Roasted Romanesco

Ingredients

1 head of Romanesco, smaller florets removed from core

1/4 cup olive oil

2 pinches of red chili flakes

a few grinds of fresh ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt

1/2 of a fresh lemon

Parmesan cheese (optional)


Instructions

- Heat oven to 400 F.

- Place florets in a bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Toss well, using your hand, so that all the florets are coated evenly.

- Spread florets evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.

- Roast for 20-30 minutes or until tender. (They'll get a tiny bit charred...the brown caramelized bits are the best part.)

- Remove from oven.

- Give the lemon a quick squeeze over the florets.

- (Optional) Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top

- Serve immediately, while still warm.
Ally

Top of the mornin' to you! Hope you had a great weekend and got to indulge in lots of tasty Superbowl vittles and libations. I know, I myself, ate an ample amount of chips and guac as well as those yummy Lit'l Smokies concoctions (you know the ones smothered in BBQ-sauce?)...yes, I know that they're horrendous for you, but Jeebus, they taste so damn good! Anyhow, unlike me, Mr.S. has been taking a healthy approach to eating as of late. He's temporarily decided to lower his carb intake and try to increase his consumption of leafy greens and legumes...including lentils. Now me, I hate lentils...ugh, make that abhor lentils--so he's been on his own on this one; however, boiled brown lentils after awhile can get kind of blah so I took some pity on him and told him I'd try and find him some sort of jazzy lentil preparation...and find one, I did. Now what product can you think of that can instantaneously turn a boring dish into a winning dish?


That's right...bacon. I found a great recipe for French lentils with bacon online and decided to make a batch for Mr.S.. As luck would have it, I was able to track down a box of French green lentils at Corti Brothers and pick up some fresh veggies at the farmers' market this weekend. The recipe was pretty easy...the only thing that took awhile was all the veggie prep; but if you're like me, you probably find it relaxing to chop veggies while listening to some tunes in the kitchen so it doesn't seem like "work." End result was that Mr.S. loved the lentil salad. He couldn't believe the taste difference between this dish and the boring ol' lentils he had been eating. I got several compliments from him...which of course, I accepted graciously---as I popped a few (dozen) chipfuls of guac into my gullet.


French Lentils with Bacon (adapted from a recipe by Answers En Croute)
Ingredients

1/2 lb. thick cut bacon,  cooked then diced

1 small red onion (or 1/2 large), diced

2 large carrots, diced small

5 stalks rainbow chard, stems diced and leaves reserved

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups French green lentils (preferably Puy), rinsed

3 tablespoons of dijon mustard

zest and juice of one small lemon

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat

1/4 cup minced parsley


Instructions

- Set a pot of water large enough to hold the lentils on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add the lentils to the boiling water and cook until tender, 20-30 minutes and drain.

- In a large pan, cook the bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Set aside onto paper towels to drain, and pour all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan (reserve the extra bacon fat for later). Saute the onion, carrot, and chard stems over medium heat until the carrots are just tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Roughly chop the chard leaves and add them to the mixture, along with the garlic, and saute for an additional 2 minutes until wilted. Remove the mixture from the heat.

- While the lentils are warm, assemble the salad. Place the lentils in a large bowl and add in the crisp diced bacon and the onion, carrot, and chard mixture. Toss to combine, and then add the mustard, lemon juice and zest, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and reserved bacon fat.

- Stir in the minced parsley, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm.