Hank Shaw wins!

America’s best food blogger of 2013
Congratulations to Hank Shaw, winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award for Individual Food Blog.

This was Shaw’s third nomination for his blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook which chronicles his pursuit of honest food.

In addition to writing, Hank teaches food classes in the Sacramento area. His next appearance will be Friday May 10 at Whole Foods for Cajun 101.

Togo’s Pastrami Challenge: A cost-benefit analysis

Man, I miss John Candy.

For you Togo’s fans, I would like to present a brief cost-benefit analysis of the new Pastrami Challenge.

Togo’s sure knows how to celebrate pastrami. In fact, the west coast-based eatery recently celebrated National Hot Pastrami Day this past Saturday by kicking off a promotion that’s every pastrami-lover’s dream and every Vegan’s worst nightmare. It’s called The Pounder, and rightfully so, considering that this two-foot long behemoth of a sandwich is stacked to the brim with over a pound of hot pastrami.


  • The sandwich will run you roughly $23.


  • The Family size version comes in at 3,020 calories, 143 grams of fat, 9,020 grams of sodium, and 164 grams of protein. The challenge version must be at least three times this size. I couldn’t find the specs online.


  • Buy the sandwich at the regular price and then tell the crew member you are taking the challenge and fill out the paperwork!
  • Devour the Pastrami Pounder in 30 minutes to successfully complete the challenge (one person per sandwich)
  • When you’re done, alert the crew to claim your prize certificate for a free t-shirt (a hat at the Natomas location!)

Continue reading “Togo’s Pastrami Challenge: A cost-benefit analysis”

Steer clear of California Fresh — at least for now

I hope they don’t run out of Thai Soup…

I contemplated not posting this out of sheer embarrassment at actually having paid for the meal, but then I realized I would be doing my fellow Sacramentans a disservice. Fresh Choice was always a family favorite of ours, since our oldest child was a baby. We actually visited Fresh Choice the day after it closed its doors, and were really bummed for a few weeks. Our spirits were lifted this week when Cathie Anderson posted about the new restaurant California Fresh rising from the ashes of Fresh Choice. Tonight we decided to dine there on a whim. And, well, I’d write what happened next but then I found what Ali T. had to say on Yelp and I’ll just let the dude run with it because he said it all very well.

Did you ever have the chance to prepare your own salad in post-war Soviet Russia? Yeah, me neither, but the “new” California Fresh gives you the chance to feel like you did.

Read Ali T’s review before you visit California Fresh, and then don’t actually go there at least until Cathie says it’s safe to go back. Or who am I kidding, I won’t remember that I wrote this and I’ll be back in a few months to let you know if they have something besides green beans in the pasta section. THIS IS NOT A JOKE IT WAS LITERALLY JUST MAC N’ CHEESE AND GREEN BEANS OVER THERE. I’m hoping that they’ll get the cash flow going and be able to get back to where they were a few weeks ago.

Dine Downtown Or Else Downtown Will Move to Seattle

With the Kings debacle fresh in our collective consciousness, let’s focus on something this town does well, food. We’re the fark to form capital of the world, and no one’s going to take that from us. Tonight marks the start of the annual Dine Downtown Week (Jan 9-18) which is so big that it can’t be contained by a mere 7-day week but must expand over to a metric 10-day week. Each restaurant puts together a 3-course/$30 meal and waits for the throngs to come pouring in.

If you, in fact, dine Downtown all ten nights, I admire your eating enthusiasm. But, if you, like me, are holding yourself to a few nights only, these are the spots I wouldn’t miss:

Biba- sure, it feels like you’re eating in 1989 in there, but who cares? The cooking is always expert and the flavors rarely miss. You’ll get salad, pasta, and entrée for $30, way below the usual Biba mark-up.

The Porch– Try the soft shell crab & waffle. Why? Because when else are you gonna try it. Continue reading “Dine Downtown Or Else Downtown Will Move to Seattle”

Best Thing I Put in My Mouth This Week: Pumpkin Pie Edition

One of the reasons I like Thanksgiving so much — other than it’s the best family-gathering, food-binging, drink-sopping, politics-arguing, non-religious party you can have — is the focus on pies. Many holidays have their particularly associated desserts, but none is more aligned with the pie than Thanksgiving. My favorite is the pumpkin. For me, nothing captures the flavors of fall better than a pumpkin pie, and in the week following t-day, the best example I’ve been able to find is at Green Boheme on Del Paso Blvd.

Here’s the weird part, Green Boheme is a raw, vegan restaurant. Yeah. I know. Yet, their refrigerated pumpkin pie is so incredibly rich and spicy and caramelly and nutty and irresistable that I found myself pulling a When Harry Met Sally Meg Ryan routine while I greedily spooned the ridiculously dense goodness into my mouth. I didn’t care that it was raw; I didn’t care that it was vegan. Hell, I wouldn’t have cared if it had been made by a team Islamo/facist kiddie ticklers. The pie was extraordinary.

Also, if you haven’t dropped by Green Boheme for their regular meals, do it. Their food is always spot on and creative. I always expect to make compromises for flavor or texture or some such thing due to the limited range available in raw cooking, yet each time I find myself loving every bite without reservation. Take the time to check it out, it’s a winner.

P.S. For those that remember, last year I was accused of being an animal slaughtering carne asadist for calling Sugar Plum Cafe out on being awful . Not knowing the politics/border wars between vegans and raw dawgs (isn’t that what you call them), I’m sure this won’t assuage any tempers but just open old wounds, but hey, I tried.

Lad & Hooker, err Hook & Ladder

I’d like to get all snark-tastic with the new bar and eatery, Hook & Ladder, but the truth is, it’s pretty good. The beer selection is good, the wine list is good, service = good, food mostly good, interor quirky but good. I’m not roasting the place. It doesn’t deserve that, but it deserves a quick spell on defrost.

First, huzzah to the H&L crew for stocking Rainier beer. It’s a rare treat and worth the price of admission right there. Also, a pat on the back for hiring that Zooey Deschanel doppleganger bartender. I’m sure she’ll keep the age-inappropriate men and suburban hipsters coming through the doors for uncomfortable flirting sessions. Additionally, the wine on tap is a great choice — economical, ecological, ergonomic — and I heartily applaud it.

My problem is with the little stuff. I know this is a professional hazard of the food writing biz, the looking at everything a little too critically, from the napkin rings to the toothpicks (c’mon, who even uses napkin rings anymore?), but something should be said in this case.

Take, for example, the decor. It’s a strange mashup of dilapidated Coney Island chic and brothel moderne. If you don’t look at it too closely, it feels cool, it feels hip, it feels current. Start pulling away the edges and none of it makes sense. Like, why are the cocktail tables made from retro board games? In what possible design asthetic does that fit? How does that blend with the industrial theme? Why are the beer taps installed upsideown causing them to drip constantly? Why is the place called Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company?  Are they stamping out aluminum frames in the kitchen? Is the name of the place a tribute to firemen or the people that make fireman ladders? Or are they being cute for the sake of being cute? Continue reading “Lad & Hooker, err Hook & Ladder”

Tako’s: Diminishing Returns

When Tako’s first opened a few months ago, I thought the idea novel, not too novel, but just novel enough to be interesting, not Dostoyevsky but Grisham, if you get my drift. The whole “Korean taco” thing has been kicking around a while, most notably in the SoCal food truck scene, but it still has legs and the Sac market shows no signs of being inundated with bulgogi tostadas anytime soon.

So, I figured Tako’s, with its clever name and interestingly renovated old gas station lodgings, had something to say. Turns out, what it wanted to say was unfortunately covered up by sauce, noise, and sauce. Here’s a slowly declining series of visits to illustrate my point.

Visit 1: I strolled up on Tako’s on a beautiful summer day. The lunch rush had petered out, the air was redolent with chiles bloomed in oil, and the faint hint of techno pop wafted over the Bose system. The place felt retro-hip and appropriately kitschy. The menu was Chipotle-simple. Everything smelled great.

Continue reading “Tako’s: Diminishing Returns”

Apple Hill Unpeeled 2012

Another fall has arrived with its soon-to-be normal range of triple-digit temperatures, hearkening us back up to the ‘Hill, Apple Hill that is. Apple Hill is in the first fledgling stages of  harvest mode, popping the heat-soaked apples off the trees and pumping out cold, sweet cider instead of the warm, mulled variety. Nevertheless,  the crowds are bound to be overflowing this weekend and the apple themed desserts, pies, breads, jams, trinkets, colostomies, and hardware will overflow from the folksy establishments in the folksy land of folksy Apple Hill.

It occurs to me, as it does every year at this time, that some of you may never have been to Apple Hill. Hmmm. I see. Ok… Well then… What the f*$% are you waiting for!?! Someone to spoon feed you ‘Hill info like a mother shoveling thin apple puree in the drooling mouth of an overfed infant? If that’s what it will take, then I’m game.

Here we go: Who’s a big boy? Who? Who? Who wants some applesauce in his little pouty apple barn? Hmmmm? Nevermind, I can’t keep that up.

This year, I’ve added a few new stops on the Sac Rag Official recommended Apple Hill  stops. Take a peek, and feel free to add any recos you might have. Continue reading “Apple Hill Unpeeled 2012”

Doughbot Robbed… err Helped Out By Neighbor

Cookies are a gateway theft. Hide your doughnuts.

In a wonderfully light story from last week: on Thursday morning, the proprietor of local awesome doughnut bakery Doughbot came in during the pre-dawn hours to find his front door molested and his iPad and laptop missing. Sad, discouraged, but resolute, he began his typical morning dough-related work. He posted to Facebook about the theft and Doughbot fans and friends turned out in large numbers to show their support and suck down some bacon/maple masterpieces.

Here’s where the story turns heartwarming. It turns out that the owner of Doughbot’s nextdoor neighbor, Wireless World, was leaving his shop the previous night, noticed that Doughbot’s door was ajar, tried to lock it, and, finding he couldn’t, took Doughbot’s prized electronics for safekeeping so that ne’er-do-wells would not abscond with the objets d’tech during the night. He returned the items after the morning rush, much to the surprise of the ‘bots.

So, basically a win/win for everyone. Doughbot got a big bulge of business midweek (which will help them pay a locksmith to replace their malfunctioning locks), Wireless World will probably get free doughnuts for the foreseeable future, and everyone gets a nice warm fuzzy feeling in their stomachs to go along with their cream filled dough balls.