Monday, January 28, 2008

The Hidden Kitchen

The Hidden Kitchen
P.O. Hidden Kitchen Way
Sacramento, CA

What do three Yelpers, the Board President of Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, a Mr. Fiddyment ( and his wife and a couple who order their eggs from a secret vendor because they are just that good have in common?

We had dinner at the Hidden Kitchen a couple of weekends ago and I dare say a good time was had by all. More on that later.

Since this was a BYOB, I had to choose a lighter white wine to go with the menu items, I decided to buy a bottle of 2006 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This was a total shot in the dark because I love big and bold red wines this bottle was quite the opposite, but I got lucky because it was pretty good. It can be described as, "This sauvignon is infused with sweet lime flavors, both of the zest and the pulp. It's clean and mouthwatering, with plenty of lift to match grilled mahi-mahi or other game fish." Link

As you can see from the picture below the theme of the night was Meyer Lemon. The Meyer lemon is native to China and thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange or sweet orange. This skin is a little thinner than regular lemon as well as a little sweeter with about the same amount of acidity.

The theme for the night

Tartare Duet House Cured Salmon with Honey Dijon Drizzle Ahi Tuna Tartare
This was the starter. Dennis (our chef and one of the hosts) cures his own salmon and made wasabi tobiko. Both the salmon and tuna were fresh and had good flavor, not overpowered by the other ingredients in the tartare. The tobiko provided just a touch of salt as well as just a tiny bit of heat from the wasabi. I have never seen that combination before; it is one that works well together and I would like to see it used more in restaurants.

Duck Confit and Baby Arugula in Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
The duck confit was done right, it was not too heavy. The arugula provides nice background of pepperiness and the orange segments provided the acid to cut some of the fat of the duck confit making the entire dish balanced.

Soupe de Moules au Safran – Billi Bi Soup
This is what I love about simple cooking; get some mussels, some white wine, a little saffron, butter, a little cream and this is what you get; a soup with layers of flavor. It is hard to describe, but I will give it a try. As soon as you taste a spoonful, you get a little bit of cream and butter, with a hint of aromatics, then the mussels, then back to the cream with some mussels. You get different combinations of flavor at any one time.

Pan Seared Bluenose Bass Roasted Lemon/Rosemary reduction Cauliflower Puree, Artichoke Hearts, Morel mushrooms.
The bass was cooked nicely and seasoned appropriately. The roasted lemon and rosemary reduction complemented the fish and did not overpower the bass. The cauliflower puree was light and the texture was very similar to mashed potatoes. The morel mushrooms provided a contrast to everything else on the plate as well as a bit of “meatiness”.

Meyer Lemon Souffle with Strawberry Jus
This was a nice way to end the meal. The soufflé was light and airy, but you could taste the Meyer lemon and well as get a bit of acid in the background. The strawberry was a nice addition to the soufflé, adding some color and sweetness.
Cantuccini: Classic Tuscan Biscotti
These classic Tuscan biscotti are very popular all over Italy.

What made the experience great was that there were people who shared the same passion and interest for good food and wine. What made it even better, some of the conversation turned to health care, the profession I am in, and I got to here about several patient experiences and I was even able to answer a few questions. In turn, I learned more about the Sacramento food co-op, how people make wine through their wine clubs, some history about Fiddyment farms and these eggs that are from a secret vendor.

Mary and Dennis were gracious hosts and it was nice to have them sit down and chat with at the end of the meal.

All in all, good food, great company and highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Panaderia Don Pancho

Panaderia Don Pancho
(916) 363-9080

After reading some reviews for Da Nang, we decided to check it out. As we pulled into a parking lot, I noticed a sign that said,"menudo pupusas." I thought cool, I just found out about pupusas a few months ago when I was in LA and I will have to comeback and check this place out. For one reason or another we always seem to try to eat out for lunch on Sunday, but many places are closed. Da Nang was no exception. So instead of pho we got a few pupusas.

A pupusa (from Pipil pupusawa) is a thick, hand-made corn tortilla that is stuffed with one or more of the following: cheese (queso) (usually a soft Salvadoran cheese called Quesillo), fried pork rind (chicharrón), chicken (pollo), refried beans (frijoles refritos), or queso con loroco (loroco is a vine flower bud from Central America).

The place is a little family run business that reminded me of some of the ones in my old neighborhood. As you walk in there are a bunch of pinatas hanging from the ceiling. It make you want to grab the nearest stick and start flailing away. We ordered a few pupusas revueltas that contained some shredded pork and beans and pupusas con queso. The flavors were kind of muted. You really could not taste the beans or the pork, just a combination of the two and the masa. It was not either good or bad, just different. It's like meat and potatoes in a handy carry size food.

We also ordered a steak burrito to see how it was. It was different in a good way. Some of the herbs and spices that were used were different. The major thing I noticed was use of more fresh cilantro that brought and freshness and lightness to the heaviness of the steak. I am not sure what other differences there were, but I am going to have to go back and get another one and do some more taste testing.

After I was done ordering, I guess I was so excited about getting pupusas that I did not even notice the shelves of pastries behind the glass. They had many of the traditional Mexican pastries as well as some other ones. We bought about five or six of them. None of them were very good; they were all kind of dried out so I am not sure if they were day old or what.

Pupusas Revueltas: A mixture of chicharrones, cheese and refried beans.

Salsa roja: A simple tomato sauce

Cinnamon and sugar dusted concha

Apple turnover

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Canton: Part II Geoduck adventures

Q: How do you pronounce 'geoduck'?
A: OK, so maybe people haven't been asking this, but they're almost certainly getting it all wrong, so you have to read this one anyway, and read it first.

The proper way to pronounce the word is "gooey-duck", not "gee-oh-duck". Unlike learning the proper way to pronounce words such as "Cthulhu" and "YHWH", this admittedly does not entail risk to your mortal soul. Nevertheless, if you one day happen to fall into a conversation with a group of geoduck aficionados, you don't want to instantly reveal yourself to be a clueless newbie outsider, now do you?

Q: Where did the species get that weird name from?
A: The name seems to have originated from an Native American word meaning 'to dig deep'. It worked its way into English via a pidgin trading language called 'Chinook', which was developed and used between the area's Native Americans and the arriving European settlers. Why these two groups felt the need to discuss clams, I do not know.

The world's first geoduck fishery was created in 1970, but demand for the semi-forgotten clam was low. Today, they sell in Asia for up to US$30/lb (US$65/kg). Geoduck, like abalone, is highly regarded in Chinese cuisine. Its large, meaty siphon is prized for its savory flavor and crunchy texture. It is extremely popular in Hong Kong, China and Japan, where it is considered a delicacy. Geoduck is mostly eaten cooked in a fondue-style Chinese hot pot or raw sashimi style, dipped in soy sauce and wasabi. On Japanese menus, geoduck is called mirugai or mirukuigai. It also has a texture similar to an Ark Shell (Akagai). (Although mirugai is sometimes translated to English as "Giant Clam", it is distinguished from "Himejako" sushi made from Tridacna gigas.)

Let's start with something a little more pedestrian. Here in a picture of New Canton's house fried rice. I liked it. The shrimp were not over cooked, there was not too much soy sauce and the asparagus added some crunch and a little sweetness to complement the saltiness of the soy sauce. The rice was fresh and it came hot and steamy to our table.

Next up we have stir fried chicken...

umm NOT! Looks like it right? This is one of our preparations of geoduck. I have seen this on TV many times and said, "What the hell, let's order it!" The stir frying mush have caramelized some of the geoduck because it brought out a lot of the sweetness. Surprisingly it was firm, but not chewy. My friend said, "It tastes like chicken!" and my response to that was "Shut up! With that response you have earned the privilege of paying the bill." Well it did taste a little like chicken. hmm...think about it:

  • Geoduck McNuggets

  • Geoduck fried steak

  • Geoduck kiev

  • Geoduck pot pie

The next thing we had was the geoduck sashimi. (I guess when you order geoduck, you get it prepared two ways). This was the first time that I had seen wasabi at a Chinese restaurant. The flavor was very much like the clam sashimi that I have had at Japanese restaurants, but much fresher. It had a firm almost crunchy texture. The flavor was slightly sweet, fresh and briny.



Overall, I was happy with the meal at New Canton.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Canton: Part I

New Canton Restaurant
2523 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818-2658
Phone: (916) 739-8888

We started off the meal with dim sum and ended with a few menu dishes. The first part of this post will discuss the dim sum portion.
The Cantonese phrase dim sum means literally "touch the heart" or "order to your heart's content". It may be derived from yat dim sum yi , meaning "a little token". ("A Touch of Heart" is perhaps the more poetic translation.) Though the English word "dim sum" refers to the Cantonese variety, the idea of a wide variety of small dishes for lunch also holds for other regions of China. - Wikipedia
The short ribs are one of the things we always get no matter where we go for dim sum. These were tender moist and tasty.

Fun guo are typically filled with chopped peanuts, garlic chives, ground pork, dried shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms. The filling is wrapped in a thick dumpling wrapper made from a mixture of flours or plant starches mixed together with boiling water.

The ones we had were very gummy and it's flavor was hard to figure out.

The next thing we tried was Shaomai (also spelled shui mai, shu mai, sui mai, sui maai, shui mei, siu mai, shao mai, siew mai or siomai). As prepared in Cantonese cuisine, shaomai is also referred to as "pork and mushroom dumpling." Its standard filling is a combination of ingredients, consisting primarily of seasoned ground pork, shrimp, and Chinese black mushroom in small bits. The outer layer is soft, made with wheat flour. The center is usually garnished with an orange dot, made of roe or diced carrot, although a green dot (made with a pea) may also be used.

As you can see New Canton's fit the description perfectly. Such an interesting combination, pork and shrimp. These were nice and warm when we receieved them. The texture was good, not too firm or too soft and had a nice flavor.
Xiǎolóngbāo (literally "little basket bun"; also known as soup dumpling[1] is a type of baozi (filled bun or bread-like item) from Eastern China, including Shanghai and Wuxi. These buns are traditionally steamed in bamboo baskets, hence the name. Locally in Shanghai and surrounds, they are more often known as xiaolong mantou (traditional Chinese: 小籠饅頭; simplified Chinese: 小笼馒头; pinyin: xiǎolóng mántóu). Mantou means both filled and unfilled buns in southern China, but only means unfilled buns in northern China. To avoid confusion, the name xiaolongbao is usually used in other areas.

Xiaolongbao are traditionally filled with soup and meat, but variations include seafood and vegetarian fillings, as well as other possibilities. The soup inside is created by placing some meat gelatin inside the dumpling before steaming. The steam heat melts the gelatin into soup. In modern times, refrigeration makes it easy to wrap up using chilled gelatine which otherwise might be liquid at room temperature during hot weather. - Wikipedia

One usually has to request these as they are not a standard dim sum item. This is the second time that I have had them. I first saw these on the Shanghai episode of No Reservations. They taste good, but have not been filled with soup like I saw on the the show. They were very moist and had nice flavor. Maybe I got the ones with holes in the bottom :(

Next post the geoduck...

New Canton on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Real Pie Co. is closing

This is so sad...

From: on January 04, 2008:

Family First, Says Baker

Sometimes, too much success can be, well, too much. That looks to be the case with downtown Sacramento's Real Pie Co. A hit since it opened last February, Real Pie Co. will sell its last "seasonally inspired pastry" on Saturday, Jan. 19, says proprietor Kira O'Donnell.
In what she acknowledges was an "agonizing decision," O'Donnell is closing the shop to devote more time and energy to her family, which includes two youngsters. The success of the shop, she indicates, was drawing too much of her attention to the potential detriment of her family's well being.

"It has been an amazing, exhilarating, fulfilling year, and I have never been happier in my professional life," says O'Donnell. "But my involvement in this project has taken a real toll on my family, and now I have to take responsibility for repairing the damage." Over the past year, the success of the shop allowed her to add seven employees, but the workload, which included finding locally produced fruits and other ingredients to feature in her pies, was too much.
On the up side, she plans to return to commercial pie baking in three years, when her children are older. "I'm keeping all my equipment. I will do it again," she vows. In the meantime, get your Shaker lemon, chocolate pudding and Cazuela pies now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sacramento Dine Downtown: January 12 to 18, 2008

Not all the restaurants have their menus up yet. Here is the originial web page that you can check for updates.

4th Street Grille (Coming soon)

Gaylord India download pdf here

58 Degrees & Holding Co. download pdf here

Mason's at the Park (Coming soon)

Brew it Up! download pdf here

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood (Coming soon)

California Fat's Steakhouse download pdf here

Melting Pot download pdf here

Chanterelle download pdf here

Morgan's at the Sheraton Grand download pdf here

Chops Steak, Seafood & Bar(Coming soon)

Spataro download pdf here

Dawson's at the Hyatt (Coming soon)

Restaurant 55º download pdf here

Ella Dining Room & Bar download pdf here

Rio City Cafe download pdf here

Esquire Grill dowload pdf here

Sakura Sushi & Teppan Grill download pdf here

Fat City Bar & Cafe download pdf here

Three Monkeys Restaurant download pdf here

Frank Fat's downtown pdf here

The Broiler Steakhouse (Coming soon)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008