Sunday, December 12, 2010

Healdsburg weekend makes for a very happy birthday

I celebrated my 30th birthday in style with a weekend in Healdsburg with my special man friend, who, as a side note, gave me a super cool new camera (perhaps so I’m not hounding him for blog photos all the time?) — such a thoughtful gift. It was one big birthday blowout for our taste buds, with stops at wineries including (these were just the favorites) Bella Vineyards, Seghesio Family Vineyards and Ridge Vineyards.

Downtown Healdsburg is a charming spot overflowing with tasting rooms— we particularly enjoyed Hawley Winery and Edmeades — and fantastic restaurants.

My birthday dinner at Barndiva, just a block away from the main square, was delicious from start to finish. For cocktails, I tried Johan’s Mama (aquavit infused with toasted cacao nibs and ginger, house-made blackberry liqueur, nigori sake, barrel-aged bitters, sage and lemon) while Chris opted for Poodle Springs (jalapeno-vanilla infused pisco, luxardo maraschino, German Riesling, crème de peche, toasted bitters, lemon juice).

It was tough to make main-course decisions, but Chris ended up with a rack of pork with stone-ground polenta, braised chard, pancetta and gravenstein apple chutney. Me? I devoured my Sonoma leg of lamb with heirloom bean gratin, haricot verts, mint pesto and tomato marmalade.

After dinner we enjoyed a picturesque night cap at Spoonbar.

The open faced turkey meatball sandwich at Bolovo, inside Copperfield’s Bookstore, was a knock out for lunch.

Willi’s Seafood is a must-try for such delights as the tuna tartare with jalapenos, cashews, ginger and coconut milk

and the curried crab roll. Great spot to grab a Sunday afternoon seafood snack.

Another excellent dinner choice was Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar, where I ordered strip steak with pinto beans and a chile relleno.

The weekend was a wonderful way to kick off what I’m sure will be my best decade yet!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In a casserole kind of mood?

I felt the need to fire up my Crock-Pot a while back and went hunting for recipes. The good folks at Campbell’s captured my attention with a dish that called for slow-cooked chicken breasts, shredded and baked with tortillas and tons of cheese.

In this case, I don’t think the slow cooking was necessary. You can probably get the same results, but faster, by either baking the chicken breasts or using leftovers. I tweaked the recipe by scaling back the cheese, using enchilada sauce (they called for taco seasoning) and adding corn and olives. Try this dish the next time you’re craving a gooey casserole.

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake
Adapted from Campbell’s
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 ½ cups red enchilada sauce
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cans reduced fat condensed cream of chicken soup
1 ½ cups corn kernels (I used frozen corn)
1 can large olives, drained and loosely chopped
Fajita-size flour tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

Place the chicken into a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker. Top with ½ cup enchilada sauce and 3 ½ cups of the broth. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove and shred the chicken — a fork and knife will work for this.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine remaining broth and enchilada sauce with condensed soup, corn and olives in saucepan. Cook at medium heat until everything is warm and stir in chicken.
Layer half of the chicken mixture with tortillas and cheese in a 9-by-13 glass dish. Repeat the layer and bake for 30 minutes, until everything is hot and bubbly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Giving French lentils a go

My favorite bargain grocery store has an amazing bulk-food selection, and I love buying all kinds of herbs, rice, beans and other goodies for next to nothing. Imagine my delight when, during a recent visit, I stumbled upon French lentils for little over a dollar a pound. I’ve encountered a couple recipes involving French lentils in the past but never seemed to find them in the store. These guys seem smaller than regular lentils, but also seemed to hold their shape better when cooked.

French Lentils with Smoky Sausage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce smoked sausage, diced
1 ¼ cups French lentils
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

Heat oil in soup pot over moderately high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for a couple minutes before adding carrots and celery and sautéing for about five more minutes. Stir in sausage, tomatoes, lentils, Creole seasoning and broth and bring to a boil. Drop down to medium heat and let pot simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes, and serve in bowls.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A hearty soup fit for fall

Fall in Sacramento is a bit screwy. Although October showed signs of change in the form of a couple gray, rainy days, we’ve had highs in the 70-on-up range this week. But hey, the leaves are changing colors, the sycamore’s starting to make a mess of the front yard, and there’s still a nip in the air when you walk out to your car in the morning. Squirrel away this recipe for a rainy day, or just bust it out the next time you’re craving some hearty soup and a big slice of French bread.

Sausage, potato and kale soup
1 pound sweet turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced small
10 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch kale, washed, leaves sliced thin
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan (optional)

Brown sausage in a soup pot, remove and set aside. Add garlic and onions to pot, stirring occasionally over medium heat, for a couple minutes so the pot is nice and fragrant. Add oregano and stir for another minute or so before adding broth and potatoes. Bring pot to a boil and then drop heat to a medium flame, cooking potatoes until they’re soft. Use potato masher if you want smaller potato chunks. Add kale to pot -- it should only take two or three minutes to cook. Add sausage to pot, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle soup with Parmesan, if desired, and serve with French bread.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A little home-grown produce goes a long way

Store-bought dough. Jarred marinara sauce. Leftover turkey pepperoni and shredded mozzarella hogging precious space in the fridge. Brown mushrooms in a Styrofoam tray.

None of these ingredients sound too special on their own. Together, they make a pretty easy, delicious weeknight pizza.

What really made dinner shine tonight? The bell peppers I brought in from the back yard, sliced thin and put on top of the pizza. Harvesting my little home-grown crops, whether it’s a smaller-than-grocery-store-standards pepper or a few sprigs of aromatic thyme or rosemary, never ceases to make me smile.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't be a chicken -- making stock's easy

One chicken can go a long way.

I picked up a five-pound bird for little more than $4 at the supermarket and roasted it the other day. I’m pretty new to roasting chickens, but I try to swing by the store when they’ve got whole birds on sale. Practice makes perfect, right?

Normally I’ll pick over the chicken after dinner, saving all the meat and throwing the etcetera into the trash can. This time, I saved all the odds and ends for my first attempt at making chicken stock.

The following is what I came up with after reading about a dozen different recipes. Barbara Kafka’s “Soup: A Way of Life” and Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef” were good resources.

I also factored in a couple tips from friends. Kimmy told me to reserve the post-roasting pan juices, which I did, pouring into a ceramic dish and refrigerating overnight. It was really easy, using a soup spoon, to scrape the solid layer of fat off the top. Everything else went into the pot when I was ready to start the stock. I also employed Colleen’s suggestion, encasing my herbs in four stalks of celery, kept together with kitchen string to create a sort of veggie baton that helped keep the herbs intact instead of floating around, creating less little floaters to strain out.

Chicken Stock
18 cups water
Carcass from a five-pound chicken (I picked as much meat off of the bones as I could)
2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, washed and edges chopped
3 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme
1 large white onion, cut into eighths
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste

Throw everything but salt into a stock pot and bring to a boil, making sure you’ve got enough water to keep the carcass and vegetables submerged. Use spoon to skim fat and other residue off the top; discard. Lower heat and simmer gently, covered, for at least four hours. Remove from heat. Pour stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or pot. Discard the solids. Salt stock to taste. Chill overnight. Remove fat from surface the next day.

I wanted to make something homey with my first batch of stock, to keep the homemade juju going in the kitchen. Chicken noodle soup sounded good, but no egg noodles in the pantry. So, I fudged my from-scratch aspirations slightly and make chicken and dumplings … with Bisquick.

Chicken and dumplings
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped carrots
3 cups chopped celery
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
10 cups chicken stock
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups Bisquick
2/3 cups milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Heat oil in a large pot over medium flame. Add garlic, stirring for about a minute before adding onion. Cook for a couple minutes, until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add carrots, celery and Herbes de Provence, cooking for a minute or two before adding stock and chicken to pot. Bring to a boil. Combine Bisquick, milk and thyme in a bowl. Use spoon to create walnut-sized dough balls. Drop dough into the boiling pot, cooking uncovered for 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Potatoes, broccoli stars of this creamy, steamy concoction

I scored 10 pounds of russet potatoes for a whopping 97 cents at the supermarket, have a fridge full of veggies and had a craving for some creamy-yet-somewhat-healthy soup that wasn’t going to take all day to make. Here’s what I came up with.

Creamy Broccoli Potato Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon marjoram
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced small
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups broccoli florets, fine chop
Four slices turkey bacon, chopped and fried

Equipment: blender

Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium flame. Add onions and cook for a couple minutes, until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add celery, garlic powder, thyme and marjoram and sauté for another minute or so. Add broth and potatoes to pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for roughly 30 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked. Add broccoli to pot and cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove soup from heat. Pour soup into pitcher, cover with lid and blend momentarily, just long enough to result in a smooth, even consistency with minimal chunks. Pour soup into bowls, garnish with a pinch of bacon crumbles, and serve.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An ode to delicious Oregon

Here are some tasting notes from our Oregon road trip.

Ashland was our first north-of-the-border destination, and once we checked into hotel, Chris and I walked into town for some late lunch at Standing Stone Brewery. I had the India Pale Ale and Chris opted for the Double IPA, and both brews packed a hoppy punch, and we split a blackened salmon sandwich (topped with coleslaw on sourdough baguette). At $14, this sandy was a little spendy, but it was quite tasty after the drive. After a bit of walking and a couple beers on the back patio at Caldera Tap House, we checked out Martino’s for dinner upon the recommendation of friend Colleen, a Southern Oregon University alumna. We split the Rigatoni al Pezzetto, a bowl packed with pasta, Italian sausage, onions, olives, red peppers and feta, and used bread to scoop up the pomodoro sauce. Yum.

The next morning we both went for a run — I spotted 12 deer in the span of nine miles! — packed up the car and then hit Morning Glory for breakfast. Morning Glory is a charming spot located across the street from the college. Hot coffee, huge mimosas and warm blueberry muffins got us off to a good start. The menu was jammed with tempting options, but I finally settled on rock shrimp cakes topped with poached eggs and perfectly sweet/smoky/tangy tomato chutney. I couldn’t stop eating, it was so good. Chris went for an omelet that featured artichokes and a little too much crab, served with white-cheddar polenta. Favorite spot in Ashland for sure.

Our first night of camping was at Crater Lake, and we woke up pre-dawn to the sound of raindrops coming down on our tent. We hastily packed up camp in the chilly rain and had breakfast at the Crater Lake Lodge before hitting the road in search of drier, warmer conditions (no joke, we got some snow on our drive out of the park). It felt good to hover over mugs of hot coffee in the lodge. Breakfast wasn’t mind-blowing — my bison hash was a little oily, but the meat had a good flavor — but anything was better than sitting in the rain at that point, and we both enjoyed the lodge’s historical digs.

Our original plan was to camp at Silver Falls State Park that night, but due to continued gray skies, we opted instead for a cheap, dry night at the La Quinta in Salem. On our way we made a couple stops to check out the gorgeous Salt Creek Falls (see soggy photo, below) and the Lowell Covered Bridge. We grabbed lunch in Eugene at McMenamins High Street Brewery, where a quarter-pound happy hour cheeseburger goes for $4 and you can get some crunchy Cajun tots for $2 and McMenamins pints for $3.25.

We found some great spots in Portland that still haunt me today. Dinner at Laurelhurst Market was truly a to-die-for affair. Bon Appetit recently named Laurelhurst one of the top 10 best new restaurants for 2010, and we could see and taste why.

Chris had the Grilled Niman Prime Ribeye topped with blue cheese butter and fried sweet onion rings, while I enjoyed the Thundering Hooves Grass Fed Flat Iron and sautéed chard.

Making the meal even more rich was a perfectly browned, gooey side of macaroni and cheese topped with a Tim’s Potato Chips crust.

The day we left Portland was a double-breakfast morning.

First stop was Voodoo Doughnut, where, even on a Thursday morning, the line for doughnuts with names like “Old Dirty Bastard” and “Maple Blazer Blunt” stretched out the door.

Breakfast part deux went down at Pine State Biscuits, otherwise known (by me at least) as “heaven.” Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love for biscuits and gravy, and this place takes it to a whole new level.

Imagine a sandwich that starts with a big ol’ fluffy biscuit, stacked with fried chicken, country gravy, cheddar cheese and bacon. That’s The Reggie, and it’s what Chris and I each ordered (mine without bacon).

Absolutely divine on its own, but The Reggie was even better paired with an icy jar of sweet tea and enjoyed while listening to some good tunes — our soundtrack that morning included some New Order (who doesn’t love some “Bizarre Love Triangle” with their breakfast?) and Dee Lite’s “World Clique.”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cooking up something speedy and satisfying while camping

Chris and I bid summer adieu with an Oregon road trip.

We explored our friendly state to the north for more than a week, and spent about half the nights in a tent. Our camping trips together had been on a smaller scale (overnighters in Tahoe) prior to this trip and required minimal meal planning. Once we booked all our lodging, I got to thinking about some outdoor-friendly menus.

When the Nicolaisen family piled into the minivan for camping trips, my mom kept the five of us fed using a Coleman two-burner stove to make huge batches of spaghetti or other one-pot wonders. We also kept milk, meat, cheese and the like in a large hard-sided cooler, something Chris and I didn’t really want to deal with. We just wanted tasty dinners that would be quick and simple to prepare on the two-burner stove on loan from our friend Bill.

For our first night of camping, at Crater Lake, I made chicken burritos. We’d stayed at a hotel in Ashland the night before and hit the grocery store on our way out of town, picking up some pre-cooked chicken breast strips and a green bell pepper. It didn’t take long to get some sizzle from the sliced pepper and chicken strips, flavored with taco seasoning. The meat and peppers, wrapped up in large flour tortillas with some refried black beans and some hot sauce, added some heat to an otherwise chilly night — lows in the 30s, and even some snow on our way out of the park the next morning!

I also picked up some huge Asiago rolls in Ashland, which added some class to cans of clam chowder. Brands like Progresso and Campbell’s even come with pull-top lids, which is quite convenient if you don’t want to pack a can opener with your camping gear.

Pre-cooked chicken sausages (thanks Portland Whole Foods!), sliced and heated up in a frying pan, tasted great when tossed in with some pre-cooked Trader Joe’s multigrain pilaf, a sassy little combo of grains, soybeans, tomato and onion. This dinner took 10 minutes tops to prep.

Instant oatmeal worked well for breakfast. I’d boil a pot of water, using some for the oatmeal, and would also make what I call poor man’s mochas—combine one packet hot cocoa, one packet Starbucks VIA instant coffee and hot water in a mug and stir. The rest of the hot water was dish water.

The morning we headed home, Chris and I resurrected a tradition that dates back many years. We had spent a weekend skiing, and opted to sleep in the back of Chris’ 4Runner in the Kirkwood parking lot, ensuring fresh tracks the next day. Our breakfast of champions that morning was Chef Boyardee Ravioli, heated in the can atop a backpacking stove and paired with frosty Newcastles. This time around I emptied the cans into a pot, and nixed the brews, but, silly and/or appalling as it sounds, the breakfast was delicious. I guess almost everything tastes better when you’re camping!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Here's how my garden grows

Our backyard garden is small — we’ve got two tomato plants, two pepper plants, some raging rosemary and a few herbs in a clay pot — but I still get a kick out of harvesting my crop one sprig of oregano or handful of yellow pear tomatoes at a time.

Two pepper plants went in this spring. I’ve only got one bell pepper right now, but it’s getting bigger by the day.

Last summer I had an overabundance of Roma tomatoes. This year, it’s the little yellow pear tomatoes that are coming in strong.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A cheeseburger like no other

I ran 14 grueling miles this morning. What kind of healthy reward did I give my body for all that hard work? A Squeeze with Cheese.

The Squeeze Inn is a Sacramento must-try as far as burger joints are concerned. This is not your everyday burger. The signature Squeezeburger ($4.95) features a 1/3 pound beef patty and all the goodies. You must add cheese ($1.10) for the full experience. It’s basically a big fat burger that comes with a cheese skirt, as they call it.

According to the Squeeze’s website, they cook the patty on a flap top grill, cover it with a handful of grated cheddar and the top half of the bun before throwing a handful of ice chips on the grill and covering the whole thing with a hood.

The burger comes with so much cheese it’s hard to handle, and I easily went through a dozen napkins before finishing up. The skirt is perfectly crispy and gooey at the same time, and is such a treat that you really shouldn’t eat it more than once every decade or so.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting a taste of the Bay Area at Outside Lands

Chris and I went to the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco last weekend. We worked up quite an appetite rocking out to groups including Chromeo, Phoenix and Wolfmother.

Luckily, plenty of San Francisco eateries set up shop in Golden Gate Park during the festival. We had our pick from nearly three dozen vendors dishing up everything from organic ice cream and s’mores to crispy mac & cheese and tater tots served with lavender honey mustard.

A couple top tastes:

I tried my first Korean taco, a nice little snack from Namu featuring beef short rib, rice, kimchee remoulade and teriyaki all made portable thanks to toasted seaweed.

Little Skillet’s chicken and waffles—I wish I had some to dig into right now.

Within Outside Lands sat the alluring Wine Lands, a wine tent featuring more than 20 wineries. This place offered a nice diversion from the $8 cups of Newcastle. One-ounce wine tastes went for $2 or $3, or you could purchase a glass for anywhere from $8 to $10.

Tacolicious had a stand at the festival, but we opted to stop in at their Chestnut Street restaurant for a post-concert taco Sunday night. Chris opted for spicy shrimp (their Taco of the Week). I wish I’d ordered not just one but two of the braised beef short rib tacos — great, juicy flavor.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm so not missing the produce department these days

I’ve scored a cornucopia’s worth of free produce in the past couple weeks thanks to generous neighbors and coworkers. Nothing says summer like fresh-from-the-garden fruits and vegetables!

First up was the watermelon our photo editor brought back from an assignment. There were a couple melons in the newsroom, just screaming to be eaten, so I carted one of those bad boys home, made a mess of my kitchen while hacking it up, and enjoyed those sweet, pink, juicy chunks with breakfast for about a week.

Carmen, our neighbor across the street, has quite the flourishing tomato plant in her yard. I sliced up a recent delivery and roasted them with breadcrumbs (Tried and liked a Meatless Mondays recipe from the ladies at Big Girls, Small Kitchen).

Yellow squash brought home from the office and sliced into thin chunks tasted zingy after a quick toss in the frying pan with a teaspoon of sambal oelek and a tablespoon each of soy sauce and rice vinegar.

And for dessert, we have peaches from neighbor Patrick. I opted to slice up five or six of these fuzzy delights and baked them into a crumble, using a Jamie Oliver recipe for inspiration.

Peach Crumble
5-6 peaches, washed and sliced
¾ cup flour
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup butter
1/3 cup plus two tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Layer peach slices in a glass baking dish and sprinkle with two tablespoons brown sugar. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, using hands to make a crumbly mix. Spread mixture over prepared fruit. Bake at 400 degrees for roughly 30 minutes, until top is golden.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seeking Sacramento’s best burger

Sometimes you just need a no-frills, good old-fashioned burger.

Somewhere between fast food and white-tablecloth dining rests The Village Drive In, located at 60th Street and 14th Avenue in Sacramento’s Tahoe Park neighborhood. The special man friend and I cruised on over the other afternoon for lunch and walked away satisfied.

A bacon cheeseburger combo (substituting a 16-ounce chocolate shake for soda) and a deluxe burger with cheese was enough to feed the both of us for little more than $10.

I wouldn’t say this was a life-changing burger experience, but it’s nice that this place is so close to home, and I’m sure we’ll re-visit from time to time.

Who do you think makes the best burger in Sacramento? Or anywhere, for that matter?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuna Melt with Tomatoes

Combine my hankering for something cheesy and a produce drawer full of the neighbor’s homegrown tomatoes and you’ve got a tasty take on the tuna melt, one of my all-time favorite sandwiches.

The pepper jack and chipotle mayonnaise add some sass to this sandwich.

Tuna Melt with Tomatoes
5 ounce can chunk light tuna in water, drained
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce)
Two slices whole grain bread
Two slices pepper jack cheese
One medium tomato, sliced thin

Place pepper jack on each slice of bread. Cook in frying pan at medium heat until cheese melts and bread is toasty. Mix tuna, mayonnaise and hot sauce together with a fork and place on one slice of bread, followed with tomato slices. Place second slice of bread, cheese down, on top of tomatoes and allow sandwich to cook for another minute or two more. Slice in half and serve.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Birthday bonanza in the back yard

I think the at-home birthday dinner, done right, can blow any restaurant experience out of the water. That said, here’s what Chris and I feasted upon the other night on the back patio to celebrate his big day.

First course
Prosciutto e Melone with goat cheese.

The steak
I picked up prime fillet and dry aged rib eye from Roseville Meat Company. Just a little bit of pre-grill salt and olive oil made both of these cuts shine.

The sides
Sautéed mushrooms and oven-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes (tossed with olive oil, salt and rosemary from the back yard).

The wine
Luna Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner, and 1997 Van Der Heyden Napa Valley Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon after dinner.

Double-chocolate and strawberry cupcakes from Icing on the Cupcake in Rocklin. Find the delicious photo here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Enjoying a State Fair classic

Some people are big on trying the newest deep-fried gross-out foods at the California State Fair.

Me? It’s the one time a year I’ll eat a corn dog. Even better with some ice-cold lemonade.

My nephew Waylon, age 2, also gives the corn dog his stamp of approval.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A trio of must-try locations

Craving classy pub grub?
Give Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery a try the next time you’re in San Francisco. I’m always excited by any place that makes their own sausage, and the night we stopped in there were a handful of different links on the menu (I enjoyed the chicken sausage, served with crispy potatoes), in addition to all kinds of other tempting entrée options. The seven-barrel brewery is located below the pub—their beers have names like Cole Porter and Wit Rabbit.

Headed to California’s Central Coast?
We were in Cambria recently for a friend’s wedding, and decided to delay the 300-mile drive back home by hitting up some Paso Robles wineries. Favorites included Zenaida Cellars, which makes a lot of killer reds, and Niner Wine Estates, which happened to celebrate their grand opening the Sunday we stopped in by pairing wines with some tasty snacks prepared by Trumpet Vine Catering (that’s a crab and mango spring roll paired with Niner’s 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, below). Learn more about Paso Robles wineries here.

Looking for a great brunch in Sacramento?
The next time you roll out of bed with a roaring stomach, head over to Orphan, located on 3440 C St. just a few blocks from McKinley Park. Their food is fresh, simple and fantastic, and their coffee is also amazing. On a recent visit I inhaled corn tamales covered in tomatillo sauce served with eggs (over medium, please), black beans, cilantro, tomatoes and cheese.

Chris thoroughly enjoyed his coconut French toast, which was one of the specials that day. While I’ve only tried Orphan once, their sister spot in Chico, Sin of Cortez, was one of my college dining splurges.