Friday, October 14, 2016

SEOULMATE | Long Beach and Fullerton, CA

It's not very often that we write about "chain" restaurants, simply because the quality and uniqueness of their offerings can be suspect from location to location. But when one stands out and exemplifies nothing but consistency, such is the case with SEOULMATE, we'd be remiss to let a shout-out go unsaid.

Founded in 2013, the idea for Seoulmate came from its owner, Brian K, who always wanted to bring a taste of authentic Korean culture to his home in Long Beach, CA. He kept his concept simple, fun, and loose. And what transpired is a menu that screams with bold flavors. Each dish is as appealing to the stomach as it is to the eye. As noted on their Yelp page, "(We are) dedicated to making and serving quality Korean cooking like your friend's mom used to make."         

Seoulmate has two locations in Southern California. One in Long Beach and the other in Fullerton's historic downtown district.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hash House a go go | San Diego, CA

It's not hard to understand why Hash House a go go has become quite the destination spot for diners. Every item on the menu boasts bold flavors drawn from farm fresh ingredients, the bigger than average portions never leaves one asking for more, and as creator and owner, Johnny Rivera, notes, "(Our goal is) to maintain a level of excitement & entertainment within the dining experience, while ensuring excellent service each and every day."
Entering its 15th anniversary this July 2015, Hash House a go go continues to expand its reach with no less than ten locations across the country. It's latest opening came this past February in Henderson, Nevada. But there's no place like its flag ship location in San Diego, California, where we were pleasantly treated to the "twisted" culinary stylings that many in the local community have come to know and enjoy since its beginnings. 
Hash House a go go
3628 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA  92103

Friday, May 22, 2015

Nate 'N Al's Matzo Ball Soup

Ranked as the best by LA Weekly, Nate ‘n Al’s Matzo Ball Soup has been the gold standard for decades. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Semi Sweet Bakery | Los Angeles, CA

Sure, we had to wait nearly an hour until the next batch of fifty was brought to the counter. And yes, as the clock ticked down to those last waning minutes, we all clamored for position in a line that stretched out the door and down to the immediate street. As troublesome as that may sound, it was well worth it ... Every single second spent, for every single bite it took to consume one. What am I talking about? Call it a Cronut or a Crullant. It really doesn't matter because, when all is said and done, it's still the same warm, flakey, and chewy goodness that filled me (and every discerning customer) with general euphoria while standing in the dining room of Semi Sweet Bakery.

Established in 2010, Semi Sweet Bakery is the brainchild of Sharlene Fong, a native New Yorker who transformed herself from a promising financial consultant to a well-respected and innovative pastry chef. Together with Dennis Hunter and James Gonzalez, she finds inspiration in a budding downtown LA food scene that has collided with the city's ever-changing and vibrant urban landscape. Maple Bacon Sticky Buns, 7-Up Poundcake, PB & J Pockets, Chocolate Butterscotch Potato Chips, and Homemade Pop Tarts populate her menu alongside savory salads and sandwiches such as the McFong All Day Breakfast Sandwich. And let's not forget to the bakery's original "talked about" dessert, the Ding-A-Lings. Sharlene's twist on a popular childhood treat, her Ding-A-Lings come in Red Velvet, PB Crunch, Hazelnut Crunch, or Traditional Cream-Filled.

But again, the real star of late is her rendition of the Cronut, the pastry that skyrocketed its creator Dominique Ansel and his Soho bakery into foodie folklore. While the concept is similar, Sharlene's version is not fried, but rather baked, which explains why they are not made in big batches and takes a while to go from kitchen to counter. Its other distinction is that hers comes candy-glazed and without a filling. Plain, simple, and light. This is a must have that should be on everyone's culinary bucket list!

Semi Sweet Bakery in located at 105 East 6th Street in  Los Angeles, CA. It is open on most days at 8:00a except on Mondays. Get there early!

Semi Sweet Bakery
105 E. 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA  90014
(213) 228-9975


Semi Sweet Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Coffee Table Bistro & Lounge | Eagle Rock, CA

Next time you find yourself stopping into a neighborhood eatery, take inventory of not just what's on your plate, but also what's around you on the walls, the floor, the windows, and even the tables and chairs. Sure, the real artistry is what's on the plate (and we've seen some pretty spectacular culinary presentations), but many proprietors have taken great pains to provide a welcoming atmosphere to enhance their patrons' dining experience. Take for example, The Coffee Table Bistro & Lounge in the town of Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, California. The murals and mosaics seen throughout its dining area is a testament of their support of local artists, writers, and musicians. They've been doing it since calling their nondescript 1930s building on the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Shearin Avenue home. And the relaxed, colorful atmosphere has made this a regular stop for the locals to hang out, be casual, and be creative ... I should know. While living in SoCal, some of my best writings happened right here!

But don't just come to The Coffee Table Bistro & Lounge for the scenery and a cup of coffee. After all, it's still an eatery. SO, DO COME HUNGRY!!! 

The menu is chock-full of simple and light dishes that run you through the day. Breakfast specialties include their Super Breakfast Burrito, the Yo-Yo Benny O Scramble, and the Eggs From Hell. Lunches cover everything from wraps and sandwiches to burgers and melts, and the dinner menu, while small compared to everything else, boasts a flavorful Chicken Gumbo, Seared Cajun Salmon, and Grilled Moroccan Chicken. And by the way, if enjoying the nightlife or happy hour is more your thing, be sure to wander over to the lounge where small plates and appetizers are served alongside a choice of over 100 bottled beers and 16 drafts on tap.

They are open everyday from 7:00a-10:00p. 
Coffee Table
1958 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA  90041

Coffee Table Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mercedes Grille | Marina del Rey, CA

It doesn't happen very often when four young kids ... that's right, 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 kids ... can come together in a restaurant and become instantly silent as the first plate of food comes to the table. Not only that, when all four of them can say after the meal is over that they really liked the food and can't wait to come back, you know there's something particularly special here. Credit the Truffle Parmesan Fries, the Tomatillo Pork Enchiladas, or the Bachelor Omelette, the folks at the Mercedes Grille had it going on the morning of our visit. Good food, a fun service staff, and a by-the-beach atmosphere certainly guarantees our return.
Mercedes Grille is owned by Mersedeh Ahrablou who, as the story goes, collected just enough cash after twelve years of waitressing around the seaside town to establish this quaint eatery. Cuban and Caribbean specialties are the featured staples on a menu that takes you through the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and well into the night. Each dish is light, healthy, prepared fresh, and is packed with island flavors that is not found so readily along this stretch of the SoCal coastline. When asked what's popular among the locals, our server was quick to say "everything." A better source of knowing what to order came from a very good friend's recommendation. She turned us on to the Mercedes Grille, after all, and there was no reason to doubt her. Jerk Chicken Enchiladas, Cuban Beef Hash, Chicken Empanizado, and those Truffle Parmesan Fries. Dee-Lish!!!

Located at 14 West Washington Boulevard in Marina Del Rey, Mercedes Grille is open daily from 7:30a to 11:00p, and as noted on their website, they promise to "treat you like family and hope to exceed your expectations."

Mercedes Grille
14 West Washington Blvd.
Marina del Rey, CA  90292
(310) 827-6209

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Rind | Sacramento, CA

If the lure of sampling artisinal cheeses is tickling your taste buds right about now, then start making plans to visit one of Sacramento's newest hot spots along the grid. Since opening in May 2013, The Rind has been offering guests the opportunity to discover a little of everything from buttery to blue, nutty to stinky, and the recently aged to something that's been curing for months. Couple such fair with a specialized glass of wine or a chilled pint of beer, and you'll be treated to a dining experience that's unlike any other ... Especially if you include the lively, informative conversation that owner Sara Arbabian encourages her staff to engage with her diners.

"Our mission has been to pair wines, beers, ports and bubblies with featured cheeses so you get to learn how to enjoy them together," Arbabian noted in a recent publishing of the Sacramento Press. "(With this in mind, the hope is) that we've created a really comfortable and fun environment where you can sit down at the bar and order a cheese plate and a glass of whatever you’re jonesing for.”

And don't think for one second that The Rind primarily caters to us grown-ups. There's plenty on the menu that appeals to folks of all ages with an assortment of classic and gourmet cheese sandwiches and a selection of creamy mac-n-cheese plates that are delectably sinful. In fact, high praise came from our young diners as they dived face-first in their individual helpings of the Prosciutto Baked Mac-n-Cheese. Me? I just sat back with my glass of Trefethen Chardonnay while noshing on one of the daily cheese boards assembled with loving care from behind the bar. Each savory (and sweet) offering on the menu is all-natural, seasonal, and embodies the "farm to fork" spirit that has gradually taken over the city's food scene these past few years.

The Rind, located at 1801 L Street in midtown Sacramento, opens its doors at 11:00a everyday except Mondays when they are closed. We recommend getting there fairly early since seating is limited and they don't take reservations.

The Rind
1801 L Street, Suite 40
Sacramento, CA 95811

Monday, June 17, 2013

Old Soul Company | Sacramento, CA


When given the opportunity to take a break from their busy schedules, it's not hard to imagine that the choice of activity for Tim Jordan and Jason Greist may be to sit down across from each other with a good cup of coffee. Why? Because it's been something the two friends have done since their first meeting in 2002. At that time, Jason had just opened the Naked Lounge Coffeehouse, and Tim ... Well, he was one of Jason's first customers. Years later, a business partnership blossomed and the Old Soul Company became the Sacramento scene's reward.

From fresh artisanal baked goods that feed the eye as much as one's appetite to gourmet soups, salads, and sandwiches, Tim and Jason are doing all the right things by championing all-natural ingredients from mostly local suppliers. As they've often described it, "Sac has soul," and there's no reason to go anywhere else to stock the kitchens. Except, of course, where they get the beans that go into their specialty coffees. But make no mistake, even if the beans are coming from great distances, they are still blended and roasted right in the heart of the city's downtown grid at their original midtown location, aptly named The Alley.

There are currently three other locations under the Old Soul Compnay banner that serve the city: Weatherstone, Forty Acres, and Terminal B at Sac's International Airport. Each embraces the urban culture of its surrounding community and celebrates the art and artistry of its patrons. So, pull up a chair and chill out for a spell. Who knows? Sitting next to you just may be Tim and Jason. They've been doing it, after all, since their first meeting over ten years ago.
Old Soul Locations:
3434 Broadway
Sacramento, CA  95817

812 21st Street
Sacramento, CA  95811

1716 L Street (Rear Alley)
Sacramento, CA  95811

6900 Airport Blvd
Sacramento, CA  95837

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Donut Man | Glendora, CA

For those who have followed our postings over the years, you have come to know that we make no secret of our love a good donut. We just can't get enough of these sweet (and sometimes) savory confections whether baked or fried. And during a recent trip through Southern California, we shared in the pure joy that many have come to find after biting into the tasty treats featured at The Donut Man.
Top:  Apple Donut 
Bottom: Strawberry Donut

Located along a stretch of California's Route 66 that is neither historic or terribly memorable, The Donut Man has carved itself quite a following since it first opened in 1972. Fan favorites include the buttermilk bars, french crullers, freakishly long twists (check out the popular Tiger Tail), and raised donuts topped with specialty frostings such as Creamy Peanut Butter or Sweet Cream Cheese. As good as these are, however, none are more notable than their clam-shelled strawberry or peach filled monstrosities that founders, Jim and Miyoko Nakano, have been quoted as saying "should be eaten like a hamburger."
And they produce all of this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Never skimping on quality, staying away from anything artificial, and using nothing but the freshest ingredients when creating the base for their donuts or mixing up a new batch of fruit fillings. Not convinced of this? Just take a couple of strides around the back of the storefront where boxes upon boxes of strawberries are stacked five feet high.


Simply put ... Among the BEST donuts we've ever had the pleasure of eating!

The Donut Man
915 E Rte 66
Glendora, CA 91740
(626) 335-9111

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Friday, March 29, 2013

Harris Ranch | Coalinga, CA

Whether you're looking for an overnight stay or a hearty bite to eat after driving along California's Interstate 5 near Coalinga, HarrisRanch Inn  & Restaurant is an oasis to relax, stretch the legs, and enjoy drinks and great food with family and/or friends.  
As one part of a successful and innovative business operation that has been representing the Central San Joaquin Valley for over 70 years, the restaurant's menu promises only the best in prime meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, most of which were raised or grown right in their "backyard." 
This has been a regular stop for us when traveling up-and-down the state, and we've created many memorable family moments while visiting. So, we hope you add it to your own itinerary to experience much of the same.

24505 W Dorris Ave
Coalinga, CA 93210

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mix 'n' Munch: Cereal & Grilled Cheese Cafe | South Pasadena, CA

Breakfast Sandwich
As a kid, my mother didn't have to do much to put a smile on my face, especially when it came to that after-school snack. My wants (and needs) were simple. Gimme a bowl of my favorite cereal or grill up an old fashioned cheese sandwich, and... I was a happy camper. Jump cut to the here and now. When we discovered Mix 'n' Munch in South Pasadena, my excitement runneth over, and I just had to drag the family in for a bite. 

Rock N Roll Circus Bowl
Opened in 2010, the cafe offers no less than 25 varieties of cereals from the healthy to sweet favorites. If you're here for the cheese sandwiches, choose from an assortment of breads and fillings to go along with a selection of cheeses like cheddar, swiss, gruyere, American, provolone, and many more. A fun place for the whole family, and one that I'll be returning to to feed that little kid inside me.

Mix N' Munch Challenge
Mix 'n' Munch
1005 Mission St
South Pasadena, CA  91030
(626) 441-8808

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Eatery | West Sacramento, CA

We first met owners, Jess Milbourn and Monda Korich, two years ago when they were platforming The Eatery at a neighborhood farmer's market. On that night, they were serving up popular quick eats such as their Braised Short Ribs and Strawberry Shortcake. We fell in love instantly and have since been staunch supporters of their bistro-style restaurant, which they opened in West Sacramento's Town Center Plaza in late-2010. Refined comfort foods dot their lunch and dinner menus, and a full array of California wines and select beers stock the bar. This is one exciting, new spot that shouldn't be missed (especially their Sunday brunches).

Disco Fries Ryan: French fries, bacon, melted cheddar cheese, chicken gravy, sunny-side up eggs.
Dare I say, their twisted version of the popular Canadian dish, Poutine.
A small plate specialty:
Crispy fried pork belly, apple pancakes, cranberry syrup

2155 Town Center Plaza
West Sacramento, CA  95691

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Monday, December 3, 2012

Food Finds: Rock N' Roll Circus Bowl

Rock N' Roll Circus Bowl | Mix N' Munch
Made with Cap'n Crunch, Froot Loops, Blueberries, Rainbow Sprinkles and Circus Animal Cookies.  Odd combination, we know...but we found ourselves eating the entire bowl and slurping the milk

Mix N' Munch
1005 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Snapshot - "The All Day Addiction"

"The All Day Addiction" - Jax on the Tracks
A local Truckee favorite, the All-Day Addiction is made up of two eggs, hash browns, Canadian bacon, avocado, mixed greens, balsamic drizzle and basil pesto.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Albemarle CiderWorks | North Garden, VA

(From contributing writer, Terry "Smitty" Ebright)

This past holiday season marked my first since moving to Virginia, and while paying a visit with relatives, my father and I decided to stop at Albemarle CiderWorks to purchase a bottle or two to share later. We didn't intend to stay for very long, but shortly after entering, we found ourselves transfixed by the the cidery and its history. We even picked up a couple of "did you know" facts while there. Such as, did you know that Thomas Jefferson had experimented with nearly twenty varieties of apples to produce his own brand of hard apple cider? And did you know that hard apple cider was the most popular beverage of the Colonial period through to the Civil War? Unfortunately, this rural drink fell out of favor for numerous reasons including the Industrial Revolution, the increased demand for beer, and eventually Prohibition.

Lucky for us, however, traditions are timeless and have a way of returning to the popular fold. In recent years, due to small operations and the movement to preserve American heirloom foods, this refreshing beverage has been making a comeback. “Cider is a delicious and valuable part of our culinary and cultural heritage,” said Charlotte Shelton in a recent issue of Organic Gardening (October/November 2011).

Located a few miles from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, Albemarle CiderWorks is operated by the Shelton family and produces their hard cider from heritage apples. And this is not the type of hard cider one finds in the beer section at the supermarket. The four ciders that were offered this past holiday season (Jupiter’s Legacy, Old Virginia Winesap, Ragged Mountain, and Royal Pippin) were handcrafted, light, and elegant. Almost like champagne or prosecco. While my father liked the Royal Pippin, my favorite of the four was Old Virginia Winesap, which featured apples that have been grown in Virginia since Jefferson's day.

Now, for those of you not familiar with hard ciders, they are usually lower in alcohol with artisanal ciders being crisp and refreshing. Commercial ciders tend to be more dry and sweet. They are best served chilled and goes well with a variety of foods from cheese to spicy Indian food to holiday dinners. A frequent patron to Albemarle CiderWorks told me their Winesap cider was absolutely "divine" when paired with the local smoked ham. I couldn't wait to try this!

So, the next time you plan to celebrate something special, whether it's for this year's holidays or another happy occasion, look to this versatile beverage. Priced at $16.00, each bottle is reasonably priced at Albemarle CiderWorks for all to enjoy. As an added feature, each label shares a bit of history about the apples used or tells something about Virginia folklore. Many thanks to the Sheldon family, who have been preserving this piece of American heritage since 2008.

Albemarle CiderWorks
2545 Rural Ridge Lane
North Garden, VA 22959

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fat Face | Sacramento, CA

Fat Face Cafe has finally come to Sacramento!!! Well, that not entirely true. The popular cafe has actually been serving customers since opening last July as part of Bows & Arrows, a vintage clothing store owned by Olivia Coelho and Trisha Rhomberg. Not only that, the cafe's main staples, deliciously decadent sandwiches and creatively unique popsicles, have been fan favorites at area farmers markets and food festivals ever since founder, Jaymes Luu, started selling her fresh fare after moving to Davis, California in 2002. So, I don't mean to deceive you, but I'm not about to apologize for or try to contain my excitement.

So, what makes Fat Face Cafe such a regular stop for us? It's got to be the food, right? Not necessarily so, given that the storefront and cafe offer so much more than what can tantalize the taste buds. Take, for example, when you first walk into the establishment. Displays showcasing refashioned clothing and jewelry are a feast for the eyes (if not damage to one's pocketbook). With many different textures, patterns, and styles available, there's no shortage of original gift ideas to treat yourself or another. Then, there's the art gallery where the works of local artists and photographers are at the center of attention. Each image jump starts the imagination and gets the conversation going whether it's with a friend, family member, or just the stranger standing next you.

As shopkeepers Coelho and Rhomberg noted in The Sacramento Press (June 2011), "Within this multi-use building, we wanted the spaces to feel distinctly their own, but also have an open flow so you could move throughout the space. There's so much to show to people. We love having a space to do that in – to show people what we're growing here."

Part of that growth is certainly what Luu is cooking in the kitchen, and that's where Fat Face Cafe comes into play. Simple sandwiches that's nothing but simple. There's the Beer Poached Fig which consists of black mission figs that were simmered in beer and spices and served with soft goat chevre cheese, arugula, and carmelized onions on a sweet deli roll; The Salmon Pate, a rich blend of smoked salmon, cream cheese, and lemon topped with sliced cucumbers, marinated beets and seasonal greens; And then there's my choice favorite, the Braised Pork which is slowly cooked in Mexican coca cola and paired with grated cotija cheese, tomato salsa, and romaine lettuce on what's called a torpedo roll.

Very creative offerings, for sure, from a person who didn't come from a culinary background or describes herself as not a particularly imaginative person. Rather, Luu credits her success to her parents, both of whom encouraged her to reach beyond classic southern fare and Vietnamese dishes while growing up in Louisiana and Florida. It was not in their nature to shy away from trying different foods and experience something new. Luu obviously took this to heart and pushed it even further.

Remember those popsicles I mentioned earlier? Luu built her entrepreneurial stylings around these unforgettable frozen treats. She adopted a perennial kid favorite and flipped it into something that us adults can savor like a finely aged glass of wine. Using only organic ingredients, her palette of flavors include Hibiscus Mint and Grape, Lime and Avocado, Peach Mango and Ginger, Thai Tea and Sweet Potato, Heirloom Melon and Chai, and Strawberry Coconut. And, as I understand it, there are others to come such as Mango with Sweet Rice and Bacon-n-Eggs, which consists of a vanilla custard with caramel-ginger bacon.

"I get my inspirations from eating." she once said in an article featured in Sacramento News & Review (August 2011). "I make flavors that I want to try. I just don't create flavors for the novelty of it. I want things to taste good."

She's convinced us, and it's become one of the reasons that we make frequent stops through the double glass doors located on the 1800 block of 19th Street. So, I say again, Fat Face Cafe has finally come to Sacramento!!!

Fat Face
1815 19th St
Sacramento, CA 95811

Fat Face Cafe (Bows & Arrows) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ghiradelli Outlet Store | Lathrop, CA

This past summer, when we learned that one of our favorite baseball players was the starting pitcher in a game featuring the Modesto Nuts and the San Jose Giants, we piled into the van and proceeded to make the 82 mile trip south on Highway 99. All along the way, we anticipated seeing a performance like no other. We envisioned catching foul balls and having them signed by the players who hit them. And we couldn't wait to indulge ourselves on hot dogs, cracker jack, and ice cream. Unfortunately, 24,000 other fans were feeling the same way.

There was not a parking space to be found. There was not a ticket to be sold. Disappointed? You bet. Sorry that we attempted the trip? Absolutely not! We were not yet ready to give up on a promising family night out. Not even close.

Banking on the hope of making lemonade from lemons, we turned our sights to chocolate. That's not to say that this new adventure made up for the sights and wonder that can only be found at the ballpark, but we weren't thinking about just any kind of chocolate. Rather, our senses were quickly "turned on" to the timeless pleasure that only Ghirardelli Chocolates can bring. Never heard of 'em? Please forgive me for being crass, but what rock have you been living under?

A San Francisco staple since 1852, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was founded by Italian-born Domingo Ghirardelli, who, after spending ten years in South America honing his dream of creating one-of-a-kind confections, immigrated to California during the Gold Rush. He struck it rich from the very start, and quickly turned his attention towards opening his first factory and storefront along the historic piers that overlooked the bay. Again, success was swift. Ghirardelli's use of high quality cocoa beans and extensive conching techniques earned him a reputation as America's premier chocolatier. There was no mistaking the unique taste of his candies, and the company flourished under his direction. Before long, the signature lights held high above the company's majestic brick facade "welcomed ships passing through the Golden Gate."

Today, Ghirardelli Square is home to numerous shops and eateries. It is also among the city's top tourist attractions with thousands having walked through the courtyard. Each stopping, of course, at the original Ghirardelli manufactory to make a purchase or to enjoy an unforgettable fountain treat. We've been there many times, but not on this day. If given the opportunity, however, we probably would have traveled down that road.

No, we didn't high-tail it to the city. Instead, we made our way to Lathrop, California, where, straddling one side of the I-5, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company built one of its distribution warehouses. And tucked in one small corner of the building, you can stop in to pick up a box (or bag) of their chocolate squares while enjoying a frozen dessert, just like the ones made special in San Francisco. For example, there's the Cable Car (Rocky Road Sundae), the Gold Rush (Peanut Butter Hot Fudge Sundae), the Haight Ashberry (Very Berry Sundae with Strawberries and Chocolate-Covered Blueberries), and the Espresso Escape (An Intense Dark Chocolate Sundae). There's certainly much more to choose from, but we had finally found our heaven that night ... We had finally found restitution from the earlier let down.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company has a handful of locations and outlets throughout the United States that stretch from San Francisco to Miami, and their products are found all over the world in many fine grocery stores, specialty food shops, and gift boutiques. You now know where we go to satisfy our guilty pleasure. Where do you go to satisfy yours?

Ghiradelli Factory Outlet Store
11980 S Harlan Rd
Lathrop, CA 95330

Friday, November 11, 2011

OOTK Profile | Nicole Morgan of Nicole's Cupcakes

We met Nicole Morgan through a friend at work who was bringing in vegan cupcakes made by her 15-year-old daughter. She made every variety you can imagine. Not only did they look amazing, but they tasted just as great. And because they were vegan, folks who enjoyed these wonderful treats also knew that what they were eating had no animal by-products in the mix.

As self-branded foodies, we’ve had our share of cupcakes. But Nicole’s Cupcakes resonates with us because of her passion for what she creates and how she, at just 15-years-old, goes about picking her ingredients. A
ll local and as much as possible, organic.

As an aspiring cook and entrepreneur, Nicole is learning how to find her niche in the food world and getting her footing in an industry that she may or may not go into when she gets older. For now, she is a high-school student who enjoys tooling around in the kitchen, creating wonderful flavor combinations for her cupcakes, and creating a business she can call her own.

The following recounts a recent interview we had with Nicole this past summer.

OOTK: So why vegan cupcakes?

Nicole: I chose to make vegan cupcakes mostly because I'm vegan. I also firmly believe that consumption of food products derived from animals such as milk, eggs, cheese, etc., are harmful to yourself, the environment, and animals. I want a chance to show people that making decisions that benefit everyone can be delicious. You don't have to feel like you're missing out on anything. I decided to start specializing in cupcakes because I love how each cupcake can have its own identity.

They're fun to make and people love to eat them!

OOTK: How old were you when you started baking?
Nicole: I can’t remember a time when I wasn't in the kitchen! From the time I was old enough to walk, I would help my grandma pour the sugar for brownies or mix in the hot water for Jell-O with my stepmom.

OOTK: How do your parents feel about your cupcake business? They seem very supportive.
Nicole: My parents have been a huge help with starting up this business.
They've been very supportive in every way possible. Emotionally, physically, monetarily. You name it. They have been there for me every step of the way.

OOTK: Are you thinking about going to culinary school?
Nicole: Culinary school is not really something that has ever interested me. I think you can get all the knowledge you need from pure experience. In the long run, I may get a degree in business, or I may pursue my interest in the medical field.

OOTK: Where are you planning on going to school?
Nicole: I’m thinking about University of San Francisco. I’ve visited a couple times. I’m not sure what I’m majoring in yet, we’ll see. All I know is that, whatever I end up doing in my career, cooking and baking will always be something that I am passionate about.

OOTK: What is your favorite cupcake?
Nicole: I love the vanilla cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream.
Despite the simplicity, the two flavors compliment each other perfectly.

OOTK: We’re fans of your Green Tea cupcake. What is your most popular cupcake?
Nicole: Cookies and Crème.

OOTK: What are your favorite restaurants around town?
Nicole: Thai Palace is my favorite restaurant by far. I love the tofu pangang and vegetable pad thai. Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe is my “go-to” restaurant if I'm looking for a good sandwich. Their Midtown Bacon Cheeseburger is to die for!

OOTK: How do people contact you if they want to purchase your cupcakes?
Nicole: People can reach me through my Facebook page or by sending an email, text, or simply calling me. Although I check my Facebook page and email every day, if you're looking for a quick reply, contacting me by phone would be the best.

OOTK: Thanks for time Nicole. It was a pleasure meeting you. We wish you luck wherever your future leads you.

Nicole’s Cupcakes


Monday, November 7, 2011

Naked Lounge | Sacramento, CA

I've said it before, and most likely, I'll say it many more times to come. The one thing that has really captured our imagination since we started sharing our food adventures with you has been meeting the people who make it all happen. The tireless owners, the accomplished chefs, the talented short-order cooks, the hardworking wait staff, the welcoming hosts, and ... well, the people. The every man, woman, and child who we've shared our story, and in turn, they have shared theirs.

Each of the adventures we've come to enjoy have become not just about the food, but about relationships. The euphoric feeling of being with someone who also shares in your passion, whether it's enjoying a time-tested burger that oozes with greasy goodness, an ice cream sundae that's piled to the ceiling with all the fixin's, or a volcanic chocolate bar that packs just enough heat to make you sweat and cry at the same time.

It doesn't take long to find this common bond. It can happen in just a split second, and then last for as long as the kitchen (or bar) is open. Take for example a recent visit we paid to the Naked Lounge-Midtown located on the corner of 15th and Q Streets. We had already heard so much about this converted house with its blending of neutral colors against recycled textures, its evocative paintings on the walls, and the owners' penchant to support new and up-and-coming musical acts. After all, the soothing and sometimes rockin' sounds were the only thing filtering out of the hidden speakers.

As I recall, it was a cold, rainy day in late Spring. Not enough to get one soaking wet, mind you, but enough to drive us indoors and call it a day for coffee or, in our kids' case, a good cup of hot chocolate. After commandeering a corner table near the front door, we surveyed the drink menu that was perched high above the counter where all the magic happened. The names were catchy, inspiring curiosity. There was the Press Pot, the Hammerhead, the Kerouac, and something called the Keith Richard. Each was described with an interesting flavor profile that had us pausing for a moment to say, "I think I can drink that."

In the end, however, we retreated to conservative wisdom. Two Mexican hot chocolates and two Mocha Thai drinks. Yes, we chose to be plain-Janes. We resolved to be BORING. The act did not go unnoticed.

"You should have tried their Bowl of Soul," came a friendly voice from the table next to ours. There sat two women, one dressed liked she had just come from a meeting, the other like she had just come from home. They sat side-by-side, taking comfort in not just each others' affection, but in the warmth that the Lounge offered. "We noticed that you both were having trouble deciding, and since you didn't order it, thought we'd suggest the Bowl of Soul for your next visit. We order nothing else."

The Bowl of Soul. A generous cup of camomile tea infused with vanilla soy milk, honey, and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. This was a cup of yummy goodness that reminds us of those little Calgon moments of being swept away. No wonder our new friends repeatedly order this and snuggle up to each other. Relax, release, and let go.

And so the ice was broken between us. Next thing we knew, we were all talking like we knew each other since forever, like stopping into the Lounge was not just some random act, but rather a planned rendezvous with old friends.

So, go forward on your next food adventure and take umbrage of the people who share the space around you. Given the backdrop provided by the Lounge, it's a good place to start. Locally owned and self-described as fiercely independent, it is one of four locations housed under the Naked Coffee umbrella. The others include Tupelo, Orphan, and Naked Lounge-Downtown, which also features a live music venue. They pride themselves "on a belief of individualism rather than robot-ism, and strive to inhabit unique urban neighborhoods while promoting creativity, dialogue and individuality." Oh, the stories you'll discover and the new friends that you'll make.

Naked Lounge
1500 Q Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants