Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday | Randy's Donuts

In this photo:
The iconic Randy's Donuts sign.
We stopped by to munch on some coconut and crumb donuts before we headed back to Northern California.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chicago Fire | Sacramento, CA

Eric Schnetz writes on his company website that Chicago Fire was "born of the desire to enjoy the wonderful flavors and textures unique to Chicago pizza. It started with research trips to Chicago to taste pizza, countless interviews with restaurant owners and employees, endless meetings with specialty food purveyors, as well as a fair amount of corporate espionage (i.e. dumpster diving). I have gone to great lengths to make sure that the recipes, ingredients, equipment, and processes used at Chicago Fire are in keeping with the way great pizza is made in Chicago. Simply put, I love Chicago pizza, and I'm eager to share it with others like you."

And we're certainly glad that he has made it a personal mission to bring a slice of Chicago home to Sacramento. I mean, generally speaking, what's not to love about pizza? It's readily available, it's simple to make, and it’s versatile, meaning that you could put just about anything you like on top of it. Pizza was such a favorite of mine that I even made it a point to convince my parents to hold my eighth birthday party at the neighborhood pizzeria. Yeah, that's me prepping my very own pie with extra sauce, layers of cheese, and mountains of pepperoni.

Now, whether the inspired pies featured at Chicago Fire can hold a candle next to those found at celebrated Chicago-based joints as Pizzeria Uno, Geno's East, or Lou Malnati's is still on the table for debate, especially since we have yet to visit the Windy City. But with all due respect, that could be comparing apples with oranges. For now, we just have the folks at Chicago Fire to turn to, and it certainly appears that they’ve done their homework as well as captured the spirit found behind these legendary establishments.

As the story goes, Eric and his wife, Tami, began experimenting with their own pizza recipes ever since moving to California from Illinois in 1986. Once they had a proven formula in place, they opened their first location in Folsom, California in February 2003. The rest, as they say, is history with the addition of two other locations and scores of diners who populate the restaurants each night.

Their savory pies come in three varieties: A flaky deep dish, a gourmet stuffed, and the crowd favorite, a crispy, wafer-thin crust sliced into squares. No matter the customer’s preference, each order is meticulously assembled with only the freshest ingredients and cooked in a stone decked and very hot pizza oven. Eric and his staff don’t cut corners, and you can taste the TLC that goes into each pie.

And pizza is not the only thing going for the folks at Chicago Fire. Hefty salads, sandwiches, and appetizers also pepper the menu. We've complemented our pizza order during each of our nights out by adding a plate of their uber-savory buffalo wings. Among the best in town, they come on plates of 10, 20 or 50 with your choice of having them served mild, medium, hot, or "set your face on fire." Go ahead, I dare you!!!

One other cool fact about Chicago Fire can be found at its downtown location, where they have found a clever way to take care of those who have come out to enjoy Sacramento's Second Saturday Art Walk. No time to grab a cozy spot in the restaurant? No problem. Their curbside service has brought their fire-baked pizzas to the streets. Kept toasty in steel warming boxes, you can order up a generous slice of their finest whether you come by car, bike, or on foot.

So, there’s no excuse for not making a trip out to Chicago Fire. Eric later wrote, “Chicago Fire is our tribute to Chicago pizza, and I firmly believe that my customers will experience the most intensely researched Chicago pizza outside of Chicago, Illinois.” He’s certainly convinced us.

Chicago Fire
2416 J Street
Sacramento, CA

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Capitol Dawg | Sacramento, CA

Let's be honest, putting together a tasty hot dog to one's own preference is not difficult to do. All it takes is a well-prepared frankfurter or sausage that's either grilled, boiled, baked, or deep fried. Then, place it gently between a bun and top it off with whatever condiment is a favorite: mustard, green relish, chili, cheese, chopped onions, sauerkraut, or all the above. No fuss, no muss ... And what's left is your own culinary masterpiece.

But as simple as that is, there's always that little voice inside your head saying, "No matter what I do at home, a hot dog is not a hot dog unless it's prepared by the pros." You know that voice. It's the same one that calls to you whenever you're at the ballpark, at the county fair, or merely passing by the Costco food service counter. I don't know what it is about these places, but they consistently produce magic in a bun!

One such place that's been cranking out the goods for as long as I can remember is Sacramento's own
Capitol Dawg. Located in the heart of "The Grid" on 20th and L Streets, Capitol Dawg offers a varied menu that factors in every style of hot dog that you can think of as well as a few new ones. Whether you're craving a dog whose stylings are rooted in Kansas City, New York, Los Angeles, Texas, or Coney Island, they got it here with all the fixings unique to these regional areas. Take, for example, the Prop 51 Dawg. A personal favorite of mine, this savory selection is prepared Chicago-style with mustard, green relish, onions, tomato, a kosher dill pickle spear, peppers, celery salt, and a poppy seed bun.

Capitol Dawg is as true of a hot dog stand as you'll find in the city. It's clean, it's quirky, it sports black-and-white tiled floors and wiener-related décor from floor to ceiling. As owner Mike Brown points out, we are "committed to quality and service that's a bit wacky, a bit vintage, and a lot of fun. Capitol Dawg is a cool place for warm friends!"

Need more incentive to stop on by? For the cost-conscious diner, they feature
Cappy Hour Specials every Tuesday night from 5:00-9:00p. Two bucks will buy you each a Capitol, turkey or Veggie Dawg, bottled beer, a basket of garlic fries, or a double-scoop of Dreyers old-fashioned ice cream.

But if money is not such an issue AND your feeling extra gluttonous, they have two on the menu that can and will take your breath away. There's the El
Senator Dawg, which features a deep fried beef frank wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans, cheddar cheese, grilled onions, salsa verde, sliced jalapenos, tomato, and mustard. Not good enough? Then order up the Governor Dawg, a deep fried American and Swiss cheese stuffed beef frank wrapped in bacon, cheddar cheese, cheddar cheese sauce, and tomatoes.

Oh ... One other thing. In celebration of their recent World Series Championship, the folks at Capitol
Dawg have paid homage to the San Francisco Giants by introducing the Giants Dawg - Our Own Champion. It's assembled from two quarter-pound all-beef Schwarz franks, house-made chili, American and Cheddar cheeses, ballpark mustard and chopped white onion, all plopped on a 14-inch-long sesame-seeded French roll. Brown notes, "This hot dog was created in honor of something that was long overdue, and celebrates the great victories in life."

So, enjoy! Their "
Dawg House of Representatives" are waiting to serve you.

Capitol Dawg
1226 20th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Che Café | Portland, OR

Among the things that we have grown fond of since beginning our food blog has been getting the chance to meet the people who make it all happen, whether its in their kitchens, on their farms, or behind the scenes when putting together an annual food festival

Included in this eclectic mix of highly motivated and hard-working individuals are Terri and Ryan, the folks who own and operate
Che Café, a food truck that has been serving the North Williams neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, since August 2009. In fact, on the day we stopped by, we learned that Terri and Ryan were celebrating their business’ actual one-year anniversary (8/22/2009).

Ryan is a professionally trained chef who learned his craft at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. After graduating, he would go on to hone his skills in select restaurants for more than a decade. Terri is the yin to Ryan’s yang. She is the creative dynamo who’s always on the look out for ways to push the envelope in hopes of further marketing their location and Ryan’s food. For example, she’s responsible for the ideas behind their weekly specials, and she challenges Ryan to come up with exciting new menu items that will cater to a wide audience, including vegetarians.

Named after one of their five fun-loving dogs, Che Café is known for “fresh, delicious, and homemade comfort food.” There are no less than four signature sandwiches on their menu, such as pulled pork, chicken, beef brisket, and a mean grilled cheese that is served up with a creamy tomato basil soup. Hearty burgers more your style? Check out the Sadie Black Bean Burger, which comes with a side of Cajun-styled fries and choice of dipping sauce.

Now, if holding your food in the palm of your hands is just not happening for you, they have a home made mac-n-cheese dish that’ll leave you weak in the knees. It’s made with a 3-cheese sake sauce, baked perfectly, and topped with crispy fried onions.

And don’t forget to save room for dessert: A homemade bread pudding that’s covered with a bourbon crème anglaise sauce. This one quickly won us over, and we’re not even big fans of bread puddings.

Oh … By the way, are you a dog owner? Terri and Ryan have what’s called Bub Rub Jerky Treats on the menu, and they’re a big hit with their furry four-legged friends. Or so I’m told.

Anyway, if you find yourself traveling through the North Williams area, stop by Che Café and order up a plate. Just look for the brown-colored food truck with the hand-painted mural that says it all about Terri and Ryan in pictures, including the white picket fence with the words “livin’ the dream.” They certainly are!

Che Cafe
3954 N. Williams Ave
Portland, OR 97227

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mix Sweet Shop | Ashland, OR

Looking for the perfect place to rest your feet? How about the perfect place to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours? After having spent of couple of hours window shopping through Ashland’s downtown plaza, we were ready to do both.

But where do we start? Ashland has its fair share of dessert bars and coffee shops to choose. There are the name brands, of course, but you’ll also find a scattering of small, independent establishments as well. Being who we are, we asked around and were kindly directed towards the Mix Sweet Shop.

Located in what was once known as the Ashland Fudge Company, the Mix Sweet Shop opened in July 2006 and, dare I say, borrowed a page or two from its predecessor by providing its customers with scrumptious handmade chocolates and candies as well as a selection of ice creams and gelatos. Where the fudge shop was once the town's premiere destination for refreshing treats on a hot afternoon or a lazy day, their baton was certainly passed on to here.

But that's where the comparisons end. The folks at the Mix Sweet Shop take it a few steps further with a full-service bakery where the smell of baked bread, cookies, and pastries is only rivaled by the sharp aroma of freshly brewed coffee, compliments of Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

Now, we’re told that many of the ingredients used in their baked goods are delivered daily by suppliers and growers who are local to the surrounding region. And you can taste the freshness in each bite whether you’re having a simple dessert like their lemon bars or cupcakes or specialty sandwiches such as the ham on a buttered baguette with bright red roma tomatoes or a croissant stuffed with leafy spinach and Rogue Creamery blue cheese.

If you have a few extra dollars in your pocket, we suggest that you indulge yourself and add either the coconut cream tart or a slice of the Dagoba Mousse Torte to your order. Take it home or nosh on it right then and there, you won’t be disappointed.

By the way, if you stop in after 6:00p, it’s noted that the baked goods remaining near the register (i.e. not the ones in the glass case) are 2 for the price of 1. We’re talkin’ about baguettes, boules, croissants, and the like.

So, who's responsible for all this goodness? The driving force behind the Mix Sweet Shop is renowned pastry chef Jamie North, who, after earning her culinary degree from the University of Oregon, honed her skills by working in Napa Valley's The French Laundry and Terra. When asked what her motivation was for opening the shop, she once noted to a local writer that it was “to showcase classic desserts and pastries that don't require the same time-consuming techniques that she uses at Ashland's fine-dining restaurant Amuse, which she co-owns with husband Erik Brown.”

This was certainly fortunate for us and for the many others who stood in line to sample the shop’s wares. And once we were poised to move on, the Mix Sweet Shop had us refreshed, recharged, and ready for our next activity. I’m willing to bet you’ll discover the same.

Mix Sweet Shop
57 North Main Street
Ashland, OR 97520

Out of the Kitchen Medford restaurants