Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rick's Dessert Diner | Sacramento, CA

An old college friend of mine used to practice a rather peculiar habit whenever we went out to eat. It didn't matter whether it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but what he did was place an order for dessert and ask our server to bring it to him before the entree. It happened every time, all the time. To the casual observer, it may not have been such a big deal, but it was his approach that fascinated me ... His "je ne sais quoi" so to speak.

His scrutiny did not involve the main course. He didn't care much about its taste or appearance, meaning that it could have been the messiest, ugliest, and most mediocre. He would still eat it. When it came to the dessert, however, it was like watching Sally Albright in "When Harry Met Sally." For example, his apple pie had to be slightly heated with ice cream to the side. A double-chocolate milkshake was required to be extra thick with a dollop of whipped cream and not one, but two cherries on top. And again, no matter the dessert, it had to be on the table before all else.

So, one day, I had to ask him about this. I certainly understood about wanting one's dessert just right, but why have it before the main meal? His answer was simple: "I see no reason to have the best part of the meal last. Who said it had to be that way? Besides, by eating my dessert first, I will always have room. If I wait, not so much." Makes perfect sense, and it is with this thought in mind that my old friend would have loved Rick's Dessert Diner.

Located along Sacramento's downtown grid, Rick's Dessert Diner has been delighting its legions of fans and customers ever since it opened in 1986. By their estimate, they boast over 285 European inspired menu items that include a wide range of tastes from award-winning cakes, cheesecakes, and tortes to flavorful tarts, pies, cookies, and pastries. Everything is made daily from scratch on the premises, and they only use the freshest ingredients available to ensure quality. So, whatever your preference may be, Rick's is a place for you.

What are among our favorites? Tough question, but if we're talking cake, my wife and daughter never pass on a slice of their Red Velvet Cake or their Lemon Coconut Cake. My son and I, however, are more pie guys. He prefers their Fudge Sundae Pie, but I usually steer towards their fruit-filled varieties such as the Apple Blueberry, Peach, or Pear Praline pies. Now, do keep in mind, it's not that we don't enjoy their tortes, cheesecakes, or pastries, we just haven't gotten around to sampling them. There's just so many different items that dazzle the eyes and tempt the taste buds.

Rick's is open everyday and late on Fridays and Saturdays, which is perfect for night owls who crave something sweet and sugary. The late hours, however, are also quite conducive for those experiencing a night on the town and just don't want it to end. Whether your coming from a movie, stage show, or concert, the lights are still on, the doors are still unlocked, and Rick's friendly staff is ready to serve.

So, stop on in and treat yourself to something special, and if you're anything like my old college friend, no need to worry about putting the dessert before the main course ... At Rick's Dessert Diner, the dessert IS the main course!

Rick's Dessert Diner
2322 K Street
Sacramento, CA 95816

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday :: Grateful Bread and Oil

In this photo: Quarter-loaf of bread from Grateful Bread with balsamic vinegar and California extra virgin olive oil at the Crocker Cafe in Sacramento, CA.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tasty Tuesday :: Chilaquiles

A Mexican favorite of ours is chilaquiles. Made with crispy corn tortilla triangles, called "totopos," this dish incorporates green or red salsa, a scrambled or fried egg, and pulled chicken. The mixture is then simmered until the tortillas start to soften, and it is topped with queso fresco, sour cream, or crema before serving. What you end up with is a culinary staple that warms the heart, and because chilaquiles is made with such simple ingredients, it is a popular dish for many households that carry these items in their refrigerators and pantries. Ours included.

And although chilaquiles is a satisfying meal during any part of the day, it is typically served during breakfast for one good reason: it is said to be cure for the common hangover. Why? It is believed that spicy foods, like chilaquiles, help in the body's recovery process as it reacts to capsicum, a potent and well documented pain relieving chemical found in most chiles.

In this picture: Chilaquiles from Antigua Bakery located in the Highland Park neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Randy's Donuts | Inglewood, CA

Located on the corner of Normandie and Manchester, Randy's Donuts was created in 1953 by donut machine salesman, Russell Wendell, as the second location in a chain of fast food service eateries he called The Big Donut Drive-In. He would go on to open as many as ten locations throughout the LA area, but only four others like Randy's Donuts still delight customers: Kindle's Donuts in Los Angeles, the Donut King II in Gardena, Dale's Donuts in Compton, and Bellflower Bagels in Bellflower.

Their appeal was found not just in their popular menu items, which were quite extensive by the way, but also in the extremely large structure that sat on top of an otherwise ordinary drive-in destination. Known as programmatic architecture, where the buildings resemble the product they sold, each of the locations sported a giant donut constructed of rolled steel bars covered with gunnite, a pliable material typically used in swimming pools. The one sitting atop Randy's Donuts was incorporated in the design of the building by Robert Graham, and it is perhaps the most recognized having been featured in numerous music videos, commercials, magazine ads, television shows, and motion pictures such as Iron Man II, Earth Girls Are Easy, and Coming to America.

The original owner of Randy's Donuts continued to operate the drive-in well into the 1970s before selling it to Robert Eskow in 1976, and it was Eskow who set in motion the subsequent name changes, taking The Big Donut Drive-In and switching it to Randy's Donuts and Sandwiches in honor of his son. In 1978, Eskow's cousins, Ron and Larry Weintraub, took over and shortened the name to what it is popularly known today. They haven't looked back since.

Now, I try to be impartial when it comes to writing about the places we feature in our blog, but I must say that Randy's Donuts is good. Not because they feature most of our favorites, but I've seen occasions when even the healthiest eater, who says "no thanks," will quickly change his mind to a "don't mind if I do" attitude once it's known that the donut in question is from Randy's Donuts. They are truly hard to resist with an array to choose from including crumb raised, chocolate chocolate chip, jelly-filled, custard-filled, and the plain glazed. Specialty items such as apple fritters, cinnamon sticks, blueberry crisps, and a chocolate cinnamon log also tempt and essentially deliver.

My affinity towards Randy's Donuts doesn't just stop there. Once upon a memory, we lived in Playa Del Rey, a mere hop, skip, and a ten minute drive to their doorstep. It was a regular stop when the itch for a guilty pleasure needed to be scratched, but it also played an important role while my wife was pregnant with our son. She craved three things that, looking back at it now, were just all bad, but oh so good: spam musubi, chili cheeseburgers from Original Tommy's, and donuts from Randy's. Ironically, these are three of our son's favorite foods. Connection or coincidence? I wonder ...

Randy's Donuts is open for business seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Randy's Donuts
805 W. Manchester Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90301

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Maps for Diners, DriveIns and Dives, Man v. Food and more

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tasty Tuesday :: Smac 'N Cheese | Nickel Diner

For this Tasty Tuesday, we wanted to highlight comfort food. Comfort food, simply stated, is a meal that gives one a sense of well being. It is food that often reminds us of our childhood or just plain happy times. Mac and cheese is just one of those dishes that cries "comfort." This version of mac and cheese, aptly named "Smac and Cheese," hails from the Nickel Diner in Los Angeles. Made with four different types of cheese, noodles, roasted tomatoes and topped with a crispy bread crumbs, this dish left everyone at the table smiling, satiated...and yes...comforted.

524 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fried Fridays :: Maple Bacon Donut from Dynamo Donuts

The first thing that came to mind after taking a bite of Dynamo's Maple Bacon Donut was that it reminded me of a Chinese barbecued pork bun. The savory combination of salt and sweet made me want to order seconds and pack few for the trip back home. This is fried food at its best.

Dynamo Donuts was created by Sara Spearin, and the idea came to her while on maternity leave. She notes, "I suddenly realized the importance of a well-crafted donut and the utter lack thereof in San Francisco." Motivated by the dream of owning her own bakery as an outlet to share delicious handmade and not-so-ordinary pastries, a it did not take long before Dynamo was born.

To get a better appreciation of what Spearin and her staff do on a daily basis, you have to understand what goes into each of their donuts. Nothing is compromised and only organic, sustainable, and local ingredients are utilized whenever possible. And, they guarantee quality and freshness by rotating only 7 to 10 donuts per day, even though their menu includes over 20 varieties.

By far, however, their Maple Bacon Donut is their most popular. As a new found fan, I can vouch that it certainly doesn't disappoint.

Dynamo Donuts
2760 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Out of the Kitchen SF Bay Area restaurants

Maps for Diners, DriveIns and Dives, Man v. Food and more

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tasty Tuesday | Chick-O-Stick Candy

The Atkinson Candy Company has been manufacturing Chick-O-Stick since the Great Depression. Regarded as the company's most popular candy, it is made primarily with peanuts, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and toasted coconut. Fans of the sugary confection claim that it tastes very much like a Butterfinger Bar, but you'll have to decide that for yourself.

Chick-O-Stick's original wrapper featured a stylized cartoon of a chicken wearing a cowboy hat and a badge in the shape of the Atkinson logo. Recent wrapper designs, however, have since removed the chicken because it is believed the chicken contributed to the confusion over whether Chick-O-Stick was a candy or a chicken-flavored cracker.

And what's with the name? According to Atkinson's website, the company's founder "came up with Chick-O-Stick one day because, in his mind, the product resembled fried chicken." The name stuck, and the rest is history.

Photo taken at Candy Heaven in Old Town Sacramento.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fried Fridays - Hangtown Fry

What is in a name? If we're talking about the Hangtown Fry, plenty. Invented in nearby Placerville, California, the Hangtown Fry is basically an omelette that was made famous during the California Gold Rush. According to folklore, the dish was created when a gold prospector struck it rich, headed to the Cary House Hotel, and demanded that the kitchen make the most expensive dish it could provide. They didn't disappoint, blending together eggs, bacon, potatoes, and oysters.

By today's standards, the value of these simple ingredients are lost to us, meaning that such a dish would not be considered expensive. But, in the mid-1800s, eggs were not readily available in a mining town, bacon was shipped from the East Coast, and the oysters were brought in on ice from San Francisco, which was over 100 miles away and more than a week's journey.

With that said, there is much to appreciate in this homegrown delicacy. Not only does it pack bold flavor combinations and textures with each bite, but according to the El Dorado County Museum, nothing epitomizes California and its Gold Rush era more than the Hangtown Fry.

It's certainly become one of our favorites with the most common version found at Cafeteria 15L, where their Hangtown Fry consists of oysters, a poached egg, bacon, potatoes, and a rich Tabasco Hollandaise sauce.

So, if you are looking for something truly unique and time-tested, go no further than the Hangtown Fry. Enjoy!

In this photo: The Hangtown Fry from Cafeteria 15L in Sacramento, CA

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thirsty Thursday :: Cricket Cola

While on vacation in the upper northwest, we discovered Cricket Cola while visiting a local joint in Vancouver, Washington called Pop Culture. My wife was the first to notice the attractively bottled soda from the many others housed in the cold case. In her profession as a marketing exec, packaging is almost as important as the product itself, and this one certainly caught her eye with its colorful label and the two large asterisks bookending the shaded words "serve COLA chilly."

Digging a little deeper, i.e. reading the label, my wife was pleasantly surprised to note that Cricket Cola is in fact a healthy one. The creators have left out phosphoric acid, high-fructose corn syrup, and many other not-so-good-for-you ingredients that the larger companies use in their cola recipes. Rather, they have chosen to use real cane sugar, real kola nut, and instead of using chemical-form caffeine, they stir in a blend of freshly brewed green tea. A great tasting, healthy alternative to regular cola was born.

And cola aficionados are singing its praises. The Washington Post proclaims Cricket Soda as the next "below-the radar drink for hipsters.", a beverage industry review site, singles out Cricket Cola as one of the cleanest colas ever tasted by their experts, who categorize green tea colas as "the most unique innovation in carbonated soft drinks to hit the market in the past decade."

Yet, the question is, did my wife like it? Not only does she like it, but the kids took to it as well!

Cricket Cola is produced in San Francisco and is distributed to all major markets across the states. Pick up a bottle and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday :: Good Luck Dim Sum

In this photo: Pork siu mai from Good Luck Dim Sum in San Francisco, CA

Good Luck Dim Sum
736 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94118

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tasty Tuesday :: Hobee's Coffee Cake

For those of you who have visited the San Francisco Bay area, you may have already tasted the coffee cake at Hobee's. If you haven't, it is definitely worth a trip.

Hobee's piping hot, streusel-topped, blueberry coffee cake is a meal onto its own. Many who live in the area consider this a fundamental part of their diet, and rightly so. Legend has it that it is considered the Official Coffee Cake of Mountain View, CA. This may be fiction...but what is fact is the epic portion of a single order. One order is enough to feed a small family or a very hungry Stanford or San Jose State student.
For those who are just visiting and don't have a Hobee's nearby, don't fret...Hobee's sells them by the panful for you to take home and share.

Hobee's has restaurants in various locations in the Bay Area: