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The must-have products, must-know people, and must-visit places in Sacramento's booming food scene.
The must-have products, must-know people and must-visit places in Sacramento's booming food scene.
Modern-day craft distillers bear little resemblance to the folks on “Moonshiners,” Discovery Channel’s popular program about bootleggers, but it’s still a dangerous profession. Cris Steller, co-owner of Dry Diggings Distillery in El Dorado Hills and executive director of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild, calls it the “dark art of distilling” and confesses he’s almost blown himself up three times, even though he’d worked in industrial safety before becoming a distiller.
How is Dry Diggings’ Amador gin different from other gins? It’s a compound gin made from an original formula, with a unique blend of botanicals. It tastes like anise and a hint of mint. You can sip this distinctive, gold-colored gin neat from the bottle. Available at Corti Brothers, Taylor’s Market and Total Wine & More.
Dry Diggings Distillery
Don’t miss: The tour and tasting. Steller’s former office has been transformed into an old-timey saloon, including a bar salvaged from a defunct brothel; dents in the wood’s surface were made by high heels and the occasional cowboy boot. 5050 Robert J Mathews Parkway, El Dorado Hills; (916) 542-1700; drydiggingsdistillery.com
Beers in Sac
Partners Scott Scoville and Ted Rozalski developed the mobile app Beers in Sac to help beer lovers navigate the explosive craft beer scene in Sacramento. “We started this because we’re from Sacramento, we love Sacramento, and we love craft beer,” Scoville says. The app has a detailed map and a comprehensive beer-related events calendar, including brewery openings and updates on the Super Bowl for craft beer: Capitol Beer Fest. The partners currently have 40,000 users across all platforms. beersinsac.com
Guide to Local Beers By Angela Knight and Beers in Sac's Scott Scoville, Ted Rozalski, Calvin Crawford and Peter Wisham
Type: Pale Ale
Features: Amber to light copper in color, medium and balanced malt and hoppy taste. Low to medium alcohol content.
What to Try:
• Mosaic Pale Ale, Bike Dog Brewing Co.
• Monkey Knife Fight, Rubicon Brewing Company
• Summer in the Grove, Tilted Mash Brewing
Type: India Pale Ale
Features: Similar to pale ale in color, American-style IPA has a stronger hoppy taste, is bitterer than pale ale and has higher alcohol content. An English IPA is less hoppy with lower alcohol content.
What to Try:
• Evil Cousin, Heretic Brewing Company
• Lupulin River, Knee Deep Brewing Company
• Panic IPA, Track 7 Brewing Co.
Type: Brown Ale
Features: Dark color, less bitter than a stout or a porter. English-style browns have a nutty malt flavor. Can have lower alcohol content, but varies.
What to Try:
• Coloma Brown, American River Brewing Company
• Bigwig Brown, Jackrabbit Brewing Company
• Nutty Brown, Yolo Brewing Company
Features: Black in color, malty flavor, often sweet with chocolate and caramel notes. Roasted barley adds bitterness to Irish stout. Medium to high alcohol content.
What to Try:
• Brits in Moscow Russian Imperial Stout, Device Brewing Company
• Homeland Stout, New Helvetia Brewing Company
Features: Dark with a sweet, malty taste. Alcohol content varies, but English style has lower alcohol content and less malt sweetness.
What to Try:
• Chocolate Hazelnut Porter, Heretic Brewing Company
• Coffee Pot Porter, Mraz Brewing Company
• Mystery Airship Imperial Chocolate Porter, New Helvetia Brewing Company
Type: Wheat Beer
Features: Pale, sometimes white, with lower alcohol content. Often has fruity notes.
What to Try:
• Golden Eagle Mandarin Wheat, Loomis Basin Brewing Company
• Farmhouse French Saison, New Glory Craft Brewery
• Hefeweizen Bavarian Wheat, Sudwerk Brewing Co.
Type: Pale Lagers and Pilsners
Features: Pale, gold or straw-colored, light flavor and alcohol content. Varying hoppy and malt taste.
What to Try:
• Northern Pilsner, Sudwerk Brewing Co.
• Pincushion Pils, Device Brewing Company
• Always Summer, Bike Dog Brewing Co.
Type: Dark and Amber Lagers
Features: Color varies from reds and amber through copper and darker. Often sweet and malty, with a subtle hop flavor. Medium alcohol content.
What to Try:
• Sin Bin Black Lager, Rubicon Brewing Company
• Marzen Amber Lager, Sudwerk Brewing Co.
• Miles Finch Marzen, Twelve Rounds Brewing Company
Michael Passmore and his wife, Vandy, purchased Passmore Ranch in Sloughhouse when it was just rolling pasture with potential. A former Marine, Michael Passmore was on track to become an attorney. Lucky for caviar connoisseurs everywhere, he decided to quit law school and become a full-time farmer. Today, Passmore Ranch’s clients are a who’s who of professional chefs in the United States, including Kelly McCown, Cosmo Goss and Matthew Accarrino. Passmore Ranch produces white sturgeon caviar, along with salmon and trout roe (and a host of other products). The harvest starts in January and continues for months. “One of the few luxuries of being tiny is we sample the roe (before we harvest),” Passmore says. To sample, they suck roe out of a live fish with a straw before harvesting it. Some fresh roe tastes bright, fruity and citrusy, according to Passmore, and leaves the palate quickly, while others are nutty, fatty and flavorful. For those who prefer their roe cured rather than straight from the sturgeon, the ranch opens its caviar vault to the public around the holidays. passmoreranch.com
Passmore’s favorite way to eat caviar: on Pringles with a Budweiser
Hank Shaw, the former restaurant cook and political reporter turned cookbook author, recently published his latest book, “Buck, Buck, Moose,” a how-to on preparing and cooking all things antlered. It’s organized into parts, Deer Basics and Deer to Table, then divided into informational bites and recipes covering everything from Skinning and Gutting to making Tunisian braised venison shanks. Best part? The essayistic Interludes, which showcase Shaw’s skill at bringing the natural world to the page.
Don’t miss: Shaw’s James Beard Award-winning blog at honest-food.net
California Endive Farms in Rio Vista is the largest producer of endive in the United States, offering red, white and organic endive. This difficult-to-pronounce (say “ON deev”) member of the chicory family is grown twice. After spending about four months in the field, the roots are harvested and placed in cold storage. Later, they’re woken up with water and warmth and grown in the dark for a few weeks before being boxed and shipped. endive.com
Don’t miss: Leafy Coraline, named for its coral-like appearance, is the newest, and possibly sweetest, addition to the chicory family. It took 20 years to develop.
Wild-caught New Zealand tai snapper at Sunh Fish
Nguyen Pham’s cellphone dings through the early morning hours as local chefs text him their orders. “I am available 24 hours a day,” he says. “My iPhone is everything to me.” Pham’s Sunh Fish Co. sells primarily to restaurants and hotels, delivering fresh fish six days a week, and is based in a huge warehouse on the corner of V and 19th. It is also open to the public. Check out Sunh’s lively Facebook page before you go, but it’s a seafood lover’s dream: Ahi tuna. Branzini. Kusshi oysters. Live lobsters. Miyagi oysters from Marin. Salmon. Sea bream. Shiny crabs. 1900 V St.; (916) 442-8237; facebook.com/sunhfish
Big Cheese Dog House's jumbo dog from Golden 1 Center; Photo by Tyler & Christina
Golden 1 Center
The top 10 favorite kiosk foods for hungry fans at the new Golden 1 Center, according to executive chef Michael Tuohy:
1. Paragary’s pepperoni and mushroom pizza
2. Selland’s pepperoni pizza
3. Cafe Bernardo’s cheeseburger
4. Fries (various vendors)
5. Selland’s margherita pizza
6. Chicken tenders (various vendors)
7. Big Cheese Dog House’s jumbo dog
8. Centro’s carne asada taco
9. El Jefe’s carnitas nachos
10. Porchetta House’s porchetta sandwich
In 2015, partners Sarah Hemly, Chris Thomson and Greene & Hemly created a refreshing, lightly alcoholic cider made from organic pears grown in Courtland. “We are trying to pay tribute to a fruit we are passionate about,” Sarah Hemly says. It’s aged on oak for about four weeks in stainless steel tanks and lightly carbonated. There’s a hint of the Delta in every handmade batch. Available on tap at Pangaea Bier Cafe and in bottles at Masullo Pizza. hemlycider.com
Tumeric Wellness Blend at The Mill
When coffee won’t do, The Mill offers beautiful botanical infusions, served in individual teapots containing a soothing basketful of healthy herbs from Berkeley-based Leaves & Flowers. Try the Turmeric Wellness Blend, with turmeric, rosemary, lemon peel, orange zest, ginger and black pepper. 1827 I St.; (916) 469-9683; themillsacramento.com
Oy gevalt! Sacramento’s never been a great Jewish deli town. That mishegas is about to change with the opening of two delicatessens in the downtown grid. First up is The Proletariat, from the owners of South, the popular Southern restaurant in Southside Park. Set to open late this summer at Sixth and S streets, it will be a take on an East Coast-style deli, with inspiration from Jewish and Italian deli traditions. In the fall, Solomon’s Delicatessen—named after Tower Records founder Russ Solomon—is scheduled to open in the 700 block of K Street. It’s reportedly modeled after Canter’s, the classic Jewish deli in Los Angeles.
Need a knish fix right now? Head to Bubbie’s Love Deli, a kitschy diner located in a strip mall. Streit’s Unsalted Matzos and Mensch on a Bench (Hanukkah’s answer to Elf on a Shelf) sit on shelves near the front door. You’ll find four seats at the counter, four booths and one high-top. They fill up fast. 7800 Sunrise Blvd., Citrus Heights; (916) 722-7800; bubbieslove.com
The whole megillah: corned beef, salami, pastrami, rye, mustard and a pickle at Bubbie's Love Deli
Don’t miss: Bubbie’s rye bread made in-house, and the funky bread slicer that is as loud as it is old
K Street Culinary Walking Tour
Get out and walk with Cearra, one of the knowledgeable guides at Local Roots Food Tours, dodging the light rail and noshing your way through a dozen or so restaurants and shops around K: Tequila Museo Mayahuel, The Allspicery, Ambrosia Cafe, Mother, Pizza Rock, El Rey, Andy’s Candy Apothecary. It’s a potpourri of sights, smells and tastes, with a splash of history thrown in. Here’s a nugget: After gold was discovered, K was one of the first streets to be developed in Sacramento and acted as a starting point for most visitors.
New owners Dawnie Andrak and Tim Bailey have revitalized Local Roots, a company founded five years ago. They currently offer three tours: K Street, midtown, and the area around Sutter’s Fort, with plans to add more, as well as a bike tour. (916) 291-6727; localrootsfoodtours.com
Cocktail Academy, at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company, offers a new cocktail class every month. “Homework is purely optional,” Chris Tucker says. He’s Hook & Ladder’s beverage director and master cocktail instructor. Classes, like American Whiskey With the Bourbon Babes, are offered on the second Saturday each month, take about two hours and are limited to 30 people. Each class is a history and geography lesson, tasting and cocktail-making lab in one, guaranteed to help you forget you’re actually learning something. Food is provided. 1630 S St.; (916) 442-4885; hookandladder916.com/cocktail-academy
Tucker’s favorite drink: A Manhattan
If you know someone who is headed off to college, treat them to a class at Good Eats (not to be confused with Alton Brown’s television show of the same name), so they’ll cook more than Top Ramen for four years. Paulette Bruce, who learned to cook from her beloved Nonna, has been teaching Sacramento folks, both novices and accomplished cooks, for almost two decades. She offers a class on Valentine’s Days for daters and nondaters alike. goodeatscookingclasses.com
Taylor’s Market made the big time in 2010 when owner Danny Johnson and his whole-animal butchering classes caught the attention of Time magazine. Those classes have stood the test of time and continue to attract folks eager to learn the art of butchering, says Paul Carras, the market’s meat department manager.
The popular Hands-on Hog Butchering class offers four students the chance to learn from two veteran butchers (usually Carras and Johnson) and break down a whole hog. Bring your own knife, but Taylor’s supplies everything else. You’ll leave with bragging rights and about 30 pounds of meat. Butchering 101 is offered on Saturday mornings and covers basic knife skills as well as home butchering. Includes a light lunch. 2900 Freeport Blvd.; (916) 443-6881; taylorsmarket.com
Warm summer days and cool nights in the Sierra Nevada foothills guarantee an abundance of sweet, juicy mandarins in late fall, but what if you crave that mandarin taste year-round?
Made in small batches in Sacramento from local organic fruit, The Good Stuff’s Mandarin Ginger Marmalade delivers a tangy hit of mandarin and ginger to your unsuspecting morning toast. Available at Preservation & co. or online at thegood-stuff.com.
Placer-grown mandarins and Meyer lemons take center stage in Snow’s Citrus Court’s Mandarin Orange Fruit Spread. Use it as a glaze or spread it on brie, biscuits or waffles. Find it at Blue Goose Produce or online at snowscitrus.com.
With its cold-brewed, two-stage nitrogen infusion process, Oak Park’s Brass Clover Cold Brew Coffee Company’s nitro pours much like a Guinness. According to partners Randall Echevarria and his husband, Monte Hudock, you can also taste the entire profile of the bean. They brew the coffee at near freezing temps for 16 hours, cutting the acidity and bitterness, and filter it to get rid of sludge and particles. It has great mouthfeel and delivers a caffeine wallop. Available on tap at Vibe Health Bar and in bottles at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. brassclovercoffee.com
Davis Farmers Market was an early leader in the movement to provide organically grown farm-to-market produce to the public. Ann Evans is one of the market’s co-founders, as well as a cook, master gardener and former mayor of Davis. In 2012, Evans and Georgeanne Brennan wrote a tribute to the market in cookbook form. Evans recently revised “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook,” which features a new crop of farmers at the market, second- and third-generation family farmers, and more seasonal recipes. The cookbook contains a forward written by Alice Waters, California’s organic food maven. annmevans.com
Pickleback at Preservations & co.
It’s a shot of pickle brine, followed by a shot of whiskey. Jason Poole, the owner of Preservation & co., is not sure where the pickleback trend started, but it likely originated on the East Coast. “I would never have expected it to be a big thing,” Poole says, but he’s planning on packaging four different brines, sweet and savory, with a bottle of George Dickel Tennessee whiskey. He’ll call it Dickel and a Pickle or Party in a Box. 1717 19th St.; (916) 706-1044; preservationandco.com
Quality Boutique & Bru
Take your coffee with a splash of shopping? This midtown clothing boutique and espresso bar will suit you to a T. Sip a hot brew made from Rocklin-based Mast Coffee and you can shop without the drop. 2312 K St.; (916) 786-0172; shopatquality.com
Don’t miss: Sancho (hint: he has four legs and a curly tail) and the owner’s Sacramento Kings bobblehead collection
Ready to Eat
Move over, Blue Apron and Plated. Fit Eats is coming through. A few years ago, CEO Don Arnold, a former personal trainer and owner of a chain of nutrition stores, started offering hungry, health-conscious Sacramentans fresh ready-to-eat meals, without the hassle of shopping, cooking or dirty dishes. Here’s how it works: Place your order online. Chefs prepare your meals, made from locally sourced ingredients. Wake up the next day and find a delivery bag on your doorstep. Heat, eat and repeat. Fit Eats also has a new mobile app and two storefronts in downtown Sac and Roseville. 1420 16th St.; 1455 Eureka Road, Roseville; fiteats.com
Made by V. Miller Meats in East Sacramento, Sunday Sauce tastes like something your Italian grandmother would serve for supper. Beef, pork, tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, thyme, beef bone broth, salt and pepper go into this stunning yet simple red sauce. Delicious with pasta. 4801 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 400-4127; vmillermeats.com
Tacos de guisado, made with stewed or braised meat, are an authentic part of the street-food scene in Mexico City. Hoping to introduce these traditional-style tacos to Sacramento, Masa Taco Kitchen’s Alexander Mishkin quit his job with the mayor’s office in Los Angeles and started turning out food based on his mother-in-law’s recipes. “A lot of love and labor go into our dishes,” Mishkin says. Less a food truck and more a pop-up kitchen for now, Masa offers tacos like Tinga de Pollo, made with shredded chicken breast simmered in tomatoes, chipotle and chorizo. Mishkin’s favorite is Mole Poblano de Pollo: shredded chicken breast topped with a nutty-tasting mole. Tortillas are handmade on a tortilla press by Mishkin’s hardworking mother-in-law. Mishkin posts locations for the “traveling taqueria” on his website. masatacokitchen.com
Midtown Farmers Market; Photo by Yarcenia Garcia
Maritza Davis fondly recalls her grandfather’s food truck. “Growing up as a kid, I was at the flea market,” she says, helping him sell Latino-food products. “My life revolved around food.” About nine years ago, Maritza and her husband, Roshaun, started Unseen Heroes, a marketing agency focused on promoting lifestyle events, including food-oriented happenings—like Gather, Midtown Farmers Market and the Sacratomato Festival—as a way to show love to the city that they love. unseen-heroes.com
“A community that eats together stays together,” Davis says. Unseen Heroes wanted to create an event that would bring the Oak Park community together and service an area that had been a food desert. Gather transforms Broadway and 3rd Avenue into a dining room on the second Thursday of the month from May through October. For its fourth year, Davis wants to expand Gather to different neighborhoods and cities.
Find it: gathernights.com
Midtown Farmers Market
The driving force behind this year-round midtown market was to encourage market goers to buy enough food to make a couple of meals throughout the week. Food demonstrations, education and culture are key components. Look for the market to expand this year and add new vendors.
Find it: Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 20th Street between J and K.
“Display is our retail space that we are constantly changing,” Davis explains. Last year, Display launched cookbook author and photographer Erin Alderson’s new website. Alderson is the food lover behind “The Homemade Flour Cookbook” and “The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen,” and she has a large following on Instagram. To shine a spotlight on future tastemakers, Display plans to feature products from former and current Sacramento chefs this year.
Find it: 3433 Broadway; (916) 822-4925; displaycalifornia.com
This celebration of all things tomato takes place in July around Sutter’s Fort.
Find it: exploremidtown.org
Vibe Health Bar in Oak Park calls itself a smoothie and juice bar, but it offers much more. For breakfast, dig into Hella Greens, an acai bowl with kale and mango, or avocado toast. 3515 Broadway; (916) 382-9723; vibehealthbar.com
Join the celebs (Forest Whitaker, Alicia Silverstone and others) who’ve discovered Sugar Plum Vegan’s tasty baked goods. Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op carries a large selection, including luscious lemon lavender muffins and raspberry cookies. sugarplumvegan.com
Scott Thorson’s fans travel to the Foothill Farmers Market in Auburn every Saturday just to eat his pizzas, straight from his mobile pizza ovens. They’ll brave the rain and cold for what one customer says is the best pizza he’s tasted in the United States. There’s nothing fancy about Thorson’s pies. Take the ingredients: organic flour, simple tomato sauce, vegetables and garlic from the farmers market. He makes his own dough. The secret to his success might be the wood-fired ovens. Fire adds a smokiness and char to the crust. Or it could be the wood. He likes to use trimmings from walnut, apple and pear trees. He started Bella Familia nine years ago, before modern food trucks became a trend, but he was making pizza long before that in an oven in his backyard. bellafamiliapizza.com
Claim to fame: Thorson made a mandarin cheesecake pizza (mandarin jam, cream cheese and crushed Teddy Grahams) for an episode of Cooking Channel’s “Carnival Eats.”
Don’t miss: Bella Familia’s glass-sided food truck. It’s pizza and a show.
What’s offal? It is extreme food for adventurous eaters: lamb bellies, gizzards, duck tongues, testicles, sweetbreads and other animal parts you can’t usually find in a market.
“I just had it as a crazy idea one day,” Catherine Enfield says. Enfield (a food blogger known as Ms. Munchie) is the driving force behind Sacramento’s Have an Offal Day event. “We’re the only city in the country that has an offal day,” she says. Here’s how it works: Twelve local chefs prepare an offal dish followed by a blind tasting. Tickets cost about $65, and the event takes place in August. “People love it,” Enfield says. facebook.com/OffalDay
Beez Nuts bowl with strawberries and bananas at Vibe Health Bar
After many years living in New York City, Andrew and Krista Abrahams started Long Dream Farm in Lincoln as a way to feed their family and because they wanted to know where their food came from. They realized if they scaled up their efforts they could feed others as well. The couple practices a type of farming that doesn’t produce overnight results; the primary concern is for the treatment of the animals, not production. Long Dream’s micro dairy and creamery churn out cheese, butter, ice cream and a dreamy Greek-style yogurt that tastes like real yogurt. Available at Gaia’s Basket or online at longdreamfarm.com.
Optional: Take a farm tour, which usually starts with milking at dawn, or plan an overnight stay in the large guesthouse. Chores are optional but part of the fun.
Bobby Mull and Zachary Nelson are zealous about kombucha. The partners, who founded Zeal Kombucha three years ago, care a great deal about flavor and taste. “We are driven by making something that tastes good,” Mull says. Currently, Zeal offers five flavors of kombucha, including Vanilla Pine, made with pine needles, chamomile, lavender, ginger and vanilla beans. Next up? Cascara, made from the husk of coffee beans. It tastes like cherry and leather, Mull says, with honeybush, Meyer lemon, hibiscus and vanilla notes. Available on tap at Vibe Health Bar and in bottles at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. zealkombucha.com