Here's an old joke, you may or may not have heard before:

Question: What's the difference between broccoli and snot?
Answer: Kids don't eat broccoli.

Well about a year ago I would have believed it, but currently one of my favorite dishes to make Mr.S.'s kidlets is roasted broccoli. Yep, you heard me right--- BROCCOLI! Really! It's easy to cook, it's incredibly nutritious (low-cal, rich in phyto-nutrients and a great source of Vitamins A & C) and it doesn't hit the ol' wallet too hard either. Initially the kidlets pooh-poohed the roasted broccoli at dinner time, but with a few tweaks we got them on board and begging for more. The main game changer was letting the broccoli cook longer so it softened and the florets got a slight caramelized crust going. (They love those crunchy, brown, charred pieces.) That extra cooking time really makes a difference in texture and taste. The kidlets seem to like the roasted broccoli sprinkled with grated Parmesan so we eat it like that most of the time but sometimes we add some soy sauce and sesame seeds to jazz it up.

Roasted Broccoli


2 lbs. fresh broccoli, cut into florets

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 lemon

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven 425 degrees F.

2. Rinse broccoli and dry thoroughly. Cut into bite-sized florets.

3. Place aluminum foil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the florets out evenly on the foil in a single layer.

4. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic. Swish it all around with your hands. Make sure everything is lightly (and evenly) coated. Space the florets out as much as you can. They cook better if they're not crowded.

5. Pop the baking sheet in the oven and roast for approximately 18-22 minutes. At the 10 minute mark, take a spatula and flip the suckers over so they cook nicely all the way around. (Note: Keep an eye on the broccoli the first time you make this, every oven is different and some run really hot. You want the broccoli to start to get a nice brown color but not burn.)

6. When done, remove sheet from oven and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over it. You can either sprinkle some grated Parmesan on the broccoli at this point or just leave it on the table and people can put it on themselves.

7. Toss. Serve immediately.

Kidlets say the darnedest things.

Last night I was at Mr.S.'s and we helped with some homework, watched a bit of TV and played a few games of chess with the kidlets (Kidlet #2 got a set from his grandpa for Xmas this year). At one point, Kidlet #2 had Pepper pup in a headlock and was trying to spend some quality time with him. Pepper was having none of it (as usual) and was squirming, wriggling and whining in a valiant effort to escape. Somehow he pulled a Doggie Houdini and broke free, ran into the other living room and then came over to hide in my lap. As he took off though, Kidlet #2 called out, "Waaaaait Pepper! I'm available!!" His 10-year old sincerity was touching but hilarious at the same time and we all burst into a fit of giggles.

About 15 minutes later during a cut-throat game of chess between Kidlet #1 and Mr.S., I suggested to Kidlet #2 that he "give some pointers to his dad so he could beat [Kidlet #1]." His reply was, "Nah...a smart chimp could beat [Kidlet #1]." When I advised him that it wasn't very nice to say such a thing, he countered with. "WHAT?!!? Do you know how many smart chimps there are out there?!!?"

Seriously, out of the mouth of babes. What can you do but laugh? And much like you can never predict what they'll say, you can never predict what they'll eat either. We've been lucky with Kidlet #1, he's an adventurous eater and will try anything once...and if the dish is spicy? Well, the spicier the better! I'm sure this kid could probably chow down on a ghost pepper without batting an eye. Now Kidlet #2 is more of a reluctant eater. He'll look with suspicion at anything new, "weird," or remotely resembling healthy. *Sigh.* But over the past 3.5 years that Mr.S. and I have been dating, I've found that I could usually get Kidlet #2 on board with dinner if I go with traditional recipes, comfort foods and pretty much anything with chicken breasts. So for dinner tonight we had roasted broccoli and cauliflower (the kidlets and Mr.S. LOVE the broccoli especially) and crispy ranch chicken. Most recipes I've ever seen for ranch chicken utilize mayo or butter but I like to try and keep it healthy so I use Greek yogurt. No one's the wiser and it's fat-free. Hallelujah! The chicken's also cooked in the oven--which eliminates the greasiness that you get when you fry it.

The kidlets loved the crispy ranch chicken and it looks like this dish will be making some repeat appearances in our dinner rotation.

Kidlet Friendly Crispy Ranch Chicken


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

6 oz. plain-flavored Fage Greek Yogurt

1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix

2 cups smashed corn flakes (I put mine in a Ziploc and run a rolling pin over it a few times)

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

4 tablespoons bread crumbs

Olive oil spray (or in a mister)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack that can accomodate the 4 chicken breasts on it (this will keep the bottoms of the chicken breasts from getting soggy).

3. In a bowl, mix together your ranch mix, crushed corn flakes, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

4. Pat your chicken breasts dry, then coat all sides with the Greek yogurt (about an medium amount, don't go too skimpy or too thick).

5. Dredge your yogurt-covered chicken breasts through the dry ingredient mix and place them on the wire racks.

6. Spray the top with olive oil spray.

7. Place the sheet in the oven. Cook for approx. 25-35 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast.

8. Remove from oven and serve warm.

I have to admit, most years I don't tend to participate in Dine Downtown. It usually falls after the holidays and I'm a bit burned out on going out, but this year I agreed to go twice. Mainly because the restaurants were two places that I love- Mulvaney's and Red Rabbit. Unfortunately, my experiences at the two businesses were as different as night and day.


Now let me preface by saying Mulvaney's is my favorite restaurant in Sacramento. I've had many a great meal there over the years. It's our go to restaurant for date nights as well as special occasions and the place in town we always recommend to friends, visitors and even strangers. So maybe that's why the lackluster food we were served on Saturday night really took me by surprise and disappointed me so much. The food we had didn't resemble any meal I've ever had at Mulvaney's.

For the Dine Downtown menu, we decided to try:

1st Course: Wood Ear Mushroom Scaccia w/ Frisee Salad

2nd Course: Ginger Grilled Mary's Chicken on Winter Squash Puree, served with Forbidden Rice and Sesame Bok Choy

3rd Course: Nena's Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

The first course resembled an oversized mushroom and cheese ravioli that had been fried. The scaccia exterior was charred and ugly as a Sicilian scaccia should be, but mine was also cold and chewy. Not a pleasant way to start off my meal.

The second course was our chicken entree. The skimpy serving of chicken was okay but boring. It lacked seasoning and quite frankly I've cooked better at home. The squash puree was bland and my bok choy was simultaneously mushy and slimy. Fail again. The one redeeming component on the plate was the forbidden rice but my intention for the evening was not to go out and spend $30 on a side of rice.

The last course was the chocolate bread pudding and I figured at least this course couldn't go wrong- afterall Mulvaney's is home of the Valrhona Ding Dong. Bzzzz! Wrong again. The bread pudding was dry as the Sahara and it's only saving grace was the tiny scoop of ice cream perched upon it, which as it melted softened up the bread pudding. For a moment, I contemplated spooning some of my coffee over the dessert but decided it probably wouldn't be very ladylike...that is until I noticed a woman at the table next to me doing the same thing.

The only thing remotely "Mulvaney-ish" about our night was the great service. Our waitress was friendly and attentive and her service was flawless from start to finish. Usually after dining at Mulvaney's, I like to retire to their cozy little bar for an after dinner cocktail but not after this dinner. The meal completely fell short of our expectations. I figured we should cut our losses and finish up our evening elsewhere. Now I know during Dine Downtown, restaurants are slammed with diners and they're just trying to get through the night; but instead of just turning and burning tables, they really should take the opportunity to let their business shine and show what their food and service is all about. Otherwise, why participate? As a repeat customer, I know that the food we had is not the norm for Mulvaney's but for someone just venturing to try the place for the first time, I could see them not being impressed or returning. Which is shame really, because on most nights Mulvaney's really serves up some delectable dishes from their kitchen.

Red Rabbit:

Tuesday night, a friend and I decided to dine at Red Rabbit. We had both been there before and had liked the food and atmosphere. We were greeted by a host that may have been new to the job and just trying to find his footing. Although we had reservations, we had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated and he didn't take that opportunity to suggest that we meander over to the bar and grab ourselves a drink.  As we waited for our table, I noticed that he kept dropping menus on the floor and appeared to be a bit scattered? Frazzled? Maybe a mixture of both? Anyhow, once we were seated with menus and water, there seemed to be a long lagtime as we waited for a server to show up and acknowledge us. Just as I was contemplating stopping a passing staff member to ask if we had a server, our server popped up. Now we were ready to roll.

From the Dine Downtown menu, I opted to try the:

1st Course: Local Roasted Beet Capresee w/ Orange and Basalmic Gastrique, Arugula, Marinated Red Onions, and Warm Goat Cheese Squares

2nd Course: Pork Ossobuco with Creamy Polenta and Roasted Garlic, Sauteed Spinach

3rd Course: Candy Bar Pie

I supplemented my dinner with two tasty cocktail drinks- a Dark & Stormy and a Krakow Salt Mine. The Krakow did a great job of showcasing the apple cider flavor. It's a good beverage if you want something delicate and not overwhelmingly alcohol tasting. The Dark & Stormy...whoa, baby! It was delicious but strong (that is not a bad thing btw). I'm no rookie when it comes to libations but that drink put me pretty far along to Tipsytown.

Although I've dined at Red Rabbit before I've never tried their beet caprese or pork ossobuco. I loved the beet caprese- the sliced beets were roasted perfectly, there was a nice balance between the citrus and the balsalmic and the marinated red onions gave it a nice unexpected tangy flavor and crunch. I loved the little goat cheese bites that were more like balls than squares, the panko batter on the outside was a nice added touch. The cheese balls were warm and creamy inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside. All the componenets of this starter course worked well. It's a dish I would go back and order.

For my second course, my waiter brought out a large serving of pork ossobuco nestled atop some creamy polenta and accompanied by a few stalks of broccolini (maybe they ran out of the spinach?). Both my dining companion and I were amazed at how extremely tender the ossobuco was- it fell just right off the bone and when scooped up with the polenta it was the perfect bite. Also, the broccolini was nicely cooked and brought some fresh, edible color to the plate.

For the finale course of my menu, I went with the candy bar pie which promised a melange of caramel, peanut butter butter cream and dark chocolate enveloped in a pretzel crust. The dish was a bit on the heavy side probably better suited for sharing then eating one all to yourself, but that pretzel crust---the unexpected crunchy and saltiness under the layers, really propeled the dessert from a "B" dessert to an "A."

Our server was polite, efficient, and dishes were spaced apart nicely. Not super chatty, which is fine as we didn't need much explanation on the menu that night and were engrossed in our own conversation. Overall, I felt that Red Rabbit embraced the idea of what Dine Downtown is all about and I was impressed with what they put out. In fact, it's only been two days since I've dined there but I've already told several people to go in and try them out for meals and/or drinks.

My god, has it been colder than a witch's tit or what lately? I know it's been colder than past Sacramento winters because I've actually been wearing SOCKS the past two weeks and I rarely wear socks (I absolutely abhor the feeling of my feet being encased). However, it's been a choice of wearing socks and being uncomfortable and grouchy or having numb toes and blue there you have it, socks win. Dammit! Anyhow, to keep warm I've also been eating a LOT of soup. Soup, it's the ultimate comfort food and there's so many different kinds-- smooth butternut squash, heart warming chicken noodle, zingy tom yum...the list is endless. What's your favorite kind to dig into on chilly nights? For me, it's homemade mushroom soup- the thick velvety kind that dances on your tongue with a luxurious, earthy flavor. I could eat it everyday! For Kidlet #1, it's clam chowder in a bread bowl. He goes absolutely bonkers for the briny-creamy concoction. He'll even eat the watery canned stuff in a pinch (gack!) I thought I'd surprise him with a batch for dinner last night. Now I know there's all kinds of low-cal, low-fat, skinny-minny recipes out there for clam chowder. I've tried a few...and quite honestly, they suck. I say- if you're gonna make some chowder, go balls out and use butter, cream and potatoes. You can even use fresh clams but if you're like me, you're a bit lazy on weeknights and canned will suffice. Anyhow, give yourself a reprieve from the almond milk and tofu and be decadent for one evening. Vive la chowder!

(Chowda purists be warned though- this is not the traditional chowder most likely immortalized in the memories of your youth spent summering in New England; however, it is a hearty, aromatic, delicious taste of the sea nonetheless, so give it a try. )

Creamy Clam Chowder


1/2 lb. sliced bacon
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 lb. of Honey Gold potatoes, quartered or 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 leek, chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 cobs fresh corn, zippered
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 cans (10 oz. undrained) whole baby clams
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons rice flour (you can use AP flour if you must)
1 cup whole milk
1 cups cream
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 sourdough bowls (optional)


1. In a pan, cook your bacon. Let it crisp up (about 3-4 minutes). Remove bacon with a slotted spoon or tongs and set on a paper-towel, leave the bacon grease in the pan.

2. In the pan (with the bacon grease), add in the onion and leek. Saute for about 7-8 minutes over medium heat, until onions are soft and semi-translucent. Stir frequently. Add in garlic. Cook for about another 1-2 minutes. Transfer ingredients to a large soup pot, set aside.

3. In pan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add your jumble of celery, potatoes, carrots and corn. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Transfer ingredients to soup pot.

4. Open all three cans of clams. Drain liquid into a measuring cup and save. Place clams in a bowl and place in fridge.

5. Place soup pot on burner over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups of clam juice. Stir. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes.

6. Add in clams, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Slowly add in milk and cream. Stir until sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook another 15 minutes. Chowder will thicken.

[7. If you like your chowder on the slightly thicker side: In a pan or small pot, whisk together 3 tablespoons of rice flour with 3 tablespoons butter. Once it's bubbling, add a large ladle of chowder to the flour and butter mixture (aka roux). Mix together well then add it back into the pot of chowder. Turn the heat up and allow it to come to a boil, then again reduce to a simmer.]

8. Hollow out your sourdough bowls. (I like to keep the dough I pull out, it's great for dipping into the soup.) Chop your bacon slices into 1/4-inch pieces.

9. Stir soup occasionally. Adjust seasonings if needed. Make sure potatoes are knife-tender. Discard bay leaf.

10. Ladle into sourdough bowls. Sprinkle with bacon bits. Garnish with cracked pepper or chopped fresh parsley (optional). Serve hot.


1831 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95811. (916) 341-0488,

In many Asian cultures, noodles are eaten at the start of a new year because they symbolize longevity. So I was ecstatic when my friend Eric suggested we grab some ramen last Friday at the newly opened Ryu Jin Ramen House by my cottage. Also, I'm not sure about you but I've been running my heater non-stop for a few weeks now. It's been incredibly cold outside...well, cold by Sacramento standards (my parents who live out of state would consider our winter weather a heat wave). Anyhow when the temperature begins to drop, I start craving a big steaming bowl of pho or ramen to warm me up.

Located in the 19th Street Safeway shopping center, the warmly hued and brightly lit Ryu Jin is brought to us by the same folks who run Akebono over on Freeport. The ramen-ya took over the space that used to occupy a less-than-stellar Mexican food joint and before that I'm pretty sure it was a place that dished out Greek food. Eric, Melanie and I got there early, about 530pm, and I'm glad we did- Ryu Jin fills up fast! For appetizers, we ordered the gyoza and takoyaki. The gyoza were okay- they were pan-fried but overcooked, a bit on the oily side and the filling lacked ginger. The takoyaki (small balls of flavored batter mixed with diced octopus) were a bit heavier than ones I've had in the past. I've eaten them in Japan and have made them myself before; Ryu Jin's version of takoyaki was much denser, creamier and tasted like there was maybe some sort of dairy component added to the mix. They did garnish the order with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), pickled red ginger bits and the traditional takoyaki brown sauce which I liked; however, they also squirted on a lot of a mayo-based sauce that was unnecessary and gloppy.

For dinner, Eric and Melanie ordered the Aka Tonkatsu Ramen and I opted for the Shoyu Ramen (I always use Shoyu Ramen as my standard for ramen places). Ryu Jin's Shoyu Ramen broth lacked that kick of umami- it was not overly oily or excessively salty, but not really rich or flavorful enough to make you want to slurp it down. The noodles (though they didn't taste freshly made) were cooked al dente and were nice and snappy. There were plenty of noodles in the bowl and I also liked that they didn't nickel and dime you on the order came with menma (bamboo slices, aji-tama (seasoned soft-boiled egg), black mushroom bits, cabbage, BBQ pork slices and a slice of naruto (pink and white fishcake). If you want to add other sides (corn, wakame, additional noodles) , the cost is a reasonable extra $.50 to $2.

Service was friendly and quick. The waitresses were on top of their game- coming by several times to check on our orders, clear plates and offer soda/water refills. It's great that they're so efficient because that place gets crowded quick and there's really nowhere to wait. As we ate, I noticed the front entry way was crammed with customers much like the anchovies in the toroidal tank at the aquarium, all trying to make their way to the front or waiting. It made me feel a wee bit claustrophobic just watching it.

My final impression of Ryu Jin was that it was "maa maa" (the Japanese phrase for "so-so"). The ramen didn't knock my socks off but it was decent and would quell a ramen craving, however, not enough to warrant waiting a lengthy period of time for a table. In the future, I'd probably opt to order a to-go order or visit their sister restaurant on Freeport as it also serves the same ramen minus the crowd. It is nice though to see more ramen-yas opening up around Sacramento and being embraced by diners...hopefully, a few late night yakitori stands will follow. ;)
Photo Source: Unknown
For those in the Sacramento area, just a heads up- The Downtown Sacramento Partnership's annual Dine Downtown Week is coming up!

For a link to the participating restaurants and their menus (most of them are up):
Dine Downtown Sacramento 2013
* Business that are offering vegetarian and gluten-free are marked on the list with a (V) and (GL).

A few of the restaurants that are participating are: Mulvaney's, Restaurant Thir13en, The Red Rabbit and Biba.


2765 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. (415) 474-5044

It's said that you can't go home again, but I call BS. This past weekend during our escape to San Francisco, Mr.S. took me to one of his childhood haunts- the historic Buena Vista Cafe near the Fisherman's Wharf. Had we planned a little more carefully, we probably could have hopped on a cable car right outside of our hotel and rode it straight to the porch of the cafe. Instead we drove over there and luckily parking didn't turn out to be an issue. We got there minutes before it opened and as we stood outside in line, we inhaled the crisp bay air and Mr.S. excitedly told me how he and his family would always stop by the Buena Vista when he was a child. At 9am promptly, a matronly waitress unlocked the doors and the masses moved in, tables become occupied in a flash and seats at the well worn wooden counter quickly filled. Somehow we were one of the lucky ones who were able to slide into a table next to the window. Those who were unable to find a table stood in the walkway and any open nook or cranny available anxiously looking for a seat to open. Everyone's elbow to elbow, that's how it rolls at the Buena Vista...a bit like musical chairs.

Now if you haven't heard, the Buena Vista is supposedly the birthplace of the Irish Coffee in America. The Buena Vista has been using the same tried and true recipe since 1952, can you believe it?!  Every table around us seemed to be sporting a goblet of the hot, frothy liquid. (I bet they go through TONS of Irish Whiskey!) For breakfast, we both went a bit traditional. Mr.S. ordered a plate of corn beef hash (he loooves hash) and I went with some eggs, sausage and toast. Both orders were tasty- nothing fancy. Service was a bit slow but it was a full house. As soon as we paid our tab and stood to leave, hungry patrons quickly swooped into our still warm seats.

The food at the Buena Vista is solid, the atmosphere is fun and nostalgia is abound in the small restaurant. Regulars and visitors equally were lining up to come in and smiles were plentiful. While I was digging into my breakfast , I looked up and I swear I could picture a school-aged Mr.S. bellying up to the counter and demanding a plate of hash. That made ME smile. So even if the joint is a wee bit touristy, I'm glad we stopped by.