Sep 02 2015

The 2015 California Fig Fest

Let’s flashback to several months ago when my friend Kristen presented me with my birthday gift – Fabio Viviani’s (one of my chef crushes) new cookbook: Fabio’s American Home Kitchen. Inside the cookbook were 2 VIP tickets to the California Fig Fest in Fresno. The tickets read: Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani – Catch Bravo Network’s most beloved Italian Chef at our main stage! Fabio Viviani will be cooking up a delicious fig-inspired recipe in a LIVE cooking demonstration. With his contagious humor and wit, you will not want to miss this event.

Nope – we were NOT going to miss this event. You see, in case you forgot from my post a year ago, Kristen purchased tickets for us to see Fabio in San Francisco, and I ended up tearing my ACL and meniscus, resulting in emergency knee surgery. I followed that with breaking a toe while on crutches. I had to skip the event, but lived vicariously through Kristen’s texts, videos and the photos she sent me. She also gave me a signed cookbook, so that was really cool. Now it was time to meet my chef crush in person, it was MY turn to drool over his hotness and sexy Italian accent. 

Now fast forward to Saturday, August 15 and the 12th Annual California Fig Fest.

I met Kristen at Starbucks around 6 a.m. the morning of the festival. I drove us to California State University, Fresno and we made it in plenty of time.

The 12th Annual California Fig Fest benefited Fresno State’s Ag One Foundation and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. 

California Fig Fest 2015

Our VIP passes got us a few perks. Early entrance  – that didn’t happen, they were a little unorganized – a canvas swag bag full of fig snacks, pens, note cards, recipes and some other stuff. We also got a wine glass, access to an air conditioned tent (it was 106 degrees, so that was the second best part) unlimited wine/beer and passed trays of fig inspired appetizers. The best part was a meet-and-greet with Chef Fabio. 

California Fig Fest 2015 Swag Bag

Once we got into the festival, we wandered to the food booth area. We had the opportunity to judge different fig inspired dishes from 20 local restaurants. They had REAL VIP judges for the more important awards. 

VIP judges picks: First place: The Vineyard, second place, Rosetti’s Fine Foods and third place, Guri’s Grub House and Taps

People’s Choice picks: First place, The Painted Table; second place, Guri’s; and third place, Elbow Room Bar & Grill

California Fig Fest 2015 - Love and Garlic Booth

We loved the tablescape of the Love & Garlic booth. They ended up serving up a fig and walnut spread (dried figs, cream & goat cheese with walnuts) on a crostini. 

California Fig Fest 2015

We sampled the Elbow Room Bar & Grill braised porchetta baguette with fresh fig compote, arugula aioli and fresh greens. It was one of my favorite bites of the day. They won 3rd place for People’s Choice.

California Fig Fest 2015

Next up was Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant and their goulash in a fig cup. I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. The sweetness of the fig in combination with the acidity from the goulash was a successful pairing. 

California Fig Fest 2015 - The Vineyard

The Vineyard brought it home with their macaroons. They were the VIP Judges pick for first place. First place for the People’s Choice award went to the Painted Table’s crispy polenta cake with tomato fennel jam and figs. We didn’t get a chance to taste that one, bummer.

California Fig Fest 2015 - The Vineyard - Fig and goat cheese mascarpone macaroons

Fig and goat cheese mascarpone macaroons with local balsamic pipettes. I was SO obsessed with the pipettes, I texted Deede to share the photos. They purchased the pipettes through Amazon.

California Fig Fest 2015 - voting card

The vendors checked off our voting card and we headed over to the VIP tent to cool off. We had already seen Fabio near the main stage – Kristen got a chance to chat with him as I was too fan-struck to say a word. 

California Fig Fest 2015

We enjoyed the first of the complimentary passed appetizers in the tent. Fresh and dried figs with salami and cheeses. 

California Fig Fest 2015

Dried fig compote and goat cheese with herbs

California Fig Fest 2015

Fig, brie and ham wrap with caramelized onions. While the appetizers were keeping our taste buds entertained, we couldn’t help but notice that Fabio had entered the tent. The meet-and-greet started and Kristen and I jumped in line to get our photos taken and our cookbooks signed. 


Fabio grabbed my iPhone to take a selfie and I about died. It was set to black and white and he laughed at my artiness. He took one photo, then switched it over to color and snapped a few more… then OUR FACES TOUCHED. LOL – Kristen could not stop laughing at how flustered I got. It was hysterical and my giddiness lasted the entire 3-hour drive home. You can currently find copies of all of the photos under my pillow. I texted the above photo to Dan along with “My new boyfriend – Fabio” and his response was – bring his money home! – haha. And this is why I married him. 


Kristen and Fabio wore matching outfits. Black v-neck tees and jeans. She would like me to believe that they planned that in advance. 


Achievement unlocked. I met another one of my chef crushes (Tyler Florence being another) and got my cookbook signed. Swoon! 


We left the tent and posed in front of the gigantic fig for a quick photo, then we made our way to the main stage tent to see Albert J. Hernandez – the Untamed Chef and his cooking demo. Translation – to get killer front row seats for Fabio.

California Fig Fest 2015 - the Untamed Chef

Albert’s chef coat was all Nascar’d up with his sponsorship logos. Kristen got to taste the chocolate, fig and port ice cream. We missed the other dishes, but enjoyed chatting with him after the demo. 

California Fig Fest 2015

Next up was Figology 101 with Carla from the California Fig Advisory Board. She shared her wealth of fig knowledge with us. I really enjoyed the 30 minute presentation and learned a lot. This time I DID take notes.

  • California produces 6 primary fig varieties
    • Fresh Brown Turkey Figs are available mid-May through December. They are a light purple to black skinned fig with pink flesh and a robust flavor – beautiful for roasting.
    • Fresh Black Mission Figs are available mid-May through November. They are a purple to black skinned fig with pink flesh and an intense earthy flavor and account for 50% production. 
    • Fresh Calimyrna Figs are available July through September. They are large pale yellow skinned figs with a nutty, sweet flavor.
    • Fresh Kadota Figs are available June to October. They have a creamy amber color when ripe with a light delicate flavor – similar to a Sauvignon Blanc.
    • Fresh Sierra Figs are available June through October. They have a light-colored skin with a fresh, sweet flavor – comparable to a Riesling with berry notes and citrus flavor. They are good for grilling.
    • Fresh Tiger Figs are available July through September. They have subtle green stripes and striking raspberry color and flavor notes.
  • California leads the nation in fig production, responsible for 100 percent of dried figs and 98 percent of fresh figs sold commercially.
  • The industry presently represents over 100 producers, marketers, farm managers and processors of California Figs, farming 9,300 acres mainly in Madera, Fresno and Merced counties with some in Kern. Palm Springs is another area in California that produces figs.
  • Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable.
  • Figs are harvested in the late summer and early fall.

California Fig Fest 2015 - Chef Fabio Viviani

It was finally time for the main event – Chef Fabio’s cooking demo.

California Fig Fest 2015 - Chef Fabio Viviani

He was given a white Fig Fest chef coat and after 2 minutes, decided that there was no way he could wear it in the 106 degree Fresno weather, combined with the heat coming off his cooking station. 

California Fig Fest 2015 - Chef Fabio Viviani

He took care of that real quick.

California Fig Fest 2015 - Chef Fabio Viviani

California Fig Fest 2015 - Chef Fabio Viviani

Kristen had mentioned that he really interacted with the audience during his San Francisco gig, but I had no idea how engaging and hilarious he was. He ranted about Americans and our obsession with kitchen gadgets – how we have drawers full of unused stuff that we don’t need, but bought because it was on sale.


Visual evidence that I suffer from the “American obsession” – pretty sure I’ve NEVER used 1/2 of what is in my kitchen drawer. I do only have one drawer full of crap, so I guess that’s a plus. See anything you want? 

He also asked…. how many of you buy ground pepper? He then stated that the only reason you should EVER use already ground pepper, is if you are seasoning a whole freakin’ cow, ha-ha. He had a similar take on garlic, before showing us the metal bowl trick that can be found all over the Interwebs.

California Fig Fest 2015 - Chef Fabio Viviani

He walked us through the easiest way to make pasta, using a food processor and a blade attachment. He then said that he knows he’ll get a million questions on his facebook page or on twitter.

Can I use my Kitchenaid mixer? NO!

What if I use my mixer with the dough hook? NO!

Can I use a blender? NO! 

What if? NO! NO! NO!

A food processor with the blade attachment is THE ONLY THING to use if you aren’t making your pasta by hand. 

Fabio’s Fresh Egg Pasta

10 egg yolks
Pinch of table salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups flour

He’s definitely not into measuring. He pointed out that eggs are different sizes, spoons are different sizes and if after you put in the egg yolks, your pasta is sticky, add more flour, 1 spoonful at a time. How big of a spoon? Whatever size you have.

  • Place the egg yolks in a food processor with the blade attachment, add the salt, pepper, and olive oil, and pulse a few times.
  • Add half of the flour and pulse until the eggs absorb it and you have a semi-thick paste. Add the rest of the flour and allow the blade to rotate continuously. When the dough is ready, you should see a ball-shaped mass of flour and eggs bouncing around the canister. If the dough is still too wet to the touch, add an extra spoonful of flour. If it is a bit dry, add a little water as needed.
  • Take the pasta out and roll/shape according to the directions of the recipe you are making. If you’re saving it for later, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for up to 6 days. 

Fabio made a cream based pickled fig sauce for his homemade orecchiette. I wish I hadn’t stopped taking notes because I already forgot all of the ingredients he used. 

He also made a seared flank steak with a fig and frisee salad that included escarole, pine nuts, garlic and roasted peppers. The gal sitting behind us got to go on stage to help out. Fabio sent her back to her seat with the entire platter and chef knife. Then all things went to hell. People started asking for everything on stage. The food processor, an opened bottle of brandy, his chef coat, olive oil – he gave it all away and graciously signed everything for his fans. His publicist was laughing and the Fig Fest promoters were shitting bricks – taping the open brandy bottle shut, asking for the chef knife back due to safety concerns… it was pretty funny. 



We had a FABULOUS time at the festival and shortly after I ended up receiving some fresh figs from a friend’s tree. I really need to buy some more. I want to try some of the new recipes that were included in our swag bags. Thank you Kristen for my awesome birthday present and thank you Fabio (because I’m sure he’ll read this – LOLZ) for making me giggle like a school girl. 

Have you guys tried fresh figs? Got any recipes for me to make?


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Aug 25 2015

Four Months of Photos

I do believe this might be the longest break I’ve taken from blogging. I needed to focus on other things and now I’m back to share the past four months of eats and life with you.

I finally made it to Magpie Cafe with some of my girlfriends (Kristen and Marnie)

Magpie outgrew their small space at 14th and R Street and have since moved to their new location – 1601 16th Street, Sacramento CA 95814. I’m looking forward to trying their new expanded menu, but for now you get the old stuff. 

We had all checked out the menu online, they update it daily. Their menu is inspired by fresh, seasonal ingredients with an emphasis on sourcing from Northern California. 

The first thing I noticed when I walked through the door was their branding. Total designer geek moment – From their menus clipped into clip boards to the signage once in the restaurant. The Yellow-Billed Magpie is native to the Sacramento area, and is the only bird found solely on the California mainland. It is easily identifiable by its bright yellow bill and contrasting black and white coloration and looks great in their logo.

We knew going in that we wanted to share dishes. We started by each picking one item. Our selections included Roasted Asparagus and Green Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette (Local greens, fennel, watermelon radish and candied almonds) made this one of my favorite dishes of the night. The amount of dressing was perfect. I didn’t get a photo of the roasted asparagus, the spears came with a delicious tarragon-caper aioli. The grilled bread with caramelized onion and olive tapenade was also delicious. The risotto (Lundberg Garm Arborio Rice, asparagus, fava greens, spring onions, green garlic, mint, lemon and aged jack cheese) was incredible. The Berkshire T Bone Pork Chop included roasted asparagus, heirloom cannellini beans and romesco. There was no way we were passing up dessert – we enjoyed the creme brulee with honey and lavender and the carrot cake cookie ice cream sandwich. We were happy with all of our choices and look forward to our next food adventure. We meet up every couple of months to try a “new to us” place. 


Next up was Bacon & Butter. I finally made it to the Tahoe Park location for brunch with my friend Liz. The wait was just under an hour, but well worth it. I ordered the leek and lardon omelet (lardon (bacon), creamed shallot rings, cheddar and a side of fruit) – Liz ordered the bananas foster french toast and after stealing a bite, I knew without a doubt that Dan would have LOVED that dish. I’m more of a savory eater, so mine was just perfect for me. I will definitely be taking the hubs there soon. 


We enjoyed a weekend day trip to Sutter Creek and stopped into Pepita’s with some friends. Dan was craving nachos and I opted for the street tacos. All cravings were satisfied that day. 


Double fudge/brownie ice cream was also enjoyed at the Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium. The location was the town drug store for over 70 years, but now it’s filled with a soda fountain, candies, fresh-made fudge and everything an old-fashioned ice cream/candy store should have. 


Next up on my phone photos was a cultural event at Frasinetti Winery in Sacramento. The Frasinetti Winery was founded on the southern edge of Sacramento 118 years ago, in 1897. The cultural event started with wine tasting/mingling and in 104 degree weather, the Sauvignon Blanc hit the spot. I didn’t get to choose from the entire restaurant menu since it was a private event in the banquet room, but I did enjoy my vegetarian pasta dish followed by spumoni ice cream.  


I met some more girlfriends in Placerville where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Sweetie Pies. This cute little Victorian house was built around 1865 and was one of the first homes on Main Street. Sweetie Pies opened for business in 1991 and my girlfriend Carolyn had been talking about taking me for quite a while. It’s one of her favorite breakfast places. I absolutely loved it. I got the veggie scramble (Zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, fresh spinach, green onions, tomatoes, and a cheddar & jack blend) and took part in the shared cinnamon roll. 


I also made another stop into Ten 22 located in Old Sacramento and probably had the best dessert I’ve ever had in my life. The waiter billed it as that and I laughed, thinking… does he know how many desserts I’ve had over the years? The Fuzzy Peach and Sea Salt Caramel Bread Pudding – made with local peaches, burnt caramel, croissant, bourbon and vanilla ice milk. The BEST $8 I’ve ever spent. The sweet berrymisu was excellent too. 


A few weeks later I rolled myself over to Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. to meet up with another group of girlfriends for brunch. I’d been there for dinner and happy hour several times, but never for brunch. We sat out on the patio and opted to share items. The four of us shared the Crispy Carnitas and Egg Quesadilla  (Habanero Jack Cheese, Pickled Red Onion, Guacamole, Black Beans & Charred Tomato Salsa) the Breakfast Pizza (Bacon, Roasted Potatoes, Cherry Tomato, Red Onion, Broccolini, Calabrian Chilies & Two Sunny Side Up Eggs) – the pancake of the day (can’t remember it’s been too long) and extra sides of Fireman Potatoes and gravy. We did not leave hungry. 


Dan and I  hit up a local food truck event with friends and I got to try Cichy Co. for the first time. 


The Pulled Pork Sandwich (Tangy BBQ Sauce, Pickles, Fried Onion) and fries were amazing! We waited about 45 minutes in the long line, but I’ve been thinking about the sandwich ever since. That is definitely a good thing. 


Dan is a huge calamari fan, so we stopped into another restaurant in our travels for a quick appetizer/drinks and won the sticker/bar code jackpot! Ha-ha – I have the most random photos on my phone. While most people snap photos of other people, my photo stream is filled with everything food. Go figure. I can’t even remember where we got the calamari – I should probably take notes to go along with my photos. 


I visited Paul and Tom for a weekend and that included a stop at their shared garden space. They grow peppers to make their fabulous pepper jelly – which I’m hoping I get to witness in person this year.



The jelly is addicting and they make sure I’m well stocked each visit. 


I’m also blaming them for my new Sweet Potato Triscuit addiction and for popping my Moscow Mule cherry. 


This ginger beer is incredible – Paul gets it from the World Market and I’m pretty sure it will be a staple item in my Moscow Mule making supplies. I did find that I also like the Mexican Mule – made with tequila instead of vodka. 

All of these food shenanigans, road trips and meals out with good friends have been followed by…


lots of Fitbit steps. A bunch of us got Fitbits at work and at first I was uber obsessed. Like walking around my house to meet the 10K step goal obsessed. I was logging my food on My Fitness Pal, syncing data between the two apps while getting in extra steps/miles on my treadmill using iFit while watching shows on my iPad and I came to the realization that I need to get outside more often. So I stepped away from the technology and just enjoyed life. So that is what I’ve been up to, what’s new with you guys?


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Apr 01 2015

Gettin’ Crabby with Friends

Our friends Aaron and Carolyn have been talking about The Boiling Crab for years and how we must try it. We finally got the chance and they were right, the place is worth visiting if you’ve never been. The Boiling Crab isn’t stuffy in any way shape or form. The tables are covered in paper and your meal is delivered in a sauced up plastic bag, ready to dump onto the table if you so desire. 

The Boiling Crab - Sacramento, CA

Those that have an aversion to sticky or greasy fingers – this is not your place. If delicious crab, crawfish, jumbo shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob and Cajun fries are your thing, The Boiling Crab is definitely for you. The restaurant decor is laid back with tables, booths and plenty of grafitti’d dock pilings for restaurant goers to check out. 


According to their website, it all began in a little Southeastern Texas town called Seadrift, where a family of crabbers and fishermen labored in their fishing boats year-round, catching oysters, crab and shrimp for the seafood industry. The family’s idea was to bring the taste of a backyard crab fest to family and friends. The very first Boiling Crab opened back in 2004.

Chain locations now include: Dallas, Texas, Southern California (LA County, Orange County, San Diego) Northern California (San Jose, Sacramento) and Las Vegas, Nevada.  


The Sacramento Boiling Crab is located at the corner of Stockton Boulevard and 65th Street – sharing the same parking lot as my beloved Huong Lan Sandwich Shop – Home of the best bánh mì sandwich in Sac.

We happened to go to The Boiling Crab on a night where the wait wasn’t crazy. An hour plus wait time is not out of the norm for this place, especially on weekends. We waited a whopping 5 minutes before getting a table for our party of 8.


We got our plastic bibs and menus and then decided on our drink and food orders. The regulars at our table already knew what they wanted, while Dan and I had a million questions. 


Step 1 – Pick your catch. We both wanted crab. Dan went for the King Crab Legs and I ended up splitting a Dungeness Crab with our friend Kelly.

Step 2 – Pick your flavor. You can choose between Rajun Cajun, Lemon Pepper, Garlic Sauce or The Whole Sha-Bang – which combines all three. We went with the Garlic Sauce for the Dungeness and Dan went with Rajun Cajun for his crab legs. 

Step 3 – Pick your spice level. Your choices are: Non spicy (plain and simple) – Mild (Just a kick) – Medium (It’s gettin’ HOT in here!) – XXX (I can’t feel my mouth) – We let our wimp flags fly by choosing mild. 

Step 4 – Die of shock over “Market Price” making the decision to “share” the just over 2 lb. Dungeness at $16/lb., a sweet decision. The King Crab Legs were $24/lb. and Dan ate the pound by himself. Note: The price isn’t really that crazy, I’ve just been trying to cut back on spending.


If fried delights are more your thing, the menu had plenty of options. Catfish, shrimp, calamari, oysters, chicken tenders and wings. 



Dan went with crab only, while Kelly and I decided on a basket of sweet potato fries.

I later wished we would have gotten the Cajun fries after sampling another friends – they were much better! Others ordered corn-on-the-cob, potatoes and sausages for their sides. 


Kelly was pro status when it came to cracking our crab open. Serious skills. There was no sea sheller or pick for her, she straight up used the claw to extract leg meat.





Here’s a fun fact about me, don’t gasp in horror. I’ve never attended a crab feed. I know, right? So for those that attend on a regular basis – I had no idea how serious people take breaking down their crabs. I ended up with shell pieces in my hair, definitely not pro status. 


Our end of meal table was covered in sauce, mountains of shells and piles and piles of crumbled napkins. A fun time was had by all. Plenty of food, lots of laughs and a new place to check off my “restaurants to try” in Sacramento.

Are you a crab fan? Do you have regular crab feeds that you attend every year?  


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