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. 

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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.  

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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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Mar 05 2015

Artichoke and Spinach Pasta Bake

 

I’ve been trolling Pinterest again. This time I was on the search for some healthier pasta dishes that I could portion out into easy grab-n-go lunches for the week. I’ve shared many times on this blog that I have a slight macaroni and cheese obsession/addiction. I do still indulge in the occasional full fat mac-n-cheese meal, but that’s a bit too heavy for my everyday eats. 

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I did find several recipes that looked decent. I ended up altering one a bit to come up with my own version. It was ingredient heavy, but since it’s “thrown together” casserole style, it turned out to be easy and well worth it in the end. 

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Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Whole Grain Rotini Pasta
  • 1 1/4 Cups Milk
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 3 Dorat Crushed Garlic Cubes
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Black Pepper – to taste
  • 1 1/2 Heaping Cups Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 (14-ounce) Can Quartered Artichoke Hearts – drained
  • 1 (10-ounce) Package Frozen Chopped Spinach – thawed and well-drained
  • 1/3 Heaping Cup Julienned Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil – drained
  • 3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Panko

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Yes, “heaping” is a measurement theme with this recipe. I knew I wanted a little more sun-dried tomatoes than the original recipe called for and in my world you can never have too many vegetables or cheese. 

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I ended up cutting each quartered artichoke heart in half – I thought they were too bulky and wanted to enjoy them with every bite. I set my oven for 350° F. then lightly coated my baking dish with nonstick spray. You can also use oil or butter, whatever rocks your world. I then cooked my pasta according to the package instructions. I drained it immediately and set it aside.

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I whisked together the milk, eggs, garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

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I then added the Monterey Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, artichokes, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and pasta. Gently stir all ingredients.

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This is not a super creamy dish, the sauce is rather light. If you are hoping for a super creamy texture, I suggest adding whipping cream or half and half instead of milk and you might want to increase the amount of cheese you use. I really liked the lighter consistency, it was just what I was looking for. The original recipe I looked at said to bake until golden brown. I found that there wasn’t enough cheese to make that happen, so I baked it for approximately 20 minutes. I took it out before the pasta on the top layer started to get crispy.

I toasted my panko in a pan with olive oil while the dish was baking in the oven. I ended up keeping the toasted panko in a tupperware so I could add it to each lunch portion after re-heating.

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The weather has been in the 70’s and this is why I LOVE California and will probably never leave. Dining alfresco by the pool, yes please!

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I was so pleased with how the dish turned out. I will definitely be making it again. Some modifications to consider for next time or to make it your own. Experiment with different cheeses, add chicken if you are looking for more protein, increase the red pepper flakes if you want to turn up the heat or try using different veggies. This recipe will also be filed under – so and so just had a baby, I need to make/take them a dish.

Artichoke and Spinach Pasta Bake
A light and easy baked pasta dish with artichokes, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounces Whole Grain Rotini Pasta
  2. 1 1/4 Cups Milk
  3. 2 Large Eggs
  4. 3 Dorat Crushed Garlic Cubes
  5. 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  6. 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  7. 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  8. Salt and Black Pepper - to taste
  9. 1 1/2 Heaping Cups Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  10. 1 (14-ounce) Can Quartered Artichoke Hearts - drained
  11. 1 (10-ounce) Package Frozen Chopped Spinach - thawed and well-drained
  12. 1/3 Heaping Cup Julienned Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil - drained
  13. 3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
  14. 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  15. 1/2 Cup Panko Crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat baking dish with nonstick spray, oil or butter.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions and then drain well.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, garlic, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper. Add Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and pasta.
  4. Add pasta mixture to uncovered prepared baking dish. Place into oven and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
  5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium to high heat. Add Panko and stir until toasted, about 3-5 minutes; set aside.
  6. Serve pasta immediately, sprinkled with Panko.
Adapted from DamnDelicious.net
Adapted from DamnDelicious.net
Foodiddy http://foodiddy.com/
 Enjoy!
foo

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Jan 23 2015

SusieCakes makes Sac a little sweeter!

I had the wonderful opportunity of joining fellow media professionals and bloggers at the new SusieCakes Sacramento location in the upscale Pavilions Shopping Center for a special preview event.  We had the opportunity to meet the face behind SusieCakes, founder – Susie Sarich. I was really impressed by her story, her business model, and her interest in our own personal stories.

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SusieCakes is an all-American, homestyle bakery specializing in a variety of dessert favorites. From their cakes to their cookies, all items are made by in-house bakers, offering one-of-a-kind – made from scratch, treats. 

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Susie grew up with fond childhood memories of baking alongside her two grandmothers, Mildred and Madeline. She shared with a few of us that her bakery’s “Susie Blue” signature color was actually inspired by the color of her grandmother’s Pyrex bowls. Pretty sure we had the same blue set in my house, circa 1970. I love that she cherished her kitchen time with her grandmas and that some of their recipes still remain a huge part of her bakery today.

I know I too cherish the hours spent at the bar stools in my Mom’s kitchen watching her prepare meals. As a working mom, she had everything down to a science – at times she’d leave instructions, and as I got a little older, I’d start dinner before both of my parents got home from work. I too have a wooden box filled with family recipes. My grandmother’s Kitchenaid sits proudly on my kitchen counter and is a reminder of how the role of family and cooking/baking traditions have continued to fuel my own passion for spending time in the kitchen and enjoying good food.

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Susie opened her first location in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles back in 2006. The bakery became an instant neighborhood hit. Susie’s husband shared that their customers return again and again to celebrate important family events – from birthdays, baby showers and weddings, to customized sport themed cupcakes – SusieCakes became part of others’ family traditions and that meant a lot to them. 

Their Carlsbad and Laguna Niguel stores will be the next two to open. Carlsbad is slated for March 2015 and Laguna Niguel will follow in May 2015. For my Willow Glen peeps – Susie shared that they were looking at Lincoln Ave. as a possible new location – so hopefully that happens, because I think this type of bakery would be an excellent fit. Raviolis at La Villa, followed by dessert at SusieCakes – sign me up!

Other Northern California locations include Greenbrae (Marin), Chestnut Street (San Francisco Marina), Menlo Park, Lafayette and San Carlos.

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I couldn’t get over the cuteness factor of the store’s decor and the employees that worked there. It was a little slice of retro heaven. From the Susie Blue painted walls to the cherry and floral fabric on the white metal bar stools – I loved all of the store’s design details. The merchandise for sale was very Pinterest worthy and totally “my thing” – I had to refrain from buying enough candles to light up a year of birthdays. 

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Susie took a few of us at a time through the kitchen where we got to see the employees working. They were decorating custom cookies with logos from businesses all over Sacramento. The bakery has big glass windows that customers can see all the bakery action through. 

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We were each given a tasting plate of cake. We sampled seven different cakes while sipping champagne. The cakes are all made from scratch. No mixes, artificial preservatives or trans fats are used. What they do use is European-Style butter, Scharffen Berger Cocoa, Ghirardelli & Callabaut Chocolate and Tahitian-Bean Vanilla.  

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We sampled the Carrot Cake, Tropical Coconut Cake, Vanilla Celebration Cake, Classic Marble Cake, Old-Fashioned 6-Layer Chocolate Cake, Famous Southern Red Velvet Cake, and the Luscious Lemon Cake.

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My favorite was the Vanilla Celebration Cake, six layers of vanilla cake with confetti, covered in Susie Blue colored vanilla buttercream frosting. It was like butter on a spoon. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it was – frosted butter :). 

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My second favorite was the Luscious Lemon Cake, followed by the Old-Fashioned 6-Layer Chocolate Cake. The fresh lemon curd is also used in their lemon bars. 

We were sent home with a box of treats – a giant chocolate chip cookie, a whoopie pie, a heart shaped iced cookie and a 7-layer bar cookie. I will be diving into those as soon as my sugar coma subsides. 

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SusieCakes Sacramento family-friendly grand opening celebration is scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, January 24 from 1-4 p.m. Guests will be treated to complimentary mini desserts, photo ops in a classic car, face painting, a balloon artist, and a coloring contest for the kids. The kickoff celebration continues all week long with special promotions – a cupcake happy hour and two-for-one slices of cake, just to name a few.

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A big thank you to Susie and her husband for hosting such a fun evening and to Jairo at Bouchard Communications and Jessica with SusieCakes for inviting me to the special preview event. I had a wonderful time and look forward to placing many customized cake and cookie orders in the future. This design girl was sure impressed and energized by this new addition to Sacramento. 

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Cheers to Susie and her newest Sacramento location!

SusieCakes – Sacramento

564 Pavilions Lane
Pavilions Shopping Center
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 865-2250
Mon-Sat – 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

 

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