Randall Selland enjoying center stage
Twenty years ago, Sacramento didn’t have much of a culinary scene. But these days, not only do we have Biba, for the last 15 years we’ve also played host to Randall Selland’s The Kitchen Restaurant. Fellow foodie and food blogger Brendon of the wonderful Something in Season blog accompanied me for an indulgent evening at The Kitchen recently. Neither of us had been there before. Both of us had been longing to go. But neither of us knew too many people who were willing to pop the steep set price per person just to go enjoy a fabulous 4-5 hour meal.
The Kitchen Restaurant offers an experience not found at any other restaurant I know. The diner is practically in the kitchen itself. In fact, the whole theme of the restaurant is one of a “demonstration”. There is as much pleasure in the entertainment from the chefs discussing the food and cooking it in front of us as there is in the food itself. Brendon and I sat around a “Bar” of sorts, seats lined directly around the main cooking and plating area for the restaurant. We had front and center seats to the ramblings and rantings of Randall Selland, the head chef and proprietor, and Noah Zonca, Chef de Cuisine.
The food was amazing – explosions of flavor, or “layers” as Randall explains it, in every course. What follows is our menu for the evening, each even better than we could have imagined. Brendon has written up his thoughts of the evening along with photos as well.
I don’t know when I’ll get back to Tucson, but if and when I do the place for breakfast there is the Blue Willow at 2616 N. Campbell Avenue, a few blocks North of Speedway on the East side of the street. Matt had eggs with chorizo, Angelo buttermilk pancakes, Eddie a tamale and a chicken salad sandwich, and me a tofu scramble, pictured above. I’ve never had a tofu scramble before, nor had one ever sounded even faintly appealing. But after several days in a row of eggs for breakfast and nursing a slight tequila hangover (just one drink will do that for me) I was in the mood for something that sounded healthy. The scramble was delicious! Fried tofu (must have been fried in olive oil), mushrooms, spinach, and sesame seeds comprised this dish. Everyone else’s food was great too. The pancakes were fluffy and divine, the scrambled eggs with chorizo delicious, and of special note was the salsa that accompanied the tamale. It tasted exactly like my mother’s enchilada sauce. Festive outdoor shaded seating, nice waiting staff, funky gift store.
Sacramento isn’t renown for being a hot spot, so imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago the New York Times had a whole piece on Sac in their Sunday travel section. Featured prominently in the NYT article is the downtown burger joint Willie’s, whose owner cashed in the corporate life to run the restaurant.
Biba Caggiano is the proprietress and head chef of Biba Restaurant in Sacramento, California. Although Sacramento never had much of a culinary reputation, that’s changing. Biba Restaurant is exquisitely good. She’s written seven cookbooks and starred in her own TV show on the Discovery Channel. She’s even won a James Beard award.
It is well deserved. I ate there for lunch one day this week. The restaurant was half empty at 12:30 (where the heck was everybody? the food is excellent!). I had the special – halibut and scallops with fresh diced tomatoes poached in parchment. It was delicious and so was their basic green salad, one of the best basic greens salads I have ever eaten anywhere.
How time flies! Here I am with little Hannah who I babysat when she was five, now all of 20 and going to the New School in New York. The picture is post several caipirihnas, a delicious and potent Brazilian drink partaken at Circus, a Brazilian restaurant at 808 Lexington between 62nd and 63rd. (212) 223-2965. Excellent food. Had an acorn squash baked and stuffed with a wonderful mixture of corn, shrimp, and other things. Side of collard greens – lots of garlic and olive oil. Friend Keith had strips of lightly fried polenta served over an oxtail sauce. Delicious. 2 thumbs up. Thanks to Drew Lipsher for the recommendation!
Went to Circus again last night with parents. The food is truly interesting and delicious. I had the grilled shrimp which were fantastic and a baby arugula salad served with slices of chorizo and small white beans. Mom had their special Brazilian stew with every kind of meat, also very good and filling.