The Good Life ~ Sacramento

Exploring a City with a Small-Town Feel and World of Potential

Produce Buying Tips

ca grown

Thank you, California Grown, for these helpful tips on fresh food buying – whether from a local farmers market or your corner grocer!

KNOWING HOW TO PICK ‘EM 
Summer is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the bounty of California agriculture.  Here’s a quick rundown of helpful tips on picking the best of the season for you and your fresh food loving friends.

TOMATOES Most tomatoes, especially large heirlooms, are very fragile to the touch.  The tomatoes at the grocery store were picked to ship.  The local market tomatoes are picked ripe.  You can tell how good a tomato is usually by how carefully it is displayed.  A single layer of heirlooms arranged with the tops-down means you need only pick for size.  Grab when you’re ready to buy and enjoy that sweet and savory flavor of summer!  Cracks indicate a last-minute bolt in growth and ripeness, so eat the cracked ones first.

PEACHES AND NECTARINES All peaches and nectarines should have a fragrant sweet scent when ready. When picked ripe, they bruise easily, so they should be handled with care. Look near the stem when picking from the yellow flesh varieties of peaches and nectarines.  The background color of the fruit near the stem should be more yellow/orange than green.  Peaches and nectarines will soften on the counter at home. Nectarines withlight speckles on the red blushed areas are often the absolute sweetest.

PLUMS AND PLUOTS The same methods for picking peaches and nectarines apply to plums and pluots.  There is quite a wide variety of flavors and textures and colors in this category, as well as personal preferences.  If samples are unavailable, ask the farmer or farmer’s employee to find you the right variety.  Avoidany stone fruit with a hole or gap at the stem and alert the farmer so they can throw these split-pits out.  This happens with rapid weather changes.

MUSK MELONS  Melons such as honeydew, ambrosia, galia, canary and cantaloupe will assert their ripeness through your nostrils.  That’s why they are called musk melons!  The netted varieties will show brighter-colored undertones.  The smooth varieties will be slightly waxy when fully ripe.  You can thump them too just for fun, but it won’t tell you a lot because the soft seed cavity in the center absorbs the vibration.

WATERMELONS Thumping a watermelon is not only fun, but can help you pick a good one if you know what to listen for.  You want that melon to bounce back at you to show it’s drum-like tightness within the shell.  A thoroughly ripe melon will crack as you slice into it.  Watermelons of prime ripeness will also beheavy for their size.  The pale spot on the melon is the area that rested on the ground.  A creamier yellowish color in this area is a good indication of ripeness.  You can also look for dark healed cracks and sugar-sap beads near the stem.

Smoothie

PEPPERS Red and yellow peppers are generally sweeter and riper than green peppers of the same variety.  Unless you’re dehydrating or making sauce, you’ll want to make sure that they are free of wrinkles.  But hairline dry cracks are just fine.

APPLES The late summer is the best time to buy juicy and crunchy apples because that is the beginning of harvest time.  Apples are tough and store well.  They too will bruise if you squeeze them too hard, and doing so is absolutely unnecessary.

PEARS Pears ripen after they are picked. If you want a ripe and semi-soft smooth skinned pear, such as a Bartlett or Sunsprite,you will feel the skin is slightly waxy and the color will be brighter. Asian pears and some European pears are usually eaten when crunchy, and while the smooth skin varieties will also have this slightly waxy feel, many varieties are paper dry on the outside.

AVOCADOS While avocados also bruise, they can best be judged with the gentlest amount of pressure.  To minimize bruising, only test the top near the stem.  If it gives a little, it will soon be guacamole time.  Plumper and darker avocados are usually the riper ones too. Most avocado sellers are more than happy to pick out what you need for you.

GRAPES Green stems indicate a freshly picked bunch and generally speaking, tight bunches indicate maximum time to mature on the vine.

CORN Some farmers don’t mind you peeling and peeking, but this isn’t always necessary.  Feel through the husk for plump kernels and the top for moist brown silks.

ONIONS AND GARLIC Check for bruises and weigh in your hands for heft.  Some say that flatter red onions are sweeter than round ones.  Larger garlic is usually mellower in flavor.

ROOT VEGGIES, EGGPLANTS AND SUMMER SQUASH Choose the firm vegetables of this category, and as a general rule the smaller ones will usually have the most flavor. Keep root veggies moist by removing the tops.  Some people like to use the greens in juices and stir-fry, but they can wick away essential moisture from the roots if not removed in time.

GREEN BEANS AND LEAFY VEGGIES The perkier and springier the better.  Keep these moist and cool and protected from extreme temperatures.  If they wilt a little on the way home, plunge them in cold water to revive.

BERRIES Berries at the market are all picked ripe and are extremely tender to the touch.  Keep them dry and cool.  Don’t wash until you’re ready to eat them.  Putting them in the fridge with a dry paper towel is the best way to keep them.

Happy, Healthy Summer Munching!

farmers market map

 

QuintEssential Summer Fun

ca state fair

If you’re a kid, come summertime in Sacramento, this is the place for you. For teens, there’s plenty to do

  • or not do, if you so choose.

Adult-oriented (or just over-heated)? Head to the beer & wine garden (for cocktails too).

Something more Old Fashioned, you say? Hit the exhibits, without further ado.

Young at Heart? Carnival rides are always a hoot.

Hot to trot? Live music will set the mood.

And on and on, the fun unfurls, engages and ensues…

at the California State Fair!

July 8-24, 2016

 

Love is Now Free

free spay neuter

Animal Spay and Neuter – Sacramento and Auburn are again offering FREE spay and neuter and rabies vaccine for any cat, tame or feral, living in Sacramento County. No more excuses, get it done now. Call 916 368 7314 for the clinic on Bradshaw Road and 530 889 8800 for the Auburn clinic. Visit their website at www.animalspayneuter.com for more information and directions.

Thank you for helping us FIX the problem

– Team Front Street

Dalai Lama in SacTown

dalai lama

Sacramento has a fairly strong Buddhist and Buddhist-friendly community, with several Buddhist churches + dharma centers around town.

As of yet, however, the Dalai Lama has not visited, despite one past and one pending invitation from Lion’s Roar Dharma Center.

But today – Summer Solstice 2016 – there is indeed some magical fairy dust in the air… as His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak in front of the Legislature at the State Capitol.

His message: Compassion, peace, and perhaps positive momentum.

Read KCRA’s Dana Griffin’s article here about how this came to be and how close his fans can get.

[Image courtesy EmbellishedMinds.com]

School’s Out for Summer!

summer

[Even if just metaphorically, for some of us].

So enjoy the weekend but don’t be afraid of Monday… It’s the FIRST DAY OF SUMMER!!!

101 Things to Do

Summer Camps

Family Fun

Outdoor Ambiance

ScottsPatio

Dining and drinking alfresco are popular past-times in Sacramento. And luckily there is no shortage of awesome patios in which to eat gloriously and drink up the atmospheric magic.

Here’s an article that lists the top 10.

I can vouch for most of them but don’t recommend you stop there… as there are patios galore – from Old Sacramento to Folsom – upon which to soak up the spirit of the seasons!

Farm. Fresh. Flavor.

Taste-of-Summer

The more I frequent farmers markets; farm, fruit and produce stands, the more appreciation I have for farmed goods and local freshness. I even starting canning (gasp) last year, having had no prior interest in it before. So what changed my mind?

A heaping bag-full of tomatoes for $3.

‘How is a household of two going to eat all of these before they go to the dark side?’, I pondered…

Whip up some Tomato Soup

Make homemade Bloody Mary Mix

or Salsa

Make a big batch of Marinara Sauce (or any tomato sauce)

Cut them up and freeze them in small ziplocs for recipes

And when the freezer is full and there’s still more fresh food in your basket, learn to can. It’s quite simple and surprisingly rewarding.

OR,

Enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor!


Winemakers’ Dinner – June 3, 2016

Sample exclusive wine paring menus at some of the region’s most exciting eateries, and meet the winemakers who are putting Sacramento’s wine country on the map. Click here for more information.

Save Mart Grape Escape – June 4, 2016

Sacramento’s most popular wine tasting event returns to Cesar Chavez Plaza, bigger and better than ever. More than 60 regional wineries will be pouring throughout the evening, alongside popular area breweries. Attendees will also find bites from local restaurants, culinary entertainment, live music and much more.Click here for more information.

Farm-to-Fork Sunday Brunch – June 5, 2016

While September may be known in part for a Farm-to-Fork dinner on the bridge, June is soon to be known for brunch. Enjoy a lazy afternoon in the California sun at Sacramento’s most anticipated brunch event of the season. Sample a farm-to-fork feast and bottomless mimosas from Four Diamond Dawson’s at the Hyatt Regency, served outdoors in the Kay district in downtown Sacramento. Click here for more information.

Real, wholesome, farm-fresh food really does taste better. It’s also better for you, better for the community, and better for the environment. There’s a lot to love in that.