Woodland a dining destination: Restaurant Week 2017 and beyond

Sunflowers WoodlandIn California, every season is splendid and bountiful along Yolo County's back roads. Part of the Central Valley, this agricultural heartland is situated between coastal foothills and the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Rolling hills, verdant valleys and mountains overflow with a profusion of vineyards, orchards, pastured livestock and row crops. All the best, the finest and most delicious ingredients take center stage at local restaurants and cafes.

Taste of YoloVisit Yolo is way ahead of the "foodie" curve and I will cease to refer to use that descriptor here and now! They are inventing their own culinary fiefdom. Nowhere is this more evident than historic Woodland, your new gourmand destination.
Historic Woodland
’s up-and-coming restaurant scene is skyrocketing! Just remember you heard it here! Culinary stars are creating locavore magic showcasing regional meats, fish, nuts, honey, olive oil, organic produce and local wines and craft beer. Beyond the creative and tasty offerings, I was most impressed by a true sense of family throughout the Woodland community. There’s no happier way to dine than with family and friends. Are You That Woman Tip: Housed in historic buildings, Woodland pairs dining with extraordinary architecture.

Lamb Loin Chops Celery Root Gratin seasonal Veg of the day (Capay Organic) featuring Frantoio EVO from Buckeye CreekFather Paddy’s Public House
435 Main Street, Woodland, CA
(530) 668-1044
While approaches may vary, at Father Paddy’s house recipes are a true collaboration.  Owner Pat Redmond and Executive Chef Justin Severson have created a fresh, honest, common sense approach. “Comfort food with a flare!” said Pat. Less than a year on Main Street, Justin and Pat found what works between their flavors. During Restaurant Week, your taste buds will understand why! Paddy’s red carpet presentation includes local Lamb Loin Chops with Buckeye Creek Blueberry Balsamic Reduction, Celery Root Potato Gratin, and seasonal veggies. Take a deep breath, Pastry Chef Anya Redmond reinvents eat, drink and be merry. Dessert is an Irish Toddy-inspired parfait of Meyer Lemon Cake, Tullamore DEW (legendary triple distilled Irish whiskey) and Henry’s Bullfrog Bees Honey Mousse. Are You That Woman Tip: Savor Whiskey tastings and Father Paddy’s primer in the Whiskey Vault!

Maria's Cantina Chef William's Cochintia PibilMaria’s Cantina
306 – 6th Street

Woodland, California
(530) 402-1540
Kellie Morgan dipped her toe in the restaurant world. She’d never owned a restaurant. “I had a concept and wanted to bring it to life. Good food. Good ambiance – a fun place,” she says. “Hiring Executive Chef John Gamboni was the final key.” Maria’s Cantina clearly hit the mark. Feeling lucky to be in the center of fresh agriculture, Head Chef William Jeffries utilizes as much local product as possible. For Restaurant Week, a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Peninsula, Cochinita Pibil with an Achiote Glaze served over Poblano Jícama slaw with Cilantro Vinaigrette, garnished pickled red onions and micro cilantro. Plenty of Cantina chips and salsa beside a “damn good” house margarita, it’s a palate fiesta! Are You That Woman Tip: The fine art of sipping tequila spoken here. A tequila menu sports more than 30!

Chef de Cuisine Benjy, Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs with oven roasted marble potatoes with honey glazed parsnips, turnips, and rainbow baby carrotsMorgan’s on Main
614 Main Street
Woodland, California
(530) 402-1275
The dynamic duo of Morgan and Gamboni wanted to bring something different to Woodland. “It wasn’t a big jump from Mexican to Morgan’s,” Kellie remarked. So they successfully made that leap of faith and delivered a great steak house! Originally the historic Cranston Hardware, the restaurant and the new “Big Bar” are Uber chic. Chef de Cuisine Benjy Head celebrates the feast of Yolo’s Restaurant Week with SunFed Ranch Braised, Boneless Short Ribs with oven roasted Marble Potatoes, Honey (Del Rio Farms) glazed Parsnips, Turnips and Rainbow Baby Carrots (Capay Organics). “Timing is unique for the season. Root vegetables are more bountiful, so we selected what’s available,” says Benjy. 
Are You That Woman Tip:  Shared plates included Pull Apart Bread and Bowl of Bacon a combination of candied lardons and spicy chicharrón con carne. Yes, everything’s better with bacon!

Mojo CocktailMojo’s/Kitchen428
428 – 1st Street

Woodland, California
 (530) 661-0428
“People are rediscovering Woodland,” Christy Hayes says with pride. “It’s a family vibe, local vibe—easy to make a connection.” And people are connecting at Mojo’s/Kitchen428. Kismet came calling to help Christy reinvent the historic Jackson Building once home to local landmark Morrison’s Restaurant and where she once tended bar.  Casual Mojo’s Lounge and stylish Kitchen428 share the same farm-to-fork philosophy under Executive Chef Efrain Hernandez’s culinary prowess. “The art of food fascinates me,” said Efrain. “I especially love working with seafood—in my region of Mexico I grew-up with fresh fish.” Christy and Efrain combine efforts crafting changing menus.  Come restaurant week, they celebrate Yolo and Sacramento counties winter harvest featuring Sacramento Grilled Sturgeon, Capay Organic Roasted Rainbow Carrots and Sautéed Swiss Chard, and Dragon Gourmet Oyster Mushrooms Beurre Blanc. Are You That Woman Tip: Ask about monthly Cocktail for the Cause. Proceeds (50%) from in-house crafty potions are donated to local charities.

Savory Cafe Housemade FettuciniSavory Café
722 Main Street
Woodland, California
(530) 668-4009
When it comes to family and farm-fresh, Juan and Toby Barajas embrace the mantra at Savory Café.  The brothers inherited their culinary acumen from their mother and grandmother along with an appreciation for sourcing local products. After navigating the family’s Knights Landing restaurant, Las Maracas, they wanted something different and, in 2015, acquired Savory Café. In slower winter months, they break from regular dinner service Thursday-Saturday. During Restaurant Week, their triple-threat lunch specials include a 10-ounce Grilled New York Steak with Brown Butter Sauce, Riverdog Farm Frites, Del Rio Botanical Greens and Citrus Vinaigrette; a Chicken Piccata with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Riverdog Farm Bloomsdale Heirloom Spinach and roasted Nantes Carrots; and house-made Pasta with Fried Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and garnish of Pomegranate Seeds, Pecorino Cheese and aged Balsamic Vinegar.  A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Toby proudly admits, “I’ve always loved cooking!” Clearly, it shows! Are You That Woman Tip: Not to be missed, Sunday’s Brunch spotlight Frittata with Lacinato Kale, Leeks, Chicken Apple Sausage, Potatoes and Toby’s Salsa Verde.

Are You That Woman Final Tip:  When it comes to local, Woodland’s dining establishments also feature local and regional wines and craft beers. Cheers!


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Bird Watcher Paradise -Sandhill Cranes Visit Sacramento River Delta

Day Trip to Woodbridge Ecological Reserve by Barbara L. Steinberg

Sunset at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L SteinbergSaturday was winding down. A perfect December day in the Sacramento Valley and along the Sacramento River Delta (or California Delta depending who you ask). Dry weather brings balmy days and very cold nights. It also means clear skies and stunning sunsets for birders who venture to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Phil & Marilyn Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve during the winter bird migration. A major stop along the Pacific Flyway, it's especially popular with the B-52s of birds, the sandhill cranes. Their annual visitation attracts birdwatching enthusiasts from around the region and world. And reason to celebrate the 20th annual Sandhill Crane Festival in nearby Lodi, California. 

Thousands of sandhill cranes along with similar numbers of geese, swans, Sandhill cranes 2 Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L Steinberg
ducks, and various shorebirds spend fall and winter months in flooded farm fields along Woodbridge Road off Interstate 5. Each day at sundown -- yes, you can set your clock -- the spectacle begins. And then there are those rare days where sunsets are matched by a full-moon rise. The sounds and sights are breathtaking. In the fading light, the cranes appear ghostly in the shallow water. They will spend the night feeding, resting and courting. Their frenzied dance -- jumping and wings spread -- is part of the display.

Self-guided visitations occur daily. The reserve, property of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, also has docent-led tours.These tours fill-up fast, so book ahead.

But whatever you do, don't miss this annual event -- migration and festival. I've been many times -- the wow factor is always the same. This video from 2011 tells the whole story. If you're really dedicated, morning visits can net you some spectacular views. Thank you to James D. Simon for this incredible YouTube video


Yuba Sutter Harvest Dinner magically delicious

Rating:  Star*Star*Star*Star*Star*

First Yuba-Sutter Harvest Dinner exceeded all expectations!

There's something so special about dining outdoors, especially in early autumn when California evenings are warm and dry with a promise of cooler days ahead. On October 8th, more than 100 friends of Visit Yuba-Sutter gathered to IMG_0471celebrate a bountiful harvest and feast. We dined and wined enjoying all the best of the region.

Late afternoon on Plumas Street in Yuba City, glasses of chilled champagne with local pomegranate syrup garnished with rings of Asian apple pear greeted us. Small bites featured balsamic, prune, goat cheese, arugula and walnut bruschetta and smoked porkloin skewers with prune-chipotle glaze. Yes, those dried plums have grown-up and are delish!

Mustard crusted organic rack of lamb portabella mushroom risotto, golden kiwi demi glaze and roasted butternut squash prepared by Chef Keith Colusa Casino Wintun Dinner House paired with 2014 Estate Cabernet from Cordi WineryAfter an hour of lighthearted cheer, we made our way to alfresco tables adorned in autumn finery and flanked by sunlit sycamores. Once seated, we got down to the serious business of dinner! Between pleasantries and laughter, four incredible courses and wines were served and consumed. Many oohs and aahs. Smiles. OMGs! Selfies and cell phone food photos followed. 

Yuba-Sutter chefs, purveyors, farmers, vintners and organizers outdid themselves. The evening was over far too soon with everyone agreeing the intimacy, elegance and warmth of the Harvest Dinner was more than we ever imagined. The presentations and creativity -- well, you wish you were there! As flower arrangements and place settings were cleared, we all asked, "What's the date for next year?" I hope I'm on that invite list!

The Menu Credit Are YouThat Woman

  Yuba Sutter Logo



Solano Land Trust hike “Where the Wild Things Are" - Free!

Praying Mantis at the King-Swett Ranches_By Al Mendle
Get a great workout and search for wildlife on this hike through the hills between Fairfield, Benicia and Vallejo. Solano Land Trust docents will guide you on an up to six-mile hike through this area, known as the King-Swett Ranches. Explore these lands that are both natural areas and working cattle ranches, learn about the plants and animals that call these lands home, and see sweeping views of Solano County and beyond.  Participants will get a great workout while looking for birds and other wildlife that call this area home. Residents and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of this special opportunity if they can because these ranches in the hills between are otherwise closed.

When: Saturday, September 3, 2016 
Time: 9am-1pm
Where: King-Swett Ranches
What to bring: Hiking boots or trail running shoes with good grip, water, and snacks.
Register: Space is limited and pre-registration is recommended at conta.cc/2bKB7F3. Important details, including the meeting location, directions and registration information are available at the registration link above, and on the events calendar at solanolandtrust.org

Solano Land Trust protects land to ensure a healthy environment, keep ranching and farming families on their properties, and inspire a love of the land. For more information about Solano Land Trust, its upcoming events and to make a donation, visit solanolandtrust.org.

For more information on wildlife and nature tourism locations, visit California Watchable Wildlife.

Food, fun, wildlife and nature travel the best of Yuba-Sutter counties

Summer and autumn mean luscious blackberries - fresh fruit, jams, and pies.
Summer and autumn mean luscious blackberries - fresh fruit, jams, and pies.
Courtesy of Visit Yuba-Sutter

Yuba and Sutter counties define food, festivals, fun

Yuba Sutter Pumpkin FarmPlan your taste of Yuba-Sutter during autumn when harvests and seasonal festivals are abundant. 
Highways and country roads link Yuba and Sutter counties to history-rich communities. A short drive from Sacramento, Gold Rush-era towns and multi-generational farmlands overlap in a most delicious way.  From the Central Valley -- California’s agricultural heartland – to Sierra Nevada foothills, Yuba and Sutter’s proverbial plate overflows with both farm-to-fork and cultural and outdoor recreation delights!

Stop by Visit Yuba-Sutter’s visitor center for regional maps and brochures including the North Yuba Grown farm trail map, a guiding light to farm stands, wineries, and locavore shops north of Marysville. Soil, Cordi Winery Live Oak 2015 Credit Barbara L Steinberg4topography and climate inspire hand-crafted wines from Renaissance, Lucero and Clos Saron – Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and olive oils from Apollo and Athena’s Grove do the region proud. A feast for your senses, explore local art and seasonal fare at Yuba Harvest.  The crème de la crèmeof tasty must-dos, the North Yuba Harvest Festival features more than 50 vendors.

Along Highway 99 in Sutter County, the striped awning above Stephen’s Farmhouse beckons. Farm-fresh pies and cookies, jellies and jams, pickled veggies of all kinds, and seasonal produce and walnuts will tempt the most discerning palate. Your favorite pooch will love the homemade Snicker Poodles.

Find the “Great Pumpkin” of your dreams at Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland. Old-fashioned hayrides and u-pick pumpkins, a historic carousel and fresh-baked cookies are just the beginning. Nearby, Salle Orchards offers more tastes of Yuba-Sutter year-round. Autumn means persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins and 27 varieties of apples. 

Sutter Buttes HikeDrive, hike or bike the Sutter Buttes, the world’s smallest mountain range. Ancient volcanic soils and cool breezes breathe life into Cordi Winery’s grapes and award-winning wines.  Bring a picnic and enjoy the view. Continue on scenic back roads to Sutter and the Sutter Buttes Natural & Artisan Foods. Bring an appetite for olive oils, infused vinegars, gourmet mustards, and dipping sauces. Among many award-winning products, their Blood-Orange Brownie Kit brought home Sofi gold at the 2015 New York Fancy Food Show. You can bring it home, too! In late November, look for Moody’s Middle Mountain Mandarins self-serve farm stand.

Lose yourself at the Sikh Festival, possibly the largest cultural event in California. The first Sunday in November, it’s a cacophony of color and aromas. Each November, harvested rice fields attract migrating Swan Festival  Credit David Rosenwildlife. Along with thousands of tundra swans, nature enthusiasts arrive to celebrate at the annual California Swan Festival. Guided tours include Gray Lodge Wildlife Refuge and Sutter Buttes.  An unparalleled experience, the Buttes’ privately owned lands are accessible only through Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes. 

Birding and hiking is a hungry business. Yelp reviewers love AJ’s Sandwiches, an easy stroll from Swan Festival H.Q.  Chow down on Farmers Hand BlackBerries Yuba Suttergourmet burgers and specialty sandwiches with a side of pesto frips!  Where, oh where to taste more? In Yuba City and Marysville, The Cookie Tree and The Candy Box are sweets central.  GPS yourself to New Earth Market, Oregon House Grocery & Deli, and The Crave. Among scrumptious treats you’ll find J▪Heier Farms blackberry jams, Sunsweet prunes, North Yuba Bread, and POM pomegranate to satiate locavore retail therapy. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dancing Tomato Caffé’s daily mantra is farm-to-table.

With so many tasty options, make Yuba-Sutter a play and stay getaway. Many tasting rooms, country stores, and farms are Yuba Sutter Logo seasonal or open weekends only. Always call ahead for days and hours of operation.







Stockton Chinese New Year Parade came in like a Lion

Stockton Chinese New Year's Festival 2015 Credit Barbara L Steinberg 0109Under blue skies and sunshine, the 37th Annual Stockton Chinese New Year Parade was pure celebration! Year of the Ram was greeted by young and old -- including 95-year-old Blanche Chin Ah Tye Grand Marshall and CCSS Citizen of the Year.  Honor guard, dignitaries, vintage cars, and Lion Dancers paraded past Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium.

The traditional Lion Dancers were the most exciting and colorful part of the day-long event. A tradition in China since 619 A.D. and the Tong Dynasty, Kung Fu is the foundation of this beautiful art form. Lion Dancers develop their stances and conditioning based on this martial art.

Following the parade, the festival included a vendors, food, and more Lion Dancing. Join us in Celebrating Stockton.

California Rice is good for the region, the world, and wildlife

We don’t want to bore you, but the statistics are staggering! They validate why the Sacramento Valley (and all of California) reigns as the heart of America’s Farm-to-Fork movement. The region claims more than 7,200 farms and 150 unique crops. Just over 1.4 million acres of  the region’s six-county land base are devoted to agricultural production with about 20 commissions and 40 marketing and promotion boards working to support and market the growers they represent.

Rice harvesting in Robbins, Sutter County. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission 2One such organization, the California Rice Commission, helped elevate the presence of sweet rice locally and throughout the world.  Our region’s history is deliciously plentiful – agriculturally and culturally.

Our region’s present is inextricably linked to its past. In 1849, the Gold Rush brought thousands of Chinese to the region. Growing rice to meet the demand was unsuccessful for 50 years. The problem? Farmers were trying to grow long grain rice to meet the demand for rice consumption. It’s great for the tropics, but not Sacramento Valley’s Mediterranean climate. Enter 1908 and the introduction of Japonica rice. It thrived in our temperate climate. “They struck gold twice!” exclaimed Tim Johnson, President/CEO, California Rice Commission. “The first successful crops were centered just south of Chico – Biggs and Fruitvale – the climate and heavy clay soils were perfect!” The combination led to an industry that produced 550,000 acres of rice in 2013 with 97 percent of the state’s rice crop grown in the Sacramento Valley.  All the sushi rice – a Japonica – used in the USA is grown here and exported all over the world. Now that’s an OMG! factoid.

Rice has healthCalfiornia Rice Commissionful benefits of vitamins and minerals, too.  However, it also enriches our environment and lives in a very special way. Mostly gone are the days when rice straw was burned after harvest – reducing our air quality. Today, grain harvesters disk 350 pounds of grain per acre after which most rice paddies are flooded.  This attracts insects and creates about 700 pounds of food per acre attracting wildlife -- waterfowl and shorebirds -- along the Pacific Flyway.  “This was a new revelation – we didn’t know how important the rice fields are to them.” Thousands of birds descend each year inundating the fields. Wildlife and nature tourism provides a secondary boost to local economies. Numerous wildlife festivals have been created encouraging everyone – with a special emphasis on children – to get outdoors and engage. The benefits are huge. Healthy minds are healthy bodies.


Happy New Year Stockton: Again!

Year of the Ram Goat 2015Stockton is culturally diverse. Beautifully and deliciously so! The impending Chinese and Vietnamese New Years are a perfect indicator of this fact.  A lunar celebration – parade and feasts will take place within two months of the Western Gregorian/solar calendar.  More reasons for merriment and festivities I always say. Can’t get enough of a good thing.

In the Vietnamese tradition, 2015 is the Year of the Goat – one of the 12 Eastern zodiac animals.  The Vietnamese zodiac also incorporates five elements: Metal, Wood, Wind, Water, Fire and Earth. The coming celebration is actually Ất Mùiwhich means Wood Goat

People born under the sign of “goat” are said to be hard-working and determined. I’m not sure if the owners of Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant are born under this sign, but they are incredibly hard-working and determined. There’s a wonderful “My Stockton” story that supports that thought, but for now the focus is the upcoming Tet – Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant has a long history on Pacific Avenue. The current owners took over in 2001.  Annually, Saigon Vietnamese celebrates with a prix fixe dinner and lots of traditional fanfare. Firecrackers, martial arts demonstrations, dragon dancers, friends and family pack the restaurant, and Belly Buddha another good luck sign, he’s always laughing. 

Chúc Mừng Nǎm Mới The restaurant's celebration is February 21st – reservations should be made ASAP for the $36 per-person party – it’s nearly sold out! Appetizers, salad, special New Year’s eggroll, Nem a traditional Vietnamese sausage just for the celebration, and dessert – of course!

恭禧發財Following close on its heels, Stockton’s 37th Annual Chinese New Year CelebrationChinese New Year Courtesy of Stockton Chinese New Year Festival March 1, 2015; 11am to 5:30pm marks the Year of the Ram.  A great community and cultural event it attracts more than 3,000 attendees.  City-sponsored, this one-day parade and festival is family-friendly and it’s all FREE!  The parade begins at 10:00am rain or shine! You don’t want to miss the Lion Dance Troupes!

The festival at Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium features continuous stage entertainment from 11:30am to 3:30pm and includes the Stockton Chinese Ladies Dance Troupe, Bayland Dancing, Capitol Chinese Orchestra and the Stockton Bukkyo Taiko Group. This year’s festival features a KidZone with carnival games and Paul Buethe “The Yo-yo Man” – he’s very cool and Uber across the pond, so I'm told! Not to be forgotten, lots of food – chow mein, sweet & sour pork, Dim Sum, sesame balls and the usual festival food – come famished. 

Proceeds from the festival benefit cultural programs and scholarships for local youth through the Chinese Cultural Society of Stockton.  

Travel adventures for New Year 2015 begin with Stockton

On air Channel 10 Sac & Co for Visit Stockton 2014Wow, 2014 flew by.  On several flights of fancy, I found myself exploring, enjoying, and smiling my way through Stockton and San Joaquin County. New experiences and friends (truly) made it a year to remember. And feeling very gratified for a myriad of opportunities to write about and share online, on television, and face-to-face OMG! Stockton moments.

I love all things California! You may be wondering how I chose to Visit Stockton? Like so many destinations, Stockton chose me! Well, almost. Two years ago, January 20, 2013, on a random outing at Cosumnes River Preserve, I fell in love with a little girl wearing gold-sparkly Tom’s. She and her parents were exploring this nearby Stockton neighbor.  Stella, the future star, caught my eye and I asked if I could take her picture.  They said, “Yes!” I did.

Stella at Cosumnes Credit Barbara L Steinberg Are You That WomanThe parents and founders of The Tuleburg Group, Jason and Becky, invited me to discover their insider perspective of Stockton. I did again! The rest, as they say, is history. It’s not that I had never visited Stockton before, but they opened my eyes to all that I did not know.  I have been thanking them ever since. For a non-Stocktonian, I am their biggest fan and likely know more about the city than most natives or locals! When I embrace something it’s always 120%.

Overtime, Visit Stockton and I engaged in a win-win arrangement.  Actually, I genuinely believe I’m the big winner here. Ask all of my new Stockton friends who know me as a sometimes local.

There are so many stories that haven’t made their way to the websites, blogs and Facebook yet, but I vocally spread good news about Stockton to anyone who says “It ain’t so!” Looking forward to a year filled with exploration -- California and beyond.

Back to the concept of a random outing – nothing is random.  Stella and I were on a collision course that day two years ago. When in my Facebook posting I said, “I see great things ahead for Stella,” the reality is that great things were destined for me as well.

Stockton Restaurant week Courtesy of Visit StocktonFind me on Facebook. Find me in Stockton. Just find me and bring me your stories. Say hello! This weekend I’ll be around for Stockton Restaurant Week. Too much fun and not nearly enough time.

Chow babies!

Facebook quote that got this whole Stockton obsession rolling:  “Okay...drum roll. The next candidate for Are You That Woman? Presenting.... Stella. Out with parents, Becky & Jason, Stella was a perfect Cosumnes River ambassador. Proudly showing off her sparkling Toms shoes, offering to share her Swedish Gummy Fish, and completely fascinated by every little thing. I see great things ahead for Stella. 1/20/2013”


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