Wikimedia Commons/ J. Smith
This begins a new weekly series, "Eating on the Fly," penned by Laurie Vesalo, a flight attendant based out of Chicago. Upon landing in each new city, she makes it a point to seek out both hidden gems and highly acclaimed restaurants. Who ever said you can't have breakfast in Boston, lunch in Las Vegas, and dinner in Denver? Ambitious? Perhaps. But when there’s an airplane and food, there’s a way.
On my layover last week, I found myself in unseasonably warm and sunny Sacramento. California’s capital boasts a park-like atmosphere outside, and an abundance of orange trees. This part of California has a Mediterranean climate, which characteristically has rainy, albeit mild winters and very warm summers.
Ever wonder why Northern California, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Chile, and South Africa have such a significant wine culture? It’s because this land is very fertile and very conducive to growing grapes.
Additionally, olives, figs, walnuts, oranges, and other citrus fruits thrive here, as do some very fragrant herbs like thyme, rosemary, and lavender. No wonder Mediterranean climates are a food and wine lover’s paradise! Rich, fertile rolling hills and flavorful and fragrant crops… what else does one need?
One day I will tell you about Cape Town, where I visited a winery that was also a cheetah farm, or the Berber home in Morocco, where they served bread dipped in fresh-pressed olive oil from olives that had been picked that morning and mint tea from leaves that were straight out of the garden.
Back to the Western Hemisphere and back to Sacramento. Another flight attendant suggested Crepeville for breakfast. You place your order at the counter, take a number, and your food is delivered to you. (Quite, promptly, I might add!)
Appropriately, I chose the "Mediterranean" crepe, with grilled eggplant, pesto, tomato, onions, red roasted peppers, and Cheddar cheese. My crepe was huge and extremely satisfying, served with a side of house potatoes. After walking past so many bountiful orange trees, a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice was in order. The juice was sweet, refreshing, and hit the spot.
A friend of mine in New York taught me a trick: look at OpenTable and opt for a 7 p.m. reservation. Wherever you can’t get a reservation is where you want to eat.
A 6:30 p.m. reservation at The Porch it is! The Porch’s website boasts an entire page of local providers. A gaslight on the restaurant's porch welcomes guests, where a few parties were dining outside. This venue reminded me vaguely of Husk, in Charleston, S.C. The Porch, does, after all, feature Southern cuisine.
I ordered the Compart Duroc pork loin. It was tender, juicy, and flavorful, flavored with a Creole mustard cream and a side of cauliflower and jalapeño-Cheddar hushpuppies. For some reason, I have never been a fan of hushpuppies, but these gems may have just changed my mind forever. I reneged, after biting into the first one and a rich, and a creamy burst of cheesy, jalapeño-y goodness oozed out.
I tried two drinks: the Southern Rays, which was concocted of bacon-infused bourbon, Solerno blood orange honey liquor, fresh mandarin juice, runny honey, orange bitters, and soda water. It was a little too sweet for my taste; I expected and hoped to taste more of the bacon-infused bourbon. Next, I tried the Lemongrass Mint Julep. Now this was right up my alley — just sweet enough, unique, flavorful, and strong.
Before arriving at The Porch I made a deal with myself: either dessert or an appetizer. Although I was tempted by the cornmeal-fried, bacon-wrapped oysters, I instead went for the black bottom crème brûle. That initial tapping of the spoon into the brûléed top, which breaks through to the custardy, creamy goodness is so incredibly satisfying. This dessert had a blackberry comfiture on the side, and the "black" bottom was a chocolate mousse. With the flavor of the dessert on my tongue, and at least one-third of it left over, I had to throw in the towel. I fell asleep happy, visions of crème brûlée dancing through my head.