Monthly Archives: March 2018

Steppin’ Out – Mikuni Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Folsom

I have a neighbor named Mike Long, with whom I walk every day when the weather allows. One day a couple of weeks ago when we were walking along the road, he with his two dogs, Sam and Lucy, and I with my two unnamed walking sticks, he told me he wanted to take me out to lunch for my birthday – anywhere I wanted to go.

We talked about different places, one of which is a favorite of his, Mikuni in Folsom.

I told him it didn’t have to be that fancy and that I would be happy with trying the new Jersey Mike’s in Folsom. He replied that he wasn’t buying me a sandwich for my birthday, we were going out to lunch at a real restaurant.

A week ago he reminded me of his promise and told me to pick a place. It turned out he had to go to Folsom on a Wednesday and I said, “Okay, let’s go to Mikuni.”

He likes to beat the crowd, so we left around 11 a.m. to do just that. On the way he mentioned to me that I was going to have a martini with lunch, since it was a celebration of my birthday.

We got there around 11:45 and it was already busy. We were soon seated at a table and he ordered me a martini – my choice of gin, up.

As I was sitting there enjoying my drink I looked around. The restaurant was full of beautiful people having something I hadn’t enjoyed since I had a real job, last century – the business lunch, or what appeared to be a business lunch.

There were tables with two, three and even as many as eight, very few parties of one, except maybe those comfortably seated at the sushi bar.

It was a bit of nostalgia for me, amplified by the fact that can easily remember when these buildings were not there and that whole area was nothing but open fields with the only power line in the area running from tall fence post to tall fence post.

Mike was familiar with the menu. I, on the other hand, having not visited any Mikuni in a long time, asked him order.

We started with two appetizers: Kaizen Ribs (baby back ribs marinated in sweet soy and served naked) and Flaming Shrooms (tempura mushrooms with crab mix, cream cheese, jalapenos, special sauce, shaved bonito flakes and onions).

With them came a small dish of “wasabi” and pickled ginger, both of which I love, but Mike doesn’t. He requested their special mayonnaise and Sriracha, both of which I also enjoyed.

As adept as I am with a knife and fork, I am lost with chopsticks. Mike asked them to bring me a fork, but I was a trooper and continued to bumble along with the two pieces of wood.

The two dishes were both wonderful. The Shrooms had both great flavor and texture and the naked (un-sauced) ribs were delicate and very nicely prepared. As good as they were naked, a tiny bit of Sriracha made the ribs even better.

The two dishes Mike selected for our “main” course were the DMC Roll (Tempura lobster, avocado, crab mix, white tuna, sauce, torched, tempura bits) and, from the Sashimi menu, Hamachi (yellowtail).

If you haven’t guessed, the roll is named for former Sacramento Kings player DeMarcus Cousins

Heavenly, all of it. The slices of raw hamachi had the texture of butter, firm but soft with a freshness of the ocean. The DMC Roll was, in spite of some mixed press, and borrowing some words from baker Frank Vilt, a “Symphony in your mouth,” an exquisite mix of flavors and textures.

Did I want more food, “No.” Did I want another martini, “No.” Did I want dessert, “No.” I was satisfied and happy. Thanks Mike.

The Main Menu at all eight Mikuni restaurants is large, very large. It starts with Small Plates, like the Shrooms and ribs, then Noodles in Soup, Nigiri and Sashimi, Speciality Handrolls, Mikuni Maki Rolls, Non-Raw Rolls, Salads, Greens, Veggie Rolls and Plates from Our Kitchen.
These are followed by Plates from Our Sushi Bar, Donburi, Sides and a long list of Lunch Specials.

Their to-go menu, which includes all of the above, also has a number of party platters for your enjoyment.

There is also a Happy Hours Menu, Specials Menu, Lite Menu, Kids Menu, Gluten Free Menu and more. All their menus, with specifics, are available on line at mikunisushi.com.

The Folsom Mikuni is located at 100 Placerville Road, Suite 100, just north of Highway 50, and is open for lunch weekdays from 11:30 until 4 and on Saturday and Sunday from Noon until 4.

Dinner is served Monday through Thursday 4 until 9:30 and on Friday and Saturday until 10, Sunday, from 4 until 9. Happy Hour is weekdays from 2 until 6. For more information call (916) 934-5250.

Indoor and outdoor (protected) seating is on a first come basis. No reservations.

I sat in a chair facing east. The glare at noon was a bit bright.

Steppin’ Out – Frank Vilt’s Cakes, Cameron Park

Every now and then a male friend introduces me to someone he calls, “My brother from another mother.” It is usually a very good friend of his with similar likes. Well, I can do them one better. Yesterday I met “My brother from another grandmother.”

Like me, Frank Vilt was raised by his grandmother, who taught him to cook and bake. By the time he was seven or eight, he was preparing meals and baking for his large family. He would go on to work for Jennifer and Christian Masse at the original Zachary Jacques, then 20 years in the bakeries at Raley’s and Bel Air, before retiring to spend all of his time and energy on his own business, Frank Vilt’s Cakes in Cameron Park.

To complete the story, my grandmother also taught me to cook and bake, but our similarity sort of ends there. She let me help her in the kitchen, but I never reached the point where she left me alone. After all, it was her kitchen.

As I mentioned, Frank would go on to be a first class baker, but I would use my grandmother given talents to cook and bake for my children and judge baked goods at fairs and other events.

“I had planned on going to a culinary school in France,” Frank told me as we sat at a small table at his bakery talking while I sampled one of their very popular ‘Death by chocolate’ cupcakes. “I had even picked out the school and taken four years of French, but life got in the way and I had to change my direction,” stopping to then continue with a sly grin, “that cupcake won’t really kill you, but from the first bite on you will think you went to heaven.” He was right: devil’s food, injected with chocolate and thickly frosted with more chocolate.

“What I picked up from Christian and Jennifer at Zachary Jacques helped me a lot,” he continued. “I added to that what I learned at Raley’s and Bel Air.

“During the last few years I was at Raley’s and Bel Air, my wife, Nicole, and I baked mini cupcakes as a licensed cottage industry in our house. With both jobs, I was working from 3 a.m. until around 11 p.m. Fortunately I had the stamina to do that.

“About four and a half years ago we opened here in Cameron Park, behind Safeway and next to China City restaurant. Our first year we made the KCRA “A” List for Best Wedding Cake. That was exciting, as are our five star ratings on social media. I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far and humbled by it at the same time.

“This location is a good place for us and along with our constantly returning regulars and wonderful new customers, we get lots of dessert seekers from China City,” he continued. “I would really like to have a place with more walking traffic and big windows so people could watch us at work, but for now this works and is affordable.”

Frank Vilt specializes in wedding cakes and cup cakes. He is very picky about everything he makes, and especially them.

“Most wedding cakes are beautiful, but not necessarily tasty,” he told me. “Ours are different. The people at the wedding are our potential customers, so they should enjoy both the looks of the cake and especially the taste. I love to make beautiful cakes, but flavor is my top priority.

“We have the bride and groom come in to the bakery as many times as they want, to not only come up with a design for their cake but its flavor. We have lots of flavor options and they can come up with their own flavor if they wish. Maybe they have something from a special occasion they remember and want it duplicated. We can do that. After all, customer service is another of our highest priorities.”

Frank went on to explain to me that everything is from scratch. They use nothing pre-made and they use as few ingredients as possible.
“The raspberry topping that is cooking on the stove right now is made from raspberries, sugar, water and a little cornstarch,” he said, “ that’s all. People like simple things. For some reason it reminds them of their childhood.

“We avoid freezers. Freshness and quality are what we want and use. Butter is our major expense. It costs us almost as much as our lease payment, but it’s worth it.

“We try to balance our flavors between sweet and tart. We don’t want you just to enjoy what you are eating, we want it to be a ‘Symphony in your mouth.’

“We are a family operation,” Frank continued, “and it isn’t just myself, my wife, Nicole, and daughter Kaylie Rose. Our family includes our great employees, Kelsey and Alec.”

In addition to the wedding cakes and cupcakes, Frank Vilt’s Cakes also makes special occasion cakes, cake pops, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, lemon squares and much more, including what Frank calls a “California Cannoli, filled with cream cheese and mascarpone, instead of ricotta.

Frank Vilt’s Cakes is located at 4100 Cameron Park Drive, Suite 117, just behind Safeway and next to China City restaurant. Their hours are Wednesday through Friday from 9 – 7 and on Saturday from 9 – 2. They are open Tuesday and Sunday by appointment only.

You can reach them at (530) 409-7046 and get lots of information from their website, www.frankviltscakes.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.

I excitedly told a friend about Frank Vilt’s Cakes the next day. He replied to me, “I know about them. When we get invited to a dinner, we offer to bring dessert and get their cupcakes. They are always a big hit. I can see why.

Knuckledragger Pizza Company, Pollock Pines

Knuckledragger Pizza Company is another one of those businesses in our county that you might miss if you blink when you drive by. It is located at 6395 Pony Express Trail in Pollock Pines, which is just west of 50 Grand, on the opposite side of Willow Street.

Russ Salazar and I stopped by a week ago last Thursday and were greeted by the owner, chief cook, pizza and sandwich maker, Shannon Robertson. Helping her that day was her daughter, Hailee.

Shannon’s brother started the business in 2015. She was living in Arizona at the time, so they brought her here and gave it to her as a Christmas present.

We knew her restaurant specializes in “Take-N-Bake” pizza that receives outstanding reviews, but we were there to try something else, the sandwiches.

I had been told that the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich was especially delicious, and that was what I was after.

Since we usually order two items and split them, I looked over the menu and immediately spotted another of my favorites, a Meatball sandwich. Then Shannon mentioned to me that she also makes a Pulled Pork sandwich that was quite popular.

I asked if she cooked here own pork shoulder and she pointed to the two crock pots on the counter and said, “Yes, and it is really good.” That was enough, That would be our second one.

She made our Philly Cheesesteak first, so we could enjoy it without worrying about the second sandwich becoming cold.

The Philly is made on an Amarosa (Hoagie) roll, the proper roll for it. Filling it is sliced Angus beef, shipped in from Philly, along with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and white American cheese. In addition to being delicious, it was moist and tender. It took me three napkins to happily get through it.

The Pulled Pork sandwich, which must have weighed close to a pound, was on a sweet French roll. Inside it was around three quarters of an inch or more of delicious pulled pork along with pepper-jack cheese. She would normally put barbecue sauce on it, be we asked for that on the side so we could taste the pork itself.

There was so much meat on it that Russ got a fork so he could first eat some of the meat out to make the sandwich thinner and more easy to eat that way.

After tasting it, I went back and had some thin-sliced fresh onion added. It needed that.

We both experimented with the amount of barbecue sauce and decided that having it on the side was the way to go. It took me five napkins for this one and still I got some barbecue sauce on my shirt.

As I mentioned at the start, their main business is “Take-N-Bake” pizza and they can make just about any kind you want. Of course, there is the “Build Your Own,” with a long list of toppings and sauces from which to choose, along with several uniquely named and built speciality pizzas.

They have The Hunter, with pepperoni, salami, sausage and Canadian bacon; The Gatherer, with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, black olives      and Feta cheese (my archaeology minded friends will catch that); The Mammoth, with pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, salami, bell peppers, onion, black olives and fresh garlic; the Knuckle Combo with pepperoni, sausage, bell pepper, onion, black olives and mushrooms; The Beast with BBQ sauce, pulled pork, onions, jalapeños and pineapple, and their Signature Stuffed Pizza, The Knuckle Dragger, with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, salami sausage, bacon, olives, mushrooms all topped with a cheese pizza.

Quite a list, but that’s not all the pizzas. There are more self explanatory ones like the BBQ Chicken, Buffalo Chicken, Ultimate Veggie, Pulled Pork and something really different, the Enchilada Pizza. It is covered with enchilada sauce, sour cream mix, chicken, black olives, green onions and crushed corn chips.

They also serve a personal size pizza that they can actually bake on site.

The list of Knuckle Sandwiches includes the two we loved, along with Meatball, Pastrami, Road Beef, Reuben, Italian, Black Forest Ham, Smoked Turkey, Tuna, Egg Salad, Pizza Bread (with two toppings), Veggie, Grilled Cheese and, yes, Peanut Butter and Jelly (strawberry or grape).

We had Shannon make our sandwiches the way she thought they should be, but you can pick your bread, cheese, toppings and condiments yourself.

00Not up for a sandwich or pizza? You can build your own salad. They come with one meat, whatever veggies you fancy and your choice of dressing,

If that isn’t enough, you might like to try her Enchiladas, made with cheese, chicken or a chicken/green chile/onion/olives combination (call ahead two hours for these). Oh, I almost forgot the Breakfast Enchiladas with one meat, scrambled eggs, Mozzarella, onions, bell peppers and green sauce.

To accompany your meal they serve soft drinks and Blue Bunny ice cream.

Knuckledragger Pizza Company is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. For more information, give them a call at (530) 644-9914.

Oh, Birthday Kits for the kiddos, Sandwich Platters and Homemade Cakes for all occasions. Call or stop in for details.

Steppin’ Out – Domino’s Pizza, Placerville

Before we start with a review of the new Domino’s Pizza at 1331 Broadway (next to Subway in Placerville), let me take care of a couple of items.

Pastrami is back at Wienerschnitzel. You know how much I like their pastrami because it is real and has the fat (flavor) still attached. Not only do they have the pastrami on rye sandwich, with pickles and mustard, but an all beef hot dog with pastrami on top and pastrami fries. And, you can add sauerkraut if you wish or have it made as a Reuben with 1000 Island Dressing.

Last week I stopped to get an apple fritter (still under $2 and delicious) at the Donut Factory, next to the County Fairgrounds. On my way back to my car I passed Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and out came one of owners, my friend Troy Duncan, with a container of cole slaw.

If you recall, when I stopped there to review them, they were out of cole slaw and I commented on how much the sandwich needed it. He wanted me to know that they had it again and that I should try it. I did, and it was very good and very close in flavor one of my favorites, the slaw at KFC.

He also gave me three of their pork ribs – fresh from the smoker – to compare with those we had received when we were there. I put no extra sauce on them and they were wonderful. I think it is the rub they use that give them a very unique taste, and I think I know most of what is in it. But then, maybe I don’t.

Back to the subject of the day, Domino’s Pizza.

A week ago last Tuesday Russ Salazar and I stopped in at the new Domino’s to have lunch. We had heard their pizza was very good, so we were going to order a pizza and a sandwich to share, but since their smallest pizza, the medium cheese, with a couple of toppings was $12.99, we decided to instead have the penne pasta and a sandwich for $6.99 each (they were actually on sale at $5.99 at the time).
Our penne pasta choice was their Chicken Carbonara, with grilled chicken breast, smoked bacon, fresh onions and mushrooms, then baked with a really nice Alfredo sauce.

For a sandwich we chose the Philly Cheese Steak, which includes slices of steak, American and provolone cheeses, fresh onions, fresh green peppers and mushrooms, all on a soft roll.

While ordering, Russ asked if they had milk, but they didn’t. He then asked about tap water and found the only water they have is bottled, as are all the sodas. He was more than normally disappointed.

Although they have a good sized dining area, most of their business is obviously to-go or delivery. That is probably why the drinks are only in bottles. Those fancy soda machines are expensive.

A few minutes later our order arrived, along with an extra paper plate and foil bowl so we could share the food, thanks to our server.

I started with the pasta, which was very good, although it was mostly penne pasta and Alfredo sauce and very light on other ingredients.

The sandwich came on a nice roll, which Russ, the bread lover, said was very good. He also said it would have been very, very good if it had been toasted a bit more.

We agreed the sandwich was also short very on ingredients, when compared to its picture. Russ showed me the one small piece of bell pepper that was in his half of the sandwich. In spite of that, it did have a nice flavor.

While we were sitting there enjoying our food, several other people came in to order. I heard their server, someone different than ours, mention they had a special on pizza.

After we finished, I asked about their specials other than those on the back of the menu. It turned out we could have purchased a three topping large pizza for $7.99, about $10 less than normal.

Rule #1. Always ask about specials before you order, especially at a new restaurant.

Domino’s menu is quite large and includes a dozen or more speciality pizzas, with meat, cheese and veggie toppings, along with quite a list of toppings for the “Build Your Own” pizza lovers. They have five penne pasta dishes, plus, again, your chance to “Build Your Own.”

There are more than half a dozen chicken dishes, including wings sauced from mild to “wow,” and if you like salads, they have the Classic, Chicken Caesar and Chicken Apple Pecan.

Yes, they have desserts, including their famous Chocolate Lava Crunch cake.

The Placerville Domino’s is open daily from 10 a.m. until Late Night. For more information give them a call at (530) 303-6777.

Be sure to check out Domino’s webpage at dominos.com for more information on specials, coupons and the such. Believe me, I will next time.

According to their webpage, home delivery is not available as of January 21, 2018, but should be soon.