Doug Noble

Steppin’ Out – Let’s Poke, Placerville

I had never experienced Hawaiian Sushi and, if you recall, an earlier attempt with a friend to have lunch at Let’s Poke’, which is located at 3182 Center Street in Placerville, failed because the employees couldn’t get to the restaurant due to heavy snow. Unfortunately, David, who owns the restaurant with his family, had to delay opening and we were way too hungry to wait. Well, the second try worked. It was open and we had lunch.

Let’s Poke’ Hawaiian Sushi Bar is a family-owned and operated restaurant offering an incredible “fast-casual” dining experience by preparing tasty, super healthy food that captures the wonderful flavors and freshness of the islands.

Poke’ (pronounced Poh keh) translates from Hawaiian as “to cut or slice into small pieces.” It is a delicious, healthy raw sashimi based food from Hawaii.

Traditionally, Poke is ahi or salmon tossed with shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, onions and sesame seeds creating a savory, unique food for adventurous eaters. At Let’s Poke’ you get more: cubed fish, shrimp or tofu marinated in delicious Japanese-inspired condiments and served with various sauces and other ingredients.

As I mentioned, I was new at this, so I let my friend and neighbor, Mike Long, go first. He is a great fan of Poke’ and knew what to do.

Your food is prepared in front of you as you walk along the counter. It is kind of like having a burrito made at Fresh Mex Express or Chipotle.
You start with your base, which they put in a separate bowl. Choices are: white rice, brown rice, spicy kale salad, Spring mix, wonton chips or half and half.

Mike had told me he is not wild about rice, so normally he takes Spring mix. I am a bit more adventurous and like a bit of texture, so I picked the spicy kale.

Step two is to select your Poke’. Choices are Ahi Tuna, Salmon, Yellow Tail Tuna (hamachi), shrimp or tofu. The fish is raw, the shrimp is cooked and the tofu is vegan.

Your choice of Poke’ is dressed with red onions, Wasabi and pickled ginger, if you wish, and the seasoning of your choice from this list: sea salt, chile flakes, Furikake seasoning, garlic or sesame seeds.

I wanted a sampler and had a scoop each of the tuna, salmon and yellow tail, along with some wasabi and pickled ginger.

Mike is a fan of hamachi, so he had three scoops of that, but I am not sure what seasonings he chose or what he added beyond that since I was overwhelmed with the choices that followed.

The next step is to pick your sauce. Your choices are: Ono (soy, ginger and garlic) spicy aioli (Sriracha, mayo and lemon juice), Ponzu (citrus and soy), creamy miso (soy bean paste and mayo) and their House Hawaiian BBQ (creamy and tangy with hints of BBQ).

The final step is the addition of toppings, and there is quite a list from which to pick: Surimi (imitation) crab, edamame, peanuts, cucumber, Wakame seaweed salad, jalapeños, mango, pineapple, radish, three types of Masago (fish eggs) in traditional, jalapeño and habanero flavors, green onions, dried onions, coconut and cream cheese bites.

As they are added, the ingredients are mixed and then finally placed in the bowl with the base ingredient.

We found seats at a table in their nicely decorated dining room, poured ourselves glasses of the free fruit infused water and started on our meal. I really liked it. The fish and other ingredients were fresh and I had never tasted some of the delicious Hawaiian flavors. Although I didn’t expect it to be, it was quite filling.

I probably added way too many flavors with the sauces and such and next time would be more selective and, as a fan of raw fish, have the fish added last so I could taste it unadorned.

Mike, who was really enjoying his Poke’ bowl, had also ordered us a sample of their Kalua Pork, which you can also get in a bowl if you want something different from the seafood.

Kalua Pork is generally cooked in a pit in the ground, but theirs is cooked for 14 hours in a brown sugar pineapple marinade and then served over rice.

Our sample was bare, but came with a couple of sauces to dip it in. I liked the Hawaiian BBQ sauce, which is very close to another sauce I like called Alabama White Barbecue Sauce.

In addition to the Poke’s bowls and the Kalua Pork bowl, you can also get their salads with toppings. To go with your food there are soft drinks, lemonade and fruit infused waters.

Let’s Poke’ Hawaiian Sushi is located at 3182 Center Street, where Z-Pies was located, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. They are closed Monday and Tuesday. For more information you can call them at 916-254-3826.

Note: After I finished this, Let’s Poke’ made changes and added to their menu. Check their Facebook page for changes and upcoming additions.

Steppin’ Out – Loving Food and More

Fruits and vegetables arranged in word ‘food’

Well, my neighbor Mike Long loves Poke (Hawaiian Sushi) and thought we should give Let’s Poke, the restaurant in the old Z-Pie location in downtown Placerville, a try. A week ago today was a good day for both of us. It was also a day when the weather did not cooperate at all.

Let’s Poke opens at 11:30, so we planned to beat the crowd by showing up about that time. When we arrived, we noticed that there was still a closed sign in the window. When we peeked in, owner David met us at the door and told us that most of the employees lived in the Pollock Pines area and couldn’t make it to work since the highway was pure snow from Placerville east. He had to delay the opening an hour.

We had starved ourselves, so we decided to try the poke the next week and headed for California Kitchen, around the corner.

If you recall, about a year ago I stopped there for breakfast and described their menu of “Old California” breakfast dishes featuring great meals like Huevos Rancheros and Chorizo and Eggs. This time we were there for lunch and although I thought about the Old California menu, I figured I would try something different.

We grabbed two seats at the bar, Mike’s choice, and looked over the menu. Mike says he orders only one thing there, the steak sandwich. “They recently raised the price on it,” he said, “but it is still a great deal. It’s a good steak, and if it was served on a plate for dinner, it would cost a lot more.”

After bumbling through their menu several times, wondering if I should try and “Old California” breakfast for lunch, I finally decided to try their Reuben sandwich, made with lean corned beef (cooked and sliced in their kitchen) and served on toasted marbled rye.

As you know, I love corned beef and pastrami, but really like a bit of fat on them. However, the trend is now to go lean – not as much flavor, but much better for you.

With his sandwich, Mike had chosen a salad. I decided to try their soup of the day, lentil soup, one of my favorites and very good for you.
As an afterthought, Mike also added my nemesis, an order of French fries to split. Remember, give me three fries, I will eat them…give me five pounds of fries, I will eat them.

My sandwich had the right amount of sauerkraut and dressing and was very good.

Mike enjoyed his steak sandwich and said it was excellent, although I thought it looked a bit overcooked from medium-rare.

Neither of us finished our sandwich and took half of it home. I didn’t even eat that many fries. I guess I am just eating less (and enjoying it more).

California Kitchen is located at 251 Main Street in Placerville and is open from 7until 3 daily. For more information, call (530) 622-7500.


Fish and Chips

Being that it is Spring and Easter is just around the corner, as they do this time of year, Wienerschnitzel has added fish and chips to their menu, especially for those who observe Lent.

I tried them and they were very good for a fast food restaurant. The fish comes in long pieces that are easy to dip in their tartar sauce, which is another one of my downfalls. I don’t know if they make the tartar sauce at each store, but it is really, really good, and, I guarantee, not low calorie.

What immediately struck me was not the food, but the hinged container that the fish and chips came it. It looked like it was made from plastic, but it wasn’t. It turns out it was actually made from a compostable material known as bagasse, which I found out is the fiber left over from the processing of sugar cane.

I got in contact with the company that made them, Genpak, and told them how pleased I was to not be getting a Styrofoam package that would end up in some dump until our sun swells up and engulfs the earth (don’t worry, that is estimated to be billions of years from now).

Hats off to Wienerschnitzel for caring enough to select such a package.

By the way, they are making a lot of products out of this kind of organic waste, including wine corks that our own Nello Olivo Winery is using.


Nacho Fries

Have you tried the Nacho Fries at Taco Bell? I was skeptical, so, one day I stopped by and tried them. They were actually pretty good, especially when they only cost a dollar. The cheese sauce that comes with them actually has the taste of Cheddar cheese.


Basketball and Pizza

Little Caesar’s Pizza announced that they would give away free pizza combos if a 16th seed team beat the number one seed in the “March Madness” basketball tournament. Guess what. 16th seed University of Maryland – Baltimore County, a very small college, beat the top team, the University of Virginia.

I believe it is Monday, April 2, from 11:30 until 1:00 that they are doing it. There are some rules, so check before you go.

Steppin’ Out – Jersey Mike’s Subs, Folsom

Jersey Mike’s Subs first opened in the sea-side town of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, in 1956, when there were very few franchise restaurants or hamburger chains, and no chain pizza, chicken or taco restaurants. They were also offering a relatively new item in American society – the submarine sandwich.

To survive and thrive, they had to offer exceptional quality products, coupled with unparalleled service. That is what they still offer today, with over 1500 restaurants, nation and world-wide, and growing.

I first heard of Jersey Mike’s Subs when I noticed that they were one of the companies that sponsors the shipment of wreathes from Maine across the nation to cemeteries in many locales, including El Dorado County, as a part of the Wreathes Across America program.

This program provides balsam fir wreathes to place on the graves of veterans nationwide and started in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, the owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Maine, found he had 5,000 extra wreaths. Rather than letting them go to waste, he gave the wreaths as a gift of thanks for the service and sacrifice made by our nation’s military so he could live freely to work and raise his family. He could never have foreseen then how this simple gesture would ignite a passion in the hearts and souls of millions of Americans many years later.
Sixteen years later, on Saturday, December 16, 2017, at 1,422 participating locations nationwide, grateful Americans in every state placed more than 1,565,000 remembrance wreaths on veteran’s graves.

At Arlington National Cemetery alone, 244,700 wreaths (one for each marker there) were placed by more than 75,000 volunteers.

To accomplish this feat, nearly 500 truckloads of wreaths were transported across the country through a network of hundreds of volunteer drivers, donated trucking and diesel, and countless hours of dedicated volunteers committed to the mission to Remember, Honor and Teach.

About a week ago I stopped by the Jersey Mike’s Subs in Folsom on my way home from my daughter’s house in Carmichael. I had been at her house both to visit and to watch my 10 year old grandson in his first acting role as Jack in the Chautauqua Playhouse’s Children’s Theatre production of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It was wonderful.

Some time ago I had signed up online with Jersey Mike’s and they had sent me a coupon on my birthday for a sandwich and drink. Not only were there no strings attached, like having to buy something to get the free sandwich and drink, the coupon could be used anytime up until the day before my next birthday.

I had looked over their menu prior to arriving and, as you know, I am always fascinated by the different ways restaurants make their Reuben sandwich: corned beef, pastrami, different dressings, etc. So, I ordered theirs, a Grilled Pastrami Reuben, with pastrami, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing.

It was good, and very hot when it was delivered to me. It was different, with thin slices of grilled pastrami, but easily in my top ten percent.

Their menu is very large, and all the sandwiches are made in front of you from the freshest ingredients. You can choose from around a dozen different Hot Subs, a like number of Cold Subs and a half dozen Signature Wraps.

Since they are “Northeast Style,” many of them are only available from them, like the Jersey Shore’s Favorite stacked with provolone, ham, and cappacuolo or the Cancro Special, custom made for a Pepsi delivery man and containing Provolone, roast beef and pepperoni.

To accompany your delicious sandwich they have fountain drinks, bottled drinks (including crafted “Stubborn Sodas”), bottled water, “Life Water,” juice, cookies, brownies and chips.

Their complete menu and much more information can be found at

There are six Jersey Mike’s in the greater Sacramento area. Our nearest is at 703 E. Bidwell Street in Folsom (near Raley’s and next to Smashburger). It is open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. and can be reached by telephone at (916) 817-8860.

In addition to their support for Wreathes Across America and other organizations, March was their “Month of Giving,” and on March 28, one hundred percent of the sales from the Folsom store went to the UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Their other stores did likewise for different organizations and charities.

Nice business, friendly people and good food. What else do you need?

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

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.