Canceling the SAMMIES Event

The show will not go on after artists’ boycott and lagging sponsorships doom annual local music showcase


SpaceWalker, seen here at the 2017 SAMMIES awards ceremony. Photo by Jeannie Mcloed

After 25 years, the Sacramento News & Review is canceling the live music show associated with the SAMMIES, an annual showcase for local musicians. The decision was made after at least 20 nominated performers denounced their nominations following criticism the newspaper has received since publishing the December 14, 2017, cover story “Confessions of a killer cop,” about a fired Sacramento police officer and the African-American man he shot to death.

The article chronicled the lives of John Tennis, an Army veteran with a history of violent encounters on the police force, and Joseph Mann, a former college-radio deejay and state employee who struggled with drug use and his mother’s death.

Moments after responding to a weapons call in July 2016 in North Sacramento, Tennis tried to run Mann over with his patrol car twice. Tennis and then-partner Randy Lozoya exited the vehicle and confronted Mann, who was holding a knife on a sidewalk when the two officers shot Mann 14 times.

The article revealed that the Police Department terminated Tennis for violating its use of force policy in killing Mann, and was under an internal investigation at the time of the shooting.

Aside from the story itself, outcry has been aimed at the cover image—featuring Tennis in the Superman T-shirt he wore to the scheduled photo shoot. SN&R’s response to the criticism, particularly the tagging of local activists on the newspaper’s Facebook page, has also drawn an angry response.

We are really boycotting SN&R as a whole because of how they have been tone-deaf in their response to the backlash they received from the article,” said Black Arts Matter founder Mone’t Ha-sidi. “I was one of the activists tagged by the editor when they wrote their response [on Facebook]. I thought it was irresponsible and it would also make those a target for people who are more on the ‘blue lives matter’ side of things.”

Ha-sidi said she didn’t receive any threats due to the Facebook tag. SN&R editor Eric Johnson said the tags were removed shortly after the post.

“I understand that caused them a lot of distress and I feel terrible about that,” Johnson said. “A person in my position should have known that the rules have changed regarding Facebook tagging by institutions like newspapers.”

Ha-sidi and Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter founder Tanya Faison recently teamed up with Gabriell Garcia, co-owner of Blue Lamp, to protest the SAMMIES with two nights of live music and performances.

“I know it was hard for the artists to denounce their nominations and I wanted them to know they had support and a place to play still,” Garcia said. “I just hope that it rings loud in the community and within our local media that the people still hold the power.”

Jointly, the events are known as Boycott SN&R and the Anti-SAMMIES, with the latter taking place on March 15, the day the SAMMIES show was scheduled at Ace of Spades. What started out as a fundraiser for the Mann family will now raise money for other local families who have suffered from police violence, organizers said.

The Mann family hasn’t been contacted by organizers.

SpaceWalker, Jonah Matranga and Sparks Across Darkness will be among those performing the first night, with the second night dedicated to black artists.

For Faison, the event is about more than the SAMMIES. She wants to see SN&R devote more in-depth coverage to black victims of police violence.

“We want those citizens’ faces that have been killed by police on the cover and we want their families heard,” said Faison, who organized a protest outside SN&R’s office last month. “If they can do it for a white guy, they can do it for all these black victims because right now Sacramento is killing more black people than they are killing white people.”

Faison said BLM Sacramento is currently working with eight families whose loved ones have experienced police violence. The chapter’s website lists Ryan Ellis, Desmond Phillips, Mikel McIntyre and other individuals. …

READ THE FULL STORY: CANCELING THE SAMMIES EVENT. Published in the Sacramento News & Review on January 25, 2018. 

Handcrafted Homebrews

Sacramento’s DIY beer scene is brewing


Photo by Debbie Cunningham

I like to say making beer is like making tea,” homebrewer Ellen Sherrill says from her shaded, backyard deck.

With her large orange cooler that she uses to start her recipes, Sherrill’s outdoor, home-brew setup is the epitome of DIY. Next to the cooler is a small, propane-powered stove with a five-gallon, stainless-steel, turkey-frying pot sitting on top. The pot acts as her kettle during the boiling process while the cooler acts as her mash tun, a vessel used to steep grains such as barley, oats, or rye in hot water at a consistent temperature.

Brewing success

Sherrill first began brewing one-gallon batches of beer in her kitchen when she lived at Lake Tahoe. There, she tried to create a clone of Deschutes Brewery’s Mirror Pond Pale Ale made with cascade hops — and she did.

Over the years, Sherrill has brewed farmhouse-style ales, malty chocolate stouts, crisp pilsners, and even mead from meadowfoam and raspberry blossom honey, all in the comforts of her home.

For Sherrill, home brewing is a craft that’s both a labor of love and a test of patience, as her concoctions usually each take up to a month to finish. But, she says, when the time comes, she enjoys sharing the finished products with friends.

“With home brewing, you do it whenever you feel like it, and you see how little tweaks affect the beer, and that’s still the fun part,” Sherrill says.


Photo by Debbie Cunningham

Steeped in competition

Sherrill moved to Sacramento because of its growing craft beer scene. After relocating, Sherrill enrolled in the Beer Judge Certification Program and passed the exam. Now she judges competitions every two to three weeks throughout Northern California.

She’s also the new director of the annual Queen of Beer competition — a contest started 21 years ago by the H.A.Z.E. club of Placerville, Calif., run completely by women with entries devoted to female home brewers. Last October, Sherrill judged 80 entries of beer, mead, and cider all handcrafted by women.

With a genuine love for beer and its process, Sherrill transitioned to a full-time brewer position with Track 7 Brewing Co. in July 2017. Although she brews on a much larger scale there, she still finds enjoyment in making small batches at home.

“It’s like a cool science experiment that you can drink and enjoy at the end,” Sherrill says. “It tickles the mad scientist in me, and then, if it works out, you have something delicious to share with your friends.”

READ THE FULL STORY: HANDCRAFTED HOMEBREWS. Published in Edible Sacramento magazine’s Winter Issue 2018.

Cumbia with a Twist

La Mera Candelaria rejects the status quo—with danceable beats


Stephani Candelaria longs for a stage.     Photo by Harmony Gerber

Latina singer-songwriter Stephani Candelaria fondly remembers sleeping backstage at the age of 5 inside the clubs where her mother, a salsa singer, would perform well into the night. Candelaria, now 27, credits her mother as one of her biggest inspirations for her own musical ambitions, motivating her to move from the small California mission town of San Juan Bautista into the Bay Area to pursue music at 19.

“It was definitely not your average childhood, and there are pros and cons to having that,” Candelaria says in a recent phone interview with SN&R. “But I would not change it for the world because I don’t think I’d be here making music if it hadn’t been for those experiences of watching my family give everything to their craft.”

Now, Candelaria has formed her own Los Angeles-based band that challenges the norms of cumbia and the Latin music industry at large: La Mera Candelaria (translation: The Real Candelaria). Next Friday, they’re coming to Old Ironsides, where they plan to unveil a new single titled “Yo Tambien”—a response to the #MeToo movement.

Candelaria sings: “Yo soy la trabajadora, que no puede ni hablar (I am the worker who can’t even speak) / Porque si el jefe es el culpable, quien me puede ayudar? (Because if the boss is the one at fault, who can help me?) / Yo tambien soy sobreviviente (I, too, am a survivor) / Yo tambien soy fuerte y valiente (I, too, am strong and brave).”

Candelaria formed La Mera Candelaria shortly after relocating to Los Angeles in 2015. She recruited a group of musicians who use percussive instruments like congas, tambora, claves and güira with bass and cuatro-style guitars to create the band’s fusion of genres: They collide the steady, danceable beats of cumbia with the more laid-back and buoyant vibes of Son Cubano.

“It’s not strictly cumbia that you would hear on the radio,” Candelaria says. “It’s cumbia with a very Caribbean style and instruments that you wouldn’t typically find in a cumbia band, and I think it really gives us some good edge, especially in LA where there are more than 200 cumbia bands.”

Candelaria says she always wanted to start a band of her own, even when she fronted the popular Bay Area alternative Latin group La Misa Negra for a stint. She longed to perform her original songs that explore themes of feminism and the place of women in the music industry, especially within the Latin community. …

READ THE FULL STORY: CUMBIA WITH A TWIST. Published in the Sacramento News & Review January 11, 2018.

The Paprika Steeper

Mark Lastuvka came to Sacramento from the Czech Republic, and now rises early to cook goulash at La Trattoria Bohemia

The scent of tonight’s dinner specialtandoori-spiced halibut—wafts from the kitchen. Lively convers


Owner Mark Lastuvka holding beef goulash on the patio of La Trattoria Bohemia in East Sacramento.
Photo by Scott Duncan

ations fill a warmly lit dining room with not an empty seat inside La Trattoria Bohemia, a Czech and Italian restaurant that opened in East Sacramento 17 years ago.

In the center of the merriment sits restaurant owner Mark Lastuvka, enjoying a glass of red wine with his girlfriend. A friendly chef, he’s passionate about the quality of food he serves his customers, whether it’s the Italian handmade ravioli, pizza and lasagna or the Czech dishes of his childhood, including beef goulash, chicken paprikash, handmade späetzle and schnitzel, which he made all the time as a kid. The Czech dumplings are his top-sellers.

Lastuvka’s place is one of a kind—the only Czech restaurant in Sacramento.

“I come every morning and I cook. Today, I did beef goulash and Bavarian goulash and soup,” Lastuvka says. “Goulash takes three hours, so you have to come in the morning and start it because it takes all day to prep. The goulash, I needed to twist it a little bit and make it for here to get people used to it, because it’s different in Czech. But now it sells very well.”

In Lastuvka’s goulash, he says, he uses precise portions of meat and vegetables, whereas in different regions of Eastern Europe, a homemade recipe would incorporate just about anything.

Lastuvka moved here from the Czech Republic in 1990. While taking English classes, he met two men who offered him a job washing dishes at Roma II Pizzeria on Folsom Boulevard. There, he met owner Maria Guerrera and learned the essentials of authentic Southern Italian cuisine over the next decade.

“She’s like my mother,” Lastuvka says. “My mom is back in Czech, so Maria became my friend and mother, and she helped a lot.”

Lastuvka was working two jobs, seven days a week, split between an early morning construction job and Roma’s on the weekends. Understandably, he started to get tired. So he decided to bring a little taste of Czech to Sacramento …

READ THE FULL STORY: THE PAPRIKA STEEPER. Published in the Sacramento News & Review November 30, 2017. 


Art of the Dead

Local artists cope with the passing of loved ones and make a living through Day of the Dead


John S. Huerta by his altar in his studio. Photo by Lisa Baetz

Artist John S. Huerta’s vivid memory takes him back to a time when he and his younger sister were playing outside in the canopy of Tempe, Arizona’s heat. The siblings were running around when his sister suddenly stopped. They heard a rattling sound. Within seconds their grandfather ran around the corner of their home, slid down to the ground and picked up what resembled a belt. It turned out to be a rattlesnake.

“He killed it. He slammed the head of the rattlesnake on a rock,” Huerta says.

Sitting in the living room of his home in Natomas, Huerta points to a vibrant acrylic painting of a man with long, black hair and a single rattlesnake playfully coiled around his neck. Huerta created the artwork, titled “Snake Charmer,” to honor his late grandfather, and it’s one of many of his originals that ornament his walls.

“In the eyes of that one it shows strength. That snake’s not giving him fear whatsoever,” Huerta says.

Throughout his life, Huerta has turned to art to cope with the losses of his dear family members, the most difficult being his younger sister Rosemary when he was 35 years old. Overwhelmed with grief, he turned to Día de los Muertos and his array of paints.

For Huerta and a few other artists in Sacramento, the holiday represents a way of life as well as a livelihood.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is widely celebrated in Mexico to honor loved ones who’ve passed. The holiday begins on November 1, a day devoted to deceased infants and children, and continues November 2 to celebrate adults. Revelers decorate handmade altars with photographs, candles and offerings like grandpa’s favorite tequila or a mother’s favorite dish.


Lila Solorzano Rivera poses with her artwork. Photo by Randy Rivera

“It’s a fun, festive holiday,” says local artist Lila Solorzano Rivera. “We bring memories of the people that have passed away. We drink. We party. We dance. We tell stories. It’s not sad. It’s not a funeral. We give to the dead, we put pan de muerto, or we make their favorite meals and we put it out on an altar because we believe the spirits come back and they celebrate with us for a couple nights and it’s really nice.”

To Huerta, Day of the Dead artistry is part catharsis, part career.

“Painting is very therapeutic for me to deal with the passing of my family members,” Huerta says. “When I explain to people why I do it, then they associate it with a loved one who’s passed, and then they get it. Maybe a color or a certain flower or certain eye colors, anything can signify someone who made an impression in your life who was important to you.”

Huerta has worked as a full-time artist for eight years, and his paintings pop off the canvas. His skeletal figures, outfitted in strikingly colorful dresses and mariachi uniforms, sell for upwards of $5,000. Huerta also uses bold colors to depict deceased artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and musicians like Selena and Prince. …

READ THE FULL STORY: ART OF THE DEAD. Published in the Sacramento News & Review October 26, 2017.

David Kulczyk, Crime Historian


Photo by Lauran Fayne Thompson

With not a single happy ending in any of his four books, crime historian and author David Kulczyk revives the stories of the dead in vivid descriptions that shine a light on Sacramento’s darker side and California’s underbelly. Last year, Kulczyk published his fourth book, California’s Deadliest Women: Dangerous Dames and Murderous Moms, with illustrations by artist Olaf Jens. It focuses on 28 cases, including that of the stone-faced “Acid Queen” of Clovis, and the cannibalistic nightmare titled “She’s a Man Eater.” For Kulczyk, a man who enjoys the many nuances of California’s rich history, murderers and psychopaths are part of the Golden State’s past, and should be remembered along with its dead.

Were you always fascinated by the true-crime genre?

I was never really interested in true crime. I started out writing fiction and the first two things I ever sent out got published. I was pretty successful getting short stories published and I started writing for weekly magazines and things like that. I never thought about writing about crime at all. Ever. I enjoyed reading true crime books like Jay Robert Nash, but I never liked single-issue crime books. I found them hideously boring.

So what inspired your first book?

We have really great history around here. Sometimes, you see an old building in Elk Grove or in Jackson and it’s this living piece of history. I was reading all these California history books by Quill Driver/Craven Street Books, and I thought, “I got a pretty good idea,” and I pitched to them and that became California Justice: Shootouts, Lynchings, and Assassinations in the Golden State.

Do you favor certain methods of murder?

I have no favorite stories in these books because every single person I write about is the most horrible, hideous [person] that you’ve ever heard about. These are senseless crimes and I never glorify the killer. I always make sure that I have as much as I can get about the victim and still make it a readable story. I like to put in names and address and dates, and that’s what I’m going to be talking about in my presentation at the Sacramento Family Historical Association. I’ve done so much new research for this show “Forgotten Sacramento Murders.” …

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW: DAVID KULCZYK, CRIME HISTORIAN. Published in the Sacramento News & Review October 19, 2017.

Rock & Roll: WSCXGP

The party’s on at NorCal’s biggest cyclocross event


Digging through the sand at WSCXGP III. Photo courtesy of Jeff Namba

Cruising down the American River Bike Trail behind Cal Expo in August of 2012, Matthew Hargrove and his then 8-year-old son Jack heard the distant sounds of punk rock blaring from an empty field. A small group of people was gathered there with bicycles. Intrigued, the father and son decided to check out what the group was up to out in the middle of nowhere. As they rode up to the fellow cyclists, Hargrove recalls, they were greeted with, “Hey! You’re here for cyclocross!”

Having never heard of “cyclocross,” a sport that blends road- and mountain-biking with criterium racing, Matthew and Jack decided to stick around.

“Before we even stopped our bikes, we had people who were happy that we were joining them,” Hargrove says. “That was how this all started. That small group was putting together free cyclocross races just to get people excited about it.”

The following week, Hargrove and his son were back out in the field with their new friends. Soon they were volunteering during newly organized cyclocross events, known then as GHETO races, which stood for “Go Hard Every Time Out.” As an avid record collector, Hargrove began bringing his favorite vinyl to spin for the cyclists during the dusty competitions.

Six years ago at the GHETO races, Hargrove met professional cyclocross athlete Emily Kachorek, her husband Pete Knudsen and race organizer Marty Woy. Together, the four would later form the Northern California Cyclocross Association and organize the first West Sacramento Cyclocross Grand Prix, a homegrown cycling race now in its fourth year that has developed into one the largest cyclocross races on the West Coast.

“That little core group of people are part of this huge international race we’re putting on,” says Hargrove, now WSCXGP race director. Jack occasionally takes over DJ duties.

“It was DIY,” Hargrove says. “We weren’t in a garage putting a band together, but we were out in a field putting races together. As we get to higher levels, we’re trying to figure out ways to keep that spirit alive within our race. So, we’re insistent that we have local music playing there, and that’s a nod to our DIY roots.”

Cycle culture

Heard from a distance across the Tower Bridge, echoes of upbeat punk rock music battle against the rowdy sounds of cowbells as they swell and fade to a steady stream of boisterous cheers. What sounds like an all-out party happening down by the river is actually last year’s WSCXGP.


Emily Kachorek is ranked No. 64 in the world in her sport. Photo courtesy of Jason Perry

Each year, hundreds of cyclocross athletes from across the country are invited to suit up and pedal hard on a 2-mile mixed-terrain course right along the city’s River Walk Park. As with all cyclocross tracks, this course makes use of the park’s natural features, so riders will race through the difficulties of fine sand, speed up on paved roads, adjust to the track’s many loose and hairpin turns, and overcome obstacles—a cyclocross-course component where riders hop off their bikes and carry them over barriers before hopping back onto their saddles to brave the course ahead.

Cyclocross tests the aerobic endurance of each rider throughout its course. It’s a sport for men and women, amateurs and professionals. Even kids even get in on the fun during WSCXGP.

Organized and co-hosted by the city of West Sacramento, the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates and, of course, the Northern California Cyclocross Association, the WSCXGP kicks off cyclocross season, which runs from September through January. …


Women Who Win

Founding members of Sacramento’s only all-female cyclocross recall what got them into the sport

Women go hard. And that’s true for those who participate in the world of cycling, a sport that’s been male-dominated since the ’80s. The simple truth is there are just more male riders than women who sign up each year to compete, whether it’s road, mountain or cyclocross. But times change, and a few Sacramento women are carving a path for future generations.

Kicking up dust as a professional mountain bike and road cyclist since the late ’80s, Stace Cooper recalls a time when she’d participate in Saturday morning training rides alongside about a hundred men as the only woman on the road.

“It was pretty much me for a long time,” Cooper says. “But training with the guys made me really strong and fit in the field. You’ve got to train with people that are better than you to be the best. But it seems like there’s more women participating now because there’s more opportunities and there’s more categories.”

Cooper says her biggest accomplishment in road cycling was placing No. 1 at the Nevada City Classic in 1995. Now, Cooper rides bikes because she enjoys the activity, and every year she participates in a variety of cyclocross races, including this weekend’s West Sacramento Cyclocross Grand Prix.

Back when Cooper was training with the guys, cyclocross wasn’t even its own sport yet. Instead, it was something she and others did to stay active and fit during the winter season. Now, cyclocross is an internationally recognized sport with professional women racers carrying the torch.

Today, Sacramento’s only all-female cyclocross team is the Dirt Birds, a flock of 20 women strong that formed in 2015. …

READ THE FULL STORY: WOMEN WHO WIN. Published in the Sacramento News & Review September 28, 2017.

Shock Rock Lives Up to Its Name

Self-proclaimed “rape rock” band sparks a protest


Protest flyer, left. Mentors flyer, right. Images Courtesy of Sacramento Punk Shows

Promoter Nikki Knight openly shares that she lives with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition she says stems from being sexually assaulted in the past. She says she uses humor to fight her monsters, and she’s helped by the music of shock rock band GWAR and, as contradictory as it sounds, “rape-rock” outfit the Mentors.

“I have flashbacks all the time, so when I make my monsters look like bumbling idiots, like the Mentors look like idiots on stage, it’s this whole menagerie of images that make me feel stronger … smarter and [more] confident than my rapist,” Knight says.

Knight, an independent promoter with SpewLine Productions, originally booked the Mentors at On the Y on Labor Day, September 4—but she canceled the show due to threats that the venue would be set on fire if the show persisted.

The show’s protestors made it known that rape jokes aren’t funny anymore and certainly not welcome in their city.

Before the scheduled performance, about 50 demonstrators across the street from the venue chanted, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” between speakers stating statistics about rape in America. The group included surf-punk band Las Pulgas and activists such as Mone’t Ha-Sidi, a local burlesque dancer and founder of BlackArtsMatter.

Formed in the late ’70s, the Mentors claim to be the founders of the “rape-rock” genre. The group launched its “Anti-Antifa Tour” at the start of September with dates booked in Oakland, Portland, Modesto—and Sacramento.

Under the Trump administration, clashes with similar themes have come to a head across the country. Right-wing groups protest under the banner of free speech, while leftist movements aim to quash racist values. This debate once again came close to home last Sunday at UC Berkeley: A conservative student group re-invited ultra-conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos to the Northern California campus, amid protests.

That’s after demonstrators at UC Davis shut down a scheduled speech from Yiannopoulos in January before it even began. The protesters blocked the entryway to the venue and chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, racists are not welcome here.”

The Mentors’ controversy predates current cultural divides: Its vulgar and sexually violent lyrical content has upset listeners on the left and right. The group gained mainstream attention in 1985 when Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center worked to censor lyrics laced with violence, drugs or sex.

The band’s ditty titled “Golden Shower” sports lyrics like, “Listen little girl; it’s near the hour / Come with me and take a golden shower / Listen little slut, do as you’re told / Come with daddy for me to pour the gold …” These words were read aloud on the Congressional floor and ultimately put the founders of “rape rock” front and center within the music censorship debates of its time. …

READ THE FULL STORY: SHOCK ROCK LIVES UP TO ITS NAME. Published in the Sacramento News & Review September 28, 2017.


Best Place for VHS Nerds

Awesome Video


As the digital age continues its advance, classic mediums of entertainment struggle to compete against newer, faster technologies. This was the case for video rental stores such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, with hundreds of locations nationwide closing shop for good once video-streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon became available in every household with a smart TV.

Despite this, Awesome Video, Sacramento’s last operating video rental store, remains steadfast. With 50,000 DVDs and VHS copies lining the shelves organized into the usual genres of horror, comedy and drama, as well as carefully curated sections for documentaries, foreign films and art film collections, Awesome Video is a throwback. A relic.

Step inside the 6,000-square-foot space and it feels like the ’90s all over again. Here, framed movie posters decorate the walls, and an old cash register dings with every transaction. It’s reminiscent of a time when parents and kids browsed the aisles for new releases and purchased candy and popcorn before returning home for an evening filled with cinema.

For owner Maithu Bui, her store is like a museum of movie titles both old and new that she happily shares with her regular customers, and it’s been this way for more than 20 years. Bui immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1992 and started working at Awesome Video, which was then owned by her friends. Two years later, she took over and has been renting movies to videophiles ever since.

“When I came to the United States, I was just amazed at the culture and I wanted to learn more of the language. By watching movies, it helped me with language and I just got into it,” Bui says.

Bui enjoys old Disney movies like The Lion King for its music and storyline, but she also admires classic actresses including Katharine Hepburn. Over the years, Bui says she’s watched her customers’ families grow before her eyes. She also befriended longtime customer and video crusader Soreath Hok, who now runs the store’s social media presence in exchange for free video rentals.

“Growing up, it was always a treat for me to go to a video store, and Sacramento still has this treasure,” Hok says. “It’s a great place if you want to have a face-to-face experience and you want to touch things again. It’s like being in a record store and digging.”

Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s Best Of 2017 Issue.

Best Spot to Carve with the Pros

28th and B Street Skate Park


Sacramento’s rich skateboarding culture dates back to the early ’80s, when official, dedicated skate areas operated between levels of scarce to nonexistent. And skateboarders who went rogue were either ticketed by police or, in some cases, arrested, according to 28th and B Street Skate Park staff member, camp instructor and professional skateboarder Matt Rodriguez.

He recalls a time when a then-empty plot of land at 19th and R streets was repurposed into a local skate park by a crew of skateboarders, who cleaned the area of debris, poured concrete and eventually earned the support of the city. But it was short-lived. In the end, the land was sold, and it now houses a busy grocery store and shopping plaza. On the flip side, it also led the city to open the 28th and B Street Skate Park near Sutter’s Landing Regional Park.

For a $3 admission fee, any skateboard, Razor scooter or pair of roller skates (sorry, no bikes) can glide and grind on every curb, half-pipe and rail built by longtime skateboarders who paved the way for the indoor skate park.

“When it comes to skating, the more different types of terrain you have to ride, the more fun,” Rodriguez says. “There’s a good variety over here. It’s a homegrown-style park.”

For the past 17 years, Rodriguez has spent time skating inside the large warehouse. He also worked as one of the park’s instructors, guiding the city’s next generation of skateboarders at various skill levels.

When school’s on break during the spring, summer and winter seasons, young and eager skaters ages 5- to 18-years-old are taught the basics of proper foot placement and push technique, while also learning about the roots of the sport in California during a five-day camp.

“It’s super fun getting to know all the kids and see who’s up and coming. We like to tell them stories of where skating comes from and how it’s not always about learning new tricks,” he says. “It’s about being self-propelled and awakening your individuality, and learning that skateboarding is, first and foremost, a culture with a long history.”

Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s Best Of 2017 Issue.

Best Garage Bike Party

Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen


Located in an ivy-laced garage near the train tracks in Midtown, the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen has given cyclists the know-how on bicycle maintenance and repair skills for more than a decade. This cooperative’s DIY mission is to supply the tools, parts and staff support to show riders how to fix their trusty steeds for a mere $5 shop fee.

The Bike Kitchen relies on a dedicated team of 35 volunteers, including eight core members who act as the garage’s board of directors and work to keep the space open year after year. Here, mechanics assist the community with a variety of common fixes ranging from truing wheels to changing brake pads, cables and flat tires. Whether a part is stripped, bent or broken, the staff at the Bike Kitchen takes pride in all things quirky, especially bikes that have already led a long life.

Paul Droubay is a volunteer and core member who has dedicated his time to the cause since 2009. Droubay says he enjoys the interaction and camaraderie that naturally occurs when working on a project with someone he’s never met.

“I get to know so many people that I would never get to know on an intimate basis through working on bikes, even though it seems like you’re just fixing a flat,” he says.

The shop buys new cables, brake pads and hardware when needed, but many wheels, derailleurs, tires and even whole bicycles are donated by local patrons, bike shops and police impounds. Often, bicycle cops donate old parts from their shiny rides, so there’s always a steady stream of gear to keep people rolling for miles.

“If you are out on your bicycle and something’s not quite right, the more you know about how to fix it, the more empowered you’re going to be,” Droubay says. “It makes it so you can travel a lot farther and with confidence and more safely.”

The Bike Kitchen also offers workshops on topics like brake and derailleur adjustments, frame and fork alignment, and wheel building. Every Second Saturday from April to October, the shop turns into an all-out garage party, with live bands and art displayed in the parking lot, with proceeds from beer sales going back to the cause.

“We have this groovy spot with nice tools, and as long as people care about it and we keep getting new volunteers, everything else is achievable and possible,” Droubay explains. “Volunteers with a crescent wrench can do a lot.”

Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s Best Of 2017 Issue

Best Meat and Gravy Heaven

Bud’s Buffet


On a warm Wednesday afternoon, the savory aroma of roasted meats lures hungry foot traffic off the busy sidewalk on 10th Street and into a line that stretches from one end of the eatery back to the front door. Inside Bud’s Buffet, the ambience is reminiscent of a lunchtime cafeteria, what with its loud chatter, modestly decorated dining area and fast-paced assembly line.

Since 1988, this old-fashioned lunch spot has been revered for its thick portions of peppery pastrami, baked ham, barbecued pork, and corned and roast beef (just to name a few) packed into soft French rolls. Here, the menu is simple: specialty deli sandwiches, cold Italian pasta and macaroni salads, and hot daily lunch specials that rotate during the week, like lasagna and spaghetti served with side salads, or chopped steak served with Bud’s signature mound of mashed potatoes and gravy. Recommended on the specialty hot sandwiches menu: the spicy “Diablo” with roast beef, melted pepper jack cheese, housemade chipotle sauce and jalapeños. Or, try Bud’s classic Reuben with deli-sliced pastrami, Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard and Swiss cheese.

Despite its lunchtime rush, the steady ebb and flow of customers makes this afternoon lunch stop a quick place to enjoy a filling meal, but bear in mind Bud’s is only open during the workweek from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s Best Of 2017 Issue.

Culinary Dreams

Community kitchens support local food and drink artisans in
America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital


On a hot Saturday afternoon, ice-cold drinks and root beer floats are served inside the Burly Beverages Gift Shoppe & Tasting Room, an old-fashioned soda fountain located in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood. Rows of specialty sodas, seltzers, and cocktail essentials line the shelves, and co-owner and founder Gabriel Aiello welcomes guests from behind a sleek corner bar lined with black and chrome bar stools. The doorbell rings, and Aiello opens the door for two women so they can taste the variety of small-batch soda flavors Aiello’s seasonal menu features. For Aiello, this brick-and-motor location was once a simple dream. Still, the challenges that keep many small-batch culinary businesses from realizing their dreams are very much a reality.

With more than 11,000 small family farms in the Sacramento Valley, local culinary artisans are able to draw much inspiration from the abundance that surrounds them year round. That vast foundation allows them to create new ways to savor the region’s lush bounty of fruits and vegetables.

Whether they operate a food booth, run a pop-up supper club, or are a small-batch producer, independent culinary business owners share a passion for sourcing homegrown ingredients and highlighting the authenticity derived from their handmade goods. Still, the expense of launching a culinary dream — especially in its beginning stages — proves difficult for many small producers. So they turn to commercial kitchens and rent space as a more cost-effective approach to sharing their handcrafted goods with the masses. Yet with the growing number of culinary artisans in a booming agricultural economy, kitchen space is extremely limited, which often hampers these budding businesses with a farm-to-fork ethos. Nevertheless, the drive for homemade taste and DIY spirit persists. …

READ THE FULL COVER STORY: CULINARY DREAMS. Published in Edible Sacramento’s Fall 2017 Issue.

Cooking with Precision

Local MasterChef Junior competitor adds chemistry to his kitchen experiments

adamWhile some youths ask their parents for bats and balls, 14-year-old Adam Wadhwani recalls a time when he asked his mom for a blow torch, CO2 cartridges, and a set of sharp knives.

For most parents, that would be a strange and tall order to fill, but for Wadhwani’s mother, Emel Wadhwani, these gadgets were simply kitchen tools that propelled a then-9-year-old boy’s culinary interests to a level where dishes mirrored restaurant-quality fine dining.

“As a parent, you are sometimes jolted into realizing that your kid does have something special going on, and you need to really support him,” Emel says. “When he got interested in food, it wasn’t just an attempt to create delicious stuff, which he does very well. But he was also interested in the technique and the technology and the equipment that goes with it.”

Top 40

At the edge of 12 years old, Adam and his mother flew to Los Angeles to try out for the FOX television show MasterChef Junior, hosted by world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay and award-winning pastry chef Christina Tosi. More than 4,000 young chefs between the ages of 8 and 13 auditioned for the series in order to earn a spot in the Top 40 and the chance to win the $100,000 grand prize.

Adam garnered a place by baking chocolate cupcakes filled with strawberry compote and topped with a buttercream frosting that was infused with smoked cinnamon and nutmeg. His cupcakes not only earned him a signature white apron, but this Sutter Middle School student also received a high five from the famously ill-tempered Ramsay.

“A lot of what compelled me about MasterChef was getting to be around other kids who enjoyed the same thing I did … and with professionals who knew what they were doing and could help guide us to make us better,” Adam says. …

READ THE FULL STORY: COOKING WITH PRECISION. Published in Edible Sacramento’s Fall 2017 Issue.

For the Love of Cheese


For Greater Sacramento’s resident cheesemongers, every cheese tells a story. From its funky flavor profiles to the creameries and farmers who spend decades perfecting their cheese recipes, every detail is essential. Amid an abundance of well-stocked cheese collections throughout the region, edible Sacramento stepped behind the counter to turn to three cheese experts for tips, tricks, and tales. These pros not only carry great respect for cheesemakers, but they also aspire to eliminate the intimidation factor that naturally follows such boundless selections … no matter how you slice it.

A homegrown devotion

Growing up on a small, organic pear farm in Mendocino County, Calif., allowed Rebekah Baker to see the personal connection between produce and its cultivator from a young age. With these experiences at her core, Baker believes the best part about having worked in the cheese industry for the past decade is the variety of narratives that follow every decadent wedge she tastes.

“Behind every incredibly delicious cheese, there is a story. There’s a cheesemaker. There’s a company. There’s a family. There’s a town. There’s a dairy animal that made that milk,” Baker says. “When you taste a really excellent cheese, you know there was someone somewhere along the line who has an intense passion about what they’re doing.”

Baker’s worn many hats within the cheese business, from cheese buyer and specialty associate at Whole Foods Market in Santa Rosa, Folsom, and Roseville, Calif., to Nugget Markets, where she was the corporate director of specialty cheese for three years. Now, she works for Tony’s Fine Foods in West Sacramento as the category manager for cheese. Baker’s dedication to the world of cheese is measured in both years and the countless hours she studied to earn the elite certified cheese professional title from the American Cheese Society.

For Baker, the only wrong way to enjoy cheese is to not eat it. From her experience, tasting cheese is the quickest way to find the one that tickles all the senses. A turning point in her career was when she sampled a five-year-aged Gouda that gave Baker her wow moment.

“It was just the craziest dark, caramel color, and it had these lighter flecks of crystals throughout, and the texture was very firm,” Baker says. “The flavor just blew me away with its burnt caramel, whisky, and cherry notes. When I first tried it, I stopped talking and just tasted for like five minutes. The flavor lingered and kept evolving and changing.” …

READ THE FULL COVER STORY: FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESEPublished in Edible Sacramento’s Summer 2017 Issue.

Eat on the Street

Uncovering Greater Sacramento’s Mexican street food


The most authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine are not always tasted in full-spread dishes accompanied by rice and beans or served in a restaurant setting. Instead, the essence of traditional Mexican fare is found streetside, served near parks, in alleyways, and on the busiest corners of the city.

Street food is simple. It’s savory tacos garnished with cilantro and chopped onions and served from a small cart near Southside Park. It’s crunchy chicharrónes, fried pork rinds spiced with lime and chili sauce. It’s the comfort factor present in each bite of an elote, corn on the cob rolled in crema, chili powder, and Parmesan cheese and enjoyed on a stick.

These curbside treats, with their savory and spicy flavors, originate from some of the oldest regions in Mexico. Street food may be straightforward, but it’s served with a story and spiced with love by people who savor authenticity.

eloteWrapped in tradition

When Yolanda Yanez was a little girl, her mother taught her the traditions of tamale making in Michoacán. Back in those days, tamales were made by the dozen. Now, Yanez and a small team — which includes her husband, Pedro — prep and steam between 400 and 1,000 tamales in one day.

In her family-run business, Yanez also enlists the help of her sons, Andres and Valente; her daughter, Julia; and Andres’ wife, Sandra, who all are regular faces during every farmers’ market location in the Sacramento area. The markets run from May through October, when Yolanda’s Tamales are sold in bulk.

Tamales start with masa, a corn-based dough that traditionally is made of lard, salt, and baking powder. The masa is spread onto a cornhusk before it’s filled with a variety of meats, chiles, cheeses, or vegetables. Once the tamale is assembled, it’s folded tightly and steamed until the masa is firm. …

READ THE FULL STORY: EAT ON THE STREETPublished in Edible Sacramento’s Summer 2017 Issue.

Sister, Sister

The McKeever sisters contribute to the arts in Sacramento and beyond, each in her own way.


When Nicole McKeever listens to music, she sees herself dancing. She feels her legs move instinctively to the steady rhythms and imagines the myriad ways she would interpret the music through choreography. In her words, that’s just how her brain works. For McKeever, 34, movement is art, and dance in particular is a medium that inspired her to achieve her childhood dreams.

Nicole’s younger sister, Natalie McKeever, also captures the art of movement, but in her own way. Instead of creating dance steps to cadence she uses photography and stop-motion film techniques to illustrate movement and transforms the ideas that dance around her mind’s eye into mesmerizing video installations that she’s exhibited in galleries in Sacramento and abroad.

The McKeever sisters are bonded by their love for the arts and their Irish heritage, which naturally introduced the pair to the competitive world of Irish dance. With the support of their parents, Natalie and Nicole were encouraged to explore the gamut of their individual artistic talents from a young age whether it was through dance, paint or film. What followed: the successful careers of two imaginative sisters who continue to influence the world in their own rights, but in the end it all comes back to dance. …

READ THE FULL STORY: SISTER, SISTERPublished in Sacramento Magazine September 1, 2017.

Wide Open Walls: Art in the Street

Mural festival turns the streets of Sacramento into an open-air fine-art museum



Okuda, whose work is beloved on four continents, will be creating a three-story mural as part of the Wide Open Walls festival. PHOTO COURTESY OF WIDE OPEN WALLS

David Sobon, the local-arts-impresario-slash-nonprofit-auctioneer, is on a quest to brighten the urban landscape—and bring cutting-edge contemporary art to everyone in Sacramento.

The Wide Open Walls mural festival, which Sobon founded and directs, will see 50 muralists, including homegrown artists and international talent, creating 40 huge pieces in every corner of the city. In sheer square footage, this will be the largest mural festival ever mounted on the West Coast.

Sobon says the festival was created to give every resident direct access to the depth of styles and unique perspectives of artists who are just as diverse as the city’s residents.

“Everybody’s not going to go walk into a museum; everybody’s not going to walk into a gallery,” Sobon says. “But anybody can walk or drive or bike down the street and look at beautiful art. My goal is to paint every single district in the city, and that will happen in due time.”

While he was working with the owners of local buildings to secure the walls, Sobon brought in Warren Brand of Branded Arts, an LA-based art company that creates large-scale installations for municipalities, corporations and nonprofits. Brand then worked with the building-owners to pair them with leading wall-artists from around the country and the world, including 23 local painters (seven of whom of whom are profiled here).

“It was exciting to learn about each owner’s vision and aesthetics, and to select artists based on that criteria,” he says.

Brand sees the WOW festival, and his company’s mission, as part of a hallowed history.

“People have been organizing to create public art for centuries,” he says. “Think of the sculptural installations and statues in cities around the world—somebody had to organize that. We’re doing the same thing, but on the cutting edge of contemporary art.”

The contemporary mural movement is rooted somewhat in the graffiti scene that erupted in New York in the early 1980s, and evolved alongside the birth of hip-hop. That scene gave the world artists including Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat, both of whom later moved into the studio with huge success, and somewhat less well-known but no-less brilliant artists such as Dondi, Futura 2000 and Lady Pink.

Brand is clearly happy that the street art movement is now being recognized by the smart people in the legitimate art world, and thrilled to be part of WOW fest.

“This is a really important thing,” he says. “Some of the best muralists in the world are coming to Sacramento. I’m so proud. It’s insane.”

For Sabon, this festival, the second in what he hopes will be an ongoing event, continues an effort to make Sacramento a destination for lovers of outdoor art. Since conceiving of this idea, and before and after last year’s mural festival, Sobon and his wife, Anna, have traveled to various countries to check out outdoor art.

“We went to Mexico City and saw some of the most famous murals in the world.” he says. “We went to Los Angeles and did the same thing. Last year we took mural tours in Barcelona, Rome and Venice.”

Five years from now, will there be mural tours of Sacramento?

“There will be mural tours of Sacramento starting August 10.” …

—Eric Johnson and Steph Rodriguez

Published in the Sacramento News & Review on July 31, 2017.

The Masked Musician

Anonymous artist El Gato shrouds his alter ego in the guise of a villainous cat

El Gato

Photo by Shoka

My instructions were: “Meet at the Pre-Flite Lounge at 8 p.m. Tell the bartender, ‘Eight lives down, one to go.’ He’ll know what to do.”

I entered the back-alley bar prepared for a rare, face-to-face interview with an elusive Sacramento musician known as El Gato, who refuses to share his real name. I recite the strange message to the bartender who lightly taps the bar in approval before he texts someone to signal that I’ve arrived.

After a few moments of silence, the bartender leads me to a back door labeled “employees only” and into a dimly lit parking garage. He departs, but I’m not alone.

Instead I’m joined by a headless mannequin that hangs by a rope and the aroma of exhaust fumes. Sitting behind a fold-out table is El Gato, his face concealed by a tight, black mask …

READ THE FULL STORY: THE MASKED MUSICIAN. Published in the Sacramento News & Review on July 13, 2017.

Shade from the Audience

Local musicians share the sometimes uncomfortable lessons of performing in Sacramento as nondudes

Women and nonbinary-identifying musicians in Sacramento have noticed that the way audiences treat them before and after they perform can feel like the difference between night and day. Oftentimes, an air of acceptance comes only after sharing their kickass musical talents, they say. SN&R asked five artists about their experiences in the local music scene, and their responses just might raise some eyebrows.

Even so, the musicians pay it forward to their community: As a bonus, they also shared with us their favorite local albums or musicians of 2016. …

READ THE FULL STORY: SHADE FROM THE AUDIENCEPublished in the Sacramento News & Review’s “Music” Issue June 8, 2017.

Wicked Good

Devil May Care Ice Cream owner Jess Milbourn scoops up nostalgia and other delicious childhood treats


Across the I Street Bridge in West Sacramento is Devil May Care Ice Cream, a little red parlor that aims to rekindle a time where a scoop of the frozen confection was the ultimate childhood treat. Inside, ingredients from local companies like the Allspicery and Burly Beverages line the shelves. Canisters of cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla bean pods sit near bottles of root beer, ginger beer and orange soda syrups used as twist on the classic float. Much like the name of his business, owner Jess Milbourn says he approaches his recipes with a fun and reckless attitude because at the end of the day—it’s ice cream. But, don’t diss vanilla. For Milbourn, it’s not only his favorite flavor, but also the most misunderstood.

“It’s such an underrated flavor, but why is it any more plain than chocolate? I put more flavor into my vanilla than my chocolate,” he says. “Vanilla uses two different vanilla beans with some extract, and it just accents everything so well.”

With more than 30 years of experience as a chef and graduate from the Culinary Institute of New York, Milbourn opened the small shop last November and introduced ice cream combinations like coffee and donuts made from Camellia Coffee Roasters and old-fashioned glazed donuts from City Donuts just up the street.

Classic flavors like vanilla and chocolate, cookies and cream, and peanut butter and fudge also make regular appearances on the menu, but his latest creation made with chamomile and kumquat is truly unique. Floral aromas are met with slightly tart pieces of kumquat. The combination tastes of honey, but with a light and sweet finish. A native of West Sac, Milbourn recalls picking chamomile with his grandmother along the river as a child. It’s also where he returns to source the wildflower.

It’s not just a nostalgia trip though, Milbourn says. The greatest feeling he says is seeing his customers smile.

“I get to have kids come in and eat their first ice cream cone and look like that,” To demonstrate, Milbourn shares an Instagram photo of a boy holding a cone with a huge smile on his face.

“It’s the coolest thing. Kids are happy and families come in for celebrations. People come here to celebrate and enjoy life,” he says. “That’s the most soul-satisfying thing is to see happy people, especially the kids.”

Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s “Summer Guide” Issue May 25, 2017.

Ceramic City

Every year Davis becomes a mecca for clay fanatics

lindseydillon.jpgThere comes a time each year when hundreds of professional and budding artists visit downtown Davis to transform retail spaces and offices—even a historic mansion and log cabin—into dozens of pop-up galleries for an entire weekend. All of this hustle and bustle celebrates the boundless possibilities of one medium: clay.

Twenty-nine years ago, gallery owner John Natsoulas founded the California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art. Since then, the annual symposium has grown to host more than 50 colleges and universities from Southern California to Southern Oregon. It’s fitting, as ceramic art went from a primarly crafty medium to a well-respected and sought-after form of expression right in the heart of this active college town. …

READ THE FULL STORY: CERAMIC CITYPublished in the Sacramento News & Review April 27, 2017.

Filipino Flavor

Olla Swanson cooks up family traditions


Home cooks bring a certain finesse and authenticity to the dishes they know well. In many homes, you’ll find no recipe books sitting on the kitchen counter, no second-guessing of measurements, and often the simmering and spicing of home-cooked meals solely depend on the cook’s palate, which continuously assesses all the familiar flavors lightly bubbling on the stovetop until they’re just right.

All of these methods ring true for Olla Swanson, a seasoned home cook who was taught how to make rice properly by her mother at age 4. Her advice: Wash it three times.

Growing up in a large Filipino household, Swanson inherited the natural ability to cook traditional-style Filipino dishes from her mother, Olivia, and her Aunt Lupe.

“When I was growing up, my mom and my Aunt Lupe between them had eight children, and we all grew up together in this big house, and there would be so much food,” Swanson says. “I like how Filipino food makes me think of community and all of us eating together, especially if there’s a big party. Also, it’s hard to find. The only way you can get it is if you make it.”

Under the moniker The Olla Factory, Swanson now serves the Filipino dishes of her childhood during a rotating Monday popup dinner series at Sacramento’s Old Ironsides restaurant, to crowds she hopes will discover a love for these foods that meant so much to her and her family. …

READ THE FULL STORY: FILIPINO FLAVOR. Published in Edible Sacramento’s “Cooks!” May/June 2017 Issue.

Gardener’s Almanac


Turning the soil, caring for seedlings and tasting homegrown bounty is what gardening is all about. For Judith Yisrael, growing nutrient-rich food for her family and her surrounding community is an everyday way of life. She is the co-founder of Yisrael Family Urban Farm, a half-acre plot of land in the Oak Park neighborhood where she and her husband, Chanowk, work hard in the soil and in the community. In January, Sacramento County’s board of supervisors unanimously passed the County Urban Agriculture Ordinance, a law that will allow residents to legally grow and sell crops, keep bees and even raise chickens and ducks at home. For the Yisrael family, the news means they will open and operate an urban farm stand selling organic fruits and vegetables to their neighborhood.

“Remember, we’re not just growing food when we’re talking about urban agriculture,” she says. “We’re actually growing community, we’re growing hope and we’re growing health.”

With a passion for growing herbs, vegetables and colorful flowers, Yisrael thinks about how to create biodiversity in her garden by the use of companion planting, which she says is a natural system where the plants and insects take care of themselves. She makes homemade soaps and salves and infuses oils with ingredients from her backyard bounty, and she still found time to help Sacramento Magazine with a month-by-month guide for our readers with a green thumb. …

READ THE FULL STORY: GARDENER’S ALMANACPublished in Sacramento Magazine April 1, 2017.  

Carving a Niche

The Proletariat will offer a taste of JerseySouth

The historic Sacramento Tofu Co. building at 1915 6th St. is taking on a new role thanks to the owners of the Southern-inspired restaurant South, located in Sacramento’s Southside Park. New Jersey native Ian Kavookjian and his wife, N’Gina, plan to launch their Garden State-inspired deli, The Proletariat, in August.

“One of his biggest complaints about California is there’s not really a lot of delis that are reminiscent of the delis that Ian grew up [with] on the East Coast,” N’Gina says. “That’s something that he definitely wants to recreate in Sacramento, so he has a little piece of home here.”

The Proletariat predominantly will be a breakfast and lunch spot, and the menu still is in the development stage, but customers will be able to stop by and grab freshly prepared sandwiches and salads, an assortment of deli-sliced meats and cheeses, as well as house-made pastries and desserts. The more-than-3,000-square-foot space also will house a bottle shop serving beer and wine during happy hour for guests to enjoy in house or to purchase bottles to take home after a long day’s work.

The downtown eatery also will sell some of South’s tasty menu staples behind the deli counter, such as its popular meatloaf.

“What I like about a good deli is variety,” N’Gina says, “especially when you look in the case and you see so many beautiful, house-made items. I like being able to get a sandwich and taste the quality in the bread, the meat, and the cheese. It’s the simplicity of really great ingredients speaking for the food, as opposed to piling a bunch of stuff on and giving it a crazy name.”

Published in Edible Sacramento’s “Fresh Start” March/April 2017 Issue.

Training Ground

The Oak Café preps the new bevy of top chefs


On the culinary television show Top Chef, a recurring challenge for the competing chefs is to group into teams to open a new restaurant with a cohesive theme and vision in just a matter of days. Sacramento’s American River College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program does something similar each semester with its four-star restaurant, The Oak Café, except every week the menu is refreshed.

Each week, the new menu of appetizers, entrées, and desserts is made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients from Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento, Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova, and ARC’s horticulture department gardens. The variety of cuisines served at the restaurant includes anything from classic French to Cuban or American Southern food, according to program department chair Brian Knirk.

“One of the most important things that our students learn is attitude and respect for the kitchen and the ingredients,” Knirk says. “But what we also try to instill in them is an understanding of the details required to make food great and the process by which you achieve those outcomes.” …

READ THE FULL STORY: TRAINING GROUNDPublished in Edible Sacramento’s “Fresh Start” March/April 2017 Issue.

Hard-Hitting Spectacle

The versatile group behind Kill the Precedent puts the ‘or’ in hardcore


Photo by Carlos Almanza

As one of Sacramento’s most versatile bands, Kill the Precedent does not define itself by a specific genre. Nor does any label dictate which sound the group will confront next—and they like it that way.

The seven-member-strong crew attributes its diverse sound to an abnormal writing process: It begins with one member named Tapeworm. Members of the group also refer to the septic invertebrate as the “man behind the curtain.” Like some twisted Wizard of Oz, Tapeworm creates the skeletons of what will gradually evolve into music that’s both magnetic and complex.

After recording distorted guitar riffs, electronic effects and even some experimental noise, he emails the bare-bones track off to drummer Sgt. Pepper, who then adds a layer of hard-hitting percussion. This method continues until two guitarists, one bassist and two vocalists finish the song before the band even steps into the same room together. This has been their process for 10 years—and it works. …

READ THE FULL STORY: HARD-HITTING SPECTACLEPublished in the Sacramento News & Review February 16, 2017.

JR De Guzman Chases Laughs Through Song

The Sacramento comic sets sights on television and an international fanbase


There was a time when JR De Guzman felt like he wouldn’t get back onstage.

“I got off after two minutes and thought about maybe never doing it again,” he says.

Still, it was just the beginning of his musical comedy career. Bombing for comics is inevitable, but now, De Guzman is busy riding comedy highs after appearances on Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central show Hart of the City and MTV’s stand-up and sketch comedy series Acting Out.

“It was the best feeling in the world to see Kevin Hart laughing at my jokes,” De Guzman says. “That was so validating. I have this dirty Christmas song and he was like dying.” …

READ THE FULL STORY: JR DE GUZMAN CHASES LAUGHS THROUGH SONG. Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s “Comedy Issue” December 14, 2016.

How to be Funny, According to Lance Woods


Lance Woods chases the next laugh like it owes him money. Over the last six years, the Sacramento comedian has performed alongside big names like Dave Chappelle and Tony T. Roberts, and even visited Okinawa, Japan, to perform for the U.S. Marine Corps. His ability to bring the audience into his world of hilarious and relatable stories seems effortless. Still, Woods admits it wasn’t always so easy to get five minutes on stage. Here, he gives advice on how a fresh face with a couple of clever punchlines should get started. …

READ THE FULL STORY: HOW TO BE FUNNY, ACCORDING TO LANCE WOODS. Published in the Sacramento News & Review;s “Comedy Issue” on December 15, 2016.

No Thanksgiving plans? These bars can be your family


Illustration by: Serene Lusano

Whether it’s lack of time, money or patience for Uncle Joe’s off-kilter remarks, sometimes it’s tough to make it out of town to celebrate Thanksgiving. If you’re a student stuck in the dorms or just taking a big pass on this year’s family festivities, consider these alternatives when it comes to Turkey Day. Here are four trusty watering holes staying open with a hot meal waiting with all trimmings and none of the family drama. …

READ THE FULL STORY: NO THANKSGIVING PLANS? HOLIDAY GUIDE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review November 24, 2016.

Sacramento, Forever:

Why four local men and women inked their 916 love with tattoos

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There’s nowhere quite like Sacramento, because let’s face it—Sacramento is home. Home to late-night music venues that support the likes of local punk, garage-rock bands and more.

It’s where sports teams like the Kings, the River Cats and the Republic FC hang their uniforms. And this town really supports its teams whether it’s at a bar at 7 a.m. for an early soccer match or from the nosebleed section with no cup holders—fans are devoted.

And, thanks to its Mediterranean-style climate, Sacramentans can always eat seasonally with year-round leafy greens, summer’s sweet berries and fall’s abundance of apples and gourds.

Indeed, our love for the region is experienced in many ways, and for some, it’s a feeling to be expressed in a permanent fashion—by dedicating an entire tattoo as an homage to the 916.

From the more soft, watercolor-inspired ink that plays with negative space to the vivid lines and shades of traditional-style tattoo work, SN&R spoke to four men and women who share a common love for the region through these playful depictions that truly are for keeps. …

READ THE FULL STORY: SACRAMENTO, FOREVER. Published in the Sacramento News & Review November 17, 2016.

Luis R. Campos-Garcia, Papier-Mâché Skeleton Artist


From Mexico City to Sacramento, Luis R. Campos-Garcia, known in the art community as Lurac, is the mixed-media artist behind the 6-foot-tall, multicolored skeleton structures that welcome hundreds of attendees each year to the Souls of the City event. Organized by Sol Collective and the Sacramento History Museum, the Día de los Muertos celebration is the culmination of interactive workshops that range from classes on crafting sugar skulls and print-making to art exhibitions. Campos-Garcia is also the art director and curator of the collective’s gallery and works in varied mediums like acrylic paint, graphic design, photography and drawing. …

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW: 15 MINUTES WITH LUIS R. CAMPOS-GARCIA. Published in the Sacramento News & Review November 3, 2016.

The Bottom Feeders’ Old-Timey Groove


Members of Sacramento’s surf-pop band the Bottom Feeders write music reminiscent of a ’60s beach party, or a high school dance where “Come On, Let’s Go” by Ritchie Valens was the absolute jam. The four-piece group intertwines moments of doo-wop, soul, garage- and surf-rock to create songs with hip-swaying melodies and upbeat, catchy vocals that evoke feelings of what singer and guitarist Noah Campos describes as “the-lover-done-me-wrong kind of music.” …

READ THE FULL STORY: THE BOTTOM FEEDERS’ OLD-TIMEY GROOVE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review September 15, 2016.

Checking in on Common Core


With technology’s vast expansion over the last decade children swipe, type and independently research information on the web at younger and younger ages. This is also true within the classroom as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative relies heavily on computer knowledge to effectively navigate and complete a new era of educational curriculum throughout California. …

For Wendy Aiello, a third grade teacher at Diamond Creek Elementary School in Roseville for the last 15 years, Common Core is kid-oriented, hands-on and also gives the kids multiple strategies for problem-solving.

“With these programs, they have kids draw things and part of my job is to walk around and say, ‘Oh my gosh! Look how so-and-so solved this problem.’ Then I bring them up in front of the classroom to show others what they did,” Aiello says. “It’s one of my favorite subjects to teach now. We’re teaching kids the ‘why?’ of it. Not just formulas or memorization. It’s not so bad.” …

READ THE FULL STORY: CHECKING IN ON COMMON COREPublished in Sacramento Parent Magazine August 1, 2016. 

Help Children Prepare for a New School Year


When the school bell chimes on its last day before summer break, kids, teens and teachers alike all breathe a little easier. Summertime means ocean view vacations, late-night slumber parties, and video game marathons fueled by pizza and sugary snacks. Still, all good things must come to an end and what better way to prepare your child for the new school year than with these helpful back to school tips provided by educational experts? Whether it’s enforcing an earlier bedtime or simply keeping your child’s mind active, Sacramento Lifestyle’s tips will prepare children (and parents) for the upcoming school year. …

READ THE FULL STORY: BACK TO SCHOOL TIPSPublished in Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine August 1, 2016. 

A Compassion for People


When your passion in life is people there are a few pivotal career choices that come to mind: doctor, professor, counselor. For Rebecca Sturges, her life as a licensed marriage and family therapist is laughter, tears, reward, but most of all, it’s about the physical and mental wellness of her clients, the people she truly values.

“I feel like I live in all these worlds. I’ve gone into these lives and people who don’t know me, know about me,” she says. “I love what I do. I really love it. A lot of times, there’s just as much laughter as tears—and there’s tears— but, when you help someone do better it’s such a beautiful thing to facilitate. We all do better when we’re supported.” …


Meet Maritza Davis of Unseen Heroes


Written for Crain’s Sacramento’s “If I Knew Then…” series where executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy. Maritza Davis is the owner and creative director of Unseen Heroes, an award-winning events agency based in Sacramento. …

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW: IF I KNEW THENPublished on Crain’s Sacramento June 20, 2016. 

The Bottom Feeders


A vintage sound with a modern surf-like appeal sums up Sacramento’s Bottom Feeders in few words. Imagine the kind of band you’d expect to hear at a ’60s-era high school dance, what with its hip-swinging sound that blends moments of doo-wop and pop with a garage-rock attitude.

READ THE FULL STORY: EIGHT GIGS: THE BOTTOM FEEDERSPublished in the Sacramento News & Review June 16, 2016.

Teen Band Focuses on the Music, Not Ideology


When a flier for a recent show labeled Destroy Boys as “feminist punk,” it inspired a serious discussion between the Sacramento band’s members about the direction of their music.

To be clear, Destroy Boys includes two girls who carry very strong feminist ideals throughout their day-to-day lives. Still, the three-piece garage-rock band says it’s not trying to take down the patriarchy through its music—and it’s not quite a punk band either. …

READ THE FULL STORY: GIRLS JUST WANNA ROCK IN DESTROY BOYSPublished in the Sacramento News & Review June 16, 2016.

Meet the Founders of Beers in Sac


The co-founders of the popular website and app, Beers in Sac, share their plans to make Sacramento the beer mecca of the United States. …

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW: 15 MINUTES WITH BEERS IN SACPublished in the Sacramento News & Review June 9, 2016.

SN&R’s Summer Guide 2016


Nightlife & Entertainment feature for the Sacramento News & Review’s 2016 Summer Guide. This music feature is on longtime Sacramento DJ Larry Rodriguez a.k.a the Flower Vato and his Sunday Night Dance Party at the Press Club every Sunday night at 9 p.m. …

READ THE FULL STORY: GO TO CHURCH. Published in the Sacramento News & Review May 26, 2016.

Men’s Summer Fashion Trends


This summer, women won’t be the only ones who show a little skin, nor will they be the only ones with an appreciation for quality fabric, busy patterns and vintage-style apparel. Whether it’s a tailor-made suit, slim-fitting pants, or a pair of new wing-tipped Oxfords, move over stylish gals because guys, too, have a penchant for fashion, and some of the summer’s latest trends even include a taste for short-shorts. …

READ THE FULL STORY: MEN’S SUMMER FASHION TRENDSPublished in Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine May 23, 2016.

Happy Mother’s Day!


A personal essay where I contemplate my journey from party girl to motherhood. …

READ THE FULL STORY: ON TINY HUMANS AND BIG LOVEPublished in the Sacramento News & Review May 5, 2016.

debbanksHow She Rides: Meet Debra Banks

On average, Debra Banks rides 13,000 miles per year all on her trusty bicycle. She pedals so much, in fact, that Banks also earned a Mondial Award from Randonneurs USA, which means she’s circumnavigated the entire planet—all 40,000 kilometers of it—on her bicycle. Banks is also the owner of Rivet Cycle Works and crafts custom bike seats for when you need real support for a 1,200 kilometer ride. …

READ THE FULL STORY: DEBRA BANKS, LONG-DISTANCE BIKE RIDER, SEAT MAKER. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, April 28, 2016.

Local Reverend Leads By Faith and Example


During summer visits to the California Sierras as a rock climbing and mountaineering instructor, east coast native Jeanie Shaw says she simply fell in love.

When a church opened up in Sacramento, she interviewed, admittedly, because it was close to the mountain ranges she grew to adore. That was in 1983. Since then, Rev. Shaw has served a number of churches in the region as an ordained Presbyterian minister, and now leads the Eventide Community, which meets every Sunday evening at 5 p.m. at the Arden Christian Center.

“There’s not a pew in sight. There’s no organ. There’s no sort of upfront. We all participate,” says Rev. Shaw of Eventide’s approach to faith. “It’s open to everybody, particularly people that are searching for an authentic way they can make a difference in their lives and in the world.”

In the world and in the nation, Rev. Shaw dedicates much of her time to help those periled by natural disasters. If a neighborhood is destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods, Rev. Shaw and a team of volunteers will show up to provide help by means of a hammer, fresh coat of paint, or by leading prayer.

“I could go on with stories, and stories, and stories. We don’t know when we go, the stories we’ll hear. But every single time, it is a story where each of us has made a profound difference. Not just building a house, but sharing our hearts. That’s what we take away the most,” says Rev. Shaw.

Published in Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine, April 26, 2016.

Art’s Utility Player


Gioia Fonda’s upcoming “Give a Fork” installation aims to start a conversation on food deserts, hunger and solutions.

Polish your grandma’s treasured silverware; straighten—or don’t—the contorted cutlery caught in the garbage disposal; whatever your approach, artist Gioia Fonda wants Sacramento to give a fork. Ten thousand forks, to be exact. …

READ THE FULL STORY: ART’S UTILITY PLAYERPublished in the Sacramento News & Review, March 24, 2016.

15 Years of mewithoutYou

mewithoutYou-Piano-Submerge-aPhiladelphia post-hardcore five-piece mewithoutYou will celebrate its 15th year together this year, continuing to log thousands of miles touring across the United States. Vocalist Aaron Weiss, alongside brother and guitarist, Michael Weiss, started the band in 2001, signing with Tooth and Nail Records later that same year. The band—which also includes drummer Rickie Mazotta, bassist Greg Jehanian and guitarist Brandon Beaver—continues to craft dramatic, sometimes experimental, soundscapes that echo the singer’s trance-like vocal angst. The band’s recently released sixth album, Pale Horses, not only challenges mewithoutYou to revisit the band’s natural tendency toward the more theatrical, aggressive musical performance, but also revives the emotional honesty found in past albums. Submerge recently caught up with mewithoutYou vocalist and founding member Aaron Weiss to discuss how he developed his eccentric, spoken-word vocal style, what inspires the band’s performances night after night and mewithoutYou’s religious-based labels. …

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW: ON A PALE HORSE. Published in Submerge magazine, June 22, 2015.

Dog Party Comes of Age on their Fourth Release

Dog-Party-S-Submerge-Mag-CoverWith 25 states logged over the course of four U.S. tours, Gwendolyn and Lucy Giles of the rock ‘n’ roll duo Dog Party, say a typical evening for them on tour consists of two, sometimes three, sets per night. Still, this pair of die-hard musicians says tour is what they look forward to every year. From the debut, self-released album Dog Party in 2009 with its more innocent, yet catchy punk rock attitude, to their Asian Man Records-backed third album Lost Control, Gwen and Lucy continue to evolve their garage and punk rock styles. Now, the sisters look forward to their latest release, Vol. 4, due June 16, 2015, on cassette through Burger Records, and LP and CD through Asian Man. …

READ THE FULL STORY: THE MUSIC MATTERS. Published in Submerge magazine, June 8, 2015.

The 5th Annual Submerge Bicycle Mural Tour Reveals New Pieces of Art Lurk Around Every Corner

bicycle_coverPump up those tires and grab a few homies because the annual Submerge Bicycle Mural Tour is back again. This time, we feature pieces so fresh the paint fumes still kick. Some murals stretch across entire alleyways, like the sideshow circus at 23rd and S streets that showcases the incredible tattooed lady and a pair of magnificent gray elephants dressed in red-and-gold garb. Whether a mural was scarred by tags, or simply begged for a new perspective, these walls do talk, and speak to the creative minds of Sacramento artists who answer with cans of paint. So, plan for a leisurely and artistically pedal-driven bike ride through the ins and outs of Midtown and its surrounding areas. Discover the latest, most eye-catching urban street art created by some of the best artists in the city and beyond. More importantly, May is Bike Month, so log some easy miles through the hidden alleyways and bustling streets that lead to more colorful destinations. …

READ THE FULL STORY: STREETS OF COLOR. Published in Submerge magazine, May 26, 2015.

Sacramento Chefs and Farmers Share Tips on How to Use Every Last Bit of those Summer Vegetables

waste_notFarmers markets are popular with just about anyone looking for fresh, locally grown produce. So fresh, in fact, that many times the fruits and vegetables displayed in mounds at merchant tents are often picked from the field the previous day. … Even though many farmers market fiends challenge themselves to cook what they bring home each week, too often stems, leaves and rinds end up in the garbage. Chefs and farmers alike, however, say these overlooked pieces have tasty nutritional value. Executive chef Jon Clemons at The Porch Restaurant and Bar says he likes to think about creative ways to use the entire vegetable. He and his staff use a variety of techniques to transform rinds, cobs and even buckets of green tomato odds and ends into delicious fare. …

READ THE FULL STORY: WASTE NOT, ENJOY MORE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, July 23, 2015.


Ax murderers, Charles Manson and ghost dogs—is this historic Midtown mansion the scariest, creepiest haunted house in Sacramento?

Photo by Salvador Ochoa

A stone lion’s head hovers over a wide entryway, solemnly watching passersby, some of whom, catching sight of the house just beyond, slow their pace to examine the gothiclike structure that’s sat unoccupied for more than 20 years. But drooping palm trees and an iron gate edge the perimeter, keeping the curious away as it guards one of the largest, oldest mansions in the historic Boulevard Park neighborhood. Located on the corner of H and 22nd streets, it’s considered one of the most mysterious and perhaps the most haunted house in Sacramento. Indeed, this mansion conveys a spooky sense of intrigue thanks, at least in part, to its yawning emptiness. The home, now owned by a Northern California-based family trust, was built shortly after the turn of the century, and in the years since it has inspired countless stories—some grislier than others. Most have one thing in common: They are, at least according to the house’s current deed holder, decidedly untrue. …

READ THE FULL STORY: THIS OLD HOUSE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, October 18, 2012.

Gioia Fonda transforms gutter garbage into art

gioiaOrdinary hurricane fence morphs into happy orange flowers, familiar green baskets that once held strawberries transform into whimsical city skylines and forks found abandoned in Sacramento’s gutters glisten brightly. These are Sacramento City College assistant art professor Gioia Fonda’s recycled treasures. And her art. “I feel that people aren’t being as creative as they could be with their trash,” Fonda says. “There are possibilities in objects. A lot of things could be repurposed.” …

READ THE FULL STORY: POSSIBILITY IN OBJECTS. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, April 22, 2010.

Dale Smallin, who recorded the wild cackle at the intro of the classic Surfari’s hit ‘Wipe Out,’ now enjoys a mellow life in downtown Sacramento

daleResting underneath a green awning outside downtown’s Capitol Park Cafe, Dale Smallin inhales one last drag of his Pall Mall red cigarette as the hectic traffic of Ninth Street whizzes past. Partially relying on a wooden cane, Smallin slowly enters the cafe for his daily meal, greeting the waitress, Sally, by name. Determined, he heads straight to his usual spot, second table on the right, and politely waves away her offer of a menu. He has it memorized. To many customers in the cafe, Smallin is an ordinary man enjoying a ham grill with fries. And although his days may appear routine, Smallin’s memories of youthful endeavors are tales of rock ’n’ roll history—and one unforgettable laugh. Smallin was manager of the surf-rock band the Surfaris, known for their 1963 hit “Wipe Out.” And Smallin’s voice was responsible for the maniaclike cackle that taunts listeners in the song’s opening moment. …

READ THE FULL STORY: AN UNFORGETTABLE LAUGH. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, March 11, 2010.

Slate-Voting Games 2015 Hugo Awards

war_of_the_worlds_hugo_interiorWhether it’s labeled ballot-stuffing, bloc voting, or gaming for an organized slate of authors, editors, and publishers, the 2015 Hugo Awards will not see an ordinary year, according to many authors in the science fiction and fantasy world.The Hugo Awards are an annual set of achievements presented by the World Science Fiction Society and held each year at the World Science Fiction Convention. Once this year’s Hugo nominees were announced on April 1, a flood of authors directly involved with the genres, and even fans alike, took to personal blogs, social media, or published columns in The Atlantic, Slate, The Guardian, et al., to claim victory or express utter disdain for the men behind the two parties that “gamed” the Hugo ballot. … I speak to award-winning science fiction authors John Scalzi, Kameron Hurley, and Brad Torgersen about the debacle rocking the sci-fi world. This story broke San Francisco Book Review’s website with floods of traffic. …

READ THE FULL STORY: WAR OF THE WORLDS. Published on San Francisco Book Review, April 21, 2015.

An Interview with Eric Klinenberg, Co-Author of Modern Love with Aziz Ansari

Eric_Klinenberg_Feature-450x600New York University sociologist and author, Eric Klinenberg, stood at a train station with two hands full of groceries when he received a phone call that stopped him from boarding altogether. The call was from his editor and publisher of Penguin Press, Scott Moyers, who asked Klinenberg if he’d ever heard of actor, comedian Aziz Ansari. “Yeah, Aziz is my hero,” he said. “I stopped, didn’t take the train, put the groceries in the fridge, and went down to meet them.” As a fan of comedy, Klinenberg followed Ansari’s standup career and enjoyed the “Parks and Recreation” television star’s performances. With the help of Klinenberg’s expertise, Ansari wanted to launch an investigation into the world of modern dating and relationships. …

READ THE FULL STORY: COMPUTER LOVE. Published on San Francisco Book Review, June 30, 2015.