Ort report

Bite-sized updates from Chico’s food scene

A tray of <i>mahalabia</i> at Ali Baba.

A tray of mahalabia at Ali Baba.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

Ort: a morsel left at a meal; scrap. Word beloved of crossword constructors and Scrabble players.

Today, a few orts picked up at places I’ve reviewed in the past year and revisited to see what’s new and exciting.

How do you improve on a basically perfect eatery? Stay open longer. The only problem with Fresh Twisted Café was that they closed in the early afternoon. No longer. Their new hours are a generous 6:30 a.m-7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. So now any time you get that craving for a hulk smoothie with bee pollen boost, you’re good. They also have a semi-permanent apple juice special—a gallon of luscious artisanal juice for a mere $8.50, two for $15—that’s a steal. Since it’s unpasteurized, it has a short shelf life, so don’t plan to stock up.

Priya Indian Cuisine’s buffet has a new dessert, rava kesari, that I like a lot. It’s the chocolate chip cookie of southern India—ubiquitous, yummy and dead simple: semolina, ghee, cardamom, milk, sugar and a startlingly orange coloring that gives the dish its name (kesari means “orange-colored”). There have also been sightings of the occasional samosa among the ever-present pakora, which is like finding a pearl in one’s oyster. Weekends only for both.

Sipho’s Restaurant and Cafe throws parties now and then, with live reggae music and a buffet. I recently stopped in for the party celebrating the birthday of Ras Tafari and his wife. This is the ideal way to experience Sipho’s. The place is humming with friends, love abounds, and best of all, you get to pretty much try Sipho’s entire menu. There were 15 or more separate dishes at the birthday party buffet. To hear about these gigs, follow Sipho’s Facebook page or sign up at the restaurant to get email alerts, and when you get the word, clear your calendar and go. I told Giulena, the waitress, they should have a party for Usain Bolt’s birthday, and she thought it was a great idea, so check in next summer as we get close to Aug. 21.

For us devotees of Ali Baba Mediterranean restaurant, this summer was a dark night of the soul. I still think it serves about the best cheap healthy tasty food in Chico, but for months there was … no mahalabia. Yes, they were out of that lovely creamy pudding I had come to crave the way a Fremen craves Melange. Despite the fact that Ali Baba has a lovely new menu board with mahalabia boldly promised. I inquired politely. Then I begged. Then I threatened. I considered marching in a circle chanting “No mahalabia, no peace!” Finally it returned. Oh frabjous day! If you go in and it isn’t there, register your deep disapproval so Luke gets the point.

The in-house brewery at Ready Chef Go is still moving through the python, but the boss assures me it will happen. For now, they’re serving a new line of dishes called Bistro Bowls in a format I’ve always liked: pick a protein (salmon, tri-tip, carnitas, etc.), a grain/legume (sweet potatoes, corn salsa), and any toppings from the copious salad bar and pay one price—roughly $12, but I was assured it weighs in at over a pound.

I was about to wax rhapsodic over the pork buns at House of Dumpling when I got the bad news that HOD had closed. I think this means Chico is without a source of pork buns, which is intolerable. Joe Jiang is now at Windy’s Chinese Restaurant, the enduring strip-mall hole-in-the-wall beloved by Chico State students. He told me that running HOD single-handed while making dumplings and pork buns was more work than one mortal can do, but he hoped to add them to Windy’s menu in the coming weeks.