Gorging, stuffing and choking all the way to Turkey Day
It started with the broth in my molcajete bowl at south Sacramento’s Lalo’s Restaurant, which was still bubbling as I finished dinner. The nopales, queso fresco, chorizo, steak and chicken inside disappeared, mostly, but the mortar-shaped bowl—made of basalt, with ingredients stewed stovetop over a flame—was still hot to touch. My eyes watered—due to the chorizo’s fury or its sumptuousness?—my belly grew full, but still I ate all the whole pinto beans with green chilies and bacon, spoonful by daunting spoonful.
I couldn’t stop—and wouldn’t stop: The objective was to epicure all the way to Turkey Day, eating the best Sac has to offer, as per the ultimate Thanksgiving gluttonfest, or what I’m in retrospect coining as Frontload 2009.
What is frontloading, you ask? Well, the term traditionally is applied to accounting trickery or political shenanigans, as in bookkeepers shifting deductions or states moving up primary election dates.
But frontloading also can be applied to things like baseball games, as in “We frontloaded with Coors Light in the parking lot before stumbling into Raley Field to watch the River Cats.”
Anyway, Frontload 2009 started on Friday night at Lalo’s and continued Saturday night with another Sac staple: Zelda’s spinoccoli deep-dish pizza. Zelda’s longstanding pie maker Ed Poste was working this evening; he once explained to me that spinoccoli was one of the original Chicago pie recipes that Zelda Breslin brought to Sac. Some people like to add tomato sauce, but the pie traditionally is served without. The broccoli, feta chunks and cheese-on-the-bottom approach prevails sans sauce supreme.
But no foodie bender would be complete without dim sum. And so, Sunday morning found me on 65th Street and Stockton Boulevard at Asian Pearl 2009, south Sac’s newest and most-striking dim-sum palace.
Asian Pearl 2009 seats close to 400 people—and all the seats were filled this past Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Parties of 13 were the norm, mostly Asian families, some likely three generations seated around one table: sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas.
How often do you see middle-class white America chowing family-style at Denny’s?
A.P. ’09 serves Hong Kong-style Cantonese food in addition to dim sum, but the sum of all parts is the dim, which is not for the faint of culinary heart. Servers usher carts up and down the palace’s aisles, featuring fried squid, ducks with the skin and all sorts of dumplings. The highlights? Perfectly steamed long stalks of Chinese broccoli with delicate florets, dressed with a savory oyster sauce; and, of course, my fav: cha siu bao, or steamed cue-ball-sized buns filled with barbecue-flavored pork.
I ate a ton, but the only choking during Frontload ’09 was courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The spree ended Sunday night with seconds of beef Bourgogne at mom’s, which, like a barbiturate, induced an unprecedented and mighty food coma. Still, it was a legendary feast, although next year I’ll probably forgo Frontload 2010 and fast. This kind of unbridled gluttony does little for the waist—or Western guilt.