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Roast and Coast

Alex Roth’s wheels started turning in 2005 when the recent UC Davis grad needed to pay the bills while pursuing a career in Photo by Max Whittakermusic. Calling his new venture The Pepper Peddler, Roth started roasting the spicy, Southwestern-style peppers that he loved from his native Colorado but couldn’t find in Davis. Inspired by the town’s eco-friendly, bike-crazy culture, he developed a bicycle-powered roaster that rotates a small drum holding the piquant veggies over propane heat. In 2008, sensing a bigger demand for java, he switched gears and began roasting 100 percent organic, fair-trade South American coffee. Now, regular customers—Roth tallies around 165 households—sign up online and choose their preference (light, medium, dark, or the “Roaster’s Blend”—a mixture of the three) and size ($7 for a pint to $22 for a half gallon, with an extra $1 for decaf). The beans are packaged in Mason jars with reusable labels and pedaled to Davis doorsteps. In March, Roth expanded the deliveries to East Sacramento, Land Park, Curtis Park and Tahoe Park—still via bike, but with an assist from Amtrak. How’s that for special delivery?

Lunch Meat
The first rule about Market Club—that famously hidden, fly-in-the-amber luncheonette located on a loading dock in a warren of produce warehouses off 5th and Broadway—is never show up late on Short Rib Tuesday. If you do, you will leave with an empty stomach, losing out to a loyal clientele that has been crowding the horseshoe-shaped counter since 1933. Because there’s no street signage, Market Club has taken on a speakeasy aura among those in the know, but its food—retro American comfort with Asian influences—makes it a secret worth sharing. Breakfast consists of handbag-sized omelets, pancakes, meats and gravy. Blue-collar burgers and other daily specials—like the no-fuss meatloaf or the gingery beef teriyaki—round out the lunch menu. Owner Mona Sakata, who runs the place with her husband Jim, says that back in the day the Market Club was a real den of iniquity for the dock workers—poker tables in the back, ladies of easy virtue upstairs. That’s all changed, of course, but not much else—for now. If Club membership is calling you, don’t dawdle. According to Sakata, a developer is rumored to have purchased the warehouses with plans to build condos sometime in the near future. In other words, after more than three quarters of a century, the Market may become a memory. But before that happens, take a mental snapshot of this sui generis place for yourself. 2630 5th St. 498-9953.

Bao House
Anyone who unilaterally embraces the aphorism “it’s better to give than to receive” has never been handed a straight-from-the-oven, barbecue pork bun from Greenhaven’s small but spectacular ABC Bakery, which features chunks of buttery, slow-roasted meat delightfully encased in soft, chewy domes of sweet dough and baked to a glowing, golden-hued perfection. Char siu baos, or Chinese pork buns, are usually prepared in two distinctive ways: steamed with a snowy white exterior or baked with slightly dense, buttery, egg-washed bread. ABC specializes—and excels—in the latter, creating plump, portable meat pillows packed with fillings that also include minced chicken, pineapple and yellow beef curry. Legend has it that buns like these were invented to represent sacrificial offerings back in more barbaric days, with the rounded shape representing a human head. That may be apocryphal, but it’s easy to see how you could lose your mind for these baos. 1309 Florin Rd. 421-4259.

Place to Czech Out Some Great Pizza
If you’re looking for a great Czech-Italian fusion restaurant—what? You weren’t? Well, you should head to La Trattoria Bohemia, an under-the-radar gem in East Sacramento, anyway. This unlikely culinary combination—goulash and potato pancakes on one side of the menu, pizza with bubbly, yeasty crust on the other—came about when owner Mark Lastuvka, who hails from Prague, came to Sacramento and worked at longtime local joint Roma’s Pizzeria for 10 years, learning home-style southern Italian cooking. When he opened up his own place in 2000, he combined the fare of his homeland with that of Italy. We love the chicken paprikash and the sausage plate, but we adore the simple, distinctive margherita pizza. The crust gets its airiness from a triple rise for extra flavor, and the pie—which sports no sauce but a slathering of flavorful olive oil—is topped with a meadow’s worth of fresh chopped basil. What’s Czech for “mangia”? 3649 J St. 455-7803. latrattoriabohemia.com

Photos by Max Whittaker
Spot for Pint-Sized Post-Expressionists

Your little ones are getting antsy, but it’s raining or too hot to play outside. The undersung, adorable and sparkly clean Tot Land at the Crocker Art Museum—happily found at the end of the museum’s popular, self-guided Story Trail through the galleries—is just the ticket. With wheely bugs to ride, books to read, and of course plenty of art projects to do (like “drawing” and “painting” on the impossibly cool “Living Art Wall,” an interactive LED touch screen created by local design firm BKWLD), plus a chill and quiet vibe, it’s the perfect place for you to relax in and watch your mini Monets play. What’s more, to keep kids—and parents—extra chipper, the Crocker has come up with a wealth of new family-friendly programs this summer, such as Wee Wednesdays, Thursday movie nights (like Superman on June 7) and Family Fridays. 216 O St. 808-7000. crockerartmuseum.org

Riverfront Repast
They come wobbling down the sloping airplane gangway—repurposed from Continental Airlines at SFO—that serves as its entrance, connecting the floating Vietnam-era barge that is The Virgin Sturgeon to the riverbank. They arrive in boats—some fancy, some barely floating—roping to the narrow dock and off-loading unsteadily with skin too red, bellies too big and shorts too small. They are young and old, city and country, but the patrons of this iconic dive share one thing in common: a love for a good time. Like the morally ambivalent fish in the folk song for which the place is named, these revelers “need no urgin’,” when it comes to indulging in the down-and-dirty pleasures of the place. For more than three decades, the Sturgeon has lured in an easygoing crowd with strong drinks (like its mule-kick of a Bloody Mary), tasty food (including house-smoked fish), and an unfettered river view. True, not much has changed in that time—it’s still got battered wooden tables, brass ceiling fans and fishing nets hanging above the ’70s slider windows. The menu is old school, too: brilliantly minimalist steak sandwiches on garlic sourdough, fresh steamed clams with a side of butter in a white paper cup, breaded calamari pounded and pan-fried into delectable submission. But that Regal Beagle-meets-Sacramento Riviera vibe lacks as much pretension as polish, making it the perfect place for some throwback hedonism. 1577 Garden Hwy. 921-2694.

Glass Art
The heat is on in Auburn’s rolling foothills, where the melting furnace at Nicholson Blown Glass is always set to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Husband and wife team Rick and Janet Nicholson have been blowing up the local art scene since 1982 wPhoto by Jeremy Sykesith their nature-inspired, handmade glasswork, like fluid wave bowls and jewel-toned pendant chandeliers. They’ve created everything from massive sculptural wall installations for the likes of The Ritz-Carlton in Shenzhen, China, down to small Christmas ornaments featured at the White House during the Clinton administration. On the local front, their elegant works are on display at Capital Public Radio’s “Reflecting” exhibit until July 3, and for sale at the Crocker Art Museum’s gift shop. Sunlight and reflected hues bounce off the walls of the duo’s airy, art-packed Auburn studio, which is open select Saturdays this summer for fiery demonstrations of the glassblowing process. And for all of you weekend oenophiles traversing Placer County’s scenic wine trail, stop in to snap up Nicholson’s colorful wine goblets and elegant bottle stoppers. Stay glassy, Auburn. 5555 Bell Rd., Auburn. 530-823-1631. nicholsonblownglass.com