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Photos by Jeremy Sykes

 

One-Stop Workshop

Among the mechanical marvels in the works at Hacker Lab’s remarkable Maker Space, you might find a drinking game you control with your mind (via sensors worn on your head) or a cereal-and-milk dispenser operated by an app made in-house. These are just two of the wild innovations dreamed up by some of Sacramento’s most creatively curious and driven minds in the 4,500-square-foot midtown garage of their dreams. Maker Space offers unparalleled access to a range of toys for its community of seasoned inventors and upstart hobbyists alike—multimeters and an oscilloscope in the electronics lab, a decked-out woodshop redolent with the earthy scent of lumber, three 3-D printers, an oxyacetylene welder and a laser-cutting machine. If you can imagine making cereal with an iPhone, then the fun is just beginning. 1715 I St. 514-7044. hackerlab.org


French Fry Topping
What do you get when you ladle a clam chowder that many consider the best in the city over a bowl of perfectly cooked and salted Kennebec potatoes? That’s the winning combination behind the Captain’s Fries at Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery, a decadent treat that features a bed of hand-cut potatoes that hardily holds up to chef-owner Carina Lampkin’s savory chowder—itself boasting house-smoked clams, pollock, squid and a broth made from Penn Cove mussels steamed in white wine, garlic and other seasonings. The finished product thrusts clam chowder’s customary soft, mild potatoes into the crispy foreground, while adding a heaping helping of Pacific bay shrimp, cubed bacon and parsley for flavorful measure. Pair it with Ballast Point brewery’s fresh, aromatic Sculpin IPA (one of the 56 beers and ciders on tap at this downtown eatery) to hit an even bigger jackpot of tastes. 1015 9th St. 498-9224. blackbird-kitchen.com

Comedy Crash Course
The first thing John Ross tells students in his Stand-Up 101 class is that he can’t teach anyone how to be funny. Yet for the next four weeks during the Sacramento Comedy Spot program, the 10-year veteran comic does exactly that through a barrage of notes, feedback, comments, deconstructions and reconstructions of jokes delivered at each half-workshop, half-performance session. The goal is to find the one-liners and riffs hiding within what already makes us crack up; an average of five members per class—ranging from experienced jokesters with an eye on technique to complete beginners looking to refine their writing or public speaking—build a set lasting four to seven minutes from scratch, learning the protocols and etiquette of live comedy along the way. At the end of the monthlong term (which costs $120), the students debut their sets to friends, family and Comedy Spot regulars. It’s a singular Sacramento experience, with laugh—and life—lessons for all. 444-3137. saccomedyspot.com

Photo by Max Whittaker

Fly Guy

If you’re a science fiction geek, you’ve probably heard the term “butterfly effect” in which the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can trigger a hurricane, or some such cataclysmic outcome, in another. But in Art Shapiro’s world, the term falls under the rubric of science nonfiction. That’s because the 68-year-old UC Davis scientist and professor of evolution and ecology, whose mane of gray hair defies the laws of physics à la Einstein, has tracked butterfly population and migration patterns since 1972 and helped reveal the real-life effects of climate change, earning him coverage in National Geographic last year. As one of the world’s leading experts on the delicate insects, he has traveled everywhere from South America to the United Kingdom for research—in California alone, he has logged more than 7,225 site visits and approximately 95,000 records of 160 butterfly species. Clearly Shapiro is one scientist who’s not just winging it. butterfly.ucdavis.edu

Salt and Peppers
Recently, humble table salt went uptown with dozens of fancy varieties, while sriracha became the ubiquitous, revered hipster ketchup. Sacramento-based Preservation & Co. combined the trends with its coral-colored Sriracha Salt, which has quickly become a hit for all kinds of uses, from framing the rims of Bloody Mary glasses to waking up morning eggs. Although most batches of the seasoning—which stimulates your taste buds without blowing the top of your head off—are made with traditional Huy Fong sriracha combined with flaky kosher salt, Preservation owner Jason Poole has also experimented with using the company’s own excellent sriracha sauce made from Del Rio Botanical’s crop of Fresno chili peppers. (It comes in three heat levels; the Hellfire is hot enough that Poole wears a gas mask to make it.) Sriracha Salt is available at local culinary destinations like The Cultured & The Cured in East Sacramento and, opening in mid-June, Preservation & Co.’s own midtown storefront. At $8.50 a jar, the spice is right. 706-1044. preservationandco.com

Pie à la Road

Photo by Tori Masucci CumminsLaunching a food truck might seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it wasn’t for Brenda Janssen. The friendly owner of An Honest Pie rolled out her blue-painted bakery on wheels in 2012 and has tasted success ever since, selling fresh-baked, palm-sized treats in savory flavors (like the hearty steak and mashed potato), sugar-dusted variations (like the Black Eyed Peach oozing with summertime peaches and blackberries), and our personal favorite, the Southern-inspired Kelly’s Buttermilk Pie that tastes just like crème brûlée. And while the food truck mainly drives around Nevada City, An Honest Pie recently launched a concession stand at Raley Field for River Cats games, where fans can catch treats like the Easy Cheesy Smiley Pie stuffed with mac and cheese or a warm, cinnamon-spiked apple pie for dessert. Every little bite is a big home run. anhonestpie.com