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Cheesecake Boss

When starting her eponymous online business, Creamy’s by Cayla Jordan, in 2016, the cheesecake maker had to overcome a certain stereotype: the image conjured by those gargantuan slices at Cheesecake Factory. An avid baker since childhood, the 26-year-old decided to go big by going small, shrinking down her recipe to mini-muffin size. And at two bites each from start to finish, Jordan’s petite, paper-wrapped cheesecakes, with their buttery cookie crust and creamy rich filling, make for highly satisfying, perfectly sized post-meal treats. The desserts—which she makes in her Elk Grove home and come in flavors like original, caramel and chocolate chip cookie—can be found at Temple Coffee at 22nd and K streets and Philz Coffee in the Ice Blocks (an exclusive Mint Mojito flavor pairs with the Bay Area chain’s popular iced beverage of the same name), as well as at her new shop, located in a bite-sized structure she built on R Street. Between all that, plus self-publishing her #CheesecakeQueen cookbook, uploading baking tutorial vids on YouTube, and posting eye-grabbing food pics on her Instagram page (including of her cookie-cheesecake sandwiches), this gourmet go-getter is proving herself to be anything but half-baked. caylajordan.com​

Photo by Cayla Jordan

Coco Duo

Adrian Molina started dreaming of moviemaking in the backyard of his family’s home in rural Grass Valley (he graduated from Bear River High School in 2003). “It felt far from civilization, so it forced me as a kid to be very creative—drawing, writing stories. I’d make home videos with my brothers,” says the filmmaker, who co-wrote and co-directed Pixar’s Coco, a moving ode to heritage and family centered on the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. What he couldn’t have imagined at the time was penning an Oscar-winning animated feature, let alone with a fellow hometown scribe. Yup, Coco’s other screenwriter is Matthew Aldrich, who grew up in Sacramento and graduated from Rio Americano in 1993 before heading to UCLA to study theater. Funnily enough, Molina says he and Aldrich didn’t know about their shared roots until well after they finished working on the movie, around the time their names were called from the podium at the 2018 Annie Awards, where their film picked up 11 wins, including for best writing. With critics and audiences alike going cuckoo for Coco, we hope that this is just the beginning of a beautiful working relationship.

Gulp of Mexico

When building the cocktail menu at Midtown’s Cantina Alley, bar manager Oscar Escobar wanted to create a signature beverage that enhanced the oasis-like feel of the festive indoor-outdoor eatery, which was modeled after a Mexican seaside saloon. Photo by Ryan DonahueInspired by visits to Acapulco as a kid, during which he saw beach bums ordering drinks served in fruit husks, and how south-of-the-border street cart vendors sprinkle lime, chile and salt on a juicy slice of watermelon for a sweet-tart-spicy treat, the Mexico City native concocted La Sandia, aka The Watermelon. Since the palapa-shaded cantina’s opening in March of last year, the juicy—and scarily drinkable—tipple for two has become the hangout’s most popular cocktail, a purée of blush-red melon blended with three shots of tequila, lime juice and agave nectar, served in a hollowed-out mini watermelon shell and finished with Tajín seasoning, which also is dusted on a fan of slices of the titular fruit that come on the side, a nod to the traditional street vendors’ offering. The result is a slice of Acapulco beach life to be savored all summer long. 2320 Jazz Alley. 916-970-5588. cantinaalley.com

 

Nickel-and-dime Do-gooder

As if saving the planet weren’t reason enough to bag your free-range rotisserie chicken and organic guavas in reusable totes, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, which moved a few blocks west to its much larger midtown digs last year, provides an extra incentive with its Make Every Day Earth Day program. For each reusable carrier shoppers use, they receive a wooden token, which amounts to a five-cent donation that can be deposited into one of six 6-by-7-inch boxes lined up near the doors. One box holds tokens for the co-op’s community fund, which awards small grants to local projects, while the other five represent environmental groups nominated by its shoppers and announced each year on Earth Day. Since the campaign went into effect in 2002, the store has handed out close to $150,000 to area nonprofits (this year’s recipients include ReSoil Sacramento and Save the American River Association). As eco-conscious endeavors go, this one’s in the bag. 2820 R St. 916-455-2667. sacfood.coop

Philz Coffee photo by Justin K-L Smith. All others by Curtis Yee

Cool New Kid on the Bloack

The Ice Blocks complex, which extends the R Street Corridor beyond 16th Street, isn’t just buzzing, it’s harmonically vibrating at a frequency that can only be heard by futurists, hipsters and certain gifted bartenders, barbers, juicers and baristas. The adaptive reuse project, which rose out of the ashes of the historic Crystal Ice warehouse that burned down in 2015, incorporates old and new architectural motifs—worn industrial façades provide a patina of historical context, while sleek iron, concrete and steel elements lend a modern aesthetic. Shops range from specialty to mainstream—think West Elm, Philz Coffee, Portland-based hair spot Bishops. The new urbanism is all about blending cosmopolitan sophistication with neighborhood charm, and the Ice Blocks nails it. Look for the rollout of local ventures like Device Brewing, hip-hop doughnut shop Milk Money and its sister restaurant Beast & Bounty. Also in the mix are clothiers Bonobos and Button Up, plus popular eyewear brand Warby Parker. If you get caught up in retail fever, you can purge your buyer’s remorse with a core workout at Pure Barre and a cleanse at Pressed Juicery. However you roll, the Ice Blocks may be your best bet in 2018 for a hot time in the city.

Country Man in Black

You won’t find rising Nashville star Devin Dawson sporting a cowboy hat anytime soon. That’s because the Orangevale-born singer-songwriter grew up near Folsom State Prison and counts Johnny Cash as one of his biggest influences (hence the 29-year-old’s signature look that includes a slicked-back pompadour with a fade and head-to-toe black attire). You may remember Dawson from back in 2014, when a YouTube video he made with his college dorm mate, a mash-up of Taylor Swift songs, went viral after Tay Tay herself showed it some social media love. This past January, he released his first full-length album, Dark Horse, and he’s about to join superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill on their Soul2Soul summer tour, which stops at Golden 1 Center July 22. Along with Tyler Rich of Yuba City (“The Difference,” “California Grown”), Dawson made CMT’s list of breakout artists for 2018, proving that Northern California boys can be as country strong as Nashville natives.

 

Accessible Place to Go Wild

The latest science holds that regular exposure to the wonders of nature can have a measurably uplifting effect on health and happiness. And while many Sacramentans love to head for the (foot)hills with bikes or backpacks when it’s time for a wilderness fix, why should the differently abled among us be left out of this bountiful source of well-being? The half-mile round-trip boardwalk trail at the oft-overlooked Cosumnes River Preserve in Galt is fully ADA accessible (which means easy meandering for summer’s lazy days, whether or not your party requires wheelchairs), taking visitors through cool, peaceful wetlands to a wooden viewing platform. Nearby, equally flat paths let you saunter past majestic oaks and along quiet waterways. Pack a picnic, browse the fantastically informative visitor center, and relax in the fresh air—or, if you’re feeling more ambitious, you’ll find excellent kayak-launching spots and longer walking and running trails to explore. Don’t just go in summer, though: Other seasons also bring migratory bird-watching (naturalists have observed more than 250 species in the preserve)—enormous, arresting sandhill cranes flock there every winter, for example. Now that’s a wellness prescription we can’t wait to fill. 13501 Franklin Blvd. Galt. 916-684-2816. cosumnes.org

Photo by Justine Payuran

Pear-fect Cider

After Sarah Hemly married sixth-generation pear farmer Matt Hemly—whose family has tended 800 acres of orchards (that also grow other fruits like apples and cherries) in Courtland since his ancestor Josiah Greene settled on this swath of Delta land back in 1850—she became a bit obsessed with her in-laws' signature crop, and set out to put her own stamp on the family dynasty. Nearly 10 years later, in late 2015, Sarah released Hemly Pear Cider. Photo by Lyda StudiosThe sweet, refreshing drink comprises a blend of farm-grown fruit—60 percent Bartlett and Bosc pears and 40 percent Gala apples—and is aged four weeks in oak barrels. It's now called the Original, as it has since been joined by other flavors: the piquant, earthy Sloughhouse Jalapeño and the crisp Dry Cider, which were both released in March, and Cherry Peary, which will hit shelves this summer. Cider heads can pick up Hemly at area marts like Corti Brothers and Davis Beer Shoppe, or sip the Original at local hangouts like LowBrau and Bacon & Butter. And soon you'll be able to sample all four varieties, as well as small-batch brews mixed with strawberries, marionberries or star anise, at the new tasting room at the Hemlys' farm, which is set to open by October in a converted airplane hangar. Needless to say, we think this cider house rules. hemlycider.com

 

 

Place to Dip an Oar in the Water

Port or starboard, matey? If you’ve always been intrigued by the elegant, needle-thin shells gliding silently over glassy waters, powered by a crew of perfectly synched oarsmen (and oarswomen), but you don’t know which side of a boat is which, the Learn to Row program at West Sacramento’s River City Rowing Club will sort you out. You’ll discover that in a traditional eight-person crew, rowers take sides, holding an oar to either the left (port) or right (starboard) of the boat. But that’s just the start of what this busy nonprofit club teaches in its summer courses for novice adults that span three weeks ($200 per person; graduates can join the club to row year-round). Sessions take place at the Port of West Sacramento, where rowers can spot great blue herons and sea lions, getting both exercise and a wading bird’s-eye view of the riparian scene. 2901 Industrial Blvd. West Sacramento. rivercityrowing.org

Reason We're the City of (More) Trees

If you’ve been to Tokyo or Washington, D.C., on just the right weekend in springtime, you might have been lucky enough to experience something as breathtaking as it is fleeting—the sight of blushing cherry blossoms wafting serenely down against blue skies to form a carpet as fluffy as cotton candy. So we’re tickled pink that the local organization Sakuramento (“sakura” means “cherry blossom” in Japanese) plans to bring some arboreal eye candy to our urban core. Its first project, called the Sakura Grove, has already popped up on the eastern end of Southside Park—the site of Sacramento’s historic Japantown—where in October 2017 the group planted a stand of saplings that should mature in a few years’ time. Next up, the Hanami Line, a stunning canopy of about 200 cherry trees (including a variety that can spread outward in a radius of up to 25 feet) along the Sacramento River at the Robert T. Matsui Waterfront Park. That project, now in the fundraising stage, is on track to be in full bloom with the opening of the adjacent Powerhouse Science Center in early 2020. With the additional promise of an annual cherry blossom festival, we can’t wait to spring forward. sakuramento.org

Rendering by Jacobs