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Way to Think Inside the Box

If you’re the artisanal, maker type, perhaps you like assembling special, thoughtful gifts for friends and family. But if you’re like most of us, you either don’t have the chops or the time to craft the perfect gift. And while Meghan Russell doesn’t have a whole lot of free time either—she’s a full-time attorney and mother of two—she does have a passion for gift giving. That’s why the 34-year-old Davis resident launched her business Poppy and Oak last October. Russell channels her creativity into her expertly curated care packages that contain goods from nearly 20 NorCal makers—most of which are based in the Sacramento area—and are arranged artfully in wooden crates made by her husband Mike. Best sellers include the Market Box, with seasonal, edible goodies like olive oil from Davis-based Yolo Press, and the Darling Box for new parents, with matching teether and bib from Grass Valley’s The Paisley Pandas. And Russell, who hand-delivers the bundles within 15 miles of Davis (she mails out other orders), adds a new assortment each season. For spring, she released a mini compilation (which you can still purchase) pairing allergy tea from Sacramento’s Allspicery and honey from Winters’ Pure Honey, and this summer, she’ll feature a Father’s Day crate with soap and shower scrubs. Regardless of the occasion, we think this gifted local giver has got the whole package. poppyandoak.com

Photo by Octavio Valencia

 

Spot for Coneheads

How could you improve on kütőskalács, aka chimney cake, a conical Eastern European street food made from yeasted dough and baked over hot coals? That’s not a rhetorical question. The answer: Turn the cylindrical indulgence into an ice cream cone and fill it up with frozen treats, of course. When he first made a test batch of the roasted pastry last August, Jeremy Khamphay—who owns the North Highlands doughnut shop Sweet DozenPhoto by @jennaraeradio via Instagram with his wife April Le and his sister Nuny Cabanting—knew he had a winning concept for the family’s next dessert destination. So when Khamphay and Le opened their ice cream shop Sweet Dozen Cones in Folsom in September, they started turning out the thick, sweet, hollow breads daily, using a rotisserie oven, wood and metal cone molds imported from Slovenia, and a slightly tweaked recipe that includes whole milk, fresh yeast, sugar, flour and eggs. The cones’ crisp, churro-like crusts are coated with ingredients like crushed walnuts or Oreos, and give way to flaky, doughy interiors. Best of all, the shells are then filled with vanilla or chocolate soft-serve gelato and topped off with sweets like toasted marshmallow fluff and graham cracker crumbs for the s’mores combo, or apple pie filling, caramel drizzle and granola for the apple pie à la mode combo. Now all we need is a name for it. A cone that tastes like a doughnut? All hail, the cone-nut. 807 Sutter St. Folsom. 916-358-9832. sweetdozen.com

Way to Donate Your Sweat Equity

With the rise of companies like SoulCycle and Flywheel, the cycling fitness trend shows no signs of pumping the brakes. Still, sometimes a spin class can leave you feeling like the bike took you for a ride. But would you feel a surge of energy if you knew your stationary steed was also magically turning on your sports club’s lights and stereo? This isn’t some sci-fi fantasy, but part of the pro-enviro ethos of midtown’s Sacramento Eco Fitness, the first human-powered gym in the country. Opened in December 2016 by Sacramento State alums Jose Avina and Mac Contreras, the facility features a dozen bikes and a treadmill, all of which convert energy into electricity via a micro-converter that feeds into a battery, to be stored for later use. The 2,300-square-foot renovated warehouse also has eight solar panels on the roof, skylights welcoming natural light, and three giant bay doors that allow for maximum airflow during boot camp and TRX classes. The electricity output of each spin session is currently about 700 watts—enough to power a desktop computer for six hours—so you can walk out feeling doubly good that you’ve done something healthy for yourself while setting some planet-pleasing wheels in motion. 1914 L St. 916-841-5416. sacramentoecofitness.com

Photos by Ate 6 Media, courtesy of the restaurant

Early Bird Dinner

Ever since Binchoyaki Izakaya Dining opened two years ago in the former Doughbot space on 10th Street in Southside Park, snagging one of the restaurant’s 45 seats has often required a long wait (alas, they don’t take reservations), made all the more agonizing by the hunger pangs elicited by the tempting aroma of co-owner Craig Takehara’s meats and vegetables blistering over imported, 1,000-degree binchotan charcoal. But we’re here to tip you to the method for getting a seat quickly: Make like a blue hair and show up at 4 p.m. The Sacramento-savvy Takehara, a Kennedy High School graduate who owns Binchoyaki with his wife, pastry chef Tokiko Sawada, opens for dinner then to accommodate, yes, older diners, and also state employees who work early shifts. (Aside from the cushy pension, this might be a state worker’s greatest perk.) But even if you’re a 9-to-5-er, you might do well to shave an hour off your day to get closer, sooner, to Takehara’s consistently succulent, mouth-watering grilled chicken with green onion, or crisp asparagus wrapped in unctuous, salty pork belly. You’ll also want to stick around for Sawada’s hyper-seasonal, rarely repeated desserts (like the recent house-made strawberry sorbet “affogato” doused in organic sake) that often sell out. Can’t make it out to dinner only three hours after lunch? Your second best bet: Show up after 9 p.m. on a weeknight (Binchoyaki is closed Sundays and Mondays) and you should be able to walk right in. Either way, you’ll be taking the road less traveled, and that will make all the difference. 2226 10th St. 916-469-9448. binchoyaki.com

Farm Porn

Got a hopeless brown thumb? Get your greenery fix by feasting your eyes on the never-ending parade of luscious and lust-worthy foliage brought to you by 33-year-old urban farmer-slash-firefighter Kyle Hagerty, whose popular Instagram page @UrbanFarmstead Photo by Morgan Dailyhas attracted more than 50,000 loyal #GardenPorn addicts. Scrolling down Hagerty’s agro ’grams will make you feel like you’re right there in his 500-square-foot backyard vegetable garden—a favorite of local chefs like Kru’s Billy Ngo, who used Hagerty’s fava flowers and shoots for a dish at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival in April, and The Waterboy’s Rick Mahan, who frequently drops by to grab fresh produce for his celebrated restaurant. Here’s Hagerty walking under his handmade arched metal trellis. Here he is also feeding his chickens, harvesting acorn and butternut squashes during the cold months and picking plump red tomatoes in the summertime. And there he is with his fiancée Morgan Daily—whose own Instagram account @DailyFlourish is none too shabby and with whom he owns East Sac Farms—preparing for their twice-monthly, donations-only farm stand on 56th Street between J and M. Who knows? After a few hours marveling at Hagerty’s idyllic pics, maybe you’ll find yourself ready to put down some roots of your own.

 

Sweet Spot to Practice Black Magic

Black is the new black at Parlor Ice Cream Puffs in Arden-Arcade and Roseville, which debuted their limited-edition ebony toasted almond ice cream in January (if you missed your chance to turn to the dark side, don’t worry—the flavor will be rereleased in June and July). The frozen devilry, which gets its color from activated charcoal and squid ink, may seem intimidating at first glance. But any apprehension will melt away the minute you take your first bite, as the sweet, milky almond flavor tingles your taste buds, followed by soft hints of vanilla. But make sure you pause to break off a chunk of the even darker waffle cone before you finish—its gentle cinnamon crunch is a match made in heaven with the nutty creaminess of the ice cream. Pro tip: Don’t plan on taking any selfies right after you try this inky concoction, since your teeth and tongue will temporarily resemble the dessert’s evil twin. It’s just as well, since you’ll want some alone time to savor this black beauty. Roseville: 1490 Eureka Rd. 916-781-7833. Arden-Arcade: 2620 Fair Oaks Blvd. 916-977-3997. theparloricecream.com

Real-life Toy Story

We have Pixar to thank for showing us what toys do when left to their own devices at home. But we have a handful of local public libraries to thank for showing us what toys do when turned loose for a slumber party among the literary stacks. At Stuffed Animal Sleepovers this summer throughout the region, Photo courtesy of the Sacramento Public Librarylittle ones can drop off their plush playmates with librarians who snap photos of the toys gathering for a bedtime story, grabbing pizza, browsing bookshelves or indulging in a little after-hours mischief. When children pick up their stuffed animals at the library, they will also get photographic evidence of the overnight visit. Those who participate in the July 14 event at the Sacramento Public Library’s Carmichael branch can stay to make a photo album for their sleepover pics, while participants in the July 21 event at the Fair Oaks branch can join their toys for a story time session before leaving them for the night. (The McKinley and McClatchy branches host their own versions each January.) Meanwhile, families in Roseville can take part in library sleepovers at the downtown branch (June 11), Riley branch (June 26) and Maidu branch (July 17). When the kid’s away, the mice—and teddy bears and bunny rabbits—will play. saclibrary.org roseville.ca.us/library

Movie House Makeover

This June marks the one-year anniversary of the reopening of the State Theatre in Woodland, an Art Deco jewel of a movie house that sat dormant on Main Street for seven years before a $10 million renovation ushered in a new cinematic era in 2017. Photo by Mari SalaisGone are the musty interiors, faded décor and cramped lobby, replaced by cushy recliners and rockers from which moviegoers can watch blockbusters exhibited via state-of-the-art digital projection and sound systems. In addition to the snack bar offering popcorn, candy and other nibbles, an on-site cafe also serves heartier fare like a hot pastrami sandwich on ciabatta, sausage pizza and chicken Caesar wraps, plus California wines and craft beer from breweries like Knee Deep and Deschutes. But while the 21st-century amenities are slick, the State’s most dazzling feature is also its oldest: The 81-year-old main auditorium has been lovingly updated from floor (fresh carpet and expansive rows for stretching out) to ceiling, including a restoration of the theater’s original chandeliers to their cobalt- and ivory-colored glory. From the palatial heart of the movie house to the rebuilt neon sign gleaming over the Streamline Moderne exterior, everything about the State’s comeback signals a happy Hollywood ending for cinephiles around the region. 322 Main St. Woodland. 530-723-5322. cinemawest.com

 

Celebrity Endorsement

We love it when celebrities wear their Sacramento pride on their sleeves—or in Lady Gaga’s case, a sleeveless Hot Italian top, cropped to bare her midriff. In November, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, who was an Italian Catholic schoolgirl long before she went Gaga, showed off the doctored tee in an Instagram story, which quickly caught the attention of the local pizza chain. Turns out it was the result of some savvy marketing on the part of Hot Italian co-founder Andrea Lepore, who had the T-shirt delivered to Gaga during the singer’s show at Golden 1 Center three months prior. Still, Lepore just about fell over when someone forwarded her a screenshot of the moment of Insta fame. Elsewhere, NBA superstar LeBron James was spotted in a post-Cavaliers game interview that same month rocking a black cap emblazoned with the words “All Good Never Better” in bold block letters—the slogan of downtown-based apparel brand All Good, which sold out of its entire hat inventory online within three hours after King James’ head-turning display of approval. And let’s not forget actor Rob Lowe (shown below with his son John Owen), who donned a UC Davis cap as he cheered on the 16th-seeded Aggies men’s basketball team during its battle with the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the first round of March Madness last year. In the battle of “who wore us best,” to us, it’s a three-way tie.