When Capital Public Radio reporter Elaine Corn visited Kathmandu Kitchen in 2009, she spoke to two servers—Paritosh and Rosy—who explained the nuances of their native Nepalese cuisine. A small yet diverse country, Nepal draws from distinct culinary influences: Tibet and China to the north and India along the south. As such, diners viewing Kathmandu Kitchen’s menu for the first time are greeted with a cross section of its varied cuisine, which includes Tibetan-style pan-fried noodles, tandoor-cooked chicken tikka masala, and fiery curries seasoned with cumin and garlic. The uninitiated are the lucky ones; Rosy explains that having first-time visitors to the restaurant is one of her favorite things. “If I find a person coming for the first time in this restaurant, I’ll be the happiest person at that moment. Because we feel it’s really important that people from America are valuing us, too, through our food.” Tables clad in white linens and a mural of the Himalayas surround Nepal’s beloved regional dishes, which coalesce perfectly in the form of thali, a tray filled with a harmonious blend of dumplings, flatbread, and lentils crowned with a main course.
Kathmandu Kitchen’s wide spectrum of aromatic and authentic vegetarian, chicken, lamb, and seafood entrees pleases just about every palate. The eatery has earned recognition from a host of local sources, including spots on the Top Five Best Indian restaurants list by CityVoter and the Top 100 list by Local Eats.
What started as a hobby for Biba Caggiano became a culinary career when she relocated to Sacramento with her family in 1969. During the move, she brought along a practiced knowledge of Old World cuisine, which she gleaned from her mother while growing up in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. After teaching a handful of classes at a local cooking school, she began fully dedicating herself to gastronomic pursuits, publishing cookbooks of her signature recipes, studying culinary traditions throughout Italy, and hosting an internationally syndicated cooking show, Biba's Italian Kitchen.
She opened Biba Restaurant in 1986, devising a menu of authentic Italian cuisine that changes seasonally, much like a snowman’s ability to survive. Her chefs blanch homemade pastas, pan-roast sea bass, and braise veal shanks for an osso buco alla milanese that Frommer's proclaimed as "excellent." With a commitment to freshness, Biba sources her ingredients from local farmers and producers, including Del Rio Botanical and Ports Seafood.
The menus brim with refined dishes, and the décor to "make [diners] feel instantly at home." In addition to its yellow walls, the recently renovated main dining room, according to the Sacramento Press, features hand-painted Italian silk sconces and crema marfil marble.
Ben Chen has experienced his share of success in his nearly 30-year photography career?his work has been published in such publications as Cosmopolitan, The Los Angeles Times, and ESPN Magazine, and he has lent his expertise to some of the nation's largest corporations, including Procter & Gamble and The American Red Cross. In 2006, the photographer began to notice that more and more novices were purchasing complex DSLR cameras, and that gave him an idea. Chen decided to share his wealth of knowledge with aspiring photographers by creating the 4-Hour Newbie Photography Boot Camp, which teaches students how to shoot manually with their DSLRs and create artistic, professional-quality photos. Since then, more than 5,000 students in 20 cities throughout the country have benefited from these classes. In 2013, he acquiesced to student demand and created Part II of the class, which goes beyond photography basics by diving into post-production techniques. Nowadays, students can take both Part I and Part II in the same day, helping them go from student to master in less time than most action-movie montages.
After a long courtship punctuated by romantic dinners of Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, Phil Courey and his wife Mariann decided to merge their respective Mediterranean backgrounds to open a restaurant of their own. Named one of the best Greek restaurants in the area by CBS Sacramento, Opa! Opa! keeps its chefs busy dicing, marinating, and grilling succulent meats and fresh veggies for its extensive menu of classic Greek recipes, and goes through 90 gallons of hummus a month. They have also been named Best Greek Restaurant by Sacramento Magazine in 2013, Best Greek by CityVoter in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and Sacramento News & Review named them Best Mediterranean Eats in 2012, as well as Best Greek in 2011 and 2010. The eatery also bolsters celebrations with catering services, where party-size portions of its traditional fare sate partygoers at birthdays, weddings, and shadow-puppet performances of Agamemnon.
Gonul Blum grew up in Turkey amid her family’s spice business and surrounded by delicious, fresh meals. When an injury cut her career as a cardiac-surgery nurse short, she took it as a sign to go back into the family business. After attending the Culinary Institute of America to hone her skills, she started a catering company and eventually opened her own restaurant. Though her establishment evolved and changed locations over the years, it eventually grew to become Vanilla Bean Bistro, where freshness still rules in her family’s tradition, and almost everything is made by hand.
At her current space, Gonul curates a menu that combines childhood Turkish favorites—such as moroccan lamb stew and moussaka—with local ingredients and recipes, such as butternut-squash ravioli and stuffed poblano chilis. She also chose the restaurant’s current venue for its open kitchen and bar; facets which allow her to hold cooking classes and food fights during off-hours.
Sandra Dee has been a chef since she was 9, when she first helped her mother and grandmother—both accomplished home cooks—create zesty creole recipes for their Sunday get-togethers. Today, she continues that familial spirit, running the kitchen of her own barbecue restaurant with help from her husband, Jeffrey, their sons and daughters, and one nephew. Within her brick walls, covered on the outside with murals of jazz legends such as Etta James, Sandra Dee slow cooks barbecued beef tri-tips, pork loin, chicken, beef links, and other meats, flips barbecued veggie burgers, deep-fries catfish, and serves up sides of potato salad and hush puppies. To wash down savory bites, tenders pour beer, wine, and specialty cocktails, such as the mojito and Old Fashion Manhattan—a mix of bourbon and sweet vermouth that still occasionally wears pantaloons.