For a long time, I've wanted to do a buy local month--but it wasn't until I found a locally owned grocery store that I finally decided to make February my buy local month. I happened to be talking about this with my friend Adrienne right after I made the decision--and she agreed to join me. As it turns out, February will be a really busy month for me--and I may face challenges in buying local when I go to Sacramento one weekend and San Jose another night for a conference. I've decided, though, to let myself have an out . . . if I absolutely have to buy from a chain, I'll make a contribution to a local charity to make up for that. I'm hoping to avoid that as much as possible, though, as I really want to live up to this commitment.

I'll try to blog when I can about the businesses I frequent during this month. For now, though, here's a list of places I've found that will be part of my buy local efforts.

The Market (grocery store)

Kristina's Ranch Market (grocery store)

Vineyard Farmer's market

Sam's Deli (for prepared foods and some grocery items)

The Farmer's Daughter CSA (community supported agriculture)

Las Palmas Supermercado (1405 W. Shields)

Tower Gas and Mini Mart (gas station)

A Book Barn (bookstore)

Food, gas, and books. Do I need anything else? (Stay tuned for my next blog entry which will be a guide to locally owned restaurants)

1

Tonight, my friends Alex, Kyle, and I wanted to grab a bite to eat. I had checked my twitter feed earlier and learned that Dusty Buns, a traveling taco truck, was going to be in the Tower District tonight. A couple of months ago, I had read Joan Obra's column about Dusty Buns, but what can I say? I'm slow in getting things done--before tonight, I'd never visited the truck.

When we arrived, there was a long line. Our friends and fellow CSUF faculty Melissa and Michelle were there . . . and later on Randa, Russell, and Angelo showed up as well. While we were waiting, we made a recording to memorialize our (my?) excitement:

We ordered food, waited some more chatting with other people in line--and when our food was delivered, we hightailed it to my house in order to eat it while it was still hot.

I had "le grilled cheese"--Angelo warned me that I had to use "le" because "they" would punch me if I said I wanted "the grilled cheese." I ordered as Angelo instructed and wasn't punched. Thanks, A, for the tip! My sandwich isn't much to look at in this photo, but, oh, it was good. Bravo Farms aged cheddar, country-style bacon, an heirloom tomato slice, organic greens, and herb mayo.

Kyle had the Veg Out, a sloppy joe style sandwich made with squash, eggplant, olive tapenade, and parmesan cheese. Alex had one of the specials for the night: steak tacos with heirloom salsa. They both loved their food. We ordered one side of potato salad (with more bacon) and two Tasty Cakes (basically, pecan blondies) as well. Both were fantastic and not very expensive. Alex's food was the most photogenic of the evening, so here's a picture:

Our first visit to Dusty Buns was a huge success. As we devoured our food tonight, we wondered why Fresno, a city located in the heart of one of the richest agricultural areas in the nation, didn't have more restaurants that served only organic, local ingredients. It's really pathetic that the restaurants Fresnans get excited about are national chains like Tahoe Joes and P.F. Changs. The food prepared by Dusty Buns is so delicious--it's clear that it's not made somewhere else, frozen, and then shipped across the country. Dusty Buns Bistro is my new favorite Fresno restaurant, er, I mean taco truck.

Dusty Buns Bistro
locations change, check their twitter feed

Dear Randa,

I've been thinking today about your upcoming move to Fresno. I love that you are so excited about this--and I hope that Fresno lives up to your expectations. As someone who has lived here for 11 years and now counts Fresno as home, I thought I'd give you some tips on adapting to Fresno. I hope that all my fellow Fresnans will feel free to chime in and add their suggestions in the comments section of this blog entry.

1. Live in the Tower, the Fresno High area, or Fig Garden. Sorry to all of you who live and love other parts of Fresno, but I ADORE these neighborhoods with their older homes and mature trees. Living in the Tower means you can walk to nearby restaurants and just about the coolest scene Fresno has. In the Fresno High and Fig Garden areas, life is quieter, but you get more yard/garden area and lovely streets to walk.

2. Explore Fresno and its environs. There are great, out-of-the-way places to be found both in the city and close by. Take the train to Hanford and eat at Superior Dairy. Go to Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks and hike or gaze at the enormous sequoias. Go downtown and visit the public library or some of the restaurants with their limited hours. There are lots of interesting things about the Fresno area . . . (A few years ago, I wrote a list of things I loved about Fresno. Click here if you'd like more specifics. You can also read our "recent" grad, Jefferson Beavers's blog, Fresno Stories to get a feel for the Valley.)

3. Find ways of staying informed about what's going on in Fresno. Visit such websites as The Fresno Beehive and Dumb Drum to keep up on all things Fresno (and then go do stuff!). There are actually three things I wish I could do tonight. There's a concert by a North Carolina folk group who cover contemporary pop and rock. Another concert at a place in the Tower called Audie's Olympic. But I'm going to one of the Summer Arts performances: Urban Bush Women (a dance troupe from Brooklyn). I wish I could do it all. Anyway, my point is that there are some nights when there's a lot going on in Fresno.

4. Enjoy the people here. You're entering into a department that can be a little quirky and absolutely affirming and supportive. I love my colleagues--and count many of them as my close friends. I know you've already met people from other departments as well. There are a lot of us who are really happy that you decided to move to Fresno. We hope that you love it here as much as we do.

5. And my last suggestion, leave Fresno occasionally and explore the rest of California. I love going to the coast or to San Francisco every so often. These places are easy drives from Fresno; they can even be day trips. And I've decided that I need to go north of San Francisco and see the rest of the state over the next couple of months. I love this dysfunctional, cash-strapped state.

I'm tired of apologizing for Fresno--it's a great place to live and I love it here. I hope you will, too.

P.S. I blogged about a weekend in Fresno last fall, and people added comments on why they love Fresno. Click here for that blog entry.

1

My friends and I hang out at Sequoia's every so often. Recently, it was my birthday, and I decided it was time for another Sequoia expedition. I didn't tell people it was my birthday--I didn't want a fuss--I just wanted to spend time with people who make me laugh and bring happiness into my life.


So we met at Sequoia's and eventually migrated to Livingstone's. I stayed out way late, laughed a lot, and had a really great birthday.

I also ate my favorite Sequoia meal: sliders with garlic fries.

2

I want to do right by this restaurant: Casa de Tamales.

I'm not a tamale fan, but this place has transformed me into a believer. Tamales are good--not the heavy, tasteless items that I once thought they were. Almost every tamale I've ever had has had too much masa, not enough filling.

Casa de Tamales gets it right. The tamales are small, but with just the right proportion of filling and masa. The chef makes traditional tamales, but s/he also experiments with a "gourmet" menu. The owners are from Michoacan, according to Alex, from the same town that his family is from. For Alex, eating at Casa de Tamales is like having his mother's home cooking, so we went there to celebrate Mother's Day.

I thought and thought before selecting. I decided on two--a soyrizo version and the chicken alfredo tamale. I wanted to try the soyrizo tamale because I like soyrizo, but also because it was topped with nopal. Since eating a nopal soup in Oaxaca, I've been longing for good nopal . . . which is what I found at Casa de Tamales. The soyrizo was good, but the nopal was what really stood out to me with its crunchy, fresh taste.

I loved the second tamale for the filling: chicken, roasted poblanos, potatoes, and casero cheese. The restaurant uses a jalapeno masa topped with a creamy tomatillo sauce and a black bean salsa. I know it sounds strange, but this was delicious, a fabulous combination of creaminess and spiciness.

The combination dishes come with sides of rice and pinto beans. I loved the rice, which is not something I say very often.

I want to try the more traditional tamales, too. Alex's shredded beef tamale with guacamole looked really good.


And Kyle's tamale with mole and chicken with tomatillo sauce looked tasty, too.


We also ordered dessert tamales. My chocolate cake tamale was forgettable, but Kyle and Alex seemed to love their raisin and cinnamon tamale.

I'm so glad to have finally eaten a good tamale. No other version will ever live up to it, I fear.

Casa de Tamales
3747 W. Shaw
Fresno, CA
559-275-9300

Recently, Marisela Norte was in town to do a reading at Fresno State. Alex had a party for her the night before the reading--but I wasn't able to attend since I taught late that night. The next day, however, after I was done with a student teacher observation, I met Alex, Kyle, and Marisela for lunch at the Chicken Pie Shop.

The Chicken Pie Shop is Fresno to me. I think it was one of the first restaurants I ever ate at in Fresno, and there's something about the place that is incredibly appealing. I'm not sure that the decor has ever been changed--so it's easy to feel like you've stepped back about 60 years when you walk in. There's a lunch counter and cooking area on the left . . . and tables with green vinyl benches on the right. Hanging on the walls are big metal chickens, just in case you're not sure what the specialty is by the name of the place.

I hadn't been to Chicken Pie for years . . . so I was really glad to have an excuse to go back. And Marisela, who is both poet and artist, loved the interior so much that she took pictures of the green vinyl which matched the sweater I was wearing that day.


I ate the BLT for lunch--and it was quite satisfying. Once I was done with the sandwich, I dumped the salad on my plate so that I could pour the ranch dressing on top of the iceberg lettuce. Yes, that's the kind of place that the Chicken Pie Shop is.

So many weeks ago I barely remember it, I went to lunch at the Daily Grill. I may or may not have been there before--Alex and Kyle raved about it when they first moved here, but I can't remember if I ever went. Anyway, I went twice in a week about a month (?) ago.

The first time, my friend Izzy and I had lunch there. I had the grilled vegetable plate and he had the cheeseburger (as he always does). My veggies were great--although later on at the baseball game, I needed a hot dog to balance out the universe.


Then, a few days later, I took my friend Toni there for her birthday. Toni had been gone for several weeks, so it was also an opportunity to get caught up. I had the trout almondine which was scrumptious.


Toni had the chicken marsala which she very much enjoyed.

I like the Daily Grill's atmosphere with its swanky booths, dark wood, and stark white table cloths. I also like that it serves classic dishes done to perfection. I don't like that it's a chain--but it's just a mini-chain, only 22 locations in the U.S.

Daily Grill
7855 N. Palm Ave.
Fresno, CA
559-435-5550

1

The Red Wave Inn is the kind of place that doesn't have a website. It's low tech, unassuming, intimate--a bar/restaurant that I've overlooked for years. I've known that people go to the Red Wave, which is just across Shaw from Fresno State, but I was never really that interested in going myself. I figured it was a dive, and I wasn't really sure why anyone would go there.

I'm a believer now. My friends, John, John, Alex, and Kyle frequent the Red Wave--and their passion about the place finally convinced me to go. In truth, I think it was the stories about the Mexican food there that really made me want to try the place.

But first, let me say--the Red Wave isn't a restaurant, it's a bar. But the Mexican food there is fresh and really quite delicious.

I've been to the Red Wave a couple of times in the last few weeks. Every time, I get the taco plate--tacos made with asada, lettuce, cilantro, and onions served with a nice tomatillo sauce, beans, and rice. The tacos are delicious and I always enjoy well prepared pinto beans. The first time I went there, my friends teased me about licking the plate. I didn't, but I really, really wanted to.


I also really love the ambience at the Red Wave--the fact that it's cozy and not at all pretentious. The fact that all the bartenders know my friends by name. The fact that we usually run into other people we know there, as well. Most importantly, I love that we can sit for hours talking shop, gossiping, or philosophizing about life (that's what we English types do, right?).

I'm not sure I'm an insider there yet--but I totally get my friends' enthusiasm for the Red Wave Inn.

Red Wave Inn

2375 E Shaw Ave
Fresno, CA 93710

(559) 228-8446

I'm finally well enough to get out of the house a little. And last night, I even ate dinner at a new-to-me restaurant! My friend Scott and I decided to eat at Limon, a Peruvian restaurant in north Fresno. It was quite crowded when we arrived, but there were comfortable leather banquettes to sit on while we waited--and we ended up getting seated pretty quickly.


We started off with appetizers. I wanted a salad, so I ordered the house without even asking what was in it. It ended up being a wedge salad, which I always love: a wedge of iceberg lettuce, bacon, eggs, fresh cheese, onions and choclo served with a Peruvian ranch dressing. These kinds of salads are totally comfort food to me. Scott really loves barbecue so he ordered the costillas a la barbacoa, ribs with aji amarillo and sesame seeds. The ribs were good, but not great (in my opinion). I like the meat on my ribs to be a little, well, meatier. This rib meat was a little too soft and fatty. Still, the sauce had a nice kick, spicy enough to be present without being overwhelming. And I loved that the restaurant provided moist towels to use when we were done with the ribs. Both of the appetizers had a really nice presentation, as I hope my dark picture above evoked.


For dinner, I ordered the pollo latino, basically fried chicken served on dijon/truffle infused macaroni and cheese (above). The chicken was crisp, and the mac and cheese had just the right amount of truffle oil. I liked that the meal included some broccoli, too. Scott had the special, pan fried salmon on spaghetti squash (below). His dish tasted like . . . well, a piece of salmon with a crunchy bottom layer.


Overall, I enjoyed my meal. I'd like to go back and try some of the other dishes. I've only liked ceviche once, so I'd like to try Limon's version. I'd also like to try something with a chimichurri sauce.

Limón Peruvian Cuisine
7735 N. Blackstone Ave.
Fresno, CA 93720

559.435.1015

4

I haven't been to Dog House Grill for a very long time, even though it's located right across the street from my corner of campus. Today I met my friend Izzy for lunch at, well, Jasmine Gardens (see, Izzy, I mentioned you in my blog). But before I even sat down, we decided to leave and go to Dog House Grill. The Jasmine Gardens workers looked very confused . . . but the restaurant was busy and, I don't know, we were just in the mood for the noise of a sports bar instead of overheard live conversations???? Yeah, that's right, that's my story.

Anyway, we walked down to Dog House Grill which is a very Fresno kind of restaurant: lots of meat, big portions, and television screens all over. Thinking of the pulled pork sandwich I had at Dinic's in Philadelphia, I ordered Dog House Grill's version . . . but I neglected to notice that they served it with barbecue sauce. This didn't necessarily mean disaster, except that the sauce wasn't even close to being subtle . . . it was heavy and sweet and overpowering. The sandwich was also huge--I only ate half . . . and I allowed at least a third of the meat on that half to drop out onto the tray. My favorite bite was a really large chunk of pork that didn't have so much barbecue sauce.


Izzy, on the other hand, ordered his favorite, a beef taco--which looked good. Yeah, I totally had food envy.


We also shared a basket of french fries . . . I very rarely have anything bad to say about fries. In fact, maybe I should change my food blog to be a french fry blog. I think I could become a connoisseur of fries. I'd like that. Dog House Grill's fries were of the thin and somewhat crisp variety. Izzy dipped his in barbecue sauce . . . I dipped mine in ketchup.


Over the next few months, I hope to feature more Fresno restaurants on my blog. I'm looking for friends to accompany me as I eat my way through restaurants in the Tower area. I'm going to map some boundaries and review every restaurant within that area--except anything that is a part of a national chain.

Before that begins, though, I'm off to eat my way through Guadalajara and Oaxaca.

Oh, and Izzy . . . my cat was waiting for me when I got home. I have a cat. It's mine. It's no longer a stray. Here's a picture.


Dog House Grill
2789 East Shaw Avenue
Fresno, CA 93710-8205
(559) 294-9920