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Food blogs growing in Sacramento

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Sacramento’s growing food scene is being documented by an expanding community of local food bloggers.

The city and surrounding area have at least 30 blogs dedicated to two things all its residents have in common: food and eating.

Foodies can find blogs dedicated to cooking and eating locally, frugally, gluten-free or raw. There are also people who concentrate on baking, desserts, finding the best burger or even hunting and gathering ingredients.

"The world of food blogging is fascinating because there are so many camps," said Awake at the Whisk blogger Amber Stott.

"There are people who just do recipes. Then you’ve got people like Munchie Musings – she does a lot of restaurant reviews. It’s more a melding of everything," Stott said.

"Then you’ve got people like me and Hank (Shaw), who are ultra-focused. If it’s not local, I’m not writing about it."

Elise Bauer of Carmichael said she created the area’s first food blog, Simply Recipes, and one of the first in the country in 2003. At that time, the only other food bloggers were writing from cities including San Francisco, Paris and New York.

"When I started, there were only a handful of food blogs in the whole world," Bauer said. "Now there are tens of thousands."

Today her blog has an international following of more than 5 million visitors a month.

The Sacramento area is home to other well-known food blogs, such as Shaw’s Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Garrett McCord’s Vanilla Garlic, Kimberly Morales’ Poor Girl Eats Well and Catherine Enfield’s Munchie Musings. 

Bloggers here write a lot about vegetarian and vegan cooking, eating less meat and eating locally sourced, seasonal food, said Lisa Howard, community manager of Sacramento Connect, a blogging network launched by The Sacramento Bee a little more than a year ago.

"I think that reflects a lot of the sensibilities in Northern California," Howard said. "I think Sacramento has some really good food writing."

Sacramento Connect has 20 to 22 food blogs among 140 blogging partners. Some food bloggers grew up baking and cooking with moms and grandmas and write about the family connection through cooking.

But there are others who blog for different reasons, such as the three guys behind RoSham Burger who started the blog as they searched for the region’s best burger. They’ve since expanded the search to encompass the globe, Howard said.

"Blogging is big in Sacramento," she said. "What I love is it’s a different genre than traditional journalism. So you get a different voice and a different perspective about what’s going on in Sacramento."

Below are descriptions of 10 local blogs and a list of others. Food bloggers will be profiled each month on www.sacramentopress.com.

Awake at the Whisk

Conscious eater Amber Stott describes her blog with the tagline, "Living la vida Locavore." She focuses on eating, baking and cooking using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms and ranches and her own garden.

She writes about how to make a complete meal from the farmers market, personal gardening exploits such as trying to grow cilantro in Sacramento and what’s in season. The blog also includes recipes, restaurant and book reviews, ways for consumers to take action and essays about life.

"When we eat with the seasons and from our local farmers, it’s such a joyful experience. There’s nothing better than buying a peach that is ready to burst from its skin," said Stott, who’s also the director of development at Women Escaping A Violent Environment (WEAVE).

Baked Bree

Photographer Bree Hester started her recipe blog, Baked Bree, a little more than a year ago to show people how to cook. Hester had run her own portrait photography business and also launched the blog to have a part-time creative outlet as she raised three kids. Her blog now gets 250,000 page views a month, and she gets regular emails from other countries.

"I think one reason I didn’t have a hard time getting a readership is everyone eats. People cook," she said.

With a husband in the Coast Guard, Hester leaves Tuesday for Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She’s lived in five states and Canada in the last eight years. She said she’ll miss having such easy access to fresh produce and other foods grown on nearby farms and ranches.

"I think California is a unique place because the ingredients here are unbelievable," she said. "Here I think we have such an opportunity to eat clean and eat well and eat local. The farmers markets here are unlike anything I’ve seen, and I’ve lived all over."

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Former political reporter Hank Shaw does more than share wild game recipes. He takes readers on his forays from field and stream to table on his wild food blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. He started hunting in 2002 and now hunts or fishes for nearly all his meat.

His blog won an award for best blog from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2010 and was nominated twice for best food blog by the James Beard Foundation. He’s currently on the road, touring to promote his new book, "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast."

Kitchen Travels

The tagline of Kitchen Travels is, "Exploring the world, one taste at a time." Dawn Balzarano loves to travel and came up with the idea to start her blog in late 2009 because she wanted to experience the world through food.

"Even if I am not able to travel to the many places I want to visit, I can get a taste of those places by cooking a meal or baking a dessert from the region," she said.

As a working parent, her focus has shifted to her life and her kitchen, and how cooking and baking fit into that life. Her posts may tackle gardening, home canning or the holidays. Recipes range from Drunken Fig jam and sugar cookies to fried smelt and homemade pasta.

Munchie Musings

CalPERS employee Catherine Enfield is the "Ms. Munchie" behind Munchie Musings, a blog about food and life. The blog is one of the city’s most influential food blogs, according to Howard. Enfield is a passionate advocate for food trucks in Sacramento, which she writes about often.

She also posts restaurant reviews from Sacramento and places she travels, keeps a foodie calendar and provides links to cooking schools and other blogs. She said she considers the blog she started in December 2007 to be a hobby, but she was named News10’s blogger of the month in April. Her site gets 4,000 to 5,000 views a month.

Poor Girl Eats Well

Kimberly Morales created her blog in 2008 during what she describes as her worst personal recession. The blog focuses on how to eat healthy food even on an extremely limited budget. Recipes include hearty steak and red bean chili at $2 per serving and pork and apple fajitas at $3.50 per serving.

Posts may focus on how to save money by bringing a brown bag lunch to work once a week or what she was able to buy for $25 at a farmers market.

The Raw Project

Christine Allen is documenting her transition to a highly raw, whole-foods vegan diet on
The Raw Project. She blogged that she’s been health- and weight-conscious since she was at least a teen. Her desire to lead a healthy life pushed her to begin eating more raw foods in July 2009. Her blog features many recipes, such as banana chocolate kale chips and mushroom burgers.

Sac Foodies

Sac Foodies is a collection of 14 bloggers and public relations professionals at Fleishman-Hillard Sacramento. The majority of the firm’s clients work in the food and wine industries.

"We really live and breathe this stuff on a day-to-day basis," said blogger Liz Conant, a senior account executive with the company.

The blog was started in 2007 by about seven employees as a way to contribute to the local food blog scene and to connect with other bloggers. The site focuses on Sacramento-area restaurant reviews, recipes and local events. Almost everyone in the office contributes to the blog.

"They’re almost by default a member of Sac Foodies," Conant said.

Simply Recipes
Elise Bauer launched what’s believed to be Sacramento’s first food blog, Simply Recipes, in 2003. She started the blog to maintain a positive focus and keep herself busy after becoming so sick from chronic fatigue that she needed to move back in with her parents.

Then 42, she realized working as a Silicon Valley consultant hadn’t given her time to learn to cook. Her parents are both great cooks, and she realized she had a great opportunity to learn to cook from them. She also wanted to save family recipes. She got her own house nearby a year ago.

More than 100,000 people from as far away as Australia and New Zealand now read her blog each day. Bauer moved the cooking to her kitchen in Carmichael and hired food blogger Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook to experiment and develop new recipes with her.

Vanilla Garlic

Pastry chef and food writer Garrett McCord operates one of Sacramento’s longest-running blogs, Vanilla Garlic. Since 2006, his essays and posts have revolved around food, eating and life. He focuses heavily on desserts and cheese. McCord is a contributing writer at Edible Sacramento and writes the weekly "Food Stuff" for the Sacramento News & Review.

Other local food blogs include:

Adventures of a Food & Wine Diva
Chucrute com Salsicha
Dessert for Two
Elaine Baker’s Pastry Playground
Everything Rachael Ray
Gluten Free Adventures
Just the Two of Us
Michael Tuohy’s All About Food
Peanut Butter Boy
Rookie Cookery
Sacramento Spice
Undercover Caterer
RoSham Burger
Crazy for crust
52 kitchen adventures

Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.

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