Smelling the Roses in Sacramento

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When I mentioned to a few people that I was coming to Sacramento, they seemed disappointed. Lucky for me, I’ve always had a great time when I’ve visited the California state capital. My friend Loretta is an excellent tour guide who loves to showoff her hometown. And I like underdogs.

One thing I love about California is that it seems much easier to have an active lifestyle here. My family members always quip that only I think that because I spent my college years here and now I come for vacation. But Loretta has lived in NYC too, and she agrees. There’s simply more space, nice weather, and easy access to lots of hiking and other activities.

I spent four days in Sac, two weekend days and two at a conference at the Sacramento Convention Center. Here are my favorite things this time around:

Be active

We went for a swim at the Wackford Community & Aquatic Complex. I swim in NYC, and I can’t remember the last time I swam in an outdoor pool. And I had a lane to myself for the entire time! It only cost $5 for a drop in.

Loretta has a sweet blue Schwinn cruiser that I got to use. Riding a cruiser takes some getting used to, but this bike has a nice balance. It’s great to cruise around cities on a bike. You can cover a lot more ground than walking at a brisker pace. Sacramento has clearly marked bike lanes, ample bike racks, and not too much traffic.

City in bloom

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The canopy of trees, lush landscaping, and perfume of freesia, honeysuckle, and other flowers in the air made it a perfect springtime ride. Sacramento has a Mediterranean climate and a very long growing season (over 240 days!). Riding through neighborhoods like Elmhurst and the Fab Forties, there are beautiful homes to ogle. I especially love the craftsman homes in Midtown on T street. We stopped at the McKinley Park Rose Garden, which has over 1200 varieties of roses.

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Good eats

California produces more “specialty crops” (produce) than any other place in the country. I’ve been to houses with lemon trees, peach trees, etc., and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

We had a delicious brunch at Magpie Cafe, a farm to table restaurant in Midcity. Located at 1409 R St, the refurbished brick building originally housed a bakery back in 1913. I had the special, with grilled asparagus, eggs, bacon, and grits all sourced from nearby Blackbird Farm. Everything was perfectly seasoned, and the grits were incredibly creamy, made from freshly ground corn.

We also ate at Red Rabbit, a hipster and foodie hangout with fancy cocktails, smart design, and sustainable food selections. I had a burger, which was good, but the B.L.B. was the clear winner: a flavor explosion of bacon, greens, and roasted golden beets with horseradish sauce on cibatta. There was an enormous pile of crisp, hot fries, and a side salad with beets, field greens, and a citrus vinaigrette was good. The delta frites were also good, tempura battered asparagus with a delicious anaheim chili aioli. The real surprise here were the tempura battered lemon wheels: bright and citrusy, perfectly complementing the rest. I wish there were more in the basket.

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at Red Rabbit

I had a delightful espresso macaroon at Estelle’s Patisserie, near the convention center. And the elderberry lemonade was delicious and fun.

There are gems anyplace you go, you just have to look.

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