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Cover to Cover: Submerge Magazine

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If you've been living in (or visited) Sacramento over the past several years, you've probably come across Submerge Magazine. The magazine, which is printed on good old fashioned paper, is what I like to call an anti-glossy publication.

You know what I'm talking about, right? When you thoroughly enjoy an article and then reach for your cup of coffee to find newsprint stains on your hands? Yeah, it's that type of publication... and I love it. Submerge comes out every other week and covers everything happening in the Sacramento region -- from music and art to food and style.

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I had a chance to ask the founders, Jonathan and Melissa a few questions about the magazine and, lucky for us, they were super candid!

Let's dive right in, shall we?

Q) For those who are just being introduced to Submerge Magazine, how would you characterize the publication? What can people expect to find between the front and back covers?

A) Submerge is an arts and entertainment publication available for free every other week all over the Sacramento region. We feature interviews, previews and reviews based around the music, art, comedy, fashion and food happenings in our region. People can expect national coverage blended with regional coverage. So in any given issue you might find an interview with a touring band or comedian coming through town mixed with plenty of regional coverage, as well as restaurant reviews, an entertainment calendar and we also have regular columnists. As cliche as it sounds, there is a little     something for everyone in every issue of Submerge.

Q) How long have you been publishing Submerge Magazine? What prompted you to start a publication like this?

A) We are currently on issue #135 (that's crazy to think about!) so it's been over five years. We launched this bad boy in early 2008, just as the economy was hitting rock bottom. We didn't care much about that, because we knew we had a strong idea and a solid business plan. Being a free publication, we rely on advertising dollars and right away we got the attention of some of Sacramento's best bars, venues, restaurants, retailers, etc. and partnered with them. We owe so much to our advertisers! It's a beautiful partnership that we've built with all of them. What prompted us to start a publication like this was just taking a look at the Sacramento region and thinking, "Wow, there is SO much cool stuff happening here between the music scene, arts scene, restaurant and beer/cocktail scene, etc." and we knew we could provide some fresh,     hip coverage of all that. My business partner (and soon to be wife) Melissa had tons of experience in the publishing world, specifically in the design and editorial departments. I've always been a natural at marketing and sales, so our two skill-sets combined really made launching a business like this possible.

Q) What were you both doing for a living before you started the magazine? (Care to share any funny career/education stories that led you to where you are today?)

A) We both graduated from CSU, Chico. That's where we met. Years ago when we moved to Sacramento and started thinking about doing Submerge, we had part-time "regular" jobs to pay the bills. I worked at a local brewery for a while (RIP Sac Brew!), Melissa did graphic design work for a local print shop. Eventually the mag got so busy   that we both were able to drop the part-time gigs to focus solely on Submerge. We don't make a killing by any means, but we make enough to pay the bills, and we can do so by supporting and promoting the regions arts and entertainment scenes, so we're pretty happy with how things have worked out!

Q) What are your favorite elements of magazine publishing? Is there anything you've discovered over the years that surprised you about the industry?

A) I love that we are one of only a few remaining print publications in town. As we all get more and more connected and dependent on our digital devices, it's nice to know that we are giving people an option of something to physically hold onto and read over a cup of coffee, or a beer, or at a boutique in midtown, or while waiting for a bus or train, etc. We do have a website as well as a digital flip book version of every issue available online, we aren't dinosaurs over here, but giving people something to physically hold onto feels nice.

Q) The magazine focuses on the Sacramento region. What is it about Sacramento that inspires you to continue creating a free, local publication?

A) We are so proud to call Sacramento home and to be able to focus on some of the cooler things happening here. Melissa and I both grew up in really, really small towns, so I think that helps us appreciate all that the Sacramento region has to offer. There are amazingly talented musicians and artists here, as well as countless chefs, bartenders and restaurants to be proud of. We get some of the best comedians in the world touring through on a regular basis, and on top of all that, this region is just so extremely diverse. We absolutely love it here and can't imagine doing Submerge anywhere else!

Q) Submerge Magazine is pretty involved in the community and Sacramento's summer event season is coming up. Any cool collaborations or projects coming up that we should know about?

A) We're excited to be involved with Concerts in the Park, which happens every Friday evening in downtown Sacramento at Cesar Chavez Plaza and features free live music from many of the region's best acts. We're also stoked to be a big part of Launch Music/Art Festival again this year, we truly believe in the vision of the event's founders and we think that it is only going to grow each year and help to bring more attention to what Sacramento has to offer. On top of that, we've got some cool stuff in the works: some killer interviews and features scheduled for this summer, possibly partnering with a local photographer to produce Submerge video content, as well as continuing to grow our circulation and distribution. It's an exciting time for us here at Submerge!

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Be sure to check out the Submerge Magazine website for their latest edition + archives. If you want to follow the publication elsewhere, you can find them on Facebook and Twitter. Looking for newsprint-stained hands of your own? You can pick up the print version at just about every coffee shop, record store, boutique, salon, book store or hip restaurant in Midtown and Downtown Sacramento.

Happy reading! 

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Farm to Fork Field Trip: Restaurant Thir13en

Does this Red Russian Kale look familiar?

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Well, it should! A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit Feeding Crane Farms to learn a little bit about the emerging Farm-to-Fork movement here in Sacramento, California. In my attempt to follow the kale from farm to fork for this project, I also enlisted the help of Chef Adam Pechal with Restaurant Thir13en and Tuli Bistro. If you're a fan of ABC's The Taste, you may recognize him from the first season as a member of Team Malarkey.

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I stopped by Restaurant Thir13een on the beautiful (yet soggy) first day of spring to talk a little Farm-to-Fork shop. If you've never been to the restaurant located on the ground floor of The Sterling Hotel, I highly recommend it. I've spent quite a few happy hours on their sweet little patio out front.

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The mood shifts a bit when you step inside, which makes it a fantastic date night spot.

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And the food? Well, I'm a pretty big fan. Chef Pechal kindly let me in the kitchen to catch a glimpse of the beginnings of a Red Russian Kale Pesto. To get started, he removed the stems from each leaf:

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He then blanched the kale by putting it in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes (until the leaves were bright green and tender):

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Then the kale moved on over to the ice bath to cool:

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Eventually the blanched kale will be transformed into a beautiful pesto for all of those delicious pasta dishes. I wasn't able to partake in the entire process, but Chef Pechal did agree to share the recipe with us. The good news? It's a super easy recipe that will be making it to my fork at home very soon.

Restaurant Thir13en's Red Russian Kale Pesto

  • 2 bunches Red Russian Kale, blanched & chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Awesome for pizza, pastas or anywhere else you'd use pesto!  --  Chef Adam Pechal

Side note: If you subscribe to Sactown Magazine, you may recognize this pesto from page 52 of the latest issue. Great minds think alike here in Sacramento and the folks at the magazine devoted almost an entire issue to the Farm-to-Fork movement.

What can I say? We love our farmers and we love our food!

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I also had the opportunity to ask a few questions about how Chef Pechal and his crew incorporate food from local farms into the menus at both Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en.

From which local farms do you source food for your restaurants? We work with Feeding Crane Farms, Del Rio Botanical, Ray Yeung, Soil Born Farms and Waldorf School. Some of the food is delivered through Produce Express, which is a huge proponent and distributor of local farms. Others deliver farm direct like Feeding Crane Farms.

What types of food do you source locally? Mostly produce but lately we've been getting whole hogs from fairly local sources like Stone Valley Farm and a few other very small independent ranchers. Lucky Dog Ranch is a local ranch that produces great grass-fed beef. We've also got some great cheese producers like the Sierra Nevada Cheese Company.

Are some products tough to find here in Sacramento, California? Nothing is hard to find here in Sacramento. I feel lucky to have restaurants here with great access to top-notch products. With the addition of the new Sunh Fish here downtown, we now have access to amazing seafood from both local California sources and sources around the world.

What are your favorite locally grown foods to use in the kitchen? One of my favorites would have to be Del Rio's arugula. I've been using three or more cases a week for most of Tuli Bistro's lifetime (over five years). It's typically available year round, which is awesome for us chefs trying to plan menus. As cliche as it is, I'd be lying if Sacramento heirloom tomatoes weren't at the top of my list. Every year I see new and different varieties popping up which makes it one of the most fun foods out there. The variance in colors and flavors make them so adaptable to so many preparations.

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Be sure to check out the tasty food at Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en, my friends. I love knowing that so much of the food at these local restaurants comes from right here in Northern California!

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For those of you interested in my final map design project (which spurred this little field trip), here it is:

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I decided to craft the final design as a tool for storytelling, rather than trying to map the entire Farm-to-Fork movement in Sacramento. Plus, it's been a long time since I've used my animated GIF-making skills. The photos don't render well in the GIF format, but you get the idea!

If you'd like to see how the project unfolded, you can read more here.

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Here's to eating more fresh, local foods!

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Dine Downtown: Dawson's at The Hyatt

So, I've got to come clean: I've had a long-running love affair with a promotion in Sacramento called Dine Downtown. The restaurant week and I have been seeing each other for seven years now and, quite frankly, there's no end in sight. It's cool...my husband knows. He's pretty okay with it. In fact, he often accompanies me on annual Dine Downtown dates.You see, I used to work for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership (DSP), which puts together this food lover's paradise every year. I helped manage the promotion for four years and have a deep knowledge of what it takes to bring dozens of restaurants together to offer 10 days of three-course menus for $30. It's not easy. It actually takes a ton of hard work. So, my first order of business is to say thank you to the staff over there for making this event thrive year after year. You all rock.

Now, on to the food!

My husband and I were lucky enough to preview the Dine Downtown menu at Dawson's at The Hyatt. To be perfectly honest, it had been a while. I've always enjoyed the food at Dawson's, but I often forget about the many, many restaurants tucked away in Sacramento's beautiful hotels. Thus, most of Sacramento's hotel restaurants get left off the "where are we going to dinner tonight?" response list. No more! The food and service at Dawson's were both incredible and we will definitely be back.

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{You can download the full menu here.}

Here's the scoop on Dawson's Dine Downtown menu: they offer options for each course, which I always appreciate. We had trouble deciding what to get, but as I jokingly explained to our server, Ardy (who was hilarious and did an impeccable job), my husband and I had already agreed to choose different options so that we could taste more from the menu -- even if my husband and I wanted the same dish. Seems harsh, but this strategy has always served me well during restaurant week.

Starter:

Dawson's offers up a starter of deliciously fresh bread, butter and the most incredible olive tapenade. It's made in-house and Ardy warned us of its addictive powers. True to form, we had a second serving. {Have I mentioned that we never, ever make food-related new year's resolutions because of Dine Downtown? Truth bomb. Food wins every time.}

First Course:

All of the options for the first course sounded amazing, but we decided on the espresso cured tenderloin carpaccio for him and the baby beet and burrata salad for me.

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{Guess who was too excited about the food to adjust her camera for a low-light situation? This girl. The result? Sad face city upon download and some seriously over-edited photos. Here's to embracing the learning curve, my friends! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...}

I'm a big fan of beets and have trouble passing up menu items containing them. They're just so good and I hate preparing them at home. This salad was the perfect first course for me and my husband loved the carpaccio.

Second Course:

The entrée is always where the magic happens for me. There's something so beautiful about artfully plated food and the chef at Dawson's did not disappoint. My husband reluctantly (yes, he was going to order the salmon, but stuck to our agreement) ordered the braised beef short rib and I opted for the charred pacific salmon.

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If I could adequately describe the look on my husband's face when he took his first bite of short ribs, I would. His eyes got really big, he mumbled something resembling "oh man...that's good," and kept eating. Needless to say, he was happy with his choice. I tried a bite of his entrée and I have to say, the combination of incredibly tender beef, perfectly prepared polenta and braised greens was nothing short of amazing. My salmon was also pretty incredible. It was perfectly cooked with a really interesting brussels sprout Caesar perched on top. I love when chefs try something out of the ordinary and that "twist on a Caesar," as Ardy described it, was delicious. The anchovy and garlic puree added the perfect amount of flavor to the dish.

Third Course:

With the third course, we again tested our pact to order different dishes. I opted for the California triple cream camembert because, even though I'm a sucker for a root beer float, my husband had already called dibs on the sweet crab apple fritters.

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The float was made with Dad's Root Beer and vanilla bean gelato. Don't worry, my friends. I definitely got to try it and the float suited the fritters quite nicely. On the cheese dish, the kitchen wisely paired the wonderful camembert with a side of walnut brittle and gooseberry jam. It was the perfect sweet and savory dessert.

Final grade: A+++

We left full and happy. You can't really beat that.

As I mentioned, I'm pretty partial to Dine Downtown. It's just such a great deal. And the food? Well, the food is always top-notch. The promotion is great for participating businesses, it gives food-lovers a chance to live it up without breaking the bank and it's really, really good for the downtown economy. That's a win, win, win. A trifecta of winning, if you will.

So what have we learned here?

  1. Always thank the people who work tirelessly to bring us amazing events and promotions.
  2. Don't forget to try hotel restaurants. They might surprise you!
  3. Always remember to adjust your camera properly for indoor, low-light situations.
  4. Eat at Dawson's often. TRUST me on this.
  5. Go with someone who is up for ordering different options for each course (if the restaurant offers options). That way everyone gets to try more of the menu!

The Scoop:

Dine Downtown Restaurant Week January 9 - 18, 2013 More info: downtownsac.org/dinedowntown Reservations are highly recommended.

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Disclaimer: While our meal was on the house, all opinions are my own. If we were in the same room right now, you'd know that I'm telling the truth. I've been writing through lunchtime and my tummy is growling just thinking about the food! Time to eat!

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Follow Friday: Launch2012

The Sacramento region is full of creativity. Those of you who live here already know that and it's probably safe to bet that you tell people often. Am I right?We're proud of our creative tendencies here in the capital city and we celebrate them every chance we get. However, it is my humble opinion that we truly haven't seen anything. Yet.

Enter: LAUNCH2012

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{Screen shot taken from launchsacramento.com}

LAUNCH started back in 2009 as a way to showcase all of Sacramento's creative talents in one place. I attended the event last year for the first time and it was incredible.

This year, they've stepped it up. Big time. The festival will span six days (six days!) at eight different venues around Sacramento's central city and will be the biggest art, design, fashion, music and architecture mash-up this city has ever seen.

There is no way I'm going to do this collection of awesomeness justice by simply writing about it, so your best bet is to first visit the LAUNCH2012 website.

Then do yourself a favor and check out the Facebook and Twitter pages set up for the event. Then for the love of all things sacred, go BACK to the website and buy tickets! Do it! You'll kick yourself in the shins if you miss this.

Okay, it's really tough to kick yourself in the shins. I'll do it. Don't make me.

Oh alright, I'm a lover not a fighter.

But seriously...why are you still here. Go get your tickets!

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See you all there! Happy Friday, friends!

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