Tidbits and Gossip 8/5/15

The Cutten Inn reno that was supposed to be completed in July has obviously not been completed.  From the look of things it could be many months.

The Cutten Murphy’s s having their annual summer BBQ season in front of the store M-F until at least the end of August. Easy to grab on your way home! Grass-fed cheeseburgers $5.99 and the half-chickens at $4.99 are a real deal.  Support your local grocer!

CNBC’s new series The West Texas Investors Club is kind of a Shark Tank meets Hee-Haw and the shark/investors don’t have the cred of the originals but after you watch it for half an hour or so it all starts to make a loony kind of sense.  One of the sharks is Matthew McConaghy’s uglier brother.  Tuesday nights on CNBC (Ch 51 on Suddenlink).  Let us know how you like it.  Coming up on August 12 is their latest,  Make Me a Millionaire Inventor  which has to be the worst title ever but let’s hope for the best. 


Have You Tried Sammy’s BBQ Catering in King Salmon?

No one goes to King Salmon by accident. You have to want to go ‘way out there. When I heard about Sammy’s it was from friends in Washington State,  go figure.
So when my friend and I checked them out on Tuesday, they had already been open for a year. The first thing we learned was, don’t go late. We thought showing up at 1:30 was the right thing to do, but they were already out of tri-tip by then. As you can gather from their website,  they usually have tri-tip, kalua pork, pork ribs, teri chicken, and meatballs.

The sides include chop suey, unusual for Humboldt but considering it’s a Tongan family that runs the place it all makes sense.  The menu is similar in part to that of the Banana Hut and it would be interesting to do a side-by-side tasting of the two versions of kalua and the two versions of pineapple gravy. The chop suey is made with glass noodles which I hadn’t seen before.  They also have a pineapple cole slaw which I didn’t expect to like, but I did.

I had the kalua pork, salty as heck but I can never resist it, and the ribs , which could have used more cooking. They were okay but not falling off the bone.  My friend got ribs which were too fatty.  The lady who was serving was slow about offering to replace them, and an unseemly discussion ensued during which my friend pointed out the layers of fat on her rib. Hers were too fat, mine were not. I liked the potato salad, wasn’t crazy about the meatballs. Things would have gone a lot better if we’d gotten there early enough for the tri-tip. 

The whole family works the restaurant .  When I lived on Oahu I had Tongan friends who used to come and visit me out on the North Shore and every time they would find an excuse to clean my house, which was not up to their standards. Sammy’s is spotless.

I see an ad for Sammy’s in the Times-Standard this morning, but the print is so muddy you can’t read it.  I hope they got their money back. Sammy’s will be open tomorrow and Friday but closed on the Fourth.  Check them out and have  a great holiday.


Some Thoughts on Wild Oaks Grill

I had been driving past the Wild Oaks signs in front of the Vets’ Memorial in Eureka for several weeks when I finally got a chance to stop and see what they had.  It was pouring rain but the two fellows at the grill were cheery and efficient.

This is not your ordinary food truck. They don’t sell sandwiches, just meat- in big chunks. Like all food trucks they have a website which explains the situation. No sides, no fixin’s, just meat. Well prepared meat, but in large quantities. You can get pastrami and brisket by the pound, but a lot of the other meats require a three to five pound purchase.  I had hoped to try their brisket but Rob, the friendly honcho,  said they were about half on hour away from finishing . I would have waited if it weren’t raining- the company was pleasant enough- but in the end I went home with about two pounds of pork belly which had been rouladed with peaches and other interesting flavors and then smoked and grilled. It was creative and well-executed, and I look forward to tasting their other wares. Next time I’m having company for dinner, I’m going to call ahead to pin down a time for getting brisket and let Rob and his staff do the prep. Their prices may seem a little spendy but you’re getting hours of real smoke.  Serve with a twice-cooked potato and fruit salad from Murphy’s and  you’ve got a no-fuss meal.

Wild Oaks has a few challenges.  Their website is a mess.  Their ever-changing locations and lack of sides or sandwiches may not be a sustainable model but for now they’re kicking butt.  The aroma from the grill will convince you. I asked Rob which location did the most business.  It’s McKinleyville,  with all those two-income commuters. 

So check them out and tell them I sent you. I note with interest that two of their three Yelp reviews to date were negative and focused more on the appearance of the staff rather than the quality of the food. The day I was there, we all looked like hell. It was raining!


More good food news: HSH open for dinner

I just found out yesterday that the Humboldt Smokehouse (which is fabulous if you haven’t tried it) is now open for dinner Monday thru Saturday. I predict they will put Porter Street out of business within a year. Love those burnt ends!  Menu and hours are at the link. 

“The Best of the North Coast” Redux

It’s that time of year again.  I just now noticed that the Times-Standard always posts it’s “Best” list on April Fool’s Day. Good move.

This year’s list didn’t have any major gaffes like last years (darn) which proclaimed the STILL unfinished Holiday Inn on Broadway in Eureka as one of the winners.  There were a few surprises. Porter Street BBQ won over Humboldt Smoke House, which surprised me, and I thought the Banana Hut was an excellent choice for Best Business Lunch- good food and you can walk to it from anywhere downtown. I don’t agree that Ramone’s is the best bakery although they’re certainly among the most expensive. I’m a Cherry Blossom fan, myself.

Hole-in-the-Wall, the Hunan in Henderson Center, Brick & Fire, and Bob’s Footlong’s (Fortuna) all got their props. Happy Donuts, next to the new VA office, won for Best Donuts, but they really should have won for “Best Cheap Lunch”.  They have a platter with three spring rolls with dipping sauce for $4.99 and if you don’t like cilantro you can call the night before and they’ll make you a cilantro-less version and set it aside for you. The donuts are pretty good, too.

I DO find it hard to believe that Shamus T Bone’s steaks beat out the AA’s. That will bear investigating.

But the prize for “Most Ironic” choice is The Works as favorite source for CD’s/Records/Tapes.  The beloved store has lost much of its business since the move to larger quarters on “C” Street and is in a precarious situation. So go down there and BUY something if you want your favorite to survive. Support ALL our local  businesses with your wallets, not just your admiration. Admiration don’t pay the bills.

No foolin’. 

The Weather Outside is Delightful (but the temperatures are frightful)

…And I don’t know about you but wearing four layers of clothing and STILL having my muscles clenched against the cold is getting old, real old.  Here are some of the highlights of the week in business.

HSU’S ECONOMIC REPORT compiled by the ever-helpful Dr Erich Escher shows a mixed bag of indicators;  Housing prices are  up, but sales are down. Gas prices are in decline also, note the $3.70 ranges in the report, although I just saw $3.54 at COSTCO.  Read the whole report; this is a resource we are lucky to have.

SINGLETON STRIKES AGAIN:  According to the Mad River Union, it was an ADA lawsuit filed by Mr Singleton that caused the closure of Arcata’s branch of Porter Street Barbecue. I don’t know why business owners can’t get it through their heads that after 30 years the ADA is not going away,  but there you go. Unfortunately, the food at their Eureka store has declined considerably.  The  last few times I had their chili, it contained a spongy meatlike substance that almost seemed like stomach tissue or tripe.  I’m sure it’s legal but sure isn’t very appetizing.  When, oh when, will someone open a REAL barbecue here? But then I’m a Carolina girl. I’ve had the real stuff.

There is voluminous guidance from the State and from employers’ group on meeting ADA/FEHA standards and it’s not all that hard to understand. If only our city and county permit processes incorporated the ADA requirements, no one would have to be surprised after they’ve already spent money. I’ve been hearing this same complaint for years.  This is a wasteful and expensive way to do business and it doesn’t have to be this way.  I notice that the Wendy’s in Eureka which previously  closed allegedly due to some sort of ADA issues is hiring and getting ready to open for business again. Maybe they’ve learned something.

ANNALS OF GREED, or It Must Be Nice Dept: Republican State Senator Bill Emmerson of Redlands resigned his seat and a week later was named a senior vice president of the California Hospital  Association “where he will oversee the group’s in-house and contract lobbyists. ”  Every State employee is drilled on the requirement that a year must pass before conversations that might be construed as lobbying can take place but by the subterfuge of having him “oversee” the effort, he’s free to pursue the best interests of the CHA, which are not necessarily in the best interests of our citizens.  Former Sen, Michael Rubio did similarly a few months ago,  working now for Chevron. 

CALTRAIN NEWS: The CalTrain Board has announced that daily ridership is now in the 50,000 range, up from 30,000 ten years ago. CalTrain is also installing racks and other equipment to encourage cyclists to come aboard. All good news.

I’m going to stop now because this has really been a horrible week of homicides, deaths by fire and generally un-holidayish happenings. Maybe next week will be better?  Let’s hope so. See ya at the Truckers’ Parade Saturday evening.

Big Box, uh Bottle Store Hits Eureka

       This post would have been published Tuesday but technical problems intervened, so you’ve probably heard most of this already. As everyone not living in a cave knows, BevMo, the behemoth liquor successor to Beverages and More, is opening in Eureka this morning (Oct 18) at 9am, across from Eureka Natural Foods. Free BBQ lunch from 12-1.

       As a point of civic pride I hope there is NOT a long line waiting at 9am.

      The company was started in 1994, according to Wikipedia and has had a somewhat turbulent history of trademark disputes and false starts; they nearly went broke after over-ambitious expansions into Nevada and Florida before pulling back and concentrating on California, Arizona and Washington. The Eureka store will be their 149th and with each store employing an average of 17 workers, they have a workforce of over 2500 people, including Willard Wong, cellar master, who writes a wine blog on the company’s own website. They have a membership program and wine tastings.  This is a bigtime company entering a small market.  How will our small local stores be affected?

      One of their opening specials is Lagunitas IPA, sale price $12.99 for a 12-pack.  Murphy’s carries it right now for $14.99. This may be the pattern, prices low enough to catch your attention but not enough to make a special trip for. The government figures it costs you $.56 per mile to operate your car, so it may or may not pencil out in your case. They will have tastings and events to draw you in and this Wednesday’s Times-Standard has a coupon, $10 off your purchase of $50 or more. I don’t buy $50 worth of liquor in a year so I’m probably not the right person to write about this. l buy a bottle of Cherry Heering for about $30 once in a while and have only been able to find it at John’s Liquors on Myrtle. I’ll be curious to see if BevMo carries it. They probably do, and I’ll probably keep going to John’s.

      I don’t know for sure, but the arrival of BevMo may have impacted the future of the Henderson Center Marketplace that is/was planned for the old Robert’s site. Wine tasting was going to be featured there, also, but the site lays empty. Neighborhood gossip is that the partnership behind the HCM has unravelled and the proposed operator has left town. Realtor Mark Burtchett, whose name is first on the liquor license, did not return my call or my email, which is not a good sign. Mr. Burtchett, we’re all pulling for you. Henderson Center needs a bit of BevMo.


Is Calhoun’s the best barbecue sauce ever?

Early days

 I am making no attempt whatsoever to be objective.  From the moment I discovered Calhoun’s (probably at Murphy’s) I have never purchased another brand. I’ve tried barbeque sauces all over the Carolinas and Florida, and in St. Louis, and even the mustard sauce peculiar to South Carolina, which most Californians can’t stand.

But my go-to sauce, which I always keep on hand, is Calhoun’s Original Southside Bar-B-Cue Sauce. It’s light and slightly spicy, not sticky-sweet like the Memphis style.  As Mike Ross, its creator, explains it, there is no real “Chicago Style” sauce; he had to invent it himself.

Talking to Mike Ross is a treat, especially if you love Chicago as I do. Mike grew up in what is now known as the “Historic Pullman District”. Historic it is, and you can sign up for tours which will guide you through the first model, planned industrial community in the United States, built by George Pullman as a place to produce the famous Pullman sleeping car. It was a company town, sort of like Scotia on steroids, and the scene of a violent strike in 1894.  Mike grew up grilling for family get-togethers (oh, those Chicago summer evenings!) and his sauce recipe had its beginnings there. The name “Calhoun’s” , incidentally, derives from the neighborhood’s Calhoun Street. 

Mike  worked as a correctional officer for 12 years before deciding that Chicago had become too small and a change was in order. He came to Arcata to visit his grandparents who had moved there earlier. Once he hit the tarmac and saw the green hills around, he never looked back.

Mike’s bottling machine

The business is clearly poised for expansion. Mike is travelling to Georgia to pick up a catering-size grill and smoker and looks forward to opening his own place.  Meanwhile, a distribution deal is pending with a partner in, of all places, Montreal, which has a long barbecue tradition of its own, especially with chicken.  He currently has seventeen outlets including Murphy’s Markets and Eureka Natural Foods but if the Canadian connection works out, watch for explosive growth. With all-natural ingredients, Calhoun’s may become the Redwood Coast’s next big export. Visit their website here. 

Have you tried Calhoun’s?  How do you think it stacks up next to Smokin’ Moses or whatever they use at Porter Street? Have you worked with the SBDC or AEDC? Let us hear from you!