Going to change this blog name to HOGshineh.... ugh!!!
Oh the gluttony!
How does a business survive in today's competitive market?
Especially if the business happens to be a 29-year old restaurant in the exploding greater Sacramento area challenged by numerous trendy, au courant eateries?
This month, I sat down with Kerry Kassis, owner of Slocum House, to learn why this establishment has outlasted its competitors and become a cherished Sacramento dining destination.
The name of the restaurant comes from its first occupant and builder, Charles Slocum. In 1896, after arriving in Sacramento from Hot Springs, Arkansas, in a horse-drawn buggy with his wife Sara, Charles Slocum built up the community around him, establishing the first lumberyard and general store in the Fair Oaks area. Before his arrival, the area was nothing more than dirt roads. Charles took on many roles in the "colony", helping to organize the first bank, church, and even the town cemetery. Twenty-nine years later, Mr. Slocum erected his home on the highest plane (to safeguard a flooding problem) in Fair Oaks.
Charles and Sara lived there until their deaths in 1925 and 1936, respectively.
Ownership of the house was kept in the family through siblings of its original inhabitants. Eventually the structure became an interior decorating studio and remained so for many years.
In 1976, Slocum House was transformed into a restaurant.
Kerry Kassis became the owner in 1986, and gave the Slocum House a complete renovation. Mr. Kassis stresses that it was entirely a restorative makeover for the building--the skeletal portions were untouched--only cosmetic elements were enhanced. Special attention to detail was paid when re-creating tile work, windows, metal fixtures and other historical replications. All of the new beautifications within Slocum House did not go unnoticed, as The Policy Planning Commission of Sacramento honored it with an Exceptional Achievement Award for Historical Preservation, Landscaping, and Interior Design.
The Slocum House is the only restaurant in Sacramento who maintains its own landscaping. The grounds of the house boast lavish oak trees, a lush garden, and stone walkways, flecked with animals such as chickens, peacocks, squirrels, possums, and other birds. The focal point of the outdoors is the 100-year old maple tree in the courtyard.
The tree lends its generous, grand canopy to year round, outdoor dining.
For the past 20 years, the cuisine of the Slocum House can be described as innovative, regional, and uniquely Californian.
There are global influences, drawing from Italian, French, Asian/Pacific Rim, Mexican, and Southwestern cuisines, that permeate within items on the menu.
The Slocum House continues to evolve, but yet remain distinctively classic. The restaurant gracefully balances excellent service to its loyal and new customers with food that is avant garde, but not intimidating.
During my lunchtime visit to Slocum House, I sampled a few different dishes, and realized that this restaurant may very well have pioneered "fusion" cuisine, just as Charles Slocum pioneered the town of Fair Oaks.
I began my meal with a sample of Pinot Noir. It was a taste of Artesa Cameros 2002, aged just enough to softly mute the tannins. Just a taste was enough for lunch, and so I chose an assortment of hot teas with which to pair the rest of lunch.
Next, my server brought out fresh-baked sourdough bread. Crusted on the outside, soft in the middle, just as a good bread should be.
The next portion of the meal belonged to the "Thai Style" Sweet Chile Rock Shrimp Salad. It was comprised of lightly fried rock shrimp, drizzled with sweet chile sauce, and tossed with a shredded cabbage, romaine lettuce, red peppers, cilantro, carrots, bean sprouts. The salad mixture was delicately arranged on a bed of soy ginger noodles and sprinkled with cashews. I had to eat wisely, for there was more ahead to try, but the salad was so flavorful. It was spicy, but not overly so.
I will also note that there were several shrimp on the plate, maybe to ensure a shrimp with each bite of the salad.
I then sampled another dish on the menu, the Fresh New Zealand King Salmon. It was prepared wood grilled, and came served on a bed of sour cream mashed potatoes. The salmon and potatoes were topped with a Meyer lemon, caper, and dill beurre blanc sauce. This dish should be highlighted for its accessibility--that meaning, it is conducive to most palates.
The fish portion was brilliantly pink and grilled to perfection. The sour cream is very apparent in the potatoes, and the sauce is well balanced in flavor, and there is not too much of it. I only wish there would have been more vegetables on the plate, though it is kissed with carrots and green beans as a small garnish.
The next plate I sampled was another seafood temptation. It was grilled Chilean Sea Bass on a foundation of scented jasmine rice, and black bean pureé, topped with a tomato-cilantro salsa. Dishes like this fascinate me because there are so many things going on in the dish, such as the separate flavors of the grilled fish, the cilantro, and the rice, but it all tastes so well when layered together.
For dessert, I had the House Creme Bruleé. It was a larger portion than that of a stingy four-inch ramekin, rather it was a dish that was more of a small bowl, filled with vanilla infused creme and capped with a crackly brown top. It was garnished with fresh fruit, a trio of blackberries, blueberries, and strawberry. In a restaurant world where nearly everyone has créme brulee on their dessert menu, this version stands out.
I was impressed overall by the menu because it was so interesting, and multi-faceted, yet not intimidating. The customer base this restaurant has gained over the years not only keeps coming back because of the gorgeous atmosphere, but also because they are introduced to bold and modern flavors in a classic way.
Dude, I am going to bed now...I hope it doesnt break beneath my weight. HA!