Holiday snaps: Davis (mostly noms)

Posting will be light today as I must catch up after my return to cold, rainy Chicago. Here are few of my holiday snaps (no work snaps) from Davis:

Flying over the Sierra Nevada:

. . and into California’s Great Central Valley, almost all farmland

central valley

First meal out in Davis: lunch at Redrum Burger. Once called Murder Burger, it was subject to a lawsuit because the name was already taken, so they simply reversed the name to make it something out of “The Shining”:

Burgers and fries:

Two burgers
My friend (and informal host) Phil Ward, an entomologist and ant expert, sharing a pitcher with me at the Delta of Venus after work, one of the last redoubts of the with-it-restaurant in Davis (it’s funky and hippy-ish, and serves Jamaican and Caribbean food as well as a good selection of local beers):


Et moi. . .

Beer in town

Putah Creek, the lazy stream that flows through campus. Parts of it are lined with coastal redwoods.

Davis Putah Creek

Although there was a formal dinner after my first Storer lecture, it was in a University facility and I didn’t take pictures. The next night, however, my friends Phil and Michael Turelli took me to Tucos, one of the three or four fine-dining restaurants in Davis.

As an aperitif, we began with a round of Pliny the Elder, a very highly-rated beer made by the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California. It was quite good: hoppy, but not too heavy on the hops, with a lovely floral nose:


Then three types of appetizers: medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese and apple and wrapped with bacon, herbed goat-cheese crostinis, and cachapas, Venezuelan corn cakes with melted cheese, served with sour cream:




My main course was one of my favorites, the Brazilian national dish feijoada, described on the menu as  “A Hearty Plate of Stewed Grass-Fed Beef and Pork Sausage and Farofa (Toasted Yucca Meal) Served with California Medium Grained Rice and House-Cooked Black Beans (Never Canned Beans) and Pan Fried Collard Greens.”


The wine was EBO Val di Cornia Suvereto 2008, a gutsy super Tuscan (and it better have been for $60 per pop—thanks, Storer folks!):


Bread pudding with golden raisins for dessert:

Bread pudding

The next day my host, Luke Mahler, took me to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant in West Davis, Shanghai Town. We were the only non-Asian customers, so things looked good. And the food was excellent. We ate too much, starting with scallion cakes with sesame seeds, Eight Treasures, Lion Head Casserole, and Dan Dan noodles:


Chinese 8 treasures

Chinese lion's head

chinese dan dan

Lunch the next day was at a famous taco truck several miles north of Davis. Everybody in town knows about this La Kora:

Taco truck

I had three: birria (goat), carnitas (pork), and al pastor (beef), along with a Mexican orange soda. There are no tables or anything, so we sat on the curb. The tortillas are hand made, patted out by a woman who works in the truck (it seems to be a family business):


The area is apparently inhabited by feral kitties, and one came up to me. I tried to offer it a nom, but it was skittish and, after meowing a few times, walked away. It was one of the most beautiful stray cats I’ve ever seen (it was in good condition), and I deeply wanted to take it home. Look at  that silver-gray coat and those blue eyes!


On my last night, I collected on a very old bet. My friend Rick Grosberg, an evolutionary biologist who works on invertebrates, bet me in 2008 that Obama would not win the presidency. He deeply wanted Obama to, so I took the opportunity for a “sucker bet.”  I bet him a duck dinner that Obama would win, telling him that if he did, Grosberg would be so elated that he’d be glad to make me a duck dinner. (I made the same bet in 2012, so I have another dinner to collect.)

Grosberg paid off with a magnificent meal: he’s one of the two best male cooks I know. We started with a flute of Veuve Cliquot, served with local olives and pistachios, flatbread, and a local goat cheese. Then came the magret de canard (duck breast), cooked on the rare side, the way I like it. Rick had marinated it all day in pomegranate juice, molasses, and a brew of other stuff I couldn’t remember, then grilled it outside:

Cooking magret

Cutting the magret, clearly cooked properly:

cutting magret

The side dish was a wonderful casserole of leeks, Comte cheese, and croutons:


A plate fit for a king:

dinner plate

After the champagne, the wines included a fantastic Rioja from 2004, and then, for dessert, a sweet Italian—Recioto de Soave. It was the first time I had this wine, and it was luscious, tasting much like a late-harvest Riesling:


For dessert there was a grapefruit pound cake made by Rick’s partner, the well known pianist Lara Downes. Sadly, I nommed it before taking a picture.

As lagniappe, I got to hold their pet rabbit, Snuffles:


As you see, there was no dearth of noms. The next installment (I hope) will be photos of Davis’s annual Picnic Day, when the university puts on a big party with parades, sheep d*g trials, dachshund races, and all kinds of bells and whistles.



  1. George
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    This is food porn. Please stop posting things like this. Or at least put a BIG warning at the top of the post. Now I will have to cancel all my plans for today and head to Pilsen, then Chinatown and then over into Indiana and the 3 Floyds Brewpub. That could start to make a dent in the cravings you have induced.

    • Joe L
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Agreed! Jerry, why don’t you weight 400 pounds? There’s just no justice in this world….

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        As a world class censor, he obviously carries a (badly evolved, easily displaced, zoonotic) worm with him.
        (Says me, struggling to get south of too-many pounds, kilos, drachms or scruples. Actually, scrub the scruples, I’ve always managed to ditch them given a good enough reason.)

        • Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          If you’d like to ease your struggle…make sugars (including in pre-packaged foods) a luxury item, ideally targeting < 15 g / day; eat lots of fresh veggies with every meal; eat carbohydrates and proteins in quantities roughly equal to what the textbooks say you should; eat culinarily-reasonable minimally-processed (including minimally-cooked) fats with the meal; get in four or five days a week of 15 – 45 minutes of vigorous strength-building exercises; and get a good eight hours of sleep each night. Most of the rest should take care of itself.

          At that point, indulgence of whatever boats your float are very good, so long as they occur about as infrequently as Jerry luxuriates in his.

          And no need for a gym or fancy equipment for the exercise; your own body is the ultimate gym. If you have friends in or recently separated from a modern military organization, they should be plenty familiar with bodyweight exercises. If you’d like the pre-digested version, see Mark Lauren‘s book.



    • Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Amen George! 🙂 Good thing that I just ate – otherwise I might have to head to Griff’s in Denver which appears to be very similar to Redrum.

  2. Vaal
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Magnificent Jerry.

    Mmmm, bread pudding. One of my favorite all time deserts. If it’s on the menu it’s impossible for me to not order it.


  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink


  4. gravityfly
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I’m so hungry now. 😦

  5. Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Redrum bufgers –
    In the UK Redrum is the name of probably our most famous racehorse.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      And given the recent ‘horse meat in burgers and lasagne’ scandal, a Red Rum Burger would have very different connotations in the UK. 🙂

      Shergar and fries, anyone? 🙂

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        Shergar and fries, anyone?

        “Hold the fries!”

    • Graham Martin-Royle
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I got quite worried there.

  6. Merilee
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    All look fantastic! Miss those Calif taco trucks. I have a good feijoada recipe I had forgotten about…and magret de canard: to die for.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      I love mexican food and for years there has been no place around me to get any worth paying for. I’ve lived in New Mexico and California, and I yearn for the good stuff.

      And just recently I found a little Mexican grocery store with a little kitchen in the back, making everything fresh right there, including the tortillas. Beef cheek tacos, fully prepared. YUM! Both the red and the green salsa that they make right there, YUM. Can’t go wrong either way.

      And the breakfast burritos? Don’t get me started. It’s the tortillas that really puts them over the top. And I’m not even a bread person.

    • Posted April 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Merilee, you wanted to know the schedule for Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities on TVO.
      It’s on this Wed. at 7pm. Might be back to back episodes again and most probably the last of it. Re-airs on Fri. at 1am. Episodes 3 and 4 are available online at TVO till May 8. Looks like the first 2 episodes are no longer available, but should come up on youtube someday.

  7. darrelle
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Holy Cow! You have been feted like royalty Jerry! Life is good!

  8. john frum
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    I was looking forward to nom photos and boy I sure wasn’t disappointed.
    Cette premiere biere a une couleur parfait.
    When I used to brew all-grain beer that was the colour I would often aim for when making an American pale ale, along with cascade hops which give you that wonderful citrus and passion fruit aroma. Mmmmmmm.

    My noms today have all been airline food but I am now in Perth in Oz and they have some of the best Indian restaurants I have been to.
    Only a few blocks away from my hotel is a place called Chutney Mary’s which makes a killer goat curry.

  9. Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I shall be hungry for a week….


  10. E.A. Blair
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The Shiningremains the only one of Stanley Kubrick’s non-documentary films I have never seen. It will probably remain so, as my dislike for Stephen King is far greater than my liking for Kubrick.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      I saw the original as a kid & it scared the bejesus out of me. I was about the same age as the little boy in the movie. My parents really should have been more strict with what I saw on TV but the upside was I got a lot of exposure to Monty Python that other kids my age probably didn’t get.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      The fact that the movie is King’s least favorite adaptation of his work may motivate you to see it.

      Actually, the film and the book are very different, but IMO each works on their own internal terms.

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        No, I don’t think so. Given my low opinion of King, if even he thinks it’s bad I’ll probably hate it. The only book king wrote that I could manage to get through was Danse Macabre, and that is not fiction, but on King’s philosophy about writing horror stories. Of his other books, I once said, “That’s not writing, that’s word processing.”

  11. Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    And to think all I’ve had all morning are steamed asparagus and gai-lan greens…. 😦 Now I long for all of those goodies.

    Could that be bosc pear in the stuffed dates, rather than apples?

  12. Bill Gilliland
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I miss Redrum burger a lot, it was one of the best things about Davis. But you have the story of its name a little off…

    Murder Burger had expanded to a couple of restaurants in the central valley, but the two people who owned the business had a falling out and divided the assets. They did have a lawsuit, which resulted in one of them getting control of the restaurant you went to, and the other getting to keep the name Murder Burger.

    The now-sole owner of the Davis restaurant needed a new name, so they publicized a contest through the Davis Enterprise to come up with a new name for the place. The prize was free burgers for life which, given the heart-attack-on-a-plate nature of the food, might be a smaller prize than you would think. There were a lot of great entries (“Dial B for Burger” was my favorite) and they picked RedRum Burger as the winner, which a number of people sent in.

    They gave the prize to someone who lived several hours away from Davis, so my guess is they already knew the name they wanted, and picked someone that lived far away to minimize the cost of the prize. But that’s just a hunch…

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Not to mention that the menu says
      “Shining new name- same great taste” 🙂

  13. Vince
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I’m glad our small town offered some delicious meals and drinks! I quite enjoyed both of your talks, and thanks again for signing my copy of Speciation!

  14. Jim Thomerson
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I’ve never seen corncakes, like those shown, in Venezuela. The usual is arepas, which are white, fried or baked, with a sticky inside. The corncakes do look good, however.

  15. ginger k
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    What a gorgeous bunneh!

    What an ironic name — snuffles is the name of a deadly viral bunneh disease. My last bunneh dies of it.

  16. Kevin Alexander
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    the university puts on a big party with parades, sheep d*g trials, dachshund races, and all kinds of bells and whistles.

    Shoudn’t that be dachsh*nd races?

  17. Posted April 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty I had seen Dr. Coyne at the Co-op the other day. The blog post with the pictures of the beer cooler there confirmed it.

    I didn’t realize he was giving a talk at UCD or I would have gone… I was too shy to go up to him at the Co-op and introduce myself…

    Glad you enjoyed your stay! Maybe you’ll be back soonish?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Glad to hear you’re pretty – why not post a photo :-).

  18. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    sharing a pitcher with me at the Delta of Venus after work,

    Well, I’ve never heard it called that before.
    Or do you have a uniquely American meaning of “pitcher” that I’ve never heard of beforeeeee…… OIC, Pitcher plant … yeah, it’s a sheath.
    I can’t read “Delta of Venus” without thinking of …
    Wife, don’t tie your clothing!

  19. Douglas
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    So you are an Alex Honnold fan, you enjoy Pliny, and have the best posts on science and philosophy on the internet…. If you are into backpacking/hiking too then I think I’m in love with you.

  20. Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    so, what was the duck grilled over, charcoal or gas?

  21. revelator60
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I went to school in Davis and greatly enjoyed Professor Ceiling Cat’s post. The picture of the feral cat surprised me, because a friend of mine found a kitten with the exact same coat and eye-color near the Davis synagogue–we joked that he was Jewish, but my friend eventually named him Zeus. He is now a very big and sweet cat, but suffers from diabetes.
    Anyway, this type of cat is apparently known as a Seal Lynx Point. They are derived from the Siamese breed.

  22. BilBy
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Feijoada and its variants is/are a thing of beauty.

  23. merilee
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Muchas gracias Smokedpaprika for the Attenborough info. I’ll look for it.

  24. uncleebeneezer
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I thought El Pastor was typically pork. Anyways, looks yummy (all of it.)

  25. Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Cheers and bon appétit!

    That stray (is it really a stray or a cat that is allowed out?) is a dead ringer for my beloved late Dusty, except that Dusty had cream-coloured irises with just a very faint hint of pale blue around the pupils:

%d bloggers like this: