Sacramento has flourished into a foodie scene with its food truck events, new restaurants popping up almost every week and farm-to-fork designation. Christopher Davis-Murai, aka The Bicycle Chef, has been on the Sac food scene for many years and has clear opinions about the city’s culinary climate, which restaurants are worth checking out and which to avoid. And he’s got the street cred. to back up those opinions.
When we visited Christopher in his Land Park home, though, we weren’t there for a day of restaurant success and failure assessment. We came for the focaccia. He’s been making this “base” since 1995 in Seattle when he schlepped his way through the workday just for a chance at learning his mentor’s focaccia recipe. At the time, Christopher was “obsessed with Italian food,” so he latched himself to the Italian chef trading hard work for lessons on technique. When his mentor finally agreed to show him how to make the focaccia, he was a little miffed because he’d worked so hard for such a simple recipe. He soon realized, however, there was no way to perfect the recipe without someone modeling it first. Over the years, he’s tried writing it down for friends, but they can never seem to get it right. This focaccia engages all the senses in order to assess whether the consistency is correct. You have to see the dough peel away from the hook.
Christopher says he’s a traditionalist who believes in simplicity; the sweet spot he says is three or four ingredients—like his focaccia, the original root of pizza. While he values simple dishes and culinary roots, Christopher is anything but entrenched in the old ways.
Once you hang out with him for a bit and get a sense of his energy, you start to understand why this focaccia base suits his cooking style. Christopher is a creative. He’s not one to make a recipe, perfect it and plug it into his repertoire forever unchanged. He’s a culinary explorer who wants a variety of options for each meal. Instead of sitting down planning a meal, he jumps into his kitchen, tests out ingredients. He’s even burned through one KitchenAid Mixer in his fervor. With his new KithcenAid Professional and the focaccia base, he has options galore. He’s topped the focaccia with Vidalia onion, beets, goat cheese and arugula and served it as a main dish or painted an herbed oil over the top and served it as a compliment to his cioppino, a recipe he’s made for 21 years.
This guy’s been doing food a long time in and out of restaurants. He even used to host weekly Sunday dinners. He’d hit up the farmers market, come home, put on some tunes, pour some wine and open his door. Soon his place would be filled with 10-25 friends sharing a great meal sourced from his market findings. Now he’s on the verge of opening his door to the rest of us.
Why a restaurant?
The Thirsty Fork, a “gastropub” that pushes the restaurant boundaries by combining fresh locally-sourced food, a working bicycle museum, a bike repair shop and bar serving Oak Park Brewing Company's libations is in the works as we speak. Christopher’s been an asset to Sacramento’s food community for some time, and we cannot wait ride up to his door, dismount and settle in for a great meal, maybe a chain cleaning and some great conversation.
On Foodies complaining about being called Foodies:
Christopher's found his own balance and is clear about what matters. He's doing what he loves and sharing it with the rest of us. Oh yeah, and that amazing focaccia? It'll be a staple at The Thirsty Fork!
The Bicycle Chef’s Focaccia
Oven preheat: 375d
1 ½ cups warm water (110 degree) 4 cups AP flour + 1 cup in reserve 2 TBSP Active Dry Yeast 1 TBSP Sugar 2 TBSP XVOO (extra virgin olive oil) 1 baking Sheet
- Separate small pot 2 TBSP Butter 2 TBSP XVOO 2 TBSP Kosher or Sea Salt 1 TBSP Dry Basil
- Using a stand mixer and dough hook, combine water, yeast, and sugar. Wait for the yeast to activate forming a head of foam looking like a head of beer. - Incorporate the 4 cups of flour, salt, and XVOO and set mixer speed to second speed setting. Watch dough until it is blended and looking almost gummy dough form. Add a little bit of the reserve flour at a time, watching for the dough to form a slightly sticky dough ball… tacky, but not wet. - Take baking sheet and rub XVOO to cover sheet, you can be liberal with it, but just so the oil will not run off sides. Remove dough ball from bowl, form into a rough football shape and place onto sheet pan. - Continue to flatten and stretch until triangle shaped and roughly about ¾ inch thick, but you can shape diameter into whatever suits you. - Combine butter, XVOO, salt, and dry basil over low heat and stir with basting brush… do not boil or burn-remove immediately. - Place Sheet pan in over for 15 minutes until top is lightly brown, remove and brush oil/butter/salt/basil mixture liberally over focaccia until covered. Finish in over for additional 5 minutes. - Remove, let rest for 10 minutes before slicing… ENJOY!
*** Toppings may vary to your liking… remember, this can be used as a side, a pizza, dipping, etc… use you imagination, but experiment with the basic form first!