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Supply chain economics and market shortages can feel abstract, right up until they throw a wrench in south Sacramento County’s Thanksgiving plans.
Spaans Cookie Co., a Galt destination since the 1950s, won’t sell its pies or rolls this Thanksgiving, the bakery announced in an email to customers on Oct. 19. Supply chain issues and labor shortages are the culprit, according to the email. A similar message appears on the bakery’s website.
For the uninitiated, the family-owned bakery at 456 C St. is an institution. Spaans pies are packed full of real fruit and minimal pectin; a 10-inch pie goes for around $14. Those who don’t know Spaans by name have probably seen their cookies on the shelves of Food 4 Less, Whole Foods and 20-plus other grocery stores catering to all budgets. And don’t forget the breakfast pastries, breads and 100-plus varieties of tea sold in-house.
I broke the news to Darrell Smith, The Sacramento Bee’s Elk Grove reporter and, along with his wife, the biggest Spaans fan I know. After crying for about 10 minutes (not really, but close enough), Darrell told me about how his family in Yuba City counts on him to bring Spaans pies to holiday gatherings. They’re far from the only ones: Holiday pie pickup involves waiting in line like it’s already Black Friday, except Spaans employees pass out complimentary cider and cookie samples.
“It’s sort of this game-day type of thing. You prepare for it, you go down and stand in line with everyone … there are literal lines down the block and around the block an hour or so before they open,” he said. “Christmas Eve 2019, they opened at 12:30 (p.m.). I was there at 11:45, and that was late. There were maybe 30 to 40 people in line already.”
For those in need of a pivot, other Sacramento bakeries including Real Pie Co., Freeport Bakery and Ettore’s are still taking Thanksgiving pie orders.
What I’m Eating
It doesn’t look like much — a tight, casual Chinese restaurant in a West Sacramento strip mall. But give Peace a chance, and you’ll find a semi-hidden gem.
Peace Cuisine, at 829 Jefferson Blvd., a mile from Sutter Health Park, delivers Cantonese comfort food for American stomachs. Portions are gargantuan — I went Monday and will still be working on leftovers all week. The restaurant advertises that no MSG is added to any dish, but recent studies have indicated that perceived allergy to this naturally occurring compound is more rooted in xenophobia than science.
A grilled chicken lunch special ($11, plus another $1 after 5 p.m.) piled succulent thighs in a soy marinade on top of the customer’s choice of chow mein or fried rice, with a cream cheese wonton and hot-and-sour or egg drop soup on the side. We opted for the chow mein and a full order of the yangzhou fried rice ($14, Anglicized as yang chow on the menu), which came with shrimp, barbecued pork and scrambled egg.
Neither was particularly fancy, uncommon or hard to make. Both hit the spot eaten out of a takeout container, still steaming hot 20 minutes after pickup, on a drizzly night with an empty fridge. The noodles had an appropriate level of give, the proteins were frequent throughout the fried rice — it was simple food, yes, done extremely well.
So, too, was the shrimp egg foo young ($16), a Chinese omelet folded over in the takeout box and stuffed with bean sprouts, onions and 21 good-sized crustaceans (chicken, beef and veggie variations also exist for a few bucks less). An oyster sauce-based gravy provided all the umami flavor one could want. In a strange way, it reminded me of a slightly lighter Hangtown Fry, the Placerville-specific omelet containing shelled oysters and bacon.
There’s a lot of restraint here: Chef Eric Kuang came to Peace Cuisine from the more refined Lotus 8 in Folsom and cooked in Hawaii under a Hong Kong native before that. It’s clear he could be making more exciting dishes at a better-known restaurant, an itch that’s partially scratched by his willingness to make off-menu dishes upon customers’ advance requests.
He’s evidently content at Peace, though. For West Sacramento, that means exceptional no-frills Cantonese food — lots and lots of it.