July 15, 2011
A foodie's dream trip: Ride with and learn from a great chef

rickmahan200x200.jpgDue to the timing of my vacation, I'm late telling you about a pretty cool event this weekend that combines a few of my favorite things: riding bikes, the American River bike trail and, of course, cooking great food.

It's too late to sign up for this event, unfortunately, but it's worth knowing about it. Don Bybee of Transpocycle and John Boyer of Edible Pedal have put together a bike ride and overnight camping adventure that highlights what a great area we live in for bikes. It's a 22-mile ride on Saturday from midtown up to the camp site at Negro Bar State Park along Lake Natoma, with a return ride on Sunday.

But there's something else that makes its extraordinary. Rick Mahan, one of the area's most respected chefs and the owner of Waterboy and OneSpeed, is also a big-time advocate for bicycles. He simply thinks they're a good idea. So do I. When you ride a bike, you don't pollute, you burn lots of calories, you see things differently than when you're locked in a car, and you get this soulful feeling of connecting with a simple machine that only goes when you make it go.

Mahan will give the campers, limited to a group of 25, a cooking demonstration and then cook dinner for them at the camp site. For those who are into food, it's well worth the $49 fee for that alone. Just imagine getting tips and insights from a chef of that caliber, then hanging around and being able to enjoy his food and ask questions.

When I caught up with Mahan last week by phone, he was still putting together his thoughts on the menu and what he would tell his audience about eating well while camping. Mahan has plenty of experience as a teacher. He has been giving occasional cooking lessons at Waterboy for years and has done the same more recently at OneSpeed, his always-bustling pizzeria and café. He also taught a class recently on making pizza at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

"This is going to be a group of 25. I'm just going to cook and talk about how easy it is to have a good meal when you're hiking or camping if you do a little prep work," the chef told me.

Mahan and I are also in agreement that these kinds of small-scale bike tours are a great thing for Sacramento. For years, I have been saying that the city does not take advantage of its bike culture with regard to tourism. So this kind of simple ride is a great start, and it takes advantage of one of the greatest urban bike trails anywhere (for those not in the know, it's 32 miles from downtown to Beals Point without ever encountering vehicular traffic).

"Every time I'm out there (on the bike trail), I'm reminded how great it is," Mahan said. "This trip is such a natural because we have such a great area that is so close. This is the inaugural ride. I'd be more than happy to do it every time."

There you go. Even though I'm late telling you about this one, it looks like you'll have more chances to ride with and learn from this great chef.

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