Hi! Welcome to the first food blog on Women of Sac!
I am Nikki, and I am so excited to be writing about one of my passions – food! There will be all sorts of food related content coming your way; from restaurant reviews, to conversations with health/wellness/nutrition folks, to tips and tricks for all things about food and more. For my first blog, I picked a restaurant that is co-owned and operated by a woman, Molly Hawks of Hawks Provisions Public House. She was kind enough to not only host me for dinner, but we had a lovely conversation as well. I hope you enjoy my recap as much as I enjoyed my visit!
I opened the door to Hawks Provisions & Public House and smiled. It smelled comforting and cozy and had the décor to match. Quite the juxtaposition from what’s on the other side of the front door; the busy, bustling corner of Alhambra & Stockton Boulevards.
The restaurant itself isn’t very big, and it’s one wide open space. From almost any seat you can look and see the kitchen staff preparing orders for its guests. As it was happy hour, I took a seat at the bar after letting the host know I was there to meet Molly Hawks, the owner and namesake for the restaurant. The bar’s décor is a huge bookshelf type wall that proudly displays all of the alcohol options available to you. I’ve always been a bourbon drinker, but as of late I’ve been enjoying the Old Fashioned, I quickly noticed that more than half of the options were Scotch & Whiskey’s. As I continued to look around the bar, I saw mason jars of different garnishes, dried fruits and spices, droppers full of what I assumed to be bitters, tinctures and other craft cocktail additions. I later learned that Molly calls the head bartender a “…cocktail chef, because what we do with food in the kitchen, he does with cocktails. He’s beyond a mixologist.”
It was nice to just be able to sit and absorb the energy, sounds and smells for a few minutes before meeting Molly and ordering food. “Are you Nikki?” I turned to see Molly Hawks standing behind me and we did the intros and she sat down. I love food and I always check out menus online before I go to any restaurant, and I was really excited to try out this menu. I also love being surprised, so when Molly offered to just have the kitchen start sending things out, I happily and easily agreed.
As we got to talking about the restaurant, a plate of crispy asparagus with lemon aioli arrived in front of us.
I didn’t waste a second. It was so good. And look, you may be thinking, how hard is it to fry up some asparagus? But let me tell you, this was perfection. Not only was the batter the asparagus fried in super light and crunchy, they were salted just right after coming out of the fryer. One of my pet peeves is dishes that are under-salted, as the right amount of salt brings out the flavor in savory dishes (and sweet dishes if we are being honest), so not having to add salt to this dish, automatically catapulted it to the top. The lemon aioli was a great consistency; not too thick and not too thin, one quick dip and I had the perfect bite.
While I was sitting there mid-conversation thinking to myself how I could easily dust the entire plate of asparagus, another plate arrived, this time with deviled eggs. Some may think about deviled eggs as old school or maybe they remind you of the holidays. They certainly aren’t anything new, but they’ve been popping up on menus all over the place. And guess what? Yours truly is a big fan, so when they were placed in front of me, I was stoked. They definitely did not disappoint. The filling was smooth and full of little bites of celery, dill, onion and bacon! The mustard was a bit spicier and there was a distinct flavor that made these stand out more than usual. It could have been the mustard or the little flowers on top. I’m not completely sure, and to be honest, I don’t really care. I do know I will be ordering them again next time I visit though!
The next arrival at our table was an order of Tombo Tuna. Molly smartly had the kitchen split this, as unbeknownst to me at the time, later on she invited me to order another item of my choosing from the menu. I’m glad she did because this proved to be another flavor-packed dish that I had no trouble enjoying every bite of.
Aside from all the delicious food, Molly and I had a lovely conversation. I asked her about her career path from college to now (she was a biology major!), so how did she end up a successful restauranteur? She was a few years out of college and debating medical school, when the dot com bubble was on the rise. She saw several friends make the leap from grad school to Silicon Valley start-ups and “…it got me thinking, I wanted to try something else. I decided to go to cooking school. What’s the worst that could happen? I could learn to cook? Better?”
It turns out, cooking school was the right decision and after time spent in restaurant roles everywhere BUT the kitchen, Molly was told it was her turn to put on an apron and get cooking. She and her husband Mike (who splits his time between Hawks in Granite Bay & Hawks in Sacramento), share 3 children and both made names for themselves in the Bay Area. Eventually, they decided to move to Granite Bay to be close to Molly’s parents and opened up Hawks in 2007. I asked her how the transition from the Bay to the Greater Sacramento area was & has been. “We wouldn’t have made it this far without the support of the community. Sacramento is growing in size, but we still get that local support.”
After I’d asked all my questions, it was time to order a cocktail. I went with the Public House Old Fashioned, which was served with the big square ice cube that has become the standard for Old Fashioned’s. If there is no square ice cube, thank you, next. The drink itself was very good, but I did miss the addition of a dark syrupy cherry. I’ve had them served both ways lately, so I don’t necessarily know the rhyme or reason behind including or excluding it, but I personally love it. Molly ordered their Eastern Thai Crested Gimlet, which was my second choice, and one I will definitely order next time I go, because it features Bombay East Gin, a gin I have never seen on a cocktail menu. I’ve bought it plenty of times to drink at home, and was pleasantly surprised to see it on a local cocktail menu. She hadn’t tried it yet, and said it was fantastic.
Eating with chefs is always fun, because they obviously chose their career because they love food. So when Molly asked if there was anything else on the menu I wanted to try, I didn’t back down. They make their own charcuterie so after she explained to me how each item is made, I chose the country pate to try next. Wow, this was outstanding. Again, another item I easily could have dusted on my own. In fact, if there weren’t so many things on the menu I want to try, I could definitely see myself just ordering the asparagus and the pate and calling it a night. They make the pate with pork and duck livers. Please, please don’t let livers scare you away from ordering something this delicious. Give it a try, it’s heavenly.
As Molly and I enjoyed our drinks and our last dish, I asked her what kind of advice she would give to an aspiring female chef. I appreciated her answer, especially because we are in an era where so much comes to us instantly, we are constantly bombarded with information, choices, and it’s hard to not want and expect things to happen overnight. “Plant yourself, especially if you are a young woman in the kitchen. Find a role model and spend a number of years with them. You really need to make the investment, as the time is invaluable when you’re young in your career, to be with a mentor and soak it all up. It’s tough, it’s not an easy path. You have to put yourself out there and make that commitment and then from there, spread your wings. It can be such a fun career.”