April 30, 2009
You can breathe easy when eating pork

So I'm working on a story about food safety and talked recently with Christine Bruhn. She researches food safety issues at UC Davis' Department of Food Science and Technology, and after getting some tips for safe cooking, I asked her about the possibility of catching "swine flu" from eating pork and pig-related products. Here's what she said, and the news was good for this guy who loves smoking some spareribs:

"There's no evidence whatsoever," said Bruhn, about the possibility of catching swine flu by eating a pork chop. "People who work with hogs are more susceptible because (the virus) is passed from moisture droplets when the animal is breathing. You don't find that at all with eating meat, which is just muscle tissue and there's no viral parts on that. Even if you sneezed on the meat, the surface heat from cooking destroys (the virus)."

April 29, 2009
New home for Plan B Cafe

Growing up in the Greenhaven/Pocket area was good enough, though dining options weren't so decent back then. Sure, we had such standbys as Shari's in the Lakecrest Village shopping center, soup and sandwiches at Rainbow's End, Chinese food at Chopsticks Express ... but you really had to go elsewhere for a proper sit-down dinner. You could at least haul over to South Land Park and feast at Neptune's Table - a restaurant where yours truly bussed tables in the summer before college.

Many other eateries opened in the Greenhaven/Pocket area over the years, but Plan B Cafe truly elevated the culinary scene in these 'burbs upon opening in 2007. Mussels and rainbow trout, California and French vino, a hefty hangar steak ... it was enough to return to my old stomping grounds with a rumbling stomach. But less than two years later, Plan B Cafe was done. Its Greenhaven Dr. location has since been taken over by Ravenous Cafe, an equally solid eatery which merited four stars in Blair Anthony Robertson's recent review. (I'll vouch for the tastiness of the pappardelle with mushrooms and roasted chicken, and the rich risotto).

Reminiscing aside, I've got some good news to report. Plan B Cafe just opened at its new home at the Arden Town Center (Fair Oaks Blvd. at Watt Ave.). The menu appears to be much of the same: mussels with pommes frites, 12 oz. grilled rib-eye, roasted tomato tartelettes and the like. Owner Lionel Lucas says that dinner is now being served Tuesday through Saturday, and expects to add lunch within the next two weeks. Sounds like the Greenhaven faithful will be trekking to a different 'burb to get their Plan B fix. For more information: (916) 483-3000 or check

April 28, 2009
More Mexican restaurants

Last week's Food & Wine cover story was all about "real" Mexican food around the region, and along with my own picks for the most authentic resturants around Sacramento, I asked readers to chime in as well. Here's what some readers had to say about their favorite Mexican food finds ... please leave more picks in the comments section if you've got some. Arriba!

Rudy's Mexican Gourmet
6011 Stanford Ranch Rd # 107, Rocklin
(916) 435-4050
Says reader Jim Dougherty: "Rudy has many recipes passed down within his family and makes excellent specialty dishes from the Mexico City region. I can honestly say I have never had a bad meal at Rudy's ... It's hard to find true authentic Al Pastor in Sacramento. Rudy's is the best in the region, even better than Lalo's. Watching the pork spinning on the vertical rotisserie, pineapple dripping down is reminiscent of the street vendors in Mexico."

705 Gold Lake Dr # 200, Folsom
(916) 357-5242‎
Says reader Kendal Smeeth: "A few miles to the east in old Folsom is a place you must try if you haven't already. My family and I thrive on Q'Bole. Owned by Mexicans with Spanish speaking staff, their food is delicious and reminds me of my best meals in San Jose Del Cabo and Manzanillos. If you are talking authentic, this one has to be among those you consider."

Las Palmas Restaurant y Pupuseria
7386 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento
(916) 392-1478
Says reader Tanya W.: "You should visit Las Palmas. It's located off Stockton Blvd by Florin Rd. It's a newer restaurant and they have done a nice job with the place. I am new to the area as well, but I have found quite a few places but nothing like this place. In addition to the restaurant they have a little supermarket attached to the restaurant. They offer the normal mexican dishes and also central american dishes. They also have fun with the dishes and they spice things up!"

La Casa Restaurante
2310 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento
(916) 641-8880‎
Says reader Alfredo Burlando: "Our favorite Mexican restaurant is La Casa, a new Mexican restaurant on Fair Oaks Blvd. where they have excellent food, a lot of genuine Mexican dishes, but also some specialties from other Latin American countries. Their food is consistently good, the atmosphere very happy and the service friendly. They also had a good selection of beers and great margaritas!"

Hecho en Mexico Taqueria
374 California St., Woodland
(530) 666-1418‎
Says reader Rodrigo H.: "They have the best crispy shrimp tacos in town and spicy prawns and the salsa bar is awesome."

April 22, 2009
UC Davis' new vineyards

My neck is feeling a little sunburnt right now, and that's because I spent some time around noon at UC Davis' new vineyards. By coincidence or not, more than 2,500 rootstocks were planted today (a.k.a. Earth Day). These rootstocks are providing the foundation for a new 12-acre vineyard that's adjacent to the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. These vineyards will be dedicated toward teaching exercises and studies for students in the departments of viticulture and enology. It may be a year until these rootstocks are developed enough for studying, and about two years until they bear fruit. But they will still provide plenty of hands-on training for using various trellis systems and other vineyard work. For more on these new vineyards and what they mean for winemaking at UC Davis, check the "Vintages" page in our Food & Wine section next Wednesday.

April 22, 2009
In the kitchen with Bernadette Gutierrez


Hola, and hope you had a chance to read my story today about "real" Mexican food in the Sacramento area. Hope you also get a chance to try out the recipes we ran with the story, and check my personal picks for the most authentic Mexican restaurants in Sacramento.

Bernadette Gutierrez was one of the sources for my story, and she also joined me for lunch at Lalo's Restaurant on 24th St. We scarfed on quesadillas with flor de calabaza (squash blossom), tamales and I also went for an order of rich and marbled tacos de cabeza (head meat). Bernadette is a celebrated Mexican cook who lives in Land Park, studied with Mexican cuisine authority Diana Kennedy and has also taught local classes in making tamales and mole. The picture above shows Bernadette preparing a Oaxacan meal in her home, and I'm getting hungry just looking at it.

Here's a recipe from Bernadette for the sauteed dish known as guiso, along with her thoughts on cooking:

"I found my love of cooking through my mother, who used fresh herbs and vegetables from her garden. My palate became rich at such a young age because of her. I recently asked my mother how she started to make guisos, which she learned from her mother. Growing up in a family of eight, my mother was often pressed for time. But she was stil quite a cook, creating quick delicious meals for us to enjoy. Opening the refrigerator or using what was growing in her vast garden often made up her meals.

"A guiso is a sautée of various foods, such as a combination of meat, sausages, herbs, chiles, onions, tomatoes or any thing you have on hand to sautee quickly. You can add them to beans or potatoes. You can serve in burritos or as a delicious side dish. Guisios can be great, easy meals on weeknights or weekends where you don't want to slave away in the kitchen all day. I've passed this tradition down to my children for their families and it is certain to continue!"


1 cup of chopped onions
3 medium size tomatoes chopped
3 finely chopped chile serranos - or to taste
1 cup of shredded queso oaxacca or jack cheese
option: prior to serving add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro

Start out by cooking your chorizo on a low flame. Meanwhile, chop your onions and tomatoes and chile. Add to cooking chorizo. If the chorizo is giving off too much fat, drain excess. After your ingredients are soft add 4 cups of cooked beans and mix. Add shredded cheese.

April 21, 2009
Free pretzels

Go ahead and get it twisted: National Pretzel Day is April 26, and local Pretzel Time outlets will be giving away free pretzels on that day. Sounds like there's a holiday for everything these days, but marketing manuevers aside, we're certainly down for a free pretzel. So stop by your friendly neighborhood Pretzel Time and pick up your freebie (one pretzel per customer). Here's a list of Pretzel Time locations:

Galleria Mall @ Roseville
1151 Galleria Mall #276
Roseville, CA 95678

Sunrise Mall
6138 Sunrise Mall
Citrus Heights, CA 95610

Folsom Premium Outlets
13000 Folsom Blvd #209
Folsom, CA 95630

Arden Fair Mall
1689 Arden Way #1118
Sacramento, CA 95815

Country Club Plaza
2380 Watt Ave #330
Sacramento, CA 95825

April 21, 2009
Stolichniy postscript: The mushroom soup

OK, so I thought I got a pretty good cross section of the menu when I visited this Russian and Ukrainian eatery in North Highlands. Then the phone rang and the emails poured in. I didn't try the mushroom soup. You have to try the mushroom soup.

The first call came at 5 a.m. Sunday. More followed. No one wanted to argue about my thoughts on the food or my description of the young people swigging vodka 'til their heads exploded. They just wanted folks to know about the mushroom soup.

So if you go to Stolichniy, try the mushroom soup. As that early morning caller exclaimed, "It's the best soup I've ever had."

April 17, 2009
Sean Minor Wines tasting

Let's give it up for the home team: Sean Minor calls Sacramento home and produces tasty northern California wines at reasonable prices. Now that's a double whammy ... I recommended MInor's 2006 Four Bears Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) in a recent dispatch of "Liquid Assets." Really enjoyed this varietally correct version of cabernet at a reasonable price. Well you can now taste this wine and others, along with meeting the man himself, on Saturday at Capitol Cellars (110 Diamond Creek Place, Roseville). This tasting runs from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. and will include samples from his Sonoma County sauvignon blanc ($16), cabernet sauvignon and Central Coast chardonnay ($15). The event costs $10. For more information: (916) 786-9030.

April 17, 2009
Port event postponed

The event is an excellent opportunity to learn about the history of port and taste many of them, to boot. But you've now got to wait a little longer. Introduction to Port and the Douro, which was to be held at UC Davis' Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Theater, has been postponed until later this fall or perhaps even winter. No word yet on exactly why this event has been pushed back, but we'll keep you posted when we hear more. When it all goes down, this $125 port discussion and tasting will be led by grocer/port expert Darrell Corti and Dr. Roger Boulton from UC Davis' department of viticulture and enology. Stay tuned ...

April 14, 2009
Meal deals

Tax Day's just about here, and many of us will be pinching our pennies extra hard. Thanks Uncle Sam ... in any case, price breaks at local restaurants are sounding extra tasty right now, so here are a couple to consider:

- L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen (1801 L Street) is offering a two-for-one deal on their prix fixes menus throughout the month of April. This deal commemorates L's two year anniversary as a sipping and eating spot in midtown, and will save you $35. For menus and more information, click here.

- Buca di Beppo - or as we like to say, "Buca di Burp-o" - is currently offering a 20 percent discount to all California state employees. Given that a "small" portion of spaghetti with marinara can feed two or three people for $9.99, that's a whole lotta eating on the cheap - and especially if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is your boss. Buca di Beppo operates locally at 1249 Howe Ave. and 1212 Galleria Blvd. in Roseville. Burp ...

April 14, 2009
Christopher Robert Johnson R.I.P.

Sad news to report: Christopher Robert Johnson, winemaker for Kendall Jackson, passed away on April 4 from complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 46. Johnson had Sacramento roots, graduating from Jesuit High School, and went on to earn his oenology degree from California State University, Fresno. A memorial celebration was held Saturday at Johnson's Calistoga home.

To read Johnson's funeral notice and leave a remembrance, click here.

April 9, 2009
Hot Italian hosts fundraiser for Italian earthquake victims

Tonight (Thursday, April 9) Hot Italian, the popular new restaurant at 16th and Q Streets in midtown Sacramento, will host a fundraiser for victims of the recent earthquake in Italy.

From 5-9 p.m., the restaurant will donate 100 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of pizza, Peroni, wine and gelato. The money will be turned over to the National Italian American Foundation's Abruzzo Relief Fund.

Those who wish to contribute further, may drop off a check at Hot Italian made out to the NIAF/Abruzzo Relief Fund.

Hot Italian also notes there are two other ways to donate:

Mail a check:
NIAF/Abruzzo Relief Fund
The National Italian American Foundation
1860 19th Street
NW Washington, DC 20009

Or send money online

April 7, 2009
Cosentino comes to Lodi

Yes, we love some Napa wine around here - save for the weekend traffic congestion on Highway 29 and increasingly exorbitant tasting fees. Now there's a chance to get a little taste of Napa in Lodi. Cosentino Winery, based in Yountville, opened a tasting room in Lodi on April 1. This addition brings founder Mitch Cosentino back to his central valley roots. He first started making wine in Modesto circa 1980, and even after moving his operations to Napa continued to source grapes from Lodi.

The new Cosentino tasting room (3750 E. Woodbridge Rd, Woodbridge) features three wine flights:

- "The Wines" includes five tastes of its Lodi based wines for $5 (some of these wines are blended with Napa fruit).
- "Zin Trio" features tastes of three zinfandels for $5.
- "Napa Experience" costs $15 for five tastes of Cosentino's Napa wines, including a sample of its meritage blend "The Poet" (retail price on this one is a Napa-ish $75 per bottle).

I'm sure some folks won't be so stoked on the increase of Lodi tasting rooms that charge a fee. At least the tasting fee is waived here with the purchase of a bottle, with prices ranging from $18 - $75. For more information: or (209) 333-8014.

April 2, 2009
Feeding the residents of Tent City

Step inside Rudy Hernandez's south Sacramento kitchen and you'll find a smorgasbord of food: eggs and potatoes, chili beans, macaroni salad and much more. But the feast isn't for this 59-year-old, who works as a janitor and in-home care provider. Hernandez cooks for the homeless residents of Tent City as part of his own philanthropy. Watch this video to learn more about Hernandez and take a trip with him to Tent City.

April 2, 2009
New farmers market coming to Winters

It's a great time to be a fan of the farm-to-table food movement. Yet another farmers market is opening in the region, with the Winters Farmers Market debuting on May 3. The setting will be Rotary Park in Winters (Railroad Ave. at Main St.) and runs on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here are some of the participating farmers and some of the bounty you'll find:

- Terra Firma Farm in Winters (organic veggies, fruits and strawberries)
- Yolo Bulb in Winters (olive oil, melons, persimmons, flowers and jam);
- Vue Farms in Elk Grove (vegetables and Asian produce)
- Springhill Cheese in Petaluma (hand-crafted cheeses from Grade A Jersey milk)
- Capay Organic in Capay (organic fruits and vegetables)
- Berryesa Gap Winery in Winters

The Winters Farmers Market will run through Oct. 25. For more information: 530-756-1695.

April 1, 2009
Link o' the day for wine geeks

Prepare to spend the next 30 mins. or so clicking around Dregs Report 2009, an April Fool's aggregator of wine news a la Drudge Report. Sample story: "Turning tables: Real restaurant wins ficticious Spectator wine list award."

(Cheers to J. Freedom du Lac for forwarding this link).

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