September 30, 2009
Health inspectors close popular Sacramento cafe

A downtown Sacramento lunch spot famous for its soup has been shuttered due to cockroaches.

La Bonne Soupe, which topped a Sacramento Zagat Survey category earlier this year, closed this morning after Sacramento County health inspectors found pests in the small restaurant at 920 8th Street.

An inspector found three live cockroaches and 15 dead ones during a routine inspection, said John Rogers, the county's environmental health division chief. The cafe was closed before lunch service and a red "Closed" placard, which means an "immediate danger to public health or safety," was issued.

A call to the restaurant's owner, Daniel Pont, has not yet been returned.

Rogers characterized the infestation as "mild."

"This one isn't that bad, so it shouldn't be too hard to get it reopened," he said.

The county closes a little more than 100 food facilities each year, which amounts to about 1 percent of the facilities inspected.

La Bonne Soupe, owned and operated single-handedly by Pont, is well-known for its lunch fare and the droves of people that stand in line for the Frenchman's soups and sandwiches.

The restaurant earned the No. 1 ranking in the "best food" category in the Sacramento Zagat Survey pocket dining guide released in January.

Kerri Aiello, a spokeswoman with the Countywide Services Agency, said her phone has been ringing in protest since news about the restaurant broke earlier today.

"People are calling me and saying 'Why did you do it?'" said Aiello, who also is a fan of the soup spot.

Pont will have to enlist a pest control company to eliminate the cockroach problem and pay a $199 re-inspection fee. The restaurant will remain closed until environmental health officials can re-inspect the facility.

The length of time a restaurant remains shuttered varies, but "sometimes it's just one day," Aiello said.

Click here to check out The Bee's restaurant inspection database.

September 29, 2009
Sacramento scores @ Great American Beer Festival


The Great American Beer Festival, held this past weekend in Denver, featured some 3,300 beers vying for honors. And when the last suds were sipped and winners announced, two Sacramento breweries emerged with honors.

Rubicon Brewing Company (2004 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; 916-448-7032) won a silver medal in the "other strong beer" category for a Winter Wheat Wine. Nice work, folks ...

Sacramento Brewing Company (2713 El Paseo Ln., Sacramento; 916-485-4677) nabbed a bronze medal in the "Belgian and French-Style Ale" category for a beer called Collaborative Evil.

"It's a Belgian style golden ale that was a project with eight other breweries," says Peter Hoey (pictured above), brewmaster at Sacramento Brewing Company. "It's a very dry beer but still has a nice full mouthfeel. The aroma is really complex, but subtle. There's pear and stone fruits, with a mild spicy finish. It's just really smooth and easy to drink."

Apparently the judges agreed, and doesn't a sip of Collaborative Evil sound good right now? The downside is that Sacramento Brewing Company is currently sold out of the Collaborative Evil, but some may be available for a future tasting. Stay tuned ...

September 29, 2009
Recipes from Patrick Mulvaney


Hope you saw Sunday's story about Patrick Mulvaney, the Sacramento chef and locavore legend. As a bonus, we've got some recipes from Mulvaney with ingredients that can be found at local farmers markets. Even better, they aren't too tough to recreate at home. Enjoy!

Easy California Gazpacho


4 Ripe, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 medium cucumber, cut likewise
3 Garlic cloves
½ red onion, sliced
Juice from one lemon or lime
Olive Oil

Squeeze the tomatoes and add the next four ingredients to a blender. Three pinches of salt, 4 grinds of pepper put the lid on and turn it on. As it starts to smooth out drizzle in olive oil, probably about 2-4 ounces. Turn the machine off and taste, checking for salt & pepper. (Remember, you can always add more.) You can put some more oil in if you want to make it taste richer.

Refrigerate until ready to serve; can garnish with an extra drizzle of oil or some basil.
If you like things spicy you can throw a jalapeno into the blender when you make the soup. Serve, sit back and enjoy the soup and the compliments.

Summery Bledsoe Pork
Serves 4-6

24 oz Bledsoe (or other) Boneless Pork Loin
Egg wash (2 cups seasoned flour, 6 eggs beaten with equal part water, 2 cups breadcrumbs)
1 lb. linguine, cooked al dente
2 ears of roasted corn, kernels removed
1 onion, diced
1 basket of cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh oregano/thyme

Butter, oil, salt, pepper

Slice pork in 2 oz slices and run through egg wash. Heat large skillet, add oil and cook pork, browning on both sides (about 2 minutes). Transfer to a sheet pan and finish in oven. Wipe pan clean and sauté onion in butter until soft and golden, add garlic and corn kernels. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, oregano, salt & pepper. Add cooked linguine. Stir well. Serve & enjoy!!

Strawberry Sorbet
Makes about one quart


One pint of really ripe Strawberries
3 cups of simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 egg for testing
Ice cream mixer


To make simple syrup bring equal parts of sugar and water together in a pot bring to a boil over high heat until the liquid clears. Transfer to different container. This can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

Take green tops off strawberries (called Hulling) and puree in a mixer. Put in a narrow container, add an equal amount of simple syrup and mix thoroughly. Wash one egg and float in mixture. When part exposed above base is between the size of a dime and quarter the sorbet is ready for churning. Follow the instructions for your ice cream machine, transfer to the freezer or enjoy straight out of the churn!

September 25, 2009
Round-up of food/wine events

Looking for a food-related day trip, or just other culinary stuff to do? Check out this round-up:

Sunday: Ever had a hankering to learn about making wine at home? Attend a class, hosted by the Italian Center (6821 Fair Oaks Blvd. Carmichael), which will show you how ordinary grape juice can be transformed into wine. The class also includes antipasti and dessert, with instructions and recipes to take home. $25. For more information: 916-482-5900.

Oct. 3: Do you love beer? Do you love wine, too? Well shoot, they've got all your bases covered at the California Beer & Wine Festival in Yuba City. Tickets run $25 online at or $30 at the door. Look for suds from Lost Coast Brewery, North Coast Brewing Company (hope they're pouring the Brother Thelonious ale), Rubicon and many more.

Oct. 10 - 11:
Take a stroll down the Sierra Oro Farm Trail in Butte County, where farm-to-table food and wine awaits you on "Passport Weekend." Participating wineries include Gale Vineyards, Long Creek Winery, Grey Fox Vineyards and more. "Passport Weekend" runs from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Oct. 10 - 11 and tickets cost $25 online @

Oct. 17: Whew, it's feeling a little chili out there. And on Oct. 17, Woodbridge Winery (5950 East Woodbridge Rd., Acampo) will be hosting the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) California State Championship Chili Cook-off. Think you've got the best chili in the Golden State? Call (209) 365-8139 or visit for entry information. The event runs from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. and also includes a car show and plenty of food/drink for sale. Rolaids not included.

September 23, 2009
Steak with vegetables, mozzarella wins big at National Beef Cook-off

winner.JPGThey came. They cooked. Seven of them conquered.

But the 2009 National Beef Cook-off winners circle didn't include our local teenage contestant, Natalie Benthin.

In the end, it was Mary Hawkes, of Prescott, Ariz., who took home the $25,000 "Best in Beef" prize for her Sonoma Steaks with Vegetables Bocconcini.

Her winning recipe was one of five entered in the "Live Well with Fast & Convenient Grilled Beef," a category that only allowed competitors to use six ingredients (along with a few freebie ingredients such as salt), and three steps of preparation of less.

Hawkes, who has competed in several cooking contests - including the Pillsbury Bake-off and National Chicken Cook-off - used the herb marinade from the mozzarella balls to flavor the boneless beef top loin steaks and vegetables in her dish.

The simple elegance and vibrant flavor of the dish was a hit with the judges (I was one of five judges at the competition, but did not judge Benthin's category. More on the judging experience later). The recipe called for the mozzarella and red grape tomatoes to get a brief rendevous with the microwave, a manuever judges thought was odd on paper, but fantastic on the palate.

"I liked the simplicity and the innovative use of the ingredients," said Amy Sherman, a food blogger and cookbook author from San Francisco who judged the entries Wednesday. "The finished product was just refreshing ... I would really make that dish."

As it turns out, it was Hawkes' last chance to compete for the beef cook-off's grand prize - she's attempted to secure the title twice before.

Here are the other winners, listed by category, state of residence and recipe name. First place winners received $10,000; second place received $5,000.

"Live Well with Fast & Convenient Grilled Beef Recipes"

First place: Kristina Vanni, California, Orange-Chipotle Skirt Steaks
Second place: Deborah Biggs, Nevada, Treviso Fig & Pear Steak Salad

"Teens Cooking with Beef"
First place: Morgan Hanrahan, Washington, Southeast Asian Steak Salad
Second place: Erin Ozment, Oklahoma, Olympian Burgers

"Lean Beef in Nutrient Rich One-Dish Meals"
First place: Elizabeth Bennett, Washington, Sonoma Ranch Steak Salad
Second place: Fran Fehling, New York, Beef Ranch Zucchini Gnocchi

A highlight of this year's competition for many was watching the teens cook, said Sherry Hill, the cook-off's program manager. The teenage competition was a first for the National Beef Cook-off.

"It's fun to have given teenagers an opportunity to compete," she said. "It's wonderful to see that genuine interest in cooking and their creative talent."

Although Natalie Benthin won't leave Sonoma with prize money for her Sicilian beef short ribs recipe, she's going home with fond memories of the competition.

"I love the adrenaline rush of it," she said. "I would love to do it again."

Click here to read my story about Benthin, which appeared Wedneday in Food & Wine section.

September 22, 2009
National cook-off draws beefy competition, Bee writer as judge

You can smell the competition here in Sonoma.

It's the scent of beef, and yes, it's what's for dinner. And in my case, breakfast and lunch.

I'm one of several judges at the 2009 National Beef Cook-off, a biennial contest second only to the Pillsbury Bake-off.

Fifteen home cooks from across the country are competing Wednesday, including 16-year-old Natalie Benthin, of Grass Valley.

Benthin is among five teenagers competing in one of the categories, "Teens Cooking with Beef" (full disclosure: given our story about Benthin in today's Food & Wine section - which I began reporting and writing before I was asked to judge the competition - I won't be judging the teen category).

Follow this link to see my story on Benthin.

At 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, the other judges and I will be whisked off to a secret room, where succulent creations will be brought in to (hopefully) please our palates.

Several cash prizes are at stake in the three categories. First place winners receive $10,000 and second place winners take home $5,000. The "Best of Beef" grand prize winner also will take home $25,000.

Now that's some moo-la.

I'll be blogging and tweeting as much as possible from the competition. To see my tweets, follow me @SacBeeMomme.

To watch the competition unfold via Ustream, go to the National Beef Cook-off Web site.

September 16, 2009
Sweet potato, chicken stir-fry results in laudable leftovers

I have a confession: I can't stand leftovers.

Apart from leftover components of Thanksgiving dinner, I'm not a fan of repeat meals. Leftovers in my house used to prompt a white lie about the food not looking so great and a call to Round Table. Now, given the economic climate, leftovers are eaten, although sometimes without enthusiasm.

So when I come across a dish that results in appealing leftovers, it becomes a repeat feature in my culinary repertoire (can a woman who routinely uses a slow cooker and would prefer to eat brownies instead of dinner claim to have a repertoire? I'm not so sure, but I'm going with it).

stir-fry.jpgThe first night we had the dinner of sweet potato and pear stir-fry with chicken and chile sauce, it was good in a homey sort of way. The next night, however, it was delicious. The sweet potato had soaked up some of the spice and flavor from the sauce, the pears and the water chestnuts retained just the right amount of crunch.

This flavorful recipe also packs quite a healthful punch: one serving (which includes rice) is 370 calories and has 7 grams of fat, 24 grams of protein and 7 grams of dietary fiber. (If you're a Weight Watcher, it amounts to 7 points per serving).

Follow this link to my blog for the recipe.

September 15, 2009
Music + food = "Chamber in Chambers"

Have a hankering to hear some Haydn while scarfing on a turkey sandwich? Well, head to Rancho Cordova's City Hall (2729 Prospect Park Dr., Rancho Cordova) for "Chamber in Chambers." This lunchtime event, which will run each Wednesday through the end of September, features musicians from the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra playing chamber music inside the city hall's lobby. And if you go, be sure to buy some of the food on site. Jamba Juice will be selling turkey and veggie wraps, salads, chips and fruit smoothies - and 20 percent of the proceeds will go toward the city of Rancho Cordova.

"The Wednesday lunches in September are another way we are being creative about generating new revenues in challenging fiscal times," said Lorianne Ulm of the Rancho Cordova Planning Department, in a press release.

"Chamber in Chambers" runs from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. For more information: 916-851-8755.

BTW, can I request "Summa for Strings" by Arvo Part to go with my smoothie?

September 15, 2009
Jimador coming to Sacramento


Ajua! Mexican Independence Day lands on Wednesday, and as part of the local celebrations an honest-to-goodness jimador is coming to town. We're not talking about El Jimador, the tequila brand, but an actual jimador who harvests agave plants. Cutting off the leaves from a large agave plant is tricky stuff, requiring the use of a hoe-like device called a coa de jima. Jose Cortes, the head jimador for the Herradura and El Jimador brands, will demonstrate how all this agave harvesting is done. Here's where you can find Cortes this week:

Wednesday, September 16
6-9 p.m.
Zocalos (1801 Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA)

Thursday, September 17
6-9 p.m.
Centro's (2730 J Street, Sacramento, CA)

Friday, September 18
5-7 p.m.
La Superior (5731 Hillsdale Blvd, Sacramento, CA)

Friday, September 18
8-10 p.m.
Carmelita's (4071 Howard Street, Fair Oaks, CA)

September 15, 2009
2-Year anniversary celebrations @ Ella


'Twas just about two years ago that Ella Dining Room & Bar (1131 K St.; 916-443-3772) opened its doors. And now, the Selland family wants the hungry Sacramento masses to celebrate with them. So the restaurateurs have put together a special anniversary menu which runs next Tuesday through Saturday. Also look for 1/2 off prices on "Ella Signature Cocktails" next Tuesday, the restaurant's official two year anniversary.

For those who haven't dined lately at Ella, annivesary week is a good chance to sample from the new executive chef, Kelly McCown. The overall food style has been tweaked slightly, with more of an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and thoughtfulness toward food and wine pairings. If the rock shrimp with watermelon salad is still on the menu, go for that and a glass of gruner veltliner to see what I mean.

Or you could just try the anniversary prix fixe menu, which costs $50 per person for three courses and dessert. Here's what chef McCown will be serving:

Salad of Maine Lobster
Creamy Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Pickled Celery Root,
Poached Egg and Applewood Smoked Bacon

Wild and Tame Mushroom Canneloni

Fromage Blanc and Parmesan Cream
Braised Beef Short Ribs

Creamed Bloomsdale Spinach, Truffle Sauce
"Gratin" of Early Fall Turnips

Maple Crème Brulee Tarte
Chocolate Ice Cream and Vanilla Sauce

September 10, 2009
"Top Chef" to Jesse Sandlin: pack your knives and leave

In the end, the snails did in Jesse Sandlin. She was Sacramento's great "Top Chef" hope, a veteran of such local restaurants as Esquire Grill, Spataro Restaurant and Lucca Restaurant and Bar. She's since moved back to her native Baltimore, but still boasts a big rooting section here in Sacramento.

But Jesse got the boot on last night's episode of "Top Chef," after losing a "quickfire challenge" that required the contestants to cook escargot for a high powered judging panel that included Daniel Boulud and Joel Robuchon. Truth is, many viewers probably saw this coming. Jesse was among the bottom contestants after challenges in earlier episodes. (Remember her soup with all the cayenne pepper?)

The other Sacramento connection to "Top Chef" fared much better. That would be Kevin Gillespie, who once worked as sous chef under Michal Tuohy at Atlanta's Woodfire Grill. (Tuohy now serves as executive chef at downtown Sac's Grange Restaurant). Gillespie won last night's escargot challenge, and was not only given immunity from elimination, but donned a suit and was invited to dine and judge his fellow contestants with Robuchon and others. Score!

But Jesse, we still salute you from the River City. Congrats on making it so far on "Top Chef," and come cook for us in Sacramento some time. Ya hear?

September 8, 2009
Best of Show wine dinner @ Evan's Kitchen

The 2009 California State Fair is now but a memory, so it's farewell to deep-fried Twinkies spins on the Tilt-A-Whirl and free admission by wearing MC Hammer pants. And like every year, the California State Fair Wine Garden was a hit, with folks getting a chance to sample award winning wines from the fair's Commercial Wine Competition before, say, hitting up a petting zoo.

And here's another chance to sample some of the fair's winning wines. Evan's Kitchen (855 57th Street, Sacramento) is hosting a dinner on Sept. 14 that pair's the fair's "best of show" wines with four courses and dessert. The cost is $59.95 per person. To reserve a spot: (916) 452-3896.

Here's the "best of show" menu:

First Course:
Basque Veggie Kabobs
with Key Lime Sauce
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir

Second Course:
Mango and Red Onion Shrimp Salad
with Grapefruit and Lime Vinaigrette
RB Cellars Serenade de Blanc '07

Third Course:
Chicken Tenderloin*
in a Port and Raisin Sauce
Bixler '07 Delta Union Island Red

Fourth Course:
Minty Lamb Lasagna* (vegetarians can request "no meat")
Bloomfield Cabernet Sauvignon '07

Chocolate and Orange Torte
with Mango Coulis
Renwood Muscat

September 2, 2009
"Drive Out Hunger," get a slice

Attention: local food banks need your soup cans, and the Cheesecake Factory is looking to sweeten the deal. Look on Thursday for the "Drive Out Hunger" tour truck parked in front of Roseville's Cheesecake Factory (1127 Galleria Blvd., Roseville). The first 500 people who drop off soup cans will receive a complimentary slice of Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake (tm). This "Drive Out Hunger" event, which seeks to collect 100,000 cans on a 30-city tour, runs on Thursday morning from 7 a.m. - 10 a.m.

September 2, 2009
Jamie's just on vacation


Got a message from a reader who drove by Jamie's Broadway Grille (427 Broadway, Sacramento), and noticed a fat padlock on the front door. Had the venerable house of steak sandwiches, as featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," shuttered for good? Well, you and your garlic breath can breathe easy. Jamie's is simply closed this week for vacation. Whew ... so come 11 a.m. Monday, you can contend for a table or seat at the bar, order one of those steak sandwiches or perhaps a bowl of clam chowder, and chow down. This is about as good as lunch gets in Sacramento - just beware of a food coma when you get back to work.

September 2, 2009
Spicy, savory bison burgers make for delectable dinner

burgers.jpgGame for trying game? Whether you're a game meat novice or aficionado, I came up with a recipe for bison burgers that is sure to delight your tastebuds and spice up your dinner.

This burger recipe plays on the buffalo wing concept. The bison meat is topped with oven-fried onion rings, blue cheese and a spicy buffalo wing aioli. The result is a superb burger with just the right amount of kick (the burger is shown at left. Bee photo by Autumn Cruz).

For those of you who may be unfamiliar (or a little wary) of eating bison, it tastes much like beef, only it has a bit stronger of a flavor profile. Ranched bison can be found at some local grocers, such as Raley's, or ordered online.

Still leary? Just swap out beef for bison and you'll have a burger almost as delicious.

Click here to get the recipe for True Blue Bison Burger, or follow this link to my blog.

If you want to learn more about cooking game, check out my story in today's Food & Wine section.

September 1, 2009
Grapefruits may soon get tatted up

File this under "what will they think of next?"

Researchers have developed a laser beam that can tattoo grapefruit and the new technology may soon replace the sticky ID labels that adorn the tart citrus.

The tattoos can't be washed off and allows each piece of fruit to be tracked to its source, according to an e-mail newsletter from the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Testing has shown that the tattoo does not allow pathogens to enter the fruit and researchers are testing similar tattoos on tomatoes, avocados and other citrus, the farm bureau reports.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has to approve the process before it can be used commercially.

No word on whether the tattoos will be heart-shaped and bear the inscription "Mom."

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