Appetizers
November 30, 2009
Release party for "The Wine-Oh! Guide to California's Sierra Foothills"

A few weeks ago, we brought you an interview with Dahlynn McKowen, co-author of "The Wine-Oh! Guide to California's Sierra Foothills." Along with her husband Ken, the two produced a 300-plus page book that covers 83 regional wineries. Now that's a lot of juice.

So, it's time to celebrate the release of the "Wine-Oh!" guide. But this won't be some typical author reading and signing at your local book emporium. This release party is going down on Sunday from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. at David Girard Vineyards (5784 Thompson Hill Rd., Placerville). Come meet the McKowens, who've also co-authored books in the "Chicken Soup For the Soul" series," along with live music and plenty of wine for the tasting.

For more information: visit www.wineohguide.com or call 530-295-1833

November 30, 2009
Turkey stew, dumplings take leftovers to next level

TurkeyStewTDASG.jpgIt's hard to pass up a good deal on a turkey breast this time of year, even if you got your fill on Thanksgiving day.

But the thought of eating the traditional meal for another week can be about as unappealing as the liquid that coagulates amongst the leftover candied yams.

Here's an idea: turn that turkey into delicious dumplings.

Connie Lovatt and Wai Hon Chu, authors of "The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide" (William Morrow Cookbooks, $35, 432 pages), suggest turkey stew with stuffing dumplings.

Click on the attachment to get the recipe.TurkeyDumplingsRecipe.doc

For more information about the book or author events, check out their Web site at www.thedumpling.com.

November 24, 2009
Dessert dilemma solved: try this no-bake pumpkin cheesecake

pumpkin cheesecake.jpgStill looking for a Thanksgiving dessert recipe?

Try this one from the folks at Whole Foods Market. It's user-friendly and the ingredient cost is cheaper than a store-bought version, according to a Whole Foods news release.

Plus you get the bragging rights of having made a homemade dessert.

Follow the link below to get the recipe.

November 23, 2009
Handy cooking guidebook includes helpful Thanksgiving tips

tday.jpgMany of us are committing a lot of our spare (or not so spare) time this week to pondering how best to cook that famed fowl, cranberry sauce recipes, the debate of pumpkin pie versus pumpkin cheesecake.

I've been poring over cooking Web sites, cookbooks and magazines in anticipation. But one book in particular has proven useful in recent days, and I'm sure I'll be thumbing through its pages for answers come Thanksgiving.

It's "Tips Cooks Love: Over 500 Tips, Techniques, and Shortcuts That Will Make You a Better Cook!" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $15, 384 pages). The guidebook comes from Sur La Table and cookbook author Rick Rodgers.

The publisher sent The Bee a review copy about a month ago and it's been my handy helper ever since.

Follow the link below to see some advice on cooking that Thanksgiving meal.

November 20, 2009
B. Smith on her new book, holiday cooking

Since entertaining and lifestyle expert B. Smith is in town, we jumped at the opportunity to chat with her for a few minutes about her latest ventures and the upcoming holidays.

Smith's latest cookbook, "B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style" (Scribner, $35, 336 pages) hit bookstores this month.

She'll be signing copies at Borders Bookstore at 2339 Fair Oaks Boulevard at 7 p.m. tonight.

Q: Tell us about this new cookbook. What treasures does it hold for home cooks?

A: We have three restaurants and the one in Manhatten (B. Smith's New York City) is influenced by international recipes, but we also had people requesting southern food, so there are lots of southern dishes on the menu. We decided to share some of the restaurant recipes. One is fried green tomatoes, another one that people really like is braised black eyed peas soup ... Our collard greens are in there.

Follow the link below to read more from B. Smith.

November 19, 2009
Mokelumne Glen Vineyards opens tasting room

KERNER.JPG

Back in February, we brought you the story of Mokelumne Glen Vineyards, a Lodi winery that specializes in German varietals. You won't find the usual zinfandel and sauvignon blanc here. This producer specializes in kerner (an off-dry white similar to reisling), lemberger (a medium-bodied red known as blaufrankish in Austria), the petite sirah-like dornfelder and other German wines that are fairly rare domestically.

Sounds interesting, right? Well, the problem was that Mokelumne Glen Vineyards didn't have a tasting room and limited retail availability. That's all changed with the opening of a tasting room in Lodi (139 S. Guild, Lodi). Hours are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., and also by appointment. Some construction still needs to be completed, but they're still pouring away. Drop by for a taste of something different next time you're in Lodi.

November 19, 2009
Cheese, nuts the stars of holiday recipe contests

Now these are two recipe contests that compliment each other quite nicely.

Bellwether Farms and the California Walnut Board are each looking for home cooks to enter their holiday recipe contests.

Bellwether Farms, an artisan cheese company in Sonoma County, is holding its first annual recipe contest using its French-style creme fraiche.

The home cook who submits the best recipe, with an accompanying digital photo, will win a $100 gift certificate to Bellwether Farms.

Submissions should be e-mailed by the Dec. 1 deadline to Lenny Rice. The winning recipe will be announced Dec. 11 and posted on Bellwether Farms' Web site.

"Recipes highlighting local and seasonal products will be key ingredients for a sure win," states a news release.

That's where the signature ingredient of another recipe contest might come in handy: walnuts.

The California Walnut Board is holding its holiday baking challenge and is looking for "unique homemade recipes that incorporate walnuts in an inventive way to celebrate the season," according to news release from the walnut board.

Participants can enter one of four food categories: cookies, brownies and blondies; cakes and pies; breads; and breakfast/brunch baked items.

Recipe contestants may also enter videos to be considered in the "Best Video Submission" category or submit their recipe as a "SMART" recipe, meaning the recipe is a less-indulgent version of a holiday classic.

Grand prize is a KitchenAid Mixer.

The online entry-only contest runs through Dec. 4. Winners will be announced Dec. 18.

For more information, go to www.walnuts.org.

November 18, 2009
Cooking, lifestyle maven B. Smith to grace Sacramento events

bsmith.jpgIt's likely to be an elegant affair Thursday night at Next Door at the B&L, the event space just steps away from Patrick Mulvaney's namesake restaurant.

Food, entertaining and lifestyle expert B. Smith will be the featured guest at an event hosted by the Sacramento Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, an international women's public service organization.

Members of the nonprofit organization are committed to "enriching, sustaining and ensuring the identities, culture and economic survival of African Americans and persons of African descent," according to the local chapter's Web site.

The event includes a book signing, reception, chat and cooking demonstration with Smith, who is a respected restaurateur and cookbook author.

An autographed copy of her latest cookbook, "B. Smith Cooks Southern Style" (Scribner, $35, 336 pages), is included in the ticket price, which is $50 a person or $85 per couple.

"An Intimate Evening with B. Smith" will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Next Door at the B&L, 1215 19th St., Sacramento.

Valet parking will be available.

For tickets, go to the local Links chapter's Web site or call (916) 929-8552.

Smith also will be the keynote speaker at the National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW), Inc. Sacramento Chapter's eighth annual Business and Community Awards Recognition Luncheon.

The luncheon will be held at noon Saturday, with a champagne reception at 11:15 a.m., at the DoubleTree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way, Sacramento.

Tickets are $60 per person, or $600 for a table that seats 10 guests. For tickets, call (888) 722-6229 or go to the NCBW's Web site.

November 17, 2009
Thinking Thanksgiving with Mario Ortiz

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Thanksgiving's coming up soon, so let's get some quick tips about the right wines to serve with that bird and side dishes. We're checking in with Mario Ortiz, general manager and sommelier at the Firehouse, and here's his guidance about the kinds of wines that'll elevate your Thanksgiving dinner into an exceptionally tasty feast.

What wines come to mind when thinking about a traditional Thanksgiving dinner?
I like to suggest Champagne and riesling for whites, and pinot noir for red. Riesling goes beautifully with turkey. It's fresh and floral, and the stone fruit goes well with cranberry sauce or gravy. The same goes for pinot noir. And if you prefer roast beef for Thanksgiving, look for an earthy pinot noir with (flavors of) spices and rich black cherry.

How about some pairings for folks who prefer ham on the Thanksgiving table?
Something from the Loire would go beautifully. I would love to have something like a chenin blanc, but anything from the Loire is great. I'd definitely consider gewürztraminer as well because it has a little sweetness. For Champagnes and sparkling wines, go for a blanc de noirs or crémant. If you're having an early-afternoon dinner, the crémant would go incredibly with ham, yams and sweet potatoes.

How about some local wines to consider for Thanksgiving dinner?

Bogle has a nice chenin blanc. It's fruit-forward with nice apples and melon in there. Bogle's riesling is also one I like to have at home with my family.

How about a little fun and pairing a wine with pumpkin pie?
It's not easy to find, but a sparkling shiraz would be fun. Mollydooker makes one that's amazing and would be a good way to finish dinner with pumpkin pie. Late-harvest wines might be too sweet, but asti spumanti might work.


Which wine varietals or styles do you not find so Thanksgiving-friendly?

Stay away from cabernet sauvignon or Bordeaux wines. They're not going to enhance or bring out any flavors. If you're just drinking the wine first and enjoying the food as an afterthought, then sure. But if you're trying to find good harmony with the food, stay away from them.
When I see people trying a variety of foods, you should try different (wines). But if you want to enjoy one particular style, you can't go wrong with Champagne.

I'll drink to that.

November 16, 2009
Bad news on the bbq scene: In Cahoots closes down

Shoot, I couldn't wait to gnaw my way through some spare ribs at In Cahoots in Plymouth. I'd spent the afternoon wine tasting around the Shenandoah Valley on Sunday, and after all that primitivo and zinfandel, was ready to chomp down on some hearty barbecue. My pal and colleague Al Pierleoni always raved about In Cahoots on Main St. for its Santa Maria styled tri-tip and other barbecue fixins.

So I took a seat, checked out the menu - until a slightly glum looking waitress came over to explain that In Cahoots was shutting down as of Sunday night. But this time, spare ribs, beef ribs, hot links and other popular items were a no-go.

The server explained that the owners were simply retiring from the barbecue business. I asked if they were around so I could chat with them really quick, but no, they weren't in the building.

Well, so much for those spare ribs. Instead I ordered a combo platter of tri-tip and chicken and listened to other customers' reactions when told that In Cahoots was going to the great barbecue pit in the sky.

"What? No!" came a cry from the table next to me. "Where are we going to go now?"

My order arrived: two slabs of trip-tip and a quarter chicken on a bed of garlic fries, plus a side of baked beans. Then I dug in ... the tri-tip and chicken carried a really nice essence of smoke - not too heavy, not too understated - and the tri-tip was so juicy and tender. Yum, this was some great California styled barbecue. The pit boss smokes his meats Santa Maria style, in an open pit with red oak. Or rather, that's how it used to be cooked.

So this corner of Main St. will smell a little less smoky now, and that's too bad. We'll let you know if we hear anything more about the closing of In Cahoots.

November 12, 2009
Who won the duck off?

It's too bad that blogs don't come with sound tracks, because if they did, you'd be hearing a round of applause right now for Michael Tuohy and Hank Shaw.

Tuohy, Grange's executive chef, and Shaw, a food writer and blogger, cooked themselves into a fowl frenzy this afternoon in a duck competition held at the downtown restaurant.

There were duck gizzards, duck heart, duck liver, duck breast. It was a duck love fest. And darn it, it was delicious.

The show stopper, for me was Tuohy's warm duck rillette, served alongside a persimmon and pomegranate salad. While rillette is usually served at room temperature, forming a pate-like paste, this one was served gloriously warm. It was all I could do not to like the crockery in which it was served.

Shaw's final dish, a duck breast served alongside perfectly cooked apples, also was a showstopper.

Who won? It remains a bit of a mystery. I voted for Tuohy, as did fellow judge and colleague Rick Kushman. Grocer Darrell Corti and California Waterfowl Association President Bob McLandress declared it a tie.

The winner will be announced on this evening's special prix-fixe menu at Grange, as well as in Kushman's Good Life column on Wednesday.

I'll update this posting when I learn the outcome.

In the meantime, congratulations Chef Tuohy and Hank - it was a beautiful, delicious meal.

November 12, 2009
Duck duel just a few hours away

Today is the big day for food writer Hank Shaw and Grange Executive Chef Michael Tuohy.

At 3 p.m., the two will compete in a Iron Chef America-style cooking competition, although both know the secret ingredient - wild duck.

Neither are divulging how they plan to prepare their dishes, but I do know one thing - I will taste superb cooking today.

I was asked to judge the competition, along with my colleague Rick Kushman, well-respected food and wine expert Darrell Corti and Bob McLandress of the California Waterfowl Association.

Check back later on this blog to learn who won and which were the favorite dishes.

Tuohy and Shaw also will be teaming up this evening to serve a five-course prix-fixe duck dinner at Grange. Cost is $65 per person, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the California Waterfowl Association.

November 11, 2009
Coffee company extends free ship-to-troops offer

A local gourmet coffee roasting company announced today that it's permanently extending its offer of free shipping to deployed troops.

The Lincoln-based Rogers Family Company began offering the free shipping deal to families and friends of U.S. military personnel this summer who'd purchase its "Fairly Traded" coffee online to ship to troops stationed overseas.

The company will continue to offer free priority-mail shipping to anyone who sends coffee, tea and other gifts to service members with a military post office address, company officials announced in a news release.

The company also will pay the shipping for service members who place orders.

The company also will be teaming with Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit volunteer organization that sends care packages to military personnel in hostile zones.

Since beginning its partnership with Operation Gratitude in 2005, Rogers Family Company has shipped 300,000 bags - that's 600,000 pounds - of coffee to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and on ships at sea, the release states.

For more information, check out the company's Web site or a story about the company that ran in Tuesday's Living Here Family section.

November 11, 2009
Owen Price Nelson: baby on board

owen2.JPEG

"Appetizers" sends a happy one-week birthday to Owen Price Nelson, the newest member of the Selland restaurant family. Owen's dad, Josh Nelson, is the general manager for Ella Dining Room and Bar, while mother Gina formerly managed the Kitchen. Baby Owen was born at 6:31 a.m. on Nov. 4, weighing 6 lbs. 9 ounces. Owen shares a middle name with Randall Selland, Josh's stepdad and executive chef at the Kitchen.

"It's been a good week," says Josh Nelson. "Mom's doing great and I'm definitely enjoying the time at home."

Could a restaurant named "Owen Dining Room and Bar" be next? Ella, after all, was named after Selland's granddaughter.

"I'm thinking more like 'Opie's Sandwich Shop,' or something simpler," says Josh, with a chuckle.

Either way, best wishes to the new family ...

November 11, 2009
Lump-free gravy can be, well, gravy to make

gravy.jpgApparently lumpy gravy does not have to be a component of the Thanksgiving meal.

I've had varying degrees of gravy success over the years, and mentioned as much in my story about a turkey fryer in today's Food & Wine section. Several readers gravy gurus jumped to my aide.

Ron Coates, of Sacramento, said the solution is a cool one: if you see lumps forming, whisk the gravy and add a handful of crushed ice.

"The lumps will just disappear," he said.

Another reader called claiming to have a lump-proof gravy recipe. I've left her a message and am hoping to hear back. Stay tuned: if she agrees, I'll reprint her recipe here.

Do you have a gravy tip or secret weapon? Post your comments here.

November 11, 2009
How to dispose of used cooking oil 101

Editor's note: This entry was corrected to say that no cooking oil should be poured down the drain.

Wondering what to do with cooking oil you'll use to deep fry that Thanksgiving turkey?

If the number of voicemail and e-mail messages I've received today are any indication, many of you are.

I wrote a story for today's Food & Wine section about a new indoor electric turkey fryer, but missing (due to lack of space) was a key part of the turkey frying equation: what do you do with the used oil?

Here's the deal.

John McLemore, president and co-owner of Masterbuilt, the company that manufactures the Butterball electric turkey fryer, said the oil can be used several times.

"If you refrigerate it, the oil can keep for up to three months and can be used to fry about five to six turkeys," he said.

When you are ready to dispose of the oil, let it cool and then pour it back into a container that can be sealed.

Some auto lube businesses will discard the oil for you, he said.

Another local solution is Sacramento County Waste Management and Recycling.

Cooking oil shouldn't be poured down the drain or placed in the garbage can. Instead, recycle the cooking oil curbside or at the county's hazardous waste drop-off center at 4450 Roseville Rd., North Highlands. Both services are free, according to the county's Web site.

To recycle curbside, pour the oil into clear gallon jugs and tape the lids shut. Also be sure to follow these guidelines: don't mix the oil with other fluids, don't put the oil in the mixed recycling container, place the jugs at least three feet away from the recycling container, limit the amount of oil to three gallons per recycling collection day.

The oil jugs will be collected on recycling collection day, the Web site states.

For information on how to dispose of oil in El Dorado County, follow this link to the county's environmental management Web site.

For disposal information for Placer County, go to Western Placer Waste Management Authority's Web site.

Yolo County residents can learn more about drop-off locations on the county's hazardous household waste Web site.

November 10, 2009
New food writing anthology a savory treat

food cover.jpgThis is a book worth devouring.

It's "The Best Food Writing 2009" (Da Capo Press, $15.95, 348 pages) and by no means is the title a misnomer.

I was lucky enough to have obtained an advanced copy of the book, which hit store shelves this week, and consumed the delectable collection of prose in about two days, putting it down only for little things like work and care of children (although I did catch myself sneaking hits of it while my kids were watching PBS' "Dragon Tales").

The 10th anniversary edition of the book is edited by Holly Hughes and is an anthology of the best culinary writing found in newspapers, books, magazines, Web sites and newsletters from the past year.

Contributors include the likes of The New York Times' Kim Severson, Julia Moskin and Frank Bruni; Food & Wine's Lettie Teague; Gourmet's Ruth Reichl and Molly Wizenberg of the famed Orangette blog and "A Homemade Life" (Simon & Schuster, $25, 336 pages).

One of my personal favorites included in the book was a piece that Eric LeMay penned for Gastronomica about his love of French cheese and his quest to smuggle cheese back to the states.

Follow the link below to read an excerpt of LeMay's story.

November 9, 2009
Shelf staple a secret ingredient in this chili contest winner

Ed Jasper used to feel guilty about using canned chili as the base for his chili, going so far as to call it "cheater chili."

Not anymore.

Jasper took home first place for his chili on Nov. 1 in the Elk Grove Elks Lodge's chili cook-off, a fundraiser for the lodge's "Purple Pig" project, which raises money for disabled children.

Jasper's bowl of red, now deemed "Ed's Comfort Chili," was the favorite among the 12 entries tasted by the judges - which included Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, Good Day Sacramento Anchor Nick Toma and myself - and also was picked by lodge members and guests as the best among the winning finalists.

The use of ground beef and chopped tri-tip provides a hearty texture and use of pasilla peppers and a chipotle chili lend a wonderful flavor and heat to the dish.

I can't speak for the other judges, but I couldn't detect a canned chili base when I was scarfing down my portion.

Follow the link below to get Jasper's chili recipe.

November 4, 2009
Local chef, food blogger to face off

hank.jpgGrange Executive Chef Michael Tuohy and local food writer Hank Shaw are going, well, beak to beak.

The two will be facing off in a duck cooking competition Nov. 12 at the downtown restaurant to raise money for the California Waterfowl Association (Shaw is shown at left in a 2007 photo by The Bee's Anne Chadwick Williams).

The winner will be named by a panel of judges during the afternoon competition.

The public is invited to partake in the fowl festivities that evening, when Grange's menu will include a five-course prix fixe menu ($65 plus tax and gratuity) inspired by the competition.

Ten percent of the proceeds will benefit the association, which works to preserve, protect and enhance the state's "waterfowl resources, wetlands and associated hunting heritage," the association's Web site states.

The special "duck off" menu includes such mouth-watering offerings as a duck charcuterie starter, house made tagliatelle with duck sugo and duck cassoulet.

Dessert? Try pear tart boasting a crust made with duck fat.

Oh duck fat, how I love thee.

Ahem, I digress.

tuohy.jpgShaw, whose James Beard-nominated food blog, "Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook" recently led to a book deal, and Tuohy (shown at right) are keeping their competition recipes a secret from everyone, including each other, said Sarah Essary, a spokeswomen for Grange Restaurant & Bar and The Citizen Hotel.

Check back here next week to learn who served the winning dish.

Tuohy also is offering duck hunters a chance to have their own bounty star in a seasonally-inspired meal.

Hunters can bring the duck in 48 hours before their dinner reservations and Tuohy will meet with them to design a duck dinner for $75 per person. The offer runs through January.

For more information, check out Grange's Web site.

Here is Grange's Nov. 12 prix fixe duck menu: Grange_DuckOff_Menu.pdf

November 4, 2009
Happy hour special: $1 oysters @ Esquire Grill

Now here's a heck of a happy hour bargain. Esquire Grill (1213 K St., Sacramento; 916-448-8900) features $1 oysters on the half shell each Wednesday from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. This seafood special's been running since October, and the restaurant went through some 200 oysters during last Wednesday's special, says Esquire Grill owner Randy Paragary. Now, that's a lot of slurping and shucking.

"This is a great time of year for oysters," says Paragary. "(Chef Scott Rose) is focusing on indigenous oysters from the north coast. The going rate for oysters is about $2.50 to $3.50 in a restaurant, so our response has been good."

Other happy hour specials include "5 cocktails, 5 wines by the glass and 5 appetizers for $6." For the full line-up, surf over to Esquire Grill's web site.

November 3, 2009
Turkeys needed for social service group's annual drive

Here's a simple way to spread holiday cheer this month: donate a turkey to Volunteers of America.

The Greater Sacramento and Northern Nevada chapter of the organization is collecting fresh or frozen turkeys to serve as the main course for holiday meals at area homeless shelters, transitional living programs and affordable-housing residences this Thanksgiving.

Turkey donations are being accepted from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day through Nov. 25 at the Volunteers of America central kitchen facility at 700 North Fifth St., Sacramento, according to a news release from the organization.

The organization also is collecting money for the campaign. Donations may be made online, by mail or at the Volunteers of America administration office at 1900 Point West Way, Suite 270, Sacramento.

For more information, visit the organization's Web site or call (916) 442-3691 or e-mail Kim Castaneda.

November 2, 2009
Capitol Cellars: new Quarry Ponds location still a go

A notice of default was filed recently against the owners of Quarry Ponds, but that isn't stopping Capitol Cellars from opening a new wine bar in this Granite Bay shopping center. Capitol Cellars of Roseville is looking to open this second store by November's end. This Granite Bay location of Capitol Cellars will occupy the site of a former Wine Styles shop.

Capitol Cellars owner Marcus Graziano tested this Granite Bay market over the summer by hosting a series of wine tastings at Quarry Ponds. Judging by the response and attendance, Graziano felt confident enough to open this second location.

"We're looking forward to it," says Graziano. "We'll have a more extensive wine bar and we'll stay open late. We think it'll be fun for people to go to. We also have a lot of interest from companies who want to bring their clients by."

Graziano understands it's a tough economy, especially when you're in the business of selling premium California wines. Graziano recently dropped the price on a tasting to be held on Saturday at his Roseville shop (110 Diamond Creek Place #100). The charge was originally $100 per person, with the opportunity to taste such high-end Napa producers as Pride, Ghost Block, Pahlmeyer and nearly a dozen more wineries. Graziano got something of a reality check from customers, who said the price was too expensive and ill timed. Graziano has since dropped the price to $50 per person.

"It was a learning lesson," says Graziano. "It costs a lot of money to bring these kinds of wineries, but you have to listen to the customers. So we cut the price in half and gave the support to where it should go: to the customers. You have to take care of them and not be dishonest with them."

A few spots are still available for Saturday's tasting, which runs from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. For more information: (916) 786-9030.



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