January 29, 2010
Sake House opens in Roseville

Roseville residents with a hankering for Japanese food and the ultra lounge experience have a new option. Sake House, in the Fountains shopping center, (1017 Galleria Blvd. #160, Roseville) served its first meals at lunchtime today. Sake House is the lastest venture from restaurateur Randy Paragary, who partnered with local nightclub maven Bob Simpson for the lounge element of Sake House. Billy Ngo of midtown's Kru restaurant helped conceive the menu, which includes:

Poke Trio - salmon with ponzu, ginger, sesame oil, kaiware / tuna with soy, chili oil, masago, green onions / tako with wakame, ponzu, chili oil, and shallots

Angie Baby Roll - soy wrap, cucumber, avocado and masago; topped with yellow fin tuna, albacore tuna, sautéed mushrooms and scallions

The Inferno Roll
- spicy tuna, cucumber, sprouts and jalapeño; topped with yellow fin tuna and jalapeño-tobiko chili sauce

Grilled Rack of Lamb - rosemary-balsamic teriyaki sauce

And if you aren't stuffed with sushi, you can get your groove on starting at 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday nights. The cover charge is $20 - about as high as you'll find in the area - but the cost comes down depending on your age. Ages 30+ get $5 off, 35+ get $10 off and ages 40+ are free. When it comes to age, there's no shame in this ultra lounge game.

Update: Cover charge for the lounge is also waived for diners.

For more info:

January 28, 2010
Slight drop in Unified 2010 attendance

Stemmers, crushers, corks, tractors, glassware, bottling lines ... the Sacramento Convention Center's main exhibit hall is like the Willy Wonka factory of wine. Some 600 exhibitors are showing off their wares at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, the largest wine and grape trade show in the western hemisphere. The floor seems a little less packed than usual at this moment, but that may be because a tasting of Bordeaux blends is going on next door at the Hyatt Regency.

And now this: attendance figures were just released, and the final head count is 11,700 for Unified 2010. That's a drop of 200 from last year, when a record-setting 11,900 attended Unified 2009.

Still, we're wondering if Unified has outgrown the Sacramento Convention Center. With floor space maxed out, and some exhibitors wishing they had room for their booths, it would seem so. Some 170 exhibitors were also placed on a waiting list for this year.

But where would Unified go? Organizers say San Francisco would be too costly and Reno is too dicey because of weather. So it's Sacramento for now, and for at least the next two years.

And now, it's back for another spin at the trade show ... Zorks and cooperage, here I come. And cheers to Unified 2010...

January 26, 2010
Unified Wine & Grape Symposium to stay in Sacramento

More than 11,000 attendees are expected for the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, which kicked off this morning and runs through Friday at the Sacramento Convention Center and Hyatt Regency. But as the domestic wine industry descends on Sacramento for exhibits in the latest wine making technology and panel discussions, the buzz around town was that 2010 would mark Unified's last year in Sacramento. Rumor had it that Unified would move to a more cost-effective venue in San Francisco.

That rumor has turned out to be false. According to a spokesperson for Unified, not only will Unified stay in Sacramento, but they've already booked the Sacramento Convention Center for the next two years.

That's welcome news for downtown restaurateurs and other businesses, which see a significant spike in business during Unified week. According to the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, Unified generates $2.2 million in economic impact for Sacramento through restaurant bookings, hotel rooms and other local business activity. 2,000 hotel rooms are also reserved annually during the Unified convention.

"It's one of the largest groups we host in town," said Mike Testa, spokesman for the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's a win-win from a business and partnering standpoint."

January 26, 2010
Canadian culinarian? We need you

canadian flag.jpgCalling all Canadians: you're needed for an upcoming story.

We're working on a story for an upcoming Food & Wine section about Canadian food and are looking for local expats to enlighten us on what it is that our neighbors to the north eat. What were the favorite dishes growing up? Is there something you most definitely can live without? Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

Home cook or professional chef, we'd love to talk to you.

If you're game, please e-mail Niesha Lofing at

Thank you!

January 25, 2010
Survey: 63% of couples staying home for Valentine's Day

OK, this is hardly the most scientific poll we've come across, but a survey at shows that 63 percent of couples are staying home for Valentine's Day. Say what you will about this poll, which was conducted online and surveyed some 3,000 folks. But these findings pose an interesting question: Do you plan to take your sweetie our for Valentine's Day, or will you just make it a Blockbuster sort of night with an extra dash of romance?

Many local restaurants are planning special Valentine's Day menus, but they often don't come cheap. So, maybe you'd rather leave the Valentine's Day dining for the romance rookies out there, and protect your wallet from V-Day price gouging and valet parking.

So, what are your plans for Valentine's Day dining? Leave a comment, and don't let cupid hit you on the way out.

January 25, 2010
Food-focused Haiti fundraisers popular, drawing major cash

Taylor's Kitchen is sending a hefty contribution to Doctors Without Borders thanks to the wildly successful Haitian Relief Dinner held Sunday.

The dinner raised more than $7,000 for the medical humanitarian organization, said Danny Johnson, owner of the restaurant and Taylor's Market.

"We were pretty stunned with the response," he said.

The fundraiser's success has Johnson thinking of making charitable dinners a yearly event.

"If there's not a humanitarian crisis, then we could donate the funds to a local charity," Johnson said.

Speaking of fundraisers, another event this weekend is hoped to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief.

This time, it's sandwiches in the suburbs.

The El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce, Lakehills Covenant Church and Subway are holding a fundraiser to benefit the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The event will be held at the Subway in the Town Center, 2023 Vine St., Suite 104, El Dorado Hills.

Volunteers will be donating their time and sandwich-making skills that day, when 100 percent of the sales will go directly to the Red Cross' relief effort, according to a news release from the chamber of commerce.

January 21, 2010
And the winner is ....

They came. They drank. They judged.

And in the end, the winner of the California Office of Traffic Safety's Mocktail Recipe Contest today was Kimberly Beck of Modesto for her "Green Meenie Martini."

"The judges loved both entries, and the voting was close, but in the end the creative ingredients and unique refreshing hot summer taste won them over," Chris Cochran, the department's spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

For more information about the contest see my previous blog post.

January 21, 2010
Amarin Thai Cuisine shuts down

Downtown lunch diners with a hunger for Thai food have been surprised by the abrupt closure of Amarin Thai Cuisine on 12th and I streets. Acknowledged as Sacramento's first Thai restaurant, Amarin opened in 1983 and known for its broad menu and brisk lunch service. But, the scene was one of confusion today as would-be lunch diners arrived at Amarin, only to find the restaurant closed.

"I was going to take two students to lunch there, and it was going to be a real treat," said Judie Panneton, who works nearby Amarin at the State Water Resources Control Board. "We saw a printed sign in the window that said something about the restaurant being closed and thanking everyone for their many years of (patronage). People were standing around the front. It's definitely taken people by surprise."

Attempts to reach the owners of Amarin have so far been unsuccessful. We'll fill you in with more news as it comes our way.

January 21, 2010
State department holds drink contest, urges drivers to stay sober

This story has been updated from it's original version.

The California Office of Traffic Safety is holding a drinking contest.

Sort of.

The state department, which administers grant funding to reduce traffic deaths and injuries, is holding the final stage of its non-alcoholic "mocktail" drink contest today at Grange Restaurant in Sacramento.

The contest began in mid-December, when the department launched a Facebook site that included an interactive application soliciting mocktail recipes from Facebook fans statewide.

The recipes are hoped to provide designated drivers with interesting, delicious drinks that allow them to feel included in the party.

"Driving drunk is a problem, but at the same time we don't want people to not have a good time," said Chris Cochran, the department's spokesman. "We're not anti-alcohol, we're anti alcohol plus driving."

In less than a month, the Facebook site attracted more than 1,000 fans and officials received about 40 non-alcoholic drink recipes, he said.

Cochran, along with other staffers - including one that is a former bartender - was tasked with narrowing the list.

"We were looking for things that are new and different and had something unique about them that hadn't been seen before," he said.

Two entries emerged as finalists: Kimberly Beck's "Green Meenie Martini" and Erika Penzer Kerekes' "Minty Pink Sparkler."

Follow the link below to read more about the contest.

January 21, 2010
New link feature pairs nicely with the Appetizers meal

Ladies and gentlemen, Appetizers is about to get even more appealing.

We have added a new feature, an amuse-bouche if you will, that allows food writers here to share interesting content and food stories we find on the Web. The new links will publish under the heading "Recommended Links" on the right side of the page.

From links to quirky food blogs (check out the link at right to a food blog about the pursuit of "waffleizing" meals) to food and wine stories from other newspapers and publications, we aim to bring you what we find fascinating and hope you'll enjoy too.

If you happen across a story or Web site we haven't mentioned and think we should check out, send me an e-mail at and you may spy your link included in the mix.

Bon Appetit!

January 20, 2010
Kid-focused cooking show seeks stars

Calling all parents of pint-size Emeril emulators - your child could be the star of a new PBS cooking show for kids.

"Hey Kids, Let's Cook!" will be holding an open audition on Jan. 30 in Elk Grove.

Producers are looking for one or two children, ages 6 to 9 years old, from the Sacramento region to star in the show's fifth season, Kathy Powers, the show's host and producer, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

A parent or guardian must accompany the child to the audition. No additional materials are required for the audition.

Cast members are required to travel to Fresno for filming, however.

The show, which airs on KVIE in Sacramento, provides cooking instruction in an entertaining format while also highlighting nutrition.

"Focusing on nutrition in conjunction with preparation techniques, the show gives kids the tools, and the know-how to eat properly, and challenges them to do it themselves," Powers said.

The audition will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 30 at Save-Mart Supermarket, 7707 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove. Save-Mart is the show's corporate sponsor.

Free activities, including story time and food demonstrations, also will be provided courtesy of Save-Mart.

January 20, 2010
"Diego's Awesome Salsa" coming to grocery stores


Some of you may remember the heartwarming and palate scorching story of Diego Bartolome. He's the 10-year-old from rural El Dorado County who started a salsa business to help with his family finances, especially after his mom lost her job. He sells "Diego's Awesome Salsa" each Sunday in El Dorado County, and had raked in $1,000 from his business as of December.

I got an e-mail from Diego's mom, Paula, who said Diego's moved his salsa sales to a new location: Chunks of Heaven Cookie Company on Black Oak Mine Rd . in Garden Valley (530-344-8058).

And there's even some bigger news for the salsa boy. Diego's Awesome Salsa has a tentative date for Feb. 13 to be carried at Mar-Val Grocery in Georgetown (6049 Front St., Georgetown). There's also a buzz going that his salsa is set for even bigger market shelves, but we can't disclose that one yet. Let's just say there's been some talk with a store that emphasizes co-operation with local growers.

Stay tuned for more on this salsa story ...

January 19, 2010
Local restaurant offers diners delicious dishes, way to donate

Helping out has never tasted so good.

Taylor's Kitchen is hosting a dinner fundraiser from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday to benefit Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

The $25 per person meal will feature several courses of Caribbean-inspired food and all proceeds will be donated to a Haitian relief fund, said Danny Johnson, owner of Taylor's Market and the restaurant. Beer and wine will be available at extra cost.

The idea for the fundraiser struck as Johnson and his wife, Kathaleen, were driving to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this weekend and listening to radio reports detailing the relief efforts.

"It's an unbelievably tragic story," Danny Johnson said. "That nation's already in a bad enough way."

Taylor's staff are donating their time for the fundraiser and at least one vendor has donated chicken for the event.

Johnson said he's hoping to raise about $5,000 to send to Haiti.

Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at (916) 443-5154. Walk-ins also are welcome.

Taylor's Kitchen is located at 2924 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento.

January 19, 2010
Are you the King or Queen of Kosher?

The specialty food company Manischewitz is holding its 4th Man-o-Manischewitz cooking contest, with a deadline of January 31. The top recipe will win its creator a $25,000 package of appliances, cash and more.

Five finalists will be flown to New York City for the cook-off judged by celebrity chef Jacques Pepin.

The contest is for creative kosher recipes and this year requires use of the company's newly introduced natural broth. Some cooks favor using kosher products anyway because of the stringent rules for preparing them. The broth is made with chicken and beef.

Contest organizers encourage cooks to check out last year's winner for inspiration. Erin Evenson won the contest with her recipe for Ruby Red Risotto, using the company's unsalted borscht.

For more information, or to enter the contest, follow this link to the Manischewitz Web site.

- Carlos Alcala

January 17, 2010
Soup, it's what's for dinner

I hear it's going to rain and rain and rain for the next week at least, and we're going to be hit with enpough water to raise the rivers, put an end to talk of a drought for at least a month and keep most of us doing indoor things.

For food people, that probably involves plenty of time in the kitchen. Right now, I have four pounds of souurdough bread dough rising on the counter and I just finished making a curried carrot soup. After arriving back to the house cold and wet with three wet but happy dogs, it was just the right way to warm back up. Same with my girlfriend, who decided to go for a run in the rain.

The recipe is from Eating Well, and if I did anything different it was to add just a little more salt than the recipe called for. But you do that at the end when you adjust the seasonings to suit you.

It helps to have a food processor to make quick work of the slicing and, though the recipe says to put the cooked ingredients in a blender to puree, I really don't like to do that. It's so much easier -- and safer -- to use an immersion blender. The flavors in this recipe, by the time it hits the bowl, are quite smooth, with just a hint of a spicy kick. But your kitchen is going to smell like an Indian restaurant (a good thing).

Check out the recipe here.

You're probably familiar with Eating Well. If not, it's an excellent magazine that focuses on healthy eating that is also delicious. The recipes don't sacrifice one to arrive at the other. The Web site is also very helpful. If you register (free), you can creat a "My Eating Well" and keep a collection of your favorite recipes from the site, which is what I do. Enjoy the soup -- and the rain.

January 17, 2010
Sustainable Sacramento event at the very green Hot Italian

I understand there are still a few $35 tickets left for what promises to be an enlightening, enjoyable and, if the host's pizza is involved, delicious event at Hot Italian. It's called "Sustainable Sacramento: Eat, Learn and Celebrate" and it's sponsored by Pesticide Watch and Slow Food Sacramento.

If you care about what you eat and where your food comes from, these are two groups you might get to know a little better. For more on the event this Thursday, click here or at the Slow Food Sacramento web site.

Hot Italian is at the corner of 16th and Q.

January 17, 2010
Dining bargains -- looking for more

Every four weeks, I am trying to do a compilation review of dining bargains. This is instead of a review of a single place. My latest such review takes a look at everything from the breakfast sandwich to the long-running dinner for two at Danielle's Creperie.

If you know of other great bargains out there, please let me know. In the coming months, I will be looking at dessert places, the best hamburgers, great soups and various other ways to save money when you go out.

January 16, 2010
Elks Building moving forward with panoramic lounge

I read Bob Shallit to keep up with what is happening with local business and real estate, espeically the openings and closings of restaurants. Bob has another item today on the momentum for creating a bar on the top two floors of the very stylish Elks Building on J Street.

That area could use some more positive energy, and the bar could be magnificent. Sounds like they are moving in the right direction by knocking down all of the interior walls and clearing the way for 360-degree views. I suppose some of that view will include the unused, ugly acreage that is the railyard. But that site could someday be a coveted view in its own right. I wonder who the players are for the Elks bar -- a couple of restaurant/bar people and a developer.

January 15, 2010
Dine Downtown -- it's filling seats

January is generally a pretty slow month in the restaurant business. People are recovering from the holiday rush. They're making New Year's resolutions that have something to do with eating less -- not more. And if they're like me, they're letting their livers recover after drinking their neighbor's Aquavit!

But the news is good about Dine Downtown, the promotion that is coming to a close this weekend. Restaurants are happy. Customers are happy. And the downtown streets are hopping. The idea was for restaurants to pool their resources and offer a multi-course set price meal.

Here's what we just received from Downtown Sacramento Partnership:

"We've seen the levels of business almost double what we usually expect this time of year," said Brent Larkin, director of food and beverage for Grange at The Citizen. "Considering these economic times, people are surprisingly coming out in droves. We hope many of our guests are
using this promotion to visit our restaurant for the first time and, in turn, become future

The event, which features over 30 of the Central City's best restaurants and ends on January 17, has been a hit with local foodies as well. Central City resident David Milam had originally planned to dine out all 10 days and ended up with 7 reservations. "I have a modest job at the UC Davis Library and thus not able to afford many these places on a regular basis," said Milam.

"Dine Downtown has been a great opportunity for me to visit restaurants I've never tried
before. It has also allowed me to catch up with different friends each night, so I've enjoyed it."

Participating restaurants include 3 Fires Lounge & Restaurant at The Marriott, 4th Street Grille, 58 Degrees and Holding Co., Biba Restaurant, Bistro 33, Brew It Up!, The Broiler, Chops Steak, Seafood & Bar, Cosmo Café, Cyprus Grille at The Holiday Inn, Dawson's at The Hyatt, de Vere's Irish Pub, Ella Dining Room & Bar, Esquire Grill, Fat City Bar & Café, The Firehouse Restaurant, Frank Fat's, Grange Restaurant at The Citizen, Il Fornaio, L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen, Mason's New American, McCormick & Schmick's, The Melting Pot, Michelangelo's, Mikuni Midtown, Morgan's at The Sheraton, Mulvaney's B&L, Pilothouse at The Delta King, Rio City Café, River City Brewing Company, Sapporo Grill, Sofia on 11th, Spataro and Ten 22.

January 15, 2010
Restaurants report Dine Downtown a hit so far

Dine Downtown Restaurant Week continues through Sunday, but the turnout so far has some restaurateurs licking their chops. The event is aimed at drawing diners downtown, with 36 restaurants offering three-course meals for $30. Participating restaurants include many of downtown's top dining destinations, including Biba Restaurant, Mulvaney's B&L, and The Firehouse.

"We've seen the levels of business almost double what we usually expect this time of year," said Brent Larkin, director of food and beverage for Grange at The Citizen, in a statement released by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. "Considering these economic times, people are surprisingly coming out in droves. We hope many of our guests are using this promotion to visit our restaurant for the first time and, in turn, become future patrons."

We'll keep tabs on the final results once "Dine Downtown" wraps over the weekend. Meanwhile, you can find a full list of participating restaurants here.

January 15, 2010
Orphan postscript: Most unusual restaurateur ever?

A few weeks back, I wrote a review of a new breakfast place called Orphan. Though the employees were pleasant enough and the service was decent, my thoughts overall were rather unkind. Not only was the food disappointing and exceptionally bland, but the conduct of Orphan owner Christopher Pendarvis seemed bizarre.

As readers know by now, I overheard -- scratch that, I couldn't help but hear -- Pendarvis interviewing a job candidate at a table in the middle of the restaurant. Not only was the interview location poor judgment, since I really don't feel like hearing where a 20-year-old sees himself in five years while I'm trying to eat French toast -- but the questions were ridiculous. The topper: "Are you having sex with your girlfriend?"

January 14, 2010
New Chipotle coming to West Sacramento

The city of West Sacramento has plenty going for it these days: a minor league baseball stadium, an IKEA and such food spots as Club Pheasant (don't forget the fried ravioli) and the deep-fried nirvana known as Whitey's Jolly Kone. West Sacramento's burrito population is now about to rise with the opening of a Chipotle Mexican Grill on Jan. 22. The Chiptole is located at IKEA Court, near the I-80 freeway. And we can't think of a better way to fuel up before assembling an IKEA shelving unit than with one of those Chipotle burritos that's the size of a small cat.

Look for some pre-opening festivities on Jan. 21. This Chipotle will host a fundraiser from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m that day., and all proceeds will benefit Hope Productions Foundation, an organization that provides resources for local childrens charities. Enjoy filling that belly with burritos for a good cause.

For more information:

January 14, 2010
Food trends turning toward unusual pairings, ethnic cuisine

Almond and Ale Pairing.jpgCooking gourmet at home and unconventional flavor pairings are among food trends forecasted for the coming year.

Spice giant McCormick have released the 10th anniversary edition of its Flavor Forecast, a report that details the trends that'll likely shape the way we eat.

Foods this year will be influenced by "bitter, warm and earthy notes," McCormick's Executive Chef, Kevan Vetter, said in a news release.

Here is McCormick's Top 10 flavor pairings for 2010:

1. Roasted ginger and rhubarb
2. Thai basil and watermelon
3. Caraway and bitter greens
4. Bay leaves and preserved lemon
5. Almond and ale
6. Turmeric and vine-ripened tomatoes
7. Pumpkin pie spice and coconut milk
8. Roasted cumin and chickpeas
9. Creole mustard and shellfish
10. Chives and fish sauce

To see more trends and get recipes, click on the link below.

January 14, 2010
Win a private wine tasting, and more

Some extra special sipping is in store for winners of a contest, courtesy of and El Dorado Wineries' "Bring Out the Barrel."

So, here's the deal: Surf over to this contest entry page to enter the drawing. Prizes include private tastings, an invitation to a winery barbecue and other goodies at three El Dorado wineries during "Bring Out the Barrel" weekend on Jan. 30 - 31. The drawing ends at noon on Jan. 27, so get to it and good luck.

January 13, 2010
Local competitor's shrimp recipe revealed

Where's the recipe?

A kind reader called this morning to tell me that missing in today's Food & Wine section was Joni Hilton's recipe for maple-glazed prosciutto wrapped shrimp (we wrote about Hilton earlier this week on this blog).


Follow the link below to get Hilton's recipe, which is a final contender in the Hungry Jack "Use Up the Box" recipe and essay contest.

January 12, 2010
Recall of Parkers Farm products

A potential listeria contamination has led to a recall of products from Parkers Farm. The Minnesota-based company produces salsa, peanut butter, bagel spreads and other goods which are sold nationwide. Whole Foods, Target, Sam's Club, Costco and Safeway are among the retailers which carry Parkers Farm products.

Listeria, a bacteria that can cause miscarriages in pregnant women along with nausea and severe headache, was found during product sampling by the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. No illnesses have been reported thus far from consuming Parkers Farm products.

Here's a list of products being recalled under the Parker Farms or Parker label.

**Note: sell-by dates are clearly printed on container ½ inch from top

-16 ounce peanut butter in square plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are creamy, crunchy, honey creamy and honey crunchy with sell by dates between 11/14/2010 and 12/31/2010**.

-34 ounce peanut butter in round plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are creamy and crunchy with sell by dates between 8/11/2010 and 9/30/2010**.

-7 ounce bagel spreads in white plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are garden veggie, wild berry, strawberry, apple cinnamon and honey walnut) with sell by dates between 5/13/2010 and 6/30/2010**.

-14 ounce dips & spreads in square plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are jalapeno nacho, pimento and salsa con queso with sell by dates between 8/11/2010 and 9/30/2010**.

-8 ounce, 12 ounce and 16 ounce cold pack cheese in round or square plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are sharp cheddar, bacon, onion, smoked cheddar, Swiss almond, horseradish, garlic, port wine, and Swiss & cheddar with sell by dates between 11/14/2010 and 12/31/2010**.

-16 ounce salsa in square plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are hot, mild, garlic, black bean and fire roasted with sell by dates between 3/14/2010 and 4/30/2010**.

Other labels affected by this recall:

-16 ounce Happy Farms cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are sharp cheddar, port wine and Swiss almond with sell by dates between 11/24/2010 and 12/10/2010**.

- 8 ounce Kroger cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are sharp cheddar, port wine and Swiss almond with sell by dates between 11/18/2010 thru 12/15/2010**

- 8 ounce Central Markets cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are sharp cheddar, port wine, Swiss almond, horseradish with sell by dates of 12/9/2010**

-14 oz. Central Markets salsa con queso in round plastic containers (tub with snap on lid) with sell by dates of 8/16/2010**.

-16 oz. Central Markets salsa in round plastic containers (tub with snap on lid). Varieties are sharp cheddar, port wine, Swiss almond, horseradish with sell by dated of 3/17/2010 through 3/24/2010**.

- 8 oz. Dutch Farms cold pack cheese in round plastic containers (tub with snap on lid), varieties are sharp cheddar, port wine, Swiss almond, horseradish, and Swiss & cheddar with sell by dates of 11/16/2010 thru 11/18/2010**.

January 12, 2010
$1 Oatmeal Wednesdays at Jamba Juice

That's right, a piping order of Jamba Juice oatmeal costs just $1 every Wednesday during the month of January. The usual price for Jamba Juice's oatmeal is $2.95, so consider this current promotion a pretty good deal. The juice-lords at the company tout its oatmeal as being made from scratch and using steel-cut oats. Along with regular ol' oatmeal with brown sugar, other flavor options include berry cherry pecan and fresh banana oatmeal. No need to print out a coupon for this deal. Just show up to Jamba Juice with a buck on Wednesdays and place your order.

January 11, 2010
Ginger Elizabeth will teach the hows and whys of souffles

One of my favorite places to satisfy my sweet tooth is Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates on L Street between 18th and 19th. It's a great business on a block that, believe it or not, used to be absolutely dead.

Ginger Elizabeth Hahn will be teaching yet another class on her favorite topic -- dessert. Here is the press release I just received. You'll notice the class is in a vacant penthouse of the loft apartments across the street. I believe the asking price for that unit is $1.2 million. I recently attended a party there and it is quite spectatular. So if you're on the fence about attending the class, figure that it's worth at least 10 bucks just to hang out in that loft for awhile. Here's the information:

SACRAMENTO, California (January 11, 2010)-- Local chocolatier and pastry chef Ginger Elizabeth Hahn will offer a soufflé class to teach you to prepare a memorable dessert for your Valentine. Discover how easy soufflés can be to make at home. Ginger will dispel many of the misconceptions and myths regarding soufflé making just in time for Valentine's Day. Learn to make these impressive and elegant desserts with confidence and ease.

Ginger will show you how to make 3 of her favorite soufflé recipes:
-Classic French Grand Marnier Soufflé
-Bittersweet Chocolate Molten Soufflé Cake
-Frozen Meyer Lemon Soufflé
This class will also include a bonus chocolate tasting and discussion: How and why chocolate can spice up your Valentine's Day.

Cost: $35 per person
When: Saturday, February 6th, 11:00am - 1:00pm
Where: L Street Lofts Penthouse (meet at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates)

The class includes step-by-step recipes to take home. A dessert buffet will be presented at the end, so you can try all of the desserts. Following the class, attendees will receive a 10% discount on purchases in the chocolate shop. Seating is limited. All classes must be paid for in advance. Must be at least 10 years old to attend.

Ginger Elizabeth Hahn is a formally trained chocolatier and pastry chef. She offers an array of chocolate confections and chocolate pastries at her chocolaterie located at 1801 L Street, Suite 60 in Midtown Sacramento. For more information, please visit

January 11, 2010
But not all good reviews mean halcyon days ahead

I recently wrote about the aftermath of a positive review, which often sees restaurants flooded with business. That isn't always enough. I can count three restaurants I reviewed in the past 12 months that have closed or changed hands.

Chanterelle, at the Sterling Hotel, is the latest. The managers who took over ownership last year, closed the restaurant last Wednesday and the managment team is in transition. Here is a rough draft of the story we are working on for Tuesday's Bee:

With rumors swirling and stunned employees at its restaurant scrambling to find work, the stately Sterling Hotel will remain open during a change in management.
But Chanterelle, the adjoining upscale restaurant, will close as the owners of the property put that portion of the building through a major renovation and look for a new concept.

Amid competition from scores of new and stylish downtown eateries, Chanterelle was decidedly old-fashioned - quiet and cozy, with a touch of elegance housed in a 115-yearold Victorian on H Street.

Bay Miry of D & S Development, which owns the property, says the 17-room boutique hotel will remain open during the transition. The company is in talks with local catering companies to handle upcoming weddings and other events, he added.

The restaurant, which recently received a three-star review (out of four stars) in The Bee, will be re-imagined and expanded, Miry says.

"Our plan has always been a major rehab of the restaurant includingthe addition of a glass conservatory structure and additional patio seating and bar area," Miry said. "The plan is to find a fresh new concept to go along with the rehab plans that we have always had."

The departing general manager, Martin Vale, said, "I am absolutely stunned and heartbroken that we couldn't keep it going."
In August of 2008, Vale was part of the management team that vowed to rescue the Sterling after owner Sandi Wasserman announced she was closing it in response to the economic downturn.

"We know the place and we understand its potential," Vale told The Bee at the time.
But that passion was apparently not enough to save the hotel, which opened in the historic mansion 21 years ago.

"It's the economy in general. We were basically doing it on a wing and a prayer. We, like many other businesses, just couldn't bear the brunt," Vale said.
Vales says six to eight restaurant workers lost their jobs. Employees began to notice financial problems months ago, according to Chef Jua Moore, who only recently rose from sous chef after his boss, James Williams departed, fearing the collapse was coming.

"They weren't paying their bills on time and our vendors were cutting us off," Moore said Monday. "In December, I was doing two or three banquets a day with 100 to 200 people, and it was pretty much a skeleton crew."

The married father of three says he is looking for work and may have to settle for a lesser cooking job because openings for chefs are so scarce these days.

"I worked so hard to get to a place where I wanted to be, and worked 12 and 13 years to get there, and then I get it swept right out from underneath me," Moore said.
Meanwhile, Moore received his last paycheck but continues to carry it around in his pocket.

"I've been trying to cash it every day, but so far it hasn't worked," he said.

January 11, 2010
Sacramento Beer Week coming in Feb.

Here's some good news for those of us who love to sip on some suds. Sacramento Beer Week will be celebrated from Feb. 22 - 28. Look for beer events and specials at such spots as Rubicon Brewing Company, River City Brewing Company and a tasting dedicated to local brews at The Shack in east Sacramento. For the more gastronomically inclined beer drinker, a beer dinner will be held on Feb. 23 at Mulvaney's Building & Loan, with four food courses paired with a variety of ales.

"We want to celebrate the fantastic beers made not only here, but in California and around the world," said Dan Scott, the executive director of Sacramento Beer Week. "We're going to have lots of fun, interactive events and want to raise the awareness about all the great beers available at local pubs and restaurants."

For more information:

January 11, 2010
Rocklin woman among finalists in national recipe contest

Maple Glazed Prosciutto wrapped Shrimp.jpgJoni Hilton had three goals when she was developing a recipe for the Hungry Jack "Use Up the Box" recipe and essay contest: include shrimp, the savory combination of sweet and salty and submit a winning recipe.

Her recipe for maple-glazed prosciutto wrapped shrimp fulfills the first two and may just help her nail the third.

Hilton, of Rocklin, is one of just nine finalists in the recipe contest, which saw a total of 324 entries. Participants had to submit original recipes that used Hungry Jack Instant Mashed Potatoes, Hungry Jack Pancake Mix or Hungry Jack Syrup.

Entrants also had to submit a 200 word or less essay explaining how they created the recipe.

Hilton said coming up with her recipe wasn't too difficult.

joni hilton.jpgThe family eats shrimp a lot - her husband, former CBS 13 anchor Bob Hilton, grew up eating shrimp in Louisiana - and Joni Hilton loves the combination salty meat and shrimp, so combining the two elements seemed like a perfect fit.

"It's explosively delicious," she said of the dish. "It's been a real hit with our family."

Hilton, 53, is well-seasoned when it comes to entering recipe contests.

She has entered hundreds of contests and won 60. She was a finalist in the National Beef Cookoff and has won trips to Hawaii, New York, Florida and lots of appliances.

The best prize thus far was a $25,000 trip to France in 1997 that she scored for having won a Bays English Muffin recipe contest.

The trip included a week of cooking school.

"It was just the trip of a lifetime," she said.

Prizes for the Hungry Jack recipe contests aren't too shabby either. A grand prize of a year's worth of groceries (in the form of a check for $6,000) will be awarded for each category, and runners-up will be awarded a gift basket of Hungry Jack products.

Online voting begins Friday on Hungry Jack's contest Web site.

January 8, 2010
The Bee's on top of it when it comes to Top 10 food trends

cupcake.jpgWhat do sushi, cupcakes and coffee have in common?

Beyond deliciousness, all were among the top ten food trends of the past decade, according to the editors at The Food Channel.

Staff there also came up with the top flavors, food influencers, people, news topics impacting food and recipes from 2000 to 2009.

Here at The Bee, we're proud that we've provided readers with stories encompassing these top 10 trends and thought it'd be fun to take a look back. The following is The Food Channel's list of top ten trends, most with links to past Bee stories (some stories are no longer available online)

Follow the link below to see the list.

January 8, 2010
OpenTable ranks Ambience Restaurant "Best Overall"

I recently logged onto to check on the area's restaurants, including the various rankings. Despite my position as The Bee's restaurant critic, I think people should seek out a variety of opinions when they are weighing their dining options. One advantage I may offer to readers is that my opinions will invariably be more consistent and my benchmarks more thorough, while online reviews will be more plentiful.

The reason I prefer OpenTable to Yelp is that diners can only write a review and give star ratings when they make a reservation through the Web site and then actually show up and eat there. With Yelp, you can pretty much write anything you want without ever visiting any establishment. Still, there are reliable and amusing reviews to be found on Yelp. "Sarah S." for instance, is actually Sarah Singleton, the author of the impressive and entertaining "Undercover Caterer" blog. One drawback of OpenTable, of course, is that it does not rank restaurants that don't take reservations. That means people who search the site might not know about the wonderful food at a casual but consistently excellent place like Magpie on R Street.

As for OpenTable, its lists seem quite credible, with a few surprises. Ambience Restaurant in Carmichael tops the list in the "Best Overall" category. That's not a surprise. I have been touting the wonderful, artistic cooking and fine service for months, and I recently ranked it as my favorite fine dining experience of 2009. Mulvaney's tops the list "Fit for Foodies," followed by Grange and, pleasant surprise here, A Chef's Table, the new little bistro in Rocklin owned by Chef David Hill.

Ambience also leads the way on OpenTable's "Best Food" and "Best Ambiance." As fond as I am of Ambience, its ambiance (or ambience, if you prefer the French spelling) is not its strong suit. It could use a tad more warmth, a touch or two with décor and accessories, including more and better art on the walls. But there is certainly plenty of art to be found on the plates.

I have dined several times at Ambience since I reviewed it months ago (and awarded it our highest rating with four stars). And Ambience was the way I decided to end 2009, attending the incredible New Year's Eve dinner, a seven-course set menu for $85.

After the salmon scallop mousse brioche that kicked off the meal, we were wowed by the three-part second course of lobster - lobster crème brulee, lobster bisque and finally seared lobster on diced Asian cucumber with wasabi coulis and fondue sauce. What a warm-up.

After the beautifully arranged and clean-tasting golden and rainbow beets with Muscovy duck pate, we moved on to what I considered the best course of the night, a perfectly cooked and wonderfully moist grilled sea bass on braised leeks and white corn Arborio rice, dill butter and vinaigrette radicchio.

There was so much more, all of it amazing - a fifth course of pan-seared squab breast cooked medium rare, along with housemade squab sausage, brushed with blackberry glaze.

The sixth course was the gorgonzola stuffed pork tenderloin on scalloped potatoes, along with Burgundy poached pears and one of my favorite Ambience treats, wild black rice. If you haven't had that, it's delicious when it comes out of Morgan Song's kitchen. We were so full we had to take our excellent desserts home. When I passed by the kitchen on the way out, I caught a glimpse of Song and his young, talented sous chef Olga Ponce, fully concentrating on cooking and plating the food. Their night was an absolute success, and no doubt an exhausting one.

It made me realize that there must be something to the OpenTable rankings. In the "best food" category, I cannot imagine a restaurant performing any better.

January 7, 2010
Food Network contender to judge local cooking competition

The question is simple: whose cuisine will reign supreme?

The task is not: constructing a three-course meal in just 45 minutes using five secret ingredients.

Six chefs will aim to do just that on April 30 as part of the Celebrity Chef Challenge, which will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the California Automobile Museum in downtown Sacramento.

The event pits local chefs in whisk to whisk combat during the live cooking competition and food show.

Four chefs have signed on for battle thus far: Ryan O'Malley, executive chef at Piatti Ristorante; Chef Q, owner of Chef Q For Hire; Kristy DeVaney, caterer and food blogger; and Anthony Dimasuay, executive chef at 3 Fires Lounge at the Residence Inn Marriott Hotel.

Celebrity judges include News 10's Bryan May, Adam Pechal, owner of Tuli Bistro and a past Celebrity Chef Challenge winner, and Chef Dominique Crenn, of Food Network "The Next Iron Chef" fame.

Crenn is executive chef at San Francisco's Luce Restaurant and was named Esquire Magazine's "Chef of the Year 08."

On the second season of "The Next Iron Chef," Crenn, a delightfully spunky French gal whose accent could charm even the coldest soul, was sent packing mid-season when she served up an entree judges said lacked flavor and an undercooked churro.

About 100 food vendors, including local wineries and breweries, are expected to participate in the food show at the Celebrity Chef Challenge.

Guy Farris and Melissa Crowley of Sacramento & Co. will be the masters of ceremonies.

Tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the door. All proceeds benefit InAlliance, a local nonprofit that provides life skills training and supported employment for people with developmental disabilities, said Jessica Bean, InAlliance's public relations coordinator.

For more event information or to get tickets, go to

January 6, 2010
What happens after a restaurant gets a good review?

What's it like when a relatively obscure restaurant gets a positive review in The Bee? That's what I wondered when I returned to Shaz Restaurant two days after telling readers about the odd, hard-to-find location and the very good Indian food.

What I found was a completely different restaurant, crowded with people having a late lunch. A week before, I was the only one there during most of a lunch hour.

Four of us had the $8.99 lunch buffet, but Shaz was out of forks. Prior to that, we stood for a few moments inside the door, waiting to be seated. Then we just made a beeline for the buffet. The owners were swamped, as was the lone server on duty. Later, I called Mohammad Anwar, who owns and operates Shaz with his wife Nasrin.

"It is going very good. It has turned the whole business around," he told me. "We have been very, very busy and everybody seems to be enjoying the food. We have had a thousand times more business."

Part of the fun of writing about Shaz was telling people about a place they probably had never heard of. Part of the problem, for me, at least, is how Shaz would handle the deluge. If they get overwhelmed, if diners are happy, they will wonder what I was talking about.

No matter what I write, even if it's a review of an indisputably excellent restaurant, I will invariably receive an email from someone who went there, tried it and didn't like it. That's just the nature of the business.

When we returned to Shaz, we were once again happy with the food (we eventually got forks). But I was concerned about how the restaurant would weather this storm. Shaz is closed on Monday, but Mohammad was there working and getting ready for a busy Tuesday. He could feel all the business he was losing.

"The phone never stopped ringing. There were a lot of cars outside. We're thinking of opening on Mondays now," he says.

For one thing, it's nice to be reminded that, despite what some folks hear, people still read the newspaper and they still respond to what they read.

I called the owner of Boon Boon Cafe, Linda Chindalucklate, and she recalled how her restaurant met the tsunami of customers with mixed results after a review in May.

"It was crazy, crazy busy," she says. "My restaurant opened at 4:30 on Sunday. My mom went there at 9 a.m. and people started knocking on the door non-stop. She said she had to hide under the table because she was confused about what to do and didn't want customers to see her."

Chindalucklate adds: "We ran out of food. I learned a lot of things. You have to be prepared for the food, for the people, for the number of tables. My sister came into the kitchen and said, 'I'm going crazy.' I cried because it was so overwhelming."

That night after closing, an exhausted Chindalucklate ate at neighboring Subway for the first time.

But how does a seasoned pro handle a positive review? I called Moxie co-owner Adam Chaccour, who has been in the business 30 years and is pretty much prepared for anything.

"Even the people who have been here before, everybody mentioned the article and said congratulations. We have been extremely busy," he says.

Asked to give his advice to unsuspecting restaurants that get reviewed, Chaccour says, "The most important thing is the human resources. Everybody can do well with 10 tables, but what do you do when have 50 tables?"

He says staff should be cross-trained so they can do any job in a restaurant.

Chindalucklate says a small restaurant that gets a good review will need at least two extra people on duty on the floor, two more in the kitchen and one who does nothing else but answer the phone.

And the food? Anything mentioned positively in the review is going to be ordered.

Her last bit of advice: "Read your review through, see what dishes has been mentioned in the paper, remember it with all your heart because you will have to make at least 50 of those dishes -- at least."

January 6, 2010
Chilly conditions good news for fruit, nut lovers

cherries.jpgApparently all this cold weather has done more than just drive us into our kitchens to cook soup and bake bread - it's aiding fruit and nut trees.

Most fruit and nut trees need a certain amount of chill hours - recorded when the temperature drops below 45 degrees - in order to help develop a crop for the next season, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

More chill hours have been recorded so far this year than last year at this time thanks to foggy weather conditions accelerating chill hour accumulations, the California Cherry Commission reported to the federation.

Cherries, apples and pears need the most chill hours, about 1200 hours. Fewer chilling hours results in a lighter crop, the federation reports.

Guess I should stop whining about this finger-numbing weather, if only for the sake of fresh cherry pie this summer.

January 6, 2010
Where's the pork (belly)?

Beeler's Duroc Belly.JPGDon't be put off by those long, seemingly daunting recipes in today's Food & Wine section - braising a pork belly at home isn't as hard as it sounds.

Yes, it takes a while (about 48 hours to be exact), but the actual hands-on cooking is rather simple. And the meat that results, well, is simply fantastic.

When I interviewed food writer and cookbook author Michael Ruhlman for my story, he said he recently talked someone through the process of making a pork belly using Twitter.

Conveying how to cook a pork belly in 140 characters? Now that's impressive.

"It's one of those things when people first do it, it changes their lives," Ruhlman said. "It's so easy, so delicious."

The hardest part about making a pork belly is acquiring one, though we are blessed with several great butchers and grocers in the Sacramento region who can help with that.

I got my pork belly at Taylor's Market, but it also can be found at Vande Rose Farms Meat & Fish in Granite Bay, Reed's Gourmet Meat Co. in East Sacramento and Corti Brothers.

It's also a good idea to call and pre-order one ahead of time. Many butchers also will take the skin off for you.

For pork belly recipes, including recipes for what to serve with pork belly, check out

I used Pajo Bruich's recipe for vanilla apple puree, which I served beneath my seared pork belly and topped it with his recipe for apple celery salad. Follow the link above for those recipes. (pictured is an onion-crusted sous vide Duroc pork belly with cocoa and strawberry paint and compressed melon salad prepared by Chef John Paul Khoury, corporate chef for Preferred Meats).

January 5, 2010
$5 deal coming to the Old Spaghetti Factory

Prepare to feast for just a few bucks at the Old Spaghetti Factory from Jan. 12 - 13. This pasta chain's always been a favorite for diners and daters on a budget, but this upcoming special is bound to bring out the hungry masses. To celebrate its 41st birthday, all Old Spaghetti Factory locations are offering a 41 percent discount on its Pasta Classic entrees. In dollars and cents, this means a complete pasta meal with salad, bread and dessert will run you about $5. Kids meals will be in the $3 range.

The Old Spaghetti Factory held a similar promotion last year for its 40th anniversary celebrations, and its price break attracted huge crowds. The chain went through 23,000 pounds of spaghetti and fed 41,000 guests in its 2009 anniversary.

"Since then, our guests have been requesting rollback prices, and we're happy to be able to extend the discounts again this year as a thank-you to our loyal guests for their continued support," said Chris Dussin, president of the Old Spaghetti Factory, in a statement.

For more information, visit the Old Spaghetti Factory's web site.

January 4, 2010
Free mini sandwich @ Togo's on Jan. 14

Happy 2010, and here's something to mark on your calendar. All Togo's locations will be giving out free mini-sized pastrami sandwiches on Jan. 14. But here's the fine print: the sandwiches will be given out from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. that day, and only to the first 100 guests during that time. Seeing how the local masses have swamped on similar free food promos, plan on getting a spot in line early.

So what's the occasion? It's Togo's way of honoring National Pastrami Day on Jan. 14. It's an apt occasion to celebrate a sliced meat that's served many an American stomach with honor and valor. And for that, mini pastrami sandwich, we salute you.

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