Appetizers
May 28, 2010
Former French Laundry sommelier to participate in local event

Wednesday qualified as the best day of work since ... well, pretty much ever. The work day required a visit to the French Laundry, the Yountville restaurant founded by Thomas Keller that's considered one of the world's great gastronomical experiences. Look for a story in the next couple weeks about one of the restaurant's connections to the Sacramento area.

Before dinner service, the staff bid farewell and had cake in honor of sommelier Anani Lawson. Wednesday marked his last shift at the restaurant, and plans to travel in the near future and work on wine consulting. He'll also be visiting Sacramento area on July 24 for "Epicure & Discoveries in Wine II," his second event with local boutique caterer Pajo Bruich. Judging by their first event, expect an evening of impeccably executed courses with choice wine pairings. The price isn't cheap - $150 per person - but still about $100 less than dinner at French Laundry. For more information: www.pajoscatering.com.

Back at the French Laundry, I felt some 916 (and 530) pride when reading their recent menus. One course featured "Sacramento Delta Asparagus" and the rice paired with the "Grilled Sirloin of Kuroge Beef From Shiga" was sourced from a producer near Winters. The coffee served at the meal's end came from a Grass Valley roaster, but didn't catch the name. Some of their caviar also comes from white sturgeon that was harvested in the Sacramento River.

You can read more about all this in a couple weeks ... stay tuned, and bon appetit.

May 28, 2010
Celebrity chef-author Anthony Bourdain coming to Sacramento

Chef-author-TV host Anthony Bourdain is never boring. If you doubt that, catch his long-running show "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel.

Better yet, cash in two opportunities to see him during his swing through Northern California. Bourdain will appear at 10 a.m. June 17 at Book Passage in Corte Madera (www.bookpassage.com). Much closer to home, he will justify his nickname - "the Bad Boy of Cuisine" - at 8 p.m. Sept. 17 at Memorial Auditorium. For tickets and details: http://events.sacbee.com/sacramento-ca/events/show/117230745-no-reservationsan-evening-with-anthony-bourdain.

You'll recall his best-selling memoir, "Kitchen Confidential," from 10 years ago. It turned the restaurant world upside down and gave foodies ... well, lots of food for thought.

Now Bourdain has cooked up more controversy with a new book, "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook" (Ecco, $26.99, 304 pages; on sale June 8).

In it, he visits the "back of the house" of well-known restaurants, takes on celebrity chefs and restaurant critics, laments the decline of "the great American hamburger," and recalls enjoying authentic dishes in cities around the world (perfect pasta in Sardinia; exquisite pho in Hanoi).

The best meal of his life? That would be a feast at chef Thomas Keller's award-winning French Laundry in Yountville, in the Napa Valley (www.frenchlaundry.com).

What was on the menu? You might be surprised.

May 27, 2010
Specials at Marie Callender's

Mmmmm, pie ... and with that, here's some info. about two specials that are about to start at your friendly neighborhood Marie Callender's. From Friday through June 30, you can get a whole pie for $6.99. Note that this deal is good for pies that normally cost between $10.49 - $15.49. There's also a combo meal deal that includes a specialty hamburger, fries and - of course - a slice of pie for $8.99. What a bargain ...

For more info.: www.mariecallenders.com

May 26, 2010
The hospitality industry by the book

Let's say you've got the "kitchen gene" and love to cook for a crowd. Or you can grow anything in your backyard garden. You can even make beer in your garage. Your friends and family tell you all the time how talented you are.

Could the next step be a full-time job in the hospitality industry?

If you're curious, consider the new "Culinary Careers" by Rick Smilow. He's the president of the Institute of Culinary Education, a cooking school in New York City.

His book offers a heaping plate of solid, first-hand advice from real people in the business - chefs, restaurant owners, caterers, food company managers, bartenders, food writers, food stylists, artisanal farmers, wine importers, sommeliers, cooking academy instructors and the like.

But beware: Among all that advice is this recurring theme: "Make sure you like it, because it's long hours and hard work."

Especially helpful are the numerous how-to strategies for entering food- and drink-related businesses - from raising capital and creating a business plan, to getting licensing and hiring associates. Not to forget the lists of national culinary programs and professional organizations.

"Culinary Careers" is $17 from Clarkson Potter (368 pages).

May 25, 2010
Winning potato salad recipe

I penned a story last month about Sacramento being a hotbed for cooking contest winners. There's Evelyn Henderson of Roseville, who was a category winner and appeared on "Oprah" as a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off; Carolyn Kumpe of El Dorado has won a number of cooking contests after finding herself unemployed, and Joni Hilton of Rocklin has won 70 contests over the past 15 years.

Trisha Moore of Carmichael can now be counted in the local winners' circle. She recently won thrid place in the Wisconsin Potato Recipe Contest. The prize package wasn't much - just a $50 gift card for the grocer of her choice. But she still gets some nice bragging rights for her 'Potato Skins on the BBQ" recipe. Check out the link and sample it for yourself.

Congratulations, Trisha ...

May 25, 2010
It's BBQ season: Handle food wisely, use common sense

Traditionally, the launch of barbecue season is Memorial Day weekend, which leads us to consider these disturbing numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

It cautions that "foodborne diseases cause 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Practicing simple food safety steps is the easiest way to avoid getting or giving food poisoning this summer."

With that in mind, food-safety expert Tom Chestnut of NSF International reminds backyard cooks of some common-sense guidelines. NSF is a nonprofit "public health and safety organization."

1. The safest way to thaw frozen food is to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. "It should be covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap (adequately secured to ensure there is no opportunity for cross-contamination) and placed in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator," Chestnut advises. Never defrost frozen food by letting it sit at room temperature.

2. To marinate food, put it in a plastic container or plastic bag and store it overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, remove the food from the marinade, then throw away the marinade. Never use it to baste food on the grill.

3. "Cross-contamination" means spreading bacteria from one food to another "via dripping juices, hands, utensils and plates." Wash your hands and cooking tools often.

4. To prevent bacteria from growing, hot foods should be kept hot (140 degrees and above) and cold foods should be kept cold (40 degrees and below). Wrap and put away leftovers immediately.

5. Invest a few dollars in the cook's best friend - an instant-read thermometer - to "ensure food has reached a safe internal temperature.

May 24, 2010
Public asked to be on the lookout for citrus pest

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The Asian Citrus Psyllid (that nasty looking thing pictured above) has already wrecked Florida's citrus industry, and California could be next. The California Citrus Research Board is asking the public to be on the lookout for this tiny bug which feeds on citrus leaves and stems.

The bug itself is just about one-eighth-inch long, but are carriers of a bacterial disease called Huanglongbing. Once infected, citrus trees risk discoloration of leaves or will die altogether. The Asian Citrus Psyllid has been detected in southern California and Texas, and could just be a matter of time before they reach central and northern California's citrus country.

So, what to look for?

"The psyllid looks like a tiny kind of black thorn, and usually found on the underside of leaves," said Ted Batkin, president of the California Citrus Research Board. "The pest likes to feed at a 45 degree angle. So if you turn a leaf over and see all these black spots that look like thorns, call your county agricultural commissioner."

Batkin estimates that Florida's lost 20 percent of its citrus acreage since the pest was detected. California contains some 300,000 acres of commercial citrus groves, and a citrus industry worth $1.1 billion. The pest has a tendency to infest urban areas before reaching farm country, and so far 100 acres in southern California have been treated for Asian Citrus Psyllid.

"This is a business threat as well as a homeowner's threat," said Batkin. "What we're trying to do is get ahead of those invasions as they move north."

For more information: www.californiacitrusthreat.org

May 20, 2010
Learn more about "EatingRightWhenTheBudget'sTight"

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Talk to Gopal Kapur of Roseville (pictured above) and you'll hear him preach about healthy meal plans that promote social and environmental awareness - while keeping it tasty at the same time. I wrote a profile of Kapur and his "Family Green Survival" food program, an approach to eating that combined raw and natural foods and occasional days of "survival eating" (consuming between 800 to 1,000 calories, which reflects the intake of poor people around the world). Kapur's recently kicked off a new program called "EatingRightWhenTheBudget'sTight," which provides daily menus and recipes that amount to about $6 a day. Here's a sample:

Breakfast

French Toast, Fruit Syrup ($.75)
1% Milk, 1 Cup ($.18)
Orange Juice, 1 Cup ($.25)

Lunch

Tuna Sandwich ($.90)
1 Banana ($.30)

Dinner

Vegetables, Beans, and Chicken Soup ($1.05)
Beef & Vegetables Stir Fry ($1.52)
Noodles With Peanut Butter ($.26)
1 Orange ($.30)
Walnut Truffles ($.40)

Total: $5.91

Kapur's concocted more recipes for eating on $6 a day. To download them and learn about his other suggested food programs, visit www.familygreensurvival.com (Free membership required for recipe downloads).

May 19, 2010
Chipotle menu boasts more locally-grown produce

As if we needed another reason to enjoy Chipotle's addicting burritos, the restaurant chain is now increasing its commitment to locally source its produce.

Though it started serving produce from local farms two years ago, it's now working with about 50 local, family-owned farms to provide lettuce, green bell peppers, jalapenos, oregano, tomatoes and red onions.

For Chipotle outlets here in Northern California, sources include Abbate Farms in Merced, Bee Sweet in Fowler, Kenter Canyon Farms in Sun Valley and Taylor Farms in Salinas and Tracy, according to a Chipotle spokesperson.

While not exactly hitting locavore standards in all cases, Chipotle's produce does have less mileage than the other fruits and vegetables eaten in the U.S., which on average, travel about 1,500 miles from farm to table.

The restaurant's produce usually comes from within 250 miles of Chipotle's distribution centers, and nearly 70 percent of that comes from within 150 miles. One-third of its produce arrives from within 50 miles, the release states.

May 18, 2010
Some music to go with that burger?

If you want to munch on an upscale burger - beef, lamb, pork, turkey, ahi or veggie - and catch some tunes at the same time, consider the new Relish Burger Bar in the fancy Montano center in El Dorado Hills.

To kick off the restaurant's summer weekend-concert series, the Rhythm Vandals - a Santana tribute band - will be set up on the deck beginning at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. It will be followed by Shameless (party and dance tunes) at 8:30 p.m. May 29. No cover charges.

"We have a 2,500-square-foot patio with a fire pit, and we'll have a misting system up by the end of May," said owner Richard Righton.

Righton also owns Bidwell Street Bistro in Folsom, and its influence shows up on Relish's menu: pickled beets and goat cheese, house-made polenta triangles, wild boar sausage.

Relish is at 1000 White Rock Road; (916) 933-3111, www.relishburgerbar.com.

May 18, 2010
Free wine pour tonight at P.F. Chang's

That's right, P.F. Chang's is offering a complimentary pour of wine tonight. So here's the deal: If you're dining at 5:18 p.m. today at P.F. Chang's - and you're of legal drinking age, thanks - you'll get a free pour of Vineyard 518. This freebie commemorates a new house wine created for the P.F. Chang's chain by Mendocino's Wattle Creek Winery called Vineyard 518. This custom label features two varietals: sauvignon blanc and a syrah blend which contains small amounts of cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. Suggested prices are $4.50 for a half glass, $7.50 for a full pour and $15.50 for a half carafe.

"The name was inspired by Chinese numerology and the number 518 means 'I will prosper,'" said Mary Melton, beverage director for P.F. Chang's, in a statement.

And since today is 5/18 on the calendar, "518" also translates to "free pour."

May 17, 2010
Official wine of the Amgen Tour

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While the area is awash in Amgen fever, here's something related to sip on. Malibu Family Wines, a producer in the Santa Monica Mountains, has released King of the Mountains Cuvee - a.k.a. the official wine of the Amgen Tour of California. Bottles cost $32 each, with proceeds to benefit Stage 8 of the tour.

The wine's style is something of a Bordeaux-Rhone hybrid, featuring a blend of 65 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent syrah, 10 percent grenache and 5 percent mourvedre. And you can see the estate vineyards that spawned this fruit come Sunday, when Stage 8 of the Amgen Tour winds through the Santa Monica Mountains.

"We're in the backyard of Amgen," said Kevin Bening of Malibu Family Wines. "As the helicopters are floating above, you'll see our vineyards. It's really an amazing stage. They'll be doing four laps with 10,000 feet of vertical climbing."

Look for King of the Mountains Cuvee at www.malibufamilywines.com.

May 17, 2010
Block party coming to 18th St.

Think of it as Slamson meets Cinco de Mayo. 18th St. between L and Capitol will be turned into "The NBA's Greatest Draft Lottery Party" starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Look for street tacos, tamales, wine and other foodstuffs to keep you going while a telecast of the NBA draft lottery is shown on a big screen. Also included in this street styled soiree are appearances from the Sacramento Kings Dancers and cover tunes from Pop Fiction. The cost: free.

May 14, 2010
Live fish catch attention, customers at farmers market

Fish doesn't get much fresher than this.

Shoppers at the Sacramento farmers market can now purchase live fish at the Sunday food haven under the freeway.

Michael Passmore, owner of Passmore Ranch - a sustainable aquaculture facility in Sloughhouse that's been raising and producing fresh water fish since 2005 - began selling live black bass, silver carp, catfish and sturgeon at the market about three weeks ago.

The booth's a hit. Passmore's fish sales have doubled since he started selling fish at farmers markets. He also sets up shop at the Florin Road farmers market on Thursdays and in Stockton on Saturdays.

"It's been fantastic," he said.

And yes, Passmore is well within the law in terms of having a booth of live fish at the farmers market (he should know - the Marine-turned-entrepreneur is currently in law school). He has cleared his booth with Sacramento County and operates at the market under its health permit.

Here's the catch: Passmore or his staff can't hand a live fish to a customer, a requirement attached to his registration with the state Department of Fish and Game.

"We give it a tap on the head, which stuns and/or kills it," he said, adding that the method is among the more humane ways to kill a fish.

Prices range from about $4.25 for catfish and carp to $7.25 for black bass.

Need an idea for a delicious fish dinner? Check out Epicurious' recipe for black bass with ginger and scallions.

May 13, 2010
Buffalo Brewery online auction ends Tuesday

Sometimes when I'm sitting here at my desk, clacking away at my keyboard, I pause to think that this Sacramento Bee building at 21st and Q streets was once the Buffalo Brewery. How great it would be if kegs rolled down the aisles when deadlines were done, with tap handles near our reporters' pods. Instead we tend to find our post-work libations nearby at Benny's ... but that's enough gazing in the pint glass for now.

The real reason behind this post is that an online auction is underway for items related to the old Buffalo Brewery. You can bid on such memorabilia as Buffalo Brewing signs, trays and calendars. If you're interested in trying to score some of these antiques, visit www.witherells.com. The auction ends Tuesday, so get those bids ready.

Thanks, and happy beer-thirty.

May 12, 2010
California Cafe shuts down abruptly at Arden Fair

The California Café at Arden Fair mall is no longer. Employees found out Tuesday, with phone calls breaking the news to them and giving them absolutely no notice.

Customers began learning the same thing about the popular upscale-casual restaurant today when they showed up for a meal and found the doors locked. Owned by parent company Tavistock Restaurants, California Café had a devoted following dating to its opening 20 years ago this July.

Jeff Carl, Tavistock's chief marketing officer, told me it had little to do with the restaurant's performance, that it was more about the expiring lease and terms of a future lease.

"We were satisfied with the performance of the restaurant given the current economic factors," said Carl, who is based in Emeryville.

But he didn't have much explanation for the way the 30 or so employees were told and how they will be compensated in their final paychecks, which they are supposed to pick up today.

Surprisingly, one longtime employee was sad but not bitter about the way it went down.

"In the restaurant business, that's fairly common practice," said Lori McManus, a server who started at the café 15 years ago. "This will be my second closure. I tend to stick around at a restaurant until they kick me out."

The pastry chef, she said, had worked there since Day 1 and was renowned for his apple tart, among other things.

"After being there 15 years, it was family," McManus added. "I have met so many wonderful people who worked there. It was a pleasure and an honor to work there. It's sad, but it's not often you can work at a place that long."

"I've been very thankful to work there and this is just one of the things that happens," she added.

That said, the reliable and hardworking McManus is suddenly out of work and looking.

She is focusing her search for now in the Roseville area where she lives.

As for Tavistock/California Café, there's an outside chance the restaurant will reopen in another Sacramento location - one with more attractive financial terms.

"We're always looking for better locations, better lease terms," Carl said.


May 12, 2010
Link of the day: NY Times writer kicked out of restaurant

While we're on a subject related to restaurant etiquette, the interwebs are all abuzz today about this post from the New York Times' Diner's Journal Blog. Financial writer Ron Lieber got kicked out of Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York City. His offense: stepping into the kitchen to tell Chef Forgione to stop yelling at a member of the kitchen staff because it was disrupting diners.

Did Lieber overstep his bounds by walking into the kitchen? Is Forgione due for some anger management therapy? Read and discuss ...

May 12, 2010
It's deja vu for the Taylor's Kitchen crew

Fans of the former Mason's restaurant take note: a culinary reunion is taking place in Land Park.

Neighborhood hot spot Taylor's Kitchen features two members of Mason's original opening crew - chef Robert Lind and pastry chef Jodie Chavious - and has added a third to its line.

John Gurnee, who served as Mason's executive chef, will be working as Lind's sous chef this week, a role Lind filled under Gurnee at Mason's.

"John is just part-timing it for now," owner Danny Johnson wrote in an e-mail to The Bee. Johnson declined to speak to the chef's future plans.

Customer feedback about Lind's work since he joined the Freeport Boulevard restaurant in February has been "overwhelmingly positive," Johnson said.

"The changes put in place have allowed us to achieve a much higher level in the quality and presentation of the food at Taylor's Kitchen," he said.

It also doesn't hurt that they nabbed Andrew Willsen, formerly of Mulvaney's B&L, to manage the front of the house.

May 11, 2010
Tuli Bistro coming to Friday Night Concerts in the Park

Ran into Adam Pechal, the owner of midtown's Tuli Bistro, and got some scoop that mixes local music and local eating. Tuli Bistro will be vending at the Friday Night Concerts in the Park, which runs Fridays at Cesar Chavez Plaza (10th and J streets), starting in mid to late June. Pechal says he's going to use a trailer set-up to cook and sell some eats near the beer garden. It'll be a simple menu, consisting mainly of pizzas and pulled pork sandwiches, but offers an opportunity to grab a bite without leaving the beer garden. Rock out and have a bite ... \m/

And what's this we're hearing about Pechal opening a new eatery and retail outlet in east Sacramento? Stay tuned for more on that one.

May 11, 2010
"Cyclebration" food and wine benefit coming Saturday

Whether you prefer to pedal fixed gear or on a biycle built for two, there's a fundraiser that mixes cycling with the culinary world on Saturday at Shriner's Childrens Hospital (2425 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento). Look for food from such local eateries as OneSpeed, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, Ella, Mulvaney's B&L, and drink from Lange Twins Winery, Rubicon Brewing Co., Bogle Vineyards and much more. Proceeds go to the Shriner's Hospitals for Children, and includes a silent auction. The event runs from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Tickers cost $40 in advance, $50 at the door. For a full line-up of vendors and other information: shrinerscyclebration.org.

May 11, 2010
Special dinner for 'Deadliest Catch' captain in Monterey

Captain Jonathan Hillstrand of the 113-foot-long fishing boat F/V Time Bandit, and one of the stars of the Discovery Channel's hit show "Deadliest Catch," will vist Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf on Friday, May 14, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The skipper will dock himself at the award-winning Domenico's on the Wharf restaurant.

In conjunction with his visit, restaurant owner Dominic Mercurio will offer a three-course meal of soup or salad, Alaskan king crab legs or Alaskan salmon, and baked Alaska dessert.

Dinners will include a photo signed by Capt. Hillstrand and a brief visit with him. Cost is $50 per person, plus tax and tip. If Domenico's fills up with fans, the overflow will be seated at the nearby Cafe Fina, also owned by Mercurio.

Captain Hillstrand will also sign an additional 100 photos during his Friday visit that Domenico's on the Wharf will give to the first 100 diners to eat at the restaurant after 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 15.

"We're hosting the caption because we want to promote the use of sustainable wild Alaskan seafood directly from the fishermen," Mercurio said. "As a restaurateur and coming from a fishing family -- and as a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program -- we believe in being as ecologically conscious as possible."

Domenico's and Cafe Fina are on Fisherman's Wharf. For more information: (831) 372-3655 or (831) 372-5200.


May 11, 2010
Burger month served with a side of freebies

It always seems to be National (fill-in your favorite food, cause) month and guess what? May is no different.

National Burger Month doesn't come with a wristband or a parade, but at least it has free food attached.

Smashburger is offering a trifecta of freebies, beginning this week with fries.

The chain, which has a location in Citrus Heights, is giving away free French fries with the purchase of a burger until Thursday.

A free kids meal follows from May 17 through 20, and a free 1/3-pound burger on May 25.

The "fast casual" restaurant, named for the cooking method of smashing balls of meat on the grill, is partnering with Heinz and Coca-Cola for the promotional celebration.

Here's the catch: you have to register your name, address and e-mail at Smashburger's site.

Wondering where else in town to get your burger fix? Check out Bee dining critic Blair Robertson's review of burgers, from counter joints to fine dining restaurants.

Want to hold your own burger celebration at home? Try James McNair's recipe for Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers burgers (from Epicurious). Got vegetarians at your table? This recipe for bulgur veggie burgers with lime mayonnaise got rave reviews on Epicurious' site.

May 10, 2010
Entries sought for Best California Wine List competition

Who's got the best wine list in the Golden State?

That's what the California Restaurant Association is trying to nail down in its third annual Best California Wine List Competition. Restaurateurs who think their cellar and wine service program can go mano-a-mano with all comers have until July 15 to enter. An entry form can be downloaded at www.calrest.org.

The contest seeks wine programs that are committed to staff education and cellars that show off the diversity of California wine. Awards are given in the following areas: single-location restaurants; restaurants with two to nine locations (annual revenue less than $1 million); restaurants with two to nine locations (annual revenue of $1 million or more); restaurant companies with 10 or more locations.

The Firehouse in Old Sacramento and the Melting Pot, which includes a Sacramento location, were both winners last year.

Look for the winners to be announced later in the summer.

Meanwhile, who do you think has the best wine list in the Sacramento area?

May 7, 2010
Sure it's flavorful, but is lamb nutritious?

lamb.jpgWith two stories in this week's Food & Wine section devoted to lamb and it's popularity, we couldn't help but wonder where the meat stands nutritionally.

Beyond being a good source of protein, it's also packed with vitamins, said Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at UC Davis.

Lamb is a little higher than other meats in its amount of B12 per serving, and has 40 percent of the daily need of niacin and zinc in a 4-ounce serving, she said.

"It has a wonderful nutrient profile," Applegate said.

But it is a bit higher in saturated fat than other meat, she said.

May 5, 2010
Quick tequila picks

The Mexicans fought valiantly against the French at the Battle of Puebla. But hey, we're not here to give a history lesson about the origins of Cinco de Mayo. We're just looking for an excuse to sample some 100% blue agave tequila.

And throughout the Sacramento area, there's plenty of tequilas to sample and shoot. These 80 proof spirits aren't necessarily the kind from those hangovers college days gone by. Quality tequilas demand sipping like a Scotch to savor those complex flavors from agave and oak. Leave the shot glass, lime and salt for another time.

What to sip this Cinco de Mayo? Here are some quality tequilas that can be found around town. Expect to pay between $9 to $13 for a two ounce pour, save for that special bottle from El Tesoro. Salud!

Fortaleza Reposado
: Get a whiff of these wonderful butterscotch aromas. This "reposado" tequila - meaning it's been barrel-aged for more than two months, but less than a year - drinks especially smooth and with rich agave flavors.

Mejor Tequila Blanco
: Mejor Tequila has connections to midtown Sacramento. The company's chief operating officer, Angel Penilla, helps run the company from his home office near 20th and Capitol. The agave comes from the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico and this "blanco" (bottled less than two months after distillation) shows the essence of its agave in an easy-to-sip style.

Herencia Mexicana Tequila Anejo: Technically, this tequila could be classified as "extra anejo" since it's been aged for more than a year in barrel. And after three years of aging, you'll find a tequila that's remarkably balanced between its oak and agave components. Think of it as the aged wine equivalent of tequila.

Tres Agaves Tequila Casa Noble Single Barrel Reposado
: If you drop by Tres Agaves in Roseville for some Cinco de Mayo celebrating, get a taste of its custom reposado tequila. Made in conjunction with Casa Noble, a tasting team from Tres Agaves was sent to Jalisco to taste through barrels of tequila. This lot was the winner, with its combination of earthy and fruity agave flavors. We especially like this one for its clean finish.

El Tesoro 70th Anniversary Extra Anejo: Attention, high rollers and tequila aficionados, this bottle comes with a price tag that pushes $100. But if you've got the coin, you'll find a full-bodied tequila with an oak-y and rich agave flavor. The exceptionally long finish may help you get past the sticker shock.

May 4, 2010
Entries due this week for State Fair cooking competitions

Care to test your cooking chops?

The California State Fair is looking for home cooks and professional chefs to compete in a host of culinary competitions and events.

The California's Kitchen Program includes food judging competitions, demonstrations, chef challenges and activities for children, according to a state fair news release.

There are seven food competitions to choose from: the jam and jelly show; soft spreads and fruit show; pickle, relish, sauce and salsa show; baked goods (bread); baked goods (cake show); baked goods (pie and pastry); and baked goods (confections and cookies). Each competition has multiple divisions.

Other competitions using products such as Guittard Chocolate, Malt-O-Meal, Ghiradelli, Fleischmann's Yeast and King Arthur Flour also will be held during the fair, which this year will be held from July 14 to Aug. 1. Those contests boast more than $4,000 in cash and prizes, the release states.

Amateur competitions are open to California residents 5 years old and up. Professional competitions are open to chefs and those working in a food-related career.

Food-related challenges "have an agricultural and nutritional focus relating to the fast-pace lifestyle of Californians," the release states.

Entry forms are due by Friday. Applications for chef challenges are being accepted through June 15.

For rules and requirements, follow this link to the State Fair's website or call Nancy Emelio at (916) 263-3194. Emelio also can be reached via e-mail at nemelio@calexpo.com.

May 4, 2010
Former Placerville chef wins James Beard Award

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"Appetizers" sends its congratulations to Timothy Hollingsworth, a former Placerville resident, who won the "rising star chef" category in the 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards. Hollingsworth, a 1998 graduate of El Dorado High School, currently serves as chef de cuisine at The French Laundry in Yountiville, Ca.

You may have seen Hollingsworth as a guest judge on "Top Chef," and also headed Team United States in the 2009 Bocuse d'Or World Cuisine Contest in Lyon, France. Not bad for a guy who got started cooking in his senior year at Zachary Jacques in Placerville. Winning this James Beard Award, which is the culinary equivalent of winning an Oscar, is another nice coup for this increasingly acclaimed chef. We're certain we'll be hearing plenty more about him soon.


May 3, 2010
Fundraiser for college-bound burn victim Tuesday

Now this is eating with purpose.

A fundraiser is being held Tuesday at Pronto restaurant for Kiki Vo, a burn survivor and West Campus High School senior whose dream is to attend UC Berkeley.

Vo's heart-tugging story was chronicled by Bee staffer Melody Guttierez last week. Click here to read it.

Vo, who suffered burns over 85 percent of her body in a house fire that killed her mother and also badly burned two of her sisters, moved to Sacramento in 2004 for treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California.

Vo's story has inspired many to donate money for her education at Cal, where she has been accepted. Thus far, Bee readers have donated $21,000. Click here to read Gutierrez's story about the donations.

Tuesday's fundraiser will be held from 5 to 8 pm. at Pronto, located at the corner of 16th and O streets in Sacramento. Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to Vo's college fund.

May 3, 2010
Two Beard nominations, no award for local food blogger

Hank Shaw, an Orangevale food writer whose blog "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook," has twice been nominated for a James Beard Foundation award, lost once again.

Shaw attended the awards dinner at Espace in New York City Sunday night, but in the end, it was Ed Levine, who stirs up food enthusiasm on "Serious Eats," who took home the award for best blog.

"Oh well," Shaw texted me late Sunday.

Last year, Shaw lost to Sunset Magazine's "One-Block Diet."

Don't hit "send" on those condolence notes just yet though.

Shaw scored big late last month, having won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award for best blog.

Shaw also has a book deal with Rodale. "Honest Food: Finding the Forgotten Feast" is due out in 2011.



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