June 30, 2010
Chat replay: Join Chris Macias for virtual wine tasting
June 30, 2010
Almost time for our online tasting

That's right, get your stemware and a dump bucket if need be ... in just a couple hours - 6 p.m., that is - I'll be hosting the Bee's first ever virtual wine tasting. Set your browser to or you can send your tasting notes via Twitter to #beewine.

Here are the three wines we'll be tasting as a virtual community. I've picked up these bottles at various spots, but BevMo on Arden Way should carry them all:

2008 Bogle Riesling
Judges score: 98 points - double gold medal
Price: $9
2008 Red Rock Malbec
Judges score: 98 points - double gold medal
Price: $12

2008 Gnarly Head California Cabernet Sauvignon
Judges score: 93 points - silver medal
Price: $10.99

See you all at 6 p.m.!

June 30, 2010
Milky Way Simply Caramel is a new twist on a classic candy bar

Here's what you likely never knew about the Milky Way candy bar:

- Candymaker Frank Mars created it in his kitchen in 1923.
- The blend of chocolate, nougat and caramel got its name from a popular malted milk beverage.
- It was intended to taste like a malted milk shake, which was "the rage of the day," according to Mars Chocolate North America.

Here's something else you might not know: Stores are now selling Mars' variation on the classic candy bar, called Milky Way Simply Caramel (it's "kosher certified").

Essentially, the nougat has been removed from the recipe, leaving a 1.9-ounce bar of caramel covered in milk chocolate (89 cents is the suggest retail price).

We cut up a few bars and passed around the pieces to a random group of tasters. The verdict: If you love caramel, this one's worth a try. If you don't, then move on.

One taster had a suggestion: Replace the milk chocolate on the Simply Caramel bar with the dark chcolate on the Milky Way Midnight bar. Then you'd have the Simply Midnight Caramel bar. It's a thought.

June 30, 2010
Homemade ice cream made simple thanks to a few tips, techniques

stars.JPGI uncovered many tips and tricks while reporting my story on homemade ice cream. Now it's time to dish.

Those festive ice cream sandwiches gracing the cover of our Food & Wine section in today's Bee? They're amazingly simple to construct (and lovely to look at thanks to Bee photographer Lezlie Sterling) .

Bake your favorite cookie rounds, making sure it's large enough to fit a star-shaped cutter. Once the cookies have cooled (I let our peanut butter cookies cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then sit overnight in a zip-top bag), cut them into stars, leaving perfectly flat inner edges.

Heap your favorite homemade or store-bought vanilla ice cream in the center of one star, and place another star cookie on top. Flatten the cookies a little, so the ice cream squishes out the sides. Use a butter knife and follow the line of the cookie's edge, shaving off extra ice cream as you go.

Freeze for about 30 minutes to harden before serving.

Follow the link below for more tips and a recipe for chocolate gelato.

June 29, 2010
Special guests for Wednesday's virtual wine tasting

While we're getting our stemware ready for Wednesday's virtual wine tasting, I'm happy to announce some notable wine folks who will be in the mix and sharing their tasting notes. And they will be:

Mike Dunne,
the Bee's former food and wine editor and current author of the blog "A Year in Wine"

Michael Chandler, wine director for The Market at Pavilions; many of you may remember Michael from his longtime stint as a sommelier and manager at Enotria.

Leon Moore,
a recently certified sommelier who can be found serving at Red Lotus when he's not teaching music or organizing tastings; he's a cool young guy with a serious palate.

So here's the drill: log on to at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and we'll taste three bottles together as an online community.

2008 Bogle Riesling

Judges score: 98 points - double gold medal
Price: $9
Where to find it: Available widely at area grocery stores and the winery itself (

2008 Red Rock Malbec
Judges score: 98 points - double gold medal
Price: $12
Where to find it: Go to Red Rock's web site for a location near you.

2008 Gnarly Head California Cabernet Sauvignon
Judges score: 93 points - silver medal
Price: $10.99
Where to find it: Available widely at local grocery stores and bottle shops.

June 29, 2010
Bee readers share ice cream memories

scoopy with ice cream.jpgSometimes the memory of homemade ice cream is as sweet as the treat itself.

Such is the case the stories we received after we asked readers to send in their homemade ice cream stories. We're highlighting homemade ice cream and how to make it in tomorrow's Food & Wine section.

Consider Maria White's story a cautionary tale.

"When I was younger, three of my siblings loved making their own ice cream. We were a family of six and I'm sure my mother was very happy that they would entertain each other.

It wasn't until one day, one of my brothers came wailing from the ice cream making corner. He couldn't even tell my mother what was wrong, but he stuck his tongue in a cup of water while my other siblings were trying to hide.

It turns out that instead of using sugar, they had reached for the salt bin. It had been a very, very salty vanilla ice cream.

Now that I make ice cream with my children, I find myself checking it more than once, making sure I'm using sugar... not salt." - Maria White, 30, of Sacramento

Follow the link below for another reader's favorite memory.

June 28, 2010
When it comes to tri-tip, we're asking for your know-how

What's cooking on the grill in your back yard? Is it that tri-tip roast you've marinated for the past 24 hours?

If you're not grilling it, how will you cook it? Will it be placed in a smoker or on a rotisserie? Or will you oven-roast it, braise it or grind it up for chili?

How do you prepare your tri-tip? We want to know - and so do your fellow readers.

To vast numbers of home cooks, summertime cooking means tri-tip, the triangular-shaped cut of beef from the bottom sirloin.

It's a versatile and forgiving cut that lends itself to marinating and hearty spicing (think rub). And to leftovers. Fajitas, anyone? How about strips of tri-tip over fresh greens? Or a stacked tri-tip sandwich au jus?

Please share your tri-tip secrets and ... well, tips ... with us and your fellow readers. And what about the recipe for your best marinade? We'll use your expertise as part of an upcoming story on tri-tip, a.k.a. "Santa Maria steak."

Please e-mail Allen Pierleoni at Or snail-mail your letter to him at The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779. Sacramento, CA, 95852. In the letter or e-mail, please include your name and phone number so we can contact you in case we use your information in a story. You can comment in the field below, but do not leave your name and number here.

June 28, 2010
Crowd pleasing fare for our virtual wine tasting fete

Participating in the virtual wine tasting Wednesday night with my colleague Chris Macias and wondering what hors d'oeuvres you can quickly put together after work?

Look no further.

Appetizers don't have to fussy and labor intensive to impress your guests. Think simple, both in preparation and execution, and you'll end up with an array of treats sure to please palates and afford you time to enjoy the party.

cheese.JPGOne of the easiest appetizers to execute is the cheese plate. I asked Felicia Johnson, cheesemonger at Taylor's Market, to guide us toward cheeses that would pair well with the wines selected for Wednesday night's virtual tasting.

Follow the link below to get Johnson's picks and other appetizer ideas.

June 28, 2010
Public forum tonight for proposed Boqueria California

What to do with the K St. Mall? That's the challenge that local developers are figuring in a series of proposed redevelopments of this downtown mall, but one idea should sound extra tasty for local foodies. Rubicon Partners, the renovation team behind the Citizen Hotel at 10th and J streets, seeks to create Boqueria California. The vision calls for a farmers market, student and middle income housing, a new home for the California Department of Food and Agriculture and lots of food options that highlight the Sacramento region's bounty. Think of it as Sacramento's version of Ferry Plaza in San Francisco.

The developers are also seeking input on the project, and are hosting a public forum tonight at the Citizen Hotel (926 J St. Sacramento). The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and will be held on the 7th floor terrace. Chef Michael Tuohy will co-host the forum, and hopes for plenty of public input and suggestions.

For more information, visit the Boqueria's web site.

June 25, 2010
Wine Konnection closing Saturday

The wine scene in El Dorado Hills just took a dip, as Wine Konnection will close for good following service on Saturday night. In an e-mail, the owners called the closure "another casualty to the recession despite valiant efforts the past 9 months to ignite business."

Wine Konnection (4364 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills) emphasized California's wineries, with a cellar that boasted bottles of Ridge Monte Bello from the early 1990s at $300 each and such labels as Beringer Private Reserve and BV Georges de Latour from the vaunted 1997 vintage. Wine Konnection's champagne line-up also included some stars, inlcuding a 1996 Krug "Clos du Mesnil" for a cool $1,399. Wines by the glass ranged from $6.75 to $20, and its food program garnered a favorable review by the Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson.

For the final day of business, look for wine deals and closeout specials. Information: (916) 941-1555.

June 25, 2010
Free Slurpee on July 11

Blame it on my sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for Slurpees. It's my feel-good drink of the summer as the weather heats up, and lucky for me there's a 7-11 near my house. You'll find me starting with a big blast of cherry Slurpee and then topping it off with Coke flavor and reaching for a big ol' straw. Do you feel me on this?

So I am happy to share this news: 7-11 is offering free Slurpees all day on July 11. God bless America!

Just pop into your local 7-11 on the day of 7/11 and you'll get a free 7.11 ounce cup of Slurpee. Yes, that's a lot of numerology, but it all adds up to icy cold goodness in my book. See you there ...

June 24, 2010
New owners for Clarksburg Wine Company

Clarksburg Wine Company, a custom crush facility in the Sacramento Delta, has announced an ownership change. John Carvalho Jr. of Carvalho Family Wines, who doubled as the managing director of Clarksburg Wine Company, has stepped aside from Clarksburg Wine Company. Majority interest in the facility has been purchased by an investment group led by John Beckman. His group also owns the Old Sugar Mill, a Clarksburg wine tourism attraction that hosts tasting rooms for Todd Taylor Wines, Heringer Estates, Carvalho Family Winery and three other wineries.

"Within the wine industry it has been a well-kept secret for decades that the vineyards of the Clarksburg appellation are the source of some of the highest quality and highest value fruit in California," said Beckman in a statement. "The same cooling bay breezes that influence the southern Sonoma and Napa regions moderate the temperatures in the Clarksburg region."

For more information:

June 24, 2010
Flay throws down green chile cheeseburger recipe

burgers.jpgA story in Wednesday's Food & Wine section featured how famous chefs are putting their spin on the classic hamburger.

Well another celebrity chef has ponied up a burger recipe in time for backyard barbecue season.

Bobby Flay's recipe for green chile cheeseburgers sounds delicious and (perhaps best of all) simple enough to whip up on a weeknight.

The recipe came to us courtesy of Hellmann's Mayonnaise, which has teamed up with Flay.

Follow the link below to get the recipe.

June 23, 2010
Wines picked for June 30 online tasting

Alrighty, if you haven't heard yet, I'm hosting an online wine tasting at 6 p.m. on June 30. You'll be able to join the fun via Twitter, Facebook and through, and we'll have more details soon. Let's first get to the wines we'll taste.

I scoured through our database of winning wines from the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, and picked three bottles that scored big, are affordable and can be found easily around the Sacramento area. So get your stemware ready and prepare to taste these three wines as a community:

2008 Bogle Riesling
Judges score: 98 points - double gold medal
Price: $9
Where to find it: Available widely at area grocery stores and the winery itself (

2008 Red Rock Malbec
Judges score: 98 points - double gold medal
Price: $12
Where to find it: Go to Red Rock's web site for a location near you.

2008 Gnarly Head California Cabernet Sauvignon

Judges score: 93 points - silver medal
Price: $10.99
Where to find it: Available widely at local grocery stores and bottle shops.

It'll soon be time for you to be the judge. I've also got some notable local wine personalities to join this virtual tasting, so stay tuned for more details. Cheers!

June 23, 2010
Pastured chicken farm adds Sacramento to CSA program

eggs.jpgA Vacaville farm that provides noted San Francisco restaurants with chickens and eggs is adding Sacramento to its community supported agriculture program.

Sacramento is the newest addition to the CSA program at Soul Food Farm, a 55-acre ranch that produces chickens for meat and eggs on certified organic pasture.

The farm, which also has CSA pickup locations in the Bay Area, sources chickens and eggs for Chez Panisse, Coi and Quince restaurants.

The monthly pickup for Sacramento CSA members will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. the fourth Thursday of each month at the Epicurean Farmer, 4421 24th Street, a news release from the farm states.

June 22, 2010
One classic treat, countless possibilities

Thumbnail image for FOOD SMORES CS.JPGRound up the chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows - it's nearly time for the Great American Backyard Campout.

The campout, a fundraiser for the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation, is Saturday and what better an excuse to indulge in s'mores and sleep out under the stars?

While there's nothing wrong with the old-fashioned s'mores of our youth, a quick spin around the Internet yielded some interesting recipes on the beloved, gooey treat.

An recipe suggests subbing caramel or orange-filled chocolate bars for the Hershey's milk chocolate bar. Other recipes used the flavors behind s'mores to create cheesecake, ice cream sundaes and pie.

Food Network star Michael Chiarello riffed on the classic by creating an Italian s'more, a decadent dessert that features biscotti, roasted marshmallows and a cabernet sauvignon chocolate sauce. Click here to get the recipe.

What's your favorite s'more recipe or method? Do you have another favorite camping food? Post your tips in the comment window below.

June 21, 2010
"Sundays With Marlena" - it's a wrap

Eight months and 150 recipes later, Melody Elliott-Koontz and her "Sundays With Marlena Crew" have finished their ambitious Jewish cooking project. As I reported in December, Elliott-Koontz wanted to get in touch with her Jewish heritage by tackling each recipe in "Jewish Cooking" by Marlena Spieler. She was joined in the endeavor by two local food bloggers - Eileen Makishima Thornton and Shankari Easwaran - and it was soon like "Julie & Julia" with a Jewish twist.

Well it all wound down last week, after Elliott-Koontz finished a cheesecake recipe. So what's next on her menu? A big break.

"It's kind of bittersweet really," said Elliott-Koontz. "I'm not wanting to cook through another book right away, but I met some of the coolest people doing this. I began this project for personal reasons and learned that Jewish food isn't just matzo balls and latkes. It can be very elegant. I'm very grateful I had this opportunity and had so much fun doing it. It was just a lot of work."

We'll be keeping tabs on Elliott-Koontz through her "Cooking Schmooking" blog. And congrats again to the "Sundays With Marlena" gang!

June 21, 2010
Silly names plague otherwise cool recipe contest

File this under cool idea, silly name.

The California Fig Advisory Board has launched the "Figlicious Fig Fest Recipe Contest" on Facebook.

Yes, figlicious. No, it's not a real word (at least not according to Webster's).

Here's how it works: hit the "like" button on the advisory board's Facebook page. Once you like it, the page will allow you to post comments on the wall. Post your favorite fig recipe until Aug. 7 and you'll be eligible for a drawing to win fresh and dried figs.

The winner will be announced Aug. 9.

But wait, there's more zany names to be had. The board's Facebook page lists the name of the same contest as the "Fig Fest Figatastic Recipe Contest."

As if one absurd name wasn't enough.

Click here to go to the California Fig's Facebook page.

June 18, 2010
Noodles & Company coming to Elk Grove

Just what Elk Grove needs: another chain restaurant, right? But hey, if love to eat oodles of noodles in the suburbs then you'll be stoked. Noodles & Company is opening an Elk Grove location in August at 7405 Laguna Blvd. Look for noodles of all shapes and sizes on the menu, from Wisconsin Mac & Cheese ®, and veggie-filled Chinese Chop Salad to sweet and spicy Japanese Pan Noodles ®. Noodles & Company operates 235 restaurants in 18 states, but only one in the greater Sacramento area; look for it at the Fountains in Roseville. The exact opening date for this Elk Grove location has yet to be firmed up, but we'll pass that along when we find out.

June 17, 2010
Watch this spot for virtual wine tasting

We've got the database of winners from the California State Fair Wine Competition and ready to sample some of them. So why not make this a shared experience?

Here's the plan: I'm going to select three wines, which will be announced next Wednesday on this "Appetizers" blog, and we'll taste them virtually as a group at 6 p.m. on June 30. We'll have it set up so you can share your tasting notes and thoughts live via Twitter, Facebook or

I'll be picking wines that are both affordable, easy to find locally and also scored well at the State Fair. Also plan on some notable food and wine personalities to join this virtual tasting. More info. coming soon ... salud!

June 17, 2010
Planters introduces a new line of almonds and cashews

The folks at Planters know a good nut when they see one. And so do we.

The 104-year-old company is known mostly for its peanut products. And, yes, for Mr. Peanut, its iconic man-about-town legume dressed to the nines in top hat, monocle, white gloves, spats and cane.

But Planters is thinking outside the shell, so to speak, with its new Flavor Grove line: three kinds of flavored skinless almonds (sea salt-olive oil; chili-lime; cracked pepper-onion-garlic) and two types of cashews (chipotle; sea salt-cracked pepper).

I put together an impromptu, informal tasting of some samples. All 10 tasters liked the crunchy, fresh-tasting nuts a lot and definitely would buy them, adding they would team the nuts with something cold to drink. Yes, there was some heat in the chili-lime almonds and the chipotle cashews - a good thing.

The nuts sell for $3.49 per 5.75-ounce package. Look for them to populate the snack aisles of more stores as the summer rolls on. Right now, they're at Safeway and CVS Pharmacy stores, said a Planters spokesman.

Tip: Sprinkle a handful over a big bowl of Breyers vanilla bean ice cream.

More information:

June 16, 2010
Database up for 2010 California State Fair wine winners

Want to know which wineries scored gold, or any other medal at the 2010 California State Fair Wine Competition? Well surf on over to our winners database at SacWineRegion. You can search by winery, varietal, area, type of award and even "best of class" honors. Pretty nifty ...

But to find out which wines won the five "best of show" awards, you'll have to wait until July 7 at the food and wine extravaganza known as Grape & Gourmet.

Until then, may you find some good sipping ideas via the database.

June 15, 2010
A new wine from ... Whitesnake?

We've seen a lot of wines released by musicians over the years - Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Maynard James Keenan from Tool, Luis Miguel. But here's a celebrity wine that'll make you think, "Holy hair metal!"

The hard rock band Whitesnake, known for such rock hits as "Here I Go Again" and its video vixen Tawny Kitaen writhing, is about to release a signature wine. Witness the 2008 Whitesnake Russian River Valley Zinfandel, which will begin shipping on July 1. The wine's made by De La Montanya Winery & Vineyards of Healdsburg, and can be purchased here for $29.95 per bottle.

Stay tuned for tasting notes. But when might be the best time to savor this wine? Like the Whitesnake song says, "In the still of the night!" \m/

June 15, 2010
State Fair shouts out to area restaurant chefs

The California State Fair is doing a shout-out to "top chefs with local restaurants," asking them to participate in food-related events planned for July 17-18, July 23-25 and July 30-Aug. 1.

To promote California's multibillion-dollar agriculture industry, the fair is setting up a Dirt To Dish Demonstration Kitchen and two-part program at the 3.5-acre Farm, which grows more than 80 crop varieties. The "Bring the Farm Home" segment will be a live cooking demonstration. The "Sampling a Taste of California" part will be a "product presentation and sampling opportunity."

Given that 1 million fairgoers are expected to converge on Cal Expo for the run of the fair - July 14 to Aug. 1 - this sounds to us like a great way for restaurants to get free exposure in front of potential customers.

For more information and for an application to participate in one or both programs, call Amy Budahn at (916) 274-0477, or email her at

June 14, 2010
Hidden Kitchen goes on permanent hiatus

Were you hoping to book a reservation at the Hidden Kitchen? Hate to break it to you, but this underground dinner party at the Land Park home of Dennis and Mary Kercher - along with demonstration dinners at Whole Foods - has officially closed down.

The Hidden Kitchen had shut down before, after a neighbor snitched on the Kerchers and the health department came knocking. But this time, the Hidden Kitchen is shutting down on a somewhat happier note.

"The good news is that after one year of unemployment I'm back to work at Kodak," said Dennis Kercher, in an e-mail blast to local foodies. "That is very good for my mental health, our family and our financial well being...When we started out over 4 years ago we didn't really know where Hidden Kitchen was going to lead us. We wanted to do something different. We had a vision where we would open our home to people that enjoyed meeting strangers, sitting at a common table and sharing stories and camaraderie over great food and wine."

Mary Kercher plans to keep pursuing her artistic endeavors, while Dennis will be busy working and promises that he has "a little side project" up his sleeve.

Best wishes to the Kerchers, and many around Sacramento will savor those Hidden Kitchen memories.

June 14, 2010
TomatoFest: Bring your biggest, smallest and ugliest

Those tomatoes growing in your backyard garden right now could be a "cash crop" in a few weeks.

Town & Country Village shopping center is sponsoring Sacramento TomatoFest from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 7, offering $500 in prize money to the winners in three categories: largest tomato, smallest tomato and ugliest tomato. The tomatoes must be ripe.

For pre-registration, contestants will find a form at Or register your tomatoes in person by 9:30 a.m. at the center on the day of the contest.

Bonus: TomatoFest also will feature a number of local restaurant chefs competing for a trophy and bragging rights as they prepare their best salsa, bruschetta and tomato soup (hot or cold). Samples will be available as long as supplies last.
And: wine-tasting, live music and demonstrations by master gardeners.

For more information: (916) 933-4056.

June 14, 2010
Call to readers: We want your homemade ice cream stories

vanillaicecream.jpgI scream, you scream, haven't we all screamed (at least once) while making homemade ice cream?

The pride and delicious joy that accompanies homemade ice cream is lovely, but sometimes making it is a bit, well, humorous.

My first go-round with a Cuisinart ice cream maker was far from perfect. The appliance only spent a few minutes out of the box before I was eagerly skimming the instruction manual, paying attention primarily to the recipes.

Once I realized I had all the ingredients on hand to make strawberry ice cream, it was game on.

I mixed, poured and flicked the switch. After 30 minutes, no ice cream, just pink-hued liquid spinning in the ice cream maker.

I was oblivious to a very critical step - freezing the maker's chilling chamber (insert hand-smack to the forehead). That night, we resorted to Dreyer's, but since then I've learned to keep the chilling chamber in the freezer. Now I'm an ice cream-making addict. Coffee, mocha chocolate chip, berry frozen yogurt. You name it, I'm willing to make it.

Do you have a funny story about making ice cream or just love making your own ice cream at home? Send me your stories and recipes at along with your name, phone number and city of residence. Your comments could be used in an upcoming Bee story.

*Bee file photo of homemade vanilla ice cream by Kevin German.

June 11, 2010
New cookbook, passionate TV kiss for wife of celebrity chef

In the Ramsay household, it's the world-famous, expletive-slinging celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, who tends to get the most press.

That's starting to change.

Ramsay's wife, Tana, made a guest appearance recently on the season opener of "Hell's Kitchen," disguised as a frumpy housewife who served up veal scallops with tomatoes that looked like "baby vomit," Gordon Ramsay proclaimed.

The dish was delicious, however. So much so that he planted a passionate kiss on the raven-haired woman, to the shock of the other competitors.

Then he revealed it was his wife, Tana.

The point was to show the competing chefs that it isn't experience but remarkable cooking that'll help them win the show's seventh season and the prestigious title of executive chef of Ramsay's new restaurant at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Tana Ramsay is about to reveal some more secrets too.

Her latest cookbook, "Tana's Kitchen Secrets" (Mitchell Beazley, $26.99, 288 pages), features tips and tricks that Ramsay uses to get meals on the table, as well as recipes they can't get enough of. The book hits store shelves next month.

The book itself is lovely to look at and the dishes appear beautiful and unfussy. The kind of food you'd make during the week or when friends are coming over for an impromptu supper.

Ramsay also included the recipe for breaded veal scallops with mozzarella, tomato and red pepper sauce that she cooked on the show.

Coincidence? Not so much.

June 10, 2010
For those who dare: bone marrow recipe


It's the dish that's either considered a delicacy, or just plain nasty. We're talking about bone marrow, which has been eaten for ages but only recently become popular at Sacramento restaurants. That was the focus on my bone marrow story in Wednesday's Food & Wine section. We'd originally planned to run a couple of bone marrow recipes with the story, but space got tight and you know how that goes.

So, let's run a bone marrow recipe here. This one comes courtesy of "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes," by Jennifer McLagan. Bon apetit!

Marrow bones must be soaked for 12 to 24 hours in salted water to remove the blood. Place the bones in a large dish of ice water to cover, add 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, changing the water 4 to 6 times and adding 2 more tablespoons of salt to the water each time.


Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 lemon
1/2 cup / 11/2 ounces / 40 g fine fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 veal or beef marrow bones, each about 8 inches / 20 cm, split in half lengthwise and presoaked

Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.

Finely grate the zest from the lemon and combine it in a bowl with the bread crumbs, parsley, and mustard. Squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice from the lemon. Add the juice to the bread crumb mixture with lots of pepper and the salt. The bread crumbs should just hold together when squeezed; if not, add a little more lemon juice.

Drain the marrow bones and pat dry.

Place the bones cut side up in a roasting pan and top evenly with the bread crumb mixture. Roast until the marrow is warm in the center, 15 to 25 minutes. To test, insert a metal skewer into the center of the marrow and touch it to your wrist to see if it is hot. There should be no resistance when the skewer is inserted, and a little of the marrow should have melted and started to leak from the bones. Serve the marrow bones hot.

June 10, 2010
Cooking classes help take the heat out of summer meal prep

Sushi.jpgThe summer is finally starting to warm up, which for many of us means scouting for dinner ideas that don't involve time over a hot stove.

Newcastle Produce
has the answer.

The gourmet grocery and specialty food store's roster of upcoming cooking classes features three courses on summer meals that require little to no cooking.

Chef Chelsea Federwitz will lead a class on raw summer food, summer salads and sushi in July, according to the store's e-newsletter.

The raw summer food class July 6 will feature lessons on how to "un-cook" and incorporate raw food into daily life. Participants will learn to make live cocktails, summer rolls, live pizzas and raw salads. Cost is $35 per person.

On July 8, cooks can learn how to chop, slice, grill, roast and marinate their way to amazing summer salads, as well as make fresh dressing. Cost is $25 per person.

Federwitz will teach a sushi "Rock and Roll" class July 16. Students will learn how to make sushi rice, small and large rolls and inside-out rolls. Spicy tuna, Philadelphia and California rolls will be featured. Cost is $35 per person.

The three classes all start at 6:30 p.m. and are "make and eat" classes, the newsletter states.

Federwitz also will be teaching classes on whimsical cupcakes, summer tarts and pies, tea parties, farm-to-table dinners and Asian street food this summer. She also is scheduled to teach children's classes on Italian food cupcake decorating.

Click here for more information.

June 9, 2010
Mimi's Cafe chain gets a menu makeover

Fresh ingredients and big portions served in surroundings designed to conjure images of a French country home. Oh, and clever marketing.

That combination has led to the ongoing growth of the Mimi's Cafe chain, which now has 146 locations in 24 states (16 of them in Northern California).

Now you can get something new at all Mimi's restaurants. As in "40 new dishes across all menu categories," we are informed.

What caught our eye was the addition of 10 "small plates" or tapas ($2.99 to $6.99). They include crab fritters, hummus sampler and "potachos" (kettle-fried chips topped with bacon-cheddar sauce, green onion and diced tomatoes).

To check it out:

June 9, 2010
New owners for Blue Cue

Blue Cue, a longtime stape of the Paragary Restaurant Group, has racked up some new owners. Randy Paragary recently sold the midtown pool hall and watering hole to Cody DellaBitta and Dominic Vella, and the two plan to tweak Blue Cue's concept. They're looking to emphasize Blue Cue as more of a sports bar, with Sunday breakfast specials during football season and lots of food/drink deals when sports are broadcast.

Blue Cue opened in 1997 on 28th and J streets, and its new owners took over the business less than two weeks ago. Blue Cue's web site is still under construction, but check back soon for more info. The good news for pool sharks: the pool tables won't be going anywhere.

"People love them and they're a great draw," said DellaBitta. "We still want people to come out more for sports. We want to change some things up and change the menu, but we're aiming for a relaxed place to hang out."

June 8, 2010
Indian cooking class with Shankari Easwaran and mom

Last time we checked in with Shankari Easwaran, the local food blogger and cooking instructor was learning how to make matzo ball soup with the "Sundays With Marlena" crew. They're nearing completion of this Jewish cooking project, but in the meantime, Easwaran continues to lead cooking classes around the area. Learn how to make dosas, an Indian style crepe, on Monday at Whole Foods (4315 Arden Way, Sacramento; 916-488-2800). The bonus: Easwaran's mother, Amma, will be a guest of honor, and help demonstrate the finer points of this dish made from rice and lentils, plus a potato filling. The class runs from 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. and costs $45.

June 8, 2010
Truckee Ribfest will be cookin' on Father's Day

There's a lot going on in the touristy town of Truckee these days. Check out for details.

Meanwhile, the first annual Truckee Ribfest is planned for Father's Day (June 20) from noon to 4 p.m. at the Citizens Bank Plaza in west Truckee.

Pork ribs and side dishes will be on offer from six area restaurants and caterers: Jake's on the Lake, Six Peaks Grille, Smokey's Kitchen, Jax at the Tracks, Fiftyfifty Brewing Co. and Farmhouse Creations.

Tickets are $20, which buys three sample rib plates from the cookers of your choice. While you munch, enjoy free live music and a not-so-free beer garden.

"It's a first-time event, but we're looking forward to it becoming a Truckee tradition," said event chairwoman Brinn Wellise.

The Truckee Ribfest is a non-profit fund-raiser benefitting Relay For Live, a cure-for-cancer walk.

For more information and to buy tickets: (530) 550-2252 and

Truckee is off Interstate 80 east, past Donner Lake.

June 8, 2010
Locally grown ingredients, cookbook inspire dinner event

PK_PLACERGROWN 0123.JPGA Loomis restaurant is holding a special dinner event next week to celebrate the recent release of a cookbook by Placer County locals Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny.

Cafe Zorro will be featuring a three-course menu based on recipes included in "Placer County Real Food" (In-Season Publishing, $28, 300 pages), according to an e-mail from the restaurant.

The cookbook will be for sale at the event and a book signing also will be held.

Diners may choose from a first course of either onion soup with creme fraiche and thyme or a pea shoot salad with citrus vinaigrette.

Main course choices are pan-seared halibut cheeks with an herb beurre blanc sauce, red quinoa with mushrooms and sauteed kale with mirin or barbecue leg of lambs, served with roasted sweet onions and fennel, sauteed summer squash and baby bok choy with crispy shallots.

Dessert is angel food cake with blackberry compote.

True to Neft's passion to eat locally-grown food in season, all of the food served, except for halibut, will be sourced locally.

The dinner will be held from 5 to 8:30 p.m. June 15 at Cafe Zorro, 5911 King Rd., Loomis. Cost is $35 per person.

Reservations are required and can be made by e-mailing

Click here to read more about Neft, Kenny and their effort to help people connect with local food and farmers.

June 7, 2010
Latcham Vineyards wins "best of show" at Amador County Fair

The wine judging season keeps rolling along, so Saturday morning meant a trip to judge at the Amador County Fair commercial wine competition. This year's event featured 465 wines from the Sierra Foothills, and my three-person panel tasted about 60 of them. Nearly half of the wines on our panel were cabernet sauvignon, a varietal that tends to be overshadowed in gold country over zinfandel, Cal-Ital and Rhone varietals. We still awarded our only double-gold of the day to Young's Vineyard 2008 Shenandoah Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, with high marks for its fresh fruit flavors, balance and depth.

But when all the judging had finished, one wine rose to the top. Best of show honors went to Latcham Vineyards 2007 Fair Play Special Reserve Cabernet Franc, a wine that also won "best red" on Saturday. I didn't get to taste this wine, but fellow judge and former colleague Mike Dunne noted on his "Year in Wine" blog that it "(captured) the varietal's minty herbalness and plummy fruitiness, all framed handsomely with vanillin and chocolate overtones."

Sounds like a winner to us. And like cabernet sauvignon, it was interesting to see that cabernet franc triumphed in an area where Bordeaux varietals aren't usually considered the Sierra Foothills' strong suit.

Here's a list of more "best of show" winners. Look for a full awards tally coming soon ...

Best Amador Rhone

Cooper Vineyards 07 Estate Petit Sirah

Best Amador Red Zinfandel
Dillian Wines 08 Hang Tree Zinfandel

Best Amador Italian
Cooper Vineyards 09 Pinot Grigio

Best Sauvignon Blanc
Sierra Vista Winery 09 Sauvignon Blanc

Best White
Young's Vineyard 09 White Rhone Blend

Best Desert Wine
Renwood Winery 09 Orange Muscat

Best Rose

Hatcher Winery 09 Grenache Rose

June 4, 2010
Head to the hills this weekend for Fair Play's wine event

If you're a wine lover looking for a getaway destination this weekend, head to El Dorado County for the Fair Play Winery Association's annual Fair Play Wine Festival.

It's 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets, at $20 apiece ($5 for designated drivers; free for children), are on sale at all 14 participating wineries:

Busby Cellars, 6375 Grizzly Flat Road
Cantiga Wineworks, 5980 Meyers Lane
Colibri Ridge Winery, 6100 Gray Rock Road
dkcellars, 7380 Vineyard View Drive
Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge, 7740 Fair Play Road
Granite Springs Winery, 5050 Granite Springs Winery Road
Iverson Vineyards & Winery, 8061 Perry Creek Road
Latcham Vineyards, 2860 Omo Ranch Road
Mount Aukum Winery, 6781 Tower Road
Oakstone Winery, 6440 Slug Gulch Road
Perry Creek Winery, 7400 Perry Creek Road
Sierra Oaks Estates, 6713 Mount Aukum Road
Single Leaf Winery & Vineyards, 7480 Fair Play Road
Chateau Routon Winery, 2800 Omo Ranch Road

You'll meet winemakers and winery owners, taste new releases, and sample special wine and food pairings. Each ticketholder receives a souvenir wine glass, and there will be entertainment at every stop.

For more information:

- Dixie Reid

June 4, 2010
Antique bottle sells for $64,000 at local auction

On Wednesday we brought you the story of Jeff Wichmann, who runs American Bottle Auctions from his midtown Sacramento office. His 50th bottle auction has wrapped up, and Wichmann called to relay the results. The auction netted $375,000, a record for Wichmann's company, with one bottle alone selling for $64,000. That antique bottle was a "Favorite Bitters" from Powell & Stutenroth, which was highly prized for its rarity and overall condition.

"This is the most successful auction we've had," said Wichmann. "What that tells me is the bottle market is strong and people are willing to fork out big bucks for bottles. The auctions just seem to be getting better and better."

Wichmann plans to start his 51st bottle auction in August. In the meantime, he's fielding calls from folks who want to have their bottles appraised and possibly included in the next auction. If you have a bottle that you think is worth big $$$, contact Wichmann at (800) 806-7722 or American Bottle Auctions.

June 4, 2010
Junk food dominates new kid-focused advertising tactic

UC Davis researchers have found that companies are using a new medium to peddle fattening, sugary foods to children.

Public health researchers found that companies are using online advergames - a blend of interactive animation, video content and advertising - to promote corporate branding and products, particularly high-fat, high-sugar foods, a university news release states.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Diana Cassady, an associate professor of public health sciences, and Jennifer Culp, lead author of the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program at the university, analyzed all restaurant, beverage and food websites advertised on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon - cable networks geared toward children that have a high volume of website promotion with traditional ads - from August 2006 to March 2007.

Their analysis focused content during after-school hours and Saturday morning, when children tend to watch the most television.

Cassady and Culp analyzed hundreds of websites, web pages and advergames and found that nearly a third of the advertising including websites were for food and 84 percent of the websites assessed included online games, which included at least one brand identifier.

Researchers also found that on average, only one nutrition or physical activity message appeared for every 45 brand identifiers, the release states.

"I was astounded by how often logos or actual food products were integrated into the games," Culp said in a written statement.

Some games used candy or cereal as game pieces, while others would require special codes ï·“ available only by buying a specific cereal - to advance to higher game levels, she said.

The study, funded by the Cancer Research Program, concludes that regulations of food companies targeting youth are needed and health professionals should monitor food industry marketing practices.

June 3, 2010
Calif. State Fair Commercial Wine Competition underway

Pardon my purple looking teeth, but just got back from a morning of guest judging at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. I sat on a panel that tasted cabernet sauvignon from the 2007 vintage, with a total of 53 samples tasted before lunch. Out of those flights, I think our panel only awarded four gold medals, but gave plenty of silver medals to note solid efforts and a fair share of bronze medals, too. And yes, there were some beastly wines in the bunch as well. Thank goodness those tended to be the exception rather than the rule.

So after all this sniffing and sipping, when will the results be announced? That'll go down July 7 at Grape & Gourmet, held at the Sacramento Convention Center. Tickets are $55, which includes general admission to the State Fair. (Hint: try and show up early to get your $$$'s worth. Too many food vendors ran out early last year, which we thought was pretty lame considering the price of Grape & Gourmet. We'll see how this shakes up this time around ...)

Back at Cal Expo, judging wraps up Friday after three days of considering some 2,700 wines from over 600 California wineries. 150 volunteers are helping with everything from pouring wine, to tabulating scores and replenishing stemware.

"Everything's been going smooth," said G. M. "Pooch" Pucilowski, the competition's chief judge. "All of this is for both the consumer and the winery. We're going to come out of this with some wines that you'll want through this rigorous judging. A medal is a way of saying, 'The least you can do is try the wine.'"

For more information:

June 3, 2010
Calif. State Fair Commercial Wine Competition underway

Pardon my purple looking teeth, but just got back from a morning of guest judging at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. I sat on a panel that tasted cabernet sauvignon from the 2007 vintage, with a total of 53 samples tasted before lunch. Out of those flights, I think our panel only awarded four gold medals, but gave plenty of silver medals to note solid efforts and a fair share of bronze medals, too. And yes, there were some beastly wines in the bunch as well. Thank goodness those tended to be the exception rather than the rule.

So after all this sniffing and sipping, when will the results be announced? That'll go down July 7 at Grape & Gourmet, held at the Sacramento Convention Center. Tickets are $55, which includes general admission to the State Fair. (Hint: try and show up early to get your $$$'s worth. Too many food vendors ran out early last year, which we thought was pretty lame considering the price of Grape & Gourmet. We'll see how this shakes up this time around ...)

Back at Cal Expo, judging wraps up Friday after three days of considering some 2,700 wines from over 600 California wineries. 150 volunteers are helping with everything from pouring wine, to tabulating scores and replenishing stemware.

"Everything's been going smooth," said G. M. "Pooch" Pucilowski, the competition's chief judge. "All of this is for both the consumer and the winery. We're going to come out of this with some wines that you'll want through this rigorous judging. A medal is a way of saying, 'The least you can do is try the wine.'"

For more information:

June 2, 2010
Red Lotus grand opening set for June 17

Red Lotus, the latest venture from Kru restaurateur Billy Ngo, opened quietly in April at 28th and J streets. Since then, Ngo and his crew have been fine tuning the menu and creating its cocktail program with help from Erick Castro (former Zocalo mixologist and co-founder of Midtown Cocktail Week). It's all been pretty low key at Red Lotus (2716 J St., Sacramento), but that's about to change. Red Lotus is throwing a grand opening bash on June 17, that'll include a Dim Sum-styled feast. More details are coming soon, but we do know the party will start at 6 p.m.

For more information: (916) 231-0961.

June 2, 2010
Roseville restaurant offering free burgers on Father's Day

Treating Dad to a free burger can be a little more affordable this year, but you may have to explain to him what the BFD is.

The Counter, a build-your-own burger franchise with 14 locations in California - including one in Roseville - is offering a free burger with customized toppings to all fathers who request it by name: BFD, meaning Burger For Dad, a company news release states.

The acronym also has another meaning, that, well let's just say is better left to the urban dictionary to define.

Dad can make his a cheeseburger and add up to four toppings, such as grilled pineapple or roasted green chiles, and choose one of 21 sauces.

Additional and premium toppings, such as extra cheese, will cost you a bit more.

Have a vegetarian or health-conscious dad? Don't despair - the deal also includes chicken, turkey and veggie burgers.

The offer is limited to one guest per paying customer.

The Counter in Roseville is located at 1005 Galleria Boulevard and is open from 11:30 to 9 p.m. on June 20 (that's Father's Day, by the way).

Click here to check out The Counter's menu.

June 2, 2010
P.F. Chang's offers frozen options

Are the two P.F. Chang's China Bistros in our area - Sacramento and Roseville - facing any competition from an unlikely source? Which would be P.F. Chang's Home Menu Frozen Entrees.

The 200-unit restaurant chain has stocked the freezers of Target and Walmart stores nationwide with eight kinds of two-serving entrees, at about $7 each. Chicken, beef and shrimp are the main themes.

I called operating partner Jason Ortega at the ever-jammed Chang's at 1530 J. St. (916-288-0970).

"We're not expecting them to compete, but (rather) to add to our exposure across the country, even in cities without a P.F. Chang's," he said. "(Also) the frozen items aren't exactly the same (versions) as what we serve in the restaurant. Some have more vegetables."

A P.F. Chang's spokeswoman said the entrees "are selling very well."

For more information on the frozen entrees:

June 2, 2010
Chefs, and what else they can bring to the city's table

Following up on Rick Kushman's piece in The Bee today (and before that, Ann Martin Rolke's fine account at the excellent Sacramento-based blog "Sacatomato") on Chef Michael Tuohy's weekly guided tour of farmer's market across the street from his restaurant Grange.

It seems like an excellent idea in many ways. It's good PR for the restaurant. It's a good way for the chef to pass along ideas he believes in about cooking with local ingredients. And it's good for the city -- this kind of thing, on a larger scale, could be something of tourist attraction. Oh, and the farmers are happy, too, with the reminder that home cooks can actually save money by going the fresh and local route.

So, what else can chefs do to make it a win-win-win? Reading the recent issue of the magazine Food Arts, I noticed a brief item on a successful program in Houston that could work just as well here. It's called "Where the Chefs Eat," and it involves getting chefs to describe where they like to eat when they're not toiling in their own kitchens. What's more, the chefs then take groups of 16 or so on a tour of the restaurant, often a hole-in-the-wall joint or hidden-away ethnic eatery.

My round-up review last month on hamburgers revealed that more than a few chefs like to grab a good burger, usually late at night, when they don't feel like cooking? But where do they go for a little adventure or a little comfort? That's the idea behind the Houston program.

Since the farmers market tours show we have an eager audience for food and education, this seems like a great idea we can borrow for Sacramento. It would be good exposure for the chefs, their restaurants and this city.

By the way, I'm going to take the dining advice of the chefs over the nice fellow who sold me the magazine. What did he have for dinner? He had just returned from a break, where he dined at the nearby Old Spaghetti Factory. His meal? A plate of broccoli and a liter of beer.

June 1, 2010
Tour the Finger Lakes with Donal Smith

Many of you may remember Donal Smith, the former Corti Brothers wine merchant who was also so affable when recommending the best bottle to go with dinner or purchase as a gift. Smith retired from Corti Brothers last year, and now works as a wine consultant and hosts food and wine trips. Such is the case with an upcoming tour of New York's Finger Lakes wine region, which is the nation's second largest wine growing wine region.The cool climate helps produce some exceptional rieslings and the area is becoming an increasingly popular destination for wine tourists looking for a taste of something new.

Smith's tour of the Finger Lakes runs from Sept. 18 - 25, and includes a whole lot of tasting and eating. The itinerary features an excursion to the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, a jaunt to Niagra Falls and a tour of Seneca Falls.

Interested in learning more? Visit this page or email Donal directly.

June 1, 2010
The 'wooly pig' comes to Corti Brothers market

If there's a grocery store that regularly brings more unique food items to its customers than Corti Brothers in east Sacramento, we don't know of it.

Over recent years I've mentioned a few of its more unusual offerings (which come and go): lean yet tender Piedmontese beef; "crab-dad" cakes assembled from Atlantic rock crab meat and wild-caught crawdad tail meat from China; Consorcio Espanol Conservero brand tuna; and prawns hand-coated in shredded dried coconut from the Philippines.

Now the store's brain trust has consulted to bring in the "wooly pig," a.k.a. the Hungarian Mangalitsa (MON-go-leet-sah).

Let store director Rick Mindermann explain: "Darrell Corti came across this amazing pig at an international food trade show in Tokyo. The Japanese have embraced this breed. Like their world-renown Kobe beef, the Mangalitsa is (heavily fat-marbled). The current popular 'heritage breeds' of Duroc and Berkshire are 'meat-type' (pigs). The Mangalitsa is a 'lard-type' breed with (a high content) of healthful oleic acid in the fat."

I bought pork steaks cut from the shoulder and the leg and cooked them at home in a black iron frying pan. The flavors and textures were excellent, unlike any pork I've tasted.
Prices range from $7.99 to $18.99 a pound, depending on the cut.

Corti Brothers is at 5810 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 736-3800 or

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