July 31, 2010
Woodland firefighter cooks up plan to get on "Regis and Kelly"

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels phoned into Appetizers today to ask us to work some magic with our faithful followers.

Daniels really wants to win a chance to compete in the Coast-to-Coast Fire House Cook-Off on "Live with Regis and Kelly," which airs weekdays at 9 a.m. on KCRA-TV. If Daniels gets enough votes, she'll get a round-trip ticket to New York City and some spending cash for her four-day stay.

Daniels is sure that her smokin' pear salad will beat all comers, but she won't have a chance to compete if she doesn't get enough online votes by Sunday. Click here to get a look at Daniels' video.

Daniels, along with fellow firefighter Walter Scruggs, captured the title of Champion Firehouse Chefs at this year's California State Fair. She has been working at the downtown Woodland fire station for about five years, and she's been the chief cook for her crew during that time. In the video, Daniels' firefighting buddies debate whether it's the pears or the pecans that make this dish so tasty.

"I like to cook meals that are healthy," Daniels says in the video, "but they have to taste good, too."

If you think Daniels is ready to take on Regis and Kelly and the Big Apple, you can vote for her at the site above, but remember that the voting ends Sunday.

July 29, 2010
Only hot culinary couples need apply to Pyrex contest

Appetizers is certain that America's hottest culinary couple lives in the Sacramento region, but if that hot couple doesn't enter Pyrex's contest, a dynamic duo from some other town will falsely claim the title.

If you think that you and your significant other really sizzle in the kitchen, click here to find out what you must do to enter the hunt for America's Hottest Culinary Couple. The entry must include a video and an original recipe.

The winning couple will become reality stars in an online cooking video series and take $10,000 cash and $500 worth of Pyrex products. You must enter by Aug. 16, 2010.

--C.M. Anderson,

July 28, 2010
Taste of Lodi coming Sept. 25-26

That's right, the food and wine feast known as Taste of Lodi is coming Sept. 25 - 26, and we've got some literal scoop about the event. There will be an ice cream wine tasting as part of the event, featuring frozen confections with wine flavors. That'll be a nice way to cool down, considering it's been so hot in years' past that it feels like Taste of Sweat out there.

Here's what else is planned: a port/cigar/chocolate pavilion, wine seminars and an art gallery. Oh, and that's not to mention more than 40 wineries that will be pouring at the event.

It's all going down at Wine & Roses (2505 West Turner Rd., Lodi). Tickets cost $40 in advance, $50 at the door and $25 for designated drivers. For more information:

July 28, 2010
Coming up: Tomato festival, tastings, competitions, cash prizes

By Allen Pierleoni

Our town is synonymous with tomatoes. We grow them, we prepare them in imaginative ways, we consume them.

If you can't get enough of the tasty fruit, you might plan to participate in two upcoming events, which are cross-marketing with each other:

Town & Country Village shopping center will sponsor the Sacramento Tomato Fest, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 7. A competition is part of it: Bring your tomatoes and judges will pick the largest, smallest and ugliest. Each winner in those three categories will get $500. The tomatoes must be ripe.

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

Bonus: The Tomato Fest 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.

Also at the Tomato Fest will be a booth with the details on the upcoming eighth annual Homegrown Tomato Challenge, sponsored by NatureSweet Tomatoes and Raley's.

For that one:

To enter the "homegrown tomato skill contest": Between 9 and 11 a.m. on Aug. 21, bring three large or 10 small tomatoes to the tent in the Raley's parking lot at 25025 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom. One entry per household.

The tomatoes will be tested for sugar content, and the finalists' entries will then be tasted and judged. Two grand-prize winners will walk away with $2,500 each; four runners-up will each get $250 in Raley's gift cards.

To enter the "cherry tomato cooking contest": Write a 100- to 200-word essay about "why you love cooking with tomatoes." Do this on the NatureSweet Homegrown Challenge Facebook page. Three entrants will be chosen and notified by Aug. 14.

That trio will cook their dishes at the Aug. 21 event in Folsom, using "a bag of secret ingredient." After the judging, the winner will get $2,500 and the two runners-up will each get $250 in Raley's gift cards.

More information is at (210) 396-3966 and

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

July 28, 2010
August marks the start of happy hour deals at Ella

ella.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

One good thing resulting from the recession? Fine dining spots offering happy hour deals.

Ella Dining Room & Bar, Randall Selland's elegant restaurant at the heart of K Street, is the latest to jump on the bargain bandwagon. Starting Monday, the hot spot is offering a daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. throughout August.

Drink deals include $5 glasses of wine and signature cocktails, such as the elderflower gimlet and Randall's margarita, for $4 to $7.

A new "bar bites" menu also is available. Among the offerings are a BLT Flatbread ($10), crispy confit chicken wings ($9) and house marinated olives ($4).

Josh Nelson, the restaurant's general manager, said the happy hour is hoped to "introduce people to a more casual side of Ella."

"We have been very successful in caring out our vision of the dining room and now want to introduce people to our vision of the bar and lounge," he wrote in an e-mail to The Bee. "The idea is to get people to understand that they can pop into Ella and have a quick bite and a drink in the bar and lounge, as well as have a great dining experience in the dining room."

*Sacramento Bee photo by Jose Luis Villegas

July 27, 2010
Roseville boy's burger recipe to be in Red Robin cookbook

By Debbie Arrington

Eric Moore knows his burgers. Soon, the 9-year-old Roseville boy will be a published recipe author, too.

His creation - Blackened Avocado Bacon Burger - was chosen from more than 11,000 entries to be part of fourth annual Red Robin Kids' Cookoff Cookbook.

Moore's recipe along with 49 others submitted by young chefs ages 6 to 12 will be included in the cookbook, available free online at Red Robin's Web site, starting Tuesday.

With the Food Network's Robin Miller serving as judge, the cookbook recipes were chosen based on their inventive combination of ingredients, fun flavors and a 100-word essay on why this recipe should be America's next "gourmet burger."

Moore's recipe combines a blackened hamburger patty, sliced avocado, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, Cajun spice and thick-cut smoked bacon on a hamburger bun.
Top prize went to 10-year-old Emma Potts from Bonney Lake, Wash., and her Spicy Honey Glazed Bacon Burger. That burger will be added to Red Robin menus for six weeks with 50 cents from each purchase donated to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Got a great burger recipe? Red Robin is starting on its fifth annual cookbook. Young cooks ages 6 to 12 can submit their gourmet burger recipe entries online by clicking here, starting Tuesday.

The grand prize winner gets a family vacation for four to Universal Orlando Resort, Red Robin gift cards for a year as well as a burger on the menu. Deadline is Sept. 12.

Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075.

July 27, 2010
The Press restaurant opens today in midtown Sacramento

David English, former executive chef at Ella Dining Room and Bar, opens The Press today at 4 p.m. at 18th and Capitol. The restaurant will occupy the former space of Dragonfly. With the Press, English has crafted a menu that's inspired by the Mediterranean and emphasizes fresh seasonal ingredients.

The Press will serve tapas and drinks until 5 p.m., when full dinner service will kick in. For now, the Press will be open from Tuesday through Saturday - though brunch may be coming soon.

"We want to keep it very casual and and a very approachable neighborhood place," said English. "If you just want to grab some house wine and tapas, that's great. If you want a full meal, that's great. We'll cater to how much time and money you want to spend."

Here's a sneak peek at some of the Press' menu items:

Summer white corn soup
Crispy Pork Belly, Peaches, Almonds and Balsamic
Ceviche of Shrimp, Scallop, Bass and Calamari

Potato Gnocchi with prosciutto, Parmesan cream sauce and broccolo rabe
Mushroom and Ricotta Ravioli with corn leaks and dill
Vegetarian Fettuccine

Pan seared king salmon, roasted cauliflower and tzatziki
Braised beef short rib, mashed potato and red wine sauce
Grilled hangar steak with potato gratin and salsa verde
Grilled mahi
Risotto with summer zucchini

July 27, 2010
This is one pickle you want to be in: Win $1,000 (maybe)

By Allen Pierleoni

If you're a pickle lover who wants a chance to win some cash, check it:

The folks at the Vlasic company are sponsoring a contest, "What Does a Vlasic Do For You?" Your part is to tell how you "zest up a dish" with Vlasic pickles. For instance, you could wrap a slice of ham around a pickle spear. Simple, but effective.

"Submitting a photo of your creation to accompany your entry is optional but recommended," said a company spokesman.

From now through Aug. 31, go to and click on the contest banner to enter. Be sure to read the rules. Or mail entries - the more entries, the better your chance of winning - to "What Does a Vlasic Do For You?" c/o BHG, 546 Valley Road, Upper Montclair, N.J. 07043.

The grand prize is $1,000, with 10 finalists each receiving $100.

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

July 26, 2010
Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates to hold ice cream making class

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ... ice cream making classes from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates! Ginger herself will teach the class on Saturday at the L Street Lofts (1818 L St., Sacramento), and you'll get the proverbial scoop on making ice cream, sorbet and other frozen desserts. The syllabus for this sweet sounding class goes something like this:

Classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream - Tahitian vanilla beans in a traditional custard ice cream

Baked Alaska - Chocolate cocoa nib ice cream and white coffee ice cream

Strawberry Sorbet
- Farm fresh strawberries in a refreshing sorbet

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich - Gingersnap cookies with lemon ice cream

Plus ... a bonus chocolate tasting

The classes cost $35, and will run from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. For more information: (916) 706-1738 or

July 26, 2010
Make plans now for the inaugural Lake Tahoe Restaurant Week

By Allen Pierleoni

Experience has taught us it's never too early to make lunch or dinner reservations, especially when on a culinary safari. Remember, you're competing for space with an army of other diners.

With that in mind, take a look at the Web site You'll find the details of the inaugural Lake Tahoe Restaurant Week, running Sept. 5-12. Included are menus.

The deal: More than 30 restaurants around the lake and in Truckee will offer three-course prix fixe meals for $20, $30 or $40 per person. "No passes, tickets or coupons are required," said event organizer Pettit Gilwee.

Participating restaurants run a gamut from family-run to high-end. Among the high-rollers are 19 Kitchen & Bar, Edgewood Cafe and the Chart House in Stateline; Cottonwood in Truckee; Lone Eagle Grille in Incline Village; and PlumpJack Cafe in Olympic Valley.

"It's an opportunity to try new restaurants and visit old favorites," Gilwee said.

Did we mention making reservations now?

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

July 23, 2010
Calling all cooks: What's your favorite tomato variety, recipe?

FL BGARDEN5 TOMATOES.JPGIt's tomato season in the Sacramento region and we need your help in figuring out what to do our Brandywines, beefsteaks and other varieties.

What is your favorite tomato variety? Why do you love it so much - easy to grow, easy to cook, low acidity, extra sweet?

Do you have a favorite tomato recipe? We'd love to see that too.

Click here to send your tomato recipes and thoughts to Bee staff writer Niesha Lofing.

July 23, 2010
Ugly kitchen contest offers chance to win chef's paradise

Do you have the worst kitchen in America?

The DIY Network and Food Network Magazine want to see it - and are offering one lucky cook a $30,000 customized renovation.

The contest launched Thursday and participants can post photos and video of their nightmare kitchens on DIY's website until Aug. 6, according to a news release from the network.

The winner and the renovation will be featured in a one-hour DIY Network special airing in January and be featured in the January/February issue of Food Network Magazine.

The winner also will receive a lifetime subscription to Food Network Magazine.

Click here for more information or to enter the contest.

July 22, 2010
First phase of $1.5 million Enotria remodel completed

By Chris Macias

The first phase of a renovation that will double the capacity of Enotria Cafe and Wine Bar (1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento) has been completed. That's the good news. The downside is that the restaurant will close temporarily following dinner service on Saturday. Plans originally called for Enotria to remain open during the renovation, but interior work and construction on Enotria's new wine bar have instead called for a closure.

Look for Enotria's new wine bar and renovated courtyard to be open by mid-September. The final phase of this $1.5 million project, which will include a remodeling of the main dining room, is expected to be finished by Dec.1. Meanwhile, look for wine discounts and complimentary appetizers until Saturday. For more information:

Call The Bee's Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253.

July 21, 2010
Yolo County wineries online

If you're looking for the scoop on area wineries, the Bee's SacWineRegion is always the place to start. The Yolo County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Agriculture have now got in the act, with an online listing of Yolo County wineries and tasting rooms. You'll also find a listing of varietals grown in the Yolo area and beyond.

A press release about all this instructs Web surfers to visit and then go to Government > Departments > Agriculture and Weights & Measures to find the link.

Or, you can just go directly to Yolo County wineries by clicking here. You're welcome, Yolo County!

July 20, 2010
Sweet competition brewing among local cupcake shops

cupcakes.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

Turns out Sacramento-based Cupcake Craving isn't the only sweet shop in the region to be approached by the Food Network.

Producers at "Cupcake Wars" also contacted Icing on the Cupcake, a Rocklin bakery, Babycakes Bakery and Esther's Cupcakes, both in Sacramento, and asked the owners to apply to be on the show.

"Cupcake Wars" is a weekly show that pits the nation's top cupcake bakers against one another in three elimination challenges. The winner gets $10,000 and the chance to showcase their cupcakes at a high-profile event.

July 20, 2010
Le Bilig Kitchen in Auburn to close July 31

After a 15 year run in Auburn, the owners of Le Bilig Kitchen (11750 Atwood Rd., Auburn) have announced the restaurant will shut down following dinner service on July 31. Owners Marc and Monica Deconinck said in an e-mail that the two were originally planning to take a year-long sabbatical in France and eventually sell the restaurant. Those plans were accelerated on July 9 when their landlord said she no longer wanted a restaurant in the building.

"It was a shock and disappointment after 15 plus years," said the Deconincks in a statement.

The Deconincks plan to hold cooking classes and dinners in August at their home on Bell Rd. For more information: (530) 888-1491 or

July 20, 2010
Are coffee drinks confusing you? Try this simple glossary

By Allen Pierleoni

Something as theoretically simple as coffee has taken on confusing proportions. While it's still possible to order a simple cup o' joe, the list of coffee-drink options has become nearly overwhelming - especially for newcomers.

To make matters easier is Bill McClure, CEO of, a clearinghouse of mail-order coffee products and related items.

"Most people understand the basic drinks like coffee and iced coffee," he said. "But when it comes to the lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and mochas, things can get a little confusing."

To help coffee-lovers, McClure offers his "Coffee Talk Glossary":

- Espresso: a strong, heavily caffeinated single or double shot made with hot water and finely ground beans.
- Americano: a shot of espresso mixed with hot water.
- Latte: combines espresso with steamed milk; topped with a little bit of foam.
- Cappuccino: stronger than a latte; combines espresso with a little steamed milk and is topped with a lot of foam.
- Caramel macchiato: a vanilla latte with more foam and less vanilla, with a little bit of caramel sauce drizzled on top of the foam.
- Frappuccino: starts with a sweet coffee that's blended with ice.
- Café mocha: espresso and chocolate syrup with steamed milk and whipped cream.

"Starbucks' customers will be familiar with these terms used in reference to drink size," McClure said:
- Short: At 8 ounces, this is the smallest size, available only on request.
- Tall: At 12 ounces, it's considered the "small" drink.
- Grande: "Medium" is 16 ounces.
- Venti: 20 ounces of hot or 24 ounces of cold.
Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

July 19, 2010
Paella vendor pulls out of State Fair due to slow sales

By Allen Pierleoni

Hopping from food vendor to food vendor last Friday at the California State Fair, we discovered an unusual entry - Gerard's Paella. We tasted the iconic dish and were swept away. We thought the chicken-shrimp-rice offering was the best meal we've ever had at any fair.

Unfortunately, fairgoers didn't seem willing to pay $9.75 for a plate of paella, and apparently had difficulty finding the food stand in the first place. So Gerard Nebesky is leaving and taking his paella with him after the fair closes tonight.

"I feel really bad about pulling the plug, but nobody can find us in this location (off the Main Food Promenade)," Nebesky said Monday afternoon, shortly after making the decision to leave. "It's a bummer. I've been throwing away product, I can't even give it to a homeless shelter (because of health department regulations). But we are pretty happy that the health department inspectors have eaten here twice."

Brian May, the fair's deputy general manager, meanwhile pointed out that new vendors are rarely if ever positioned in the the main food line in their first appearance at the fair.

"We were excited when we booked (Nebesky), given his reputation in the food industry and the high quality of his (paella), and we're very disappointed it didn't catch on," said May.

This was Nebesky's first involvement with any fair, he said last Friday when I interviewed him for what was going to be the subject of this Friday's "Counter Culture" column in the Ticket section of The Bee.

The Nebeskys live near Occidental, a tiny town not far from Bodega Bay in Sonoma County. For the past five years they've traveled around the country, cooking and serving paella mostly at private parties and special events at wineries. Two years ago, the Nebeskys' paella beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay's version in a Food Network "Throwdown" challenge.

"We worked hard with (Nebesky) to help get the promotion to support his business," May said. "It's very rare for a vendor to pull out, but this was his introduction to the fair business and his operation wasn't consistent with (those) that surrounded him. (For instance) the vendors with the biggest grosses focus on flash and deep-fried foods. We shared with him some of the changes we think he needs to make (in his set-up) to be competitive. We would love to have him back."

What about the contract between Nebesky and the state fair?

"He's not making enough to meet his expenses," May said. "We don't want to force him to stay."

The situation is colored with some irony: Two months ago, Nebesky was selling paella at the annual Maker Faire in San Mateo when he was spotted by Michael Treacy, director of the Division of Fairs and Expositions for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. "He thought we'd be a good addition to the state fair," Gerard told me last Friday.

Amid the usual fair fare and novelty items, it was a pleasant surprise to find a dish that's both delicious and not laden with fat and sugar. Nebesky's paella was excellent - the rice alternating between crispy and soft, the shrimp and chicken fresh and popping with flavors.

"It's a combination of (several) recipes we got in Spain," he said. "We tweaked them to make a California version of paella."

Included are garbanzo beans, green beans, garlic cloves, tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, smoked paprika, saffron and chicken broth.

"We use California-grown medium-grain rice, bone-in skin-on chicken thighs and Ecuadorian white shrimp," Nebesky said.

Gerard's Paella will be among the food vendors at the Eat Real Festival, planned for Aug. 27-29 at Jack London Square in Oakland (

"I'll have the mussels, clams and sausages (in that version)," he said.

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

July 19, 2010
Clarksburg's "Blessing of the Grapes" on Aug. 19

After a tough season for local wine grape growers, a little divine intervention couldn't hurt. Drop by the Old Sugar Mill (35265 Willow Ave., Clarksburg) on Aug. 19 for Clarksburg's "Blessing of the Grapes." This traditional kick-off for the annual wine grape harvest has been going for three decades in Lodi, but will be held for the second time in Clarksburg. The idea is to give thanks and pause for reflection before the heavy-duty workload of grape harvest starts. Father Dan Madigan of St. Joseph's Church will lead the blessing, and look for wine tasting and food to be offered at the Old Sugar Mill following the ceremonies. The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon, with the blessing scheduled for 11 a.m. For more information, visit the Old Sugar Mill's web site.

July 19, 2010
Temple scores big with one of its coffees

Congratulations to Temple Coffee. Its Colombia Monserrate just received a score of 90 points out of 100 from, a leading consumer coffee website run by coffee expert and author Kenneth Davids.

Coincidentally, I had spoken with Davids only days earlier for a story I am working on about the AeroPress, an excellent and phenomenally simple coffeemaker (the story will be published in The Bee soon). Davids is a big fan of the AeroPress. Since I am making coffee galore with it, I stopped in at the Temple on S Street and bought a pound of Colombia Monserrate beans and went home to see what 90 points tastes like.

The other coffee in my kitchen happens to be an excellent espresso from Blue Bottle in the Bay Area. We liked Colombia Monserrate even better. Very balanced, very smooth, nice complexity, no bitterness or distracting off-flavors and it is medium bodied. The cost is $17 for a pound.

Coffee Review's website is never going to win an award for navigational ease, so click here to get Ken Davids' take on this coffee. This is great national exposure for Temple Coffee.

Temple has made a major name for itself since opening its first shop downtown in 2005 and its second last year in Midtown on S Street. Now it has opened a roasterie and is venturing into the wholesale market to sell to restaurants, coffee shops and offices. If this 90-point coffee is any indication, the future looks promising.

July 19, 2010
Bottle of wine and no corkscrew? No problem

You're having a picnic. The time comes for the wine. You're trying to make a good impression. But when you reach for your corkscrew, you realize you left it at home.

Fear not. Now's the time to go equal parts Macgyver and James Bond. A reader sent me this link to a video to show you how to get out of bind. You don't need to understand French to follow along. Very cool. Leave it to the French to figure out how to do this.

July 15, 2010
Sacramento Beer Week 2011 taking shape

Along with chomping on some python and getting a preview of new State Fair foods this week, I got some scoop on the 2011 edition of Sacramento Beer Week. Dan Scott, the executive director of Sacramento Beer Week, said to mark your calendars for Feb. 27 - March 6 in 2011. Scott, who was previewing State Fair snacks for the Sac Rag blog, said that plans also call for a brewfest at Cal Expo on March 5.

The debut of Sacramento Beer Week this past February turned out to be a sudsy success. The inaugural event at the Colonial Theatre drew about 400 beer lovers, while many related Beer Week events around the area were sold out or standing room only.

Check Sacramento Beer Week's web site as time goes along for more updates.

July 15, 2010
Sometimes you feel like a nut, but this quiz gets more specific

Are you a peanut or pecan? Almond or walnut? Perhaps a cashew? Can your personality traits determine what kind of nut you go for?

Yes, say the folks at Fisher Nuts of Elgin, Ill. The company is promoting a 10-question quiz at and The results are supposedly indicative of your "nut personality."

For instance, if you're a salted peanut, you're "a dramatic extrovert who craves novelty." Competitive personalities choose walnuts. If you're a pecan, you're loyal. That's the theory, at least.

"Our quiz is an entertaining spin on the science of food preference," said Fisher marketing director Julie Nargang. "Rather than just asking people to tell us what their favorite nut is, we're asking them questions that also give clues to their personality. Then we show them the nut that correlates to their personality type."

Where did this quiz come from? It's "loosely based" on a "nut preference and personality-type study." The study was conducted by the medical doctor who founded the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Fisher's take on it is meant to be in fun, more of a "conversation starter."

The multiple-choice quiz questions include:
- "If I were to walk into a party right now, I would..." Among the five choices are "Look for a friendly face" and "Make a grand entrance."
- "The perfect day for me would be to..." Among the choices are "Start my new project" and "Hang out with friends."

I took the quiz and discovered my personality type is a cashew: "Calm and level-headed, you can be depended upon in times of crisis."

Sorry, but I don't even like cashews.

July 15, 2010
69 percent of imported olive oils in UC Davis study don't meet 'extra virgin' claims

A new UC Davis study confirmed what many experts already suspected: Most imported "extra virgin" olive oils are not what they claim to be.

In a first of its kind study by a U.S. academic institution, the UCD research team found that 69 percent of the imported oils sampled failed to meet internationally accepted standards for extra virgin olive oil. By comparison, only 10 percent of the California-produced oils in the test failed to meet those standards.

"Before this study, we had anecdotal reports of poor quality olive oil being sold as extra virgin," said Dan Flynn, executive director of UCD's Olive Center, part of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. "Now there is empirical proof. ... The oils that failed in our tests had defects such as rancidity. Many of these oils just did not taste good."

All 19 brands tested - 14 imported and five California-made - were purchased in March at supermarkets or big-box stores in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles counties. Three bottles of each brand from each location were tested. The findings, released today, and the names of the brands evaluated are available online at

Of the California-made brands tested, all bottles of Corto Olive, California Olive Ranch, McEvoy Ranch Organic and Lucero met the extra-virgin criteria.

Of the imports, only Kirkland Organic passed all the extra-virgin standards with samples from all three locations. Samples of Bertolli, Pompeian, Carapelli, Mezzetta and Mazola failed from all locations.

Working with Australian olive experts, the UCD scientists used USDA and international standards for evaluating extra virgin olive oil, considered the premium and most expensive on the market. By definition, extra virgin oil must be extracted from the olive without heat or solvent and meet specific criteria for quality, smell and taste.

But many of the oils tested did not meet those standards due to oxidation, adulteration with cheaper refined olive oil or poor-quality oils made from damaged and overripe olives, processing flaws or improper oil storage. Oxidation also may be caused by improper storage, including exposure to high temperatures and light as well as aging.

With rising interest in healthy cooking, the United States now represents the world's third largest market for olive oil.

The UCD study was funded by California olive oil producers and the California Olive Oil Council.

-- Debbie Arrington,

July 14, 2010
Spills and thrills at tonight's Bastille Day waiters' race

Happy Bastille Day to all the Francophiles out there ... it's the French holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille, and what better to celebrate this event than a waiters' race that starts at 6 p.m. tonight. Dozens of servers will gather at Le Petit Paris (1221 19th St., Sacramento) and do their best not to spill a bottle of wine and glasses on a tray as they speedwalk to L Wine Lounge (1801 L St., Sacramento). We're hearing that the streets will be blocked off as the servers race toward the finish line, and the race itself isn't expected to take more than 10 mins. or so.

Which waiter will reign supreme? Check tomorrow's Bee for my story about all the thrills and spills from this race.

July 14, 2010
Coffee grounds and beans go beyond the morning brew

Sure, we love our morning cuppa and we know that nitrogen-rich coffee grounds are beneficial in the garden. Now Bill McClure offers other uses for coffee grounds and beans. He's the CEO of, a family-owned coffee business that does a lot of mail-order.

His tips:

- Kitchen drains can get stinky. Slowly pour a cup of coffee grounds, mixed with boiling water, down the drains to freshen them up.
- Coffee grounds can be used to clean any stain-resistant surface. They're especially effective for cleaning greasy kitchen surfaces.
- Remove food-handling odors (fish, garlic) by rubbing a few coffee beans in your hands. The oils in the beans absorb smells.
- To freshen the breath, suck on a coffee bean.

July 13, 2010
Recipe from Sac County Jail

If you ever needed an incentive to walk the straight and narrow and stay out of jail, one look at the following recipe may have you singing "Ain't Misbehavin'."

A lawyer friend of mine passed this along. It is the legally approved diet for someone placed in disciplinary isolation. When I walk past the jail downtown and hear all the wailing and shouting, I imagine they took their first bites of this meatloat!

Feel free to try this recipe at home for the kid who doesn't make his or her bed..

Here it is:

1247. Disciplinary Isolation Diet.

(a) A disciplinary isolation diet which is nutritionally balanced may be served to an inmate. No inmate receiving a prescribed medical diet is to be placed on a disciplinary isolation diet without review by the responsible physician or pursuant to a written plan approved by the physician. Such a diet shall be served twice in each 24 hour period and shall consist of one-half of the loaf (or a minimum of 19 oz. cooked loaf) described below or other equally nutritious diet, along with two slices of whole wheat bread and at least one quart of drinking water if the cell does not have a water supply. The use of a disciplinary isolation diet shall constitute an exception to the three-meal-a-day standard. Should a facility administrator wish to provide an alternate disciplinary diet, such a diet shall be submitted to the Board of Corrections for approval.

(b) The disciplinary diet loaf shall consist of the following:
2-1/2 oz. nonfat dry milk
4-1/2 oz. raw grated potato
3 oz. raw carrots, chopped or grated fine
1-1/2 oz. tomato juice or puree
4-1/2 oz. raw cabbage, chopped fine
7 oz. lean ground beef, turkey or rehydrated, canned, or frozen Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
2-1/2 fl. oz. oil
1-1/2 oz. whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. raw onion, chopped
1 egg
6 oz. dry red beans, pre-cooked before baking (or 16 oz. canned or cooked red kidney beans)
4 tsp. chili powder
Shape into a loaf and bake at 350-375 degrees for 50-70 minutes.

Guideline: Regulations require that food will not be withheld from an inmate as a disciplinary measure for major infractions (Section 1083, Limitations on Disciplinary Actions). With respect to inmates who are on a prescribed medical diet, the responsible physician must be consulted prior to putting that inmate on the disciplinary isolation diet. This is to assure that the disciplinary diet does not result in any unanticipated health consequences. The regulation includes a meat substitute and the vegetarian disciplinary option can also be used for a lactose-free disciplinary diet. Both the meat and the vegetarian options for the disciplinary isolation diet meet the nutritional requirements of Section 1241, Minimum Diet. A nutritional analysis of the diet is available upon request to the Board of Corrections. This recipe was updated to comply with the new DRI requirements and the carrot portion has been changed from 4 ½ oz. to 3 oz. of Carrots.

The 72- hour limitation was moved to Section 1083, Limitations on Disciplinary Actions, because restrictions on the use of the disciplinary diet are a custody issue.

July 13, 2010
Early taste of new State Fair foods


Looking to channel your inner Anthony Bourdain? The California State Fair has you covered this year. And no, we're not talking about cooking something straight from the petting zoo. How about deep fried scorpions covered in chocolate, or grilled python kabobs?

I got a chance to preview some of the new State Fair foods, but unfortunately the scorpions and other insects that Jungle George's stand will be cooking up hadn't arrived yet. And yes, I was ready to try these for educational purposes. But here are some other goodies and curiosities I chowed on:

Python kabobs, frog and alligator from Jungle George (pictured above): That's right, python tastes like chicken - make that very, very chewy chicken. But the seasoning was good enough, with a mix of lemon pepper, Worchestire Sauce, liquid smoke, and Old Bay seasoning mix. The alligator's texture was less chewy than the python, but that 'gator had a slightly swampy aftertaste. The fishy flavor on the frog was just a little too strong for these taste buds, but walking around the midway with that grilled amphibian on a stick will certainly garner some looks.

Chocolate covered bacon from Fire and Ice: Order this item and you'll get five pieces of chocolate covered bacon in a Chinese to-go box. Mmmm, just like grandma used to make. OK, maybe not, but this sweet and salty snack was pretty good. You're getting more chunky chocolate than pig meat in each bite, though the bacon flavor gets more pronounced as you swallow. This mix of sweet, savory and salty flavors will still do you right. Just apologize to your arteries in advance.

"Giant" Deep-fried Twinkie and deep-fried Moon Pie from Sweet Cheeks:
Speaking of stuff that's just bad for you - but tastes oh so good - the "giant" deep-fried Twinkie is three fried Twinkies garnished with powdered sugar and chocolate. My inner eight-year-old jumped in a sugar high joy, but my current day self knows I need to spend some extra time at the gym tonight as penance. Same went for the deep-fried Moon Pie, a first at the State Fair. This item felt a little oily around the edges but all that marshmallow filling and chocolate will keep your sweet tooth satisfied for a week. Just don't ride the Tilt-A-Whirl after eating one.

Check Wednesday's Bee for more news about the State Fair's opening day and the move to discount food by 25 percent this year.

Gallery: Food vendors prepare for fair with new treats and lower prices

July 12, 2010
Trans fat inspections of State Fair foods

Food vendors at the California State Fair are required to pass a number of health inspections, and your favorite food on a stick will get even closer scrutiny this year. The Sacramento County Environmental Management Department will be inspecting for trans fats as the State Fair begins its run Wednesday through Aug. 1. Since Jan. 1, food vendors are banned from using and serving items containing artificial trans fats. What might this mean for the deep-fried Twinkies out there? We'll soon find out as the county begins conducting its trans fat inspections at the State Fair on Tuesday.

In other fair food news, if you haven't heard by now, food at this year's Califiornia State Fair has been discounted 25 percent. Could this strategy help boost sagging fair attendance? I'll be reporting on this for Wednesday's paper and give the scoop on some new foods coming to the fair. (Think: fried scorpions and chocolate covered bacon). Bon appetit!

July 12, 2010
Two deals from Mimi's Cafe: Free muffins and half-off wine

The 146 restaurants in the Mimi's Cafe chain were made to resemble French country homes. Given that theme, it makes sense from a marketing standpoint that Mimi's is celebrating Bastille Day, a national holiday in France, with its "back by popular demand" Muffin Giveaway.

Here's the deal: Buy breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 14, and receive a free four-pack of muffins while the inventory lasts.

Here's the catch: You need a Facebook account to download the appropriate coupon. Go to The Muffin Giveaway can also be found at, which will link you to that Facebook site.

Here's another deal, with no catch: Mimi's is also sponsoring Wine Wednesday. Show up any time on any Wednesday, order a bottle (not a glass) of wine and pay half price for it. No Facebook. No coupon. No sweat.

July 9, 2010
L Wine Lounge swings into new business partnership

The owners of L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen (1801 L St., Sacramento) are teeing off into a new business partnership with plans to franchise a new restaurant concept and create cookbooks. Tony Glover, publisher of Golf & Lifestyle magazine, has joined Marcus and Kolea Marquez as the ownership team behind L Wine Lounge.

Glover, who founded LuxLife magazine, plans to use his publishing expertise to help launch cookbooks from L Wine Lounge chef Ame Harrington and mixologist Chris Tucker. Glover, who once tended bar at Bandera, is also working with the Marquez's to launch an organic burrito chain called Fatso's. They're already scouting out a Sacramento location for Fatso's, with plans to expand into the bay area.

Glover will meanwhile focus on L Wine Lounge's business operations and new lunch program, while the Marquez's will concentrate on evening service, catering and other factors related to food and wine.

"In this economy you need to find creative ways to partner and survive," said Glover.

July 9, 2010
Local Web site takes the mystery out of cooking at home

One point of cooking food at home is sharing it with family and friends, bringing pleasure to all. The Web site certainly nourishes that notion.

"I want to share recipes and show people it's not hard or intimidating to make good-quality food," said Sarah Singleton of Sacramento, the site's creator and caretaker. She's a county social worker and mother of two whose love of cooking and recipes led her to create the site two years ago.

Posted there are recipes for such disparate dishes as horseradish deviled eggs, clams casino, pot stickers and cheesecake.

On June 29, Singleton put up a step-by-step package on preparing, grilling and slicing a tri-tip, with color photos.

"My husband, Guido, is a big tri-tip lover and has made it for his friends for a long time," she said. "We cook it when we host get-togethers. It's relatively inexpensive and feeds a lot of people. You can throw it on the grill and a half-hour later it's done."

The "secret" ingredient in her recipe? Fresh lemon juice.

For more information on tri-tip - the "California Cut" - check out the July 21 Food & Wine section.

July 8, 2010
Study: Sacramento leads country in farm-to-consumer sales

Sacramento area farmers are an especially savvy bunch when it comes to marketing to local consumers. That was among the findings in a recent study by Shermain Hardesty, a Cooperative Extension economist in the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Her research found that 14 percent of Sacramento-area farms marketed directly to consumers, compared to just nine percent of farmers nationally.

Hardesty was part of a research team that studied how locally grown food is supplied to consumers around the country. Other areas studied included Oregon, Minnesota, New York and Washington D.C. The study was The study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

Hardesty's research included interviews with farmers, supermarkets and produce distributors.

"We were especially interested to find that, even after deducting the added costs of transportation, distribution and selling at the farmers market or other point of sale, the farmers are still able to net a greater share of retail prices in local food supply chains than they would had they used conventional marketing chains," said Hardesty in a statement.

July 8, 2010
Greek restaurant shutters midtown Sacramento location

Greek eatery Daphne's has announced that it's closed its location at 19th and S streets in Sacramento.

An e-mail to patrons from the franchise did not disclose the reason behind the closure.

"This location is now closed. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you at another Northern California location," the note said.

Calls and e-mails from The Bee to Daphne's corporate headquarters have not been returned.

Joe Sylvia, 63, frequented the restaurant about twice a week for dinner with his wife and often took coworkers there for lunch.

He learned the restaurant was closing while having lunch there Wednesday.

"The crew inside looked as if they were waiting for their last paycheck and made the announcement to us that Daphne's was closed and thanked us for our patronage," Sylvia wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

Sylvia was surprised the restaurant closed, since it always seemed to be busy.

"I for one will miss this place," he wrote. "Good food, always fresh and reasonably priced and a staff of workers who were very pleasant and helpful."

The restaurant chain is a franchise. Two stores in Roseville remain open.

July 8, 2010
Wine Cheese & Bread Faire coming to Old Sugar Mill

Organizers are dubbing the event "the ultimate gourmet wine & food shopping experience," but you can just call it The Wine Cheese & Bread Faire. This fancy food extravaganza will be held on Aug. 7 - 8 at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg (35265 Willow Avenue; Clarksburg). Here's what you'll find: cheesemakers from the California Cheese Guild, Panera bread, olive oils, nuts, coffee, spices and much more. Oh, and there will be plenty of wine from such producers as Heringer Estates, Todd Taylor Wines, Carvalho Family Wines and other producers with tasting rooms at the Old Sugar Mill.

The price? $15, and includes a wine glass and entrance to classes. The event runs 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. each day. For more info.: 530-520-6706.

July 8, 2010
Foodies will find fulfillment at SFChefs culinary and wine fest

Now's the time to make plans to attend San Francisco's premier food-and-wine festival, SFChefs, Aug. 9-15 on Union Square and in the Westin St. Francis Hotel. The event "celebrates the unique flavor, diversity and bounty of Northern California."

It's all about tasting and learning. Among the highlights: chefs from 25 area restaurants creating specialty dishes and leading cooking demonstrations; 30 winemakers offering samples; interactive food and wine classes and seminars; dessert-and-port pairings; and celebrity-chef cook-offs, including the "Chef's Challenge" battle between Food Network star Tyler Florence and restaurant chefs Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake), Jamie Lauren (Absinthe) and Chris Cosentino (Incanto).

The Westin St. Francis is the "exclusive hotel partner" with SFChefs for the extravaganza, and as such has numerous package deals for lodging-events combinations. For details:

For a complete list of SFChef events, chefs, winemakers and distillers, and to purchase tickets:

July 7, 2010
California State Fair "best of show" wine winners

Which wines ruled at this year's California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition? Those results were just announced here at Grape & Gourmet in an awards ceremony, and here they are:

Best of Show Red
Red Rock Winery 2008 Malbec ($12)
(see, it pays to join or virtual tasting ;)

Best of Show White
Cypress Vineyards 2009 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($10)

Best Value
Sterling 2008 Meritage ($9.99)

Best of Show Sweet

R.A. Harrison Family Cellars 2007 Nobility ($75)

Golden Winery
Robert Hall Winery

For a complete database of winning wines from this year's State Fair, click here.

July 7, 2010
Live on Twitter: Chris Macias at Grape & Gourmet

Chris Macias will be tweeting about the food and wine at tonight's Grape & Gourmet at the Sacramento Convention Center. Feel free to join the fun and send your own tasting notes on Twitter using the hashtag #gg2010. See all the tweets below.

Coming Thursday: A photographer will be snapping photos of the Grape & Gourmet crowd. Look for yourself or your friends after 8 a.m. at

Photo: Mark Hess of J. Lohr Winery, pours a glass of wine as wine enthusiasts examine the various bottles J. Lohr has on display at their booth at Grapes and Gourmet at the Sacramento Convention Center on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. J. Lohr won for the "Golden Bear" at the competition for best white wine. Photo by Kyle Grantham

July 7, 2010
Nutritious food to go: Arden Hills Spa will even deliver

As a destination that specializes in "wellness," Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa is all about healthful living. Now it's expanded that concept with a new dining program open to the public - one that will even deliver dishes to the home or office.

In an unusual move, the resort is offering 40 prepackaged "nutrient-dense" breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert choices for pickup or delivery.

"Our new (service) introduces our wellness resort to entirely new guests, which is a great branding opportunity for us," said marketing director Courtney Kain. "We believe food is a critical component to overall wellness."

Menu items cost from $6 to $12 (discount programs available); delivery charges are $5 to $12, depending on destination and whether the delivery point is a home or office.

The meals are aimed at diet- and nutrition-conscious consumers; to that end, they do not contain more than 700 calories. The meals can be customized for individuals.

Try this sample menu: spinach and red pepper frittata, cilantro-lime chicken sandwich, pistachio-crusted halibut and seasonal fruit galette.

The resort is at 1220 Arden Hills Lane, Sacramento; (916) 482-6111,

July 6, 2010
Need a Pinkberry fix? More shops set to open this month

pinkberry.jpgThey're coming.

Four more Pinkberry stores are set to open in the next few weeks in the Sacramento region. The area's first Pinkberry shops opened April 9 in the Howe 'Bout Arden shopping center and on April 29 in Laguna.

The Citrus Heights store at 5855 Sunrise Boulevard opens Friday, followed by the Loehmann's Plaza store on July 16 (2441 Fair Oaks Boulevard) and a Davis store at 500 1st Street July 30, a news release states. A Folsom store is in the works, but an opening date and address have not yet been announced.

Pinkberry has been well-received in the Sacramento area, Mikki Stevens, the director of operations for the Sacramento stores.

"Our sales are increasing on a weekly basis as well as our fan base," she said.

Pinkberry, a tart frozen yogurt chain that grew wildly popular after its West Hollywood launch in 2005, is known for using quality ingredients and toppings.

Sacramento stores feature Pinkberry's signature original flavor, as well as pomegranate, coconut, chocolate, mango. A summer flavor, watermelon, is being offered through early August. The stores offer the watermelon flavor at 50 percent off during happy hour, from 5 to 7 p.m. daily.

Tariq Munir, a local businessman, owns the six local Pinkberry franchises.

July 2, 2010
New Granite Bay eatery promises good food, despite tiny space

A new take-away style restaurant with a tiny kitchen is aiming to make a big splash at Quarry Ponds Town Center in Granite Bay.

Pullman Kitchen, set in the center's fresh market, is hosting a grand opening this weekend featuring a free pasta demonstration from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The restaurant is planning to repeat the event July 11 as well.

Chef and owner Sovy Medved said the 448-square foot kitchen is probably one of the smallest in the region, but it won't hamper her and Chef Christian Flood from turning out the best food at reasonable prices.

"We're going to concentrate on providing good food and good service to the public," she said.

The menu includes things like pulled pork or ribeye steak sandwiches served with fresh fruit and pasta salad for $6.95. Seasonal dinner items also will be available.

She's also not letting the previous tenant's failure to thrive or the center's chapter 11 bankruptcy filing sway her thoughts.

"We're determined to stay and produce the best possible food we can do at reasonable prices," she said.

Pullman Kitchen, located at 5550 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 140, is open 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information, call (916) 370-3223.

July 2, 2010
Menu changes at L Wine Lounge and One Speed

OK, hungry folks, I've got some scoop on menu changes coming to a couple of local eateries. First the good news:

A lunch program will start Tuesday at L Wine Lounge (1801 L St., Sacramento; 916-443-6970). Look for such items as grilled hanger steak sandwich with arugula, served with pommes frites ($8), and a fried chicken with heirloom tomato and cabage slaw ($8). Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday.

Now for some mixed news, for fans of breakfast that is:

Breakfast has been modified at One Speed (4818 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; 916-706-1748). Instead of opening at 9 a.m. on weekends for breakfast, starting Saturday One Speed will open at 11 a.m. with a brunch-styled menu. Such breakfast options as the Belgian waffles will remain, but other morning foods are being phased out. A new selection of specials are also being planned.

July 1, 2010
Bastille Day waiters' race coming to midtown

In the streets of France, and now around around the world, you'll find waiters speedwalking to a finish line while trying not to spill their trays of wine. It's a traditional waiters' race, which is often held to celebrate Bastille Day, and now it's coming to midtown Sacramento. On July 14 starting at 6 p.m., local servers will be racing with a wine bottle and glasses on a tray from Le Petit Paris boutique (19th and Capitol, Sacramento) to the courtyard behind L Wine Lounge (1801 L St., Sacramento).

The event is held in cities all around the world, and has attracted up to 3,000 spectators in Portland. So, Rob Turner of Sactown Magazine posed the question in his latest issue, "Why Not Here?" And now we're happy to say this event is happening. We'll keep you posted with more info., including prizes and names of competitors. Stay tuned - and don't spill your drink!

July 1, 2010
Recapping our virtual tasting

Two words for last night's online tasting: good times! Or, perhaps I should say: tough judges! The opinions flowed fast and occasionally fierce as three wines were tasted here yesterday as a virtual community. You can scroll down a little and see a replay of the chat, which attracted wine drinkers from the area and even a party from the Sidegate Homewine Group. We sipped, we swirled, we tapped away on our keyboards ...

So how did we rate the wines as a group?

Bogle 2008 Riesling
: The group overall found this wine pleasant enough, with good flavors of stone fruits and apple, but some preferred a style that wasn't so sweet. I found a lot of sweet pineapple flavors as the wine warmed, but served on the colder side was fairly refreshing with its fruity taste.

Gnarly 2008 California Cabernet Sauvignon
: The group basically wondered, "What the heck were the State Fair wine judges thinking?" when they awarded this wine 93 points. Thin, one-dimensional and a lackluster finish
this wine was even "banished to hell" by one taster. Blech ...

Red Rock 2008 Malbec: Now we're talking. The group enjoyed this wine for its complexity, mouthfeel and ability to be paired with a variety of foods. But there was one problem: numerous bottles of this purchased by tasters seemed to be corked. Without the bottle flaws, this malbec was definitely a winner.

In the end, we all had fun tasting these wines and evaluating them on our own. Because no matter what the State Fair judges say - especially in terms of the Gnarly Head cabernet - the only wine judge who really matters is yourself.

Look for another virtual tasting coming soon!

July 1, 2010
Enter your tomatoes in the NatureSweet-Raley's contest

Do your tomatoes have what it takes to compete with other backyard growers' tomatoes? You can find out by entering the eighth annual Homegrown Tomato Challenge, sponsored by NatureSweet Tomatoes and Raley's.

There are two parts to the competition:

To enter the "homegrown tomato skill contest": Between 9 and 11 a.m. on Aug. 21, bring three large or 10 small tomatoes to the tent that will be set up in the Raley's parking lot at 25025 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom. Only one entry per household will be allowed.

The tomatoes will be tested for sugar content, and the finalists' entries will then be tasted and judged. Two grand-prize winners will each be $2,500 richer; four runners-up will each get $250 in Raley's gift cards.

To enter the "cherry tomato cooking contest": Write a 100- to 200-word essay about "why you love cooking with tomatoes." Do this on the NatureSweet Homegrown Challenge Facebook page between July 5 and Aug. 6. Three entrants will be chosen and notified by Aug. 14.

That trio will cook their dishes at the Aug. 21 event in Folsom, using "a bag of secret ingredients" furnished by NatureSweet. After the judging, the winner will get $2,500 and the two runners-up will each get $250 in Raley's gift cards.

For more information: (210) 396-3966 and

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