August 31, 2010
Gatsby's filmed for Food Network's 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives'

By Chris Macias

Camera crews have been filming around Sacramento recently for an upcoming episode of the Food Networks' "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."The latest spot to be filmed is Gatsby's Diner, a fairly new spot in the Arden-Arcade area that specializes in "American comfort food with a twist."

According to the status update on Gatsby's Facebook page: "Just wrapped up our final taping for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. We will post as soon as we know it will Air! Exciting Stuff :)"

Gatsby's joins Dad's Kitchen, Golden Bear and Putah Creek Cafe as Sacramento area eateries which are getting the Guy Fieri treatment and filmed for "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Stay tuned for more info. ...

Meanwhile, here's a review of Gatsby's from The Bee's "Counter Culture" column.

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

August 31, 2010
Old Spaghetti Factory offering free meals for grandparents

By Niesha Lofing

The Old Spaghetti Factory is offering free meals for grandparents Sept. 12 to 14 in honor of Grandparents Day.

The offer is good at any of the chain's 39 locations, including its restaurants in Sacramento, Roseville, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova.

Don't think you can just send Gramps on his own though - the free meal is offered only with the purchase of a regularly priced entree.

Grandparents can pick from any item on the menu, the restaurant's news release states.

For more information, check out Old Spaghetti Factory's website.

Call ahead seating may not be available during the free meal offer.

August 30, 2010
The Kitchen ties for 1st in Best California Wine List Competition

By Chris Macias

In honor of California Wine Month - which you can read more about in Wednesday's "Wine Buzz" column - the California Restaurant Association organizes a Best California Wine List Competition. Sacramento has fared well in this contest before, which included top honors for the Firehouse in Old Sacramento and the Melting Pot (a franchise that includes a downtown Sac location).

Now it's The Kitchen's turn for the No. 1 spot. The Kitchen tied for first place in the category for the single location category, sharing the honors with LA Prime steakhouse at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles.

Judges were looking for wine lists that reflected the bounty of varietals found in the Golden State, along with "creative wine promotions and events." Entrants were also required to write an essay about their wine program, and were ultimately judged by a panel from the Wine Institute.

The Kitchen's always been a kind of local headquarters for some of California's most coveted wines, including such high-end labels as Harlan Estate, Marcassin, Sine Qua Non, Bryant Family and Kongsgaard. But looking at a recently published list, it's not just about trophy bottles at The Kitchen but California wines with character, be it a Bokisch 2008 Albarino from Lodi or cutting-edge Scholium Project wines from Suisun Valley.

"It was illuminating to see how restaurants showcased the diversity of California wines on their menus and increased wine sales with creative promotions and staff education," said Nancy Light, director of communications for the Wine Institute of California, in a statement.

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

August 30, 2010
Dixon Lamb Festival: Food, wine, entertainment, contests

By Allen Pierleoni

Food festivals and cook-offs abound in Northern California, from garlic in Gilroy and clam chowder in Santa Cruz, to asparagus in Stockton and seafood in Bodega Bay.

If you missed those this year, make plans for the annual Lamb Festival at Lambtown USA, coming in October to nearby Dixon. There will be plenty of lamb dishes to taste, of course, along with cooking demonstrations by local chefs, wine-tasting, music, activities for children, arts and crafts, wool vendors, wool-spinning lessons and sheep dog trials.

One crowd-pleaser is the lamb cook-off, with a first-place prize of $500 (last year, lamb-and-cucumber wraps was the winning dish). Sort of related to that is the lamb-eating contest, with a $300 top prize.

The Lamb Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Dixon May Fairgrounds, 655 S. First Street, Dixon. For more information: (707) 678-8917,

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

August 27, 2010
Oroweat teams up with Food Network host for recipe contest

By Dan Berget

Chef Claire Robinson of the Food Network's "5 Ingredient Fix" is teaming up with Arnold and Oroweat bread brands for the "Spin on Thin" recipe contest.

Readers and food lovers should submit their best recipes.

One Grand Prize winner will receive $2000 and an all-expenses-paid 3-day, 2-night trip for two to New York. Four finalists will receive $1000.

The contest runs through Nov. 29 and includes five different themes. The first theme, called Simply Delicious, lasts until Monday. Click here to get more information and to view official rules at the contest website.

Call The Bee's Dan Berget at (916) 321-4100.

August 27, 2010
Spinach, lemon chicken dishes soar in Foster Farms' contest

By Niesha Lofing

Two California cooks are one step closer to $10,000 after their dishes were ranked the best in the Foster Farms West Coast Chicken Cooking Contest's regional finals, held today at Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento.

The first annual contest, open to cooks in California, Oregon and Washington, garnered 2,000 recipes. The pool of entries were narrowed to 15 - five from each state - and regional finals were held to determine the top two dishes.

The final competition is scheduled for Sept. 17 at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena.

I was among three of the judges who had to taste all five and decide which two would move on the final round. Adrienne Bankert, of KCRA, and Georgeanne Brennan, of The San Francisco Chronicle, also served as judges.

Hard day eh?

lemon chicken.jpgIt was difficult to settle on just two winners, but in the end it was the panko-crusted lemon butter chicken with Israeli couscous salad by Rebekkah Leber of Hayward (pictured at left) and spinach stuffed chicken breasts by Alexandria Boswell of La Jolla (pictured at right) that emerged victorious.

Brennan, of Winters, said the spinach chicken breasts were her favorite of the dishes we tasted. A spinach lover, Brennan enjoyed the fresh dill, cheese and spinach stuffing and the striking color contrast of the greens against the white chicken meat.

Thumbnail image for spinach chicken.jpg"It just put it all together for me," she said.

The other semifinalists from California included Megan Bailey, of Monterey, for her pumpkin seed and wild rice chicken fajitas; Sandra Keefe, of Fullerton, for her black orange pekoe chicken breasts and Vee Lark-Williams, of Los Angeles, who submitted a recipe for crispy feta chicken croquettes with a mandarin orange sauce.

Leber and Boswell will receive $1,000 and will get a free trip to St. Helena for the final round.

The grand prize is $10,000 and a year supply of fresh Foster Farms chicken.

The contest is hoping to fill a void left by the National Chicken Contest, the nation's premier chicken cook-off. The contest was suspended in 2009 due to the economy.

The contest, along with the Pillsbury Bake-off and the National Beef Cookoff, boasted one of the most lucrative purses in the country.

Click here to get Leber's recipe for the panko-crusted lemon butter chicken with Israeli couscous. Click here to the get Boswell's recipe for spinach stuffed chicken breasts.

August 27, 2010
Greek Festival to feature wine tasting

Opa! There's some good news coming from Sacramento's 47th Annual Greek Festival. Along with the traditional ouzo drinking, wine tasting has been added to this year's menu. We're still waiting to hear which wineries are participating, but the wine tasting will take place each day of the festival from 5 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. The festival runs Friday through Sunday at the Sacramento Convention Center (1400 J St., Sacramento) and the times are as follows: Friday (11 a.m. - 11 p.m.), Saturday (12 p.m. - 11 p.m.) and Sunday (12 p.m. - 10 p.m.). Admission if free on Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Otherwise it's $5 general, $4 seniors and free for children 12 and under.

For more information:

August 27, 2010
Food, wine and the High Sierra: Three events to offer the best

By Allen Pierleoni

If you're a foodie (and aren't most of us?) longing to go on culinary safari, get ready to take some tasting notes at three upcoming special events:

- Food-and-wine pairings, cooking seminars and demonstrations, gourmet marketplace, grape stomp, celebrity chef cook-off, and a cocktail party and dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Highlands are lined up as part of the 25th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival. More than 2,000 gourmands are expected to attend, Sept. 10-12 at the Village at Northstar ski resort.

Some events are free, others are ticketed ($15 to $85). For details and to buy tickets:

- In conjunction with that festival is the inaugural Lake Tahoe Restaurant Week, Sept. 5-12.

The deal: About 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. Be sure you make reservations, though.

At, you'll find a list of participating restaurants (from family-run to high-end), menus, maps and contact info.

- Truckee's seventh annual Wine, Walk & Shop will bring more than 1,000 visitors to the mountain town for wine- and food-tasting and, of course, shopping at the many stores that line the main street.

"We bring in the best restaurants and caterers in the region, and our downtown restaurants will also participate," said event co-coordinator Katie Shaffer. By the numbers, that means 15 food venues and 30-plus wineries for the sampling.

Plan on noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 2 in downtown Truckee. Tickets are $30 advance (, $40 the day of the event. Details are at or (530) 550-2252.

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

August 26, 2010
Wine link of the day

Hate merlot, but brag about the bottles of Petrus in your cellar?

Do you diss chardonnay because a movie told you to?

Well congratulations ... you are among the Seattle Weekly's 7 Reasons Why Your Sommelier Hates You

August 26, 2010
Amador County Wine Cellar to shut down

By Chris Macias

Better hurry if you were planning to drop by Amador County Wine Cellar (14207 Hwy 49, Amador City) for a tasting. The wine bar, which opened in 2007 and features small production wineries from the Sierra Foothills, will shut down as of Sept. 7. The bad economy was to blame said owner Corinne Moore, who poured from such wineries as Calabria Vineyards, Lang Wines and Moore's own Wine Tree Farm.

The upside is the closure will allow Moore to spend more time on Wine Tree Farm, which specializes in such Rhone varietals as grenache, syrah and mourvedre. Those wines will continue to be poured in Sonoma County at Family Wineries Tasting Room (9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood).

"It's absolutely been bittersweet," said Moore. "I love the wine bar and pouring wine for people who didn't have tasting rooms, including my own. I loved talking to the people and educating them."

Building owner Joyce Davidson will continue to carry some of the wines and host the "Locals' Nights" on the first Thursday of each month. In the meantime, look for Amador County Wine Cellar's gift shop items discounted 20 percent, and a 10 percent discount on wines.

For more information:

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

August 26, 2010
Local cookbook generates so many sales that it gets 2nd printing

soup.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

Looks like eating locally grown, in-season food is growing even more popular.

The "Placer County Real Food" cookbook is now in it's second printing, author Joanne Neft told The Bee this week.

'I'm awestruck," Neft said in an e-mail.

Neft recently attended a writer's conference and learned that some 500,000 books are printed each year in the U.S., but only about 5 percent of those end up selling more than 2,000 copies.

"And here we are in our fourth month and we've sold 9,000 (copies)," she said. "Who would have thought this could happen?"

We did. The cookbook not only supplies readers with recipes for delicious, rustic cuisine, but is arranged in a way that winds readers through each of the four seasons, providing tips and hints for using in-season ingredients along the way.

Neft and chef Laura Kenny, who co-authored the book, spent one year hosting a weekly dinner party and cooking meals with ingredients procured from the local farmers markets. The Monday night meals, held at Neft's Auburn home, became some of the most sought-after culinary events in Placer County (cinderella squash soup, pictured above at left, was the first course at one of the dinners in November. Bee photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr.).

The cookbook is available at the Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville and Tahoe City farmers markets, as well as at many retailers throughout the region. Click here to see the list of retailers.

August 24, 2010
Sacramento cooking class caters to halibut enthusiasts

By Niesha Lofing

At upwards of $16 per pound, halibut can be more of an investment than dinner.

So when it comes to preparing halibut, knowing what you're doing is key.

Enter local chef Pajo Bruich.

Bruich, of Pajo's Boutique Catering, is hosting a cooking class Aug. 31 dedicated to teaching home cooks about the delicious flatfish.

Participants will learn how to select halibut and other fresh fish, the differences in fish's fat content, flavor and texture, how to cook various fish, how to properly sear and roast halibut, and how to pair local wines with fish, Bruich said in an e-mail.

Brand Little, of Wild Little Fish Company, is sourcing the fish and will be one hand during the class.

Participants also will feast on a halibut dinner (the menu is posted below), paired with local wines following the class.

Cost is $59 per person. Gratuity is not included. Reservations are required and can be made by clicking here. The class is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 31 at Steel Magnolia Kitchen in Sacramento.


Salad of Heirloom Tomato
Basil panna cotta, lemon verbena gelee, green zebra gazpacho, compressed cucumber, liquid buratta spheres, Lucero olive oil sorbet, marinated heirloom tomatoes, balsamic reduction.

Pan Seared Wild California Halibut
Local sweet corn, potato croquant, applewood bacon, red pepper relish, garlic pudding.

Chocolate and raspberry dark chocolate gateau, raspberry gelee, dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate sorbet.

August 24, 2010
Wine tasting this week

Wednesday: Sip on some wine, root for the River Cats. Wednesday's the final throwdown for Wine in the Park, a night of wine tasting and minor league baseball that's been running through the summer at Raley Field (400 Ballpark Dr., West Sacramento). Look for the goods to be poured by Elkhorn Peak, Solune, Bent Metal and Abundance wineries from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Then you can watch the River Cats battle the Fresno Grizzlies with a 7 p.m. game time. Tickets are $25, or $20 with purchase of 15 or more. Information: (916) 662-0008 or

Wednesday: We're a big fan of Yorba's barbera 'round these parts, and here's some extra special sipping going on this Wednesday at Back Wine Bar (25075 Blue Ravine Rd., Folsom). Yorba viticulturalist Ann Kraemer will be pouring the winery's latest releases (barbera, tempranillo and Shake Ridge red), and Back Wine Bar will also have Yorba wines at special sale prices. Information:

Saturday: Help usher the 2010 harvest in Amador County with your stomping feet. Story Winery (10525 Bell Rd., Plymouth) will host a wine grape stomp competition at 1 p.m. The contest is limited to ladies only, and the winner will be crowned "Miss-Zin 2010" and have $100 donated to a charity of choice. $15 entry fee. Information:

August 24, 2010
Mezzetta contest asks: Is your sandwich creation worth $25,000?

By Allen Pierleoni

Sandwich trivia? We have that: The mountainous sandwich stuffed with a refrigerator's worth of ingredients is known as the Dagwood, so named in the 1930s in honor of its creator, Dagwood Bumstead, a main character in the "Blondie" comic strip.

Segue to this: August is National Sandwich Month and, appropriately, time for the third annual Make That Sandwich Recipe Contest. It's sponsored by Mezzetta, a Napa Valley-based purveyor of olives and peppers.

The grand prize is $25,000 and a "culinary trip and tour of the Napa Valley for two." The deadline to enter is Sept. 6. Go to for details.
Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

August 23, 2010
Want food trucks? Head to the Eat Real Festival this weekend

By Chris Macias

Holy carne asada, my story today about Sacramento saying "no" to food trucks sure caused a stir online. But of you're hungry for food trucks, or just interested in seeing the phenomenon first-hand, head to Jack London Square in Oakland from Friday through Sunday. It's time for the Eat Real Festival, which will feature a bounty of food trucks, carts and street food vendors. Look for the goods from Spencer on the Go (as seen on the Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race"), Gerard's Paella, Global Soul Street Eats, Pizza Politana, and Tara's Organic Ice Cream - just to name a few.

Admission is free, and all foods are priced from $1 - $5.

Hungry yet? For more information and a list of vendors:

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

August 20, 2010
Noodles & Company raises $1,600 in Elk Grove Fundraiser

Wednesday turned out to be especially welcoming for the Cosumnes Community Services District Parks & Recreation. A fundraiser held last Friday to commemorate the opening of a new Noodles & Company location in Elk Grove (7405 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove) netted $1611.32 for Cosumnes CSD Parks & Recreation. 100 percent of the proceeds from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday were gathered for the fundraiser.

For more information on Cosumnes Community Services District Parks & Recreation, click here.

August 20, 2010
Woodland firefighter's salad loses to ribs in cooking smackdown

By Niesha Lofing

Cue the booing.

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels and her smokin' pear salad recipe didn't win the "Live with Regis and Kelly" show's Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off.

Daniels was one of two firefighters in the final round of the contest, which airs this morning, but in the end it was Ross Signorino's "Rossome Ribs" that nabbed the $10,000 grand prize.

"It's a bummer," she said.

Daniels described Signorino's ribs as having a really sweet barbecue sauce.

"I didn't think they were amazing," she said. "Obviously I'm partial, but I thought my salad was a lot better."

If she won, Daniels was planning to donate $1,000 to a children's charity and take her sister on vacation.

But she is coming home with a $1,000 consolation prize, the bulk of which will be used to cover travel expenses.

Daniels said the loss won't keep her out of the kitchen, although it may alter her cooking repertoire a bit.

"I won't make pear salad," she said, laughing. "I'm not making ribs either."

August 18, 2010
Improving fruit, veggie flavor the focus of new UC Davis study

KG FAIR FARM MARKET 3.JPGUC Davis scientists have received a nearly $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the flavor quality of fruits and vegetables and increase produce consumption.

Beth Mitcham, who directs the university's Postharvest Technology Center, and a team of researchers are partnering with the University of Florida to study ways post-harvest handling of produce can improve its flavor, the California Farm Bureau Federation announced today.

Getting produce from field to market in a condition shoppers will buy is can be challenging for growers, packers and shippers and impacts consumption.

"Experience shows produce buyers rarely reject produce because it's under-ripe," Mitcham stated in a UC Davis news release. "But they will reject it if there's any bruising or decay."

But harvesting produce before it's ripe means the flavor hasn't had a chance to reach its full potential, which also can impact consumption, especially by children.

"And if the food doesn't taste good, they aren't going to eat it," she said.

The research will examine each step in the post-harvest chain, including whether the ripening process can be slowed to allow late picking, how flavor can be enhanced or inhibited during shipping and storing and whether riper produce during post-harvest handling affects food safety risk, the release states.

Mitcham and Jeff Brecht, a University of Florida post-harvest physiologist, are leading the team of nearly 30 experts from both universities. More than 25 produce industry stakeholders also are participating in the research.

Sacramento Bee file photo by Kevin German.

August 17, 2010
Results of 2010 Zagat Fast Food Survey

We interrupt these latest postings on firehouse chefs and current prix fixe dinner specials to say ... the results are now in from the 2010 Zagat Fast Food Survey! That's right, this is no place to start counting your calories or to measure sodium levels. 6,500 fast foodies helped compile this survey, chomping through who knows how many mountains of fries and dubiously nutritious chicken wings. Here are a few of their results:

Best French Fries

1. McDonald's
2. Five Guys
3. In-N-Out Burger
4. Wendy's
5. Burger King

Best Milkshake

1. Dairy Queen
2. Cold Stone Creamery
3. Sonic Drive-In
4. Chick-fil-A
5. Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops

Best Coffee

1. Starbucks Coffee
2. Dunkin' Donuts
3. McDonald's
4. Peet's Coffee & Tea
5. Caribou Coffee

Best Value Menu

1. McDonald's
2. Wendy's
3. Taco Bell
4. Burger King
5. Arby's

Click here to see the full results ... (note: "Appetizers" is not responsible for blown diets and sugar crashes after reading this survey).

August 16, 2010
Woodland firefighter nabs spot in cooking contests final round

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels is flying to New York today for a chance to win $10,000 and some serious bragging rights.

Daniels, 32, is one of two finalists in the "Live with Regis and Kelly" show's Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off. She learned early this morning that her smokin' pear salad recipe helped her secure a spot in the final cook-off, which will air on Friday's show.

"I'm so excited," Daniels said in a phone interview while driving to the airport. "I was at my station when they called and I got to jump up and down and scream with my coworkers."

Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa will announce the final two contestants during today's show. Daniels will be competing against Ross Signorino and his "Rossome Ribs."

If she wins, Daniels will come home with the cash prize and her recipe will be published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

The recipe, which pairs grilled chicken and pears with blue cheese, glazed pecans and butter lettuce in a salad dressed with a flavorful balsamic vinaigrette and is served with a side of buttery grilled garlic bread, is easy to prepare, an attribute Daniels thinks helped her excel in the competition.

"It takes like 20 minutes," she said.

The dish has been well-received among friends, community members and her fellow firefighters.

"My coworkers who don't like vegetables very much like it," she said.

Click here to get the recipe.

August 13, 2010
Woodland firehouse cook in top 5 on 'Live! with Regis and Kelly'

We've been following the ascension of Tara Daniels, as the Woodland firefighter competes in a firehouse cook-off contest on "Live! with Regis and Kelly." If you missed the excitement this morning, we're happy to say that Daniels earned a Top 5 spot and is up for $10,000 and the chance for her recipe to be featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Daniels' recipe for "Smokin' Pear Salad" garnered enough votes from Friday's studio audience to earn her Top 5 placement.

If you want to help send Daniels to the final round, vote for her recipe at the show's Web site. Voting ends Sunday night at 9 p.m. PT, and the top two vote-getters will be announced on Tuesday's show. The final cookoff will go down next Friday.

Good luck to Woodland's finest firehouse cook ... in the meantime, here's her recipe for the "Smokin' Pear Salad."

Smokin' Pear Salad


4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
salt, pepper, granulated garlic to taste
1 pear, firm but ripe
1 big garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
1 large head butter lettuce, washed and torn
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup candied pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Garlic Bread

1 loaf French bread
1/2 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, finely minced


Clean and dry chicken breasts. Season chicken to taste with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Set aside.

Slice pear in half, and core.

If making garlic bread, slice loaf in half long ways, melt butter and add minced garlic, then brush garlic butter mixture on bread.

Place chicken, pears face down, and garlic bread crust down on a hot grill. Cook chicken until firm and juices run clear. Cook pears for one min, just until grill marks show.

Cook garlic bread until grill marks show, about 5 min, then flip and cook 2 min butter side down.

While the above ingredients are cooking, prepare dressing and salad.

To make salad dressing; mix minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl. Whisk with fork until emulsified.

Throw sliced red onion into dressing bowl. Place lettuce in large bowl. Add blue cheese, nuts, and cranberries if needed. Slice the grilled pear into 1/8-inch thick slices and add to salad.

Remove chicken from grill, thinly slice.

Add dressing with onions to salad and toss.

Top salad with chicken. If making garlic bread, slice and serve on the side.

August 12, 2010
Ella receives nod for its interior design

By Chris Macias

Just in time for Midtown Cocktail Week, the folks at Ella Dining Room & Bar are no doubt saying "cheers!" for the restaurant's interior design receiving kudos. Fast Company magazine's design blog recently featured Ella as one of "the world's most innovative restaurant interiors." The downtown restaurant shared recognition with some pretty snazzy restaurants, including Textile Pavilion of Luxembourg and Paris' Nomiya/Palais de Tokyo. Ella, which was designed by UXUS of Amsterdam, was noted for "reclaimed wood stools and hundreds of Hungarian farmhouse shutters (which) accent an otherwise steely interior, giving the restaurant a look of 'rustic luxury.'" You can see these and other restaurants in the book, "Eat Out!: Restaurant Design and Food Experiences."

Come check out this world class interior tonight from 9 p.m. - 11 p.m. as Ella hosts three satellite bars and "bar bites" to celebrate Midtown Cocktail Week. For more information:

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

August 11, 2010
IMAX offering dinner and movie special

By Chris Macias

Dinner and a movie - it's a classic "night on the town" kind of pairing. The folks at IMAX (1211 K St., Sacramento) are now sweetening the deal. IMAX is offering a $5 discount with a receipt of at least $15 from any Sacramento area restaurant. That's right, whether you spend $15 at McDonalds or Grange, you can get $5 off at IMAX through Sept. 23. To take advantage of this silver screen special, tickets must be purchased within 7 days of the restaurant receipt. Not valid for previously purchased tickets.

Questions? Call IMAX at (916) 443-4629.

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

August 11, 2010
Sandwich Shop flavored mayos bring zip to the party

By Allen Pierleoni

In the creative world of sandwich-making, certain phrases have long been commonplace. "Hold the onions" is popular. "Extra pickles" is often overheard. And then there's the biggie, "With mayo."

With that in mind, mayo took on a fresh persona recently when Kraft introduced a new line of flavored mayonnaises. Sandwich Shop Mayo is available in supermarkets in Chipotle, Horseradish-Dijon, Garlic & Herb and Hot & Spicy ($2.99 for 12 fluid ounces). The first three are reduced-fat mayos.

Our panel of tasters liked the four so much that a mild post-tasting debate surrounded the question of who got to take which squeeze bottle home.

Some tasting notes:
Chipotle: "Sweet. Lots of flavor. A medium-hot tang."
Horseradish-Dijon: "A tasty marriage of the two. Piquant. Not too hot, given its heritage."
Garlic & Herb: "A mild garlic flavor dominates. Herbaceous, with basil, parsley and onion in the background. 'Reduced fat' doesn't mean 'reduced flavor.'"
Hot & Spicy: "Lives up to its name. Nice heat, especially on the back end. The boldest of the bunch, with cayenne pepper adding punch."

For sandwich recipes featuring the flavored mayos (including Bavarian Rhapsody and Maui Wowie), go to Our tasters suggested the mayos also be added to potato, macaroni and tuna salads, and used as a dressing on green salads.

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

August 10, 2010
'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' coming to Putah Creek Cafe

putah creek cafe.JPGLook out Winters - here comes the Food Network.

Putah Creek Cafe, shown at left, is going to get a visit this month from Guy Fieri, at right, of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," the popular show that transformed Sacramento's Squeeze Inn into a destination burger joint.

The Food Network crew will be filming at Putah Creek Cafe on Thursday and Fieri will be sampling the beloved restaurant's dishes on Aug. 29, Teresa Urkofsky, an instructor for American River College's Culinary Arts Program, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

The cafe is known for its wide range of comfort food - from its Belgian waffle to the Moroccan lamb stew - and its tantalizing selection of desserts and specialty coffees.

Bee writer Allen Pierleoni gave Putah Creek's food four stars when he reviewed it in 2002 and deemed it one of the 10 "unpretentious eateries whose food is good, affordable and served in ample portions."

Guy1.JPGThe upcoming Food Network visit isn't the cafe's first brush with fame.

Putah Creek became the place to eat after Gourmet magazine praised it in its June 2000 issue. The cafe is part of the Buckhorn Restaurant Group.

Click here to see Putah Creek's menu.

Sacramento Bee file photo by Jose Luis Villegas
File photo of Fieri courtesy of the Food Network.

August 10, 2010
Chili cook-off in Old North Sac -- and it's free

On Saturday, Del Paso Boulevard promises to be the culinary center of Sacramento, as contestants will be stirring the pot at the Old North Sacramento Chili Cook-off.

The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Renaissance Square Building lot at 1219 Del Paso Boulevard. Admission is free. There will also be free hot dogs and free chili. And as the event promotional poster says, "Hint: creat your own chili dog!" We're told there are 11 competitors lined up, so that could make for many delicious variations

A celebrity panel of judges has been lined up, including trick roper James Barrera. There will be live music by Blusion.

Afterward, the fun continues just across the street, where The Spazmatics will be in concert. Those who attend the cook-off can receive $5 off the ticket price to the concert, which is restricted to adults 21 and over.

August 9, 2010
'Fresh' film, event to benefit local farms at Sacramento Co-op

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is hosting a viewing this month of a documentary showcasing efforts to reinvent the nation's food system.

"Fresh", by Ana Sofia Joanes, features people like sustainable farmer Joel Salatin (he was featured in Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and urban farmer Will Allen, who have "witness the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity," the film's website states.

Julia Thomas, marketing assistant manager for the Co-op, had this to say about the film: "If Food, Inc. made you feel like you couldn't eat anything, Fresh will remind you that there are lots of good alternatives," she wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

The viewing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at the co-op's learning center at 1914 Alhambra Blvd, Sacramento.

All proceeds from the event - tickets are $7 per person - will be donated to One Farm at a Time, a partnerships to preserve small farms in the region.

Organic popcorn and beverages will be served.

To register, call (916) 455-2667 or visit the Co-op's website.

August 9, 2010
Take a bite (crunch!) of an Almondina and become an instant fan

By Allen Pierleoni

Consider the Almondina biscuit, which is like a really skinny biscotti. Better yet, bite into one. Feel the crunch. Hear the crunch. Taste the flavors merging in the mouth. Now enjoy the history of the award-winning (and Rachel Ray-endorsed) cookie:

"Grandma" Dina Nathanson, who lived in Israel, loved to bake and share her recipes. But she wouldn't part with the ingredients for one particular family favorite - le petit gateau sec (small dry cookie) - until the end of her life. It was only then, in 1929, that she divulged the secret recipe to her daughter, Ahuda Zaliouk.

Ahuda handed down the recipe to her son, Yuval Zaliouk, who later became an internationally known orchestral conductor. In 1989, he named the roasted almond-studded cookie after his grandmother - Almondina - and introduced it to the public through his company, YZ Enterprises.

Today, 11 flavors of Almondina are made. In our area, they sell for around $3.49 per four-ounce package at Corti Bros., Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Elliot's.

We sampled three of the flavors and liked the new chocolate-cherry best, followed by original (with raisins) and gingerspice. Bonus: They're kosher, contain no cholesterol, and "no added fat or salt." Warning: They're instantly addictive.

The tasters agreed they'd be ideal dipped in coffee, tea, red wine or milk, or crushed and sprinkled over ice cream.

For more information:

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

August 5, 2010
Woodland firefighter to dish on "Regis and Kelly" Friday

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels has made it to the final round of the "Live! with Regis and Kelly" firehouse cook-off contest and will appear on the show Friday.

Daniels is a finalist in the show's "Chicken Part 2" category of the Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off, the city of Woodland's website states.

Daniels' recipe for smokin' pear salad - a combination of pears, blue cheese, candied pecans, chicken and balsamic vinaigrette - impressed the show's production staff and apparently her hometown, too.

Appetizers recently wrote about Daniels' attempt to garner enough votes to make it to the final round. Click here to read the story.

The city's website attributes her final round victory to her recipe, video, "supportive co-workers and an unbeatable combination of friends, family and our Woodland community."

Daniels' segment airs at 9 a.m. Friday on KCRA.

The studio audience and hosts will rate the recipe on taste and the top five studio audience-ranked firefighters will be eligible for an online vote. The two top semi-finalists may be invited back to New York for a televised cook-off at the end of the month.

The winner gets $10,000 and the recipe will be published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, the contest rules state.

Follow the link below to get Daniels' recipe.

August 4, 2010
Former TV actor to introduce new wine in Auburn

douglas barr.jpgAuburn is going to get a little touch of Hollywood next week.

Former television actor Douglas Barr, who has since opened a Napa Winery, will be introducing his just-released 2008 Short Ends Cabernet Sauvignon on Aug. 11 at Carpe Vino in Old Town.

Remember Douglas Barr? He played the sidekick to Lee Majors on "The Fall Guy" in the mid-80s (photograph shows, from left, Douglas Barr, Lee Majors and Heather Thomas), and later played Bill Stillfield, husband to Jean Smart's "Charlene" character on "Designing Women."

Barr, 61, opened Hollywood & Vine with co-owner Bruce Orosz in 1998 and enlisted the help of winemaker Celia Welch to oversee production, a news release from Carpe Vino states.

The winery began with its 2480 cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, both limited, premium wines and last year launched the Short Ends Cabernet, the name of which refers to the remnants of unused film in canisters during movie filming.

The 2480 Cab goes for $83 a bottle and since the Short Ends Cab is made from the 2480's barrel ends, it means wine lovers are getting a similar premium wine at $33 per bottle, Carpe Vino oc-owner Drew Moffat stated in the release.

Carpe Vino has 56 cases of Short Ends for sale.

Barr will be pouring Short Ends Cabernet and his 2480 Chardonnay at 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at Carpe Vino. Appetizers also will be served during the event.

Cost is $10 per person. Carpe Vino Wine Club members can attend for free.

Reservations are not required. For more information, call (530) 823-0320.

August 2, 2010
Sacramento chef among finalists in Food Network video contest

Zócalo Chef Ryan Rose, 28, learned today that he's one of 15 finalists for the "Next Food Network Star YouTube Challenge," an online video contest that attracted about 250 entries.

The winner gets a free trip to New York, dinner at a Food Network star's restaurant and most importantly, a meeting with Food Network executives.

"It's super exciting," said Rose, who has worked his way up from bartender to head chef at the midtown Sacramento restaurant over the past six years

Rose was hunting online for casting information last month on how to apply for "The Next Food Network Star" when he ran across the YouTube contest. He quickly got a video together.

He's hoping the look of his video, set in Zócalo's kitchen, helps set him apart from the other finalists.

"I (taped it) through an actual Saturday brunch service," Rose said. "There were line cooks working and flames shooting up."

The video shows Ryan cooking paella, a dish he learned to cook while studying in Spain eight years ago.

The country fueled his love of food, but it was The Food Network that helped teach Rose how to cook. Now, he's hoping to return the favor.

"I'd love to be able to do that same thing for someone else," he said.

Online voting is being held through Aug. 16. The winner will be announced online Aug. 23.

You can see Rose's video at 6 p.m. today at Zócalo, where they're holding a viewing party and tequila and paella tasting. Or watch it here courtesy of YouTube (but you have to go to the online voting site to cast your ballot).

August 2, 2010
New Chipotle store holding fundraiser for youth fitness program

Big news in burrito land: Chipotle is opening a new location in Land Park and holding a fundraiser for a local youth fitness initiative this week.

The gourmet burrito restaurant is opening its 23rd Sacramento location on Friday, this time at the corner of Sutterville Road and Freeport Boulevard, across from the eastern edge of William Land Park, Chipotle officials announced in a news release.

If you want a sneak peak before the grand opening, head over to the new Chipotle between 6 and 9 p.m. Thursday, when the chain will host a fundraiser for Fleet Feet Sacramento's Project Fit, a non-profit program that supplies after-school fitness kits and curriculum to local elementary schools.

One hundred percent of the fundraiser's proceeds will be donated to the program, the release states.

But wait, there's more.

On Friday, the first 100 customers at the new location will get free T-shirts. The restaurant also is hosting a giveaway. The prize? Free burritos for a year.

The new location will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

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