Appetizers
December 30, 2010
Osso buco visits Buonarroti Ristorante for the winter

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

Carnivores rejoice this time of year, when cold winds blow in winter specials to restaurant menus. We're talking braised lamb shanks, spicy cioppino and tender short ribs with steaming mashed potatoes.

But what about the harder-to-find osso buco? A specialty of Milan, it's cross-cut veal shanks usually braised in a medley of broth, wine and tomato sauce. The term translates to "bone with a hole," and the hole is filled with luscious marrow.

Be happy: You can find osso buco for lunch and dinner at Buonarroti Ristorante through the winter months (along with deep-fried soft-shell crabs, but that's another story).

"I braise the veal shanks with vegetables (including carrots, celery and onion) and slowly cook them in red wine and our red sauce," said owner Daniel Alcantaro.

That sauce was passed down from Alcantaro's grandmother. The ingredients are a family secret, of course, but it's "a vegetarian sauce with garlic, rosemary, red wine, olive oil and a lot of other things," he allowed.

Buonarroti's fork-tender osso buco is being served as a lunch and dinner special (if you don't see it on the white board, ask for it). The lunch portion is 10 to 12 ounces and comes with penne pasta and seasonal vegetables ($19). The 16-ounce dinner plate arrives with pappardelle pasta (flat pasta in wide ribbons) and vegetables ($24). Note that risotto (creamy Arborio rice thick with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) can be substituted for either pasta; again, just ask.

In addition, the restaurant has waived its $15 corkage fee Wednesday nights. And special three-course meals for two are $29.95 Monday and Tuesday nights (choose from six entrees, but not osso buco).

Buonarroti is in Town & Country Village, Marconi and Fulton avenues. Information: (916) 265-2110, www.buonarrotis.com

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

December 29, 2010
Popping for New Year's: champagne-style beer

By Debbie Arrington
darrington@sacbee.com

Champagne of bottled beers? A new brew fits that description with bubbles to spare.

After two years of research and experimentation, Samuel Adams rolled out its much-anticipated Infinium in time for New Year's celebrations. This is no ordinary ale; according to Sam Adams founder Jim Koch, Infinium is the first new beer style created under German Reinheitsgebot standards in a century.

Koch and Josef Schradler, managing director of Germany's Weihenstephan Brewery, collaborated on inventing Infinium, which looks and drinks more like champagne than beer.

As a special winter release, it comes packaged in a heavy 750-ml bottle with a wire-caged cork, just like sparkling wine. It's priced like champagne, too, at a suggested $19.95 per bottle.

Poured into a champagne flute, amber-hued Infinium offers a frothy head and pinpoint bubbles. It smells fruity - a mix of apple, apricot and vanilla - and much more like wine than beer.

Crisp and pleasant in flavor, Infinium has a slightly sweet taste spiked with orange, ginger and clove. It packs a punch with 10.3 percent alcohol, almost double that of most beers.

Sam Adams brewmasters designed Infinium for celebrations as a champagne substitute. According to a recent survey by the company, more than 60 percent of American men would rather toast with beer than champagne.

Infinium also has that cross-over appeal as a beer designed for non-beer drinkers. In our informal taste test, Infinium appealed to this female drinker, who does like beer. But our guy was less enthusiastic. Although he dubbed Infinium "drinkable," he said he'd prefer a plain old Boston Lager any day.

Locally, Infinium will be available at "select stores" and beverage dealers. Total Wine & More in Roseville sold out of its supply, but hopes to get more. In Sacramento, Beverages and More also carries Infinium, but call first before making the drive; it's selling fast.

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

December 28, 2010
Buying some bubbly? We've got advice for you.

Bee Metro Staff

Planning for your New Year's Eve celebration?

Plenty of bubbles -- from domestic sparklers to Italian prosecco and cremant from France -- can be found at affordable prices.

On Wednesday, Chris Macias dedicates his Liquid Assets column to a list of six affordable festive bottles for New Year's Eve. Or any time you're in the mood for some bubbly.

All cost $30 or less, with most under $20. It's a winning combo of price and flavor that'll make you say "Cheers!"

December 28, 2010
Back Bistro to open in February

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Plan on pairing that glass of cabernet at Back Wine Bar with a little construction over the next couple months. The Folsom wine bar is knocking out a wall to make way for Back Bistro, which will expand its small plate offerings into a fuller menu that includes entrees and added appetizers. Owner Jeff Back says to expect Back Bistro to be up and running by late February. For more information: www.backwinebar.com

December 27, 2010
West Shore Cafe in Lake Tahoe finds new life, new menus

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

The revitalized West Shore Cafe on Lake Tahoe in Homewood opened its doors Sunday, bringing another dimension to the lake's culinary and lodging scenes (www.westshorecafe.com).

"It will be an asset to the community and will complement the existing restaurants around the lake," said Jeff Pelline, who was there for the grand opening. He's the publisher of the quarterly publication Sierra Food, Wine, Art (www.sierraculture.com).

Lodging-wise, the property offers four "mountain-inspired" guest rooms and two two-room suites.

For years, the West Shore Cafe was a small eatery doing business only during the summer months. Then its owner built a fabulous lodge with a dining room and expanded kitchen. Outside are a lakeside deck and pier, used for dining. The property closed a couple years later, was sold to JMA Ventures (owners of Homewood Mountain Resort and Alpine Meadows Ski Resort) and is now back in a new incarnation.

Executive chef Jessika Bryce has a few things up her sleeve, including daily lunch and dinner, plus après-ski appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m. The lunch menu includes a version of the classic croque monsieur ($11) and a Chinese chicken salad ($12). Two of the dinner entrees are lamb chops ($24) and pork loin chop with apple-bacon chutney ($22).

Also, Bryce is serving a special holiday menu through Jan. 2, which includes hamachi poke, seared scallops with truffle mashed potatoes, and ribeye steak. Her prix fixe New Year's Eve menu will feature oyster bisque and venison osso bucco (reservations: 530-525-5200).

The West Shore Cafe is at 5160 W. Lake Blvd., Homewood, Calif.; (530) 525-5200.

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

December 23, 2010
Golden Bear to be featured Jan. 3 on 'Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives'

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

"Appetizers" has been writing about the Food Network coming to Sacramento to film episodes of "Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives" over the last few months. Soon, it'll be time to tune-in to the Food Network. The episode featuring midtown's Golden Bear is set for Jan. 3 at 10 p.m. The Golden Bear (2326 K St., Sacramento; 916-441-2242), which received a solid 3-star review by the Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson, will also host a viewing party on Jan. 3 at 8 p.m. For more information: www.goldenbear916.com.

December 22, 2010
Holiday party-time? These names could put you off cocktails

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

For the food- and drink-centric, there's www.thedailymeal.com, a website devoted to "creating a complete food experience for cooks, food lovers, wine connoisseurs, discerning diners and everyone in-between."

One of its latest postings is aimed at holiday tippling, with advice on how to "decide on the drinks menu for your holiday party." With a sense of fun in mind, Daily Meal editor Valaer Murray assembled a list of cocktails with "the most disgusting names":

"Buzzard's Breath: Apparently, buzzards have slightly minty breath because this shooter mixes peppermint schnapps with Amaretto almond liqueur and coffee liqueur."

"Sewer Water: Not the result of a plumbing problem, this fruity gin cocktail with melon and pineapple liqueurs probably got its name from its muddy brown color."

"Blood and Sand: Being named after a Rudolph Valentino film, according to www.gourmet.com, doesn't make the scotch-brandy-orange juice mixed drink any more appealing."

"Swamp Gas: According to 'The Bartender's Best Friend,' this stinky-sounding cocktail originated in New Orleans, and mixes blue curacao with melon liqueur."

"Gorilla Milk: Not surprisingly, this cocktail has crème de banana in it, which is where the 'gorilla' part comes in. Then light cream makes it 'milk.'"

"Goat's Delight: This one has been around since before Prohibition, as evidenced by the inclusion of a dash of absinthe - enough to get your goat."

The recipes for these cocktails are at www.thedailymeal.com/10-most-disgusting-cocktail-names.

Meanwhile, if you imbibe too much during the next 10 days, check out "Drink Experts' Favorite Hangover Cures" at www.thedailymeal.com/drink-experts-favorite-hangover-cures#ixzz18rGXpuGN.

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

December 20, 2010
Sacramento Beer Week set for Feb. 26 - March 6

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Sacramentans with a love for suds, get your pint glasses handy. Sacramento Beer Week is set for Feb. 26 through March 6. Now in its second year, the successful beer festival will feature more than twice the amount of events from its debut this past February. Between all the pint nights, beer dinners, bar specials and festivals, Sacramento Beer Week 2011 will feature more than 400 events. Look for Beer Week to be honored not just in the city limits, but in Davis, Auburn, El Dorado Hills and other neighboring areas. Details are still being worked out for a Sacramento Beer Week grand opening bash at the Crocker Museum, but the whole event will come to a head with a beer festival at Cal Expo.

"When we were planning this out, we wanted to do something in mid-February, which is a slow time of year for restaurants and bars," said Rick Sellers, the beer director of Sacramento Beer Week and co-founder of Sacramento's Odonata Beer Co. "We're trying to get as many brewers from California and around the country and make a party of it, in a responsible way of course. The longterm goal is to make this a celebration of California beer."

For more information: sacramentobeerweek.com

December 20, 2010
The Top 10 list: Most popular Appetizers stories of 2010

AOC_FairFood_042w.JPGBy Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Upcoming food events, restaurant closings, free food. Those were the subjects of some of the most well-read stories posted on Appetizers this past year.

The Bee's food blog provided a Thanksgiving feast-sized bounty of information in 2010, from recipe contests to wine deals.

Here is a list of the Top 10 most popular Appetizer stories of 2010, complete with links to the full stories (click the "Full story" hyperlink to go to the original post).

We also want to hear from you about what you want to see us cover on Appetizers next year. What kinds of stories do you come to Appetizers for? What are we missing that you want to read more about? Post your thoughts in the comments area below.

Happy reading, and happy eating!

1. Early taste of new State Fair foods. Full story
2. Sacramento Beer Week coming in February. Full story
3. Bistro 33 Midtown closes to become Spin Burger Bar. Full story
4. Free mini sandwich @ Togo's on Jan. 14. Full story
5. Dave & Busters coming to Roseville. Full story
6. Midtown eatery Cornerstone facing closure. Full story
7. Amarin Thai Cuisine shuts down. Full story
8. Grand opening set for Cafeteria 15L. Full story
9. Recall of Parkers Farm products. Full story
10. Sacramento featured tonight on "Man V. Food." Full story

December 17, 2010
Cranberries can make for beautiful, inexpensive party decor

ice candle final.jpgBy Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

I have a cranberry problem. When I spot a bag of cranberries on sale, I'll toss it in my shopping cart. And since I wind up at the supermarket at least once a week, that can amount to a lot of cranberries.

A majority wind up in baked goods, but when I start running out of freezer space thanks to extra bags of cranberries (they freeze exceptionally well), I start looking for other ways to use them.

I came across a clever idea on Ocean Spray's website the other day - a cranberry ice candle. Really nothing more than cranberries frozen in ice and surrounding a votive candle.

With holiday party season in full swing, this also could be a great way to dress up the house without breaking the bank (click here to see our Food & Wine story about throwing a hot party on a budget).

Follow the link below to get the instructions on crafting the cranberry ice candle.

December 16, 2010
Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates honored

In the three years since Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates opened for business on L Street in midtown Sacramento, the shop has attracted a growing legion of followers, drawn to everything from premium hot chocolate to artfully prepared individual chocolates and cakes. Over time, customers came to know they were dealing with a major talent.

Turns out, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn is considered one of the best in the business throughout North America, according to the trade magazine Dessert Professional.

In the December issue, Hahn is featured in a full-page spread in the article "Dessert Professional's Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America." She is one of only two chocolatiers on the list from California . (The other is Richard H. Donnelly of Santa Cruz . )

Contacted at her shop, which often has lines out the door this time of year, the 29-year-old Hahn said, "My initial reaction was, it was shocking. They actually told me I was one of the youngest ever. We have worked really hard to get to where we are , and this is a nice compliment."

Hahn, who grew up in the Sierra foothills town of Camino, has been a rising star in the culinary world for several years. She graduated at the top of her class at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and went on to work with some of the leaders in the pastry arts, including En-Ming Hsu at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago, and in New York with Jacques Torres and Dan Budd.

-- Blair Anthony Robertson

December 16, 2010
"Bring Out the Barrel" in El Dorado county

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

More than two dozen El Dorado county wineries are getting ready to roll out the barrel and let customers take a taste. "Bring Out the Barrel" is set for Jan. 29 - 30, with a weekend of barrel tasting from 2010 and other recent vintages. Along with food and other merriment, some wineries such as Fenton Herriott are offering "futures" pricing for wines that have yet to be bottled. Participating wineries include David Girard, Auriga, Jodar, Holly's Hill, Mount Aukum and many more. A weekend pass costs $20, and the event runs from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. For more information and a full line-up of events, click here.

December 16, 2010
Test headline

Meatball1.bmp
3 lbs Casa Di Bertacchi Italian Meatballs, frozen (1/2 of the 6 lbs bag or about 75 meatballs)

1 1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 Tablespoons dried chives
1 1/2 cup chili sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon ground mustard

Pour frozen meatballs into a slow cooker. Whisk together maple syrup, chives, chili sauce, soy sauce and ground mustard. Pour mixture over meatballs. Cook meatballs on high for 4 1/2 hours or on low for 5 1/2 hours.

December 16, 2010
Disney supplies tips, recipe for Mickey's Pocket Pies

Mickey's Pocket Pies.JPGBy Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Ask and ye shall receive, albeit a little late.

While Disney officials originally declined to provide the recipe for Mickey's Pocket Pies - the product that helped five UC Davis students clinch the grand prize in a recent food technology competition - like the Grinch, they had a change of heart.

The company e-mailed the recipe for the no-sugar added Fun & Healthy Pocket Pies (perhaps the unofficial version of Mickey's Pocket Pies) to The Bee today, along with tips on using pre-made dough and how to cut the pies into Mickey shapes.

Mickey's Pocket Pies, which are made with 100 percent white whole-wheat crust and filled with a blend of real peaches, bananas, butternut squash and carrots, led UC Davis food technology students Chereen Leong, Joseph Alexandrouj, Anna Coroselli, Christina Ramsay and Robert Schwarz to victory in the Nutritious Foods for Kids Competition at this year's Institute of Food Technologists meeting and food expo in Chicago.

Click here to read the story.

Follow the link below to get the recipe for Mickey's Pocket Pies.

December 14, 2010
Worst restaurant foods 2010

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

OK, so maybe I'll hold off on PF Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo (served with beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp). Holy salt lick! That entree contains a whopping 7,692 mg of sodium. No wonder that this made Men's Health's Worst Foods in America, 2010. Other foods that made the list include Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta (2,730 calories) and IHOP Big Country Breakfast with Chicken Fried Steak & Country Gravy (2,440 calories, 5,520 mg sodium). Hold on to your gut and check out the rest of the list ...

December 13, 2010
And the golden ladle goes to ...

SOUP.JPG

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

It was a "souper" Saturday at Camelia Waldorf School, where I helped judge the Golden Ladle Soup Competition. The annual soup competition is held in conjunction with the school's winter fair, and this year found Taylor's Kitchen, Zocalo, Ella Dining Room and Bar and Cafe Bernardo all vying for the "golden ladle" award and priceless bragging rights. After taking a seat in a small elementary school chair, and with plastic spoon in hand, here's how the soups showed:

Taylor's Kitchen, Jerusalem artichoke wild mushroom soup: This soup had a rich and soothing body, and comfy smoky flavor. My personal top pick.

Ella Dining Room and Bar - San Marzano tomato soup with cheddar cheese croutons: Savory with a nice underlying tang. A little more weight would've made this tasty soup even better.

Cafe Bernardo - cauliflower and roasted fennel soup: Nice creaminess but needed just a little more flavor for this palate.

Zocalo - mole de olla soup: By far the spiciest of the bunch, but the body needed more heft.

So which soups took home honors? Here are the winners ... *insert drum roll here*:

Judge's Award: Taylor's Kitchen

Kids Choice
(judged by Waldorf students): Ella Dining Room and Bar

People's Choice: Cafe Bernardo.

Congrats to the winners ... and please pass the baguette.

December 13, 2010
Capitol Garage encourages holiday generosity with freebies

This Thursday is "Friends & Family Night" at Capitol Garage, the popular neighborhood restaurant and bar at the corner of 15th and K streets.

The idea is simple: bring a packaged toy from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.and enjoy complimentary appetizers. This is an easy win-win. Capitol Garage is always an entertaining place to visit. The menu is eclectic, many of the dishes are creative in concept and the cooking is quite good. And if it's your first visit, everything will make sense if you try partake of the $6.95 unlimited mimosas during weekend brunch.

Checking out the restaurant's website, I also noticed a very good deal for New Year's Eve: dinner for two, including a bottle of wine or champagne, for $49.95. Reservations for this one are encouraged.

December 10, 2010
Citrus Heights boy's burger recipe doesn't nab grand prize

Dominic Staiti action shot.jpegBy Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Dominic Staiti gave it his best, but in the end, his burger creation for the Red Robin Kids' Cook-Off Championship was beat Thursday by a cheesy burger topped with lava sauce.

Staiti (shown here in a photo by (Jack Dempsey/AP Images for Red Robin)
was one of 10 finalists in the fifth annual competition, held Thursday in Denver. The recipe for Staiti's creation, a jalapeño cornbread chili burger, will be included in the Red Robin Kids' Cookbook, which will be available for free to download from the restaurant chain's site next summer, a company news release states.

The grand prize went to Donovan Duggins, 12, of Wichita, Kan. For Mt. Vesuvius Burger, a beef patty topped with crumbled blue cheese, bacon, provolone cheese and a lava sauce that includes sweet barbecue sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder and paprika, all between a sesame seed bun.

The burger will be sold in Red Robin restaurants nationwide in summer 2011, and 50 cents of every Mt. Vesuvius Burger sold will support the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's (NCMEC) child safety efforts, the release states. Duggins also won a family vacation to Universal Orlando Resort and a year supply of Red Robin gift cards.

For more about Staiti and his burger, check out this previous Appetizers post.

December 9, 2010
Low-cost natural foods market to open in Roseville, create jobs

By Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

An organic and natural foods grocer that prides itself on low prices announced it's opening its first California location in Roseville this spring.

Sunflower Farmers Market, a value-priced chain that has locations in six Southwestern states, is moving into 424 Roseville Square, company stated in a news release. The store is scheduled to open in April.

The new market will be located in the same shopping center as Trader Joe's, also a value-priced specialty foods grocer (including organics and natural foods).

Sunflower Farmers Market in Roseville will offer fresh, local produce, all-natural meats and seafood, bulk items and "natural living health and wellness products, all at the lower possible prices," the release states.

The company was developed by Mike Gilliland, the man behind the popular Wild Oats supermarkets, at one time named one of the "500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America" by Inc. Magazine. Wild Oats was acquired by Whole Foods in 2007.

Sunflower Farmers Market is expected to create about 100 new jobs in Roseville.

December 8, 2010
Tasting notes: 10 years of Shafer Relentless

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Check out today's Food & Wine section for a column aboutwine aging, as demonstrated by a 10-year vertical tasting of Shafer Relentless. The wine's a blend of roughly 80 percent syrah and 20 percent petite sirah, making for a big, fruit-forward wine with gamey and pepper characteristics. A glass of Relentless and grilled lamb is just about a no-brainer. Shafer Relentless retails for about $60 and can be found locally at the Wine Consultant, Beyond Napa, select Nugget markets and Total Wine & More in Roseville.

But how does this big boy of a wine age? I was invited by winery president Doug Shafer to taste 10 years of the wine, along with Shafer winemaker Elias Fernandez, "The Wine Bible" author Karen MacNeil, Charles Olken ("Connoisseurs Guide to California Wine"), Michelle Locke of the Associated Press and others. Here's how the wines showed:

1999: Debut vintage of Relentless. Among the bluest in color in the entire flight. Described as a "behemoth" upon release, the weight has toned down but still showing plenty of blueberry petite sirah characteristics. Slight heat on the nose. Strong secondary flavor of cinnamon and plenty of tannins holding it all together.

2000: Cool vintage. Deep purple color with brightness on the rim. A little lean on the palate, but drinking smooth and showing a nice layer of spice. Good wine given a challenging growing year.

2001: Wine of the flight? Simply lovely and open for business, with savory aromatics and red fruits coming through on the palate. Nice sweet spot between the wine's core fruit and secondary notes from bottle age.

2002: Throwing a little sediment in the glass. Oaky and tight compared to the others. Needs a little more aging but still some juicy blueberry flavors.

2003: Color showing signs of aging. Different nose than the others; Doug Shafer described aromas as "candy like." A bit austere and herbaceous, but also some meaty and plum flavors emerging on the palate.

2004: Warm vintage and overripe flavors that border on port-like. Not aging as gracefully as other vintages.

2005: Herbal nose. Bright and pleasing acidity. Lots of petite sirah character coming through and still drinking like a baby.

2006: Cool vintage with slow ripening fruit. Tight and tannic, but some good fruit flavors underneath. Still needs to come into balance.

2007: Current vintage at retail and restaurants. Aromatic and smoky. Syrah character prominent here with gamey flavors and spice.

2008 (barrel sample): Rich, deep purple color. Oak still seems a ways off from integrating with the wine. Primary grapey flavors and sweetness.

2009 (barrel sample): Relentless as an infant. Teeth-staining purple color. Fresh fruit flavors and aromas. Actually enjoyed this Relentless in its primary state.

December 8, 2010
Just in time for Christmas, gingerbread men (and women)

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

Though the Village Cake Shoppe in Town & Country Village specializes in wedding and holiday cakes, and cupcakes, it will offer gingerbread men (and women) from Friday through Dec. 24.

"They're popular because they capture the magic of Christmas, and bring back the excitement and memories of our childhoods - baking in the kitchen with your grandmother, reading stories about gingerbread men by the fire," said cake designer Victoria Werhan. She bakes and decorates the cookie people.

The from-scratch gingerbread characters are hand-made in small batches from organic butter and molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. "They're made to appeal to children, so they're not super-spicy," Werhan said.

They sell for $2 to $2.50 each, "depending on how elaborate the design is. We can customize them with the names of your choice," she added.

How does she eat hers? "I bite the head off first," she revealed. Ouch!

The Village Cake Shoppe is in the T&C center, Marconi and Fulton avenues, Sacramento; (916) 485-8611, www.villagecakeshoppe.com.

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

December 6, 2010
New menu and chef at Tres Agaves

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Look for some new flavors and personnel at Tres Agaves, the tequila bar and Mexican restaurant chain with a Roseville location (1182 Roseville Parkway, Roseville; 916-782-4455). Joseph Aragon Jr. has signed on as the new chef and will oversee a winter menu that was designed by San Francisco Head Chef Kelvin Ott. Here's what you can grub on, between sips of Fortaleza Reposado:

Camarones (Shrimp) Tacos

Pato (Duck Confit) Tacos

Rajas Tacos (vegetarian Chile Dulces)

Tuna a Las Brazas (Achiote-Sesame Encrusted Ahi Tuna Salad with pineapple, seasonal tomatoes, green onion & a Tequila Arette vinaigrette)

Pescado a la Brasas (Grilled California Seabass)

Empanadas "Jaliscan style"

Chef Aragon is a veteran of such local restaurants as La Provence, Pachanga and has worked at Tres Agaves for the past year,

"I've always been very impressed by the originality and freshness of Tres Agaves' menu," said Aragon in a press release. "I look forward to experimenting even more with the flavors of Jalisco we feature and bringing back our farmers market specials where we can feature fresh food from local farmers."

December 6, 2010
Red Hawk Casino will offer holiday dining specials

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

In general, casinos are good places to find bargain meals, upscale dining and price points in between - all in one spot.

With that in mind, you might explore the dining specials offered by nearby Red Hawk Casino. Added entrees (leg of lamb, roasted duck, prime rib), prix fixe menus (squab, scallops) and other specials will be offered on Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

All five of Red Hawk's restaurants will participate - Henry's Steakhouse, Pearl Asian Cuisine, Koto Grille, Waterfall Buffet and Two Rivers Cafe.

The casino is off Highway 50 at Exit 40. For details, menus, prices and more information: (888) 573-3495, www.redhawkcasino.com.

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

December 3, 2010
Holiday cupcakes, recipes abound

Festivus for the Restivus.JPGBy Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Sweet tooths rejoice - Saturday is cupcake day at Ginger Elizabeth in Sacramento.

The midtown chocolatier is offering four flavors: real red velvet, salty caramel, gingerbread and Opera, a rich chocolate cake filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache and frosted with coffee buttercream, according to the shop's website.

Cupcakes are $3 and pre-orders are available for six or more cupcakes.

Ginger Elizabeth, located at 1801 L Street, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Don't want to leave the house? Check out these holiday-inspired cupcake recipes we received from The Stuffed Cupcake Place, a New Jersey cupcakery to the stars and celebs.

Click here to get the recipes for The Festivus for the Restivus cupcake (shown at left) - a gingerbread cupcake with nutmeg custard filling and spiced cream cheese frosting - and they're Peppermint Twist cupcake, red velvet and vanilla cupcakes with peppermint cream filling and vanilla frosting.

December 3, 2010
Home-baking memories could be worth a kitchen makeover

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

This is the season for commandeering the kitchen and baking sweet-smelling goodies to share with family and friends, and - no coincidence - the time for cooking- and food-related contests. The brain trust at Pillsbury headquarters is in the thick of things with the Pillsbury People Essay Contest.

The top winner will recieve a $10,000 kitchen makeover and gift basket of Pillsbury baking products. The three runners-up will each win a digital camera and gift basket.

From now through Dec. 20, home cooks are urged to submit first-person essys or short stories (250 words or less) sharing their fondest baking memories and/or why they love to bake.

"We hope the contest inspires home bakers to proudly share their homemade memories and special baking stories," said Pillsbury spokeswoman Maribeth Badertscher. "We look forward to hearing all the ways families around the country have come to be 'Pillsbury People.'"

For rules and entry form, go to www.pillsburybaking.com.

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

December 2, 2010
Capitol Cellars opens Granite Bay shop

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

The grand opening has been delayed for almost a year, but the doors finally swung open today for Capitol Cellars' new location at Quarry Ponds shopping center in Granite Bay (5530 Douglas Blvd, Suite 170, Granite Bay; 916-780-9030). The 2,200 square foot shop features a bar with 20 different wines by the glass plus a retail shop that focuses on small production wineries.

Look for such by-the-glass offerings as a merlot from Paloma and Lewis Cellars' cabernet sauvignon. Customers can also order food from such neighboring restaurants as Hawks and Pete's Restaurant & Brew House. Business will continue as usual at Capitol Cellars' Roseville location (110 Diamond Creek Place, Roseville; 916-786-9030), but owner Marcus Graziano plans to spend the majority of his time now at the Granite Bay shop.

"Everything's moving and grooving," said Graziano. "We'll have lots of great deals and specials, and still carry popular wines like Rombauer and Silver Oak. But we're really focusing on small, sought after wineries."

Capitol Cellars in Granite Bay will be open from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. from Monday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday. The shop is closed on Sundays.

December 2, 2010
Your family recipe could be worth a $20,000 reunion

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

With a Dec. 10 deadline, there's still time to enter the Spreading Smucker's Traditions Recipe and Essay Contest.

The jelly-maker explains it this way: "Submit an original recipe that's been passed down through at least two generations in your family and tell us the story behind it. You could win $20,000 for a family reunion."

The recipe must call for "at least 1/4 cup of Smucker's jam, jelly, preserves or fruit butter, along with a 200-word essay about how the recipe makes family celebrations special."

Judges will choose five finalists in January, and those home cooks will be invited to company headquarters in Ohio for a cookoff. The grand-prize winner will get the 20K, which must go toward "a dream family reunion."

For rules and entry form, go to www.smuckers.com.

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

December 2, 2010
Beer lecture and book signing with Charlie Bamforth

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Yesterday's Food & Wine section featured a Q&A interview with Charlie Bamforth, the UC Davis professor of malting and brewing sciences who was recently named "brewmaster general" by Playboy magazine. The good professor has a new book out, "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing," a tome that probes both the philosophical and business aspects of beer.

On Monday, Bamforth will hold a lecture and book signing at UC Davis' Silverado Vineyards Sensory Theater, located in the Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Building. We're told that a few seats are remaining, so put down that pint glass and register here. The cost is $35, $20 for UC Davis staff, students, faculty and Friends of the Robert Mondavi Institute. The event runs from 5:30 p.m. - 7:40 p.m.

December 2, 2010
Local frosting business expands to Whole Foods

By Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

For local entrepenuers The Frosting Queens, a sweet dream is taking shape.

Angela and Annette Del Biaggio, the sisters behind the line of all-natural frostings, recently learned that their frostings are going to be carried at the Whole Foods store on Arden Way.

"...We're absolutely thrilled about it," the Del Biaggio sisters wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

The application process took a few months, but the entrepreneurs said Whole Foods is in the process of including The Frosting Queens wares into their system and the frostings should be on shelves later this month, they wrote.

The frosting is butter-based, shelf-stable and cold-packed to ensure a light and fluffy frosting right from the container. They also are gluten- and peanut-free.

Frosting flavors include milk chocolate, vanilla, caramel spice, peppermint and King's Cabernet, a dark chocolate frosting with a hint of cabernet wine.

The frostings are currently available at the Gluten Free Specialty Market, 2612 J St., Sacramento and on The Frosting Queens' website.

December 1, 2010
Champagne and oyster tasting tonight at Lounge on 20

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

The season for bubbly has arrived and you can usher it all in with a champagne and oyster tasting tonight at Lounge on 20 (1050 20th Street #100, Sacramento; 916-443-6620). For just $25 at the door you can sample more than 50 champagne and sparkling wine producers and see how they all pair with a variety of oysters. The festivities run from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Cheers!

December 1, 2010
Dining deal at Dragonfly in Truckee runs through Dec. 17

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

If you and yours are in après-ski mode around the town of Truckee from now through Dec. 17, and you're in the market for holiday shopping, there's a deal waiting to happen.

Spend $25 (or more) on goods sold at any of the downtown Truckee stores, and the folks at Dragonfly restaurant will remove 25 percent of "an entire table's lunch or dinner bill." Simply show your receipt.

Chef Billy McCullough's kitchen turns out a fusion of California and Asian cuisines. As interesting as the menu can be (fish crusted with plantain and panko, chicken-scallion shu mai), the sushi bar is a good first stop (seafood tartar, Thai flank steak).

Dragonfly is upstairs at 10118 Donner Pass Road; (530) 587-0557, www.dragonflycuisine.com.

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



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