Appetizers
January 31, 2011
Goat dinner coming to Grange

By Chris Macias, Bee Food and Wine Writer
cmacias@sacbee.com

At the tail end of 2010, I queried local and national sources to see what food trends were in store for 2011. Patrick Mulvaney of midtown's Mulvaney's B&L restaurant went on a limb to declare that goat would be the hot meat of 2011, especially with farm-to-table restaurants. Well it looks like the prediction is starting to come true. Grange Restaurant (926 J St., Sacramento; 916-492-4450) will be hosting a dinner on March 10 featuring grass-fed goat and lamb from McCormack Ranch. Wines will be poured by Dancing Coyote from Clarksburg. Information about time and price is coming soon, so consider this a heads up.

By the way, we know the idea of goat sounds a little too close to the petting zoo for many tastes. I was a skeptic too, until I had a dish of chivo barbacoa at Rick Bayless' Topolobampo in Chicago a few years back. This slow-cooked goat was thoroughly succulent, lean and less gamey than many lamb dishes I've tried. That's not to mention the goat I've had in the Mexican stew known as birria, and if you want to give that a spin I highly recommend Birrieria Bugambilias in south Sac (7242 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento; 916-424-3243).

That's to say: Goat - it's what's for dinner.

January 31, 2011
Papa John's offering free pizza for Super Bowl overtime

By Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Gimmicky? Yes.

But a shot at free pizza kind of makes up for it.

Papa John's is offering a large, three-topping pizza to registered customers if the Super Bowl goes into overtime on Sunday.

The odds are squarely stacked against Papa John's, the "official pizza of the NFL," since the Super Bowl has never gone into overtime.

Here's how to be eligible: go to www.papajohns.com and sign up for the company's customer loyalty program before 11:59 p.m. eastern time Saturday. If the game goes into overtime, the free pizza will be awarded to all enrollees Feb. 7 in 25 Papa Points (the number you'd need to redeem a large, three-topping pizza). Customers can redeem the pizza through June 30, a company news release states.

The enrollment process took this reporter about two minutes to complete.

For more information, got to Papa John's website.

January 31, 2011
How to match the right wine with the 'perfect glassware'

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

Does the "correct glassware" really affect the characteristics of different types of wines? The experts say yes. After all, the bubbles in champagne won't work their magic if that sparkling wine is served in anything but a flute.

If you really want the subtleties of matching the appropriate glasses with certain wines, consider attending a seminar on Tuesday. It's sponsored by the 300-year-old Riedel wine glass company of Austria. Leading it will be 11th-generation glassmaker Maximilian Riedel, who's flying in from New York City to "demonstrate the remarkable difference in glassware by pairing the correct wine with the perfect glassware" (www.riedel.com).

The wines will be from the Delta region, courtesy of Bogle, Wilson Vineyards, Heringer Estates and Lange Twins. The paired foods will be from Chris Jackson Catering, Beth Sogaard Catering, the Firehouse restaurant and the Chocolate Architect.

The event will feature "comparative wine tasting" with Riedel, followed by hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Doors will open at 6 p.m. at Elks Tower, 921 11th St., Sacramento. The $75 cost will include a Vinum XL four-glass tasting set. Buy tickets at www.sacramentonace.net.

The tasting/demonstration will benefit the Sacramento chapter of the National Association of Catering Executives.

More information: (916) 276 5080.

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

January 31, 2011
Two great recipes for any Super Bowl party

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic
brobertson@sacbee.com

Speaking of the Super Bowl, I had a little Super Bowl déjà vu Sunday when, on a whim, I decided to make ribs. Specifically, I made the ribs from the can't-fail recipe in the timeless cookbook "Joy of Cooking," And no, I wasn't hosting a Pro Bowl party.

This delicious meal actually comes together with two recipes - one for the barbecue sauce and one for "country-style ribs baked in barbecue sauce." I had been thinking about the Super Bowl and recalling that these were the same two recipes I used for the first Super Bowl party I attended in Sacramento (January 2000) after arriving from the East Coast the previous June.

The party was at the apartment of Matthew Barrows, who started at The Bee two weeks after I did and sat across from me in the newsroom. We were both general assignment reporters. Matt went on to become the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers, and now he pretends he doesn't know who I am. But back in 2000, all I knew about his interest in football was that he was a fanatical Redskins fan (he grew up in the D.C. area) and that he couldn't throw a tight spiral if his life depended on it.

Anyway, the ribs were a big hit at the party - incredibly tender, full of flavor from the meat and the sauce cooked into it, and most importantly, they weren't greasy. There are lots of fancy cookbooks these days, but this is a recipe that would be hard to improve. Best of all, you don't need a big outdoor smoker and thus, you don't have to wake at 3 a.m. to light your big smoker. The ribs are actually baked in your oven - very slowly over four hours.

Here's what you do:

First the sauce. If you have the "all new" edition, the recipe is on Page 90. There are plenty of ingredients required, but no technique. Dump everything into the pot and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes over low heat.
1 ½ cups of ketchup
1 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (I used the latter)
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar (scoop sugar into a measuring cup and gently push down until it is level)
2 tablespoons dry mustard
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 slices of lemon

Now you've got an excellent all-purpose sauce. Next, you need some ribs. Pretty much any kind of ribs will work. The way you choose will depend on personal preference and, to some extent, the nature of the occasion. I went with country-style pork ribs because they are very meaty. I bought them at the excellent meat counter at Taylor's Market, where they cut them to order. These are actually boneless, which is even better. But if you're looking for traditional rib eating, where you gnaw on the bones to your heart's content, go for spareribs or baby back ribs.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the ribs in a large baking pan. Mix 1 ½ cups of the BBQ sauce you just made with 1 cup of orange juice. Place the ribs in the pan, then pour in the sauce mixture, turning the ribs to coat. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

Bake for three hours. Remove the pan from the oven, take off the foil and spoon sauce onto the exposed ribs so they don't dry out. Return to the oven uncovered for 1 hour, for a total of four hours. Check on them a few times in that final hour and spoon more sauce onto the ribs or turn them over. The sauce will cook down and thicken.

By the time you're finished, you will have ribs so good and tender they will be a big hit at whatever Super Bowl party you attend.

A couple of tips:

Plan ahead. This takes four hours of baking, plus more time to make the sauce. So you will want to start at least six hours before the party.

The baking pan will be tough to clean, so it might be best to line the bottom and sides with aluminum foil.

Finally, if you're going to eat these ribs, don't wear a white shirt.

January 30, 2011
Taylor's hosts wine event for those not into Super Bowl

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic
brobertson@sacbee.com

In the last 10 days, my e-mail in-box has been bombarded with recipes, products and menus tied to a certain football game. The PR machine is working overtime. The assumption: Absolutely everyone watches the Super Bowl.

Count me out. I gave up on pro football years ago - it may have had something to do with a strike and substitute players and the demise of "Air Coryell" - and rare is the Sunday when I cannot think of something better to do than watch big dudes fall into one another, call a meeting, then do it all over again, complete with code names.

Turns out, I'm not the only one who doesn't have Super Bowl fever. Richard Ebert, the wine buyer for Taylor's Market (2900 Freeport Blvd.) in the Land Park/Curtis Park section of Sacramento, knows there are plenty of folks looking for something to do while most Americans are glued to their flat screens.

Thus, the affable Ebert, who always seems to be in the wine aisle when I'm shopping, is holding a wine tasting on Super Bowl Sunday at Taylor's Kitchen, the restaurant next door.

The focus is on bubbly, suggesting there will be a selection of sparkling wines and champagnes to taste. Those in attendance are free to pick Ebert's brain about the details on what they are tasting, perhaps with an eye toward choosing the right bottle for the right occasion. Ebert, of course, is the man behind "Dick's Picks" at Taylor's, selections of wines he particularly likes.

The tasting event is $10 and there's no need to make a reservation. Just show up, pay and start sipping. It's from 2 to 5 p.m.

I've been to these kinds of events before. Best advice for the best experience: Bring a designated driver who doesn't mind sipping Sierra Mist. Better yet, if you're close enough, leave the car at home and walk to Taylor's.

January 30, 2011
Chocolate Fish gets into the coffee roasting game

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic
brobertson@sacbee.com

Chocolate Fish, the downtown coffeehouse with the stellar reputation, has begun roasting its own beans.

I learned this recently when I stopped in for one of my favorite coffee drinks in the city - the "flat white," the delicious equivalent of a strong latte - less foam and a little more milk than a cappuccino.

Andy Baker, who owns the shop with his wife, Edie, said Chocolate Fish is roasting at a facility near the new Target on 65th Street. The roasting plant isn't open to the public, but the beans are available for sale at the coffeehouse at Third and Q streets.

This is big news for coffee aficionados, as it gives the city even more options for ultra-premium coffee beans. Chocolate Fish is known for its quality and attention to detail. Beyond that, its employees seem to exude that perfect blend of coffee love and customer service - you'll get the obsession but without the attitude, and they can pretty much answer any coffee question you can think of.

The roasting endeavor is so new that there is no mention of it on the company's website, and its brochures still refer to sourcing coffee from Ritual Roasters in San Francisco.

There's already plenty of roasting talent in town. Last July, the folks at Sacramento's Temple Coffee stunned the coffee industry - and no doubt themselves - by earning a score of 97 (out of 100) from the prestigious CoffeeReview.com for its roast of Guatemala Hunapu Antigua Bourbon beans. The score was the highest in the country and prompted online sales from throughout the United States and beyond.

Other local shops that roast their own beans include Old Soul and the venerable Boulevard Coffee (in Carmichael).

That kind of number from Coffee Review doesn't come around often. But I would expect Chocolate Fish to be happy with nothing less than excellence as it ramps up its roasting operation. I bought a pound of its espresso blend for use at home with the Mypressi Twist, the amazing handheld espresso maker powered with nitrous oxide chargers. The flavor of this espresso is complex, with an appealing sweetness and hints of caramel without any smokiness as it lingers on the palate.

Check out all the options for beans at Chocolate Fish and, if you know what's good for you, stay awhile and let one of the shop's baristas prepare you a coffee that approaches perfection.


January 28, 2011
Vendors confirmed for local mobile food festival

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

The Sacramento Mobile Food Festival - a.k.a. SactoMoFo - is coming April 30 at Fremont Park (16th and Q streets, Sacramento) and has landed some of the biggest names in gourmet food trucks. Among them: Spencer on the Go, the San Francisco food truck as featured on cable TV's "Great Food Truck Race," which specializes in French food (escargot lollipops, anyone?). The popular Chariman Bao's Bun Truck from the Bay Area will also be in board. Other confirmed vendors include:

- Curry Up Now (Indian street food)
- Mini Burger (Sacramento's first gourmet food truck)
- Seoul on Wheels (Korean eats)
- Red Truck (Truckee-based food truck)
- Hapa SF (Filipino food)
- Happy Go Lucky (vegan cuisine)
- La Piedad (beloved Sacramento taco truck)
- Little Green Cyclo (Vietnamese street food)
- Fat Face (Davis sandwich mecca)
... and Whole Foods Market!

The impetus of this festival is to show that Sacramentans are hungry for food truck culture, despite strict city ordinances that have prevented this national trend from taking hold in Sacramento.

On a related note, Mini Burger will make its debut Saturday at the Make-A-Wish Winter Wine & Food Fest at the Sacramento Convention Center. In the following days, the Mini Burger truck will start rolling through Sacramento with its menu of burgers and made-from-scratch sides. How will Mini Burger fare with the current city ordinances, which prevent food trucks from staying in business districts for more than 30 minutes? Stay tuned for more on that ...

January 28, 2011
Del Paso Boulevard hosting free veggie food fair Saturday

By Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

The Del Paso Boulevard Partnership is hosting a free food fair Saturday, but one thing is not exactly welcome - meat.

VegFest Food Fair 2011
will feature vegan, vegetarian and raw cuisine, purveyors, exhibits and cooking demonstrations.

The fair, modeled after a similar event in Seattle, was initially intended to drive traffic to Del Paso Boulevard and showcase restaurants and catering businesses thriving in the area. But given the intense interest they've received already, organizers are considering holding VegFest twice a year.

"To be really honest, it's taken off," said David Plag, the partnership's executive director.

Several businesses will be at the event, including The Green Boheme, Sugar Plum Vegan Bakery and Happy Go Lucky Veggie Cuisine.

About 300 to 400 people are expected to attend.

The event will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Artisan Building, 1901 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento.

For more information, go to www.delpasoboulevard.com.

January 28, 2011
Fish taco deals at El Pollo Loco? Check your mailbox

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

When we have no option but to grab a bite at a chain restaurant, we try to find an El Pollo Loco outlet. Though the chain operates more than 400 restaurants in 12 states - six of them in our area - we think it stays focused on its tasty specialty. That would be flame-grilled fresh chicken that's been marinated in citrus juices, herbs and spices, an old family recipe

Now there's a twist: Beginning Saturday and running through mid-April, El Pollo Loco will offer two kinds of "Baja-style" fish tacos. The Classic will be "drizzled with yogurt sauce mixed with (red) salsa; the Spicy will be topped with yogurt sauce combined with avocado salsa."

The fish itself is deep-fried beer-battered pollack, a white-fleshed fish from Alaska commonly used in fish 'n' chips restaurants around the country.

Each taco will cost $1.99; a combo for $5.29 will include any two fish tacos and a small drink. "A 'free-standing insert' with coupons for fish tacos will be mailed Feb. 7 to (a segment of) consumers," an El Pollo Loco spokeswoman emailed. In other words, check your mailbox for a deal.

One coupon will offer one free fish taco with the purchase of another fish taco and any size drink. The second coupon will offer a free fish taco with a $5 minium purchase (before sales tax) of any menu item.

For more information: www.elpolloloco.com.

P.S.: If you really love fish tacos, you'll have some fun at www.fishtacomagazine.blogspot.com.

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

January 28, 2011
An L.A. trend comes to Sacramento: Korean BBQ tacos

By Blair Anthony Robertson
brobertson@sacbee.com

Who would have imagined that mixing Korean barbecue and Mexican street tacos would create not only a stir but a bona fide trend?

I'm not exactly sure where the idea started - the consensus is L.A. - but now Sacramento is in on it, and food folks seem into it.

The first time I tried going tp GoGi Korean BBQ, close to its 2 p.m. closing and in the first week after it opened, the line was huge, so I bailed. The next time, we got our grub and took it home for some close analysis and tasting.

GoGi Korean BBQ has opened as a walk-up eatery at 15th and L streets, the complex that holds comfort food restaurant Cafeteria 15L (formerly Mason's) and the casual Chinese food joint Ma Jong's. It's a great idea, an excellent location but, well, pretty weak hours - 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is one of the busiest intersections in the city for foot traffic, and this place could thrive late into the evening and on weekends. I understand catering to the lunch crowd. There are thousands of workers within a couple of blocks. But this part of town is hopping at night, too.

How do I know? I'm part of that foot traffic. There are plenty of dining options within walking distance, but sometimes we just want something fast and casual. And if you can add delicious and different and affordable to the equation, you've just launched a can't-miss endeavor.

It's too soon to make a full assessment of the food, but so far I am impressed. The spicy pork tacos were quite good, with nice, tender meat, pleasant spiciness that could have been bolder, a tangy citrusy flavor note and solid crunch from the fresh red cabbage. On the downside, one could argue it was a tad greasy. Not a big deal if I'm eating it late at night after a stint at a bar, but I'm less fond of greasy food for lunch. We'll check back to see if this was an aberration or an ongoing thing.

The barbecue short ribs burrito was also a pleasure, though that delicious meat often showcased at traditional Korean BBQ restaurants gets a little lost in the crowd rolled up in a burrito.

This $5 burrito is also on the small side, but refreshingly so. I have had burritos in this town that weigh over 2 pounds (yes, I weighed them), and that is nothing but a paean to pigging out (for context, the typical sourdough loaves I bake weigh 2.2 pounds). This one will satisfy your hunger but will not make you feel like Joey Chestnut after a hot dog eating contest.

One other quibble. Yawn - the line was short, but the wait was long. Were they barbecuing my short ribs to order, or were they just a little slow spooning the food into the tortillas? All that should be worked out in the days to come. So far, GoGi looks like a winner. I'll definitely be stopping by again soon, and I'm eager to try some of the other flavor combinations.

January 27, 2011
Unified Wine & Grape Symposium sets attendance record

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

On the heels of news that 2010 saw the wine industry rebounding, organizers of the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium have another reason to celebrate. This year's attendance of 12,200 set a record for the Sacramento event, featuring workshops, panels and a trade show for the wine industry.

With talk in previous years that Unified may have outgrown the Sacramento Convention Center as its home base, organizers made room for an additional 22 vendors at the trade show, bringing the total number to 630 exhibitors.

"There was definitely some improvement in the economy indsustry-wide and many session topics covered those issues, which was part of the interest," said Lyndie Boulton, executive director of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, a co-presenter of Unified. "As far as people, we haven't reached capacity but we're constantly re-evaluating booth space. We like being in Sacramento. It's in the heart of agriculture and being the capital is great for issues of regulation. It's a nice balance for us."

Unified 2011 concludes at 4 p.m. today. For reviews of some new wine-related consumer goods featured at the trade show, check next Wednesday's Food & Wine section in the Bee.

January 27, 2011
Consultant has an offer for ailing restaurants: Free help

By Blair Anthony Robertson
brobertson@sacbee.com

Andy Soto wants to help save restaurants in this troubling economy and, along the way, maybe develop a tidy collection of new clients for his business, Spectrum Restaurant Consulting.

Throughout December and January, Soto was offering a price that few struggling eateries could resist: free. As in, on the house.

When I caught up with Soto recently over the phone, he explained that his offer was no gimmick, that the assessments he would give restaurants wouldn't be some shallow drive-by just to entice them.

When I asked what was involved time-wise, he said, "As much time as it takes. I would probably go in and spend a couple of hours with the owners or top managers and see exactly where they need to change, then take all the information back with me and analyze it. So, we're talking at least a week, maybe up to four weeks."

Referring to restaurateurs, Soto added: "I'm really not looking for anything from you except your success."

Soto was born and raised in New York City, so he knows a good restaurant when he sees one. He has also spent time in the business, starting as a waiter in Miami and working his way through the system. After a stint in San Diego, he arrived on the Sacramento scene in 2006.

"I've done just about every position in the industry," he said. "I had opened several restaurants for other people and thought it would be kind of fun to try it on my own."

As a restaurant critic, I have the luxury of seeing what the good, the bad and the dreadful are doing, practically on a daily basis.

Obviously, the numbers have to make sense when you look at costs vs. revenue. Beyond that, many restaurants send a confusing message about what they are all about. How are you trying to distinguish yourself from the competition? Or are you trying to be just like the competition? Do you have the kind of personnel who believe in what you are doing, who understand the team concept of running a business and are committed to the idea that they are there to serve customers and make them feel special?

I asked Soto to give me an example of a client consultation, and he recently got back in touch with a rundown on what he was doing for the charming Sugar Plum Vegan in midtown. This is a place I like. The sandwiches are cool and alternative, and the desserts, despite the absence of butter and eggs and vital things like cream cheese frosting, are delicious and distinctive. But I found it off-putting that the place didn't take credit cards. I can't be the only one who A) rarely carries more than $6 and B) finds it a pain to use a bank machine on site that will charge be a couple of bucks to get access to my money, only to be charged another $2 by my own bank for financial infidelity.

Our consultant says he spotted several areas of opportunity and will complete a mystery shopper report, create training manuals, guest comment cards, and an employee incentive program, among other ideas. "I did the math and I will be providing (the owner) with over $5,000 worth of services for free," Soto told me.

Sounds like Soto is working his plan. His free offer may be ending soon, but anyone interested in having him visit a restaurant and tap into his expertise can contact him via email, spectrumrc@rocketmail.com, or by visiting his blog.

January 27, 2011
Websites offer area restaurant menus, but curb your hunger

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

Let's imagine this scenario: You and yours want to go out for a bite, or phone a restaurant with a takeout order or a delivery. Problem is, you're undecided about what type of cuisine you're in the mood for, or even what restaurant you might visit.

Possibly offering a helping hand is www.allmenus.com, a website that posts restaurant menus from around our region. Actually, the parent company - www.dotmenu.com - says on its site that its www.allmenus.com network includes "240,000-plus menus in 8,000-plus cities nationwide." Plus, its www.campusfood.com site will direct users to restaurants near college campuses.

To sample, we visited the listing for Sacramento menus. Hmmm. There are 22 cuisines listed (American, Italian, Tex-Mex, diner) and 24 dishes (burgers, pasta, salads, soul food).

We clicked on "Japanese" and up popped 21 restaurants. Kru on J Street sells its "deluxe sushi bento box" lunch for $18 ("one tempura roll, five pieces nigiri, five pieces sashimi).

The "seafood" category showed 12 restaurants, four of which flashed the message, "Sorry, we currently don't have this menu." Among the eight restaurants that did have menus was Wolfgang Puck Express at the Sacramento Convention Center. Its menu showed zero seafood, an absence confirmed by a phone call. Hmmm.

At www.campusfood.com, we selected restaurants around the University of California, Davis ("Browse menus in Davis"). Under the "diner" category were listings for three Denny's - two in Woodland and one in West Sacramento. Again: Hmmm.

We called www.dotmenu.com headquarters and left messages, but didn't hear back. And, no, we did not create an account.

Our bottom line: These two websites could be useful - with an asterisk.

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

January 26, 2011
Get in the mood for Valentine's Day with these cocktails

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

The folks at Russian Standard Vodka in St. Petersburg had a clever thought: Let's team our product - a top brand in the Russian market - with the concept of Valentine's Day. We can create cocktails with an "aphrodisiac twist."

The effectiveness of the drinks' "aphrodisiac" elements is debatable, but these recipes sound really tasty and they're all in fun:

Russian Aphrodite
"Honey is associated with the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite."

Ingredients:
1 ounce vodka
1.5 ounces honey from acacia flowers (or any floral-smelling, mild-tasting honey)
4 ounces chilled sparkling white wine, such as Prosecco
Dash of orange bitters
1 orange twist, for garnish

"Directions: Pour honey and vodka into a mixing glass and stir until honey has dissolved. Then pour into a champagne flute and carefully top off with sparkling white wine. Finish with a dash of orange bitters and garnish with an orange twist."

Latin Fling
"Some spices are known for their qualities as aphrodisiacs. This punch is perfect for couples to make at home."

Ingredients:
2 ounces top-quality aged rum
1.5 ounces fresh pineapple juice
1 ounce five-spice syrup
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1 slice jalapeño pepper

"Directions: Combine ingredients and shake. Serve on rocks in Collins glass and float a splash of rum and club soda. Garnish with a pineapple leaf and floating whole star anise.
"To make five-spice syrup: Bring 2 cups water, 2.5 cups natural brown sugar (demerera) and 4 tablespoons five-spice powder to a boil. Cover, let cool and strain. Recipe can be multiplied to fill a traditional punch bowl."

Sexy Mary
"Absinthe is made from a unique recipe of herbs - including wormwood, fennel and anise. This recipe is rich in special compounds and oils."

Ingredients:
1.5 ounces absinthe
1 ounce vodka
4 ounces spicy Bloody Mary mix
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Horseradish, ground pepper, garlic salt, celery salt

"Directions: In a pint glass, add ice, absinthe, vodka, Bloody Mary mix, Worcestershire sauce and spices. Shake and serve with an olive, pepperoncini and lime wedge."

Standard Blue
"Think of this as a cocktail for him."

Ingredients:
2 ounces vodka
Splash of dry vermouth
Splash of olive brine

"Directions: Shake ingredients gently over ice. Strain and serve in a chilled martini glass. Garnish with blue cheese-stuffed olives."


Russian Romance
"And think of this cocktail as especially for her."

Ingredients:1.5 ounces vodka
Splash of lemon juice
2 ounces pomegranate juice

"Directions: Shake ingredients with ice, pour into a cocktail glass, garnish with a mint leaf or a lemon twist."

For more information: www.russianstandardvodka.com

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

January 25, 2011
The Coral Reef restaurant was an icon, so share your memories

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

We Sacramentans love to dine out, and our restaurant scene has never been bigger, better or more diverse. A newer generation of first-rate restaurants has helped put us on the California culinary map.

But long before there were Ella, Lemon Grass and Waterboy, to name just three of dozens, there was a previous generation of go-to restaurants whose names are largely lost in time. Iconic places in the day, such as Capitol Tamale, Stroh's Neptune Table, the Ram, Golden Tee, Ken's Red Barn, the Oaks, Robert's Seafood Grotto, Aldo's, Zombie Hut, Bedell's and the Palomino Room.

Among that lost generation, the restaurant that seems to resonate most in our readers' memories is the Coral Reef, formerly at 2795 Fulton Ave., a thoroughfare that for a time was Sacramento's "restaurant row" after World War II.

"By far the biggest demand from readers is for recipes from the Coral Reef, and of those the No. 1 request is for the salad dressing recipe," said Teri Watson. For 15 years she has compiled "The Mailbox" recipe-hunter column for The Bee's Food & Wine section.

From its opening in 1949 until its closing in 1994, the Coral Reef served "Cantonese and American dishes," though the decor leaned toward Polynesia, with an outrigger canoe, taxidermied fish, netting, ceramic tiki-statue masks, rattan chairs, bamboo trim, fish tanks and tropical plants.

On the back cover of the menu was a "mission statement" from Jack and Elwood Maleville, who founded the restaurant. In part, it read, "The Coral Reef interior is the product of several years of collecting to give you the most authentic atmosphere posible of a beachcomber's shack in Tahiti or Pago Pago."

There are many stories and fond memories surrounding the Coral Reef, and we invite you to share your favorites with other readers. How often did you dine there? Did you go with your family? Who was your favorite server? What was your favorite dish? The pineapple spareribs? The paper-wrapped chicken?

Please keep your Coral Reef memory to a maximum of 150 words.
If you email: Type "Coral Reef" into the subject field and send it to taste@sacbee.com. If you snail-mail: Coral Reef, c/o Food & Wine, Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA, 95852

In either case, please include your name, city of residence and daytime phone number. We'll publish your responses in an upcoming Food & Wine section.

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

January 25, 2011
UC Davis celebrates wine, food research and teaching complex

By Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Hundreds of people are expected to converge Friday at UC Davis to celebrate the school's new 34,000 square foot wine and food complex.

The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, constructed entirely through private donations, houses the Viticulture, Enology and Food Science and Technology departments, the Robert Mondavi Institute and a state-of-the-art sensory facility.

It's also the first winery, brewery or food-processing facility in the world to earn a LEED platinum certification, the highest environmental rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, states a UC Davis news release.

The facility will become self-sustainable in its energy and water use in the future.

University and public officials, as well as Margrit Mondavi, are expected to attend the ceremony, which will be followed by tours, demonstrations and a reception.

January 25, 2011
Unified Wine & Grape Symposium kicks off

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

The nation's largest wine and grape growing expo is officially underway. The 17th annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium kicked off this morning at the Sacramento Convention Center and Hyatt Regency. More than 12,000 wine industry professionals are expected to attend the event, which runs through Thursday and includes a trade show with 630 exhibitors. With talk in previous years of Unified on the verge of outgrowing the Sacramento Convention Center, space was made for an additional 22 vendors at the trade show, which took over a space once reserved for exhibitor registration.

Unified arrives at a critical time in the domestic wine industry. Rocked by the recession in recent years, and subject to an unseasonably cool growing season in California, industry professionals are anxious to hear the final crop reports and consumer trend information for 2010. Those will be shared tomorrow morning at Unified's "state of the industry" general session at 9 a.m.

But for now, exhibitors are setting up for the trade show, which opens tomorrow and considered the biggest day of activity at Unified. Organizers are meanwhile fretting at Mother Nature, as fog delayed many flights into Sacramento this morning and threatened the availability of some speakers.

Stay tuned for more Unified news as the week moves along.

January 24, 2011
Free samples and recipes, plus a cookoff, at VegFest

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

We're fortunate to live in a region where a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables is ours for the year-round picking, so to speak. Just think of all those farmers markets.

To emphasize the point is the VegFest Food Fair: A Celebration of Raw, Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisines, sponsored by the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership.

Get your produce on from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Artisan Building, 1901 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento.

Look for free tastings and recipes, vendors and exhibits, and a 1 p.m. demonstration by "featured guest" Michael Marks, a.k.a. "Your Produce Man" (www.yourproduceman.com).

More than two dozen restaurants, specialty shops and caterers will be represented, including Green Boheme, Never Felt Better, Happy Go Lucky, Cultured Kitchen, Sugar Plum and Raw Chocolate Love. They and others will compete in a judged tasting of vegan and vegetarian dishes, culminating in an awards presentation scheduled at 2:30 p.m.

For more information: (916) 923-6200, www.delpasoboulevard.com.

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

January 21, 2011
Budweiser Clydesdales coming to Fairfield

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Some of the biggest icons in the world of beer are coming to the area. The Budweiser Clydesdales are coming to the Anheuser-Busch Fairfield Brewery Tour Center (3101 Busch Dr., Fairfield) on Jan. 29. The history behind these horses dates back to 1933, when August Busch, Jr. presented a team of Clydesdales to his father to commemorate the end of Prohibition. More fun facts: each Clydesdale must be at least 4-years-old, stand 6 feet tall and weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds.

After some photo opportunities with the Clydesdales, a complimentary tour will be offered of the Anheuser-Busch Fairfield Brewery. Guests of ages 21-and-up will also get to sample some brews.

For more information: (707) 429-7595 or www.budweisertours.com.

January 20, 2011
Strings Express to open at 4th and I streets

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Strings, the Northern California chain that specializes in pasta, is opening a new eatery concept near downtown's Amtrak station. Strings Express will debut on Feb. 14 at 431 I St., with 25 items under $7.50 and made to order in five minutes or under. Along with pastas, Strings Express will sell salads, paninis and wraps with a motto of "Fast, Affordable, Grubby" - with "grubby" meaning "good grub."

The partnership behind Strings Express includes local developers Johan Otto and Steve Ayers, with Alexis LLC and Strings founder Al DeCaprio.

January 19, 2011
New specialty dessert bakery opens downtown

Here's a tip for the thousands of cars arriving downtown every morning via 12th Street: take a quick left on F Street and grab a gourmet treat for the office.

Sugar and Spice Specialty Desserts opened its doors Monday, offering everything from custom weddings cakes, special occasion baked goods and, best of all for impulsive dessert lovers, a walk-in shop at the corner of 12th and F.

The business is owned by experienced pastry chef Carissa Jones, who was busy tending to new dessert creations when I called Tuesday.

"I'm piping as we speak," she told me, referring to an ice cream mousse cake creation.

Jones, who has worked in several restaurants as a pastry chef, wants to bring tradition and creativity to the desserts at Sugar and Spice. So expect plenty of classic French pastry techniques, playful twists and fresh new flavors. Apple martini meringue, anyone?

"There is something strangely satisfying about being able to follow the rules and know something is going to come out perfectly, and at the same time knowing when to break the rules," Jones said.

"I like taking a traditional dessert and changing it, and then taking a non-traditional dessert and making it a little bit more friendly."

The bakery is also serious about quality, obtaining many of its fresh ingredients from highly respected Produce Express. Jones also plans to hit the farmers markets.

Jones says the foundation of the business will be built on weddings. But it also won't leave single folks and happy old married couples out of the picture. Sugar and Spice will feature a daily "happy hour," when a certain desserts will be half price. There will also be a daily turnover, a daily muffin, and a daily crostada, among many other treats. A coffee program will be introduced in the next couple of weeks.

Sugar and Spice Specialty Desserts is at 1201 F St., Sacramento.

January 19, 2011
Shoki II

Good news for fans of Shoki Ramen House. There's going to be another one soon.

Not that the original in the ramshackle shotgun house on 24th Street wasn't cool, but the demand had far outpaced the supply of tables and chairs. Thus, part of the Shoki experience was the sign-up sheet and the stroll around the neighborhood until your table was ready.

I recently got word that Shoki has a second location lined up --1201 R St., Sacramento -- which means the ramen fanatics, myself included, will have a choice of where to get their fix. The new place will seat 48, with a nice patio out front.

Owner and chef Yasushi Ueyama is expected to open the new joint in 30 to 90 days. He will divide his time between the two locations and is apparently training someone to uphold his very high standards in the kitchen.

We'll keep you posted when it opens.

January 18, 2011
First impressions of Enotria's wine bar

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

It's the Sunday night of a three-day weekend, so hey, why not check out the new wine bar at Enotria? You may have read recently how $1.5 million was sunk into Enotria's expansion, giving birth to a remodeled restaurant (which is set to open in February) and a new wine bar near the corner of Del Paso Blvd. and Arden Way which debuted Jan. 11.

There's definitely a "new wine bar" kind of smell when you walk in, with some paint still detectable to the nose. The room itself looks pretty sleek with its racks of wine bottles on the walls and shiny new bar. Business looked good on this night, with most tables being taken up in the early evening.

One thing that's also expanded at Enotria is its cocktail program. There's about a dozen drinks to be had on its cocktail menu, including a pink and "Sex and the City"-ish "Winter in Del Paso" (pomegranate, ginger beer, Canton liquer, vodka). The "Enotria Cadillac" (Galliano, creme de cacao, cream and simple syrup) came in a pint glass and looked just like a vanilla milkshake. The portion was certainly generous but seemed to be an overly filling way to start a night of eating and drinking.

The wine program features plenty of options, from a rich Cote de l'Ange from the Châteauneuf du Pape to French bubbly (Piper-Heidsieck Brut) and domestic options from St. Supery, Paul Hobbs and James Blake of Amador. All wines are available as a 2 ounce taste, full glass or by the bottle.

Executive chef Anthony Brenes has crated a wide ranging bar menu with Latin overtones. Along with an earthy take on mac 'n' cheese with crab and mushroom, and the now requisite pulled pork sliders, you'll find grilled Argentine sausauge with chimichurri sauce and sopes de carnitas. Though the sausage was a tad dried out, the overall flavors we found were vibrant and invited sips of wine. The small plate prices are reasonable too, ranging from $6.50 to $12.50. But prepare to pay between $22 and $32 for entrees.

Enotria's wine bar shows plenty of potential and it'll be interesting to see how much customer traffic is gained. But for now, the wine bar itself needs a much more lively vibe. Maybe it was because of the Sunday night dreariness and cold, but apart from the hostess the staff seemed kind of sullen throughout service. This place needs more smiles and pep to make it feel like a real hot spot of food and wine in Sacramento.

We'll see how this all shapes up with more time.

January 18, 2011
Carpe Vino will open 75 wines for 9th annual tasting and sale

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

If you're into winetasting and dollars-off deals, Carpe Vino could make it on your list of upcoming destinations.

The wine bar/wine shop/restaurant is planning its ninth annual Wine Thing, a tasting and sale. More than 75 bottles of various varietals (mostly California) will be open for sampling, accompanied by cheese and baguette palate refreshers.

"This is the largest private tasting in the Sacramento region," said Drew Moffat, 29, co-owner of the store with his father, Gary. "Our goal is to appeal to all tastes and budgets."

As for the deals, Drew Moffat offered this overview: "The minimum discount is 5 percent on one to five bottles of wine. Every additional bottle purchased earns another 1 percent discount, maxing at 24 percent on two cases, mix and match."

The discount program will apply to the wines being poured as well as all 500 or so wines in stock. A list of the wines featured in the tasting will be posted by Jan. 22 on Carpe Vino's website, www.carpevinoauburn.com.

The tasting fee will be waived for Wine Club members, and they will get a one-hour early entry to the event. Wine Club membership is free and can be arranged on the day of the tasting. For details, visit the website or call (530) 823-0320.

Wine Thing will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 29; cost is $20. Carpe Vino is at 1568 Lincoln Way in Old Town Auburn.

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

January 17, 2011
Four-star food and beer will star in inaugural Truckee fest

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

If your travels should take you to the mountain town of Truckee on Jan. 27, give a thought to the inaugural Beer & Food Festival. It's planned from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dragonfly restaurant/sushi bar.

Small-plate dishes will be paired with six Mammoth Brewing Co. specialty beers at "beer stations" throughout the restaurant (www.mammothbrewingco.com). Socialize, nosh and drink, then repeat.

Mammoth brew master Sean Turner will be on hand to answer questions and explain the art of brewing. Also: live music and a raffle.

"Sean Turner approaches beer like I approach food - in a very creative, fun way," said Dragonfly owner/chef Billy McCullough. "The casual station set-up will offer guests a cool way to mingle."

The menu will include beer-battered smoked-salmon sushi roll, hoisin-braised shortrib and sage-cured pork tenderloin.

Tickets are $28 at the door or at (530) 587-0557. Dragonfly is at 10118 Donner Pass Road, Truckee; www.dragonflycuisine.com.

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

January 13, 2011
Make-A-Wish fest will offer a cornucopia of bites and sips

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

When it comes to charitable foundations, Make-A-Wish has a great cause. It "grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy."

Make-A-Wish will host its 23rd annual Winter Wine & Food Fest, a fundraiser that will allow it to grant 100 wishes throughout the coming year.

More than 100 wineries, breweries and restaurants will be on hand at the Sacramento Convention Center. Also featured will be a VIP live auction, a silent auction of vacation trips, autographed memorabilia, and live music by Over the Edge.

Participants will include the new gourmet food truck Mini Burger, Ruth's Chris steakhouse, Paul Martin's American Bistro, Buckhorn Grill, Frank Family Vineyards, Duckhorn Vineyards, Wente Vineyards, River City Brewing Co., Pyramid Alehouse Brewery and Sudwerks Brewery.

The fest will be from 5 to 10 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St.; (916) 808-5291. Cost is $85 per person, $185 for a VIP ticket.

To register and for more information: (916) 437-0206, www.makeawish-sacto.org.

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

January 13, 2011
New Mikuni restaurant concept to open in April

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

The food options at the Fountains shopping center in Roseville continue to grow. Mikuni Kaizen, a new restaurant concept run by Sacramento's Mikuni Japanese Restaurant Group, is set to open at the Fountains in early April. While more detailed information about the menu is yet to come, sushi will remain a staple at Kaizen (meaning "change for the better in Japanese") but with an expanded menu compared to other locations in Mikuni's nine-restaurant chain.

The opening of Mikuni Kaizen arrives with the recent announcement of Yard House coming to the Fountains. Construction will begin later this month on the Irvine-based brew pub chain, known for its oversized "yards" of beer, with a grand opening slated for July.

Check this space soon for more details on Mikuni Kaizen and Yard House.

January 12, 2011
Give tilapia a try at Whole Foods Market's one-day sale

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

If you've not tried the farmed, mild-tasting fish called tilapia, Friday is the day to get aboard.

That's when Whole Foods Market on Arden Way will hold a special on fresh (not frozen) tilapia fillets from Ecuador. The firm-fleshed fish will be priced at $4.99 a pound; it usually sells for $8.99 to $9.99 a pound. The one-day-only deal will happen at all Whole Food Markets around the country.

The question is: Why?

"We want to get the product out there so customers can taste it and know that tilapia can be a very healthful part of their diets," said Marshall Bronk, seafood team leader at the Sacramento store.

The Whole Foods press-release sales pitch about its farm-raised fish program is impressive: "(Our) quality standards prohibit antibiotics, added growth hormones, preservatives, and poultry and mammalian byproducts in (tilapia) feed. Plus, we have extensive requirements for protecting water quality, wildlife and sensitive habitats (where the fish are raised)."

For more information on Whole Foods' aquaculture standards, go to www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/aquaculture.php.

For recipes, go to www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1603. If you want more than the one for tilapia tostatas, type in "tilapia" in the "Search" field.

For information on Friday's sale, Bronk will answer questions at (916) 488-2800 (ask for him in the Seafood Department).

Whole Foods is at 4315 Arden Way; open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

P.S.: If you're in the mood for another kind of seafood dish - spicy garlic shrimp in white wine sauce, where whole cloves of garlic meet finely ground red peppers - try the Mandarin, next door to Whole Foods (916-488-4794).

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

January 11, 2011
The wine bar at Enotria is open, with an eye on Valentine's Day

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

After a 10-month-long, $1.5 million expansion and renovation, the pioneering Enotria Restaurant and Wine Bar opened today. The wine bar hosted a successful soft opening last week.

Though the formal dining room won't be serving until early February - to be marked with a grand opening - the diverse wine-bar menu now offers lunch and dinner - from soup, salad and small plates, to pasta, fish and rack of lamb. Enotria's motto: "Food made for wine made for food."

The art-deco wine bar hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturdays, and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Enotria has plans for a special prix fixe dinner (5 to 9 p.m.) over the Valentine's Day weekend (Feb. 11 to 14). It's suggested that couples linger over dinner and candlelight in the main dining room, while singles may enjoy a more casual menu and less formal setting in the wine bar. For reservations: (916) 922-6792.

"The idea is there's something for everybody," said Enotria public-relations consultant Nancy Mallory. "You may even meet the love of your life."

Enotria is at 1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento. Visit its website at www.enotria.com.

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

January 11, 2011
GoGi's Korean BBQ coming to 15th and L streets

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Not to be confused with the uber-popular Kogi BBQ food truck in Southern California, the team behind The Park and Cafeteria 15L is bringing GoGi's Korean BBQ to 15th and L streets in downtown Sacramento. Starting Jan. 18, GoGi's will be in the former "Park to Go" kiosk, which served sandwiches and other casual fare during lunch and late night hours.

Like Kogi, GoGi's Korean BBQ will serve a menu of Asian-infused tacos and burritos, with such fillings as Korean barbecued beef, spicy chicken and tofu. And you can bet plenty of Sriracha hot sauce will be on hand.

And here's a deal for you: GoGi's will be giving out free Korean beef tacos from Jan. 18-21.

GoGi's Korean BBQ will be open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays - Fridays and during late night hours Fridays and Saturdays. For more information: (916) 442-7333.

January 10, 2011
Entrants needed for Dutch Oven cook-off at Cal Expo

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Ready ... set ... cook! Central California Dutch Oven Adventures will host a cook-off at Cal Expo on Jan. 22, with first place netting $250. Beginners and amateurs are encouraged to enter this contest, which will be a 3-pot cook-off to show off recipes for a main dish, bread and dessert.

The fun and Dutch oven excitement is all part of the International Sportsmen's Exposition, which runs Jan. 20 - 23 at Cal Expo. The winner of the Dutch oven cook-off also gets an invite to enter the 2012 International Dutch Oven Society's world championships. Now, get those recipes out and let the games begin.

For more information: www.ccdoa.webs.com

January 10, 2011
Rubicon hosting fundraiser for group trying to save park system

By Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Eat, drink and be philanthropic.

That's the goal of Rubicon Brewing Company's weekly "501(c) Wednesdays," which this week will feature the Grassroots Working Group, a nonprofit dedicated to saving the Sacramento's regional parks, including the American River Parkway.

The group, a sub-organization of the Save the American River Association (SARA) formed last year in response to budget cuts that could threaten the county's regional parks and open space system, according to the association's website.

Grassroots Working Group is trying to secure stable, long-term funding for operations, maintenance and expansion of the parks and open space system.

The midtown brewery will donate a portion of the day's profits to the group, and volunteers will be at Rubicon during the all-day event to answer questions about the group and its efforts.

The fundraiser will be held from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rubicon Brewing Company, 2400 Capitol Ave., Sacramento.

For more information, go to www.sarariverwatch.org or call (916) 482-2551.

January 10, 2011
Food trends for the new year, from coconut water to bacon

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

We tried a taste of www.fitbee.com, a website devoted to diet and fitness, and found a list of foods projected to be popular in the coming year.

The site is a collaboration between Rodale, publisher of health and wellness magazines, and www.msn, the news-features-sports site.

Try these on for size. Read more at the webside.

Gluten-free: "Expect to see more corn- and rice-based bread, cereal and pasta options, as well as other foods with 'gluten-free' on their labels."

Ethnic street food: Street food-inspired dishes such as kebabs, taquitos and tempura top the National Restaurant Association's 'What's Hot in 2011' chefs' survey for upcoming appetizer trends."

Thai iced tea: "The orange-colored beverage made with sweetened condensed milk is expected on more menus."

Tapas: "Look for a surge in tapas, small-plate meals and half-portions, predicts the National Restaurant Association's annual survey."

Artisan cheeses and bacon: "Look for (high-end) house-made bacon and handcrafted cheeses to start appearing in stores."

Seeds: "From flaxseed to chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, these morsels of monounsaturated fats are going to take a more prominent place on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves."

Grab-and-go snacks: "A growing number of fast-food chains, coffee shops and convenience stores are making over their grab-and-go selections."

Heirloom foods: "Heirloom crops refer to foods that were found in our early history of eating, and they're making a big comeback. Look for heirloom varieties of grains such as red rice, black rice, kamut and spelt in supermarkets."

Coconut water: "It's the health drink of the moment -- the liquid inside immature coconuts."

Hyper-local foods: "Thanks in part to Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden, growing your own food is suddenly 'in' and going hyper-local is all the rage. This year, people will want to know where their meals are coming from, down to the very farm."

Macarons: "Not to be confused with macaroons (a small coconut-based cookie), macarons (a meringue sandwich cookie) have already been tapped as the heir apparent to the designer cupcake craze."

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

January 7, 2011
Sacramento's first gourmet food truck to debut Jan. 29

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Sacramento's first gourmet food truck will be rolling through town starting Jan. 29
, co-owner and restaurant industry veteran Davin Vculek said Friday.

Mini Burger will serve gourmet burgers and fries through its mobile truck, he said, while also satisfying a hunger from locals who have been craving gourmet food trucks in Sacramento.

Vculek is a former corporate chef with Guy Fieri's restaurant chain and a silent business partner in Mini Burger. He and his partners are modeling Mini Burger after Kogi BBQ, a southern California food truck that's been featured in Bon Appetit magazine and tweets its location to more than 79,000 followers.

Like Kogi BBQ, Mini Burger will use social media and its web site (www.miniburgertruck.com) to give updates of its current location. Mini Burger will feature a menu of burgers such as the "cow town" and a "ninja" burger with Asian slaw and sriracha aioli. A two-pack of burgers costs $6, or three for $8, while sides cost $2 each.

Vculek's business plan projects for a minimum of 100 customers daily with a $1,000 gross, and plans to serve throughout the city limits, including midtown and north Sacramento. Successful gourmet food trucks can gross upwards of $400,000 annually.

"This concept was actually designed many years ago, and we thought it would be great for a land-based restaurant," said Vculek. "But when food trucks became popular in L.A., we knew this would be a great concept for a food truck."

Food trucks emerged as one of the nation's biggest culinary trends over the last year, serving such dishes as Belgian waffles, chicken adobo and escargot in cities including Portland, Ore., and San Francisco. The Food Network even launched "The Great Food Truck Race" in August and attracted 2 million viewers in its debut.

But in Sacramento, strict city ordinances, including a 30-minute limit before food trucks have to move at least 400 feet, have put the brakes on this trend. Vculek and his partner expect the necessary paperwork, including a health permit from the County of Sacramento, to be wrapped up within a week. Even with the time limits, Vculek insisted that Mini Burger can thrive.

"The city isn't so friendly with ordinances,but I've found some ways where you can work it out," said Vculek. "In 30 minutes, we can serve a good amount of people. Mainly for us, we just want to be respectful of restaurants and won't park in front of them."

Sacramento city officials are meanwhile warming up to the idea of gourmet food trucks. Mayor Kevin Johnson told The Bee in August that he believes the city council "can develop a plan that allows mobile food trucks to thrive alongside other businesses."

Dafna Gauthier, business permit manager for the city of Sacramento, recommends that food truck entrepreneurs get well-acquainted with current ordinances.

"If someone came in and said they'd abide by the 30-minute rule, we'll see what we can do to make it happen," said Gauthier.

Mini Burger plans to debut at the Make-A-Wish Foundation's Winter Wine & Food Festival on Jan. 29 at the Sacramento Convention Center.

"We're going to pioneer this thing and see what happens," said Vculek. "We hope the city will catch on."

January 7, 2011
Roseville's Pause Lounge & Kitchen opens

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

For those looking for a taste of foie gras, bone marrow and pork belly in the suburbs, a new option is ready to go. Roseville's Pause Lounge & Kitchen (1465 Eureka Road Ste. 100, Roseville) is now open for business. Located in the Stone Point Center, Pause features a variety of small plates, ranging from $3 house cured olives to $16 seared foie gras, while entrees range from $18-$24. The drink menu emphasizes craft and imported beers - think: Stone Smoked Porter and Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale - while the wine list mixes such California stalwarts as Jordan and J Vineyards with selections from Italy, Argentina, France and other locales.

A proper grand opening party will be held Jan. 14, with a six-course chef's tasting menu that costs $50. For more information: (916) 916.772-1525.

January 6, 2011
Entries needed for 'Mocktail' competition

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

How are your skills in making buzz-free cocktails? The California Office of Traffic Safety is seeking entries in its Mocktail Recipe Contest for non-alcoholic drinks - or "dranks," as we like to say. The winner of this contest takes home a Nook eReader and a $50 gift card for Barnes & Noble. To enter this contest, take a quick hiatus from playing Mafia Wars or Farmville and go to the contest's Facebook page for further instructions.

So who's going to help determine the winners? Me, that's who! I'm on the judging panel with Joe Anthony Savala, beverage manager at Zocalo restaurant, and Chris Cochran, assistant director for the California Office of Traffic Safety.

But hurry, because entries need to be received by tomorrow. Good luck, and let the best mocktail win.

January 6, 2011
Dine About Town 'launch party' will offer a cornucopia

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

Yes, San Francisco is one of the world's great restaurant cities. Plugging into that for the past decade has been Dine About Town San Francisco. From Jan. 15-31 and June 1-15, the program will offer foodies "the opportunity to select from more than 100 restaurants offering a two-course lunch menu for $17.95 and/or a three-course dinner menu for $34.95" (www.dineabouttown.com).

To kick off the January promotion, the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com) will host a "launch party" at 6 p.m. Jan. 12 in the City View meeting space at the Westfield-Metreon Shopping Mall, 101 4th St. About 20 restaurants and 10 wineries will provide tastes and sips. Guests can enter the "Eat Your Way from SF to LA" sweepstakes. Deejay Jamon Iberico will supply the tunes.

Tickets are $25 apiece (includes a commemorative wine glass) at www.dineabouttown.com/launch. Tickets will not be sold at the door. All proceeds will benefit the San Francisco Meals on Wheels program.

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

January 5, 2011
Deadline for peanut butter recipe contest drawing near

By Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Last call for entries in Jif's Holiday Spread Recipe contest, a recipe competition offering two $10,000 kitchen makeovers as its top prizes.

Contestants may enter one of two categories, savory or sweet, and recipes must use at least two tablespoons of Jif Peanut Butter (any variety).

The contest deadline is Jan. 17.

For more information, check out Jif's contest website.

January 5, 2011
Davis Farmers Market to accept EBT cards

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

A new form of food assistance is coming to the Davis Farmers Market (4th and C streets, Davis). Starting Saturday, Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards can be used to purchase items at the farmers market, from bread and eggs, to vegetables and pork. EBT cards are essentially an electronic version of food stamps, and they're increasingly being accepted at farmers markets. In Sacramento, EBT cards can currently be used at the Oak Park Farmers Market (which closed for the season on Oct. 16) and the Natomas Farmers Market (also closed for the season).

In Davis, representatives from the California Department of Social Services will swipe an EBT card in exchange for wooden tokens which can be redeemed for goods. This EBT program will be expanded to Davis' farmers market on Wednesdays starting March 16. For more information: www.davisfarmersmarket.org.

January 5, 2011
Is your 'original main-dish cornbread recipe' worth $5,000?

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

One place that takes cornbread very seriously is the town of South Pittsburg, Tenn., 30 miles west of Chattanooga. Each year it sponsors the National Cornbread Festival, a celebration that attracts 40,000 revelers over two days.

"We close the town and turn it into a street fair," said a festival spokeswoman.

In preparation for the 15th annual event over the weekend of April 30, the folks at the Loge Cast Iron and the Martha White baking-products companies once again are co-sponsoring a national cornbread cook-off.

You can enter an "original main-dish cornbread recipe" now through March 1. "Ten finalists will compete during the cornbread festival; one cook-off champion will receive a $5,000 cash prize," said a press release.

Here's how to enter:

"An entry must be an original main dish recipe prepared with at least one package of Martha White Cornbread Mix using Lodge (cast iron) cookware. Entries must include contestant's name, address, daytime phone number, date of birth and name of grocery retailer."

Note that the four Foods Co. stores in our area carry Martha White products. Loge cast iron pans are available at many cookware stores.

"To enter online, go to www.marthawhite.com, click on the 'Promotion and News' section, and submit your recipe along with contact information."

By email, send your recipe and contact information to cornbread@dvl.com. By snail mail, print the recipe and contact information on an 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper and mail it to National Cornbread Cook-Off 2011, 209 Seventh Ave. North, Nashville, TN 37219.

To get an idea of what the judges are looking for, check out the winning recipes from past years (and the complete rules) at www.marthawhite.com or www.lodgemfg.com.

Note that the 10 finalists will make their dishes for "a panel of food experts" at the cornbread festival in Tennessee. To help get them to the site, the sponsors will give each finalist $500 toward travel expenses.

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

January 5, 2011
Sacramento Mobile Food Festival coming in April

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

The food truck trend has largely skipped Sacramento because of strict city ordinances. But there's a little relief coming soon. The Sacramento Mobile Food Festival - a.k.a. SactoMoFo - will be held on April 30 from noon to 6 p.m. at Fremont Park (16th and Q streets, Sacramento).

The event will feature more than a dozen food trucks, including vendors from Yolo County and the San Francisco Bay Area. Adobo Hobo, a Bay Area food cart that specializes in such items as chicken adobo tacos and vegetarian adobo over rice, has already been confirmed. Also look for San Francisco's Sweetface Bakery, along with Sacramento taco trucks and a homemade ice cream vendor from Davis. Local restaurateurs are also expected to run their own food trucks and carts.

"One of the reasons for the event is to show proof to the City Council that these kinds of events work and they should kill current regulations that outlaw these carts," said Joshua Lurie-Terrell, an event organizer and founder of yumtacos.com.

We'll keep you updated as more vendors and information come through. Event organizers are meanwhile looking for additional food vendors and volunteers to help run the event. If you want to pitch in for this 100% volunteer-run event, e-mail: hundertwasser@yahoo.com.

January 4, 2011
Recap of Golden Bear on 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives'

By Chris Macias
cmacias@sacbee.com

Did you all catch midtown's own Golden Bear featured last night on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives?" Well shoot, I have to say that Sacramento showed great on the Food Network. Don't know about you, but my tummy started to rumble as Golden Bear executive chef Billy Zoellin whipped up banh mi sandwiches, a meat-less and cheese-less pizza (and wow, that smoked slaw looked great) and tacos for host Guy Fieri and a crew of Golden Bear regulars.

Some of the folks who caught some camera time included: Billy Ngo (owner of Kru/Red Lotus), Casey Mar (Bee Night Life columnist), Adam Saake (food writer for Submerge magazine) and Anthony "Pag" Paganelli (guitarist for Will Haven).

Just check the Food Network's web site, and don't see any clips yet from last night's show. We'll keep you posted on that. The Food Network also filmed other eatries around the River City for "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" last year, including Gatsby's and Dad's Kitchen, so we'll see when those segments are scheduled to air. Stay tuned ...

January 4, 2011
Togo's offers a pastrami meal deal and a free 20-ounce drink

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

The 40-year-old Togo's restaurant chain is honoring National Pastrami Day (Jan. 14) with the return of its Pastrami Guarantee, which it first featured in the fall of 2009. Plus, there's a free bonus waiting for its Facebook fans.

These are the fixin's: If you buy a six-inch hot pastrami sandwich at any Togo's this year and you're not completely satisfied, you'll get the price of the sandwich -- $5.59 -- refunded. If you pay the $7.01 for the nine-inch hot pastrami sandwich and don't like it, you'll get the same $5.59 refund.

"The No. 9 pastrami sandwich has been our top-selling sandwich through the years," said Renae Scott, vice president of marketing for Togo's Eateries. "We serve over 1.5 million of them a year."

Also beginning Jan. 14, Togo's Facebook fans can print a coupon good for a complimentary 20-ounce drink with the purchase of the six-inch pastrami sandwich. The coupon must be redeemed by Jan. 31. "It's our way of saying we 'like' you, too," Scott added.

For more information: www.togos.com.

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

January 3, 2011
Food Network issues 'casting call' for a restaurant in need

By Allen Pierleoni
apierleoni@sacbee.com

The executive team behind the Food Network show "Dinner: Impossible" is putting out a casting call for its new show, "Restaurant: Impossible."

It's looking for a Sacramento-area eatery that's suffering economically and needs some help in the "front of the house" as well as the back (kitchen). The goal: To perform a 36-hour restaurant makeover and film an episode about it, to air sometime this summer.

The makeover itself will likely occur in the second quarter of this year.

"We're looking for a family-run restaurant that's fallen on hard times, not a chain," said "Restaurant: Impossible" associate producer Justin Leonard. "Everybody's been hurt by the recession, and there's nothing we can do about that. What we can do is go in to a restaurant and update the menu and help them redesign the interior. It's the tangible things we're looking to change in a very quick turnaround."

After the selected restaurant undergoes the speedy makeover, there will be a grand reopening.

The debut episode of the "Restaurant: Impossible" series will air at 10 p.m. Jan. 19, based on restaurant makeovers in 2010. "Restaurant: Impossible" spends an average of $10,000 on a typical makeover.

The makeover team will be led by Food Network celebrity chef Robert Irvine, host of "Dinner: Impossible," and a support crew of a designer and construction specialists. "Chef Irvine will work on what's going wrong and make a plan to make it right," Leonard said.

Part of the "Restaurant: Impossible" casting call reads: "Is your restaurant at risk of closing? Are you in need of a boost in customers, good reviews and overall revenue? We are looking for passionate restaurateurs who have fallen on hard times. The restaurant's owners and management ... must be willing to overhaul their menu, décor and theme to put them back on the path to success."

Restaurateurs can apply for the makeover at www.restaurantimpossible.com.

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

January 3, 2011
California kiwi a popular, nutrient-packed fruit

Couscous.jpgBy Niesha Lofing
nlofing@sacbee.com

Kiwi is quite the popular little fruit.

California kiwifruit farmers reported a larger crop and stronger demand at the end of their harvest season, with farmers having sold nearly 9 million trays of the fuzzy fruit last year, about 2 million more than in 2009, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Weather in other Northern Hemisphere countries hurt kiwifruit production, but California's crop escaped most damage from frost and rain, leading to an increase in demand for California kiwifruit, the bureau's Food and Farms News report stated.

And if you're like the millions of others resolving to eat better this year, you may want to add kiwifruit to the mix.

Consider this: each serving of kiwifruit is fat free, has more potassium than a banana and about 2 1/2 times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and is a good source of antioxidants, the California Kiwifruit Commission reports on its website.

It's also high in fiber - two kiwifruit contain more fiber than a bowl of bran cereal.

California kiwifruit season runs through May.

For tips on selecting kiwifruit and ideas on how to use them, check out the commission's website.

Follow the link below to get a recipe for Mediterranean kiwi couscous.



Recommended Links

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Monthly Archives