March 31, 2011
For the first time, the CIA's Greystone opens for Easter Brunch

Sunday brunch - the leisurely repast that marries breakfast to lunch - continues to bring diners to restaurants and hotel buffets. Though Mother's Day is the queen of brunch holidays, Easter is No. 2, followed by Father's Day.

If you're planning ahead for your April 24 Easter brunch outing, consider that the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant will be open that day for the first time in its 15-year history. The restaurant is part of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) cooking college at Greystone in St. Helena. That 19th-century stone building was the original Christian Brothers Winery.

"Our Easter menu is inspired by our favorite spring ingredients, and many of the items that day -- such as my Aunt Lee's breakfast eggs - are making their debut," said executive chef Polly Lappetito. "I love the opportunity to have a little fun with the menu."

The a la carte brunch menu will include garlic soup, spring lamb tartare, smoked salmon flatbread, and steak and eggs ($9 to $29). A four-item children's menu is also available ($6).

The main building on the campus will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On offer will be tours, tastings, shopping and a 1:30 p.m. cooking demonstration. Hand-sculpted chocolate Easter treats, made by CIA students, will be for sale ($5 to $25).

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations and information: (707) 967-1010, The CIA is at 2555 Main St., St. Helena, the Napa Valley.

March 30, 2011
Preview of Raley Field's new food items


Better get your guts in gear. The Sacramento River Cats baseball season starts April 7 and they're rolling out some food items that'll send your digestion into extra innings. How about a "Donut Bacon Cheeseburger" ($7.75, $9.75 w/ fries) while you root on the 'Cats? It's a 1/3 pound burger topped with cheddar cheese and bacon, and nestled between two glazed donuts - you know, just like grandma used to make when she said you weren't eating well enough. (That is, if your grandma is Paula Deen).

Or maybe the new "Baked Potato Dog" ($7) is more to your liking. It feels almost as heavy as a newborn, with a Raley Field jumbo dog plopped inside a butter and sour cream laden baked potato. This twist on the good old fashioned hot dog should be eaten with a knife and fork, unless you have some rubber gloves on hand. It's something like eating a hot dog and mashed up french fries all at once.

These were among the new food items previewed today at Raley Field, where more than 50,000 hot dogs and sausages are consumed over the course of a baseball season. Many fan favorites remain, including the "Sac Town Dog" ($7) with fried onion strings and bleu cheese crumbles. The "Pacific Wild Salmon Tacos" ($7.75), which proved to be a hit with fans looking for a somewhat healthier food option, will also return in their salsa fresca and lime-cilantro aioli goodness.

March 30, 2011
Venerable Fair Oaks restaurant Slocum House shuttered

OB SLOCUM 1.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Slocum House, one of the most lauded fine dining restaurants in the Sacramento region, is closed.

The restaurant served its last meal Sunday, financial consultant Jack Kandola confirmed today. Kandola and business partner Joe Wittren bought Slocum House in 2009, but Kandola sold his share of the business to Wittren last year.

Kandola said the restaurant lost its lease at the hilltop location in quaint Fair Oaks village.

"For the last couple of years, business has been going down because of the down economy," Kandola said.

Kandola said they had asked the landlord to extend their lease, but he refused. The landlord indicated another business may move in, but Kandola did not know who the possible tenants may be or whether that statement was true.

There are no plans to reopen Slocum House elsewhere in the region.

"It was a landmark restaurant, so we hate to see it go down," Kandola said. "Hopefully someone else will have better success (at the California Avenue location)."

Slocum House had consistently been one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the region. Bee dining critic Blair Anthony Robertson gave the dining room four stars in an October 2009 review. Click here to see a video interview with former Slocum House executive chef Gabriel Glasier by Bee photographer Jose Luis Villegas.

The restaurant also was rated best date night restaurant by Bee readers later that month.

What are your memories of Slocum House? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

*Bee researcher Sheila Kern contributed to this report

March 30, 2011
Live chat: What's new in the Sacramento food scene

March 30, 2011
Two flavors of Hershey's new Drops face the taste test

Artisanal chocolates continue to fill a niche in the marketplace. Many have high cocoa content, making them almost bitter; others contain sea salt, chile peppers and even bacon.

Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme Drops.jpgLet's consider a less flashy product - the Hershey's milk-chocolate bar. Entrepreneur candymaker Milton Hershey introduced the first one to the nation in 1900, followed by that sweet icon, Kisses, in 1907 (

Now the Hershey's company has rolled out a new product, Drops, in two flavors - Milk Chocolate and Cookies 'n' Creme. They're disc-shaped, sort of like giant M&Ms (made by the Mars candy company since 1941), but larger and without the colorful candy shell (, and

Samples of Drops arrived the other day and we passed them around the room. An 8-ounce pouch is $3.29, available at most supermarkets.

Before we lay out what our tasters had to say, here's a heads-up: Look for new Easter candies from Hershey's, including chocolate creme egg, mini malted milk robin eggs and Reese's peanut butter 'n' chocolate eggs.

Now these comments from our tasters:


March 30, 2011
Fanciful cookie cutter kit, recipe delivers

Not only did Williams-Sonoma deliver with its spring and Easter-themed cookie cutter set, but the good folks in the WS Kitchen also provide a great cookie recipe.

The cookie cutter kit was among a handful of kitchen gadgets reviewed in today's Food & Wine section. Click here to get the story.

And yes, of course you could use the cookie recipe with other cutters, but considering the cute factor of the Williams-Sonoma kit (what's not to love about a basket cookie cutter complete with a stamp that makes a basket weave pattern?) and the reasonable price, why not give it a try? We did, and we haven't stopped using it since.

March 29, 2011
The classic grills of San Francisco offer dishes from the past

San Francisco is a worldwide travel destination, and one of its biggest draws is its burgeoning restaurant scene. From the top of the high end to the simplest of ethnic restaurants and burger joints, the City by the Bay offers dining choices that are unrivaled.

Adding to the city's dining legend are three classic grills whose cachet lies not with revolving-door trends, but with heritage and traditional offerings that are consistent and dependable.

The Tadich Grill (established in 1849), John's Grill (1908) and Sam's Grill (1922, though it started as an oyster stall in 1867) are old-school seafood-and-steak houses that draw knowledgeable diners, local power brokers, celebrities, politicians and adventursome tourists. Tables and counter stools fill quickly, and the turnover rates are turbulent.

March 29, 2011
Taste and Celebrate Giving Back benefit dinner

In the mood for stuffing yourself silly, while at the same time raising money for education charities? Well you're in luck because Taste and Celebrate Giving Back is coming to The Park (1431 L St., Sacramento) on April 11. The event, sponsored by the California Restaurant Association, will feature an as-yet-unnamed list of participating local restaurants but the event is expected to draw a number of local politicians including Mayor Kevin Johnson. (And if you're there rubbing elbows with the Mayor, be sure to ask him about the possibility of making Sacramento more food-truck friendly). Tickets cost $75, and additional donations will be accepted at the dinner. Proceeds will benefit the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and STAND UP, a non-profit organization led by Mayor Johnson to support educational excellence. For more information:

March 28, 2011
New cafe, food event to benefit homeless women and children

A new cafe is opening in Roseville, but the goal of the quaint breakfast and lunch spot isn't just to satiate diners' appetites.

All of the proceeds from The Cafe at ReNew Boutique will benefit Acres of Hope, a faith-based, residential renewal program for homeless mothers and their children.

The gently used women's clothing and home decor store bears an identical goal. The Bee's Niesha Lofing featured ReNew Boutique in a column in October. Click here to read the story.

The new cafe is set to open on April 18. In the morning, scones, muffins and quiche will be available, while in the afternoon, salads and sandwich wraps, along with an assortment of baked goods, will be on hand.

March 28, 2011
Mikuni dinner benefit for Japan disaster relief sells out

First Mikuni rolled out its "rescue roll," a $12 mix of Panko shrimp, seared tuna and other ingredients with sales proceeds donated toward Japanese disaster relief. Now, Mikuni executive chef Taro Arai and Roseville's Bayside Church are teaming up with the hopes of raising $75,000 for more relief efforts. On Wednesday, Mikuni will host a benefit dinner at Bayside Church (8191 Sierra College Blvd., Roseville), which should also be noted as the rare church to have its own Starbucks. However, the dinner has sold out but donations are still being accepted online here. For those who've scored a ticket to the dinner, it'll be a night of Japanese food, music and a silent auction. In the meantime, you can pick up a "rescue roll" through March 31.

March 25, 2011
Chef Tuohy to go nuts in Chico

There'll be a little bit of Sacramento at the California Nut Festival in Chico next month.

Michael Tuohy, executive chef at Grange and a vocal advocate of farm-to-table dining, will lead a tasting and cooking demonstration at the festival on April 16.

The festival, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Patrick Ranch in Chico, also will feature demonstrations on cooking with nuts by local producers and restaurant staff, music, an art show and samples of local gourmet food, wine and beer, a festival news release states.

Nuts, beer, Chico. What's not to like?

Tickets are on sale for $20 per person and are available at any Tri Counties Bank branch location or online at Tickets are $25 at the door.

March 24, 2011
Denio's Farmers Market has a deal for 'On a Stick Day'

Always in search of a laugh and a bite, the nation is eagerly preparing to indulge in chicken satay, ice cream bars, ice pops, caramel apples and beef kebabs in celebration of Something On a Stick Day, which falls on Monday, March 28.

In the midst of the excitement and anticipation, let's spare a thought for the corn dog - the ultimate "on a stick" food - at Denio's Roseville Farmers Market & Swap Meet.

The battered, deep-fried pup has been a standard at the 64-year-old Denio's for 42 years. In that time, some 5 million corn dogs have been eaten by eager shoppers, who've left nothing behind but empty sticks.

To honor Something On a Stick Day, the market is offering two corn dogs for the price of one ($1.85). The downloadable coupon, at, is redeemable Saturday and Sunday (Denio's is open on weekends only, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Quality batter is what separates a world-class corn dog from its mundane cousins. Denio's batter was concocted by founder Jim Denio, and the same recipe is still used today. So said Jim's grandson, Eric Denio, on the phone from company HQ.

"I've eaten these corn dogs all my life and probably have corn dog batter running through my veins," he said. "We wanted to go healthier, so now we use turkey dogs and cook them in vegetable oil. The corn is still (coarse) milled for us, according to my grandfather's (recipe). When I was young, I remember him talking about how he wanted the batter to be heavily granular on the outside, and not smooth like a frozen (product). The (cornmeal) is produced that way solely for Denio's."

The market is at 1551 Vineyard Road, Roseville; (916) 782-2704.

March 24, 2011
Join our live chat with Rick Mindermann and J.P. Khoury

If you're into food - talking about it, buying it, cooking it, eating it at home or in restaurants - join our live chat at noon on Wednesday, March 30. To participate, go to

The chat will be your chance to ask food-related questions of Rick Mindermann, store director of the internationally regarded Corti Bros. Market on Folsom Boulevard; and John Paul Khoury, corporate chef for the purveyor Preferred Meats, a Bay Area company dedicated to small-farm operations. It supplies fare to many of Sacramento's premiere restaurants, including the Kitchen and Mulvaney's B&L, as well as to the Michelin star-winning Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena.

Mindermann and Khoury are two of six panelists who will appear at "Table Talk: The regions's food community comes together for an evening of lively discussion." That free event will be held at 6 p.m. April 13 at The Bee, 2100 Q St., Sacramento.

Join the conversation as two panels of leading local chefs, restaurateurs, food-industry experts and food writers share their thoughts on food trends, Sacramento's dining habits and the state of food blogging and traditional food writing. Light snacks will be provided by Source Global Tapas.

Participants must register for "Table Talk," which will be limited to 160 guests. Go to

March 23, 2011
Register for "Table Talk," a local food forum held at the Bee

Calling all fans of Sacramento's food and restaurant culture: Mark your calendars for April 13 at 6 p.m. The Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Press are joining forces to host "Table Talk: The region's food community comes together for an evening of lively discussion." Join the conversation as two panels of leading local chefs, restaurateurs and food writers share their thoughts on the state of local food writing and "what Sacramentans eat," a candid discussion of local food trends. Light snacks will be provided by Source Global Tapas.

The event is free and will be held at The Bee (2100 Q Street, Sacramento). Registration is limited to 160 guests, so surf on over to and sign up today. We'll see you at Table Talk!

March 23, 2011
Sprouts Farmers Market ready to set up shop in Roseville

Sacramento is fertile ground for our growing specialty-market scene. Add one more choice: Sprouts Farmers Market plans to open in Roseville on April 6 at 6760 Stanford Ranch Road, in the Stanford Ranch Plaza in Roseville (916-774-1120).

Corporate HQ in Arizona has some specials planned at its newest store, including:

- The first 500 shoppers to buy merchandise will get coupons for 10 free sandwiches.

- Make a purchase and sign up for the Sprouts mailing list for the chance to be among the 50 customers a week who will receive "a 100 percent rebate of their purchases" (through April).

- On opening day, all purchases will be bagged in free reusable totes.

- Many of the store's most popular items will be on sale through April 10.

Sprouts specializes in produce, bulk foods (200 bins of rice, spices, nuts, grains and the like), organic food and dairy items, natural meats and seafood, vitamins and dietary supplements, and gluten-free items.

The Sprouts chain maintains 56 stores in Western states. For details:

March 23, 2011
World's greatest little coffeemaker? Do you have a better one?

aeropress.jpgWe've spotted another story on the AeroPress, that amazing little $30 device that just may brew the best cup of coffee you'll ever have at home.

Last week, the L.A. Times weighed in with a story headlined "AeroPress coffeemakers brew loyal fans." It talks about what many AeroPress aficionados have known for months or even years - that it is hardly attractive or elegant or high-tech, but that its simplicity may hold the key to its success.

I wrote a story on the AeroPress last July that began this way:

"In the overcaffeinated competition among coffee makers, the AeroPress is a game-changer: an invention that thrills with its simplicity and functionality.

It makes extraordinary coffee -- crisp, clean and balanced, allowing for the complex flavors of the ground beans to ring true on the palate without distracting bitterness.

What's more, the AeroPress costs less than $30, is made of shatterproof plastic, is very easy to clean, was invented in California and, unlike nearly every other coffee contraption, is made in the United States."

Recently, when Chris Macias, The Bee's wine writer, mentioned he was interested in a new coffeemaker, I suggested the AeroPress (he gives me wine tips and I return the favor with coffee stuff). He got one and loves it.

Which leads us to our question - or questions - for readers out there who are really into coffee: Have you tried the AeroPress? If not, what is your preferred brewing method at home? If you'd rather get your coffee from the pros, what is your favorite coffee shop (and why)?

March 22, 2011
Monday postscript: Cafe Americain, seafood and the Watch List

Seafood watch.bmpOne of the great things about getting feedback from readers via email is that it reminds me that many of them are passionate about food and demanding about the issues related to food.

But how much politics do you want with your restaurant reviews? That is a question I think about often, and I have yet to come up with the right formula to please everyone.

Yes, I try to weigh in on the local/sustainable trend from time to time. I tend to emphasize the importance of where the food comes from and what happens on the way from the farm to your plate.

March 22, 2011
Patty Bogle to be honored at California Olive Oil Competition

The late Patty Bogle is remembered most for helping to grow the Sacramento area's wine region into a national force, but she was also a huge advocate for olive oil. Bogle, who passed away Feb. 11 from complications of leukemia, will be honored March 30 at the California Olive Oil Competition. Sponsored by the Yolo County Fair, this competition featured 135 entries in 2010 and ranks among the country's largest olive oil competitions. This year's "best of show" winner will receive a Patty Bogle Roncoroni memorial trophy to commemorate Bogle's role in nurturing this event over the years. Bogle met her future husband, Ernie Roncoroni, when the two served on the Yolo County Fair board and Roncoroni currently serves as the board's co-chairman. Roncoroni and Bogle ultimately co-founded this olive oil competition. Look for the results to be announced in the first week of April.

In other Bogle news, the winery's petite sirah was featured this morning on the Today show as a "go-to" wine. Click here to see Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, along with Ray Isle of Food & Wine magazine, go gaga over Bogle around the 2:10 mark.

March 21, 2011
Barbera Festival coming in June to Amador County

Ah yes, how nice a glass of barbera hits the spot with a pasta in red sauce or even a traditional margherita pizza. The pronounced acidity and berry-driven flavors of barbera makes it a cinch for many food pairings, and we in the Sacramento area are fortunate that this Italian variety finds a good expression around the area. So, mark your calendar for the 2011 Barbera Festival, which will be held on June 11 at Cooper Ranch in Shenandoah Valley (21365 Shenandoah School Rd., Plymouth). Cooper Vineyards, a longtime champion of barbera, is an apt host for the 70+ California wineries which are expected to pour barbera at the event.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $30 advance, $40 at the door. For more information on ordering: click here.

March 21, 2011
Nugget, Food 4 Less help Japanese disaster relief efforts

Check out - and help, too.

Making it easier for customers to contribute to Japanese disaster relief, all Nugget Markets and several Food 4 Less stores will accept donations right at the check-out counter, the companies announced Monday. This fund-raising assistance will continue through April 1.

In addition, Nugget Market Inc. will donate a matching contribution up to $5,000 to the American Red Cross, which partnered with the supermarkets in this effort.

"The Nugget Market and Food 4 Less family of associates and our guests have come alongside the American Red Cross to help alleviate the effects of this disaster," said Nugget CEO Eric Stille. "We're committed to helping and to bringing hope and aid to those in need."

These tax-deductible donations will be recorded on sales receipts. All funds will directly support those affected by the Japan earthquake and tsunami, according to American Red Cross officials.

March 21, 2011
Cindy Pawlcyn teams with Monterey Aquarium for good eats

Cindy Pawlcyn.jpgOh, that Cindy Pawlcyn - she's here, there and everywhere.

The chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and widely acknowledged Queen of Wine Country Cuisine has taken her expertise to the Monterey Bay Aquarium ( There, she developed menus for the casual self-service cafe and the adjoining full-service restaurant.

We dropped by last Friday on a wet and wind-swept day and checked out both dining areas. The cafe offers salads, soup, pizza, sandwiches and desserts ($1.85 to $14). The dishes carry Pawlcyn's unmistakable imprint. For instance, the tuna Nicoise sandwich is made with pole-caught albacore tuna with roasted red-pepper tapenade on artisanal bread.

In the more formal restaurant, we grabbed a table by a window and enjoyed a world-class view of white-capped Monterey Bay. The menu showed crab cakes, roasted artichoke, salads, sandwiches and spectacular-sounding entrees, including Thai-style mussels with coconut curry, grilled hangar steak with caramelized onions, grilled sea bass, oyster po' boy ($8 to $22).

Pawlcyn has three restaurants in the Napa Valley - Mustards Grill, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen and Go Fish (

P.S.: This just in from the aquarium: "The aquarium's Seafood Watch program has connected seafood lovers to ocean-friendly choices for over a decade. Now its recommendations are available as an Android application. (Users) can download the free Seafood Watch app from the Android Market to get on-the-go access to sustainable seafood choices when dining or shopping. To find out more and download the Android app, visit"

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

March 19, 2011
Patrick Mulvaney and Soil Born Farms director to speak Sunday

PatrickMulvaney.jpgIf you're into the local food and dining scene, you won't want to miss the latest installment of the excellent ongoing series called Sacramento Living Library. Chef and restaurateur Patrick Mulvaney and Shawn Harrison, executive director of Soil Born Farms, will talk about local agriculture, local restaurants and various issues tied to farm-to-table dining.

The free event is this Sunday (March 20) at 7 p.m. Time Tested Books is at 1114 21st Street, between K and L streets in midtown Sacramento.

Though farm-to-table cooking has become more and more common in the city's restaurants, Mulvaney is perhaps its most visible practitioner, if not its most devoted. His eponymous restaurant on 19th Street is well known for sourcing local ingredients and celebrating the area's farmers.

Soil Born Farms is a remarkable and enlightened undertaking that not only grows food, it has an educational mission for youths and adults that provides classes, workshops, tours and job training. The farm also targets under-served areas in the community with alternative food distribution and food donation programs.

The Living Library series, curated by Time Tested Books' owner Peter Keat and hosted by Tim Foster of Midtown Monthly, has been a big success. The talks are casual, wide-ranging and thought-provoking, all in the cozy setting of a well-stocked shop of used and rare books. Recent food-themed talks have featured chocolatier Ginger Elizabeth Hahn and grocer/wine expert Darrell Corti (interviewed by Elaine Corn).

Though the talk will begin at 7 p.m., this event will likely fill up quickly. For the talk in February, featuring Fred and Victoria Dalkey, we arrived 15 minutes early to find standing room only at the very back of the bookstore. The talks generally last an hour.

And if you're looking for a very good restaurant nearby before or after the event, you won't go wrong with Bombay Bar & Grill (1315 21st St.).

March 18, 2011
What are the area's best sandwiches?

midMo0311cover1-235x300.jpgCertain journalists have been eating lots and lots of sandwiches recently, all in the interest of determining where the best ones are.

The latest issues of Sactown Magazine and Midtown Monthly each feature extensive articles on all things sandwiches. And there are certainly plenty of great selections in this town.

The always-dedicated Becky Grunewald of Midtown Monthly explained to readers, "I ate sandwiches until they were coming out my ears." That's not a good look. Even for a foodie. Shockingly, the out-the-ears approach did not include a sandwich from Roxie Deli, which may be the city's all-around sandwich king. Sactown put Roxie's pastrami on its list, but you really can't go wrong with the daily special - especially the beef brisket, which is smoked for hours in the deli's heavy-duty smoker just outside the front door.

March 16, 2011
Mikuni, local food bloggers launch fundraiser to benefit Japan relief

Sacramento area foodies aren't wasting any time in answering the call to help those impacted by the natural disaster in Japan.

Mikuni is launching a new roll today at its restaurants in an effort to raise money for Japan relief and local food bloggers and bakers are planning an online bake sale in early April.

The "Rescue Roll," a spin on Mikuni's Michi Roll, features an inner layer of panko shrimp, crab salad and cream cheese, outer layer of avocado slices and seared tuna topped with special Mikuni sauce and torched and garnished with unagi sauce and tempura bits, a Mikuni news release states.

The rolls are $12 each, $16 at the Northstar Resort location.

The goal is to sell a minimum of 1,000 rolls by March 31, the release states. All of the money from the sale of the roll will be donated to the American Red Cross. The restaurant also will be selling copies of Taro Arai's autobiography "Abundance: Finding the American Dream in a Japanese Kitchen" (Blue Fig Publishing, $25, 118 pages) and donating 100 percent of proceeds to the Red Cross.

March 16, 2011
Food apps cont'd, as well as a couple of my other faves

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic

2do_screen2.pngI got lots of calls and e-mails this morning about my story on food apps. Some readers -- we won't call them Luddites -- are worried that this newfangled iPad thing is going to make books a thing of the past. Not a chance. Cookbooks are a huge industry with plenty of clout. Sacramento's own Biba Caggiano, for instance, has sold 600,00 books.

But, just like the newspaper industry, technology is giving us more options and forcing us to look anew at ways to provide content.

Apps and tablets are part of the solution. Your iPad can be a book, a radio, a TV, a newspaper, a Facebook page and a tool for browsing and buying.

One reader called to recommend an app called "Paprika" ($4.99), which is supposed to take all of your recipes from all kinds of sources and consolidate them. Sounds impossible, but I am going to check it out.

March 16, 2011
"Kitchen Nightmares" looking for Sacramento restaurants

By Chris Macias, Bee Food and Wine Writer

Do you know of a local restaurant that's desperately in need of a make-over? You know, maybe the booths are looking pretty buckety, there's a perpetual leak in the roof when it rains and the kitchen looks like a culinary train wreck? If so, the producers of Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" want to hear from you. Taping is going to start soon on this reality TV show hosted by Gordon Ramsay, and producers are looking for some Sacramento area restaurants as "Kitchen Nightmares" candidates.

Send your nominations to or leave a message at 1-866-226-2226. Good luck, and may the worst restaurant win!

March 15, 2011
Making the best possible espresso without spending $1,800

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic

There are several coffee houses in the area now that serve very good espresso. But if you're like me and occasionally want an espresso at home, you have probably obsessed over all of the options out there. You read, you compare, you read some more. And what you may have concluded is that if you want to make coffeehouse quality espresso in your kitchen, you have to buy a machine that costs $1,200 to $1,800.

Until now.

A few months back, I wrote a review of the Mypressi Twist. Maybe it was a big hint, too, because my girlfriend got me one for Christmas a few weeks later.

The Twist is a handheld device that doesn't use batteries or electricity. Instead, the pressure is created by small cartridges of nitrous oxide, the same thing used for whipped cream canisters (and the same cartridges ravers use for an underage buzz).

I have been making espresso with this machine ever since. Sometimes, "pulls" are close to perfect and sometimes, as in this video, they are just pretty good (the espresso came out a little fast on this one, prompting me to adjust the grind and tamp pressure for subsequent shots). To watch, click the link below.


This thing costs around $150, does a really good job and I no longer obsess over how to explain why I've just spent $1,800 to make a 3-ounce beverage I can buy for $2 around the corner. Yes, it's still important to have a good to excellent grinder. Those tend to cost $100 and up.

The cartridges for the Twist, by the way, last for about six shots. I bought a new box of 24 for $15 at a local restaurant supply store, but not before the salesperson grilled me about what I wanted to do with them. I told him I was into nice wine, not N2O.

March 15, 2011
Luck o' the Irish: Biba has a St. Patrick's Day pasta on the menu

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic

FL BIBA CLOSE.JPGWhat is Biba doing getting in on the St. Patrick's Day fun? For the second year running, the beloved Italian restaurant on Capitol Avenue in midtown is offering a special a la carte menu item for lunch and dinner to accommodate her many customers of Irish descent.

That would include Biba Caggiano's two sons-in-law.

The same restaurant that serves prosciutto di parma with caramelized pears, gnocchi del giorno and, yes, the famous lasagne verdi alla Bolognese, will be cooking up a special St. Patrick's Day stuffed pastal. As someone who is half Irish but feels like he should have been born in Northern Italy, I endorse this tradition wholeheartedly.

This hybrid, hyphenated and wholly unusual dish consists of spinach ravioli stuffed with corned beef, braised cabbage, carrots and potatoes, and finished with a sauce made of butter, braised cabbage and pancetta. No word on the green beer.

The dinner is $17.50 and lunch is $16.50.

Speaking of Biba, when I checked the restaurant website, I noticed an array of cooking classes taught by Biba herself. Each class costs 125 and is limited to 15 students. Classes cover such areas as fresh pasta, gnocchi and risotto. Clearly, they are very popular - they're all sold out through June 18.

March 15, 2011
Gourmet grilled cheese food truck to debut next month

By Chris Macias

Look for the latest entry into Sacramento's burgeoning food truck scene to hit the streets within a month. Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen, run by caterer Andrew Blaskovich, will serve gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches in a 27 foot long food truck adorned with hot rod flames. Though the menu's still in development, Blaskovich plans to serve grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with Korean short ribs, pulled pork, fried chicken and other fixin's. He'll also offer a vegetarian sandwich with eggplant, carmelized fennel and other ingredients on wheat bread. Look for these sandwiches to cost in the $7 range.

"They're gonna be huge," said Blaskovich, calling from an auto body shop where work is being done on his food truck. "They'll be stacked super high, and I'll be using local bakeries for the bread and local produce.

Blaskovich has run his own private catering company for the past six years, feeding such clients as Sacramento hard rock stars the Deftones, and events at the Hyatt Regency and Nordstrom. Blaskovich also worked in the kitchen at the Hyatt before starting his own catering company.

March 14, 2011
Eat at OneSpeed on the 24th and support a worthy cause

OneSpeed, the always busy (and for good reason) restaurant and pizzeria in East Sacramento will hold a fundraiser Thursday, March 24 for the NorCal Aids Cycle, a charity bike ride that benefits local HIV/AIDS providers.

Owned by cyclist and cycling enthusiast Rick Mahan, OneSpeed (4818 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento) will donate a portion of its sales that day to this worthy charity. Chef Mahan is also the owner of Waterboy, one of the city's premier fine dining restaurants.

The Norcal AIDS Cycle is a four-day, 330 mile ride. It began as the brainchild of a group of cyclists that included Maggy Krell, a state prosecutor living in Sacramento. I wrote a story about Maggy and the ride back in 2007.

The original idea was to take the large and famous AIDS charity ride that travels from San Francisco to Los Angeles over seven days, shrink it down to four days, do one very large loop through the Central Valley, Wine Country and the Sierra foothills and, best of all, give the money raised to local AIDS-related charities.

Now in its seventh year, the charity ride is a major success story, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The OneSpeed component of this deal is easy: stop in on the 24th for some of the best pizza going or, as I did recently, try a delicious fish dish or excellent gnocchi. And you'll know some of the money you spend is headed to this charity.

For those who want to take it a step further and actually do the ride from May 12-15, learn more at Here's a description of the experience I lifted from the website:

You'll share the experience with your fellow participants, realize a goal that you made for yourself months before, build camaraderie, and find friends and family that will last long after the ride ends.

While the route is challenging, it's also invigorating. The road mixes with laughter, sweat, tears, and smiles. Your muscles will ache while your mind soars with the sense of accomplishment you are earning.

March 14, 2011
Fans of Hitachino Nest ale, time to stock up

PHOTO CREDIT: A bottle of Hitachino Nest White Ale on the bar at Morgan's Bar and Grill. Casey Mar, Sacramento Bee.

By Chris Macias

If you're a huge fan of Hitachino Nest beers like I am, now's the time to start stocking up on these Japanese ales. In a move to help with disaster relief efforts, Kiuchi Brewing - the company behind Hitachino Nest - has suspended beer production and will focus on bottling water for the near future. In an e-mail sent by the importers of Hitachino Nest to the BeerAdvocate forum, it was also reported that some damage was sustained at the brewery and imports will likely be disrupted for months.

That means it's time to savor a Hitachino Nest XH, a full-bodied Belgian-strong style ale that's been aged in sake casks. We'll also miss that citrus-y and spicy touch with the Hitachino Nest White Ale for time being, but also realize there are more pressing issues in this world than the ability to grab a brewski.

Meanwhile, I've been checking with local distributors of Japanese food to see how the earthquake has effected their business. Check tomorrow's Bee for the scoop on that.

March 14, 2011
Monday postscript: Cafe Marika and local charm

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic

As I was sitting in Café Marika one night, what came to mind were all those touristy towns I have visited over the years. You know the ones. You want to go out to dinner, you pick a spot, sit down and you find out soon enough by the time the plates hit the table that it's pretty much a tourist trap serving inferior food. And you wonder: where do the locals eat.

Café Marika is where locals eat. At least the ones who can cram their way into this tiny restaurant and its five tables.

The size is only part of the charm. It was the charm - and the consistently good old-fashioned food - that drew me to write about this place.

When I am in the process of sizing up a restaurant, one of the things I look at is personality. Yes, some restaurants have personality and some, just like people, have plenty of flash and not much depth to back it up. After many years writing human interest stories and profiles, I am also drawn to a good story. And eccentricity.

March 12, 2011
Celebrate bike culture and cool new bikes at Hot Italian tonight

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic

photo (7).JPGCongratulations to Hot Italian on its very special recognition as a "Bicycle Friendly Business" by the League of American Bicyclists, the first California restaurant to be honored in this way.

If you've ever ridden to Hot Italian and locked your bike in its very stylish bike racks (they have space for 32 two-wheelers), you probably have a sense of how pro-bike the pizzeria is. Many times when I've ridden my bike to review a restaurant, I've had to lock it to a tree or post. Hot Italian also delivers pizza by bike, sponsors a bike club, produced the well-received Bicycle Film Festival in Sacramento, the Velo & Vintage bike-themed fashion show and recently hosted the "Savage Sprints" series of stationary bike races to raise money to build a local velodrome..

Hot Italian has been racking up recognition and leading the way on many fronts in the local restaurant industry. It recently received LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for its environmentally friendly building. Being bike friendly goes hand in hand with that.

To celebrate the bike friendly business designation, Hot Italian (16th and Q in Midtown) is hosting an event tonight (Saturday) from 6-9 p.m. to unveil the "pop-up" bike shop selling PUBLIC Bikes and Rickshaw Bags. Attending will be PUBLIC Bikes owner and founder of Design Within Reach, Rob Forbes. I have seen the PUBLIC Bikes city-style bikes and am impressed. Simple clean lines, not a lot of extra parts, nice colors and, best of all, a really good pricepoint (around $500). That's much cheaper than the Le Corbusier chaise ($3,600) you can buy at Design Within Reach. Also on hand will be Rickshaw Bags' Mark Dwight.

March 12, 2011
Still more cookbooks, this time vying for the IACP Awards

Two classic cookbooks just aren't enough. Despite ongoing, updated editions of French chef Auguste Escoffier's "Le Guide Culinaire" (1902), and Irma Rombauer's "The Joy of Coooking" (1936), our appetite for cookbooks is insatiable. Home cooks, chefs and collectors devour the thousands of new titles that appear each year.

So here's another course for that table: The International Association of Culinary Professionals has named the finalists for its 2011 Cookbook Awards, along with the finalists for the Bert Greene Awards for Food Journalism. The winners will be announced June 2.

Fifty-two cookbooks in 17 categories were chosen from a field of 500. For food journalism, Saveur magazine is very much in the hunt. For the complete lists, go to

Meanwhile, taste this sampling of finalists' titles:

March 11, 2011
The Wienermobile: is it your ticket to self-discovery?

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic
Napa 028.JPGDriving through midtown Thursday afternoon, this is the reason I did a doubletake and then a U-turn. The wienermobile is in town.

I'm not sure what the occasion is, but this giant wiener of a car was in Sacramento -- and it was turning plenty of heads. A little research tells me the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile travels the country promoting the Kraft Foods hot dog brand.

The company also hires a new crew each year to drive this puppy all over the place. So if you're young and still searching for what matters in life and what it all really means, don't you think that journey would be even cooler in a wienermobile?

And just think: a multi-national corporation will pay you to drive it. If you're going to sell out, do it in the wienermobile.

There's a website where you can get more information on this fascinating career opportunity. I'd do it myself, but I've already figured out the meaning of life -- and it does not involve a 27-foot hot dog that is really, really hard to parallel park.

Or, if you simply want to watch from the sidelines, there's a blog that keeps up with the wienermobile's exploits.

March 10, 2011
Big names attend "Flavor! Napa Valley" luncheon launch

By Blair Anthony Robertson

Napa 014.JPGOfficials announced Thursday the launch of Flavor! Napa Valley, the four-day food and wine festival that will celebrate the region's culinary and winemaking bounty while promoting the area as a major destination to much of the world.

Additionally, proceeds from the event will go toward scholarships for students attending the Culinary Institute of America's nearby Greystone campus.

Judging from who was in attendance, this event has some major star power behind it. Among those attending the announcement and luncheon at the Silverado Resort were Thomas Keller, the chef behind the French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon and Ad Hoc. Keller, wearing a white chef's coat and shiny black clogs that looked like they haven't been near a prep table any time recently, mingled for a while beforehand, stood and listened during the brief announcement, then slipped out before lunch was served.

March 10, 2011
The best airport restaurants? Try this Top 10 from Southwest

Airline passengers are always at the mercy of the elements. Which element at any particular time depends on the circumstance. For instance, the restaurants at airports around the nation can be very good - or not.

Next time you take to the air, go to and print out the full version of this list and bring it with you. It's from the site where Southwest Airlines employees mingle in cyberspace.

In this case, a Southwest flight crew member - who spends a lot of time in airport food courts - names the 10 restaurant chains he likes the best, having encountered them often during his own travels. Included is Saladworks; you'll find one of its outlets at Sacramento International Airport (916-568-0999).

March 10, 2011
Patty Bogle's memorial set for Friday at UC Davis

PHOTO CREDIT: Patty Bogle pictured in June 2009 during a family meeting at her Clarksburg home. Jose Luis Villegas, Sacramento Bee.

By Chris Macias

Here's a final reminder that the memorial service for Patty Bogle, the matriarch of Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at UC Davis' Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center (One Shields Ave., Davis). Bogle passed away on Feb. 11 due to complications of leukemia.

The memorial service is expected to draw a who's-who from the Sacramento area's wine industry, which Bogle and her late-husband Chris helped put on the national map with the founding of their winery in 1979. Bogle Vineyards now ships more than 1.2 million cases of wine annually.

In lieu of flowers, the Bogle family invites contributions to be made to the Bogle Family Charitable Fund, to benefit local scholarships and schools, industry organizations and various other charities. Sacramento Region Community Foundation, 740 University Avenue #110, Sacramento, CA 95825-6751.

March 10, 2011
Calcium-rich snacks the focus of children's cooking class Friday

BLUEBERRY BANANA SMOOTHIE.JPGSpots are still available for a children's cooking class at the Sloughhouse YMCA.

The California Milk Processor Board, the folks behind the GOT MILK? campaign, is hosting the class, which will teach kids how to make healthier after-school snacks.

Given that children get about a third of their daily calories from after-school snacks and they're not getting enough calcium - 90 percent of girls and 75 percent of boys ages 9 to 13 have inadequate calcium intake, according to the National Institutes of Health - the board is trying to advise more milk-based snacks.

The class is being held from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. at the YMCA at 13580 Jackson Highway in Sloughhouse.

March 9, 2011
Enotria wine dinner coming March 31

By Chris Macias

On the heels of today's Wine Buzz column, which introduced Jeremiah Morehouse as the new wine director for Enotria Restaurant Wine Bar (1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; 916-922-6792), here's some info. about where you can see Morehouse in action. On March 31, Enotria will host a wine dinner featuring Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks, two family-owned producers from the central coast. Dinner, with wine pairings, will unfold over four courses and cost $68 per person.

March 8, 2011
More than just soup served at Empty Bowls event

By Niesha Lofing

It was soup that warmed the stomach and soul.

Hundreds of diners packed the Masonic Temple in downtown Sacramento today for the final serving of Empty Bowls, a two-day fundraiser for the River City Food Bank.

The Monday evening soup supper and both luncheon seatings Tuesday sold out.

The event is the most important one of the year for the food bank, which is hoping Empty Bowls will raise $100,000 this year.

March 8, 2011
Trey B Cakes is a smash on opening day: sells out, closes early

By Blair Anthony Robertson


Trey Luzzi began the glamorous life of a small businessman and gourmet bakery owner by waking at 4 a.m., selling out of nearly everything, getting home by midnight and asleep by 12:30 a.m.

Today? He was up and at 'em again at 4, thrilled about his first day in business at the much-anticipated Trey B Cakes Gourmet Bakery and Eatery on L Street between 18th and 19th.

One of the appealing things about the bakery are the hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and closing at 1 a.m. on Friday and Sunday. But Trey B Cakes didn't make it to 10 p.m. on Monday.

"We sold out. We had to close at 9 p.m. because we were out of everything except a couple of pieces of cheesecake," he said.

March 8, 2011
Do you dream of opening a restaurant? Here's one for sale

Bee reporter Carlos Alcala has a scary, amusing and sad story in today's paper about a restaurant, a dream and the lousy people who ruined it.

Kevin and Nancy Cairn opened their restaurant, Dante's on the River, seven years ago on a barren stretch of Highway 50 near Pollock Pines. Turns out, the story turns on the absence of a suitable rest stop for miles around. So folks would pull into the restaurant parking lot and do their business right there.

The Cairns put up with it at first, then began to confront the worst offenders and even got into a scuffle or two. Now Kevin Cairns is facing a felony trial, allegedly for assaulting a motorist in the parking lot with, of all things, a traffic cone.

When they opened, the Cairns thought it wouldn't be a problem to allow non-customers to use the restaurant restroom, but they changed that policy in a hurry when motorists abused the privilege.

The Cairns are fed up and are selling the place. From the looks of the photo, it's a nice spot.

So, if you've always wanted to open a restaurant -- and you have a darn good plan for how to deal with the parking lot potty problem -- then you just might be able to stake your claim on a stretch of Highway 50 sorely in need of a rest stop.

March 8, 2011
Shady Lady team to open Brewster's in Galt, seeks staff

By Chris Macias

Downtown Galt is about to get some flavor a la the Shady Lady. Brewster's Bar and Grill, a new venture from the team behind downtown Sacramento's Shady Lady, is expected to open by early April. The 6,000-plus square foot building, which was constructed in the mid-1800s was formerly a general store and post office before being renovated by D&S Development - the same development team behind Sacramento's 14th and R corridor which includes Shady Lady, Magpie Cafe and other local businesses as tenants.

Look for the menu at Brewster's to include plenty of comfort foods, including four different steaks, burgers, pizza and soups. Prices are expected to range from $9 for a burger to $24 for a New York steak. Brewster's will also carry more than 70 wine selections, with an emphasis on producers from nearby Lodi.

Now all Brewster's needs is some staff. A job fair will be held on Thursday at Brewster's (201 4th St., Galt) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to hire servers, cooks and other staff.

"We're looking for good talent from Elk Grove, Lodi and Galt," said Jason Boggs, a partner in Brewster's. "We want to get as many locals as possible."

March 8, 2011
Sample food and wine on the snow in the Gourmet Ski Tour

By Allen Pierleoni

Snow play will go upscale Sunday, March 13, when Tahoe Cross Country hosts its 10th annual Gourmet Ski Tour. Participants will sample food and wine from 19 area restaurants and bakeries, which will be stationed in tents along the "gourmet food course."

Tahoe Cross Country maintains 40 miles of groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, and this "on-snow food-tasting along gentle terrain" is one-of-a-kind.

Bring your own skis and/or snowshoes or rent gear there. From 1 to 3 p.m., participants will meander along a one-mile-long trail, stopping at kiosks for food and wine samplings. Participating restaurants include Jake's on the Lake, Sunnyside, Wolfdale's, Bridgetender, Christy Hill and Brockway Bakery.

"Dessert in the yurt" concludes the event, with baked treats, winetasting and live music until 5 p.m.

Cost is $30 adults, $25 ages 13 to 17, free for 12 and younger. The price includes an afternoon trail pass. The ski center is at 925 Country Club Drive, three miles east of downtown Tahoe City, along Highway 28.

For more information: (530) 5823-5475,

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-11128.

March 8, 2011
A new restaurant set to open on a section of H that needs a jolt

Another young chef is taking his shot, opening a new restaurant at 11th and H in the building formerly occupied by Sofia Restaurant.

According to Suzanne Hurt's Sacramento Press story, Jason Lockard left his position as chef at Brew It Up at 14th and H to stake a claim as a restaurateur.

Lockard is preparing to open Blue Prynt, a restaurant and bar whose curious spelling will allow the "y" in "Prynt" to be in the shape of a martini glass on the sign. Now there's an idea that really needed an intervention. Nevertheless, this restaurant isn't going to rise or fall on spelling or nomenclature.

One of the big questions is location.

March 7, 2011
Monday postscript: A reader critiques my rating of Kupros

I received an email from an avid reader and devoted restaurant enthusiast asking, "Are you grading on a curve?" He went on to pull quotes from my review showing that I was either underwhelmed by the food at Kupros Bistro or entirely unimpressed with six of the seven dishes mentioned. One exception was the poutine, a French-Canadian dish composed of French fries, gravy and cheese curds. Enjoyable poutine - especially in poutine-free California - is not enough to carry a restaurant.

He wasn't arguing with my review or my taste in restaurants. But he wondered if I had given too high of a star rating to Kupros, given my feelings about the food.

"You need to call this what it is: a truly poor, or at least very sub-par showing by Kupros. One-for-seven just doesn't cut it in any aspect of life, including spending our hard-earned dollars in restaurants. It almost seems as if you are giving Kupros a bit of partial credit based on past performance, something which is utterly irrelevant to someone dining there today," he wrote.

That's a very fair question. No, I was not giving partial credit for past performance (the chef who opened Kupros, John Gurnee, was doing excellent food). If anything, I was extra tough on Kupros because of Gurnee's style and daring with the menu. The restaurant said it wasn't ready for San Francisco-type fare in Sacramento and let Gurnee go. Of course, he promptly landed a job in San Francisco at a restaurant run by the Tyler Florence Group. More than a few sophisticated diners in Sacramento would find Kupros' conclusions a tad insulting.

March 7, 2011
Hong Kong Cafe to close in May

By Chris Macias

After decades of serving chow mein and other Chinese food staples to Sacramentans, the venerable Hong Kong Cafe at 5th and Broadway is slated to close at the end of May. According to owner Hon Wong, the property has been sold to a new owner and Wong's simply ready to retire at the age of 72.

The original Hong Kong Cafe opened at Fourth and L streets in the late 1940s and moved to its Broadway location, a former drive-thru, in 1961. Generations of Sacramentans have since dined at this downhome Chinese restaurant with a simple decor that was seemingly frozen in time.

For its faithful customers, news that this local Chinese food institution will be closing soon is hard to swallow.

"It's just sad," said Paula Escalante of Sacramento. "No more peanut duck, oh my gosh! My dad would take us there once a week and when my kids go, they take their kids. (Hon) was like part of our family."

Hong Kong Cafe is located at 501 Broadway in Sacramento; (916) 442-7963.

March 7, 2011
Oz Clarke on Lodi

By Chris Macias

The great wine author Oz Clarke recently stopped in Lodi for some wine tasting and also gave this great Q&A interview with the Lodi News-Sentinel. It's probably the best and most candid assessment of Lodi that I've ever read, and definitely worth checking out next time you hit Lodi's wine country. Here are some choice quotes on the strengths of Lodi:

"The people in Lodi are fantastic. If I was going to go out and have some beers and go dancing and get a bit lit up, I think the Lodi guys I've met are some of the best. That's important because it means they have a vision of pleasure and flavor."

"In 10 years time, Lodi will have all the varietals that Napa and Sonoma don't have. The millennial generation will be coming here saying they buy your Tempranillos and your Petite Syrahs. You can be the engine room for change in California."

March 7, 2011
Stymied on how to cook with soy? Tips on tofu and more

House Foods Tofu Enchilada.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

The Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines now includes soy products and soy beverages, but the recommendation can leave some home cooks quivering like a block of silken tofu at the thought of trying to incorporate soy in daily life.

But soy - and what to do with it - has come a long way in the past 20 years. And given the health benefits - the plant protein is low in fat, high in calcium and rich in vitamins - we might want to give it the old college try. The Soyfoods Association of North America is lobbying for now, of course, or at least in April, when it's National Soyfoods Month.

Patricia Greenberg, a nutritionist and chef who serves as spokeswomen for the association, relayed some advice for soy virgins and aficionados alike.

March 7, 2011
New gourmet dessert shop opens today on L Street

The bustling block on L Street between 18th and 19th is about to become an even better destination for dessert lovers with the opening of Trey B Cakes Gourmet Bakery and Eatery.

There's already the renowned Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates and the ever-popular Yogurt A-Go-Go.
Today, Trey B Cakes opens its doors at 7 a.m. Great hours, dog friendly, serious about coffee and a focus on such treats as cakes, pies, fruit tarts and cookies.

In addition to sweets, there will be a range of savory items, including something owner Trey Luzzi is calling the "Stud Muffin" - meatloaf wrapped in phyllo and topped with mashed potatoes and parmesan.

"It's a whole meal on the go," he told me.

March 4, 2011
This just in: Le Cordon Bleu is no longer in le restaurant biz

Who says Fridays are slow news days? Things are blowing up here in the newsroom on 21st.

I just got a call from the campus president at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Sacramento, who informed me: The student-run restaurant once open to the public has shut its doors.

Not yesterday or last week. It closed a year ago, according to Rafael Castaneda, the president who has been at the helm at the Natomas campus the past four months.

OK, so they're a little slow letting us know. They're chefs, not public relations experts.

The prez says the school is taking a different approach by closing the restaurant. Instead of hands-on, pressure-filled training at the school with the cafe, students will land externships (remind me how that's different than internships) at area restaurants.

For the general public, that's too bad. As I wrote over a year ago, the public was able to visit the restaurant, eat for free or cheap and then give a written critique. During our visit, we got mixed results, but there was plenty of good food and it was enjoyable. You just had to roll with the idea of eating rack of lamb, say, at 8:30 a.m.

But from what I heard, some of the "guest" reviews made my Morton's review look like a Hallmark greeting card. Yes, people were mean, and students were angry and flustered. Some guests didn't understand the concept of constructive criticism. Nor did they get that these were students, not pros.

Those externships will give students a different view of kitchen life -- they'll be doing mostly the kind of work no one else wants to do. That means plenty of time with brooms, rags and bleach rubbed on countertops in a circular motion. Sauces? Sautees? Not yet.

And they're not going to get a lot of sympathy from executive chefs around here.

Want to know what it's going to be like at some of the best restaurants? In the kitchen at a certain top restaurant downtown, the executive chef has a sign on the wall that lets you know where you stand:

"Your (past-tense expletive deleted, but it begins with the letter before "G" and rhymes with a certain tasty waterfowl) life is not my problem."

I'm told the chef also doesn't do hugs when you get your feelings hurt.

March 4, 2011
Taking a look at Kupros Bistro this Sunday

By Blair Anthony Robertson

I just wrapped up the writing on this Sunday's review -- a look at Kupros Bistro on 21st Street.

This was a challenging restaurant to assess, mostly because, even though it is quite new, it has shifted its focus rather abruptly since opening last August.

For years, 21st Street has been either dead or where restaurants go to die. But that's changing. There is actually some life within blocks of The Bee that goes beyond I Heart Teriyaki. The most noteworthy addition in recent times has been Bombay Bar and Grill, which is really succeeding, as it should. The service is friendly, the room is lively and the food is superb.

Kupros? It took a run-down Craftsman-style house occupied for years by Cheap Thrills costume shop, spent $500,000 fixing it up and then opened with a flourish.

It has a beautiful, large bar and it appears that in recent months that shift I referred to means more focus on the bar. That's probably the way it should be.

To read the Kupros review, tune in Sunday. Even better, impress your friends and buy an actual Sunday paper, which has all kinds of re-use and re-purpose possibilities, from lining the proverbial bird cage and wrapping fish to protecting your floor during your house-painting project, or, as they did on J Street recently, papering over the windows the minute Plum Blossom went under.

March 4, 2011
More book signings from Shari Fitzpatrick of Shari's Berries

RB Shari 2.JPG
PHOTO CREDIT: Shari Fitzpatrick drizzles white chocolate onto a dark chocolate-dipped bottle of wine in her home kitchen in Placerville. Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee

By Chris Macias

Shari Fitzpatrick of Shari's Berries fame recently released a book that detailed her life and chocolate dipped strawberry business with "Berried in Chocolate." She's since been busy with book signings - not to mention the release of a new frozen line of treats - and has a new set of appearances set for Sacramento and Davis. Both book signings are set for March 12:

- 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at The Avid Reader at the Tower (1600 Broadway, Sacramento; 916-441-4400)

- 7:30 p.m. at the Avid Reader in Davis (617 2nd St., Davis; 530-758-4040).

In the meantime, surf over here for Fitzpatrick's tips on making chocolate dipped strawberries at home.

March 4, 2011
Noodles & Company adds a trio of mac 'n' cheese--for awhile

portobello mac 'n' cheese.jpgBy Allen Pierleoni

Mac 'n' cheese could be renamed "comfort 'n' carbs." Over the past decade, "gourmet" versions of the ultimate comfort food have found cachet among many high-end restaurants and their nostalgia-minded customers. On the other end of the spectrum is this: Kraft Foods reports selling 1 million-plus boxes of its classic (since 1937) mac 'n' cheese each day.

Now the 255-unit Noodles & Company, a "fast-casual" concept chain with restaurants in our area, has added three tasty versions of mac 'n' cheese to its menu, through May 1 ("Mac & Cheese All Grown Up").

Lunch pal Michael Troyan and I finally found parking in jam-packed Loehmann's Plaza, took a booth in the clean, airy, well-lit space, and sampled the trio ($7.95 each). Troyan is the community-relations manager for the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Citrus Heights.

Tip: Thoroughly mix the elbow macaroni with the other ingredients in your bowl before you dig in; that way, the grated cheeses melt and all the flavors and textures merge.

Our favorite was the "Fancy Pants," white truffle oil, sauteed "baby" portobello mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and toasted breadcrumbs. As good as mac 'n' cheese gets.

Second on our list was Southwestern chili mac ("Spicy"), macaroni with red chilis, ground beef, cheddar and jack cheeses and diced green onion. The heat was minimal, but bottles of Sriracha red-chili sauce are on each table.

No. 3 was the "Hearty," with ground beef, bits of bacon, two cheeses, tomato, green onion and breadccrumbs. The corporate ad campaign calls it a "deconstructed bacon cheeseburger," but that's a huge stretch.

Noodles & Company stores are at Loehmann's Plaza, 2555 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento, (916) 484-7250; 7405 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove, (916) 478-0373; and 1186 Roseville Parkway, Roseville, (916) 780-1441.

More information:

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

March 3, 2011
Tres Agaves to undergo name change

By Chris Macias

Tres Agaves, the Mexican restaurant and tequila bar in Roseville, will undergo a name change later this month to TRES: Tequila Lounge & Mexican Kitchen. Its parent restaurant in San Francisco has already adopted the new name, with this location at the Fountains shopping center (1182 Roseville Parkway, Roseville; 916-782-4455) switching over to TRES by March 18 - right in time for a tasting dinner featuring Casa Noble tequila.

According to Fountains spokeswoman Heather Atherton, the name change is being prompted by a split in Tres Agaves' ownership, with two original founders leaving to start their own Tres Agaves tequila brand. With the name change to TRES, the restaurant will add seven or eight new tequila brands to its lineup, which already features more than 150 tequila bottles. TRES' kitchen will also debut a new 10-spice blend and some tweaks to its menu. More information will be coming soon, and "Appetizers" will keep you posted.

March 3, 2011
The Melting Pot giving away free fondue

By Niesha Lofing

Thousands of Bee readers clicked through to get the scoop on scoring free pancakes Tuesday, so we thought you might be interested in another free food giveaway next month.

The Melting Pot is giving away free cheese fondue April 11 through 14 in celebration of National Cheese Day. Reservations are required and limited - so frugal diners cheese lovers better act quickly.

Each free cheese fondue serves two people, and cheese selection varies by location. The deal doesn't include tax and gratuity.

March 2, 2011
Beer Week comes to Nugget Markets

By Chris Macias

Pubs and watering holes of all kinds are obviously the focus of this week's Sacramento Beer Week celebrations. But one grocery chain is also getting into this sudsy mix. Nugget Markets throughout the Sacramento area are hosting a series of tastings in conjunction with Sacramento Beer Week. On Thursday, for instance, you'll find a Sierra Nevada tasting at Nugget's West Sacramento location (2000 Town Center Plaza, West Sacramento) and Lagunitas for the sipping at Nugget Market in El Dorado Hills (4500 Post St., El Dorado Hills), and other beers featured at select stores.

Sounds like a good deal, right? Pick up some pasta and paper towels, sample a little beer ... the tastings run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Saturday. Click here for a full list of Nugget's in-store beer tastings.

March 2, 2011
The sous vide storm now reaching home cooks

Sous vide.JPGBy Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Dining Critic
Following up on Chris Macias' revealing story in today's Bee on the sudden rise of chef Pajo Bruich, here are a few signs that cutting-edge cooking techniques are catching on beyond high-end restaurants and boutique caterers.

As I was shopping at East Bay Restaurant Supply on Tuesday (for a silicon spatula and a couple of other things), I happened upon a sous vide machine for under $300. Next to it was a vacuum sealer. And near that was a book explaining how devoted home cooks can get into this compelling low-heat, long-hours way of cooking.

Be the first one on your block to cook a steak for three days without sending everyone to the dentist or the ER.

March 1, 2011
24 hours in Napa

By Chris Macias

Revved up the car and reached Napa around 12:30 p.m. Friday. First stop was the wine tasting at Spring Mountain Vineyards, which coincided with the celebrations of Premiere Napa Valley weekend. We felt just the slightest dusting of snowflakes there above St. Helena, and then headed deep into the Spring Mountain's barrel room, which was housed in a cave cut into the hillside.

The wines here showed plenty of extraction, deep colors and sturdy tannins - all hallmarks of the Spring Mountain appellation - with offerings from Keenan Winery, Newton Vineyard, Vineyard 7 & 8 and more. It was also here where we tasted the best wine of the weekend, a gorgeous 2001 Pride Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which reveled in that sweet spot of juicy primary fruit and earthy complexity from bottle aging.

March 1, 2011
Calling all cooks: Foster Farms contest offers 10 grand

foster chicken winner1.jpgBy Allen Pierleoni

Do you have a favorite original recipe for a special chicken dish? Enter it in the second annual Foster Farms Fresh Chicken Cooking Contest and you could win $100, $1,000 or $10,000 and a year's supply of fowl.

"The recipe should be inspired by fresh, local ingredients," said Foster Farms spokesman Ira Brill. "Our contest is a celebration of the West Coast bounty of fresh produce and foods we are lucky to have at our fingertips."

The competition is open to "home, amateur and professional chefs" in California, Oregon and Washington. Entry deadline is May 31.

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