October 31, 2011
Cooking class kicking off with Gonul Blum

Gonul Blum's cooking has kept east Sacramento tasty for the past eight years or so, first with Gonul's J Street Cafe and now Vanilla Bean Bistro at 3260 J St. She mixes Sacramento's seasonal bounty with dishes inspired by her native Turkey and beyond, and now you can learn some of her tips and recipes. Blum's kicking off a weekly cooking class at Vanilla Bean Bistro, starting this Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. You'll learn all the prep work and see the secrets for turning out such dishes as lentil soup and moussaka, a baked dish that includes lamb or beef with layered eggplant. Other courses for this inaugural cooking class include a seasonal green salad and Vanilla Bean bread pudding.

Blum needs a minimum of 10 participants for each weekly cooking class, with attendance topping out at 18.

The cost is $39.50 per person, and includes wine pairings and recipes. For more information: (916) 457-1155.

October 31, 2011
The lime paletas were a big hit -- here's how they were done

paletas.JPGOn Saturday, we hosted a small dinner party and stayed busy preparing all kinds of good food - a spicy and very tender beer-can chicken, beef and chorizo empanadas, a nicely balanced red sangria and a cinnamon-y horchata that one guest proclaimed was the best he'd ever tasted - and that was before all the booze was consumed.

Oh, and for dessert, we had paletas - lime pie paletas.

They were quite fun to make. The recipe for those, as well as for the delicious "horchata de arroz," were both in the new book "Paletas," by Fany Gerson. I was about to review the book anyway, so I thought I would test out a few of the recipes on unsuspecting guests - unsuspecting, as in, they probably had no idea I had never made either before.

While I handled the paletas, Lynn took the reins on the horchata concoction. As some of you may know, paletas as like popsicles, and horchata is a rice drink. Both are popular in Mexico, and they both have quite a following in Sacramento. My paletas were very creamy, as you will see.

October 31, 2011
Try this trio of Halloween cocktails at your party tonight

Tonight is Halloween, a dress-up occasion in more ways than one. While your doorbell keeps chiming to announce another wave of trick-or-treaters, your party guests are looking for a round of adult beverages. Consider these:

Vampire's Kiss, from
Ingredients (must be ice-cold)
1 part raspberry liqueur
1 part vodka
1 part champagne
Vampire's teeth, candy corn, licorice and/or blood orange slice for garnish
DirectionsLayer raspberry liqueur, vodka and champagne in a fluted or martini glass. Garnish with above.

Halloween Sunset, from
3 ounces orange or tangerine juice
1-1/2 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce grenadine
Ice cubes
Combine juice and rum in a tall glass filled with ice. Top with grenadine.
Cook's note: This cocktail is beautifully two-toned when first poured; afterward, the ingredients start to mix together into an intense orange color.

Caramel Apple, from
4 ounces Bailey' Caramel Irish Cream
1 ounce apple-flavored vodka
2 dashes Goldschlager liqueur
Pour Irish cream and vodka into an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Float Goldschlager on top and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

October 28, 2011
Friends are on their way over, but your wine is warm: Here's a tip

polar bear.jpgI was tempted to say this is a cool new tip, but that would just be corny, although this is about chilling wine in a hurry. I just read it in Cook's Illustrated, which is always tackling geeky things to make our lives in the kitchen a little easier. Here it is:

To chill a bottle of wine, you can just pop it into the freezer, but it will take a while to cool down (in our tests, it took about an hour to bring a bottle of room-temperature wine to 50 degrees, the ideal drinking temperature). We've also recommended submerging the bottle in a salt/ice-water solution, which will chill it in about half that time. (When salt is added to ice water, its freezing point and temperature decrease to well below 32 degrees.)

Now we've discovered an equally effective (and less messy) technique for quick chilling: Simply wrap the bottle in a wet kitchen towel before placing it in the freezer. Since cooling occurs when heat is transferred away from an item, the water in the towel--a much more efficient conductor of heat than air--will quickly freeze, dropping the temperature of the wine to 50 degrees in only 30 minutes. (Note: Once the wine is fully chilled, the towel will be frozen solid. To release it from the bottle, just place it briefly under warm running water.)

October 28, 2011
Two dynamic young chefs joining forces in Natomas

Pork Belly Grub Shack.jpgThe phrase "exciting restaurant news" and "Natomas" don't often appear in the same place, and that's too bad. No, the land of franchise eateries has had little to cheer about in the way of dynamic, locally owned food choices.

But that just might be changing, thanks to a new venture that pairs two of this region's most creative and ambitious chefs - Aimel Formoli (Formoli's Bistro) and Billy Ngo (Kru, and the recently closed Red Lotus) - to bring a new food experience to Natomas. I admire the work of both chefs, so I'm anticipating big things -- and ready to fire up Google Earth to chart out a decent bike route from downtown so we can visit soon!

I chatted with Formoli last night about plans for Pork Belly Grub Shack, which is expected to open in about a week. It will be at 4261 Truxel Rd., Suite A.

Formoli tells me the new venture will be casual and affordable, but that doesn't mean they will be cutting corners with ingredients or skimping on creativity. The food will have a farm-to-table approach that emphasizes sustainable, quality products and the menu "will have a little bit of everything."

Formoli and Ngo have developed quite the culinary partnership in recent times, joining forces to host periodic beer-centric dinners that have won raves from those lucky enough to attend. While their main gigs won't be neglected, Formoli and Ngo plan to rotate in and out of the Grub Shack, which also will have a dedicated head cook of its own to hold down the fort.

The menu has yet to be revealed, but I understand it will feature fresh takes on burgers, sandwiches, tacos and more - featuring pork belly and several other meats. A banh mi sandwich? That too.

"We don't want to be pigeonholed," said Formoli, whose wife, Suzanne Ricci, is also involved in the project. She is well known to regulars at Formoli's Bistro.

We'll have more on Pork Belly Grub Shack after it opens. Until then, keep up with them by searching for them on Facebook and Twitter.

October 27, 2011
Crisp 'gourmet' Virginia peanuts pass the taste test

Virginia-Cocktail.jpg One of life's small vicarious pleasures is looking through the ads in ritzy Town & Country magazine.

Hmmm... Here's one for a Spark necklace with seven carats of diamonds and 66 carats of gemstones. On the next page is Gucci, and after that is Ralph Lauren.

Wait...what's this? Something much more affordable - multiple flavors of MV's Best extra-large "hand-prepared gourmet peanuts from the fields of Virginia, where the largest peanuts grow."

We nut-lovers were curious, so we sampled four flavors of the fancy legumes. We passed them around the room, crunched, munched and made notes.The tasters gave entusiastic thumbs-up. The quality and freshness of the peanuts were obvious in every half-handful.

One taster, who's from Virginia said, "These take me back to the days of pouring a handful of peanuts into an ice-cold bottle of Dr. Pepper. A more grown-up version would be to serve them alongside an ice-cold Blue Moon beer and a slice of orange."

Our tasting results:
Salted: "Pure nutty goodness...Not too salty...Very crisp."
Jalepeno: "Well-balanced seasoning...A lot of heat in the aftertaste...Good, but one-dimensional."
Cajun: "More flavor than the jalepeno...Not so hot that you have to run to the water fountain."
Toffee: "The toffee coating complements the peanut flavor...I expected a sugar rush, but found light sweetness instead."

Quntities and prices of the peanuts range from single 4.9-ounce tins for $5 each, to 40-ounce multi-flavor "gift bundles" for $50, to 16-tin "corporate cases" for $64. Order at

October 26, 2011
SactoMoFo is planning a food truck extravaganza for Dec. 3

Get ready, all you fans of the mobile-food movement, here comes yet another ambitious SactoMoFo project, the HoHoHoliday Brewfest.

Check it: 24 microbreweries and 25 to 30 mobile food trucks, carts, grills and stalls from around Northern California, spilling their cornucopias of mini-burgers and sweet-potato tots, Korean barbecue and Indian curry, among other delights. And all in an indoor venue.

"We're about halfway there with the logistics, and still doing outreach to the vendors," said SactoMoFo coordinator Paul Somerhausen, on the phone this morning. "We want to do something for charities during the Christmas period, and provide an opportunity for mobile food vendors to have a good day (during wet weather)."

HoHoHoliday Brewfest will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Power Balance Pavilion (previously Arco Arena; Tickets: $5 admission only, $10 admission and five beer samplings. Buy additional beer tastings inside; food items will be $5 or less. Tickets are available now at, and coming soon to www.sactomofo.comtwittertrucks30_0011_bw.jpg.

SactoMoFo is the main advocate for our region's somewhat controversial mobile-food movement, which has a legion of devotees. Their voices were heard on May 1, when 10,000 hungry supporters lined up at 21 mobile food trucks for the Sacramento Mobile Food Festival at midtown's Fremont Park. They wanted to send a message to the Sacramento City Council: We want food trucks, so lighten up on the local ordinances that restrict mobile food vendors.

Two weeks later, a petition signed by 3,700 food-truck fans was handed over at a city council meeting. Now, five months later, the council is preparing once again to address the food-truck issue.

Currently, Sacramento food trucks cannot stay parked for more than 30 minutes at a time in most parts of the city, and must shut down at dusk, among other regulations.

As for the upcoming event's possible effect on the city council's collective consciousness, Somerhausen said, "We hope it accentuates (to the council) that there is a demand for food trucks. The uncertainty that comes with the ordinances makes it very difficult for our vendors to operate businesses that enrich our food culture."

HoHoHoliday Brewfest will benefit Toys for Tots and the Sacramento Food Bank. Donate to either charity and the $12 arena parking fee will be waived.

HoHoHoliday Brewfest is a work in progress. For continuing updates and more information:, and SactoMoFo on Facebook and Twitter.

October 26, 2011
Pork ribs on the grill in October? Hey, we're in Sacramento

Food Grilling Slow.jpgWe're lucky here in Sacramento: We can stoke up the grill and cook ribs year-round, and the recent glorious fall weather makes that a real weekend pleasure.

If you can't get enough smokey, juicy St. Louis-style pork ribs - the cut used by professional cookers at the huge annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off - look this way: The Albie Ribbin' BBQ Cook-off to benefit the Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation is planned from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Hilltop Tavern, 4757 Folsom Blvd.

Fifteen "Q teams" from area restaurants and sports bars will compete for trophies and braggin' rights. Among the sauce-slatherers will be teams from the Hilltop, Chargin's, Club Raven, Club 2 Me, Clubhouse 56 and Morgan's.

So, what does this mean for you? A $20 buy-in gets a rib dinner, entry in a raffle, a silent auction and all the live music you can handle from the Q-Balls.

For more information: (916) 927-1592, .

October 26, 2011
On salt and salting: A must-read book for your foodie library


If you're really into food, the new book "Salted" by Mark Bitterman (not Mark Bittman) is a must read. Here's my story in today's food section.

Recently, when my girlfriend and I traveled to New York, we stopped by The Meadow, Bitterman's shop in the West Village. The photo above is the wall of salt. Pretty amazing selection. The salt is also available online here.

Locally, the best places I have found for buying salt are the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Corti Brothers, and Taylor's Market.

October 25, 2011
Zagat's new national guidebook includes several local options

Zagat, the restaurant guidebook publisher known for its use-generated content, released its annual book on the best restaurants in the U.S., including several from the Sacramento area.

Among those scoring exceptionally high ratings for food - 29 out of 30 - are Ambience in Carmichael, Taste in Plymouth, and Mulvaney's and The Kitchen in Sacramento. Then there's the shocker, Sunflower Drive-in in Fair Oaks, a vegetarian restaurant that is apparently destined for the kind of cult status once reserved for La Bonne Soupe, whose popular owner, Daniel Pont, sold the small, beloved downtown cafe earlier this year. Under new ownership, La Bonne Soupe has struggled to find its footing and, once at the top of Zagat's list in the food category, is no longer included in the national guidebook.

That 29 rating, by the way, is the same as the French Laundry in Yountville and one point higher than Meadowwood in St. Helena, both of which have been awarded three Michelin stars and are considered world-class dining destinations.

Sunflower didn't do nearly as well in the "décor" category, scoring just nine out of 30. That's because it is a walk-up eatery in which you order at the window, often accompanied by one or more of the famous feral chickens that roam through the Fair Oaks village. Ella, by comparison, scored 27 for décor.

The book, 'Zagat: America's Top Restaurants," is 348 pages and costs $15.95.

October 25, 2011
IHOP Scary Face Pancakes free to 12-and-younger on Friday

Scary Face Pancake.jpg.
It's pretty safe to say that nearly everybody likes pancakes. Fluffy, buttery, syrupy discs of nostalgic delight, right?

The 53-year-old International House of Pancakes chain knows something about that. Now, with Halloween in mind, IHOP is offering a couple of special items through October.

The "design your own" Count Spatula Scary Face Pancake is $4.59, but is free to the 12-and-younger set all day Friday (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.) nationwide, including at the 14 participating IHOPS in our area.

And: "Trick or Treat All You Can Eat" buttermilk pancakes start at $4.99, but go up to $8.99 when they are ordered in combination with, say, bacon, ham, eggs, hashbrowns and the like.


October 24, 2011
Raley's explains why they won't sell "Schweddy Balls" ice cream

Sacramento-based Raley's supermarket chain has issued a statement explaining why it is not selling a new flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

"Schweddy Balls," a limited-edition flavor gets its name from the punchline of a popular "Saturday Night Live."

"We are aware of the controversy and consumer backlash associated with this limited edition ice cream flavor and we have made the decision to not place this particular product on our shelves. We invite our customers to select from our nearly 500 varieties of ice cream, which include premium flavors, frozen yogurt and even non-dairy options," spokeswoman Ashley Zepernick said in a prepared statement.

October 24, 2011
'Going nuts' is a tasty experience at Natural Foods Co-op

IMG_0455.JPGEvery time we drop by the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and cruise the aisles, we find something that grabs our attention. This time out, it was the array of nut butters.

"They go so well with other fall products like apples and pears," pointed out assistant marketing manager Stacie Traylor. "You can spread them on crackers and use them to make cookies, too."

A lunch pal and I sampled an array of organic nut butters, which were surprisingly mild-tasting. Some were more blended than others. In a few cases, it was difficult for us to blend the dense pulverized-nut mass at the bottom of the jars with the thick layers of nut oil floating on top.

Here's the harvest of our favorites, with tasting notes.

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is at 1900 Alhambra Blvd., (916) 455-2667,

October 21, 2011
Boudin SF adds grilled cheese sandwiches to local menus

sandwich.jpgSan Francisco-based Boudin ("boo-deen") Bakery has made sourdough bread since Gold Rush days. A few years ago, it expanded with a chain of cafes, two of them in our area.

New to those menus is an item specifically geared to the cooler weather of fall. It's the gooey, crunchy, oh-so-comforting grilled cheese sandwich, in five incarnations (four are pictured).

Between the five, their ingredients include cheddar, Swiss, Brie and Havarti cheeses, applewood-smoked bacon, turkey, ham, sliced green apple, fig jam, Dijon mustard and cranberry Dijon mustard. They're served on Parmesan-crusted sourdough and multigrain breads. The price of each is under $8; add $2 for a companion bowl of tomato soup.

Boudin SF is in Loehmann's Plaza, 2573 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento (916-973-1849). The Roseville store is at 1017 Galleria Blvd., (916-782-1849).


October 21, 2011
Sacramentans scooping up "Schweddy Balls"

While some grocery stores are pulling Ben & Jerry's Schweddy Balls from store shelves due to its locker-room humor, the demand still appears to be high in Sacramento. The ice cream, which comes complete with fudge colored rum balls, was already hard to find since it's a limited edition ice cream. A spokesperson for SaveMart/Lucky's/FoodMaxx said their stores have never carried the item, which is based on a punchline from a popular "Saturday Night Live" skit.

Over at Taylor's Market in Land Park, however, they're still waiting for an order of Schweddy Balls to arrive.

"We have customers asking for it," said David Hunter, Taylor's grocery manager. "We've been trying to order it but they keep sending a different flavor. The whole thing kind of makes me laugh. It's one of my favorite SNL skits."

If you still have a hankering for Schweddy Balls, you can find this flavor at Nugget Market in Roseville. So far, manager Jonathan Giannini hasn't heard any complaints from customers since they first stocked the ice cream two weeks ago.

"People are buying it up and it's a quick mover," said Giannini.

October 20, 2011
Tahoe Food and Wine Festival gets ready to indulge

Foodies and the culinarily curious are working up their appetites remembering last October's Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival. It was over the top in a good way, and past attendees are anticipating the next one.

Well, get ready. The fest returns Oct. 28-30 at Harrah's and Harveys hotel-casinos at Stateline at South Lake Tahoe. Bet on a long list of food-and-wine pairings, single-malt scotch tasting, multi-course dinners, live entertainment and contests, cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, seminars and special presentations such as "The Wines of Napa Valley."

Sharing tips and anecdotes will be Adam Richman, traveling gourmand and host of the Travel Channel's "Man v. Food" and "Man v. Food Nation." He'll take the stage the evening of Oct. 29 in Harrah's South Shore Room. What to expect? Let's just say the food enthusiast is also a veteran actor and comedian.

October 19, 2011
Carpe Vino, Enotria make OpenTable's Top 50 wine lists

While Sacramentans may still be smarting from a recent survey which ranked our city exceptionally low for dining, here's a new survey that showed two Sacramento are wine lists as being among the best in the country. Carpe Vino of Auburn and Sacramento's own Enotria both made the cut in OpenTable's "Top 50 Wine Lists in the U.S."

The survey was conducted among users of OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation system, from Oct. 2010 to Sept. 2011. While ranking in this national survey was a great score for Sacramento, what's surprising is how poorly northern California - especially San Francisco and Napa wine country - fared overall. Completely absent in this survey are such veritable temples of wine as San Francisco's Fifth Floor, Cyrus in Sonoma and the storied French Laundry in Napa.

Perhaps the age demographic of OpenTable skews younger - how many diners under 30 have the coin to pay about $500 for a table for two at French Laundry? - but regardless of the methodology, Gary Moffat of Carpe Vino couldn't be happier with the results.

"This came as a complete surprise," said Moffat. "I'm surprised with how many restaurants didn't make the list, but I think our wine list is accessible from a financial point of view. We don't do restaurant mark-ups. All our prices are retail plus $5 to open the bottle in our restaurant. If you're in our wine club, we waive the charge. If you ran the numbers on the amount of wine we sell, it would blow you away."

Click here for the complete list of winners

October 19, 2011
Is your birthday in October? Get in line for free pretzels

If your birthday's in October, get ready for some pretzels.

The national Pretzelmaker company's own birthday is Thursday. To celebrate 20 years of baking and selling soft pretzels, the four Pretzelmaker stores in our area will give away a free order of Birthday Bites to anyone with an October birthday. The Bites are morsels of salted soft pretzel.

The giveaway will be all day Thursday at the four stores - at Arden Fair Mall and Country Club Plaza in Sacramento, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, and the Galleria in Roseville.

All you need for a free order (one per person) is official identification, with your name and October birth date.

For more information:

October 18, 2011
Folsom's new Whole Foods Market hosts pre-opening party

Shoppers can get a taste Saturday of what's to come during a pre-opening party hosted by Whole Foods Market at its new Folsom store, located at 270 Palladio Parkway in the Palladio shopping center.

Called "Folsom Street Market," the event will be held in the new store's parking lot from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

More than 60 local vendors will offer product samples as well as beer and cider tasting. Kids can enjoy a haybale maze and pumpkin patch. Shoppers also can take a tour of the new 45,000-square-foot store.

Next week, this Whole Foods Market - the chain's third outlet in the greater Sacramento area - opens to the public. A bread breaking ceremony will be held at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, followed by live music, beer tasting and children's activities.

On opening day, the first 250 Folsom shoppers to enter the store will receive a reusable shopping bag filled with Whole Foods Market products.

For more details, click on

October 18, 2011
Sacramento elected officials to wait tables at arts fundraiser

server.jpgIf you've ever wanted to say, "Councilmember, will you please bring the table more bread and an extra place setting," then Sunday night is your chance. Members of the Sacramento City Council, minus the mayor, will be acting as restaurant servers on Sunday night at Ella Dining Room & bar. The event is a fundraiser for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission's Cultural Arts Awards Program, which is taking a big hit from budget cuts.

SMAC's Arts in Public Places program helped bring the giant red rabbit to the new Terminal B, while its Cultural Arts Awards program provides grants for artists and other support.

Councilmember Darrell Fong, a local foodie who represents District 7, spearheaded this effort and brought his fellow councilmembers - though the Mayor will be out of town and not attend - on board to act as waiters. Also helping serve are Supervisors Don Nottoli, Roberta MacGlashan and Phil Serna.

October 18, 2011
Local cupcake chain Icing On The Cupcake to sell its frosting

By Bill Lindelof

A small-but-growing Sacramento area cupcake shop chain is now also selling its frosting without the cake.

Icing On The Cupcake, with four stores in Folsom, Rocklin and Sacramento, announced it will sell frosting in 1 lb. containers for $5. The frosting comes in four flavors: chocolate fudge, vanilla buttercream, cream cheese and strawberry buttercream.

October 17, 2011
Whole Foods Market will open Oct. 26 in Folsom

>100_0003.JPGThe "team members" who work at the 300-plus Whole Foods Markets in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom take their jobs very seriously. When your employer's motto is "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet," and its "core values" are essential to its everyday operation, you'd best be on close terms with food sourcing, and know what "natural" really means.

The chain's customers are equally as passionate about "America's Healthiest Grocery Store," as named by Health magazine. That's why it was nearly impossible to navigate the aisles at the opening of the Roseville store in November 2008, even without a shopping cart.

A similar scenario is expected Oct. 26 at the grand opening (after years of delays) of the area's third Whole Foods Market. It will be at 10 a.m. at 270 Palladio Parkway in Folsom (916-984-8500). The first 250 shoppers through the doors will be given reusable shopping bags filled with groceries.

On Oct. 22, a Street Market will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the store's parking lot, where 60 local vendors will offer samples and sales. Plus, hands-on food-oriented workshops, live music, beer- and cider-tasting, hay maze, pumpkin patch, and "sneak peek" tours of the store.

With local sourcing in mind, the 45,000-square-foot supermarket will carry goods from more than 200 suppliers from neighboring counties. In spring 2012, the Foothill Farmers Market Association will open a year-round certified farmers market in the parking lot. It will be modeled after the farmers market now held Thursdays at the Roseville store.

For a schedule of upcoming events at the Folsom store, go to

The two other Whole Foods Markets in our area are at 4315 Arden Way, Sacramento (916-488-2800), and 1001 Galleria Blvd., Roseville (916-781-5300).

For the record, the chain rang up sales of more then $9 billion last year.

October 17, 2011
Total Wine & More opening Thursday on Arden Way

The Sacramento area's second Total Wine & More will open Thursday at 2121 Arden Way, featuring more than 8,000 bottles of wine, plus spirits and beer. 78 Total Wine & More stores operate around the country, with a Roseville location opening in 2008. While this newest Total Wine & More will offer up some competition to a BevMo just down the street (3106 Arden Way, Sacramento), Total Wine & More goes deeper on the whole with its inventory of bottles. You'll find Costco-like prices on bottles ranging from first growth Bordeaux and trophy wines, to budget-priced table wines - all of which is great for the consumer, but perhaps not the best news for independent wine shops that've had a rough enough time over these last few years.

For more information: Total Wine & More

October 14, 2011
In its soul, the Olive Oil Celebration is very Italian

Few naturally sourced food items are as tasty, healthful and versatile as olive oil - a.k.a. "liquid gold." It's thought that farmers on Crete were the first to cultivate olive orchards for the production of oil, more than 4,000 years ago.

Which leads to the annual Olive Oil Celebration, sponsored by the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society. The $20 buy-in includes appetizers, meatballs, pasta and desserts. Plus, a tasting and seminar on what to do and what not to do when curing olives for home use. It will be hosted by olive producer Dave De Camilla.

Samplings and/or sales will include dozens of extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, pastas and sauces, and a big selection of olives. As for door prizes: oil-and-vinegar gift sets, Italian foods and a dinner for four. Look for a book-signing by Richard S. Calhoun, author of "California Olives, Olive Oils and Vinegars."

The extravaganza will be 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the new Italian Center, 6821 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; (916) 482-5900,

October 12, 2011
Star Ginger food truck coming to UC Davis

By Bill Lindelof

The Star Ginger food truck begins rolling at UC Davis on Tuesday.

Restaurateur Mai Pham entered into a licensing agreement in May with UC Davis Dining Services to bring a Southeast Asian food truck to the campus. The state-of-the-art statinless steel kitchen will serve complimentary samples from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Silo Union on Hutchison Drive, according to a press release.

October 10, 2011
Eat Your Vegetables chips are new, how did they fare?

20111004_ha_eatvegjpg.JPGThe advice is irrefutable, which is why it has been passed from generation to generation: Eat your vegetables.

In a smart marketing move, the chips-making folks at the Maryland-based Snikiddy Snacks have introduced a line of chips called ... yes, Eat Your Vegetables. The claim: "(The chips) offer bona-fide nutritional benefits - a full serving of vegetables in each ounce (around 13 chips)."

The press release says EYV chips are made from "a unique blend including sweet potatoes, carrots and navy beans." The chips are available in three flavors - Sea Salt, Sour Cream & Onion, and Jalepeno Ranch.

We looked at the ingredients list on the bag of the Jalepeno Ranch flavor. In part, it read: "Dried potatoes, navy beans, rice flour, potato starch, carrot, sweet potato, onion powder, green bell pepper powder, jalepeno pepper powder, paprika extract."

The price is $3.49 to $3.99 per 4.5-ounce bag, at area supermarkets and Toys R Us. Information: (866) 892-6365,

Meanwhile, we passed around bags of Jalepeno Ranch and Sour Cream & Onion, and got back these responses from our tasters, beginning with my own impressions:

October 7, 2011
TrailFest promises to be a big-time gourmet event

PosterFinal3.pngHere's another food-related event for Saturday that features a great cause, great food and the makings of a spirited, high-caliber chefs challenge.

The event, organized by Betsy Hite of Elegant and Easy Gourmet Catering, is Saturday (Oct. 8) from 5-10 p.m. at Project R.I.D.E headquarters, 8840 Souuthside Ave., Elk Grove. Tickets for the unlimited tasting are $35 per person, with several other group ticket options available. For more information, visit the website here.

The chefs challenge includes quite a culinary line-up: Bret Bohlmann of Boulevard Bistro, David Hill of The Chef's Table, Ian MacBride of Lucca, Billy Ngo of Kru, Adam Pechal of Tuli and Thir13en, and Alwin Santiago of Clark's Corner. I have eaten at and enjoyed the food at every one of these restaurants, so I can only imagine the entries these talented chefs will put forth Saturday night.

October 7, 2011
Grange hires new executive chef

After executive chef Michael Tuohy left Grange in May, there was plenty of speculation about what would become of the Citizen Hotel's highly regarded downtown restaurant. After less than three years in town, the personable Tuohy had developed a reputation as a force in the farm-to-table movement, showcasing the area's bounty on his menus and leading groups of foodies on frequent tours of the nearby farmers market. At the end of May, Tuohy moved on, perhaps surprisingly, to Dean & DeLuca in the Napa Valley.

Oliver Ridegway.jpgGrange didn't rush the quest to land a replacement. After a national search and more than 100 applications from throughout the United States and internationally, Grange has hired Oliver Ridgeway, a British citizen. Classically trained in French cooking, Ridgeway's experience includes a stint as sous chef at The Carlyle, the renowned New York Hotel, and most recently, and as executive chef at at the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe. His professional resume extends to restaurants in the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom. He began working in the kitchen as a young boy in Horsham, England, where his father owned a restaurant.

"Chef Ridgeway is known for his passion for seasonal cuisine and a fresh modern approach to ingredients. Grange's dedication to the local farm-to-table platform remains unwavering, and Chef Ridgeway will shepherd Grange in a way that stays true to its original concept and vision while bringing a fresh energy to the restaurant," according to Lori Lincoln, director of public relations for Joie de Vivre Hotels, the Citizen's parent company.

October 7, 2011
Firefighters bring the heat: Chili cookoff this Saturday

chili cookoff.jpg

Saturday promises to be crisp, cool and sunny, and what better way to spend it than watching a bunch of firefighters go toe to toe in the "1st Annual Firefighter Chili Cook Off" from noon to 4 p.m.

The firefighters are from Sac Metro, Sac City, Folsom, Roseville and Consumnes. The event will feature celebrity judges, October 8 - The 1st Annual Firefighter Chili Cook Off.

This looks the start of something big. It's no secret that firefighters take their cooking very seriously and there are plenty of talented firehouse cooks around town. Indeed, I've heard from several of them, active and retired, in recent years. So this event, complete with celebrity judges, promises to be highly competitive -- and highly delicious.

The cookoff takes place at Safetyville, Attendance is $5, and kids 8 and under get in free. There will also be fire demonstrations, interactive events, door prizes and raffles.
Join firefighters from Sac Metro, Sac City, Folsom, Roseville, and Consumnes for a chili cook off featuring celebrity judges, fire demos, interactive events, and door prizes and raffles. The event takes place at Safetyville USA, 3909 Bradshaw Rd.

For more information about the cookoff and other events there, click here.

October 6, 2011
Buonarroti Ristorante closes its doors at Town & Country

Another Sacramento restaurant has shut its doors, adding to the plague of area restaurant failures that have mounted this year.

The sudden (though long time coming) closure of Buonarroti Ristorante at Town & Country Village is one more painful reminder of how California's woeful economic climate continues to affect small businesses. On Sept. 25, another Town & Country restaurant, the Terrace, went dark after serving its last Sunday brunch. It was owned by husband-wife Michael and Margo Powers.

Restaurateur-chef Daniel Alcantaro and his wife-business partner, Kathleen Alcantaro, invested $100,000 to open Buonarroti in October 2008, just as the economy took another downturn.

The Town & Country site was the couple's second restaurant. The first Buonarroti opened in downtown Lincoln in 2003, and will continue to operate, Daniel Alcantaro said this morning.

October 6, 2011
Great advice for dealing with those late-season tomatoes


Elaine Corn just filed a really good piece at on what to do if you're lucky enough to be saddled with too many cherry tomatoes. The award-winning cookbook author, public radio reporter and gardener must not live close enough to me, since I haven't tasted a single one of those incredible little Sweet 100s she's writing about (that's her photo above). Nevertheless, I am including her story and recipes here for your edification. With this cold, rainy weather we're having, it'll be more fun to be in the kitchen than out in the garden.

Corn insists she'll be picking her cherry tomatoes until Thanksgiving. I'm assuming she doesn't mean Canadian Thanksgiving, which means I'll have plenty of time to improve my schmoozing (posting a link to her story is a start!) and maybe get my hands on a few of those Sweet 100s. I'm eager to make that sauce and those cherry tomato "raisins" myself.

October 5, 2011
More Sacramento farmers markets to accept food stamps

Just in time for the fall harvest, residents of our recession-weary region will now be able to use Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments at an increasing number of farmers markets in the Sacramento area. With assistance from the Alchemist Community Development Corporation, EBTs will be accepted at the following locations:

- Inderkum High School Farmers' Market (2500 New Market Dr, Sacramento), which operates Saturdays from May through Oct., from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

- Starting Thursday, Florin Sears Farmers' Market (Florin Rd. & 65th St.), which runs on Thursdays year-round from 8 a.m. to noon.

- Starting Nov. 6, Downtown State Parking Lot Farmers' Market (8th and W streets, Sacramento), which runs on Sundays year-round from 8 a.m. to noon.

For more information:

October 4, 2011
Golden Cadillac West Coast Tour to end at Poor Red's BBQ

RB Poor Reds Sign.jpgIt's well-known among the barbecue and classic-cocktail crowds that the bar at Poor Red's Bar-B-Q (since 1948) in the tiny town of El Dorado goes through more Galliano Italian liqueur (since 1896) than anyplace else in the world.

That's because the joint's signature drink since 1952 has been the Golden Cadillac, a frothy blend of Galliano, half-and-half, white cream de cacao and ice.

"I order from three to six 12-bottle cases of Galliano each week, and make about 100 Golden Cadillacs a week ($7 each)," said second-generation bartender Mike Speegle. His dad, also named Mike Speegle, tended bar at Poor Red's for 27 years. "We're kind of the historians of the place," Speegle the younger said on the phone today.

With sales like that, it's no wonder Poor Red's caught the eye of the Lucas Bols company, "the world's oldest distilled spirits brand."

Now, to honor Poor Red's connection with Galliano, comes the Bols-sponsored Golden Cadillac West Coast Tour. On Monday, a gold-colored 1979 Cadillac DeVille will start its engine and cruise from San Diego to San Francisco on a multi-stop promotional tour.

On Oct. 16, the Caddy will pull in to Poor Red's, where festivities will begin around noon, Speegle said. On tap, so to speak, will be the country-western band The Golden Cadillacs, an outdoor barbecue and lots of merrymaking. At 4:30 p.m., Bols representatives will preside over the ceremony honoring Poor Red's thumbprint on cocktail history.

According to Bols, "Fans will be able to follow the tour on the Galliano facebook page and on Twitter @GallianoLiqueur."

Poor Red's is at 6221 Pleasant Valley Road; (530) 622-2901,

October 3, 2011
Some good wine and an inspiring encounter with owls


There were plenty of activities from which to choose this weekend, from a bike tour sponsored by Slow Food Sacramento to a wine tasting event in Curtis Park and movies in Freemont Park sponsored by Hot Italian.

But I was looking for something a little new and different, so on Saturday afternoon we made the short drive to the little Delta town of Clarksburg, traveled to the outskirts along roads with fields of grapes for as far as the eye could see, then turned into the driveway of Heringer Estates. Yes, we were there to taste wine, but we were also excited about the main event - the release of two owls into the wild.


The weather was perfect - cool and clear and not a stitch of wind -- when we arrived around 5 p.m. The crowds were just getting there and the event was to be picnic style in the lovely backyard of the Heringer family home. All around us: fields of wine grapes.

We bought two glasses of wine - a chardonnay and a viognier - and began to mingle. Staff members from the Sacramento-based Wildlife Care Association were on hand to talk about the owls, the many other wild animals it helps, and the non-profit group's mission. Along the way, they showed off some very inspiring owls, including a 20-year-old great-horned owl (second photo) living in captivity because of a wing/shoulder injury, a screech owl (top photo) that is blind in one eye and a little burrowing owl with a damaged wing.

October 3, 2011
'Kitchen Literacy' brings awareness to slow food movement

KITLITCoverFront_300dpi_hi-res.jpgCalifornia leads the nation in the international slow food movement, whose goal is to foster regional and traditional cuisines while connecting to and honoring the local ecosystem. Think of terms of locavorism and the farm-to-fork concept.

Which is a lot to digest. Helping is "Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to Get it Back" by Ann Vileisis (Island Press, $22.50, 360 pages).

Helping further will be Vileisis' free presentation, at which she will discuss "the story of American food from early colonial farmers to the advent of canning and processing, to today's huge industrial food producers." Appetizers and wine will be served at the pre-event reception.

The evening will start at 6:30 Oct. 12 at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, 1914 Alhambra Blvd.; (916) 455-2667, The presentation is co-sponsored by Slow Food Sacramento,

October 1, 2011
Add to your calendar now: 34th annual Jewish Food Faire

No matter what the ethnicity of the cuisine, one thing is true: The best dishes are made from the cherished family recipes handed down from one generation of home cooks to the next.

Which dovetails nicely with "From Generation to Generation," the theme of the 34th annual Jewish Food Faire. Come nosh from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 16 at Congregation Beth Shalom, 4746 El Camino Ave., Carmichael; (916) 485-4478, Heed event coordinator Jami Goldstene: "Come early because the food does tend to go fast."

As for the dishes that will be for sale ($3 to $8), picture stacked corned beef and pastrami on rye, along with homemade stuffed cabbage, chopped liver, borscht (soup), kugel (casserole), baked goods and more.

Plus, deli meats, breads, dill pickles and other goodies will be brought in from three legendary Jewish delis - Saul's in Berkeley, Canter's in Los Angeles and Katz's in New York. Also featured will be music, dancing, and professional-level arts and crafts. Free parking and admission.

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