Appetizers
November 30, 2011
Public meeting tonight to discuss Elk Grove food truck regulations

On the heels of a food truck festival coming Saturday to downtown Sacramento, a public meeting is being held tonight in Elk Grove to discuss Elk Grove's current mobile vending ordinances. While current ordinances in Sacramento mandate that food trucks have to move every 30 minutes, in Elk Grove food trucks can only stay parked for 15 minutes and then must move at least 1,000 feet. Food trucks operating in Elk Grove also have a time limit of selling between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. However, food trucks can vend on private property with permission from the owner, which has led to some mobile food truck round-ups on the occasional Thursday in Elk Grove.

Tonight's 6 p.m. meeting and public workshop, which will be held at Elk Grove City Hall's Council Chambers (8400 Laguna Palms Way, Elk Grove), will invite public comment from mobile food vendors, residents, brick-and-mortar restaurant owners and other interested parties.

"Over the past couple months, the city has received an increase in inquiries about operating mobile food trucks," said Sarah Kirchgessner, senior planner with the Elk Grove Planning Department. "We're looking to possibly update current regulations and want to have public input."

November 29, 2011
Nothing Bundt Cakes opening Thursday in Roseville

Sacramento's got one heck of a sweet tooth. Think about all the cupcake shops and boutique bakeries that have opened around the area in the past couple years, with mini pies being the latest dessert du jour. Now, comes word that Nothing Bundt Cakes will open on Thursday in Roseville. This bakery franchise has headquarters in Las Vegas with locations all around California, Texas, Tennessee and other states.

Just like the "punny" name suggests, Nothing Bundt Cakes specializes in bundt cakes of all kinds. Offerings range from single-serving "Bundlets" to Brontosaurus sized bundts that can feed up to 26 people.

Grand opening specials include free Bundtlets for a year for the first 50 people who show up on Saturday. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held next Tuesday that includes Roseville mayor Pauline Roccucci and Nothing Bundt Cakes local bakery owners (Cameron and Shelly Diviak and Greg and Kathy Leuterio).

Nothing Bundt Cakes is located at 1112 Galleria Blvd. at Roseville Parkway. For more information: www.nothingbundtcakes.com.

November 29, 2011
The new Zinfandel is a lot like the old Zinfandel, with good reason

We were surprised and disappointed last summer when we stopped by the Zinfandel Grille in Gold River and found the doors locked and the dining room dark. Then, one night last week, we found it open and operating under a new name - Zinfandel California Cuisine.

We sat in a booth, drank wine and ate a pepperoni-mushroom-pine nuts pizza from the wood-fired oven and studied the menu. Hmmm. With the exception of a few items, the lineup of dishes looked the same as when the restaurant was the Zinfandel Grille. Salads, pizzas, crab cakes, mussels, pasta, steaks, chops.

What was going on? Turns out the Grille changed ownership in April and closed for a slight renovation, then reopened under its new name in September.

"We wanted to break off from former (business) associations and have a fresh look, so we did a mini-remodel," said new owner Ash Khan on the phone Monday. "It took longer than we expected."

What about the menu?
"It was always (about) California cuisine, so basically it's the same menu, with seasonal changes," Khan said. "We kept most of it because we wanted to play it safe. We felt we should stick with what (the restaurant) has done well for so many years, and improve the wine list."

A smart move, really. The Zinfandel Grille had a loyal clientele, most of which found comfort in seeing familiar dishes on the menu. Which is one of the reasons why diners frequent certain restaurants - they known what they like and where they can get it. Consistency is key in the restaurant industry.

General manager Thomas Harris and chef Domingo Hernandez were with the Zinfandel before the name change, and continue there now.

"We've always used fresh everything," Harris said. "We've never had a freezer or microwave oven in the kitchen. All of our produce, fish and meat arrive four to five times a week. We're trying to get everything locally, and all our wines are from California."

Zinfandel California Cuisine is at 2220 Gold Springs Court, Gold River; (916) 853-9600, www.zincalicuisine.com.

Note that there is no relationship between Zinfandel California Cuisine and the independently owned Zinfandel Grille at 2384 Fair Oaks Blvd. in Sacramento.

November 29, 2011
Heavenly Dogs makes its debut at Saturday's SactoMoFo event

The ambitious volunteers at SactoMoFo (Sacramento Mobile Food) tried their best to bring together a gathering of mobile food trucks and microbreweries on Dec. 3 at Power Balance Pavilion. Unfortunately for foodies - and our city in general - it didn't work out.

But there's good news, too: As has been reported on this blog site, a scaled-down version will happen from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, under the freeway at 8th and W streets. It will benefit Toys for Tots and the Sacramento Food Bank.

Among the 20 expected vendors will be Nicki Smith of Elk Grove, piloting the Heavenly Dog truck built by her husband, Chris Smith. HD is a family-involved dog-centric restaurant that opened in 2008 and features a lot of items from family recipes, such as the tri-tip chili. It's one of our go-to spots when the dog mood is on us. The house-made relishes are great.

The thing is, this mobile food-truck gathering will be Nicki's first.

"I'm not sure entering the event was smart, but it's big and that's good," she said by phone Monday. "I'm a little nervous, but my husband built the truck just like the kitchen at the restaurant. We'll be doing the same things we do every day, only on a truck."

Look for a variety of Heavenly Dog's red hots, including a bacon-wrapped version, along with chili cheese fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings.

What could possibly go wrong?
"We could sell out," she said, "(even though) we're planning on serving 1,000 dogs. We're bringing a small freezer-trailer for backup."

The brick-and-mortar Heavenly Dog is at 9160 E. Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove, in the Marketplace 99 South shopping center; (916) 714-7877, www.heavenlydoghotdogs.com.

November 28, 2011
Temple training: Learn more -- and do more -- with coffee

Speaking of coffee, another of this city's premium coffee businesses, Temple Coffee, has announced its coffee class schedule. That's right, there's more to coffee than drinking it and jolting yourself awake on Monday morning.

The courses are quite diverse and range in price from $15 each for espresso tasting and latte art/milk chemistry to $130 for hands-on barrista training. The classes fill up quicky. Here's a link for more information: http://templecoffee.myshopify.com/collections/classes

I've written about Temple several times, including in 2010 when it earned an astounding 97 point rating from www.CoffeeReview.com for a small batch coffee called Guatemala Hunapu Antigua Bourbon (the rating meant the coffee sold out quickly, with buyers from across the nation). Most recently, Temple won more national acclaim when it was listed by CNN as one of the country's best small coffee makers. For a slide show related to this honor, go here.

If you want to get into coffee in a deeper way, and maybe enjoy it more, learning from the folks at Temple is a good way to go.

November 28, 2011
Broadacre Coffee to host 'State Worker Appreciation Week' with freebies

We know it's been a trying few years for state workers, given the days of Furlough Fridays, pay cuts and attempts by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pay state workers minimum wage. Downtown business that cater to state workers have also felt the pinch, with folks holding tighter to their disposable income or not even being around due to mandatory days off.

Civil servants, you now have something to celebrate. Broadacre Coffee (1014 10th St., Sacramento) is hosting a "state worker appreciation week" from Dec. 5 to Dec. 9. Here's how it works: Drop by Broadacre Coffee, show your state worker badge, and you'll be privy to a variety of specials. State worker deals include free coffee, free tea, a free Doughbot donut and even a free 30g bag of coffee beans. Score!

For more information: broadacrecoffee.com

November 28, 2011
Local sourcing continued: Hot Italian and Chocolate Fish

Thumbnail image for Choc Fish.JPGIf I go too long without getting a "flat white" and an espresso from Chocolate Fish (at 3rd and Q), I get withdrawls. The coffee is that good -- top-quality product, meticulous work at the espresso bar.

When Lynn and I -- and the dogs -- stopped by recently for a coffee fix, along with some leisurely reading on the large patio, I was reminded of the product sourcing issue I addressed in this space a couple of weeks back.

After my rather glowing early assessment of the food at Juno's Kitchen & Delicatessen, I heard from several readers who were not exactly thrilled to learn that owner and chef Mark Helms was using grass-fed Wagyu beef from New Zealand. As I said at the time, sourcing is a complex issue, and, given that, I think it would be wrong for too many of us to establish some kind of local litmus test. As one of the commenters opined -- start with local, if possible, and move outward from there. That's a good, simple standard.

This time, I'm going to briefly address the coffee used at Hot Italian. The pizzeria at 16th and Q has been a leader on several fronts since it opened a few years back. It promotes bike culture with its artistic bike racks. It was a player in the formation of a composting program for area restaurants. Its building is LEED certified gold, meaning it is very green.

November 28, 2011
Limited-edition Kahlua Peppermint Mocha gets a taste test

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Thursday afternoon, post-Thanksgiving dinner. The crowd had demolished a turkey and trimmings and was sprawled in the the massive family room, watching NFL football on big-screen TV.

"How about we do a tasting of a new limited-edition product?" I suggested. "It's called Kahlua Peppermint Mocha. Says on the label, 'A delectable mix of 100 percent Arabica coffee beans, cool peppermint and decadent dark chocolate. Perfect throughout the winter season.'"

We poured, we tasted, we agreed: Though the liqueur was smooth and did mingle coffee, mint and chocolate tastes, we wanted more mint and more dark-chocolate flavors. We also agreed it really perked up when drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Think versatility, such as using it as an addition to baked goods.

The 40-proof liqueur will be available now through Dec. 31; $18 for a 750 milliliter bottle.

Meanwhile, here's the recipe for Kahlua Peppermint Mocha Hot Cocoa:

Ingredients
2 parts milk
1 part "drinking chocolate" (warm chocolate milk or chocolate powder such as Swiss Miss)
1 part Peppermint Mocha

Directions
Bring milk to a simmer. Whisk in drinking chocolate. Simmer for 30 seconds while stirring. Add liqueur. Garnish with peppermint stick and marshmallows.

For more information: www.kahlua.com.


November 25, 2011
Chez Daniel, Monsieur Pont and one tough table

La Bonne Soupe.JPGWe recently called Chez Daniel to make a reservation on short notice. In Sacramento, we usually don't have much trouble if we call a few hours before we plan to dine.

But not this time. It was a Saturday, and the woman who answered the phone began with an apology. So sorry, she told us. We're all booked up.

That was bad for us but very good for the 72-year-old French chef, Daniel Pont, who is making a comeback after the briefest of retirements. He sold La Bonne Soupe Cafe last spring, but he couldn't stay away from the business that made him a local celebrity.

November 25, 2011
Thanksgiving with all the trimmings -- and none of the fuss

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Last week, I wrote a story about the ongoing trend of eating out for dinner on Thanksgiving, how more and more restaurants are getting booked up for a holiday meal that was once a rock-solid, home-cooked tradition. Now, more than ever, folks are leaving the cooking and the serving to the pros.

We wanted to test this trend for ourselves -- and it went off without a hitch. We ate at the Pilothouse Restaurant on board the historic Delta King riverboat in Old Sacramento. It was a buffet-style dinner with a nice selection food and good cooking. What's more, the restaurant staff was excellent -- very friendly, attentive, and professional. I certainly appreciated that they were working on the holiday. I hope the many other patrons did, too -- and tipped accordingly.

We chose the Delta King because we were looking for something more intimate than the large hotel buffets we have experienced during previous Thanksgivings. Those hotels -- the Sheraton Grand and the Hyatt Regency downtown -- both have very good buffets. But they have become so popular that, even with reservations, there was plenty of waiting around before we actually got to our table. Last year, the Sheraton actually asked for our credit card before we were even shown to our table. There's something about paying and then standing around in a lobby for 35 minutes that rubbed us the wrong way.

November 23, 2011
Enter a gingerbread house contest

If you're into design and baking, and you'd like to put your talents to work while helping a worthy cause, here's your chance.

The American Institute of Architects, Central Valley Chapter, and the Sacramento Self Help Housing are sponsoring an inaugural gingerbread house competition.

For avid home bakers, don't fret that you'll be pitted against the second coming of Frank Lloyd Wright or Gaston Lenotre. There are three separate categories:
*Professionals (architects or professional bakers, with a $25 entry fee)
*General public (you may or may not know what you're doing, but nobody pays you for it; no entry fee)
*kids 6 to 12 (also no entry fee).

To register, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/210210 and select the appropriate category.

Take your house to AIA Central Valley office (1400 S St., Suite 100, Sacramento) on Nov. 30 or Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entry must be edible and mounted on a base no larger than 20x20 inches. Other than that, creativity is encouraged.

Those interested in sponsoring the event as an underwriter are encouraged to call 916-444-3658.

November 23, 2011
479 of San Francisco takes popcorn to new flavor heights

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On a bad day, popcorn can be too salty, oily, stale and kind of stinky. On a good day, it can be just the right snack to satisfy our craving for crunch and flavor.

Our advice: Grab a handful (or three) of 479 brand artisanal popcorn, made from a small harvest of organic, heirloom corn grown on a family-run farm near Sacramento. Though the folks at 479 wouldn't say which farm, wishing to safeguard their limited source.

479 makes eight creative popcorn flavors, involving combinations of ingredients such as caramel, French sea salt, black truffle, white cheddar cheese, chipotle peppers, almonds, cashews, ginger, sesame seeds, curry, coconut, cinnamon, sugar, paprika, tomato, onion and alderwood smoke.

We tasted two - Ginger Sesame Caramel and Chipotle Caramel Plus Almonds - and came away with a new respect for what popcorn can be.

Among our tasters' comments:
"The ginger taste is subtle."
"We need more almonds."
"How about a bag of caramel almonds? Or chipotle almonds?"
"Love the chipotle afterburn, it lingers."
"Could eat the ginger popcorn all day."
"I've never had better caramel popcorn.'"

At www.479popcorn.com, you'll find all the info you need to choose flavors and order a stash. The popcorn is gift-packaged in five- to 12-unit "sets" of pouches, cannisters and boxes, $19 to $55.

479 is offering exclusive discounts to Sacramento Bee readers. Type in the code word "sacbee" at the site and get 20 percent off, now through Sunday.

For more information: (415) 876-7600.

November 22, 2011
L Wine Lounge owner takes new job, space remains closed

While midtown's L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen remains closed and seeks a new tenant for the space, co-owner Marcus Marquez recently landed a new job on the wine sales side. He's now working for the distributor Epic Wines, meaning he's now on the other side of the business and will be trying to get Epic Wines' selections placed at restaurants and wine bars. Epic Wines' portfolio includes such Napa producers as Darioush and Cliff Lede, along with the local wineries Amador Foothill and CG DiArie. Marquez will also be representing Epic Wines' spirits offerings, including Corazon de Jalisco tequila and Cognac du Peyrat.

The move brings Marquez back to his roots. Before opening L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen four years ago with wife Kolea, Marquez was a representative for Paul Bullard & Associates, which sold such boutique wines as Marcassin and Karl Lawrence. Now, he's pitching some of his former employees who are now at new restaurants to try and get placement for Epic Wines' selections.

Meanwhile, the L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen remains closed, following a shut down in July due to legal and money issues. Marquez and his ownership group are being sued by J.C. Builders contracting firm, claiming it hasn't been paid for more than $50,000 worth of work. The restaurant filed a countersuit for "faulty and defective work" in its heating and air conditioning system.

Some restaurateurs, both local and in the Bay Area, have since shown interest in taking over the L's space at 1801 L St. but so far there are no takers. Marquez hopes this changes soon.

"If someone wants to go in and make it work, I would love for it to be open," said Marquez. "The neighborhood deserves it."

November 22, 2011
Beer-lovers: Newcastle debuts its Winter India Pale Ale

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When it comes to beer, IPA has been stylin' for awhile now, but just what is it?

The letters stand for India Pale Ale, a 19th century descendant of 17th century pale ales. "Pale" because the brewing process left them lighter in color and taste than many comparable beers of the day.

Right now, the venerable Heineken International is distributing a limited-edition Newcastle Winter IPA, a cousin of the darker and luscious Newcastle Brown Ale. Both are made by the Caledonian Brewing Company in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Winter IPA replaces the fall release of the limited-edition Newcastle Werewolf. Just the name alone makes us sorry we missed it, plus this description: "Naturally blood red in color... Sweet berry overtones and a sudden bite of bitterness."

We didn't know what to expect from the Winter IPA, so we enlisted a few beer-lovers and popped some tops at an informal tasting. Among their comments:

"The creamy head is a match for the silken body."
"Sweet, with a lot of caramel and toffee."
"Malty, with a clean finish."
"Not a truly great IPA, but it will do just fine in front of the fireplace."

Newcastle Winter IPA is available in area stores into January. Six packs will be distributed in a few days. Meanwhile, we priced a 12-pack at the BevMo store in Folsom. It's $16.49, on sale for 11.99 through Wednesday.

More information: www.newcastlebrown.com.

November 21, 2011
Going out for Thanksgiving is getting booked up

Last Sunday, I wrote a little story about a holiday trend: more and more folks are going out to eat on Turkey Day. In that story, we provided a sampling of places serving Thanksgiving dinner, and I heard from plenty of restaurants the next day saying that they, too, will be open. The most noteworthy email was from an employee at Sam's Hof Brau who retired in 2009 after 40 years. So here's your reminder: Go to Sam's for good, honest food that won't break the bank.

I also heard from Evan's Kitchen in East Sac. They're already booked up, and people are practically pleading for a meal this Thursday. Here's what Laurette Elsberry writes about Evan's:

"Somehow, with all the bad things going on everywhere, people seem to be more upbeat this year about this special day. We have all time slots full, with a cancellation waiting list. One group of 4 was so disappointed that they couldn't get in that Evan is having them come in one half hour earlier than we planned to open so they could take a table that was not reserved until 3 - so they are coming in at 1:30."

I'm headed out for Thanksgiving, too. We booked our reservation about 10 days ago. Wish I could tell you where!

November 21, 2011
A reminder from an interested party: keep your birds straight

FO Chicks.jpgSpotted this morning on the Facebook page devoted to the lovable, free-range and freely roaming feral chickens in Old Fair Oaks Village, the following greeting -- and clarification: "Happy Thanksgiving. Keep in mind - we are NOT turkeys!"

November 21, 2011
Paula Deen to appear in Sacramento

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Hey y'all, guess what? Paula Deen is coming to Sacramento! The Food Network's champion of downhome cooking that may or may not be too good for you has a date set for Feb. 3 at the Sacramento Community Center Theater. The so-called "Queen of Southern Cuisine" will share stories and take questions from the audience in this unscripted show, and includes cooking demonstrations as well.

"Once I walk on stage, there's no telling what will happen," said Deen in a press release. "I always start with good intentions in the kitchen but by evening's end I'm so involved with the audience and crying with laughter. There is nothing better than an audience that wants to play!"

Deen hosts a whopping three shows on the Food Network, sharing such recipes as "Paula Deen's Uncle Bubba Wings" and "Paula Deen's It's Not Your Mamma's Banana Pudding Ice-Cream." But she's also taken some flack for the nutritional content of her food, with Barbara Walters taking Deen to task on "The View" for encouraging kids to have cheesecake for breakfast and chocolate cake for lunch. Awkward! Feel free to ask Deen about all this if you go to the show.

Tickets for the food-stravaganza go on sale Dec. 2 and priced at $44.75 and a $100 for a VIP ticket that includes a meet-and-greet with Deen. For more infornation: (916) 808-5181 or tickets.com.

November 18, 2011
Wine writer Michele Hebert to speak Nov. 20 (free)

373052_195281050546489_1514919560_n.jpgI always like reading Michele Hebert's wine column in Midtown Monthly. It's informative, loaded with details and includes plenty of nuggets of information about particular wines and styles of wine. Plus, her recommendations are varied, well explained and much appreciated.

Hebert will be sharing some of her thoughts on wine on Sunday (Nov. 20) at 7 p.m., the latest in the Living Library series at Time Tested Books, 1124 21st St., Sacramento. I've enjoyed attending several of the Living Library events, even if the I can't get over the fact that there is no hyphen between "time" and "tested."

In the cozy surroundings of a well-stocked used and rare book store (that may or may not be punctuation-challenged), Hebert will be interviewed by Midtown Monthly's food and restaurant writer, Beck Grunewald, whose pieces in the magazine are also must-read missives for adventurous foodies on tight budgets.

The Living Library is a great thing and this event promises to be a lively-educational-entertaining-hyphen-free-free-for-all.

November 18, 2011
It's SactoMofo under the freeway, yo: Dec. 3

372946_125375747572748_952414549_n.jpgFirst, no NBA basketball at Power Balance Pavilion. But now, no food trucks? Is the world coming to an end? Is this the second sign of the apocalypse (the first being Cheez Whiz)? Fortunately, there is good news coming, and it doesn't involved lanky millionaires who claim to be exploited by chubby billionaires.

Yes, the SactoMofo food truck extravaganza didn't quite work out at Power Balance Pavilion (by the way, I recently started wearing one of their pricy wrist bands and instantly added 75 yards to my tee shots, and I can do jumping jacks and mini arm circles pain-free for the first time since Ms. Blimpky's junior high gym class).

Instead of canceling the event, the hard-working and unsung heroes at SactoMofo HQ have found another location, a lower admission fee (now it's free) and SactoMofo 3 is back on track to feed every last, ahem, mofo-loving person in attendance.

For those not in the know, SactoMofo stands for Sacramento Mobile Food, a volunteer organization composed of food enthusiasts who believe, as I do, that Sacramento needs more variety, more energy on its streets, more small start-ups, to complement the superb restaurant scene in the city.

Yes, it looks like this SactoMofo event is on track to be another big hit. The last mofo event I attended was at Fremont Park, and while the food was mostly amazing, the long lines and wait times prompted me to suggest that organizers insert the word "cluster" somewhere in the title.

But not this time. There will be more trucks, more food, more people who know how to count change and even more enthusiasm for the mofo movement.

The festivities will be on Dec. 3, a Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. under the freeway at 8th and W streets (the same location as the popular Sunday Farmers Market).

20 vendors are expected to attend, including all the popular rigs from Sacramento and several from the Bay Area. Thousands of foodies are likely to be there to celebrate the variety and creativity of the cooking. This is an outdoor event, though the freeway overpass shields the rain. Organizers suggest you dress warmly, bring small bills and a big appetite.

The Dec. 3 event will also serve as a food drive for the Sacramento Food Bank and the U.S. Marine Reserve's Toys for Tots. Those attending are encouraged to bring canned or packaged dry goods and new unwrapped toys to donate. Santa will also be on hand for photos.

November 15, 2011
Head to the hills for Mountain Mandarin Festival

Mandarin Orchards by Wayde Carroll.jpgCitrus doesn't get much better than sweet, juicy mandarin oranges, and the first harvest of the season is upon us. So it's natural that the 18th annual Mountain Mandarin Festival invites fruit-lovers to the hills for a celebration of taste.

Look for a mandarin cooking contest, a peel-and-eat throwdown, demonstrations by chefs, 200 vendors selling art, crafts and holiday items, live entertainment, a children's play area, food booths (wings, pulled pork, pizza) and a few tons of mandarins (and gift baskets) for sale by local growers. Don't forget the dozens of made-from-mandarins sauces, marinades, syrups and dressings.

The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn. Admission: $2 on Friday only. Saturday and Sunday, it will be $6 general, $4 seniors. Free for ages 12 and younger. Parking is $5.

For information: (916) 663-1918, or www.mandarinfestival.com.

November 14, 2011
How strict should we be regarding local sourcing?

Some readers expressed concern about product sourcing in my "First Impressions" piece on Juno's Kitchen & Delicatessen. Specifically, in this farm-to-table, local-first restaurant town, they were not thrilled that chef Mark Helms uses beef from New Zealand. I may have raved about his burger, but some wondered why he didn't get his beef from around here.

It's an excellent question - and a tough one.

160px-New_Zealand_Cities.pngBefore I address it, let's begin with a digression. Way back in 2004, The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op went through a red meat controversy (the Co-op wanted to carry red meat, while opponents didn't want anything more, animal-wise, than seafood and chicken in the store). After much debate, the very ethical store opted to carry organic beef from Prather Ranch in Klamath Falls, Ore. It seems so long ago, because well-sourced beef is such a big-seller at the Co-op now - and so mainstream. Back then, I went to Prather Ranch to check out what it was all about and learn why it met the Co-op's very stringent guidelines. I note that it was a five-hour drive, one-way, which meant I passed a lot of other beef ranches large and small just getting there.

November 14, 2011
Dante Club will cook up a cioppino feast, get it while you can

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Fund-raising crab feeds will abound over the coming weeks as the Dungeness crab harvest shows up in area stores. But what about a cioppino feed?

You know cioppino. It's the fish stew that was "invented" in the late 1800s by Italian and Portuguese fishermen along the North Beach docks in San Francisco. Essentially, it's a "catch of the day" melange of crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, calamari and fish in seasoned tomato-based broth. When served with crusty sourdough bread, it's a full meal.

Now word comes from the 85-year-old Dante Club that it will host a cioppino dinner at 7 p.m. Saturday at 2330 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento. The feast will begin with antipasti and salad, followed by risotto and cioppino, and end with tiramisu. Cost is $40 per person, benefitting the social club's scholarship fund.

"The cioppino is my Aunt Lena's recipe," said board member and dinner co-chairman Jim Casali. "(Club member and chef) Michael Talani will do the cooking."

For reservations and more information: (916) 487-9896.

November 11, 2011
French pastries coming to revamped K Street

K Street is getting more good news, with Estelle's Patisserie slated to open Dec. 1. Owned by self-taught baker Esther Son, Estelle's will specialize in French pastries. By opening day, the often beleaguered, and analyzed street will open to automobile traffic Saturday for the first time in years. There are already plenty of signs that K is in the middle of a comeback.

Estelle's will be at the high-visibility corner of 9th and K, site of Danielle's Creperie, which closed many months ago. Son is also the owner of Esther's Cupcakes, on Fair Oaks Boulevard.

"This has been my lifelong passion," Son told Sacpress, the online publication. "I've always dreamed of owning a bakery, ever since I was a little girl."

We will have more information on her and her new venture soon. In the meantime, read about Son's plans here at Sacpress.

It looks like Sacramento is about to be rich with French culinary touches. If you recall, The Bee's Bob Shallit reported in September that local restaurateur Trong Nguyen and his wife, Annie Ngo, will open a "French culinary showcase" at the former Cassidy's Family Restaurant at 51st Street and Folsom Boulevard in East Sacramento. Les Baux will sell pastries on one side of the building and offer sit-down meals on the other.

November 11, 2011
Icing on the Cupcake's individual pies debut today

If you checked the Bee's food and wine section a couple weeks back, you would have read about the mini-pie movement that's taken off around the country. You'll find examples locally at TreyBCakes and Becky Jo Pies both online and at Corti Brothers.

And starting today, Icing on the Cupcake will sell its "sweetie pies" each Friday for $3 a pop. Their line of mini-pies starts with homemade apple crumb pie, and a pecan pie will be coming for the holidays. At the risk of sounding like an advertorial, we had a chance to sample some of these "sweetie pies" and were wowed by them, from the tender crust to the very tasty apple topping. If you're interested in pre-ordering some pies, call (916) 303-4333.

November 11, 2011
Behind-the-scenes look at hiring the new chef at Grange

imgres.jpgNow that Oliver Ridgeway has taken charge of the kitchen at the Citizen Hotel's Grange Restaurant downtown, I was curious about the so-called "national search" to fill the executive chef position after Michael Tuohy's departure.

Turns out, the Joie de Vivre Hotels, which owns the Citizen, spent plenty of time and money to find the right chef for the job. I had a lengthy chat recently with Morgan Plant, vice president of food and beverage for JdV, to get some of the details.

After Tuohy announced several months ago that he was leaving to pursue other opportunities (he landed, somewhat surprisingly, at Dean & Deluca in St. Helena, where I spotted him working behind the counter last weekend), Joie de Vivre decided to place detailed and extensive Craigslist ads in every major city in the country. They also used the website Hcareers.com, which specializes in the hospitality industry, as well as Starchef.com (Tuohy was once named a StarChef "rising star").

"We did a fair amount of incentivizing people we knew in the industry," Plant said. I think that means they asked around.

What do executive chefs make? That, of course, depends on the restaurant.

November 11, 2011
Restaurants step up to help Yuba City veteran and his family


Veterans Day seems to be the right time for this story:

A few years ago, Waylon Walchesky of Yuba City served in the military in Saudi Arabia, and returned home to his wife, Shelly, and their young children.

After a series of financial setbacks, one more unfortunate thing happened: Waylon Walchesky suffered a seizure earlier this week and was diagnosed with an illness likely related to his time spent in the Middle East. Concerned friends and family rushed in to help. Asked what it was the family needed most, Shelly Walchesky answered, "Meals."

That's what Dani Luzzatti of Sacramento's Bella Lu Catering came across on a friend's Facebook page, which was overflowing with expressions of sympathy and support for the family, from friends and strangers alike. She posted the situation on her own Facebook account, and the response was immediate and gratifying.

"I asked other restaurant people to help with family-friendly prepared meals," Luzzatti said today. "Within an hour, general manager Howard Cantrell (of East Bay Restaurant Supply in Sacramento) had donated a freezer, and our awesome restaurant community offered meals to fill it up."

The timing now is to deliver the meal-stuffed freezer to the Walcheskys "on Monday or Tuesday," Luzzatti said.

Among the Sacramento-area restaurants participating so far are Roxy, Lucca, Matteo's Bistro, Becky Jo Pies, Cafeteria 15L and Magpie Cafe, and Chef's Table in Rocklin, said Luzzatti.

"Several other restaurants privately responded, rather than go on a public page," she added.

For more information, email Luzzatti at dani@bellalucatering.com.

November 11, 2011
Chef Michael Powers lands at the Bistro at Villa Toscano

scallops.JPG.Some stories do have happy endings.

In late September, husband-wife Michael and Margo Powers were in the midst of closing their well-regarded Terrace restaurant at Town & Country Village. He would start job-hunting. She would turn their 3-1/2-acre homestead in Wilton into a "full-on organic farm," though it already produced a variety of fruits and vegetables used in the Terrace kitchen. Understandably, they were stressed and heartbroken.

Things got brighter three weeks ago when Michael Powers became the executive chef at the Bistro at Villa Toscano Winery in Plymouth.

"I sent a resume and they called me," he said Thursday. "I went for an interview and they hired me on the spot. I started working right then. It's a lot of the responsibility I wanted, without the issues of restaurant ownership. I can just do my work and play with the food."

The winery's food operation focuses on catering ("That's my forte"), but the Bistro offers a counter-service menu of pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads and daily specials.

"I want to broaden (the Bistro) menu and put my signature on it," Powers said. "Pasta-wise, I'm coming with a lighter, fresher angle. (Pizza-wise) we're going to start making calzones. And I'll be bringing changes to the catering menu, too."

November 10, 2011
Broadacre Coffee grand opening bash on Saturday with many giveaways

A grand opening bash is set for Saturday to celebrate the launch of Broadacre Coffee, which is located downtown at 1014 10th St. and the former digs of Temple Coffee (which moved in September to 1010 9th St.). The Broadacre Coffee party will include plenty of freebies, including complimentary coffee and giveaways of brewing equipment and coffee bags. The Mini Burger truck will also make an appearance at approximately 6 p.m., and Broadacre Coffee is picking up the tab for the first $500 worth of orders.

Broadcare Coffee is run by brothers Lucas Elia and Leyland Jacob, who formerly ran the now-shuttered Pause Lounge & Kitchen in Roseville. The two are also the former owners of Roseville's Bloom Coffee & Tea who sold their interest in the business. Two of Bloom's former baristas, Justin Kerr and Andrew Lopez, are also acting as owners/operators of Broadacre Coffee.

At Broadacre Coffee, the cafe currently features such brews as Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz, CA), Coava Coffee Roasters (Portland, OR), Ritual Coffee Roasters (San Francisco, CA) and Intelligentsia Coffee (Los Angeles, CA).

Saturday's grand opening party runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information: broadacrecoffee.com or (916) 442.1085.

November 8, 2011
Twin Peaks Orchards' open house is a day on the farm

Persimmon-1.jpg In September, we came across the Twin Peaks Orchards kiosk at the Village at Northstar during the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival. It was among many vendors that weekend. We bought bagsful of plums and peaches, along with jars of peach preserves, and were impressed.

Now the family-owned-and-operated orchard will host a free fall-harvest open house, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at its grounds in Newcastle.

The centerpiece will be a persimmon-tasting and - depending on the weather and "harvest availability" - U-pick mandarins, said family member Camelia Enriquez-Miller, company partner and marketer.

"Our specialty in the fall is persimmons," she said. "We grow four types, and one is unique to our farm - the amagaki, which translates from Japanese to mean 'sweet persimmon' in English."

The day will also include orchard tours, hayrides, a fall tree-pruning workshop (11:30 a.m.), wool-spinning demonstrations, and a petting zoo (alpacas) and face-painting for the children.

You can buy lunch from Farm To Belly catering company, and a copy of "Placer County Real Food From Farmers Markets" and get it autographed (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

The Farmer's Marketplace sells jam and honey, olive oil and cheese, spices and baked goods.

To get to Twin Peaks Orchards, take Interstate 80 toward Reno to the Sierra College Boulevard exit and bear left. Drive through Loomis and turn right on Highway 193. After about three miles, look for the signage on the left.

Information: (916) 346-5569, www.twinpeaksorchards.com

November 7, 2011
Woodland service man to be featured on "Emeril's Table"

Bam! Chef Emeril Lagasse is paying to tribute this week to the honorable men and women serving in the United States' armed forces by showing off some southern style cooking. On Friday, "Emeril's Table" will feature a group serving in the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, including T.J. Milani of Woodland. Miliani, who's currently serving in the Navy, will be treated along with his fellow sea service men and women to oven fried catfish, collard greens with garlicky cornbread and more.

The episode will air on Friday at 11 a.m. PT on the Hallmark channel - or 1100 military time. If you want a heads-up on one of the recipes for these "lightened southern favorites," you're in luck. Bam!

November 7, 2011
Sunday breakfast-brunch at Maranello wins the tasting game

maranello_15.jpg In the parking lot on Sunday, we followed the smokey smell of cooked bacon into Maranello restaurant and grabbed a table in the main dining room.

A server passed by, balancing two platters heaped with what looked like giant pieces of chicken covered in gravy.

We consulted our menus and found the dish: "Southern-fried chicken breast, buttermilk biscuit, pork sausage gravy, two eggs any style, house potatoes." Added was the comment, "Of course, no Fair Oaks chickens were harmed," a reference to the free-roaming poultry population of the town.

We were there to sample Maranello's new breakfast-brunch, along with 25 other like-minded diners. Ten more sat at the bar, watching the 49ers run over the Redskins, while 20 or so more had gathered in a private dining room to celebrate a baby shower. Next time, we'll get more leg room on the weather-proofed outdoor deck.

Executive chef Gabriel Glasier and his crew worked the kitchen, turning out waffles and pancakes (chocolate chip with Belgian chocolate sauce), eggs and omelets (smoked salmon and dill cream cheese), and "comfort food" that included chicken-fried hangar steak, and maple-cured pork loin teamed with potato pancakes ($6.75 to $12.95).

Years ago, Glasier opened and owned Redbud Cafe & Wine Bar in Cameron Park. Later, he was executive chef at Slocum House, a Fair Oaks landmark that closed in March.

We crowded our table with a heap of food - fat link sausages, deeply flavored bacon (crisper, please), a hazelnut buttermilk waffle with maple syrup (more bits of hazelnut, please), and chunky, incredibly tender corned-beef hash made from a bottom-round cut instead of the more traditional yet tougher brisket.

The sweet-smokey hash mingled with caramelized onion and was dolloped with whole-grain mustard hollandaise. "I would come back just for this," said one brunch pal. Everyone else nodded.

The show-stopper, though, was the daily special (pictured) - two thick patties of crab and rock shrimp (containing capers, garlic, lemon and dill, bound with housemade mayonnaise) topped with roasted tomato hollandaise, served with two perfectly poached eggs and roasted potatoes ($13.95).

"If there's one word for this, it's 'sublime,'" said a second brunch pal, and we nodded again.

Maranello, 8928 Sunset Ave., Fair Oaks; (916) 241-9365, www.maranellorestaurant.com. Sunday breakfast-brunch is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

November 4, 2011
Daniel Pont's new restaurant to open Tuesday in Folsom

imgres.jpgHere's the latest on Daniel Pont and Chez Daniel, his new restaurant in Folsom. If you missed my story a couple of days ago (it ran in the business section), the 72-year-old French chef is getting back in the professional kitchen, many months after selling his famed downtown lunch spot, La Bonne Soupe.

Pont called me at home (at 10:30 p.m.) Thursday and I could hear the excitement in his voice. After three months of work, including a month's worth of frustration with getting his fire alarm to pass muster with the Folsom Fire Department, the chef is ready and eager. I didn't mind the late hour. I was actually sipping a very nice glass of Cotes du Rhone, and I figured 10:30 to a Frenchman is like 7:30 to an American.

He said expects to be open Tuesday. But the man who became famous for his lunches will be open only for dinner, at least to start. Dinner will be served from 5-9 p.m.Tuesday to Saturday. The menu will feature food that is much more involved and sophisticated than the soups and sandwiches that won him such a devoted following downtown.

November 4, 2011
Marie's maple doughnuts take the cake in informal taste test

Some doughnuts, with their "come hither" sugar glazes, beg to be touched and eaten. These deep-fried confections taste deceptively light. What could be the harm in just one more?

They're the worst. And, by that, of course, I mean they're the best.

The newsroom staff here at The Bee recently had the opportunity to buy and sample maple doughnuts from three establishments in Sacramento: Marie's at 2950 Freeport Blvd., Yum Yum at 3671 Franklin Blvd., and Doughbot at 2226 10th St.

November 3, 2011
Sacramento's Tyler Stone eliminated from "Top Chef"

Well, that was quick. Before you can say, "And now, a word from our sponsors," Sacramento's Tyler Stone was given the boot within minutes of "Top Chef: Texas'" season debut Wednesday night. Stone, a local private chef, joined 28 other "Top Chef" contestants vying for 16 slots, wielding their knife skills and usual array of funky headbands and tattoos.

Stone, however, was immediately put on the chopping block by host Tom Colicchio after Sacramento's own botched a butchering job on a slab of pork. The decision must've gone down like a big hunk of humble pie, with the 23-year-old Stone shown earlier in the show bragging about cooking for celebrities and creating his own cookbooks in three and-a-half weeks.

"I think you should just leave now," said Colicchio, after looking at the remnants of Stone's butchering job.

November 3, 2011
Selland's Market Cafe is set to open in El Dorado Hills

Get ready to dig in. Restaurateur-chef Randall Selland will open another Selland Group restaurant, this one in the El Dorado Town Center and modeled after the popular Selland's Market Café in East Sacramento. He also mentioned the possibility of opening one or two other restaurants later in 2012.

"Our new restaurant should be open by the beginning of January," he said. "It will be a duplicate of Selland's Market Café on H Street, but with a very cool look. The same design firm that did Ella (Dining Room and Bar) is designing this one. It will have a very traditional country-French bistro feel to it."

At 4,200 square feet, the new place will be 1,000 square feet larger than the existing Market Café, and carry a similar array of foods. It will occupy a street-level corner space in the New Orleans Building at Town Center.

Foodies in the El Dorado Hills-Folsom area have anticipated the new Selland's since rumor of its coming began to spread two years ago. Then word came in May that the restaurant would open by Thanksgiving.

November 1, 2011
How making honey helped a man know his dad in a new way

13eqpmt.jpgI love stories about how food connects us - to loved ones, to strangers, to our childhoods, to our memories. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I stumbled upon a poignant story about a man who happened to teach college speech classes and his father, who happened to be a man of few words - maybe too few.

What got Dad talking? It was honey. Simple as that.

In fact, Paul Duax started making honey because his dad used to be a beekeeper, and he figured that maybe he could get the old man to give him some pointers whenever he called to chat.

"Old guys don't like to talk on the phone," Paul told me.

So Paul got his hive started and, sure enough, father and son were talking up a storm about bees and hives and honey and all that goes with it. Paul would call his dad in Davenport, Iowa, ask something about beekeeping and it went from there.

"It worked like a charm," Paul said.

November 1, 2011
Mendocino County on the radar for Wine & Mushroom Fest

ASAP LIFESTYLES AMERICAN ST.jpgIf you love mushrooms and enjoy a glass or two of vino, the annual Mendocino County Wine & Mushroom Fest awaits you Friday through Nov. 13. It's been called "one of the top six food festivals in the nation" by the food and wine experts at www.oprah.com.

Right now is peak mushroom-harvesting season there, with 500 edible varieties from which to choose. Those delectable fungi go into dishes that pair well with the wines of the Anderson and Russian River Valleys.

The 10-day multi-venue, county-wide festival will feature special dinners and wine-, beer- and food-tastings, workshops and seminars, hands-on cooking classes and cooking demonstrations, entertainment and art exhibits, and guided expeditions (on foot, and by kayak and train) to forage for mushrooms.

Get all the details at www.mendocino.com or call (866) 466-3636.



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