February 29, 2012
Get ready for a pig-out at Davis Farmers Market's Pig Day

The Davis Farmers Market is a landmark destination for all of the Sacramento region, offering an impressive array of top-of-the-line local agriculture.

This Saturday, it will host the 21st annual Pig Day, celebrating all things pork. Bring your appetites for individually priced items from vendors ($3.50 to $12), including breakfast (pancakes and bacon), breakfast sandwiches (with pulled pork or bacon), pigs in a blanket, barbecued ribs, pizza, piggie-shaped cookies and bread, corn dogs and hot dogs, watermelon-chocolate chip ice cream and more.

Farmers market partner Sutter Davis Hospital will host a cooking-demonstration station, with free samplings of Bledsoe pork stir-fry, and free menu cards.

Special events are planned for children, including family photo opportunities with the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, an appearance by "Ms. Piggie," a piglet petting zoo, and arts and crafts.

"After 21 years, Pig Day is part of the Davis culture," said farmers market manager Randii MacNear. "It's the only event of its kind in California, celebrating the pig's rightful place as one of mankind's most intelligent and useful domesticated animals."

Pig Day at the Davis Farmers Market will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in Central Park at Fourth and C streets. More information: (530) 756-1695,

February 29, 2012
Sacramento Food Film Festival coming, win restaurant gift cards

Pass the popcorn and get ready to feed your mind, too. The inaugural Sacramento Food Film Festival is set for March 10 at the Guild Theater (Broadway and 35th St., Sacramento), featuring a full day of food documentaries, panel discussions - and of course, some food for noshing.

The festival features eight films, including "Dive," a documentary about the enormous amounts of food we throw away, an exploration of school lunch programs called "Lunch Line" and the plight of small farmers in "Last Crop." Following a screening of "Farmaggedon," a panel discussion will be held with local farmers to discuss the film's points about food policies and regulations.

If you don't have time to grab some of those tasty ribs up the street at T&R Taste of Texas Barbecue (Broadway and 36th St., Sacramento), food will be available at the festival from Whole Foods and two food trucks: Coast to Coast Sandwiches and Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen.

February 29, 2012
Ella to kick off "Meet Mike" menu, The Kitchen nabs another award

Mike Thiemann's about a month into his new role as executive chef at Ella Dining Room & Bar, and for the month of March the restaurant is offering a special "Meet Mike" menu to further introduce Thiemann's culinary talents to Sacramento diners. To recap, Thiemann's a Rancho Cordova native and veteran of Sacramento's punk and indie-rock scenes who later found success as a chef, with stints in New Zealand, Hawaii and most recently as executive chef with Tyler Florence's Wayfare Tavern and Hawk's Tavern. Click here for a profile of Thiemann which recently ran in the Bee.

Thiemann's spent the past month balancing Ella's signature dishes - roasted bone marrow, pappardelle and poached egg, yellowfin tuna carpaccio - with his own ingredient tweaks and introduction of new dishes. From Thursday through Saturday, you can participate in this getting-to-know-you phase with a three-course "Meet Mike" menu that costs $40.

Courses include organic carrot soup with crisp shallot and marcona almond milk, pan roasted mussels and wood fired pork loin with black-eyed peas, bacon lardon and chicharrones. Considering the pork loin alone costs $26 on Ella's regular menu, this prix fixe menu is relatively a very good deal. Surf over to for more info.

February 28, 2012
Sacramento City Council to honor local brewers and Sacramento Beer Week

Hear ye, hear ye: It's time to honor beer! That's right, local brewers will be honored at tonight's City Council meeting with a resolution in honor of California Craft Brewer Month and the success of Sacramento Beer Week, which runs through Sunday at pubs and restaurants around the region.

California Craft Brewer Month was passed via SCR 66 in the California State Senate on a 36-0 vote, acknowledging California as the birthplace of the microbrew movement and the emergence of the state's craft beer industry. Tonight's ceremonies at City Council chambers will also recognize the thriving local craft beer industry and Sacramento Beer Week, which has turned into one of the city's most successful and expansive food/drink celebrations since starting just three years ago.

Saturday's Capital Beerfest at Cal Expo, a core event of Sacramento Beer Week, attracted some 80 breweries and about 2,700 attendees. Plenty more Sacramento Beer Week events are on tap, so to speak, and here's the Bee's guide to some of its highlights.

February 28, 2012
Chocolate Salon will offer the best from the cacao tree

Food Deadline Bonbons.jpg If you're seriously in to chocolate - and seriously in to partying - the 6th annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon has your name on it.

More than 30 chocolatiers will offer their artisan and gourmet delights, while live music plays in the background and wine and premium spirits are poured.

Your ticket buys chocolate tastings and wine pairings, chocolate-making demonstrations - even "chocolate fashion and body-painting." Get in on new product launches and experimental flavor combinations. Or maybe be interviewed by reporters from TasteTV's "Chocolate Television" program.

Panel discussions will touch on such topics as "The Return of the Toffee" and "Asian Flavors and Influences in Artisan Chocolate."

Look for appearances by Tanya Holland, chef-owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B Side BBQ in Oakland and author of "New Soul Cooking; and "Top Chef's" Marisa Churchill of San Francisco, author of "Sweet & Skinny."

The chocolate extravaganza will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 4, in the 30,000-square-foot Herbst Pavillion at Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco; (415) 345-7500,

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door for adults; $10 for children ages 6 to 12; free for 5 and younger. To buy tickets, watch videos from past events and for more information, visit

February 27, 2012
2012 Grape & Gourmet to stay at Cal Expo, but held after State Fair

Plans are firming up for the 2012 edition of Grape & Gourmet, and expect another year for this tasting at Cal Expo albeit with some tweaks.

The event features pours of winning wines from the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition along with food sampling from regional restaurants. After a couple years at the Sacramento Convention Center, Grape & Gourmet moved to Cal Expo in 2011 and held on one very hot day at the California State Fair.

The move wasn't such a good one. Winery owners and the general public alike complained that the wines weren't keeping so well during a sweltering late-afternoon at the fair.

February 27, 2012
Lounge ON20 chef gets invitation to big-time Napa Valley event

The accolades and opportunities continue to pile up for Pajo Bruich, the talented executive chef at Lounge ON20 in midtown.

Hot off a Valentine's dinner that won raves, Bruich has been recruited to show off his modernist cuisine at a special event in Napa Valley this spring.

Bruich is slated to be a featured guest chef at one of the private estate dinners for this year's Napa Valley Wine Auction. It's a who's who of the food and wine folks in the Napa Valley, and it is quite an honor for Bruich to be invited, especially when you scan your eyes down the list of other chefs involved: Thomas Keller, Christopher Kostow, Cindy Pawlcyn and Gary Danko, among others.

February 27, 2012
Miss California will serve free pancakes for IHOP

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Here's an irresistible trio: free pancakes, Miss California flipping those pancakes, and a fund-raiser to benefit ill children.

To celebrate National Pancake Day, those flapjack-lovers at IHOP have put together a special program. All 1,500 IHOP stores around the country will serve a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes to each customer, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday.

As a bonus, Miss California - Noelle Freeman (pictured) - will cook and serve pancakes from 7 to 11 a.m. at the IHOP at 2941 Advantage Lane, Sacramento; (916) 575-9025.

The goal of the promotion is to raise $2.7 million for the Children's Miracle Network and other charities. To accomplish that, Sacramento-area customers will be encouraged to donate to CMN to benefit UC Davis Children's Hospital, which is a member. CMN raises money for more than 170 children's hospitals nationwide.

For more information:

February 24, 2012
Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar opens in former Red Lotus

The color's still red in the middle block of J street between 27th and 28th streets in midtown, but now it's a rabbit holding fort. Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar recently opened at 2718 J St., the former site of Red Lotus which shut down in September after a year and-a-half of operating.

Gone are the dim sum-styled plates from chef Billy Ngo, and now you'll find a menu of worldy comfort foods (think: "farm animal lollipops" with beef, lamb and chicken in various sauces, a "farm to table veggie burger, loco moco and ramen with handmade noodles by "Pasta Dave" Brochier), with prices ranging from $5 to $18. All house cocktails cost $7, including the Boulevardier (bourbon, campari and sweet vermouth) and the Marshall Park Swizzle (rum, falernum, lemon, nutmeg).

Check Red Rabbit's latest reviews on Yelp for what local folks are saying about the restaurant thus far.

February 23, 2012
Food trucks and art to join forces Friday

Now here's an event that'll satiate your hunger for mobile food and art. A Friday night fundraiser at Beatnik Studios (2421 17th St., Sacramento) on Friday night will feature an exhibition of black-and-white photography, live local bands and food truck eats from Fuzion Eatz, Mama Kim and Wicked 'Wich.

In the case of Wicked 'Wich, you'll find a special menu and guest cooking from Matt Chong of GetSRVD. Chong's GetSRVD blog seeks to bridge the gaps between street eats and urban culture, and was also behind a very cool night of banh mi sandwiches and hip-hop music with Sacto's Live Manikins. This time up, Chong will help prepare a special Asian-themed menu at the Wicked 'Wich truck including vegan banh mi, grilled pork banh mi, pork belly sandwiches and chicken adobo.

"These are traditional Asian flavors remixed into a sandwich form," said Chong. "We're also bringing back one thing that people were talking about: Kool-Aid sunomono (aka Japanese pickles). It adds a stronger acidic note with a little flavor behind it. The whole combo has a sense of humor ... (foodies) sometimes take themselves way too seriously."

The event starts at 6 p.m. For more info:

February 23, 2012
23 California restaurants are among the nation's '101 best'

MAJ RESTURATEUR PAWLCYN.JPGWe Californians already know our state boasts some of the top restaurants in the nation, if not the world. Now the Daily Meal agrees.

The online - which reports on all things food and drink - just released its second annual list of the 101 Best Restaurants in America.

"Our team of editors, restaurant critics and food bloggers from around the country boiled down a selection of 202 restaurants to 101," said Daily Meal editorial director Colman Andrews by email. "From ultra-casual to super-fancy, old-fashioned to avant-garde, the final list covers all flavors of the food world and corners of the country."

By the way, restaurateur-chef Cindy Pawlcyn (pictured), whose Mustard's Grill in Napa placed 55th in the ranking, appeared for the Sacramento Bee Book Club in September 2010.

For the complete list and a slide show, go to

The 23 California honorees are:

February 23, 2012
Win a pair of passes for wine tasting and Riedel seminar

So, here's the deal. On Tuesday, Feb. 28 there's a Riedel Wine Glass seminar at Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa (1220 Arden Hills Lane, Sacramento). Now, this is one great tasting. Not only do you get to nosh on food from local restaurants - including The Firehouse, Scott's Seafood and Tuli Bistro - and taste wine while learning about the finer points of Riedel stemware, but you get to take home a set of Riedel Vinum XL Glasses. The glasses alone would cost $120 in stores, though this event costs $75 a head.

However, we have a free pair of tickets for this tasting to give away - a $150 value. Just send an e-mail to and list the following:

1. Your name and a daytime number where you can be reached.

2. List up to three of your favorite local wineries.

3. List three favorite local restaurants

The contest will be open until noon PT on Friday, and then we'll randomly select a winner. Good luck!

February 22, 2012
Corti Bros. butchers are brining beef for St. Patrick's Day

DSCF0286.jpgMeat department manager and master butcher Mike Carroll and his crew were getting ready for St. Patrick's Day, when Sacramento "goes green" March 17.

In the labyrinthian prep areas behind the Corti Bros. Market meat counter, Carroll trimmed and brine-injected beautiful briskets and other cuts of beef (pictured), then sank them under more house-made brine in stainless-steel barrels. There they will soak until Feb. 29, when they will be displayed in the meat department cold cases and sold to home cooks eager to bring a taste of Ireland into their kitchens. Some of the brined cuts will likely still be available post-March 17.

"St. Patrick's Day is huge for corned beef sales," Carroll said, stacking chunks of beef onto a huge cutting table. "We're injecting and barrel-brining more than 2,000 pounds of meat - choice, prime and Wagyu (Kobe-style) briskets, (leaner) eye of rounds, bottom rounds and prime Diamond Jims (from the shoulder), and a limited amount of pork shoulder and beef tongue."

The beef is from premium wholesaler J.B.S Meats of Greenley, Colo., said Carroll, who has been with Corti Bros. for 34 years. What's the difference between the beef cuts?
"The texture of the meat," he said. "The briskets are chewier and more fatty, while the others are leaner and more tender. But my choice is always the brisket because it has the most flavor."

February 22, 2012
The Kitchen, former Sacramento chef receive James Beard nominations

While the movie industry has its Academy Awards, the James Beard Foundation Awards represent the restaurant and food world's top honors. This year's crop of nominees features some rare Sacramento flavor vying with the country's top restaurants for these awards.

The Kitchen was nominated for outstanding restaurant, the equivalent of "best picture," with such fellow nominees as New York City's Blue Hill, Patina in Los Angeles and St. Helena's Terra. This may very well be the first time a Sacramento area restaurant has received this kind of accolade.

There's also a Sacramento connection with AQ of San Francisco, which received a nomination for "best new restaurant," along with Restaurant 1833 in Monterey (which the Bee reviewed in November), Altura in Seattle and others. AQ is headed by Mark Liberman, a former Folsom resident, who's emerged as a star of San Francisco's dining scene. To read more about Liberman and AQ, check Blair Anthony Robertson's recent review.

February 20, 2012
Restaurants pledge donations to Sacramento Food Bank this week

By Andy Furillo

It's "Eat to Feed the Hungry" week in Sacramento, with 15 top local restaurants each pledging $500 contributions to support the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

From today through Sunday, the participating eateries have promised to kick in $1, to a maximum of $500, for every diner who checks in first at the restaurants' social media sites.

Participating restaurants are Cafeteria 15L, Dive Bar, Ella, Gogi's Korean BBQ, Golden Bear, Ink Eats and Drinks, Level Up Lounge, MIX, Pizza Rock, Red Rabbit, River City Brewing Co., Sandra Dee's Bar-B-Que & Seafood, Thai Basil and Zocalo.

The Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, also the beneficiary of the annual Thanksgiving Day "Run to Feed the Hungry, feeds and otherwise assists 15,000 people a month.

February 17, 2012
Dijon and honey mustards join French's classic lineup

download (2).jpg When we refer to "ballpark mustard," most often that's generic-speak for the iconic French's yellow mustard. The classic condiment gets its distinct color from turmeric, a plant in the ginger family with alleged powers of healing.

Now the 100-year old French's is offering two new mustard options. The creamy Dijon with chardonnay has a nice puckery bite ($3 for 12 ounces), a sparky addition to potato salad and deviled eggs. The tamer Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce ($2.50) is sweet and tangy, and a suitable pairing with finger foods like veggie sticks or pretzels. More information is at

As a bonus, here's a recipe from French's:

February 17, 2012
New assembly bill could wipe out food trucks

The food truck nation is fretting over AB 1678, a bill introduced into the California State Legislature on Tuesday a.k.a. Valentine's Day. But this was no love letter for fans of mobile food. The bill seeks to ban mobile food and beverage vending within 1,500 feet of elementary and secondary schools from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. when schools are in session. The bill was introduced by Bill Monning (D-Carmel), and already given support by the California Food Policy Advocates, which focuses on low income familes' access to affordable and nutritious foods.

A statement from Monning's office reads in part: "Mobile food vending poses a threat to student safety as well as student nutrition. Mobile vending near school campuses incentivizes students to leave school grounds, which increases students' exposure to off-campus hazards such as heavily trafficked streets."

So, here's the part that has food truck operators and fans worried. Banning mobile food trucks from operating within 1,500 feet of schools would basically put food trucks out of business by severely limiting where they could operate. This map shows the effect AB 1678 would have in Sacramento if passed.

Of course, this bill has a long way to go before being passed. It must first work its way through committees, be passed by both houses of the Legislature and ultimately signed by the governor. If AB 1678 gets that far through the Capitol's veritabe sausage maker, chances are the bill's language would be amended in some form. Or, maybe not.

March 16 would be the earliest date it will be heard in committee. Stay tuned for more developments on this. In the meantime, here's the full text of Monning's statement about AB 1678.

February 16, 2012
How to cook a steak perfectly: low heat, long time

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I just heard back from Jenny Cavaliere, the farmer in Oregon House who owns and operates High Sierra Beef (see the original story here). She tells me the new farm store is in the process of being fully stocked and that the best time to visit is in early March. The store is open Saturdays and Sundays until 3 p.m. We're already planning a trip. If you're thinking of doing something similar, be sure to bring along an ice chest to pack the meat for the drive home (about 90 minutes). That way, you don't have to hurry to leave Oregon House and you don't have to worry about spoilage.

February 16, 2012
By popular demand: Joshua gives us his how-to on short ribs


I wrote a story in Wednesday's Bee taking a look at the trend of buying meat in bulk from local farms. One of the subjects in the story, Joshua Lurie-Terrell, was pictured cooking up some very tasty-looking short ribs, which came from High Sierra Beef as part of bulk purchase with several families.

Lots of readers couldn't help themselves and were eager to fire up some short ribs, too. They called and emailed looking for the recipe. We didn't run it in the paper, so I asked Lurie-Terrell to weigh in. One of the signs of a true foodie is a willingness to share -- whether its ideas, leads on restaurants or recipes. He didn't hesitate and replied promptly with the recipe.

February 15, 2012
Looking back at Valentine's Day dining

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In the restaurant business, Valentine's Day is known as "amateur night." It's the night when a lot of folks new to fine dining go out looking for a little romance, some good food and a pleasant experience. Sure, they might fumble the ball on occasion, like ordering a Diet Coke with sweetbreads, tipping $3 on a $100 ticket because that's all the cash they had left, or leaving behind their doggie bag like half of restaurant diners always seem to do.

But Valentine's is also a valuable night for restaurants. Not only is it an immediate way to take in revenue, it's a big chance to win new and perhaps longtime customers. Those rubes drinking ice water with their meal? They may one day grow up to be true epicures and wine lovers.

Along those lines, I wondered which restaurant really got this. Many restaurants embrace Valentine's Day, but I haven't seen one do it any better than Lounge ON20.

Lounge charcuterie.jpg

Executive chef Pajo Bruich's concept and execution we're brilliant. He came up with a menu that had wit and charm, as well as creative cooking with his now-signature modernist style.

The 6-course prix fixe menu concept was a tour de force. The amuse bouche, for instance, was given the title "Blind date;" the soup was called "Spooning;" the charcuterie was titled "It's complicated;" followed by "the Break-up": hamachi tartare for her and lamb tartare for him; followed by "the Make-up," beautiful grass-fed rib eye; the dessert was a dark chocolate cremeux with peanut butter ice cream dubbed "the perfect match."

Just look at some of the photos here (credit: Donahue Photography), including the dazzling charcuterie plate (above) created by chef de cuisine Mike Ward, the steak at the top, and the dessert below.

Lounge dessert.jpg

Valentine's Day may be amateur night at some restaurants, but it was nothing but smart and professional at Lounge ON20. It look like a tremendous culinary achievement and, more than likely, a way to win plenty of loyal customers well into the future. Below is a shot of the actual menu.

Lounge menu.jpg

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

February 15, 2012
Bon Appetit expands its digital recipe with a tablet app

The late food-and-travel magazine Gourmet may have been more sophisticated. And the to-the-point Cook's Illustrated is far more academic. But Bon Appetit certainly ranks near or at the topwhen it comes to mouth-watering color photography and user-friendly cooking articles. It's the food magazine with a sense of play.

Now the news reaches us that the Conde Nast product has launched a digital tablet-edition app aimed at helping home cooks. Among the features are step-by-step how-to videos, sideshows, photos, tutorials and, of course, recipes and tips. The "cooking tool," as its editors call it - and rightly so - is available for the iPad, Nook Tablet and Nook Color. Find it at and

Print subscribers will have access to the digital edition. For others, the monthly tablet edition is $1.99 per "issue," or $19.99 for a year.

The online edition of Bon Appetit is at

February 14, 2012
Fox & Goose takes to Facebook for an expanded response

Here's an update on the dust-up over a short but negative review of Fox & Goose in the Feb. Midtown Monthly. Social media is a powerful tool. Is this a good response from the pub?

Let's get one thing clear...we have NOT stopped distributing MidMo. If the (over)reactionaries would take a step back, then maybe they would appreciate seeing the whole picture. While the current issue in question has been removed (Honestly, do you think it is good business to have your customers reading a negative review while they are waiting for a table or their order to arrive? Think about it.) we fully expect to have the next excellent issue of MidMo on the rack (if they would like to return it). And YES we heard Ms. Singleton's message loud and clear. Inconsistency is not the hallmark of the F&G's success over the last 37 years. Clearly there is a disconnect when a single patron experiences three lackluster meals. Since our ill-fated review came out, we immediately addressed the issues of which Ms. Singleton spoke. We have conducted a kitchen meeting to address the food issues, addressed the floor staff to ensure food is delivered to the table prepared properly and we have hired Roxanne O'Brien, formerly of Mamzelle Catering, to indepently evaluate some of the menu items and recipes. Since our house made Corned Beef Hash is clearly one of our most popular menu items, we have to chalk that one up to execution. Our egg guys are the best in the business. Overcooked eggs should only be served if the customer has asked for them that way. Shepherd's Pie is also a signature dish which was recently added to the menu full time due to customer demand. Nevertheless, quality control was clearly lacking if it tasted "unseasoned" which, if prepared correctly, it is not. Look, we are not "that" place for seasonal, locally sourced, inventive food. We are a pub. As such, we serve pub food. Wholesome, hearty and, hopefully, delicious food, thoughtfully prepared, served with enthusiasm and in a great atmosphere...that is what we do. If the numbers of people who make it through our door day in and day out are any indication, we must be doing something right. Nevertheless, we want EVERYONE who comes through the door to have the best experience possible. Be assured, that is our goal and we're doing everything possible to see that it happens.

February 14, 2012
Buy one, get one free at Peet's

Need a little extra pep on your step this Valentine's week? Well, you can thank our Sacramento Connect friends at Cowtown Eats for passing along this tip. Peet's Coffee & Tea is offering a buy one get one free deal through Monday.

Here's the fine print: The offer doesn't include juice or bottled drinks, or kids drinks. And if you were looking to redeem this at a Peet's located in a supermarket, airport or BART - well, you're out of luck. And the deal's good for just one per visit, you scheming coffee drinkers.

Get ready to hit ctrl + P and print out the coupon. Enjoy!

February 13, 2012
Midtown Monthly rattles cage at Fox & Goose

I never miss reading an issue of Midtown Monthly. The articles are informative, entertaining and earnest. There's a lot of personality and passion within its 52 pages.

Every month, I'm likely to read about an upcoming event I'd like to attend or encounter a piece of history I didn't know about. I look at the photos. I recognize some folks and learn about others.

One of the reasons I believe the writing is that the magazine does not come off as a mere vehicle for advertising dollars. In other words, it tells the truth. It asks the right questions.

There is criticism within the magazine. Much of it is positive.

Lately, however, the magazine affectionately known as MidMo, has rattled some cages and bruised some egos - so much so that the venerable watering hole and eatery, Fox & Goose, gave the magazine's circulation rack the heave-ho. It happened shortly after the February 2012 issue hit the stands - the issue in which Sarah Singleton raised questions about the quality of the pub's cooking.

Overcooked eggs, scorched onions and peppers on a dish that was still "somehow cold." That was Singleton's breakfast.

It didn't get better at dinner. The shepherd's pie was essentially unseasoned and "the sad little salad that it came with was overdressed and limp," she reported. Aren't those facts? And unless Singleton needs a new optician, it's hard not to know what burnt looks like.

That critique is part of a larger piece on "Pub Grub," in which the food-savvy Singleton explores places known for their pub fare. In that context, you cannot ignore the long-admired Fox & Goose at 10th and R. And if you can't ignore it, you can't overlook its shortcomings. It wouldn't be fair to every other place that makes the extra effort and tends to all the little details - and it wouldn't be good journalism.

I couldn't ignore the unsavory response. Or so I thought. It turns out., it's not as bad as it appears (after hearing back from owner Allyson Dalton).

February 13, 2012
As Valentine's Day approaches, chocolate truffles are an option

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As we count down to Valentine's Day - which is tomorrow, guys - the question becomes how to show affection for the one we cherish.

Flowers and chocolates are traditional V-Day remembrances, but we have some questions. Like which chocolates to buy. So we called Teresa Higgins, co-owner with her chocolatier husband, Craig Higgins, of Capital Confections at Town & Country Village. For V-Day, they made 1,500 pounds of chocolate and turned it in to hand-crafted delights.

So, what's the hot chocolate this year?

"We have 24 flavors of truffles, made on site," Teresa Higgins said. "We have gluten-free and sugar-free chocolates. As for Valentine's Day gifts, it's a matter of taste. (Prices range from) four truffles in a box for $10 up to a 40-pack at $100, and everything in between.

"One of our most popular items is the nine-pack for $39, in a box topped with handmade paper roses," she said. "Another is 12 assorted small truffles in a velvet box for $29.95 (pictured). Yes, you can pick your own flavors. omorrow we'll be doing chocolate-dipped strawberries."

Town & Country Village is at Marconi and Fulton avenues, Sacramento. For Capital Confections: (916) 973-0249,

February 11, 2012
Sacramento native makes 'Worst Cooks' TV debut Sunday

Kelli Powers joked about a casting call for the "Worst Cooks in America."

"Then, my husband said, 'You should sign up,' " Powers recalled. "I was just laughing like it was a joke. But he said, 'You need to do that.' "

Now, Powers - who grew up in the Sacramento area - is one of 16 contestants competing in season three of Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America," which debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Powers, a mom and part-time actress who now lives in a Los Angeles suburb, will be part of chef Anne Burrell's team of eight "recruits." They'll battle in kitchen boot camp with eight other admittedly awful cooks, mentored by superstar chef Bobby Flay.

All 16 contestants were nominated by family and friends for their atrocious cooking skills.

"We had thousands of candidates," Burrell said. "We tried to find people who would truly gain something from the experience rather than somebody who just wants to be on TV."

Powers, whose family still lives in the Sacramento area, wanted to learn the secrets of kitchen success, so she could make recipes passed down from her grandmother.

"I always really excelled at everything I did," Powers said. "But cooking, I didn't get right away. I get it now.

"We learned every second - and we learned a lot from mistakes," she added. "That's OK. It gives you the kind of confidence you need in the kitchen."

In the season premiere, Powers and cohorts attempt Orange Pumpkin Pancakes with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Cinnamon Maple Syrup. The contestant with the least successful dish each week goes home.

Upcoming episodes feature an international cuisine challenge, seafood preparation and cooking for a class of third graders. The series culminates April 8 when the two most-improved cooks are judged by culinary stars David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson and Susan Feniger. The winner gets $25,000 plus new confidence in the kitchen.

For more details, click on Full episodes will be available for online streaming the day after original broadcast.

February 10, 2012
Try this technique for scrambled eggs

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Ever since I came across the technique in the January 2012 issue of "Food and Wine," I've been tinkering with a new way to make scrambled eggs.

I'm referring to the illuminating article about Coi's Daniel Patterson and Rene Redzepi of Noma, considered by many to be one of the greatest restaurants in the world. They recently spent time at Patterson's house in Oakland collaborating on ways to come up with new flavors.

This is something for which Redzepi is particularly renowned. His rather mesmerizing book, "Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine" has scores of recipes using ingredients plucked right from the land, sometimes while strolling through the woods, traipsing across a meadow or walking along the seashore.

This scrambled egg dish is much more accessible. And it's a pretty cool trick.

eggs II.jpg

Partially fill a pot with water. The pot should have high walls because you'll be stirring the water very briskly. My first go-round, the water tumbled over the top, so I switched to a taller pot.

eggs IV.JPG

Once the water is boiling, take a large spoon and stir vigorously (but carefully), creating a vortex. You will have already beaten your eggs. Stop stirring and immediately pour the beaten eggs into the vortex. Quickly cover the pot, turn down the heat and cook for about 40 seconds (for four eggs, slightly less for two eggs).

Carefully pour out the water into the sink, holding back the eggs with a slotted spoon. Then pour the eggs into a colander or strainer. The magazine suggests straining for 10 seconds. I found it needed longer than that; otherwise, you'll have watery eggs.

eggs V.JPG

In no time, you're looking at plump, perfectly cooked eggs - something between scrambled and an omelet. They're good enough to eat just like that, with a pinch of salt, maybe. But the Redezepi/Patterson article has a nice goat cheese sauce to add to the eggs.

You'll do this ahead of time: Take 4 ounces of fresh goat cheese and whisk with a ¼ cup of warm water. Then 2 ounces of shredded aged hard goat cheese (maybe gouda), 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan and stir into a pot with ¾ cup of simmering water. Stir until melted, then whisk in the fresh goat cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the eggs into bowls (1 or 2 eggs per bowl), then spoon the cheese mixture on top. Drizzle olive oil over that and adjust the seasonings to suit.

It's a great new dish. And an entertaining way to get there.

If you're looking for more advanced recipes from Redzepi, you'll certainly enjoy his book, which is loaded with beautiful photographs. On page 275, for instance, there's a poached egg recipe (but not scrambled and poached), that includes radishes and verbena sauce. The entire dish is then covered with heated sea lettuce, creating an opaque window over the eggs and radishes.

February 9, 2012
Fresh & Easy announces Sacramento store openings

You've probably heard for some time that Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market was going to give Trader Joe's a run for its money and set up new stores around the Sacramento area. Look for five Fresh & Easy stores to open in early March, with its line of ready-to-cook meals and house branded products that feature competitive prices. According to a release, the openings of these five stores will create "100 good jobs with benefits" locally. The British-based company currently operates stores around southern California, and in Nevada and Arizona.

One change to earlier plans: Fresh & Easy will not open on Fair Oaks Blvd. in the former Ethan Allen furnishings store. Here's the list of stores and their grand opening dates:


Mack Rd. & Franklin Blvd.
Watt & El Camino


Lincoln & Sterling in Lincoln
Elk Grove Blvd. & Calvine Rd.
Natoma St & Blue Ravine in Folsom.

For more information:

February 8, 2012
Sampling the new Selland's Market-Cafe in El Dorado Hills

DSCF0278.jpgHusband-wife restaurateurs-chefs Randall Selland and Nancy Zimmer recently opened another fine place to eat, this one in the El Dorado Town Center. It's named and modeled after the popular Selland's Market-Café in East Sacramento.

We dropped in Tuesday night and found the place slammed and joyfully noisy, like a party with endless wine. The revelers were in attendance partly for the Selland Group's well-deserved reputation for serving really good food.

But let's add the joke: If you open an envelope in the El Dorado Hills-Folsom area - much less a restaurant - crowds will form. Remember that local foodies actually camped overnight in the parking lot at the Palladio center in Folsom so they could rush the new Whole Foods store on opening morning, Oct. 26.

Anyway, the new Selland's Market-Cafe occupies a 4,200-square-foot corner space in the New Orleans Building. It's spacious and well-designed. Is that a real stamped-tin ceiling? Various sizes of wood tables fill the dining hall, competing for space with shelves of packaged merchandise - jams, jellies, horseradish cream sauce, key lime curd, crackers, sauces, flavored olive oils, wine and the like.

The cooks in the open kitchen keep the display cases of hot and cold foods filled with top-quality dishes, including shredded beef brisket, pork carnitas, pork roast, meatloaf and many salads. The astute staff was particularly helpful.

We ordered chicken breast with light gravy and sauteed mushrooms ($7.95), panko-crusted salmon with soy-citrus glaze ($8.95), a side of Asian noodle salad with carrot, bell pepper, scallion, peanuts and spicy sesame dressing, and an apple croustade - pie crust hand-formed into a disc and filled with sauteed apple and cinnamon ($4.95). What's that saying? It's all good.

Selland's Market-Cafe is at 4370 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 932-5025. Also: 5340 H St., Sacramento; (916) 736-3333. More information: and

February 8, 2012
Brewster's Bar & Grill undergoes ownership change

Brewster's Bar & Grill, which is housed in a 19th century renovated building in downtown Galt, will be closed until Monday as the business undergoes an ownership change. Its team of opening owners - Jason Boggs, Alex Origoni and Garrett Van Vleck - have stepped away from the business, which is being taken over by an as-yet unnamed owner. Boggs, Origoni and Van Vleck are also the proprietors behind the Shady Lady Saloon on Sacramento's R St. corridor.

According to Boggs, the Brewster's name will stay and D&S Development, which owns the building and also the developer behind numerous central city projects in Sacramento, will remain as a business partner in Brewster's. Boggs said sales weren't the main reason for backing out of Brewster's, which opened in May 2011.

"It's not like there were huge profits, but they were there," said Boggs. "What it comes down to is we wanted to focus on other projects. We were spreading ourselves too thin. Somebody was interested in (Brewster's) and we decided to take them up on it."

Chris Macias is the Bee's food and wine writer. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias

February 8, 2012
Heavenly Dog shuts down Elk Grove location, opts to go mobile

You could find some of the best hot dogs in the area at Elk Grove's Heavenly Dog - that is, until it shut down its space near Bond Rd. and Highway 99 at the end of January. But fear not, fans of the 'dog. Instead of continuing with a brick-and-mortar location, Heavenly Dog has opted to go mobile and focus on its food truck.

Heavenly Dog launched its food truck in December, and debuted at the Sacto MoFo 3 food truck festival at Eighth and W streets. That's since been Heavenly Dog's only appearance on the local mobile food scene, but plans to be running full-time starting in early March.

Owner Nicky Smith said mobile food looks to be a better business plan for her line of fine hot dogs.

February 8, 2012
Raise a glass to Charles Dickens on Valentine's Day

download (1).jpg Victorian-era novelist Charles Dickens' birthday on Feb. 7 reminded us that his Valentine's Day visit to New York City in 1842 was occasion for 3,000 of his fans to attend a super-soiree in his honor.

The catered menu for that affair - the Boz Ball - is documented as having included "40 hams, 50 rounds of beef, 50 jellied turkeys, 50 pairs of chickens and 25 of ducks, and 2,000 fried mutton chops."

It's appropriate, then, to raise a toast on V-Day (next Tuesday) to one of the greatest writers in the English language. With that in mind, we have a recipe for brandy punch from Dickens' book "A Christmas Dinner" (Red Rock, $24.95, 88 pages).

February 7, 2012
Free wine tasting in El Dorado Hills on Feb. 16

Anyone out there love a glass of syrah, that juicy red wine known for its full body and forward flavors? The grape's a signature of the Rhone in France, and especially dense and powerful versions of syrah are produced in Australia - though in the Land Down Under, the grape's called "shiraz." Syrah also has a home in the Sierra Foothills, which has the growing conditions and soils that work well with Rhone-styled wines.

So, how about a taste of that Sierra Foothills syrah? Feb. 16 has been designated by wine marketers that be as "Syrah Day," and you can get free tastes from eight El Dorado County wineries that day. The event will be held at the El Dorado Hills California Welcome Center (2085 Vine St., El Dorado Hills) from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Participating wineries include: David Girard Vineyards, Sierra Vista Vineyards & Winery, Lava Cap Winery, Boeger Winery, Shadow Ranch Vineyard, Crystal Basin Cellars, Grace Patriot Wines and Mount Aukum Winery.

For more information: (916) 358-3700

February 7, 2012
Risotto with wild mushrooms and duck confit takes our prize

DSCF0274.jpgNot to exaggerate, but we came across a dish Monday night that is one of the most remarkably delicious we've ever tasted.

It's composed of Carmoroli risotto (white rice from northern Italy), wild hedgehog mushrooms from the California coast, duck confit (house-cured duck poached in its own fat), grana padano (the hard, grainy cheese that dates to 12th century Milan), butter, saba (a sweetish reduction from the must of Trebbiano grapes, which make balsamic vinegar) and Italian parsley.

The dish is at Piatti Ristorante at the Pavilions center, but only for the next six to eight weeks, until the end of hedgehog mushroom season. The starter bowl is $12, the entree is $17.

February 7, 2012
'Valentine's Desserts' multimedia e-book sweetens the moment

cover.jpgJust in time for Valentine's Day - or any day, for that matter - is the 75-page multimedia e-book for iPad, "Valentine's Desserts," 99 cents at the Apple store.

Step-by-step videos hosted by culinary-arts professor Judy Parks show how to make three of the 10 dessert recipes (raspberry napoleon hearts, flourless chocolate cappuccino cake, chocolate mousse). The other seven are illustrated with step-by-step color photos and text. Included for all 10 are recipes, and lists of ingredients and directions.

Judy and Bruce Parks are former restaurateurs (Tarts & Truffles on Arden Way) who maintain an international gourmet cake-delivery business ( and a local online bakery ( Judy Parks has taught baking classes at American River College for 20 years.

Look for "Valentine's Desserts" soon at the Barnes & Noble Nook store and Amazon's Kindle store (for the Kindle Fire).

"We'll be making a series of multimedia books that will cover a range of baked goods, and the how-to techniques and tips for making them at home," Judy Parks said.

For more information:

February 6, 2012
Love beer? Newcastle introduces its seasonal Founders' Ale

image001 (1).pngWhen it comes to beer, Newcastle is a suds-meister. The brewmasters at the Caledonian Brewing Company in Edinburgh, Scotland, have been up to their necks in malts and hops for 80 or so years, crafting variations of its famous brown ale.

Each year, Heineken International distributes several special-edition, seasonable Newcastle beers for limited times. Rotating through the calendar year are Summer Ale, Werewolf ("Naturally blood-red in color") and, in December-January, Winter India Pale Ale.

Now on the U.S. market for the first time is Founders' Ale, honoring Newcastle's five founding breweries. We asked a few beer-drinking buddies to pop some tops at an informal tasting and offer their opinions. Among them:

"It starts out sort of sweet, then becomes interestingly bitter. The colder, the better."
"I can taste caramel, and I like the foam."
"Good mouth-feel, not too carbonated."
"Even though it's amber, the body is a lot lighter than you'd think. It gets better as you go along."

Founders' Ale will be around Sacramento into April, for $9 a six-pack. Visit


February 2, 2012
Drewski's opens brick-and-mortar location in time for Super Bowl weekend

As "Appetizers" first reported, Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen is opening its first brick-and-mortar location which can be found at Republic Bar and Grill (908 15th St., Sacramento). Located at the former spot of Dream Ultra Lounge, grand opening festivities will kick off this weekend, starting with a grand opening party at 7 p.m. You can also catch some gnarly UFC fight action starting at 4 p.m. Saturday and a Super Bowl party on Sunday afternoon.

The menu created by Andrew "Drewski" Blaskovich includes a range of burgers, hot dogs wrapped in bacon, egg roll-like "spark plugs" and a burger with a 5-pound patty aka the "18 Wheeler" that costs $40 - or free, if you can woof it down during a specified amount of time.

A second Drewski's food truck will also be running "very very soon," said Blaskovich.

"We'll be doing more menu options because we now have test kitchen," said Blaskovich. "We're able to store more stuff and have more fun with the menu. Food trucks are my baby and the brick-and-mortar is a platform to gain more of a client base."

February 2, 2012
Sacramento woman among Food Network's 'Worst Cooks'

Can Kelli Powers go from kitchen disaster to culinary master? The Sacramento woman has all-star help from celebrity chefs and a chance to win $25,000.

Powers is one of 16 contestants tabbed for season three of Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America," which debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.

Powers will be part of chef Anne Burrell's team of eight "recruits." They'll battle in kitchen boot camp with eight other admittedly awful cooks, mentored by superstar chef Bobby Flay.

All 16 contestants were nominated by family and friends for their atrocious cooking skills.

"Kelli's Nana -- her grandmother -- saw great cooking potential in her as a child, though Kelli was more interested in hitting the books than the pots and pans," according to the show's website. "Now a mother herself, Kelli wants to maintain her family's cooking traditions and is determined to no longer be the mom whose dish sits untouched at potlucks."

In the season premiere, Powers and cohorts attempt Orange Pumpkin Pancakes with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Cinnamon Maple Syrup. The contestant with the least successful dish each week goes home.

Upcoming episodes feature an international cuisine challenge, seafood preparation and cooking for a class of third graders. The series culminates April 8 when the two most-improved cooks are judged by culinary stars David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson and Susan Feniger. The winner gets $25,000 plus new confidence in the kitchen.

For more details, click on Full episodes will be available for online streaming the day after original broadcast.

February 2, 2012
You could win a $4,000 scholarship at the Art Institutes cook-off

You'll have to move fast on this one, as the first deadline is Friday:

Many of the 50 Art Institutes campuses across the nation (including the one in Sacramento) are offering $4,000 tuition scholarships to their International Culinary Schools. The 12th annual Best Teen Chef Competition invites high school seniors to participate. A separate, first-time competition invites participation by high school graduates seeking culinary degrees (there is no age limit).

High school seniors must first download the Best Teen Chef Competition brochure and fill out the Entry and Release form, at All the details and rules for both competitions are there, plus an invitation to conduct a live chat with an Art Institute representative. Those who finish in second place at each Art Institute will receive $1,000 tuition scholarships.

The next deadline is Feb. 24 and involves submitting your best recipe, plus a 250-word essay.

Local cook-offs - including one at the Sacramento campus - will be held around April 21. The Sacramento campus is at 2850 Gateway Oaks Drive. For more information: (916) 830-6320.

February 2, 2012
Listen and learn: Cooking duck breast with 2 ingredients

John Paul Khoury, the corporate chef for Preferred Meats, is one of the good guys in the business. He's smart, passionate, and committed to doing things the right way -- and the right way usually means a better, more flavorful product on your plate.

JP.jpgKhoury's main business is supplying high-end, sustainable proteins to some of the best restaurants around. But he's also a superb chef who often educates as he cooks. Usually, it's professional chefs. This time, it's the listeners for Capital Public Radio in a segment with the station's food journalist and author Elaine Corn.

Click here to learn a little about cooking a duck breast and making a sauce.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blabrob.

February 1, 2012
Hot Italian will open a second location in Emeryville

Hot Italian.jpg Hot Italian, the popular midtown pizzeria, is opening a second location, entering the highly competitive Bay Area market.

It is expected to open in early spring in an Emeryville shopping center called the Public Market. The center is in the midst of a major renovation by TMG Partners out of San Francisco and it will be anchored by Urban Outfitters, Guitar Center, an artist collective, Peet's Coffee, along with Hot Italian in a 3,000 square-foot space (pictured here) - which is about half the size of the Sacramento location.

"It's a longtime coming," said Andrea Lepore, who partnered with Fabrizio Cercatore to start the business about three years ago. The plan was always to have multiple locations.

The two restaurateurs will be doing plenty of back-and-forth travel in the weeks ahead as they oversee the many facets of opening a new restaurant.

They will host a job fair Saturday. Lepore says there are openings for shift leaders, servers, and various kitchen positions. A job fair last Tuesday in Sacramento attracted 300 applicants - a sign of the times, perhaps. People are looking for a job --- or a second or third job.

Asked how Hot Italian will stack up to the competition in the Bay Area, Lepore said, "We've tried all the pizza places down there and think they're all great. Fabrizio was born and raised in Italy and has been doing this his entire adult life. He is the maestro pizzaiolo. It will be fun. It's a great market and people there really appreciate good food."

Folks in Sacramento appreciate good food, too. Business has been excellent at Hot Italian, even in this dreary economy.

"Sacramento has been awesome. We have so many repeat customers. We couldn't have done this expansion without that. It's really a testament to the support that we've gotten here," Lepore added.

table.jpgExpect the new restaurant to have the same style as the Sacramento place - black and white, with plenty of cool touches, from the Illy coffee can lights to the giant fan from The bike racks out front are the best in town, practically pieces of functional sculpture.

Sacramento's talented Mike Whisten of 12M Metal & Woodworks, will be doing plenty of work on the inside of the new restaurant. Many of his creative touches are featured at the first location, including the round communal table made of reclaimed wood, and the wood storage units affixed to the walls. Whisten has also done work for restaurants like Press Bistro and coffee shops like Old Soul at the Weatherstone.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twittter, @blarob.

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