Appetizers
May 31, 2012
Capitol Dawg wins Guinness World Record for $145.49 hot dog

capitaldawg.jpg

Sacramento Bee photo by Paul Kitagaki, Jr.


About 60 well-wishing hot dog fans and friends - and two local televsion stations - showed up this afternoon at Capitol Dawg not for lunch but from curiosity, eager to witness hot dog history being made.

The Sacramento heat didn't stop the good-natured group from crowding the patio and kitchen of the popular Midtown restaurant to watch Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric bestow the official title of "World's Most Expensive Hot Dog" on owner Mike Brown's California Capitol City Dawg. The three-pound sandwich sells for $145.49. A third of the proceeds from sales will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Shortly before the grand moment, Empric explained that the Guinness World Records organization required him to see first-hand "two key points" at Capitol Dawg in order to grant the title.

"We have firm, established guidelines we must stand behind to uphold our integrity," he said. "(In this instance) the hot dog has to be a regularly listed menu item (it is), and an actual transaction needs to take place (it did)."

May 31, 2012
Free Krispy Kreme donuts Friday in Roseville

Somewhere behind Groundhog's Day and National Grilled Cheese Day we find another chance to reflect on a favorite national past time. That would be June 1, also known as National Doughnut Day. To celebrate this holiest of publicist-driven holidays, Krispy Kreme is offering a free donut starting at 12 a.m. Friday in its drive-thru and then inside its store at 5:30 a.m. Here's the fine print: no purchase is necessary, and éclairs or doughnut holes are not eligible in this offer.

For those keeping score at home, you might remember Krispy Kreme made a huge splash with an ambitious expansion plan during the 1990s. However, the company has since downsized significantly. That's left Roseville as the remaining Sacramento area Krispy Kreme location at 10317 Fairway Dr. (916-797-2221). Doughnut fans a little farther south can claim this free donut deal at two Stockton locations: 2809 West March Lane, and 7860 West Lane.

For more information: www.krispykreme.com

May 31, 2012
Hot Lunch Concert Series kicks off, adds food trucks

Now in its fourth year, the Hot Lunch Concert Series aims to give midtown and downtown office workers - along with anybody who's got the day off - a break with food and live music. The series, which runs each Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Fremont Park (16th and Q streets, Sacramento), is a partnership between Hot Italian and longtime local concert promoter Jerry Perry. If you want to go the pizza or panini route, you can place your order at Hot Italian and then bring your grub across the street to Fremont Park to kick back and hear live music.

Now, the Hot Lunch Concert Series has added food trucks to its lineup, today featuring Mama Kim, Wicked Wich and Fuzion Eatz.

But wait a second, a brick and mortar restaurant actually partnering with food trucks? Aren't the two supposed to be enemies, especially as many local restaurateurs continue to push back against calls for city ordinances to become more food truck friendly?

May 31, 2012
Will Sacramento hot dog joint sell world's most expensive dog?

Will Capitol Dawg owner Mike Brown sell the world's most expensive hot dog today at his Midtown eatery?

A Guinness World Records adjudicator will be at the restaurant this afternoon to determine whether a Capitol Dawg customer actually purchases Brown's California Capitol City Dawg for $145.49.

(A third of its sales will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children.)

May 31, 2012
Line up for 'cue at Back to the Farm

Give you and yours a break from your backyard grilling ritual and head out to the country for the Back to the Farm barbecue and celebration. It will be on a bucolic 200-acre walnut farm.

You'll find smokin' ribs, chicken, burgers and wurst, with side dishes - and you won't have to cook. Plus, live entertainment, a farmers market and a pie-eating contest. When was the last time you saw tractor and farm equipment exhibits and demonstrations?

Take Highway 99 north toward Yuba City, then scenic Highway 20 west to Meridian, finding Farmlan Road when you arrive.

The good times will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Information: (916) 355-4056, www.benalishrine.org. Back to the Farm will benefit Ben Ali Shriners.

May 29, 2012
1950s-styled food truck to debut in July

Look for some 1950s flavor to be served with a food truck that's set to debut in July. Papa Dale's Drivin' Diner will take on a rockabilly and hot rod kind of vibe, while serving such comfort foods as Santa Maria tri-tip, meatloaf, mac 'n' cheese, griddled breads and more. Expect menu items to cost $8 to $10.

Papa Dale's Drivin' Diner is the brainchild of Keith Breedlove, who recently served as corporate executive chef for Guy Fieri's restaurant group, opening a Tex Wasabi's in Santa Rosa and a Dublin, Ca. location for Johnny Garlic's. He's also served as an executive chef at four different hotels, and is currently a culinary instructor at the Sacramento campus of The Art Institute of California.

"Papa Dale is my grandfather and he encouraged me to do a culinary career," said Breedlove. "It's my way of saying thank you to him and honoring the food I grew up with. My wife and I are big fans of the 1950s and home cooked comfort food. I grew up around tri-tip and barbecuing."

May 29, 2012
Sometimes you feel like a nut, as in peanut or pistachio

We're always tempted when we see bags of nuts in the supermarket. To the point where we recently paid top dollar for a bag of in-shell peanuts with the San Francisco Giants logo on it. At home, we discovered they were stale, dusty and oversalted.

Similarly, we've been burned a couple of times with bags of stale pistachios that were nearly impossible to open.

We've moved on to two products that solved the problems. MV's Best extra-large "hand-prepared gourmet peanuts from the fields of Virginia" are big, fresh, crisp and crunchy. The shell-less legumes come in flavors, too - sea salt, unsalted, jalepeno, Cajun, toffee and chocolate-covered. This is a top-quality product available at www.virginiacocktailpeanuts.com.

Everybody's Nuts-brand pistachios are packaged in cute bags, but that's not the reason to buy them. The nuts are fresh and crisp, in three flavors - salt & pepper, sweet chili and garlic & onion.

We love the guarantee: "Everybody's Nuts are 100 percent open. Should you find a closed nut in this package, do not attempt to negotiate with it. Send it in and you'll receive a free bag."

All of the pistachios in our bags were open. How'd they do that? Look for them in supermarkets or order at www.everybodysnuts.com.

May 29, 2012
Verge fundraiser: local beer, local food and money well spent

Drink a beer, help an artist. It's that simple the entire month of June, as Sacramento's own Ruhstaller Beer will donate a percentage of sales for each beer sold (at participating restaurants) to the Verge Center for the Arts.

The fundraising effort is a good deal all the way around: Ruhstaller and owner JE Paino continue to cement the company's position in the community while connecting to the brand's vaunted history in Sacramento; Verge gets to share its vision with a broader audience while attracting needed funds; and the beer-drinking public get to enjoy excellent beer while supporting a very worthy cause.

First things first. Here's a list of the participating restaurants: Bows and Arrows, Blackbird, Davis Beer Shoppe, 58 Degrees, Grange, Matteo's Bistro, Mulvaney's, Mama Kim Eats, Luna Lounge, OneSpeed, Pangaea, Red Rabbit, Roxy, Selland's (East Sac), Tazzina's Bistro in Woodland.

May 25, 2012
Lounge ON20 to shut down this weekend

Less than a month after scaling back its dining program and parting ways with chefs Pajo Bruich and Mike Ward, midtown's Lounge ON20 will close for good after Saturday night. The closure was announced on Lounge ON20's Facebook page by co-owners Ali Mackani and Hayk Galachyan.

After opening four years ago as a midtown ultra-lounge, Lounge ON20 featured some of Sacramento's most cutting edge food with the hires of executive chef Pajo Bruich and chef de cuisine Mike Ward. The two dabbled in molecular gastronomy and other modern techniques, with the Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson naming Lounge ON20's charcuterie plate as the best dish he had in 2011. Ward has since landed a job as culinary development manager at Feeding Crane Farms.

At its peak, Lounge ON20 was ranked No. 6 in a national restaurant survey for molecular gastronomy. Despite its haute cuisine, Lounge ON20 just wasn't generating enough business with its dining program. Following the departure of Bruich and Ward, Lounge ON20 reverted back to a bar food program and emphasis on its nightlife offerings.

May 24, 2012
Triumph Uncorked on June 22 -- food, wine, and a great cause

Pam Whitehead is one of the true local heroes in the fight against cancer. Not only has she raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Livestrong Foundation over the years, but she founded an excellent program called Triumph Fitness, which is a free 12-week strength and fitness program for those who have recently been treated for cancer.

I just received an email about a great food and wine fundraiser on June 22 at Helwig Winery directly related to the Triumph Cancer Foundation, and it features some top-notch food folks -- Mulvaney's, Magpie Caterers, Freeport Bakery, Pretty Sweet Co and Grateful Bread -- all creating items that will go into each attendee's insulated (and reusable) picnic basket. This is the second year for "Triumph Uncorked."

Music, gourmet food, fine wine, a good cause. What's not to like? Tickets are on sale now. If you want to go, don't put it off -- tickets must be purchased by June 18. Get details at http://www.triumphfitnessprogram.com or go directly here to purchase tickets.

Whitehead knows what she's talking about -- she's a cancer survivor herself. She and her husband Paul Almond are also excellent architects -- their Sacramento-based firm is called Sage Architecture. If you happen to appreciate great design, check out the photo galleries. (If you look closely, you'll notice the recent work Sage did for Helwig Winery).

May 21, 2012
State Fair contest: Do you have a creative coffee idea?


Here's an email I received today that might interest those who enjoy entering the various food contests at the State Fair. If you've got a great idea, now is the time to let loose, as the prizes are quite impressive -- a trip to New York City, $500 and $500 worth of coffee. If your idea goes all the way: $10,000!

The press release states the following:

Seattle's Best Coffee is going to the epicenter of custard pie contests, brownie bake-offs and strawberry jam competitions to kick off "The Red Cup Showdown," a cross-country challenge offering a $10,000 grand prize for the most imaginative and delicious new coffee drink.

Seattle's Best Coffee invites California cooks with creativity to submit their best ideas during a live competition at the California State Fair on Saturday, July 14. The finalist who takes home the blue ribbon at the California State Fair will be sent to New York City to battle for the grand prize against finalists from the Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa state fairs as well as one Facebook finalist. In addition to a trip to the Big Apple in late August, the California finalist will receive $500 and free coffee for a year, valued at $500.

How to Enter The Red Cup Showdown at the California State Fair
Enter here http://www.bigfun.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/CA-Kitchen-Book1.pdf to compete in the Red Cup Showdown at the California State Fair. A panel of judges will select the finalist based on appetite appeal, uniqueness and the story behind the coffee drink idea.

May 21, 2012
Sacto MoFo 5 food truck festival coming July 21

The latest edition of Sacto MoFo, the local mobile food festival, has been announced for July 21. Look for Sacto MoFo 5 to touch down once again at Eighth and W streets, with a day of mobile food, live music, a beer garden and more. Sacto MoFo 5 will also include an arts and crafts fair among its offerings.

This announcement comes just about two months after Sacto MoFo 4, a gut buster of a day which attracted between 8,000 and 10,000 attendees, according to event organizers. Most lines ran 40 to 50 people deep with wait periods between 20 and 45 minutes - though this was just a fraction of the three-hour lines seen at the debut Sacto MoFo at Fremont Park in April 2011.

Sacto MoFo 5 is expected to feature between 25 and 30 food vendors, and expect to see some new food trucks in the mix. So just who will be slinging food out there? Event organizers are still rounding up trucks, and a confirmed list should be announced within the next two weeks. Stay tuned for that info.

May 18, 2012
Upcoming wine dinners at Vanilla Bean, Hawks in Granite Bay

Here are two promising wine dinners on the horizon, each with distinctly different price points: one at Vanilla Bean Bistro in East Sacramento, the other at Hawks in Granite Bay.

Here is the line up at Vanilla Bean, 3260-B J St., Sacramento. Call the restaurant for reservations, (916) 457-1155. It's a five-course dinner for $49.50:

Wed., May 23, 2012 at 6:30 PM
A Taste of Portugal
Featuring the Wines of the Fenestra Winery of Livermore
Presented by the wine maker, Brent Amos

Frango Na Pucara
Chicken Sautéed with peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic and wine
2010 Verdelho, Silvaspoons Vineyards, Lodi

Portuguese Paella
Rice with a variety of shell fish, chicken and vegetables
2009 Graciano, Markus Bokisch Vineyard, Lodi

Boneless Short Rib
With polenta and a red wine & dark chocolate sauce
2009 Tempranillo, Silavaspoons Vineyards, Lodi

Pork Tenderloin
With bacon wrapped dates and an apple and pomegranate sauce
2009 Malbec, Silvaspoons Vineyards, Lodi

Chocolate Bread Pudding
2004 Port, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi
Silver Medal 2009 Riverside Competition
Silver Medal 2009 El Dorado County Wine Competition.

May 18, 2012
Sacramento Chef Challenge: Battle cupcake

On your mark, get set, start frosting! The 10th annual Sacramento Chef Challenge goes down June 23 in "battle cupcakes." The contest features two divisions - one for professional chefs, the other for home cooks - who will go mano a mano with their cupcake creations. They'll each have three hours to bake and display their cupcakes, which must include ginger as part of their recipe.

Here's the list of challengers:

PROFESSIONAL CHEFS

* Bethany Gist (Auntie Bea's Bakery)
* Carlos Mares (Vanilla Bean Gourmet Cupcakes)
* Monique Cortes (Sassy Sweets by Monique)

HOME COOKS

* Kyle Lane (social media coordinator for Lexus, blogger)
* Jennifer Urias (Easter Seals marketing coordinator)
* Stephanie Nuccitelli (blogger of 52 Kitchen Adventures)

The event also includes more food, live music, wine/beer tasting and raffles. Tickets cost $25 or $35 at the door, and will be held at INALLIANCE Sacramento campus (6950 21st Ave., Sacramento). For more info: 916-381-1300 x170 or chefevent.com

May 18, 2012
Nine California restaurants among the nation's most expensive


The eye-opening check at the end of the meal seems not to be an obstacle for high-rolling foodies with a penchant for high-end restaurants.

Now the online Daily Meal - which reports on all things food and drink - has compiled its list of "The 25 Most Expensive Restaurants in America." Nine of them are in California, named here according to their rankings. Not surprisingly, most hold Michelin stars.

The No. 1 spot goes to Masa in New York City, where the average check is $1,269.

May 16, 2012
Cowtown Eats gets political: asks candidates about restaurants and happy hours

This is a pretty cool idea from Cowtown Eats, which is asking each of the candidates for City Council District 4 about their views on restaurants and happy hours. The blog notes that the newly redrawn district covers the Grid and Land Park, home to many of our high-profile restaurants and bars.

Here's what Cowtown Eats is getting at:

"My hope is that by their answers, we get a little glimpse into the actual person. If one person's favorite restaurant is Biba and another's is Squeeze Inn, it probably means a little about them. I'm not saying you should vote solely based on the information in these interviews, but this should be a little piece of information used in deciding your vote.
Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.


"Of the seven candidates, Neil Davidson has already taped an interview and one is scheduled with Phyllis Newton. I'll be posting these interviews in the order they were taped, starting tomorrow. I haven't heard back from the other five candidates. If you know Terry Schanz, Steve Hansen, Joseph Yee, David A. Turturici or Michael Daniel Rehm, please encourage them to participate. I can be reached at Darrel@CowtownEats.com to schedule the video interviews."

Now I'm curious. I live in District 4, and while I have a host of concerns and interests, I'd certainly like to take a look at these videos. Check out Cowtown Eats here and return to the site to keep up with what the candidates are saying about our restaurants and bars.


May 16, 2012
Masullo Pizza gets national recognition from a pizza legend

MAJ MASULLO.jpgPizza aficionados can be a rather obsessive lot, searching out the best of the best pizzas and making lists of their favorites. That's all well and good, but it might mean even more when the man at the top of many of those lists comes up with a list of his own.

In this case, that man is Chris Bianco, owner of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Ariz., and his list includes Sacramento's own Masullo Pizza (2711 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento). On Eater.com, the nationally known and highly regarded food website, Bianco prefaces his list by noting he is in London, has just turned 50 and is "thinking about places I'd love to be eating at tonight if I were somewhere in the U.S."

May 16, 2012
Back to the Farm will return to simpler country times

The notion of spending a bucolic day on a 200-acre walnut farm an hour's drive from Sacramento brings to mind the "unofficial anthem" of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Sure, there's a connection.

"Goin' Up the Country" by Canned Heat became an international hit after Woodstock, with lyrics that include, "I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away.../Well, I'm going where the water tastes like wine.../ I'm goin' to some place where I've never been before."

Which sounds a lot like going to Back to the Farm - yes, in the country - where you'll find live entertainment, smokin' barbecue, a farmers market, pie-eating contest, games of horseshoes and a good ol' fashioned milk bottle toss. Plus: tractor and farm equipment exhibits and demonstrations.

You'll take Highway 99 north toward Yuba City, then scenic Highway 20 west to Meridian, finding Farmlan Road when you arrive.

The good times will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 2. Admission will be $5 "per wheel," so you'll pay $20 if you arrive by car, $10 if by motorcycle. Information: (916) 355-4056, www.benalishrine.org. Back to the Farm will benefit Ben Ali Shriners.

May 16, 2012
Recommended: Evan's Kitchen wine dinner June 11

(This post has been revised from the original):

Evan Elsberry, the chef and owner of Evan's Kitchen in East Sacramento, does a particularly good job with wine dinners. He takes his role as chef seriously for these events. With the wine dinners I have attended, the chef always started the menu-creation process by tasting and re-tasting the wines he planned to serve (often from a single winery), then zeroed in on dishes that would work particularly well with each wine.

I assumed he was doing that in this case, but as one sharp-eyed reader of the original version of this post pointed out in an email to me, he appears to be doing the opposite this time. I had assumed the wines had been selected and just weren't listed yet. So I called Elsberry and, of course, he's taking the opposite approach (thus, I have revised this blog post to reflect that). The chef tells me that because the wines this time are not all from the same winery, he created the menu (due to popular demand, his customers want to know well in advance what he's cooking), then he will go through a rather meticulous process of selecting Italian wines for each course. Elsberry says the dishes, however, could be tweaked or even changed if they don't work well with his selections. In other words, a chef's work is never over.

I have attended several of these wine dinners and all have been a great success. If interested in trying the next one, a five-course affair for $75 dubbed "When in Rome," here is information I just received (tip: these dinners tend to fill up):

May 15, 2012
Back to the Farm event will return to simpler times

The notion of spending a bucolic day on a 200-acre walnut farm an hour's drive from Sacramento brings to mind the "unofficial anthem" of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Sure, there's a connection.

"Goin' Up the Country" by Canned Heat became an international hit after Woodstock, with lyrics that include, "I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away.../Well, I'm going where the water tastes like wine.../ I'm goin' to some place where I've never been before."

Which sounds a lot like going to Back to the Farm - yes, in the country - where you'll find live entertainment, smokin' barbecue, a farmers market, pie-eating contest, games of horseshoes and a good ol' fashioned milk bottle toss. Plus: tractor and farm equipment exhibits and demonstrations.

You'll take Highway 99 north toward Yuba City, then scenic Highway 20 west to Meridian, finding Farmlan Road when you arrive.

The good times will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 2. Admission will be $5 "per wheel," so you'll pay $20 if you arrive by car, $10 if by motorcycle. Information: (916) 355-4056, www.benalishrine.org. Back to the Farm will benefit Ben Ali Shriners.

May 15, 2012
Back to the Farm event will return to simpler times

The notion of spending a bucolic day on a 200-acre walnut farm an hour's drive from Sacramento brings to mind the "unofficial anthem" of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Sure, there's a connection.

"Goin' Up the Country" by Canned Heat became an international hit after Woodstock, with lyrics that include, "I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away.../Well, I'm going where the water tastes like wine.../ I'm goin' to some place where I've never been before."

Which sounds a lot like going to Back to the Farm - yes, in the country - where you'll find live entertainment, smokin' barbecue, a farmers market, pie-eating contest, games of horseshoes and a good ol' fashioned milk bottle toss. Plus: tractor and farm equipment exhibits and demonstrations.

You'll take Highway 99 north toward Yuba City, then scenic Highway 20 west to Meridian, finding Farmlan Road when you arrive.

The good times will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 2. Admission will be $5 "per wheel," so you'll pay $20 if you arrive by car, $10 if by motorcycle. Information: (916) 355-4056, www.benalishrine.org. Back to the Farm will benefit Ben Ali Shriners.

May 15, 2012
Cafe Bernardo opens with an outdoor patio and longer menu

Most restaurants have signature dishes. If Sacramento has a signature restaurateur, it's the pioneering Randy Paragary.

The "corporate menu" of the Paragary Restaurant Group includes Paragary's Bar & Oven, Esquire Grill, Centro Cocina Mexicana and Spataro. Add to the list four Cafe Bernardos, the newest one opening a couple of weeks ago downtown along the K Street mall. It's serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends. Its menus offer more choices than its three siblings' menus.

The new cafe is inside the converted former site of Paragary's Cosmo Cafe. It closed in December because it didn't "resonate" with the cabaret crowd that frequents the neighboring bars and nightclubs, Paragary said in December.

May 14, 2012
Monterey Beer Festival will be a day of suds and food sampling

DeschutesBarrelOpen.JPG
It's not too early to plan for a road trip to Monterey for the 11th annual Monterey Beer Festival, 12:30 to 5 p.m. at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairgrounds Road. Tickets are still available, but maybe not for long, said event organizers.

Three beer wagons will be on site, pouring gallons of draft suds. Deschutes Woody Wagon (pictured), Ninkasi Adventure Wagon and English Ales Beer Wagon will be joined by the Bruvado Beer Truck. Plus, more than 80 breweries will offer hundreds of beer and ciders from 15 countries.

Five-time All Star Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas, the super-slugging first baseman/designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox in the 1990s, will emcee the event. This will be the California debut of his new Big Hurt beer brand.

Dozens of vendors will be on hand with long menus of eats, from bratwurst to fish. Sip and sample while several local bands take turns on the stage.

General admission is $40, with VIP ticketing at $60. You must be 21 years old to attend. To buy tickets and for more information, go to www.nightthatneverends.com/brew_with_a_view.html.

May 11, 2012
SacTown Dining Collective forms, will host kick-off dinner

Here's something most local chefs can agree on: the talent pool for Sacramento chefs runs deep, and the area deserves a better reputation given its quality restaurants and access to world-class produce. The SacTown Dining Collective was born with this idea of rallying local chefs to better promote this town, but behind the scenes, it's been more like the SacTown Herding Cats Collective. What exactly will this collective do? Who will represent the group in front of media, and what's its agreed upon message? And who's up for meeting at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning to figure all this out?

That's to say, despite its good aims, getting a bunch of chefs together isn't so easy. There's overloaded work schedules to contend with, family obligations, not to mention the strong personalities which are a hallmark of many chefs. But, after a few months of figuring this out and a few hurt feelings, the SacTown Dining Collective board was recently formed: Mike Thiemann (Ella Dining Room & Bar), Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro, Restaurant Thi13en), Pedro Depina (Ettore's), Kimio Bazett (The Golden Bear) and Amber Turner - a local food enthusiast with a marketing background who came up with the idea for this collective. Other members of the collective include Pajo Bruich (formerly of Lounge ON20), restaurant consultant Andy Soto, Michael Passmore (Passmore Ranch), Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney's B&L and about a dozen others.

May 11, 2012
A talented chef lands job on the farm

254279_1792558329303_1100006574_31565437_5891698_n.jpgMike Ward, who recently left his job as chef de cuisine at Lounge ON20, didn't stay unemployed for long. He just accepted a job at Feeding Crane Farms. It's a newly created position called culinary development manager, and given Ward's background in the kitchen along with his interest in organic farming and green living, it seems tailor-made for him.

I recently wrote about this promising new farm and actually interviewed Ward, who was then a customer.

When I called Ward on Friday morning, he was already out in the field, as upbeat as ever. I could certainly sense his excitement, but I was more than a little concerned as well. Ward is no ordinary cook. He is a real talent, a chef with passion and creativity who has put in his time developing his skills. When he wanted to up his game, for instance, he moved to New York City and started working at some of the best restaurants in the city, and eventually landed a job at Picholine, a highly regarded Michelin two-star restaurant.

May 10, 2012
Taste of Carmichael will offer food, wine and classic cars

The local festival season continues with the upcoming 10th annual Taste of Carmichael. Restaurants, bakeries and wineries will offer tastings, with a backdrop of live music, art, and a vintage- and classic-car show. Don't overlook the raffles and silent auctions.

Taste will be from 4:30 to 8 p.m. May 19 at La Sierra Community Center, 5325 Engle Road, Carmichael. Tickets are $35 at the door or in advance at (916) 481-0196.

May 9, 2012
Gonul Blum to open Trio restaurant at 8th and J streets

First, Gonul Blum swapped places on J St. with Formoli's Bistro. Second, she changed the name of her Gonul's J Street Cafe to Vanilla Bean Bistro. Third, she'll be opening a new restaurant called Trio on 8th and J streets. It's the former site of Table 260 Downtown, the "soul food fusion" eatery which received one of the most ruthless reviews ever by The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson (So sayeth BAR: "The food was so bad in places that if it had been served at the nearby county jail, crusading attorney Stewart Katz might have had a reasonable case for something like 'wanton disregard.'")

Blum plans to open Trio June 1, with a menu that's similar to what's served at Vanilla Bean Bistro - seasonal California cuisine with nods to the Mediterranean and her Turkish homeland.

May 8, 2012
Nestlé Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bars reinvent the classic cookie

image001.jpgThe candy-centric folks at the Nestlé company have teamed with Girl Scouts of America to "reinvent" the iconic Girl Scout cookie as the Nestlé Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bar. The three flavors will be dark chocolate-covered Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Crème and Caramel & Coconut. Anticipated sales are through the roof.

The bars (and boxes of Crunch pieces) will be sold nationwide from June through September in stores that usually sell Crunch bars. However, on Wednesday there will be a pre-sale during which the curious can buy the candy at www.facebook.com/nestlecrunch "while supplies last."

There's more:

May 7, 2012
Follow your nose to the Smoke & Fire BBQ Cook-off

Get you 'cue hunger on - the barbecue season has begun, and cook-offs are a part of it.

For starters, the inaugural Smoke & Fire BBQ Cook-Off will feature cookers from eight Sacramento fire station teams, whose labors of love will be judged in the tri-tip and pork rib categories, followed by an awards ceremony. The public will be the ultimate winner, of course.

Cost is $5 for tastings and $5 for a full lunch plate. Also, look for a display of antique firetrucks, a beer garden, live music, and demonstrations by the DART rescue team.

The smokin' event will be noon to 4 p.m. May 20 at Acacia Hall, 1803 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 923-6200, www.smokeandfirecookoff.com.

Smoke & Fire will benefit the Sacramento City Fire Volunteer Reserves. Co-sponsored by the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership.

May 4, 2012
Go for the farmers market, stay for the Pig Roast


When the Oak Park Farmers Market opens Saturday, it will be in a new venue - McClatchy Park, 3500 5th Ave., Sacramento. On opening day, tickets to the May 12 Jubilee Farm Pig Roast will be sold and given away.

About that upcoming pig-out: Chef Brad Cecchi of the Grange restaurant and his crew will roast two whole Berkshire pigs, a sight to behold. The lunch menu will include salt-roasted pork, grilled pork ribs, roasted porchetta, sausages, and chicken (cooked inside the pigs), with side dishes.

The market will open at 9 a.m., with lunch starting at 1 p.m., accompanied by live music and activities for children.

Tickets are $25 general admission, $50 for VIP and $65 for a "family pack" (two adults and two children). Information: (916) 304-3276, www.jubileefarmca.com.

May 4, 2012
Reservations now being taken for dining deals in San Francisco

As good (and getting better) as the Sacramento dining scene is, it's fair to say that San Francisco is one of the world's great dining destinations, full of world-class restaurants.

Which leads to the news that reservations are now being taken for "Dine About Town San Francisco," in which 111 restaurants will feature two-course lunch deals for $17.95 and/or three-course dinner specials for $34.95. Those price points "can represent up to a 25 percent saving," said Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel.

"Dine About Town" will be June 1-15. To reserve a spot and see the list of participating restaurants, go to www.sanfrancisco.travel/dine/dine-about-town. For more information: (415) 391-2000.

May 4, 2012
Japanese Street Festival's a day of food and fun at Fountains

Party time is coming to the Fountains center in Roseville on Thursday, in the form of the second annual Mikuni Japanese Street Festival.

Look for martial-arts demonstrations, taiko drumming, dance performances, oragami and other activities for children - and a Honda Fit car giveaway (the finalists have already been chosen).

Food will also play a big role, of course, as the Mikuni Sushi Bus will be on hand to sell sushi rolls and green tea smoothies.

Information: www.mikunisushi.com.

May 4, 2012
Green Boheme will serve a special dish on Mother's Day

OK, moms and moms-to-be - here's a shout-out from the Green Boheme restaurant, which specializes in "organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free (dishes)."

Chef Brooke Preston has created a dish specifically for expectant mothers - "birthberry pie," which, she says, is "packed with nutrition and antioxidants." Ingredients include coconut, coconut oil, blueberries, cashews and dates.

The pie will debut on Mother's Day at Green Boheme, where moms and soon-to-be moms will get 25 percent off the $7.50 price.

Meanwhile, join chef Preston at 6 p.m. Wednesday for her culinary class that will teach how to make birthberry pie at home. Cost is $10, or watch the streaming version for free at the restaurant's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thegreenboheme.

Green Boheme will serve a full menu on Mother's Day, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The restaurant is at 1825 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 920-4278.

May 4, 2012
Bistro La Petite France opens for lunch; dinner coming Saturday.

What's good for Folsom is a loss for Granite Bay.

Bistro La Petite France, which gained such a loyal and enthusiastic following through the years for its French cuisine and charming personal service, has reopened in Historic Folsom after the restaurant was unable to come to terms with the lease in Granite Bay. The restaurant is at 718 Sutter St. For more information, (916) 608-2148.

This looks like a great fit for both sides. Historic Folsom, with its old village vibe, adds to its inventory of nice dining spots and cool places to grab a beer. The bistro will be able to take advantage of the additional foot traffic in the area and its concept seems like a great fit for the area.

May 4, 2012
Sneak peek of Firestone Public House, opening May 11

The former California Pizza Kitchen location at 15th and L streets has thoroughly been gutted, with a new pub and alehouse called Firestone Public House to debut on May 11. Its a new project by two sets of brothers who already operate in the Firestone entertainment complex: the deVere's (Henry, Simon and Mark) of deVere's Irish Pub; and the Wong brothers (Mason, Alan and Curtis) who operate MIX Downtown.

Though initially billed as a sports bar, Firestone Public House is fashioned as more of a large-scale pub with a quasi-industrial feel. There's a big focus on beer here, with 60 tap handles and a selection of beer flights. Empty kegs double as decorations against a side wall.

Firestone Public House can seat up to 130, who can pony up to a large rectangular-shaped bar that's flanked by a series of flat-screen TVs. The restaurant's black tables are made with the same kind of hard rubber-y material generally used in laboratories, while the booming sound system comes from the same company used for MIX Downtown. The original false ceiling has been removed, which gives the room an open and warehouse-y feel.

May 3, 2012
Raley's Grape Escape coming June 2

If the idea of stuffing yourself silly on a Saturday afternoon sounds like a good one, well mark your calendars for June 2. That's the date for the 10th annual Raley's Grape Escape at Cesar Chavez Plaza (10th and J streets, Sacramento), which features such local restaurants as de Vere's Irish Pub, Ludy's Main St. BBQ & Catering, Restaurant Thir13en, Il Fornaio and many more. To wash down that food, some 60 wineries will be pouring their wares.

You'll also find a "chef's challenge" with local culinary leaders including Oliver Ridgeway of Grange, Blackbird Kitchen's Carina Lampkin and David English, the defending champion from Press Bistro. Yours truly will return as a judge in this competition, which is sponsored by the Institute of Technology Culinary Academy.

The Bee will also be eating and tweeting from the event with partners from the Sacramento Connect blog network. Stay tuned for a hashtag and more info. on that.

May 3, 2012
Create a great chicken recipe and compete for $10,000

Your family and friends go wild when you prepare your special chicken dish from your super-secret recipe. If that's a close scenario in your cooking life, maybe you should get in line for the $10,000 grand prize (plus a year's supply of chicken) in the third annual Foster Farms Fresh Chicken Cooking Contest.

The competition is open to "home, amateur and professional chefs in California, Oregon and Washington." One of the rules: Recipes must reflect the "fresh ingredients grown on the West Coast." Entry deadline is June 3.

After the preliminary rounds, six finalists will compete for the top spot on Sept. 28 at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena.

For the rules: www.fosterfarms.com/cookingcontest. To see last year's recipes, visit the company's new Pinterest virtual pinboard page: http://pinterest.com/fosterfarmsca.

There are three ways to enter the contest: online at www.fosterfarms.com/cookingcontest; via email at cookingcontest@fosterfarms.com; and by snail mail at Foster Farms, c/o Cooking Contest, P.O. Box 306, Livingston, CA 95334. For still more info, Foster Farms has Facebook and Twitter accounts.

May 2, 2012
The Big Taste Grill is ready to cook thousands of bratwurst

Thumbnail image for download.jpgThe Johnsonville Big Taste Grill gets around, having made appearances at the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, the Kentucky Derby, even the Pentagon.

It sure won't fit in your back yard, but it is coming to our area to host what could be the biggest tailgate parties ever.

The world's largest touring grill was built by the Johnsonville Sausage Co. of Wisconsin in 1995 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Now three Godzilla-size grills tour the country, cooking and selling bratwurst to raise money for local and national charities - $3 million so far.

The grill's numbers are impressive:
- Weight: 53,000 pounds. Diameter: six feet. Height: 20 feet. Length: 65 feet.
- The lid weighs 6,000 pounds.
- Grilling power is 440,000 BTUs.
- The onboard refrigerator stores 1,000 pounds of brats.
- The grill cooks 750 brats at once - about 2,500 per hour.

If you think you can handle all that, here's the Big Taste Grill's schedule of upcoming events:

May 12-13: The grill will be smokin' at the Roseville Berry Fest, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Placer County Fairgrounds, 800 All American City Blvd.; (916) 786-2023.

May 15: Safeway supermarket, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 8640 Sierra College Blvd., Roseville; (916) 783-2225.

May 17: Food Maxx, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1845 Countryside Drive, Turlock; (209) 632-0825.

May 19-20: Galt Strawberry Festival, 10 a.m. 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., respectively, 900 Carolina Ave., Galt; (209) 745-2529.

For more information about the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill, go to www.johnsonville.com. While you're at the website, check out the rules to enter the No Ordinary Burger Contest, good for $10,000.

May 2, 2012
Lounge ON20 scales back fine dining, chef Pajo Bruich leaves

After flirting with a menu that emphasized molecular gastronomy and cutting-edge cooking techniques, midtown's Lounge ON20 is scaling back its menu to emphasize comfort foods and bar snacks. Lounge ON20 has also bid farewell to chef Pajo Bruich, who started at Lounge ON20 in February of 2011 and introduced Sacramentans to styles of cooking that hail from "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking." This was Lounge ON20's attempt at adding a fine dining element to its nightlife activities, but its revamped food program with a focus on molecular gastronomy just wasn't profitable enough in the end.

"We tried a concept that at the end of the day wasn't as successful as it should have been," said Bruich. "The business is better suited in going back to its original concept. In that neighborhood, it's very difficult to operate with that style of food in that kind of nightlife atmosphere."

Also departed from Lounge ON20 is Mike Ward, the chef de cuisine and mastermind of its charcuterie program. The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson named Lounge ON20's charcuterie plate as the best dish he had in 2011.

May 2, 2012
Vote for your favorite 'fasolada' at Greek spring festival

Most of us don't know beans about fasolada, but that's about to change.

Recipes vary, but fasolada is a fragrant soup of white beans, veggies and olive oil, known in certain quarters as the national dish of Greece.

A fasolada cookoff will be part of the spring festival at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday. The $6 ticket price includes a "tasting kit" and ballots for tasters to vote for their favorite fasolada from 1 to 4 p.m. Think "people's choice."

The fest also will feature other traditional Greek foods and beverages, backgammon tournament, raffles, a silent auction and more. Information: (916) 682-9243.

May 2, 2012
Strawberry and grape: Take your pick of filled licorices

image003.jpgMuch debate swirls around what licorice candy really is. Are Red Vines and Twizzlers really licorice? What about the licorice inside Good & Plenty? How about those pinwheel-shaped licorice wheels at Snooks Candies? What about Nibs?

Now adding to the national discussion is a new product by Welch's - the juice folks - which has teamed with Frankford Candy. Filled Licorice comes in strawberry and Concord grape flavors ($1.59 for a 3-1/2-ounce package). They call it "a fun innovation. (It) combines a soft licorice outside with a flavorful (gel) filling inside... made with real fruit juice."

Well... We rounded up a panel of tasters for their comments:

"

May 1, 2012
Capitol Garage ranked in nation's 100 best brunches survey

Just check the late-morning restaurant lines on a given Sacramento weekend, and you'll see that this is a brunch kind of town. One popular spot also made the cut in an OpenTable survey listing the "Top 100 Best Restaurants for Brunch in the U.S." That would be the venerable Capitol Garage on 15th and K streets, which specializes in a range of eggs benedict dishes (a Sicilian style with pepperoni and mozzarella, pulled pork with bbq sauce), a fat brunch burrito and the perennial brunch favorite known as unlimited mimosas.

And here are a couple of dubiously interesting factoids from this brunch survey, which was culled from 5 million reviews on OpenTable, the online restaurant reservation site:

* 33 percent of survey respondents chose the mimosa as their favorite brunch dining drink - the champagne cocktail beat out coffee/tea (25 percent), Bloody Mary's (21 percent), Bellini's (11 percent) and orange juice (10 percent).



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