Appetizers
June 29, 2012
Good Dogs partners 'put the dog before the cart'

Can we get enough hot dogs?

If the answer is "no" - and it is - then Good Dogs owners Michael Floyd and Tyrone Norman are in for the wurst ride of their lives.

About three weeks ago, the business partners transitioned from selling wurst at two hot dog carts in Midtown, to opening a brick-and-mortar Good Dogs store at 8166 14th Ave. in Sacramento.

The menu goes beyond hot dogs, hot links and Polish dogs to include nachos, five kinds of fries, and sandwiches. Call (916) 642-0126, or visit more socially at www.facebook.com/GoodDogsCatering.

June 29, 2012
Pour House to open soon at 19th and Q streets

On Thursday, the inside of Pour House looked like a construction site with sawdust on the floors and wallpaper ready to be applied. But by late July or early August, this bar and eatery at 19th and Q streets is set to open.

The food operations will be handled by Coast to Coast Sandwiches, a popular food truck which will expand its menu with barbecued meats and salads.

Also, look for one of the more novel bar programs in the area. Some of the booths will include tap handles for both beer and whiskey, meaning customers can pour their own libations while a software system logs the amount served and price. Those booths include three beer tap handles and another for Jameson whiskey. Customers will be limited with how much they can pour at these tap-embedded booths.

June 29, 2012
A few thoughts on sourdough starter, old-fashioned values, etc.

sourdough I.JPG

The next two restaurants I am reviewing - Juno's Kitchen in East Sacramento and, a week later, Masullo Pizza in Land Park - have several things in common. They employ old-world techniques to prepare their food, and both places insist on using excellent ingredients. Beyond that, both places maintain a sourdough starter - Mark Helms of Juno's uses his to bake bread, and Robert Masullo's starter is the foundation for the Neapolitan-style dough for his pizzas. The starter is a key component of both businesses.

starter III.JPG

A starter, or natural leaven, is an amazing thing, a bubbly, soupy mix of flour, water, naturally occurring yeast and bacteria. As a bread-baking (and occasionally pizza-making) hobbyist, I have maintained a starter for about a decade, feeding it a regular diet of flour and water to keep it alive and active and ready to use.

June 28, 2012
Competitive eating at the state fair, for fun and (maybe) profit

Indulging in a cornucopia of food and drink from 100-plus vendors is part of the experience at the California State Fair. That, and riding the Ferris wheel.

When it comes to overindulging in a competitive way, fair officials have that covered, too. Dozens of food-lovers, foodies, professional eaters and just plain good sports will compete in three timed (and entertaining) eating contests. All events will be on the Promenade Stage.

Big Rib Throwdown: This year's big-buzz fair-food item will be the Big Rib - two pounds of prime beef attached to a 17-inch-long cow's rib. How much of it can one person eat? Find out at 1 p.m. on opening day (July 12). A lineup of Sacramento media personalities (including Bee food and wine writer Chris Macias) will indulge in a literal "feeding frenzy."

Hooters Wing-Eating: The restaurant chain will supply its own "top major-league eaters" for this event. They will be in competition for a spot in the Hooters World Wing-Eating Championship in New York City in late July, for a $15,000 purse. The state fair competition is the final preliminary before the nationals, and is worth $1,000 to the winner. The eaters will get down to business at 6 p.m. July 14.

Corn Dog Countdown: Much more casual is the fair's invitation to "anyone who is hungry to become a part of California's corn dog history." Register at www.bigfun.org and try to beat the previous record of downing 15 corn dogs in seven minutes. The preliminary round is at 5 p.m. July 20, with finals at 4 p.m. July 21.

The California State Fair runs July 12-July 29 at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays.

Admission: $12 general, $10 ages 62-plus, $8 children 5-12, free for children under 4. Parking is $10. Information: www.bigfun.org.

June 28, 2012
Hill's Kitchen to open late-August in Roseville

"Appetizers" recently reported on efforts by David Hill, chef and owner of The Chef's Table in Rocklin, to launch a farm to table food truck. Well, that's just part of Hill's business expansion. He's planning to open a new Roseville restaurant called Hill's Kitchen, with a projected late-August opening on Eureka Rd.

The menu will emphasize seafood and oven roasted items, which can be washed down with its own line of beers. Hill is partnering with Auburn Alehouse, who will either consult or craft some brews on behalf of Hill's Kitchen.

"We're trying to work out the details, but the idea is for them to do some ultra crazy beers, fun off the wall stuff," said Hill. "What I want is to have some really high end beers to pair with our seafood and oven roasted things."

We'll keep you posted as the opening nears.

June 27, 2012
Classic pisco punch gets a new twist from an old company

The "adult beverage" part of many Fourth of July celebrations is bound to be there. But let's not forget conventional wisdom: Don't drink and drive. Plus: Moderation in all things.

That said, your backyard barbecue party could move beyond the standard beer and wine offerings to include the overlooked potent brandy called pisco. It's made from muscat grapes and is the national drink of Chile and Peru.

Pisco was the rage in the bars of San Francisco's Barbary Coast during the gold rush. Lore tells us that it was there, at the Bank Exchange & Billiard Saloon, that the famous pisco punch was concocted by owner Duncan Nicol. For aficionados, there's even a book about it: "History of Pisco in San Francisco: A Scrapbook of First Hand Accounts" by Guillermo Toro-Lira (CreateSpace, $24.99, 100 pages).

Now the 180-year-old family-owned Marnier-Lapostolle company is reintroducing pisco with its Kappa marque ($34 for a 750 milliliter bottle). The distillery furnished these recipes. Note there are many variations on the classic pisco punch.

Pisco punch
Ingredients:
1½ ounces pisco
½ ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce pineapple juice
½ ounce lime juice
2 dashes bitters
½ ounce fresh orange juice
Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake vigorously and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Pisco rico
Ingredients:
1½ ounces pisco
1 ounce Grand Marnier
¾ ounce fresh lemon or lime juice
¼ ounce simple syrup
Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake vigorously and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Pisco grapefruit fizz
Ingredients:
1½ ounces pisco
3 ounces grapefruit juice
1 ounce bottled soda water (or lemon-lime soda)
Directions:
Pour pisco and grapefruit juice into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water (or lemon-lime soda) and garnish with a lime wedge.

June 27, 2012
Final flurry of foie gras dinners

The final clock's ticking on foie gras, the fatty duck and goose liver which will be banned in California as of July 1. (On a related note, here's a look at some possible non-enforcement and loopholes in the foie gras ban that might keep this item in Calif. restaurants beyond July 1).

While foie gras has a long tradition in France's culinary history, the issue of animals being force fed to create this product has caused passionate mobilization against it by animal rights advocates. If California chefs find crafty ways to keep foie gras on their menus, there's bound to be some serious pushback from the anti-foie forces.

In any case, a flurry of foie gras dinners are set for local restaurants between now and Saturday. A full lobe of top-grade foie gras sells for about $37.25 a pound these days, so most foie-themed dinners are bound to be on the pricey end. Here's where you can get a (possibly) final taste:

June 26, 2012
Beer Night meets Sierra Nevada at Fabian's Italian Bistro


One vital part of Sacramento's summer season is cold beer, and there's no shortage of small breweries providing it. Where to sample them? For one, Fabian's Italian Bistro is getting the reputation as a Beer Central.

"Almost all of our taps (are beers) from Northern California craft breweries," said co-owner (with wife Mercedes) Christian Forte. "That's our thing right now."

Among them are Hoptologist (from the Knee Deep brewery in Lincoln), Franklin (Sutter Buttes brewery) and Brother David (Anderson Valley brewery).

Wednesday will be Beer Night at the restaurant, featuring a representative from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., who will be happy to talk "all things beer."

The deal: four tastes plus two appetizers for $10, with live music on the patio.

The brews: Bigfoot Barleywine Ale and Ovila Dubbel Belgian Ale on tap. In bottles will be Hoptimum and Summerfest Lager.

The bites: Chef Tom Patterson will make beer-battered mascarpone-stuffed pepperoncini with smoked paprika aioli, and beer-battered Vidalia onion rings with spicy catsup.

The special: The main-course dinner ($14.95) will be house-made Italian sausage steamed in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, served with mascarpone polenta and peperonata (simmered bell peppers with onion and garlic).

Beer Night begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends "until we're tapped out," said Christian Forte.

Fabian's is in the Almond Orchard center, 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks; (916) 536-9891, www.fabiansitalianbistro.com, www.sierranevada.com.

June 22, 2012
Follow-up: Landlord not to blame in closure of Scott's Seafood

Following up on a post here a few days ago about the closure of Scott's Seafood at Loehmann's Plaza, it seems as if many readers may have gotten the wrong idea about the negotiations of the lease terms. Scott's co-owner Alan Irvine tells me the landlord has been receiving angry emails since the news came out. (Scott's two other Sacramento area restaurants remain open and are doing well).

Irvine explained that since the recession hit in 2008, the Scott's at Loehmann's Plaza had been especially hard hit, thanks to an aging demographic in the area and increased competition nearby.

"I stopped taking a salary two or three years ago. We shared our information with the landlord and they initially helped us through one year and we repaid that," he said. "It didn't get any better and we basically paid what we could after that. They were very reasonable with us, but there came a point where we realized we just couldn't continue."

June 21, 2012
Thoughts of a restaurateur: Are you really ready to run a business?

I get lots of emails, but there's one each month I always make sure I read -- the newsletter from Cafe Luna's co-owner David Van Buskirk. It's smart, funny, poignant and always entertaining. The restaurant is in Placerville and is always a good bet for creative and delicious food, good wine and an enjoyable dining experience.

Van Buskirk's latest missive covers all kinds of terrain, but I wanted to excerpt one area because it touches on unrealistic expectations of starting a business. It certainly applies to some who go into the restaurant business and think it will be sort of glamorous and fun.

Here's what Van Buskirk wrote:

June 21, 2012
Chick-fil-A to open in Folsom, giving away 10,000 sandwiches

Matt Crane has been a Chick-fil-A guy most of his life. Now he's about to become a franchise operator in Folsom, making his store the 50th in California.

"It feels amazing. The (company's signature) chicken sandwich is my favorite thing to eat," he said.

Crane's store will have its grand opening at 6:30 a.m. June 28, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. The first 100 adults in line at the new restaurant will win free Chick-fil-A sandwiches for a year. Queue up at 2679 E. Bidwell St., at the outer edge of the Home Depot parking lot.

Meanwhile, Crane wants to introduce Chick-fil-A to Folsom. Today, for instance, he and his team will distribute 2,000 chicken sandwiches to police departments, fire stations, city hall and area businesses.

The public is invited for samplings Friday, when 4,000 sandwiches will be give away from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Orchard Supply Hardware, 905 E. Bidwell St.; (916) 984-7020.

On Saturday, another 4,000 chicken sandwiches will be handed out from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at iFit Golf, 2395 Iron Point Road, in the Folsom Gateway center, next to REI (916-983-3660).

Crane moved to El Dorado Hills three months ago from Atlanta, where he worked as a grand-opening supervisor at Chick-fil-A corporate headquarters.

"I've worked for Chick-fil-A since I was 15. The corporate job was an avenue to becoming an owner," he said.

The Folsom outlet joins sister Chick-fil-A stores in Sacramento, Roseville and Elk Grove. The chain has 1,635 units in 38 states and Washington, D.C., numbers that must make the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association very happy.

Information: www.chick-fil-a.com.

June 21, 2012
Local chef vying for $250,000 grant to launch farm-to-table food truck idea

David Hill, owner of the popular and much-respected restaurant The Chef's Table in Rocklin, has an idea for a food truck - and he's looking for public support to help him land one of 12 $250,000 grants available to get the truck up and running and heading out to area farmers markets.

The catch? Plenty of stiff competition across the country for one of the slices of start-up funding from a $3 million pie. The program is the result of a partnership between Chase bank and LivingSocial.

I caught up with Hill to ask him about his vision for a food truck. Turns out, the restaurateur and former culinary instructor has been thinking about food trucks for years.

June 19, 2012
Java City on Capitol Avenue closes

By Andrea Gallo
agallo@sacbee.com

Sacramento's longtime coffee staple Java City is closing its doors today at 1800 Capitol Ave.

Instead of pouring coffee at café locations, the company will focus on its wholesale product, according to Craig Hettrich, Java City CEO.

Paesanos, Java City's next-door neighbor, will take over the location with another "casual dining concept," said Koren Beard, Paesanos general manager.

Beard said the business will be a separate entity, but will be owned by the same company and have the same executive chef. She said the new business should open in late summer.

June 19, 2012
Stroll, sip and sup at sixth annual Tahoe City Wine Walk

It seems that every town in Northern California has a "signature event." Lucky for us. Tahoe City's is the annual Wine Walk, the sixth one. It will run from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Sierra town, on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, will welcome visitors with wine-tasting at 30 locations in downtown, accompanied by food samplings from area restaurants. Stroll, sip and sup while bands play their music at three venues.

Buy tickets at www.tahoecitywinewalk.com, $35 in advance, $45 the day of. The Wine Walk is part of Tahoe City's annual Solstice Festival, which concludes Sunday (www.visittahoecity.com).

Bonus: As you plan your summer trips to Lake Tahoe, keep the North Lake Tahoe Summerlong Music Series in mind. You can catch free outdoor concerts, and ticketed festivals and headliner events at sites around the lake. For a detailed schedule, go to www.tahoehighnotes.com.

June 18, 2012
Scott's Seafood closes Loehmann's Plaza location, citing economy

Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar at Loehmann's Plaza, a stalwart in the community since it opened in 1991, announced suddenly Monday that it was closing the restaurant.

SCOTTS.jpegThe persistent recession, competition from newer downtown restaurants and an aging neighborhood demographic that was eating out less frequently all played a role in the restaurant's downturn, according to Alan Irvine, co-owner of the three Sacramento area Scott's Seafood restaurants. The Scott's at Le Rivage Hotel along the Sacramento River and the Scott's in Folsom continue to do well and will remain open, Irvine said.

The company posted a notice on its website Monday, stating in part:

"It is with great regret that we announce the closure of Scott's Seafood Grill and Bar in Loehmann's Plaza. Alan Irvine, John Cook and their families opened this restaurant over 20 years ago, on October 31, 1991. It quickly became the most popular seafood restaurant in Sacramento, winning awards year after year in the Sacramento Bee, News and Review, KCRA's A List and Sacramento Magazine.
"The owners, management and staff have all been working very hard to keep this beautiful restaurant viable but the local economy's lack of recovery and our failure to strike new lease terms with the landlord has made it impossible to continue."
June 17, 2012
Apologizing for an error that caused sorrow for many

I made an unfortunate error in today's restaurant review of Silva's Sheldon Inn. I failed to connect with the restaurant's owners prior to publication. Had I, I would have learned that Don Brown, the longtime executive chef at Biba who later became sous chef at Silva's Sheldon Inn, died in 2010. Mr. Brown was mentioned briefly in the review. I have already heard from many of Mr. Brown's friends and loved ones, and I want to apologize for the jolt of pain and anguish my error caused.

Those who knew Don Brown have told me, as one email stated this morning, that he was "a great father, wonderful chef, super person." Other emails have made similar characterizations.

This error has already been addressed in the online version of the review and will be corrected in the newspaper. I feel terrible about the mistake and will redouble my efforts to make sure errors big or small do not find their way into my work.


June 15, 2012
Compton's Market launches free wine tastings every Friday

Compton's Market in McKinley Park (East Sacramento) recently expanded its wine selection to include a special area for international wines with numerous appealing choices at various price points. Now, they're going even heavier into wine with featured wine tastings on Friday afternoons from 3-7 p.m.

Compton's is at 4065 McKinley Blvd. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., except Sunday when it closes at 8 p.m.

Owner Sunil Hans told me each tasting will feature three wines and the tastings are complimentary. In order to conduct the tastings, the grocery store had to apply for a special license called Type 86, which allows the store to conduct instructional wine tastings, he said. The license also allows for beer and spirits tastings.

"Our neighborhood clientele have been asking about this for almost a year," Hans said. "We did a little survey and everybody wants it."

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

June 15, 2012
Question for readers: What obligation do parents have when their kids misbehave at a restaurant?


In midtown and downtown, we rarely encounter gaggles of misbehaving children in restaurants. But my GF and I sure did the other night at a casual but high-quality restaurant.

The noise was incredible. There was yelling, screaming, running, grabbing. And it made me realize: isn't it really about misbehaving adults? The kids were bored. They probably couldn't care less about the artisan techniques or the local, sustainable, organic produce.

Yes, the adults in this case - two couples in their 30s - did almost nothing to discipline their six young kids or get them to pipe down. They were oblivious. To us, it seemed as if they were letting the kids run roughshod around the restaurant, disrupting the rest of us, so they could engage in adult conversation. We were essentially the child care service while they were having some adult time.


June 15, 2012
Chocolate Fish to host "latte art throw down" June 30

latte art.JPGSacramento is losing one of its best baristas to the Air Force Reserves, and to send him off in style, Chocolate Fish Coffee is hosting a latte throw down and barbecue. It is Saturday June 30 at 4 p.m. Chocolate Fish is at the corner of Q and 3rd streets downtown.

It's essentially a friendly competition to see who can do the coolest art with the steamed milk atop lattes and cappuccinos.

In recent years, one of the many developments that distinguishes independent coffee shops from major chains like Starbucks or Peet's is that when you order a latte or cappuccino, you're usually treated to something special with the design of the milk cap. Often it's a stylized tree, a heart or something abstract. It's an aesthetic flourish that doesn't make the coffee taste any better but is an extra nice touch that has become pretty much standard practice at the better independents. You rarely if ever see latte art at Starbucks and Peet's. Maybe it's because most of the coffee orders are to go and the cups have a lid.

Some of the best latte art I've seen in Sacramento has been done by Chocolate Fish's Kyle Baumann, who told me recently he is leaving the business for the Air Force Reserves, which entails many months of training. Not only was he a devoted employee and coffee practitioner, he's an an all-around good guy. I have had many an excellent espresso and flat white at Chocolate Fish.

As for the latte art competition, it should be a lot of fun. Great coffee, good food, and lots of friendly folks saying farewell to one of the city's best baristas. As a small leaflet promoting the event states: "Kyle's last hurrah as a barista and your last chance to challenge him to a latte art thrown down."

The event is open to the public.

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

June 14, 2012
Piatti Ristorante to close in August for a two-month renovation

In May, Piatti Ristorante & Bar marked its 20th year of serving a loyal clientele at the upscale Pavilions center. Now it's preparing for a new look.

"We'll be doing a major renovation, tentatively starting in the second week of August, and will be closed for approximately eight weeks," said general manager Kelly Brean on the phone today. "We're not excited about being closed for that much time, but everybody's excited about the project."

The makeover will double the Italian-themed restaurant's banquet space, adding 750 square feet by expanding into a vacant storefront next door.

"We'll replace the flooring, the ceiling and the lighting, the bar top and the furniture," Brean said. "The present atrium area will be opened up for easier service, and the booths near the bar will go away and become high-top dining, making that (space) more a part of the bar area. The courtyard will be done as well, with lounge-type furniture and fire pits."

As for the restaurant staff, "Some folks (will be) helping out at banquets at other restaurants, others are looking forward to long sabbaticals. At this point, everyone says they're coming back," Brean said. "I will be here working with the construction crew, but I'm planning a vacation, too."

Will there be a 20th anniversary/grand reopening celebration?
"We haven't put all that together yet, but there will be some type of celebration when we reopen," he said.

Piatti in Pavilions is one of eight restaurants in the California-based group, and the only one in the Sacramento area. Pavilions is on Fair Oaks Avenue, near Howe Avenue, in Sacramento.

For more information: (916) 649-8885, www.piatti.com.

June 14, 2012
Green Boheme will serve Manly Man Quiche on Father's Day

OK, all you fathers, Sunday is your day, but that doesn't mean you have to stoke up the grill and cook ribs or burgers chased with a cold brew.

The Green Boheme restaurant has a more healthful alternative. And if there's one thing chef Brooke Preston knows, it's how to cook healthfully. Green Boheme specializes in "organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free (dishes)."

On Father's Day, the restaurant will debut the Manly Man Quiche at a special brunch, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the regular dinner menu from 4 to 8 p.m.

Just what's in the quiche? "The ingredients include fresh zucchini, spinach and mushrooms; sunflower, sesame and flax seeds; cashew and macadamia nuts; and onion and chipotle powders, garlic, pepper, nutmeg and chickpea-miso paste," Preston said. "Tumeric and psyllium powder help achieve the egglike texture. One of the coolest things is we wrap it in zucchini bacon."

Dads will get 25 percent off the Manly Man Quiche, which will sell for $12.95.

Green Boheme is at 1825 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 920-4278.

June 14, 2012
Sugar and Spice closes retail shop to focus on wholesale, catering

tarts.jpg

Carissa Jones makes beautiful desserts - creative, delicious, little works of art. Whimsical, classical and everything in between. Cookies, tarts, cakes and more.

So it came as a tremendous jolt to many of her admirers when she placed a sign in the door last Tuesday with the unsavory news: the retail component of her bakery, Sugar and Spice Specialty Desserts, was no more.

storefront.JPGYes, the charm of walking into this little storefront bakery, sizing up each and every delectable offering on display, chatting with the owner and then picking out something just right - that special experience has come to an end.

I finally caught up with Jones by telephone to find out what happened.

June 13, 2012
Winners database from California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition

Judges at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition had huge amounts of wine to consider last week - nearly 2,900 wines from 688 producers. The judging alone took three days, and now the results are in. More than 2,100 medals were given, including 74 double gold, 268 gold, 1,195 silver and 734 bronze.

Check this searchable database of winners from the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. This link can come in handy next time you're about to do some wine shopping and want to scoop up some choice bottles.

Here are some of the top winners:

June 13, 2012
Natural Foods Co-op to host Mexican-themed Sunday Supper

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is often innovative and always interesting. Let's see... cooking classes, stocks of hard-to-find food items, by-the-cup coffee that's better and cheaper than the joe sold at the chains. Plus, world-class produce, imported honeys and nut butters, and incredible cherry and apple turnovers.

Now it's preparing to host the family-style Sunday Supper, featuring a menu by chef-teacher Dionisio Esperas, owner of A Healthy Kitchen catering company.

Please pass the citrus- and herb-accented grilled chicken, frijoles de olla (stewed pinto beans), cilantro rice, calabacitas (squash sauteed with onion and spices), salad with avocado dressing, and Mexican chocolate brownies with strawberry-cinnamon compote.

Eat well for $30 at 5 p.m. June 24 at the co-op, 1900 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 868-6399, www.sacfoodcoop.com. The dinner will benefit the Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture Project.

June 12, 2012
Update: Prince spotted at Mix/Cafeteria 15L and record shopping

Sacramento's been abuzz lately with sightings of Prince, the mighty Purple One of pop music, here in Sacramento. Last week, Tower Cafe posted on its Facebook page that Prince had come into the restaurant.

"He came in and had breakfast for lunch, and was a really nice guy," said Ruben Reveles, Tower Cafe's manager. "We kept it quiet for him, and didn't tell everybody until after he left. The employees were pretty excited."

On Monday, there was also a spotting of Mr. Purple Rain coming out of Corti Brothers which was posted on Facebook. However, in a call to Corti Brothers, management and staff alike didn't spot Prince themselves - though the idea of Prince picking up some parma prosciutto and a bottle of barolo is a nice thought.

"If he did come in, then it was something nobody paid attenion to, or he was dressed down," said store manager Rick Mindermann.

June 11, 2012
Six food trucks co-starred in Capitol Concours d'Elegance

The day was warm, the cars were cool and the food was plentiful at Sunday's 18th annual Capitol Concours d'Elegance. More than 130 automobiles were displayed along a long stretch of Capitol Mall in an extravaganza of what essentially were metal sculptures on wheels.

As hundreds of car buffs and the simply curious inspected pristine cars at the juried event - from Ferraris and Corvettes to rarities such as as a 1940 Pontiac Woodie Wagon and a 1939 Graham Sharknose - the hungry and thirsty crowded around six Sacramento food trucks, whose fare also was judged.

Lined up beneath a row of shade trees were Coast to Coast, Wicked Wich, Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen, Heavenly Dog, Fuzion Eatz and Willie's. Each truck operator was asked to offer his/her signature dish for judging. Not their most popular dish, but the single item best representative of their cooking philosophy and skills.

The judges and winning food trucks were:

June 8, 2012
Guest post: the case in favor of the ban on foie gras

Note: After an earlier posting today on three special events devoted to foie gras, I received a call from Jennifer Fearing, California Senior State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. I invited her to state the case in support of the ban on foie gras, which begins July 1. What follows is what she wrote:

The notion of foodies gorging on fatty liver from force-fed ducks and geese is more than a little ironic.

Foie gras, French for "fatty liver," is the diseased and enlarged liver of a duck or goose, produced through force-feeding. Multiple times each day for several weeks, a pipe is shoved down the birds' throats to force-feed them. The birds' livers, diseased with hepatic lipidosis, grow up to ten times their normal size, and are then sold as foie gras. Evidence suggests ducks and geese experience fear, acute and chronic stress, and pain. Mortality rates for force-feed ducks are 10-20 times higher than those for non-force fed ducks. Many animal welfare experts condemn the practice and no existing animal welfare program certifies a producer who force feeds their animals.

June 8, 2012
SacTown Dining Collective debut event a tasty success

The SacTown Dining Collective's kickoff event at Plate's Cafe on Thursday night couldn't have gone smoother. Some 350 tickets had sold out 10 days prior, all of the food courses came out in a timely fashion - many of them even ahead of schedule - and the Sacramento chefs and restaurateurs who make up the collective reveled in their camaraderie. Most of all, their food was superb.

The SacTown Dining Collective formed with the idea of mobilizing local food movers-and-shakers to show how much culinary talent exists in this town, along with highlighting the local farmers and purveyors who provide first rate ingredients. Getting this group off the ground wasn't so easy at first, and for a minute defining the collective's mission and goals was more like the SacTown Herding Cats Collective. But on Thursday night, there was Mike Thiemann of Ella Dining Room & Bar testing out his fried chicken course - which had first been cooked sous vide before frying - on chef Oliver Ridgeway of Grange. Out on Plate's Cafe's lawn, near the dinner's family style seating, you'd find Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro/Restaurant Thi13en) working side by side with Rob Venditti of Mulvaney's B&L and David Hill of The Chef's Table.

The dinner also attracted a who's-who of Sacramento's food scene, including three generations of the Selland family, winery owner Sean Minor, Nguyen Pham of Sunh Fish, chef Pajo Bruich, Taro Arai of Mikuni and Kimio Bazett of Golden Bear, who was also a key organizer of Thursday's dinner with local food enthusiast Amber Turner.

June 8, 2012
Three exciting menus bid farewell to foie gras

As most food enthusiasts know by now, foie gras will be banned in California on July 1. Note: I was unaware of a provision in the bill that would allow the production of foie gras without force feeding, so I am updating this blog post and deleting that error.

Several top restaurants have held special foie gras dinners and more are planning them. Here are three that should delight foie gras aficionados. Reservations for any of the dinners is highly recommended.

June 8, 2012
Food, music and more at Elk Grove Chili Festival

Food Deadline Chili.jpgBowls of steaming chili in June? Sure, why not. The versatile stew (with or without meat) is so popular year-round that 10,000 chili-lovers are expected to attend the Old Town Elk Grove Chili Festival, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Join the merry-makers along Elk Grove Boulevard, from Second Avenue to Derr Street. Line up for chili tastings, chili cook-off, food court, beer garden and wine bar, entertainment, children's activities, arts and crafts, and more. Information: www.oldtownelkgrovefoundation.org.

As for chili itself: Its origins are muddled, but many food historians agree that it did not originate in Mexico and is rarely seen there today. Chili as we know it now likely originated in 1800s San Antonio, Texas. Because of the heat from chili peppers as an ingredient, it was called "the devil's stew."

June 7, 2012
In-N-Out Burger opens new Sacramento restaurant

By Mark Glover
mglover@sacbee.com

A new In-N-Out Burger outlet opened today at 2001 Alta Arden Expressway in Sacramento.

The restaurant bordering Arden Fair mall is expected to employ about 50. The outlet is the site of the former Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Irvine-based In-N-Out Burger opened its first restaurant in Baldwin Park in 1948. It oversees more nearly 300 outlets today, most of those in California.

June 7, 2012
California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition underway

Just got back from Cal Expo, where the second day of the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition is currently underway. Judges from around North America have descended on Building 5 at Cal Expo to sample through a veritable ocean of wine. According to chief judge G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowski, this year's competition includes nearly 2,900 wines - up 250 entries from 2011.

I served as a guest judge on a panel of tempranillo and merlot, comparing my scores with a panel that included Andy Podshadley of Novato's Trek Wine and Steven Elphick of Toronto, a photographer who's judged wine since 1988. Judging continues through Friday, with results expected by Tuesday. Stay tuned for more on the final results, as well as a database of winners to be posted next week on www.sacbee.com.

You can taste the big winners for yourself on Aug. 18 at California's Grape & Gourmet. This food and wine fiesta will be held at Cal Expo's Buildings A & B, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information: click here or call (916) 263-3636.

June 6, 2012
"Cap City Sips" happy hour to run downtown through summer

Budget cuts, a proposed four-day work week with 5 percent pay cut for state workers ... yes, a lot of folks feel like they could use a drink right now. And look at the timing of this: a new happy hour program called "Cap City Sips" is set to run at downtown watering holes and restaurants each Wednesday through Aug. 29.

This weekly special features $2 beer, $3 wine and $4 cocktails from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Participants include: Tequila Museo Mayahuel, 4th Street Grille, Blue Prynt, Capitol Garage, Dive Bar, Fat City Bar & Café, The Firehouse Restaurant, Frank Fat's, House Kitchen & Bar, Kupros Bistro, Ten 22, The Melting Pot, Michelangelo's, Monsoon's, O'Mally's Irish Pub, Pizza Rock, Public Market Bar (PMB) at the Sheraton, Pyramid Ale House, River City Brewing Company and River City Saloon.

These spots will need the business uptick if the four-day work week goes through. During "Furlough Fridays," downtown food spots near state office buildings took a significant hit, as did the turnout for the Friday Night Concerts in the Park series at Cesar Chavez Plaza. We'll see how this ends up.

In the meantime, gather a few bucks and some friends and visit downtownsac.org/capcitysipshappyhour for more information.

June 5, 2012
End of an era II: Ford's side of the break-up with Taylor's

Yesterday we told you about the end of the 20-year relationship between two beloved local institutions that do things the old-fashioned way: Taylor's Market and Ford's Hamburgers. Because Ford's is closed Mondays, we didn't catch up with owner Peter Paul Vereschzagin until this morning to get his side of things.

Taylor's, which has supplied beef to Ford's for two decades, was not happy with the way the relationship ended and recently took to Facebook to wish the restaurant luck and say they "hope they are able maintain the same level of quality while using a corporate source for their beef." Some saw the comment as bitter or snide.

June 4, 2012
End of an era: Taylor's Market and Ford's Hamburgers part ways

OK, maybe it came off as a bit of a dig when the much-admired and locally owned Taylor's Market posted a brief note on Facebook, informing its fans that it would no longer be the supplier to locally owned Ford's Hamburgers just up the street.

It went like this: "We are sad to announce that after 25 years our business relationship with Ford's Hamburgers has ended. We wish the owners well and hope they are able maintain the same level of quality while using a corporate source for their beef."

The last sentence was obviously provocative. Some saw it as snide. I didn't mind it a bit. I'm a big fan of Taylor's. For me and many others, it's pretty much the perfect grocery store, from the old-fashioned meat counter staffed by skilled butchers (including owner Danny Johnson), great cheese selection, excellent sandwiches and a small selection of wine and beer in which there are no subpar choices. I like the size, too - who wants to wander up and down vast aisles looking for stuff? I'm in and out of Taylor's in 10 minutes.

So I called Danny Johnson (he and wife Kathy own Taylor's) to ask about the Ford's dust-up, sensing there was more to the story (Ford's is closed on Mondays, so we'll follow up soon with that side).


June 4, 2012
Newcastle does it again with seasonal Summer Ale

image002.jpgWhen it comes to beer, Newcastle is a world-class 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 limited-edition, seasonal Newcastle beers for all-too-brief times. Rotating through the calendar year are Werewolf ("Naturally blood-red in color)," Winter India Pale Ale and - how's this for timing? - Summer Ale.

Summer Ale, in stores now through July, is lighter in color and "weight" than other Newcastle beers. It's also expensive, at $9 per six-pack.

We asked a few beer-drinking buddies to pop some tops at an informal tasting and offer their opinions. Among them:

"I can see knocking back a bottle of this one after mowing the lawn on a Sacramento afternoon."
"Very 'hoppy' tasting, with a finish that's almost dry."
"I like the 'grassy' aroma and taste."
"It's a thirst-quencher."

Visit www.newcastlebrown.com.

June 4, 2012
Pacha Coffee offers new option to the grid's great scene

Pacha in alley.JPG

There's another coffee shop in a midtown alley, but it doesn't serve coffee, it doesn't roast coffee and you won't find anyone hanging out there reading, writing, surfing or chatting. The hours? They're weak.

Pacha Coffee Cooperative focuses on one thing: it sells beans - very good beans, at a very good price and, best of all, without all that awkward exploitation associated with much of the coffee we drink in the Western world.

I recently stopped by Pacha (short for Pachamama, or mother earth, which too many people found too difficult to say) to check it out. It is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., that is, when the employee doesn't lock up to make a quick lunch run. The address is 919 20th St., though you enter on the alley between I and J streets.

As reported in The Bee and elsewhere, Pacha's business model is unusual and enlightening - it's not out to make big money. Instead, this cooperative operates on behalf of the coffee farmers who own the cooperative. The farmers get the profits and are able to reinvest the money into their farms.

June 1, 2012
Sactown Dining Collective kick-off dinner: sold out

Here's a sign that the local restaurant scene is coming together and picking up momentum: the kick-off dinner for the Sactown Dining Collective has quickly sold out at $45 per person.

The dinner is June 7 at Plates Café, the restaurant that trains homeless women to work in the hospitality industry. Several of the city's top chefs are involved in cooking and presenting this dinner. Chris Macias recently gave us details here about the upcoming event.

The Dining Collective is a new venture, and when it began to take shape a few months back, many in the restaurant business were skeptical. But thanks to the passion and organizational skills of Amber Turner, the group has taken off. Its mission: tell the story of the area's culinary talent and work together to grow and prosper. In other words, competition is good and healthy, but so is cooperation.

June 1, 2012
Chando's Tacos expanding reach with second location

chandos-to-open-second-taqueria.jpg

Chando's Tacos is one of the great little success stories on the local food scene. The food is excellent, the people are friendly and Chando himself is one smart and charismatic restaurateur.

As reported in today's Bee, Chando's is about to grow. It already expanded from its tiny flagship location at 863 Arden Way to include a mobile food truck. Now Chando (AKA Lisandro Madrigal) has secured a second location at the corner of Fruitridge and Power Inn roads.

He has been looking for months, focusing on areas that would expand the brand without taking customers from the original and still wildly popular location.



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