August 30, 2012
Napa Valley restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn opens Wood Grill

MAJ RESTURATEUR PAWLCYN.JPGVeteran restaurateur and cookbook author Cindy Pawlcyn is reinterpreting the "American wine-country comfort foods" so popular at her iconic Mustards Grill (since 1983) in Yountville in the Napa Valley. They will migrate to the menu of her newest restaurant, Cindy Pawlcyn's Wood Grill & Wine Bar.

Diners will also find some of the signature dishes from two other restaurants that Pawlcyn once co-owned - the Buckeye Roadhouse and Fog City Diner.

"C.P.'s," as it will be called, will open Sept. 5 at 641 Main St. in St. Helena. The space was formerly the site of Pawlcyn's Go Fish restaurant, then became her Brassica Mediterranean Kitchen.

This newest incarnation replaces Brassica and will serve dishes such as sweet-crispy pork belly, Napa cabernet-braised shortribs, crab roll, artisan pizzas, vegetarian dishes and desserts (blackberry-apple crumble with crème fraîche ice cream is a good choice).

"We are all really excited about this transition," said Pawlcyn. "Many friends have been asking me to bring the flavors of Mustards Grill to this location, and it makes sense."

Look for live jazz and world beat music on the patio (6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays), and the ongoing Vintner Splash casual wine-tasting program (6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays).

More information: (707) 963-0700,

August 29, 2012
California Food Literacy Center holding sandwich contest for kids

Speaking of sandwiches, like the tasty creations from today's Food & Wine cover story, the California Food Literacy Center has issued a challenge to all K-12 students in the state. Young people from around the state are invited to submit a sandwich recipe, and then pen a short essay about how this sandwich exemplifies "food literacy" principles. These could relate to issues of nutrition, sustainability, local farming and other issues that would make Alice Waters beam.

So students, whip up those sandwiches and those essays, and get them in from Sept. 2 - 8. Finalists will be showcased on the California Food Literacy Center's web site and Facebook page. A team of judges will then announce the winners in each of the four age categories on Sept. 29.

To enter a recipe, or get more information:, and visit for complete details.

August 29, 2012
Dancing, music, shopping and delicacies at Greek Festival

Ethnic festivals are always a good thing, a chance to explore a different culture and discover new delicacies.

The 49th annual Greek Food Festival this Labor Day weekend will offer that and more. Scheduled are dancing, live music, cooking demonstrations, cultural displays and a marketplace full of imported clothing, art and jewelry.

Food-wise, 55 Greek "YiaYias" (grandmothers) are preparing a menu featuring appetizers, gyros, lamb and desserts.

Sip a little Greek wine, or pair anise-flavored Ouzo with strong Greek coffee.

The action will be happening at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., Sacramento. Admission is $5 ($4 for seniors); food and drink priced separately.

Days and hours:
Friday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday: noon to 11 p.m.
Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.
More information at

August 28, 2012
Evan's Kitchen will pair Mexican dishes with Mexican wines

Evan Elsberry is a chef who enjoys creating original dishes for food competitions. His imaginative menus have won numerous ribbons at the California State Fair over the years. Last year, he was among the top three winners in the Ultimate Clubhouse Sandwich contest at the Scottish Rite Center, and in the second annual Sacramento Tomato Fest at Town & Country Village.

Elsberry is partial to pairing ethnic cuisines with matching wines. So far this year, he has hosted Italian-, French- and Spanish wine-pairing dinners at his restaurant, Evan's Kitchen. Now he's geared up for a Mexican-themed dinner, with accompanying Mexican wines.

Wines from Mexico? Yes, especially from the Baja Peninsula. The wine industry there has taken huge strides in recent years, surprising critics and casual imbibers alike. Some of those wines were featured in the "Mexico Issue" of the high-end food magazine Saveur. Go to

Meanwhile, "A Taste of Mexico" is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 17. The cost is $75 per person, with reservations at (916) 452-3896. Tip: The previous themed dinners filled up fast, so...

Evan's Kitchen is at 855 57th St., Sacramento, in the Antiques Mall;

The Mexican wine dinner looks like this:

August 28, 2012
16 food trucks coming Wednesday to Cesar Chavez Park

If you have a hankering for some food truck fare, 16 mobile food vendors will be set up on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park. Vendors include: Heavenly Dog, Wicked 'Wich, OMG Burger, The Pizza Company, El Matador Mobile Mex, Mama Kim on the Go and many more. For those who have a taste for fashion, the Gypsy Mobile Boutique will also be selling clothes and accessories for the ladies.

This roundup is organized by Foodmob, which is the events wing of the California Mobile Food Association. The Foodmob folks have been a key proponent of language drafted between local food trucks and restaurateurs that are expected to be heard at City Hall, and could result in ordinance changes related to food trucks.

Note there's been some very vocal pushback to some of these proposed changes, including compromises about where mobile food trucks can vend, from the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. Two factions have basically formed: those who favor negotiating with brick and mortar owners, and others who believe constitutional rights trump city restrictions. Looks like this mobile food fight has a ways to go before resolving.

For more information:

August 24, 2012
Yoplait Greek 100 fat-free yogurt is a tasty alternative

Greek-style yogurt has caught on in this country as a favorite snack, to the point where it seems like a new brand (or version of a brand) is in supermarkets' dairy cases every month.

In general, Greek-style yogurt has more butterfat than regular yogurt, along with more protein. Straining the yogurt removes some of the liquid from it, so Greek yogurt is more dense and creamy than regular yogurt.

Add another version of Greek-style yogurt to the table, this one aimed at the diet-conscious. Yoplait's fat-free Greek 100 carries 100 calories and "two times the protein of regular yogurt (10 grams)," the company says. On the Weight Watchers scale, it's two points.

Greek 100 isn't as thick as most other Greek-style yogurts, but it's not as thin as traditional Yoplait, either. It's artificially sweetened with zero-calorie Sucralose, giving it a bit of an aftertaste. Think "sweetish" instead of "tangy."

We sampled the six flavors and ranked them from most favorite to least favorite ($1.29 per 5.3-ounce cup): key lime, black cherry, mixed berry, peach, strawberry and vanilla.

For a money-saving coupon, go to For more information:,

August 23, 2012
Harvey House restaurant shuts down in Old Sacramento

After just four months in business, Harvey House in Old Sacramento has abruptly shut its doors. The restaurant, which opened at Second and I streets in the former Fulton's Prime Rib, focused on a railroad-themed decor and American cuisine (think: prime rib, chicken fried steak, meatloaf, porkchops). Harvey House was modeled after a restaurant chain which was popular at southwest train stations from the late-1800s through 1950.

The phone number for Old Sacramento's Harvey House has been disconnected. Co-owner Simon Mandell could not be reached for comment about the closure, but Harvey House's Twitter account alludes to the restaurant's apparent financial problems. A tweet posted on Aug. 7 says, "Simon, please pay us. You have a plan right? We put our faith in you. You promised us all."

We'll follow up with more information as it comes through.

August 23, 2012
Classic Grand Marnier brandy coming soon in cherry flavor

book014 copy.JPGYou know Grand Marnier, right? It's the famous bitter-orange infused brandy concocted by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle in 1880, still made in France. It's versatile (and volatile) stuff, especially tasty as a topping on ice cream or as an ingredient in flambeed crepes.

Coming in September and available through the holiday season will be the limited-edition cherry-flavored version ($41.99), made with premium European Griottes cherries.

Try it in these cocktails, created by "Cocktail Guru" Jonathan Pogash:

Cherry Sidecar
2 ounces Grand Marnier Cherry
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
In a shaker filled with ice, vigorously shake the ingredients and strain into a chilled sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge and cherry.

2 ounces Grand Marnier Cherry
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
In a shaker filled with ice, stir the ingredients, strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a brandied cherry.

Cherry Surprise
1-1/2 ounces Grand Marnier Cherry
3/4 ounce dark, aged rum
1 ounce milk
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Pour ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with dark-chocolate shavings.

Cherry Tiki
2 ounces Grand Marnier Cherry
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce orgeat (almond) syrup
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
3 dashes Angostura (or Tiki) bitters
Pour the ingredients (except bitters) into a shaker filled with ice, shake well and strain over an ice-filled tall glass. Garnish with mint sprig and lime wheel. Add bitters on top.

August 20, 2012
Downtown & Vine wine bar coming to K Street in October

A new tasting room for a dozen California wineries is slated to open on 12th & K streets in October. Downtown & Vine, which will be located next door to Blush Ultra Lounge, is the work of Gregg Lamer - an Amador County resident - and business partner Kate Chomko. Lamer's a certified sommelier who's worked as a consultant for Sierra Foothills wineries, served as wine education manager for Robert Mondavi Winery, and worked at Domaine Carneros, among other stints.

Unlike the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg, which features eight local wineries under a single roof, Downtown & Vine will be set up more like a traditional wine bar.

"This will be more about sitting down and having a menu to choose from," said Lamer. "You can order by the glass, flight or bottle. We'll also have artisan cheeses, charcuterie plates and small bites."

August 17, 2012
Grape & Gourmet coming Saturday

California's Grape & Gourmet, the annual feast of local food and award winning wines, has played a bit of musical chairs in terms of location the last few years. But on Saturday, the event returns to Cal Expo and will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Buildings A and B.

Some 200 wines will be poured, all of them medalists at the 2012 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. Hopefully Hearst Ranch Winery from Paso Robles will be pouring its best of show red, a Rhone-style blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre. Also, look for samples from Chacewater Wine Company of Lake County, which nabbed "golden winery honors" at this year's competition.

To get more ideas of what to taste, check out The Bee's database of winners from the 2012 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

Tickets cost $40 per person, or $50 at the door. Online group sales of 10 or more cost $35 per person. For more information and to order tickets: click here.

August 16, 2012
Bon Appetit chooses its 10 best new restaurans in the U.S.

After traveling, tasting and judging, the culinary experts at Bon Appetit have announced their picks for "The Hot 10: America's Best New Restaurants." Two of them are in California.

Taking the No. 1 spot is State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, co-owned by husband-wife Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski.

The small plates "arrive on either a dim sum-like trolly or a tray," says the Bon Appetit review. "Each dish is identified with a price: whipped smoked trout with croutons and peas, $5; duck neck dumplings, $6; crispy kimchi pork belly in a broth with clams and tofu, $8."

The California state bird is the quail, and State Bird Provisions has an interpretation of it: "Dusted in pumpkin seeds and breadcrumbs, deep-fried, and served with onion jam and Parmigiano-Reggiano."

We called the restaurant, but no one picked up. However, Bon Appetit quoted Brioza: "Eating should be fun. We want to throw a sense of adventure into the dining experience."

State Bird Provisions is at 1529 Fillmore St.; (415) 795-1272,

Recipes and reviews accompany each pick at

The nine other winners are, from No. 2 to No. 10:
Blanca in Brooklyn
Battersby in Brooklyn
Luce in Portland
Catbird Seat in Nashville
Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis
Little Serow in Washington, D.C.
Oxheart in Houston
Baco Mercat in Los Angeles
Cakes & Ale in Decatur, Ga.

August 15, 2012
Could Roseville cake maker be TLC's "Next Great Baker?"

The final casting for season 3 of TLC's "Next Great Baker" has just about been confirmed, with contestants around the country who will battle it out baking style for cash and prizes. 12 finalists have made the cut, but the show is looking for a 13th contestant to round-out its "baker's dozen."

Chris Luna of Roseville is among three bakers who's in the hunt for that final spot, but he'll need your help to make it on the show, which is hosted by Buddy Valastro a.k.a. the "Cake Boss" himself. It'll all come down to voting, and an online ballot can be cast here.

Luna, 29, has a different career trajectory than many of the "Next Great Baker" would-bes. He's not a trained pastry chef and works by day in ad sales. He started baking cakes four years ago, right before he got married and said he wanted to bake his own wedding cake. His wife nixed that idea, but Luna ended up making a wedding cake not long after for some friends that was a hit.

Since then, Luna spends most weekends baking cakes of all different shapes and sizes. One creation looks just like a roasted pig and meant to be served at a luau. Another cake looks like a rainbow trout with metallic-like coloring. He credits his time in the Eagle Scouts along with a knack for being a handyman for helping his manual skills.

August 15, 2012
Zocalo to open Roseville restaurant on Monday

The operators of Zocalo, a popular upscale Mexican restaurant in midtown Sacramento, will open a new Zocalo next Monday, Aug. 20, in the Fountains at Roseville shopping complex.

The new Roseville Zocalo is co-owned by Jimmy Johnson, Ernesto Jiminez and Scott Kim. The general manager is Noe Hernandez. Johnson and Jiminez also own and operate Mas Cocina Mexicana in Roseville.

The 4,500-square-foot Roseville eatery will seat about 120 people inside and 60 on the patio and within an enclosed waiting space that will double as a lounge.

Designer and architect Ernesto Cruz has imported authentic furnishings from Mexico, including bar stools, tables and 7-foot, hand-carved columns. A full bar is included.

August 13, 2012
County receives two complaints for local restaurants serving foie gras

Downtown's Restaurant Thir13en and its chef/owner, Adam Pechal, received national press with a feature in Sunday's New York Times. But instead of a review or rundown of Sacramento's culinary scene, the article focused on California chefs who are flouting the state's ban on foie gras. The article features a picture of Pechal preparing a foie gras appetizer - a "complimentary" item, as to skirt the law - and details how he stockpiled on foie gras before the July 1 ban.

"Foie freezes fantastically," Pechal told the New York Times. "That's the beauty of it. The foie gras liver, it's a beautiful product. Worst-case scenario for me, I'll just go to Tahoe and spend the week and find somebody in Nevada. It's as simple as that. I can drive an hour and a half and buy it in another state."

Though a violation of the law can result in a $1,000 fine, enforcement throughout the state has been nearly non-existent. However, two citizen complaints have been filed against Sacramento area restaurants which have flouted the foie gras ban. The target of those complaints are Restaurant Thir13en and The Kitchen.

August 13, 2012
Sample and sip at Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival

With more than 2,000 foodies expected to show up, now's the time to make a plan for a culinary safari, to sip and sample, and take plenty of tasting notes for future reference.

The 27th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival has expanded from two days at the Village at Northstar ski resort to nine days of gourmet events and activities around the north, east and west shores of the lake ( It will be happening Sept. 1 through Sept. 9.

"We're moving forward with the growing trend of culinary tourism," said Pettit Gilwee, public-relations representative for the North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau. "There will be something food- and wine-related going on in your neck of the woods, wherever you're staying."

The centerpieces of the festival will continue to be the Grape Stomp (Sept. 7 in Tahoe City); Gourmet Marketplace, and classes, seminars, demonstrations, tastings, food-and-wine and beer-and-cheese pairings, and cooking competitions at Northstar (Sept. 8); and the Grand Tasting and Culinary Competition at Northstar (Sept. 9). At the judged Grand Tasting food-and-wine pairing, guests can graze and sip at more than 30 booths.

Some events are free, others are ticketed ($15 to $95). For details (including special lodging packages) and to buy tickets:

August 10, 2012
Leatherby's says 'happy birthday' with a 12-hour party

It's ice-cream weather and you're in luck.

The four-generation family-owned Leatherby's Creamery will celebrate its 30th anniversary with what it calls "an old-fashioned birthday party" from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14.

The party hats will be out at the three area Leatherby's. Featured will be free hot dogs for the 18-and-younger crowd (dine-in only), prizes via scratch-off cards, giveaways (including T-shirts and gift baskets), balloons, face-painting, and ice cream for 30 percent off.

Leatherby's stores are at 2333 Arden Way, Sacramento, (916) 920-8382; 7910 Antelope Road, Citrus Heights, (916) 729-4021; and 8238 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove, (916) 691-3334.

More information:

August 9, 2012
Pour House to open Friday

A few weeks back, "Appetizers" gave readers a sneak peek of Pour House. This spot at 19th and Q streets is the former location of Whiskey Wild, and features one of the area's more novel bar concepts. Some of the booths come with tap handles for beer and whiskey, so you can get a drink without leaving your seat. Meanwhile, the food program is being run by the folks behind Coast to Coast Sandwiches, the popular local food truck.

Pour House is now all ready to go, and its grand opening is set for 11 a.m. Friday. Along with its in-booth beer and whiskey taps, look for one of the area's more extensive bourbon and whiskey selections. The food will include an expanded version of Coast to Coast's menu, including smoked tri-tip and pulled pork.

For more information, visit Pour House's Facebook page.

August 9, 2012
A dress code at a restaurant? Here? Huh?

R. Douglas I.jpg

I recently dined at a restaurant that does something very unusual - it informs people when they call to make a reservation that they are expected to dress appropriately for dinner - and that does not mean men showing up in shorts and flip-flops.

This led me to wonder: where have all the dress codes gone? Are they a relic of a bygone era? Do we have any standards for evening attire these days? Does it matter?

In Sacramento and throughout much of Northern California, the answer is simple: there are no standards. Sure, the French Laundry (in Yountville) still requires men to wear jackets, but there aren't many places like that left. More often than not, anything goes, including baseball caps in white-tablecloth restaurants.

Men, especially, have been dressing down more and more for dinner. The gender divide may be growing, too. If there is a disparity gender-wise, women tend to dress more appropriately for the occasion. These days, it is very common to see a woman in a stylish dress accompanied by a man in jeans and a T-shirt.

Since I feel like I'm in the minority on this topic, I wanted to consult with an expert. So I called Ryan Douglas Hammonds, the 32-year-old owner of R. Douglas Custom Clothier, which makes and hand-delivers custom suits, blazers, slacks and shirts for men. He recently introduced a line of men's dress shoes. Check out the company's website here. His clothes look great.

August 8, 2012
Hank Shaw seeks input for new cookbook

When Hank Shaw's not busy with salmon fishing or foraging for fresh produce, the award winning food writer from Orangevale is working on a new book. Shaw, whose Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook blog has twice been nominated for a James Beard award, is taking on duck in his latest tome. The working title is "Duck: The Ultimate Cookbook," which will feature a multitude of cooking techniques for preparing delicious duck and geese dishes.

Along with surveying chefs from around the country, Shaw would like your input as well. What are the best ways for preparing duck? How can I produce a duck breast cooked to a perfect medium rare? What about some duck egg recipes? If you have any other input for duck techniques you'd like to see in the book, surf on over to Shaw's blog.

"I'm intending for the book to be useful for someone who's never cooked duck to chefs who've cooked it a lot," said Shaw.

August 8, 2012
Hot Italian hosts Ruthie Bolton book-signing this Saturday


Former Sacramento Monarchs guard and WNBA all-star Ruthie Bolton will be at Hot Italian (1627 16th St., Sacramento) this Saturday from 3-6 p.m. to meet fans and sign copies of her new book, "The Ride of a Lifetime: The Making of Mighty Ruthie."

The event coincides with the Olympic gold medal game in women's basketball, which will be shown at the pizzeria starting at 4 p.m.

As many Sacramentans know, Bolton was not only an excellent basketball player but a widely respected woman off the court with a compelling life story.

August 6, 2012
Some things ARE impossible: a glass of wine with a dog at the Weatherstone

Abbey I.JPG

During my many visits to restaurants, I occasionally run up against befuddling rules related to the establishment's liquor license. Sometimes, for instance you can have wine inside but not out, on the patio but not at the tables along the sidewalk. Liquor ads in the windows? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. What's the rule? Depends who's asking.

Perhaps the strangest "rule" I have seen so far is the one at Old Soul at the Weatherstone on 21st Street. I "discovered" it, to my chagrin, while out for a stroll through midtown with one of our three dogs. We were having a peaceful walk. We met other dogs. We had a staring contest with the cat in the window at Richard L Press Fine and Scholarly Books. We greeted children, frightened squirrels, sniffed things here and there. After awhile, I was craving a bite to eat and a glass of wine - and I wanted to hang out with Abbey, who loves coffee shops and just about everybody and everything except fireworks.

Turns out, you can visit Old Soul at the Weatherstone and enjoy a bite to eat or a coffee with your dog. You can certainly enjoy a glass of wine there. But you can't bring your dog AND enjoy a glass of wine. It's impossible, thanks to two government agencies and their restrictions, which may or may not make sense.

All I wanted to do was hang out, relax, taste a very nice petite syrah, try to catch up on my New Yorker subscription and watch the world go by as I clawed my way through a Zadie Smith short story.

August 6, 2012
Wine and food will star at two tasting events on Aug. 18

Two wine-and-food extravaganzas are approaching fast, both of them Aug. 18, but it will be easy to catch one and then drive to the other.

We're talking about the 17th annual Grape & Gourmet, and the 14th annual Off to the Races.

Grape & Gourmet will feature pours (and sales) from the 200 wineries that won medals in the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. They include Wise Villa, Ciotti Cellars and Secret Ravine.

Plus, look for award-winning beers from the fair's Commercial Craft Brew Competition, and award-winning cheeses from the fair's cheese competition. Also, nosh on samples from 20 area restaurants, among them Paul Martin's American Bistro, the Porch and Pizza Rock.

The results of the fair's wine competition are in California Wine magazine, which will be available at the event and in SaveMart stores soon.

Grape & Gourmet will be 3 to 6 p.m. in Buildings A and B at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. Online group sales of 10 or more are $35 per person. To buy tickets and get more information: (916) 263-3636,

Proceeds will benefit the Friends of the California State Fair's scholarship program.

After Grape & Gourmet, set your sights on Off to the Races, a fund-raising food- and wine-tasting.

Line up for hors d'oeuvres from nine area restaurants, including Ruth's Chris, Roxy and Fabian's Italian Bistro. Then enjoy pours of red, white and rose from seven wineries, among them Napa Cellars, St. Supéry and the Hess Collection.

Off to the Races will be emceed by KCRA news anchor Edie Lambert. Accompanying will be live entertainment from Suzuki Music Association, six-time Ellly Award-winning El Dorado Musical Theatre, and guitarist Sean O'Conner.

The event will be 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the courtyard at Pavilions center on Fair Oaks Boulevard (east of Howe Avenue), Sacramento. Tickets are $40 at the door or in advance at (916) 933-4056.

Off to the Races is the kickoff event for the 14th annual Race for the Arts. Race registration starts at 7 a.m., with the first run-walk at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 25 at William Land Park. Both "Race" events benefit arts groups and arts programs throughout California.

For more information:

August 3, 2012
Restaurants and marketing part III: The Eatery in West Sac

Jess Milboujrn.jpg

My look at how restaurants market and promote themselves is turning into an ongoing series. That's because it's a huge part of the business, and because I am fascinated by how busy restaurants stay busy. If you think it's all about the food, you're wrong.

Getting the attention of the consumer - connecting with newcomers, making friends with regulars - is a way to build a restaurant that has staying power.

I'm writing this just after I received a long, sincere email from a reader responding to my recent review of Erawan Thai Restaurant, in which I take the business to task for not doing enough to attract attention, fill the seats and, thus, make dining there a lively, entertaining experience. Every time I visited, the place was a ghost town.

The emailer states, "The owners establish a strong base with the customers that do come in and as a result we become loyal customers. If you are a Buddhist customer with strong spiritual ties, the atmosphere is very pleasing and peaceful."

August 3, 2012
Feeding Crane Farms poised to launch product line, acquire commercial kitchen

Mike Ward.jpg

If you follow the local food scene, you're probably already familiar with Feeding Crane Farms, a new boutique organic farm in within the city limits (in Natomas) that focuses on growing for local restaurants.

The small urban farm has big plans. I recently caught up with Mike Ward to learn more. Ward, you may recall, was the talented chef de cuisine at Lounge on 20 where he was best known for his amazing charcuterie plates. When the restaurant went under, he quickly landed a job at Feeding Crane Farms in a newly created position - culinary development manager.

That was back in May. Since then, Ward has been very busy - working, planning, dreaming.

August 2, 2012
A few thoughts on extraordinary ice cream at Ginger Elizabeth

ice cream I.JPG

Just the other day, I tasted one of the greatest ice creams I've ever had. The flavor? Lemon custard with Graham crackers and blueberry jam, $9 for a pint at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates (1801 L St. #61, Sacramento).

In the past, I've praised many things about this small midtown business -- the macarons, the hand-crafted chocolates, and the incredible ice cream sandwiches. And I've told you about the proprietor, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, who has been named one of the top 10 chocolatiers in the country by "Dessert Professional Magazine."

There's more. Ginger Elizabeth ice creams are extraordinary -- and this particular flavor exceeded my lofty expectations. I contacted Hahn to chat about this ice cream and get her thoughts on creating flavor.

August 2, 2012
New coalition to lobby at Friday's food truck ordinance meeting

Food truck owners, city officials and restaurateurs are set to meet on Friday to discuss a possible compromise with local mobile food ordinances. One of the main advocacy groups behind the scenes is the recently formed California Mobile Food Association (CMFA), which is a coalition of 20 Sacramento area mobile food vendors. Many of these vendors have split from SactoMoFo, the mobile food organization behind the area's largest food truck festivals and an early advocate for amending city ordinances to make them food truck friendly.

"Up until a few months ago, we weren't present in meetings being had between the city and restaurateurs," said Matt Chong, co-owner of the Wicked 'Wich food truck and board director for the CMFA. "We were hearing about all this tension and trying to figure out why. We realized we needed to have our own voice directly from the trucks. We're coming forth with realistic expectations because we know the business day in and day out."

Current city ordinances state that mobile food vendors must move after 30 minutes and cease business when the sun goes down. Chong said recent discussions with the city and brick-and-mortar restaurateurs have been productive, and have a framework that may soon make its way to the city's Law and Legislation Committee. Among the proposals:

August 2, 2012
'What I Eat' inspires special five-course meal in Truckee

WHAT I EAT BOOK.JPGLet's start with the book and segue to the dinner.

For a shocker, open the extraordinary "What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets" by Napa-based photojournalist Peter Menzel and his wife, former TV producer Faith D'Aluisio (Material World/Ten Speed Press, $40, 335 pages;

The book combines striking photos of and interviews with 80 people in 30 countries, accompanied in each case by a menu of their meals on a typical day. Their stories are arranged by daily caloric intake, from a low of 800 calories to a high of 12,300 calories.

In Kenya, one of the wives of a Maasai chief derives her 800 calories from porridge, bananas, tea, milk and sugar. In London, a mother of three consumes 12,300 daily calories from three full meals, plus three daily snacks.

Now for the five-course meal, inspired by the book: Menzel and D'Aluisio will give a presentation at a "farm-to-table" outdoor dinner-lecture sponsored by the Squaw Valley Institute, in a private home on "20 acres overlooking Truckee."

Preparing the meal will be chefs from some of the Tahoe area's top restaurants: Plumpjack Café, Moody's, Wolfdale's, Mamasake and Six Peaks Grille. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing will offer samples of organic ales.

"The dinner is designed to pay homage to our local culinary leaders and providers, and to present an intimate evening where we can truly digest the topic - exactly what the Squaw Valley Institute is about," said executive director Renee Koijane.

Limited-seating tickets to the Aug. 18 dinner-lecture are $135 a person (including a copy of the book) at More information at (530) 581-4138.

August 2, 2012
That eerie howling is from the newly released Werewolf red

What is that eerie howling echoing over the misty moors? Likely the limited-edition Werewolf Irish red ale from the suds-meisters at the Caledonian Brewing Company in Edinburgh, Scotland, makers of Newcastle. They've been knee-deep in hops and malts for 80 years, crafting variations of their famous brown ale.

Each year, Heineken International distributes several special-edition, seasonal Newcastle beers for limited times. Rotating through the calendar year are Summer Ale, Werewolf and, in December-January, Winter India Pale Ale.

The company has just released its first round of Werewolf, which "pours naturally blood red, starting smooth and ending with a bite." Lycanthropic references aside, the 4.5 percent-alcohol ale will be on store shelves from now through October, $9 for a six-pack.


August 1, 2012
Raising salad-making to the level of performance art, with wine

I just got off the phone with Karen Holmes of Karen's Bakery and Cafe in Folsom. I called her after reading about an upcoming food, wine and fine art event that sounds like a lot of fun. It will be held on the top floor of the parking garage in Historic Old Folsom on Sept. 15, with proceeds going to the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary. For more information and to buy tickets, go here.

Holmes sent me an earlier email in which she said, "I wanted to bring a Fine Art event to the Historic District of Folsom. Artists from outside our community who create fine art -- not arts and crafts. I love art, and the artists who can think that way, and wanted to support fine art in my community. My vision was an event that brought fine art, food, and wine together. I wanted the artists to be able to sell their work, and for people to be able to taste wine and food, similar to the events I've been to at Pebble Beach and Los Angeles."

I was especially intrigued by Holmes' role - she's going to be preparing a "public salad." What's a public salad, you ask? That's what I wanted to know.

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