September 25, 2012
Firehouse Subs chain has plans for Sacramento area

By Mark Glover

Jacksonville, Fla.-based restaurant chain Firehouse Subs says it plans to open 75 restaurants throughout Northern California over the next 10 years.

It will target the Sacramento area as well as the Bay Area and Central Valley, with a potential for 2,000 new jobs.

The company, founded by a pair of firefighter brothers, said it plans to open the region's first Firehouse Subs in Fremont early next year. The chain has 534 locations nationwide.

Firehouse restaurants feature authentic firefighter decor celebrating local firefighting history and the founding family's 200 years of firefighting service.

Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

September 21, 2012
Taylor's Market offers butchering class, ranch tour and dinner

Here's a fun, educational, and delicious event for foodies: a butchering class and family-style dinner right on the farm where the cattle are raised.

On Oct. 21, a Sunday, Taylor's Market, which has long been known for its meat counter run by skilled butchers, will hold a Butchering 101 class, along with a tour of the Wintun Ranch property in Roseville, followed by a family-style dinner at the ranch.

As Taylor's owner and butcher Danny Johnson told me by phone, it doesn't get any more "farm-to-table" than that.

The class, tour and dinner costs $75 per person (wine is extra). Add up all you get and that's a tremendous value. The Bee has written about the butcher classes at Taylor's and I have heard from participants that they are a great learning experience. You don't have to be an aspiring butcher - or even have an interest in breaking down your own side of beef sometime in the future. Johnson says it's all about educating consumers about the various cuts of meat and how to handle them. That said, Johnson hired a guy who took his butchering class last year, so you can learn plenty.

September 20, 2012
With a focus on seafood, is Blackbird ready to shine?

I have been eating quite an array of seafood lately at a several places in and around Sacramento, along with a few out of town joints. Squid, octopus, rock cod, hamachi, arctic char cooked, arctic char raw (topped with potato chips and fish eggs), tilapia on tacos, blackened catfish, whole roasted trout, striped bass, salmon teriyaki, oysters, clams mussels, lobster, crab. The list goes on.

OK, it's been quite the seafood feast in recent weeks. Which leads me to the focal point of this brief post: Blackbird Kitchen + Bar. That's the new downtown restaurant I will be reviewing this Sunday.

As a preview, I thought you might enjoy seeing a few photos from recent visits. Below that, I thought I would include a couple of pics from a recent drop-in at Restaurant 1833 in Monterey. I'll be writing about that place in the weeks (or months) to come.

August 2012 Oscar, etc 352.JPG Arctic char in vichyssoise topped with potato chips and cured roe.

August 2012 Oscar, etc 357.JPG Whole roasted trout with steamed clams and sea beans

September 033.JPG Striped bass

September 19, 2012
Make reservations for third annual Lake Tahoe Restaurant Week

Can Northern California's foodies get enough wining and dining in the Sierra? Apparently not.

Following the spectacular Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival held Sept. 8-9 at Northstar Ski Resort (with 2,000 in attendance) comes the third annual Lake Tahoe Restaurant Week, Oct. 7-14.

Three-course prix-fixe meals for $20, $30 and $40 per person will emphasize organic, seasonal and local ingredients. The dining venues will range from historic resorts and landmark restaurants to shiny new bistros, from the casual to the high-end.

September 19, 2012
Sacramento Regional Restaurant Week to debut Oct. 1

Maybe there's a restaurant (or two or three) you've always wanted to try, but somehow have never gotten around to it. The inaugural Sacramento Regional Restaurant Week, Oct. 1 through 14, could be your window of opportunity.

Hey, wait a minute... Isn't that two weeks, not one?

"Well, that's one more thing that makes it unique," said Daniel Conway, with a laugh. "We'll double down and have twice the fun." Conway is the public-affairs director of the California Restaurant Association. The Sacramento chapter of the CRA organized Restaurant Week.

So, what is it?

September 19, 2012
Foodies and the culinarily curious will gather in Stateline

Harrah's and Harveys in Stateline at South Lake Tahoe certainly know how to throw a party. The hotel-casinos proved it again last year with their Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival, which was over the top in a good way. Now plans are set for the third annual soiree, Oct. 5-7, which - judging by the lineup of events, celebrity chefs and wine experts - looks like more of the same.

If you missed the spectacular Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival held at the Northstar ski resort and the Ritz Carlton hotel Sept. 8-9, this one's for you.

Bet on a long list of food-and-wine pairings and tastings, multi-course dinners, cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, seminars, live entertainment and contests. Among the highlights will be "Around the World with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay," hosted by master sommelier Jay James; "Sushi, Sashimi and Sake Tasting"; and "Decadent Desserts and Drinks."

September 19, 2012
Legal concerns prompt a new draft of proposed food truck ordinances

Anyone thinking that changes to current mobile food vending ordinances would breeze through city hall was given a reality check on Tuesday afternoon. After numerous postponments, mobile food ordinances were heard before the city's Law and Legislation committee, only to find legal concerns expressed and a need for more discussions which are scheduled to be heard on Oct. 16.

Three meetings had previously been held between mobile food vendors and brick and mortar restaurant owners, who drafted proposed changes to current city ordinances which limit mobile food vending to 30 minutes, among other ordinances. The latest proposals include increasing the vending time limit to 90 minutes along some stretches J,K and L streets but vendors would have to keep at least one block away from restaurants. Other parts of the central city would see those time limits stretched to 2 1/2 hours and also require vendors to stay at least one block from restaurants. Food trucks would be off limits in Old Sacramento.

However, at Tuesday's meeting the city attorney's office expressed concerns about possible legal issues. The issue of whether cities have the authority to regulate where food trucks can do business had previously been raised by the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. This advocacy group had previously expressed strong opposition to compromises reached between Sacramento mobile food vendors and restaurateurs.

September 18, 2012
2012 wine grape harvest predicted to be a bumper crop

While the wine grape harvest is still underway and expected to last well into October, early predictions are showing an especially bountiful crop for 2012.

According to Allied Grape Growers, a Fresno-based growers association, the 2012 wine grape crop is expected to reach 3.7 million tons. That amount would tie the second-largest crop ever, and provide some balance after two consecutive years of smaller than usual harvests. 3.7 million tons would be a 10 percent increase over 2011's harvest, and a significant increase from the some 3.1 million tons harvested in 2010. Allied Grape Growers consider 3.5 million tons an average sized harvest.

After talk of supply shortage in California's wine industry, the 2012 crop could offer some relief. Wine shipments meanwhile were flat for the first six months of 2012, according to the Gomberg Fredrikson Report. California bulk wine exports meanwhile fell by 13 percent, while bulk wine imports were up a whopping 164 percent.

Look for the final numbers related to shipments and the 2012 crop to be announced at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, which is set for the Sacramento Convention Center from Jan. 29 to Jan. 31.

September 17, 2012
Thiemann earns early promotion but will still cook at Ella

There's a lot going on with the local restaurant scene these days, but one thing you may not have heard about is the expanded role of Michael Thiemann, the chef at Ella Dining Room & Bar, who has been winning raves since taking over for Kelly McKown.

The Selland Group, which owns Ella, as well as The Kitchen and Selland's Market-Café, didn't put out a public announcement about it, but Thiemann's role has definitely expanded in recent weeks to include oversight of all of the kitchens.

"Mike Thiemann has been given a promotion. That's something that's been done ahead of schedule," Josh Nelson, co-founder and chief financial officer of the Selland Group, told me Monday.

September 14, 2012
Feeding Crane Farms buys Steel Magnolia Commercial Kitchen

There aren't many slow days down on the farm - not when your name is Feeding Crane Farms. The young upstart on the local food scene has been extra busy lately as it expands its reach. It continues to supply produce to local restaurants and it's heavily involved in developing a brand for a variety of food products to be sold in grocery stores.

According to Shannin Stein, general manager at Feeding Crane Farms, the Natomas-based farm is in the process of completing the purchase of Steel Magnolia, the commercial kitchen on 16th Street in midtown that rents its space to chefs and small companies involved in food production. The kitchen has become a hub for fledgling food businesses and catering companies since it opened in late 2009.

One important component is that the kitchen is inspected by the county Health Department, also known as the Department of Environmental Management, just like restaurants are. That's crucial if companies want to sell their food to the general public.

September 14, 2012
Preview photos: Burger Battle contenders strut their stuff

644432_239073799549259_1159870635_n.jpgPhoto above of Paul Poore of Michelangelo's Restaurant (photo credit: Rachel Valley)

Following up on our report the other day about the upcoming Sacramento Burger Battle -- a heated competition, yes, but a charity fundraiser, too -- we've found a collection of promotional photos of the 15 competing chefs and their burgers. We're told that the actual burger recipes for the competition remain top-secret in several cases, so these giant, juicy burgers in these very impressive photos may be decoys or the real McCoy. Check out the photos by clicking here. The burgers look great. And several of the chefs certainly wore their "game faces" for their photo.

Congratulations ahead of time to the chefs for getting involved with a first-time event that promises to be the start of a great new food tradition for the Sacramento area, as well as a meaningful fundraiser for the Chrohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Rodney Blackwell, author of the blog Burger Junkies, is the man who organized the Sacramento Burger Battle. The event is this Tuesday at Raley Field from 7-10 p.m. (VIP ticketholders get in at 6 p.m.). Tickets are $55 per person, which includes sample sizes of the competing burgers, beer, wine and cider, as well as live music. For more information or to buy tickets, click here.

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

September 14, 2012
Jack's Urban Eats opens in Roseville center on Monday

EK JACK'S KITCHEN.JPGSacramento-based Jack's Urban Eats, the "California-style cafeteria" chain, will open its new restaurant Monday in the Fountains at Roseville shopping complex.

The new Jack's, the eighth locally, has 2,800 square feet of space and will feature year-round patio dining.

Owners said the menu will be consistent with other Jack's locations, but there may be some local or seasonal variations.

Jack's has another Roseville restaurant on Sierra College Boulevard and also operates in Sacramento, Gold River and Folsom. It also has a restaurant at the Sacramento International Airport.

Fountains at Roseville is owned by Peter P. Bollinger Investment Co. and managed by its Inter-Cal Real Estate Corp. affiliate.

PHOTO: Cashier Cathy Bryant works the lunch rush at Jack's Urban Eats on 20th Street in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee 2005 file photo.

September 13, 2012
KrushBurger to open restaurant on North 10th street in December

KrushBurger, formerly known as MiniBurger and one of the pioneers of Sacramento's mobile food movement, will be opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in December. The address is 700 North 10th Street, which also serves as headquarters for the California State Lottery. Like its truck, KrushBurger will focus on a variety of burgers and will also open at 7 a.m. to serve breakfast. Some of those morning items will include a "street benedict" with fried egg and a roasted red pepper hollandaise sauce, and chicken and waffles.

KrushBurger will also serve beer and wine, and include plenty of TVs for watching sports.

"It's a neat area with lots of business," said owner Davin Vculek. "Along with the state lottery, there's also CHP nearby and some other development going on. It's easy to get to from Highway 160, I-5 and I-80. We're going to try some things to help build up our dinner business."

September 13, 2012
Ella celebrates 5 years with Happy Hour specials

Ella sign.JPG

Congratulations to the crew at Ella Dining Room & Bar on hitting the five-year milestone -- not just five years in business, which is admirable enough, but five years as one of the city's very best restaurants.

Ella set a standard right out of the gate as an elegant, lively, cosmopolitan restaurant with very good food and polished, big-league service. Since then, the restaurant has had three chefs: David English, who now owns the impressive and popular Press Bistro on Capitol; Kelly McKown, who left to run the kitchen at Goose & Gander in St. Helena; and current head chef Micheal Thiemann, who departed Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco to return home to Sacramento. As most foodies know, Ella is owned and operated by the Selland Family Restaurants, a mini-empire that includes The Kitchen and Selland Market-Cafe (now with a second location in El Dorado Hills, in addition to the East Sac spot).

We happened upon this sign (pictured above) recently while out for a walk with the dogs. Years ago, as many locals know, K Street wasn't exactly the most appealing place for a stroll, run-down and sketchy as it had become. That's changing, and Ella has been a part of that new optimism and energy on K Street, bolstered even more by the arrival of Pizza Rock. Sometime in the next year or two, expect much more, including more housing.

Meanwhile, whether you have yet to try Ella or simply want to enjoy more of that atmosphere, food and service, this is a good time to drop by for Happy Hour or head over to enjoy a full meal. The Happy Hour anniversary specials run throughout September, as does a special $35 prix fixe dinner. To see the prix fixe menu, click here. It sure looks good.

Ella is at 1131 K St., Sacramento. (916) 443-3772.

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

September 13, 2012
Rancho Cordova Chili's has special events for St. Jude

Chili's restaurant at 3199 Zinfandel Drive in Rancho Cordova is hosting events through Sept. 27 to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Memphis-based center for treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic childhood illnesses.

The events include: "Tip a Cop," with 10 Rancho Cordova law enforcement officers waiting tables and accepting donations from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday; a "Plant a Seed for St. Jude" donation program from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 22; and "Donate Profits Day" on Sept. 24, when 100 percent of restaurant net profits will be donated to the St. Jude hospital.

General donations also can be made by restaurant customers participating in the "color a pepper" campaign.

September 12, 2012
'Trucktoberfest' mobile food event coming to West Sac. on Sept. 29

The popular SactoMoFo mobile food festival, previously held in various downtown locations, will move across the Sacramento River to West Sacramento on Sept. 29. "Trucktoberfest" will feature more than 20 mobile food vendors, including the debut of the second truck in KrushBurger's fleet. The site will be Riverwalk Park, near the former Money Store and a location for the late-great Heritage Festival that featured a weekend of local and national bands. A beer/wine garden will also be featured at Trucktoberfest, which will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. According to Paul Somerhausen of SactoMoFo, this will be the last SactoMoFo event of the year.

In other food truck news, after numerous postponements, proposals to revise food truck ordinances are scheduled to be heard before the city's Law and Legislation committee on Sept. 18. After a series of meetings between food truck owners and brick-and-mortar restaurateurs, their proposals will then be turned into legislative language and ordinances before moving in front of the city council for discussion and a possible vote.

Meanwhile, look for food trucks to rally on behalf of efforts to rebuild McKinley Park's arson damaged playground on Oct. 28 at Sutter's Landing Park. Also look for more information coming soon about a Dec. 1 cooking competition and festival featuring mobile food vendors and restaurant chefs joined together in teams.

September 11, 2012
Sushi, sake course served at Benihana in Citrus Heights

The Benihana restaurant in Citrus Heights is hosting a class designed to help entrants learn the art of making sushi and pairing it with sake.

The class, called "Sushi + Sake 101," will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at 5489 Sunrise Blvd.

Under the guidance of a Benihana sushi chef, attendees will be taught skills to create popular sushi rolls and learn which styles of sake pair best with different types of sushi. They will also learn serving etiquette.

September 10, 2012
Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival is a hit

The weather was unseasonably warm at the Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort last weekend, but that didn't slow down the 2,000-plus foodies who sipped fine wines and sampled delectable small-plate dishes at the 27th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival.

The nine-day fest, which featured food- and wine-related events around the lake and at the ultra-luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel (situated a gondola ride above Northstar), culminated at Sunday's Grand Tasting. It featured 24 area restaurants teamed with 24 wineries to vie for gold, silver and bronze medals in various categories.

A panel of judges had huddled earlier in the day for an extensive tasting. From noon to 4 p.m., crowds of attendees went from tent to tent, tasting samples and sipping wines while bands played on the main stage.

The judges' choice for "best pairing of food and wine" was Granlibakken Resort of Tahoe City (mushroom stuffed with red lentil hash, chevre, duck and red currant) and Morgan 2010 pinot noir
Second place: Jake's on the Lake of Tahoe City (seared scallop) and Wente 2010 chardonnay
Third place: North Tahoe Catering of Kings Beach (chile smoked beef tender with roasted-peach truffle sauce) and Renwood 2010 old-vine zinfandel.

The Hard Rock Cafe chain won for "best pairing of food and beverage other than wine" for its bayou shrimp burger and Indian spices-dusted potato chips, with Charbay blood-orange vodka negroni cocktail.

In the "best food" category, Jake's on the Lake of Tahoe City took gold for its seared scallop; Six Peaks Grille of Squaw Valley took silver for its roasted beet salad with goat cheese and fried shallots; and Hawks took bronze for its smoked pork belly with corn pudding and pluots.

Once again, Hawks of Granite Bay was the competition's only entry from the Sacramento area. Last year, co-owners Molly Hawks and her husband, Michael Fagnoni, took gold for "best food" and silver for "best food and wine pairing."

As for the people's choice winners, "best food" and "best pairing" both went to the Chocolate Bar of Northstar (turkey crepe), teamed with Francis Coppola 2009 petite sirah.

As our group tasted, we found other favorites:
- A delectable smoked Korean pork rib roll from Plumpjack Cafe in Squaw Valley, teamed with our new favorite wine, the grenache D-66 from Orin Swift winery in the Napa Valley.

- A perfect seared scallop with corn-crab pudding and fig space from the West Shore Cafe in Homewood.

- A luscious vanilla-saffron mussel from Farm to Belly personal-chef and catering service in Truckee.

- An exceptional pork rib with black bean sauce from Drunken Monkey Sushi in Truckee.

We also ran into an old friend among the dozens of exhibitors and vendors selling goods in the Northstar central plaza. Limerock Orchards of Paso Robles makes a silken walnut oil that we use on everything we grill, from pork roast and ribs, to chicken and corn on the cob.

For the complete list of festival winners, visit

September 10, 2012
Sacramento Burger Battle promises to be big, meaningful


If you're the least bit tied in the local food scene, you probably already know about the Sacramento Burger Battle event on Sept. 18 at Raley Field.

How so? Rodney Blackwell, the man behind the upcoming extravaganza of sizzling beef and gooey cheese is a one-man social media dynamo. He tweets. He blogs. He says stuff on Facebook. And he makes things happen.

The Burger Battle not only promises to be a significant annual food event in Sacramento, it's going to raise thousands of dollars for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Blackwell's oldest daughter, 9-year-old Karina, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 5.

"I've been donating to them ever since, but I wanted to do more," Blackwell told me Monday.

September 10, 2012
Mikuni to retire sushi bus, launch food truck

After more than a decade of rolling through Sacramento and beyond with its assortment of sushi, the Mikuni Sushi Bus will retire at the end of September. But, that doesn't mean Mikuni, the popular Sacramento-based sushi chain, will hit the brakes on providing food in a mobile environment. Mikuni plans to launch its own food truck in early 2013.

"It's so sad," said Taro Arai, executive chef of the Mikuni Japanese Restaurant Group, about the sushi bus ending its run. "The Raiders vs. Pittsburgh (Steelers) game will be its final trip."

The Mikuni Sushi Bus was rented for private events and included an on-board sushi bar, flat-screen TV and service staff. That bus, however, proved to be costly to run as the years went along.

September 7, 2012
Pajo Bruich and Enotria could be a great pairing


I was excited to learn that Pajo Bruich, the artistic, modernist chef with the ever-growing reputation (but still rather thin resume) had landed a new gig as executive chef at Enotria. That's the restaurant with the stellar wine list that, at least to me, tended to under-achieve in the kitchen.

Is this the final piece of the puzzle for a place that appears to have not only deep pockets but a commitment to raise the bar?

When I encountered Bruich's food over the past year at Lounge ON20, where he teamed with sous chef extraordinaire Mike Ward, I was sometimes blown away by the flavor combinations, the thinking behind the ingredients, the arcane techniques, the artistry of the plating and the unabashed yearning to do something new and innovative. I like people who aren't comfortable fitting in and being ordinary, especially when they have the talent and know-how to back up their peculiarities.

The Lounge gig didn't last. People didn't get it. And the restaurant wasn't really a restaurant -- it was a lounge that happened to have a kitchen. The lounge didn't showcase Bruich and Ward properly, if at all. In fact, the very people who might admire their food - savvy, well-traveled and well-heeled epicureans -- would take one look at the exterior of Lounge ON20, complete with a big, bad bouncer standing guard outside, and rightly conclude, "Not for me."

Lounge hired Bruich to do his thing. Then after a month or two of lagging sales, instead of marketing the food better, it pulled back. Bruich's new marching orders? "You know why we hired you? To be modernist and artistic and edgy? Don't do that."

September 7, 2012
Top of Folsom art, food and wine event is Sept. 15

Just a reminder that Top of Folsom, the event featuring fine art with food and wine set atop the scenic rooftop of the parking garage in historic Old Folsom is Saturday, Sept. 15 from 6-9 p.m.

It should be quite an evening -- featuring 20 artists, 20 wineries and 15 chefs. Live music, too. All for a good cause.

If that's not enough, Karen Holmes of Karen's Bakery & Cafe fame will be making a "public salad," based on a performance art piece first showcased by American artist Alison Knowles at the Tate Museum in London in 1962. In this updated version, Holmes will have help from culinary students at American River College. I'm not privy to all the details, but expect massive amounts of salad greens to be dropped -- or tossed -- from the fourth-floor level of the garage to the third level, where they will be caught in a large tarp. A pitch fork could be used to toss the greens with the dressing. This might make more sense when you see it in person -- after a glass or two of old vine zin.

Tickets are $75. Proceeds go to the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary and the Folsom Historic District. For more information or to purchase tickets online, click here.

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

September 7, 2012
Hook & Ladder to open in late September at 17th and S streets

Details are shaping up for the opening of Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., a neighborhood eatery and bar located at 17th and S streets in the former Hangar 17 space. Look for Hook & Ladder to open in the next two to three weeks - that is, by the end of September.

Owned by the same folks behind midtown's Golden Bear, a popular pub that's been featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives," Hook & Ladder will feature an expanded menu and cocktail program run by Chris Tucker, one of Sacramento's top bartenders. The menu will be overseen by Brian Mizner, the Golden Bear's current executive chef and an alum of L Wine Lounge and the late-great Masque in El Dorado Hills. The menu's still being fine tuned, but expect a more entree options than featured at Golden Bear along with a range of small plates.

The 4,800 square foot space includes an additional front and back patio, along with some unique concepts which will be revealed soon. While Golden Bear also features DJs and dancing, Hook & Ladder will focus squarely on food and drink for now.

September 6, 2012
Which celebrity chefs make the most bread...uh, money?

How much money do chefs make each year? According to the trade magazine Nation's Restaurant News, executive chefs who run the kitchens at independent restaurants pull in around $71,000 a year.

Now let's move to the next level - celebrity chefs. They're celebrities because of their TV shows or their great restaurants or both.

The Daily Meal - the online site that reports on everything food- and drink-related - has compiled its annual list of "America's 25 Most Successful Chefs," ranked by their annual earnings.

Included are Gordon "Hell's Kitchen" Ramsay at $38 million; Paula "Paula's Home Cooking" Deen, $17 million; Bobby "Throwdown!" Flay, $9 million; Thomas Keller (The French Laundry in Yountville), $8.4 million; Guy "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" Fieri, $8 million; and Anthony "No Reservations" Bourdain, $6.1 million.

For the complete list, visit

September 4, 2012
The smoke clears on winners of Best in the West Rib Cook-off

The 24th annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off over the Labor Day weekend was a serious rib-cookin' throwdown between 25 professional cookers competing for cash, trophies and braggin' rights.

Along the way, they sold a quarter-million pounds of bones to a sauce-smeared Rib Nation a half-million strong, while a medley of bands blasted the crowds with multi-genre music. To go with the St. Louis-style spareribs were roasted corn, onion rings, funnel cakes and plenty of beer.

The six-day event - considered the most prestigious of its kind anywhere - culminated Monday on Victorian Square at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks. That's when Nugget officials announced the winners (and their cash winnings) to a cheering throng. They were:

First place: Chicago BBQ Company of Burr Ridge, Ill., $7,500
Second place: Sweet Baby Ray's of Wood Dale, Ill., , $3,000
Third place: Famous Dave's of Minnetonka, Minn., $2,000
Fourth place: Porky 'n' Beans of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., $1,000
Fifth place: Checkered Pig of Martinsville, Va., $500
Best Sauce Award ($500) went to Famous Dave's, while Back Forty Texas Barbecue of Pleasant Hill, Ca., took the People's Choice Award ($500).

For more information: (775) 356-3300, or

September 4, 2012
Enotria revamps kitchen staff, Pajo Bruich named exec. chef

Enotria Restaurant Wine Bar, which completed a $1.5 million renovation in 2011, has now undergone its most significant change in kitchen staff. Pajo Bruich, formerly of midtown's Lounge ON20, is now serving as Enotria's excutive chef. He's also helped recruit some of Sacramento's top culinary talent to help run Enotria's kitchen. Among Enotria's new staff: Stan Moore, former sous chef of The Kitchen, and Edward Martinez, the former pastry chef of Hawk's Restaurant who was profiled by the Bee in April. Other new staff come from such notable Sacramento establishments as Blackbird Kitchen + Bar and The Selland Group.

Enotria's new staff will make its debut on Saturday with a beer dinner hosted by Dr. Charlie Bamforth, Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at UC Davis. After that, this new crew will start up again at Enotria on Sept. 14 and keep going from there.

While Bruich is best known for embracing molecular gastronomy and other modern cooking techniques, he's scaling back his style to emphasize seasonal, ingredient driven dishes with classic techniques. Most dishes will be based on just four ingredients. Look for such items as dayboat scallops, risotto and dry aged rib-eye. Entrees cost between $19 and $30, and $50 for a four-course tasting menu.

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