November 30, 2012
Amador's Easton Wines honored by Wine Spectator

Accolades arrived this week for Terre Rouge & Easton Wines of Amador, which was named among Wine Spectator's "top 100 outstanding values of 2012." The noted bottle is the Easton 2010 Zinfandel Amador County, priced at $18 and described by Wine Spectator's managing editor as "a rich tasting zinfandel from California's Sierra Foothills." A bottle was also featured in a prominent photo spread of fellow best value wines.

This 2010 zinfandel earned 90 points from Wine Spectator earlier this year, and featured in a number of issues including a feature on zinfandel.

"That was really sweet," said Bill Easton, the winemaker and proprietor of Terre Rouge & Easton Wines. "They'd been giving us good reviews for the last couple years, but having that bottle in the photo spread was really cool. We've been leading up to this the whole year."

November 30, 2012
After stint at Alinea, chef returns to do inventive $100 dinner

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On the heels of a four-month stint in one of the country's most revered kitchens, Chef Scott Ostrander is orchestrating a pop-up style dinner at the Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar on Monday that could, if all goes according to plan, become the stuff of local legend.

After chatting with Ostrander by phone and then looking at the intensely ambitious menu, the dinner appears to be influenced by the likes of Rene Redzepi and Heston Blumenthal, two of the world's great culinary wizards.

Ostrander, 30, who is in town for a few weeks before starting a new gig at a restaurant in Yountville (more on that another time), worked at Alinea in Chicago, the modernist restaurant with three Michelin stars that some now consider the best in the U.S. After four months, Ostrander is ready to move on to his next restaurant.

"The room for error there was small, so you weren't allowed to make mistakes," the chef told me when I asked if the Alinea experience made him a better chef. "So my personal skills went through the roof."

Apparently, so did his ambition. His menu looks incredible - creative, soulful, edgy, risky, wild and maybe just a little insane. It's the kind of high-voltage shock to the system that the Sacramento culinary scene needs more of. He has dubbed the dinner, "Winter in Lake Tahoe: A Culinary and Libation Excursion."

November 28, 2012
Update: Truck and Mortar Throwdown

Mother Nature be darned, one of the year's most novel cooking competitions and tastings is happening on Saturday. Teams of mobile food vendors and restaurant chefs will collaborate and compete at Truck and Mortar Throwdown, to be held rain or shine at 6th and W streets (aka the site of Sunday's farmers market under the freeway) from noon to 3 p.m. Each team will have an entire pig and one gallon of honey to impress a judging panel - including chef Patrick Mulvaney, Bethany Crouch of FOX 40 and myself - and the public vote. After a couple shuffles, here's the final roster of culinary teams:

* Oliver Ridgeway (Grange) and Robert Ramos (Coast to Coast Sandwiches)

* Mike Thiemann (Ella Dining Room and Bar) and Chando of Chando's Taco's

* Matt Brown (Golden Bear) and Donell Hendrix (Simply Southern Foods)

* Billy Ngo (Kru/Pork Belly Grub Shack) and Davin Vculek (Krush Burger)

* Pedro Depina (Ettore's) and Andrew "Drewski" Blaskovich (Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen)

Now that's a line-up of some of Sacramento's key tastemakers, and there's bound to be some great creations to taste. The chefs are being pretty hush-hush about what they plan to make, but we're hearing whispers of dishes that include charred jalapeno honey, raw oysters and what's dubbed "the last Twinkie." Yow!

November 28, 2012
Chocolate Fish poised to expand to second location

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Good news for fans of seriously good coffee: Chocolate Fish, which has won legions of fans at its downtown coffee shop, is opening a second location - in East Sacramento.

I'm told the new coffee shop, across the street from East Sacramento Hardware and OneSpeed Pizza on Folsom Boulevard, is expected to open to the public in January.

While Chocolate Fish's current location caters to the downtown work crowd and closes at 4 p.m. on weekdays, the East Sac shop should attract a different clientele and will stay open later.

November 28, 2012
Oscar's Very Mexican Food moving to W. Sac during rebuild

Big changes are coming next week for Noradino Salas, operator of Oscar's Very Mexican Food at 3061 Freeport Blvd., in Sacramento.

The Freeport site will close after the last meal is served on Sunday. Two days later, the process of tearing down the building and starting on a new one begins.

Salas said he hopes to reopen the new building in four to six months, depending on how weather affects construction.

Next Wednesday, Salas will open a new Oscar's Very Mexican Food site at 1350 Harbor Blvd. in West Sacramento. Nearly a dozen employees who work at the Freeport site will simply move to the Harbor Boulevard restaurant.

By midyear 2013, Salas said he will be overseeing two eateries.

November 27, 2012
Feeding Crane Farms/Lulu's Kitchen hosting open house

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Feeding Crane Farms is on the move -- again. The organic farm and forward-thinking food operation based in Natomas is hosting an open house at its newest venture, Lulu's Kitchen.

If you're into the food scene and curious about a young company on the rise, you'll want to stop by and get to know these folks. The event is this Tuesday (Dec. 4) from 5-8 p.m. It is open to the public, but those interested in attending are asked to RSVP via email, Several of the food companies that use the kitchen will also be on hand serving samples.

November 26, 2012
Former Placerville resident and chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth leaving French Laundry


We've been following Timothy Hollingsworth's career pretty closely at the Bee over the last few years. This former Placerville resident has one of the most intriguing culinary careers that we've ever seen. He got his start as a dishwasher at Zachary Jacques in Placerville and soon became one of its chef. He never went to culinary school, or worked at another restaurant, but had the gumption to apply for a job at French Laundry, the famed three Michelin star restaurant operated by Thomas Keller. Hollingsworth barely got the gig - Keller initially passed on Hollingsworth - and the young chef started as an entry-level commis. Hollingsworth rose to sous chef, and then earned one of the most prestigious titles in the culinary world: chef de cuisine for French Laundry, the head of its kitchen and Keller's right hand man.

Hollingsworth, 32, is now moving on and ready to explore other facets of the restaurant industry. He's leaving the French Laundry in the spring of 2013 and will be replaced by David Breeden, executive sous chef of Per Se - the New York City restaurant also run by Keller which has three Michelin stars to its credit. Hollingsworth will leave with 12 years of French Laundry experience to his credit.

"It's always been a goal of mine to have my own thing," said Hollingsworth. "I'm really excited to explore different opportunities. The French Laundry is also a place that's dear to me and I love so much. I consider it my home."

November 21, 2012
Masullo's growing fame a mixed blessing: No dough for you!

Sometimes when a restaurant is mentioned positively in The Bee, it can bring in plenty of new business -- and a good bit of chaos.

I spotted this on Masullo's Facebook page:

"Our apologies for not having enough dough. The Bee ran an article naming us best pizza in town and we sold more at lunch today than all dayTuesday a week ago. We have a three day ferment for our dough and we can not just make more at the drop of a hat. We are sorry for the trouble it may cause to customers, but believe us we would like to have it to sell to you."

As you can see, you cannot rush a great crust. If you want to try truly great pizza in the Neapolitan style, get there early today.

Masullo is at 2711 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento.

Update: I caught up with owner Robert Masullo when his restaurant opened for lunch and asked him about the surge in traffic. The servers are happy -- they're making good, honest money. The cooks are busy. And no, the dough cannot be rushed. Masullo has experienced a one-two punch of acclaim from The Bee this year. Prior to topping the best pizza list, it was featured in a full review, where I gave it four stars.

"We saw back in the summer a real huge bump for a couple of months," Masullo told me Wednesday. For the last four weeks, we've been quieter by a long shot. Monday, it picked right back up and it almost doubled from a typical Monday."

Some customers come in and wonder why they can't jump whip up a new batch of dough. It doesn't work that way.

"Part of the reason why what we're turning out is as good as it is, is we don't take a short cut," Masullo said. "I'd rather make it as good as we can, even if that means we have to tell people we're out of dough."

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

Dining review: Masullo up with the best pizza -- anywhere
Pizza: Bee's critic lists his area favorites

November 21, 2012
Hard-boiled eggs in the...pressure cooker.

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I'm a big believer in the pressure cooker. For one thing, it's a green appliance -- once you build up the pressure, you can turn the heat way down, and the cooking time is much shorter than standard methods for most things. It's also efficient and effective. And these new and improved pressure cookers are much safer -- you can usually tell they are about to explode about 1.5 seconds before they actually do (don't ask me how I know this).

Despite my near-death experience (it was last year, I've recovered from the trauma, no one was actually hurt, we eventually got all the black beans off the 9-foot ceiling and the cats are almost finished with their therapy sessions), I continue to advocate for the pressure cooker. In fact, I'm working on a story about the many uses for the pressure cooker and how it, this old-fashioned relic of the '50s, is getting some serious traction in modern kitchens.

November 20, 2012
Guy Fieri controversy comes full circle on 'SNL'

First, the New York Times roasted celebrity chef Guy Fieri with a flame-thrower review of his new Times Square eatery from critic Pete Wells. Then the host of Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" responded on the "Today" show, suggesting that Wells had an agenda. Meanwhile, many in Sacramento had a fist bump of support for Fieri, who runs two restaurants in the area and even attended culinary classes at American River College.

So how do we know that this controversy has come full circle? "Saturday Night Live" weighed in this weekend with a skit that skewered both Fieri and the Grey Lady simultaneously. The bit didn't make the final broadcast (this clip is from a pre-recorded dress rehearsal), but it's peppered with plenty of funny nonetheless. Enjoy.

Does Guy Fieri own the country's worst restaurant?
Lambasted in N.Y., Guy Fieri has culinary fans in Sacramento

November 20, 2012
Ambience Restaurant in Carmichael will close in January


One of the Sacramento area's best fine dining restaurants is closing. I spoke by phone with Morgan Song, the owner/chef of Ambience Restaurant in Carmichael, who told me business has lagged and he has decided to relocate to Los Altos. He expects to pack up and close for good by the middle or end of January.

This is a significant loss to the local culinary scene, as many food aficionados considered Song to be among the best, most precise and artistic chefs in the area. Almost all of his dishes were so beautifully plated you couldn't be blamed for staring instead of eating.

And yet, Ambience was rarely crowded - and wasn't as crowded as it should have been or deserved to be. Song said much of that had to do with the less-than-prestigious location in Carmichael (he extensively renovated an old Wendy's) and the persistence of the economic downturn.

That may be partly true. The meals at Ambience were prix fixe, meaning there were no options for anything but the $70 for five courses or $95 for seven courses, and the cooking was geared toward nouvelle French cuisine. If you wanted an $18 pasta dish and a glass of wine on your way home from work, you were out of luck. A gourmet burger and a beer at happy hour? Not here. It was all or nothing. In that location and in this economy, that was probably a recipe for failure.

November 20, 2012
Capitol Dawg goes out with a bark...and may return

DSCF0655.jpgIt's been a madhouse at Capitol Avenue and 20th Street in Midtown since Friday. That's when word got out that Mike Brown is closing his popular Midtown restaurant, Capitol Dawg, after lunch today. It opened in March 2008.

"I've been trying everything, but we're just not bringing people through the door," Brown told me Friday. "We've never cut quality or service, but we can't seem to turn the corner economically."

On Saturday and again on Monday, a line of 500-plus hot-dog lovers and well-wishers crowded out of the restaurant, stretched along the sidewalk and snaked down an alley. The wait to place an order both days was 60 to 90 minutes, and that was in on-again, off-again rain between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

This morning, a line of expectant patrons waited patiently for the Capitol Dawg crew to start serving, and by 12:30 p.m. it looked like a safe bet that the Saturday and Monday scenarios would be repeated.

November 19, 2012
Live chat: Who makes the best pizza in Sacramento?

November 16, 2012
Capitol Dawg will close its doors after lunch on Tuesday

20120531_PK_HOT DOG_0627.jpgThe ever-energetic Mike Brown phoned two hours ago to break the bad news: His popular Midtown restaurant Capitol Dawg will close its doors after lunch on Tuesday.

"I've been trying everything, but we're just not bringing people through the door. We've never cut quality or service, but we can't seem to turn the corner economically," Brown said.

"This hasn't come on suddenly, it's been brewing for a long time. It's been a struggle to keep the doors open and (make) a reasonable profit. (Blame it on) rising food costs combined with years of a struggling economy - including state worker furloughs - and our location."

Capitol Dawg is near the intersection of Capitol Avenue and 20th Street in Sacramento, where a concentration of restaurants compete for diners' dollars. Nearby are Jack's Urban Eats, Waterboy, Mulvaney's B&L, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Rubicon Brewing Company, Paesanos and Zocalo.

November 16, 2012
A high-end Ho Ho lives on as Hostess and the Twinkie crumble

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For those of us who grew up on Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos (and lived to tell about it), today's news that Hostess will liquidate its assets comes as a bittersweet blow. It's quite possibly the end of an era for these icons of mass-produced sweet treats.

Beyond that, there is the loss of most of the 18,500 jobs at plants around the country, including one in Sacramento.

Twinkies aren't dead yet - someone could buy the rights and rejuvenate the brand - but they're on the ropes.

For those looking for some consolation or simply want to have something chocolaty and sweet to stomach this jolt of grief, all is not lost. The highly regarded Karen's Bakery Café in Old Folsom has been making a gourmet version of the Ho Ho for years.

I called owner Karen Holmes this morning to ask about her high-end interpretation of this mass-market treat. Turns out, she, too, is mourning the demise of Hostess.

November 15, 2012
Roseville resident makes the cut for TLC's "Next Great Baker"

Back in August, "Appetizers" wrote about Roseville's Chris Luna, who was in the hunt to be the 13th final contestant on TLC's "Next Great Baker." The show, which is hosted by "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro, features a variety of bakers vying for a chance to win $100,000 and work with Valastro at his Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, N.J.

After an online vote, we're happy to report that Luna made the cut. Look for him when this season's "Next Great Baker" premiers on Nov. 26. These baker contestants will face a series of challenges and weekly eliminations over 10 episodes, with guest judges including Mario Lopez, Lou "The Incredible Hulk" Ferrigno and Joey Fatone.

Unlike most of his fellow contestants, Luna's a self-taught amateur baker who works by day in ad sales. His specialty is sculpted cakes, with some shaped like a metallic colored trout and roasted pig.

November 15, 2012
Total Wine & More to open Folsom location

Total Wine & More continues to set up shop around the Sacramento area, with a new Folsom location set to open on Nov. 29. Along with locations in Roseville and an Arden Way store which opened in Oct. 2011, this store marks the area's third Total Wine & More. It will take over a former Borders bookstore space at 2765 E. Bidwell St.

The store will stock some 8,000 wines, along with 2,500 beers and 3,000 spirits. Like other Total Wine & More locations, this store will feature a tasting bar and education center, plus in-store iPads to suggest food and beverage pairing. This Folsom location is expected to add 50 jobs to the area.

Fore more information:

November 14, 2012
Does Guy Fieri own the country's worst restaurant?


Drinks that taste like a "combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde." "Turd shaped" chicken tenders. "(A) restaurant that would be indicted for crimes against humanity, if only that crime fell within the Department of Health's purview."

Those are actually some of the more positive comments levied by restaurant critics for Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, the Times Square restaurant overseen by Guy Fieri's restaurant group. The Food Network star's latest restaurant has been savaged by critics since opening in September. One of them, published Tuesday in the New York Times, has since gone viral. Penned by Pete Wells, the paper's restaurant critic, it's more of a rant than a review. It reads as an open letter to Fieri, with each sentence save for a final "thanks" written as a question.

"Did you notice that the menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table?" ... "Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are?" ... "Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste?" ... "When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN!, were you just messing with our heads?"

November 14, 2012
Your Thanksgiving dinner, presented by the bloggers of the Sacramento Connect network

Are you looking for Thanksgiving dinner inspiration? Here's a good start, provided by bloggers in the Sacramento Connect network. You find recipes for turkey, gravy, stuffing, masshed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, brussels sprouts, carrots, greens, rolls, cranberries, desserts and drinks.

November 13, 2012
Broderick Restaurant & Bar grand opening set for Saturday

Over on the west side, Broderick Restaurant & Bar (319 6th St., West Sacramento) has undergone its "soft opening" phase for about a month. After getting its menu and service fine tuned, it's time to swing the doors open and celebrate officially. On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Broderick Restaurant & Bar will throw its grand opening party, featuring live music, drink specials and more. Proceeds from these shenanigans will also benefit Hurricane Sandy relief efforts on the east coast.

Owners of Broderick Restaurant & Bar include Chris Jarosz and Matt Chong of the Wicked Wich food truck, along with Marvin Maldonado and Steve Hamm of InForm design. The menu features Wicked Wich's signature sandwiches, along with newer items.

"It all started with us wanting to translate the Wicked Wich menu into a brick and mortar location," said Chong. "Having more space allows us to be creative with a roadhouse style menu. We put a lot of focus on our dressed fries, burgers, sandwiches and bleu cheese mac 'n' cheese."

November 12, 2012
Jars of organic heirloom tomatoes capture summer's taste


Bee staff photo by Lezlie Sterling

Real, ground-grown heirloom tomatoes are a fond memory of hot summer days. Cold from the refrigerator, sliced and splashed with olive oil and dashed with salt and pepper, and blanketed with fresh basil - wow!

Maybe a close second is a six-variety line of organic heirloom tomatoes - chunks of brightly colored, tasty fruit, pulverized and swimming in their own juice. They're from the family-run Balakian Farm in Reedley, in Fresno County.

At the farm's website,, fourth-generation owner-manager Amber Balakian writes, "I wanted each sauce to embody a distinct flavor, smell and texture that is reminiscent of my family farm. It is a simple way to create fresh, organic, homemade meals."

We sampled 16-ounce Mason jars of Yellow Roman, Pink Oxheart and Green Zebra blended sauces and were very impressed. We used them as pasta sauces and as ingredients on a pizza and in meat-heavy chili, stew and soup. And, yes, we drank them straight from the jars, too.

Our favorite was sweet Yellow Roman, followed by the slightly tart Green Zebra and the complexly flavored Pink Oxhart.

You can order them at the farm's website for $10 a jar, and buy them at the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. Or you can order them at a very cool site, (click on "Gifts").

America's Farmstand is an online retailer that has gathered a consortium of family farms that offer "organic and all-natural artisanal foods." There, you'll find everything from maple syrup and pickles to nuts and cheeses, along with a line of gluten-free items.

November 12, 2012
What are the nation's best sports bars? Try this list

The Daily Meal, which reports on all things food and drink at, is toasting its list of "America's Best Sports Bars."

Coming in at No. 9 is the only entry from California - Pete's Tavern in San Francisco (128 King St.; 415-817-5040,

I called Jake the bartender.
"It's kind of busy right now, so don't ask too many questions," he said.
How many TV sets are in the bar?
What are the most popular menu items?
"Chicken cutlet (served Tuesdays), it's like chicken picatta. And the buffalo chicken salad and bacon-wrapped hot dog are pretty popular, too."

Rounding out the list, in descending order:
Walk-On's, New Orleans
Red Star, Brooklyn
The Four's, Boston
State, Chicago
Duffy's, Fort Lauderdale
Chappell's, Kansas City, MO.
Stats, Atlanta
Chickie's and Pete's, Philadelphia
Nemo's, Detroit
Lagasse's Stadium, Las Vegas
Auto Battery, Seattle
Jerome Bettis' Grill 36, Pittsburgh
Phoenix Landing, Boston
Sam's, Nashville
Eskimo Joe's, Stillwater, Okla.
Frankie's, Dallas

November 9, 2012
In need of pie-making help? Call the Crisco Pie Hotline

Making pies for the holidays is a snap, right? Well, for some home cooks it is. For others, not so much. Our pie crusts usually end up on the kitchen wall, but that's another story.

To the rescue come the experts at the Crisco Pie Hotline, dispensing baking advice, recipes, pie-making tips, time-saving shortcuts and trends for the ultimate goal: pie perfection.

Talk with the "pie experts" starting Monday and running through Dec. 21. Call (877) 367-7438 to get the pin rolling. For more information:

November 8, 2012
McDonald's has environmentally friendly features

Grand opening ceremonies will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday for a new McDonald's restaurant constructed with environmentally friendly features at 8300 Elk Grove Florin Road in Sacramento.

About 80 have been hired to staff the restaurant.

Restaurant features include light-emitting diode lighting to save on electricity usage and an energy-monitoring system to control heating/ventilation/air conditioning units, lighting, freezers and fans.

The restaurant also recycles all of its cardboard products and oil.

November 5, 2012
National award for Davis Farmers Market Cookbook

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Now here's a piece of news that tastes especially sweet for Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans (pictured above). Their "Davis Farmers Market Cookbook" was awarded first place for non-fiction in the Writer's Digest 2012 Contest for Self-Published books. The two netted a $1,000 cash prize and will have their cookbook featured in Writer's Digest Magazine.

The book, which was released in April, takes a seasonal approach with its recipes and bases them on ingredients which can be found at farmers markets during various times of the year. The book provides a few basic recipes, included roasted vegetables and risotto, which can then be adapted depending on what's in season.

"It's our love letter to the market, but really to the region and the farmers in general," Evans told the Bee in April. "It was so fun, from the initial concepts to finishing the photo shoots."

November 5, 2012
Enotria and Carpe Vino make the OpenTable Top 100 wine list

When you want a special bottle of wine with dinner, which restaurants are your go-to's?

OpenTable has some suggestions, sort of. The San Francisco-based online restaurant-reservation company recently released its latest Diners Choice Top 100 Restaurants With the Most Notable Wine Lists.

For context, OpenTable explains: "The awards reflect the opinions of over 5 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia."

Not surprisingly, California has the most, with 17. Those include Enotria in Sacramento; Carpe Vino in Auburn; Press in Saint Helena; Acquerello and BIN 38 in San Francisco; and André's Bouchée Bistro and Wine Bar in Carmel.

For the complete list, go to

November 2, 2012
Wine getaways this weekend

The 2012 harvest season is just about a wrap, the weather's forecasted to be warm - so hey, let's hit up some local wine country this weekend. Here are a couple of fun events to keep in mind:

* Whether you have a significant other or don't mind going stag, drop by Story Winery in Plymouth (10525 Bell Rd.) at 5 p.m. Saturday. They're hosting a "date night," and this is one great deal. For $15 in advance (or $20 on Saturday), you'll get dinner prepared by Christopher Davis-Murai a.k.a. The Bicycle Chef followed by a movie. Dinner includes cioppino, rosemary-tomato focaccia bread and Cesar salad, and tiramisu for dessert. Following this feast, there will be a screening of "Blood Into Wine," a documentary about Maynard James Keenan, the rock star from Tool turned vintner. Reservations are required, so call 209-245-6208. Operators are standing by.

* Ever seen a movie where an A-list actor is performing something like Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, and you think, "Yeah right, there's no way they can really play that." Well, Margie Balter can. She's a go-to piano coach for Hollywood actors, and her credits include working with Holly Hunter on "The Piano" and Tom Cruise in "Interview With a Vampire," among others. She also composes her own works, and Balter will perform on Sunday at Heritage Oak Winery (10112 East Woodbridge Rd. Acampo) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $20, and includes a glass of wine. Kids under 12 are free. For more information: (209) 986-2763 or

November 2, 2012
Is cooking a creative endeavor?

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The New York Times Sunday Magazine recently published a story on the bow tie-wearing grouch Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated Magazine, who is fond of proclaiming that cooking is not creative.

For many of us who love to cook and think of ourselves as devoted home cooks who are open to trying new ingredients and techniques (and maybe straying from written recipes), that could be taken as an affront. It shouldn't - because he's right. Cooking is not creative. In fact, in my upcoming restaurant review this Sunday, I touch on that point when I address the idea of consistency.

November 1, 2012
36 Handles pub looks at a Dec. 1 opener in El Dorado Hills

When it opened in September 2011, diners lined up at Kinnee O'Reilly's Irish-themed restaurant-bar in the Montano center in El Dorado Hills (1000 White Rock Road).

With good reason. The place was spacious and expertly decorated, the fare was very good, and the bartenders knew the correct ritual of filling a pint glass with Guinness. I wrote in a review, "The illusion of being in a real Irish pub is startling."

But tastes are fickle and the restaurant business is brutal, and the place closed a few months ago.

Now news comes from veteran restaurateur Richard Righton that he will open a pub-restaurant in that space, his third venture. It will be called 36 Handles, with a target date of Dec. 1 ("Fingers crossed," he said). As the name implies, 36 beers (and a few wines) will be available on tap, along with a full bar specializing in classic cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashoned.

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