Appetizers
February 28, 2013
Kale-potato salad one more way to learn to love this green

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kale and Potato Salad.jpg Love it or hate it, kale is catching on everywhere. Suddenly, diners and cooks are discovering this ancient green veggie, a descendant of wild cabbage.

Kale haters complain that the curly leaves are bitter (or worse) and hard to clean.

These detractors still could be converts. Tuscan or dinosaur kale has milder flavor and flatter leaves. And kale's high nutritional value makes it worth learning to like.

Chef Katie Cavuto Boyle came up with this flavorful kale and potato salad for the United States Potato Board. It mixes curly green kale with another late winter/early spring favorite - asparagus - plus roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, scallions and walnuts. (Tuscan kale could be substituted for curly.)

Gorgonzola cheese and balsamic dressing give it extra zing.

For more on kale (and more recipes), see our In Season salute at http://bit.ly/13ShBJo

Kale and Potato Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

1 pound petite Yukon Gold potatoes, halved

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1 shallot, halved and sliced

3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt

Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

7 cups (1-inch pieces) green curly kale (tough ribs and stems removed)

1/2 cup fresh scallions, chopped

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 ounce smoked or traditional Gorgonzola cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. with rack in upper third of oven.

Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil, half the shallots, salt and pepper and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes then add asparagus to baking sheet; roast for 10 minutes more or until potatoes are golden brown and tender.

Puree remaining olive oil, shallot, vinegar and yogurt in a blender or small food processor. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.

While the vegetables are cooking, place 1 inch of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil then add kale; cook for 1 minute or until kale is bright green and lightly wilted, tossing constantly with tongs. Drain excess water.

Toss kale with potatoes and scallions and top with walnuts and Gorgonzola. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving:

Calories: 260, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2.5g, Trans Fat:0 g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 210mg, Potassium: 509mg, Carbohydrates: 29g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 2g, Protein: 9g, Vitamin A: 250%, Vitamin C: 190%, Calcium: 15%, Iron: 20%

February 27, 2013
America's best 101 retaurants: Agree or disagree?

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Those arbiters of all things food and drink at the Daily Meal have seemingly accomplished the impossible by naming their 101 Best Restaurants In America. That's from a field of 200,000 full-service restaurants, so their opinions could differ from yours. Ya think?

Among the chosen are 20 from California, and among those are a dozen within reasonable driving distance from Sacramento.

Taking the No. 1 spot was Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Yountville, in the Napa Valley. It beat out Nos. 2 through 5, all in New York City. The French Laundry is known for its multi-course, multi-hour meals, and the artistry of its dishes; pictured is snapper with veggies (but no tartar sauce...).

To see the complete list, and get an explanation of how it was devised, go to www.thedailymeal.com/101-best-restaurants-america. Meanwhile:

No. 97: Benu, San Francisco
No. 80: The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
No. 64: State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
No. 56: Michael Mina, San Francisco
No. 54: Quince, San Francisco
No. 52: Coi, San Francisco
No. 42: La Taqueria, San Francisco
No. 30: Bar Tartine, San Francisco
No. 27: Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco
No. 23: Bouchon Bistro, Yountville
No. 19: Zuni Café, San Francisco
No. 15: Chez Panisse, Berkeley

February 27, 2013
Chef Adam Pechal's run ends on ABC's 'The Taste'

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In the end, a plate of sweetbreads made America say sayonara to Adam Pechal. The chef and co-owner of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en was sent packing Tuesday night from ABC's "The Taste."

Getting the boot stung for Pechal, but it was still a solid overall showing for this 37-year-old chef. Pechal landed in the show's top 10 contestants, and was just one week away from reaching "The Taste's" semi-final round. Tuesday's episode focused on a "nose to tail" theme, with contestants required to whip up dishes from, shall we say, more exotic animal parts. We're talking bull testicles, sweetbreads (thymus glands), tripe (stomach lining), tongue and other ingredients that make a lot of common folk squeamish.

For the individual challenge, Pechal cooked a Thai-inspired sweetbread dish with pork rinds and squash puree. Let's just say the judges weren't blown away, especially in terms of its texture and overriding sweetness. Said judge Anthony Bourdain: "It was a generally unpleasant spoonful of food and it is not improved on the plate."

February 27, 2013
Meet the pan roast, a sublime seafood bisque with some heat

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Among the 35 dining options at the century-old Grand Central Terminal in New York City is the iconic Oyster Bar & Restaurant, serving 30 kinds of oysters and 25 kinds of fish.

Also on its menu is an original dish so sublime that restaurants around the nation have adapted it as their own. That would be the pan roast, a highly prized meal in a bowl.

Typically, a pan roast is a bisque built around cream or half and half, butter, clam juice, white wine, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce and spices such as celery salt and paprika; sherry is sometimes added, as is garlic and sweet chili sauce. The broth is scalded and mixed with seafood, typically oysters, shrimp, clams, scallops, crab or lobster, or any combination.

For your next road trip, you should know that a great version is served at John's Oyster Bar at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks; another is at the nearby Oyster Bar at the Atlantis in Reno.

Closer to home, we stopped at Powell's Steamer Co. & Pub in Placerville for a bowl of its oyster-shrimp pan roast (pictured). One delicious spoonful led to the next, one pack of oyster crackers was replaced with a second. Soon, lunch was history. We plan to do it again soon.

The combination pan roast is $18; shrimp-only and oysters-only roasts are $16 each. Powell's is at 25 Main St.; (530) 626-1091, www.powellssteamer.com.

February 26, 2013
Pass the "nyawk-kee" and other commonly mispronounced foods

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You say "broo-shetta" and I say "broo-sket-ah." You say "sir-a-cha" and I say "shree-ra-cha." Before you call the whole thing off, let's take a look at some commonly mispronounced foods, as listed by the online food delivery service eat24.com. BTW, is it really that tricky to say "quesadilla." Other words I'd add to this list are moelleux (the French pastry pronounced maw-ah-luh), vichyssoise (vee-shee-swahz) and the Braziliam rum cachaca (ca-shah-suh).

Also, for those tricky wine varietals like gewurztraminer and mourvedre, get tips on their pronunciations at www.sacwineregion.com.

Now, check out this list of commonly mispronounced foods by eat24.com:

February 26, 2013
Beer Week: Pliny at the Pour House

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On a related note, the Davis location of Burgers & Brew (403 Third St., Davis) will be tapping their keg of Pliny the Younger on Thursday at 3 p.m. The owners are still mulling the price and serving size, which will either be $3 for an 8 ounce pour or $2 for a 5 ounce pour.

Also, is anyone else succumbing to Pliny the Younger fatigue?

February 26, 2013
You want tender beef? Try the hard-to-find 'T major roast'

corti.JPGIn the prep area behind the Corti Bros. Market meat counter, meat department manager and master butcher Mike Carroll used a metal paddle to move around the trimmed briskets and other gorgeous cuts of beef soaking in his proprietary brine in stainless-steel barrels.

In preparation for St. Patrick's Day, the brine-injected cuts will soak for 21 days before they're displayed in cold cases and sold to home cooks planning to carve corned beef for their Irish-themed dinners.

Meanwhile, stacked in the display case out front is an item new to the store. The beef chuck shoulder tender filet - sold under the name "T major roast" - is "remarkable," Carroll said. It's $7.99 a pound, on sale for $6.99 from Wednesday through March 5.

"It comes off the top of the crossrib shoulder and weighs between three-quarters of a pound and a pound," Carroll said. "It just sits up there and doesn't do much (work). Like beef tenderloin, it's along for the ride. That's what makes it so tender. It's a very lean piece of meat that's been forgotten by most butchers. Traditionally, it's thrown into the trim bucket for hamburger."

We brought some home and cooked it two ways. The first steak was cut into medallions, rubbed with olive oil, coarse-ground black pepper and coarse Vignalta herbed salt from Italy, and pan-seared in olive oil to medium rare. The meat was shockingly full of flavor and more tender than many filet mignons we've had.

We seasoned the second steak the same way and put it under the oven broiler, turned it several times, removed it and let it rest, then cut it into slices (pictured). The rare beef was delicious, but the pan-fried version was better.

"You can put it on the grill for about 10 minutes," Carroll said. "It seems to do best when it's cooked rare, but you can take it up to medium. It's very versatile; you can make kebabs, roast it whole, pan-fry it, make steak sandwiches out of it, turn it into hash, add it to salads... It's an amazing piece of meat."

Corti Bros. Market is at 5810 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 736-3800, www.cortibros.biz. Pre-order corned beef at (916) 736-3805.

February 25, 2013
Pliny the Younger available today at Pour House, Davis Beer Shoppe

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In a move that's destined to ruin the productivity of beer-loving workers and students today, the much coveted Pliny the Younger will be available today at midtown's Pour House and the Davis Beer Shoppe.

For those keeping score at home, only eight kegs of Pliny the Younger are being made available for the entire Sacramento region during Sacramento Beer Week. This limited production triple IPA has been dubbed as the world's best beer in some circles, and epic lines are the norm whenever this beer is made available. That was certainly the case this weekend as Pliny the Younger was tapped at Streets of London and Sacramento's Burgers & Brew.

February 25, 2013
Beer Week: Already a couple of excellent outings

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The 4th annual Sacramento Beer Week is off to a splendid start throughout the region, and we're starting to see a trend wherever we go: enthusiastic but laid-back crowds, great beer, good times.

We dropped by Track 7 Brewing Co. on Saturday to find a rather amazing site - folks lining up for the excellent beer brewed on-site at a facility that was once an industrial park but is now on the verge of being something very special. If you're looking to visit -- and you should if you're into craft beer -- Track 7 is at 3747 W. Pacific Ave., Sacramento (if it feels like you've made a wrong turn and it looks like the wrong place, you're there; dogs and kids welcome, too). While there, we bumped into the affable Brian Guido, one of the forces behind the recent and highly successful Sacramento BaconFest. He convinced us to take light rail out to Folsom to hit the happy hour at Samuel Horne's Tavern -- we'll be doing that sometime this week.

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February 22, 2013
Where to find Pliny the Younger in Sacramento

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It's the beer that has some folks waiting in line starting at 3 a.m. We're talking about Pliny the Younger, the limited edition triple IPA from Russian River Brewing Co. of Santa Rosa that's so coveted in the craft beer world that it's attained cult status. Just in time for Sacramento Beer Week, locals will have a chance to sample some Pliny the Younger.

Word has it that only eight kegs of Pliny the Younger will be made available in Sacramento. The trick is that most brew pubs don't want to advertise that they're tapping a keg of Pliny the Younger. They're simply trying to avoid much of the commotion that surrounds this brew. But fear not, here are some spots that are happy to let you know that Pliny the Younger will be available for tasting. Note: this isn't a definitive list and we'll add more spots as they become known.

* Streets of London Pub (1804 J St., Sacramento) will be pouring Pliny the Younger at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. However, to reserve your taste, a ticketing system will begin at 4 p.m. They'll keep pouring until that keg is tapped.

February 22, 2013
Beer with food: All kinds of events during Sacramento Beer Week

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When my editor asked me to compile a list of food events that interested me during Sacramento Beer Week, I immediately said "No problem." Then I started to look at all that's happening in the region during this great week of beer.

Yikes! Hundreds of cool events. Big ones. Little ones. Pricey ones. Bargain ones. That's the good news. It's easy to find things to do that center on good beer and trying new beers from today through next weekend. Here's a sampling of what I came up with in today's Ticket section. I went with food-beer events at a variety of price points.

But I also asked Dan Scott, executive director of Sacramento Beer Week, to weigh in with beer dinners that interest him.

Here's his list:


*High Water Beer Dinner at Ten22

*Berryessa Beer Dinner at Hook & Ladder

*Sierra Nevada at Mulvaney's B&L (with head brewer and UCDavis Brewing professor Charlie Bamforth)

*21st Amendment Beer Dinner at Centro

Two Rivers Cider Dinner at Mulvaney's

US v Belgium Beer Dinner at The Shack

Dinner with Charles Bamforth at Enotria

That's a pretty amazing assortment of beer dinners. And there are more. I especially wanted to attend U.S. v. Belgium dinner at The Shack. Alas, it's already sold out. So if you see something that interests you here or at www.sacramentobeerweek.com, you probably should act fast and make a reservation.

To keep up with what's happening during Beer Week, check back with us here at Appetizers and at www.sacramentobeerweek.com.

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

RELATED:

Beer Week activities include tastings, food pairings


February 22, 2013
Get ready to do some oinking at Davis Farmers Market Pig Day

3Pigscloseup-thumb-300x296-23300.jpgThe Davis Farmers Market will bring new meaning to the term "pig out" when it hosts the 22nd annual Pig Day, a celebration of all things pork that has become a part of Davis culture.

Oink this: pork and market-fresh veggies stir fry, piggie pops, pig's head-shaped French bread on a stick, smoked pork ribs, bacon-topped pizza, pulled-pork breakfast sandwiches, pigs-in-a-blanket, corn dogs and hot dogs, pig-shaped cookies, watermelon-chocolate-chip ice cream and much more.

Special events for children include pony rides, piglet petting zoo, piggie arts and crafts, and make-your-own piggie banks. Pose for photos with the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, and say hi to "Ms. Piggie."

"We have visitors from all over Sacramento and Yolo Counties on Pig Day, and more people attend every year," said farmers market manager Randii MacNear. "Pig Day celebrates the pig's rightful place as one of man's most intelligent and useful domesticated animals, and it's the only event of its kind in California."

Pig Day at the Davis Farmers Market will be from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 2 in Central Park at Fourth and C streets. More information: (530) 756-1695, www.davisfarmersmarket.org.

February 21, 2013
SF Chocolate Salon will put on a sweet spread of delights

chocolatae.JPGYou say you love chocolate and you're prone to partying? Then you're a perfect candidate for the 7th annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon.

More than 40 chocolatiers and confectioners will offer their sweet delights at the affair, while winetastings and live music will serve as backdrops in the 55,000-square-foot space.

A ticket buys chocolate tastings and wine pairings, demonstrations, first-taste samplings of new products, tastes of experimental flavor combinations, talks and presentations, panel discussions, games, author signings and ongoing interviews by TasteTV's "Chocolate Television" show.

The chocolate extravaganza will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 24 at Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco; (415) 345-7500, www.fortmason.org.

Early-bird tickets are $20, or $25 in advance and $30 at the door; $10 for children ages 6 to 12; free for 5 and younger. To buy tickets, watch videos from past events and for more information, visit www.sfchocolatesalon.com.

February 21, 2013
Heads up on food/wine/beer events this weekend

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Hope you've got a big appetite or unquenchable thirst, because there's some choice food-related events going on this weekend. Sacramento Beer Week kicks off Friday and runs through March 3 - for in the beer world, a week means closer to 10 days. We'll have a full rundown of Beer Week and a guide to help you get through the festivities in Friday's Ticket section. Here are three events to consider for getting that weekend social calendar set:

* Casque Wines grand opening celebration: If wine's more your speed than beer, drop by the grand opening celebrations on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Casque Wines (9280 Horseshoe Bar Rd., Loomis). This boutique winery has fared exceptionally well at competitions with their local interpretations of French wines, and have a new tasting room to showcase their wares. This celebration includes complimentary tastings, snacks and raffle prizes. (916-652-2250).

* Make-A-Wish Winter Wine & Food Fest: This popular event will celebrate its 25th year of feasting in the name of charity. 100 vendors representing some of the leading names in northern California wine and food will be represented. Among the wineries which will be pouring: Frank Family, Renwood, David Girard and Terra D'Oro. The event includes a charity auction and will also honor Joe and Pat Harbison, a former Sacramento family which now runs a Napa winery and a longtime supporter of the Make-A-Wish foundation. (That's Joe Harbison pictured above). This soiree runs from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Sacramento Convention Center (14th and J streets, Sacramento). $85, $100 at door. (916) 692-3921.

February 21, 2013
Bouchon Bakery devotes love and time to its great croissants

Untitled.jpgWe scoff at Danish, laugh at Napoleons and don't waste a glance on doughnuts. For us, pastry doesn't get any better than the croissant, a shining star in the family of baked goods known as "viennoiseries." The word references the city of Vienna, Austria, where many such goodies originated.

The flaky, crescent-shaped puff of fleeting delight is a combination of layered yeast dough and butter, rolled, layered and folded - a baking technique called "laminating."

The croissant is not French in origin, but evolved from a Viennese pastry called "kipferl." In the 1830s, the Boulangerie Viennoise in Paris specialized in Austrian pastries, including kipferl, and it wasn't long before the French "borrowed" the template and gave it a twist -- literally and figuratively. And a darn fine job they did.

Inevitably, the art of croissant-making was sullied by the fast-food mindset when frozen, premade croissants went on the wholesale market in the 1970s, making it possible for any store with an oven to sell dumbed-down, insulting versions of the baker's pride.

Good thing for us the Bouchon Bakery exists in Yountville in the Napa Valley. The bakers there make croissants from scratch. It's a process that requires 48 hours of loving care from the bakery's pastry team and bread team, from the time the dough is mixed till the croissants are sold at the counter. That's according to assistant head baker Erik Bursteiner.

We dropped by the bakery last Tuesday and were shocked to find no line outside the door, as there is usually. We walked inside to a blast of wonderful aromas from fresh-baked pastries and breads, and freshly brewed coffee. We were tempted to tell the counter person, "Two of everything, please!" but settled for a box of croissants and a large dark-roast.

We returned to the parking lot, used the trunk of the car as a table, and ate half the stash. You can, too. In fact, you should.

Bouchon Bakery is at 6528 Washington St., Yountville; (707) 944-2253, www.bouchonbakery.com.

February 20, 2013
Visitors & Convention Bureau launches farm-to-fork website

The Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched a "farm-to-fork" food- and dining-centric website, www.farmtoforkcapital.com, which will include agricultural news and information on upcoming festivals.

"It's a work-in-progress, a shell that we will be filling in," said bureau spokesman Mike Testa.

The bureau has hired former Bee staff writer Ed Murrieta to write restaurant reviews for the site, reports today's edition of the media blog www.jimromenesko.com.

"'Culinary Concierge' is closer to what I'll actually do," Murrieta says on Romenesko. "My job is to find and showcase the best (restaurant) food and beverages in the Sacramento region. I'm interested in whether the food is good ... and (in finding) good value for the money."

To read a question-and-answer interview with Murrieta, visit the Romenesko site.

February 20, 2013
Adam Pechal survives sandwich challenge on ABC's "The Taste"

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Mmmmm, sandwiches - or "sandos," as Adam Pechal likes to call them. The chef and co-owner of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en was required to whip up two rounds of sandwiches for Tuesday night's episode of "The Taste." It turned out to be the most frustrating episode for Pechal thus far.

"The hard part of this challenge is I love sandos, and I could make a million of them," said Pechal, in a phone call before lunch rush this morning. "All of a sudden it's, 'Boom! Go!' Now what the hell do I do? I wanted to do something out of the box."

Pechal (pictured above on the set of "The Taste") whipped up a gyro-like sandwich with ground lamb for the first challenge. But that turned into a mini-disaster when Brian Malarkey, a judge and mentor of Pechal's team on "The Taste," took a bite and something cracked against his tooth. Yow!

February 20, 2013
Wake up! Folgers offers $25,000 for new jingle singer

folgers.pngThe best part of wakin' up? Maybe $25,000.

Folgers Coffee, the iconic 163-year-old company founded in San Francisco, is looking for its version of "American Idol" - someone new to croon its famous jingle, "The Best Part of Wakin' Up is Folgers in Your Cup."

Johnny Cash, Aaron Neville, Rascal Flatts and many others have put their own spin on that familiar lyric, originally penned by Leslie Pearl in 1984.

Grand prize winner of this talent search receives $25,000. Contestants can perform individually or in groups of no more than six. Deadline to submit a video is March 6.

Songwriter Gavin DeGraw will pick out 10 jingle finalists. In online voting May 15 through June 19, the public will choose the winner.

For complete rules and video of jingle performances, see www.Folgers.com/jingle.

February 20, 2013
Six beers from the Rockies to match with dinner at Fabian's

SG6pkfront.pngThe daily menu at Fabian's Italian Bistro offers plenty of solid dishes, with some liquid surprises to be found at the bar. Co-owner Christian Forte (with his wife, Mercedes) is dialed in to the beer scene, as he has proven with his regular beer-centric events featuring artisanal and microbreweries.

For Sacramento Beer Week (Feb. 22 through March 3), he's hosting the Rocky Mountain Beer Dinner, featuring six beers from two breweries in the Rockies, matched with a multi-course meal engineered by executive chef Tom Patterson.

Look for three different pours from both microbreweries - Boulder Beer from Colorado (www.boulderbeer.com) and Grand Teton Brewing Co. from Idaho (pictured; www.grandtetonbrewing.com). Representatives from both breweries, and chef Patterson, will be on hand to discuss all things beer and food.

The evening will begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 28; tickets are $49 per person (including tax and tip). Fabian's is at 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd. in the Almond Orchard center; (916) 536-9891, www.fabiansitalianbistro.com.

Each course will be paired with a beer. The menu will go like this:

Reception course: Beer-soaked housemade Yukon gold potato chips with spicy-sweet aioli
First course: Whipped bone-marrow bruschetta with capers and fried balsamic-infused cippolini onion
Second course: Beet carpaccio with shaved watermelon radish, blood orange, rocket greens and spicy pepitas
Third course: Porcini-dusted ahi tuna slider with green garlic aioli and housemade wasabi pickle relish
Fourth course: Hops-smoked quail with crispy pork belly and trumpet mushrooms
Dessert: Beer-infused chocolate brownie with salted caramel gelato and smoked bacon brittle

February 19, 2013
James Beard Award nominees announced, Sacramento a no-show

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Plenty of fingers were surely crossed around the restaurant industry this morning, as semifinalists were announced for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards. These are considered among the top prizes in the food world, with today's announcement listing restaurants and chefs which are now vying for an award. This time around, none of those nominees came from Sacramento.

The Kitchen (pictured above) earned a semifinalist nod in 2012, but didn't make the initial cut this year - nor did any other Sacramento restaurant. This felt a little like a let down given the increasing national praise for Sacramento's food and beverage industries, but so it goes. Maybe next year we could see The Kitchen back in the mix, and maybe some recognition for such fine local establishments as Enotria, Kru or Mulvaney's B&L? We'll see.

Meanwhile, the greater San Francisco Bay Area raked up oodles of nominations, including Rich Table (S.F.) for "best new restaurant," David Kinch of Manresa (Los Gatos) for "outstanding chef" and three "outstanding restaurant" contenders from San Francisco: Foreign Cinema, The Slanted Door and Greens Restaurant.

February 15, 2013
Mulvaney's B&L will cook a rainbow, based on 'Ripe' cookbook

5051322642-1.jpgInnovative chef Patrick Mulvaney is whipping up something special once again. This time he has teamed with cookbook author Cheryl Rule to create a multi-course prix fixe dinner based on recipes in Rule's cookbook, "Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables" (Running Press, $25, 312 pages; with color photos by Paulette Phlipot).

"The book is structured around the colors of the rainbow, so I thought we would make (colored appetizers) and spread the spectrum around through the dinner," Mulvaney explained.

Of course, the ingredients are locally sourced. Mulvaney and his wife, Bobbin, are well-known for their farm-to-table philosophy, serving what they call "hand-crafted New American cuisine."

Tickets are $60 per person, or $100 for two; a signed cookbook is included. Buy tickets at the restaurant or at www.tastybooks.eventbrite.com. Mulvaney's B&L is at 1215 19th St., Sacramento; (916) 441-6022, www.mulvaneysbl.com. For more on the cookbook: www.ripecookbook.com.

Here's the menu:

February 14, 2013
Try pairing chocolate and beer this Valentine's Day

Beer and chocolate? It may be a better match than chocolate and red wine.

So say the experts from Sam Adams. In honor of Valentine's Day, the Boston brewery teamed up with San Francisco chocolate maker TCHO to come up with the right chocolate notes to complement its lagers and ales.

According to New York beer and wine sommelier Gianni Cavicchi, who consulted on this culinary matchmaking, "it's actually easier to pair chocolate with a balanced beer, like Samuel Adams Boston Lager, than with wine because sometimes the intensity of chocolate takes over the wine and the acidity in wine doesn't balance."

When pairing chocolate and beer, rich malty flavors are your friend, Cavicchi added. It's this flavor along with a subtle bitterness from the Noble Hops that compliment the malt sweetness that pairs Boston Lager perfectly with chocolate.

Beer actually may make you want to eat more chocolate, he added.

"The carbonation of the beer cleanses your palate from the heavy finish of the chocolate leaving you ready for the next bite," he said.

That's something to savor this chocolate-heavy holiday.

February 14, 2013
Folks behind "Ideas in Food" holding dinner, class in SF

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I was browsing on the always stimulating "Ideas in Food" website today and saw that they are going to be doing a dinner and an all-day class on meat in San Francisco. The couple, Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, always have bright, creative, fun and challenging ideas about food and cooking, often with modernist techniques.

This dinner on Feb. 22 at Alexander's Steakhouse seems to showcase that. Check out the menu -- pretty edgy. And I like the pun in the first course. The all-day class on Feb. 23 is $250 per person. If you're interested, I understand there are still a few spots open. If you want to be revered and feared by friends and foodies alike, this class might be your thing. The book is very informative, endlessly thoughtful and entertaining.

Nine courses, $230; wine pairings optional

heart-beet tartare: cured beef heart, beets, puffed tendon

bone marrow tots: uni thousand island, mendocino uni

36hr veal tongue: pepperoni broth, italian kimchi, korean rice cakes

Miyazaki bms 9 ribeye in three services: "dry aged", smoked, salad

boneless beef short rib: crispy dungeness crab rice, spring garlic

beef carpaccio: shaved triple cream cheese, pickles

tallow doughnuts: cinnamon, lime, lemon curd

Alexander's Steakhouse is at 448 Brannan Street, San Francisco. Phone: (415) 495-1111.

February 14, 2013
Food scene rising: Sacramento Epicureans doubles membership

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I caught up with the always-busy Paul Somerhausen on Wednesday and learned that his foodie group Sacramento Epicureans is busier than ever. Readers may recall that I wrote about Sacramento Epicureans back in October and shared with you Somerhausen's passion for exposing people to all kinds of food experiences, from high-profile places like The Kitchen to lesser-known casual ethnic eateries like Macau Café and the many new food trucks on the scene.

The growth of his group says something about this area's rise as a true culinary city with its own personality. We don't get the attention or acclaim that Napa and the Bay Area do, of course, but there's a distinct uptick in the quality of the eating experience here and the enthusiasm for going out and finding it. Just ask Somerhausen.

"The group has more than doubled in size within the first two months of the article, from 300 and change to over 800 now," he told me. "The energy and enthusiasm that's coming from it has spurred me to do more events."

Participants learn about upcoming events through a group mailing list.

"The events are selling out in an hour or two. As soon as I post them, they are selling out," he said.


February 13, 2013
Cottage of Sweets stuffs 600 candies into 300 square feet

IMG_0073.JPGFor visitors to Carmel-by-the-Sea, it's always a case of "so much food, so little time." Well and good, but take a break from winetasting and expensive bistro dinners to enjoy some casual treats at the always-crowded Cottage of Sweets.

The 300-square-foot cottage sells 600 types of candies, from Turkish delight to peanut butter cups. The big draws, though, are the licorice and the homemade fudge.

The most popular fudge flavor is sea salt-caramel, said manger Karen Bateham on the phone today. "It outsells the other fudges three to one."

Dozens of kinds of licorice are on offer, 10 of which are salted - a common touch in European countries. Many of the licorices are domestic, but most are imported from Australia, England, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden.

What's the most unusual type? "Dutch licorice ship ropes," Bateham said. "They look like little pieces of rope and are dusted with an extreme salt coating."

The cottage was built in 1922 and became the Cottage of Sweets in 1959. Its current owners, Lanny and Linda Rose, took over in 1980.

The cottage was fashioned after the 20 or so "fairytale" cottages built by architect and Carmel resident Hugh Comstock in the 1920s. The style is characterized by crooked lines, swooping roofs, turrets, alcoves and stone chimneys that appear to be on the brink of tumbling down. They help epitomize the town.

If you can't get to Carmel any time soon, you can order candies online at www.cottageofsweets.com. The store is on Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Monte Verde; (831) 624-517.

One last thing: Why can't people resist candy? I asked Bateham.

"Why would they want to?" she replied.

Good point.

February 13, 2013
Chef Adam Pechal gets bossy, endures another round of ABC's 'The Taste'

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Now that's the Adam Pechal that most of us know around Sacramento. The chef and co-owner of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en turned bossy and saucy on Tuesday night's episode of "The Taste." Gone were the niceties and we're-all-in-this-together vibe of the first couple episodes. Pechal butted heads with members of his cooking team, turned all alpha-male saying his dish was the best, and even described another fellow chef's dish as "crap."

Drama!

Still, Pechal fared well on Tuesday's episode of "daring pairings." He whipped up a squab with red wine reduction to be paired with an Alamos malbec, which was picked to represent Team Malarkey in the group challenge. However, the dish was deemed too rich by the judging panel.

February 12, 2013
Want life of pie? Marie Callender's offers whole pie sale

pies.jpg In time for Valentine's Day sweethearts, President's Day get-togethers or Oscar night parties (think Life of Pie), Marie Callender's offers its Whole Pie To Go Sale.

Through Feb. 28, more than 30 varieties of pie are priced at $7.99 plus tin deposit. Cherry pie - a natural for President's Day - is available along with apple, banana cream, berry, blueberry, cherry, coconut cream, French apple, lemon meringue, peach, pumpkin and many other favorites.

For a full list, visit www.mariecallenders.com. Excluded are cheesecakes, seasonal fresh fruit and promotional pies.

February 12, 2013
Just say "no" to red wine with chocolate this Valentine's Day

Here's a public service announcement just in time for Valentine's Day: Red wine with chocolate - don't do it! Sure, you'll find lots of chocolate and wine festivals this time of year, and the image of a fancy box of chocolates next to a bottle of red wine remains an enduring romantic theme, but don't believe the hype. Pairing a dry red wine with chocolate is a rookie move with food and wine pairings, mainly because the sweetness in chocolate clashes significantly with the dryness of wine. But hey, if you like your palate turning bitter and sour from chocolate with red wine, go ahead playboys and playgirls.

Sparkling wines paired with chocolate are also considered a culinary no-no. Don't believe me? Here's what the venerable Mike Dunne, the Bee's former food and wine editor, had to say about this issue in 2005:

"Yes, sparkling wine is romantic. Yes, chocolate is romantic. But with very few exceptions, the two don't belong together. They make for a quarrelsome couple, the wine generally too delicate for the rich chocolate. Yet, as Valentine's Day draws near each year, vintners and chocolatiers a little too eager to bring joy to others insist that their products are meant to be together. They aren't, and only the most desperate of suitors sees romance in such an unsuitable marriage."

February 11, 2013
Here's a book for chocolate-lovers: Eat it (sort of) and read it

photo (1).JPGShari Fitzpatrick moved to Sacramento 22 years ago and parlayed a $1,500 advance into an iconic business. The confectioner's specialty was luscious chocolate-dipped strawberries, a staple at celebrations everywhere.

The bad economy forced the closure of her three-store Berry Factory in 2011, but not before she had written "Berried In Chocolate: How I Built a Multimillion-Dollar Business by Doing What I Love To Do and How You Can Too" (Pelican, 224 pages). The entrepreneur went on to reinvent herself as a motivational speaker.

Now she has a "special edition" of the book (Valentine's Day, anyone?), autographed and partly covered in dark chocolate drizzled with white chocolate.

The novelty: You can read the book and eat it, too - sort of. Here's how: Remove the decorative cellophane, then remove the first layer of shrink wrap. When you do, the chocolate breaks away in sweet, edible shards. The book itself is covered in a second layer of shrink wrap, so things do not get messy.

The chocolate-covered book is $35; the plain edition is $25. To order: www.sharifitzpatrick.com.

February 8, 2013
Another (very affordable) Valentine's option

Following up once more on our Valentine's dining story today, here's a solid choice for the bargain-minded romantics. Yes, dinner for two for under $30.

Here are the details I received from the folks at Mimi's Cafe:

Mimi's Cafe is celebrating the season of love by offering a romantic Valentine's Menu for two at $26.99. Available February 7 - 17 from 4-11 p.m., the Valentine's Menu will offer guests a French-inspired three-course meal featuring a variety of delicious options.

$26.99 Valentine's Menu for Two (Available February 7-17)

Course 1: Choice of soup, Garden or Caesar Salad

Course 2: Choice of Chicken Madeira, Beef Bourguignon, Quatre Fromages Ravioli or "Soul" Piccata

Course 3: Mimi's Classic Ensemble dessert or for $2.99

There are two Sacramento Mimi's Cafe locations:

2029 Alta Arden Expressway, (916) 614-9278

and

3511 N Freeway Blvd., (916) 575-9501

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

February 8, 2013
Carpe Vino takes a culinary tour of New Orleans

FOOD WBS-UNCORKED TB.jpgLast summer, Gary and Drew Moffat got some good news from Wine Spectator magazine, informing them they'd won an Award of Excellence for their digital list of 250 wines for the restaurant portion of their store. The Moffats are the father-son co-owners of Carpe Vino, the classy wine bar/wine shop/restaurant in Auburn. It's stocked with about 500 wines, an inventory that's in constant flux.

Their dining program includes regularly scheduled prix-fixe themed dinners. Their first of the year will be the New Orleans-accented "Big Easy Culinary Celebration," Feb. 26 through March 3. The toll: $49 per person. Reservations: (530) 823-0320, www.opentable.com.

Check out the menu (one choice per category; vegetarian options available):

First course: crispy pork boudin, or baked oysters "Josephine," or Louisiana shrimp remoulade

Second course: mock turtle soup, or muffuletta chopped salad

Main course: Creole jambalaya, or duck and smoked turkey gumbo, or crawfish and shrimp etouffee

Dessert: "gateau de sirop" ("syurp cake," made with pure cane syrup), or bananas Foster-style bread pudding

Carpe Vino is at 1568 Lincoln Way in Old Auburn; visit at www.carpevinoauburn.com.

February 8, 2013
Rail Bridge Cellars to expand with sister restaurant, live music series

As Valentine's Day approaches, we've got some sweet news on the urban winery scene. Rail Bridge Cellars, which operates its tasting room in the Elks Tower penthouse, is on the verge of expanding with a sister restaurant. Look for Rail Bridge Wine, Food and Fine Spirits to open in about three months on the ground floor of the Elks Tower (11th and J streets, Sacramento).

As the name suggests, this new eatery will offer small plate food items, an extensive wine selection and retail bottle shop.

"It's like David Berkley meets Selland's," said Michael Gelber, managing partner for Rail Bridge Cellars, referencing two eateries synonymous with local gourmet food.

February 8, 2013
Restaurants offering Valentine's Day specials

We have a story in today's Ticket section taking a look at Valentine's dining. We looked at five restaurants and how they prepare for this very important day in the restaurant business.

But there are obviously many more options out there. If you're serious about going out that night, you probably need to book your reservation ASAP. The other option is to get on a waiting list. A lot of people, to the chagrin of restaurants, make multiple bookings on Valentine's Day. That's a headache for restaurants, but it might allow you to slip in at the last moment.

And because Valentine's is on a Thursday, many restaurants offering special menus are extending the offerings through Friday and Saturday.

February 7, 2013
Our encounter with the phenomenon that is Pliny the Younger

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We had a great day trip to Santa Rosa on Wednesday to work on my story about the cult of Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder.

It was quite a sight to witness folks standing in line well before the Russian River Brewing Co. opened its doors. I interviewed Natalie Cilurzo about the phenomenon and had my first Pliny the Younger at, ahem, 10 .m., an hour before the brew pub opens for business. Natalie's husband, Vinnie, is a brewmaster legend in the craft beer world and his beers are so coveted that folks travel from around the world to experience them. Indeed, three of the guys I met later at the pub were brewers from Japan who came to Santa Rosa specifically for the Pliny the Younger experience. I also met some folks from Sacramento enjoying their Plinys.

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If you're into good beer -- and we have more and more good beer here in Sacramento -- you should consider making the trip. They only pour Pliny the Younger the first two weeks of February, and then that's it until next year.

You're limited to three 10-ounce pours at $4.50 each. But trust me, you don't need any more than that.

What compels people to line up for up to seven hours for a chance to drink this beer? I'll try to answer that and more in my story, which will run in The Bee next Wednesday.

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


February 6, 2013
Chef Adam Pechal survives comfort food challenge on ABC's 'The Taste'

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Comfort foods were the theme of Tuesday night's episode of "The Taste," and Sacramento's own Adam Pechal made the cut and advanced to the next round. Still, this latest competition was a little too close for comfort. Pechal, who made fried chicken with slaw to impress the panel, was knocked slightly by judge Brian Malarkey - who also happens to be the mentor for Pechal's cooking team on "The Taste." Malarkey, while judging Pechal's dish blind, thought the slaw wasn't balanced well enough.

"I'm not super confident right now," said Pechal on the episode. "Hopefully, I will not be in the bottom."

In the end, Pechal didn't land among the top performers, but didn't face the chopping block either. Landing somewhere in the middle was good enough to move on. What viewers didn't know is Pechal faced a mishap while cooking the fried chicken.

February 5, 2013
Enotria to kick off 'guest chef series,' taps Russell Eastman to develop cocktail program

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More news arrives this week from Enotria, which kicks off its new "guest chef" series on Wednesday. The first installment of this year-long series features Mark Liberman, a former Sacramentan who's since rocked the restaurant scene in San Francisco. AQ, in which Liberman serves as co-owner and chef, was a semi-finalist in the 2012 James Beard Awards for "best new restaurant." Enotria's Pajo Bruich will team with Liberman to prepare a seven-course dinner that runs $85 per person.

As the series moves along, look for cameos from a range of Michelin-starred chefs from the Bay Area including Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn and Aaron London, formerly of Ubuntu. Reservations are going quick, so better get moving if you want to score a table for what's bound to be an impeccable dinner: (916) 922-6792.

February 5, 2013
In Amador County, the place for goodies is the Vintage Market

IMG_0138.JPGSeems like more Sacramentans are dialing in to the growing winetasting scene in the foothills of Amador County. When it comes to tasting reds, our go-to wineries are Borjon, Cooper and Deaver. For more wineries to visit, go to the Amador Vintners Associations home page, www.amadorwine.com.

How about some goodies to go along on that winery tour? The homespun Amador Vintage Market in Plymouth is a smart stop for picnic supplies, sandwiches and salads (the curried chicken is tops). Specially prepared box lunches, basket lunches and platters are available.

"We get a lot of tourists on weekends," said market-deli owner Beth Sogaard. "Weekend winetasters are the key to our success. Ninety-nine percent of what (we sell) is made in-house, and we use a lot of local produce."

One don't-miss dish is the pairing of flour tortilla chips ($4.95 a bag) and hummus ($2.95 a container), both made in-house.

The well-seasoned Parmesan-tomato-basil-garlic chips (pictured ) are so popular they're shipped around the country. They're light, crisp and loaded with flavor. We used them to scoop up globs of hummus, a tangy paste of garbanzo beans, tahini (ground sesame seed paste), cumin, cayenne, parsley and olive oil. Somebody stop us!

The Amador Vintage Market is at 9393 Main St.; (209) 245-3663, www.amadorvintagemarket.com.

February 1, 2013
Vanilla Bean Bistro sold to chef, Gonul Blum focuses on Trio

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When Gonul Blum opened her second restaurant months ago, it slowly but surely underscored one basic reality: she couldn't be two places at once.

Blum recently sold Vanilla Bean Bistro to her longtime chef so she could focus on Trio, her new restaurant downtown. Vanilla Bean will become a Turkish bistro, Blum said, owned by Murat Vozkurt, who cooked for her for six years.

Does this news say something about the potential pitfalls of tinkering and changing locations? Perhaps. A couple of years ago, Blum swapped locations on J Street in East Sacramento with Formoli's Bistro, which took over Gonul's J Street Café. Gonul's downsized and became Vanilla Bean. But both places found themselves struggling at times in their new locations.

Meanwhile, Blum found herself stretched too thin.

"When I opened Trio, I wanted to be at Vanilla Bean as much as possible, but I couldn't," she told me. "It was hard to manage both of them because I am it - I don't have anybody else. I am a perfectionist, and if I am not there I am not happy."

Blum says she is happy - and possibly relieved - about the sale. And she will be able to devote all of her time to Trio. I dined there once and found the cooking to be very good. But the restaurant has yet to catch on.

"I am happy, but we are slow," Blum said. "The food is excellent. I give a lot of my love to the food. Once people know about it and try it, they come back."

Trio Restaurant is at 826 J St., downtown.

We'll give you more information on the Turkish bistro when we get it. We're told it could open in the next 10 days.

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

February 1, 2013
Top spots to watch the Super Bowl around Sacramento

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Sure, anybody can scoot up a chair at the local sports bar to watch the Super Bowl. But, if you're looking for some other festive and food friendly spots to watch the Big Game, here are a few favorite picks.

Also, GO 'NINERS!

* LowBrau (1050 20th St., Sacramento; 916-706-2636): Let's say you love sports but don't want to hang with a bunch of armchair jocks and bros in flat-billed baseball caps. In between plays, the conversation at LowBrau is just as likely to focus on the upcoming DOOMbird gig in San Francisco as it as about Colin Kaepernick's passing game. This new hipster haven focuses on craft beers and sausages, and the indie-rock set can watch the Super Bowl on a giant projection screen TV, plus food and drink specials. www.lowbrausacramento.com.

* Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar (1565 Eureka Rd., Roseville; 916-797-2112. 8525 Bond Rd., Elk Grove; 916-714-2112): The Elk Grove and Roseville locations of Mikuni are presenting an all-you-can-eat "Super Rice Bowl Sunday Buffet" served from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Grub on Japanese eats in between yelling at the game, which will be broadcast on HD plasma TVs. $30 adults, $25 seniors (ages 55 and up) and $20 for kids ages 5 and up. www.mikunisushi.com.

* Pre-Flite Lounge (513 L St., Sacramento; 916-441-7693): The Pre-Flite Lounge harkens to dive-bar days of yore, given its easy-to-miss location on the outskirts of Downtown Plaza and old school furnishings. That's to say, Pre-Flite Lounge is the perfect place to keep cozy with a stiff drink as Super Bowl action unfolds on the TV. And here's a deal that'll have you doing the "Super Bowl Shuffle": Pre-Flite Lounge is offering $1 draft beers and free slices of pizza per drink on game day while supplies last. www.preflitelounge.com



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