Appetizers
May 31, 2013
Beard Papa's cream puffs coming to Roseville
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Cream puff connoisseurs and sweet-toothed Sacramentans can soon try a new brand of pastry desserts.


Beard Papa's will open sometime between the summer and fall seasons in Westfield Galleria at Roseville. 


The puff provider touts the title "World's Best Cream Puffs," and has garnered a following at its San Francisco location, which has more than 2,000 check-ins on Facebook and about 850 reviews on Yelp.


Since opening its first store in 1999 in Osaka, Japan, Beard Papa's has grown to include locations in more than 15 countries, according to its website. 

Puffs are made using French choux dough, a light pastry dough usually made of butter, water, flour and eggs. Puffs can be ordered in combinations of pastries and frostings, including milk, green tea, cookie crunch and almond eclair.
May 30, 2013
River Cats' Dan Dog strikes out in baseball's Food Fight

icecreamhelmet.jpg Sorry, Dan Dog; you got Nuked - and knuckled.

Four menu items - all from Triple A's International League - advanced to the finals of Minor League Baseball's first Food Fight.

In the nationwide battle of baseball chow, the River Cats' hot-dog shaped burger - dubbed the Dan Dog for club executive Dan Vistica - didn't make the cut to the Final Four.

Instead, the finalist for the "Scrumptious Sandwich" division is the Gwinnett (Ga.) Braves' Knucksie, an overloaded pulled pork sandwich and edible tribute to knuckballer Phil Niekro.

Best of the "Hogs and Dogs" was another big bite tribute: The Nuke Dog. This season, the Durham (N.C.) Bulls created the tastebud-burning Nuke Dog - named for fictional flamer thrower Nuke LaLoosh - as a 25th anniversary salute to the movie, "Bull Durham," starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

Also making the Food Fight's Final Four: The Toledo (Ohio) Mud Hens' "Gut Busters" champion Fantastic Freeze Sundae, 15 scoops plus toppings served in a full-size Mud Hen batting helmet (shown here); and arguably the one healthy choice on this all-league menu - LeHigh Valley (Pa.) IronPigs' local favorite "Aw Shucks" roasted corn on a stick. It's brushed with butter, parmesan and Southwest spices.

Fans have until June 6 to pick a winner - and enter a sweepstakes to taste it in person. For rules and entries, click on http://www.milb.com/milb/fans/food_fight/y2013/index.jsp

May 30, 2013
Double whammy of 'Grow, Cook, Savor' and Grape Escape coming downtown Saturday

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Hopefully by now you've taken the excellent Sacramento food history quiz which ran in Sunday's Bee. The quiz was curated by Elaine Corn and Maryellen Burns, who will also join forces on Saturday for "Grow, Cook, Savor." This event will focus on Sacramento's storied food history through tastings of local olive oil and beer, chef demonstrations, lectures and much more.

As the mantra of "farm-to-fork" continues to resonate and gain civic support around the region, "Grow, Cook, Savor" will offer plenty of context and background for the current locavore movement. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tsakopolous Galleria (828 I St., Sacramento). Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased here.

Just a couple blocks away on Saturday at Cesar Chavez Plaza (10th and J streets, Sacramento), the annual Grape Escape will showcase a small ocean of regional wines and edibles from local restaurants. SaveMart takes over as the main sponsor this year, with an event that traditionally packs Cesar Chavez Plaza with its smorgasbord of foods, beverages plus a chef's competition.

May 29, 2013
Giovanni's Pizzerias roll back the price on the large cheese pie
pizza.JPGThe concept of thin-crust New York-style pizza for purists was unknown in Sacramento until John Ruffaine came to town from Brooklyn and opened Giovanni's Old World New York Pizzeria 12 years ago.

In Brooklyn, he built pizzas for 22 years in various restaurants, learning more as he went along.

"I'm providing something (to Sacramento) that I grew up with," he said shortly after opening the first Giovanni's, when he posed for the accompanying photo. "Fresh, from scratch, no shortcuts and the finest ingredients from New York and Italy. It's the old school way."

Next month will be a good time for a taste test. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of his Folsom Boulevard restaurant, Ruffaine is rolling back the price of his large (16-inch) cheese pizza from $17.95 to $9.95 at both his stores.

"If you add your favorite toppings, it's a good way to get a great deal," he said.

The rollback program will run through June at the two Giovanni's pizzerias in Sacramento: 5924 S. Land Park Drive, (916) 393-7001; and 6200 Folsom Blvd., (916) 455-8831. Vist Givanni's on Facebook.

We've eaten more than our share of Giovanni's pizza over the years, and have witnessed Ruffaine pounding pizza dough with such concentration and commitment that his staff is told he is not to be disturbed while he's working it. Which could be funny if it wasn't so earnest.

If you're not in the mood for pizza, the Sicilian roasted chicken from a family recipe is a winner ($9.95 whole, $5.95 for a half). The from-scratch lasagna is also tops, made with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, fresh tomato and ground beef ($11.95).

May 28, 2013
Stoking the grill this summer? First check in with the BBQ Pro

david hill.jpgWhether you grill marinated tri-tip or spice-rubbed ribs over a charcoal-fired kettle or gas-fueled range, or break down brisket for 12 hours in a dented old smoker, the California backyard is the summertime site for some of the best 'cue going. Just ask the neighbors who live downwind from your place.

With summer here and Father's Day approaching, it's time to sharpen our 'cue skills. Open-minded backyard cooks are always willing to learn new techniques, and David Hill (pictured) is the guy to teach them.

Hill owns the BBQ Pro in Fair Oaks, a company that claims to stock "everything for the pitmaster."

It's got more 'cue stuff in one place that we've ever seen. The long, narrow store is jammed (in an organized way) with all things barbecue, from tempting rubs and sauces to top-quality grill brushes and marinade injectors. In the inventory too are bags of oak, mesquite and hickory lump charcoals, and bags of real wood chips and chunks - cherry, alder, apple, pecan, almond and hard-to-find red oak, the wood of choice for Santa Maria-style open-pit barbecue.

The BBQ Pro is also a dealership for the Big Green Egg, a high-fiber ceramic grill with many add-on accessories. Its design has roots in the "mushikamado" cooker, used for centuries in Japan.

Hill and hot coals have been BFF for "a good 40 years at least," he said. "I'm not so good with inside ovens. I would just as soon cook outside." Which is what he does it at home.

Hill hosts monthly grilling classes ($50) at his store, 10140 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks; (916) 595-7444. The next one is on pulled pork, 4:30 p.m. June 23. Check the website www.bbqproonline.com for details.

Meanwhile, we asked Hill to give us the benefit of his expertise, and he offered these tips for backyard cooks:

May 28, 2013
County report confirms February norovirus outbreak at Mulvaney's

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Following weeks of investigation, an outbreak of norovirus in February at midtown's Mulvaney's B&L has been confirmed by Sacramento County public health officials. The investigation found that 138 people - including at least six food service workers - reported symptoms. One patron later tested positive for norovirus, and two food service workers tested positive for norovirus.

Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.

The report did not identify if norovirus was first introduced to the restaurant by a worker or patron. The outbreak occurred over six events, including a company dinner and family-style dinner - over four days in late February. A lawyer for Mulvaney's first informed county health officials that a number of patrons had fallen ill.

May 28, 2013
Where are the best pork and beef ribs around the nation?

bbq ribs.JPGYou'd best know your pork and beef ribs before you compile a list of the best in the nation. The eat/dine editor at the "all things food and drink" online site The Daily Meal rounded up a panel of well-qualified 'cue lovers to decide who's boss.

"So what does make for a perfect rib, according to some of the country's leading experts?" asks Dan Myers at www.thedailymeal.com/americas-best-ribs. "Tenderness, sauce-to-meat ratio, smokiness and good charring."

Among the top 20 are two in California. Coming in at No. 9 is Phillips BBQ in Los Angeles. The judges wrote, "The smokiness and work-of-genius flavor combination (makes for) about as authentic a barbecue experience as you'll ever get."

Ranked No. 15 is Bludso's in Compton, near L.A. The judges say, "The recipes are a well-guarded secret, but the end result is world-class: smoky, sweet and requiring a little tug to get at."

Visit the website for more. Meanwhile, where do you go for your ribs fix?

May 24, 2013
Sign up early to make dough at State Fair baking contests

image001 (2).jpg Baking know-how could pay off at the upcoming State Fair during two cooking competitions. But to make some dough, you've got to sign up early.

Friday, May 31, is the deadline to register for the State Fair's two featured baking contests: Fleischmann's Yeast Best Baking Contest and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship.

Judging for both contests will be July 25 near the end of the State Fair's run, July 14-28 at Cal Expo.

The Fleischmann contest includes two categories: Best yeast baked good (breads, rolls, coffee cakes, doughnuts, etc.) and "Best Dessert Pizza." A $125 prize is offered for each category.

Entrants in the Chocolate Championship must use premium Ghirardelli 60 percent Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips plus any additional Ghirardelli baking chocolate in a bite-size treat. First prize is $150 and a Ghiradelli gift basket.

Complete rules and registration are available online at www.bigfun.org (under the "Contest" section) or call the fair's entry office, (916) 263-3146.

May 24, 2013
Management shuffle at Pearl on the River

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Some longtime restaurant goers might recognize Dan Sneed as the former general manager of Ella Dining Room & Bar and the now defunct Mason's. His resume also includes a stint as manager at San Francisco's The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton and restaurant Gary Danko.

Now, Sneed has been announced as the operator and general manager of Pearl on the River. The Garden Highway restaurant is announcing some other changes as well, including a River Cafe that overlooks the restaurant's kitchen, and an emphasis on the ubiquitous "farm-to-fork" ethos found around Sacramento's dining scene.

The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson awarded Pearl on the River a laudable three stars not long after its 2009 opening. Given these new management changes and re-tooled menu, we expect another visit soon.

May 24, 2013
Sacramento second-grader cooks on national TV

nichaolasphoto (4).JPG Nicolas Come may be only 8 years old, but the Sacramento second grader brings his hometown's "Farm-to-Fork" campaign to a national audience Saturday morning.

Broadcast live from New York City, Nicolas will appear on "FOX & Friends Saturday" on the FOX News network, starting at 3 a.m. PDT. Nicolas' scheduled segment will air about 6:30-6:45 a.m. in Sacramento.

Nicolas drew the interest of FOX producers with his Nicolas' Garden mobile app and an appearance on local TV. Released last week, the app allows families to share healthy recipes, cooking tips and more in a fun, kid-friendly format. See it at www.NicolasGarden.com.

For his TV debut, Nicolas will cook on camera a recipe he developed for First Lady Michelle Obama's "Healthy Lunch Recipe Contest."

"It's really exciting," he said when contacted by phone in New York. "I'm making Nicolas' California Sunshine; it's curry."

His own recipe, the curry features vegetables, fruit, chicken and spices. This photo is Nicolas practicing his curry Friday at a test kitchen in Brooklyn.

"He's been practicing it quite a bit," said Drisha Leggitt, a Nicolas' Garden volunteer. "On the flight, his backpack was filled with spices. He brought three different curries.

"It takes a lot of guts to get up on live TV, but Nicolas really wants to do this," she added. "Who better to represent the capital's Farm-to-Fork movement than a kid from Sacramento?"

May 23, 2013
Grange to hang retired Kings jerseys today at restaurant

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At least for today, Grange restaurant at 10th and J streets will be the leader of Sacramento's Farm-To-Free-Throw movement. That section of downtown will be high with Kings fever this afternoon, with a mighty rally celebrating the Kings' stay in Sacramento at Cesar Chavez Plaza, which is across the street from Grange.

Grange will take on the flavor of Arco Arena - no, Power Balance Pavilion - ack, we mean Sleep Train Arena by hanging the Kings' retired jerseys around the restaurant. Two HDTVs will also be hung in one of the windows and will broadcast Kings videos, while some Grange staff will be decked in their finest Chris Webber jerseys and gear from other classic Kings players.

To get properly fueled up for the rally, Grange's bar will serve a fine selection of purple cocktails including a "purple shooter." Swish!

May 22, 2013
The Rind giving a sneak preview -- right now

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As we just tweeted, thanks to a call from a friendly reader, The Rind has nudged its doors open a day ahead of the soft opening slated for 11 a.m. Thursday. So if you're in the 1800 block of L Street in midtown, stop in, taste some cheese and wish them luck.

We'll be reporting more on this new venture, which will serve artisan cheeses, wine and beer, with many suggestions for pairings.


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

May 22, 2013
Kraft cheese truck is coming to town with free samples

The big cheese is coming to town. The Kraft Fresh Possibilities tour trucks are rolling across the nation, with upcoming stops in our area. One of them will be parked in two locations, with offerings of free samples, dollars-off coupons and recipes.

A highlight will be tastes of the company's new Fresh Take, a "meal kit" of cheeses, spices and breadcrumbs in one compartmentalized bag. The Kraft folks will demonstrate "more than 60 ways" to create meals from the kit.

Look for the Kraft truck on May 30 in front of Raley's stores: 10 a.m. at 5345 Hazel Ave., Fair Oaks; and 3 p.m. at 715 Bidwell St., Folsom.

For more information, visit www.tryfreshtake.com.

May 21, 2013
Film to be part of Sacramento's Hunger Action Week

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It turns out that the 21st century is just as much a party to hunger issues than its predecessor.

That much is the gist of the documentary "A Place at the Table," which screens May 29 & 30 and June 1 at the Crest Theatre. The Sacramento Hunger Coalition is presenting a showing of the film tonight at 6, followed by a panel discussion as part of Hunger Action Week.

In the film co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush cast the lens at three individuals living in the U.S. Each are struggling to put food on the table.

The Crest is at 1013 K St., Sacramento

May 21, 2013
Do you know your cheese from your gravy and cucumbers?


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San Bruno-based Eat24 has a good gig going. It's an online service in partnership with 20,000 restaurants in 1,000 U.S. cities. It specializes in matching consumers with restaurants in their area that will deliver food "to home, office, campus or wherever you may be" when ordered online.

It's blog site, Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries, has an interesting post that explores "the hidden meanings of favorite food phrases." Like these:

The big cheese
Definition: "The best of the best"
Origin: "Since the earliest 19th century, cheese was used as a noun to describe something wealthy or top-rate. Cheese originated from the Persian use 'the chiz.'"

It's all gravy
Definition: "It's all good"
Origin: "This phrase originated from an Old English saying that explained life is meat and potatoes, and the luxuries are gravy."

Cool as a cucumber
Definition: "Calm and composed even in difficult situations"
Meaning: "This expression is taken from a literal characteristic of cucumbers. The inside of a cucumber is actually 20 degrees cooler than their outsides."

For more, go to www.eat24.com.

May 20, 2013
Follow-up: The Rind to open Thursday (with details!)

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Turns out, Sara Arbabian did not succumb to foul play, is not pinned beneath a giant cheese wheel, does not have a cat that nested on her keyboard and, best of all, is not intentionally ducking the press.

After a bit of nudging, I finally caught up with a very affable Arbabian to hear about her plans for The Rind, a cheese bar featuring wine and beer pairings. To this observer, it's a great fit on a great block and her timing is excellent.

In fact, I think it's going to be such a big hit that Chris Hansen is going to buy it and try to move it to Seattle! (Then Mayor KJ will step in at the 11th hour, make a speech to the Cheese Board and all will be OK).

While wine and cheese pairings are well accepted, the whole idea of finding the right cheese with the right beer is an exciting and relatively unexplored concept for many folks, foodies included. Beyond that, craft beer is taking off locally and throughout many parts of the country, as more and more people are taking beer seriously and enjoying small-batch, quality-driven beer. There's certainly plenty to choose from. Watch for a future "The Beer Run" column in which Arbabian and I discuss how to enjoy cheese with beer.


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Arbabian is opening Thursday at 11 a.m. For now, The Rind will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. It will be closed for staff training Mondays and Tuesdays, at least for the time being.

How will it work when you walk into The Rind? For one thing, the atmosphere will be relaxed. Visitors can select one of the designated cheese samplers, featuring three cheeses, or select their own cheeses to enjoy. The Rind is also going to feature artisan grilled cheese sandwiches and mac & cheese, all with top-quality cheeses and breads. At every step of the way, the staff will be on hand to provide details about the cheeses, answer questions and give suggestions for pairings. There will be 15-20 wines at first, some available by the glass, along with six beers on tap and 10 in bottles

This is a small operation. Arbabian's husband, Stephen Tatterson, will be helping out after he gets off from his day job. There will also be a couple of other employees starting out.

If you're interested in the fascinating world of cheese and are looking for a different kind of food and beverage experience, The Rind just might become a destination for you.

We'll have more on this new venture soon after it opens. Stay tuned.

The Rind is at 1801 L St., Sacramento.

(Photos courtesy of The Rind).

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



May 20, 2013
O, new little cheese place (with wine & beer) on L Street, call us, we really want to help spread the word that you're about to open, but, um, it would be helpful if you returned our calls

There is a new new cheese shop (with wine and beer) all set to open on one of the best blocks in midtown.

It's called The Rind.

It's at 1801 L Street.

It will have lots of cheese

And wine.

And beer.

And that's all we really know.

We've left voicemails. We've sent emails. We've done walk-bys. We've done everything but go all Dustin Hoffman from "The Graduate" when strolled past and spotted the owner and two others casually sipping wine while seated at the bar. Instead of banging on the glass, "Mrs. Cheese Person, why won't you return our emails and phone calls?" we decided better of it, dignity-wise, and opted to go to Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates for yet another amazing ice cream sandwich (with lemon ice cream).

Still, we wonder about The Rind. We'd like to know more about the concept, the cheeses, the grilled cheeses, the whole dream of opening a new business and forgoing silly things like phones and internets. We want to share these things with our readers.

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I contemplated the possibilities: They're ignoring us. Yes, this is a clever counter-intuitive marketing strategy to absolutely perplex everyone and generate some kind of viral reaction that winds up on CNN, sells lots and lots of cheese and leads to a book deal: "Telling People About Your New Business is Stupid.".

We contemplated foul play. Did a giant wheel of cave-aged Gruyere tumble off a shelf and pin the owner to the floor? Does the owner have a cat? A cat sat that likes to sit on computer keyboards and freeze up computers? And the owner has no idea someone is emailing her to ask this potentially exciting new venture?

And wish her luck?

And ask when we can stop by and taste some cheese (and beer and wine)?

We hear it's Thursday.

But that's all we really know.

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

RELATED: Which restaurants do the best at marketing and promoting?

May 20, 2013
'Cookies & Cream' arrives just in time for summer

cookiescream.JPGSummer is here, which means it's time for a little something to take the edge off the notorious Sacramento heat.

For guidance, one place to turn is "Cookies & Cream" by blogging cook Tessa Arias, who describes herself as "a college student turned culinary student" (Running Press, $18, 222 pages; www.handletheheat.com).

Hundreds of imaginative recipes show the step-by-steps of matching home-baked cookies with homemade ice cream and ice cream custard in ways you would not expect.

The concept is simple, but the possibilities are seemingly endless. How about a Black Forest ice cream sandwich, or vanilla whoopie pies? For fruit fans, Arias gets involved with strawberries, pomegranates, lemons, mangoes, blueberries and the like. Can your sweet tooth handle it?

May 16, 2013
Adam Pechal to host Saturday night chef's competition

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With knives and peelers on stand-by, some of Sacramento's top chefs will go mano a mano on Saturday night. The setting will be the Sterling Hotel on 13th and H streets, which will play host to the John Kerr Foundation Food & Wine tasting, which will include eats by Restaurant Thi13en, Grange, Zocalo, Mulvaney's B&L and more.

Along with tastings of northern California wines, the evening will feature a chef's competition hosted by Adam Pechal, the local restaurateur and chef who was a recent contestant on ABC's "The Taste." Pechal will also compete, and duke it out with Aimal Formoli of Formoli's Bistro, chef Paul Poore of Feeding Crane Farms and others. Pechal may even invite home chefs in the crowd to step up and compete.

Instead of the typical "Iron Chef" battle with a mystery ingredient, Saturday night's throwdown will focus on kitchen skills such as shucking oysters, peeling potatoes and dicing onions. The winner will get a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey and a hearty serving of bragging rights.

May 15, 2013
River Cats' Dan Dog part of nationwide 'Food Fight'

dandog.jpg In this nationwide Food Fight, the Sacramento River Cats will try to swing for the fences with a bat-shaped burger.

The River Cats' Dan Dog - named for chief financial officer and executive vice president Dan Vistica - is the club's official entry in Minor League Baseball's 64-team "Food Fight."

Iconic concession items from each team's ballpark menu vie in a bracket-style format for the nation's best ballpark food.

In the "Scrumptious Sandwiches" regional, the Dan Dog competes against such heavy hitters as Fang's Venom Burger (from the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers), pitcher Phil Niekro's Knucksie pulled pork sandwich (from the Gwinnett, Ga., Braves) and Fried Bologna on a Kaiser roll (from the Buffalo, N.Y., Bisons).

The Dan Dog is actually a long burger, hand-molded to look like a hot dog. According to the River Cats' official entry, "Start with fresh-ground, locally sourced ground beef, and blend with sautéed onions, garlic and a unique combination of seasonings. ... Add cheddar cheese, grill to perfection, nestle into a sweet French roll and top with a spicy red relish."

Other categories in the bracket include Gut Busters, Hogs N Dogs (devoted to pork products and hot dogs) and Local Legends.

Voters also will automatically be entered into an online sweepstakes. Grand prize: Trip for four to the winning team's ballpark - and a chance to sample its signature dish.

The first round of voting started Wednesday and continues through May 29. The finals are May 30 through June 6.

Patrons can vote as often as they like. Tweets (and re-tweets) count, too. Follow @MiLB, tweet the hashtag #foodfight and include the name of the team or food item that gets your vote.

See all the entries at http://atmilb.com/12ASqLQ or www.milb.com/foodfight.

May 15, 2013
New location and features for West Sacramento Farmers Market

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The West Sacramento Farmers Market kicks off its 2013 season on June 6 and runs each Thursday through Sept. 26. Look for plenty of changes among the seasonal produce, starting with this farmers market's new location in front of West Sacramento's City Hall (1110 West Capitol Ave., West Sacramento). The market will run weekly from 4:30 p.m. to dusk.

This farmers market has also been beefed up with new programs, including a "Dig In!" dinner for 100 people which will be held on the first Thursday of each month. Guest chefs will source their ingredients directly from the market and then feed the masses. Other new features include a series of healthy living workshops and "Farm to Food Trucks" which will allow guest chefs to take the helm of the Wicked 'Wich truck and show how mobile food can work with seasonal ingredients. This food truck fiesta will take place on the last Thursday of each month.

For more information, visit the West Sacramento Farmers Market's Facebook page.

May 13, 2013
Enotria's new GM: Looking to bring stability, maintain excellence

junnyyun.jpegOver the past nine months, Enotria Restaurant and Wine Bar has made a name for itself as a great dining destination, complete with artfully created food, polished service and a vast wine list.

But the restaurant has also seen more than its share of growing pains and personnel changes under the leadership of its dynamic and exacting executive chef, Pajo Bruich, notably the recent hiring - and then hasty departure - of general manager Anani Lawson, whose pedigree included stints as sommelier at two Thomas Keller restaurants, the French Laundry and Per Se.

Earlier this month, Enotria hired a new general manager, Jenny Yun, whose assignment will be to bring the right balance of excellence and casual fun to the dining room while providing a sense of stability and cohesiveness to what may be Sacramento's most exciting restaurant.

May 13, 2013
Mighty Kong Cafe closes its doors, but the bakery lives on

kong bar.JPGThe well-used meat smoker is still on the fenced-end back patio, but the signs on the windows and the locked front door of the Mighty Kong Cafe on Stockton Boulevard tell the story: "After three years of good food and service, it has come to an end." The official closing date was May 2, but we dropped by this morning anyway and knocked on the door. No answer.

Though the cafe is history, the bakery part of the operation is still turning out organic bran muffins in 23 flavors (including pineapple-coconut, ginger root, and banana-walnut). Order at (916) 231-3631 or www.mightykongmuffins.com.

The Mighty Kong Cafe was owned by King W. Smith, who turned a grass-roots idea into a business.

"Closing was a hard decision, but we weren't making any money," Smith said on the phone. "It turned into a breakfast place and we were down to being open only Thursday through Sunday. So now we'll stick with what we know best - the muffin business."

Will there ever be another cafe?

May 13, 2013
Potato chips with a twist are kettle-fried in coconut oil

potato chips.JPGThe Northern Plains Potato Growers Association tells us that the humble potato chip, "invented in 1853," is the No. 1 snack in the U.S.

Helping to maintain the chip's position is 10-month-old Jackson's Honest Potato Chips, made in Colorado from organic heirloom Yukon gold and German butterball potatoes sourced from small farms. The chips are kettle-fried in "organic cold-pressed coconut oil" and touched with sea salt. The use of coconut oil is an interesting twist on a traditional technique.

At its website and on the packaging, the company touts the benefits of coconut oil versus other oils, explaining the science of "fatty lauric acid" and "monolaurin." That aside, our panel of tasters found the chips darn good - dark and crunchy, curly instead of consistently flat, not too salty, and with a more substantial "body" and "mouth feel" than many other potato chips. A couple of tasters even said they could taste coconut in the background.

The problem is local availability. "We're trying to make inroads into small retail outlets and health food stores in the Sacramento area," said a spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, you can order the chips online at www.honestchips.com - three bags for $14.97, six bags for $29.94, 12 bags for $59.88.

Sacramento Bee photograph by Tim Reese

May 10, 2013
Enotria lands (another) new GM with Michelin-star credentials

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Watch for our story coming next week in The Bee about the latest hire at highly regarded Enotria Restaurant Wine Bar, general manager Jenny Yun.

Yun is the former assistant restaurant director at the Restaurant at Meadowood, where executive chef Christopher Kostow continues to wow guests. Meadowood is one of two current restaurants in California to earn three Michelin stars.The other is The French Laundry, where Enotria's previous GM, Anani Lawson, worked as a sommelier. Lawson's tenure at Enotria was short-lived and ended abruptly.

Stay tuned for more on Yun, Enotria's executive chef Pajo Bruich and what the restaurant is up to.

Enotria is at 1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento.

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

RELATED:

Lawson out as GM at Enotria, raising many questions about short-lived tenure (updated)

Dining review: Enotria has stratospherically upgraded

May 10, 2013
Davis Dishcrawl No. 2 coming up, this time for breakfast/brunch

kebab.JPGLast month, the Cupertino-based food tour company Dishcrawl led an evening mini-tour of four restaurants in Davis. If you don't already know, the town has one of the most diverse restaurant scenes around.

In a typical Dishcrawl scenario, each restaurant offered samples of three house-specialty dishes, from bites to small plates.

Eighteen curious foodies attended the tour, said Dishcrawl "ambassador" Julia Simpson. "It really was a social dining experience, with a lot of talking and laughing, and people exchanging phone numbers," she said.

The group visited Seasons, Cafe Mediterranee, Monticello and Village Pizza & Grill. Tastes included cauliflower au gratin; chicken shawarma over rice with hummus and spicy adjika sauce; roasted seasonal-vegetables soup with asparagus-cheese flatbread; kebabs; and fried calamari rolled in blue cornmeal.

Now there's a second Davis Dishcrawl planned, this one focused on breakfast-brunch. The identities of the host restaurants are a secret until just before the tour launches. Participants who sign up at www.dishcrawl.com/davis will be emailed the name and address of the first restaurant on the tour, 48 hours in advance; that will be the meet-up spot.

Get going at 10 a.m. May 25. Tickets are $45, but use the promotional code word for a 15 percent discount - it's "davis25."

May 8, 2013
Frank Fat's celebrates James Beard Award with "America's Classics" menu

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Members of the Fat family have just returned home to Sacramento from New York, where Frank Fat's was honored Monday night with a James Beard Award for "America's Classics." Winning this award is the restaurant equivalent of the "lifetime achievement" Academy Award, which was bestowed at a black tie and red carpet gala at Avery Fisher Hall. Out of 28,000 nominees, only five American restaurants were selected for this award, and Frank Fat's was the only honoree from California.

A media luncheon was held today to show off some of the dishes which have made Frank Fat's a Sacramento food institution for 74 years. Among those spinning the Lazy Susan and chomping on honey walnut prawns, New York steak and banana cream pie were Tina Macuha and Courtney Dempsey of "Good Day Sacramento," KFBK's Kitty O'Neal and some of Sacramento's prominent food bloggers: Sarah "Undercover Caterer" Singleton, Kristy "Cavegrrl" DeVaney and Catherine "Munchie Musings" Enfield.

Also in the house was Orangevale's Hank Shaw, whose Hunter Angler Gardener Cook earned best blog honors at this year's James Beard Awards. We were also happy to see Michael Tuohy, former executive chef of Grange, who is currently living in Napa but planning a move back to Sacramento shortly. (We'll have more on this soon).

May 8, 2013
Fresh apricots taste best from own backyard

apricots.jpg It's not your imagination: Apricots just don't taste like they used to.

Several readers called in response to today's In Season feature in Food & Wine. (Read it at http://bit.ly/17KsqB5 .) They complained that supermarket apricots are "tasteless" or worse.

A lot has to do with variety. About 85 percent of the California apricot crop is now Patterson, which has less sugar than Blenheim and other old-school apricots. Also, commercial apricots are picked when still firm and don't get sweeter as they ripen.

The best place to get full-flavored ripe apricots is your own backyard. Apricots are among the easiest fruit trees to grow in California. Some good varieties to try: Autumn Glo (a late-bearing variety that ripens in August), Gold Kist and Tropic Gold. All rate very high in natural sugars.

Now what to do with ripe apricots (including Pattersons): Try this sauce, adapted from Nicole Routhier's "Fruit Cookbook" (Workman Publishing).

Combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Add to the syrup 1/2 pound apricots, halved and pitted. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook until the fruit is tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain the apricots, reserving the syrup. Puree the fruit in a blender with 1/4 cup of the reserved syrup and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little more syrup.

Transfer to a jar, refrigerate and use within one week. It's a wonderful dessert topping over cake, ice cream or pudding. This same recipe works with peaches and mangoes, too.

May 8, 2013
Wine, bites and socializing at all-things-Italian Dante Club

tortellini.JPGThe folks who run the 87-year-old Dante Club know something about food and wine. The public is familiar with the Italian cultural organization through its fund-raising crab feeds and wine dinners. Now comes Viva Vino, its second annual winetasting soiree.

Eight wineries will pour reds and whites from 2 to 5 p.m. May 19, accompanied by antipasto and pasta. Live music and an art show will be part of it. Attendees can cast ballots in the wine-judging contest.

The Dante Club is at 2330 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento. Tickets are $15 or two for $25, and $20 at the door; free for 12 and younger. For tickets, visit www.danteclub.com or call Chuck Tobia at (916) 747-0035.

Also, the club hosts Italian family-style dinners at 6 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month; advance sales only at (916) 925-8230.

May 7, 2013
Tour foothill wine country for tastes of the Rhone River Valley

foothills.JPGNo need to mount an expedition to the Rhone wine region of France to sample luscious reds, roses and whites, as well as great views such as the one shown here.

Five wineries in the Pleasant Valley area in the El Dorado County foothills will pour their Rhone-style vinos (including syrahs and grenaches) and serve bites at the 10th annual Rocks & Rhones Festival. Save the dates: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 25-26.

Hosting will be Holly's Hill Vineyards (www.hollyshill.com), Miraflores Winery (www.mirafloreswinery.com), Narrow Gate Vineyards (www.narrowgatevineyards.com), Sierra Vista Winery (www.sierravistawinery.com) and Auriga Wine Cellars (www.aurigawines.com).

They will match their wines with locally sourced tastes of lamb, pork and beef dishes, wild mushroom ravioli, duck confit, polenta, honey, olive oil and desserts. Also: vineyard hikes, barrel tastings, new releases, arts and crafts, and winemaker discussions and demonstrations. Sign up to win the 100-bottle Mountain of Wine.

Tickets are $35 per day through May 21, $40 at the door (read: whichever winery you visit first). There is no particular order in which to visit the wineries. To buy tickets, and see maps and locations of the wineries, and for more information, got to www.pleasantvalleywineries.com.

To further explore the foothills wine region, go to the Sacramento Bee's wine site at www.sacwineregion.com.

May 6, 2013
Krush Burger to open location in Dubai

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Count Sacramento's Krush Burger as the first local food truck vendor to go international. According to a lengthy post on its web page, Krush Burger plans to open a brick-and-mortar location in Dubai. Owner Davin Vculek will be traveling to Dubai next week to oversee construction on this new spot, which is located near the massive Dubai Mall.

"The long term goal of our operating partner in Dubai is to open a second location there as well as one in Abu Dhabi, the capitol city of United Arab Emirates," said a statement from Vculek. "Where it goes beyond there is an exciting prospect. We are soo fortunate, through the loyal efforts of our fans here in Sacramento, we re able to take this amazing step in such a short period of time."

The statement also references plans to open more Krush Burger locations in Sacramento and expand to the Bay Area. Krush Burger opened its first brick-and-mortar shop near downtown at the California Lottery Headquarters in late 2012.

May 4, 2013
Catching up with James Beard award winner Hank Shaw

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I just got off the phone with Hank Shaw, who won a James Beard award Friday night in New York for best blog. Shaw is traveling with significant other Holly Heyser, journalist in residence at California State University, Sacramento (and the one responsible for many of the photos on the blog).

I asked Shaw, whose blog is called "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook," about the awards ceremony and what it felt like the moment he heard his name called.

The ceremony was at Gotham Hall, a massive old art deco style building with a large rotunda. There were about 500 in attendance (the awards for chefs and restaurants are Monday) and it was hosted by Ted Allen.

"It was a swanky affair. Everybody was dressed up and the room was buzzing," Shaw said.

I asked him about the meal, prepared by three chefs from San Diego, but Shaw said he was so nervous that his stomach was churning and "things got blurry."

When the ceremony began, Shaw waited nervously at his table. Several of his friends with "wild" backgrounds who forage, fish or hunt were nominated in other categories but did not win. Shaw had psyched himself up to lose, too, in part so he wouldn't be disappointed (this was his third nomination).

Then came time for his category, and if you've been reading food blogs, you know the quality is high, the competition fierce. And when Shaw heard his name?

"I basically stood up and shouted," he said with a laugh.

He walked to the stage and Allen put the gold medal around his neck. Shaw thought back to his days as a track and field athlete, noting he once dreamed of going to the Olympics only to realize he didn't have that level of talent.

"Last night, I got my Olympic medal," he said.

Shaw is now one of three James Beard award winners from Sacramento. Elaine Corn won for her 1994 book "Now You're Cooking: Everything a Beginner Needs to Know to Start Cooking Today." And on Monday, the iconic Sacramento restaurant Frank Fat's will receive a James Beard award in a special lifetime achievement category, "America's Classic."

After the big news, Shaw, Heyser and friends left Gotham Hall and hit the town to celebrate. First stop was for oysters at The John Dory Oyster Bar. Then they went for a night cap at the historic Algonquin Hotel, which is especially famous in literary circles for its "Algonquin Roundtable" - a group of renowned writers and editors that convened daily for the better part of a decade.

Today, Shaw plans to eat and eat some more. He and Heyser will be going to Pok Pok, the Thai restaurant making such a splash of late. Then they'll visit Michelin-rated WD-50, where they are supposed to meet the famous modernist cooking wizard (and owner of WD-50) Wylie Dufresne.

On Sunday, Shaw has been invited to brunch at the Michelin 3-star Restaurant Daniel, owned by renowned French chef Daniel Boulud. Later Sunday, they fly home.
Asked how it feels to finally be a James Beard award winner, Shaw laughed and said, "It doesn't suck."

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

Complete list of James Beard award winners for 2013

May 3, 2013
On third try, Shaw wins James Beard award for best blog

Local blogging star and author Hank Shaw brought home the big prize for best blog at the James Beard Foundation awards ceremony in New York City tonight.

Twice previously, Shaw had been nominated but did not win in this relatively new and highly competitive category. Shaw's blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, offers Shaw's thoughts, tips, recipes and observations related to foraging, hunting and a wide range of related topics. The blog became such a hit that last year Shaw published a book, "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast."

Shaw's second book, "Duck, Duck, Goose," about cooking waterfowl, is due out in the fall.

Since it is late on the east coast, we hope to get Shaw's reaction sometime this weekend and post an update.

Shaw is actually one of two local winners. The other Sacramento winner of a James Beard award, a lifetime achievement honor in a special category called "America's Classics," went to the downtown Chinese restaurant Frank Fat's. That award was announced several weeks in advance.

Congratulations to both winners for these great honors.

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

May 3, 2013
Evan's Kitchen will pair German dishes with local wines

pot roast.JPGSacramento chef Evan Elsberry is always up to something, whether it's entering (and winning) food competitions or hosting themed dinners at his restaurant, Evan's Kitchen.

Elsberry particularly enjoys getting the creative current moving by matching ethnic cuisines with appropriate wines, usually resulting in some unusual twists. Last year, he sold out his Italian-, French- and Spanish wine-pairing dinners.

Now he's ready for the next one, with a German theme. It's planned from 6 to 9 p.m. May 20. The cost is $75 per person, with reservations at (916) 452-3896. The previous wine dinners filled up fast, so...

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

The German dinner looks like this; note that all wines are from Frog's Tooth winery in Murphys (www.frogstooth.com).

First course: shrimp in dill cream
Served with 2011 pinot grigio

Second course: split pea soup with Black Forest ham laced with coriander, cumin and ginger
Served with 2011 meritage white

Third course: roasted pork shanks
Served with 2010 barbera

Fourth course: slow-cooked marinated roast beef with spiced and braised red cabbage, curried butternut squash, and potato pancakes with apple salsa
Served with 2009 malbec

Dessert: apple strudel
Served with 2011 dulcinea

May 2, 2013
Capital Tea Garden shuts down, to re-open under new ownership

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After serving dim sum and other Chinese foods for a quarter century, Capital Tea Garden on 11th and T streets shut down on Sunday. The good news is this appears to be a temporary closure. A sign in the window says the eatery will re-open following a remodel by new management.

Meanwhile, our friends at the Cowtown Eats blog have a screenshot from a Facebook friend who was at Capital Tea Garden on Sunday night and was told the current owners are retiring and the place will re-open under the new ownership in the next few months. Check out that post here.

We've been unsuccessful thus far in reaching any owners, and will fill in with more details as they come. Stay tuned, and we look forward to seeing the Lazy Susan spin again soon at Capital Tea Garden.

May 1, 2013
Weekday farmers markets in downtown launch today

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The high season for downtown farmers markets has arrived. Along with the year-round market under the freeway each Sunday at 6th and X streets, five more downtown farmers markets will run from May until fall.

A farmers market runs each Wednesday starting today at Cesar Chavez Plaza (10th and J streets, Sacramento) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This market will run weekly through Oct. 30.

Two more downtown farmers markets kick off Thursday: Capitol Mall (6th and Capitol, Sacramento) and Capitol Park (15th and L streets). Both of these markets will run through Sept. 26 and be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

May 1, 2013
'Snacks' is a user-friendly cookbook with twists by the 'aisle'

snacks.JPGA library of cookbooks is published each year, the daunting avalanche overwhelming the curious home cook who's daring enough to browse the Cookbooks section of bookstores.

Where to begin? One manageable starting point could be the just-released "Snacks" by self-proclaimed "food explorer" Marcy Smothers (HarperOne, $19.99, 293 pages). It's one of cookbookdom's most entertaining and user-friendly new titles, with a foreword by celebrity chef-restaurateur Guy "Johnny Garlic's" Fieri, Smothers' longtime pal.

"Snacks" is a mini-feast of food lore, tips and trivia, surprising factoids and original recipes with chapters organized by "aisles," modeled after what a shopper will find along each aisle of a supermarket. For instance, Smothers begins with Produce, moves to Bread, then Cheese, then Frozen Food and so on - 15 aisles altogether.

Randomly flipping through the book, we found:

- The fresher the vegetables, the quicker they will cook (it's a moisture thing).

- What do the colored plastic tags on commercially baked breads signify? Answer: the day of the week they were baked (blue for Monday, green for Tuesday and so on).

- Tomato sauce doesn't have to simmer all day to be good; 20 minutes will do.

- There's no nutritional difference between white eggs and brown eggs.

Among the 50 recipes, consider prime rib sauce, crab Rangoon, fried rice and pork tacos with watermelon salsa.

As Fieri puts it: "When Marcy talks about food, I listen."



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