Appetizers
June 29, 2013
The fresh peach milkshake is back at Whitey's Drive-In

peaches.JPGFor the 10th straight year, the seasonal sign has gone up Whitey's Jolly Kone, the West Sacramento landmark drive-in: "Fresh peach milkshakes."

Chunks of tree-ripened freestone peaches from Modesto are blended with high-quality vanilla ice cream for a throat-freezing milkshake that's one of the best anywhere.

Through August, owners Steve and Paula Ericson will sell peach shakes as fast as they can make them.

The usual hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, but the diner is closed this Thursday and Friday for the long Fourth of July weekend.

Whitey's Jolly Kone is at 1300 Jefferson Blvd., West Sacramento; (916) 371-3605.


June 28, 2013
Sacramento's first 'farm-to-fork' sports bar now open

By Janelle Bitker
jbitker@sacbee.com

Greasy onion rings are out and Mediterranean flat breads with local veggies are in, as Skybox Grill & Bar bills itself as midtown's first farm-to-fork sports bar.

With 20 TV screens showing the latest ESPN fare and Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap, Skybox is definitely a sports bar. But general manager Loren Sparks hopes the community will look at it more as a casual restaurant - one that just so happens to be attached to a sports bar. Because who would expect grape leaf-wrapped goat cheese in the same room as a televised UFC fight?

Skybox held its grand opening Thursday afternoon in the space formerly known as MVP Sports Grill on 21st and L streets. The new menu is herbivore-friendly and incorporates ingredients straight from the farmers market. There are a slew of burgers, salads, sandwiches and wraps, and the veggie-inclined can substitute all hamburgers for falafel, grilled vegetables or black bean patties.

June 27, 2013
Pillsbury's new Orangesicle cookies taste like summer

orangecookie.jpg Here's a quick cookie as refreshing as a Creamsicle - and it comes out of a box mix.

For summer snacking, Pillsbury introduced a line of citrus-flavored mixes and ready-made frostings. The flavors include Orangesicle, Key Lime and Pink Lemonade and are offered as cake or cookie mixes as well as ready to spread frostings.

We really enjoyed the Orangesicle cookies - without frosting. Packed with sweet orange candy bits, the crisp butter cookies taste like a crunchy Orange Julius. They also have a bright orange color that looks as summery as they taste.

With that color, they'll also make a clever cookie shortcut for Halloween baking.

The 17.5-ounce box shows the cookie frosted, but the orange frosting is not included - and totally optional. One box makes three dozen 2-inch cookies with the addition of one softened stick of butter or margarine and one egg.

If desired, all three frostings are light, fluffy and very citrus - but save them for cupcakes. (The cake mixes make great cupcakes, too.)

Now for the hard part: Pillsbury is just rolling out these new flavors into California stores. They're available online via Amazon.com, but should be showing up in supermarkets soon. Target and Walmart stores also are expected to carry the mixes and frostings.

These flavors are bound to inspire more creativity in upcoming Bake-Offs (such as the strawberry lemonade pie with cookie crust, featured online at the Pillsbury site). For more details and recipes, click on www.pillsburybaking.com.

June 26, 2013
Lotus 8 Chinese restaurant is rolling in Folsom; here's why

lotus8.JPGWe're all looking for the next terrific Chinese restaurant, and it appears to have recently arrived.

The Cantonese-style Lotus 8 held its soft opening on April 18 in the beautifully renovated space that once housed the Chinese restaurants Liu's and then Yummy Kitchen.

My Chinese-American lunch pal suggested a number of authentic, expertly assembled banquet-style dishes that were outstanding.

We loaded our table with Hong Kong-style house special noodles (crispy noodles topped with lean barbecued pork, scallops, calamari and black mushrooms); a disjointed and fried two-pound salt-and-pepper Dungeness crab; and crispy Peking duck (pictured) served two ways - rolled in rice crepes with fresh spring onion and hoisin sauce, and chopped up with cilantro and jicama and made into lettuce wraps.

The restaurant makes the best hot relish we've tasted - nicknamed "fire and lightning" - a mix of dried bean curd and hard-to-source special peppers. The ingredients aren't easy to come by, which is why the relish is served mostly on weekends.

Other good things: the freshest orange chicken we've found, gloriously messy soy sauce-bathed prawns, rarely seen bitter melon, "special" barbecued pork, luscious fish maw with crab meat soup.

"If you don't see anything you want, tell us what you like and we will create a menu for you," offers general manager Michael Chow.

Look for a complete review in an upcoming Friday Ticket section in The Bee.

Lotus 8 is at 199 Blue Ravine Road in Folsom; (916) 351-9278, www.lotus8folsom.com.

June 26, 2013
Check out the Costco Food Court for a top dog deal

costco.JPGStopped by the Costco Food Court today for the best dog deal in town - a quarter-pound all-beef wiener or Polish dog with a 20-ounce drink for $1.63 with tax. You needn't be a shopping-club member to grab a bite there.

As we waited 10 minutes in line, we took note of the wall-mounted menu and found more bargains: churro, $1; chicken Caesar salad, $3.99; pizza slice, $1.99 ($9.95 for a whole 18-incher); cheese-and-bacon-stuffed chicken fingers, $2.99; hot turkey and provolone sandwich, $3.99; plus frozen treats, $1.35 to $1.65.

We got our dogs, dressed them with deli mustard and relish, filled our cups with raspberry iced tea, grabbed some napkins and found seats at a metal picnic table (which needs a good scrubbing).

Lunch there is like eating in an open-air aviary, with birds flitting here and there looking for crumbs. The dogs were hot, tasty and filling (they once were kosher), the tea was cold and refreshing. The price was right, made possible by high-volume sales and a limited menu of easily prepared items. So what's not to like?

Find the food court at 1600 Expo Parkway, (916) 563-7002; 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays; 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.

June 26, 2013
LowBrau owners to launch Block Butcher Bar

The epic beer list and festive, high-decibel environs have marked LowBrau as one of the hottest midtown hang-outs since opening six months ago. Now, the owners of LowBrau are expanding with Block Butcher Bar, which will be located adjacent to LowBrau at the MARRS Building on 20th and K streets.

If LowBrau is geared for folks who want to let off steam with craft beer and a cranked DJ system, Block Butcher Bar seeks to entice a clientele that wants to chill out with fine Scotch and bourbon, plus wine, charcuterie plates and other butchery. If all goes to plan, Block would produce sausage in-house.

"It's nice to have a festive environment, but we also wanted to do something sophisticated as well," said Clay Nutting, co-owner of Low Brau and Block. "I think we can pull that off. Parts of these concepts we wanted to include in LowBrau, but couldn't because of budget and what not. Since we've had success, we can expand the concepts."

June 25, 2013
'Best of show' winners announced for California State Fair wine competition

Sacramento region wineries including Michael-David, Boeger and Dancing Coyote emerged among the state's best, as "best of show" winners from the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition were announced this morning at the State Capitol. These winners marked the best wines in a field of 2,625 samples that were judged June 5-7 at Cal Expo.

Boeger Winery and Windwalker Winery of El Dorado County tied for the best sangiovese in California, while a gruner veltliner from Clarksburg's Dancing Coyote topped the category of "other white varietal." Michael-David of Lodi was named best in California for "other red varietals" with its 2010 tannat, a red grape generally associated with Uruguay and southwestern France.

Macchia Winery of Lodi scored the top zinfandel in California with its "Adventurous" wine made from Amador County grapes. Crystal Basin Cellars of El Dorado County scored for the state's best syrah.

South Coast Winery of Temecula earned "Golden State Winery of the Year" honors, the competition's top award for a single winery. Along with this title, South Coast Winery earned 23 medals at this year's State Fair wine competition.

June 25, 2013
Pay attention, class -- here's how to make perfect pulled pork

pulledpork.JPGClass started at 4:30 p.m. last Sunday in the back patio area of BBQ Pro in Fair Oaks, and we were glad to be back in school.

The lesson: how to prepare and smoke a pork butt (shoulder) and magically turn it into a succulent heap of pulled pork. In this case, two pork butts had been injected with marinade, rubbed with spices and smoked over lump charcoal and hardwood for 18 hours before class started (pictured).

BBQ Pro co-owners and veteran pitmasters David and Jennifer Hill guided our class of eight through the steps, using a raw pork butt as the model. The Hills host monthly 'cue classes ($50) at their store, 10140 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks; (916) 595-7444. Check the website www.bbqproonline.com for upcoming lessons.

BBQ Pro stocks "everything for the pitmaster," and is 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.

David Hill made it clear: You don't have to cook on an Egg to learn new 'cue techniques in the class. True. My dinner pal and I took away a long list of tips and techniques; he cooks on a gas-fueled grill, I have a Weber charcoal grill.

We felt like we'd received an education. Here's a tip: After rubbing the roast with a spice blend, rub it again with turbinado sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw). The sugar will caramelize, adding color and flavor to the "bark" (the crust on the meat).

Before the butts were shredded and dinner began, the Hills demonstrated how to roast Anaheim and jalepeno peppers over open coals so that they blister and the skin peels off. The peppers were then dipped in garlic butter. Yow!

Jennifer Hill then showed the class how to assemble and grill mac 'n' cheese and peach-and-blackberry tart, and then whipped up a bowl of coleslaw.

Soon, the pork was shredded and dinner was served. All the students got good grades.

June 24, 2013
An inside source drops a dime on The Dime

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If you grow up and play your cards right -- and really geek out on writing Yelp reviews -- you, too, could be honored as a Yelp Elite. I happen to know a Yelp Elite -- and yes, he is a superior person in many ways. But I digress.

This individual recently attended an invitation-only event at The Dime, which is headed by Noah Zonca, the longtime frontman/chef at The Kitchen. The Dime is still a couple of weeks from opening, but this is the behind-the-activity that happens as they start to ramp things up and test the food and the service on foodies and friends.

Now we have our first glimpses of the food, which is going to be around $10. It's a great spot in the 1800 block of L Street and, if the quality of the cooking lives up to expectations, folks are going to be lining up around the block to eat here. The dirty little secret in the farm-to-fork movement is that the food is often really expensive at restaurants that tout this way of cooking and eating.

If Zonca and company can feed the masses for $10 a pop, The Dime could be the next big thing.

Here's what my source reported to me. They're his words and his photos.


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Heirloom Watermelon salad w/ fresh Perlini mozarella and poached wild prawns - Vietnamese fish sauce, peanuts, mint, Thai basil, cilantro and some other things. An extremely light and refreshing dish yet with a depth of complex flavors that complimented one another like a well-orchestrated symphony. My favorite dish of the night and one of the most creative takes on watermelon salad I've had.

June 24, 2013
Big changes (and a grand opening) come to Maranello

maranello.JPGThings are shaking up at Maranello in Fair Oaks, and a grand opening from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday will show them off.

For one thing, the restaurant has a new name - Maranello Bar and Kitchen. For another, it will open a second bar this week, replacing much of the former main dining room. Banquette seating will accommodate diners there, or they can stake out the patio or the Ferrari and Pebble Beach rooms.

The menu has gone gastro-pub, with emphasis on bites, small plates, salads and pizzas (don't miss the ground shortrib burger). Entrees have gone from a couple dozen to seven.

"At the end of the meal, we want people to say, 'Wow, what just happened? That was fun and different,'" said innovative chef Gabriel Glasier.

Also, Sunday breakfast is back ($7 to $15, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with dishes such as luscious creme brulee french toast (challah bread with raspberry coulis, Chantilly cream and candied pecans; pictured), meaty crab cakes served as a Benedict (with roasted pepper hollandaise), and smoked salmon scramble (caper-dill salsa, lemon zest sour cream). Also tops: cherrywood-smoked bacon and tender biscuits with raspberry and plum jams.

"We're trying to appeal to people who don't want to spend big bucks on entrees on weeknights," said co-owner Joe Hensler (with wife Gayle). "We're going more in the direction of (our customers) sharing food and enjoying a fun bar atmosphere with artisanal cocktails, craft beers and a focus on wine."

Maranello Bar and Kitchen, 8928 Sunset Ave. (off Hazel Avenue), Fair Oaks; (916) 241-9365, www.maranellorestaurant.com.

June 21, 2013
Lake Forest Cafe in Folsom will close its doors June 30

lake forest.JPGAfter a successful 31-year run of serving heaps of homestyle food in a cozy space crowded with loyal customers, owner Barbara Rubin will close the doors of her Lake Forest Cafe in Folsom at the end of business day on June 30.

"We provide food cooked the way you would cook it at home, if you had the time," said Rubin, who is retiring. "I don't know many people who have held the same job at the same location for so long, but everything comes to an end. This is a business that has encompassed my life 24 hours a day."

The iconic restaurant, housed in a century-old former residence owned by a gold-mining company, is best known for its hearty breakfasts. On the menu are 43 omelets, giant cinnamon and pecan rolls, french toast, pancakes and hard-to-find Jewish specialties - cream cheese-filled blintzes, lox and eggs, chicken livers and eggs, potato latkes, and kosher salami and pastrami.

The lunch menu offers a long list of salads, housemade soups, quiche, crepes, burgers and hearty sandwiches (pictured).

In a "Counter Culture" restaurant review, Rubin was quoted as saying, "Everything is made from scratch here. We know how to do old-fashioned and real in this era of packaged and processed food."

Rubin's plans for retirement may well include writing an anecdotal cookbook featuring dishes from the menu and stories set in the cafe.

"When the restaurant closes, the recipes will pass on with it," she said. "I'd love to be able to continue sharing them with my customers, who are really going to miss our signature dish, Mike's potatoes."

Rubin's late father created the potato dish, which includes onions, tomato, avocado, melted cheese and sour cream (bacon, sausage or ham can be added).

The Lake Forest Cafe is at 13409 Folsom Blvd., at the intersection of Parkshore Drive in Folsom. The restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. to 1:45 p.m Saturday and Sunday, and Wednesday through June 30.

Information: (916) 985-6780, www.lakeforestcafe.com.

June 21, 2013
We'll try the crostini with a trio of toppings, please

waterboy.JPGWe've been losing sleep lately, tossing and turning while trying to figure out the difference between crostini and bruschetta.

Plainly put, crostini ("little toasts") are thin slices of baguette, kissed with olive oil, sprinkled with pepper and salt, toasted and then topped with, well, just about anything - cheese, bell pepper, capers, salami, anchovy, shrimp, pate or any combination you can conjure.

Bruschetta ("to roast over coals") are larger slices of garlic-and-oil-rubbed bread, which are grilled (ideally) and traditionally topped with a drizzle of olive oil, sliced tomato and fresh basil. Restaurateurs don't stop there, though. You'll find bruschetta topped with everything from goat cheese to caramelized onion

Crostini don't get much better than the version we found at chef Rick Mahan's Waterboy restaurant last Tuesday (pictured). The merging of flavors and textures quickly led us to clear the plate, reminding us of a movie title now at theaters - "Now You See Me." In our case, it was "Now You Don't."

The six crostini were topped with three spreads - roasted eggplant, a tapenade of green and black olives, and white bean with sweet pepper. Pecorino cheese and olive oil nicely finished the dish.

Get it for $8 at Waterboy, 2000 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; (916) 498-9891, www.waterboyrestaurant.com.

P.S.: The menu is seasonal, so keep an eye out for an appetizer that comes and goes, described as "fish sticks" but so much more.

June 19, 2013
Seafood pairs with wines at Evan's Gone Fishin' dinner

chowder.JPGAward-winning Sacramento chef Evan Elsberry is on a roll with his themed dinners, in which he pairs specific cuisines with appropriate wines.

He'll turn his culinary skills loose on seafood for the "Evan's Gone Fishin'" multi-course meal, 6 to 9 p.m. June 24. The cost is $75 per person, with reservations at (916) 452-3896. Evan's Kitchen is at 855 57th St., Sacramento, in the Antiques Mall; www.chefevan.com.

As for the menu, have a look:

First course: lobster soufflé
Served with 2012 Oyster Bay chardonnay

Second course: saffron seafood chowder
Served with 2012 Lapostolle Casa sauvignon blanc

Third course: scallop-prawn-crab cake with mango-papaya-pineapple relish
Served with 2011 Roscato Rosso Dolce

Fourth course: halibut pomodoro over fresh pasta with tapenade
Served with Seven Daughters pinot noir

Dessert: lemon crumble with vanilla bean-raspberry swirl-coconut ice cream
Served with 2010 Pacific Rim gewürztraminer

June 18, 2013
Zonca assembles kitchen team for soon-to-open The Dime

Noah Zonca, the former star chef at The Kitchen, is speeding toward opening his new restaurant on L Street, The Dime, by the Fourth of July weekend. Today, he announced the key players of his kitchen crew.

The head chef will be Juan Vaca, a longtime sous chef at Esquire Grille who most recently cooked at Mulvaney's, just around the corner on 19th Street.

"He's someone I trust immensely. He worked with me at The Kitchen," Zonca said.

Chef de cuisine is Ruben Perez.

"He's got the things you can't teach. He's got the drive, the heart and the passion for the industry," Zonca told me by phone.

And the sous chef is Brian "Chachi" Maydahl, an experienced cook who has worked at Shady Lady and de Vere's, among other places.

Zonca said and the team have been cooking and testing recipes the past three weeks and that the main menu is now set, with many of the dishes coming in at $10 or less. Zonca also hinted that this is the first of several Dimes.

"I want to put a team together that can split off and do their own restaurants," he said. "This restaurant is about value. It's about food chefs eat."

Zonca is now working on a breakfast/brunch menu. He expects to be serving brunch on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with Monday being an "industry" meal for people in the restaurant business.

There has been some confusion about the actual name of this restaurant in the 1800 block of L Street. Some reports have had it as Capital Dime, while others have called it The Dime. Which is it? When I asked Zonca, he replied, "That's a good question," before being heard asking someone in the distance at the restaurant.

OK, it will be called The Dime. It rolls off the tongue better than Capital Dime, which is the name of the LLC (limited liabilty company).

We'll keep you posted as The Dime gets closer to opening. The concept sounds like a winner -- farm to fork fare at bargain prices.


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

June 18, 2013
BottleRock festival singing the financial blues

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All looked smooth from the outset: Thousands of music lovers grooving to such bands as The Black Keys and Cake while noshing on fine Napa food and sipping world class wine.

But recently, reports have emerged that Napa's BottleRock festival, which was held May 9 - 12, is facing some financial issues that could prevent this event from happening again. According the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, BottleRock organizers still owe $630,000 to 140 stage technicians. That amounts to $4,000 owed to some individually. Claims have since been filed to the California Department of Industrial Relations to receive payments plus penalties.

Meanwhile, a veritable food fight has broken out between BottleRock organizers and a catering company headed by Cindy Pawlcyn, the celebrated Napa chef and restaurateur, which managed food and beverage sales at BottleRock. Organizers say they haven't received their share of food and beverage sales.

In short, it's looking like a big mess in BottleRock country. The Napa Valley Register is now asking "Is this the End of BottleRock?" in a recent editorial.

June 18, 2013
State Fair winners: Best California wines for $15 or less

CalStateFair.jpgWith the California 2013 State Fair Wine Competition announcing many of its winners last week, it's time to put all that tasting and medal-awarding to good use. You could spend hours searching The Bee's State Fair wine winner data base for the best buys (and we recommend that you do). Or you could let us do some of the work for you. Here are the competition's Double Gold winners for $15 or less:

June 17, 2013
Screening of 'Somm' documentary on Wednesday at Tower Theater

To earn the title of master sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers basically means that you're a Yoda of wine service. Passing this exam is notoriously difficult, to the point that fewer than 200 candidates have earned the master sommelier title in 40 years. In other words, about 90 percent of people fail the master sommelier exam.

Gearing up for this test requires a tremendous amount of blind tastings, soaking up an encyclopedia's worth of wine knowledge as related to growing regions, varietals, vintages and much more. Plus, part of the exam means serving master sommeliers while getting grilled on food pairings, cigar and liquor service and other protocol. Yes, this exam puts the "brut" in "brutal."

The drama of preparing for and taking the master sommelier exam has now been captured in a documentary called "Somm." This movie follows some would-be master sommeliers as they get ready to take the exam of a lifetime, with all the ulcer-inducing study sessions, headbutting and exaltations of success that make for good movie fodder.

June 17, 2013
New chef de cuisine puts in first week at The Kitchen

By Cathie Anderson
canderson@sacbee.com

After a nationwide search, the Selland Group has hired John Griffiths to be its chef de cuisine at The Kitchen.

The Kitchen's former head chef, Noah Zonca, is part of the team developing the new Capital Dime restaurant at 1801 L St. in midtown Sacramento.

Zonca didn't go to culinary school. He learned his trade at The Kitchen, starting out as a dishwasher there. Griffiths, on the other hand, is a graduate of the culinary program at Schoolcraft College outside Detroit. He's been an executive chef for many years now and comes to The Kitchen from a position as campus executive chef at Washington University in St. Louis.

June 17, 2013
Slocum House founder gets back in restaurant game

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Kerry Kassis opened Slocum House in Fair Oaks Village in May of 1986 and ran it for 23 years, taking it from an aspiring but underperforming restaurant to one of the great dining destinations in the region.

In 2009, in the throes of an economic downturn that hit fine dining especially hard, Kassis sold his beloved Slocum House. Though he was on the sidelines, Kassis' heart was still in the business. Slocum House struggled for 18 months under the new ownership and then closed, leaving a charming but aging building and an iconic patio - complete with feral chickens roaming the grounds - empty.

Now Kassis is back in the restaurant game, moving from the suburbs to Old Sacramento. Kassis recently made his purchase of Rio City Café and says he is excited about its prospects. The deal is expected to close by mid-July. Kassis' transaction comes at a fortuitous time - just weeks before the city learned it would retain the Sacramento Kings and would build a downtown arena.

Why did Kassis get back in the restaurant business?

June 17, 2013
Bootleggers and flappers at the Great Gatsby Extravaganza

gatsby.JPGAmerica has gone Jazz Age crazy ever since director Buzz Luhrmann released his movie version of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," still in theaters (pictured).

Adding to the party is the publishing industry's release of new editions of what many academics regard as "the greatest American novel of the 20th century," compounded by several historical-fiction "autobiographies" and audiobooks as "told by" Zelda Fitzgerald, the novelist's wife.

Coming up on the local front is The Great Gatsby Extravaganza, a Jazz Age-themed dinner at 4 p.m. Sunday June 23 at 5412 Gibbons Drive, Carmichael.

The organizers invite you to "consort with flappers and bootleggers in the speakeasy...and get your engine revving with the Charleston" as a jazz band plays (there will be a dance contest).

As for appropriate dress, think the Roaring Twenties (there will also be a costume contest).

The dining part of it looks good: hors d'oeuvres (two kinds of bruschetta, dolmas, meatballs), caprese salad, fruited green salad, au gratin potatoes, sesame green beans, chicken breast stuffed with smoked cheese and arugula, smoked tri-tip with red wine reduction sauce, onion biscuits, and peach cobbler with vanilla gelato. Oh, and this: Along with wine, beer and sodas, martinis will be served, of course.

The special fund-raiser marks the new season for Camerata California, Sacramento's chamber choir (www.cameratacalifornia.net). Proceeds will help fund its Emerging Young Artist Scholarship program.

Tickets are $60; for more information and reservations: (916) 483-1386.

June 14, 2013
Sacramento-area women vie for $1 million Pillsbury Bake-Off

panzanella.jpg Kalani Allred of Loomis already has baked her way to Las Vegas. Rebecca Moe of Citrus Heights and Charm Allison of Lockeford are halfway there - but need a little help from their online friends.

All three cooks made the initial cut in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off. Grand prize: $1 million.

In the revamped Bake-Off format, cooks must make it through online voting as well as professional critiques before they're invited to the finals, to be held in November in Las Vegas.

Allred, a graphic artist, earned enough votes online for her creation - Balsamic Chicken Cranberry Panzanella (shown here) - to be named one of 33 finalists in the "Amazing Doable Dinners" category. Her summer salad - inspired by the Italian classic - uses Pillsbury pizza crust and cranberries instead of bread and tomatoes.

"When I'm cooking, I love the gratification of preparing meals for my family and people I love," she said in her online presentation.

Voting is now open for Moe's and Allison's category - "Simple Sweets and Starters." Moe's Mocha Hazelnut Truffle Tartlets and Allison's Chocolate and Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares are among 60 semi-finalists from 30 states. Of those 60, 24 are former Bake-Off finalists.

Deadline to vote for "Simple Sweets and Starters" is June 27. To vote and see all the semi-finalist recipes including Allred's panzanella, click on www.bakeoff.com.

June 14, 2013
Scoop or no scoop: Catching up with Noah Zonca

In the newspaper business, scoops are pretty darn important. Years ago, at the Detroit Free Press, where I wrote about crime and covered things like major murder trials, I would have hell to pay if the scrappy newspaper down the street, the Detroit News, had a story I had missed.

What, you may ask, does that have to do with food, restaurants and, in this case, a talented chef named Noah Zonca? Well, I thought I had a scoop - and missed it - regarding Zonca, once the headliner at the much-admired performance restaurant The Kitchen. Zonca quietly stepped down at The Kitchen at the beginning of 2013, headed out of town for a spell, and just as quietly returned to Sacramento.

When I was eating recently at The Rind, the new cheese bar in the 1800 block of L Street, someone named "Noah" was mentioned by the waiter as the person behind the papered-in windows next door at a restaurant to be called Dime. This would be in the site of the former L Wine Lounge, which closed two years ago amid legal disputes with the landlord. So I tracked down Zonca and asked about it. That was two weeks ago. Back then, Zonca told me he had a "silent interest" in Dime and would have to get permission from the main investor before releasing more information.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago and I was rather startled to read on Sactown Magazine's website that Zonca was opening a new restaurant called Dime. Say what? So I called Zonca again and wondered, "Have I been breathing in too many fumes? Or have you?"


June 13, 2013
Tickets on sale July 1 for Farm-to-Fork dinner on Tower Bridge

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Farm-to-Fork week in late September will be filled with food and wine tastings, education about the region's agricultural heritage and even a cattle drive down Capitol Mall. But the mother-of-all Farm-to-Fork events will be a gigantic dinner on the Tower Bridge on Sept. 29. A communal table for 500+ people is expected to run the length of the Tower Bridge, building a metaphoric bridge between Sacramento and Yolo counties, with 20 chefs expected to participate.

Details are still light about this dinner, but some chefs mentioned as possible participants include Patrick Mulvaney (Mulvaney's B&L), Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro/Restaurant Thir13en), Oliver Ridgeway (Grange), Randall Selland (The Kitchen) and Molly Hawks (Hawks Restaurant).

Tickets go on sale July 1, though the price hasn't been announced yet. Click on the Farm-to-Fork Capital web page on July 1 to buy tickets, and also check in there periodically for updated info.

June 13, 2013
Winetasting, small bites and music at Tahoe City Wine Walk

wine.JPGStrolling, sipping and supping will be at the top of the agenda at the eighth annual Tahoe City Wine Walk, noon to 4 p.m. June 22.

The Sierra town, on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, is known for its dramatic views of the lake and its vibrant restaurant scene.

The alfresco Wine Walk will feature winetasting from 30 regional wineries, bites from area restaurants and caterers, a commemorative wine glass and live music. Parking is free.

Advance tickets are $35 at www.tahoecitywinewalk.com; $45 day of, cash only, at the registration tables at the Boatworks Mall, Heritage Plaza and North Tahoe Arts Center. Look for the bands and balloons.

June 13, 2013
A few recommended beers that pair nicely with Father's Day

If your dad has enough socks and doesn't need another paisley tie, maybe it's time to get him something he'll really remember: really good beer.

There are all kinds of options, but for this little mixed six pack, let's stick as close to home as possible.

1. Hoptologist double IPA, from Knee Deep Brewery (available at better stores and bottle shops). This is an outstanding DIPA, brewed in Lincoln. It's got that full-bore West Coast IPA punch, wonderful aromas and plenty of complexity.This brewery is about to really take off. If your dad is into craft beer, he'll really appreciate a 22-ounce bottle of this stuff.

2. Gilt Edge lager, from Ruhstaller (various retail outlets, including Nugget Markets; recently spotted on tap at The Rind). This brand new release in a cool retro can, may seem like an easy-going lager, but it has plenty of finesse and a moderate hoppiness that makes for a dynamic drinking experience.

3. Big 4 Strong Ale by Track 7 Brewing (now in bottles at certain shops and often on tap at the brewery). Here's a powerful brew that will stand out in this Father's Day six pack. It's a blend of five hop varietals with some big-time numbers: 10 percent ABV and a whopping 168 IBUs. If the old man doesn't know what those abbreviations mean, he will after three sips.

4. Monkey Knife Fight American Pale Ale by Rubicon Brewing. I really like this beer and have ordered it at a couple of restaurants lately. It's made by an enduring success story in the local craft beer scene. This is a very drinkable beer with gentle citrus notes and hoppiness. It's great with food (enjoyed mine most recently with pasta).

5. Vindicator IPA by Loomis Basin Brewing. I had this beer recently at the Raley Field Brewfest and it stood up nicely to the heavy hitters on site that scorching hot night. This is a relatively low alcohol, low IBU IPA that still packs plenty of flavor.

6. Hoppy Face Amber Ale by Hoppy Brewing. This successful and enduring brewery and brewpub make an admirably hoppy IPA in the West Coast style that has a pleasing bitterness balanced with lots of flavor and a crisp finish.

June 12, 2013
The Dime takes over former L Wine Lounge space

Credit goes to our friends at Sactown magazine, who first reported that a new restaurant called The Dime will open in the former L Wine Lounge space at 18th and L streets within two weeks. The owner is Noah Zonca, who's well known in town as the longtime chef of The Kitchen. At The Dime, Zonca is crafting a seasonal menu with most prices in the $10 range.

"I want to be able to bring farm-to-fork cuisine to people at a price that can be approachable for everyone," said Zonca to Sactown.

L Wine Lounge closed in July of 2011 after a four year run. Former co-owner Marcus Marquez now serves as general manager of Goose & Gander in St. Helena, a highly regarded restaurant that features former Ella Dining Room & Bar executive chef Kelly McCown.

June 12, 2013
Food truck fans, are these the 101 best trucks in the U.S.?

foodtrucks.JPGThe food truck phenomenon continues to expand, with more "chuck wagons" hitting the road very day.

Of course, Sacramento his its share of good ones. If you've attended any of the Sacto MoFo food truck festivals, you know what we're talking about. If not, plan on joining an expected crowd of 10,000 hungry folks who will line up at 40 trucks at the next festival, planned for July 21 at 8th and W streets.

Meanwhile, those arbiters of all things food and drink at The Daily Meal have checked out 450 food trucks in more than 40 cities nationwide to come up with its list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America. Surprisingly, Sacramento did not make the cut.

"While including seven different types of fare, this year's list was still dominated by Asian fusion, burgers, sandwiches, grilled cheese and tacos," said a Daily Meal spokesman. "Pizza and lobster rolls were other predictable leaders, but there were some impressive chef-y menus, too."

Ruling the list is Los Angeles, with 16 food trucks, followed by San Francisco with 11 and New York with 10. Other California cities had one each (Santa Monica, Fresno, Anaheim, Oakland), along with one in Reno, Nev.

For the complete list, go to www.thedailymeal.com/101-best-food-trucks-america-2013?page=0,0.

June 11, 2013
Guy Fieri book signing set for Johnny Garlic's on Arden Way

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He's the chef you love to watch on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," or the chef you love to hate. We're talking about Guy Fieri, the Food Network star and restaurant critic whipping boy, and he's coming to Sacramento. Fieri will host a book signing on June 19 his Johnny Garlic's restaurant on 2243 Arden Way. He'll be promoting the latest edition of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: The Funky Finds in Flavortown," a New York Times best-seller that includes Fieri's favorite restaurant finds and recipes, too.

Fieri's left a spiky-haired imprint in Sacramento for years. He's an alum of American River College's culinary arts program and operates two Johnny Garlic's in the area - the other located at 10505 Fairway Dr. in Roseville. He's also featured such local spots as the Golden Bear, Dad's Kitchen, Jamie's Broadway Grille and others on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

Fieri's book signing starts at 5 p.m. on June 19. Wraparound sunglasses and sweatbands not included. For more information: (916) 927-8399.

June 11, 2013
Line up for 'cue and activities at Back to the Farm

bbq ribs.JPGGet out of the city and take a ride through the country this Saturday. Destination: the Back to the Farm barbecue and celebration on a peaceful 200-acre walnut grove.

What's happening? How about a feast of spareribs, pulled pork, burgers, hot dogs and homemade side dishes, and a pie-eating contest - good practice for Father's Day on Sunday.

Plus: orchard rides on a tractor and a Model-T Ford; displays of hot rods, classic cars, a 1921 firetruck, and vintage farm equipment and machinery; demonstrations and hands-on activities; and country crafts, farmers market and DJ music. Buy a bag of walnuts and give the mechanical "walnut cracker" a workout.

The good times will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Farm on Highway 20, Farmlan Road, Meridian. Information: (916) 933-4056, (916) 933-4107, www.benalishrine.org. Cost: $5 per "wheel." For instance, $20 per car, $10 per motorcycle. Back to the Farm will benefit the Ben Ali Shriners.

One way to get there: Highway 99 north toward Yuba City, then scenic Highway 20 west to Meridian, finding Farmlan Road when you arrive.

For the best scenic drive, the organizers suggest another route; see it on the Back to the Farm Facebook page.

June 10, 2013
Calif. State Fair Commercial Wine Competition wraps up, winners announced soon

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The California State Fair Wine Competition wrapped up Friday at Cal Expo, following the evaluation of more than 2,700 wines and some 15,000 glasses that needed washing. That meant a lot of purple teeth and pounded palates at Cal Expo's Building 5, where a combined 72 judges sampled wines from Wednesday through Friday.

We know that of the 2,769 entries, 218 wines received gold medals, 977 received silver and 652 nabbed bronze. As for the names of those winning wineries, expect that announcement to arrive by mid-week. A winners database will be coming soon to sacbee.com, so stay tuned to see which wines emerged as the finest in the state.

For now, it's nice to get a break. I served as a judge on Wednesday and Thursday, and my panel tasted about 130 wines over two days. Those included Rhone varietals, sauvignon blanc, sweet/late harvest wines and more. It also included the worst wine I've ever tasted, a small-production white wine that looked closer to brown dishwater, smelled like coffee and tasted like hell in a glass.

June 7, 2013
Sacramento restaurant holds Esther Williams history

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The death Thursday of famous swimmer and movie star Esther Williams has left some fans nostalgic for the "Bathing Beauty"'s movies, but Sacramento residents can get a little closer to the Hollywood actress' legacy.

Around 1952, Williams and then-husband Ben Gage opened a western-themed restaurant, Trails, according to a 2010 Valley Community Newspapers story on the restaurant. Menu items included barbecue ribs, steaks, hamburgers and more. Trails had two locations in Sacramento, a restaurant on Fulton Avenue, which closed around 1965, and one location near 21st and Broadway, which still operates, serving some of the same recipes.

Williams and Gage, who lived in Hollywood and tried to run the restaurants from a distance, sold both Trails around 1954 to auto dealer Al Nahas and his wife, Myrle Nahas, the story said.

In 1979, the restaurant changed hands again. It is now owned and operated by Gin Wong, who declined comment Friday.

June 7, 2013
Dickey's Barbecue raising funds for local hero

DickeysBBQ.jpegTwo area Dickeys Barbecue restaurants will be raising funds to help a local man who was stabbed while trying to protect teens from bullies.

Ray Snook and Jared Katzenbarger, owners of the Dickey's franchises -- located at 1015 Riley St. in Folsom and at 4640 Natomas Blvd. in Natomas -- have announced that they will donate profits earned between 4 and 9 p.m. on June 11 to Jonathan Robinson, who was in a coma for more than a week after the April 1 incident. The fundraiser's proceeds will help pay for Robinson's medical expenses.

Robinson, 32, was stabbed seven times when he tried to help some teenagers who were being bullied near the North Pointe Park Apartments in Natomas. His suspected attackers were later taken into custody. Robinson required six hours of emergency surgery and spent a week in a medically induced coma, according to the Gridley Herald.

Robinson, who is expected to make a full recovery, will make appearances at both the Natomas and Folsom locations during the fundraiser, according to Katzenbarger.

Dickey's operates more than 300 restaurants in 40 states.

-- Jack Newsham

Photo: Food at Dickey's Barbecue (credit: Al Pierleoni).

June 5, 2013
Pig-A-Palooza coming Saturday to McClatchy Park

Don't let the scorching summer heat sully your fondness for swine. Pig-A-Palooza will take place Saturday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at McClatchy Park (3500 5th Ave., Sacramento), with a big pig roasting dinner, chef's competition and more. Temperatures are expected to shoot well into the triple digits on Saturday, so this event will have cooling misters on stand-by plus plenty of beer, cider and other beverages to help beat the heat.

A high pressure front is also predicted for the cooking competition, in which some of Sacramento's leading chefs will try and impress a judging panel with their best pork dishes. Participants include: Brad Cecchi (Grange), Ian MacBride (Lucca), Luis Becerra (Dad's Kitchen) and chef Annicette Benson.

The event also features kids' events and many plates of pulled pork.

June 5, 2013
Go ahead and judge: State Fair wine competition underway

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Purple teeth reign inside Building 5 at Cal Expo today, where the 2013 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition is underway.

Seventy two judges will consider more than 2,600 wine entries, with each judge considering about 80 wines today and Thursday. A panel will also convene Friday to award the sweepstakes winners from 11 California wine regions.

This year's competition features a number of new touches. Former Bee food and wine editor Mike Dunne and former Bee columnist Rick Kushman are serving as co-chief judges. Of the 72 judges, about half are new.

I'm serving on Panel 18, which kicked off this morning by tasting 27 red blends and then considered 21 sauvignon blancs. Only three golds have been awarded thus far on Panel 18, which includes Dave Crippen of Renwood winery.

And now, flights are being set for an afternoon of chardonnay consideration. Starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, we'll be back to dump buckets and wine stained scoring sheets. Stay tuned for more. --Chris Macias

June 3, 2013
Rick Kushman and co. land on New York Times' best seller list

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"Appetizers" sends its kudos to Rick Kushman, the former Sacramento Bee columnist who can now add "New York Times best-selling author" to his resume.

"The Barefoot Spirit: How How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America's #1 Wine Brand," which was penned by Kushman with Barefoot wine founders Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, recently reached No. 2 on the New York Times' best sellers list for "paperback business books." "The Barefoot Spirit" also reached No. 6 on the best sellers list for "advice, how-to & miscellaneous."

"The Barefoot Spirit," which was released May 21, chronicles the rise of Barefoot Wines from a humble mom-and-pop operation in Sonoma County to a brand that was purchased by E&J Gallo in 2005 for an undisclosed amount and now produces 15 million cases annually.



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