July 30, 2013
Peel'd Juice Bar opens Wednesday in midtown

So, your Lululemons are all soaked after a Vinyasa Flow yoga class and a replenishing juice is needed ASAP. Or, maybe a healthy pick-me-up hits the spot during a quick break from the office cubicle. Either way, Peel'd awaits your detoxification and nourishment needs.

Peel'd Juice Bar opens at noon Wednesday inside Asha Yoga (1050 20th St., Sacramento). But these are no sugary Jamba Juice-styled smoothies. Peel'd specializes in vegan juices made from raw fruits and vegetables, and in some cases include parsnip, kale, aloe vera and daikon. They're made daily and designed to detoxify various organs in the body.

But this bit of juicy nirvana doesn't come cheap. Single juices are priced at $6 each, though they'll be discounted to $4 on grand opening day. For the more hardcore juicers out there, Peel'd offers a 5-day juicing program that costs $99, and includes two juices and one smoothie each day. The juices can be delivered for an extra $10.

July 29, 2013
'Everything But the ... Blueberries' muffin mix tasty but ...

blueberry.jpg OK, we were intrigued by the name: "Everything But the ... Blueberries (and a little bit of butter and water)" blueberry muffin mix.

Offered by Santa Cruz-based Cherryvale Farms, this new mostly organic muffin mix is part of a six-flavor "Everything But" series that also features corn, pumpkin, apple, walnut and banana - each without the ingredient that gives that particular mix its name.

Our first thought? That's silly. What's a blueberry mix without blueberries? In this case, a pretty tasty, super-moist muffin mix that also works with other soft fruits such as peach and strawberries.

That "little bit of butter" actually is a whole stick (1/2 cup) per package, which makes about a dozen muffins. You also need a cup of blueberries or other fruit and 3/4 cup water.

Considering the suggested retail price for the mix is $7.99, that adds up to rather expensive home-made muffins. But the mix is made with organic unbleached flour, organic unrefined sugar and real spices. And the muffins go from mix to plate in under 30 minutes.

Find Cherryvale Farms' "Everything But" mixes at Whole Foods Markets plus Elliott's Natural Foods, Davis Food Co-op and Sacramento Natural Food Co-op. Or click on

July 29, 2013
Sweet deal: half-price for cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory

cheesecake.jpgHere's a sweet deal from the Cheesecake Factory: In celebration of National Cheesecake Day, the 163-store national restaurant chain is offering any slice of its signature cheesecake for half price (normally the toll is $7 to $8 a slice). The offer is good only for dine-in patrons, and only on Tuesday, July 30.

The Cheesecake Factory bakes more than 30 flavors of cheesecake, and will introduce its newest on Tuesday - Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Galore is topped with chocolate ganache and finished with toasted housemade marshmallow, graham crackers and whipped cream (pictured).

Thirty-two Cheesecake Factories are in California, including two hereabouts: 1127 Galleria Blvd., Roseville (916-781-3399) and 1771 Arden Way, Sacramento (916- 567-0606).


July 26, 2013
"Have an Offal Day" tickets going fast

Tripe, snout, stomach, tongue -- it's not just for breakfast anymore. We're talking about offal, as in the various organ meats and other scraps of butchered animals. These might sound like "Fear Factor" foods, but in the right hands offal can taste awfully delicious.

"Have an Offal Day" now ranks as the year's most adventurous food festival, which will take place on Aug. 18 at Mulvaney's Next Door (1215 19th St., Sacramento). Such leading local chefs as Billy Ngo, Oliver Ridgeway, Ravin Patel and Pajo Bruich will whip together dishes based on gizzards, innards and much more. Also participating is Hank Shaw, who scored the James Beard Award this year for best individual food blog.

Word is that tickets are going quickly for the event, which has been organized by Catherine Enfield of the Munchie Musings blog. Tickets cost $45 for this offal feasting, but prices will bump to $50 on Aug. 1.

Ready to scarf some beef heart? Buy your tickets here.

July 26, 2013
Restaurants and wineries will converge for Off to the Races

offtotheraces.jpgAn annual wine and food extravaganza is returning to the courtyard at the Pavilions shopping center, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 17.

Off to the Races is the kickoff event for the 15th annual Race for the Arts on Aug. 24; both are fundraisers benefitting arts groups and arts programs throughout California.

Line up for a diverse array of small plates from Ruth's Chris Steak House, Fabian's Italian Bistro, Monsoon Cuisine of India, Roxy's, Sutter Street Steakhouse, Mandarin, T&R Taste of Texas, Florez, Cafe Bernardo, Raley's and Starbucks. Capital Confections will serve its award-winning gelato.

Sip reds, whites and rosés from Napa Cellars, St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery, Mount Aukum Winery, Sean Minor Wines, Cielo Estate Winery, Barefoot Wines, Heringer Estate Winery and Lava Cap Winery.

Entertainment will include performances by six-time Elly Award-winning El Dorado Musical Theatre. World-renowned Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud's painting "Three Cones" is this year's Race for the Arts logo.

Off to the Races tickets are $50 at the door or in advance at Pavilions is along Fair Oaks Boulevard, east of Howe Avenue, in Sacramento;

From Aug. 1-17, enter a drawing for a $1,000 shopping spree at the Pavilions, and a $1,000 donation to the arts group or school program of the winner's choice.

Race for the Arts features a 5K B-tagged run/walk, as well as "fun runs" for children, at William Land Park, 3800 S. Land Park Drive, Sacramento, beginning at 7 a.m. Aug. 24. Also on site: More than 45 arts groups will participate in an arts festival; food will be from a trio of food trucks and restaurants.

For race registration and details: (916) 933-4056,

July 26, 2013
French potato chips are surprising -- goat cheese, anyone?

potatochips.JPGBee photograph by Randy Pench

A couple of lunch pals and I spent two hours inside the Cost Plus World Market on Howe Avenue earlier this month, and I wrote a "Counter Culture" column about our visit (July 12 Ticket section).

"We went (there) to discover some of its seasonal food items that could complement a backyard barbecue or picnic in the park," the column said.

Shortly after the column appeared, store manager Tom Hedtke phoned to say the market had just received a batch of uniquely flavored potato chips from France. "Too bad they weren't in stock when you wrote the story," he said.

In the interest of discovery, we returned and picked up five bags of the chips ($2.49 each) and held an informal taste test. The comments are below.

July 26, 2013
In California, Long John Silver's Big Catch is trans-fat free

Recently, the well-regarded but excitable Center for Science in the Public Interest labeled Long John Silver's new entree item "the nation's deadliest restaurant meal."

The chain's Big Catch is a large fillet of "sustainably harvested" haddock, hush puppies (balls of seasoned cornbread) and a side dish.

The consumer-advocacy group sponsored lab tests that showed the Big Catch contains "33 grams of trans fat ... (and) 19 grams of saturated fat ... and nearly 3,700 milligrams of sodium." The CSPI chose onion rings for its side dish, not the optional french fries, corn, green beans, rice or coleslaw.

The version of the Big Catch the CSPI had tested sure didn't originate in California. We know that because in January 2010 California became the first state to ban restaurants from preparing their offerings using "oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fat." Trans fat is another name for unsaturated fat containing trans-isomer fatty acid, which has been linked to the increased risk of coronary artery disease. A number of cities in a handful of states followed California's lead.

Bottom line: Diners in California can at least erase concerns over the CSPI's "33 grams of trans fat" finding.

As for actually eating the Big Catch: We thought the fish we tasted was way oversalted, but the steaming-hot fillet was moist and flaky, jacketed in a thin, crunchy coating. It's $4.99 while supplies last;

July 25, 2013
Pop-up dinner by mother-son chefs Karen and Duncan Holmes

karen.JPGKaren Holmes, who runs the estimable Karen's Bakery and Cafe in Folsom, will team with her son, Duncan Holmes, to create a pop-up gourmet dinner with a multicourse menu.

Karen Holmes (pictured) is an accomplished chef-baker, and Duncan Holmes has some chops of his own. The chef de cuisine for Sons and Daughters restaurant in San Francisco was included on Zagat's list of the top 30 up-and-coming San Francisco chefs under 30. Also, the online culinary magazine named him a Bay Area Rising Star Chef, and he was nominated for a Young Guns 2013 Award, sponsored by the blog site

The pop-up dinner will be on the patio and inside the restaurant at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 30, at Karen's Bakery and Cafe, 705 Gold Lake Drive, Folsom; Tickets are $100 apiece at (916) 985-2665. It's a fund-raiser for the nonprofit group Cool Earth, which helps protect rainforests worldwide.

Check out the menu here, which includes two glasses of wine. "As always, you should expect a few surprises from the kitchen," said Karen Holmes.

July 24, 2013
Red Rabbit partners to team up with new East Sac brewery

I had a quick chat tonight with The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar co-owner Sonny Mayugba, who confirmed that he and two other partners in the successful midtown restaurant and bar will get into the craft brewery business.

Mayugba, bartender Matt Nurge and chef John Bays are new partners in Twelve Rounds Brewing Co., which is expected to open in September on 57th Street in East Sacramento (AKA Antique Row). Daniel Murphy and wife Elle Murphy mapped out the business plan and set the brewery in motion, but they realized they needed more expertise on the food side of their business, which will feature a full kitchen and restaurant program.

"They had this idea to open a place and they needed someone to run the kitchen, but they didn't know how to get it done," Mayugba told me. "We had this really good meeting and I really like what they are doing. I love everything they stand for."

Mayugba added that Daniel Murphy has for years been brewing beer out of his Woodland garage and that at Twelve Rounds he will brew a variety of styles but will specialize in barrel-aged beers."

No word yet on specifics of the food that will be served, but expect an assortment of charcuterie and other bites that pair well with beer. We'll have plenty more on Twelve Rounds and its collaboration with the Red Rabbit trio in the weeks to come.

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

July 24, 2013
Where to find fast-selling 'Lost Restaurants of Sacramento'

lostrestaurants.jpg People love lost restaurants - and the book devoted to this nostalgic topic.

Just released by American Palate, "Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and their Recipes" by Sacramento's Maryellen Burns and brother Keith Burns sold out quickly in some stores. The book and its recipes were featured in today's Food & Wine section in The Bee. (Read it at .)

"I just dropped off another 40 copies at Time Tested Books," said Maryellen on Wednesday afternoon. "They sold out in 45 minutes this morning."

Time Tested Books - located at 1114 21st St. in midtown Sacramento - had the most copies as of lunchtime today. Other local sources that still had "Lost Restaurants" in stock include Corti Brothers market (5810 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento), Beers Books (915 S St., Sacramento), J Crawford's Books (5301 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento) and the gift shop at the Crocker Museum.

The Barnes & Noble stores at Arden and Natomas also had a few left, Maryellen said.

Priced at $19.99, the paperback is also available online from

July 24, 2013
Junior League to throw "farm-to-fork" festival

If you didn't get a ticket in time, or were simply priced out of the $175 "Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner" on Sept. 29, here's a way to sample local farm fresh food at less silver spoon prices. The Junior League of Sacramento has jumped onto Sacramento's official farm-to-fork movement, and will throw a "Wine & Dine" event on Sept. 12 at Raley Field. The festival is aligned with the official "farm-to-fork" branding that's spearheaded by the Sacramento Visitors & Conventions Bureau.

A combined 50 vendors representing local restaurants and wineries will provide samples, and some 1,000 folks are expected to attend. Participating wineries include Lava Cap, Renwood, Oak Ridge and Michael-David.

This Grape Escape-ish event costs $40 in advance and $50 at the door. VIP tickets for $95 include a special section for food and wine pairings and wine education. The event runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and proceeds go toward the "Read and Feed Garden," which promotes food and healthy eating.

July 24, 2013
From America's Cup to restaurant walkabout -- it's all good

We wanted to find some America's Cup madness, so headed to San Francisco for the weekend to check out the Summer of Racing in hopes of seeing multimillion-dollar catamarans with seven-story-tall masts zip around the bay. We did.

We also wanted to explore some restaurants and help you find your way to a few highly recommended tables next time you're in SF. Hey, you go to the city, you've got to eat, right?

village.JPGAs for the Cup: Essentially, there are only two craft competing in the Louis Vuitton challenger series (now through Aug. 30), the walk-up to the America's Cup race (Sept. 7-21). Italy's Team Luna Rossa is matched against Emirates Team New Zealand. Sweden's Artemis Racing hasn't had its craft on the water since it capsized in May; one crew member was killed in that accident. The winner of the Vuitton series will go head-to-head with Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup trophy.

This year's field is so narrow because so few global race syndicates could raise the millions to build the newly styled and controversial "wing-sailed multi-hull" craft. The entry fee alone was $100,000.

We spent many hours over two days at America's Cup Park at Pier 27/29, and America's Cup Village at Marina Green. Incredible world-class attractions await the curious. In a word: Go. Details and scheduled events and entertainment are at

Restaurant-wise, follow our lead and you won't be disappointed. Our first stop was the esoteric Nojo, specializing in reasonably priced Japanese yakatori (grilled food on skewers). In a city of 4,000 to 5,000 restaurants (for some reason, the exact figure is a mystery), this is a standout.

octopus.JPGOn our table: sea salt-flecked steamed edamame (soy beans in pods); sea urchin roe in noodle soup; octopus salad (pictured); crunchy heads-on prawns; grilled beef tongue and chicken on skewers; and poached peaches with sake-ginger granita.
Nojo: 231 Franklin St.; (415) 896-4587,

Yes, celebrity chef-cookbook author Martin Yan is an entertainer (we once saw him debone a whole chicken with a cleaver in 18 seconds), but he still can cook.

July 24, 2013
Feeding Crane's GM leaves farm to manage Broderick

Shannin Stein, who became a force in the local farm and restaurant community over the past year, has left her position at Feeding Crane Farms to become general manager and partner at Broderick Roadhouse in West Sacramento.

Stein started the new job this week. We will have more on her new plans, as well as what's going on at Feeding Crane Farms, which made such a splash a year ago but is now in transition. Watch for an update with more details soon.

July 23, 2013
Bread meets cheese meets wine at Old Sugar Mill fest

cheese.JPGThe historic Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg houses 10 California winery tasting rooms, and is an ideal venue for special food- and wine-related events.

The next party there will be the Wine, Cheese & Bread Faire, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 3-4. It's being billed as the "Ultimate Gourmet Wine & Food Shopping Experience" in our area, perhaps with good reason.

Cheesemakers and bakers will pair their specialties with local wines, while purveyors will sell gourmet goodies including chocolates and olive oils, nuts and spices, coffees and teas. All this while live music plays in the background.

The $20 per-day toll ($25 at the door) includes a commemorative wine glass, insulated tote bag and tastes at the 10 wineries. New this year is a grilled-cheese sandwich throwdown. Also, interactive seminars and cheesemaking classes (advanced registration required).

Old Sugar Mill is at 35265 Willow Ave., Clarksburg. For information, directions and to buy tickets: (916) 744-1615,

July 22, 2013
Arby's rolls back the price of its classic roast beef sandwich

On July 23, 1964, entrepreneurs Leroy and Forrest Raffel of Boardman, Ohio, turned their idea into a reality. That's when the first Arby's restaurant opened, following their concept of offering an alternative to the national fast-food burger restaurants popping up across the country. Their sandwich shops would serve "hot, freshly sliced roast beef sandwiches as fast as anyone could flip a burger."

That's how the Arby's national chain began. In celebration of its 49th anniversary, Arby's will sell its signature roast beef sandwich for the 1964 price of 64 cents, today only, while supplies last. Get the coupon at

July 21, 2013
Just the facts about night shifts and State Fair food

By Benjamin Mullin

There's a certain sort of person that enjoys eating food next to screaming children and the thunderous smell of animal dung. I'm not one of them.

So you can imagine my apprehension Sunday night when I threaded my way past a livestock pen and through a vortex of swirling lights to sample the food at the California State Fair. I was on break while working a night news shift, so what I wanted was comfort food I could order and eat in the space of five minutes.

Fortunately, the state fair has no shortage of comfort food, and finding it is like covering crime: All you have to do is look for smoke and trust your gut.

This particular night, I passed up on offerings such as Krispy Kreme burgers and catfish on a stick to try out an American standard: Philly cheesesteak. The server whipped it up within five minutes of my order and gave an impressive yell over the ruckus of the fair to let me know it was ready.

Taste-wise, the state fair did a good job acquitting itself with one of the most-loved dishes in the American canon. The cheese and meat was plentiful, the fries were abundant, the service was speedy and the staff was friendly. It was a good, if somewhat pricey, sandwich.

As I rushed back to the office, I realized I may have been a little uncharitable to the hasty majesty of fair food. Sure, the environment's a little chaotic, but, like news writing, the food's never boring and deeply satisfying.

July 20, 2013
Two great foodie events today

This is a busy weekend for beer lovers and foodies.

Pangaea, the Curtis Park brewpub and coffeehouse, is celebrating its fifth anniversary by teaming with BaconFest team and Track Seven Brewing to host a block party today from 3-8 p.m.

The ever-popular BaconFest has organized BLT Week, and many of the bacon-centric bites will be available at the block party. Participating restaurants include Bacon & Butter, Formoli's, Golden Bear, Grange Restaurant, Hook & Ladder, LowBrau, Magpie Cafe, Mulvaney's B&L, Selland's, Shady Lady Saloon, Thir13en, Tuli Bistro. It's going to be another hot afternoon, but worry not -- there will be bacon ice cream from Gunther's (which is right across the street).

July 19, 2013
'A Taste of Tuscany' coming to Evan's Kitchen

gnocchi.JPGAward-winning Sacramento chef Evan Elsberry keeps turning out multi-course themed dinners, and diners keep attending. One reason is his expertise in the kitchen. Another selling point: He pairs each dish with a different wine.

"A Taste of Tuscany" is coming to Evan's Kitchen, 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 5. The cost is $75 per person, with reservations at (916) 452-3896. The restaurant is at 855 57th St., Sacramento, in the Antiques Mall;

Now for the menu:

First course: zucchini flowers stuffed with sausage
Served with Enza prosecco

Second course: gnocchi del casentino
Served with: Ruffino pinot grigio

Third course: osso bucco ravioli
Served with Cecchi chianti classico

Fourth course: beef tenderloin roulade
Served with Bolla valpolicella ripasso

Dessert: coffee on a fork and African cookies
Served with Italian moscato

July 18, 2013
New Food Network show looking for chefs

GGG Flyer Final.jpg

By Janelle Bitker

Food Network is on the hunt for creative chefs to compete in a new cooking show.

Competitors will be tasked with grocery store challenges, with up to $20,000 on the line.

Some potential examples? Make steak and potatoes, only the store is out of steak and potatoes. Or whip up a delicious dinner for four with only $6.

"We're looking for chefs who can think out of the box and on their toes," said Jen Walsh, casting associate producer.

And they're looking for professional chefs of varying backgrounds - executive chefs at fine dining establishments, sous chefs at neighborhood joints, wedding caterers, etc. - right now. There are no open casting calls, rather, producers will conduct phone and Skype interviews with people of interest.

The show is currently unnamed, but based on the titles of some forwarded PDFs, we'll put our money on something like "The Great Grocery Games."

Check the flier for more details and email to apply.

July 17, 2013
'Lost Restaurants of Sacramento' celebrated at Time Tested Books

Thumbnail image for 9781609499730_p0_v1_s260x420.JPGBy Kurt Chirbas

It was standing room only Wednesday night as foodies packed Time Tested Books to hear a special presentation by Maryellen and Keith Burns.

The Sacramento natives, who are siblings, came to promote their newest book, "Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and their Recipes," which surveys the history of dining out in their home city.

Profiled in the book are a series of closed, but fondly remembered restaurants, such as the Milk Farm, Buggy Whip and Harvey's Hamburgers. And sprinkled in between the stories of these eateries are also recipes for some area's best-known food items, such as Wulff's house dressing, Giusti's Portuguese beans and the Nut Tree Potato Salad.

The event got off to a late start when copies of the book were in short supply.

"There has been a rush on books," Maryellen Burns told the audience as an explanation for the delay. "We are really proud, so we've actually gone to our house to get some more. So thank you. This is a great turnout."

Perhaps the gap between anticipated and realized attendance was best illustrated by the number of hot dogs the authors planned to serve. Initially, the siblings had intended to give everyone in the audience a Taylor's Market dog. However, after looking at the larger-than-expected crowd, Maryellen Burns said: "You might have to share."

The temperature in the room was high (more than one attendee turned their book into a hand-powered fan), but the crowd's enthusiasm was too.

After giving a brief overview of the book, and providing some context on history of dining in Sacramento (such as John Sutter's contribution in the 1840s and the impact of women entering the workforce in the 1940s), Maryellen and Keith Burns turned over the presentation to the audience. Most of the event consisted of attendees swapping stories about eating and working at some of their favorite old-time and bygone eateries.

Maryellen Burns admitted that the siblings could not fit everything that they had wanted into their book. She said they had a contract to write the book in five months, and were given a maximum of 40,000 words. That meant many restaurants and food topics never made it to print.

She said, however, that the two would definitely be working on a follow-up.

A video of the event can be viewed below.

July 17, 2013
First Impressions: Giant Orange offers burgers, shakes, fries

avocado fries.jpgSomeone with a sense of humor got carried away with music- and movie-title-oriented puns on the oversized and overwrought laminated menu at the new burgers-dogs-fries-shakes restaurant Giant Orange.

Such as "Chili-Chili Bang-Bang" for the open-face chili-smothered burger. "My Bleu Heaven" for the blue cheese burger. "Don't Go Bacon My Heart" for the bacon-topped burger.

Want more? "I Yam What I Yam" for sweet potato fries, "Lord of the Rings" for onion rings and "Dippity Do Dah" for dipping sauces. "Lettuce Entertain You" is the heading for salads.

Would you really say (out loud and in public) to the server standing at your table, order pad in hand, "I'll have the 'Yippee-I-O-Ki-Yay' burger?"

Neither would a lunch pal sitting next to me on a banquette in the impressively slick, retro-plush dining room, the walls decorated in '50s and '60s kitsch and memorabilia.

That burger turned out to be loaded with thick-cut bacon, grilled onions, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce, with lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle chips.

We also sampled the "burger of the month," topped with gobs of melted Swiss and cheddar and a really big green chile (along with the lettuce-tomato-onion-pickle template). Burgers are a tasty handful and range from $9 to $15.

We added Frickles, rather dense and salty battered-and-fried pickle spears ($5); curiously neutral but conceptually interesting "avocado fries" (pictured), panko-coated-and-fried avocado strips with chipotle-ranch and lime-sour cream dipping sauces ($6); and a pile of very good sweet potato fries ($5).

To wash it all down: Pulp Fiction fresh-squeezed orange juice ($3 and $4), a superb Orange Blossom Creamsicle shake ($6.50) and a Brain Freeze, "a cross between a root beer float and a milkshake," says the menu ($6).

A full "First Impressions" review of Giant Orange will appear in an upcoming Ticket section.

Giant Orange is at 1407 Howe Ave., Sacramento; (916) 564-6300, Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

July 17, 2013
Four plates of good fish 'n' chips swimming in a sea of so-so

tugboat.JPGThe angler's mantra is "Fish are where you find 'em." That's also true of exceptional fish 'n' chips, which swim in a small school in a sea of mostly so-so versions.

Our go-to's? We like the plates of haddock, cod and salmon at 36 Handles, served either battered and deep-fried or buttermilk-dipped, rolled in panko and pan-fried (1010 White Rock Road, El Dorado Hills; 916-941-3606,

We've also been known to knock back a plate of crispy fried wild Atlantic cod in beer-vodka batter, and skinny, hand-cut Kennebec fries (preceded by briny clam chowder) at Boxing Donkey (300 Lincoln St., Roseville; 916-797-3665,

Whenever travel takes us to Marin County, we detour to Nick's Cove on Tomales Bay for excellent (though costly) deep-fried locally caught rockcod and more premium hand-cut Kennebec fries (23240 Highway 1, Marshall; 415-663-1033,

BTW: Highly regarded Kennebec potatoes hold up well to frying (they don't get soggy) and are widely used to make chips.

Closer to home, a group of us recently sat on the breezy patio adjoining Tugboat Fish & Chips, diving into a fried-seafood feast. The place looks like a weathered wood vessel docked alongside busy Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael. Though there are a half-dozen Tugboats around town, we favor this one.

Why? The cooks seem to know that deep-frying is an art. The oil must be clean and just hot enough, the batter thin and not oversalted. Cooking time is crucial, as are freshness, handling and consistency.

In this case, a crisp, non-oily, tempura-like coating encased fresh-tasting cod fillets and sweet prawns (pictured), pieces of flavorful calamari and assorted fresh veggies (including thick, crunchy onion rings). The french fries were an also-ran.

We could have done without the fishy, pre-breaded frozen oysters, chewy fried clam strips and the surprise dish - pork lumpia, a Filipino-Indonesian meat pastry similar to Chinese spring rolls. They can be terrific if you know a home cook who makes them from scratch.

And: Not all tartar sauces are created equal. Tugboat would be wise to upgrade its runny, sub-par version to match the quality of its fish and prawns. Which made us wonder: Is there any seafood restaurant in Sacramento that makes real tartar sauce from scratch? You know - dill pickle, onion, bell pepper, mayo. Not aioli. We'd love to know.

Caution: Watch your step on the patio. For some reason, the floor is on two levels, with a hard-to-see curb dividing them. We watched in shock as a woman tripped over it and crashed hard.

Tugboat is at 7601 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; (916) 944-4911.

July 16, 2013
A dozen foods we can do without? You make the call

gumbo.JPGSan Bruno-based Eat24 is up to its food tricks again at its blog site, Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries.

Eat24 is an online service that partners with 20,000 restaurants in 1,000 U.S. cities. It specializes in matching diners with restaurants in their area that will deliver meals "to wherever you may be."

Its blog site has an amusing post titled "Top Foods We Wish Never Existed."

"The food world had a few members who you wish just didn't show up," says the blog, and goes on to name "12 culprits."

The catch is that each entry has an "exception." Take okra, for example. "Most people don't think okra actually tastes bad," the site says. "It's just that it likes to be all slimy and stringy."

That's followed by the exception - in this case gumbo, which uses okra as an ingredient (pictured). "Gumbo has been able to magically transform okra into something wonderful."

Other "bad foods" that can be made into good dishes include cilantro, liver and lima beans. Do you have your own list? Share it in "Comments" below.

For more, go to

July 15, 2013
Sacramento BLT Week starts today

By Janelle Bitker

Can you ever have too much bacon? Sacramento BaconFest thinks not, nor do the many restaurants participating in Sacramento BLT Week, which runs till Saturday. We turned to Storify to best tell this tale of widespread BLT mayhem.

July 13, 2013
Where to start in the world of 'weird' fair food?

By Anthony Siino

Fair food falls into two camps: the impractical and the insane. No matter what, you're hoping that your dip into the foodie freak show doesn't murder your gut like it did your wallet. Here are some treats to try during your State Fair adventures:

Bacon-Covered, Chocolate-Dipped New York Cheesecake, $8.50: Bacon-cheesecake.jpegThis cake-on-a-stick is rife with crumbles of thin, salty bacon chunks under a thick shell of milk chocolate. First bite impresses with strong bacon overtones, but the saltiness soon overrides -- the bacon bits may as well have been peanuts. Don't buy if you can't share it with anyone. Find this treat at the Bacon Habit stand on the southeast end of the "Cool Zone," next to a Sacramento Bee stand.

Deep-Fried Moon Pie, $4: A classic banana-flavored Moon Pie, Fried-fair.jpegbattered, fried and buried in powdered sugar. Surprisingly delicious, like moist marshmallow banana bread but somewhat mundane treat. I demand more "weird" from my fair food, but don't let that sway you from trying it if it sounds appealing. I found this one at the Sweet Cheeks stand on the east end of the Coca-Cola Main Promenade, next to the Super Bungee attraction.

Fat Darrel, $9.75: Take a hoagie roll, slather it with mayo, lay a bed of lettuce, tomato and French fries, then slap on your steak or chicken fingers and top with three fried mozzarella sticks. An all-American bargain at any price, this beast was easily cut in two and shared. Find a fat darrel at the unnamed stand at the west entrance of the Coca-Cola Promenade.

A daily schedule of the Fair offers adventures beyond wild fair food.

July 12, 2013
Mimi's Cafe offering historic deal for Bastille Day

By Kurt Chirbas

Mimi's Café will offer a historic (interpret that word literally) discount this Bastille Day. The restaurant chain will roll back five of its items--including its individual classic muffins, French onion soup, French dip sandwich, eggs benedict and pain perdu--to their 1978 prices for one day only, July 14.

Why 1978? That's the year that Mimi Café's opened, although this factoid doesn't explain the link between the promotion and the French National Holiday as well as you'd think. According to the chain's corporate website, Arthur J. Simmons (a U.S. admiral) founded the first Mimi's Café in Anaheim (a U.S. city).

Simmons was, however, stationed in France during World War II, and was inspired to launch the first café because of his memories of the county, particularly a French mademoiselle Mimi.

There are several locations in the Sacramento region where you can take this economic trip through time, including ones in Natomas, Arden Way, Elk Grove, Roseville and Folsom.

July 12, 2013
Big Red Bus to take to the streets next week


By Kurt Chirbas

Streets of London plans on putting its new food truck on the road next week for a "gentle launch," according to Marty Hutton, executive chef at the English-style pub.

The Bee headed out to an alley between I and J Street Friday afternoon as workers were finishing wrapping red vinyl around a truck that once serviced fish tacos. When finished, the new face-lift will give it the appearance of a double-decker bus.

The truck will head over to the health office on either Monday or Tuesday, Hutton said. After that, you'll likely spot Big Red Bus, also nicknamed "Jeeves," outside his own or one of his peer's pubs.

Hutton had initially wanted an actual double-decker bus. After determining that compliance requirements would make it too expensive, he spent nine months searching for a food truck.

He stumbled across the current truck while scanning Craig's List on the way back from the Bay Area. Hutton placed a call to its owner and headed to San Jose.

As Hutton recounts the story, he "pulled in, looked at it, and made an offer right there."

One of its most impressive features, Hutton said, is the double-door kitchen fridge, which will allow Jeeves to service weddings. The only major modification that will be made to the truck's interior will be a removal of its stove and the installation of two friers.

Once launched, Big Red Bus will run a regular route through Sacramento on Monday-Friday. It will also be able for private bookings and events. The truck will be at New Helvetia brewery on Broadway July 28.

The truck will offer fish 'n chips, global-inspired burritos, priori hamburgers, specialty salads and kabobs. Most items on the menu will cost $7 to keep things "dead simple," Hutton said.

July 12, 2013
Shady Lady and Pour House named among country's 55 best bourbon bars


Congratulations to the Shady Lady Saloon and Pour House, two midtown watering holes now ranked among the country's finest places to sip whiskey. The Bourbon Review, a leading publication dedicated to American whiskey, name checked Shady Lady and Pour House in its list of "America's 55 Best Bourbon Bars." The list ranked these Sacramento bars along such stalwarts as Rickhouse in San Francisco and New York City's Death + Company.

"We are honored to be recognized alongside some of the best bars in the country," said Jason Boggs, co-owner of Shady Lady. "It says as much about our city as it does about the Shady Lady."

July 12, 2013
El Dorado County inmates' baking continues to win ribbons

By Kurt Chirbas

Inmates at two El Dorado County jails continue to earn bragging rights for their superior culinary skills, even if they aren't then bragging about it.

JailFood.jpegThey won a total of 31 ribbons from the El Dorado County fair last month. It is the largest haul of awards yet for participants of a program that teaches cooking and baking in an attempt to reduce recidivism rates.

"For a lot of them, they have never won anything in their lives; they've never been recognized for anything," said Capt. Randy Peshon, of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department.

The program, established in 2007 through a partnership between the El Dorado County Sherrif's Department and the Lake Tahoe Community College, has become a cornerstone of the county's response to AB 109, legislation that allows non-serious offenders to serve their sentence in county jails instead of state prisons.

There are two reasons why the program has been successful, said Peshon. It both gives inmates marketable skills and a sense of pride.

He described what inmates typically do with the ribbons won each June at the fair baking contests each June. "They are very, very proud, but they don't want to brag. They put their ribbons in their pockets ... and hope that you about ask about it. And then, when you say, 'Hey, it looks like you're one of the ribbon winners,' you can just see the pride on their faces."

Peshon added, "I can pretty positively say that very few inmates who have made it through the program come back to jail, and if they do, it is for a very short time."

His favorite baked goods made by inmates? "The cinnamon rolls are to die for."

July 10, 2013
Capital Dime preview impresses with concept, execution

IMG_0333.JPGBy Janelle Bitker

Capital Dime is looking promising after a preview event on Wednesday night.

The hotly anticipated restaurant comes from proprietor Noah Zonca, previously of The Kitchen fame. The goal? Make the farm-to-fork movement accessible - and affordable - to a wide audience. Zonca wants it to be a neighborhood restaurant, and the vibe is formal enough for business luncheons without being stiff. Better yet, most of the menu is around $10.

"It's been difficult to pull off," Zonca said. "I can tell you that it's taken 20 plus years of building relationships with my purveyors to be able to get these price points."

Zonca wanted to open a couple weeks ago, but he's still waiting on his liquor license. Once it's in hand, The Dime is ready for business.

Here are some highlights: The Dime will have a wine program with bottles under $50, with some promised to be in the $20 range. Zonca's favorite item on the menu is the pastrami, cured and smoked in house. There will be brunch featuring three different benedicts - a traditional, a country-style on biscuits and a benedict with applewood-smoked and braised pork. At the preview, the pork was served as an appetizer with crème fraîche, and it was smoky and sweet.

"I explain it as the food that chefs eat," he said. "It's going to be fun. I'm excited."

On the farm-to-fork topic, Zonca is working with Delta Island Organic Farm and is hoping to set up a cattle ranch for true grass-fed beef. And behind the bar is Rene Dominguez, formerly of Ella Dining Room & Bar and inventor of the prized White Linen cocktail.

Dominguez was serving up two cocktails on Wednesday - a black Manhattan, with amaro instead of vermouth, and the "Boxers and Bobbysocks," with gin, bitters, muddled cherries and rosemary. It was piney and refreshing.

Food-wise, we were served artichoke dip on crostini, which packed a nice, subtle heat, alongside a sampling of pulled pork, as mentioned above. Then there was a tangy watermelon salad, with shrimp, squash blossoms, fresh mozzarella, salty Bonita flakes and fish sauce, all on a tea leaf. That was followed by a bold pastrami slider alongside fries, which while tasty, did get soggy quickly under melted cheese.

The meal ended with a simple, soft chocolate-chip cookie. Zonca said he won't have a separate dessert menu, and at this point, there's no pastry chef.

Come down to The Dime on July 14 for the Bastille Day celebration. If the liquor license is attained in time, they'll be serving cocktails on their impressive back patio. And check out the video below to hear from Zonca himself, see the space and eye some dishes.

Capital Dime: 1801 L St., Suite 50

July 10, 2013
Mayor Chris Cabaldon to help cook West Sacramento farmers market dinner


Mayor Christopher Cabaldon has served his West Sacramento constituents for 15 years, and now he's going to help serve dinner. Cabaldon will roll up his mayorial sleeves and help Chris Jarosz and Matt Chong of Broderick Roadhouse cook dinner for 100 folks on Thursday evening. This DigIn! Dinner is a monthly series which features a local celebrity joining forces with chefs, and takes place on the first Thursday of each month at the West Sacramento Farmers Market (1110 West Capitol Ave., West Sacramento).

Thursday's menu will showcase local produce and in this month's case feature a whole roasted Mangalitsa pig. Now, this is great news for fans of prized pork. Mangalitsa pigs create what's known as "the Wagyu beef of pork," boasting a highly prized and healthy fat and rich meat. Mangalitsa pork items have previously been featured at such highly touted northern California restaurants as The French Laundry in Yountville and Sacramento's own The Kitchen. (That's a lovely Mangalitsa ham once featured at The Kitchen pictured above). While these restaurants sourced their Mangalitsa from Suisun Valley Farm near Fairfield, the pig on Thursdays comes from more local parts - in this case, Czarda Haz Farms in Davis.

Other menu items include heirloom tomato salad, watermelon gazpacho and ice cream sandwiches. While Mayor Cabaldon is brushing up on his knife skills, you can order tickets here. The dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. and tickets cost $50 each.

July 10, 2013
What, no prime rib? Distillery restaurant goes with lighter fare

distillery.JPGWe got the tip the other day from a guy who likes to dine out at Sacramento's more vintage places. Said he was at the Distillery steakhouse Saturday and the waiter said it was the last night the restaurant would serve its full-on heavy-duty dinners. Goodbye to the prime rib plate.

Hard to believe. For 49 years, the Distillery has been a Sacramento dining destination. In the day, it was traditionally frequented by the three-martini-lunch crowd. It competed with the Golden Tee, Coral Reef, Stroh's Neptune Table, Buggy Whip and the Ram.

But a rumor is just that, so I called Ron Alvernaz, the sole owner of the Distillery since day one.

"Yes, I've given up dinners," he lamented. "There's not enough business - just 10 to 24 people a night and it's killing us. Parking is tough and there are so many places to go to downtown."

All is not lost: The Distillery will serve "small dinners" from 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, featuring sandwiches (steak, turkey, French dip). "Light stuff that one guy can handle," Alvernaz said.

Also: Lunch will continue from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. And look for Saturday breakfast from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. - quesadillas, linguica, ham, Joe's special.

"I'll be out with a new menu after the summer," Alvernaz said. "It will be lighter and cheaper."

The Distillery is at 2107 L St., Sacramento; (916) 443-8815.

July 10, 2013
Sampino's Towne Foods to open Mexican takeout next door

A Mexican restaurant that will specialize in authentic south-of-the-border cuisine is scheduled to open Sept. 1 in the space next door to the iconic Sampino's Towne Foods, the "affordable Italian gourmet deli."

It will be operated by Gabriela Fabbri, co-owner of the deli with husband Michael Sampino and father-in-law Bill Sampino.

"I'm very excited about it," a breathless Fabbri said on the phone. The background noise was overwhelming, as she was in the middle of Sampino's lunch rush. "I'm running around right now... But the menu will be (based on) family recipes prepared in fast-food style. We'll have specials every day."

July 10, 2013
Orangevale's 8-year-old healthy food advocate meets Obama

nicolasobama.JPG Nicolas Come, Orangevale's 8-year-old healthy eating advocate, managed to snag an interview few reporters ever experience: Face time with the nation's president.

While at the White House for Tuesday's Kids State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, Nicolas met President Barack Obama and interviewed him for his website, The second grader also pitched his kid-friendly health-eating mobile application.

The White House press corps posted a photo of Nicolas (shown here; he's wearing the hat) talking to Obama with the caption, "Hey Mr. President, let me tell you about my app. Your wife will love it!"

Wednesday, Nicolas was on his way home with a tape recorder full of interviews for his website.

Also in Washington, D.C., Nicolas met with Rep. Doris Matsui, the Sacramento Congresswoman who coordinated his trip and cleared the way for his White House access as a correspondent to the Kids State Dinner, which gathered youth ages 8 to 12 from around the nation. Nicolas spent almost an hour with Matsui, discussing Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork movement, community gardens and how kids can get more involved.

Matsui also arranged for Nicolas to meet Dr. Robert C. Post, associate executive director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Nicolas introduced Post to his Nicolas' Garden mobile app, which is available for free download from iPhone App Store and Google Play.

"What a great way to inspire more kids to make healthier eating a lifetime habit!" Post said.

Post is responsible for Mrs. Obama's "My Plate" program, which advocates healthy food choices.

"Kids my age and their families like mobile apps," Nicolas said. "You can be anywhere in the world and share important information on a digital platform. I think if all kids shared recipes and other healthy links using my Nicolas' Garden app, they would learn that growing and eating good food and being healthy can be fun!"

July 10, 2013
Doughbot competes on Cooking Channel tonight

By Janelle Bitker

Catch Sacramento's most creative donut-wizards tonight on Food Network Canada's "Donut Showdown," the fried dough equivalent to "Cupcake Wars."

While Bryan Widener and Dannah O'Donnell of Doughbot Donuts can't reveal what'll happen tonight, keep in mind that the episode was shown in Canada back in April. So if you really wanted to know, you could find a spoiler.

Widener and O'Donnell admitted it was fun, though.

"It was a chance to do what we do every day in a competitive setting," O'Donnell said.

And Widener: "It was really cool to be selected to do this, especially with all these other big shops in big cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles."

And they may or may not have won $10,000.

Competitors are Seattle's Top Hot Doughnuts and Salt Lake City's Gimme Sugar Catering in tonight's camping-themed episode - the second in the brand-new series - and it airs at 7 p.m. on The Cooking Channel, channel 203 on Comcast and 232 in DirecTV in HD.

Doughbot Donuts: 2226 10th St, Sacramento. Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

July 9, 2013
New Belgium tour to stop in Davis

By Janelle Bitker

In its fourth year of pairing beer with short films, New Belgium Brewing's Clips Beer and Film Tour returns to Davis on Friday, July 26.

Clips moves from state to state - Santa Cruz is the only other California stop - establishing a space for New Belgium fans to taste some of their more unusual offerings. Up to 16 beers will be on tap, with a 3 oz. sample going for $1 and a full 12 ounces for $5. Classics like Fat Tire Amber Ale will probably make an appearance, as will Lips of Faith brews like Heavenly Feijoa (pineapple, guava and hibiscus), Cascara Quad (Trappist-style with dates and cherries) and Paardebloem (ale bittered with dandelion greens).

Leave your own booze at the door - or, er, away from Central Park - but packed picnics are welcome. Otherwise Monticello Cuisine and The Davis Graduate will have bites for sale. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., admission is free and beer proceeds go to Davis Bicycles!, a citizen group who advocates for bike culture and safety. About 1,300 people attended last year, so expect it to get cozy.

July 9, 2013
T&R Taste of Texas sold out of 'cue in two hours on the 4th

rodney.JPGGot an excited call from Rodney Ray the day after The Bee published its special "Now We're Cookin'!" premium section on the Fourth of July.

Ray, pictured here, is the pitmaster at T&R Taste of Texas, and specializes in smoking ribs, tri-tip, pork shoulder, chicken and hot links over hickory, mesquite, applewood and pecan (3621 Broadway, Sacramento; 916-739-1669).

The premium section featured advice for home cooks from three restaurateurs who are expert at barbecue, plus guides to new barbecue-centric gear and where to get the best frozen treats.

One of the stories I wrote was Ray's response to the proposition: If he were to host a Fourth of July barbecue party in his backyard, what would it be like? The thought was that readers could get some informed tips from Ray and emulate parts of his plan.

So, what's up, Rodney?

"I wanted to tell you that the Fourth of July was a roaring success, the biggest day of the year for us," he said. "I prepared enough food for 200 people, which usually takes me all day to sell. But on Thursday I sold out in two hours."

How was that possible? "It was the perfect storm," he said. "The article in The Bee came out, it was hot that day and nobody wanted to barbecue, and we had our regular crowd come in. It was crazy. We had tons of big orders - five to 10 slabs of ribs per order, 10 pounds of tri-tip at a time..."

Like we keep saying, Sacramento is a 'cue kind of town.

July 8, 2013
Local 8-year-old healthy eating advocate to meet Michelle Obama

20130531_AOC_NicolasGarden_004w.JPGNicolas Come, the 8-year-old junior chef and healthy eating advocate from Orangevale, has an important interview Tuesday: Michelle Obama at the White House.

Come earned an invitation to the First Lady's Kids State Dinner to promote healthy living and fight childhood obesity.

He will attend as an official "farm-to-fork kids correspondent" at Tuesday's media event at noon EDT (9 a.m. PDT) in the East Room of the White House. He said he plans to upload his interviews and coverage live at his website,

In addition to Mrs. Obama, Nicolas plans to interview other youth attending the event. Most of the invitees developed healthy kid-friendly recipes using fresh fruit and vegetables.

Come's own recipe that he developed for the First Lady's healthy lunch contest (a colorful chicken curry) did not win, but he received permission to attend as a member of the media. Tuesday, he will be among the youngest reporters in the White House press corps.

Nicolas received worldwide attention for his mobile recipe app, Nicolas' Garden, which launched earlier this year.

-- Debbie Arrington

Sacramento second-grader's healthy food app sprouts success

Gunthers vs. Vic's -- which ice cream is best?

July 5, 2013
Shoki owners close to signing lease for third location

I called Shoki Ramen House this morning after a reader told me via Twitter that the second location, on R Street, doesn't have air conditioning. Given the slew of days above 105F lately, I wanted to know how that could be possible.

They have AC, it turns out, though it doesn't work well and they're hoping to upgrade it. While chatting with Kathy Ueyama, whose husband, Yasushi, is the chef, I got a pretty god nugget of information -- they are "99.9 certain" they are about to open a third location. Until they sign the lease, I'll hold off on specifics, but it will be close to William Land Park, I'm told.

The concept will be dramatically different from the two excellent ramen houses. This one will focus on breakfast and lunch, and will feature a fusion of American and Japanese cooking styles. In other words, you might get scrambled eggs with hints of Japanese flavors and ingredients.

The new place will also try to source as much produce as possible from local organic farms, Kathy Ueyama told me. As for the AC at the Shoki on R Street, we'll keep you posted on how that goes. For now, fortunately, the really hot weather seems to have eased off a bit.

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

July 5, 2013
This version of linguine with clams takes pasta to the sublime

clams.JPGPasta comes in a delightful array of shapes, sizes and names, from the familiar (rigatoni, lasagna) to the obscure (maltagliati, sorprese lisce).

Linguine means "little tongues" in English, and is a go-to in Genoa and the Liguria region of coastal Italy, food experts tell us. When teamed with clams and white sauce to make "linguine alle vongole," the flat spaghetti-looking pasta becomes sublime.

We found a marvelous version at Piatti Ristorante in Sacramento, where a starter bowl is $13, the entree is $18.

Steaming-hot al dente linguine is covered in a silken, complex sauce and topped with plump, briny clams in the shell. Add some grated cheese. Flavors and textures explode with each forkful, as a touch of heat lingers in the background. How good was it? My lunch pal went with a Margherita pizza, and we ended up dipping the leftover pizza crust into the leftover clam sauce.

We asked executive chef Lance Carlini to disassemble the dish:

The sauce: The fragrant creation is a luscious mix of Parmesan broth, white wine, preserved Meyer lemon, lemon juice, garlic, tomato, herbs, butter and white wine, finished with olive oil-cured Calabrian chile peppers, he explained.

The house-made Parmesan broth is based on the rinds from the 75 pounds of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese the restaurant uses each week. Typically, the rinds are cooked in water with olive oil, caramelized onion, garlic, aromatic herbs and other ingredients.

The clams: "We use littleneck clams because they stand up to the heat a little better than Manila clams, and they're bigger," Carlini said.

The pasta: "It's made in-house. The key is the organic eggs we use, from Vega Farms near Davis. We get them less than 24 hours after they're laid. The yolks are super-orange."

This is one of the better pasta dishes we've found in our excursions. Get it at Piatti in the Pavilions center, just off Fair Oaks Boulevard and just east of Howe Avenue; (916) 649-8885,

July 3, 2013
Streets of London to launch food truck

A new addition to Sacramento's fleet of food trucks is expected to start rolling by late-July. Look for the Big Red Bus, a food truck fashioned like a double-decker bus to be run by Streets of London. The popular English-style pub with midtown and West Sacramento locations will feature a menu of fish 'n' chips, plus "global burritos" with fillings that reference Italian and Indian cooking and an English breakfast burrito. Kabobs are also expected to be included among the Big Red Bus' offerings.

The final design touches are being applied to the Big Red Bus, which is nicknamed "Jeeves," like a classic English butler.

"Whatever the bus needs to do, the bus will do," said Marty Hutton, executive chef for Streets of London.

We'll keep you posted soon with more updates on the Big Red Bus ... until then, toodle-pip!


* SactoMoFo 6 matches record attendance

July 3, 2013
Beat Sacramento heat with free Jamba Juice smoothie

OrangeCarrotKarma65.jpgBy Kurt Chirbas

Here's a tip for those looking for a cool way to escape the Sacramento heat: a new online promotion means you can get two Jamba Juice smoothies for the price one.

An online coupon, which offers a free smoothie when another of equal or lesser value is purchased, can be found on the restaurant chain's corporate site.

All you have to do is print out the coupon and present it at a participating location before Sunday (July 7) when the promotion expires.

(The coupon specifies that there is a limit of one coupon per person per visit.)

Here's a (much) abridged list of Sacramento Jamba Juice locations where you can redeem the coupon: 15th street and Broadway, Alhambra Boulevard., Gateway Oaks Drive, Arden Fair Mall and 65th street and Folsom.

July 3, 2013
Get a year's worth of doughnuts at Krispy Kreme opening

By Janelle Bitker

Krispy Kreme devotees, start gathering your camping gear.

A new Krispy Kreme shop in West Sacramento is opening at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 9, and the first person in line gets one dozen free glazed doughnuts every week for a full year.

Being No. 1 may seem daunting, but the next 99 customers still receive a dozen free doughnuts every month for a year. That's a whole lot of popularity around the office.

But wait. There's more.

The first customer in the drive-through line - no tent needed - also gets a dozen free doughnuts every week for a year, and the following 11 drive-through customers get the monthly treatment. There are also t-shirts at stake for all 112 Krispy Kreme-winners.

For context: A recent opening in Mesa, Arizona drew 100 people before 11 p.m. the night before, and Charlene Lopez of the WKS Restaurant Group said the earliest she's seen a camper was 8 a.m. a full day before opening.

Krispy Kreme West Sacramento: 768 Ikea Court, Suite 110, West Sacramento. Expected hours are 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

July 3, 2013
'Candy-cot' pie is the seasonal treat at Karen's Bakery

piies.jpegKaren Holmes, owner of Karen's Bakery & Cafe, always has something good cooking in the oven.

Now and for the next three weeks or so (while the apricot supply lasts), it's the seasonal apricot pie ($25), weighing in at five pounds. Last time we tasted a slice, we wanted a second right away.

"We source the apricots - called 'candy-cots' - from a small farm in Modesto," said the master baker. "The farmer's father originally brought the seeds for the trees from the Middle East. I'm very certain that these apricots are on my last-meal menu."

Get the candy-cot pie at 705 Gold Lake Drive, Folsom; (916) 985-2665, The bakery is open 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.

July 2, 2013
All's well at the Rubicon

By Jack Newsham

Patrons of the midtown mainstay Rubicon Brewing Company might have noticed an ominous yellow sign in the window recently.

But Rubicon's owner said Sacramento residents have nothing to fear.

The sign, whose big black lettering warns of an "OWNERSHIP CHANGE," is just a technical measure, said owner Glynn Phillips, who recently added his wife's name to his stock in the company.

July 2, 2013
The New Yorker produces a craft beer interactive map

Here's a useful multi-media tool from the venerable literary magazine the New Yorker. It's an interactive map of the craft beer business and includes all kinds of useful information about this rapidly growing industry and its 2,400-and-counting breweries.The data used for the map are from the Brewers Association.

There's all kinds of useful information here that will make you sound like the know-it-all you deserve to be next time you're ponied up to the bar and you start talking beer -- the largest craft breweries (Sierra Nevada is No. 2), the fastest growing breweries(Sacramento isn't on the list, but wait 'til next year), and a state by state breakdown of production (some folks may brew more beer in their garage than all of Mississippi).

Click here to explore the map.

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

July 2, 2013
$175 Tower Bridge dinner tickets sell out within eight hours


Tickets went on sale Monday morning for the Sept. 29 "Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner," and "Appetizers" posed the question if the $175 per head price was fair. The answer appears to be a resounding "yes," given that all 600 tickets for the event sold out within eight hours.

The four-course dinner will be held on the Tower Bridge, with a series of tables set up like one long communal meal. Chefs who plan to participate include Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney's B&L, Oliver Ridgeway of Grange, Randall Selland of The Kitchen, Billy Ngo of Kru and more than 20 others.

The Tower Bridge dinner stands to gross more than $100,000. Along with $175 individual tickets, sponsored tables of eight sold for $3,000 and $5,000. Proceeds from the dinner will benefit public events during Sacramento's inaugural "Farm to Fork Week," which runs Sept. 21 - Sept. 29.

July 2, 2013
Triple-digit heat? Blogger bakes cookies in her car


By Janelle Bitker

Stephanie Nuccitelli took full advantage of the heat wave on Sunday. She used her car as an oven and baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

It sort of worked. Nuccitelli, the Sacramento-based baker behind the popular 52 Kitchen Adventures blog, put a couple trays on the dashboard at 2 p.m., when it was 102 degrees outside and 210 degrees inside her car.

"Next time I will start earlier, because a few hours later is was only 175 in the car and that slowed the cooking process down," she said.

After about five hours, the cookies were crispy on top and undercooked beneath, which is ideal for someone like Nuccitelli who enjoys a doughy cookie. On another triple-digit afternoon, she'll make some tweaks and blog about her findings.

"On a really hot day, you don't want to use the oven, so this is one way to satisfy a cookie craving," she said.

It probably smells great, too.

July 3 UPDATE: Nuccitelli went at it again with great success. Her biggest tips? Start early, use just a little bit of dough per cookie and don't line the baking sheet. Read why on her blog.


July 1, 2013
Proud dad of the national homebrewing champ


Ok, here's a heartwarming photo of one very proud dad, Bob Johnson, pointing to a story in The Bee about his daughter, Annie Johnson, who had just won the prestigious title "Homebrewer of the Year" at the American Homebrewers Association conference in Philadelphia over the weekend. Bob, 81, is seriously ill and in hospice care at Emerald Gardens Nursing Center in Sacramento.

For Annie, winning the homebrewing title is a very impressive accomplishment, and it was great to find this photo this morning on my Twitter page. If Annie can Tweet a photo of her dad holding up a printout of this blog post, I promising to put that up, too!

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

July 1, 2013
Jim-Denny's Superburger makes the list of 50 best burgers

burger art.JPG"The definition of a perfect burger is open to opinion," understates the arbiters of all things food and drink at The Daily Meal.

That loaded line is part of the introduction to their "40 Best Burgers in America" list, compiled by their panel of experts nationwide. Take a look at

The Daily Meal makes a habit of going out on a culinary limb. In recent months it has assembled national "best of" lists for food trucks, pork and beef ribs, coffee shops, sports bars - even the top 101 restaurants.

Not surprisingly, lots of California businesses have made the lists, including the latest. The Superburger at Sacramento's Jim-Denny's came in at No. 35 (816 12th St., 916-443-9655).

The judges said of the half-pound burger ($8.75):

"The bready, no-frills bun encloses a griddled patty, well-done but still at least a little juicy, dressed with mustard and mayo and layered with the usual tomato and lettuce."

At No. 7 is the half-pound Niman Ranch cheeseburger at chef Cindy Pawlcyn's Mustards Grill near St. Helena in the Napa Valley: "So big and juicy and tasty that it's hard to resist."

No. 9 is the cheeseburger at Gott's Roadside in San Francisco: "Thick and juicy. An icon."

No. 13 is the burger at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco: "The lunch-only grass-fed burger is ground in-house and comes on grilled rosemary focaccia slathered with aioli."

No. 16 is the house-specialty burger at the Father's Office in Los Angeles: "With caramelized onion, bacon, Gruyere and Maytag blue cheeses, and arugula."

Do you have a favorite burger? Tell everyone about it in "Comments," below.

July 1, 2013
Beer and barbecue bar set for August opening

By Janelle Bitker

Attention Midtown barbecue nerds: brisket is on its way.

Brisket - one of the trickiest, time-consuming and luscious meats to prepare and the king of Texas-style BBQ - will be the star of Tank House, an upcoming bar located at the site of Sacramento's oldest water tank.

Tank House's BBQ will lean toward West Texas and Kansas City styles - meaning a variety of meats that are seasoned, smoked then sauced - but that may change.

"We want to give our chef the freedom to kind of make it our own style," said Tyler Williams, co-owner along with his wife, Melissa.

Who is this chef? Williams will make the announcement in a week or two, but he noted that the pitmaster has the credentials to manage a wood-burning smoker. What kind of wood? Burnt ends? It'll all depend on the pitmaster.

Williams, a bartender at The Golden Bear for nine years, is going for a simple, "shot and beer" oriented bar with a heavy emphasis on local beers. He's hoping to have a beer pairing program, featuring some of his favorites like Ruhstaller's Gilt Edge lager and New Helvetia's Saison Solon. Tank House will have a full bar, but it'll stay away from craft cocktails and artisanal bourbons.

Tank House is set to open in early August, and so far, Williams is feeling optimistic.

Tank House will be at 1925 J Street., Sacramento;

July 1, 2013
Area's craft beer brings home prizes at State Fair


The Sacramento region is booming when it comes to craft beer, and the results of the California State Fair craft beer competition show us to be a hotbed of high-quality brewing.

Some of the breweries that won big may have surprised some folks -- Sudwerk, Ol' Republic and Hangtown all did well in multiple style categories.

What follows is a list of local success at the State Fair. If I missed any, please let me know. I've had the excellent Common Sense by Berryessa Brewing in Winters at several local hot spots lately. I also got to try the very nice English IPA by Ol' Republic in Nevada City last time I dropped in at Extreme Pizza. Both won first place. And I was actually drinking a Homeland Stout (pictured above) at New Helvetia Brewing on Friday when the brewery learned that this very fine beer had been awarded a first place.

Light lager--Dortmunder/Premium American
First: Auburn Export Lager, Auburn Ale House (Auburn)
Third: Dead Canary, Ol' Republic Brewing (Nevada City)

Light Lager -- Munich Helles
Third: Lager, Sudwerk (Davis)

Pilsner -- Bohemian/Classic American
Third: Gold Country Pilsner, Auburn Alehouse

Amber lager
Second: Marzen, Sudwerk

Dark lager
Second: Bavarian Black Lager, Ol' Republic

Second: Mai Bock, Sudwerk

Light hybrid -- blonde ale
First: Common Sense, Berryessa Brewing (Winters)

Amber hybrid
Second: California Amber Lager, Ol' Republic

Scottish/Irish Ale -- Irish red ale
First: Conner's Pride, Old Hangtown Beer (Placervile)

American Ale -- American pale ale
Third: American River Pale Ale, Auburn Alehouse

American Ale -- American amber ale
Second: Rubicon Amber, Rubicon Brewing (Sacramento)

American Ale -- American brown ale
First: Coloma Brown, American River Brewing (Rancho Cordova)

English Brown Ale
Third: Whippersnapper, Berryessa Brewing

Porter -- Baltic porter
Second: Recesson Ale, Loomis Basin Brewing (Loomis)

Stout -- Oatmeal stout
First: Oatmeal Stout, Sudwerk

Stout -- Foreign export stout
First: New Helvetia Brewing (Sacramento)

India Pale Ale -- English IPA
First: English IPA, Ol' Republic

Belgian and French Ale -- Belgian Pale Ale
Third: Saison, Berryessa

Fruit Beer
Second: Golden Eagle Wheat, Loomis Basin

Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer -- Christmas/Winter specialty spiced beer
First: Stumpkin, Old Hangtown

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

July 1, 2013
Is $175 a fair price for a 'Farm-to-Fork' bridge dinner ticket?


Tickets for the Sept. 29 "Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner" are on sale starting today, and the price might come as a sticker shock for many. Tickets cost $175 per person, which makes dinner for two about the price of an iPad mini. The four-course dinner will be held on the Tower Bridge, which includes beer and wine from local purveyors, and will cap a "Farm-to-Fork Week" which kicks off Sept. 21 and includes a festival on the Capitol Mall and locavore related restaurant offerings.

Throwing a dinner for 600 people certainly doesn't come cheap. Along with the assorted food costs, servers and other staff need to be paid, makeshift kitchens will need to be installed, plates and glassware must be rented, plus the permitting and other logistics which need to be handled for shutting down the Tower Bridge for a few hours.

The food will meanwhile be crafted from a roll-call of signature Sacramento chefs, including Patrick Mulvaney, Oliver Ridgeway, Randall Selland, Molly Hawks and many more. Tables will be set up to span the length of the Tower Bridge, to create a symbolic bridge between Yolo and Sacramento counties.

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