August 8, 2013
Gravensteins set pace for extra-early apple season

apple-gravenstein-lg.jpg Benefiting from mild summer weather and a warm spring, apples are rolling in early this summer. Leading the way is a fine crop of heirloom Gravensteins from Sonoma County.

"The crop looks incredible," said farmer Stan Devoto, who grows Gravensteins in Sebastopol. "We've had an almost ideal growing season. We had a lot of warm weather and very, very little rain."

That combination has spurred apples to ripen about two weeks early.

To celebrate the short season of this heirloom apple, The Fruit Guys offers a special Gravenstein Apple Box, available for shipment nationwide. Based in San Francisco, The Fruit Guys supplies fruit and vegetables direct to businesses and homes while working with small farmers to preserve heirloom varieties.

"Why the Gravenstein is so special, it has a long history, particularly in California," said Rebecca North, The Fruit Guy's head buyer. "Typically, it's the first apple of the season and starts the harvest."

"It's a really short window," added Chris Mittelstaedt, The Fruit Guys founder and CEO. "They don't store well. We get them in from the farms and literally deliver them overnight."

Now through Aug. 16, The Fruit Guys offers its special Gravenstein box with a portion of proceeds supporting small Northern California farmers. The special boxes also support the Slow Food Gravenstein Apple Presidium, a project of The Fruit Guys and Slow Food Russian River to encourage farmers to grow more heirloom varieties.

The boxes start at $29 for 16 Gravensteins with free shipping inside California. For more details, go to or call (877) 378-4863.

This weekend also is the Gravenstein Apple Fair at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol. For details and directions, click on

August 8, 2013
Casa Garden Restaurant event showcases X-Factor vocalist

FL CASA INTERIOR.JPGSacramento Bee restaurant critic Blair Robertson is a big fan of Casa Garden Restaurant. He praised the place in December not only because of its volunteer staff and good cause, but because of its approachable, well-executed food.

On Sept. 12, the restaurant hosts a special event called "Fly Me to the Moon." Sacramento's Jerry Lopes, a finalist on this season's X-Factor, will perform a wide variety of tunes, including a little Frank Sinatra. Casa Garden's Marlene Oehler called him "just awesome."

Reservations are highly recommended, as there will only be two 90-person seatings - one at 11:15 a.m. and the other at 1:15 p.m. On the menu: chicken cordon bleu with spring mix or a turkey cobb salad for the main course and harvest cake for dessert. Including tax and gratuity, the meal sets you back $22.

All tips go to the Sacramento Children's Home, and the volunteer staff comes from the Los Niños Service League.

Casa Garden Restaurant: 2760 Sutterville Road, Sacramento. Call (916) 452-2908 for reservations.

PHOTO: Casa Garden Restaurant's interior as pictured in 2010. Florence Low/The Sacramento Bee

August 8, 2013
Award-winning blogger prepares foraged feast for food literacy

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James Beard Award-winner Hank Shaw, a Sacramento food writer and chef, will prepare an intimate feast to benefit children's food literacy education on Aug. 31.

Ingredients for the five-course meal will be foraged from the backyard farm of Amber Stott, founder of the California Food Literacy Center. He'll pair courses with local wines and craft beers, and it will all take place in Stott's manicured yard in East Sacramento.

Shaw's blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, won him the 2013 Best Food Blog award from the James Beard Award Foundation. It has also received honors twice with the International Association of Culinary Professionals. And he's been published in several venerable publications such as Food & Wine, Gastronomica and Organic Gardening.

Fourteen tickets go for $250 each, and they include a gift basket brimming with seeds, vanilla beans, a new cookbook and other treats per pair. Click here for more info and tickets.

August 1, 2013
Small plates and sips with artist Gregory Kondos

kondos.JPGTwo events are coming up, both involving superstars of different types, and both involving food.

First this: Any event featuring internationally acclaimed Sacramento artist Gregory Kondos will sell out in a heartbeat, especially if it's limited to 60 guests. So...

Now this: "Gregory Kondos: Art & Antipasti in the Garden" will feature the artist in an "informal talk and conversation about his life and art." Enjoy a light buffet meal and sip a glass of wine while a living legend holds forth.

The event will start at 6 p.m. Sept. 8 at the historic Murer House, 1125 Joe Murer Court, Folsom. Tickets are $25 at (916) 985-3250, and

Also: Italian autos, motorcycles and motorbikes will be displayed from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 14 at Murer House. The event is free, but look for on-site sales of wood-fired pizza, gelato, gourmet food items, Italian beer and soda, and crafts. If you own an Italian vehicle, bring it.

Both events are fundraisers for the preservation and operation of the Murer House and Learning Center, built in 1925 by Giuseppe "Joe" Murer.

Bee photograph/Lezlie Sterling

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

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 ( Proceeds will help fund its Emerging Young Artist Scholarship program.

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

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; $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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit

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


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

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

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

The Crest is at 1013 K St., Sacramento

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hosting will be Holly's Hill Vineyards (, Miraflores Winery (, Narrow Gate Vineyards (, Sierra Vista Winery ( and Auriga Wine Cellars (

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

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

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

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

hank shaw.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete list of James Beard award winners for 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to both winners for these great honors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third course: roasted pork shanks
Served with 2010 barbera

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

Dessert: apple strudel
Served with 2011 dulcinea

April 29, 2013
Get in the mood for 'cue season with Smoke & Fire

tri-tip.JPGOne way to get a belly full of inspiration for the start of barbecue season is to show up at the second annual Smoke & Fire BBQ Cook-Off.

The 'cue fest will star competitive cooking crews from eight Sacramento fire stations, whose smoky offerings of tri-tip and pork ribs will be judged by a panel of experts, followed by an awards ceremony. It's sponsored by the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership.

The price is a bargain - $5 for a tasting, $10 for a heaped plate - with proceeds benefitting the Sacramento City Fire Volunteer Reserves.

Also: live music, beer garden, a display of antique fire trucks, community booths and more.

Check it out between noon and 4 p.m. Saturday May 4 at 1409 Del Paso Blvd., at the corner of Del Paso Boulevard and Edgewater Road. Information: (916) 923-6200,

April 26, 2013
Ginger Elizabeth "Coffee Day" features one-time only desserts


If you're a fan of Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, as well as an admirer of the great coffee scene that has grown up and flourished here in recent years, you won't want to miss "Coffee Day" at Ginger Elizabeth on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ginger Elizabeth Hahn and staff have been planning and prepping for this for weeks, and the results look incredible. We managed to get a couple of photos of the coffee -centric desserts, including the opera cake (pictured above) featuring Four Barrel coffee from San Francisco, and the eclair (pictured below) using coffee from Old Soul.

A few weeks ago, I attended a cupping at Old Soul in which Hahn and her husband, Tom, tasted several coffees as they sought to select one that would work best with the planned desserts. It was a meticulous, hour-long process of sniffing, tasting (with and without a spoonful of dessert), re-tasting and careful note-taking.

The collaborations with the other coffee roasters -- Temple, Chocolate Fish, Four Barrel, and Ritual (from the Bay Area) -- were just as thorough.


Here are the coffee desserts available for Coffee Day (Tip: after Saturday, these desserts won't be available -- so get there early):

*Coffee Orange Blossom Ganache. $4.50

*Oeufs à la Neige (Floating Island): Macadamia Nut Crumble, Banana Custard and Old Soul Co. Coffee Crème Anglaise layered in a jar and topped with Chilled Poached Meringue. $6.50

*Ice Cream Pint: Cold Infused Chocolate Fish Coffee Ice Cream, Toffee Sauce Swirl with Ginger Elizabeth Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pieces. $9

*Opera cake: Caramelized Milk and Four Barrel Coffee Mousse, Four Barrel Coffee Jam, Valrhona 66% Caribe Chocolate Crémeux, Joconde Sponge, Chocolate Cake and Cocoa Crumble. $6.50

*Dessert Macaron: Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake Mousse, Anise Biscotti Crust, Temple Coffee Curd, Temple Espresso Gelée between two Lemon Macaron Cookies. $8

Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich: Ritual Roasters Coffee Caramel Ice Cream with Fleur de Sel Caramel Swirl. $5.50

*Éclair-: Crispy Pâte à Choux filled with Old Soul Co. Coffee Pastry Cream, Coffee Fondant. $4.50

*A selection of Coffee Inspired Chocolates, $1.50 and Macarons, $1.75

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates is at 1801 L St. #60, Sacramento. (916) 706-1738.

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

RELATED: Chocolatier Ginger Elizabeth Hahn teams with coffee roasters for special dessert day

April 25, 2013
Second Chocolate Fish location up and running in East Sac

I finally had time to stop by the exciting new Chocolate Fish coffee shop on Folsom Boulevard in East Sacramento. As familiar as I am with these guys and as much as I like their coffee, I still came away very impressed.

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The employees, normally clad in T-shirts at the Chocolate Fish downtown (at Q and 3rd), look very sharp in dress shirts and vests (and some with neckties). It's a nice touch, and it makes it look like they mean business, which they definitely do.

Besides the obvious quality of the coffee -- the roasting, the execution of the espressos, cappuccinos and "flat whites" -- the most impressive thing is the decor. It's the best looking coffee shop I've ever seen, thanks to the custom work of Marc Foster, a furniture maker and craftsman you'll be learning more about soon.

Foster did the counters, fashioned out of a quarter-inch thick "rolled steel," which gives the normally cold material a warmth and softness. Foster also made the chairs, tables, shelving and the covering for the large wall behind the roaster -- rough-cut redwood pieces that give the wall a depth and texture that works so nicely with the deep grays of the steel counters.

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Foster is a real talent, and his work is definitely worth checking out over a great cup of coffee.

Besides the aesthetics, the new shop has plenty of functionality. It will serve as the hub for Chocolate Fish -- the new home of the roastery, as well as a training center and office. The roaster itself, is practically sculptural in its beauty. The pastries are from Yellowbill/Magpie. And if you choose to sit outside, you look across Folsom Boulevard to East Sacramento Hardware and OneSpeed Pizza.

Congratulations to Edie and Andy Baker, and all of the employees, on the launch of the second location. For serious coffee lovers in East Sacramento, this will be a great addition to the neighborhood.

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

chocolate fish4.JPGChocolate Fish.JPG

April 22, 2013
Feast for the Streets tickets still available for Wednesday night

The 22nd annual Feast for the Streets, a food and wine event with a social conscience, is this Wednesday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Temple.

The event features 36 restaurants and 10 wineries. Tickets are $50 per person, with proceeds going to Francis House, the local non-profit that serves as "an emergency room for homeless families and individuals," according to Steve Caruso, executive director.

Feast for the Streets is one of the biggest food and wine nights of the year and is a must-attend spectacle for local foodies. Among the restaurants involved are Grange, Mulvaney's, Tuli, Mama Kim Eats and Hook & Ladder.

"It was the foodie event before there were foodies," Caruso said. "It's quite the party.

Tickets are available online at or You can also get your tickets over the phone, (916) 443-2646.

While homeless issues are challenging and complex, Francis House makes a meaningful difference through its efforts, including handing out bus passes for the needy, helping secure missing state IDs and aiding employment efforts.

Why should folks attend Feast for the Streets?

"It's our major fundraiser of the year," said Caruso. "We're doing our small part to guide people who are homeless in the right direction to correct their situation or at least alleviate it for awhile. It's also a very fun event. When you have this many restaurants of this caliber, it can't help but be fun."

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

April 16, 2013
Lucca celebrates 10th anniversary with fund-raising dinners


Lucca, the ever-popular midtown restaurant, is marking 10 years in business with its third fund-raising dinner (of a scheduled four) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.. Appetizers and wine will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The five-course dinner is $100 and includes wine and beer. There will also be a fashion show featuring the designs of Phoebe Verkov.

Proceeds for this dinner go to the Sacramento Children's Home. Two other dinners marking Lucca's 10th anniversary have raised money for Mustard Seed, the school for homeless children; and Verge Center for the Arts.

The fourth dinner in this admirable series, dubbed "Giving back deliciously," is April 24, when proceeds will be donated to the city's new Farm-to-Fork effort.

For more information or to make reservations for the dinner tomorrow or next week (or both) click here.

April 15, 2013
Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is coming to town. Are you ready?

wienermobile.jpgThe good news is the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is coming to town as part of its national promotional tour (it averages 500 miles a day), and you can go inside and tour the 27-foot-long hot dog-shaped vehicle.

The not-so-much part is there won't be any free hot dogs involved; instead, visitors will be given Wiener Whistles and stickers. Meanwhile, go for a blog ride at and visit

Relish the Wienermobile experience in front of Walmart stores at these locations:

April 19: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 7010 Auburn Blvd., Citrus Heights

April 20: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 900 Pleasant Grove Ave., Roseville

April 21: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 5821 Antelope Road, Sacramento

April 22: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3460 El Camino Ave., Sacramento

April 22: 2 to 5 p.m. at 7901 Watt Ave., Antelope

April 10, 2013
Blaze forces temporary closure of Zinfandel Grille

Zinfandel Grille.jpg

The popular Zinfandel Grille on Fair Oaks Boulevard suffered a chimney fire Monday morning shortly before opening for lunch, forcing the restaurant to close for at least a week until the smoke and debris are cleaned up.

No one was hurt in the blaze and the restaurant's dining room was not damaged by the flames, according to Will Cruz, manager at Zinfandel Grille.

The restaurant will be closed until about April 20 while the clean-up and repairs take place, Cruz explained.

"It's pretty much the roof and the chimney that need to be repaired," the manager said. "Luckily, the fire department got here fast enough and there was no damage to the inside of the restaurant."

While servers will not be able to wait tables - and make tip money - during the closure, Cruz said they can clock in and help with the clean-up and other duties.

"We're able to keep them busy and get them paid," he said.

Zinfandel Grille is at 2384 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento.

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

April 10, 2013
IACP honors culinary professionals in San Francisco

alicewaters.JPGMore than 600 members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals gathered in San Francisco over the past five days for the organization's 35th annual conference, "Dirt to Digital: Real Food in a Virtual World."

Converging in the banquet rooms of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the Embarcadero - and the Ferry Building Marketplace across the street - were chefs, dietitians and nutritionists, food stylists and photographers, cookbook authors, academics, food bloggers, farmers and others. They participated in a lengthy menu of culinary tours, cooking classes, demonstrations, lectures and panel discussions.

The conference culminated last night with an awards ceremony in multiple categories. Among the presenters were chef Thomas Keller (the French Laundry in Yountville) and restaurateur-cookbook author Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill in Chicago).

Among the award-winners were San Francisco restaurateur Charles Phan (Slanted Door and others) for his cookbook "Vietnamese Home Cooking"; restaurateur and cookbook author Alice Waters of Berkeley (Chez Panisse) for lifetime achievement (pictured); and and for best culinary web sites.

For the complete list of winners, go to

The 35-year-old IACP has more than 2,000 members in 32 countries. It fosters connections between professionals in all walks of culinary life and serves as "a crossroads where everyone can meet to share experiences and expertise."

April 8, 2013
Dishcrawling through Davis offers a 12-course tasting

dishcrawl.JPGThe dining scene in Davis has never been better or more diverse. To get a taste of what's happening across the Yolo Causeway, the Cupertino-based food-tour company Dishcrawl is offering a mini-tour of four Davis restaurants.

Each restaurant will offer samples of three house-specialty dishes, from bites to small plates - maybe something like the dish pictured here. Adult beverages are not included, but can be purchased separately.

Which restaurants will be visited? That's a secret until just before the tour launches. If you sign up at, you'll be emailed the name and address of the first restaurant on the tour, 48 hours in advance; that's the tour meet-up spot.

Dishcrawl in Davis starts at 7 p.m. April 23. For a 15 percent discount, use the promotional code word "downtowndavis."

April 1, 2013
Plan now for Sierra Foothills Artisan Cheese & Wine Fest

wine.jpgWould you like some cheeses with those wines, with emphasis on regional sourcing?

The second annual Sierra Foothills Artisan Cheese & Wine Festival will offer wine and cheese pairings, workshops, winemaking demonstrations, winery and vineyard tours, tastings of Rhone- and Bordeaux-style wines, a marketplace and more.

Tickets are limited, so plan ahead. The festival will be from noon to 4 p.m. May 4 at Lavender Ridge Winery, 3030 Hunt Road, Copperopolis.

Tickets are $40 ($30 for wine club members). A separate cheesemaking course will be 9 a.m. to noon for an additional $65.

For more information: (209) 728-2441,

March 26, 2013
Biscuits drive home lesson to authors Dupree, Graubart

Author Photo Nathalie and Cynthia.jpg Common sense can be lost in translation - especially when it comes to cookbooks.

Cynthia Graubart, co-author with Nathalie Dupree of "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking," offers this example from her own Atlanta kitchen:

"My son - who likes to cook - was home (from college) and he tried one of our biscuit recipes while we were working on the book," Graubart recalled. "He was about to put them in the oven when Nathalie noticed all this dough left on the board."

He said, "The recipe said 'makes 12 biscuits,' so I made 12 biscuits."

Most experienced cooks would roll out that extra dough into another biscuit or two, Graubart noted.

"It really brought home to us how careful we had to be with language," she said. "People read 'cut in butter,' and they use scissors."

(A pastry blender or two knives are the preferred tools.)

Dupree and Graubart will demonstrate biscuit making at 3 p.m. April 3 during a visit to American River College, 4700 College Oak Blvd., Sacramento. Open to the public, the free demonstration will be held in the culinary lab (Room 505).

That's next door to the Oak Cafe, where the co-authors will sign copies of their new cookbook starting at 11:30 a.m. that same day. During the signing, the restaurant will serve two seatings of a special lunch featuring recipes from the book. For reservations, call (916) 484-8526.

For more about "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking," recipe testing and a great gumbo, see

March 19, 2013
Hank Shaw nominated for 3rd James Beard Award; Frank Fat's nominated as an American classic


Sacramento-area food blogger Hank Shaw has been nominated a third time for a prestigious James Beard Award and, in something of a surprise, venerable Sacramento restaurant Frank Fat's has received a nomination in a special category, "America's Classics."

Shaw, 42, a longtime newspaper journalist who parlayed a well-received blog into a new and successful writing career, says he is happy to be recognized once again by the James Beard Foundation - and he's not yet ready to think of himself as the Susan Lucci of the food-writing set.

"It's always great to be nominated," Shaw said. "James Beards are a big deal. There's a little bit of a Susan Lucci thing going on, but the most important thing is I've already podiumed. The worst I can do is a bronze medal."

Shaw's blog is called "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook," in which he chronicles his quest for what he calls "honest food...nothing packaged, nothing in a box, nothing wrapped in plastic." It can be found at Shaw's first book, published in 2011, is called "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast." His second book, slated for an Oct. 1 release, is "Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild."

His competition for the Beard Award in the Individual Food Blog category is "Canelle et Vanille" by Aran Goyoaga, and "Vinography" by Alder Yarrow.

"What I'm most excited about is Fran Fat's being recognized in this manner," said Shaw.
The iconic local restaurant is nominated with four other restaurants in the America's Classics category.

The winners will be named at a ceremony in New York in May.

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

March 6, 2013
What's on the menu at salmon dinner? Uh, chicken and ribs

salmon.JPGDetermining the exact dates of the $1.4 billion salmon season is a complicated and, well, fluid exercise. Right now, the opening and closing dates are a work-in-progress, but it's fair to say that recreational and commercial salmon-fishing seasons will be from around mid-April to around the end of September, or maybe into October.

Helping the finny natural resource along is the Golden Gate Salmon Association, which will host its annual dinner (with appetizers and cocktails) and fund-raiser at 5:30 p.m. April 26 at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento; (916) 452-5881.

Tickets go fast and are on sale now at (855) 251-4472 and They're $80 per person, $140 per couple, $40 for ages 16 and younger. "Table Sponsor" packages for eight are $800 and include reserved VIP seating, raffle tickets and a drawing. Look for auctions hosted by auctioneers from the Discovery Channel's show "Auction Kings."

The GGSA's membership includes salmon fishermen and restaurants. So, what's for dinner? "You'd expect it to be salmon, but (the members) are around salmon all the time and they want to eat something else," said a spokesman. "There will be some salmon on the menu, but primarily it will be ribs and chicken."

March 4, 2013
Sacramento Food Film Fest features honey, sushi and more

beemovie.jpg Some movies go great with food, but these films explore food as a central topic.

Slow Food Sacramento will host its second Food Film Festival on March 15 and 16 at the Guild Theater, Broadway and 35th Street in Sacramento.

Local honey and sushi team up for the Friday night opener. To be screened at 5:30 p.m. March 15, "Quest for Local Honey" will be followed with a Q&A led by its Nevada City filmmakers. Then, Taro Arai of Mikuni and Billy Ngo of Kru will lead a sushi tasting and discussion of sustainable seafood, followed by the screening of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."

Saturday's day-long schedule features five films, each with its own discussion. Preceded by an 11 a.m. scavenger hunt, "What's On Your Plate?" - a youthful exploration into a city's food chain - kicks off the second day of the foodie film fest. At 1 p.m., "Community of Gardeners" - an exploration of seven community gardens in Washington, D.C. - will be followed with a discussion of what's happening here by Sacramento garden coordinator Bill Maynard.

Winner of the 2013 New York Food Film Festival, "Meat Hooked!" - about local butchers regaining popularity - will be screened at 3 p.m. March 16. That's followed by "American Harvest" (4:15 p.m.) - a candid look at migrant labor - and "Symphony of the Soil" (6:30 p.m.) with special guest, filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia.

Tickets are $55 for both days, $40 for Friday's honey-sushi gala or $25 for all day Saturday. In addition, Saturday's films are available individually at $7.

Proceeds benefit Slow Food Sacramento and the California Food Literacy Center. For a complete schedule and tickets, click on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's the menu:

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

Ideas in Food.jpg

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

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

Nine courses, $230; wine pairings optional

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

bone marrow tots: uni thousand island, mendocino uni

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

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

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

beef carpaccio: shaved triple cream cheese, pickles

tallow doughnuts: cinnamon, lime, lemon curd

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

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


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

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

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

Participants learn about upcoming events through a group mailing list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Course 1: Choice of soup, Garden or Caesar Salad

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

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

There are two Sacramento Mimi's Cafe locations:

2029 Alta Arden Expressway, (916) 614-9278


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

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

February 8, 2013
Restaurants offering Valentine's Day specials

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

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

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

January 30, 2013
Valentine's dinners are filling up fast; where are you going?

bloomin onion.jpg

I'm putting together a story on dining out for Valentine's Day. In doing so, I just found out that Biba, the great Italian restaurant on Capitol Avenue, is already fully booked for its special prix fixe dinner that night. That's good news for the restaurant. But it's a reminder for those of you planning to wine and dine with a loved one on Feb 14. It's time to make reservations.

If you wait too long, you'll have to be a smooth talker, indeed, to explain to your significant other what exactly is so romantic about eating a Bloomin' Onion at Outback Steakhouse. Nothing says true love like getting all of your daily calories in one greasy appetizer (2210 calories).

Along those lines, we ask you the reader to weigh in (no pun intended). Where are you going for Valentine's Day? Where was your best -- and your worst -- Valentine's dinner in years past?

Let us know in the comments below and your suggestions, if they're not the work of enraged, rambling mouth-breathers, may find their way into our story. And that Bloomin' Onion, by the way, is looking better and better.

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

January 30, 2013
How to build your own Snackadium for Super Bowl Sunday

23520_SnackadiumAngle2r_1.jpg Who's counting calories? The Snackadium scores!

Pillsbury's creative staff came up with this striking 7- by 10-foot centerpiece for its display at Saturday's Taste of the NFL "Party with a Purpose" in New Orleans as part of Super Bowl weekend.

The crowd-size Snackadium uses eight dozen Italian super sub sandwiches (made with Pillsbury's refrigerated crusty French loaf bread dough) for the walls. The cookie sheet field is coated with a layer of guacamole, striped with sour cream yardlines. The red and gold end zones are chunky salsa and cheese dip.

Created out of disposable aluminum pans cut to size, the stands are filled with an assortment of Pillsbury favorites: Mini Crescent Dogs, Pepperoni Pizza Slices, Bacon-Cheeseburger Calzones, Bacon-Cheddar Pinwheels, Crescent Pizza Pockets, Totino's Pizza Rolls Snacks, Bugles, Green Giant Veggie Chips, Pillsbury Baguette Chips and Chex Mix.

It's the extra touches that make this foodie project stand out. Cherry tomatoes and black olives became players' helmets. Atop breadstick posts, the "pennants" are cone-shaped Bugle snacks and sliced fruit roll-up snacks.

Pillsbury has detailed instructions for how to build your own Snackadium, down-sized for smaller gatherings. Some of the variations include a "retractable" bacon dome with beer-can blimp and a veggie version with broccoli and baby carrots in the stands.

See for yourself at

January 29, 2013
IHOP celebrates National Pancake Day with free pancakes

ihop.jpg Here's a deal to flip over: Free pancakes!

Next Tuesday, International House of Pancakes will celebrate National Pancake Day by offering a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes to all customers. The free pancakes will be available at all participating IHOPs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 5.

In return, patrons may make voluntary donations to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, the event's official charity, and its program at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

Last year, IHOP hosted a similar National Pancake Day party and served about 4 million free pancakes. If added together, all those "short stacks" would be nearly 16 miles tall. During the 2012 event, customers donated more than $3 million to children's charities.

IHOP hopes to reach that goal again next Tuesday. Local participating IHOPs are located at 2941 Advantage Lane in Sacramento, 2525 Iron Point Road in Folsom, and 2035 Arden Way in Sacramento

To find a participating IHOP near you or to learn more, click on

January 24, 2013
Bartender, what's this bacon doing in my beer?

Suicide IPA.JPG

If you've been out and about the last couple of days, you'll know that Sacramento's weeklong BaconFest is in full throttle at numerous pubs and restaurants. We dropped by Pangaea Two Brews on Franklin Boulevard last night after dinner to take part in the experience. I had their now-famous - or instantly notorious - "Suicide IPA," which is a blend of 4 or 5 of the IPAs on tap, garnished with a strip of bacon.

An IPA, of course, can have - and should have - plenty of that hoppy bitterness greeting the front of the palate. Sometimes that's balanced with a sweet or fruity finish, sometimes not. The "Suicide" tends to tone things down rather than ramp them up.

"What's good about blending them," bartender Nate Burns told me, "is that it kind of takes away specific characteristics of one IPA, but it also hides the weaknesses of each."

In other words, those rough edges are smoothed out a tad. And the bacon? Not only does it give you something to chew on, and offer, ahem, a more complete nutritional profile to your evening drinking experience, but it tends to counteract that telltale IPA bitterness.

It worked for me. And these were no ordinary IPAs. Included in the Suicide blend last night were Pliny the Elder, Sculpin and Track 7 Panic. Lynn had the Panic, brewed just a couple of miles away, and it was first-rate.

January 18, 2013
Real fish, not fish oil, is what's good for your heart


We don't often preach about health and health food in this space, figuring that food-lovers can make those choices themselves.

But after hearing Dr. Oz tell Piers Morgan the other day that french fries were the single worst food you could possibly eat (hmm, I'll see your french fries and raise you a chimichanga and a Bloomin' Onion), I thought I would point out something I I just learned. I think of myself as a two-pronged eater: I will try anything, but I also want to balance that with eating healthy food. In other words, dinner during BaconFest might be preceded by a breakfast of a green smoothie and then berries and yogurt for lunch.

For several years, I have taken fish oil supplements for my health, along with Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and a multi-vitamin. But I just read in the following missive that fish oil isn't nearly as effective as eating actual fish when it comes to heart health. The author, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, is a physician (and endurance athlete) who pens a regular email newsletter related to healthy living. It's very good and I recommend you subscribe if you're interested in simple, straight-forward health advice. Check out his website here, and sign up for the weekly email via a section in the right column,

So, here's what the doctor says about fish v. fish oil. It was news to me, someone who tries to eat seafood as often as possible (the photo above is of the grilled octopus I enjoyed at Restaurant 1833 in Monterey).

Fish, but Not Fish Oil Pills, Reduce Heart Attack Risk

* A review of 17 prospective studies shows that EATING
FISH ONCE A WEEK, compared to eating less fish, was associated
with a 16 percent lower risk of fatal heart attacks.
* A review of 14 randomized, double-blind, placebo-
controlled trials showed that TAKING FISH OIL PILLS (EPA-DHA)
does not offer protection from fatal heart attacks (Current
Opinion in Lipidology. Dec, 2012;23(6):554-9).
These conclusions agree with previous studies showing
that eating fish is associated with protection from heart
attacks, while taking fish oil pills is not (Eur Heart J. 2008
Aug;29(16):2024-30; Eur Heart J September, 2011).

January 10, 2013
Countdown to BaconFest: Is bacon actually bad for you?


While it is fashionable for foodies to see all of the benefits and none of the drawbacks of bacon, aren't we all missing one key piece of information? Namely, that bacon is bad for you.

Well, I eat bacon. I have friends who eat bacon. I just had lunch with a friend who's a doctor -- and he had thick strips of bacon on his his sandwich, after splitting a pork belly appetizer with yours truly. While we were eating, we were chatting about his running workout that morning. In other words, bacon isn't only for gluttons and those with a death wish.

Are we rationalizing this simply because bacon smells and tastes so good? Maybe. But you don't have to look too far these days to find bacon's defenders.

Joseph Mercola, a well-known and occasionally controversial physician (he is not a fan of immunizations, for instance) recently weighed in, via his popular website, on the not-so-harmful aspects of bacon.

Kegvin Bacon.jpg"Bacon's primary asset is its fat, and that fat-- surprise! - is primarily monounsaturated. Fifty percent of the fat in bacon is monounsaturated, mostly consisting of oleic acid, the type so valued in olive oil. About three percent of that is palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturate with valuable antimicrobial properties. About 40 percent of bacon fat is saturated, a level that worries fat phobics, but is the reason why bacon fat is relatively stable and unlikely to go rancid under normal storage and cooking conditions. That's important, given the fact that the remaining 10 percent is in the valuable but unstable form of polyunsaturates.7

"Pork fat also contains a novel form of phosphatidylcholine that possesses antioxidant activity superior to Vitamin E. This may be one reason why lard and bacon fat are relatively stable and not prone to rancidity from free radicals.8

"Bacon fat from pastured pigs also comes replete with fat-soluble vitamin D, provided it's bacon from foraging pigs that romp outdoors in the sun for most of year. Factory-farmed pigs kept indoors and fed rations from soy, casein, corn meal, and other grains, are likely to show low levels of Vitamin D."

We don't often give medical advice on this blog, so I will stop short of saying that moderate consumption of bacon will make you live longer or give you super-human strength. But bacon just may be OK for you after all.

And during BaconFest, it's more than OK to let your guard down, indulge a little and, say, balance it out by eating a few extra salads (hold the bacon bits) after it's all said and done.

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

January 10, 2013
Oskar Blues beers will team with five courses at Fabian's

dales_pale_ale.jpgWhen it comes to wine and beer, Christian Forte knows his stuff and proves it at the bar of Fabian's Italian Bistro, the restaurant he and wife Mercedes Forte own in Fair Oaks.

Each month, they sponsor a wine or beer event featuring tastes and small plates. This time around, though, there's a five-course dinner that will match beers from the Oskar Blues Brewery of Colorado ( with creations by chef Tom Patterson. On site will be Eben Weisberg from the brewery, talking about all things beer.

The dinner is $42 per person at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at Fabian's, 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd. in the Almond Orchard center; (916) 536-9891,

"We're also planning a Rocky Mountain Beer Dinner in celebration of Sacramento Beer Week (Feb. 22-March 3), with the date to be determined," Christian Forte said. "We'll have the Boulder Beer Brewing and Grand Teton Brewing Company here, with with some new specials by Chef Tom."

Meanwhile, here's the menu for Oskar Blues dinner:

First course: Dale's Pale Ale with blackened scallops
Second: G'Night Imperial Red with a warm salad of house-smoked salmon, frisee, spinach and chanterelle mushroom
Third: Deviant Dale's IPA with crispy pork belly
Fourth: Old Chub Scotch Ale with beer-braised beef short rib
Fifth: Ten Fidy Imperial Stout with chocolate cake and salted pretzel gelato

January 8, 2013
Thin Mints, anyone? Girl Scout cookie season starts Friday

cookie_tm.pngGet ready for some Thin Mints and maybe some Mango Cremes, too.

Girl Scout cookie season kicks off Friday as the young women in green start taking pre-orders for 2013.

After preorders, Girl Scouts will sell cookies at booths outside of local storefronts, Feb. 22 to March 17.

The price remains the same; $4 per package. After Friday, you can place an order from a local Girl Scout by calling the Cookie Hotline, (866) 472-6657 (GSCOOKS).

This year's cookies will boast a new look with redesigned packaging, emphasizing the skills girls learn while scouting.

There's a new flavor, too - "Mango Cremes with Nutrifusion," mango cream filling with real fruit nutrients and vitamins sandwiched between vanilla-coconut wafers. As always, Thin Mints - the most popular flavor - returns along with Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbread, Lemonades and chocolate-dipped Thanks-A-Lot.

The Girl Scouts of the USA celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 and has been hosting cookie sales almost as long - since 1917. Each year, the organization sells more than 200 million boxes nationwide.

More than 29,000 girls are part of the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California council, based in Sacramento.

For more details, click on

January 8, 2013
Formoli's will host fundraiser this Sunday for veteran server

2013 got off to a terrible start for Kristina Gonzales, the veteran server at Formoli's Bistro who lost all of her possessions when her home was ravaged by fire in the wee hours of New Year's Day.

The folks at the East Sacramento restaurant have rallied to support her, and after some brainstorming, have decided to host an informal fundraiser that just might turn something dismal into something memorable and fun.

This Sunday, Formoli's Bistro will host a brunch with a twist - the servers will cook and the chefs will serve. Don't expect the usual high-caliber dining experience you normally get at Formoli's, but it should be plenty of fun, with a few flubs here and there, perhaps, all for a good cause.

Gonzales is currently apartment hunting and will have to come up with a hefty deposit while trying to replace many of the necessities lost in the fire.

The brunch, which will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., is open to everyone. The chefs will bring out the food and serve it family-style. There will be omelets and blood orange mimosas, among other things. There is no specific charge for the food. Customers are free to make any kind of donation they can manage, be it cash (Formoli's asks that cash be placed in sealed envelopes) or things like towels, dishes or even furniture.

"We thought we would do something fun to get her spirits up," said Suzanne Ricci, who owns the restaurant with husband (and chef) Aimal Formoli. "I've known Kristina for about 10 years and she has worked for us for about five years. She is a loyal, dependable person and we think of her as family."

Formoli's is at 3839 J St., Sacramento. (916) 448-5699.

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

January 4, 2013
Countdown to BaconFest: The pork descends upon Sactown

Mulvaney.jpgBaconFest came out of nowhere last year at this time and blew people away. It was fun. It was popular. It created a buzz. And best of all, it brought plenty of traffic into the area's restaurants. That's top chef Patrick Mulvaney pictured getting in some heavy lifting

The second annual BaconFest is coming and there's even more excitement building. This celebration of all things bacon -- including some pretty incredible doughnuts at Doughbot -- begins Jan. 20 with an opening night party at Hook & Ladder, and concludes with the second annual Chefs Challenge at Mulvaney's on Jan. 27. Brad Cecchi of Grange returns as the defending champion.

It was quite a spectacle on S Street when the California Pork Producers Association recently delivered three whole hogs and 20 pork bellies free of charge in preparation for the finale. Tickets for the contest can be purchased online for $30 at Eventbrite. Click here to buy tickets.
Renowned food and wine expert Darrell Corti will be among the judges for the Chefs Challenge.

Scoff, sneer and overlook this week-long event at your peril. Restaurants are lining up to get in on this, featuring something special and bacon-centric on their menus during the week. The serious foodies try to check off as many places as possible on the list.

Doughbot.jpgIf you're into the dining scene, be it food trucks, casual eateries or fine dining destinations, there's plenty here for you. Personally, this year I'm planning on tasting every bacon-related dish on offer. Checking the line-up, I've eaten at every place except LowBrau, which opened on New Year's Eve in a great spot at 20th and K.

Here's a list we received from the BaconFest organizers. As you'll notice, some of our best restaurants are involved.

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.
Formoli's Bistro
Enotria Restaurant Winebar
Old Ironsides
Magpie Cafe
Shady Lady Saloon
Pangaea Two Brews Cafe
Selland's Market-Cafe
Bacon & Butter
The Golden Bear
Mulvaney's B&L
Yellowbill Cafe
The Waterboy
The Eatery
Boulevard Bistro
Bows & Arrows
Lucca Restaurant
Ella Dining Room & Bar
Restaurant Thir13en
Grange Restaurant
Gold Rush Grill
State Bear
Sacramento Bartenders Guild
Testa Duro Salumi
The Republic
Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen
Broderick Bar & Grill

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

January 3, 2013
Fundraiser in works for Formoli's server whose home was destroyed in a fire

I spoke with chef Aimal Formoli on Wednesday about the plight of longtime Formoli's Bistro employee Kristina Gonzales. Those who have dined at this East Sacramento gem have probably encountered her professional and personable service style. In 2009, Gonzales made my list of best servers of the year.

2013 did not get off to a good start for her. In the wee hours of New Year's Eve, the Victorian home where Gonzales lived was severely damaged by fire, making the the dwelling uninhabitable. All of her possessions were destroyed, Formoli told me.

The chef said he and others are quickly putting together a fundraiser to help Gonzales get back on her feet. Stay tuned on this blog for more information as those details become clearer. We certainly wish Gonzales the best and hope that her colleagues in the restaurant profession respond in force to help her out. She deserves it.

Here is what was posted on the restaurant's Facebook page:

"Some unfortunate news for one of our Formoli family members. If you watched the news at all in the last few days, the house on P street was our lovely server Kristina's home. Kristina is one of our longest standing employees at Formoli's and we care deeply for her. We need everyone's help!!! We are working on a fundraiser for Kristina to help replace some of the things she lost. We will update you all. Hope everyone in our industry could come support. Event details will be posted soon. Hope everyone had a happy New year!"

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

December 18, 2012
Hot Italian hosts Create in California Shopping Night

Find an interesting gift and support California business, too.

This evening from 6 to 9 p.m., Hot Italian in midtown Sacramento hosts its third annual Create In California Shopping Night. This event features arts, crafts and other handmade finds from California designers.

Among the featured vendors will be Tapigami (which put together a holiday installation for its jewelry), Interval Press (live screen printing), Ana Apple (handmade T-shirts), Matthew Lechowick (furniture), Gigglosophy (bracelets), The Good Stuff (jam), Miss Velvet Cream (clothing), Maya Kini and Sofia Lacin (more jewelry) and The Dreaded Potter (dishware and accessories).

Nationally famous Bariani Olive Oil will offer its latest vintage. Navid Dehghan, author of "Just Me & My Pizza," will autograph copies of his book.

Plus eat great pizza! After all, Hot Italian is hosting. The restaurant is located at 1627 16th St., Sacramento. For more details, click on or call (916) 444-3000.

December 13, 2012
'Deadliest Catch' star comes to dinner in Monterey

timebanditjpeg.JPGIf your weekend road-trip plans include a stop in Monterey on Saturday, you can linger over a three-course dinner that includes Alaskan king crab or Alaskan salmon, and meet the wild and wooly Capt. Johnathan Hillstrand, who will be in town.

He and his brother, Andy ("The Bad Boys of the Bering Sea"), are among the stars of the reality-TV show "Deadliest Catch" on the Discovery Channel. It documents the daring fishermen who go out in 60-foot seas to harvest Alaskan king crabs in the Bering Sea.

"I went halibut fishing in Alaska for a week with those guys," restaurateur Dominic Mercurio was saying on the phone today. "Waves were breaking over their (113-foot boat Time Bandit), but it was not nearly as rough as when they're working the crab catch (pictured). I don't know how they stay in the ocean when it's that rough. Those guys are married to the sea."

Mercurio is the owner of Cafe Fina and Domenico's restaurants on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. He's sponsoring the $50-per-person dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. at Domenico's. Reservations: (831) 372-3655. For more information:

December 12, 2012
Holiday food drive needs fresh fruit, veggies for kids

CFLC_Logo.png All some families want for Christmas is something good to eat. The California Food Literacy Center will try to fill that need with healthy fruit and vegetables via a produce drive for low-income children.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, patrons can contribute fresh fruit and vegetables at the center's stand outside the Nugget Market, 2000 Town Center Plaza, West Sacramento. Participants can buy produce at Nugget to contribute or bring fresh fruit and vegetables from other sources.

The goal is 2,500 pieces - enough to provide five fruit or vegetables a day for five days for every child in the after-school program at Capitol Heights Academy in Oak Park.

"There are so many worthwhile causes right now providing gifts to kids, but we're in a school where 85 percent of the kids are on free and reduced price lunches," said Amber Stott, executive director, California Food Literacy Center. "When they go home for the holiday, we know they don't have access to the fresh produce they've grown to love in our class.

"We all know weight gain rises during the holidays, so this will help them maintain healthy habits," she added, "while also maintaining their enthusiasm for healthy food while they're on break from school."

For more information or to make a monetary donation, contact Stott at or call (916) 873-2025.

December 3, 2012
Five restaurants will gather to dish for a fund-raiser

Five restaurants will be in one place at one time, dishing food and talk, with live music playing in the background and a silent auction as part of it. And it's all in the name of a good cause.

Taste of the Town
will feature Fabian's Italian Bistro, Tower Bridge Bistro, Coffee Republic, River City BBQ, and Noodles & Company, each offering tastes of their specialties.

Proceeds will will help raise funds to refurbish the community stage at Crossroads Church of Carmichael. Organizers describe the much-used stage as "a canvas, a host, a venue and a tool."

Heap goodies on your plate from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday at 7100 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; (916) 501-5916. Cost is $15 for adults, $5 for children 12 and younger; free for ages 3 and younger.

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

Ostrander II.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choc Fish espresso.JPG

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

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

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

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

Steel Magnolia.jpg

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

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

October 31, 2012
Ask the chef your cooking questions at Bee Book Club event

If you're looking for great recipes and expert advice for the holiday cooking season, Brian Streeter is the man to see.

He's the executive chef and culinary director of the Napa Valley's Cakebread Cellars winery, and author of "The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook."
On Thursday night (Nov. 1), Streeter will talk about all things food and cooking, including recipe development, ingredients, techniques and wine-and-food pairings. His presentation and question-and-answer session for the Sacramento Bee Book Club will be especially timely as Thanksgiving and other holiday "cooking days" quickly approach.

Join the culinarily curious crowd and ask Streeter your cooking questions. He will give a presentation and autograph the cookbook at 6 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento; (916) 452-5881.

Barnes & Noble will be there to sell the cookbook for 30 percent off the retail price (Ten Speed Press, $35, 203 pages.

Through Thursday night, these bookstores will offer a 30 percent discount on the title: Barnes & Noble, Avid Reader at the Tower in Sacramento, Avid Reader in Davis, Time Tested Books, Face in a Book in Eldorado Hills, Underground Books, the Hornet Bookstore at California State University, Sacramento, the UC Davis Bookstore and the Bookseller in Grass Valley.

For information on the Bee Book Club: (916) 321-1128

October 29, 2012
'Culinary California' offers archival cookbooks, menus and more

So many Californians are obsessed with food, from its history and sourcing to its preparation and consumption. We're big fans of celebrity chefs, too, from regional kitchen artists to the superstars of the Food Network. And cookbooks - we can't get enough of them.

The California State Library knows this, and has joined the table with its "Culinary California," the new program in its "A Night at the State Library" series.

The free archival exhibit is open to everyone from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through November. It offers a range of memorabilia "from California's eating and drinking appetites, from the Gold Rush to present day." Included are cookbooks, menus, bartenders' guides, wine labels and more.

The California State Library is at 900 N St., Sacramento. Information: (916) 654-0261,

October 24, 2012
Summer may be over, but 'cue season is still cookin'

If you just couldn't get your fill this summer of smokey, juicy, St. Louis-style pork ribs - the cut used by professional cookers at the huge annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off - come on down to east Sacramento.

The fourth annual Albie Ribbin' BBQ Cook-off to benefit the Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation is planned from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Hilltop Tavern, 4757 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 456-2843.

Twenty "Q teams" from area restaurants and sports bars will compete for trophies and braggin' rights. 'Cue judging will be handled by professionals from the Western States BBQ Association.

A $20 buy-in ($12 for children) gets lunch (noon to 3 p.m.), entry in a raffle, a silent auction and music from the Sacramento party band the Q-Balls (2 to 5 p.m.).

For more information: (916) 927-1592,

October 23, 2012
Chris Macias, Hank Shaw in "Best Food Writing 2012"


We're extremely proud to see The Bee's Chris Macias' name in the just-released collection, "Best Food Writing 2012," edited by Holly Hughes. Regular readers will remember well the story Macias wrote about Edward Martinez, now an accomplished pastry chef who, in his formative years, seemed destined for a short, violent life as a member of a notorious street gang. Published on April 18, 2012, the story recounts how delving into the world of making pastries "may have saved Martinez's life, or at least spared him a stretch in the state penitentiary."

Martinez went on to culinary school. He worked hard and he had talent to spare. He went on to work as pastry chef at the excellent Hawks in Granite Bay and recently joined Enotria as pastry chef.

"I never expected to get this far," Martinez said in Macias' piece. "I expected...(to be) in jail, or dead."

Macias is in prestigious company in "Best Food Writing 2012." There are stories from the New York Times, Saveur, Gastronomica, and Food & Wine, among others.

Also representing the Sacramento area is Hank Shaw, whose excellent, introspective piece, "On Killing," leads off the collection. Shaw, whose first book, "Hunt, Gather, Cook" has been a big success, discusses the idea of killing animals to eat. To some, this is the ultimate expression of real food, taking the killing into your own hands and coming to grips with how it feels and what it means. It's a story that certainly hit home for me, for I can't imagine anything more beautiful in nature than watching a duck land on water.

"I'm not ashamed to tell you that I have shed a tear more than once when I've had to deliver the coup de grace to a duck," Shaw writes. "I'm not sure what it is about ducks, but they affect me more than any other animals. I always apologize to it, knowing full well that this is a weak gesture designed mostly to help me feel better."

"Best Food Writing 2012" goes on sale today. It is available at various bookstores, as well as at Amazon. List price is $16 (on Amazon $10.76; Kindle version $9.76).

Congratulations to Chris and Hank for this fine achievement.

October 2, 2012
All things Italian will be at Hot Italian's Moderno Festival

In a mission to "reach out to the community," Hot Italian restaurant will host its third annual Moderno Italian Festival, combining "contemporary Italian food, design and film."

Hot Italian is at 1627 16th St., in Midtown Sacramento; (916) 444-3000,,

Here's the lineup for the free fest, to be held at the restaurant and in Fremont Park (converted into a "bike-in theater" for the two movies) across the street from Hot Italian.

September 21, 2012
Taylor's Market offers butchering class, ranch tour and dinner

Here's a fun, educational, and delicious event for foodies: a butchering class and family-style dinner right on the farm where the cattle are raised.

On Oct. 21, a Sunday, Taylor's Market, which has long been known for its meat counter run by skilled butchers, will hold a Butchering 101 class, along with a tour of the Wintun Ranch property in Roseville, followed by a family-style dinner at the ranch.

As Taylor's owner and butcher Danny Johnson told me by phone, it doesn't get any more "farm-to-table" than that.

The class, tour and dinner costs $75 per person (wine is extra). Add up all you get and that's a tremendous value. The Bee has written about the butcher classes at Taylor's and I have heard from participants that they are a great learning experience. You don't have to be an aspiring butcher - or even have an interest in breaking down your own side of beef sometime in the future. Johnson says it's all about educating consumers about the various cuts of meat and how to handle them. That said, Johnson hired a guy who took his butchering class last year, so you can learn plenty.

September 19, 2012
Foodies and the culinarily curious will gather in Stateline

Harrah's and Harveys in Stateline at South Lake Tahoe certainly know how to throw a party. The hotel-casinos proved it again last year with their Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival, which was over the top in a good way. Now plans are set for the third annual soiree, Oct. 5-7, which - judging by the lineup of events, celebrity chefs and wine experts - looks like more of the same.

If you missed the spectacular Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival held at the Northstar ski resort and the Ritz Carlton hotel Sept. 8-9, this one's for you.

Bet on a long list of food-and-wine pairings and tastings, multi-course dinners, cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, seminars, live entertainment and contests. Among the highlights will be "Around the World with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay," hosted by master sommelier Jay James; "Sushi, Sashimi and Sake Tasting"; and "Decadent Desserts and Drinks."

September 14, 2012
Feeding Crane Farms buys Steel Magnolia Commercial Kitchen

There aren't many slow days down on the farm - not when your name is Feeding Crane Farms. The young upstart on the local food scene has been extra busy lately as it expands its reach. It continues to supply produce to local restaurants and it's heavily involved in developing a brand for a variety of food products to be sold in grocery stores.

According to Shannin Stein, general manager at Feeding Crane Farms, the Natomas-based farm is in the process of completing the purchase of Steel Magnolia, the commercial kitchen on 16th Street in midtown that rents its space to chefs and small companies involved in food production. The kitchen has become a hub for fledgling food businesses and catering companies since it opened in late 2009.

One important component is that the kitchen is inspected by the county Health Department, also known as the Department of Environmental Management, just like restaurants are. That's crucial if companies want to sell their food to the general public.

September 14, 2012
Preview photos: Burger Battle contenders strut their stuff

644432_239073799549259_1159870635_n.jpgPhoto above of Paul Poore of Michelangelo's Restaurant (photo credit: Rachel Valley)

Following up on our report the other day about the upcoming Sacramento Burger Battle -- a heated competition, yes, but a charity fundraiser, too -- we've found a collection of promotional photos of the 15 competing chefs and their burgers. We're told that the actual burger recipes for the competition remain top-secret in several cases, so these giant, juicy burgers in these very impressive photos may be decoys or the real McCoy. Check out the photos by clicking here. The burgers look great. And several of the chefs certainly wore their "game faces" for their photo.

Congratulations ahead of time to the chefs for getting involved with a first-time event that promises to be the start of a great new food tradition for the Sacramento area, as well as a meaningful fundraiser for the Chrohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Rodney Blackwell, author of the blog Burger Junkies, is the man who organized the Sacramento Burger Battle. The event is this Tuesday at Raley Field from 7-10 p.m. (VIP ticketholders get in at 6 p.m.). Tickets are $55 per person, which includes sample sizes of the competing burgers, beer, wine and cider, as well as live music. For more information or to buy tickets, click here.

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

September 10, 2012
Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival is a hit

The weather was unseasonably warm at the Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort last weekend, but that didn't slow down the 2,000-plus foodies who sipped fine wines and sampled delectable small-plate dishes at the 27th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival.

The nine-day fest, which featured food- and wine-related events around the lake and at the ultra-luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel (situated a gondola ride above Northstar), culminated at Sunday's Grand Tasting. It featured 24 area restaurants teamed with 24 wineries to vie for gold, silver and bronze medals in various categories.

A panel of judges had huddled earlier in the day for an extensive tasting. From noon to 4 p.m., crowds of attendees went from tent to tent, tasting samples and sipping wines while bands played on the main stage.

The judges' choice for "best pairing of food and wine" was Granlibakken Resort of Tahoe City (mushroom stuffed with red lentil hash, chevre, duck and red currant) and Morgan 2010 pinot noir
Second place: Jake's on the Lake of Tahoe City (seared scallop) and Wente 2010 chardonnay
Third place: North Tahoe Catering of Kings Beach (chile smoked beef tender with roasted-peach truffle sauce) and Renwood 2010 old-vine zinfandel.

The Hard Rock Cafe chain won for "best pairing of food and beverage other than wine" for its bayou shrimp burger and Indian spices-dusted potato chips, with Charbay blood-orange vodka negroni cocktail.

In the "best food" category, Jake's on the Lake of Tahoe City took gold for its seared scallop; Six Peaks Grille of Squaw Valley took silver for its roasted beet salad with goat cheese and fried shallots; and Hawks took bronze for its smoked pork belly with corn pudding and pluots.

Once again, Hawks of Granite Bay was the competition's only entry from the Sacramento area. Last year, co-owners Molly Hawks and her husband, Michael Fagnoni, took gold for "best food" and silver for "best food and wine pairing."

As for the people's choice winners, "best food" and "best pairing" both went to the Chocolate Bar of Northstar (turkey crepe), teamed with Francis Coppola 2009 petite sirah.

As our group tasted, we found other favorites:
- A delectable smoked Korean pork rib roll from Plumpjack Cafe in Squaw Valley, teamed with our new favorite wine, the grenache D-66 from Orin Swift winery in the Napa Valley.

- A perfect seared scallop with corn-crab pudding and fig space from the West Shore Cafe in Homewood.

- A luscious vanilla-saffron mussel from Farm to Belly personal-chef and catering service in Truckee.

- An exceptional pork rib with black bean sauce from Drunken Monkey Sushi in Truckee.

We also ran into an old friend among the dozens of exhibitors and vendors selling goods in the Northstar central plaza. Limerock Orchards of Paso Robles makes a silken walnut oil that we use on everything we grill, from pork roast and ribs, to chicken and corn on the cob.

For the complete list of festival winners, visit

September 10, 2012
Sacramento Burger Battle promises to be big, meaningful


If you're the least bit tied in the local food scene, you probably already know about the Sacramento Burger Battle event on Sept. 18 at Raley Field.

How so? Rodney Blackwell, the man behind the upcoming extravaganza of sizzling beef and gooey cheese is a one-man social media dynamo. He tweets. He blogs. He says stuff on Facebook. And he makes things happen.

The Burger Battle not only promises to be a significant annual food event in Sacramento, it's going to raise thousands of dollars for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Blackwell's oldest daughter, 9-year-old Karina, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 5.

"I've been donating to them ever since, but I wanted to do more," Blackwell told me Monday.

September 7, 2012
Top of Folsom art, food and wine event is Sept. 15

Just a reminder that Top of Folsom, the event featuring fine art with food and wine set atop the scenic rooftop of the parking garage in historic Old Folsom is Saturday, Sept. 15 from 6-9 p.m.

It should be quite an evening -- featuring 20 artists, 20 wineries and 15 chefs. Live music, too. All for a good cause.

If that's not enough, Karen Holmes of Karen's Bakery & Cafe fame will be making a "public salad," based on a performance art piece first showcased by American artist Alison Knowles at the Tate Museum in London in 1962. In this updated version, Holmes will have help from culinary students at American River College. I'm not privy to all the details, but expect massive amounts of salad greens to be dropped -- or tossed -- from the fourth-floor level of the garage to the third level, where they will be caught in a large tarp. A pitch fork could be used to toss the greens with the dressing. This might make more sense when you see it in person -- after a glass or two of old vine zin.

Tickets are $75. Proceeds go to the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary and the Folsom Historic District. For more information or to purchase tickets online, click here.

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

September 4, 2012
The smoke clears on winners of Best in the West Rib Cook-off

The 24th annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off over the Labor Day weekend was a serious rib-cookin' throwdown between 25 professional cookers competing for cash, trophies and braggin' rights.

Along the way, they sold a quarter-million pounds of bones to a sauce-smeared Rib Nation a half-million strong, while a medley of bands blasted the crowds with multi-genre music. To go with the St. Louis-style spareribs were roasted corn, onion rings, funnel cakes and plenty of beer.

The six-day event - considered the most prestigious of its kind anywhere - culminated Monday on Victorian Square at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks. That's when Nugget officials announced the winners (and their cash winnings) to a cheering throng. They were:

First place: Chicago BBQ Company of Burr Ridge, Ill., $7,500
Second place: Sweet Baby Ray's of Wood Dale, Ill., , $3,000
Third place: Famous Dave's of Minnetonka, Minn., $2,000
Fourth place: Porky 'n' Beans of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., $1,000
Fifth place: Checkered Pig of Martinsville, Va., $500
Best Sauce Award ($500) went to Famous Dave's, while Back Forty Texas Barbecue of Pleasant Hill, Ca., took the People's Choice Award ($500).

For more information: (775) 356-3300, or

August 29, 2012
Dancing, music, shopping and delicacies at Greek Festival

Ethnic festivals are always a good thing, a chance to explore a different culture and discover new delicacies.

The 49th annual Greek Food Festival this Labor Day weekend will offer that and more. Scheduled are dancing, live music, cooking demonstrations, cultural displays and a marketplace full of imported clothing, art and jewelry.

Food-wise, 55 Greek "YiaYias" (grandmothers) are preparing a menu featuring appetizers, gyros, lamb and desserts.

Sip a little Greek wine, or pair anise-flavored Ouzo with strong Greek coffee.

The action will be happening at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., Sacramento. Admission is $5 ($4 for seniors); food and drink priced separately.

Days and hours:
Friday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday: noon to 11 p.m.
Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.
More information at

August 28, 2012
Evan's Kitchen will pair Mexican dishes with Mexican wines

Evan Elsberry is a chef who enjoys creating original dishes for food competitions. His imaginative menus have won numerous ribbons at the California State Fair over the years. Last year, he was among the top three winners in the Ultimate Clubhouse Sandwich contest at the Scottish Rite Center, and in the second annual Sacramento Tomato Fest at Town & Country Village.

Elsberry is partial to pairing ethnic cuisines with matching wines. So far this year, he has hosted Italian-, French- and Spanish wine-pairing dinners at his restaurant, Evan's Kitchen. Now he's geared up for a Mexican-themed dinner, with accompanying Mexican wines.

Wines from Mexico? Yes, especially from the Baja Peninsula. The wine industry there has taken huge strides in recent years, surprising critics and casual imbibers alike. Some of those wines were featured in the "Mexico Issue" of the high-end food magazine Saveur. Go to

Meanwhile, "A Taste of Mexico" is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 17. The cost is $75 per person, with reservations at (916) 452-3896. Tip: The previous themed dinners filled up fast, so...

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

The Mexican wine dinner looks like this:

August 13, 2012
Sample and sip at Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival

With more than 2,000 foodies expected to show up, now's the time to make a plan for a culinary safari, to sip and sample, and take plenty of tasting notes for future reference.

The 27th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival has expanded from two days at the Village at Northstar ski resort to nine days of gourmet events and activities around the north, east and west shores of the lake ( It will be happening Sept. 1 through Sept. 9.

"We're moving forward with the growing trend of culinary tourism," said Pettit Gilwee, public-relations representative for the North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau. "There will be something food- and wine-related going on in your neck of the woods, wherever you're staying."

The centerpieces of the festival will continue to be the Grape Stomp (Sept. 7 in Tahoe City); Gourmet Marketplace, and classes, seminars, demonstrations, tastings, food-and-wine and beer-and-cheese pairings, and cooking competitions at Northstar (Sept. 8); and the Grand Tasting and Culinary Competition at Northstar (Sept. 9). At the judged Grand Tasting food-and-wine pairing, guests can graze and sip at more than 30 booths.

Some events are free, others are ticketed ($15 to $95). For details (including special lodging packages) and to buy tickets:

August 10, 2012
Leatherby's says 'happy birthday' with a 12-hour party

It's ice-cream weather and you're in luck.

The four-generation family-owned Leatherby's Creamery will celebrate its 30th anniversary with what it calls "an old-fashioned birthday party" from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14.

The party hats will be out at the three area Leatherby's. Featured will be free hot dogs for the 18-and-younger crowd (dine-in only), prizes via scratch-off cards, giveaways (including T-shirts and gift baskets), balloons, face-painting, and ice cream for 30 percent off.

Leatherby's stores are at 2333 Arden Way, Sacramento, (916) 920-8382; 7910 Antelope Road, Citrus Heights, (916) 729-4021; and 8238 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove, (916) 691-3334.

More information:

August 8, 2012
Hot Italian hosts Ruthie Bolton book-signing this Saturday


Former Sacramento Monarchs guard and WNBA all-star Ruthie Bolton will be at Hot Italian (1627 16th St., Sacramento) this Saturday from 3-6 p.m. to meet fans and sign copies of her new book, "The Ride of a Lifetime: The Making of Mighty Ruthie."

The event coincides with the Olympic gold medal game in women's basketball, which will be shown at the pizzeria starting at 4 p.m.

As many Sacramentans know, Bolton was not only an excellent basketball player but a widely respected woman off the court with a compelling life story.

August 2, 2012
'What I Eat' inspires special five-course meal in Truckee

WHAT I EAT BOOK.JPGLet's start with the book and segue to the dinner.

For a shocker, open the extraordinary "What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets" by Napa-based photojournalist Peter Menzel and his wife, former TV producer Faith D'Aluisio (Material World/Ten Speed Press, $40, 335 pages;

The book combines striking photos of and interviews with 80 people in 30 countries, accompanied in each case by a menu of their meals on a typical day. Their stories are arranged by daily caloric intake, from a low of 800 calories to a high of 12,300 calories.

In Kenya, one of the wives of a Maasai chief derives her 800 calories from porridge, bananas, tea, milk and sugar. In London, a mother of three consumes 12,300 daily calories from three full meals, plus three daily snacks.

Now for the five-course meal, inspired by the book: Menzel and D'Aluisio will give a presentation at a "farm-to-table" outdoor dinner-lecture sponsored by the Squaw Valley Institute, in a private home on "20 acres overlooking Truckee."

Preparing the meal will be chefs from some of the Tahoe area's top restaurants: Plumpjack Café, Moody's, Wolfdale's, Mamasake and Six Peaks Grille. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing will offer samples of organic ales.

"The dinner is designed to pay homage to our local culinary leaders and providers, and to present an intimate evening where we can truly digest the topic - exactly what the Squaw Valley Institute is about," said executive director Renee Koijane.

Limited-seating tickets to the Aug. 18 dinner-lecture are $135 a person (including a copy of the book) at More information at (530) 581-4138.

August 1, 2012
Raising salad-making to the level of performance art, with wine

I just got off the phone with Karen Holmes of Karen's Bakery and Cafe in Folsom. I called her after reading about an upcoming food, wine and fine art event that sounds like a lot of fun. It will be held on the top floor of the parking garage in Historic Old Folsom on Sept. 15, with proceeds going to the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary. For more information and to buy tickets, go here.

Holmes sent me an earlier email in which she said, "I wanted to bring a Fine Art event to the Historic District of Folsom. Artists from outside our community who create fine art -- not arts and crafts. I love art, and the artists who can think that way, and wanted to support fine art in my community. My vision was an event that brought fine art, food, and wine together. I wanted the artists to be able to sell their work, and for people to be able to taste wine and food, similar to the events I've been to at Pebble Beach and Los Angeles."

I was especially intrigued by Holmes' role - she's going to be preparing a "public salad." What's a public salad, you ask? That's what I wanted to know.

July 31, 2012
Monterey winemakers are ready for annual sip-and-sample

Here's a big one for the sip-and-graze crowd: The 20th annual Monterey Winemakers' Celebration is a day of vino (40 wineries, 200 wines, 42 varietals) and tastes (10 restaurants, seven vendors).

Plus: winemaking displays, silent auction and "special promotions and pricing." Bonus: meets-and-greets with winemakers. If you taste one of their wines you like a lot, you can buy it at the Try and Buy Wine Marketplace.

Among the mainstream and small boutique Monterey County wineries will be Kori, Chalone, Silvestri, Dawn's Dream, Chateau Julien and Saint's Valley. Tastes will include bratwurst, pizza, sushi, sliders, cheeses, olive oils, chocolates and much more.

The fest will be 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 11 at the covered Barnyard Village Event Center, 3652 The Barnyard off Highway 1 in Carmel. Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 at the door. Designated driver tickets are $15 (no wine-tasting) and include "young adults between 16 and 20."

For tickets and more information:, (831) 375-9400.

July 30, 2012
Feasting, singing and dancing at 27th annual Festa Italiana

When it comes to restaurant fare, Italian is tied "neck and neck" with Mexican and Chinese as the most popular ethnic cuisines in the United States. That's according to the National Restaurant Association, which has 400,000 restaurant members.

Knowing that, you're now ready to eat and play at the 27th annual Festa Italiana. Load up on Italian sausage and meatball subs, pizza, pasta (including deep-fried ravioli), lasagna, chicken Parmesan, rice balls (arancini), stuffed peppers, polenta, calamari, cannoli, gelato and more.

Plus: gift and food items imported from Italy; bands and singers; activities for children; Italian auto, motorscooter and bicycle exhibits; bocce ball competitions; and a raffle for a trip to Italy.

The festival will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Croatian Center, 3730 Auburn Blvd., Sacramento. Admission is $12, free for ages 15 and younger. Free parking.

Information and ticket sales:

July 26, 2012
Restaurants and marketing part II

Last week, I compiled a list of restaurants doing a very good job at marketing and promoting their businesses. What led to the list? My recent experience with Erawan Thai Restaurant, which has good food and, at least until the review came out, very few actual customers.

Restaurants that sit back and wait for customers to discover their tasty food and friendly staffs are destined to lose out to those that realize this is a highly competitive business that requires smarts, persistence, exposure and repetition.

Many folks emailed me to point out restaurants I might want to add to the list. Two certainly stand out - Mikuni and de Vere's Irish Pub. Consider them added. These two do an excellent job. In fact, struggling restaurants looking for a boost would do well to study what these places are up to.

July 19, 2012
Sip and sample (and cool off) at Taste of the Delta

The weekend forecast is for heat - reason enough to head for the Delta for its cooling breezes.

Perhaps a more compelling motive is to attend the 11th annual Taste of the Delta, offering sips and samplings from 15 area wineries and 13 restaurants, and live and silent auctions. Plus, eight vendor booths (including the Department of Boating and Waterways) will be on site.

Taste of the Delta will be 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Village West Marina, 6649 Embarcadero Drive, Stockton. Take Interstate 5 south to the Benjamin Holt exit and bear right; drive about 1-1/2 miles and turn right on to Embarcadero and into the marina parking lot.

Advance tickets are $25 at, and $35 at the door. For more information: (916) 777-4041.

July 16, 2012
Take a bike ride out to Feeding Crane Farms on July 22

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is leading a bike ride out to Feeding Crane Farms, the newest organic farm in the area, on July 22 (Sunday). If you want to join in the fun and learn about an urban farm that focuses on supplying restaurants with specialty items and that recently started distributed a CSA box for home cooks, you have to act fast.

Deadline for registration is Tuesday (July 17). The cost is $15, which includes what will undoubtedly be a farm-fresh lunch. The leisurely ride to the farm in Natomas will leave Edible Pedal at 9 a.m., returning around 1 p.m. Round trip from midtown, it's about 15 miles. To register or to learn more, click here. You can also call the Co-op at (916) 455-2667.

July 13, 2012
Aimal Formoli to be next guest chef at Plates Cafe


Plates Café and Catering is an innovative program that offers intensive on-the-job training programs to help formerly homeless women with children develop their skills and find careers in the hospitality industry. It operates in conjunction with St. John's Shelter for Women & Children.

One of the main attractions at Plates is the delicious and eclectic lunch menu, available weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On the first Thursday night of every month, Plates also showcases the work of a guest chef. In August, it's Aimal Formoli, the enterprising and creative chef behind the superb food at Formoli's Bistro in East Sacramento. It's an honor to be selected for this guest chef position and it's a treat for patrons to try the food these chefs present for their special dinners. The featured wine maker on this occasion is Naggiar Vineyards; the desserts will be by Drizzle Cupcakes.

July 12, 2012
Two upcoming events at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg

Here are two events on the horizon at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg you might enjoy. Besides wine, each involves something near and dear to my heart: pet adoption and, in a completely different way, bread and cheese.

The Old Sugar Mill is a feel-good place - a short drive from downtown Sacramento, it seems as if you're way out in the country in a beautifully renovated setting that is ruggedly industrial yet refined. There are six wineries with tasting rooms, as well as a crush facility on the premises.

The first event is called "Pups and Pinot" this Saturday, July 14, from 1-5 p.m. featuring dogs up for adoption from Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary.

July 12, 2012
Tweets from the State Fair's Big Beef Rib Eat-Off
July 12, 2012
Burger Battle will sizzle in September, tickets are on sale now

Elk Grove website designer Rodney Blackwell knows something about hamburgers. He maintains the 19-month-old, the all-things-burgers site that takes burger-lovers on visits to burger joints throughout California and far beyond.

Blackwell is the driving force behind the upcoming Sacramento Burger Battle, a throwdown and tasting event to benefit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

The battle will commence the evening of Sept. 18 - National Cheeseburger Day - at Raley Field. Fifteen restaurants will flip their best offerings in a sizzling quest to find the best burger in Sacramento. Winners will be determined by a panel of judges and a people's-choice vote, so two restaurants could walk off with top honors. Craft beers, winetasting and live music will be part of it.

Ticket sales will be capped at 800 and are available now, so maybe it's the right time for attendees to get cookin'. Tickets are $45 general admission (7 to 10 p.m.), $65 VIP (6 to 10 p.m.); prices will jump by $10 on Aug. 1. Buy them at

The burger champ(s) will get braggin' rights, of course, but also a custom-made championship belt modeled after the ones handed out by the World Wresting Entertainment organization.

One last thing: What is Blackwell's favorite burger?
"In Sacramento, it's the one at Mulvaney's B&L (1215 19th St., 916-441-6022). My favorite burger of all time is at the Playground in Santa Ana ("

Good to know.

July 9, 2012
Fun for the family: A Sunday drive with a few stops at farms

This looks to have the makings of a fun and educational food and farm-related event for those looking for a pleasant Sunday drive with the kids out to the Sierra foothills.

It's called the Living Lands' Third Annual Farm Tour and Family Fun Festival. The tour is on July 15 (Sunday) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Those attending are encouraged to visit three of the six participating farms, meet the farmers and learn about their operations.

Then, from 1-5 p.m., adults and kids are invited to attend the festival at First Rain Farm in Nevada City. There will be lunch, ice cream, live music and a variety of activities, including butter churning and goat milking.

July 6, 2012
Bacon Fest announces BLT Week and a BLT bike crawl

bacon.jpgBack in January, Bacon Fest proved to be exceptionally popular with food lovers as well as lucrative for local restaurants and pubs that participated.

Fast forward to summer, and restaurateurs are eager to get involved with a new Bacon Fest-sponsored event: "Bacon Fest Sacramento presents BLT Week 2012."

It's the perfect bacon theme for summertime, especially with tomatoes reaching their peak.

What is BLT Week? I caught up with Brian Guido, the man behind Bacon Fest, to get the details.

July 5, 2012
Multi-course lamb feast at Taylor's Kitchen, after '101' class

LHDANNY JOHNSONTASTE.JPGWhen it comes to longevity and quality meats in the cold cases, Taylor's Market is in a separate league. Proving the point, the Sacramento icon will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a five-course wine-pairing dinner on Aug. 12.

Meanwhile, co-owner and head butcher Danny Johnson (pictured) is planning a lamb feast Tuesday after leading a "butchering 101 class" in which he will disassemble a lamb from Lava Lake Ranch, situated near Sun Valley, Idaho. The hormone- and antibiotics-free lambs raised there are free-range and grass-fed (

"The lamb I will butcher will not be the lamb we're cooking for dinner," Johnson was quick to point out on the phone this morning. "My class will focus on the different cuts of lamb and what (the home cook) can do with them."

As for his choice of Lava Lake Ranch: "It has a seasonal (lamb-raising) program, not 24/7 like so many other ranches. They're doing things the way ranchers used to do them."

After the class, Taylor's Kitchen chef Richard Telford will prepare a multi-course lamb dinner. During the evening, Lava Lake Ranch owner Brian Bean will give a presentation and answer questions.

The lamb dinner menu will include bresaola (air-dried salted lamb with arugula, fennel, pickled cherries and pine nuts), lamb carbonara (handmade fettucini with lamb bacon, English peas, egg and pecorino cheese), Moroccan spiced leg of lamb, and Manchego cheesecake (fig compote, honey and Marcona almonds).

The butchering class will begin at 6 p.m. (with appetizers), followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $75 (plus $5.12 surcharge) at, and at the door on Tuesday (availability permitting).

Taylor's Kitchen is at 2924 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento, adjacent to Taylor's Market. Information: (916) 443-6881.

July 3, 2012
Preserve summer's harvest with these handy classes

Summer gardens offer bountiful fruit and vegetables, often too much to eat fresh. Farmers markets and fruit stands also are brimming with bargain produce.

Get some expert advice on how to save some of that harvest for later with the help of the UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preservers.

These experts have several demonstrations coming up at the Sacramento Cooperative Extension Office, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento. Each event is open to the public with no pre-registration necessary. Here's a sample:

- The Pressure's On: UC master food preservers show how to preserve a bountiful harvest (and save time, too) through this introduction to safe pressure-canning techniques. The two-hour free class starts at 10 a.m. July 14.

- Tasty Tomato and Tomatillo Treasures: Get ready to tackle the summer harvest with salsas, sauces and more. This evening class, which has a $3 materials fee, starts at 6:30 p.m. July 18.

- All Dried Up: Learn how to dehydrate fruit and vegetables at home, with or without special equipment. This free class starts at 10 a.m. Aug. 11.

For more details, click on or call (916) 875-6913.

June 28, 2012
Competitive eating at the state fair, for fun and (maybe) profit

Indulging in a cornucopia of food and drink from 100-plus vendors is part of the experience at the California State Fair. That, and riding the Ferris wheel.

When it comes to overindulging in a competitive way, fair officials have that covered, too. Dozens of food-lovers, foodies, professional eaters and just plain good sports will compete in three timed (and entertaining) eating contests. All events will be on the Promenade Stage.

Big Rib Throwdown: This year's big-buzz fair-food item will be the Big Rib - two pounds of prime beef attached to a 17-inch-long cow's rib. How much of it can one person eat? Find out at 1 p.m. on opening day (July 12). A lineup of Sacramento media personalities (including Bee food and wine writer Chris Macias) will indulge in a literal "feeding frenzy."

Hooters Wing-Eating: The restaurant chain will supply its own "top major-league eaters" for this event. They will be in competition for a spot in the Hooters World Wing-Eating Championship in New York City in late July, for a $15,000 purse. The state fair competition is the final preliminary before the nationals, and is worth $1,000 to the winner. The eaters will get down to business at 6 p.m. July 14.

Corn Dog Countdown: Much more casual is the fair's invitation to "anyone who is hungry to become a part of California's corn dog history." Register at and try to beat the previous record of downing 15 corn dogs in seven minutes. The preliminary round is at 5 p.m. July 20, with finals at 4 p.m. July 21.

The California State Fair runs July 12-July 29 at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays.

Admission: $12 general, $10 ages 62-plus, $8 children 5-12, free for children under 4. Parking is $10. Information:

June 26, 2012
Beer Night meets Sierra Nevada at Fabian's Italian Bistro

One vital part of Sacramento's summer season is cold beer, and there's no shortage of small breweries providing it. Where to sample them? For one, Fabian's Italian Bistro is getting the reputation as a Beer Central.

"Almost all of our taps (are beers) from Northern California craft breweries," said co-owner (with wife Mercedes) Christian Forte. "That's our thing right now."

Among them are Hoptologist (from the Knee Deep brewery in Lincoln), Franklin (Sutter Buttes brewery) and Brother David (Anderson Valley brewery).

Wednesday will be Beer Night at the restaurant, featuring a representative from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., who will be happy to talk "all things beer."

The deal: four tastes plus two appetizers for $10, with live music on the patio.

The brews: Bigfoot Barleywine Ale and Ovila Dubbel Belgian Ale on tap. In bottles will be Hoptimum and Summerfest Lager.

The bites: Chef Tom Patterson will make beer-battered mascarpone-stuffed pepperoncini with smoked paprika aioli, and beer-battered Vidalia onion rings with spicy catsup.

The special: The main-course dinner ($14.95) will be house-made Italian sausage steamed in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, served with mascarpone polenta and peperonata (simmered bell peppers with onion and garlic).

Beer Night begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends "until we're tapped out," said Christian Forte.

Fabian's is in the Almond Orchard center, 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks; (916) 536-9891,,

June 15, 2012
Chocolate Fish to host "latte art throw down" June 30

latte art.JPGSacramento is losing one of its best baristas to the Air Force Reserves, and to send him off in style, Chocolate Fish Coffee is hosting a latte throw down and barbecue. It is Saturday June 30 at 4 p.m. Chocolate Fish is at the corner of Q and 3rd streets downtown.

It's essentially a friendly competition to see who can do the coolest art with the steamed milk atop lattes and cappuccinos.

In recent years, one of the many developments that distinguishes independent coffee shops from major chains like Starbucks or Peet's is that when you order a latte or cappuccino, you're usually treated to something special with the design of the milk cap. Often it's a stylized tree, a heart or something abstract. It's an aesthetic flourish that doesn't make the coffee taste any better but is an extra nice touch that has become pretty much standard practice at the better independents. You rarely if ever see latte art at Starbucks and Peet's. Maybe it's because most of the coffee orders are to go and the cups have a lid.

Some of the best latte art I've seen in Sacramento has been done by Chocolate Fish's Kyle Baumann, who told me recently he is leaving the business for the Air Force Reserves, which entails many months of training. Not only was he a devoted employee and coffee practitioner, he's an an all-around good guy. I have had many an excellent espresso and flat white at Chocolate Fish.

As for the latte art competition, it should be a lot of fun. Great coffee, good food, and lots of friendly folks saying farewell to one of the city's best baristas. As a small leaflet promoting the event states: "Kyle's last hurrah as a barista and your last chance to challenge him to a latte art thrown down."

The event is open to the public.

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

June 8, 2012
SacTown Dining Collective debut event a tasty success

The SacTown Dining Collective's kickoff event at Plate's Cafe on Thursday night couldn't have gone smoother. Some 350 tickets had sold out 10 days prior, all of the food courses came out in a timely fashion - many of them even ahead of schedule - and the Sacramento chefs and restaurateurs who make up the collective reveled in their camaraderie. Most of all, their food was superb.

The SacTown Dining Collective formed with the idea of mobilizing local food movers-and-shakers to show how much culinary talent exists in this town, along with highlighting the local farmers and purveyors who provide first rate ingredients. Getting this group off the ground wasn't so easy at first, and for a minute defining the collective's mission and goals was more like the SacTown Herding Cats Collective. But on Thursday night, there was Mike Thiemann of Ella Dining Room & Bar testing out his fried chicken course - which had first been cooked sous vide before frying - on chef Oliver Ridgeway of Grange. Out on Plate's Cafe's lawn, near the dinner's family style seating, you'd find Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro/Restaurant Thi13en) working side by side with Rob Venditti of Mulvaney's B&L and David Hill of The Chef's Table.

The dinner also attracted a who's-who of Sacramento's food scene, including three generations of the Selland family, winery owner Sean Minor, Nguyen Pham of Sunh Fish, chef Pajo Bruich, Taro Arai of Mikuni and Kimio Bazett of Golden Bear, who was also a key organizer of Thursday's dinner with local food enthusiast Amber Turner.

June 8, 2012
Three exciting menus bid farewell to foie gras

As most food enthusiasts know by now, foie gras will be banned in California on July 1. Note: I was unaware of a provision in the bill that would allow the production of foie gras without force feeding, so I am updating this blog post and deleting that error.

Several top restaurants have held special foie gras dinners and more are planning them. Here are three that should delight foie gras aficionados. Reservations for any of the dinners is highly recommended.

June 7, 2012
In-N-Out Burger opens new Sacramento restaurant

By Mark Glover

A new In-N-Out Burger outlet opened today at 2001 Alta Arden Expressway in Sacramento.

The restaurant bordering Arden Fair mall is expected to employ about 50. The outlet is the site of the former Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Irvine-based In-N-Out Burger opened its first restaurant in Baldwin Park in 1948. It oversees more nearly 300 outlets today, most of those in California.

June 1, 2012
Sactown Dining Collective kick-off dinner: sold out

Here's a sign that the local restaurant scene is coming together and picking up momentum: the kick-off dinner for the Sactown Dining Collective has quickly sold out at $45 per person.

The dinner is June 7 at Plates Café, the restaurant that trains homeless women to work in the hospitality industry. Several of the city's top chefs are involved in cooking and presenting this dinner. Chris Macias recently gave us details here about the upcoming event.

The Dining Collective is a new venture, and when it began to take shape a few months back, many in the restaurant business were skeptical. But thanks to the passion and organizational skills of Amber Turner, the group has taken off. Its mission: tell the story of the area's culinary talent and work together to grow and prosper. In other words, competition is good and healthy, but so is cooperation.

May 31, 2012
Capitol Dawg wins Guinness World Record for $145.49 hot dog


Sacramento Bee photo by Paul Kitagaki, Jr.

About 60 well-wishing hot dog fans and friends - and two local televsion stations - showed up this afternoon at Capitol Dawg not for lunch but from curiosity, eager to witness hot dog history being made.

The Sacramento heat didn't stop the good-natured group from crowding the patio and kitchen of the popular Midtown restaurant to watch Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric bestow the official title of "World's Most Expensive Hot Dog" on owner Mike Brown's California Capitol City Dawg. The three-pound sandwich sells for $145.49. A third of the proceeds from sales will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Shortly before the grand moment, Empric explained that the Guinness World Records organization required him to see first-hand "two key points" at Capitol Dawg in order to grant the title.

"We have firm, established guidelines we must stand behind to uphold our integrity," he said. "(In this instance) the hot dog has to be a regularly listed menu item (it is), and an actual transaction needs to take place (it did)."

May 29, 2012
Verge fundraiser: local beer, local food and money well spent

Drink a beer, help an artist. It's that simple the entire month of June, as Sacramento's own Ruhstaller Beer will donate a percentage of sales for each beer sold (at participating restaurants) to the Verge Center for the Arts.

The fundraising effort is a good deal all the way around: Ruhstaller and owner JE Paino continue to cement the company's position in the community while connecting to the brand's vaunted history in Sacramento; Verge gets to share its vision with a broader audience while attracting needed funds; and the beer-drinking public get to enjoy excellent beer while supporting a very worthy cause.

First things first. Here's a list of the participating restaurants: Bows and Arrows, Blackbird, Davis Beer Shoppe, 58 Degrees, Grange, Matteo's Bistro, Mulvaney's, Mama Kim Eats, Luna Lounge, OneSpeed, Pangaea, Red Rabbit, Roxy, Selland's (East Sac), Tazzina's Bistro in Woodland.

May 24, 2012
Triumph Uncorked on June 22 -- food, wine, and a great cause

Pam Whitehead is one of the true local heroes in the fight against cancer. Not only has she raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Livestrong Foundation over the years, but she founded an excellent program called Triumph Fitness, which is a free 12-week strength and fitness program for those who have recently been treated for cancer.

I just received an email about a great food and wine fundraiser on June 22 at Helwig Winery directly related to the Triumph Cancer Foundation, and it features some top-notch food folks -- Mulvaney's, Magpie Caterers, Freeport Bakery, Pretty Sweet Co and Grateful Bread -- all creating items that will go into each attendee's insulated (and reusable) picnic basket. This is the second year for "Triumph Uncorked."

Music, gourmet food, fine wine, a good cause. What's not to like? Tickets are on sale now. If you want to go, don't put it off -- tickets must be purchased by June 18. Get details at or go directly here to purchase tickets.

Whitehead knows what she's talking about -- she's a cancer survivor herself. She and her husband Paul Almond are also excellent architects -- their Sacramento-based firm is called Sage Architecture. If you happen to appreciate great design, check out the photo galleries. (If you look closely, you'll notice the recent work Sage did for Helwig Winery).

May 21, 2012
State Fair contest: Do you have a creative coffee idea?

Here's an email I received today that might interest those who enjoy entering the various food contests at the State Fair. If you've got a great idea, now is the time to let loose, as the prizes are quite impressive -- a trip to New York City, $500 and $500 worth of coffee. If your idea goes all the way: $10,000!

The press release states the following:

Seattle's Best Coffee is going to the epicenter of custard pie contests, brownie bake-offs and strawberry jam competitions to kick off "The Red Cup Showdown," a cross-country challenge offering a $10,000 grand prize for the most imaginative and delicious new coffee drink.

Seattle's Best Coffee invites California cooks with creativity to submit their best ideas during a live competition at the California State Fair on Saturday, July 14. The finalist who takes home the blue ribbon at the California State Fair will be sent to New York City to battle for the grand prize against finalists from the Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa state fairs as well as one Facebook finalist. In addition to a trip to the Big Apple in late August, the California finalist will receive $500 and free coffee for a year, valued at $500.

How to Enter The Red Cup Showdown at the California State Fair
Enter here to compete in the Red Cup Showdown at the California State Fair. A panel of judges will select the finalist based on appetite appeal, uniqueness and the story behind the coffee drink idea.

May 16, 2012
Cowtown Eats gets political: asks candidates about restaurants and happy hours

This is a pretty cool idea from Cowtown Eats, which is asking each of the candidates for City Council District 4 about their views on restaurants and happy hours. The blog notes that the newly redrawn district covers the Grid and Land Park, home to many of our high-profile restaurants and bars.

Here's what Cowtown Eats is getting at:

"My hope is that by their answers, we get a little glimpse into the actual person. If one person's favorite restaurant is Biba and another's is Squeeze Inn, it probably means a little about them. I'm not saying you should vote solely based on the information in these interviews, but this should be a little piece of information used in deciding your vote.
Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

"Of the seven candidates, Neil Davidson has already taped an interview and one is scheduled with Phyllis Newton. I'll be posting these interviews in the order they were taped, starting tomorrow. I haven't heard back from the other five candidates. If you know Terry Schanz, Steve Hansen, Joseph Yee, David A. Turturici or Michael Daniel Rehm, please encourage them to participate. I can be reached at to schedule the video interviews."

Now I'm curious. I live in District 4, and while I have a host of concerns and interests, I'd certainly like to take a look at these videos. Check out Cowtown Eats here and return to the site to keep up with what the candidates are saying about our restaurants and bars.

May 16, 2012
Back to the Farm will return to simpler country times

The notion of spending a bucolic day on a 200-acre walnut farm an hour's drive from Sacramento brings to mind the "unofficial anthem" of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Sure, there's a connection.

"Goin' Up the Country" by Canned Heat became an international hit after Woodstock, with lyrics that include, "I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away.../Well, I'm going where the water tastes like wine.../ I'm goin' to some place where I've never been before."

Which sounds a lot like going to Back to the Farm - yes, in the country - where you'll find live entertainment, smokin' barbecue, a farmers market, pie-eating contest, games of horseshoes and a good ol' fashioned milk bottle toss. Plus: tractor and farm equipment exhibits and demonstrations.

You'll take Highway 99 north toward Yuba City, then scenic Highway 20 west to Meridian, finding Farmlan Road when you arrive.

The good times will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 2. Admission will be $5 "per wheel," so you'll pay $20 if you arrive by car, $10 if by motorcycle. Information: (916) 355-4056, Back to the Farm will benefit Ben Ali Shriners.

May 14, 2012
Monterey Beer Festival will be a day of suds and food sampling

It's not too early to plan for a road trip to Monterey for the 11th annual Monterey Beer Festival, 12:30 to 5 p.m. at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairgrounds Road. Tickets are still available, but maybe not for long, said event organizers.

Three beer wagons will be on site, pouring gallons of draft suds. Deschutes Woody Wagon (pictured), Ninkasi Adventure Wagon and English Ales Beer Wagon will be joined by the Bruvado Beer Truck. Plus, more than 80 breweries will offer hundreds of beer and ciders from 15 countries.

Five-time All Star Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas, the super-slugging first baseman/designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox in the 1990s, will emcee the event. This will be the California debut of his new Big Hurt beer brand.

Dozens of vendors will be on hand with long menus of eats, from bratwurst to fish. Sip and sample while several local bands take turns on the stage.

General admission is $40, with VIP ticketing at $60. You must be 21 years old to attend. To buy tickets and for more information, go to

May 10, 2012
Taste of Carmichael will offer food, wine and classic cars

The local festival season continues with the upcoming 10th annual Taste of Carmichael. Restaurants, bakeries and wineries will offer tastings, with a backdrop of live music, art, and a vintage- and classic-car show. Don't overlook the raffles and silent auctions.

Taste will be from 4:30 to 8 p.m. May 19 at La Sierra Community Center, 5325 Engle Road, Carmichael. Tickets are $35 at the door or in advance at (916) 481-0196.

May 7, 2012
Follow your nose to the Smoke & Fire BBQ Cook-off

Get you 'cue hunger on - the barbecue season has begun, and cook-offs are a part of it.

For starters, the inaugural Smoke & Fire BBQ Cook-Off will feature cookers from eight Sacramento fire station teams, whose labors of love will be judged in the tri-tip and pork rib categories, followed by an awards ceremony. The public will be the ultimate winner, of course.

Cost is $5 for tastings and $5 for a full lunch plate. Also, look for a display of antique firetrucks, a beer garden, live music, and demonstrations by the DART rescue team.

The smokin' event will be noon to 4 p.m. May 20 at Acacia Hall, 1803 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 923-6200,

Smoke & Fire will benefit the Sacramento City Fire Volunteer Reserves. Co-sponsored by the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership.

May 4, 2012
Go for the farmers market, stay for the Pig Roast

When the Oak Park Farmers Market opens Saturday, it will be in a new venue - McClatchy Park, 3500 5th Ave., Sacramento. On opening day, tickets to the May 12 Jubilee Farm Pig Roast will be sold and given away.

About that upcoming pig-out: Chef Brad Cecchi of the Grange restaurant and his crew will roast two whole Berkshire pigs, a sight to behold. The lunch menu will include salt-roasted pork, grilled pork ribs, roasted porchetta, sausages, and chicken (cooked inside the pigs), with side dishes.

The market will open at 9 a.m., with lunch starting at 1 p.m., accompanied by live music and activities for children.

Tickets are $25 general admission, $50 for VIP and $65 for a "family pack" (two adults and two children). Information: (916) 304-3276,

May 4, 2012
Japanese Street Festival's a day of food and fun at Fountains

Party time is coming to the Fountains center in Roseville on Thursday, in the form of the second annual Mikuni Japanese Street Festival.

Look for martial-arts demonstrations, taiko drumming, dance performances, oragami and other activities for children - and a Honda Fit car giveaway (the finalists have already been chosen).

Food will also play a big role, of course, as the Mikuni Sushi Bus will be on hand to sell sushi rolls and green tea smoothies.


May 2, 2012
The Big Taste Grill is ready to cook thousands of bratwurst

Thumbnail image for download.jpgThe Johnsonville Big Taste Grill gets around, having made appearances at the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, the Kentucky Derby, even the Pentagon.

It sure won't fit in your back yard, but it is coming to our area to host what could be the biggest tailgate parties ever.

The world's largest touring grill was built by the Johnsonville Sausage Co. of Wisconsin in 1995 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Now three Godzilla-size grills tour the country, cooking and selling bratwurst to raise money for local and national charities - $3 million so far.

The grill's numbers are impressive:
- Weight: 53,000 pounds. Diameter: six feet. Height: 20 feet. Length: 65 feet.
- The lid weighs 6,000 pounds.
- Grilling power is 440,000 BTUs.
- The onboard refrigerator stores 1,000 pounds of brats.
- The grill cooks 750 brats at once - about 2,500 per hour.

If you think you can handle all that, here's the Big Taste Grill's schedule of upcoming events:

May 12-13: The grill will be smokin' at the Roseville Berry Fest, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Placer County Fairgrounds, 800 All American City Blvd.; (916) 786-2023.

May 15: Safeway supermarket, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 8640 Sierra College Blvd., Roseville; (916) 783-2225.

May 17: Food Maxx, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1845 Countryside Drive, Turlock; (209) 632-0825.

May 19-20: Galt Strawberry Festival, 10 a.m. 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., respectively, 900 Carolina Ave., Galt; (209) 745-2529.

For more information about the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill, go to While you're at the website, check out the rules to enter the No Ordinary Burger Contest, good for $10,000.

May 2, 2012
Vote for your favorite 'fasolada' at Greek spring festival

Most of us don't know beans about fasolada, but that's about to change.

Recipes vary, but fasolada is a fragrant soup of white beans, veggies and olive oil, known in certain quarters as the national dish of Greece.

A fasolada cookoff will be part of the spring festival at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday. The $6 ticket price includes a "tasting kit" and ballots for tasters to vote for their favorite fasolada from 1 to 4 p.m. Think "people's choice."

The fest also will feature other traditional Greek foods and beverages, backgammon tournament, raffles, a silent auction and more. Information: (916) 682-9243.

April 27, 2012
OneSpeed, bikes and a charitable event this Sunday

OneSpeed's motto is "pizza, bikes, love," and here's an event that shows they mean what they say. It's this Sunday and it's for a great cause. OneSpeed is at 4818 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento.

Here's an email I received from Michael Ng, manager at OneSpeed, explaining what it's all about:

Sorry for the late notice, but if you feel the itch, we'd love for your readership to know about a fundraiser we're doing this Sunday the 29th from 9am - 2pm for NorCal AIDS Cycle and MET Highschool Bike Collective. We'll be donating 10% of our breakfast and lunch sales that morning towards the cause. New Belgium Brewing Company will also be on hand as a partner in the fundraiser with their new lager "Shift" aimed at bike enthusiasts as well as the shift worker looking for a beer at the end of their shift.

Students from MET High School's Bike Collective will be on hand to offer basic bike tune ups (lube chains, tighten bolts, adjust brakes, diagnose issues) on a donation basis and NCAC's Pavement Posse team members will be on hand to offer information on the 4 day bike ride.

Ride your bike down, get a few bolts tightened, have some breakfast and support a couple of great organizations!

NorCal AIDS Cycle:
MET HS Bike Collective Video:
New Belgium Brewing Company - Shift Lager:

March 22, 2012
High school culinary competition to take over Sacramento Convention Center

While prep basketball enters the crunch time of state tournament season, a different kind of high school competition will be going down this weekend. Instead of a basketball court, this arena will be the Sacramento Convention Center where local high school culinary teams will go head-to-head on Sunday and Monday at the 10th annual California ProStart Competition. The teams come from a smorgasbord of area high schools: San Juan, Cordova, Madison, Cosumnes Oaks and Whitney. In a series of culinary competitions, the teams will have one hour to prepare a three-course meal. Then, they have to wow a judging panel that includes Molly Hawks (Hawks Restaurant), Taro Arai (Mikuni), Tony Marcell (Wafare Tavern), four certified master chefs and more. There's also a separate management contest, in which teams are required to propose a restaurant concept including a menu, marketing plan and design elements.

A whole bunch of cash prices and scholarships are at stake for the students. $12,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to students, teachers and schools, along with a whopping $348,000 in scholarships for winning teams.

Sunday's culinary competition is free and open to the general public. Look for the culinary competition to begin and 10 a.m. and wrap up at 5 p.m. Awards will be handed out Monday afternoon. Good luck, and let's see who's high school cooking team reigns supreme.

March 21, 2012
Bouchon Bakery back in business, Addendum re-opens Thursday

With visions of brioche and buttery croissants, the line snaked down Washington St. in Yountville on a recent morning. The message was clear: Bouchon Bakery (6528 Washington St., Yountville; 707-944-2253), the heart of Thomas Keller's baking operations, had finally re-opened. Bouchon Bakery creates the baked goods for the French Laundry, Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bistro, along with running its retail shop that doubles as a popular foodie destination. Bouchon Bakery's retail space had been closed a month for remodeling. The bakery itself also required an overhaul following a September fire which reportedly started above the bread oven.

The remodeled bakery features a new, two-door entrance and added cash register that ideally allows for a smoother flow of traffic. The bakery itself, which goes through some 1,200 pounds of dough a day, has also increased its cooking capacity. Its new steam tube deck oven is capable of baking 120 baguettes at a time, which are sent to Keller's restaurant operations and other eateries around Yountville.

"As business increased, we'd outgrown the space," said Matt McDonald, Bouchon Bakery's head baker. "This space was built out to do more volume. It's a non-stop, 24/7 operation."

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