Appetizers
August 6, 2013
Coast to Coast Sandwiches team to take over Republic's food program

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"Appetizers" reported on Monday that Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen was pulling out of Republic Bar & Grill to consolidate its operations at an upcoming McClellan Park location. Drewski's was among the first of Sacramento's mobile food vendors to branch into operating a brick-and-mortar eatery, and will finish its year-and-a-half stint at Republic on Sept. 1.

Another mobile food vendor is already in line to take over Republic's food program. The team behind the Coast to Coast Sandwiches food truck, which also operates the kitchen at midtown's Pour House, will begin running Republic's kitchen starting Sept. 4.

Instead of branding Republic's food program under the Coast to Coast Sandwiches banner, the team of Robert Ramos (pictured above) and Sean Figueroa will introduce a new business called Capitol Burger Kitchen. As the name states, burgers will be the focus here along with other hearty foods that pair well in a sports bar setting.

August 5, 2013
Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen pulling out of Republic sports bar

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Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen was among the first of Sacramento's food trucks to branch out from mobile food vending to operating a brick-and-mortar restaurant. In February of 2012, Drewski's started running the food program at downtown's Republic Bar & Grill, selling its signature grilled sandwiches in a sports bar setting. However, the partnership between Drewski's and Republic is about to end.

Andrew Blaskovich says the satellite version of his Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen will end at Republic by Sept. 1. Blaskovich plans to use his upcoming McClellan Park location, which he expects to open in two weeks, as the hub of his operations which includes two food trucks and a recently opened cafe in Folsom.

"Basically, I outgrew the place," said Blaskovich about Republic. "The kitchen was too small for the overall volume of I'm dealing with. Besides, I couldn't park my trucks there and it costs me $1,300 a month for a commissary. Having my own facility saves me $1,300 out the gate and I have ample storage."

August 2, 2013
Sacramento region's wine grape harvest arrives two weeks early

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The calendar's barely turned to August but activity's well underway in the region's wine grape vineyards. The annual harvest has arrived about two weeks early compared to a typical year, due to significant summer heat spikes in 2013 and its overall dry growing season.

In Lodi, which is home to 100,000 acres of wine grapes, varietals grown for sparkling wine production are already being harvested. Red grapes are also expected to be picked at least one to two weeks earlier than normal for this growing season.

"They're starting to move the tractors around, and you'll see more of that next week and over the next two weeks with earlier white varieties," said Stuart Spencer, program manager for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. "I wouldn't be surprised if we saw early reds and older vineyards getting picked around Labor Day."

While 2012 produced a monster sized crop with 3.89 million tons of crushed wine grapes - the second largest harvest in California history - Spencer expects an "average" to "above average" sized crop for 2013. (The above picture was taken near Lodi from the 2008 harvest, which reaped 3.05 million tons statewide).

August 1, 2013
'Summer of Riesling Sacramento' coming in Sept.

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Ah, nothing like a perfectly chilled glass of riesling on a sweltering summer day. This white grape that's native to Germany ranks among the most refreshing of white wines, and like that hot weather, riesling also pairs remarkably well with hot, spicy foods. Given its food friendliness, range of expressions - from bone dry to some that'll rock your sweet tooth - and its potential for aging, riesling tends to be a favorite white for sommeliers and others with serious cellars.

Matthew Lewis, the local wine educator and sommelier, is now organizing a "Summer of Riesling Sacramento" which will run through September. This celebration is modeled after the "Summer of Riesling" program designed by wine bar entrepreneur Paul Grieco.

The final plans for Lewis' "Summer of Riesling Sacramento" are still be formulated, but you can look forward to a series of riesling and food pairing dinners at such hot spots as Kru, Enotria and Capital Dime. Riesling education and other events are also being scheduled. Watch this space for more info. coming very soon on this most sippable of events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 3, 2013
Streets of London to launch food truck

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

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

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

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

FROM THE BEE:

* SactoMoFo 6 matches record attendance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Janelle Bitker
jbitker@sacbee.com

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

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

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

June 26, 2013
LowBrau owners to launch Block Butcher Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 18, 2013
BottleRock festival singing the financial blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 24, 2013
Management shuffle at Pearl on the River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 6, 2013
Krush Burger to open location in Dubai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 1, 2013
Weekday farmers markets in downtown launch today

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

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

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

April 29, 2013
SactoMoFo 6 matches record attendance

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The local food truck movement shows no signs of slowing down.

SactoMoFo 6, which was held Saturday at 6th and X streets, drew a crowd which matched its record attendance. The California Highway Patrol told SactoMoFo organizers that attendance was estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 people. Those numbers match the debut of this mobile food festival in April of 2011, which was held in midtown's Fremont Park.

Saturday's event featured more than two dozen food trucks and lines in some cases lasted more than an hour long. At its peak, the line for The Chairman Truck lasted 75 minutes - a long time to wait for an order of steamed buns.

Attendance had dipped at SactoMoFo 3 to about 5,000, which was held in December of 2011. Organizers credit Saturday's near perfect weather and other close-by events, including the debut of midtown's farmers market at 20th and J streets, for bringing plenty of traffic to SactoMoFo 6.

April 24, 2013
Dine at Dawson's in support of the Sacramento Youth Symphony

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It's no big secret that school music have taken huge hits over the last few years, with scores of kids never knowing what it is to play an instrument and learn the likes of Brahms and Beethoven. That's why we applaud the Sacramento Youth Symphony for keeping orchestral music alive for young musicians throughout the area.

Some alumni have embarked on successful musical careers, including Eric Gorfain. The former Greenhaven resident from John F. Kennedy High School has become one of the top session violinists in the Los Angeles area, and toured with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and backed Christina Aguilera, Eric Clapton and many more.

But the Sacramento Youth Symphony still needs plenty of financial support. Along those ends, a fundraising dinner will be held Thursday at Dawson's Steak House inside the Hyatt Regency (1209 L St., Sacramento). 25 percent of proceeds will go towards the Sacramento Youth Symphony, and members will play in various small ensemble configurations from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

April 23, 2013
Chili cook-off coming to Folsom on Saturday

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Saturday's looking for a prime day to keep a bottle of Tums handy. Not only is SactoMoFo 6 coming to 6th and X streets with more than two dozen food trucks, but a most hearty chili cook-off will be happening that day in Folsom.

The Folsom Chili Cook-Off will feature teams vying for a $200 cash prize and invaluable bragging rights. A "people's choice" award will result in ribbons. Along with all that chili sampling, beer and other foods will be for sale, with proceeds going toward diabetes research. To top it off, the Cappuccino Cruisers will also be on the scene and showing off their very fresh rides from days gone by.

The cook-off will be held at 215 Scott St. in Folsom, and runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $8, and kids under 12 accompanied by an adult are free. Information: folsomchilicookoff.com.

April 18, 2013
Taste Sacramento's signature white wine: Chenin blanc

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A movement's been afoot over the last year to designate chenin blanc as the Sacramento area's signature white wine. While plenty of white varietals grow in the region, including such consumer favorites as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, a growing argument is being made that Clarksburg chenin blanc best expresses this region's terroir for white wines. Even Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle agrees, saying recently that, "Clarksburg, in the Sacramento delta, is California's ground zero for this grape."

Local chenin blanc expressions range from pineapple fruitiness to leaner styles that are more aligned with France's Loire Valley. On Tuesday at Revolution Wines (2831 S St., Sacramento), local wine lovers can sample some of the area's best chenin blanc in a tasting sponsored by Green Restaurants Alliance Sacramento (GRAS).

The tasting will feature such local producers as Revolution Wines, Bogle (which has grown chenin blanc for decades), Clarksburg Wine Company, Dancing Coyote and more. The tasting runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and costs $10. A following Slow Foods Sacramento mixer runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., which features appetizers from Revolution Wines' bistro and includes more wines. The cost is $18. Or, you can save a few bucks and buy a combined tasting and mixer ticket for $25. Information: (916) 444-7711, rwwinery.com.

March 29, 2013
Pour House slammed with demand for its winning Bloody Mary mix

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The hottest cocktail in town just might be the Bloody Mary at midtown's Pour House. And we're not necessarily talking in the spicy sense - though the Sriracha salt used by Pour House in its Bloody Mary adds some nice heat - but in a business sense. Since The Bee's story about Bloody Marys in Wednesday's Food & Wine section, Pour House has been swamped with Bloody Mary orders.

The story focused on Pour House's Bloody Mary mix, which was created by general manager Jason Poole and led to him earning the title of "California's Best Bloody Mary" in a competition by Absolut Vodka. In the national round of this contest, Poole placed second. Given this news, on Wednesday Pour House sold out of its Bloody Mary mix, which sells for $9 a quart. Some customers hoping to buy a bottle had to be added to a waiting list. That meant Poole was up into the wee hours of Thursday morning crafting enough Bloody Mary mix to satisfy demand.

March 26, 2013
Chef Mike Ward leaves Sacramento for Tyler Florence's El Paseo

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Sacramento's culinary talent has been tapped yet again by the Bay Area. Mike Ward, former executive chef of Slocum House and sous chef at The Kitchen, was recently named executive chef of El Paseo in Mill Valley. This eatery is part of the restaurant group overseen by celebrity chef Tyler Florence, and includes the "red rocker" Sammy Hagar as a proprietor.

Ward's been on the new job just a week, and he's already rubbed elbows with one Hollywood starlet. In his first night on the job, the actress Jessica Alba was one of El Paseo's diners, and posted a pic of her red beet soaked deviled eggs on her Instagram feed. Ward got his own shot with Alba as well.

"She gave me a hug," said a still smitten Ward. "I won't front - that was pretty cool."

March 22, 2013
Sean Minor Wines nabs two spots in Wine & Spirits poll

MINOR1.jpgSean Minor Wines, which is headquartered in Sacramento's Sierra Oaks neighborhood, received some news that ranks the company among the nation's best. The April issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine features its 24th annual poll of the favorite wines served in restaurants, and Sean Minor Wines received two nods.

In Wine & Spirits' list of "The Restaurant Top 50," Sean Minor Wines ranked No. 30, a listing which placed the company ahead of such stalwarts as Rombauer Vineyards and Robert Mondavi Winery. Cakebread Cellars of Napa earned the top spot in this polling of brands which received the strongest restaurant sales during the final quarter of 2012.

For the listing of most popular pinot noirs, Sean Minor Wines earned a very respectable No. 17 spot.

March 20, 2013
Site of Sacramento area 2012 norovirus outbreak identified

In Wednesday's story about a possible norovirus outbreak at Mulvaney's B&L, a county public official noted that one norovirus outbreak had been confirmed for a local restaurant in 2012. Dr. Olivia Kasirye, county public health officer, initially declined to name the establishment. After a follow-up request from The Bee, Kasirye provided the information.

It turns out the outbreak didn't occur at a restaurant, but Sacramento Elks Lodge No. 6 on Riverside Boulevard near Florin Road. The lodge hosted an event in September of 2012 in which dozens of people were sickened. The lodge did not use an outside caterer, but provided food service themselves, said Kasirye. A county investigation interviewed 93 individuals, and confirmed 57 illnesses due to norovirus.

To report a possible incident of foodborne illness, call the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services: (916) 875-5881

FROM THE BEE:

* Sacramento County probes possible outbreak of norovirus at Mulvaney's restaurant

March 18, 2013
Dog-friendly food truck events scheduled for March

Most food truck festivals require that your beloved pooch and other pets be left at home. Now, three events are on the books that welcome both dogs and their owners. "Food Trucks 4 Fido" will offer a mix of communal dining, pet adoptions and other animal-friendly activities. This event series is sponsored by SactoMoFo, the Sacramento City Animal Shelter and Chef Michael's Dog Food Truck, which is an enterprise of Purina pet foods.

Animal adoptions are the goal of this event. Free dinner for two will be given at each event for the first 10 folks who adopt an animal. You'll also find pet grooming and free dog treats on site. The final event on March 28 also includes food truck vouchers for to the first 100 people.

Here's the rundown of events. Each one runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.:

March 14, 2013
Darrell Corti named one of the 'coolest people in food & drink'

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In the latest example of Sacramento's culinary scene landing on the national radar, one of our own has been listed in "The 60 (Plus) Coolest People in Food & Drink" by dailymeal.com. That would be Darrell Corti, the grocer and gourmand behind Corti Brothers on Folsom Blvd. near 59th St.

Corti was described as "America's coolest grocer," and included with such fellow cool folks as David Chang of Momofuku, Mission Chinese Food's Danny Bowien and Daniel Boulud, who's among the most lauded chefs in the world. Said The Daily Meal about Corti:

"Of course, Corti is a grocer like Itzhak Perlman plays some fiddle. Corti is simply one of the most deeply knowledgeable food and drink experts in America, able to expound with equal authority on Chinese tea, Spanish vinegar, Central Asian wine, Italian pasta, and about 30,000 other gastronomic topics."

March 7, 2013
SactoMoFo 6 food truck festival coming April 27

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Ah yes, it's starting to feel like spring, the sun's shining a bit more and Daylight Savings is about to start. You know what that means ... time for a food truck festival!

SactoMoFo 6 is on board for April 27, and will be held once again at 6th and W streets in downtown Sacramento - the site of the Sunday farmers market. More than two dozen trucks from northern California are being booked, including such first-time SactoMoFo participants as Roli Roti. Many of the perennial favorites will also be whipping up their food truck fare, including Chando's Tacos, The Chairman and Krush Burger.

Here's a list of the mobile food vendors thus far:

March 6, 2013
Mikuni on Hazel Ave. re-opens today following December fire

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There's never a good time for a well-established restaurant to catch on fire, but this incident was an especially hard hit for the Hazel Ave. location of Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar. An early morning fire in late-December caused extensive smoke and water damage to the popular restaurant, with an estimated four months of closure while the restaurant was repaired. The fire started in the restaurant's HVAC system, causing $50,000 worth of damage.

"It was right before the rush of New Year's Eve, which is our best sales of the year," said Taro Arai, Mikuni's co-founder and executive chef. "That was a disaster. We had to call 200 people to cancel their reservations."

The upside is that Mikuni's repairs were finished ahead of schedule, and the restaurant re-opened today at 11:30 a.m. for lunch. The renovations didn't add many new changes at this Mikuni location, which opened in 1987 and has undergone four previous remodels. Customers, however, will find some brighter color schemes in the interior.

March 4, 2013
Sacramento Beer Week wrap-up: long lines, big business for festivities

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Sacramento Beer Week, a celebration of all-things ale that brought significant boosts to many area businesses, wrapped up Sunday with long lines and a few logistical challenges.

More than 76 area businesses participated in the 10-day event, offering a selection of happy hour specials, beer dinners and tastings geared towards enthusiastic hopsheads. Dylan Mauro, owner of Samuel Horne's Tavern in Folsom, was surrounded Monday morning by tapped kegs left over from Beer Week. He said that business doubled during the event, including a line 100 deep for a "Hop Rodeo" event on Saturday featuring coveted craft beers.

"It's our biggest week of the year by far," said Mauro. "We're busy from the second we open until we close our doors. It all went smoothly. We were staffed up to make sure we could handle it."

March 1, 2013
Beer Week: Final weekend highlights

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Pardon the pun, but hope you're not tapped out already from Sacramento Beer Week. As noted before, a "week" in the Sacramento Beer Week world means closer to 10 days, and this year's edition has already been packed with good times. We're talking epic lines and interest for the much ballyhooed Pliny the Younger, a beer dinner at Pangaea Two Brews Cafe with guest chef Billy Ngo and various kegs of Hitachino Nest ales (my personal favorite brewery) and more than 100 individual events.

Beer Week events will continue to foam over this weekend. Check out its official web site for a full listing, and for now here are some quick picks:

Barrel-Aged Day at Davis Beer Shoppe: Brewers are increasingly using casks for wine and whiskey to age beers. This adds new layers of flavor and aroma complexity, and especially an added fruitiness when wine barrels are used. Davis Beer Shoppe (211 G St., Davis) has eight barrel-aged beers to sample today, and can also be purchased in a flight.

March 1, 2013
Local chefs react to mayor proclaiming 2013 as 'Year of Food'

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The announcement of a bid to keep the Sacramento Kings in town wasn't the only news coming from Mayor Kevin Johnson's "State of the City" speech on Thursday night. Johnson proclaimed 2013 as Sacramento's "Year of Food," with initiatives that include a major food festival in September, chef showcases and food education. This decree stems from Johnson branding the Sacramento as "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital" in October (as pictured above).

"There's no better theme to capture who we are and what we should be known for," said Johnson on Thursday night. "We are so lucky to have some of the nation's most impressive culinary talents in the city and we're excited about showcasing them."

Chefs Patrick Mulvaney and Adam Pechal stood in support of this announcement. Both chefs broke away from their nightly cooking duties, including Pechal hosting a Sacramento Beer Week dinner at his Restaurant Thir13en, to hear the mayor speak in support of food. In the hallway of the Memorial Auditorium following the State of the City, both chefs were happy with what they heard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drama!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, GO 'NINERS!

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

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

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

January 30, 2013
Sacramento chef Adam Pechal advances on ABC's 'The Taste'

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After two episodes and nearly three hours of prime time TV, the anticipation is over. Congrats all around to Sacramento's Adam Pechal, who not only passed the audition phase on ABC's "The Taste" on Tuesday night, but wowed the entire judging panel. This new cooking show, which features such culinary luminaries as Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson as judges/mentors, debuted on Jan. 22 but with about zero air time for Pechal that first week. But that all changed Tuesday, when in the last 10 minutes of the show, Pechal whipped up some seared scallops with sweet corn hash and props went all around for the chef and co-owner of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en.

Pechal, who's already known around Sacramento as a veritable quote machine, also delivered the most memorable line of the night:

"If food's your drug of choice, you have to figure out a way to become the dealer."

January 29, 2013
Napa wine country to host major music festival

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If you like Oakville cabernet with a side of electric guitar, here's a music festival that just might rock your world. Look for Bottle Rock Napa Valley to take over Napa wine country from May 10 - May 12, featuring 50 bands along with showing off the region's food and wine. While the official line-up has yet to be released from promoters, a story posted (and then quickly removed) by the Napa Valley Register listed such acts as Black Keys, Black Crowes, Primus, Jane's Addiction and the Shins. Other reports show Sacramento's own Cake and Ben Harper also joining the bill. Cake, in fact, lists a May 12 date for Napa's Bottle Rock festival on its web site.

We'll keep you posted of official word, but something big is definitely brewing in Napa, something like San Francisco's famed Outside Lands but among the vineyards instead of Golden Gate Park.

FROM THE BEE:

* Downtown Napa luring tourists who once bypassed it

January 28, 2013
Bacon Fest wraps up, Magpie Cafe dominates chef contest

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"It's going to be a two Lipitor kind of night."

So said Darrell Corti, the influential gourmand and grocer, who was among the judging panel for the Bacon Fest 2 chef's competition on Sunday. A sold out crowd of 260 crammed Mulvaney's Pig on the Corner to sample bacon dishes from local chefs at this festival finale. Like last year's Bacon Fest debut, this week-long festival was marked once again with food sell-outs and record crowds. The local appetite for bacon went unabated, and Corti himself is among the most ardent of fans for this cured pig meat. Taking a seat next to Corti at the judge's table, I asked him how often he cooks bacon at home.

"Every single day," said Corti, sporting his signature blue grocer's jacket.

January 24, 2013
Midtown Cocktail Week coming Aug. 18 - Aug. 25

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Planning is now underway for the sixth annual Midtown Cocktail Week, and while the full scope of events is still being worked out, we can report these cocktail festivities will run from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25 at various central city restaurants and watering holes. In previous editions, Midtown Cocktail Week has featured a variety of tastings, classes and cocktail competitions.

Organizers are talking about expanding the scope of Midtown Cocktail Week 2013, with additional locations and a possible "hub" for the festivities with a series of satellite events. We'll keep you posted as more news comes through.

Either way, Midtown Cocktail Week will jibe nicely with a series of national accolades for Sacramento's cocktail scene. Imbibe magazine recently listed Sacramento as one of the country's Top 10 destinations for cocktails, and the San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a story on the rise Sacramento's cocktail scene.

January 23, 2013
Tune in next Tuesday for Adam Pechal's debut on 'The Taste'

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The local foodie community was glued to ABC last night, hoping to catch a glimpse of Adam Pechal on "The Taste." As reported in the Bee and seemingly every other news outlet in the 916 area code, the co-owner of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en is slated to be on this new cooking competition, which is something like "The Voice" but with chefs instead of singers. Well, last night's debut was pretty anti-climactic for locals, given that Pechal didn't receive any air time. However, these audition episodes of "The Taste" will continue next Tuesday night and Pechal dropped me a note to say he will "definitely be on next week."

So, the suspense continues for Sacramento. For those who like to see chefs get picked apart on national TV, last nights episode featured plenty of blunt critiques and a few bleeped out f-bombs from judge/mentor Anthony Bourdain. In this show, a combination of pro and home chefs make a dish that's served in a spoon - a single taste - that's served blind to a judging panel. In these first episodes, the judges are either eliminating the would-bes or choosing them to be mentored on a team. As the show rolls along, these teams headed by Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludovic Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey will go through a series of culinary challenges that result in weekly eliminations. The last chef standing receives $100,000 and a new car.

Thus far, the home cooks have fared exceptionally well on "The Taste." Chooclate cake and mashed potatoes made by amateurs were among the selected "tastes" last night, while many frou frou chefs were sent packing. So, how will Pechal fare in the hot seat of national TV? Tune to ABC next Tuesday to find out.

January 21, 2013
Sacramento's restaurant scene rolling with more recognition

Sacramento's restaurant scene continues to shed its Stuart Smalley status. For too long, in the looming shadow of San Francisco, the mantra around town seemed to be, "We're good enough. We're smart enough, and doggone it, people like us!" After all, this city is surrounded by some of the best agriculture found anywhere, and Sacramento teems with the culinary talent and vision to put these ingredients to their proper use.

So, how cool it was to see the San Francisco Chronicle run a package of stories on Sacramento in its Food & Wine section on Sunday. The lead piece, "Sacramento comes of age," tracked the rise of Sacramento's farm-to-fork scene along with interviewing some of its key players. The piece was written by Ed Murrieta, a former Sacramento Bee staffer and longtime food writer. Companion pieces included "A tale of 2 farmers markets," which focused on the Davis and Sacramento Downtown Farmers Market," and a spot-on feature about Sacramento's cocktail scene.

Murrieta's lead feature also contained this great nugget of news: Mark Liberman of AQ in San Francisco is looking to open a restaurant in Sacramento. Liberman is formerly of Folsom, and AQ has since earned a James Beard nomination under his watch. We'll keep you posted with more of this tantalizing prospect for Sacramento's restaurant scene.

January 17, 2013
$2 specials for Star Ginger's second anniversary

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Lunch on Wednesday meant scarfing down an order of Star Ginger's tasty pad thai at my desk, and hello, looks like I'll be back again soon. Star Ginger, operated by Mai Pham of Lemon Grass fame and a noted cookbook author, is celebrating its upcoming second anniversary with a slew of $2 specials. Among these $2 deals: soup, Asian tacos, banh mi sandwiches and beer. These deals will run from Jan. 25 through Jan. 31, and the fine print says the $2 specials are available for dine-in only and a limit of one menu special per person.

Star Ginger is located at 3101 Folsom Blvd. For more info: (916) 231-8888, www.starginger.com

January 15, 2013
Drewski's to expand with second food truck, new brick and mortar cafe

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Here's a tip of the chef's toque to the Munchie Musings blog, which first reported this news. Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen, the popular local food truck, is in the midst of a significant expansion mode. Look for a second Drewski's truck to hit the road in about eight weeks, says owner Andrew Blaskovich. He purchased the GMC truck on Friday, which is now undergoing a complete overhaul to build a kitchen and all the necessary food truck features.

"It's going to be completely all new on the inside," said Blaskovich. "I get to design the kitchen the way I want and maybe we'll be adding a broiler, so we can play with different ideas on the menu. Either way, it's going to be dope."

Blaskovich is also eyeing the opening of his second brick-and-mortar location with Lil Drewski's. This eatery will be located in a Folsom office park near Iron Point Rd., and aiming for a mid-February opening. It's a small spot - just about 1,000 square feet total - and will operate like a quick service cafe. Along with some of Drewski's signature grilled sandwiches, Lil Drewski's will offer coffee drinks, smoothies, salads and grab-and-go items.

January 11, 2013
Chef Mike Thiemann to leave Sacramento, become culinary director for Tyler Florence

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Just about a year to the date which Mike Thiemann took over as executive chef for Ella Dining Room & Bar, he will be leaving Sacramento in early February. Thiemann has accepted a job as culinary director for Tyler Florence, the Food Network celebrity chef who oversees restaurants, a line of cookware and authors cookbooks. Before Thiemann came to Ella in early 2012, he served as Florence's chef de cuisine and helped him open restaurants and develop recipes.

Thiemann will serve as Florence's right hand man in many facets of his food empire.

"It was cool that he offered me the title," said Thiemann. "I didn't expect to leave Sacramento so quick. Tyler was always a great working partner. The idea of doing multiple projects is something that works with me. There is going to be a new learning curve."

January 11, 2013
Seasons 52 to open Jan. 28 at Arden Fair

Hey, good news for you hungry shoppers. When a bunch of knuckleheads aren't putting Arden Fair Mall in lockdown mode, there's a new place to grab a bite. Seasons 52 is set to open Jan. 28, at the site of the former Fresh Choice at the mall. For those not keeping score at home, Fresh Choice shuttered the last of its veggie buffet eateries in December following Chapter 7 liquidation.

Seasons 52 will include a wine bar with 100 wine selections, and 60 of them offered by the glass. Food wise, you can expect plenty of pizza-like flatbreads, steaks, seafood and a menu of bar bites. Seasons 52 is a Florida-based chain, in which this Arden Fair location will be its first northen California location. A sample wine list boasts plenty of Napa favorites, including Silver Oak, Caymus Special Selection and Cakebread. They also feature German riseling, sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, Argentine malbec and other worldy wines. Not a bad way to wind down after returning gifts at Macy's.

For more information: www.seasons52.com

January 10, 2013
Sacramento Bacon Fest organizers bracing for big crowds

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We're now at t-minus 10 days and counting for the pork-a-palooza known as Sacramento Bacon Fest 2. Got off the phone with Brian Guido, a co-founder of this festival, and it sounds like Sacramento Bacon Fest 2 will entertain some big crowds with a taste for cured pork belly. Case in point: The chef's competition at Mulvaney's Pig on the Corner on Jan. 27 has already sold out.

For those lucky enough to have scored tickets, this bacon cook-off will feature eight chefs who will both cure and cook up bacon and make a sweet or savory dish. And Lipitor be darned, I'll be on the judging panel once again, which this year includes the walking encyclopedia of food known as Darrell Corti, Sacramento News & Review restaurant reviewer Becky Grunewald, and Lesa Eidman from the California Pork Producers Association.

Either way, Sacramento Bacon Fest 2 includes participation from restaurants all over the Sacramento area which will prepare special bacon dishes, brunches and more from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27. Just a few who've signed up for the cause are Formoli's Bistro, Boulevard Bistro in Elk Grove, Bows & Arrows, the Waterboy and many more. Last year's Sacramento Bacon Fest debut was noted for food sell-outs, and this year is expected to produce much of the same.

January 8, 2013
Dine Downtown Restaurant Week coming Wednesday

ella.JPGThe early part of January typically gets tagged as a slow part of the year for the restaurant industry, but here in Sacramento, it's a favorite time of the year for foodies. That's because January means Dine Downtown Restaurant Week, in which restaurants around the central city offer special three-course menus for a reasonable $30 price tag. For example, Ella Dining Room & Bar will be offering first course options of treviso greens or nantes carrot soup, an entree of pappardelle with poached egg or cauliflower tagine, plus dessert. They'll also offer wine pairings for an additional $15.

Other participating restaurants include: Biba, Il Fornaio, Grange, Ten22, Mulvaney's B&L and about 30 more. Some participants, including Capitol Garage, Mayahuel and The Melting Pot are offering both vegetarian and gluten free options.

There should be an asterisk next to Dine Downtown Restaurant Week*, since in this case a "week" means Jan. 9 through Jan. 18. For the full list of participants, click on this link.

January 7, 2013
Leading cocktail magazine lists Sacramento in Top 10 'places to visit'

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One of my favorite facets of Sacramento's food and beverage scene is its thriving cocktail culture. Drop into one of our town's fine watering holes - be it Shady Lady, Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., Red Rabbit and many more - and you'll find plenty of creativity, devotion to craft and some seriously tasty dranks. The editors of Imbibe magazine, a leading publication for the spirits industry (or "liquid culture," as they say), feel the same way. In its recent feature of "The Imbibe 75 - People, Places and Flavors that will shape the way you drink in 2013," Sacramento was named in its Top 10 of "places to visit in 2013." So sayeth the Imbibe editors:

"Unless you live close by, play in a touring punk band, or work in California
state government, Sacramento probably isn't on your list of cities to visit this
year. But you might want to add it to your travel plans--while its drinks scene
has flown under the national radar, it's gaining a lot of momentum locally."

The Sacramento shout-out then mentions the rise of Midtown Cocktail Week, the city's proximity to wine country and thriving restaurant and coffee scenes. We'd also like to add Sacramento's craft beer industry, the exceptional range of tequilas found around town (Zocalo, Azul, Mayahuel) and the great selection of whiskys offered at such locales as Pour House and de Vere's as reasons of why Sacramento's spirits scene rocks.

January 2, 2013
LowBrau celebrates grand opening on New Year's Eve

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The new year rang with grand opening of LowBrau, a much anticipated German styled beer hall with a sausage-focused menu at 20th and K streets. LowBrau takes over the former spot of Lounge ON20, which shut down in May after a challenging four year run. Meanwhile, on Dec. 31, LowBrau hosted a sold out crowd which included a live performance by the electro-pop Sony recording artist St. Lucia, plus sets from leading local DJs.

Many folks have a business stake in LowBrau. Two members of its ownership group are fairly new to the restaurant industry. Clay Nutting is best known as a local music promoter behind "Concerts 4 Charity," while Michael Hargis' background is primarily with interior design. Nutting and Hargis collaborated this summer to present LAUNCH 2012, a six day festival of music and fashion that culminated with a concert at Cesar Chavez Plaza featuring DJ Shadow and the Joy Formidable. The ownership team behind Shady Lady - Jason Boggs, Alex Origoni and Garrett Van Vleck - are acting as consultants for LowBrau. They're helping to design the food and cocktail programs among other functions, and also have an ownership stake in LowBrau.

I dropped by LowBrau last Friday for a sneak peek of LowBrau, and so far so good. (The pic above is from the soft opening, not the sold out shindig). The new design has more of a funky, quasi-industrial feel and the bar moved closer to the center of the room. Gone are the South Beach-isms and wanna-be Vegas VIP flavor of Lounge ON20. LowBrau is more about wood furnishings, including community tables, that feel comfy and welcoming.

December 20, 2012
Track 7 Brewing Co. to double in size, release anniversary beers

Track 7, the local microbrewery at the edge of Curtis Park, is going through some big changes - and we mean that in the literal sense. Renovations are underway at Track 7 to double the size of the brewery, which will include a second tasting bar, more bathrooms and increased beer production capacity. Not bad for a homegrown brewery that'll celebrate just its first anniversary on Dec. 31.

Ryan Graham, co-owner of Track 7, said many of the renovations will be complete by their anniversary but may stretch into the early part of 2013. When its all said and done, Track 7 will grow from 2,150 square feet to about 4,400 square feet. With more fermenting tanks coming online at the brewery, that's projected to double Track 7's brewing capacity. About 500 barrels (or 15,500 gallons) of beer were brewed by Track 7 in 2012. Graham and company are also looking to hire tap room staff around the beginning of 2013.

Track 7 also plans to release three anniversary beers: a Belgian dubble that's been aged in port casks from Revolution Wines, a stout blended with coffee from Chocolate Fish roasters and a double IPA.

December 19, 2012
Sacramento Food Film Festival coming March 15 - 16

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Foodies with a love for film, mark your calendars now. The Sacramento Food Film Festival has been expanded this year to a two-day affair, and set for March 15 - 16 at the Guild Theater (35th & Broadway, Sacramento). The first day will feature a mix of sushi and the sweet, kicking off with a screening of "Quest for Honey," made by a team of Nevada City filmmakers. Also showing March 15 is "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," the critically acclaimed documentary about the great sushi chef Jiro Ono. Here's a trailer for this excellent film (a screenshot is also pictured above):

December 17, 2012
Taste Sacramento's best hot toddy tonight and Tuesday at Ten22

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Last week, we brought you the winners of a Hot Toddy contest held at Golden Bear, featuring some of Sacramento's leading and up-and-coming bartenders. Well, now you can taste that winning hot toddy for yourself both tonight and Tuesday at Ten22 in Old Sacramento.

The hot toddy comes from Karina Martinez, who was the hands-down winner with her "Mad King Charles" toddy. Its key ingredients include: Buffalo Trace bourbon, Torani Amer liqueur, chamomile citrus tea, and steeped in almond water. She also torched pieces of cinnamon bark for added aromatics. Yes, this was one impeccable hot toddy with its balanced flavors, thoughtful presentation and just enough boozy kick to keep you extra warm on a winter's night. They will cost $9 each.

December 17, 2012
Kupros' owner denies firing pregnant employee

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Note: This post has been updated with comments from the former Kupros employee

For followers of Sacramento's restaurant scene, Facebook was abuzz this morning from posts on the page for Kupros Bistro with a serious accusation. The post came from Kupros Bistro itself, saying: "To all those I had the pleasure to meet in the last 2 and a half years: Steve, the owner no longer feels it is appropriate to have a (woman) expecting to work in his establishment so he has let me go. I wish all you wonderful regulars the best and will miss you:)"

Discriminating against a pregnant employee violates the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The employee in question is a now former bar manager at Kupros and also helped book bands to play at the bistro.

December 13, 2012
The Kitchen, Carpe Vino named in national top 100 restaurants list

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Not only is OpenTable a popular online restaurant reservation system, but OpenTable loves to release surveys. It seems like every month we're getting announcements for another list - best restaurant wine lists, best late night dining, best restaurants for brunch, top restaurants for service, top 100 scenic view restaurants, etc. etc. But if there's any one OpenTable list to make, it's this one: Top 100 Best Restaurants in the United States.

This list includes some of the heaviest hitters in the restaurant world, including The French Laundry, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and Le Bernardin in NYC. So, let's give it up for two area restaurants which made the cut: The Kitchen and Auburn's Carpe Vino. Both made this list for the second year in a row, while Carpe Vino remains a perennial favorite for OpenTable's surveys. In November, Carpe Vino was also named among OpenTable's Top 100 Restaurant Wine Lists.

"We were one of only seven restaurants to make both lists nationwide," said Gary Moffat, Carpe Vino's owner and who also ran a formidable campaign for a seat on the Auburn City Council. "Last year, there were just four on both lists. Not bad for a little joint in the sticks."

December 12, 2012
Who makes the best chicken soups and tummy soothing soups in Sacramento?

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Bleh ... you know the feeling - that achy, runny nose, feel like I'm gonna barf kind of feeling. There seems to be a nasty flu bug going around - and I've been feeling kind of yucky myself - so it's time to heed grandma's advice and serve up some chicken soup, or a clear broth soup with tummy soothing properties. Sure, it's easy enough to pop open a can of Campbell's (and R.I.P. to the Campbell's plant on Franklin Blvd. near 47th Ave.), but sometimes it sounds good to leave the cooking to the professionals.

So,who makes the best chicken soup and other tummy soothing soups in Sacramento?

My first choice for a flu-friendly soup would be suimono, a clear broth Japanese soup. Still, I'm not sure who makes one in the area as most opt for a traditional white or red miso soup. Futami on Freeport Blvd. used to make a good suimono, but it seems like it's been a while since they served it to begin their meals.

December 11, 2012
Ten22 bartender earns bragging rights, $350 for best hot toddy

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The Golden Bear was transformed into a midtown winter wonderland on Monday night. Owner Kimio Bazett donned a Santa Claus costume and posed with patrons in a picture booth, while others sported their finest ugly holiday sweaters and elf hats. At the heart of these festivities was a hot toddy contest featuring some of Sacramento's top bartenders and notable up-and-comers. The competitors didn't have many limits for ingredients, except they all had to use Buffalo Trace Bourbon - the contest's sponsor.

Hot Toddies come in various styles, generally using bourbon/whiskey, brandy or rum as its base spirit, and sweetened with honey. A little lemon is usually added to balance the sweetness, and spiced up with cinnamon, clove and other aromatically pleasing ingredients. The "hot" part of a "hot toddy" might come from apple cider, tea or good ol' hot water. Either way, a hot toddy should be soothing, spicy and have a boozy kick - perfect for curling up on a cold winter's night or as a tasty kind of Nyquil substitute during cold/flu season.

The nine hot toddies from Monday night incorporated all kinds of influences and surprises, and I was part of the judging panel with Billy Ngo of Kru, a rep for Buffalo Trace and Angela Rosas, the local social media maven and founder of Chicas Latinas de Sacramento. (She took the above pic that shows some of the toddies). Ella bartender Chris Dooley, who won the hot toddy competition last year, also served as a de facto judge.

December 7, 2012
UC Davis makes the grade in survey of '52 Best Colleges for Food in America'

Looks like we missed this original announcement, but UC Davis is an especially tasty place to eat. TheDailyMeal.com released a survey of the "52 Best Colleges for Food in America" back in September, and UC Davis ranked a very respectable #18.

That was a better showing than such venerable institutions as Stanford University and Yale University - and sorry, Bears, but the University of California, Berkeley didn't even make the cut.

Says the DailyMeal folks: "The dining services team invites guest chefs to present authentic meals from countries around the world, and also hosts diversity dinners. Twice each year, the school's tradition of using local and sustainable food is highlighted at its Farm to College Night."

Given UC Davis' strong agricultural programs, proximity to local farms and its esteemed Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, this all makes sense that students have access to some good food. The sample menu items of honey-nut pancakes and dosas with sambar and chutney sure sounds like better chow than I ate back in the early 1990s, when I was living in UC Davis' dorms. My UC Davis dorm food memories from back then are visions of starch, and that "steak night" was the cue to order a pizza. Can you say, "Freshman 15?"

The biggest UC bragging rights go to UCLA, which ranked #4. The top school was listed as Virginia Tech.

December 6, 2012
Is Enotria Sacramento's hottest restaurant?

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Wednesday night on Del Paso Blvd. - it's generally never been one of Sacramento's main dining destinations. But what is this? Inside Enotria Restaurant Wine Bar, the dining room is near capacity as tunes from Everything But the Girl bump gently on the sound system. Meanwhile, a party of more than two dozen feasts in a separate room. David Hardie, Enotria's owner, pops through the dining room with a well earned smile. He's run Enotria since 1997 but business has been hit and miss, with any number of key staff changes, and sunk $1.8 million into a renovation effort to help Enotria better establish its mark on Sacramento's wining and dining scene.

Has Enotria emerged as Sacramento's hottest restaurant of the day?

Just picked up a copy of the new Sactown magazine, and look at this: an extended feature on Enotria executive chef Pajo Bruich and more about Enotria's restaurant experience. That's just the latest press on Enotria, which has included:

* A spread in the Nov. issue of Comstock's magazine

December 5, 2012
What chef Adam Pechal fed Bill Clinton in Sacramento

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His belly full of Korean tacos on Tuesday afternoon, chef Adam Pechal announced he was in a hurry.

"Sorry guys, gotta go," he said. "I've got to get ready to feed Bill."

The "Bill" in question was former President Bill Clinton, who appeared Tuesday night at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium for a speech on current affairs. Pechal, the executive chef and co-owner of Sacramento's Tuli Bistro and Restaurant THIR13EN, had the job of feeding Clinton and the former president's staff before the appearance. He was referred for the job by organizers of the Sacramento Speakers Series, which hosted the event, and Pechal didn't know he'd be cooking for Clinton until the day before the appearance.

December 4, 2012
Second annual Bacon Fest Sacramento coming in January

Get that Lipitor prescription ready, because the dates are now set for BaconFest Sacramento. The second edition of this veritable pork-a-palooza will run from Jan. 20 through Jan. 27 at various locales around Sacramento. The details are still being flushed out, but highlights include a Bacon Fest Sacramento Chef's Challenge at Mulvaney's B&L Pig on the Corner on Jan. 27, the second annual "Kevin Bacon Tribute Night" on Jan. 25 with local bands covering tunes from Kevin Bacon movies at Old Ironsides (chef Mike Thiemann of Ella will prepare the grub), and even a coloring book contest for kids at Doughbot throughout the week.

A series of Bacon Fest dinners and specials will also be held throughout the week, and happy hour specials at local watering holes. Participants on board thus far include: Bacon and Butter (duh), Magpie Cafe, the soon-to-be opened Low Brau (in the former Lounge ON20 spot at 20th & K), Shady Lady, Pangaea Two Brews Cafe and Selland's Market Cafe.

Last year's Bacon Fest was marked by food items selling out and a whole lot of full tummies. The event has grown from three days in its inaugural year to a full week and up to 20 participating venues. That's due in large part to sponsorship this year from the California Pork Producers Association, which is helping to fund some of the events.

November 30, 2012
Amador's Easton Wines honored by Wine Spectator

Accolades arrived this week for Terre Rouge & Easton Wines of Amador, which was named among Wine Spectator's "top 100 outstanding values of 2012." The noted bottle is the Easton 2010 Zinfandel Amador County, priced at $18 and described by Wine Spectator's managing editor as "a rich tasting zinfandel from California's Sierra Foothills." A bottle was also featured in a prominent photo spread of fellow best value wines.

This 2010 zinfandel earned 90 points from Wine Spectator earlier this year, and featured in a number of issues including a feature on zinfandel.

"That was really sweet," said Bill Easton, the winemaker and proprietor of Terre Rouge & Easton Wines. "They'd been giving us good reviews for the last couple years, but having that bottle in the photo spread was really cool. We've been leading up to this the whole year."

November 28, 2012
Update: Truck and Mortar Throwdown

Mother Nature be darned, one of the year's most novel cooking competitions and tastings is happening on Saturday. Teams of mobile food vendors and restaurant chefs will collaborate and compete at Truck and Mortar Throwdown, to be held rain or shine at 6th and W streets (aka the site of Sunday's farmers market under the freeway) from noon to 3 p.m. Each team will have an entire pig and one gallon of honey to impress a judging panel - including chef Patrick Mulvaney, Bethany Crouch of FOX 40 and myself - and the public vote. After a couple shuffles, here's the final roster of culinary teams:

* Oliver Ridgeway (Grange) and Robert Ramos (Coast to Coast Sandwiches)

* Mike Thiemann (Ella Dining Room and Bar) and Chando of Chando's Taco's

* Matt Brown (Golden Bear) and Donell Hendrix (Simply Southern Foods)

* Billy Ngo (Kru/Pork Belly Grub Shack) and Davin Vculek (Krush Burger)

* Pedro Depina (Ettore's) and Andrew "Drewski" Blaskovich (Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen)

Now that's a line-up of some of Sacramento's key tastemakers, and there's bound to be some great creations to taste. The chefs are being pretty hush-hush about what they plan to make, but we're hearing whispers of dishes that include charred jalapeno honey, raw oysters and what's dubbed "the last Twinkie." Yow!

November 26, 2012
Former Placerville resident and chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth leaving French Laundry

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We've been following Timothy Hollingsworth's career pretty closely at the Bee over the last few years. This former Placerville resident has one of the most intriguing culinary careers that we've ever seen. He got his start as a dishwasher at Zachary Jacques in Placerville and soon became one of its chef. He never went to culinary school, or worked at another restaurant, but had the gumption to apply for a job at French Laundry, the famed three Michelin star restaurant operated by Thomas Keller. Hollingsworth barely got the gig - Keller initially passed on Hollingsworth - and the young chef started as an entry-level commis. Hollingsworth rose to sous chef, and then earned one of the most prestigious titles in the culinary world: chef de cuisine for French Laundry, the head of its kitchen and Keller's right hand man.

Hollingsworth, 32, is now moving on and ready to explore other facets of the restaurant industry. He's leaving the French Laundry in the spring of 2013 and will be replaced by David Breeden, executive sous chef of Per Se - the New York City restaurant also run by Keller which has three Michelin stars to its credit. Hollingsworth will leave with 12 years of French Laundry experience to his credit.

"It's always been a goal of mine to have my own thing," said Hollingsworth. "I'm really excited to explore different opportunities. The French Laundry is also a place that's dear to me and I love so much. I consider it my home."

November 15, 2012
Roseville resident makes the cut for TLC's "Next Great Baker"

Back in August, "Appetizers" wrote about Roseville's Chris Luna, who was in the hunt to be the 13th final contestant on TLC's "Next Great Baker." The show, which is hosted by "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro, features a variety of bakers vying for a chance to win $100,000 and work with Valastro at his Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, N.J.

After an online vote, we're happy to report that Luna made the cut. Look for him when this season's "Next Great Baker" premiers on Nov. 26. These baker contestants will face a series of challenges and weekly eliminations over 10 episodes, with guest judges including Mario Lopez, Lou "The Incredible Hulk" Ferrigno and Joey Fatone.

Unlike most of his fellow contestants, Luna's a self-taught amateur baker who works by day in ad sales. His specialty is sculpted cakes, with some shaped like a metallic colored trout and roasted pig.

November 15, 2012
Total Wine & More to open Folsom location

Total Wine & More continues to set up shop around the Sacramento area, with a new Folsom location set to open on Nov. 29. Along with locations in Roseville and an Arden Way store which opened in Oct. 2011, this store marks the area's third Total Wine & More. It will take over a former Borders bookstore space at 2765 E. Bidwell St.

The store will stock some 8,000 wines, along with 2,500 beers and 3,000 spirits. Like other Total Wine & More locations, this store will feature a tasting bar and education center, plus in-store iPads to suggest food and beverage pairing. This Folsom location is expected to add 50 jobs to the area.

Fore more information: www.totalwine.com

November 14, 2012
Does Guy Fieri own the country's worst restaurant?

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Drinks that taste like a "combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde." "Turd shaped" chicken tenders. "(A) restaurant that would be indicted for crimes against humanity, if only that crime fell within the Department of Health's purview."

Those are actually some of the more positive comments levied by restaurant critics for Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, the Times Square restaurant overseen by Guy Fieri's restaurant group. The Food Network star's latest restaurant has been savaged by critics since opening in September. One of them, published Tuesday in the New York Times, has since gone viral. Penned by Pete Wells, the paper's restaurant critic, it's more of a rant than a review. It reads as an open letter to Fieri, with each sentence save for a final "thanks" written as a question.

"Did you notice that the menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table?" ... "Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are?" ... "Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste?" ... "When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN!, were you just messing with our heads?"

November 13, 2012
Broderick Restaurant & Bar grand opening set for Saturday

Over on the west side, Broderick Restaurant & Bar (319 6th St., West Sacramento) has undergone its "soft opening" phase for about a month. After getting its menu and service fine tuned, it's time to swing the doors open and celebrate officially. On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Broderick Restaurant & Bar will throw its grand opening party, featuring live music, drink specials and more. Proceeds from these shenanigans will also benefit Hurricane Sandy relief efforts on the east coast.

Owners of Broderick Restaurant & Bar include Chris Jarosz and Matt Chong of the Wicked Wich food truck, along with Marvin Maldonado and Steve Hamm of InForm design. The menu features Wicked Wich's signature sandwiches, along with newer items.

"It all started with us wanting to translate the Wicked Wich menu into a brick and mortar location," said Chong. "Having more space allows us to be creative with a roadhouse style menu. We put a lot of focus on our dressed fries, burgers, sandwiches and bleu cheese mac 'n' cheese."


November 5, 2012
National award for Davis Farmers Market Cookbook

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Now here's a piece of news that tastes especially sweet for Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans (pictured above). Their "Davis Farmers Market Cookbook" was awarded first place for non-fiction in the Writer's Digest 2012 Contest for Self-Published books. The two netted a $1,000 cash prize and will have their cookbook featured in Writer's Digest Magazine.

The book, which was released in April, takes a seasonal approach with its recipes and bases them on ingredients which can be found at farmers markets during various times of the year. The book provides a few basic recipes, included roasted vegetables and risotto, which can then be adapted depending on what's in season.

"It's our love letter to the market, but really to the region and the farmers in general," Evans told the Bee in April. "It was so fun, from the initial concepts to finishing the photo shoots."

November 2, 2012
Wine getaways this weekend

The 2012 harvest season is just about a wrap, the weather's forecasted to be warm - so hey, let's hit up some local wine country this weekend. Here are a couple of fun events to keep in mind:

* Whether you have a significant other or don't mind going stag, drop by Story Winery in Plymouth (10525 Bell Rd.) at 5 p.m. Saturday. They're hosting a "date night," and this is one great deal. For $15 in advance (or $20 on Saturday), you'll get dinner prepared by Christopher Davis-Murai a.k.a. The Bicycle Chef followed by a movie. Dinner includes cioppino, rosemary-tomato focaccia bread and Cesar salad, and tiramisu for dessert. Following this feast, there will be a screening of "Blood Into Wine," a documentary about Maynard James Keenan, the rock star from Tool turned vintner. Reservations are required, so call 209-245-6208. Operators are standing by.

* Ever seen a movie where an A-list actor is performing something like Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, and you think, "Yeah right, there's no way they can really play that." Well, Margie Balter can. She's a go-to piano coach for Hollywood actors, and her credits include working with Holly Hunter on "The Piano" and Tom Cruise in "Interview With a Vampire," among others. She also composes her own works, and Balter will perform on Sunday at Heritage Oak Winery (10112 East Woodbridge Rd. Acampo) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $20, and includes a glass of wine. Kids under 12 are free. For more information: (209) 986-2763 or www.heritageoakwinery.com.

October 30, 2012
Ella's executive chef to create "T.V. Dinner" at Verge gallery

Sacramento's been on a roll with creative culinary events, including the "Truck and Mortar Throwdown" coming Dec. 1. And now, a dinner coming to the Verge Center for the Arts (625 S St., Sacramento) on Nov. 8 will feature a multi-course dinner from Mike Thiemann, executive chef for Ella Dining Room & Bar, mixed with a multi-media experience. The event is dubbed "T.V. Dinner," but judging by the flyer it's a little ambiguous of what kind of food will be served. Will Chef Mike offer his interpretations of salisbury steak, corn and apple cobbler? Or, judging by this video from Ryan Donahue, a local photographer who's helping with the event, will Thiemann really have the audacity to take a bunch of actual TV dinner items and give them the sous vide treatment?

Not to worry. It turns out that Thiemann will use "TV dinner" more as a theme for the courses and make allusions to 1950s pop culture an imagery. Diners are encouraged to dress in "mid century attire," and will dine on courses including "Green Acres vs. Rawhide" and "Hawaii Five-O," with Ella bartender Chris Dooley making rounds of warm Tom & Jerry cocktails.

October 30, 2012
Gluten free bakery coming to midtown

Look for a shop selling all-natural, allergen sensitive baked treats coming to 29th & S streets around Valentine's Day. Pushkin's Bakery will sell cookies, cakes, donuts, macarons and more - all made gluten and dairy free. The bakery will be run by the husband-wife team of Danny and Olga Turner. They currently sell a line of all-natural baked goods which are sold commercially throughout northern California, and rent a commissary kitchen to produce their goods. That will change in February, when the two are slated to take over the space now occupied by The Frosted Cake Shop, which is adjacent to Revolution Wines and Temple Coffee at the edge of midtown.

The recipes come from Olga, a Russian native who created them as a way to make sweet treats for Danny, who suffers from various food allergies. As their business has grown, the two have left their day jobs to concentrate on Pushkin's Bakery.

"It started with being asked to cater parties, then stores wanted to carry our products and it's turned into what it is now," said Danny Turner. "We're excited to have a place that will be 100 percent ours."

October 29, 2012
Sacramento to be proclaimed "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital"

Local chefs and elected officials will gather Wednesday morning as Mayor Kevin Johnson proclaims Sacramento as "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital." The event, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Cesar Chavez Plaza's weekly farmers market, will recognize that 70 percent of the area's land is agricultural and highlight the synergy between regional farmers and chefs.

The branding of "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital" will be used by a variety of local restaurants, and also help promote a new series of week-long culinary events starting in September of 2013. The Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, along with area chefs and farmers, will organize this restaurant week. The first event is planned for Sept. 21 at Soil Born Farms, a non-profit farming operation and educational center.

Some local restaurateurs hope the branding of Sacramento as "America's Farm-To-Fork Capital" will enhance the city's national identity.

"There's more Grade A soil in the central valley than anywhere in the world," said Josh Nelson of The Selland Group, which operates four gourmet restaurants in the area. "The bounty and diversity of our crops is what makes this region so unique."

October 24, 2012
Food trucks and restaurant chefs to collaborate and compete

Who says restaurant chefs and food truck owners have to be bitter enemies? Sure, the politics surrounding the local mobile food truck scene can be a little thick, given the difficulties thus far in making current city ordinances more food truck friendly - and even some infighting within food truck owners themselves. An upcoming food competition and battle just may be the "We Are the World" moment that's much needed.

Truck and Mortar Throwdown on Dec. 1 will feature five teams in which food truck owners and restaurant chefs will collaborate. Ever wondered what kind of dishes Mike Thiemann, executive chef of Ella Dining Room and Bar, could make with Chando of Chando's Tacos? How about Billy Ngo of Kru teamed with Davin Vculek of KrushBurger? That's what we're talking about here. Other teams include: Andrew Blaskovich of Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen with Ettore's Pedro Depina; Oliver Ridgeway of Grange with Coast to Coast Sandwiches' Robert Ramos; and Adam Pechal of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en with Donell Hendrix of Simply Southern Foods.

Each team has to create two dishes - one sweet, one savory - and will use one full pig and one gallon of honey as mandatory ingredients. A panel of judges will select the winning team, while attendees will be able to sample two dishes from each time. The $45 ticket also includes a beer from Ruhstaller, coffee from Broadacre and more appetizers from Whole Foods. Proceeds will benefit the California Fire Foundation and Toys for Tots.

October 23, 2012
Negril Island BBQ opens in midtown

The restaurant space at 2502 J St. in midtown has seen its share of turnover during the last couple years, being the former home of My BBQ Spot and Luck's BBQ. But, the smoke rises there once again with the recent opening of Negril Island BBQ. This eatery specializes in "spice oriented Caribbean food," said owner Cleve Geddes, with such offerings as jerk chicken, jerk ribs, smoked fish, spicy sausages plus sides of beans and rice, and more.

Geddes, who is Panamanian-Jamaican by background, is a veteran of Sacramento's restaurant scene. He opened his Cleve's Place BBQ in Natomas during the mid-1980s, and went on to manage the former Chanterelle at the Sterling Hotel for nearly a decade, along with stints at Blue Cue, Virgin Sturgeon and others.

Geddes is still fine tuning the menu at Negril Island BBQ, named after a Jamaican beach resort town. While meats will remain a focus at this new barbecue spot, which will be smoked with mesquite wood, he's planning vegetarian items as well. Smoked fish will also be at the heart of the menu.

October 11, 2012
Atomic wing eating challenge coming Saturday to Stockton

Do you love hot wings? No, I mean do you really love hot wings and also have a stomach lining of steel? Wingstop of Stockton (5052 West Lane) is hosting its "atomic wing eating challenge" on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Participants will battle it out to see who can woof down the most hot wings during two timed rounds. The winner gets a whopping 52 weeks of free wings, while second place nabs tickets to a Stockton Thunder hockey game, and third place scores a $25 gift card for Wingstop. As a bonus, every contestant is just about guaranteed heartburn.

To enter, drop by the Wingstop at 5052 West Lane, Stockton, or call (209) 477-8207.

October 9, 2012
Alice Waters to help break ground on 'Edible Sac High'

Sacramento Charter High School will get a little taste of Chez Panisse at 11 a.m. today as Alice Waters pays a visit to break ground on "Edible Sac High." The program is modeled after the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Waters' home town of Berkeley. Like its sister program by the bay, Edible Sac High will include a school garden that will produce bounty utilized by a student run cafeteria and kitchen classroom.

Students have been working on the garden since late August, digging trenches and spreading plastic sheeting over the ground to help heat the soil and get it primed for planting. Part of Edible Sac High's mission statement says "a blueprint for this program will be shared with high schools across both the state of California and the nation."

Along with Waters, a figurehead of the "slow food" movement, today's groundbreaking will be attended by Mayor Kevin Johnson, Karen Ross, secretary of California's Department of Food and Agriculture and Craig McNamara, president of the California Food and Agriculture Commission.

For more information: www.ediblesachigh.org

October 3, 2012
Debate viewing party and specials at MIX Downtown

No matter what side of the political fence you lean on, everybody loves a deal. And tonight's presidential debate viewing party at MIX Downtown is designed as a non-partisan soiree featuring a variety of food and drink specials. President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will square off about the economy and other pressing issues as you sip on $5 glasses of wine, or martinis for just $6.50. Well drinks will cost $5, and small plate food items will be half priced - now that's an all-American deal!

These happy hour debate specials run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. tonight. For more information: www.mixdowntown.net.

October 2, 2012
Preview of food truck "pod" coming downtown on Saturday

As talks continue at city hall about amending Sacramento's mobile food ordinances, the idea of food truck "pods" is being explored as a possibility. These would be locations on private property where multiple mobile food vendors could operate simultaneously. Discussions about such pods will be held separately at city hall from other meetings related to mobile food vending, with the city's Law and Legislation Committee set to hear a new draft of proposed food truck ordinances on Oct. 16.

In the meantime, you can get a preview of what one of these pods might look like on Saturday at 1425 C St.. Dubbed "Truck Farm," this event is a benefit for Francis House, which provides services and resources for the homeless and also located near 14th and C streets. 11 trucks are participating in Saturday's event. Future "pods" at this location might also include a market and staging for entertainment.

"We're trying to focus on the benefit and venue," said Matt Chong, co-owner of Wicked Wich and a board member of the California Mobile Food Association. "It's a one time event for now, and it's a chance to work alongside our neighbors and also give a sneak preview of what might be coming over there. This will hopefully be Sacramento's first food pod."

The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and includes music and a beer garden. For more information: gofoodmob.com.

September 19, 2012
Legal concerns prompt a new draft of proposed food truck ordinances

Anyone thinking that changes to current mobile food vending ordinances would breeze through city hall was given a reality check on Tuesday afternoon. After numerous postponments, mobile food ordinances were heard before the city's Law and Legislation committee, only to find legal concerns expressed and a need for more discussions which are scheduled to be heard on Oct. 16.

Three meetings had previously been held between mobile food vendors and brick and mortar restaurant owners, who drafted proposed changes to current city ordinances which limit mobile food vending to 30 minutes, among other ordinances. The latest proposals include increasing the vending time limit to 90 minutes along some stretches J,K and L streets but vendors would have to keep at least one block away from restaurants. Other parts of the central city would see those time limits stretched to 2 1/2 hours and also require vendors to stay at least one block from restaurants. Food trucks would be off limits in Old Sacramento.

However, at Tuesday's meeting the city attorney's office expressed concerns about possible legal issues. The issue of whether cities have the authority to regulate where food trucks can do business had previously been raised by the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. This advocacy group had previously expressed strong opposition to compromises reached between Sacramento mobile food vendors and restaurateurs.

September 18, 2012
2012 wine grape harvest predicted to be a bumper crop

While the wine grape harvest is still underway and expected to last well into October, early predictions are showing an especially bountiful crop for 2012.

According to Allied Grape Growers, a Fresno-based growers association, the 2012 wine grape crop is expected to reach 3.7 million tons. That amount would tie the second-largest crop ever, and provide some balance after two consecutive years of smaller than usual harvests. 3.7 million tons would be a 10 percent increase over 2011's harvest, and a significant increase from the some 3.1 million tons harvested in 2010. Allied Grape Growers consider 3.5 million tons an average sized harvest.

After talk of supply shortage in California's wine industry, the 2012 crop could offer some relief. Wine shipments meanwhile were flat for the first six months of 2012, according to the Gomberg Fredrikson Report. California bulk wine exports meanwhile fell by 13 percent, while bulk wine imports were up a whopping 164 percent.

Look for the final numbers related to shipments and the 2012 crop to be announced at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, which is set for the Sacramento Convention Center from Jan. 29 to Jan. 31.


September 13, 2012
KrushBurger to open restaurant on North 10th street in December

KrushBurger, formerly known as MiniBurger and one of the pioneers of Sacramento's mobile food movement, will be opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in December. The address is 700 North 10th Street, which also serves as headquarters for the California State Lottery. Like its truck, KrushBurger will focus on a variety of burgers and will also open at 7 a.m. to serve breakfast. Some of those morning items will include a "street benedict" with fried egg and a roasted red pepper hollandaise sauce, and chicken and waffles.

KrushBurger will also serve beer and wine, and include plenty of TVs for watching sports.

"It's a neat area with lots of business," said owner Davin Vculek. "Along with the state lottery, there's also CHP nearby and some other development going on. It's easy to get to from Highway 160, I-5 and I-80. We're going to try some things to help build up our dinner business."

September 12, 2012
'Trucktoberfest' mobile food event coming to West Sac. on Sept. 29

The popular SactoMoFo mobile food festival, previously held in various downtown locations, will move across the Sacramento River to West Sacramento on Sept. 29. "Trucktoberfest" will feature more than 20 mobile food vendors, including the debut of the second truck in KrushBurger's fleet. The site will be Riverwalk Park, near the former Money Store and a location for the late-great Heritage Festival that featured a weekend of local and national bands. A beer/wine garden will also be featured at Trucktoberfest, which will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. According to Paul Somerhausen of SactoMoFo, this will be the last SactoMoFo event of the year.

In other food truck news, after numerous postponements, proposals to revise food truck ordinances are scheduled to be heard before the city's Law and Legislation committee on Sept. 18. After a series of meetings between food truck owners and brick-and-mortar restaurateurs, their proposals will then be turned into legislative language and ordinances before moving in front of the city council for discussion and a possible vote.

Meanwhile, look for food trucks to rally on behalf of efforts to rebuild McKinley Park's arson damaged playground on Oct. 28 at Sutter's Landing Park. Also look for more information coming soon about a Dec. 1 cooking competition and festival featuring mobile food vendors and restaurant chefs joined together in teams.

September 10, 2012
Mikuni to retire sushi bus, launch food truck

After more than a decade of rolling through Sacramento and beyond with its assortment of sushi, the Mikuni Sushi Bus will retire at the end of September. But, that doesn't mean Mikuni, the popular Sacramento-based sushi chain, will hit the brakes on providing food in a mobile environment. Mikuni plans to launch its own food truck in early 2013.

"It's so sad," said Taro Arai, executive chef of the Mikuni Japanese Restaurant Group, about the sushi bus ending its run. "The Raiders vs. Pittsburgh (Steelers) game will be its final trip."

The Mikuni Sushi Bus was rented for private events and included an on-board sushi bar, flat-screen TV and service staff. That bus, however, proved to be costly to run as the years went along.

September 7, 2012
Hook & Ladder to open in late September at 17th and S streets

Details are shaping up for the opening of Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., a neighborhood eatery and bar located at 17th and S streets in the former Hangar 17 space. Look for Hook & Ladder to open in the next two to three weeks - that is, by the end of September.

Owned by the same folks behind midtown's Golden Bear, a popular pub that's been featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives," Hook & Ladder will feature an expanded menu and cocktail program run by Chris Tucker, one of Sacramento's top bartenders. The menu will be overseen by Brian Mizner, the Golden Bear's current executive chef and an alum of L Wine Lounge and the late-great Masque in El Dorado Hills. The menu's still being fine tuned, but expect a more entree options than featured at Golden Bear along with a range of small plates.

The 4,800 square foot space includes an additional front and back patio, along with some unique concepts which will be revealed soon. While Golden Bear also features DJs and dancing, Hook & Ladder will focus squarely on food and drink for now.

September 4, 2012
Enotria revamps kitchen staff, Pajo Bruich named exec. chef

Enotria Restaurant Wine Bar, which completed a $1.5 million renovation in 2011, has now undergone its most significant change in kitchen staff. Pajo Bruich, formerly of midtown's Lounge ON20, is now serving as Enotria's excutive chef. He's also helped recruit some of Sacramento's top culinary talent to help run Enotria's kitchen. Among Enotria's new staff: Stan Moore, former sous chef of The Kitchen, and Edward Martinez, the former pastry chef of Hawk's Restaurant who was profiled by the Bee in April. Other new staff come from such notable Sacramento establishments as Blackbird Kitchen + Bar and The Selland Group.

Enotria's new staff will make its debut on Saturday with a beer dinner hosted by Dr. Charlie Bamforth, Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at UC Davis. After that, this new crew will start up again at Enotria on Sept. 14 and keep going from there.

While Bruich is best known for embracing molecular gastronomy and other modern cooking techniques, he's scaling back his style to emphasize seasonal, ingredient driven dishes with classic techniques. Most dishes will be based on just four ingredients. Look for such items as dayboat scallops, risotto and dry aged rib-eye. Entrees cost between $19 and $30, and $50 for a four-course tasting menu.

August 29, 2012
California Food Literacy Center holding sandwich contest for kids

Speaking of sandwiches, like the tasty creations from today's Food & Wine cover story, the California Food Literacy Center has issued a challenge to all K-12 students in the state. Young people from around the state are invited to submit a sandwich recipe, and then pen a short essay about how this sandwich exemplifies "food literacy" principles. These could relate to issues of nutrition, sustainability, local farming and other issues that would make Alice Waters beam.

So students, whip up those sandwiches and those essays, and get them in from Sept. 2 - 8. Finalists will be showcased on the California Food Literacy Center's web site and Facebook page. A team of judges will then announce the winners in each of the four age categories on Sept. 29.

To enter a recipe, or get more information: info@californiafoodliteracy.org, and visit californiafoodliteracy.org for complete details.

August 28, 2012
16 food trucks coming Wednesday to Cesar Chavez Park

If you have a hankering for some food truck fare, 16 mobile food vendors will be set up on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park. Vendors include: Heavenly Dog, Wicked 'Wich, OMG Burger, The Pizza Company, El Matador Mobile Mex, Mama Kim on the Go and many more. For those who have a taste for fashion, the Gypsy Mobile Boutique will also be selling clothes and accessories for the ladies.

This roundup is organized by Foodmob, which is the events wing of the California Mobile Food Association. The Foodmob folks have been a key proponent of language drafted between local food trucks and restaurateurs that are expected to be heard at City Hall, and could result in ordinance changes related to food trucks.

Note there's been some very vocal pushback to some of these proposed changes, including compromises about where mobile food trucks can vend, from the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. Two factions have basically formed: those who favor negotiating with brick and mortar owners, and others who believe constitutional rights trump city restrictions. Looks like this mobile food fight has a ways to go before resolving.

For more information: gofoodmob.com

August 23, 2012
Harvey House restaurant shuts down in Old Sacramento

After just four months in business, Harvey House in Old Sacramento has abruptly shut its doors. The restaurant, which opened at Second and I streets in the former Fulton's Prime Rib, focused on a railroad-themed decor and American cuisine (think: prime rib, chicken fried steak, meatloaf, porkchops). Harvey House was modeled after a restaurant chain which was popular at southwest train stations from the late-1800s through 1950.

The phone number for Old Sacramento's Harvey House has been disconnected. Co-owner Simon Mandell could not be reached for comment about the closure, but Harvey House's Twitter account alludes to the restaurant's apparent financial problems. A tweet posted on Aug. 7 says, "Simon, please pay us. You have a plan right? We put our faith in you. You promised us all."

We'll follow up with more information as it comes through.

August 20, 2012
Downtown & Vine wine bar coming to K Street in October

A new tasting room for a dozen California wineries is slated to open on 12th & K streets in October. Downtown & Vine, which will be located next door to Blush Ultra Lounge, is the work of Gregg Lamer - an Amador County resident - and business partner Kate Chomko. Lamer's a certified sommelier who's worked as a consultant for Sierra Foothills wineries, served as wine education manager for Robert Mondavi Winery, and worked at Domaine Carneros, among other stints.

Unlike the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg, which features eight local wineries under a single roof, Downtown & Vine will be set up more like a traditional wine bar.

"This will be more about sitting down and having a menu to choose from," said Lamer. "You can order by the glass, flight or bottle. We'll also have artisan cheeses, charcuterie plates and small bites."

August 17, 2012
Grape & Gourmet coming Saturday

California's Grape & Gourmet, the annual feast of local food and award winning wines, has played a bit of musical chairs in terms of location the last few years. But on Saturday, the event returns to Cal Expo and will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Buildings A and B.

Some 200 wines will be poured, all of them medalists at the 2012 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. Hopefully Hearst Ranch Winery from Paso Robles will be pouring its best of show red, a Rhone-style blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre. Also, look for samples from Chacewater Wine Company of Lake County, which nabbed "golden winery honors" at this year's competition.

To get more ideas of what to taste, check out The Bee's database of winners from the 2012 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

Tickets cost $40 per person, or $50 at the door. Online group sales of 10 or more cost $35 per person. For more information and to order tickets: click here.

August 15, 2012
Could Roseville cake maker be TLC's "Next Great Baker?"

The final casting for season 3 of TLC's "Next Great Baker" has just about been confirmed, with contestants around the country who will battle it out baking style for cash and prizes. 12 finalists have made the cut, but the show is looking for a 13th contestant to round-out its "baker's dozen."

Chris Luna of Roseville is among three bakers who's in the hunt for that final spot, but he'll need your help to make it on the show, which is hosted by Buddy Valastro a.k.a. the "Cake Boss" himself. It'll all come down to voting, and an online ballot can be cast here.

Luna, 29, has a different career trajectory than many of the "Next Great Baker" would-bes. He's not a trained pastry chef and works by day in ad sales. He started baking cakes four years ago, right before he got married and said he wanted to bake his own wedding cake. His wife nixed that idea, but Luna ended up making a wedding cake not long after for some friends that was a hit.

Since then, Luna spends most weekends baking cakes of all different shapes and sizes. One creation looks just like a roasted pig and meant to be served at a luau. Another cake looks like a rainbow trout with metallic-like coloring. He credits his time in the Eagle Scouts along with a knack for being a handyman for helping his manual skills.

August 13, 2012
County receives two complaints for local restaurants serving foie gras

Downtown's Restaurant Thir13en and its chef/owner, Adam Pechal, received national press with a feature in Sunday's New York Times. But instead of a review or rundown of Sacramento's culinary scene, the article focused on California chefs who are flouting the state's ban on foie gras. The article features a picture of Pechal preparing a foie gras appetizer - a "complimentary" item, as to skirt the law - and details how he stockpiled on foie gras before the July 1 ban.

"Foie freezes fantastically," Pechal told the New York Times. "That's the beauty of it. The foie gras liver, it's a beautiful product. Worst-case scenario for me, I'll just go to Tahoe and spend the week and find somebody in Nevada. It's as simple as that. I can drive an hour and a half and buy it in another state."

Though a violation of the law can result in a $1,000 fine, enforcement throughout the state has been nearly non-existent. However, two citizen complaints have been filed against Sacramento area restaurants which have flouted the foie gras ban. The target of those complaints are Restaurant Thir13en and The Kitchen.

August 9, 2012
Pour House to open Friday

A few weeks back, "Appetizers" gave readers a sneak peek of Pour House. This spot at 19th and Q streets is the former location of Whiskey Wild, and features one of the area's more novel bar concepts. Some of the booths come with tap handles for beer and whiskey, so you can get a drink without leaving your seat. Meanwhile, the food program is being run by the folks behind Coast to Coast Sandwiches, the popular local food truck.

Pour House is now all ready to go, and its grand opening is set for 11 a.m. Friday. Along with its in-booth beer and whiskey taps, look for one of the area's more extensive bourbon and whiskey selections. The food will include an expanded version of Coast to Coast's menu, including smoked tri-tip and pulled pork.

For more information, visit Pour House's Facebook page.

August 8, 2012
Hank Shaw seeks input for new cookbook

When Hank Shaw's not busy with salmon fishing or foraging for fresh produce, the award winning food writer from Orangevale is working on a new book. Shaw, whose Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook blog has twice been nominated for a James Beard award, is taking on duck in his latest tome. The working title is "Duck: The Ultimate Cookbook," which will feature a multitude of cooking techniques for preparing delicious duck and geese dishes.

Along with surveying chefs from around the country, Shaw would like your input as well. What are the best ways for preparing duck? How can I produce a duck breast cooked to a perfect medium rare? What about some duck egg recipes? If you have any other input for duck techniques you'd like to see in the book, surf on over to Shaw's blog.

"I'm intending for the book to be useful for someone who's never cooked duck to chefs who've cooked it a lot," said Shaw.

August 2, 2012
New coalition to lobby at Friday's food truck ordinance meeting

Food truck owners, city officials and restaurateurs are set to meet on Friday to discuss a possible compromise with local mobile food ordinances. One of the main advocacy groups behind the scenes is the recently formed California Mobile Food Association (CMFA), which is a coalition of 20 Sacramento area mobile food vendors. Many of these vendors have split from SactoMoFo, the mobile food organization behind the area's largest food truck festivals and an early advocate for amending city ordinances to make them food truck friendly.

"Up until a few months ago, we weren't present in meetings being had between the city and restaurateurs," said Matt Chong, co-owner of the Wicked 'Wich food truck and board director for the CMFA. "We were hearing about all this tension and trying to figure out why. We realized we needed to have our own voice directly from the trucks. We're coming forth with realistic expectations because we know the business day in and day out."

Current city ordinances state that mobile food vendors must move after 30 minutes and cease business when the sun goes down. Chong said recent discussions with the city and brick-and-mortar restaurateurs have been productive, and have a framework that may soon make its way to the city's Law and Legislation Committee. Among the proposals:

July 26, 2012
Sacramento chef lands job at world renowned Alinea

Scott Ostrander's known for being a behind-the-scenes kind of chef, a fairly low key guy who eschews the limelight yet known for a fierce work ethic. And now, he's preparing to say farewell to his native Sacramento for one of the country's most heralded restaurants.

On Aug. 22 Ostrander starts work at Alinea, the Chicago restaurant known for its three Michelin stars and recognized as the nucleus of the country's molecular gastronomy movement. Oh, and Ostrander picked Alinea while mulling an apprenticeship opportunity at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro.

So who is this guy, anyway?

July 25, 2012
Update: River Rock Tap House closed temporarily

Despite tremendous growth in Sacramento's beer scene over the past year, one of midtown's main brew pubs has closed temporarily. River Rock Tap House, located at 2326 J St., shut down last week after a year in business. The location was the former home of Tex Mex Bar & Grill before transforming into River Rock Tap House in July of 2011. Since then, River Rock Tap House featured more than 40 beers on tap.

According to its Twitter feed, River Rock Tap House shut down due to bankruptcy. The pub's web page has also been taken down.

Former owner Michael Keolanui said via e-mail that a new ownership group has taken over River Rock Tap House and planning a re-model of the bathrooms, patio and other parts of the building. An announcement from the as-yet-unamed ownership group is expected soon.

July 18, 2012
The Kitchen named among "America's 20 Best Date Restaurants"

Coming off yesterday's news about the Davis Farmers Market making two national "best of" lists, here's another bit of acclaim for the Sacramento area's food scene. The Kitchen was named in a "America's 20 Best Date Restaurants" list by Men's Fitness magazine. Because hey, what better way to show a date that you're not all just ripped abs and protein powders then by taking them to a classy restaurant?

The Kitchen was named among some of the country's finest restaurants, including New York City's Blue Hill Farm, Chicago's Tru and Canlis in Seattle. A date at The Kitchen is certainly a classy move with its epic wine cellar and gourmet demonstration dinner - though would-be lotharios should be ready to pay $250 for dinner for two, not including wine. Men's Fitness noted The Kitchen's relaxed and freewheeling style, saying, "You and your date can meander into normally off-limit spots such as the pantry, wine cellar, and walk-in. A truly unique experience ..."

Here's a link to The Kitchen's menu for July ... enjoy, lovers.

July 17, 2012
Davis Farmers Market makes national 'best of' lists

The Davis Farmers Market always feels like an idyllic slice of northern California living at 4th and C streets in downtown Davis. Drop by the market on a Saturday morning or Wednesdays and you'll find the masses shopping for locally grown produce as kids frolic on a nearby playground. Food vendors also set up shop to help fuel the fun.

Two national publications have also taken note. US News & World Report listed the Davis Farmers Market last week as No. 5 in its top 10 breakdown of farmers markets from around the country.

USA Today also noted Davis in a May travel feature titled "10 great places to shop at a farmers market." Farmers markets in Santa Fe, Boulder and Austin, Tx. were also included in the rundown.

For more information on the Davis Farmers Market and its recently released cookbook, visit www.davisfarmersmarket.org.

July 11, 2012
Food aplenty at Yolo County Fair opening night gala

YOLO - it's the acronym for You Only Live Once mentioned in the song by Drake. And hey, you can actually live out this axiom by feasting like there's no tomorrow at the Yolo County Fair's opening night gala. The Aug. 15 event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Yolo County Fair's agricultural building, featuring an array of local meats, wines, produce, restaurant food and more.

And get this: the tickets for this YOLO feast are only $10 in advance, or $15 at the door. Also keep in mind that tickets to the Yolo County Fair are free. For more information: (530) 402-2222 or www.yolocountyfair.net.

July 9, 2012
Mobile food vendors announced for SactoMoFo5

SactoMoFo 5 is on tap for July 21 at Sixth and X streets, featuring more than two dozen mobile food vendors, a beer garden, live music, an arts & crafts fair and even a "kid's corner" with a video game truck. You can also plan on plenty of lines, with between 8,000 and 10,000 attending the previous edition of SactoMoFo.

You'll see some new local vendors in the mix, including Star Ginger's Asian foods and Addy's Paella. However a few familiar vendors won't be in the mix, including Wicked 'Wich, Heavenly Dog and Fuzion Eatz. There's been a rift between some local mobile food vendors and SactoMoFo, leading to a new consortium called Norcal Food Trucks. We'll have more on what this means for the local food truck scene soon.

Either way, July 21 is slated to be another large scale celebration of mobile food so plan accordingly. Here's the line-up of vendors:

July 6, 2012
Squeeze Inn launches food truck

Add the Squeeze Inn as the latest brick-and-mortar restaurant to launch a food truck. The much heralded local burger franchise, which was once featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, has now gone mobile.

The Squeeze Inn truck is an extension of the eatery's Power Inn location, and operated by former Squeeze Inn employee Ken Bourquin. He'd been given the blessing to run the truck from franchise owner Travis Hausauer, and started rolling about two weeks ago.

Squeeze Inn's truck will operate a little differently than other local food trucks. Instead of playing cat and mouse with parking enforcement on a daily basis and trying to entice office workers at lunchtime, this truck is emphasizing events and fundraisers.

June 29, 2012
Pour House to open soon at 19th and Q streets

On Thursday, the inside of Pour House looked like a construction site with sawdust on the floors and wallpaper ready to be applied. But by late July or early August, this bar and eatery at 19th and Q streets is set to open.

The food operations will be handled by Coast to Coast Sandwiches, a popular food truck which will expand its menu with barbecued meats and salads.

Also, look for one of the more novel bar programs in the area. Some of the booths will include tap handles for both beer and whiskey, meaning customers can pour their own libations while a software system logs the amount served and price. Those booths include three beer tap handles and another for Jameson whiskey. Customers will be limited with how much they can pour at these tap-embedded booths.

June 28, 2012
Hill's Kitchen to open late-August in Roseville

"Appetizers" recently reported on efforts by David Hill, chef and owner of The Chef's Table in Rocklin, to launch a farm to table food truck. Well, that's just part of Hill's business expansion. He's planning to open a new Roseville restaurant called Hill's Kitchen, with a projected late-August opening on Eureka Rd.

The menu will emphasize seafood and oven roasted items, which can be washed down with its own line of beers. Hill is partnering with Auburn Alehouse, who will either consult or craft some brews on behalf of Hill's Kitchen.

"We're trying to work out the details, but the idea is for them to do some ultra crazy beers, fun off the wall stuff," said Hill. "What I want is to have some really high end beers to pair with our seafood and oven roasted things."

We'll keep you posted as the opening nears.

June 27, 2012
Final flurry of foie gras dinners

The final clock's ticking on foie gras, the fatty duck and goose liver which will be banned in California as of July 1. (On a related note, here's a look at some possible non-enforcement and loopholes in the foie gras ban that might keep this item in Calif. restaurants beyond July 1).

While foie gras has a long tradition in France's culinary history, the issue of animals being force fed to create this product has caused passionate mobilization against it by animal rights advocates. If California chefs find crafty ways to keep foie gras on their menus, there's bound to be some serious pushback from the anti-foie forces.

In any case, a flurry of foie gras dinners are set for local restaurants between now and Saturday. A full lobe of top-grade foie gras sells for about $37.25 a pound these days, so most foie-themed dinners are bound to be on the pricey end. Here's where you can get a (possibly) final taste:

June 13, 2012
Winners database from California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition

Judges at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition had huge amounts of wine to consider last week - nearly 2,900 wines from 688 producers. The judging alone took three days, and now the results are in. More than 2,100 medals were given, including 74 double gold, 268 gold, 1,195 silver and 734 bronze.

Check this searchable database of winners from the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. This link can come in handy next time you're about to do some wine shopping and want to scoop up some choice bottles.

Here are some of the top winners:

June 12, 2012
Update: Prince spotted at Mix/Cafeteria 15L and record shopping

Sacramento's been abuzz lately with sightings of Prince, the mighty Purple One of pop music, here in Sacramento. Last week, Tower Cafe posted on its Facebook page that Prince had come into the restaurant.

"He came in and had breakfast for lunch, and was a really nice guy," said Ruben Reveles, Tower Cafe's manager. "We kept it quiet for him, and didn't tell everybody until after he left. The employees were pretty excited."

On Monday, there was also a spotting of Mr. Purple Rain coming out of Corti Brothers which was posted on Facebook. However, in a call to Corti Brothers, management and staff alike didn't spot Prince themselves - though the idea of Prince picking up some parma prosciutto and a bottle of barolo is a nice thought.

"If he did come in, then it was something nobody paid attenion to, or he was dressed down," said store manager Rick Mindermann.

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 7, 2012
California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition underway

Just got back from Cal Expo, where the second day of the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition is currently underway. Judges from around North America have descended on Building 5 at Cal Expo to sample through a veritable ocean of wine. According to chief judge G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowski, this year's competition includes nearly 2,900 wines - up 250 entries from 2011.

I served as a guest judge on a panel of tempranillo and merlot, comparing my scores with a panel that included Andy Podshadley of Novato's Trek Wine and Steven Elphick of Toronto, a photographer who's judged wine since 1988. Judging continues through Friday, with results expected by Tuesday. Stay tuned for more on the final results, as well as a database of winners to be posted next week on www.sacbee.com.

You can taste the big winners for yourself on Aug. 18 at California's Grape & Gourmet. This food and wine fiesta will be held at Cal Expo's Buildings A & B, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information: click here or call (916) 263-3636.

June 6, 2012
"Cap City Sips" happy hour to run downtown through summer

Budget cuts, a proposed four-day work week with 5 percent pay cut for state workers ... yes, a lot of folks feel like they could use a drink right now. And look at the timing of this: a new happy hour program called "Cap City Sips" is set to run at downtown watering holes and restaurants each Wednesday through Aug. 29.

This weekly special features $2 beer, $3 wine and $4 cocktails from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Participants include: Tequila Museo Mayahuel, 4th Street Grille, Blue Prynt, Capitol Garage, Dive Bar, Fat City Bar & Café, The Firehouse Restaurant, Frank Fat's, House Kitchen & Bar, Kupros Bistro, Ten 22, The Melting Pot, Michelangelo's, Monsoon's, O'Mally's Irish Pub, Pizza Rock, Public Market Bar (PMB) at the Sheraton, Pyramid Ale House, River City Brewing Company and River City Saloon.

These spots will need the business uptick if the four-day work week goes through. During "Furlough Fridays," downtown food spots near state office buildings took a significant hit, as did the turnout for the Friday Night Concerts in the Park series at Cesar Chavez Plaza. We'll see how this ends up.

In the meantime, gather a few bucks and some friends and visit downtownsac.org/capcitysipshappyhour for more information.

May 31, 2012
Free Krispy Kreme donuts Friday in Roseville

Somewhere behind Groundhog's Day and National Grilled Cheese Day we find another chance to reflect on a favorite national past time. That would be June 1, also known as National Doughnut Day. To celebrate this holiest of publicist-driven holidays, Krispy Kreme is offering a free donut starting at 12 a.m. Friday in its drive-thru and then inside its store at 5:30 a.m. Here's the fine print: no purchase is necessary, and éclairs or doughnut holes are not eligible in this offer.

For those keeping score at home, you might remember Krispy Kreme made a huge splash with an ambitious expansion plan during the 1990s. However, the company has since downsized significantly. That's left Roseville as the remaining Sacramento area Krispy Kreme location at 10317 Fairway Dr. (916-797-2221). Doughnut fans a little farther south can claim this free donut deal at two Stockton locations: 2809 West March Lane, and 7860 West Lane.

For more information: www.krispykreme.com

May 31, 2012
Hot Lunch Concert Series kicks off, adds food trucks

Now in its fourth year, the Hot Lunch Concert Series aims to give midtown and downtown office workers - along with anybody who's got the day off - a break with food and live music. The series, which runs each Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Fremont Park (16th and Q streets, Sacramento), is a partnership between Hot Italian and longtime local concert promoter Jerry Perry. If you want to go the pizza or panini route, you can place your order at Hot Italian and then bring your grub across the street to Fremont Park to kick back and hear live music.

Now, the Hot Lunch Concert Series has added food trucks to its lineup, today featuring Mama Kim, Wicked Wich and Fuzion Eatz.

But wait a second, a brick and mortar restaurant actually partnering with food trucks? Aren't the two supposed to be enemies, especially as many local restaurateurs continue to push back against calls for city ordinances to become more food truck friendly?

May 29, 2012
1950s-styled food truck to debut in July

Look for some 1950s flavor to be served with a food truck that's set to debut in July. Papa Dale's Drivin' Diner will take on a rockabilly and hot rod kind of vibe, while serving such comfort foods as Santa Maria tri-tip, meatloaf, mac 'n' cheese, griddled breads and more. Expect menu items to cost $8 to $10.

Papa Dale's Drivin' Diner is the brainchild of Keith Breedlove, who recently served as corporate executive chef for Guy Fieri's restaurant group, opening a Tex Wasabi's in Santa Rosa and a Dublin, Ca. location for Johnny Garlic's. He's also served as an executive chef at four different hotels, and is currently a culinary instructor at the Sacramento campus of The Art Institute of California.

"Papa Dale is my grandfather and he encouraged me to do a culinary career," said Breedlove. "It's my way of saying thank you to him and honoring the food I grew up with. My wife and I are big fans of the 1950s and home cooked comfort food. I grew up around tri-tip and barbecuing."

May 25, 2012
Lounge ON20 to shut down this weekend

Less than a month after scaling back its dining program and parting ways with chefs Pajo Bruich and Mike Ward, midtown's Lounge ON20 will close for good after Saturday night. The closure was announced on Lounge ON20's Facebook page by co-owners Ali Mackani and Hayk Galachyan.

After opening four years ago as a midtown ultra-lounge, Lounge ON20 featured some of Sacramento's most cutting edge food with the hires of executive chef Pajo Bruich and chef de cuisine Mike Ward. The two dabbled in molecular gastronomy and other modern techniques, with the Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson naming Lounge ON20's charcuterie plate as the best dish he had in 2011. Ward has since landed a job as culinary development manager at Feeding Crane Farms.

At its peak, Lounge ON20 was ranked No. 6 in a national restaurant survey for molecular gastronomy. Despite its haute cuisine, Lounge ON20 just wasn't generating enough business with its dining program. Following the departure of Bruich and Ward, Lounge ON20 reverted back to a bar food program and emphasis on its nightlife offerings.

May 21, 2012
Sacto MoFo 5 food truck festival coming July 21

The latest edition of Sacto MoFo, the local mobile food festival, has been announced for July 21. Look for Sacto MoFo 5 to touch down once again at Eighth and W streets, with a day of mobile food, live music, a beer garden and more. Sacto MoFo 5 will also include an arts and crafts fair among its offerings.

This announcement comes just about two months after Sacto MoFo 4, a gut buster of a day which attracted between 8,000 and 10,000 attendees, according to event organizers. Most lines ran 40 to 50 people deep with wait periods between 20 and 45 minutes - though this was just a fraction of the three-hour lines seen at the debut Sacto MoFo at Fremont Park in April 2011.

Sacto MoFo 5 is expected to feature between 25 and 30 food vendors, and expect to see some new food trucks in the mix. So just who will be slinging food out there? Event organizers are still rounding up trucks, and a confirmed list should be announced within the next two weeks. Stay tuned for that info.

May 18, 2012
Sacramento Chef Challenge: Battle cupcake

On your mark, get set, start frosting! The 10th annual Sacramento Chef Challenge goes down June 23 in "battle cupcakes." The contest features two divisions - one for professional chefs, the other for home cooks - who will go mano a mano with their cupcake creations. They'll each have three hours to bake and display their cupcakes, which must include ginger as part of their recipe.

Here's the list of challengers:

PROFESSIONAL CHEFS

* Bethany Gist (Auntie Bea's Bakery)
* Carlos Mares (Vanilla Bean Gourmet Cupcakes)
* Monique Cortes (Sassy Sweets by Monique)

HOME COOKS

* Kyle Lane (social media coordinator for Lexus, blogger)
* Jennifer Urias (Easter Seals marketing coordinator)
* Stephanie Nuccitelli (blogger of 52 Kitchen Adventures)

The event also includes more food, live music, wine/beer tasting and raffles. Tickets cost $25 or $35 at the door, and will be held at INALLIANCE Sacramento campus (6950 21st Ave., Sacramento). For more info: 916-381-1300 x170 or chefevent.com

May 11, 2012
SacTown Dining Collective forms, will host kick-off dinner

Here's something most local chefs can agree on: the talent pool for Sacramento chefs runs deep, and the area deserves a better reputation given its quality restaurants and access to world-class produce. The SacTown Dining Collective was born with this idea of rallying local chefs to better promote this town, but behind the scenes, it's been more like the SacTown Herding Cats Collective. What exactly will this collective do? Who will represent the group in front of media, and what's its agreed upon message? And who's up for meeting at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning to figure all this out?

That's to say, despite its good aims, getting a bunch of chefs together isn't so easy. There's overloaded work schedules to contend with, family obligations, not to mention the strong personalities which are a hallmark of many chefs. But, after a few months of figuring this out and a few hurt feelings, the SacTown Dining Collective board was recently formed: Mike Thiemann (Ella Dining Room & Bar), Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro, Restaurant Thi13en), Pedro Depina (Ettore's), Kimio Bazett (The Golden Bear) and Amber Turner - a local food enthusiast with a marketing background who came up with the idea for this collective. Other members of the collective include Pajo Bruich (formerly of Lounge ON20), restaurant consultant Andy Soto, Michael Passmore (Passmore Ranch), Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney's B&L and about a dozen others.

May 9, 2012
Gonul Blum to open Trio restaurant at 8th and J streets

First, Gonul Blum swapped places on J St. with Formoli's Bistro. Second, she changed the name of her Gonul's J Street Cafe to Vanilla Bean Bistro. Third, she'll be opening a new restaurant called Trio on 8th and J streets. It's the former site of Table 260 Downtown, the "soul food fusion" eatery which received one of the most ruthless reviews ever by The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson (So sayeth BAR: "The food was so bad in places that if it had been served at the nearby county jail, crusading attorney Stewart Katz might have had a reasonable case for something like 'wanton disregard.'")

Blum plans to open Trio June 1, with a menu that's similar to what's served at Vanilla Bean Bistro - seasonal California cuisine with nods to the Mediterranean and her Turkish homeland.

May 4, 2012
Sneak peek of Firestone Public House, opening May 11

The former California Pizza Kitchen location at 15th and L streets has thoroughly been gutted, with a new pub and alehouse called Firestone Public House to debut on May 11. Its a new project by two sets of brothers who already operate in the Firestone entertainment complex: the deVere's (Henry, Simon and Mark) of deVere's Irish Pub; and the Wong brothers (Mason, Alan and Curtis) who operate MIX Downtown.

Though initially billed as a sports bar, Firestone Public House is fashioned as more of a large-scale pub with a quasi-industrial feel. There's a big focus on beer here, with 60 tap handles and a selection of beer flights. Empty kegs double as decorations against a side wall.

Firestone Public House can seat up to 130, who can pony up to a large rectangular-shaped bar that's flanked by a series of flat-screen TVs. The restaurant's black tables are made with the same kind of hard rubber-y material generally used in laboratories, while the booming sound system comes from the same company used for MIX Downtown. The original false ceiling has been removed, which gives the room an open and warehouse-y feel.

May 3, 2012
Raley's Grape Escape coming June 2

If the idea of stuffing yourself silly on a Saturday afternoon sounds like a good one, well mark your calendars for June 2. That's the date for the 10th annual Raley's Grape Escape at Cesar Chavez Plaza (10th and J streets, Sacramento), which features such local restaurants as de Vere's Irish Pub, Ludy's Main St. BBQ & Catering, Restaurant Thir13en, Il Fornaio and many more. To wash down that food, some 60 wineries will be pouring their wares.

You'll also find a "chef's challenge" with local culinary leaders including Oliver Ridgeway of Grange, Blackbird Kitchen's Carina Lampkin and David English, the defending champion from Press Bistro. Yours truly will return as a judge in this competition, which is sponsored by the Institute of Technology Culinary Academy.

The Bee will also be eating and tweeting from the event with partners from the Sacramento Connect blog network. Stay tuned for a hashtag and more info. on that.

May 2, 2012
Lounge ON20 scales back fine dining, chef Pajo Bruich leaves

After flirting with a menu that emphasized molecular gastronomy and cutting-edge cooking techniques, midtown's Lounge ON20 is scaling back its menu to emphasize comfort foods and bar snacks. Lounge ON20 has also bid farewell to chef Pajo Bruich, who started at Lounge ON20 in February of 2011 and introduced Sacramentans to styles of cooking that hail from "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking." This was Lounge ON20's attempt at adding a fine dining element to its nightlife activities, but its revamped food program with a focus on molecular gastronomy just wasn't profitable enough in the end.

"We tried a concept that at the end of the day wasn't as successful as it should have been," said Bruich. "The business is better suited in going back to its original concept. In that neighborhood, it's very difficult to operate with that style of food in that kind of nightlife atmosphere."

Also departed from Lounge ON20 is Mike Ward, the chef de cuisine and mastermind of its charcuterie program. The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson named Lounge ON20's charcuterie plate as the best dish he had in 2011.

May 1, 2012
Capitol Garage ranked in nation's 100 best brunches survey

Just check the late-morning restaurant lines on a given Sacramento weekend, and you'll see that this is a brunch kind of town. One popular spot also made the cut in an OpenTable survey listing the "Top 100 Best Restaurants for Brunch in the U.S." That would be the venerable Capitol Garage on 15th and K streets, which specializes in a range of eggs benedict dishes (a Sicilian style with pepperoni and mozzarella, pulled pork with bbq sauce), a fat brunch burrito and the perennial brunch favorite known as unlimited mimosas.

And here are a couple of dubiously interesting factoids from this brunch survey, which was culled from 5 million reviews on OpenTable, the online restaurant reservation site:

* 33 percent of survey respondents chose the mimosa as their favorite brunch dining drink - the champagne cocktail beat out coffee/tea (25 percent), Bloody Mary's (21 percent), Bellini's (11 percent) and orange juice (10 percent).

April 30, 2012
Pre-Cinco De Mayo event tonight at Mas

Well shoot, it's not even May 1 yet but the local Cinco De Mayo festivities are already kicking in. There's a tequila festival tonight at Mas Cocina Mexicana (1563 Eureka Rd., Roseville), that includes five different tequilas with appetizers for just $5 per person. Dios mio! That's a great deal, especially considering the caliber of tequilas being poured tonight: Fortaleza, Herencia, Siete Leguas, Tres Agaves and Avion (aka Turtle's tequila from "Entourage").

To reserve a spot at this tasting: (916) 773-3778, masroseville.com.

April 24, 2012
Davis' Rominger West Winery to close

Here's what could be a final toast to Rominger West, a winery on Second Street in Davis. Unless a buyer is found soon, this winery that showcases Yolo County grapes will close. Tastings and live music events are scheduled through April 28, but soon after that, Rominger West will close.

"We don't have a specific date, but it's coming quickly," said Mark West, head winemaker.

Rominger West started making wine in 2004 and opened its Second Street facility in 2006. West, a Davis native who studied molecular biology at UC Davis, worked primarily with grapes grown near Winters and the Capay Valley. He'd teamed with three brothers from the Rominger family, who were fifth- generation farmers from Yolo County. By the end, Rominger West crafted 10 different bottlings and 1,500 cases annually, said West.

April 20, 2012
MiniBurger food truck changes name to Krush Burger

For those looking to grab some sliders from the MiniBurger truck at Saturday's SactoMoFo 4, take note: From Saturday on out, MiniBurger will now be known as Krush Burger. The name change occurred with owner Davin Vculek having troubles trademarking the name "MiniBurger," which turned out to be too general.

Vculek will also debut a second truck, possibly by mid-May, but will feature a different name and food concept than MiniBurger/KrushBurger. Vculek won't say just yet what the theme of this truck will be. Looking down the road a little further, with a tentative opening of late-September or early-October, Vculek will open a brick-and-mortar version of one of his food truck businesses.

In the meantime, look for a new Krush Burger app for the iPhone and Android. The free app will include the truck's latest locations, menu, coupons and more.

April 18, 2012
Beer and wine garden confirmed for food truck festival

That's right, you can now get a beer after stopping by the Chairman Bao truck, or woofing down a grilled sandwich from Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen. For the first time, a beer and wine garden will be part of SactoMoFo, the series of mobile food festivals that draws thousands to each event. Though the event will be held on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 6th and X streets, alcohol sales were just approved for the event.

The beer/wine garden will require a 21+ wristband, and will include nine beers on draft, including selections from Sierra Nevada, Rubicon, Firestone Walker, good ol' Budweiser and more. Wines will be poured from Michael-David Winery, Ironstone, Cameron Hughes and others.

Organizers also say that SactoMoFo 4 will include tables and chairs that can seat 500. Three live bands will also perform, including reggae tunes from Mystic Roots.

April 18, 2012
Local chefs featured on Discovery Channel pilot episode

A cable TV show called "Top Eats" is being developed for the Discovery Channel, and one of the pilot episodes was filmed right here in Sacramento. A camera crew recently descended on midtown's Lounge ON20, where executive chef Pajo Bruich showed off some of the techniques he uses to create some of the city's most cutting-edge food. Also featured was Edward Martinez, the pastry chef of Hawks who left behind his street gang roots to be become one of northern California's most creative pastry chefs. You can read more about Edward in today's Bee.

For the filming, Bruich showed off some spherification and sous vide techniques, along with creating a noodle-like dish out of lychee. Then, everyone sat down for dinner and talked more about the food.

"We did a good array of things," said Bruich. "We showed the products on the farm and with the seafood supplier, then went into the kitchen and then the dinner table to show how it all came together."

April 17, 2012
Spend Earth Day at Bogle Vineyards

Earth Day arrives on Sunday, and the family behind Bogle Vineyards invites you to come out and maybe get your feet a little muddy, too.

Part of Sunday's event will take place right in Bogle's chardonnay vineyards, adjacent to the winery's tasting room, where company president and vineyard manager Warren Bogle will discuss Bogle's sustainable grape growing practices. It's recommended that participants wear shoes that you're not afraid of getting a little soiled.

Winemaker Chris Smith will also discuss Bogle's sustainable winemaking practices, followed by a reception right in the vineyard. The discussion part of the event is expected t