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

By Benjamin Mullin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Anthony Siino

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kurt Chirbas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Crest is at 1013 K St., Sacramento

March 27, 2013
Two produce award winners in Sacramento area

Two Raley's produce managers will be honored in May in San Diego by the United Fresh Produce Association as 2013 Retail Produce Manager Award Winners.

Thumbnail image for Raley.jpegRyan Acosta of Raley's in Sacramento and Corey Watkins of Raley's in Elk Grove were among the 25 winners selected from hundreds of nominations submitted by retailers and produce suppliers across the industry.

According to a United Fresh press release, the awards recognize "those on the front-line in supermarkets working everyday to increase sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables."

Winners will be honored at a dinner and share their produce merchandising strategies during a produce trade show in mid-May in San Diego.

December 26, 2012
We must be getting close to New Year's Day...

Arrived in the Bee's Feature Department mail in the past few days: no fewer than 10 diet or exercise books. (OK, some of those volumes were duplicates, but still, the trend was obvious.)

Every year, losing weight and getting more exercise rank at the top of New Year's resolutions -- right up there with stopping smoking and saving more money.

Of course, experts warn that resolutions should be specific and doable if they are to have a prayer of a chance of success. They suggest goals like "to lose 5 pounds by Valentine's Day," or "to walk 30 minutes a day for the next two weeks." You can always build on success.

Three of the titles that weighed down the mail bin this past week suggest the authors had specifics of their own in mind: spinach.JPG

* "The New You (and improved!) Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever" by Keri Glassman, from Rodale.

* "The 8-hour Diet" by David Zinczenko also from Rodale.

* "The Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution: 2 Weeks to Drop Pounds, Boost Metabolism and Get Healthy" by Marla Heller from Grand Central Publishing.

They each offer a book's worth of specifics in case you've resolved to lose weight.

-- Janet Vitt

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