FOOD_BLUEBERRIES_3_FR.jpgLove blueberries? You're in luck.

The California Farm Bureau Federation reports that is could be a bumper crop year for blueberries.

San Joaquin Valley blueberry farmers are harvesting their crops right now, which could be the best quality and size in recent history.

The blueberry harvest happens three or four times throughout the summer, since blueberries on the same plant can ripen at different times, the farm bureau reported in its weekly e-newsletter.

Consumers should expect increased supplies - and lower prices - at markets now. Prices were highest when the harvest season began back in mid-May.

So what can you do with a bounty of blueberries, beyond the obvious smoothies or muffins? Try a mesclun salad with blueberries, goat cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. Put a spin on bruschetta and top toast points with blueberries, basil and lemon zest. Top sugar cookies with a thin layer of mascarpone and blueberries.

Or just kick back with this blueberry bourbon recipe from Serious Eats.

Photo credit: Eric Paul Zamora/Fresno Bee

It's a hefty prize for a simple task: $10,000 in groceries simply for "liking" a social media effort meant to connect consumers with the state's farmers and ranchers.

The California Agricultural Communications Commission has launched its second annual "Know a California Farmer" initiative, which offers stories, videos, blogs and photographs about the lives and work of farmers and ranchers.

The commission has trained more than 400 farmers on using social media and harnessing the power of the Internet to help consumers understand where and who their food comes from, the release states.

The campaign also includes a sweepstakes giveaway, which boasts a grand prize of $10,000 of free groceries and a supply of fresh California flowers each month for a year for liking its Facebook page. Weekly winners also will be chosen to receive $100 grocery gift cards, a commission news release states.

The sweepstakes is available until 5 p.m. Sept. 15. Participants, who must be 18 years or older and a California resident, can enter one time per week.

Entering is simple - just "like" the campaign's Facebook page and you'll be directed to a quick entry form that requires your name, birthday and e-mail address.

Click here to check out the "Know a California Farmer" website. Click here to access the campaign's Facebook page.

A new line of grass-fed lamb has quickly become a hot seller at Taylor's Market in Land Park.

Taylor's owner Danny Johnson toured the Lava Lake Lamb ranch in Idaho in June and began carrying it in early July. The grass-fed summer lamb is raised sustainably, humanely and without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.

"It's the most sustainably farmed lamb that we could find for mass production," Johnson said. "This stuff is just phenomenal."

The lambs are born in California and raised in the Northern Rockies. And the quality is unparalleled, especially for lamb available during summer months.

"We've never sold as much lamb as we did in July," he said.

The lamb is available at the butcher counter and at the market's adjacent restaurant, Taylor's Kitchen. Johnson said the quality is better, but he's keeping the retail cost of Lava Lake Lamb on par with other lines.

Want to take advantage of some great grilling cuts? Try shoulder chops - just marinate and grill - which run about $7.99 per pound. Or lamb ribs for $4.99 per pound. Click here to get lamb grilling tips and recipes from our recent Food & Wine section.

A local coffee company and New York-based wild cat conservation organization are launching an online coffee naming contest today to benefit jaguar conservation.

Rogers Family Company, a roaster and producer of organic, responsibly grown coffee and tea, and Panthera, an organization whose work to save the jaguar was recently featured on "60 Minutes," are holding the contest on their Facebook pages.

Rogers Family Co. developed a new coffee for Panthera, which is described as a custom blend of shade-grown, organic beans from the highlands of Mexico's Chiapas region and the Concordia area of Colombia, which company officials say are important conservation areas for jaguars, a Rogers Family Co. news release states. The coffee will have "hints of cacao, a lively bright taste and smooth body," Vice President Jim Rogers said in a written statement.

AsianBBQSkirtSteak.jpgFour home cooks been named category winners in the 2011 National Beef Cook-Off, one of the most prestigious cooking contests in the country.

The four category winners, who were each awarded a $3,000 cash prize, showcased simple preparations and cooking techniques with beef, great flavors and healthful ingredients, organizers announced in a news release today.

The cookoff, which boasts a $25,000 grand prize, is second only to the Pillsbury Bake-Off in terms of prize money. The National Chicken Cook-off, which used to offer a $100,000 purse for the grand prize winner, has since shuttered.

The Cook-Off category winners are Tedd Smith, of Mount Vernon, N.Y, for his Asian Barbecued Skirt Steak (shown at left); Peggy Calhoun, of Portland, Ore., for her Steppin' Up Beef Fried Rice; Edwina Gadsby, of Great Falls, Mont., for her Asian Beef Sandwiches with Slaw; and Ellen Verdugo, of Gloucester, Mass., for her Flash in the Pan Stir-Fry. Click here to see all the finalists and recipes.

As if today's offer of free admission for children to the California State Fair wasn't deal enough, Foster Farms is giving away free corn dogs to the first 1,500 kids.

Foster Farms, an official State Fair sponsor, will be offering the free corn dogs to children 12 years old and younger today and July 26. The family-owned company also will be giving away coupons, stickers and other promotional items, a Foster Farms news release states.

Also today and on July 26, children will have a chance to win a Golden Ticket, which is good for a one-year supply of Foster Farms Corn Dogs. One child per Kids Day will win the prize, the release states.

For more information about the State Fair, click here.

Need some conversation starters to distract your children while waiting on line at the fair? Try out these fun facts: The first corn dog wasn't served on a stick (shocking right?). Apparently, corn dogs appeared in the U.S. as early as the 1920s and gained popularity in the 1940s. A vendor at the Minnesota State Fair claims to have been the first to serve a corn dog on a stick in 1946, the same year the first Hot Dog on a Stick location was opened in Santa Monica. No word on whether the Hot Dog on a Stick staffers wore those kooky uniforms back then.

So how do extreme couponers use up all those ingredients they score for next to nothing? They get creative.

Jen Freeman certainly does.

The Las Vegas mother of two and extreme couponer, who recently was featured at two extreme couponing events hosted by The Sacramento Bee and on TLC's "Extreme Couponing," said she stocks up on fruit and vegetables in season in order to save money, then creates recipes around her ingredients. I wrote about Freeman and her extreme couponing method in today's Food & Wine section. Click here to read the story.

Follow the link below to get Freeman's recipe for homemade strawberry preserves and a homemade strawberry preserves and poptart.

Food 20 Burgers Rick Bayles.jpgGrilling and barbecuing to celebrate Fourth of July is guaranteed fun, but nothing kills a party faster than food poisoning.

That's why three federal agencies and the Ad Council have teamed up to launch a new campaign, Food Safe Families, this week. The effort is the first joint national multimedia public service campaign and is aimed at helping families prevent food borne illnesses, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release.

The USDA, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are behind the campaign, which includes a Facebook page, Twitter handle and online database with answers to hundreds of questions regarding foodborne illness prevention.

More than 100 coupon-clipping enthusiasts packed a Sacramento Bee conference room this morning to hear from expert couponers Jen Freeman and Jennifer Morris.

Freeman, a Las Vegas mother of twins, has been extreme couponing for about five years and earlier this month was featured on the season finale of TLC's "Extreme Couponing."

She wound up on the show after a video her husband filmed gained popularity on YouTube. The video showed only her hands, but in it, Freeman explains the process that helped her whittle a grocery bill to 20 cents from more than $300.

She's refined her process since then after learning a strategy from Jennifer Morris, who teaches in-home couponing classes in conjunction with, a free website that matches store savings with newspaper coupon inserts, thus taking the hassle out of couponing.

Frozen pops are all the rage, and they also appear to have taken over my brain.

I wake up with ideas for new flavors and textures. Go to bed craving the frozen treat. I think I've gone to the cold side.

My latest quest - create an "adult" pop to be enjoyed after the children are in bed. The result is a Nutella and Frangelico pop that is worthy of praise. The key is to go easy on the hazelnut liqueur (too much and the pop won't freeze). And be sure to keep these pops out of reach of the kids.

For more on frozen pops, click here to check out my story in today's Food & Wine section. Follow the link below to get the recipe for spiked chocolate hazelnut pops.

Ever wondered how extreme couponers can buy hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for what the rest of spend during a quick run to the supermarket?

You can find out Wednesday, when Jennifer Freeman, who was featured on TLC's "Extreme Couponing" will be featured during a free event hosted by The Sacramento Bee.

The one-hour sessions will be held at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. at The Bee, 2100 Q Street, and are open to the public. Participants must sign up through The Bee's BeeBuzzPoints program to attend. Click here to register. Freeman also will be featured on Fox40 at 7:20 a.m. Wednesday.

Freeman, a Las Vegas mother of two who home schools her twins, saves as much as 90 percent off her grocery bill using newspaper coupons, websites and in-store deals. Freeman was featured on the series finale of the TLC show on June 15.

Have you ever tried extreme couponing? How much did you save? Do you find this kind of shopping intriguing or unappealing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here's a fun Friday idea for foodies: head to up Interstate 80 to Newcastle, where Newcastle Produce is offering cooking demonstrations, product samples and discounts.

The store is extending its hours to 8 p.m. every second and fourth Friday of summer to host "Summer Fun Fridays."

This Friday, in-house Chef Chelsea Federwitz will host a free salsa making demonstration and Snow's Citrus Court will hold a food tasting and is offering 15 percent off its products. Customers can also enjoy a wine tasting featuring Bonitata Boutique Wines, according to the store's website.

Participants also will be entered into a drawing for door prizes.

Icing on the Cupcake is opening its fourth, and largest, location in the Sacramento region and is celebrating by donating 25 percent of all opening day sales to the Children's Miracle Network.

The Rocklin cupcakery, which prides itself on using natural ingredients, has quietly opened its newest shop at 6839 Lonetree Blvd. in West Rocklin, but it will hold its grand opening at 10 a.m. June 17, owner Christee Owens said.

The 7,000-square-foot location is the lead baking facility for all four cupcake shops. Icing on the Cupcake has stores in Sacramento, Folsom and on Pacific Street in Rocklin.

And on June 17, indulging in one of the new shop's cupcakes will yield an even sweeter reward - a donation to Children's Miracle Network, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for children's hospitals. The offer is available at all four Icing on the Cupcake shops.

"It's a great national charity, but they actually benefit our local community and local hospitals and we love helping out the kids," Owens said.

The cupcakery offers 45 flavors, with specialty flavors rotating in monthly. For menus and more information about Icing on the Cupcake, click here.

farmersmarket2.jpgStarting Thursday, patients and staff at Sutter Davis Hospital will be able to optimize health by simply walking outside.

That's because just a few steps from the hospital's main entrance will be locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats, bread and nuts. The hospital, at 2000 Sutter Place, is the newest location of the Davis Farmers Market. The market will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 2 through Sept. 29.

The market is the first in Yolo County to be affiliated with a hospital, Janet Wagner, chief executive officer for Sutter Davis, stated in a news release.

Easy access to farm fresh produce and products is "particularly important as we see an increase in diabetes, heart disease and childhood obesity in our country ..." Wagner stated.

cookie bar1.JPGDo you have a fabulous chocolate or yeast bread recipe? It could be worth hundreds of dollars.

The California State Fair is looking for contest entries for its Ghiradelli Chocolate Championship and Fleishmann's Yeast "Bake for the Cure" Contest. Registration deadlines for both contests is June 3.

The chocolate competition is looking for the bakers with the best treats, cakes and desserts featuring at least one Ghiradelli baking product (think chocolate chips, bars or cocoa) among its ingredients, according to a news release.

Prizes are, in order of first to fourth place, $500, $250, $125 and $50. Winners and one randomly selected participant also will take home Ghiradelli gift baskets.

Here's a great idea for those who have too many cookbooks gathering dust on kitchen shelves - swap them.

FoodTalk is holding a cookbook sale and swap from 10 to 3 p.m. June 25 at Cafe Bernardo at 28th and Capitol in Sacramento.

Participants can meet several Northern California cookbook writers, peruse hundreds of new, used and rare cookbooks and swap up to five of their own cookbooks, according to an event e-mail.

FoodTalk, a forum for foodies interested in all things food writing, is sponsored by MatrixArts, a nonprofit that works in the realm of visual, literary, performing and culinary arts and provides art and design education programs, the organization's website states.

scones.jpgFor those who don't want to leave the comfort of their home on Mother's Day, here are some ideas and recipes that'll help create the perfect celebration for mom Sunday.

(And for those who do want to venture out, click here to read our Things to Do blog post on Mother's Day events in the region.)

Brunch and Mother's Day seem to be synonymous, but don't torture mom with burned toast that the kids made. Layer yogurt, granola and fresh berries in a see-through cup or bowl to make an instant, beautiful parfait. Serve with pastries, such as this recipe for fruit and chocolate scones. A fresh cup of coffee - served in the lovely china that mom rarely uses - is all you need to complete the meal.

A new Mikuni restaurant has opened at Fountains at Roseville, the first of two new eateries to debut there.

Mikuni Kaizen, which means "continuous improvement" in Japanese, will feature sushi and izakaya, or tapas-style Japanese food, a Fountains news release states. The location will be the second Mikuni in Roseville, and the eighth in the Sacramento region.

Yard House, an upscale casual restaurant that prides itself on having the world's largest selection of draft beer, will open in July. Click here to more about that.

More businesses also are scheduled to open this year. Pet Food Express, which offers holistic pet food, will open in July. And Orvis is relocating within the Fountains property.

Burger lovers, mark your calendars - the Squeeze Inn's newest location is set to open May 10.

The burger joint at 1350 Harbor Boulevard will be the largest location to date. The grand opening will be at 10 a.m. May 10.

The local restaurant chain gained fame and a burgeoning following after Food Network's Guy Fieri raved about the Squeeze Inn cheeseburger's cheese "skirt" on his show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." There are now four Squeeze Inns, and while they're bigger than the original 450-foot location on Fruitridge Road, diners still often stand on line to nab a notorious "Squeeze with cheese."

The Squeeze Inn currently has locations at 5301 Power Inn Rd., Sacramento, 545 Industrial Dr., Galt and 106 N. Sunrise Ave., Roseville.

Click here to watch an online video of Guy Fieri's visit to the Squeeze Inn.

Online voting is now open to determine which local organizations, service groups and community leaders will receive a combined $25,000 in grants.

Raley's Family of Fine Stores and Frito-Lay have partnered to give five $5,000 grants for Raley's Reach, a program that encourages positive changes in communities throughout Northern California and Nevada.

More than 90 ideas were submitted from April 6 to 20 for the program. Online voters can cast their ballots for their favorite idea once per day until May 14, a Raley's news release states.

Ideas range from after school programs for foster children in Sacramento County to providing fence installation for an off-leash dog park in Rocklin. To qualify, the ideas must fit one of three categories - improving the lives of children, creating healthy communities and celebrating the arts, the release states.

As of this morning, Camp Kesem at UC Davis, a summer camp for children affected by cancer, is the top vote getter with 1,033 votes, according to information on the Raley's Reach website.

To view the nominated ideas and vote, go to the

Firehouse31withLogo2.jpgBaskin-Robbins is offering a firecracker of a deal next week, when its stores will be offering discounted scoops in honor of fallen fire fighters' families and debuting a new flavor.

The fifth annual "31 Cent Scoop Night" event features just what it says - any 2.5 ounce scoop of ice cream for 31 cents. The event is scheduled from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday (April 27) at all Baskin-Robbins stores.

As part of the event, the ice cream giant is donating $100,000 to the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation, and customers also can make a $5 donation to the foundation by texting 6333 (NFFF) to 50555, a company news release states.

Stores also will be offering a new flavor this month - Firehouse #31, which features a crunchy candy pieces. The new flavor will be available during the discounted scoop event.

A sweet deal on ice cream, chance to support families of fallen firefighters and a new ice cream treat to try. What's not to like?

Photo credit: Baskin-Robbins

Local food blogger and cookbook author Hank Shaw will be hosting two upcoming cooking classes for home cooks.

Shaw, whose cookbook "Hunt, Gather, Cook" debuts May 24, is teaching a pasta-making class at 5 p.m. May 7 at Whole Foods on Arden Way and a sausage making class at 11 a.m. May 14 in Sausalito.

The pasta class will teach participants how to make basic dough with various flours and turn out several different shapes, Shaw wrote on his award-nominated blog, "Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook."

The sausage making class features how to make professional-quality sausage at home.

For more information or to sign up, check out Shaw's blog.

Guy1.JPGGet ready Tripe-D fans, Guy Fieri is coming to the Capital. And Capitol.

The spiky-haired Food Network chef of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" fame will be in Sacramento April 25 and 26 to endorse a resolution promoting cooking with children and to host fundraisers in the evening at his local restaurants.

In 2009, Fieri helped draft a resolution making the second Saturday in May as "Cook With Your Kids Day." From 11 a.m. to noon April 25, Fieri will be back at the Capitol where "Cook With Your Kids" will be introduced as a weekly initiative, a news release states.

The goal is to get families cooking and eating together every Thursday.

Get ready West Sacramento - the "Squeeze with cheese" - and its ardent fans, are coming.

The Squeeze Inn, the popular local burger joint that gained national fame thanks to its appearance on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," is set to open at 1350 Harbor Boulevard location in early May, officials announced in a news release today.

(And speaking of Triple-D, Food Network's Guy Fieri is coming to Sacramento on April 25 and 26. More on that soon.)

The West Sacramento location is the fourth to spring up in the region. There's a Squeeze Inn in Sacramento, Roseville and Galt.

The newest Squeeze Inn is owned by restaurant veterans Dave Chambers, Joe Mousley and Eric Ostberg. And it's going to be the biggest location of all. The Bee's Bob Shallit interviewed Ostberg about the new restaurant. Check out his story by clicking here.

A former Slocum House chef has stepped forward to honor gift certificates to the now shuttered Fair Oaks restaurant.

Chef Vincent Paul Alexander, of Alexander's Horseshoe Bar Grill in Loomis, told The Bee that he'll trade any Slocum House gift certificate for a promotional one to his restaurant. The offer likely will come as good news to disgruntled diners. Dozens of readers have been calling The Bee since news of Slocum House's closure broke last week, wondering how to redeem or get a refund on gift certificates.

"When a place like that goes out of business there are a lot of people left holding gift certificates," he said.

The gesture is "a nod to the customers of Slocum House and their impact on my career," Alexander wrote in an e-mail.

Alexander started his career at Slocum House in 1990 and was there for seven years before leaving to open Alexander's Meritage in Folsom.

Another Freshii is set to open in Sacramento, this time with a frozen yogurt bar.

Eric Heffel, owner of Yogurtagogo, is opening the region's second Freshii on Monday, company officials announced in a news release. The location, at 3rd and Q streets near Chocolate Fish Coffee, will be the first to offer a self-serve frozen yogurt bar and craft bottled beer and wine by the glass.

Freshii, a quick-service restaurant franchise, features nutritious salads, burritos, wraps, rice bowls, yogurts and soups in a customizable format. The company also prides itself on eco-friendly packaging made from vegetable starches.

The region's first Freshii opened mid-February in Folsom and has been met with good reviews by Yelpers and bloggers. Sacramento Connect bloggers Catherine Enfield and Kimberly Morales, of Munchie Musings and Poor Girl Eats Well respectively, were impressed by the environmentally-friendly approach and healthy ingredients.

By Niesha Lofing

More bad news regarding the closure of Slocum House - gift certificates to the Fair Oaks restaurant are likely worthless.

More than a dozen Bee readers have called and e-mailed since news of the closure hit our Business section Thursday. Click here to read the story.

Calls to the owner's financial consultant (and former owner himself) Jack Kandola have not yet been returned, nor has a message to the property owner.

Given that, we asked Gary Almond, president of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast California, what to do.

Starving. Drooling. Craving sugar.

Take one look at the decadent confections that are part of a local online bake sale benefiting Japan relief efforts and those descriptions are likely to make sense.

The auction is open until 11:59 p.m. Saturday, so it's time to place your bid.

Many local chefs, food bloggers, bakers and do-gooders have jumped in to participate, including Selland's, Icing on the Cupcake, Masullo Pizza, Mulvaney's B&L and Poor Girl Eats Well's Kimberly Morales.

The Bee's own Blair Anthony Robertson is even auctioning a loaf of his superb sourdough.

To see the full list of item's available or to bid, go to the post on Munchie Musings' website.

To learn more about the bake sale, click here.

OB SLOCUM 1.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Slocum House, one of the most lauded fine dining restaurants in the Sacramento region, is closed.

The restaurant served its last meal Sunday, financial consultant Jack Kandola confirmed today. Kandola and business partner Joe Wittren bought Slocum House in 2009, but Kandola sold his share of the business to Wittren last year.

Kandola said the restaurant lost its lease at the hilltop location in quaint Fair Oaks village.

"For the last couple of years, business has been going down because of the down economy," Kandola said.

Kandola said they had asked the landlord to extend their lease, but he refused. The landlord indicated another business may move in, but Kandola did not know who the possible tenants may be or whether that statement was true.

There are no plans to reopen Slocum House elsewhere in the region.

"It was a landmark restaurant, so we hate to see it go down," Kandola said. "Hopefully someone else will have better success (at the California Avenue location)."

Slocum House had consistently been one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the region. Bee dining critic Blair Anthony Robertson gave the dining room four stars in an October 2009 review. Click here to see a video interview with former Slocum House executive chef Gabriel Glasier by Bee photographer Jose Luis Villegas.

The restaurant also was rated best date night restaurant by Bee readers later that month.

What are your memories of Slocum House? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

*Bee researcher Sheila Kern contributed to this report

Not only did Williams-Sonoma deliver with its spring and Easter-themed cookie cutter set, but the good folks in the WS Kitchen also provide a great cookie recipe.

The cookie cutter kit was among a handful of kitchen gadgets reviewed in today's Food & Wine section. Click here to get the story.

And yes, of course you could use the cookie recipe with other cutters, but considering the cute factor of the Williams-Sonoma kit (what's not to love about a basket cookie cutter complete with a stamp that makes a basket weave pattern?) and the reasonable price, why not give it a try? We did, and we haven't stopped using it since.

A new cafe is opening in Roseville, but the goal of the quaint breakfast and lunch spot isn't just to satiate diners' appetites.

All of the proceeds from The Cafe at ReNew Boutique will benefit Acres of Hope, a faith-based, residential renewal program for homeless mothers and their children.

The gently used women's clothing and home decor store bears an identical goal. The Bee's Niesha Lofing featured ReNew Boutique in a column in October. Click here to read the story.

The new cafe is set to open on April 18. In the morning, scones, muffins and quiche will be available, while in the afternoon, salads and sandwich wraps, along with an assortment of baked goods, will be on hand.

There'll be a little bit of Sacramento at the California Nut Festival in Chico next month.

Michael Tuohy, executive chef at Grange and a vocal advocate of farm-to-table dining, will lead a tasting and cooking demonstration at the festival on April 16.

The festival, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Patrick Ranch in Chico, also will feature demonstrations on cooking with nuts by local producers and restaurant staff, music, an art show and samples of local gourmet food, wine and beer, a festival news release states.

Nuts, beer, Chico. What's not to like?

Tickets are on sale for $20 per person and are available at any Tri Counties Bank branch location or online at Tickets are $25 at the door.

Sacramento area foodies aren't wasting any time in answering the call to help those impacted by the natural disaster in Japan.

Mikuni is launching a new roll today at its restaurants in an effort to raise money for Japan relief and local food bloggers and bakers are planning an online bake sale in early April.

The "Rescue Roll," a spin on Mikuni's Michi Roll, features an inner layer of panko shrimp, crab salad and cream cheese, outer layer of avocado slices and seared tuna topped with special Mikuni sauce and torched and garnished with unagi sauce and tempura bits, a Mikuni news release states.

The rolls are $12 each, $16 at the Northstar Resort location.

The goal is to sell a minimum of 1,000 rolls by March 31, the release states. All of the money from the sale of the roll will be donated to the American Red Cross. The restaurant also will be selling copies of Taro Arai's autobiography "Abundance: Finding the American Dream in a Japanese Kitchen" (Blue Fig Publishing, $25, 118 pages) and donating 100 percent of proceeds to the Red Cross.

BLUEBERRY BANANA SMOOTHIE.JPGSpots are still available for a children's cooking class at the Sloughhouse YMCA.

The California Milk Processor Board, the folks behind the GOT MILK? campaign, is hosting the class, which will teach kids how to make healthier after-school snacks.

Given that children get about a third of their daily calories from after-school snacks and they're not getting enough calcium - 90 percent of girls and 75 percent of boys ages 9 to 13 have inadequate calcium intake, according to the National Institutes of Health - the board is trying to advise more milk-based snacks.

The class is being held from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. at the YMCA at 13580 Jackson Highway in Sloughhouse.

By Niesha Lofing

It was soup that warmed the stomach and soul.

Hundreds of diners packed the Masonic Temple in downtown Sacramento today for the final serving of Empty Bowls, a two-day fundraiser for the River City Food Bank.

The Monday evening soup supper and both luncheon seatings Tuesday sold out.

The event is the most important one of the year for the food bank, which is hoping Empty Bowls will raise $100,000 this year.

House Foods Tofu Enchilada.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

The Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines now includes soy products and soy beverages, but the recommendation can leave some home cooks quivering like a block of silken tofu at the thought of trying to incorporate soy in daily life.

But soy - and what to do with it - has come a long way in the past 20 years. And given the health benefits - the plant protein is low in fat, high in calcium and rich in vitamins - we might want to give it the old college try. The Soyfoods Association of North America is lobbying for now, of course, or at least in April, when it's National Soyfoods Month.

Patricia Greenberg, a nutritionist and chef who serves as spokeswomen for the association, relayed some advice for soy virgins and aficionados alike.

By Niesha Lofing

Thousands of Bee readers clicked through to get the scoop on scoring free pancakes Tuesday, so we thought you might be interested in another free food giveaway next month.

The Melting Pot is giving away free cheese fondue April 11 through 14 in celebration of National Cheese Day. Reservations are required and limited - so frugal diners cheese lovers better act quickly.

Each free cheese fondue serves two people, and cheese selection varies by location. The deal doesn't include tax and gratuity.

February 28, 2011
Free pancakes at IHOP Tuesday


What can make a short stack of buttermilk pancakes taste better? Knowing that they're free, and that any money donated will benefit children's hospitals.

Tuesday is National Pancake Day at IHOP and the chain is giving away short stacks of fluffy pancakes to help raise awareness and funding for Children's Miracle Network hospitals.

IHOP served four million free pancakes last year and donated more than $2.1 million to children's charities. This year, the chain is hoping to raise $2.3 million, according to an IHOP news release.

By Niesha Lofing

Teenage culinarians take note: you could be the next Iron Chef.

The Elk Grove Library is hosting a cooking competition modeled after the popular Japanese "Iron Chef" show that has launched a popular American offshoot on the Food Network.

The competition, held March 31 at the library, is open to 13 to 18 year old cooks, said Elsie Mak, the branch's librarian.

The library has held food programs for adults before, including strawberry jam making, pickling and raw food programs, but this will be the first food program for teenagers.


Forget cookbooks, home cooks are increasingly turning to the Internet to learn how to roast, grill, bake and broil.

That's why you'll find a banquet of culinary legends like Martin Yan and Sara Masaharu Morimoto offering instructional videos at Food University, a free online cooking resource presented by IKEA and Family Circle.

But wait, there's more.

They're also getting ready to launch another culinary tour, where celebrity chefs will guide home cooks through free cooking seminars. And it's coming to West Sacramento.

Food Network's Curtis Aikens, a chef who has been with the cable network since its inception and also is a regular on Good Morning America, will be leading the seminar from 2 to 4 p.m. March 19 at the West Sacramento IKEA.

Aikens, who hosted "Pick of the Day" and is known for his healthful recipes, is one of the few African-American chefs featured on national television, a Food U Properties news release states.

The in-store cooking seminar will feature Aikens demonstrating Family Circle recipes and talking about the importance of local produce, using spices, ideas for quick and easy recipes and tips for entertaining, the release states.

Click here for more information about Food University.

PHOTO CREDIT: Food Network

Cereal tv_new.jpg
By Niesha Lofing

Safeway is launching a program today aimed at helping consumers make better nutrition choices while grocery shopping.

SimpleNutrition is an in-store shelf tag system that highlights 22 nutrition and ingredient benefits in products, including lifestyle benefits (organic, natural, calorie smart and gluten free). The green tags will be placed next to the pricetag and club card special tags, according to a Safeway news release.

All products in Safeway stores are screened for the program and about 15 to 20 percent of them have passed the criteria, said Kerry Neville, Safeway's consulting dietician.

Needless to say, you won't see a lot of green tags in the chip aisle (although there are a few that made the cut, Neville said).

The company is launching the program as a way to help take the frustration out of grocery shopping.

"Walking through the grocery store can feel overwhelming," she said in a phone interview. "Finding healthy choices can feel frustrating sometimes."

Safeway surveyed 1,639 moms and found that 41 percent said the biggest challenge regarding nutritional decisions is not having time to read all the nutrition labels in-store, and 19 percent said it's too time consuming to search the store for the healthiest options.

"I think of it as having your own personal nutrition coach with you in the aisles," Neville said.

The program, which also includes a website full of tips and recipes, launches today in Safeway and Vons stores nationwide.

By Niesha Lofing

A restaurant franchise that prides itself on providing nutrient dense, environmentally friendly fast food is opening its first Sacramento area location in Folsom.

Freshii, voted best new retail concept in Canada when it opened its flagship location in 2005 in Toronto, will feature a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, with items such as wraps, salads, brown rice bowls, soups and snacks, according to a company news release.

The Folsom location, at 2776 East Bidwell Street, Suite 500, will open Monday, complete with tastings and specials.

The quick-service restaurant will operate in a "build your own" format and meals will be available for pickup or delivery. Internet, e-mail and iPhone app ordering also will be available.

The business also features eco-friendly packaging made from vegetable starches and everything taken from the store either biodegrades or is recyclable.

Customers also may bring in their own bowls, which will be "happily washed and filled with Freshii's best," the release states.

A second Sacramento area location is planned in the coming year.

By Niesha Lofing

The Valentine's Day-themed cheese and chocolate pairing class at Taylor's Market is booked, but cheesemonger Felicia Johnson provided a few tips for Appetizers readers.

For a post-dinner treat, pair a dark chocolate truffle with bleu cheese and serve with port.

"The sweet with the savory and salty is phenomenal," Johnson said.

Try milk chocolate and a lighter, fluffier cheese like chevre together. And for hazelnut chocolate truffles, try a meatier cheese such as a Taleggio or a Morbier, she suggested.

"Cheese for dessert is something that is definitely overlooked," Johnson said.

For more Valentine's Day meal tips, check out today's story in the Food & Wine section.

Speaking of chocolate pairings, UC Davis is hosting an event Saturday highlighting female winemakers and wine and chocolate pairings. Click here to learn more.

By Niesha Lofing

Looking for a story book way to propose to your beloved or rekindle that spark this Valentine's Day?

Story Winery, nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is offering a private section of their winery to lovebirds hoping to pop the big question this weekend.

The $65 fee includes use of a private table overlooking the picturesque vineyard for one hour, pre-set appetizers, a bottle of Story Raspberry Champagne on ice, two Champagne flutes and a bouquet of flowers to take home.

"There is a fantastic view of the Cosumnes valley and the vineyards, which are just starting to bud a little," said Cinde Dolphin, the winery's marketing representative.

The deal is available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A violinist also will be available at no extra charge on Saturday, she said.

Contact the Plymouth winery at or 209-245-6208 to make a reservation.

Be sure to check out The Bee's Food & Wine section Wednesday for more romantic, Valentine's Day tips and ideas on what to cook and how to set just the right mood.

RB Pasta Dave 4.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

"I don't know whether to thank you or hate you."

If not for Dave Brochier's wide grin, the greeting might have been misconstrued.

Brochier, aka Pasta Dave, has been working at hyperdrive pace since a profile on the popular pasta chef ran in a recent Food & Wine section of The Bee.

Brochier is the man behind the pasta at Mulvaney's B&L and the numerous Mulvaney ventures, including the Crocker Cafe; Taylor's Kitchen; and Taylor's Market.

Brochier said orders for his pasta are flying out of the restaurants and market. Demand - and his workload - have quadrupled, he said.

One customer drove all the way from San Francisco.

"It's been going through the register a lot more since the article came out," Janet Caddel, a checker at Taylor's Market. "There's been a lot more questions about how to cook it, have we tried it."

Click here to read the story and see more photos of Pasta Dave.

PHOTO CREDIT: Randall Benton, The Sacramento Bee

By Niesha Lofing

Gimmicky? Yes.

But a shot at free pizza kind of makes up for it.

Papa John's is offering a large, three-topping pizza to registered customers if the Super Bowl goes into overtime on Sunday.

The odds are squarely stacked against Papa John's, the "official pizza of the NFL," since the Super Bowl has never gone into overtime.

Here's how to be eligible: go to and sign up for the company's customer loyalty program before 11:59 p.m. eastern time Saturday. If the game goes into overtime, the free pizza will be awarded to all enrollees Feb. 7 in 25 Papa Points (the number you'd need to redeem a large, three-topping pizza). Customers can redeem the pizza through June 30, a company news release states.

The enrollment process took this reporter about two minutes to complete.

For more information, got to Papa John's website.

By Niesha Lofing

The Del Paso Boulevard Partnership is hosting a free food fair Saturday, but one thing is not exactly welcome - meat.

VegFest Food Fair 2011
will feature vegan, vegetarian and raw cuisine, purveyors, exhibits and cooking demonstrations.

The fair, modeled after a similar event in Seattle, was initially intended to drive traffic to Del Paso Boulevard and showcase restaurants and catering businesses thriving in the area. But given the intense interest they've received already, organizers are considering holding VegFest twice a year.

"To be really honest, it's taken off," said David Plag, the partnership's executive director.

Several businesses will be at the event, including The Green Boheme, Sugar Plum Vegan Bakery and Happy Go Lucky Veggie Cuisine.

About 300 to 400 people are expected to attend.

The event will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Artisan Building, 1901 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento.

For more information, go to

By Niesha Lofing

Hundreds of people are expected to converge Friday at UC Davis to celebrate the school's new 34,000 square foot wine and food complex.

The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, constructed entirely through private donations, houses the Viticulture, Enology and Food Science and Technology departments, the Robert Mondavi Institute and a state-of-the-art sensory facility.

It's also the first winery, brewery or food-processing facility in the world to earn a LEED platinum certification, the highest environmental rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, states a UC Davis news release.

The facility will become self-sustainable in its energy and water use in the future.

University and public officials, as well as Margrit Mondavi, are expected to attend the ceremony, which will be followed by tours, demonstrations and a reception.

By Niesha Lofing

Eat, drink and be philanthropic.

That's the goal of Rubicon Brewing Company's weekly "501(c) Wednesdays," which this week will feature the Grassroots Working Group, a nonprofit dedicated to saving the Sacramento's regional parks, including the American River Parkway.

The group, a sub-organization of the Save the American River Association (SARA) formed last year in response to budget cuts that could threaten the county's regional parks and open space system, according to the association's website.

Grassroots Working Group is trying to secure stable, long-term funding for operations, maintenance and expansion of the parks and open space system.

The midtown brewery will donate a portion of the day's profits to the group, and volunteers will be at Rubicon during the all-day event to answer questions about the group and its efforts.

The fundraiser will be held from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rubicon Brewing Company, 2400 Capitol Ave., Sacramento.

For more information, go to or call (916) 482-2551.

By Niesha Lofing

Last call for entries in Jif's Holiday Spread Recipe contest, a recipe competition offering two $10,000 kitchen makeovers as its top prizes.

Contestants may enter one of two categories, savory or sweet, and recipes must use at least two tablespoons of Jif Peanut Butter (any variety).

The contest deadline is Jan. 17.

For more information, check out Jif's contest website.

Couscous.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

Kiwi is quite the popular little fruit.

California kiwifruit farmers reported a larger crop and stronger demand at the end of their harvest season, with farmers having sold nearly 9 million trays of the fuzzy fruit last year, about 2 million more than in 2009, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Weather in other Northern Hemisphere countries hurt kiwifruit production, but California's crop escaped most damage from frost and rain, leading to an increase in demand for California kiwifruit, the bureau's Food and Farms News report stated.

And if you're like the millions of others resolving to eat better this year, you may want to add kiwifruit to the mix.

Consider this: each serving of kiwifruit is fat free, has more potassium than a banana and about 2 1/2 times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and is a good source of antioxidants, the California Kiwifruit Commission reports on its website.

It's also high in fiber - two kiwifruit contain more fiber than a bowl of bran cereal.

California kiwifruit season runs through May.

For tips on selecting kiwifruit and ideas on how to use them, check out the commission's website.

Follow the link below to get a recipe for Mediterranean kiwi couscous.

AOC_FairFood_042w.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Upcoming food events, restaurant closings, free food. Those were the subjects of some of the most well-read stories posted on Appetizers this past year.

The Bee's food blog provided a Thanksgiving feast-sized bounty of information in 2010, from recipe contests to wine deals.

Here is a list of the Top 10 most popular Appetizer stories of 2010, complete with links to the full stories (click the "Full story" hyperlink to go to the original post).

We also want to hear from you about what you want to see us cover on Appetizers next year. What kinds of stories do you come to Appetizers for? What are we missing that you want to read more about? Post your thoughts in the comments area below.

Happy reading, and happy eating!

1. Early taste of new State Fair foods. Full story
2. Sacramento Beer Week coming in February. Full story
3. Bistro 33 Midtown closes to become Spin Burger Bar. Full story
4. Free mini sandwich @ Togo's on Jan. 14. Full story
5. Dave & Busters coming to Roseville. Full story
6. Midtown eatery Cornerstone facing closure. Full story
7. Amarin Thai Cuisine shuts down. Full story
8. Grand opening set for Cafeteria 15L. Full story
9. Recall of Parkers Farm products. Full story
10. Sacramento featured tonight on "Man V. Food." Full story

ice candle final.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

I have a cranberry problem. When I spot a bag of cranberries on sale, I'll toss it in my shopping cart. And since I wind up at the supermarket at least once a week, that can amount to a lot of cranberries.

A majority wind up in baked goods, but when I start running out of freezer space thanks to extra bags of cranberries (they freeze exceptionally well), I start looking for other ways to use them.

I came across a clever idea on Ocean Spray's website the other day - a cranberry ice candle. Really nothing more than cranberries frozen in ice and surrounding a votive candle.

With holiday party season in full swing, this also could be a great way to dress up the house without breaking the bank (click here to see our Food & Wine story about throwing a hot party on a budget).

Follow the link below to get the instructions on crafting the cranberry ice candle.

Mickey's Pocket Pies.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Ask and ye shall receive, albeit a little late.

While Disney officials originally declined to provide the recipe for Mickey's Pocket Pies - the product that helped five UC Davis students clinch the grand prize in a recent food technology competition - like the Grinch, they had a change of heart.

The company e-mailed the recipe for the no-sugar added Fun & Healthy Pocket Pies (perhaps the unofficial version of Mickey's Pocket Pies) to The Bee today, along with tips on using pre-made dough and how to cut the pies into Mickey shapes.

Mickey's Pocket Pies, which are made with 100 percent white whole-wheat crust and filled with a blend of real peaches, bananas, butternut squash and carrots, led UC Davis food technology students Chereen Leong, Joseph Alexandrouj, Anna Coroselli, Christina Ramsay and Robert Schwarz to victory in the Nutritious Foods for Kids Competition at this year's Institute of Food Technologists meeting and food expo in Chicago.

Click here to read the story.

Follow the link below to get the recipe for Mickey's Pocket Pies.

Dominic Staiti action shot.jpegBy Niesha Lofing

Dominic Staiti gave it his best, but in the end, his burger creation for the Red Robin Kids' Cook-Off Championship was beat Thursday by a cheesy burger topped with lava sauce.

Staiti (shown here in a photo by (Jack Dempsey/AP Images for Red Robin)
was one of 10 finalists in the fifth annual competition, held Thursday in Denver. The recipe for Staiti's creation, a jalapeño cornbread chili burger, will be included in the Red Robin Kids' Cookbook, which will be available for free to download from the restaurant chain's site next summer, a company news release states.

The grand prize went to Donovan Duggins, 12, of Wichita, Kan. For Mt. Vesuvius Burger, a beef patty topped with crumbled blue cheese, bacon, provolone cheese and a lava sauce that includes sweet barbecue sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder and paprika, all between a sesame seed bun.

The burger will be sold in Red Robin restaurants nationwide in summer 2011, and 50 cents of every Mt. Vesuvius Burger sold will support the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's (NCMEC) child safety efforts, the release states. Duggins also won a family vacation to Universal Orlando Resort and a year supply of Red Robin gift cards.

For more about Staiti and his burger, check out this previous Appetizers post.

By Niesha Lofing

An organic and natural foods grocer that prides itself on low prices announced it's opening its first California location in Roseville this spring.

Sunflower Farmers Market, a value-priced chain that has locations in six Southwestern states, is moving into 424 Roseville Square, company stated in a news release. The store is scheduled to open in April.

The new market will be located in the same shopping center as Trader Joe's, also a value-priced specialty foods grocer (including organics and natural foods).

Sunflower Farmers Market in Roseville will offer fresh, local produce, all-natural meats and seafood, bulk items and "natural living health and wellness products, all at the lower possible prices," the release states.

The company was developed by Mike Gilliland, the man behind the popular Wild Oats supermarkets, at one time named one of the "500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America" by Inc. Magazine. Wild Oats was acquired by Whole Foods in 2007.

Sunflower Farmers Market is expected to create about 100 new jobs in Roseville.

Festivus for the Restivus.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Sweet tooths rejoice - Saturday is cupcake day at Ginger Elizabeth in Sacramento.

The midtown chocolatier is offering four flavors: real red velvet, salty caramel, gingerbread and Opera, a rich chocolate cake filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache and frosted with coffee buttercream, according to the shop's website.

Cupcakes are $3 and pre-orders are available for six or more cupcakes.

Ginger Elizabeth, located at 1801 L Street, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Don't want to leave the house? Check out these holiday-inspired cupcake recipes we received from The Stuffed Cupcake Place, a New Jersey cupcakery to the stars and celebs.

Click here to get the recipes for The Festivus for the Restivus cupcake (shown at left) - a gingerbread cupcake with nutmeg custard filling and spiced cream cheese frosting - and they're Peppermint Twist cupcake, red velvet and vanilla cupcakes with peppermint cream filling and vanilla frosting.

By Niesha Lofing

For local entrepenuers The Frosting Queens, a sweet dream is taking shape.

Angela and Annette Del Biaggio, the sisters behind the line of all-natural frostings, recently learned that their frostings are going to be carried at the Whole Foods store on Arden Way.

"...We're absolutely thrilled about it," the Del Biaggio sisters wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

The application process took a few months, but the entrepreneurs said Whole Foods is in the process of including The Frosting Queens wares into their system and the frostings should be on shelves later this month, they wrote.

The frosting is butter-based, shelf-stable and cold-packed to ensure a light and fluffy frosting right from the container. They also are gluten- and peanut-free.

Frosting flavors include milk chocolate, vanilla, caramel spice, peppermint and King's Cabernet, a dark chocolate frosting with a hint of cabernet wine.

The frostings are currently available at the Gluten Free Specialty Market, 2612 J St., Sacramento and on The Frosting Queens' website.

By Niesha Lofing

Panera Bread is opening its first West Coast drive-thru in Citrus Heights and is celebrating by offering free samples Monday.

The Sunrise Marketplace location doesn't officially open until 6 a.m. Tuesday, but the bakery-cafe is hosting the sneak peak from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday.

Free tastes seasonal treats, including steak chili with cornbread, peppermint hot chocolate and mint crinkle cookies, will be passed out during the drive-thru event, a company news release states.

The location at 7901 Greenback Lane is the 100th Panera Bread to open in California and the first drive-thru to open on the West Coast.

The menu features an array of paninis, salads, soups, bread, bagels, pastries, smoothies and the restaurant also is equipped with free WiFi for customers, the release states.

RB Lincoln Coffee 6.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

A Lincoln-based gourmet coffee company is launching a newly redesigned website and is offering free shipping on holiday orders beginning Tuesday.

The Rogers Family Company, an international roaster of organic "fairly traded" and direct trade coffee, retooled its e-commerce site,, which now includes easier access to coffee and tea products, promotional opportunities, a loyalty rewards program and more information about the company's core values, according to a company news release.

The site also is offering free UPS ground shipping on all orders from Tuesday through Dec. 13.

The new site better details the company's dedication to only sourcing its products from farms that will work with Rogers Family Company to ensure workers are treated fairly and nature is protected, Vice President Jim Rogers stated in the release. Rogers is shown at left smelling a coffee sample in the company's cupping room in Lincoln.

The site includes photos and video of modern coffee farms using organic methods to grow coffee worldwide.

"We feel the new website better describes our company's unique and innovative approach to breaking the cycle of poverty in coffee communities throughout the world through our Community Aid program and 'fair direct trade' coffee sourcing approach," he said.

The redesigned site is the counterpart to the company's primary site,

turkey.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

It's the day after Thanksgiving - do you know where your leftovers are?

And perhaps more importantly, how you're going to prepare them?

While reporting our Thanksgiving food stories, I came across these handy tips for holiday leftovers.

Blue plate specials: If you're a traditionalist and simply want a replay of that fabulous meal you slaved over, Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian advises folks to make their plate and then cover it with a moist paper towel, which will help leftovers taste fresher.

"The trick there, and this is my Grandmother's, is to heat everything up and the last 30 seconds, toss on the turkey," d'Arabian said in an interview from her New York home last week.

For more of d'Arabian's ideas on how to reinvent leftovers, check out my story from this week's Food & Wine section.

Cold weather = hot soup: Don't throw that turkey carcass away. Use it to make the base for soup, suggested Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research and a food safety expert at UC Davis.

Cut all the meat up and boil the carcass down, making a delicious broth that can be used for turkey soup or as the base for a rich, heart split pea. Just add carrots, onions, ham hocks and split peas.

"It's wonderful for cold weather and turkey stock has such wonderful background flavor," she said

Appetizing appetizers: Home cook Valerie Reynoso Piotrowski, of El Dorado Hills, loves using her leftovers to make little appetizers in the days that follow Thanksgiving. She uses Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough, and rolls out squares large enough to hold a small dollop each of stuffing, peas, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. Then she wraps them up like little bundles, brushes them with melted butter and bakes them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

"Fabulous!" she said.

Do you cookie swap?

For the uninitiated, a cookie swap is an event where home bakers get together and each bakes a specified amount of cookies (usually several dozen), then get to trade cookies with each other, thus leaving with a diversified array of cookies.

The tradition is even more popular during the holidays, when people can attend and swap and then use the cookies they take home as gifts for coworkers, family and friends.

The Bee's Niesha Lofing is looking for local cookie swappers to share their success stories or frustrations. E-mail her at or call (916) 321-1270. Be sure to include your name, city of residence and a phone number where you can be reached.

Happy holidays!

Thanksgiving is just three days away and for many of us, that means plotting, planning and, in some cases, panicking.

Never fear, The Bee's holiday experts are here!

We're hosting a live chat at noon today on all things Thanksgiving, from cooking that holiday meal to dinner conversation ideas.

The Bee's Niesha Lofing, food and family writer and author of Mom.Me, a parenting column, and Debbie Arrington, Home & Garden guru and food writer, will host the chat. Jessica Williams, a chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento and Jodie Chavious, a pastry chef at Taylor's Restaurant and Market in Sacramento, also will be on hand to answer questions. Sacramento Connect blogger Ann Silberman, who writes "Breast Cancer? But Doctor....I hate pink!" also will be joining the discussion to talk about cancer and the holidays.

Join us and chime in with your pressing Thanksgiving questions at 12 p.m. today:

turkey dinner.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Thanksgiving is just a week away, but Volunteers of America's Central Kitchen in Sacramento is lacking in one very big ingredient for the meals it serves to the hungry: turkeys.

Only 53 turkeys have been donated so far this year. The program usually cooks or distributes about 175 turkeys for Thanksgiving to the organization's emergency shelter, transitional housing and affordable-living senior facilities, according to a news release from Volunteers of America Greater Sacramento & Northern Nevada. Another 125 turkeys are needed for Christmas holiday meals.

"A traditional turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas is a treat for our clients, and looked forward to with great anticipation," Eric Nichols, the central kitchen program director stated in the release. "Maybe it reminds them of family, or just of a better time in their lives; but for whatever reason, I know they are truly thankful for the sacrifices made to bring it to them."

Community donations of fresh and frozen turkey are being accepted from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day through Nov. 25 at the central kitchen facility, located at 700 North Fifth St., Sacramento and its Mather Community Campus kitchen, 3587 Bleckely St., Mather.

Supporters also may donate money toward the campaign online at, at either of the kitchens or by mail to Volunteers of America administration office, 1900 Point West Way., Suite 270, Sacramento, CA 95815.

By Niesha Lofing

Think you have a winning tailgating recipe?

The Sacramento Mountain Lions are offering you a chance to prove it - and win a season tickets for four and reserved VIP parking spot for the 2011 season.

The first ever Tailgate Challenge will be held at Saturday's game, the last home game of the 2010 season.

Prizes will be awarded for best food, best Mountain Lions theme and most original tailgate, according to a team news release.

Interested home cooks are encouraged to enter in advance by e-mailing Include the cook's full name and phone number where they can be reached on game day.

Check in and late registration will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Tailgate Challenge tent in FanFest, the event that precedes the 8 p.m. kickoff against the Omaha Nighthawks at Hornet Stadium at Sacramento State University.

Celebrity judges will tour the parking lot to select a finalist in each of the three categories, who will then move on to compete in the main judging.

For more information, visit the Sacramento Mountain Lions' website.

By Niesha Lofing

An 8-year-old Citrus Heights boy's jalapeno cornbread chili burger recipe has been chosen as one of 10 finalist entries in the "Red Robin Kids' Cook-Off" contest.

Dominic Staiti's gourmet burger - which includes a beef patty, crispy jalapeno rings, crispy onion straws, pepper jack cheese, barbecue sauce, chili con carne and a drizzle of honey on a cornbread bun - was chosen from thousands of entries submitted by children throughout the country, according to a news release by the restaurant chain.

Staiti will head to Denver next month, where he'll make his burger for panel of Red Robin judges and Colorado-based culinary experts on Dec. 9. If Staiti wins, his burger will be sold at Red Robin restaurants next summer, with proceeds benefiting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

It isn't the first time a local youngster has captured the attention of Red Robin officials. Eric Moore, of Roseville, had his recipe for a blackened avocado bacon burger included among the 50 recipes by 6- to 12-year-old chefs chosen or the fourth annual Red Robin Kids' Cookoff Cookbook, released this summer on the company's website. Click here to read more about Eric Moore's recipe.

Staiti's recipe is already guaranteed to make it into the cookbook based on this year's contest, which also will include safety tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, will be published online in summer 2011.

Grand prize for this year's contest includes a family vacation to Universal Orlando Resort and a one-year supply of Red Robin gift cards, the release states.

Staiti and the other finalists also have a chance to be named "Fan Favorite" at the December event. Starting Nov. 15, supporters can vote for their favorite young chef by logging onto The winner will receive a $100 gift card to Toys "R" Us and a $200 Red Robin gift card, the release states.

Fans also can watch the cook-off, which will be streamed live Dec. 9 on the cook-off website. The winner will be announced live around 12:15 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time)

Good luck Dominic!

chili.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Want to warm the belly and the soul next weekend? Head to the first annual "Taste of Chili" in Auburn, a fundraiser for the Old Town Business Association and Friends of Placer High School.

The event, held from 12 to 3 p.m. Nov. 14 in historic Old Town Auburn, features the best chili recipes from the town's chefs and merchants, as well as raffle, Linda Robinson, president of the business association, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

Visitors also will pick their favorite chili with a "people's choice" vote.

Tickets are $20 for 10 tastes, including a raffle ticket, and can be purchased that day at MaryBelles Restaurant, where the event begins.

Pre-purchase tickets are available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday at Sun River Clothing Company, 1585 Lincoln Way, Auburn.

Experimenting with cooking technique or recipes has its place, but for many, the time is not on Thanksgiving day.

Many of us stick to the beloved, time-honored recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation or adapted to perfection from classic cookbooks.

We want to hear from you, dear reader, about your favorite dishes. What are the ones you turn to year after year? How long have you been using your recipes? Have you ever dared to stray from tradition and what was the result?

E-mail your name and contact information to The Bee's Niesha Lofing at or call her at (916) 321-1270.

By Niesha Lofing

You might want to rethink those Saturday plans, and not just because it's supposed to be cold and rainy.

Saturday is cupcake day at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates in midtown and the decadent chocolatier is offering an array of tempting fall-inspired treats.

All cupcakes are $3 and pre-orders are available for six or more cupcakes, states an e-mail from the shop.

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates is located at 1801 L St., Sacramento. For more information, check out the shop's website or call (916) 706-1738.

Here's the lineup:

Spiced pumpkin cupcake
Spiced pumpkin cake topped with cream cheese frosting

S'more cupcake
Chocolate cake filled with house-made graham cracker Bavarian, topped with house-made marshmallow meringue frosting

Real red velvet cupcake
Owner Ginger Elizabeth Hahn's grandmother's light chocolate cake topped with cream cheese frosting

Salty caramel cupcake
Rich chocolate cake filled with Fleur de Sel caramel and topped with caramel buttercream

By Niesha Lofing

Talk about fan fare that's worth the fanfare.

Sacramento Kings fans will have a wider array of dining options at games this season thanks to a retooled menu offering everything from carved turkey sandwiches with cranberry aeoli to fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

The shift is due to a partnership between Maloof Sports & Entertainment and Levy Restaurants, the Chicago-based and James Beard award winning company that's behind the food at the STAPLES Center, Grammy Awards and Kentucky Derby.

"We wanted to feature a lot of local ingredients, local farmers," said Ryan Golpeo, Levy's director of operations at ARCO Arena. "It's a little different twist this year."

The company took over the arena's food service in January, but wanted to wait until the new season to implement the new menu. The new dishes, along with the traditional favorites, were unveiled today during a "Taste of ARCO" event.

By Niesha Lofing

An eatery boasting the world's largest selection of draft beer is slated to move into Fountains at Roseville, where tenants are enjoying an overall rise in sales this year despite the downtrodden economy.

Yard House, an upscale casual restaurant known for its big menu selection and even bigger array of draft beer, will be taking over the 13,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by garden retailer Smith & Hawken, according to a Fountains news release.

This will be the first Northern California location for the Irvine-based chain, which has restaurants throughout Southern California and in Las Vegas, Colorado, Illinois, Hawaii, Florida and Massachusetts.

The restaurant is one of several new additions to Fountains, which has seen a 14 percent increase in sales from January to September over the same period last year. Same store sales are up more than 5 percent.

"We have a very loyal group of customers who have weathered us through these economic times," said Gloria Wright, Fountains' general manager.

The shopping mecca, which opened in summer 2008 just months before the economy soured, has had some attrition over the years, but is currently 96 percent leased. Counting letters of intent, Fountains is 99 percent leased, Wright said.

Furnitalia, an Italian furniture store, and Boulevard de Amelie, a French gift boutique, are moving into Fountains and plan to open in November.

Yard House is scheduled to open in summer 2011.

Each Yard House will feature a center island bar and "endless fleet of tap handles ranging from classic lagers to more obscure ales," the company's website states.

The keg room houses up to 5,000 gallons of beer at a time, with three to five miles of individual beer lines stretching from that room to the island bar.

The American fusion menu features more than 130 dishes and also includes options for kids.

"The food is really great, and they have a really great happy hour," said Fountains' spokeswoman Heather Atherton, who tried Yard House in San Diego. "It'll be a nice addition."


Spaghetti tacos anyone?

Fox40 asked me to come on Wednesday during their "Your Family" segment and talk with Rosemary Orozco about spaghetti tacos, the oddball dish that has infiltrated homes across the country thanks to Nickelodeon's hit show iCarly.

Here's the back story: In an iCarly episode, the brother of the main character, Carly Shay, makes spaghetti tacos for dinner. Children and tweens have been begging their parents to make the meal ever since. The New York Times featured the trend last week in its Dining & Wine section.

I offered up some ways parents could spike spaghetti tacos with more healthful ingredients, if desired (but let's face it, if you're making spaghetti and stuffing it into a tortilla shell, there's only so much nutrition involved). Use whole wheat noodles or the pasta that has added Omega-3s. If incorporating meat into the sauce, try turkey instead of beef. Throw some mushrooms and pureed carrots into the sauce.

What I didn't anticipate, however, was having to taste the tacos. Orozco seemed to like them and took one with her when the segment ended. As for me, I'll stick to spaghetti or tacos.

Have you or your children tried spaghetti tacos? What do you think of the dish?

rice.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

In our Food & Wine story about recipes and food branding today, the California Rice Commission was noted as one of the many organizations that's working hard to make sure consumers know how to prepare delicious dishes using its signature product.

What we didn't have room for, however, were recipes the commission provides on its website. Many are submitted by well-known local chefs, like the following recipe for a brown rice and sweet potato dish from Chef Mai Pham, of Lemon Grass Restaurant.

Click the link below to get her recipe. For more, check out the commission's website.

Where do you get your recipes? Do you turn to food company websites like McCormick or Foster Farms for dinner inspiration? Have you ever tried the recipes included in the owners manual of your favorite appliance?

I want to hear from Sacramento area home cooks for a story. Email me at or call me at (916) 321-1270.

Thanks and happy cooking!

RB Kimberly Morales 1.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Sacramento's Poor Girl, Kimberly Morales, is going knife-to-knife (and keyboard-to-keyboard) with food bloggers nationwide in the hopes of winning $10,000 and some major bragging rights.

Morales, who pens Poor Girl Eats Well, ihas made it to the third round of Project Food Blog, a contest open to Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program bloggers. One other area food blog, Spicy Green Mango, also remains in the running.

The contestant pool grows smaller each week as industry judges and readers cast their votes for the bloggers who most successfully navigate the 10 challenges, which are designed to test the bloggers' culinary knowledge and writing skill, the contest website states.

The latest challenge asks bloggers to host a luxurious dinner party for guests.

Morales had an added challenge, however - do it on an extremely limited budget.

It's not just that she's trying to stick to her blog's roots. Morales was laid off last week.

"I was lucky enough that one of my readers sent me a gift card for Trader Joe's, which helped me go shopping," she said.

Her feast, which she dubbed "For the Love of Chocolate" and featured savory and sweet dishes centered around white, dark and milk chocolate, cost about $16 per person. Voting is taking place this week and the 100 contestants who make it through to the next challenge will be announced Friday.

A $10,000 grand prize would mean many things for Morales, most of all a financial lifeline.

"It would mean getting caught up on my rent and being able to have a little breathing room. Not always living on borrowed time," she said.

Click here to visit Poor Girl Eats Well.

Click here to go to Project Food Blog, where you can cast your vote for your favorite food blogger in the third challenge.

*Bee file photo by Randall Benton

By Niesha Lofing

Carmichael Library will be offering a free cooking class this month focused on foods that may help reduce the risk of cancer.

Emily Webber, a Food for Life instructor with the Cancer Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cancer prevention and survival through nutrition education and research, will lead the workshop, according to a Sacramento Public Library news release.

The class will provide nutrition information no the power of proper foods in a cancer-fighting diet, demonstration of healthy recipes and samples of food, the release states.

The free lcass will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at Carmichael Library, located at 5605 Marconi Ave., Carmichael.

To register for the class, visit the library's website or call (916) 264-2920.

By Niesha Lofing

Hundreds of restaurants statewide are offering free meals for children in an effort to encourage families to eat dinner together tonight.

Today is Family Day, an annual movement launched by the National Center on Addiction Substance Abuse at Columbia University. The center's research has found that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs.

More than 750 restaurants, from chain restaurants like Chili's Grill and Bar to independent restaurants such as Thai Basil Cafe in midtown, are offering a free meal for children with the purchase of an adult entree from 4 to 8 p.m. today, according to a news release from the restaurant organization.

Click here for a list of participating restaurants.

California First Lady Maria Shriver, who has served as the state's honorary chair of Family since 2006, is leading this year's effort, titled "WE are Family! California's Family Day."

Click here to go to Shriver's WE are Family website.

sutter's fort.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

This is one appetizing history lesson.

A four-course dinner will be held at Sutter's Fort Historic Park on Sept. 25, where some of the Sacramento region's top chefs will prepare dishes reminiscent of meals enjoyed when John Sutter founded the fort in 1839.

"A Taste of History," hosted by Friends of Sutter's Fort and Slow Food Sacramento, is a fundraiser benefiting the historic site, according to a news release.

The meal will be preceded by tastings of local honey and olive oil. Local wine and beer also will be served during dinner, which will be served outdoors and accompanied by live acoustic music.

The menu is being developed by chefs from Grange, Mulvaney's B&L, Spataro and Cafe Vinoteca and dinner will be served by Plates Cafe; & Catering, a new business launched by St. John's Shelter Program for Women & Children.

The menu includes dishes such as wild rice cakes with smoked trout, oysters on the half with Chinese chili sauce, spit-roasted suckling pig with wild fennel and garlic, Santa Maria pinquito beans and cured pork belly cooked in the fireplace, and caramel apple bread pudding with vanilla bean custard sauce.

Hungry yet?

"A Taste of History" starts at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25, with dinner served at 7:30 p.m. Guests will receive a keepsake program that includes historic recipes and the adapted ones featured during meal.

Tickets are $85 per person and available online through the Sutter's Fort website. Seating is limited. For more information, call (916) 323-7626.

*Sacramento Bee file photo by Hector Amezcua

By Niesha Lofing

Move over Hooters.

Buffalo Wild Wings, a sports bar chain that boasts more than a dozen signature sauces for its wings, is opening its first Sacramento-area location on Monday.

What's more, the Citrus Heights restaurant, at 6301 Sunrise Boulevard, is offering free wings for a year to the first 100 customers in line for its 11 a.m. opening, the company announced in a news release.

Wing enthusiasts are being told to arrive early and must be present until the doors open to receive the prize. No word on whether the prize comes with a year supply of antacid.

The company also is planning to open a location at 2759 East Bidwell St., Folsom, according to the website.

Speaking of Buffalo Wild Wings' website, one of the most amusing elements is a "Boss" tab on the left side of the home page. Click on the tab, which unfurls the message "Alert! Activate Cloaking Device" and an Excel spreadsheet database of numbers covers your browser. Clever.

marlenethumbnail2.jpgThe woman who helms one of the most successful bakeries in Sacramento is taking a lead role in a nationwide bakers' association.

Marlene Goetzeler, who owns Freeport Bakery with her husband, Walter Goetzeler, was elected to the executive committee Retail Bakers of America's board of directors.

Goetzeler was asked to join the association because of her bakery's success and management style, she wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

"I'm pretty excited about the future of the board," she said. "We will keep our focus on workshops, networking and education, which is what we do best."

By Niesha Lofing

The Old Spaghetti Factory is offering free meals for grandparents Sept. 12 to 14 in honor of Grandparents Day.

The offer is good at any of the chain's 39 locations, including its restaurants in Sacramento, Roseville, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova.

Don't think you can just send Gramps on his own though - the free meal is offered only with the purchase of a regularly priced entree.

Grandparents can pick from any item on the menu, the restaurant's news release states.

For more information, check out Old Spaghetti Factory's website.

Call ahead seating may not be available during the free meal offer.

By Niesha Lofing

Two California cooks are one step closer to $10,000 after their dishes were ranked the best in the Foster Farms West Coast Chicken Cooking Contest's regional finals, held today at Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento.

The first annual contest, open to cooks in California, Oregon and Washington, garnered 2,000 recipes. The pool of entries were narrowed to 15 - five from each state - and regional finals were held to determine the top two dishes.

The final competition is scheduled for Sept. 17 at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena.

I was among three of the judges who had to taste all five and decide which two would move on the final round. Adrienne Bankert, of KCRA, and Georgeanne Brennan, of The San Francisco Chronicle, also served as judges.

Hard day eh?

lemon chicken.jpgIt was difficult to settle on just two winners, but in the end it was the panko-crusted lemon butter chicken with Israeli couscous salad by Rebekkah Leber of Hayward (pictured at left) and spinach stuffed chicken breasts by Alexandria Boswell of La Jolla (pictured at right) that emerged victorious.

Brennan, of Winters, said the spinach chicken breasts were her favorite of the dishes we tasted. A spinach lover, Brennan enjoyed the fresh dill, cheese and spinach stuffing and the striking color contrast of the greens against the white chicken meat.

Thumbnail image for spinach chicken.jpg"It just put it all together for me," she said.

The other semifinalists from California included Megan Bailey, of Monterey, for her pumpkin seed and wild rice chicken fajitas; Sandra Keefe, of Fullerton, for her black orange pekoe chicken breasts and Vee Lark-Williams, of Los Angeles, who submitted a recipe for crispy feta chicken croquettes with a mandarin orange sauce.

Leber and Boswell will receive $1,000 and will get a free trip to St. Helena for the final round.

The grand prize is $10,000 and a year supply of fresh Foster Farms chicken.

The contest is hoping to fill a void left by the National Chicken Contest, the nation's premier chicken cook-off. The contest was suspended in 2009 due to the economy.

The contest, along with the Pillsbury Bake-off and the National Beef Cookoff, boasted one of the most lucrative purses in the country.

Click here to get Leber's recipe for the panko-crusted lemon butter chicken with Israeli couscous. Click here to the get Boswell's recipe for spinach stuffed chicken breasts.

soup.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

Looks like eating locally grown, in-season food is growing even more popular.

The "Placer County Real Food" cookbook is now in it's second printing, author Joanne Neft told The Bee this week.

'I'm awestruck," Neft said in an e-mail.

Neft recently attended a writer's conference and learned that some 500,000 books are printed each year in the U.S., but only about 5 percent of those end up selling more than 2,000 copies.

"And here we are in our fourth month and we've sold 9,000 (copies)," she said. "Who would have thought this could happen?"

We did. The cookbook not only supplies readers with recipes for delicious, rustic cuisine, but is arranged in a way that winds readers through each of the four seasons, providing tips and hints for using in-season ingredients along the way.

Neft and chef Laura Kenny, who co-authored the book, spent one year hosting a weekly dinner party and cooking meals with ingredients procured from the local farmers markets. The Monday night meals, held at Neft's Auburn home, became some of the most sought-after culinary events in Placer County (cinderella squash soup, pictured above at left, was the first course at one of the dinners in November. Bee photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr.).

The cookbook is available at the Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville and Tahoe City farmers markets, as well as at many retailers throughout the region. Click here to see the list of retailers.

By Niesha Lofing

At upwards of $16 per pound, halibut can be more of an investment than dinner.

So when it comes to preparing halibut, knowing what you're doing is key.

Enter local chef Pajo Bruich.

Bruich, of Pajo's Boutique Catering, is hosting a cooking class Aug. 31 dedicated to teaching home cooks about the delicious flatfish.

Participants will learn how to select halibut and other fresh fish, the differences in fish's fat content, flavor and texture, how to cook various fish, how to properly sear and roast halibut, and how to pair local wines with fish, Bruich said in an e-mail.

Brand Little, of Wild Little Fish Company, is sourcing the fish and will be one hand during the class.

Participants also will feast on a halibut dinner (the menu is posted below), paired with local wines following the class.

Cost is $59 per person. Gratuity is not included. Reservations are required and can be made by clicking here. The class is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 31 at Steel Magnolia Kitchen in Sacramento.


Salad of Heirloom Tomato
Basil panna cotta, lemon verbena gelee, green zebra gazpacho, compressed cucumber, liquid buratta spheres, Lucero olive oil sorbet, marinated heirloom tomatoes, balsamic reduction.

Pan Seared Wild California Halibut
Local sweet corn, potato croquant, applewood bacon, red pepper relish, garlic pudding.

Chocolate and raspberry dark chocolate gateau, raspberry gelee, dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate sorbet.

By Niesha Lofing

Cue the booing.

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels and her smokin' pear salad recipe didn't win the "Live with Regis and Kelly" show's Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off.

Daniels was one of two firefighters in the final round of the contest, which airs this morning, but in the end it was Ross Signorino's "Rossome Ribs" that nabbed the $10,000 grand prize.

"It's a bummer," she said.

Daniels described Signorino's ribs as having a really sweet barbecue sauce.

"I didn't think they were amazing," she said. "Obviously I'm partial, but I thought my salad was a lot better."

If she won, Daniels was planning to donate $1,000 to a children's charity and take her sister on vacation.

But she is coming home with a $1,000 consolation prize, the bulk of which will be used to cover travel expenses.

Daniels said the loss won't keep her out of the kitchen, although it may alter her cooking repertoire a bit.

"I won't make pear salad," she said, laughing. "I'm not making ribs either."

KG FAIR FARM MARKET 3.JPGUC Davis scientists have received a nearly $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the flavor quality of fruits and vegetables and increase produce consumption.

Beth Mitcham, who directs the university's Postharvest Technology Center, and a team of researchers are partnering with the University of Florida to study ways post-harvest handling of produce can improve its flavor, the California Farm Bureau Federation announced today.

Getting produce from field to market in a condition shoppers will buy is can be challenging for growers, packers and shippers and impacts consumption.

"Experience shows produce buyers rarely reject produce because it's under-ripe," Mitcham stated in a UC Davis news release. "But they will reject it if there's any bruising or decay."

But harvesting produce before it's ripe means the flavor hasn't had a chance to reach its full potential, which also can impact consumption, especially by children.

"And if the food doesn't taste good, they aren't going to eat it," she said.

The research will examine each step in the post-harvest chain, including whether the ripening process can be slowed to allow late picking, how flavor can be enhanced or inhibited during shipping and storing and whether riper produce during post-harvest handling affects food safety risk, the release states.

Mitcham and Jeff Brecht, a University of Florida post-harvest physiologist, are leading the team of nearly 30 experts from both universities. More than 25 produce industry stakeholders also are participating in the research.

Sacramento Bee file photo by Kevin German.

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels is flying to New York today for a chance to win $10,000 and some serious bragging rights.

Daniels, 32, is one of two finalists in the "Live with Regis and Kelly" show's Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off. She learned early this morning that her smokin' pear salad recipe helped her secure a spot in the final cook-off, which will air on Friday's show.

"I'm so excited," Daniels said in a phone interview while driving to the airport. "I was at my station when they called and I got to jump up and down and scream with my coworkers."

Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa will announce the final two contestants during today's show. Daniels will be competing against Ross Signorino and his "Rossome Ribs."

If she wins, Daniels will come home with the cash prize and her recipe will be published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

The recipe, which pairs grilled chicken and pears with blue cheese, glazed pecans and butter lettuce in a salad dressed with a flavorful balsamic vinaigrette and is served with a side of buttery grilled garlic bread, is easy to prepare, an attribute Daniels thinks helped her excel in the competition.

"It takes like 20 minutes," she said.

The dish has been well-received among friends, community members and her fellow firefighters.

"My coworkers who don't like vegetables very much like it," she said.

Click here to get the recipe.

putah creek cafe.JPGLook out Winters - here comes the Food Network.

Putah Creek Cafe, shown at left, is going to get a visit this month from Guy Fieri, at right, of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," the popular show that transformed Sacramento's Squeeze Inn into a destination burger joint.

The Food Network crew will be filming at Putah Creek Cafe on Thursday and Fieri will be sampling the beloved restaurant's dishes on Aug. 29, Teresa Urkofsky, an instructor for American River College's Culinary Arts Program, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

The cafe is known for its wide range of comfort food - from its Belgian waffle to the Moroccan lamb stew - and its tantalizing selection of desserts and specialty coffees.

Bee writer Allen Pierleoni gave Putah Creek's food four stars when he reviewed it in 2002 and deemed it one of the 10 "unpretentious eateries whose food is good, affordable and served in ample portions."

Guy1.JPGThe upcoming Food Network visit isn't the cafe's first brush with fame.

Putah Creek became the place to eat after Gourmet magazine praised it in its June 2000 issue. The cafe is part of the Buckhorn Restaurant Group.

Click here to see Putah Creek's menu.

Sacramento Bee file photo by Jose Luis Villegas
File photo of Fieri courtesy of the Food Network.

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is hosting a viewing this month of a documentary showcasing efforts to reinvent the nation's food system.

"Fresh", by Ana Sofia Joanes, features people like sustainable farmer Joel Salatin (he was featured in Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and urban farmer Will Allen, who have "witness the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity," the film's website states.

Julia Thomas, marketing assistant manager for the Co-op, had this to say about the film: "If Food, Inc. made you feel like you couldn't eat anything, Fresh will remind you that there are lots of good alternatives," she wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

The viewing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at the co-op's learning center at 1914 Alhambra Blvd, Sacramento.

All proceeds from the event - tickets are $7 per person - will be donated to One Farm at a Time, a partnerships to preserve small farms in the region.

Organic popcorn and beverages will be served.

To register, call (916) 455-2667 or visit the Co-op's website.

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels has made it to the final round of the "Live! with Regis and Kelly" firehouse cook-off contest and will appear on the show Friday.

Daniels is a finalist in the show's "Chicken Part 2" category of the Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off, the city of Woodland's website states.

Daniels' recipe for smokin' pear salad - a combination of pears, blue cheese, candied pecans, chicken and balsamic vinaigrette - impressed the show's production staff and apparently her hometown, too.

Appetizers recently wrote about Daniels' attempt to garner enough votes to make it to the final round. Click here to read the story.

The city's website attributes her final round victory to her recipe, video, "supportive co-workers and an unbeatable combination of friends, family and our Woodland community."

Daniels' segment airs at 9 a.m. Friday on KCRA.

The studio audience and hosts will rate the recipe on taste and the top five studio audience-ranked firefighters will be eligible for an online vote. The two top semi-finalists may be invited back to New York for a televised cook-off at the end of the month.

The winner gets $10,000 and the recipe will be published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, the contest rules state.

Follow the link below to get Daniels' recipe.

douglas barr.jpgAuburn is going to get a little touch of Hollywood next week.

Former television actor Douglas Barr, who has since opened a Napa Winery, will be introducing his just-released 2008 Short Ends Cabernet Sauvignon on Aug. 11 at Carpe Vino in Old Town.

Remember Douglas Barr? He played the sidekick to Lee Majors on "The Fall Guy" in the mid-80s (photograph shows, from left, Douglas Barr, Lee Majors and Heather Thomas), and later played Bill Stillfield, husband to Jean Smart's "Charlene" character on "Designing Women."

Barr, 61, opened Hollywood & Vine with co-owner Bruce Orosz in 1998 and enlisted the help of winemaker Celia Welch to oversee production, a news release from Carpe Vino states.

The winery began with its 2480 cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, both limited, premium wines and last year launched the Short Ends Cabernet, the name of which refers to the remnants of unused film in canisters during movie filming.

The 2480 Cab goes for $83 a bottle and since the Short Ends Cab is made from the 2480's barrel ends, it means wine lovers are getting a similar premium wine at $33 per bottle, Carpe Vino oc-owner Drew Moffat stated in the release.

Carpe Vino has 56 cases of Short Ends for sale.

Barr will be pouring Short Ends Cabernet and his 2480 Chardonnay at 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at Carpe Vino. Appetizers also will be served during the event.

Cost is $10 per person. Carpe Vino Wine Club members can attend for free.

Reservations are not required. For more information, call (530) 823-0320.

Zócalo Chef Ryan Rose, 28, learned today that he's one of 15 finalists for the "Next Food Network Star YouTube Challenge," an online video contest that attracted about 250 entries.

The winner gets a free trip to New York, dinner at a Food Network star's restaurant and most importantly, a meeting with Food Network executives.

"It's super exciting," said Rose, who has worked his way up from bartender to head chef at the midtown Sacramento restaurant over the past six years

Rose was hunting online for casting information last month on how to apply for "The Next Food Network Star" when he ran across the YouTube contest. He quickly got a video together.

He's hoping the look of his video, set in Zócalo's kitchen, helps set him apart from the other finalists.

"I (taped it) through an actual Saturday brunch service," Rose said. "There were line cooks working and flames shooting up."

The video shows Ryan cooking paella, a dish he learned to cook while studying in Spain eight years ago.

The country fueled his love of food, but it was The Food Network that helped teach Rose how to cook. Now, he's hoping to return the favor.

"I'd love to be able to do that same thing for someone else," he said.

Online voting is being held through Aug. 16. The winner will be announced online Aug. 23.

You can see Rose's video at 6 p.m. today at Zócalo, where they're holding a viewing party and tequila and paella tasting. Or watch it here courtesy of YouTube (but you have to go to the online voting site to cast your ballot).

Big news in burrito land: Chipotle is opening a new location in Land Park and holding a fundraiser for a local youth fitness initiative this week.

The gourmet burrito restaurant is opening its 23rd Sacramento location on Friday, this time at the corner of Sutterville Road and Freeport Boulevard, across from the eastern edge of William Land Park, Chipotle officials announced in a news release.

If you want a sneak peak before the grand opening, head over to the new Chipotle between 6 and 9 p.m. Thursday, when the chain will host a fundraiser for Fleet Feet Sacramento's Project Fit, a non-profit program that supplies after-school fitness kits and curriculum to local elementary schools.

One hundred percent of the fundraiser's proceeds will be donated to the program, the release states.

But wait, there's more.

On Friday, the first 100 customers at the new location will get free T-shirts. The restaurant also is hosting a giveaway. The prize? Free burritos for a year.

The new location will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

ella.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

One good thing resulting from the recession? Fine dining spots offering happy hour deals.

Ella Dining Room & Bar, Randall Selland's elegant restaurant at the heart of K Street, is the latest to jump on the bargain bandwagon. Starting Monday, the hot spot is offering a daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. throughout August.

Drink deals include $5 glasses of wine and signature cocktails, such as the elderflower gimlet and Randall's margarita, for $4 to $7.

A new "bar bites" menu also is available. Among the offerings are a BLT Flatbread ($10), crispy confit chicken wings ($9) and house marinated olives ($4).

Josh Nelson, the restaurant's general manager, said the happy hour is hoped to "introduce people to a more casual side of Ella."

"We have been very successful in caring out our vision of the dining room and now want to introduce people to our vision of the bar and lounge," he wrote in an e-mail to The Bee. "The idea is to get people to understand that they can pop into Ella and have a quick bite and a drink in the bar and lounge, as well as have a great dining experience in the dining room."

*Sacramento Bee photo by Jose Luis Villegas

FL BGARDEN5 TOMATOES.JPGIt's tomato season in the Sacramento region and we need your help in figuring out what to do our Brandywines, beefsteaks and other varieties.

What is your favorite tomato variety? Why do you love it so much - easy to grow, easy to cook, low acidity, extra sweet?

Do you have a favorite tomato recipe? We'd love to see that too.

Click here to send your tomato recipes and thoughts to Bee staff writer Niesha Lofing.

Do you have the worst kitchen in America?

The DIY Network and Food Network Magazine want to see it - and are offering one lucky cook a $30,000 customized renovation.

The contest launched Thursday and participants can post photos and video of their nightmare kitchens on DIY's website until Aug. 6, according to a news release from the network.

The winner and the renovation will be featured in a one-hour DIY Network special airing in January and be featured in the January/February issue of Food Network Magazine.

The winner also will receive a lifetime subscription to Food Network Magazine.

Click here for more information or to enter the contest.

cupcakes.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

Turns out Sacramento-based Cupcake Craving isn't the only sweet shop in the region to be approached by the Food Network.

Producers at "Cupcake Wars" also contacted Icing on the Cupcake, a Rocklin bakery, Babycakes Bakery and Esther's Cupcakes, both in Sacramento, and asked the owners to apply to be on the show.

"Cupcake Wars" is a weekly show that pits the nation's top cupcake bakers against one another in three elimination challenges. The winner gets $10,000 and the chance to showcase their cupcakes at a high-profile event.

Greek eatery Daphne's has announced that it's closed its location at 19th and S streets in Sacramento.

An e-mail to patrons from the franchise did not disclose the reason behind the closure.

"This location is now closed. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you at another Northern California location," the note said.

Calls and e-mails from The Bee to Daphne's corporate headquarters have not been returned.

Joe Sylvia, 63, frequented the restaurant about twice a week for dinner with his wife and often took coworkers there for lunch.

He learned the restaurant was closing while having lunch there Wednesday.

"The crew inside looked as if they were waiting for their last paycheck and made the announcement to us that Daphne's was closed and thanked us for our patronage," Sylvia wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

Sylvia was surprised the restaurant closed, since it always seemed to be busy.

"I for one will miss this place," he wrote. "Good food, always fresh and reasonably priced and a staff of workers who were very pleasant and helpful."

The restaurant chain is a franchise. Two stores in Roseville remain open.

pinkberry.jpgThey're coming.

Four more Pinkberry stores are set to open in the next few weeks in the Sacramento region. The area's first Pinkberry shops opened April 9 in the Howe 'Bout Arden shopping center and on April 29 in Laguna.

The Citrus Heights store at 5855 Sunrise Boulevard opens Friday, followed by the Loehmann's Plaza store on July 16 (2441 Fair Oaks Boulevard) and a Davis store at 500 1st Street July 30, a news release states. A Folsom store is in the works, but an opening date and address have not yet been announced.

Pinkberry has been well-received in the Sacramento area, Mikki Stevens, the director of operations for the Sacramento stores.

"Our sales are increasing on a weekly basis as well as our fan base," she said.

Pinkberry, a tart frozen yogurt chain that grew wildly popular after its West Hollywood launch in 2005, is known for using quality ingredients and toppings.

Sacramento stores feature Pinkberry's signature original flavor, as well as pomegranate, coconut, chocolate, mango. A summer flavor, watermelon, is being offered through early August. The stores offer the watermelon flavor at 50 percent off during happy hour, from 5 to 7 p.m. daily.

Tariq Munir, a local businessman, owns the six local Pinkberry franchises.

A new take-away style restaurant with a tiny kitchen is aiming to make a big splash at Quarry Ponds Town Center in Granite Bay.

Pullman Kitchen, set in the center's fresh market, is hosting a grand opening this weekend featuring a free pasta demonstration from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The restaurant is planning to repeat the event July 11 as well.

Chef and owner Sovy Medved said the 448-square foot kitchen is probably one of the smallest in the region, but it won't hamper her and Chef Christian Flood from turning out the best food at reasonable prices.

"We're going to concentrate on providing good food and good service to the public," she said.

The menu includes things like pulled pork or ribeye steak sandwiches served with fresh fruit and pasta salad for $6.95. Seasonal dinner items also will be available.

She's also not letting the previous tenant's failure to thrive or the center's chapter 11 bankruptcy filing sway her thoughts.

"We're determined to stay and produce the best possible food we can do at reasonable prices," she said.

Pullman Kitchen, located at 5550 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 140, is open 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information, call (916) 370-3223.

stars.JPGI uncovered many tips and tricks while reporting my story on homemade ice cream. Now it's time to dish.

Those festive ice cream sandwiches gracing the cover of our Food & Wine section in today's Bee? They're amazingly simple to construct (and lovely to look at thanks to Bee photographer Lezlie Sterling) .

Bake your favorite cookie rounds, making sure it's large enough to fit a star-shaped cutter. Once the cookies have cooled (I let our peanut butter cookies cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then sit overnight in a zip-top bag), cut them into stars, leaving perfectly flat inner edges.

Heap your favorite homemade or store-bought vanilla ice cream in the center of one star, and place another star cookie on top. Flatten the cookies a little, so the ice cream squishes out the sides. Use a butter knife and follow the line of the cookie's edge, shaving off extra ice cream as you go.

Freeze for about 30 minutes to harden before serving.

Follow the link below for more tips and a recipe for chocolate gelato.

scoopy with ice cream.jpgSometimes the memory of homemade ice cream is as sweet as the treat itself.

Such is the case the stories we received after we asked readers to send in their homemade ice cream stories. We're highlighting homemade ice cream and how to make it in tomorrow's Food & Wine section.

Consider Maria White's story a cautionary tale.

"When I was younger, three of my siblings loved making their own ice cream. We were a family of six and I'm sure my mother was very happy that they would entertain each other.

It wasn't until one day, one of my brothers came wailing from the ice cream making corner. He couldn't even tell my mother what was wrong, but he stuck his tongue in a cup of water while my other siblings were trying to hide.

It turns out that instead of using sugar, they had reached for the salt bin. It had been a very, very salty vanilla ice cream.

Now that I make ice cream with my children, I find myself checking it more than once, making sure I'm using sugar... not salt." - Maria White, 30, of Sacramento

Follow the link below for another reader's favorite memory.

Participating in the virtual wine tasting Wednesday night with my colleague Chris Macias and wondering what hors d'oeuvres you can quickly put together after work?

Look no further.

Appetizers don't have to fussy and labor intensive to impress your guests. Think simple, both in preparation and execution, and you'll end up with an array of treats sure to please palates and afford you time to enjoy the party.

cheese.JPGOne of the easiest appetizers to execute is the cheese plate. I asked Felicia Johnson, cheesemonger at Taylor's Market, to guide us toward cheeses that would pair well with the wines selected for Wednesday night's virtual tasting.

Follow the link below to get Johnson's picks and other appetizer ideas.

burgers.jpgA story in Wednesday's Food & Wine section featured how famous chefs are putting their spin on the classic hamburger.

Well another celebrity chef has ponied up a burger recipe in time for backyard barbecue season.

Bobby Flay's recipe for green chile cheeseburgers sounds delicious and (perhaps best of all) simple enough to whip up on a weeknight.

The recipe came to us courtesy of Hellmann's Mayonnaise, which has teamed up with Flay.

Follow the link below to get the recipe.

eggs.jpgA Vacaville farm that provides noted San Francisco restaurants with chickens and eggs is adding Sacramento to its community supported agriculture program.

Sacramento is the newest addition to the CSA program at Soul Food Farm, a 55-acre ranch that produces chickens for meat and eggs on certified organic pasture.

The farm, which also has CSA pickup locations in the Bay Area, sources chickens and eggs for Chez Panisse, Coi and Quince restaurants.

The monthly pickup for Sacramento CSA members will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. the fourth Thursday of each month at the Epicurean Farmer, 4421 24th Street, a news release from the farm states.

Thumbnail image for FOOD SMORES CS.JPGRound up the chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows - it's nearly time for the Great American Backyard Campout.

The campout, a fundraiser for the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation, is Saturday and what better an excuse to indulge in s'mores and sleep out under the stars?

While there's nothing wrong with the old-fashioned s'mores of our youth, a quick spin around the Internet yielded some interesting recipes on the beloved, gooey treat.

An recipe suggests subbing caramel or orange-filled chocolate bars for the Hershey's milk chocolate bar. Other recipes used the flavors behind s'mores to create cheesecake, ice cream sundaes and pie.

Food Network star Michael Chiarello riffed on the classic by creating an Italian s'more, a decadent dessert that features biscotti, roasted marshmallows and a cabernet sauvignon chocolate sauce. Click here to get the recipe.

What's your favorite s'more recipe or method? Do you have another favorite camping food? Post your tips in the comment window below.

File this under cool idea, silly name.

The California Fig Advisory Board has launched the "Figlicious Fig Fest Recipe Contest" on Facebook.

Yes, figlicious. No, it's not a real word (at least not according to Webster's).

Here's how it works: hit the "like" button on the advisory board's Facebook page. Once you like it, the page will allow you to post comments on the wall. Post your favorite fig recipe until Aug. 7 and you'll be eligible for a drawing to win fresh and dried figs.

The winner will be announced Aug. 9.

But wait, there's more zany names to be had. The board's Facebook page lists the name of the same contest as the "Fig Fest Figatastic Recipe Contest."

As if one absurd name wasn't enough.

Click here to go to the California Fig's Facebook page.

vanillaicecream.jpgI scream, you scream, haven't we all screamed (at least once) while making homemade ice cream?

The pride and delicious joy that accompanies homemade ice cream is lovely, but sometimes making it is a bit, well, humorous.

My first go-round with a Cuisinart ice cream maker was far from perfect. The appliance only spent a few minutes out of the box before I was eagerly skimming the instruction manual, paying attention primarily to the recipes.

Once I realized I had all the ingredients on hand to make strawberry ice cream, it was game on.

I mixed, poured and flicked the switch. After 30 minutes, no ice cream, just pink-hued liquid spinning in the ice cream maker.

I was oblivious to a very critical step - freezing the maker's chilling chamber (insert hand-smack to the forehead). That night, we resorted to Dreyer's, but since then I've learned to keep the chilling chamber in the freezer. Now I'm an ice cream-making addict. Coffee, mocha chocolate chip, berry frozen yogurt. You name it, I'm willing to make it.

Do you have a funny story about making ice cream or just love making your own ice cream at home? Send me your stories and recipes at along with your name, phone number and city of residence. Your comments could be used in an upcoming Bee story.

*Bee file photo of homemade vanilla ice cream by Kevin German.

In the Ramsay household, it's the world-famous, expletive-slinging celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, who tends to get the most press.

That's starting to change.

Ramsay's wife, Tana, made a guest appearance recently on the season opener of "Hell's Kitchen," disguised as a frumpy housewife who served up veal scallops with tomatoes that looked like "baby vomit," Gordon Ramsay proclaimed.

The dish was delicious, however. So much so that he planted a passionate kiss on the raven-haired woman, to the shock of the other competitors.

Then he revealed it was his wife, Tana.

The point was to show the competing chefs that it isn't experience but remarkable cooking that'll help them win the show's seventh season and the prestigious title of executive chef of Ramsay's new restaurant at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Tana Ramsay is about to reveal some more secrets too.

Her latest cookbook, "Tana's Kitchen Secrets" (Mitchell Beazley, $26.99, 288 pages), features tips and tricks that Ramsay uses to get meals on the table, as well as recipes they can't get enough of. The book hits store shelves next month.

The book itself is lovely to look at and the dishes appear beautiful and unfussy. The kind of food you'd make during the week or when friends are coming over for an impromptu supper.

Ramsay also included the recipe for breaded veal scallops with mozzarella, tomato and red pepper sauce that she cooked on the show.

Coincidence? Not so much.

Sushi.jpgThe summer is finally starting to warm up, which for many of us means scouting for dinner ideas that don't involve time over a hot stove.

Newcastle Produce
has the answer.

The gourmet grocery and specialty food store's roster of upcoming cooking classes features three courses on summer meals that require little to no cooking.

Chef Chelsea Federwitz will lead a class on raw summer food, summer salads and sushi in July, according to the store's e-newsletter.

The raw summer food class July 6 will feature lessons on how to "un-cook" and incorporate raw food into daily life. Participants will learn to make live cocktails, summer rolls, live pizzas and raw salads. Cost is $35 per person.

On July 8, cooks can learn how to chop, slice, grill, roast and marinate their way to amazing summer salads, as well as make fresh dressing. Cost is $25 per person.

Federwitz will teach a sushi "Rock and Roll" class July 16. Students will learn how to make sushi rice, small and large rolls and inside-out rolls. Spicy tuna, Philadelphia and California rolls will be featured. Cost is $35 per person.

The three classes all start at 6:30 p.m. and are "make and eat" classes, the newsletter states.

Federwitz also will be teaching classes on whimsical cupcakes, summer tarts and pies, tea parties, farm-to-table dinners and Asian street food this summer. She also is scheduled to teach children's classes on Italian food cupcake decorating.

Click here for more information.

PK_PLACERGROWN 0123.JPGA Loomis restaurant is holding a special dinner event next week to celebrate the recent release of a cookbook by Placer County locals Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny.

Cafe Zorro will be featuring a three-course menu based on recipes included in "Placer County Real Food" (In-Season Publishing, $28, 300 pages), according to an e-mail from the restaurant.

The cookbook will be for sale at the event and a book signing also will be held.

Diners may choose from a first course of either onion soup with creme fraiche and thyme or a pea shoot salad with citrus vinaigrette.

Main course choices are pan-seared halibut cheeks with an herb beurre blanc sauce, red quinoa with mushrooms and sauteed kale with mirin or barbecue leg of lambs, served with roasted sweet onions and fennel, sauteed summer squash and baby bok choy with crispy shallots.

Dessert is angel food cake with blackberry compote.

True to Neft's passion to eat locally-grown food in season, all of the food served, except for halibut, will be sourced locally.

The dinner will be held from 5 to 8:30 p.m. June 15 at Cafe Zorro, 5911 King Rd., Loomis. Cost is $35 per person.

Reservations are required and can be made by e-mailing

Click here to read more about Neft, Kenny and their effort to help people connect with local food and farmers.

UC Davis researchers have found that companies are using a new medium to peddle fattening, sugary foods to children.

Public health researchers found that companies are using online advergames - a blend of interactive animation, video content and advertising - to promote corporate branding and products, particularly high-fat, high-sugar foods, a university news release states.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Diana Cassady, an associate professor of public health sciences, and Jennifer Culp, lead author of the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program at the university, analyzed all restaurant, beverage and food websites advertised on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon - cable networks geared toward children that have a high volume of website promotion with traditional ads - from August 2006 to March 2007.

Their analysis focused content during after-school hours and Saturday morning, when children tend to watch the most television.

Cassady and Culp analyzed hundreds of websites, web pages and advergames and found that nearly a third of the advertising including websites were for food and 84 percent of the websites assessed included online games, which included at least one brand identifier.

Researchers also found that on average, only one nutrition or physical activity message appeared for every 45 brand identifiers, the release states.

"I was astounded by how often logos or actual food products were integrated into the games," Culp said in a written statement.

Some games used candy or cereal as game pieces, while others would require special codes ﷓ available only by buying a specific cereal - to advance to higher game levels, she said.

The study, funded by the Cancer Research Program, concludes that regulations of food companies targeting youth are needed and health professionals should monitor food industry marketing practices.

Treating Dad to a free burger can be a little more affordable this year, but you may have to explain to him what the BFD is.

The Counter, a build-your-own burger franchise with 14 locations in California - including one in Roseville - is offering a free burger with customized toppings to all fathers who request it by name: BFD, meaning Burger For Dad, a company news release states.

The acronym also has another meaning, that, well let's just say is better left to the urban dictionary to define.

Dad can make his a cheeseburger and add up to four toppings, such as grilled pineapple or roasted green chiles, and choose one of 21 sauces.

Additional and premium toppings, such as extra cheese, will cost you a bit more.

Have a vegetarian or health-conscious dad? Don't despair - the deal also includes chicken, turkey and veggie burgers.

The offer is limited to one guest per paying customer.

The Counter in Roseville is located at 1005 Galleria Boulevard and is open from 11:30 to 9 p.m. on June 20 (that's Father's Day, by the way).

Click here to check out The Counter's menu.

As if we needed another reason to enjoy Chipotle's addicting burritos, the restaurant chain is now increasing its commitment to locally source its produce.

Though it started serving produce from local farms two years ago, it's now working with about 50 local, family-owned farms to provide lettuce, green bell peppers, jalapenos, oregano, tomatoes and red onions.

For Chipotle outlets here in Northern California, sources include Abbate Farms in Merced, Bee Sweet in Fowler, Kenter Canyon Farms in Sun Valley and Taylor Farms in Salinas and Tracy, according to a Chipotle spokesperson.

While not exactly hitting locavore standards in all cases, Chipotle's produce does have less mileage than the other fruits and vegetables eaten in the U.S., which on average, travel about 1,500 miles from farm to table.

The restaurant's produce usually comes from within 250 miles of Chipotle's distribution centers, and nearly 70 percent of that comes from within 150 miles. One-third of its produce arrives from within 50 miles, the release states.

Fish doesn't get much fresher than this.

Shoppers at the Sacramento farmers market can now purchase live fish at the Sunday food haven under the freeway.

Michael Passmore, owner of Passmore Ranch - a sustainable aquaculture facility in Sloughhouse that's been raising and producing fresh water fish since 2005 - began selling live black bass, silver carp, catfish and sturgeon at the market about three weeks ago.

The booth's a hit. Passmore's fish sales have doubled since he started selling fish at farmers markets. He also sets up shop at the Florin Road farmers market on Thursdays and in Stockton on Saturdays.

"It's been fantastic," he said.

And yes, Passmore is well within the law in terms of having a booth of live fish at the farmers market (he should know - the Marine-turned-entrepreneur is currently in law school). He has cleared his booth with Sacramento County and operates at the market under its health permit.

Here's the catch: Passmore or his staff can't hand a live fish to a customer, a requirement attached to his registration with the state Department of Fish and Game.

"We give it a tap on the head, which stuns and/or kills it," he said, adding that the method is among the more humane ways to kill a fish.

Prices range from about $4.25 for catfish and carp to $7.25 for black bass.

Need an idea for a delicious fish dinner? Check out Epicurious' recipe for black bass with ginger and scallions.

Fans of the former Mason's restaurant take note: a culinary reunion is taking place in Land Park.

Neighborhood hot spot Taylor's Kitchen features two members of Mason's original opening crew - chef Robert Lind and pastry chef Jodie Chavious - and has added a third to its line.

John Gurnee, who served as Mason's executive chef, will be working as Lind's sous chef this week, a role Lind filled under Gurnee at Mason's.

"John is just part-timing it for now," owner Danny Johnson wrote in an e-mail to The Bee. Johnson declined to speak to the chef's future plans.

Customer feedback about Lind's work since he joined the Freeport Boulevard restaurant in February has been "overwhelmingly positive," Johnson said.

"The changes put in place have allowed us to achieve a much higher level in the quality and presentation of the food at Taylor's Kitchen," he said.

It also doesn't hurt that they nabbed Andrew Willsen, formerly of Mulvaney's B&L, to manage the front of the house.

It always seems to be National (fill-in your favorite food, cause) month and guess what? May is no different.

National Burger Month doesn't come with a wristband or a parade, but at least it has free food attached.

Smashburger is offering a trifecta of freebies, beginning this week with fries.

The chain, which has a location in Citrus Heights, is giving away free French fries with the purchase of a burger until Thursday.

A free kids meal follows from May 17 through 20, and a free 1/3-pound burger on May 25.

The "fast casual" restaurant, named for the cooking method of smashing balls of meat on the grill, is partnering with Heinz and Coca-Cola for the promotional celebration.

Here's the catch: you have to register your name, address and e-mail at Smashburger's site.

Wondering where else in town to get your burger fix? Check out Bee dining critic Blair Robertson's review of burgers, from counter joints to fine dining restaurants.

Want to hold your own burger celebration at home? Try James McNair's recipe for Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers burgers (from Epicurious). Got vegetarians at your table? This recipe for bulgur veggie burgers with lime mayonnaise got rave reviews on Epicurious' site.

lamb.jpgWith two stories in this week's Food & Wine section devoted to lamb and it's popularity, we couldn't help but wonder where the meat stands nutritionally.

Beyond being a good source of protein, it's also packed with vitamins, said Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at UC Davis.

Lamb is a little higher than other meats in its amount of B12 per serving, and has 40 percent of the daily need of niacin and zinc in a 4-ounce serving, she said.

"It has a wonderful nutrient profile," Applegate said.

But it is a bit higher in saturated fat than other meat, she said.

Care to test your cooking chops?

The California State Fair is looking for home cooks and professional chefs to compete in a host of culinary competitions and events.

The California's Kitchen Program includes food judging competitions, demonstrations, chef challenges and activities for children, according to a state fair news release.

There are seven food competitions to choose from: the jam and jelly show; soft spreads and fruit show; pickle, relish, sauce and salsa show; baked goods (bread); baked goods (cake show); baked goods (pie and pastry); and baked goods (confections and cookies). Each competition has multiple divisions.

Other competitions using products such as Guittard Chocolate, Malt-O-Meal, Ghiradelli, Fleischmann's Yeast and King Arthur Flour also will be held during the fair, which this year will be held from July 14 to Aug. 1. Those contests boast more than $4,000 in cash and prizes, the release states.

Amateur competitions are open to California residents 5 years old and up. Professional competitions are open to chefs and those working in a food-related career.

Food-related challenges "have an agricultural and nutritional focus relating to the fast-pace lifestyle of Californians," the release states.

Entry forms are due by Friday. Applications for chef challenges are being accepted through June 15.

For rules and requirements, follow this link to the State Fair's website or call Nancy Emelio at (916) 263-3194. Emelio also can be reached via e-mail at

Now this is eating with purpose.

A fundraiser is being held Tuesday at Pronto restaurant for Kiki Vo, a burn survivor and West Campus High School senior whose dream is to attend UC Berkeley.

Vo's heart-tugging story was chronicled by Bee staffer Melody Guttierez last week. Click here to read it.

Vo, who suffered burns over 85 percent of her body in a house fire that killed her mother and also badly burned two of her sisters, moved to Sacramento in 2004 for treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California.

Vo's story has inspired many to donate money for her education at Cal, where she has been accepted. Thus far, Bee readers have donated $21,000. Click here to read Gutierrez's story about the donations.

Tuesday's fundraiser will be held from 5 to 8 pm. at Pronto, located at the corner of 16th and O streets in Sacramento. Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to Vo's college fund.

Hank Shaw, an Orangevale food writer whose blog "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook," has twice been nominated for a James Beard Foundation award, lost once again.

Shaw attended the awards dinner at Espace in New York City Sunday night, but in the end, it was Ed Levine, who stirs up food enthusiasm on "Serious Eats," who took home the award for best blog.

"Oh well," Shaw texted me late Sunday.

Last year, Shaw lost to Sunset Magazine's "One-Block Diet."

Don't hit "send" on those condolence notes just yet though.

Shaw scored big late last month, having won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award for best blog.

Shaw also has a book deal with Rodale. "Honest Food: Finding the Forgotten Feast" is due out in 2011.

Mother's Day is nearing, which means it's time to start thinking about how to show mom she's appreciated.

For many families, the celebration involves food, be it a beautiful brunch spread or delectable dinner.

But if you have children who are eager to help, cooking a meal mom actually wants to eat can be challenging.

Patty Mastracco, Raley's recipe developer and food stylist, offered us some simple recipes and tips for families looking to present mom with a memorable breakfast.

Click the document link to get Mastracco's recipes.Raley's Mom's Day Off Recipes.doc

sbread.jpgThere's something about buying sourdough bread that makes me cringe.

It's not the bread itself - I love the sour flavor and the textural juxtaposition of the crispy exterior and chewy center.

What bothers me is paying about $3 for something I've always wanted to learn to make at home.

So when I read Cammie Winston's e-mail about an upcoming bread baking class, my pulse quickened.

Winston will be leading "Sourdough Bread 101" from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Culinary Kitchen at East Bay Restaurant and Kitchen Supply in Sacramento.

For $75, you'll get your own starter in a glass jar, learn how to take care of it, grow it and make sourdough bread out of it. Participants also will bake a batch of sourdough baguettes during class to bring home.

Call Winston at (916) 956-2466 for reservations.

Other classes coming in May and June include Mother's Day cupcakes, Parisian macaroons, "A Sourdough Breakfast," Fourth of July cookies and artisan pizza.

If you're interested in baking sourdough bread but don't have $75 to plunk down, check out this step-by-step post from Blair Robertson, the Bee's dining critic and resident bread baker.

Two UC Davis nutrition experts disagree with an official report released this week about American salt consumption.

The Institute of Medicine issued a report this week claiming that American consume too much salt and urged new government standards for sodium content in food.

But Judith Stern, a professor of nutrition and internal medicine, and David McCarron, an adjunct nutrition professor, published a study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology that points to the contrary, according to the UC Davis news service.

They examined data from sodium intake studies and neuroscience research on the behaviors that drive people to consume salt and found evidence that humans naturally regulate their salt consumption within a narrow physiological range and that Americans' average salt intake falls within that range.

Stern and McCarron also suggest that government-led attempts to control salt "are simplistic, misguided and not based in science," the news release states.

The researchers advise people at special risk for high blood pressure and related diseases consult their doctor for nutritional advice, including appropriate salt intake levels.

Click here to read Stern and McCarron's study.

Local food blogger Hank Shaw has a few reasons to celebrate today.

Shaw won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award for best blog Thursday night at the organization's conference in Portland.

And in a little more than a week, he'll know whether he's coming home to Orangevale with a James Beard Foundation award for "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook."

Shaw said the IACP award took him by surprise because, well, he wasn't expecting to win.

"I had psyched myself up so hard to lose that thing that I was successful at not even thinking about the award until about an hour beforehand," he said in a phone interview from Portland.

Shaw was up against SF Weekly's John Birdsall, who writes "Sfoodie," and "Eating ...Our Words" by Robb Walsh, a Houston Press writer and legend in Texas food circles.

"I was a little shocked," he said.

In Shaw's pocket Thursday night were little stones his mother, who is very religious, had given him. The stones symbolize the ones that David slew Goliath with in the Bible.

"You can damn well be sure I'll be carrying them in a week," he said. Shaw's blog was nominated for a Beard award last year, but lost to Sunset magazine's food blog, "One-block Diet."

Shaw also is working on his first cookbook, "Honest Food: Finding the Forgotten Feast," which is being published by Rodale Books in 2011.

Agricultural enthusiasts take note - special interest license plates promoting the state's farms could begin appearing on vehicles by next year.

The plates feature "California" in script across the top and "AGRICULTURE" on the bottom, along with an image of green field rows and trees beset by vibrant sunshine to the left of the license plate number.

Orders are being taken for the specialized plates, which initially cost $50 for a sequentially numbered plate, then $40 per year to renew. Personalized plates run $98 initially and $78 per year to renew, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture's website.

Money collected from sales benefits agricultural programs statewide, including youth leadership development, career awareness and training.

The DMV will begin issuing the plates once 7,500 have been ordered, the California Farm Bureau Federation reports.

A portion of the agriculture license plate cost and renewal fee is considered a charitable contribution and is tax deductible.

Click here to go to the ordering site or to download the form.calagplate_order_form.pdf

In case you missed it in theaters and it hasn't yet cycled to the top of your Netflix queue, "Food, Inc." is scheduled to air Wednesday night on KVIE.

The Oscar-nominated documentary is being presented as part of PBS' POV (Point of View) series, which also has launched discussions boards and a giveaway for viewers.

PBS' POV series also is urging viewers to host "Food, Inc." potluck parties featuring sustainable foods and has tips and recipes on its website. Food, Inc., directed by Robert Kenner, examines the nation's food industry and the corporate culture surrounding it.

But unless you like late-night food feasts (doesn't that mess with the ol' metabolism?), Sacramento viewers may want to DVR the documentary ‑ POV doesn't air until 10 p.m. Wednesday on KVIE.

Viewers also can watch "Food, Inc." from Thursday through April 29 on POV's Web site.

A potluck is a little more work than ordering a pizza and chicken wings, but it's probably a wise suggestion given the documentary's eye-opening perspective on what we eat and how it's produced.

New York Times writer Manohla Dargis described "Food, Inc." as an "often infuriating activist documentary about the big business of feeding or, more to the political point, force-feeding, Americans all the junk that multinational corporate money can buy. You'll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch."

To enter POV's gift basket giveaway for potluck enthusiasts, check out POV's website. There are 60 chances to win. Freebies include autographed books, DVDs and sustainable teas and coffees.

Check out Bee writer Carlos Alcala's April 14 story about the region's love of potlucks, as well as a handy potluck primer.

evelynapron.jpgEvelyn Henderson won't be coming home a millionaire.

Henderson, of Roseville, was among four cooks vying for the Pillsbury Bake-Off's $1 million grand prize, but in the end, the judge's favorite was Sue Compton's mini ice cream cookie cups.

Compton's big win was announced live this morning on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The New Jersey cook's recipe had snagged the "Sweet Treats" category of the Bake-Off.

Other category winners were Henderson, who won the "Entertaining Appetizers" category for her salmon pecan-crusted tartlets, Kellie White, of St. Louis, Mo. for her zesty lime-fish tacos, and Niki Plourde for tomato-basil eggs alfredo in bread baskets.

The four category winners had emerged from a pool of 100 finalists, who competed Monday in the Bake-off, held in Orlando, Fla. The quartet of winning cooks were flown to Chicago for the Oprah show late Monday night.

Henderson won't come home empty-handed however. Her category prize includes $5,000 and a new GE Profile Induction Free-Standing Range.

Click here to get Henderson's tartlet recipe.

henderson.jpgRoseville home cook Evelyn Henderson's odds at winning $1 million just jumped to one in four.

Henderson won the "Entertaining Appetizers" category of the Pillsbury Bake-off today in Orlando, Fla., contest officials announced this evening.

Henderson's salmon pecan-crusted tartlets beat out 19 other entries for the category and nabbed her a $5,000 cash prize, a new GE Profile(tm) Induction Free-Standing Range and a shot at the $1 million grand prize.

Henderson and the winners of the "Breakfast & Brunches," "Dinner Made Easy" and "Sweet Treats" categories are being flown tonight to Chicago, where for the first time in the contest's 60-year history, the grand prize winner will be announced live on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Check tomorrow's Sacramento Bee for continued coverage of Henderson's win.

Evelyn's winning recipe: Salmon Pecan-Crusted Tartlets

Salmon pecan tartlets.jpg

Evelyn Henderson isn't likely to forget how to make her recipe for salmon pecan-crusted tartlets.

In recent months, the Roseville grandmother has made 50 dozen batches of the appetizers for various family gatherings, weddings and bridal showers.

Come Monday morning, she'll make yet another.

But this time, judges will be eating her tartlets (picture at left courtesy of the Pillsbury Bake-Off). Henderson's recipe, you see, has landed her a coveted spot in this year's Pillsbury Bake-Off, arguably the most popular and esteemed competitions among home cooks.

"I think I can make them in my sleep now," she said.

Henderson will be among 100 contestants competing in Orlando, Fla. in the Bake-Off. The categories are "Breakfast & Brunches," "Entertaining Appetizers," "Dinner Made Easy" and "Sweet Treats."

Follow the link below to read more about Henderson and get her recipe.

Coconut.JPGLife is about to get a little tangier.

Pinkberry, the frozen yogurt chain with a devoted following of fans, is finally making its debut in the Sacramento region this week with the opening of its store in the Howe "Bout Arden shopping center.

The store is the first of six to open in the region, with future locations planned for Elk Grove, Citrus Heights, Davis, Fair Oaks and Folsom, said a company spokesperson.

Pinkberry will be giving away mini-size free yogurt from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday during a sneak preview at the new Sacramento store at 2100 Arden Way. The store officially opens Friday.

pastapomodoro.jpgLove may be king in old Napoli, but good deals reign supreme at a string of Northern California Italian eateries.

Bay Area-based Pasta Pomodoro restaurant group has launched a Monday night promotion called "Cena di Familia," a family-style $35 three-course supper for four.

What's more, during April, 25 percent of the proceeds from each Cena di Familia meal sold will go to Bay Area food banks, the company stated in a news release.

reichl.jpgSo what do you serve culinary legend and award-winning food critic Ruth Reichl during a reception in her honor?

Garlic and sapphires of course.

Reichl's 2006 memoir "Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise" is the theme of her lecture tonight, part of the California Lectures series, so it was only fitting to carry the theme into the dishes served, said Michael Tuohy, chef at Grange Restaurant.

"There will be lots of garlic for sure, and Sapphire martinis," he said.

The menu will include a dizzying array of delectable dishes, from local lamb tartare with shallots, herbs and white truffle oil to lemongrass panna cotta with fresh grapefuit.

"Just the fact that it's Ruth Reichl means it's gotta be good," Tuohy said.

han3k.jpgHe's done it again folks.

Local food blogger Hank Shaw has secured a James Beard Foundation award nomination for his "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook," the second year in a row his work has received the honor.

The nomination, which the foundation announced today along with other finalists for this year's awards, took Shaw by surprise (Shaw is pictured at left in a Bee file photo by Anne Chadwick Williams).

"From what I understood, the Beard Foundation doesn't go to the well twice in a row," he said.

Shaw's blog is up against Ed Levine's "Serious Eats" and "Grub Street New York" by Aileen Gallagher, Daniel Maurer and Alexandra Vallis.

Forget goodies at the finish line - one upcoming run is putting sweets right in the middle of the race.

The March 27 Donut Dash 2.0 will start at 8:30 a.m. at the corner of Freeport Boulevard and Sutterville Road and lead runners, joggers and walkers through two miles of Land Park to Marie's Donuts, according to Sutter spokesman Gary Zavoral.

Participants then eat four donuts or 6 donut holes (or if your stomach can't handle fritters and fitness at the same time, nothing at all) and follow the same route back to the park.

Proceeds benefit the Child Life Program at Sutter Memorial Hospital, which provides support for hospitalized children and their families.

The money raised will be used to help purchase art supplies, toys, movies, video games and items for child patients, he said.

Cost is $40 per individual or $70 per family.

The first 125 participants will receive a T-shirt.

To sign up, follow this link to the event listing.

donatella jacket cover.jpgAnd now, for the answer "Iron Chef America" fans have been waiting for: just how does someone get to be a judge on the show?

I recently had the opportunity to ask Donatella Arpaia, a frequent judge of the Food Network show and judge on "The Next Iron Chef," that very question after interviewing her for a story on food presentation that will appear in Wednesday's Food & Wine section.

"They called me - I didn't call them," she said, laughing. "They're wonderful."

Arpaia, a corporate attorney turned successful Manhatten restauranteur, has several award-winning Manhatten and Miami restaurants, including Anthos, one of only two Greek restaurants in the world to have earned a Michelin star. Her first cookbook "Donatella Cooks: Simple Food Made Glamorous" hit stores next month (jacket cover at left courtesy of Rodale Books).

Food Network contacts a variety of people in the food industry to serve as judges for "Iron Chef America," and executives seem to seek out food authorities with strong culinary opinions and those very knowledgeable about food, she said.

Looks like some of us will be relegated to armchair judging. Oh well.

As for 'The Next Iron Chef," Arpaia confirmed rumors that another show may be in the work.

Will she be involved?

"Oh yes, I think so," she said.

banana cream pie.jpgDid you know that 1 in 5 Americans have eaten an entire pie by themselves?

Seems reasonable in a gluttonous sort of way.

The American Pie Council also recently reported that 113 million people have eaten pie for breakfast.

Guilty as charged.

This little factoid is a bit odder: apparently 1/3 of Americans have eaten pie in bed.

Seriously? Pie in bed?

Pie's a dessert associated with wholesomeness, red-checkered tablecloths and grandmothers, not sexiness. Notice that there's no pie in the food scene of the 1986 drama "9 1/2 weeks."

But no matter where you eat pie, Sunday is the perfect day to indulge in a slice or two (or eight if you're among the 1 in 5 who eat the whole thing) since it's Pi day, a celebration of the mathematical constant 3.14.

Want to learn more about Pi Day? Check out my story from this week's Food & Wine section and click here to see accompanying recipes.

Check out the American Pie Council's Web site for more Pi Day-worthy recipes.

Do you plan on celebrating Pi Day with a favorite pie? Share your pie recipes or where to purchase a great pie in the comments section below.

Bee file photo by Owen Brewer.

The wait is almost over to see the rebirth of an upscale Sacramento restaurant that's being turned into an urban eats spot.

Cafeteria 15L, formerly Mason's, will hold its grand opening on April 6, with proceeds from the event benefiting a Hope Productions Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides fundraising and marketing resources for youth and children's charities.

The downtown restaurant is transforming itself due to the economy's toll on fine dining restaurants.

As Bee columnist Bob Shallit reported in January, the decor, menu and pricing all will shift to encompass the restaurant's "urban casual" feel.

The new menu will include dishes like buttermilk-battered fried chicken, meatloaf and sausage-filled corn dogs, Shallit wrote.

The Cafeteria 15L reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. and includes live music by "Utz! & the Shuttlecocks," hosted food and a no-host bar.

Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. For tickets, go to Hope Productions' Web site or call (916) 782-4673.

JV BUTCHERY 350.JPGInterested in learning more about the cutting techniques and tips presented in the Food & Wine story about butchery today?

Taylor's Market is offering more butchery classes in coming months, the themes of which will vary slightly depending on the season.

A March 20 butchery class will focus on lamb, while a class on April 17 will concentrate more on barbecue cuts, said Danny Johnson, lead butcher and Taylor's owner (shown left).

Spots are still available for each class, which is limited to 25 people. Cost is $40 per person.

Future classes may also delve into sausage making, he said.

For more information or to sign up for one of the classes, call Taylor's at (916) 443-6881.

Bee Photo by Jose Villegas

Thumbnail image for skinnycow.jpgSkinny Cow, a line of low-fat ice cream sandwiches and bars by Dreyers Grand Ice Cream, has launched two new flavors of its truffle bars and sent The Bee some to try out.

It took about 1 minute to empty both boxes.

The new flavors include white mint and caramel, both of which are drizzled with chocolate.

I thought the white mint was light and refreshing, like the low-calorie love child of an Andes Mint and a Peppermint Patty.

Others, however, weren't fans.

chocolate5.jpgA rich book on chocolate co-authored by two local professors is among finalists for an International Association of Culinary Professionals award.

"Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage" by UC Davis Professor Emeritus Louis Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro, global director of plant science and external research at Mars, Inc. and an adjunct professor at UC Davis, is a scholarly work that considers the history of chocolate by theme and topic throughout the centuries. Chapters explore topic such as chocolate and religion, medicinal chocolate and chocolate preparation in early North America.

The book is one of three finalists in the IACP's "culinary history" category, the group announced Thursday. The cookbook awards are "considered the gold standard for culinary publishing," according to an IACP news release. More than 500 entries were submitted this year, making it one of the most competitive ever.

daley2.JPGAttention Whole Foods shoppers!

If you're shopping the Sacramento or Roseville locations today or Saturday, be sure to have an Organic Valley product in your cart - it could mean free groceries.

Organic Valley farmer and owner Cindy Daley, a professor at the University Organic Farm at Chico State, will be surprising four shoppers at Whole Foods stores and paying for a week's worth of groceries, Wendy Allen, an Organic Valley spokeswoman said in an e-mail to The Bee.

Here's the catch - the lucky shoppers must already have an Organic Valley product in their cart to win. The timing of the giveaways is not being disclosed.

Daley also will be at the stores from 11 to 3 p.m. today and Saturday to promote Organic Valley's new drinkable yogurt.

The grocery giveaway is "a gift from the 15 California farmer-owners of Organic Valley to Whole Foods shoppers as thanks for devotion to organic foods and for keeping organic farmers on the land," Allen said.

guacamole2.jpgWe received a handful of recipes fit to print while reporting today's Food & Wine story about our favorite light cookbooks, but unfortunately not all would fit in print.

But thanks to the wonders of technology, here are extra recipes.

Just click on the highlighted portion of the recipe name to get the desired recipe. Here's the menu:
Broccoli-cheddar soup.doc
Eggplant Parmesan.doc
Chicken Pot Pie.doc
Braised paprika chicken.doc
Roasted beets with anise.doc

Did you miss the story? Click here to read "Heavy on the books, light on the cooking."

What are your favorite light cooking cookbooks? What makes them so great? Share your picks here.

skiers.jpgTurns out you don't have to be in Whistler to enjoy the pairing of gourmet dining and skiing.

Just head to Tahoe, where the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area will be hosting its Gourmet Ski Tour Fundraiser from 1 to 3 p.m. March 14.

The on-snow gourmet tasting event is a chance for skiers and snowshoers to try out the ski area's gentlest trails and sample seafood, soup, breads, hors d'oeuvres and desserts from more than 15 of Tahoe's top restaurants, according to a news release.

The event concludes with margaritas and live music by Jo Mama on the Tahoe Cross Country lodge sundeck.

The fundraiser benefits the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association, a non-profit group that helping young skier programs and school ski teams.

Tickets are $30 for adults and children 13 and older, which includes a half-day trail pass from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Children 12 and under are free.

Season passholders can purchase event tickets for $25.

For tickets and information, call (530) 583-5475.

The only female owner and operator of a Tequila distillery will lead a tequila tasting tonight at Tres Agaves Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Lounge in Roseville.

Carmen Villareal's Pueblo Viejo distillery produces hand-crafted tequilas, some of which are crafted especially for a woman's palate, said Heather Atherton, a spokeswoman for Tres Agaves.

Among the tequilas included in the tasting are Pueblo Viejo's Carmesi and San Matias Gran Reserva varieties. A bottle signing will also be part of the event.

Tequila Pueblo Viejo and all of the San Matias Tequila labels are being featured as Tres Agaves' distillery of the month, meaning bottles are 10 percent off this month at the store.

The tequila tasting and bottle signing will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. today at Tres Agaves, located at the Fountains at Roseville at the corner of Roseville Parkway and Galleria Boulevard in Roseville.

For more information about Tres Agaves, follow this link to its Web site.

james beard foundation.jpgIt's the first of many highly-anticipated announcements in the food world: the James Beard Foundation has unveiled the semifinalists for its 2010 restaurant and chef awards.

Among the names unveiled today are several San Francisco and Napa area food industry stars, including Boulevard in San Francisco and Chef Timothy Hollingsworth of The French Laundry in Yountville.

Way to go Northern California!

The award semifinalists were culled from more than 21,000 online entries, which were narrowed by a panel of 400 judges comprised of food industry professionals, educators and journalists, according to a foundation news release.

Five finalists in each of the 19 restaurant and chef categories will be announced on March 22. The awards will be presented May 3 in New York City.

Click on the link below to see the list of semifinalists. Northern California contenders have been highlighted.

almonds.jpgTalk about taking the old adage "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" to heart.

Sutter Davis Hospital is teaming with the Davis Farmers Market to provide produce and farm products at the hospital.

Plans include opening a small farmer's market at the medical campus, incorporating fresh local produce on cafeteria menus, selling gift baskets of farm products in the hospital's gift shop and hosting produce tastings in the cafeteria, Sutter spokespeople said.

The goal is to boost awareness of the relationship between eating farm fresh, local food and good health.

First Lady Michelle Obama launched her campaign to combat childhood obesity last week and boy, did people get moving.

E-mails started pouring in to The Bee, touting the nutritional benefits of one food or another. Recipes abounded.

martha.jpgMartha Stewart has even gotten in on the action, inviting White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and Pastry Chef Bill Yosses to her show on Monday to share the recipes for some of the first family's favorite meals.

Turns out the Obamas, like many of us, are lasagna fans.

Follow the link below to get the recipes. For more about the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, check out my column in today's Living Here section.

martin yan.jpgThere's nothing quite like going to dim sum with Master Chef Martin Yan.

For starters, the food never stops coming out the kitchen, a testament to his ordering skills and perhaps his cache as a beloved TV personality.

But Bee photographer Michael Jones and I walked away with more than just full stomachs on Feb. 1, when we spent the morning cooking with Yan at his Hillsborough home (click here to see the story about my cooking lesson).

We took with us a lesson in dim sum itself.

Here are the highlights.

This just in: Robert Lind, former sous chef at Mason's Restaurant, is heading about two miles south to lead Taylor's Kitchen starting Tuesday.

Lind brings a "tremendous amount of food knowledge and creativity" to the restaurant, which is committed to delivering an innovative menu made from locally grown and produced foods, Taylor's owner Danny Johnson wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

"This change will insure Taylor's Kitchen is in step with the long standing tradition of freshness and quality brought forth by Taylor's Market," he said.

Taylor's previous chef, Jenevie Wiles, is leaving to pursue other endeavors.

Lind's start date also means he'll be at the helm when the restaurant hosts its 2nd annual Mardi Gras Celebration Tuesday.

Three seatings - 5, 6:30 and 8 p.m. - are available for the three-course, prix fixe dinner. The $25 per person meal includes crabcakes with Creole aiolo, chicken and andouille jambalaya and bananas foster. Cajun music and beads will be on hand; dancing is optional.

For reservations call (916) 443-5154.

chocolate cake.jpgValentine's Day and dessert are pretty much synonymous, but that doesn't mean you have to resort to spending $8 per slice of cake.

Why not get into the kitchen and bake your sweetie some sweets they won't soon forget?

You may just get some confection affection.

Here's some baking hints:

• If you love rich chocolate flavor, look for recipes calling for cocoa powder or bittersweet chocolate with a high percentage of cacao.

• Chocolate dessert recipes that call for instant coffee or espresso powder also usually are winners, since coffee tends to deepen chocolate's flavor.

• Turn to the experts for inspiration. Epicurious, Food Network, Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson and Nestle's Web sites are great places to start.

Click on the link below for an easy, delicious recipe for Love Struck Chocolate Bundt Cake.

*This story has been updated from its original version

Owners of a popular midtown breakfast spot are considering legal action against their landlords after receiving notice that their lease isn't being renewed.

The Cornerstone, located at the corner of J and 24th streets, will have to close as early as this month.

The neighborhood restaurant has been a popular breakfast and lunch spot for 16 years.

"We really feel like we are a part of the neighborhood and it is heartbreaking to be told we are going to have to leave," co-owner Danny Leung said in a prepared statement.

chocolate2.jpgA box of chocolates is a welcome Valentine's Day gift, but an afternoon filled with chocolate? Now THAT's a fun way to celebrate.

Old Town Auburn will be host to the fifth annual Taste of Chocolate from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, according to an e-mail from event organizer Linda Robinson.

The event also includes entertainment by the "String A Longs" and the Sugar Plump Fairies, she wrote.

For $20, you'll get 10 tastes of chocolates at stores and restaurants. Some venues will be pairing the chocolates with dessert wines. Tickets can be purchased at Sun River Clothing Company, 1585 Lincoln Way, Auburn.

The event is a fundraiser for the Old Town Business Association and the American Association of University Women, which are its sponsors.

For more information, go to the business association's Web site or call (530) 888-1585.

This isn't your average cooking class.

While the new workshop at Taylor's Market does provide cooking tips, it's butchery that's the meat of the matter.

The store is offering a three hour Butchering 101 class later this month, led by owner and butcher Danny Johnson (or as his truck license plate states "BEEF DR").

"There's been a lot of buzz about being a butcher - it's the hot thing in the food world," Johnson said.

The first session, held last month, met overwhelming success.

Participants were taught how to communicate with their butcher, how to buy seafood, cut up a chicken and provided with insider tips on saving money when buying meat.

But butchering a lamb and hog stole the show.

"Everybody started flipping out," he said of their excitement.

The workshops also include a light breakfast and lunch.

The next session will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 27 at Taylor's on Freeport Boulevard. Cost is $40 per person. Bring your knives too - there will be a knife sharpening contractor on site.

For reservations, call the store at (916) 443-6881.

Super Bowl is nearly here and for many fans, that means readying the food game plan.

Last week, the Bee's Chris Macias and I provided Food & Wine section readers with a cheat sheet of party food picks, including which restaurants had the best wings and dip recipes.

But what if you want to make the wings and buy the dip?

Here's help.

We discovered some truly delicious store-bought dip while on our quest to test dip delivery systems.

Here are the ones folks couldn't stop talking about (and eating):

Stonemill Kitchens Three Cheese Peperoncini Dip (Raley's and Safeway) - This creamy mix of cheese and sour cream, which has a great kick of heat thanks to the peperoncinis, can be served hot or cold. Scoop it into a serving dish and no one will know it's not homemade. We won't tell.

EdamameHummus2.jpgTrader Joe's Edamame Hummus (Trader Joe's) - Even non-hummus fans loved this one. The edamame lends a smooth texture and a bright flavor to the chickpea spread.

Mrs. A's Famous Salsa Buena in Hot (Taylor's Market, Whole Foods Sacramento & Roseville) - We were tempted to double dip into this flavorful salsa, which is made with organic tomatoes, cilantro and no raw onions. An ice-cold beer garnished with lime would make for a perfect pairing.

And what would a Super Bowl party be without wings? Sure you could order out, but if you're looking to score a touchdown with party pals, this recipe for Asian spiced chicken wings made using a slow cooker might just do the trick.

Follow the link below to get the recipe.

canadian flag.jpgCalling all Canadians: you're needed for an upcoming story.

We're working on a story for an upcoming Food & Wine section about Canadian food and are looking for local expats to enlighten us on what it is that our neighbors to the north eat. What were the favorite dishes growing up? Is there something you most definitely can live without? Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

Home cook or professional chef, we'd love to talk to you.

If you're game, please e-mail Niesha Lofing at

Thank you!

Taylor's Kitchen is sending a hefty contribution to Doctors Without Borders thanks to the wildly successful Haitian Relief Dinner held Sunday.

The dinner raised more than $7,000 for the medical humanitarian organization, said Danny Johnson, owner of the restaurant and Taylor's Market.

"We were pretty stunned with the response," he said.

The fundraiser's success has Johnson thinking of making charitable dinners a yearly event.

"If there's not a humanitarian crisis, then we could donate the funds to a local charity," Johnson said.

Speaking of fundraisers, another event this weekend is hoped to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief.

This time, it's sandwiches in the suburbs.

The El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce, Lakehills Covenant Church and Subway are holding a fundraiser to benefit the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The event will be held at the Subway in the Town Center, 2023 Vine St., Suite 104, El Dorado Hills.

Volunteers will be donating their time and sandwich-making skills that day, when 100 percent of the sales will go directly to the Red Cross' relief effort, according to a news release from the chamber of commerce.

January 21, 2010
And the winner is ....

They came. They drank. They judged.

And in the end, the winner of the California Office of Traffic Safety's Mocktail Recipe Contest today was Kimberly Beck of Modesto for her "Green Meenie Martini."

"The judges loved both entries, and the voting was close, but in the end the creative ingredients and unique refreshing hot summer taste won them over," Chris Cochran, the department's spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

For more information about the contest see my previous blog post.

This story has been updated from it's original version.

The California Office of Traffic Safety is holding a drinking contest.

Sort of.

The state department, which administers grant funding to reduce traffic deaths and injuries, is holding the final stage of its non-alcoholic "mocktail" drink contest today at Grange Restaurant in Sacramento.

The contest began in mid-December, when the department launched a Facebook site that included an interactive application soliciting mocktail recipes from Facebook fans statewide.

The recipes are hoped to provide designated drivers with interesting, delicious drinks that allow them to feel included in the party.

"Driving drunk is a problem, but at the same time we don't want people to not have a good time," said Chris Cochran, the department's spokesman. "We're not anti-alcohol, we're anti alcohol plus driving."

In less than a month, the Facebook site attracted more than 1,000 fans and officials received about 40 non-alcoholic drink recipes, he said.

Cochran, along with other staffers - including one that is a former bartender - was tasked with narrowing the list.

"We were looking for things that are new and different and had something unique about them that hadn't been seen before," he said.

Two entries emerged as finalists: Kimberly Beck's "Green Meenie Martini" and Erika Penzer Kerekes' "Minty Pink Sparkler."

Follow the link below to read more about the contest.

Ladies and gentlemen, Appetizers is about to get even more appealing.

We have added a new feature, an amuse-bouche if you will, that allows food writers here to share interesting content and food stories we find on the Web. The new links will publish under the heading "Recommended Links" on the right side of the page.

From links to quirky food blogs (check out the link at right to a food blog about the pursuit of "waffleizing" meals) to food and wine stories from other newspapers and publications, we aim to bring you what we find fascinating and hope you'll enjoy too.

If you happen across a story or Web site we haven't mentioned and think we should check out, send me an e-mail at and you may spy your link included in the mix.

Bon Appetit!

Calling all parents of pint-size Emeril emulators - your child could be the star of a new PBS cooking show for kids.

"Hey Kids, Let's Cook!" will be holding an open audition on Jan. 30 in Elk Grove.

Producers are looking for one or two children, ages 6 to 9 years old, from the Sacramento region to star in the show's fifth season, Kathy Powers, the show's host and producer, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

A parent or guardian must accompany the child to the audition. No additional materials are required for the audition.

Cast members are required to travel to Fresno for filming, however.

The show, which airs on KVIE in Sacramento, provides cooking instruction in an entertaining format while also highlighting nutrition.

"Focusing on nutrition in conjunction with preparation techniques, the show gives kids the tools, and the know-how to eat properly, and challenges them to do it themselves," Powers said.

The audition will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 30 at Save-Mart Supermarket, 7707 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove. Save-Mart is the show's corporate sponsor.

Free activities, including story time and food demonstrations, also will be provided courtesy of Save-Mart.

Helping out has never tasted so good.

Taylor's Kitchen is hosting a dinner fundraiser from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday to benefit Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

The $25 per person meal will feature several courses of Caribbean-inspired food and all proceeds will be donated to a Haitian relief fund, said Danny Johnson, owner of Taylor's Market and the restaurant. Beer and wine will be available at extra cost.

The idea for the fundraiser struck as Johnson and his wife, Kathaleen, were driving to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this weekend and listening to radio reports detailing the relief efforts.

"It's an unbelievably tragic story," Danny Johnson said. "That nation's already in a bad enough way."

Taylor's staff are donating their time for the fundraiser and at least one vendor has donated chicken for the event.

Johnson said he's hoping to raise about $5,000 to send to Haiti.

Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at (916) 443-5154. Walk-ins also are welcome.

Taylor's Kitchen is located at 2924 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento.

The specialty food company Manischewitz is holding its 4th Man-o-Manischewitz cooking contest, with a deadline of January 31. The top recipe will win its creator a $25,000 package of appliances, cash and more.

Five finalists will be flown to New York City for the cook-off judged by celebrity chef Jacques Pepin.

The contest is for creative kosher recipes and this year requires use of the company's newly introduced natural broth. Some cooks favor using kosher products anyway because of the stringent rules for preparing them. The broth is made with chicken and beef.

Contest organizers encourage cooks to check out last year's winner for inspiration. Erin Evenson won the contest with her recipe for Ruby Red Risotto, using the company's unsalted borscht.

For more information, or to enter the contest, follow this link to the Manischewitz Web site.

- Carlos Alcala

Almond and Ale Pairing.jpgCooking gourmet at home and unconventional flavor pairings are among food trends forecasted for the coming year.

Spice giant McCormick have released the 10th anniversary edition of its Flavor Forecast, a report that details the trends that'll likely shape the way we eat.

Foods this year will be influenced by "bitter, warm and earthy notes," McCormick's Executive Chef, Kevan Vetter, said in a news release.

Here is McCormick's Top 10 flavor pairings for 2010:

1. Roasted ginger and rhubarb
2. Thai basil and watermelon
3. Caraway and bitter greens
4. Bay leaves and preserved lemon
5. Almond and ale
6. Turmeric and vine-ripened tomatoes
7. Pumpkin pie spice and coconut milk
8. Roasted cumin and chickpeas
9. Creole mustard and shellfish
10. Chives and fish sauce

To see more trends and get recipes, click on the link below.

Where's the recipe?

A kind reader called this morning to tell me that missing in today's Food & Wine section was Joni Hilton's recipe for maple-glazed prosciutto wrapped shrimp (we wrote about Hilton earlier this week on this blog).


Follow the link below to get Hilton's recipe, which is a final contender in the Hungry Jack "Use Up the Box" recipe and essay contest.

Maple Glazed Prosciutto wrapped Shrimp.jpgJoni Hilton had three goals when she was developing a recipe for the Hungry Jack "Use Up the Box" recipe and essay contest: include shrimp, the savory combination of sweet and salty and submit a winning recipe.

Her recipe for maple-glazed prosciutto wrapped shrimp fulfills the first two and may just help her nail the third.

Hilton, of Rocklin, is one of just nine finalists in the recipe contest, which saw a total of 324 entries. Participants had to submit original recipes that used Hungry Jack Instant Mashed Potatoes, Hungry Jack Pancake Mix or Hungry Jack Syrup.

Entrants also had to submit a 200 word or less essay explaining how they created the recipe.

Hilton said coming up with her recipe wasn't too difficult.

joni hilton.jpgThe family eats shrimp a lot - her husband, former CBS 13 anchor Bob Hilton, grew up eating shrimp in Louisiana - and Joni Hilton loves the combination salty meat and shrimp, so combining the two elements seemed like a perfect fit.

"It's explosively delicious," she said of the dish. "It's been a real hit with our family."

Hilton, 53, is well-seasoned when it comes to entering recipe contests.

She has entered hundreds of contests and won 60. She was a finalist in the National Beef Cookoff and has won trips to Hawaii, New York, Florida and lots of appliances.

The best prize thus far was a $25,000 trip to France in 1997 that she scored for having won a Bays English Muffin recipe contest.

The trip included a week of cooking school.

"It was just the trip of a lifetime," she said.

Prizes for the Hungry Jack recipe contests aren't too shabby either. A grand prize of a year's worth of groceries (in the form of a check for $6,000) will be awarded for each category, and runners-up will be awarded a gift basket of Hungry Jack products.

Online voting begins Friday on Hungry Jack's contest Web site.

cupcake.jpgWhat do sushi, cupcakes and coffee have in common?

Beyond deliciousness, all were among the top ten food trends of the past decade, according to the editors at The Food Channel.

Staff there also came up with the top flavors, food influencers, people, news topics impacting food and recipes from 2000 to 2009.

Here at The Bee, we're proud that we've provided readers with stories encompassing these top 10 trends and thought it'd be fun to take a look back. The following is The Food Channel's list of top ten trends, most with links to past Bee stories (some stories are no longer available online)

Follow the link below to see the list.

The question is simple: whose cuisine will reign supreme?

The task is not: constructing a three-course meal in just 45 minutes using five secret ingredients.

Six chefs will aim to do just that on April 30 as part of the Celebrity Chef Challenge, which will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the California Automobile Museum in downtown Sacramento.

The event pits local chefs in whisk to whisk combat during the live cooking competition and food show.

Four chefs have signed on for battle thus far: Ryan O'Malley, executive chef at Piatti Ristorante; Chef Q, owner of Chef Q For Hire; Kristy DeVaney, caterer and food blogger; and Anthony Dimasuay, executive chef at 3 Fires Lounge at the Residence Inn Marriott Hotel.

Celebrity judges include News 10's Bryan May, Adam Pechal, owner of Tuli Bistro and a past Celebrity Chef Challenge winner, and Chef Dominique Crenn, of Food Network "The Next Iron Chef" fame.

Crenn is executive chef at San Francisco's Luce Restaurant and was named Esquire Magazine's "Chef of the Year 08."

On the second season of "The Next Iron Chef," Crenn, a delightfully spunky French gal whose accent could charm even the coldest soul, was sent packing mid-season when she served up an entree judges said lacked flavor and an undercooked churro.

About 100 food vendors, including local wineries and breweries, are expected to participate in the food show at the Celebrity Chef Challenge.

Guy Farris and Melissa Crowley of Sacramento & Co. will be the masters of ceremonies.

Tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the door. All proceeds benefit InAlliance, a local nonprofit that provides life skills training and supported employment for people with developmental disabilities, said Jessica Bean, InAlliance's public relations coordinator.

For more event information or to get tickets, go to

cherries.jpgApparently all this cold weather has done more than just drive us into our kitchens to cook soup and bake bread - it's aiding fruit and nut trees.

Most fruit and nut trees need a certain amount of chill hours - recorded when the temperature drops below 45 degrees - in order to help develop a crop for the next season, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

More chill hours have been recorded so far this year than last year at this time thanks to foggy weather conditions accelerating chill hour accumulations, the California Cherry Commission reported to the federation.

Cherries, apples and pears need the most chill hours, about 1200 hours. Fewer chilling hours results in a lighter crop, the federation reports.

Guess I should stop whining about this finger-numbing weather, if only for the sake of fresh cherry pie this summer.

January 6, 2010
Where's the pork (belly)?

Beeler's Duroc Belly.JPGDon't be put off by those long, seemingly daunting recipes in today's Food & Wine section - braising a pork belly at home isn't as hard as it sounds.

Yes, it takes a while (about 48 hours to be exact), but the actual hands-on cooking is rather simple. And the meat that results, well, is simply fantastic.

When I interviewed food writer and cookbook author Michael Ruhlman for my story, he said he recently talked someone through the process of making a pork belly using Twitter.

Conveying how to cook a pork belly in 140 characters? Now that's impressive.

"It's one of those things when people first do it, it changes their lives," Ruhlman said. "It's so easy, so delicious."

The hardest part about making a pork belly is acquiring one, though we are blessed with several great butchers and grocers in the Sacramento region who can help with that.

I got my pork belly at Taylor's Market, but it also can be found at Vande Rose Farms Meat & Fish in Granite Bay, Reed's Gourmet Meat Co. in East Sacramento and Corti Brothers.

It's also a good idea to call and pre-order one ahead of time. Many butchers also will take the skin off for you.

For pork belly recipes, including recipes for what to serve with pork belly, check out

I used Pajo Bruich's recipe for vanilla apple puree, which I served beneath my seared pork belly and topped it with his recipe for apple celery salad. Follow the link above for those recipes. (pictured is an onion-crusted sous vide Duroc pork belly with cocoa and strawberry paint and compressed melon salad prepared by Chef John Paul Khoury, corporate chef for Preferred Meats).

Care to eat food that'll ensure good fortune in the new year but don't want to spend hours in the kitchen?

Lucky for you we have Hot Italian.

The Sacramento restaurant is offering a special pizza starting New Year's Eve that incorporates the Italian tradition of eating lentils for luck on New Year's (for more on why lentils and good luck food traditions in other cultures, follow this link to my Food & Wine story)

The $15 pie features Hot Italian's signature thin crust topped with a lentil puree, slices of Cotechino sausage, shaved parmesan and fresh extra virgin olive oil.

"It's just to die for," said Nicki Rivieccio, the pizzeria's operations manager. The pizza also will be served on New Year's Day.

The restaurant also is encouraging diners to abide by another Italian New Year's Eve good luck tradition and wear red.

Red underwear, that is.

If you're willing to show your skivvies - "Just a little piece," Rivieccio noted - you might just win a prize.

Speaking of good fortune, I was asked to come on "The Takeaway," a national morning radio news show produced in partnership with The New York Times, The BBC World Service and Public Radio International.

The interview aired as part of today's broadcast (during the third hour). To listen, go to The Takeaway's Web site.

chocolate.jpgDoes $10,000 and some gourmet chocolate sound like a sweet way to start off the new year?

We think so.

That's the grand prize for Scharffen Berger and's Chocolate Adventure Contest.

Participants must create a sweet or savory dish using Scharffen Berger chocolate and one of 16 "adventurous" ingredients, which range from mint and Malbec to black-eyed peas and banana leaves.

One grand prize will be awarded in each of the contest's two categories. A second-place prize, which includes signed cookbooks and an array of Scharffen Berger chocolate, also will be awarded in each category, according to the contest Web site.

You better get cooking, however. Contest entries must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 3).

For contest rules and information, follow this link to the contest Web site.

If chocolate isn't your thing, don't worry, there are several other food-related contests currently seeking participants.

Entertaining during the holidays can be a daunting task.

There's the cooking and tidying, not to mention making guests feel at home and keeping the mood light.

I spoke with entertaining and lifestyle expert B. Smith when she came to Sacramento last month to speak at area events and asked her to share some advice on how to a be a holiday host-with-the-most.

Q: What are some ways to make people who may be visiting for the first time feel comfortable and included, while still keeping the mood light?

A: One of the things I do is make placecards, even if its just my small family. I put their name on one side and something about the person on the other. I ask people to look at the cards before they sit down so they get to know their table-mates. I also like to hand-write a pretty menu for the meal and place it on the plate ... It gets the conversation started.

Q: What do you do if you have relatives visiting who don't necessarily get along or guests who don't know one another?

A: It's important that the host know something special about each of their guests and introduce the right people to each other ... It's always nice when people can participate because it can break the ice ... Maybe have one of the guests do the bartender role. Let them be a part of the entertaining. (Smith also advises having non-alcoholic drinks available).

Q: What are some easy things folks can do to make overnight guests feel special?

A: I like to have a little decorative touch in the bedroom or bathroom they'll be using. Maybe have some cookies by the bed, or even offer hot chocolate (before they turn in for the night). It's a seasonal thing that makes people feel like you really care.

Need some recipe ideas for meals to impress the family? Check out Smith's new cookbook, "B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style" (Scribner, $35, 336 pages) or her Web site, which has several free recipes.

TurkeyStewTDASG.jpgIt's hard to pass up a good deal on a turkey breast this time of year, even if you got your fill on Thanksgiving day.

But the thought of eating the traditional meal for another week can be about as unappealing as the liquid that coagulates amongst the leftover candied yams.

Here's an idea: turn that turkey into delicious dumplings.

Connie Lovatt and Wai Hon Chu, authors of "The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide" (William Morrow Cookbooks, $35, 432 pages), suggest turkey stew with stuffing dumplings.

Click on the attachment to get the recipe.TurkeyDumplingsRecipe.doc

For more information about the book or author events, check out their Web site at

pumpkin cheesecake.jpgStill looking for a Thanksgiving dessert recipe?

Try this one from the folks at Whole Foods Market. It's user-friendly and the ingredient cost is cheaper than a store-bought version, according to a Whole Foods news release.

Plus you get the bragging rights of having made a homemade dessert.

Follow the link below to get the recipe.

tday.jpgMany of us are committing a lot of our spare (or not so spare) time this week to pondering how best to cook that famed fowl, cranberry sauce recipes, the debate of pumpkin pie versus pumpkin cheesecake.

I've been poring over cooking Web sites, cookbooks and magazines in anticipation. But one book in particular has proven useful in recent days, and I'm sure I'll be thumbing through its pages for answers come Thanksgiving.

It's "Tips Cooks Love: Over 500 Tips, Techniques, and Shortcuts That Will Make You a Better Cook!" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $15, 384 pages). The guidebook comes from Sur La Table and cookbook author Rick Rodgers.

The publisher sent The Bee a review copy about a month ago and it's been my handy helper ever since.

Follow the link below to see some advice on cooking that Thanksgiving meal.

Since entertaining and lifestyle expert B. Smith is in town, we jumped at the opportunity to chat with her for a few minutes about her latest ventures and the upcoming holidays.

Smith's latest cookbook, "B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style" (Scribner, $35, 336 pages) hit bookstores this month.

She'll be signing copies at Borders Bookstore at 2339 Fair Oaks Boulevard at 7 p.m. tonight.

Q: Tell us about this new cookbook. What treasures does it hold for home cooks?

A: We have three restaurants and the one in Manhatten (B. Smith's New York City) is influenced by international recipes, but we also had people requesting southern food, so there are lots of southern dishes on the menu. We decided to share some of the restaurant recipes. One is fried green tomatoes, another one that people really like is braised black eyed peas soup ... Our collard greens are in there.

Follow the link below to read more from B. Smith.

Now these are two recipe contests that compliment each other quite nicely.

Bellwether Farms and the California Walnut Board are each looking for home cooks to enter their holiday recipe contests.

Bellwether Farms, an artisan cheese company in Sonoma County, is holding its first annual recipe contest using its French-style creme fraiche.

The home cook who submits the best recipe, with an accompanying digital photo, will win a $100 gift certificate to Bellwether Farms.

Submissions should be e-mailed by the Dec. 1 deadline to Lenny Rice. The winning recipe will be announced Dec. 11 and posted on Bellwether Farms' Web site.

"Recipes highlighting local and seasonal products will be key ingredients for a sure win," states a news release.

That's where the signature ingredient of another recipe contest might come in handy: walnuts.

The California Walnut Board is holding its holiday baking challenge and is looking for "unique homemade recipes that incorporate walnuts in an inventive way to celebrate the season," according to news release from the walnut board.

Participants can enter one of four food categories: cookies, brownies and blondies; cakes and pies; breads; and breakfast/brunch baked items.

Recipe contestants may also enter videos to be considered in the "Best Video Submission" category or submit their recipe as a "SMART" recipe, meaning the recipe is a less-indulgent version of a holiday classic.

Grand prize is a KitchenAid Mixer.

The online entry-only contest runs through Dec. 4. Winners will be announced Dec. 18.

For more information, go to

bsmith.jpgIt's likely to be an elegant affair Thursday night at Next Door at the B&L, the event space just steps away from Patrick Mulvaney's namesake restaurant.

Food, entertaining and lifestyle expert B. Smith will be the featured guest at an event hosted by the Sacramento Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, an international women's public service organization.

Members of the nonprofit organization are committed to "enriching, sustaining and ensuring the identities, culture and economic survival of African Americans and persons of African descent," according to the local chapter's Web site.

The event includes a book signing, reception, chat and cooking demonstration with Smith, who is a respected restaurateur and cookbook author.

An autographed copy of her latest cookbook, "B. Smith Cooks Southern Style" (Scribner, $35, 336 pages), is included in the ticket price, which is $50 a person or $85 per couple.

"An Intimate Evening with B. Smith" will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Next Door at the B&L, 1215 19th St., Sacramento.

Valet parking will be available.

For tickets, go to the local Links chapter's Web site or call (916) 929-8552.

Smith also will be the keynote speaker at the National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW), Inc. Sacramento Chapter's eighth annual Business and Community Awards Recognition Luncheon.

The luncheon will be held at noon Saturday, with a champagne reception at 11:15 a.m., at the DoubleTree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way, Sacramento.

Tickets are $60 per person, or $600 for a table that seats 10 guests. For tickets, call (888) 722-6229 or go to the NCBW's Web site.

November 12, 2009
Who won the duck off?

It's too bad that blogs don't come with sound tracks, because if they did, you'd be hearing a round of applause right now for Michael Tuohy and Hank Shaw.

Tuohy, Grange's executive chef, and Shaw, a food writer and blogger, cooked themselves into a fowl frenzy this afternoon in a duck competition held at the downtown restaurant.

There were duck gizzards, duck heart, duck liver, duck breast. It was a duck love fest. And darn it, it was delicious.

The show stopper, for me was Tuohy's warm duck rillette, served alongside a persimmon and pomegranate salad. While rillette is usually served at room temperature, forming a pate-like paste, this one was served gloriously warm. It was all I could do not to like the crockery in which it was served.

Shaw's final dish, a duck breast served alongside perfectly cooked apples, also was a showstopper.

Who won? It remains a bit of a mystery. I voted for Tuohy, as did fellow judge and colleague Rick Kushman. Grocer Darrell Corti and California Waterfowl Association President Bob McLandress declared it a tie.

The winner will be announced on this evening's special prix-fixe menu at Grange, as well as in Kushman's Good Life column on Wednesday.

I'll update this posting when I learn the outcome.

In the meantime, congratulations Chef Tuohy and Hank - it was a beautiful, delicious meal.

Today is the big day for food writer Hank Shaw and Grange Executive Chef Michael Tuohy.

At 3 p.m., the two will compete in a Iron Chef America-style cooking competition, although both know the secret ingredient - wild duck.

Neither are divulging how they plan to prepare their dishes, but I do know one thing - I will taste superb cooking today.

I was asked to judge the competition, along with my colleague Rick Kushman, well-respected food and wine expert Darrell Corti and Bob McLandress of the California Waterfowl Association.

Check back later on this blog to learn who won and which were the favorite dishes.

Tuohy and Shaw also will be teaming up this evening to serve a five-course prix-fixe duck dinner at Grange. Cost is $65 per person, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the California Waterfowl Association.

A local gourmet coffee roasting company announced today that it's permanently extending its offer of free shipping to deployed troops.

The Lincoln-based Rogers Family Company began offering the free shipping deal to families and friends of U.S. military personnel this summer who'd purchase its "Fairly Traded" coffee online to ship to troops stationed overseas.

The company will continue to offer free priority-mail shipping to anyone who sends coffee, tea and other gifts to service members with a military post office address, company officials announced in a news release.

The company also will pay the shipping for service members who place orders.

The company also will be teaming with Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit volunteer organization that sends care packages to military personnel in hostile zones.

Since beginning its partnership with Operation Gratitude in 2005, Rogers Family Company has shipped 300,000 bags - that's 600,000 pounds - of coffee to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and on ships at sea, the release states.

For more information, check out the company's Web site or a story about the company that ran in Tuesday's Living Here Family section.

gravy.jpgApparently lumpy gravy does not have to be a component of the Thanksgiving meal.

I've had varying degrees of gravy success over the years, and mentioned as much in my story about a turkey fryer in today's Food & Wine section. Several readers gravy gurus jumped to my aide.

Ron Coates, of Sacramento, said the solution is a cool one: if you see lumps forming, whisk the gravy and add a handful of crushed ice.

"The lumps will just disappear," he said.

Another reader called claiming to have a lump-proof gravy recipe. I've left her a message and am hoping to hear back. Stay tuned: if she agrees, I'll reprint her recipe here.

Do you have a gravy tip or secret weapon? Post your comments here.

Editor's note: This entry was corrected to say that no cooking oil should be poured down the drain.

Wondering what to do with cooking oil you'll use to deep fry that Thanksgiving turkey?

If the number of voicemail and e-mail messages I've received today are any indication, many of you are.

I wrote a story for today's Food & Wine section about a new indoor electric turkey fryer, but missing (due to lack of space) was a key part of the turkey frying equation: what do you do with the used oil?

Here's the deal.

John McLemore, president and co-owner of Masterbuilt, the company that manufactures the Butterball electric turkey fryer, said the oil can be used several times.

"If you refrigerate it, the oil can keep for up to three months and can be used to fry about five to six turkeys," he said.

When you are ready to dispose of the oil, let it cool and then pour it back into a container that can be sealed.

Some auto lube businesses will discard the oil for you, he said.

Another local solution is Sacramento County Waste Management and Recycling.

Cooking oil shouldn't be poured down the drain or placed in the garbage can. Instead, recycle the cooking oil curbside or at the county's hazardous waste drop-off center at 4450 Roseville Rd., North Highlands. Both services are free, according to the county's Web site.

To recycle curbside, pour the oil into clear gallon jugs and tape the lids shut. Also be sure to follow these guidelines: don't mix the oil with other fluids, don't put the oil in the mixed recycling container, place the jugs at least three feet away from the recycling container, limit the amount of oil to three gallons per recycling collection day.

The oil jugs will be collected on recycling collection day, the Web site states.

For information on how to dispose of oil in El Dorado County, follow this link to the county's environmental management Web site.

For disposal information for Placer County, go to Western Placer Waste Management Authority's Web site.

Yolo County residents can learn more about drop-off locations on the county's hazardous household waste Web site.

food cover.jpgThis is a book worth devouring.

It's "The Best Food Writing 2009" (Da Capo Press, $15.95, 348 pages) and by no means is the title a misnomer.

I was lucky enough to have obtained an advanced copy of the book, which hit store shelves this week, and consumed the delectable collection of prose in about two days, putting it down only for little things like work and care of children (although I did catch myself sneaking hits of it while my kids were watching PBS' "Dragon Tales").

The 10th anniversary edition of the book is edited by Holly Hughes and is an anthology of the best culinary writing found in newspapers, books, magazines, Web sites and newsletters from the past year.

Contributors include the likes of The New York Times' Kim Severson, Julia Moskin and Frank Bruni; Food & Wine's Lettie Teague; Gourmet's Ruth Reichl and Molly Wizenberg of the famed Orangette blog and "A Homemade Life" (Simon & Schuster, $25, 336 pages).

One of my personal favorites included in the book was a piece that Eric LeMay penned for Gastronomica about his love of French cheese and his quest to smuggle cheese back to the states.

Follow the link below to read an excerpt of LeMay's story.

Ed Jasper used to feel guilty about using canned chili as the base for his chili, going so far as to call it "cheater chili."

Not anymore.

Jasper took home first place for his chili on Nov. 1 in the Elk Grove Elks Lodge's chili cook-off, a fundraiser for the lodge's "Purple Pig" project, which raises money for disabled children.

Jasper's bowl of red, now deemed "Ed's Comfort Chili," was the favorite among the 12 entries tasted by the judges - which included Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, Good Day Sacramento Anchor Nick Toma and myself - and also was picked by lodge members and guests as the best among the winning finalists.

The use of ground beef and chopped tri-tip provides a hearty texture and use of pasilla peppers and a chipotle chili lend a wonderful flavor and heat to the dish.

I can't speak for the other judges, but I couldn't detect a canned chili base when I was scarfing down my portion.

Follow the link below to get Jasper's chili recipe.

hank.jpgGrange Executive Chef Michael Tuohy and local food writer Hank Shaw are going, well, beak to beak.

The two will be facing off in a duck cooking competition Nov. 12 at the downtown restaurant to raise money for the California Waterfowl Association (Shaw is shown at left in a 2007 photo by The Bee's Anne Chadwick Williams).

The winner will be named by a panel of judges during the afternoon competition.

The public is invited to partake in the fowl festivities that evening, when Grange's menu will include a five-course prix fixe menu ($65 plus tax and gratuity) inspired by the competition.

Ten percent of the proceeds will benefit the association, which works to preserve, protect and enhance the state's "waterfowl resources, wetlands and associated hunting heritage," the association's Web site states.

The special "duck off" menu includes such mouth-watering offerings as a duck charcuterie starter, house made tagliatelle with duck sugo and duck cassoulet.

Dessert? Try pear tart boasting a crust made with duck fat.

Oh duck fat, how I love thee.

Ahem, I digress.

tuohy.jpgShaw, whose James Beard-nominated food blog, "Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook" recently led to a book deal, and Tuohy (shown at right) are keeping their competition recipes a secret from everyone, including each other, said Sarah Essary, a spokeswomen for Grange Restaurant & Bar and The Citizen Hotel.

Check back here next week to learn who served the winning dish.

Tuohy also is offering duck hunters a chance to have their own bounty star in a seasonally-inspired meal.

Hunters can bring the duck in 48 hours before their dinner reservations and Tuohy will meet with them to design a duck dinner for $75 per person. The offer runs through January.

For more information, check out Grange's Web site.

Here is Grange's Nov. 12 prix fixe duck menu: Grange_DuckOff_Menu.pdf

Here's a simple way to spread holiday cheer this month: donate a turkey to Volunteers of America.

The Greater Sacramento and Northern Nevada chapter of the organization is collecting fresh or frozen turkeys to serve as the main course for holiday meals at area homeless shelters, transitional living programs and affordable-housing residences this Thanksgiving.

Turkey donations are being accepted from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day through Nov. 25 at the Volunteers of America central kitchen facility at 700 North Fifth St., Sacramento, according to a news release from the organization.

The organization also is collecting money for the campaign. Donations may be made online, by mail or at the Volunteers of America administration office at 1900 Point West Way, Suite 270, Sacramento.

For more information, visit the organization's Web site or call (916) 442-3691 or e-mail Kim Castaneda.

As promised in today's Food & Wine (ahem, Juice) section, here are some more recipes that have proven successful at area preschools and day cares. The Health Education Council also sent us a recipe for pumpkin soup that sounds perfect for a spooky supper this Halloween.

Stevie's Speedy Enchilada Sauce
Cook time: 22 minutes
Serves: 8
Notes: This recipe is courtesy Chef Steve Magana of Sacramento Montessori School.

1/3 cup corn oil
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons chili powder
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Sea salt to taste

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour and chili powder and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder into the flour until smooth, and continue cooking over medium heat approximately 12 minutes, until thick. Season to taste with salt.

Eating Suggestion:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a good amount of sauce in a casserole pan and roll some mozzarella cheese in a few corn tortillas and place in a casserole pan. Add more sauce over and top with cheese. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes.
Per serving, sauce only: 102 cal.; 1 g pro.; 5 g carb.; 9 g fat (1 sat., 2 monounsat., 6 polyunsat.); 0 mg chol.; 94 mg sod.; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 79 percent calories from fat.

To get more recipes, follow the link below.

turkey2.jpgLet's talk turkey. Well, sort of.

While much of the nation's culinary attention will be tuned to turkey in coming weeks, there are households that (take a deep breath) don't eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

We know you're out there and we want to talk to you for a story.

Do you cook another poultry in its place? Celebrate with prime rib, rack of lamb, manicotti? Have you always wanted to try a Thanksgiving feast sans turkey but too scared of the anticipated backlash?

Whatever your harvest table holds, we'd love to hear about it. The story will be published in our Food & Wine section in mid-November.

To participate or learn more, please e-mail Bee food writer Niesha Lofing.

I'm not usually one to brag, but I earned a compliment this weekend that made me blush.

Since my husband and I have two small children, Saturday nights often are spent at home with a movie. I've been told it's normal, not pathetic, but I was trying to make it seem less so this past weekend, so I grabbed some filet mignon, Point Reyes blue cheese, and a few sweet potatoes while stocking up on groceries.

Once one child was in bed and another was heading that direction, I sequestered myself in the kitchen where I improvised my way to a surprisingly lovely dinner for two. I crusted the steak in ground peppercorns, salt and Grill Mates Spicy Montreal Steak Seasoning, gave it a quick sear in a pan and finished it with a few minutes in the oven. The filets were topped with blue cheese I had mixed with a little butter and served alongside mashed sweet potatoes spiced with a hint of cayenne and topped with glazed pecans.

We ate quietly.

"Why do we go out to dinner if you can cook this good?" my husband said.

The best part? The whole meal cost about $25.

To get the recipe for the mashed sweet potatoes, follow this link to my blog.

What's your favorite date-night dinner at home? What do you cook when you want to impress your loved ones? E-mail me your favorite recipe. I'll post the most mouth-watering one here and on my blog.

The question of where to find an inexpensive date-night dinner may just have been answered.

Selland's Market-Cafe is running a dinner special for $25 that features a meal for two and bottle of wine, pitcher of beer or sangria.

The specials are dine-in or carry out, and are creating quite a buzz at the east Sacramento spot, especially on Thursday and Friday nights.

The intent is to offer customers "a good deal in these tough times and to hopefully help show that Selland's can be a good deal for great quality anytime," said Gina Funk Nelson, a spokeswoman for The Selland Group.

This week's dinner for two special is Moroccan chicken tagine with couscous and a bottle of wine selected by Randall Selland, the market's executive chef. Selland and his family also own and operate The Kitchen Restaurant and Ella Dining Room and Bar.

Other dinners have features paella, mahi mahi sandwiches with slaw and Coq au Vin.

The second Wednesday of the month, when there also is a wine tasting at the cafe, the dinner for two special features pizza paired with red wine or a pitcher of beer.

Is it dinnertime yet?

Good news local Chipotle fans - the Sacramento region is one of several test markets for the burrito chain's new children's menu.

Chipotle Mexican Grill will roll out the new kid's menu on Monday at its 21 Sacramento area restaurants and will be offering one free kids meal with the purchase of an adult entree every Sunday from Oct. 18 to Nov. 8.

The kid's menu was first introduced in Denver last spring. Sacramento was chosen as a test market because it's a "family-friendly city," Chris Arnold, the chain's director of public relations, wrote in an e-mail.

To see what's on the kid's menu, go to my blog.

I may be able to make a lemon cake with fresh lemon curd filling and bake irresistible brownies, but yeast breads? Not my forte.

So when I successfully made homemade pizza dough (which probably means they are among the easiest of yeast breads to execute) this past weekend, I was ridiculously ecstatic.

The dough recipe yielded enough for two pizzas, so I topped one with cheese for my children and made another topped with bacon and sauteed spinach, garlic, mushrooms and onion for the adults.

My husband vowed never to call for take-out pizza again, but I think he was still under the influence of pork fat when he said it.

Follow this link to my blog to get the recipe.

*Note: This story has been updated to include the winners' names.

You know you've tasted some delicious desserts when you can try nine pumpkin confections and still want to sneak a few more bites.

This past weekend marked the annual Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin and Harvest Festival and with it the "Best Pumpkin Dessert" recipe contest.

I was fortunate to have been asked to serve as one of the contest's judges this year. Tough gig if you can get it.

We viewed, we tasted, we voted. And in the end, three home cooks walked away with cash prizes and bragging rights.

First place, and $350, went to Lee Ann Duclo for her pumpkin cheesecake. The cheesecake had a delicate pumpkin taste, silky mouthfeel and just the right amount of tang.

Malinda Cirimele earned second place and $100 for her pumpkin spice latte fudge. This is a recipe that I will be trying out soon (like this weekend). It tasted so reminiscent of a pumpkin spice latte that the only thing missing was a burned tongue.

Third place went to Carol Dyer for her unusual, but delectable, pumpkin dip. This is a sweet dip, to be served with cookies. I thought the idea sounded strange at first glance, but the dip had a wonderfully spicy, pumpkin flavor and creamy texture.

Click the link below to get the recipes.

morales.jpgHere's the $1 million question: what will Poor Girl eat to celebrate?

Local food blogger Kimberly Morales' blog, Poor Girl Eats Well, has been nominated by the blogger readers would most like to see have their own show on the Food Network in the 2009 Foodbuzz Blog Awards. (left: Morales in her Sacramento kitchen. Bee photo by Randall Benton.)

Morales' blog chronicles her quest to eat gourmet (or at least close) on the cheap. Click here to read my story on Morales from earlier this year.

Take her most recent recipe, a roasted beet and farro salad with feta and caramelized onions. Cost per serving is about $1.70 and the dish serves three to four people. A healthy dinner for $7? Count us in.

Morales said she didn't know about the nomination until she saw the page views on her blog jump today. Morales had voted for her own blog once for the category and posted messages on Facebook and Twitter about the Foodbuzz awards.

"I wasn't expecting it," she said of the nod. "There were so many bloggers on there worthy of the nomination. I didn't actually expect to get a nomination."

Other bloggers nominated for the category are A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Eat, Live, Run, Oh She Glows, and Spinach Tiger.

More than 3,500 nominations in 24 categories poured in for the awards. Voting is taking place through Oct. 29 at and winners will be announced on Nov. 7 at the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, according to the Foodbuzz Web site.

Morales said she'd be honored if Food Network came calling, although she probably wouldn't quite know how to respond.

"I'd probably stutter," she said. "But I'd work with them."

Morales said she hasn't figured out how to celebrate the nomination yet, but she plans to dish on her blog.

"There will definitely be a celebratory recipe," she said.

Another local, Elise Bauer, of Carmichael, also was nominated in the awards for "Best Recipe Blog." Her blog, Simply Recipes, is one of several the former Internet software executive maintains.

The foodie world let out a collective gasp this morning.

Gourmet magazine is closing.

The culinary prose powerhouse is the latest casualty of the economy, and just one of several Conde Nast publications to fold.

The Associated Press' Food Editor J.M. Hirsch, penned the following obituary:

After nearly 70 years of fine eating, the lavish meal known as Gourmet magazine is over.

Conde Nast blamed the tough economic climate Monday when it told its staff it was closing the stalwart of the food media world, long considered the dean of culinary publishing.

"It's the center of gravity, a major planet that's just disappearing," said chef and author Anthony Bourdain, who said Gourmet was the first food publication to give him a chance as a writer. "There's been a lot of speculation about this happening, but I'm still stunned."

Conde Nast also said it was shuttering Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie, a parenting magazine. Earlier in the year it ceased publication of Portfolio, a business magazine, and Domino, a homes title. Sister Conde Nast publication Bon Appetit survived the cuts, and will likely absorb many of Gourmet's readers.

Click here to read the story.

There was nothing quite like curling up on the coach on a Saturday morning with a hot cup of coffee and poring through the magazine, dreaming about what dinner could be rather than would be.

I will miss Gourmet's writing and inspiration greatly. Best of luck to those writers, editors, designers and other staff who made eating that much more pleasurable for all of us.

The extent of La Bonne Soupe's cockroach conundrum has been illuminated by a Sacramento County inspection report.

The popular soup and sandwich lunch spot, which claimed the No. 1 spot for "best food" in a Sacramento Zagat Survey earlier this year, was closed Wednesday by county environmental health officials after a county environmental health inspector found a cockroach infestation during a routine check.

Owner Daniel Pont has not returned multiple calls for comment.

The inspection report, which is public record, lists the following violations:

• One live cockroach on the floor below the hand sink.

• One live cockroach with an attached egg casing on the shelf below the register, next to paper bags used for to-go orders.

• One dying cockroach on the shelf below the register.

• One dead cockroach in a glass on the shelf above the hand sink.

• About 15 dead cockroaches on the floor below the hand sink.

• Several cockroaches adhered to sticky pads on the floor below shelves, which were underneath the register.

The county inspector also noted a minor violation related to handwashing after seeing the owner "making sandwiches, answer telephone and then resume making sandwiches without washing hands in between tasks."

For further details, check out my story in today's Our Region section.

A downtown Sacramento lunch spot famous for its soup has been shuttered due to cockroaches.

La Bonne Soupe, which topped a Sacramento Zagat Survey category earlier this year, closed this morning after Sacramento County health inspectors found pests in the small restaurant at 920 8th Street.

An inspector found three live cockroaches and 15 dead ones during a routine inspection, said John Rogers, the county's environmental health division chief. The cafe was closed before lunch service and a red "Closed" placard, which means an "immediate danger to public health or safety," was issued.

A call to the restaurant's owner, Daniel Pont, has not yet been returned.

Rogers characterized the infestation as "mild."

"This one isn't that bad, so it shouldn't be too hard to get it reopened," he said.

The county closes a little more than 100 food facilities each year, which amounts to about 1 percent of the facilities inspected.

La Bonne Soupe, owned and operated single-handedly by Pont, is well-known for its lunch fare and the droves of people that stand in line for the Frenchman's soups and sandwiches.

The restaurant earned the No. 1 ranking in the "best food" category in the Sacramento Zagat Survey pocket dining guide released in January.

Kerri Aiello, a spokeswoman with the Countywide Services Agency, said her phone has been ringing in protest since news about the restaurant broke earlier today.

"People are calling me and saying 'Why did you do it?'" said Aiello, who also is a fan of the soup spot.

Pont will have to enlist a pest control company to eliminate the cockroach problem and pay a $199 re-inspection fee. The restaurant will remain closed until environmental health officials can re-inspect the facility.

The length of time a restaurant remains shuttered varies, but "sometimes it's just one day," Aiello said.

Click here to check out The Bee's restaurant inspection database.

winner.JPGThey came. They cooked. Seven of them conquered.

But the 2009 National Beef Cook-off winners circle didn't include our local teenage contestant, Natalie Benthin.

In the end, it was Mary Hawkes, of Prescott, Ariz., who took home the $25,000 "Best in Beef" prize for her Sonoma Steaks with Vegetables Bocconcini.

Her winning recipe was one of five entered in the "Live Well with Fast & Convenient Grilled Beef," a category that only allowed competitors to use six ingredients (along with a few freebie ingredients such as salt), and three steps of preparation of less.

Hawkes, who has competed in several cooking contests - including the Pillsbury Bake-off and National Chicken Cook-off - used the herb marinade from the mozzarella balls to flavor the boneless beef top loin steaks and vegetables in her dish.

The simple elegance and vibrant flavor of the dish was a hit with the judges (I was one of five judges at the competition, but did not judge Benthin's category. More on the judging experience later). The recipe called for the mozzarella and red grape tomatoes to get a brief rendevous with the microwave, a manuever judges thought was odd on paper, but fantastic on the palate.

"I liked the simplicity and the innovative use of the ingredients," said Amy Sherman, a food blogger and cookbook author from San Francisco who judged the entries Wednesday. "The finished product was just refreshing ... I would really make that dish."

As it turns out, it was Hawkes' last chance to compete for the beef cook-off's grand prize - she's attempted to secure the title twice before.

Here are the other winners, listed by category, state of residence and recipe name. First place winners received $10,000; second place received $5,000.

"Live Well with Fast & Convenient Grilled Beef Recipes"

First place: Kristina Vanni, California, Orange-Chipotle Skirt Steaks
Second place: Deborah Biggs, Nevada, Treviso Fig & Pear Steak Salad

"Teens Cooking with Beef"
First place: Morgan Hanrahan, Washington, Southeast Asian Steak Salad
Second place: Erin Ozment, Oklahoma, Olympian Burgers

"Lean Beef in Nutrient Rich One-Dish Meals"
First place: Elizabeth Bennett, Washington, Sonoma Ranch Steak Salad
Second place: Fran Fehling, New York, Beef Ranch Zucchini Gnocchi

A highlight of this year's competition for many was watching the teens cook, said Sherry Hill, the cook-off's program manager. The teenage competition was a first for the National Beef Cook-off.

"It's fun to have given teenagers an opportunity to compete," she said. "It's wonderful to see that genuine interest in cooking and their creative talent."

Although Natalie Benthin won't leave Sonoma with prize money for her Sicilian beef short ribs recipe, she's going home with fond memories of the competition.

"I love the adrenaline rush of it," she said. "I would love to do it again."

Click here to read my story about Benthin, which appeared Wedneday in Food & Wine section.

You can smell the competition here in Sonoma.

It's the scent of beef, and yes, it's what's for dinner. And in my case, breakfast and lunch.

I'm one of several judges at the 2009 National Beef Cook-off, a biennial contest second only to the Pillsbury Bake-off.

Fifteen home cooks from across the country are competing Wednesday, including 16-year-old Natalie Benthin, of Grass Valley.

Benthin is among five teenagers competing in one of the categories, "Teens Cooking with Beef" (full disclosure: given our story about Benthin in today's Food & Wine section - which I began reporting and writing before I was asked to judge the competition - I won't be judging the teen category).

Follow this link to see my story on Benthin.

At 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, the other judges and I will be whisked off to a secret room, where succulent creations will be brought in to (hopefully) please our palates.

Several cash prizes are at stake in the three categories. First place winners receive $10,000 and second place winners take home $5,000. The "Best of Beef" grand prize winner also will take home $25,000.

Now that's some moo-la.

I'll be blogging and tweeting as much as possible from the competition. To see my tweets, follow me @SacBeeMomme.

To watch the competition unfold via Ustream, go to the National Beef Cook-off Web site.

I have a confession: I can't stand leftovers.

Apart from leftover components of Thanksgiving dinner, I'm not a fan of repeat meals. Leftovers in my house used to prompt a white lie about the food not looking so great and a call to Round Table. Now, given the economic climate, leftovers are eaten, although sometimes without enthusiasm.

So when I come across a dish that results in appealing leftovers, it becomes a repeat feature in my culinary repertoire (can a woman who routinely uses a slow cooker and would prefer to eat brownies instead of dinner claim to have a repertoire? I'm not so sure, but I'm going with it).

stir-fry.jpgThe first night we had the dinner of sweet potato and pear stir-fry with chicken and chile sauce, it was good in a homey sort of way. The next night, however, it was delicious. The sweet potato had soaked up some of the spice and flavor from the sauce, the pears and the water chestnuts retained just the right amount of crunch.

This flavorful recipe also packs quite a healthful punch: one serving (which includes rice) is 370 calories and has 7 grams of fat, 24 grams of protein and 7 grams of dietary fiber. (If you're a Weight Watcher, it amounts to 7 points per serving).

Follow this link to my blog for the recipe.

burgers.jpgGame for trying game? Whether you're a game meat novice or aficionado, I came up with a recipe for bison burgers that is sure to delight your tastebuds and spice up your dinner.

This burger recipe plays on the buffalo wing concept. The bison meat is topped with oven-fried onion rings, blue cheese and a spicy buffalo wing aioli. The result is a superb burger with just the right amount of kick (the burger is shown at left. Bee photo by Autumn Cruz).

For those of you who may be unfamiliar (or a little wary) of eating bison, it tastes much like beef, only it has a bit stronger of a flavor profile. Ranched bison can be found at some local grocers, such as Raley's, or ordered online.

Still leary? Just swap out beef for bison and you'll have a burger almost as delicious.

Click here to get the recipe for True Blue Bison Burger, or follow this link to my blog.

If you want to learn more about cooking game, check out my story in today's Food & Wine section.

File this under "what will they think of next?"

Researchers have developed a laser beam that can tattoo grapefruit and the new technology may soon replace the sticky ID labels that adorn the tart citrus.

The tattoos can't be washed off and allows each piece of fruit to be tracked to its source, according to an e-mail newsletter from the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Testing has shown that the tattoo does not allow pathogens to enter the fruit and researchers are testing similar tattoos on tomatoes, avocados and other citrus, the farm bureau reports.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has to approve the process before it can be used commercially.

No word on whether the tattoos will be heart-shaped and bear the inscription "Mom."

shari's.jpgThe Berry Factory is launching three new products at the California State Fair and owner Shari Fitzpatrick sent us a sampling of the chocolate creations to try.

Talk about a hard assignment.

The newbies include chocolate covered cherries ($3.25 for 3), chocolate covered strawberries dusted in edible gold ($4 each) and chocolate covered s'mores ($3.50 each). All come in white or milk chocolate varieties (The new line of sweets is shown at left. Bee photo by Anne Chadwick Williams).

The Berry Factory has a stand between buildings A and B near the county exhibits at the state fair.

The gold-dusted strawberries, called Golden Berries, are in tribute to the local company's 20th anniversary this fall and in honor of California being the Golden State.

The gold dust lends a pretty sheen, but the flavor is classic Shari's berries - juicy, succulent berries marrying perfectly with both white and milk chocolate.

The Cherry Baby is cute, with the stems of the maraschino cherries peeking out from the chocolate, but be warned: the combo of chocolate and cherry is pretty powerful.

Fitzpatrick said would prefer fresh cherries to maraschino, but it's the pits that are plaguing her.

"I'm still working on it," she said.

The best of the bunch, however, was the S'mori (Shari and s'more - get it?). A hand-dipped chocolate covered s'more. It was a "Don't talk to me I want to enjoy this" moment in my cubicle a few minutes ago.

The combination of gooey marshmallow and crisp graham crackers enrobed in milk chocolate was heavenly. The white chocolate was good, but the milk chocolate was stellar.

Fitzpatrick said the inspiration for the S'Mori came from her family life.

"I have three sons, so we do a lot of camping and a lot of s'more making," she said.

Apparently they are quite good at it.

Now if only they'd sent a glass of milk.

Sure Craiglist has garnered a reputation as a great place to get deals on things like furniture and televisions. But cookware?

That's right - cookware. High-quality cookware to be exact.

I scored big time on a Le Creuset Dutch oven and used it this weekend to make a delectable, company-worthy New England halibut stew. To read about the adventure, check out my blog.

Have you spotted good deals on cookware lately? Is there a place you turn to for good deals? Post your comments here.

sandwich.jpgSandwiches may be the main ingredient in many a lunch tote, but they also can make for a quick and satisfying dinner.

We're not talking about whole wheat bread and a few slices of turkey here.

Think dense, eggy slices of brioche filled with brie, carmelized onions, arugula and a hint of cranberry jam. Flaky, grilled mahi mahi topped with mesclun and tucked between slices of baguette generously spread with lemon aioli.

It's a wonderful thing.

For sandwich inspiration, check out this recipe on my blog for a sophisticated spin on grilled ham and cheese. The addition of Dijon mustard and honey to the three different cheeses and high-quality ham make the flavors in this sandwich sing.

Cold sandwiches more appealing on a hot summer day? Check out this story in today's Food & Wine section by my colleague, Allen Pierleoni, who went in search of a new twist on Julia Child's classic chicken salad (pictured at left).

What is your favorite sandwich recipe? Post it here in the comments section, or e-mail it to me, and your recipe may be featured on this blog.

If you're lactose intolerant, the list of enjoyable desserts is quite short.

Cream pie? Nope. Smoothies? Not so much. Ice cream? Don't even go there.

But there's help on the grocery store shelves for the more than 50 million lactose intolerant folks nationwide. Tofu company Nasoya has launched a line of non-dairy dessert starter that claims to be the sweet treat solution for dairy dodgers.

Nasoya Silken Creations, available in dark chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors, is low calorie, lowfat, and has 3 grams of protein per serving. The dessert starter is made from whole soybeans and sweetened with cane juice, making it lactose- and gluten-free, vegan and kosher, a company news release states.

The product is available in stores and retails for about $2.50.

Nasoya sent The Bee the variety of flavors to sample, along with recipes on how to use the dessert starter. The list of recipes includes cream pies, smoothies and ice cream pies.

We tried the strawberry smoothie/dessert starter first. The smoothies were made according to the suggested recipe instructions and served to coworkers.

Some people enjoyed the sweetness, while others commented that it had too much of an aftertaste.

"Fragrant, light, air, frothy and flavorful," colleague Debbie Arrington wrote in an e-mail. "It's much lighter than smoothies made with yogurt or ice cream. Doesn't taste like soy milk or tofu."

Bee restaurant critic Blair Robertson was a bit more tart.

"Light strawberry flavor overwhelmed by sweetness and a chemically finish," he wrote.

We also tried the Silken Creations' Dark Chocolate dessert starter to make chocolate cream pie. This time, it was a blind taste test.

The soy chocolate pie was made using Nasoya's recipe on the back of the package. It was served alongside Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie downloaded from the Food Network (click here for the recipe).

Both pies were made using Lagasse's recipe for graham cracker crust.

The ease of making the soy pie (simply blend ingredients in a blender, pour in the crust and bake) was attractive, although the finished product was not. The filling puffed a little, then sank dejectedly into a deep, dark puddle. To mask its dismal appearance - especially in comparison to the fluffy Lagasse pie - the pie was topped with puffs of homemade sweetened whipped cream.

Willing workplace tasters sampled slices of each. The Lagasse cream pie was easily the favored dish, but the soy pie got mixed reviews.

One taster said the flavor was "more chocolatey" and several said they would serve it to dinner guests or at a family gathering.

Others characterized the filling as "sticky," "almost chalky" and had "a texture and taste like instant pudding."

Three tasters (somewhat) jokingly said they would serve it to in-laws.

"I'd serve both, but I'd let folks know which is which," one taster wrote. "Assuming I've guessed correctly, this reinforces my belief that being vegan/gluten intolerant/lactose intolerant ain't much fun."

The soy pie might also find favor, however, among folks watching their calories. If you haven't had the luxury of eating a real chocolate dessert in a while, the Silken Creations pie might just be the saving grace that keeps the pint of triple chocolate ice cream out of the shopping cart.

For more information about the Nasoya soy products, go to the company's Web site.

buca.jpgLooking to celebrate National Lasagna Day today? Here are two ways to commemorate the cheesy occasion.

If you're looking to let someone else do the heavy lifting, Buca di Beppo is offering a free lunch-size serving of its popular lasagna with any purchase of a small or large pasta or entree today.

The offer is available at Buca di Bepo's 87 locations nationwide, including its restaurants at 1249 Howe Ave., Sacramento and 1212 Galleria Blvd., Roseville.

The free lasagna offer is not valid with other coupons, offers or to-go orders, but can be boxed and taken home for dine-in guests, a restaurant news release states.

Want to impress your family with a delicious, homemade lasagna tonight?

Try this recipe - an easy-to-prepare, quick-to-disappear dinner in my house - which comes courtesy of Paula Deen and the Food Network Web site.

Lots O'Meat Lasagna

lasagna.jpgPrep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Serves: 4
Notes: Recipe courtesy Paula Deen, 2008


1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground oregano
1 teaspoon ground basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 (5-ounce) package grated Parmigianno-Reggiano
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
9 oven-ready lasagna noodles
2 (8-ounce) packages shredded mozzarella


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large saucepan, combine ground chuck, sausage onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until meat is browned and crumbled; drain.

Return meat to pan and add oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese, Parmesan, parsley, and eggs.

Spoon 1/4 of sauce into bottom of a 13-by-9 baking pan. Place three uncooked lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Do not overlap noodles. Spread 1/3 of cottage cheese mixture over noodles, top with 1/4 of sauce and 1/3 mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers, ending with sauce, reserving 1/3 of mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and bake 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Do you have a fabulous recipe that you think others would enjoy as well?

Enter it in Dream Dinners 3rd Annual Recipe Contest and you might just walk away with $500 worth of Dream Dinners meals.

Dream Dinners, a meal-assembly franchise with a location in Natomas, is holding the contest through Aug. 28 and is looking for recipes featuring London Broil, chicken breast, pork chops and cod.

For more information, check out my blog.

I was on vacation in Lake Tahoe the first time I tasted Ikedas California Country Market's pre-marinated tri-tip. It was deliciously flavored, extremely tender and juicy and left me wanting more.

tritip.jpgI've been an Ikedas tri-tip junkie ever since, trekking to the Davis store (there's also an Ikedas in Auburn, off Interstate 80) to get my fix.

The store sells a tri-tip made with Ikedas seasoning, as well as one with Ikedas marinade. The seasoned tri-tip is slightly spicy, while the marinated tri-tip has a touch of sweetness to it that makes the flavor dance in your mouth.

I cook my 2 1/2 pound Ikedas seasoned tri-tip this weekend over medium heat on the grill for about 45 minutes, which, after resting for about 15 minutes, resulted in the meat being cooked to medium.

Served alongside grilled white corn and a tangy and sweet summer salad, it made for a beautiful, simple summer meal (the recipe for my salad is posted on my blog).

Ikedas has two locations: 3500 Lincoln Way, Auburn and 26295 Mace Blvd., Davis. The store also carries locally grown produce, exceptional pies and other goodies.

fajitas.jpgI came up with a fabulous recipe for fish fajitas after flubbing a halibut ceviche that I'd been obsessing about.

Check out the recipe by going to my blog,

Happy eating!

MarkMiller.jpgMark your calendars Southwest cooking fans - Grange Restaurant & Bar is hosting a book signing for super chef Mark Miller.

The Sacramento event on July 15 celebrates Miller's newest cookbook, "Tacos" (Ten Speed Press, $21.95, 176 pages).

Grange Executive Chef Michael Tuohy also will create a special menu for lunch and dinner, highlighting dishes from the Miller's cookbook, according to an e-mail from the restaurant officials.

Miller has created more than 13 restaurants, including Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, where he now lives, and Fourth Street Grill in Berkeley.

The book signing will be held during lunch service, which begins at 11:30 a.m., and dinner service, which begins at 5:30 p.m.

For more information, visit Grange's Web site.

scallops2.jpgI'm a firm believer that quality vinegar can turn an average meal into one that you'll be talking about for days.

The following recipe for seared sea scallops calls for Banyuls vinegar, a wine vinegar made from grapes grown in the Banyuls-sur-Mer region of France. The vinegar is aged in oak barrels for more than five years, which helps yield a nutty flavor.

Though a bit of an investment at the outset, the vinegar keeps well and can be used to make delicious vinaigrettes and as a reduction sauce for a variety of proteins.

In this recipe, the Banyuls vinegar is used at the end to deglaze the pan, and is then poured on top of the scallops, which have been seasoned and seared in olive oil spiked with garlic. The vinegar's nuttiness marries beautifully with the scallops delicate flavor and turns the pungent garlic into a subtle undertone.

Banyuls vinegar can be found at many specialty grocers in the Sacramento region, including Taylor's Market and Corti Brothers.

Follow this link to see the recipe:

squab2.jpgHave you ever heard of a 14-year-old who eats squab, much less knows how to cook it? My colleague, Carlos Alcala, has found a local teen who lives for cooking and chronicled his adventures for Wednesday's Food & Wine section.

Here's a sneak preview from Carlos to whet your appetite:

Some of us check, double-check and triple check our recipes as we cook. We don't make anything for guests that we haven't tested before. We measure ingredients carefully for every recipe. That's not Jeffrey Caves. The 14-year-old Carmichael cook is fearless in the kitchen. He's not afraid of knives, fire or failure. He knows enough about cooking that he can usually operate by the seat of his pants (or pans) and save any dish gone wrong from becoming a disaster. See what makes this teen kitchen whiz tick in Wednesday's Food & Wine section.

The waiters at Applebee's in Cameron Park will look at a little more "uniform" than usual on Tuesday.

El Dorado County sheriff's deputies will wait on diners during the restaurant's lunch and dinner service as part of a fundraiser for the Special Olympics of Northern California.

The deputies' "tips" will be donated to the organization, which provides athletic programs for more than 13,000 people with developmental disabilities.

There are training and competition opportunities year-round within Special Olympics Northern California. Our programs are free to all eligible athletes and are possible thanks to the generous support from individuals and businesses who believe in Special Olympics athletes..

The event, called Tip A Cop, is part of the 2009 Law Enforcement Torch Run, a year-round fundraising and awareness campaign organized and managed by local law enforcement staff, a sheriff's office news release states.

The participating Applebee's is located at 3281 Coach Ln., Cameron Park.

View Applebee's in a larger map

fruit.jpgLooking for a healthy, inexpensive way to feed your family?

Find some answers Sunday at Fruit and Veggie Fest, sponsored by FoodMaxx and the Health Education Council.

The festival is part of a month-long effort to teach low-income families how to make healthy living a priority, said Lesley Miller, the council's spokeswoman.

"Basically, we'll share with shoppers educational and interactive activities so they can learn how to make healthy choices," she said.

The council is a non-profit organization focused on promoting health education.

The event will include dance performances, free health screenings, physical activity specialists and a "smoothie bike," where a rider will peddle a bicycle that powers an attached blender, resulting in cool, healthy drinks.

Store tours also will be given so families can learn tips on how to eat healthy on a budget.

The festival will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the FoodMaxx at 3860 Florin Rd., Sacramento.

Talk about an important dinner service.

Grange Restaurant and Bar had a special guest for dinner Wednesday night ﷓ the mother of California cuisine, Chez Panisse co-owner and chef Alice Waters.

Waters was among a party of about 20 people dining at the J Street restaurant and also stayed at the Citizen Hotel Wednesday night, said Sarah Essary, a spokeswoman for Grange.

Waters was in town for the premier of Food Inc., a documentary that explores the corporate-controlled food industry being shown at The Crest Wednesday night.

She also is in town to help plant and dedicate a vegetable garden at Capitol Park this morning alongside California first lady Maria Shriver and celebrity chef Guy Fieri.

Waters and her party dined around 6:45 p.m. and chose items from Wednesday's dinner menu.

Waters had the local farm lettuce salad with sun dried tomatoes, North Valley Farms' chevre and a fig balsamic vinaigrette.

She also dined on grilled Bledsoe Farm lamb rack chops with olive oil crushed potatoes, minted fava beans and pancetta and a tapenade.

Specific compliments to Grange Chef Michael Tuohy were not overheard, but "I know that they enjoyed themselves," Essary said.

One ingredient that was specially procured for Waters' visit, however, wound up not being served.

A Grange staffer was spotted at the farmer's market at Cesar Chavez plaza Wednesday afternoon purchasing several pounds of cherries.

The chef was overheard eagerly remarking to the vendor that "Alice Waters is going to eat these."

The vendor looked at the chef with a blank stare.

"Who's that?"

No word on what became of the cherries.

Looks like it's luci spente (lights out) for the Italian Cultural Society's Annual Wine and Food Festival in Carmichael this Sunday.

Presale tickets weren't going as well as anticipated so organizers decided to cancel the event, said Bill Cerruti, the society's executive director.

"We're getting a lot of last minute people and probably could have pulled it off, but we weren't sure," he said.

People who purchased advance tickets will have their money refunded.

The event typically attracts about 100 to 200 people and the society plans to hold the wine and food gathering next year, Cerutti said.

"We had good entertainment lined up," he said. "This has just been an uncertain year."

Italian culture lovers have no fear - the society still plans on holding its Summer Italian Festival August 1 and 2 at the Croation Community Center.

"It's all set to go," Cerutti said.

For ticket information about the summer festival, e-mail the society or call (916) 482-5900.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is urging California parents to get into their kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.

The father of four declared the second Saturday in May "Cook With Your Kids Day" and issued a proclamation urging parents to spend time cooking with their children.

Food Network celebrity chef and local
restaurateur Guy Fieri also was presented with a resolution that recognized him as an advocate for families cooking together and healthy meals during an event at the State Capitol this week, according to a news release.

Today, Fieri is hosting a kids' sushi class for 40 children at his Tex Wasabi's restaurant on Arden Way. Half of the participants will be from the UC Davis Children's Hospital. Fieri has five restaurants in Northern California.

In a recent interview with The Bee, Fieri said parents need to teach children critical lessons, such as how to cook and how to eat in moderation.

"We need to educate our kids about food," he said.

Fieri, who has four children, practices what he preaches.

"One of the things I do with my son is he has to make the lunch," Fieri said, adding that his son gets to buy the school lunch once a week.

Aside from a cooking and food choice lesson, it also cuts down on wasted food, Fieri said.

Want some ideas for easy cooking lessons with children?

Here are quick, healthy ideas that this Bee reporter came up with:

• Stick it to 'em - Children love food on sticks (hang on, so to adults!). Grab some skewers and make fruit kebabs. Strawberries, grapes and pineapple chunks work great.

• Say (macaroni and) cheese - Shove aside the blue box and try the do-it-yourself version. All you need are some noodles, cheese and a little milk and butter. The beauty of forgoing the box version is you can control the quality of the ingredients and take simple steps to cut down on calories.

• Breakfast for dinner - Pancakes seem to be a hit with kids whatever time of day you serve them. Pack an extra nutritional punch by sprinkling in some flax seed or stirring in some fresh or frozen fruit. Want a parent-of-the-year award? Pour the batter in the shape of a certain mouse's head or in the shape of a heart.

Go to the Food Network for more kid-friendly recipe ideas.

The U.S. Postal Service's letter carriers will be carting more than just the mail during an annual food drive Saturday.
The National Association of Letter Carriers and the Postal Service are holding the Stamp Out Hunger food drive to help hungry families in communities across the nation, according to information on the food drive's Web site.
Residents can place non-perishable food items in bags by their mailbox Saturday before their mail arrives and letter carriers will pick them up and take them to local food banks.
The event is the largest single-day food drive in the country. Last year, carriers delivered more than 73 million pounds of donated food, the Web site states.
Residents are asked not to donate expired items or food in glass containers.

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