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How would you like to win a night out for two that includes local food and wine, plus live music to work those boogie shoes? Two tickets are up for grabs for the Stanford Youth Solutions “Vintage 2014” event at North Ridge Country Club on May 1, a $100 a head benefiting the organization formerly known as Stanford Home for Children. Those tickets normally cost $100 each, and this year will include eats from Cafeteria 15L, Dad’s Kitchen, de Vere’s Irish Pub and more local restaurants. You can wash those bites down from such local wineries as Twisted Rivers and Sean Minor.

To enter a drawing for a pair of tickets, send an e-mail to and include your phone number. The deadline to enter is April 24.

Whether you’re the big winner or not, the event’s geared toward local foodies with a taste for philanthropy, and a few tickets still remain. Proceeds from the event go towards Stanford Youth Solutions and its efforts to support young people through foster care services, parent support, family outreach and other services. This annual event serves as Stanford Youth Solutions’ main fundraiser, and also includes an auction for a chance to score vacations and other items.

For more information: ... and good luck on winning those tix!

Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
Darrell Corti tends the wine in his legendary market in east Sacramento.

Internationally known food and wine authority Darrell Corti — who insists on calling himself a “grocer” — holds a roomful of awards and honors bestowed on him during a long career. He also sits on various boards in advisory capacities.

Those include his membership in the Culinary Council of the food-and-drink-centric The Daily Meal. Corti is featured on its site in a 10-question mini-profile, a new series introducing The Daily Meal’s council of heavy-hitting food-industry professionals.

One question he’s asked is, “What are the food or drink products you're proudest of having introduced to American consumers?” His reply: “Zinfandel, aceto balsamico tradizionale (balsamic vinegar) and Catalan olive oil.”

To read the full interview, click here.

Bill Hogan/ MCT
Chili peppers likely became a cultivated crop in central-east Mexico, according to a new study by an international team including UC Davis plant scientists. (And, yes, that’s a tomatillo — not a pepper — propping up the jalapeño.)

Somewhere between Puebla and Veracruz in central-east Mexico rests the cradle of culinary inspiration: The birthplace of the domesticated chili pepper.

That’s the determination of an international team of researchers, led by a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis.

That fact is more than an interesting tidbit to spice up dinner conservation. Chili peppers now rank as the world’s most widely grown spice crop.

Rather than one geographically specific spot, the birthplace belongs to a fertile pepper-friendly region, determined the researchers. Extending from southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz, that region is further south than was previously thought, the researchers found. It’s also very different than the origin of common bean and corn crops, which are believed to have been domesticated in Western Mexico.

Autumn Cruz/ Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
Typical lunch fare at Bidwell Street Bistro is an Angus burger and a grilled portobello sandwich. The menu will change soon, when the bistro becomes Bacchus House.

Bidwell Street Bistro in Folsom is changing ownership again. The new proprietor is Eric Adams, owner of Bacchus Elegant Events catering and event-planning of Sacramento. Here’s how it’s playing out:

Veteran restaurateur Richard Righton originally opened the bistro in 2000, hiring imaginative executive chef Wendi Mentink. Righton currently owns 36 Handles British-style pub and the neighboring Relish Burger Bar in El Dorado Hills.

Last August, Righton sold the bistro to Charlie Castellani, who said yesterday he sold it to Adams because “it’s time to move on.” The principals are waiting for the paperwork to be finished before the deal is closed. Adams hopes to open his incarnation, to be called Bacchus House, “sometime in June, as a rough estimate.” Meanwhile, the bistro remains open for business as usual at 1004 E Bidwell St.; (916) 984-7500,

We always liked the the bistro’s menu (and wine list), from the quiche Lorraine to the Muscovy duck confit. The best gazpacho ever was from one of Mentink’s original recipes. Her chilled heirloom cherry tomato soup was fragrant with basil, smooth with avocado relish and chunky with watermelon and shrimp. Her flash-fried calamari was tops, as well.

Alia Malley/
Michael Pollan will be at Cosumnes River College on April 24.

Michael Pollan has been called many things, including “liberal foodie intellectual.” by the New York Times. True, but add to that “journalist, author, activist, university professor.” Pollan has helped raise the nation’s food-culture awareness through his lectures, essays and best-selling books, which include “The Omnivore's Dilemma,” “In Defense of Food,” “Food Rules” and “Cooked.”

Foodies can catch Pollan’s appearance at 10:30 a.m. April 24 in the Recital Hall on the campus of Cosumnes River College, 8401 Center Parkway, Sacramento. The free event is part of the college’s Earth Day Sustainable Food Festival, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on campus.

More information is at

Florence Low/
Award-winning chef Evan Elsberry will prepare a special meal for Cinco de Mayo.

Sacramento chef Evan Elsberry is at it again, hosting another themed wine-paired dinner at his restaurant, Evan’s Kitchen. The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta will start moving dishes at 6 p.m. May 5; cost is $75 a person, with reservations at (916) 452-3896. Motor over to 855 57th St., Sacramento, in the Antiques Mall;

First course: sweet corn soup with huitlacoche quesadillas and crème fraiche, served with Conundrum white blend

Second: halibut tacos with chipotle remoulade and pickled cabbage, with Villa Maria sauvignon blanc

Third: ancho tamales with Yucatán pork, charred tomatillo sauce and criolla cebolla, with Conundrum red blend

Paul Sakuma/ AP
Alice Waters, who helped pioneer California cuisine and the slow-food movement, will co-host the Farm-to-Fork Capital Forum Series.

Sacramento’s farm-to-fork persona continues to evolve.

The latest incarnation is the Farm-to-Fork Capital Forum Series, to be held at 2 p.m. April 23 in the auditorium of the California Public Employees' Retirement System at 400 Q St., Sacramento.

Mayor Kevin Johnson has invited Sam Kass to the party. He’s the senior adviser for nutrition policy at the White House, reports Mark Anderson of the Sacramento Business Journal. Kass is also invited to the farm-to-fork dinner at Sacramento Charter High School, where the tables will be laden with bounty from Edible Sac High. It will be sponsored by California cuisine guru Alice Waters and restaurateur Patrick Mulvaney.

For the whole story, click here.

Wednesday, April 16 2014
Show your 'spear-it' at Asparagus Fest
Hector Amezcua/
Asparagus stalks from Jimenez Farms in Stockton await shoppers at the farmers market. Local asparagus is king of the annual Asparagus Festival in Stockton April 25-27, 2014. Patrons can take some home, too.

Time to get into the “spear-it”; the Stockton Asparagus Festival is almost here.

Next week, downtown Stockton will once again embrace its favorite locally grown veggie in a celebration of all things asparagus. But this year’s fest will look a little different. After a switch in contractors, the circus-style striped tents will be replaced by more sophisticated basic white.

After some speculation that the event would move, the 2014 Asparagus Festival will be held at the same downtown waterfront location. Featuring lots of family entertainment as well as tons of asparagus, the fest will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 25 through 27. The festival grounds extend from Oak Street to Weber Avenue with downtown Stockton’s Center Street transformed into “Spear-it Lane.”

Nicknamed the “Best in the West Food Fest,” the Asparagus Festival offers a wide variety of asparagus-based cuisine. Housed in a humongous white tent, Asparagus Alley will offer such fan favorites as deep-fried asparagus and asparagus ice cream as well as asparagus pasta, asparagus burritos and asparagus-beef sandwiches.

Jose Luis Villegas/

The SF Weekly’s “drink of the week” column generally focuses on a single standout libation, or gives props to Bay Area bars with standout cocktail programs. But in the most recent case, the “drink of the week” went to an entire city - and that city is our own Sacramento.

While giving the obligatory descriptor to Sacramento as a place to grab a quick bite on the way to Lake Tahoe, writer Lou Bustamante spotlights four Sacramento craft cocktail spots that are well worth an extended visit: Hook & Ladder, The Red Rabbit, Hock Farm and The Shady Lady Saloon.

Bustamante describes the drinks from Chris Tucker of Hook & Ladder (pictured above) as “on par with some of the best in San Francisco.” Of course, we proud Sacramentans already knew that, but it’s great to hear that from our cosmopolitan neighbor to the west. Similar accolades are given all around, and accompanied with pictures of such signature local drinks as The Shady Lady’s “Horse’s Neck” and Red Rabbit’s “Krakow Salt Mine.”

While beer and wine get much of the attention around Sacramento’s beverage scene, this SF Weekly piece continues in the string of press for our local cocktail culture. Imbibe magazine named Sacramento in its Top 10 “places to visit in 2013.” Bustamante also penned a story about Sacramento’s craft cocktail circuit for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2013.

Blair Anthony Robertson/
Before tasting honey, volunteers sniffed the aromas of all kinds of things in cups.

I am one of 20 people on a honey tasting panel at UC Davis whose feedback will help the the school’s Honey and Pollination Center create a flavor and aroma wheel.

Many of you may already be familiar with the Wine Aroma Wheel, another UC Davis creation, that helps wine lovers learn to identify the many aromas in wine in a more precise, systematic and user-friendly way.

The honey wheel will apply all kinds of words we use to describe what we are smelling and tasting. The panel had its first session on Friday, a three-hour event that began with a brief discussion of what to expect, how to go about the process with an open mind and what will come of all this sniffing and tasting.

We sat at tables in a large square along the periphery of the room. The tasting of 12 honeys was led by Sue Langstaff, an applied sensory professor who spends much of her time teaching beer-brewing students how to taste beer. She said she was relatively new to honey but that the approach is very similar. Also sitting in on the session was Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

Bee staff/
Mother is featuring three kinds of Dutch babies, a pancake/souffle kind of dish.

Mother, the hot new restaurant on K Street next to the Crest Theatre, rolled out its brunch menu last weekend for the first time.

Among other things, the restaurant is featuring three kinds of Dutch babies, a pancake/souffle kind of dish delivered to the table in a piping hot cast-iron pan. I haven’t seen a Dutch baby served at other local restaurants in recent years. But after tasting both a sweet and savory version at Mother, you’d have to think they are going to catch on elsewhere. Mother is on the verge of making these a quintessential brunch staple.

You’ve probably already noticed that brunch itself is already a big deal in Sacramento. With Mother throwing its hat into the ring, the quality has gotten even better, and the competition is intense.

Scores of restaurants are offering brunch and doing it well, including Hook & Ladder, Lowbrau, Capital Garage, The Porch, Red Rabbit, Orphan, and, of course, the eatery where the line is always long come Sunday a.m., Tower Cafe. On the other hand, a place where there is almost never a line but that serves a very good brunch is Bistro Michel. Throw in breakfast-y stalwarts like Harry’s Cafe, Cafe Bernardo, Crepeville and Chargin’s and Les Baux and we’ve got plenty of options.

Lezlie Sterling/Sacramento Bee
A cupcake from Icing on the Cupcake in Rocklin.

Icing on the Cupcake, the Sacramento-area gourmet cupcake chain started seven years ago and closed in January amid a bankruptcy filing and financial struggles, has reopened a single Rocklin store under new ownership.

A group of local investors, doing business as Icing LLC, reopened the store at 6839 Lonetree Blvd. in Rocklin on March 31. Listed hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The outlet employs about a dozen, including employees under the previous ownership, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Dec. 20 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California, listing estimated assets of $100,001 to $500,000 and estimated liabilities of $500,001 to $1 million.

Prior to closing doors in late January, Icing on the Cupcake also operated stores in Sacramento, Citrus Heights and Folsom. Icing on the Cupcake, started in 2007, was the brainchild of Christee Owens, her mother, Shirley Nagasawa, and family friend Chuck Meridith.

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

Appetizers Archives

Note: The Appetizers blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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