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Allen Pierleoni/
Pumpkin-spice English muffins are on store shelves now.

Thomas’ bakery has been busy this year with limited-edition offerings of bagels and English muffin. Over the past few months, consumers have seen maple french toast-flavored bagels and cinnamon-vanilla English muffins, followed by cinnamon-redolent apple pie muffins and bagels.

New to the lineup is the 130-year-old company’s most popular flavor, pumpkin-spice muffins and bagels, along with cranberry muffins and bagels. Prices range from $3.99 to $4.69. Pumpkin-spice will be around into November; cranberry will debut in October and be available into December. The pumpkin-spice flavor has been so popular in past years that Thomas’ has had to literally work overtime to meet the demand.

If you like bold flavors, they’re for you.

More at

Florence Low/
Evan Elsberry is the award-winning chef-owner of Evan's Kitchen.

Chef Evan Elsberry specializes in a number of dishes at his restaurant, Evan’s Kitchen, including prime rib, rack of lamb and seafood pasta. He also regularly matches ethnic cuisines with appropriate wines, usually coming up with some surprises. In past months, he’s sold out his Italian, French, Spanish and German wine-pairing dinners.

Now he's presenting “Take a Walk On the Wild Side,” a multi-course meal of game dishes. It's planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 6. The cost is $75 per person, with reservations at (916) 452-3896. Evan's Kitchen is at 855 57th St., Sacramento, in the Antiques Mall.

The dinner looks like this:

First course: mint trout cakes with apple horseradish, paired with 2011 Santa Digna chardonnay

Thursday, September 18 2014
Taste chocolates with unusual cachet
Allen Pierleoni/
Three flavors of Cachet Belgian chocolate didn’t last long.

Chocolate is expensive. We’re not talking Hershey’s Kisses, though everybody likes ‘em, but fine chocolate from Belgium and Switzerland, and from small-production companies in California. For instance, we’ve seen 2.5-ounce artisanal chocolate bars made in the Bay Area sell for as much as $12 at specialty stores, and bars of imported chocolate bars typically priced at $6 to $8.

Given that, we were pleasantly surprised to find a display of very reasonably priced Cachet Belgian chocolate bars at Corti Bros. Market. We bought a sampling of 3.5-ounce dark-chocolate bars for $3.19 each, in intriguing and delicious flavor combinations — pear-almond, lemon-black pepper, orange-almond and blackberry-ginger.

Despite what wine snobs say about pairing chocolate with wine (don’t do it!), we teamed the chocolate with glasses of zinfandel and pinot noir and had a grand time. Corti’s is at 5810 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento, (916) 736-3800.

GQR308LAU.2Multimedia Photojournalist
Manny Crisostomo/

Sunday’s cover story in Feast focused on Whitney Johnson, who’s described as the current maven of Sacramento restaurant design. Her clients include some of the most buzzed about bars and eateries in town, including Shady Lady, Hook & Ladder, Citizen Hotel and its Grange Restaurant, and a much anticipated barbershop and bar coming to the R Street corridor.

And now, Johnson seeks two or three interns to help with her bustling business. She’s looking for help to handle office duties, and another intern or two to assist in her design projects. Experience with AutoCAD software and project management is a plus.

The internships are unpaid, but Johnson said that compensation could happen down the line if the work is good. The perks of the job include connecting with some of Sacramento’s leading restaurateurs, plenty of opportunities for tasty food and drink, and a chance to leave a stamp on some “fun, cool projects.”

Says Johnson about the ideal candidates: “First and foremost, they have to be punctual. They should be eager and also humble, in the sense that they’re willing to learn, yet confident enough to make their own decisions. They should be a real go-getter, a real hustler. It’s going to be a well-rounded experience.”

GDD30HNR3.3Staff Photographer
Randall Benton/ Sacramento Bee file
Owner and patriarch Miguel Unzueta, shown at the Caballo Blanco restaurant in south Sacramento on March 29, 2011, died Friday.

A staple of Mexican food in south Sacramento has lost its patriarch, Miguel Unzueta, the owner and founder of Caballo Blanco restaurant. He died Friday at age 88.

Caballo Blanco has operated ay Franklin Boulevard and Fruitridge Road for 53 years. It is known for starting each meal with a complimentary bowl of caldito soup and fried tortilla chips. The restaurant has become a signature Mexican eatery over the years with its long-running and little-changed menu of traditional dishes.

Unzueta entered the United States under the bracero program, a series of agreements between the United States and Mexico from 1942 to 1967 to allow guest workers from Mexico to offset labor shortages in the United States following World War II.

He founded Caballo Blanco in 1961. Its original recipes were developed by the former chef of El Jacalito, a long-gone local Mexican restaurant.

Even at $75, the Broderick Roadhouse “Off the Bridge” dinner scheduled for Sept. 28 was a relative deal. The multi-course meal on the final day of Sacramento’s “Farm-to-Fork Week” celebrations was designed as a more affordable alternative to the $175 Tower Bridge dinner that same day - not to mention some relief from the abundance of pricey farm dinners held regularly throughout the region.

But the owners of Broderick Roadhouse (319 6th St., West Sacramento) have now slashed its “Off the Bridge” price, which will now cost $40. This dinner debuted during 2013’s “Farm-to-Fork Week” festivities with a $45 cost, but rising production and food costs mandated a higher price this year. Matt Chong, the co-owner of Broderick Roadhouse, said he was hearing from folks that even the $75 cost had priced them out from buying a ticket. So, the price has been slashed and the event scaled back to a more intimate affair for 50 to 60 people, down from the 250 who attended last year.

“Farm-to-Fork is definitely a great thing but you really have to understand where the roots come from,” said Matt Chong, co-owner of Broderick Roadhouse. “We wanted to get away from the idea of farm-to-fork as a white tablecloth thing, and make it more grassroots. The majority of the people who foster the food community can’t afford an expensive ticket to a dinner. We wanted to do something a lot more accessible.”

The exact menu is still being worked out, but will be presented as a family style affair on Broderick Roadhouse’s outdoor patio.


The owners of midtown’s LowBrau are eyeing a project that will bring a new set of food and drink options to West Sacramento’s riverfront.

Restaurateurs Clay Nutting and Michael Hargis are overseeing an eatery and beer garden that will be embedded in The Barn, a $5.6 million outdoor venue developed by Fulcrum Property of Sacramento. The two are joined in the venture by Michael Tuohy, the executive chef of LowBrau and its sister restaurant, Block Butcher Bar.

The 25,000-square-foot project near Raley Field features a large shade sculpture as its centerpiece and will host the restaurant along with a variety of outdoor events. According to Stephen Jaycox, Fulcrum’s design director, construction on The Barn is slated to begin in October and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2015.

While the restaurant and its accompanying beer and wine garden has yet to be named, it will focus squarely on regional ingredients and brands.

Tony Gemignani’s “The Pizza Bible” goes on sale Oct. 21.

Over the decades, pizza takeout boxes from pizzerias nationwide have been adorned with surprisingly intricate art. Some boxes depict involved scenes showing pizza-makers at work in their kitchens, for instance; others are covered in scenes displaying everyday life in Italian villages.

Now you can bring your artistic eye to designing your own pizza box. October is Sacramento Art Month, so Pizza Rock restaurant chef-owner Tony Gemignani is sponsoring the inaugural Pizza Box Art Contest. The grand prize will be the same in two categories (age 12 and younger, and age 12 and older) — one free pizza every month for life. Runners-up will receive $100 gift certificates and more.

Here’s how it works: Drop by Pizza Rock at 1020 K St., Sacramento (916-737-5777, between 2 and 6 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, complete am entry form and pick up a plain pizza box. Artistically make it your own, but you must include the phrase “Respect the craft” on the front of the box “as part of the artwork.”

Return the completed box-as-art by Sept. 21. Gemignani and his fellow art-lovers will chose a grand-prize winner and four runners-up in both categories. The 10 winning boxes will be on display inside Pizza Rock throughout October. They’ll be auctioned as fund-raisers for the Mustard Seed School.

Allen Pierleoni/
The four-flavor Rufus Teague line of barbecue sauces include these two.

Just as barbecue season continues (does it ever really end?), so does our search for great spice rubs and sauces. After years of tasting hundreds of them, we’re favoring on Kit’s Kansas City BBQ Rub by Miner’s Mix (think brown sugar), Roy’s Seasonings and Dizzy Pig rubs.

Sauce-wise, there’s Daddy Sam’s Slop It On B-B-Que Sawce. Sweet meets heat in the molasses-based, blue ribbon-winning concoction, which, the story goes, was created by a certain Daddy Sam Oglesby “on his ranch in West Texas.”

While Daddy Sam’s remains our go-to for the time being, we happily discovered the “born in Kansas City” Rufus Teague line of sauces the last time we stopped by BBQ Pro in Fair Oaks, which stocks just about everything for the backyard pitmaster. It’s also available at Corti Bros. Market and other area stores ($6 to $7 for 16 ounces).

The four flavors are Whiskey Maple, Honey Sweet, Touch O’ Heat and Blazin’ Hot. The sauces come with clever packaging that has a sense of humor, starting with the shape and look of the 16-ounce bottle, which resembles a pint-size whiskey flask. Then there’s the little photo of Rufus Teague himself, a serious-looking guy dressed in what appear to be 19th- or early 20th-century duds.

GLO2VOQ01.2Senior Photographer
Paul Kitagaki Jr./
Craft beers’ growing popularity has helped Auburn-based Mussetter Distributing Inc. attract national attention —and honors.

A local beer distributor ranks (again) among the best in the nation.

Auburn’s Mussetter Distributing Inc. is a finalist for the 2014 Craft Beer Distributor of the Year Award presented by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) and the Brewers Association. The winner will be announced at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival on Oct. 4.

Now in its eighth year, this award honors “an American beer distributor who goes above and beyond in their efforts to actively market, sell and promote craft beer.”

A family-owned business since 1976, Mussetter has helped promote greater appreciation — and access — for craft beer in the greater Sacramento area.

Allen Pierleoni/
The grounds at Northstar ski resort were turned into a “tent town” for restaurants and wineries offering their specialties, for the 29th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival.

The weather was ideal for the crowd of 2,000-plus foodies who gathered this past weekend at Northstar-at-Tahoe near Truckee, and spilled over into the ultra-luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel, a gondola ride above the ski resort.

For the foodies and the two properties alike, the common denominator was the 29th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival, a three-day celebration of top bites and sips. Giving it an educational twist was an array of a la carte seminars, themed dinners, guided wine-, beer- and cheese-tastings, hands-on activities and more. In the midst of it all, dozens of vendors sold everything from plein-air art to jars of honey.

On Sunday, the festival’s premiere event, the Grand Tasting, featured 23 area restaurants teamed with 21 wineries, one distillery and one brewery, in competition for gold, silver and bronze medals — and bragging rights, of course, which are quite marketable.

As attendees tasted fine wines and sampled delectable small-plate dishes at tents and kiosks set up on and above the Northstar ice-skating rink, the question was: Which food-and-wine pairings would be the most compatible and exciting, and who would walk away with the medals?

Thursday, September 4 2014
Could these be the best pizzas in the U.S.?
GR82UHKV5.3Multimedia Photojournalist
Manny Crisostomo/
Great pizza abounds at pizzerias and bistros around the U.S.

When it comes to pizza, everybody has an opinion — including the foodies in the field who report to the editors at the Daily Meal, the website that covers all things food and drink.

This time out, 78 “pizza experts” tasted their way through 700-plus pies at restaurants around the nation to come up with their list of the 101 Best Pizzas in America.

Among the top 10 were three California pizzerias — Flour + Water in San Francisco for its Margherita pie (heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella fior di latte, extra-virgin olive oil); Tony's Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco for its Margherita (hand-mixed dough proofed in wood boxes, San Marzano tomatoes, sea salt, mozzarella fior di latte, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil); and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles for one of its specialties (topped with squash blossoms, tomato, burrata mozzarella and tomato sauce).

For the story, the complete list of winners and a slide show, click here.

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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