“Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit”
William Morrow, $25.99, 288 pages
Let’s raise a glass to Dan Huckelbridge for putting together the definitive history of bourbon, the corn-based spirit is so thoroughly American that Congress passed a 1964 resolution calling it a “distinctive product of the United States.”
The author – who likes his bourbon straight up – tours readers around the saloon, so to speak, beginning with whiskey-making colonists at Jamestown and segueing to George Washington (who had a distilling operation on his estate), the Scots-Irish immigrants working stills “in the rugged oak forests of the Appalachian frontier,” into the Civil War and into the wild West.
Bourbon continued its journey into the Roaring Twenties, through Prohibition and onto the international front after World War II. In more recent years, small batches of hand-crafted bourbon have given the booze a new cachet – and price tag.
3rd Annual Sacramento Beer & Chili Festival
$20-$65, 1-5 p.m. April 19, Fremont Park (15th & R streets)
If a hot bowl of chili and a cold one sound like the ingredients of a ideal pre-Easter afternoon, this outdoor festival should top your to-do list. Chefs from local establishments including Blackbird, Bacon and Butter, and River City Brewing will compete with average Joes in a chili cookoff, while more than 40 brewers will stock a beer garden where you can fill up your tasting glass – all to benefit arts programs, homeless youth and local schools. Live music will also be on tap, as well as a kids zone with that basket-filling pastime to keep the little ones busy.
$3.50 each, www.blabbermouthchocolates.com
Belgian chocolate combines with ground coffee beans from local favorites such as Insight and Temple in these hand-crafted chocolate bars made in Lincoln. Each bar features coffee beans from a specific region – Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatamala – that gives the confection a unique flavor profile. Whichever you choose, the result is a sumptuous bite of smooth chocolate with a subtle crunch of caffeine inside, as the ground beans almost have the texture of puffed rice.
Former Scott’s Seafood chef David LaMonica left the capital city eight years ago to run his own venture, Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino. Now fans of his style can have a taste of his creations without venturing up the coast, thanks to his latest business endeavor, Beaujolais Granola. The small-batch artisan combinations, made in Santa Rosa, come in five flavors. Our favorite is the Six Seed Sensation, where oats and honey meld with pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, flax, hemp and chia seeds for a light, not-too-sweet snack perfect with yogurt or by the handful. Check the website for Sacramento-area retailers.
Rancho Gordo Prepared Hominy
$5.95 per pound; www.ranchogordo.com
Whether you’re whipping up a pot of posole or a heaping helping of grits, everything’s got to start with hominy. Sure, it’s easy enough to buy that canned and slightly gummy stuff from the supermarket. But with a few hours of soaking and then boiling with onion, Napa’s Rancho Gordo prepared hominy blooms into an aromatic and wonderfully textured corn that just might swear you off that can opener for good. Rancho Gordo, which has counted The French Laundry as a client for its heirloom beans, carries more goods for posole purists including authentic Mexican oregano and freshly dried arbol chilies.
— Bee staff
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