February 17, 2013

Critics' notebook: Sac a fine place for food -- and reading about food

While our chefs, farmers and other restaurant players enjoy well-deserved props, let's not forget another group that deserves some spotlight: our area's food writers.

If you didn't catch the recent multistory package in the San Francisco Chronicle, or high ranking in Imbibe magazine, here's the takeaway: Sacramento's food and cocktail scene is receiving heaping amounts of praise. While our chefs, farmers and other restaurant players enjoy well-deserved props, let's not forget another group that deserves some spotlight: our area's food writers.

Food culture, at its best, is a conversation. It doesn't exist in Cryovac packaging and it depends on writers to share a region's stories with the wider world. While we're proud of our own food and wine writing in The Bee, we're also fans of other voices in this growing discussion.

Sacramento's strong community of food journalists extends to such notables as Elaine Corn of Capital Public Radio, James Beard nominee Hank Shaw and award- winning cookbook author Georgeanne Brennan.

Area food bloggers keep busy tapping away, including Amber Stott ( and Sarah Singleton (

Meanwhile, Sacramento magazine has no shortage of food writing, with many of its cover stories dedicated to edible themes, and an increasing amount of copy allocated to restaurant reviews, chef profiles and other food-centric content. The same can be said for Sactown magazine, with its recent brunch issue.

At its best, this food-writing community translates the passions and challenges of local chefs and restaurateurs into lively prose. Instead of succumbing to public relations hype or acting as perpetual "yes" people, they offer credible critiques of local eateries and sum up the local food history and trends we savor.

Thumb through the latest issue of the seasonal publication Edible Sacramento to see a perfect example. You'll find an erudite primer on port wine, a gorgeous photo essay on Masullo Pizza, a lively roundup of local ramen houses, and more. This is one satisfying mix of stories, reflecting the flavors that make Sacramento such a great food town.

Edible's latest issue covers a high-low range of topics, including a piece with a Guatemalan coffee producer and writer Becky Grunewald sampling cocktail specialities at local dive bars. Sarah Singleton leads a thoughtful round-table discussion with some of the area's most prominent pastry chefs that touches on manquats, carbonated consommé and overcoming a lack of respect in restaurant kitchens.

Edible Sacramento, which comes out four times a year, debuted in 2005 as part of Edible Communities, its parent company that oversees more than 60 food magazines in north America. Edible Communities won the 2011 James Beard Award as publication of the year.

Under the leadership of Ryan Donahue, a prominent food photographer, Edible Sacramento has never been better. Donahue is into his third issue as managing partner and co-owner. Donahue helped assemble this latest team of writers, many of whom were on the staff at the defunct Midtown Monthly.

"I want to keep a strong stable of writers, artists and photographers, and tell stories the best we can," said Donahue. "We have world-class cuisine on every level and we want to point more people to go off the (midtown) grid. We're doing as much as we can to engage the community."

Look for Edible Sacramento, a free publication, at Corti Brothers, Selland's Market Cafe, Nugget Markets, Tuli Bistro and Pangaea Two Brews Cafe, among other locations.

A digital version is at

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to subscribe to a free magazine, Edible Sacramento offers cool incentives, including coupons to Kru for subscribers.

These are the good times on Sacramento's food scene. Thanks to the fellow food writers, and especially Edible Sacramento, for giving us something to chew on.

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