Appetizers Food & Dining blog logo
GV42NIVO1.2Senior Photographer
Paul Kitagaki Jr./
Rodney Ray holds full slab of ribs and displays other meats and sides at his Taste of Texas BBQ in Sacramento.

Rodney Ray, the pitmaster and entrepreneur who opened the thriving T&R Taste of Texas Barbeque in Oak Park on a gamble and a dream three years ago, is taking another leap.

Ray’s new restaurant, Sticky Fingers, scheduled to open the first week of September, will specialize in soul food and barbecue “in the traditional Southern ‘one (meat) and three (sides) setup, but I’m going to start with one and two,” he said. Desserts will play a major role, as well.

Sticky Fingers will occupy the former site of Rick’s Dessert Diner at 2322 K St. in midtown Sacramento. The 27-year-old dessert restaurant reopened Friday in a larger space at 2401 J St.

Sticky Fingers will operate under the fast-casual concept, in which diners will order from a “Panda Express-style (template)” of freshly cooked soul food, barbecue items and side dishes, Ray said. Some of the dishes will be prepared at T&R, which is housed in a distinct mustard-yellow building at 3621 Broadway.

Courtesy of Westin St. Francis
The grand dame St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco, shortly after its grand opening in 1904.

Few pastimes are more entertaining to chefs, home cooks and other foodies than reading vintage cookbooks, marveling at classic recipes, ingredients and techniques. Actually, we can think of one that’s better: Tasting the dishes made from those retro recipes.

Now you can do both, as the St. Francis Hotel on posh Union Square in San Francisco continues to celebrate its 110th anniversary.

Let’s start with some history: Envisioning San Francisco as the “Paris of the West,” railroad pioneer Charles T. Crocker and his monied posse built the St. Francis for $2.5 million — a staggering sum in the day — and christened it in 1904. It quickly set a new standard for luxury and became a social hub for the city’s upper crust. It was widely known as “the heartbeat of San Francisco.”

Two structures now comprise the Westin St. Francis. The best one is the original 12-story grand dame, which underwent a $40 million “transformation” a few years back. It’s loaded with character and charm, and takes visitors on a trip back in time.

Reminisce magazine
One of the vintage ice-cream ads in a slideshow compiled by Reminisce magazine.

Remember Sealtest ice cream? The jingle went, “Get the best....get Sealtest!” What about Lady Borden and Meadow Gold?

Step back in history with Reminisce, the “magazine that brings back the good times” from the 1900s to the 1980s. The “top-selling nostalgia magazine” has posted a slide show of vintage ice-cream ads from the 1950s and 1960s at

Also at the site are vintage candy ads for Lifesavers, and “Time Capsule Trivia.”

Try this one from “Fad Diets Trivia”: “This meal plan allows beets, eggplant, plums and other colorful produce.” That would be the Purple Diet.

Wednesday, July 30 2014
Say cheese at this convention

This week at the Sacramento Convention Center, it’s all about the cheese.

Cheesemakers, sellers and lovers from throughout the nation convened in Sacramento on Wednesday for the 31st annual American Cheese Society conference and competition. Representing almost every state, an estimated 950 members of the cheese industry gathered at the convention center, “Celebrating the American Cheese Plate,” the conference’s official theme.

“We’re very, very happy to be here,” said ACS executive director Nora Weiser. “California is a great cheese state, across the board.”

Last year’s conference was held in Wisconsin, also famous for its cheese, she said. “We move around to different areas each year, so smaller producers have an opportunity to attend.”

Debbie Arrington
The final four for $1 million in Lay’s Do Us A Flavor contest. Sacramento’s Julia Stanley-Metz came up with the Wavy Mango Salsa idea.
Sacramento’s Julia Stanley-Metz shows off a new bag of her Wavy Mango Salsa potato chips, a finalist in Lay’s $1 million flavor search. Her chips are in stores now while consumers can vote online.

Julia Stanley-Metz fell in love with the flavor of her husband’s mango salsa. She hopes the rest of the nation will agree — especially if that fruity salsa taste is packed into a potato chip. If they do, the Sacramento mom could win $1 million.

Stanley-Metz, 38, is one of four finalists in Lay’s Potato Chips’ “Do Us A Flavor” contest to create a new variety for the iconic snack product. Her entry — Wavy Salsa Mango — was inspired by husband Rick Metz’s salsa.

“During the school year, we have Taco Tuesdays every week where we get together and cook things from our garden,” Stanley-Metz said. “My husband started making fruit salsas. Once we tried it, we never went back (to plain tomato salsa). Who knew that cooking together could pay off in such a big way?”

Consumers have until Oct. 18 to vote to “#SaveMango” in the online contest at Chip lovers can vote up to four times a day — once on each social media platform — via the website, Twitter, Instagram or texting “Mango” to 24477 (CHIPS). The flavor with the most votes brings home the million-dollar grand prize plus becomes a permanent part of Lay’s family of chips.

Allen Pierleoni/
Get a taste of Roy’s Seasonings on Thursday at Corti Bros. Market.

Walking by the display case full of jars and bags of Roy’s Seasonings, three words on the signage stopped us in our tracks: “Strong and bold.” Hey, no one has time to waste on wimpy seasonings when you can climb higher on the flavor ladder, right?

We took home a few of the 12 flavors, fired up the grill and tried them on a chicken breast, a rack of St. Louis-style pork ribs and a salmon fillet. We liked them just fine, in this order: Devil’s Delight (with ghost peppers), Island Jerk (with jalapeno peppers) and Lemonicious (with lemon sage).

We also marked the calendar for a public tasting of the seasonings Thursday at Corti Bros. Market.

Then we checked in at Roy’s Seasonings’ website, One of the points owner Roy Campbell makes there is: “What sets my all-natural seasonings apart from others is their Italian herb base.” We also found an array of recipes.

Carl Costas/ Sacramento Bee file
Bulls Bar and Grill, known in Sacramento for its mechanical bull ride, has closed.

The country-western-themed Bulls Bar and Grill, famous in downtown Sacramento for its mechanical bull ride, has closed.

Owner Andrea Martin, who opened the restaurant in 2010, confirmed in a phone call Tuesday that the restaurant at 1330 H St., near the Wells Fargo Pavilion, has been sold to a new owner. She declined to share details of the agreement.

“Someone came in and offered to buy the location and the business, and my lease was going up,” she said. “Everything fell into place.”

Martin regrets not being able to give her customers more specifics about the closure, due to uncertainties about when certain business licenses would be transferred to the new owner. The new owner’s name was not available.

Bob Fila/MCT

Let’s raise a glass and think pink. The sweltering days of summer have arrived, but it’s the opportune time to sample rosé. While these colorful wines may have once been sniffed at by certain circles of wine snobs, rosé has enjoyed a renaissance due to their food friendliness and refreshing character, especially when sipping on a warm day.

Rosés are found in a variety of hues, from salmon pink to darker expressions that could pass for beaujolais nouveau. Their flavor profiles are varied, too, including subtle strawberry notes to full-bodied versions that don’t hold back on fruitiness. Even better: scoring a great bottle of rosé for $15 or under is fairly easy.

For those looking to explore the wide world of rosé, Enotria will be holding a Pink Party on Friday with a tasting of 14 roses from around the world and pink foods prepared by chef Gabriel Glasier. Guests are encouraged to wear their finest pink outfit, and the best will win a magnum of Red Car Bybee Vineyard Rosé.

The event is being organized by Matthew Lewis of wineCentric, and he intends on making the competition fierce by sporting a pink seersucker jacket.

G5T2MLIQV.2Senior Photographer
Manny Crisostomo/
One of the featured dance groups at last year’s Festa Italiana was from Naples, Italy.

Sure, there’s plenty of good pizza in restaurants around town, but lovers of Italian cuisine can go beyond that staple and into more interesting fare at Festa Italiana. Heap your plates with Italian sausage and meatballs, pasta, chicken Parmesan, calamari, cannoli, gelato and much more.

The festival of all-things-Italian goes still further, with singers and bands, games and rides for children, bocce ball competitions, auto and motorscooter exhibits, a marketplace full of imported goods, and an hourly raffle culminating in a trip to Italy.

Check out Festa Italiana from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 2 and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Croatian Center, 3730 Auburn Blvd., Sacramento. Admission is $12, free for ages 15 and younger. Free parking.

Information and ticket sales:

Allen Pierleoni/
Thomas’ bakery offers another limited-edition line of bagels and English muffins, this time in Apple Pie flavor.

Last April, Thomas’ bakery introduced limited-edition offerings of maple french toast-flavored bagels and cinnamon-vanilla English muffins, which were available until earlier this month. They were especially tasty when toasted, of course, filling the kitchen with the scents of maple and vanilla.

Now the 130-year-old company — owned by Bimbo Bakeries of Lehigh Valley, Pa. — is back with more limited-edition products, this time cinnamon-redolent Apple Pie English muffins and bagels. They’re on store shelves now through October, for about $4 to $4.50 per package.

We repeated the April taste test with the new products, with similar results. We popped the bagel halves into the toaster, but they were too soft when they popped up. So we toasted them some more and got crisper but still puffy bread that tasted and smelled like .... well, apples and cinnamon, which was a good thing.

The English muffins came out of the toaster crisper and pleasingly thinner (naturally), maintaining a less-intense aroma of apple and cinnamon than before they went in. They had plenty of Thomas’ trademark “nooks and crannies,” the little pockets that hold melted butter or jam (in our case, chunky apple butter).

Wednesday, July 23 2014
Pear Fair celebrates crop with fun
Kyle Grantham/
A patron sorts through a bin of pears at the annual Courtland Pear Fair in Courtland. The celebration of locally grown Bartletts and other pears will be held July 27.

It’s that juicy time of year again to embrace an iconic fruit that helped shape the Sacramento Delta farm region: The pear.

In particular, the familiar Bartlett is the star of the show at the 42nd annual Pear Fair, to be held Sunday in Courtland in the heart of Sacramento’s pear country. The fairgrounds are located off Highway 160 along the banks of the Sacramento River. Enter the parking lot at Wilson Road, about a mile north of town.

New this year is a quilt show in addition to the fair’s many favorite attractions including live music, kids’ activities, classic car show, wine tasting, duck calling contest, fun run and the 1 p.m. Pear Parade.

Of course, there will be tons of pears, both fresh and made into treats. Among the annual favorites on the very peary menu: pear smoothie, pear-tini, pear-mosa, pear pie, pear streudel and pear ice cream. The fun starts at 9 a.m. Sunday and continues until dusk.

Wednesday, July 23 2014
More tips on preserving tomatoes
Debbie Arrington
Before and after the hot-water bath: The jar on the left contains raw, peeled tomatoes before going into the hot-water bath for processing. The jar on the right has been processed for 85 minutes in boiling water. That cooking process presses juice down to the bottom of the jar.

An avalanche of home-grown tomatoes motivated me to get busy in the kitchen. Even though I’ve “put up” countless tomatoes, I still haul out the recipes and double-check the instructions.

So does Lillian Smith, a longtime UC master food preserver from Rio Linda.

“There are so many variables,” Smith said.

Take processing time, for example. “It depends on how you pack the tomatoes and the size,” Smith said. “They could be in the hot-water bath for 40 minutes at the least (for hot packed) up to 75 or 85 minutes (for raw pack).”

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.

FOLLOW US | Get more from | Follow us on Twitter | Become a fan on Facebook | Watch Bee news, lifestyle videos | View our mobile versions | e-edition: Print edition online | What our bloggers are saying
Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by
Quick Job Search
Sign up for The Feast: Food and Drink Newsletter     
Submission was successful. Go here to sign up for more newsletters.
There seems to have been an error with your submission. Try again
We're sorry but you are already subscribed. BeeBuzz Points Find n Save