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Courtesy of Habit Burger.
Habit Burger has several locations in the Sacramento region.

A burger chain with outposts in Sacramento, Davis, Elk Grove and Granite Bay was just named best in America by Consumer Reports, beating out better-known burger vendors In-N-Out and Five Guys.

Founded in Santa Barbara in 1969, The Habit Burger Grill offers a fairly classic signature burger: meat with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, mayonnaise and pickle on a toasted bun. The chain, with branches throughout California, Utah and Arizona, also serves fare less expected at a burger spot, such as a barbecue chicken sandwich and an albacore tuna sandwich.

By 10:45 Friday morning, The Habit’s website was down, perhaps due to millions of Americans simultaneously trying to figure out how they could get their hands on a burger they had just heard of. For now, anyone who lives on the East coast is out of luck. But that will change later this year when the company’s first eastern franchise opens in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

Back in Sacramento, Habit Burger will reportedly become one of the few chains to open a spot in midtown, taking on 2,500 square feet in a building on 16th and O streets.

Marti Dunne/ Photo courtesy Marti and Mike Dunne
Mike Dunne at one of his favorite destinations of his morning walk, the estuary of San Jose del Cabo.

Mike Dunne, the former longtime wine and food critic for The Bee, shared his thoughts about the State Fair’s wine competition and the enjoyments that wine in general can provide during a live chat on Wednesday.

His comments and answers to questions posed by chat participants provided further insights about the state of wine in California and how he best enjoys the many versions of the drink that blesses this region.

The following are excerpts from the hourlong session:

Question: What wine goes best with a deep-fried Twinkie?

Jose Luis Villegas/

Track 7 is expanding.

The Sacramento brewing company announced Tuesday that it has leased a 35,000-square-foot property in Natomas, which it plans to use as its “manufacturing, packaging and distribution facility,” according to a press release. The new brewery will also house a tasting room and offices.

The Natomas space will allow for increased production and enable Track 7, launched in 2011, to serve new markets, owners said.

While the company is set to brew approximately 2,800 barrels of beer this year, “the Natomas facility will give us an opening capacity of about 8,000 barrels of beer,” said co-owner Geoff Scott, helping the brewery to grow business in the East Bay, the Central Valley and beyond.

Michael Allen Jones/Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

As the saying goes, the latest food festival to debut in Sacramento ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

Sactown Wings will take place on Aug. 23 at Fremont Park (16th and P streets) from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., featuring a variety of chicken wings that can be washed down with local beers. Among those restaurants which will be vending their best wings: Chicago Fire, Barwest, Fieldhouse American Sports Pub, Blue Cue and Water’z Wingz.

Sactown Wings joins a run of new food festivals which have recently been announced, including Sacratomato Week from July 21 - July 27, and Specialty Coffee Week in October. Sactown Wings organizers expect up to 1,000 attendees will chow down on chicken wings in various styles, including buffalo and barbecued wings.

“There are a lot of wing lovers, but there isn’t (a festival) designed around chicken wings,” said Nick Berruezo, the founder of Sactown Wings. “It seems fun and summery, and a good excuse to get outdoors. A lot of restaurants around Sacramento feature chicken wings but don’t always get the publicity for them. You have Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings, but locals should also get credit.”

Brian Nguyen/

Enotria’s recent hosting of (yet another) “grand opening” left many wondering about the status of the restaurant’s former chef Pajo Bruich, that maestro of molecular gastronomy with Michelin-star ambitions who’s culinary brio and poise made the Del Paso Heights eatery one of Sacramento’s best-reviewed spots.

Bruich and Enotria split ways in January when the restaurant closed temporarily, only to open again months later as wine bar and events space with a humbler food program, run by Gabriel Glasier, formerly of Maranello and Slocum House.

So where is Bruich – who not long ago organized a series of high-profile guest-chef dinners that brought Bay Area culinary stars Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn and SPQR’s Matthew Accarrino to Sacramento – now unpacking his knives?

Not surprisingly, he’s in San Francisco, having been named executive chef of Bourbon Steak, located in The Westin St. Francis.

G4R2J2ACG.3Senior Photographer
Paul Kitagaki Jr./
Old Soul Coffee is planning to expand in Davis and in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood.
Randy Pench/ Sacramento Bee file
Coffee roaster Old Soul, with three cafes in the capital area, plans to open a new coffee shop and bar in downtown Davis and expand its Oak Park site.

Old Soul, the popular coffee roaster with cafes in midtown, Oak Park and the Sacramento International Airport, announced expansion plans Thursday that will see the company spend close to $500,000 renovating two properties and hiring 32 full-time employees.

Old Soul co-owners Tim Jordan and Jason Griest said they are opening a new coffee shop and bar in downtown Davis, taking over the 5,900-square-foot building on G Street occupied by the long-running Czech restaurant Little Prague, which is closing soon.

Old Soul is also expanding its Oak Park presence in Sacramento by taking over a 900-square-foot space on Third Avenue, adjacent to its 40 Acres coffee shop on Broadway. Jordan said they expect to spend up to $200,000 on a new 400-square-foot patio with seating for 24, along with a new kitchen in the building, which had been occupied by Uncle Jed’s Cut Hut, a recently closed barbershop.

The new space has the tentative name Cooper on 3rd. It will emphasize wine with some craft beer, along with what Jordan describes as an “experimental kitchen” that will encourage collaboration with outside food purveyors and area food artisans. It will have a separate entrance from the coffee shop but will be connected via a hallway, once a wall is knocked out, Jordan said.

Allen Pierleoni/
Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bars are sold in three flavors.

Returning in what has become a n yummy tradition, the folks at Nestle Crunch have partnered with the Girl Scouts of America in their joint “reinvention” of the classic Girl Scout cookie (manufactured in Chicago).

The result is the limited-edition Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bar, in three flavors — dark chocolate-covered Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Creme and Caramel & Coconut. They’re available in two sizes “wherever candy bars are sold,” through August.

Sales will benefit the Girl Scouts in a special campaign called “Let’s Get Her To Camp,” which “will help make it possible for hundreds of girls from around the country to attend summer camp.” To participate, click here.

scanned cover/
“GQ Eats” offers recipes from the best restaurants in the United Kingdom.

GQ magazine’s motto is, “Look sharp, live smart.”

It might rightfully add this: “Eat well.”

To demonstrate, “GQ Eats: The Cookbook For Men of Seriously Good Taste” is a collection of recipes from chefs at some of the United Kingdom’s best restaurants (Mitchell Beazley, $30, 223 pages; edited by Paul Henderson).

In the foreword, British chef-restaurateur Heston Blumenthal notes, “If cooking really is the new rock ‘n’ roll, then GQ has been helping spread the word with mouth-watering recipes and ineffably cool pics.”

Moanalani Jeffrey Photography
Heirloom tomato toast will be on the menu at A Taste of Napa.

The good times roll on with the return of the annual Napa Valley Festival del Sole, featuring more than 60 events at various venues around wine country, July 11-20. It’s described as “a celebration of the art of life,” which means that fancy foods and precious wines will meet world-class music, dance and theater.

The segment of the festival that caught our attention is A Taste of Napa, a cornucopia from more than 70 restaurants, wineries and breweries, plus cooking demonstrations, a presentation on “spices and super-nutrients” and more. “Dining Around,” a food show on on KKSS-AM 910, will host a live broadcast aired throughout the Bay Area.

Sip and sup from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. July 12 at 500 First St. in downtown Napa. Tickets are $45 online and at the Festival Box Office, 10 a.m.-4 p.m weekdays (915 Trancas St., Napa). If the event does not sell out, tickets will be sold the day of, at an on-site booth.

For festival pricing, advance tickets and more information:, (888) 337-6272.

Tom Birmingham
The view from the patio at Nepenthe in Big Sur is fabulous, complemented by an appetizer of goat cheese and garlic.

The Travel Channel has long been a faithful companion, accompanying viewers around the globe and introducing them to vicarious adventures they wouldn’t ordinarily experience.

Recently, its producers asked experts in the food-travel field — hosts of food-centric TV shows, professional food writers and photographers, and a select group of foodies — to compile a list that goes like this: “We’ve pulled together 10 foods (from around the nation) that scream ‘summer,’ and the restaurants in iconic summer destinations that prepare them best.”

Taking the title for Best Bar Food is Nepenthe, the fabulous restaurant-compound perched on a mountainside overlooking the Pacific Ocean (48510 Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2345, As good as the food is, the view from the terrace is better.

Food writer-cookbook author Casey Barber reported from the scene: “I'm one of those travelers who stop at Nepenthe in Big Sur after a day of hiking for a few simple pleasures — a glass of wine from Monterey County and some California-made snacks (such as) Laura Chenel goat cheese and creamy roasted Gilroy garlic.”

Kuhn Rikon
From Swiss designer Kuhn Rikon, Hold, Peel, Pop is a new tool that holds fruit and vegetables in place (and safely away from fingers) while peeling.
Kuhn Rikon
Hold, Peel, Pop is a new tool that holds fruit and vegetables in place (and safely away from fingers) while peeling.

Our kitchen tool drawer already has its share of what-is-it’s, but this new item actually is pretty useful — once you figure out what it does.

Called the “Hold, Peel, Pop,” this three-prong tool from Kuhn Rikon keeps vegetables and fruit securely in place for easy peeling while keeping your fingers at a safe distance from the peeler or knife. Once done, push the handle down and the peeled item pops right off. Suggested retail price is $8; available at and kitchen stores.

See Hold, Peel, Pop in action at

In our test, it was strong enough to hold a large potato in place and made peeling faster (and safer). It also worked great with apples. For carrots, just holding the vegetable was easier than inserting the prongs. But the tool proved handy for turnips, beets and other vegetables that can get slippery (or messy) while peeled. This tool also can double as an easy-grip fork to hold items in place while cutting.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer Camp Across America is a seven-stop celebration of craft beers. It starts in Chico on July 19.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
To celebrate the opening of its new North Carolina sister brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will host “Beer Camp Across America” — a gigantic tasting event and celebration of craft brewing — in Chico on July 19.

Here’s a summer outing for grown-ups who love their brew: Beer Camp Across America.

In celebration of opening its new sister brewery on the opposite coast, Chico’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. orchestrated what it hopes to be America’s largest celebration of craft beer in history. This party spans the nation with seven separate festivals. First stop: Sierra Nevada’s own Hop Field on July 19.

“We’re about to open a second brewery in North Carolina, and while that’s exciting for us, it’s an even greater reason to celebrate the future of craft brewers everywhere,” said Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman. “We’ve watched and learned from each other for decades, and together we’ve seen tastes change and craft’s momentum snowball. Beer Camp Across America is our way of reflecting on this—with thousands of brewers, fans and great beers. It should be pretty fun.”

Grossman invited more than 2,700 craft brewers to take part nationwide. For the inaugural camp day, 108 breweries from Northern California, Idaho, Northern Nevada, Oregon and Washington will pour more than 200 different beers. Participating beer makers are limited to two brews apiece. A special edition 12-pack will be available to take home, too.

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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