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Chris Macias/
The Goldfield Trading Post menu includes the French dip-style “cowpoke steak sandwich.”
Chris Macias/
Goldfield Trading Post is a country music club and eatery in Sacramento.

First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at .

Sacramento’s certainly become more cosmopolitan over the past decade, given its welcoming of $12 artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches and impeccably prepared craft cocktails. But make no mistake, y’all: Sacramento’s always been a country kind of town.

The biggest stars in country music can always count on a show in Sacramento, whether it’s Taylor Swift or Tim McGraw. (By comparison, folks had to travel to San Francisco to see Jay-Z and Beyoncé in concert). Much of the country action has taken place in the ‘burbs, through such defunct clubs as In Cahoots and Denim ’n’ Diamonds.

But that country flavor has slowly started to migrate toward the central city, including Stoney Rockin Rodeo on Del Paso Boulevard and the now-shuttered Bulls Restaurant & Bar near 13th and H streets.

Andy Alfaro/ Sacramento Bee file
The Buggy Whip was a longtime fixture on Fulton Avenue. After closing in 2012, the restaurant is now preparing to reopen.
Andy Alfaro/ Sacramento Bee file
The Buggy Whip was known for such hearty dinners as steak and prawns (shown here in 2010). Those items are expected to be back on the menu when the restaurant reopens in October.

An iconic Sacramento restaurant is about to make a comeback.

A dining scene fixture for half a century before its 2012 closure, the Buggy Whip is expected to reopen in October at its same location on Fulton Avenue.

“We’re back,” said Larry LeSieur, the Buggy Whip’s longtime owner and now general manager. “We have 50 years of goodwill and we’re going to build on it. People know the Buggy Whip.”

The Buggy Whip’s comeback is welcome news to Sacramento restaurant lovers. Many longtime restaurants close, but very few ever reopen.

Thursday, August 21 2014
A 10-memories salute to chef Julia Child
James Scherer/ BW
Julia Child was a subject of the PBS series “American Masters” in 2004.

Given that chef Julia Child was born in an August (1912) and passed away in an August (2004), it seems fitting that August should be the unofficial Julia Child Month.

Maybe that’s what the editors at the all-things-food-and-drink website were thinking when they recently asked 10 chefs and food writers to recall their favorite memories of Julia Child.

One of those recollections, from chef-cookbook author James Villas, goes like this: “Every time I met up with Julia, I knew to bring her a bag of her favorite snack — Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. She could and would consume the entire bag by the time we parted.”

Child, the late chef-cookbook author-TV personality and international icon, once was just another American living with her spouse in Paris. That is, until she quickly fell in love with French cuisine and signed up at the legendary Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Later, in 1961, she revolutionized the American home kitchen with “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, “ in collaboration with chefs Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.

Allen Pierleoni/
Root 9 “vitality drink” contains red ginseng from South Korea.

For millennia, ginseng has been used as an herbal “remedy” believed to rejuvenate the body and mind, alleviate fatigue and stimulate cognition.

Sacramento entrepreneur Paul Vonasek and his partners are touting their Root 9 ginseng-based “vitality drink” for its “wide range of benefits,” which they say include boosting energy, metabolism, memory and libido.

The product contains “the highest grade of Korean red ginseng,” which is produced in a specific area of South Korea and is aged for six years before going to market.

The zero-calorie, sugar-free drink is lightly carbonated and has an intriguing flavor, akin to a mild strawberry-like taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s a pleasant alternative to caffeine-heavy energy drinks and cloyingly sweet soda.

Rudy’s Hideaway/
Rudy’s Hideaway restaurant has a roaming food truck, the Cruzin’ Crustacean, whose menu includes a New England-style lobster roll.

Are you looking for a lobster roll, the New England specialty of Maine lobster heaped on a bun? Aren’t we all?

My story on the lobster roll, which appeared in Wednesday’s Food & Wine section, named three area restaurants that serve the regional sandwich — Ella Dining Room & Bar and Matteo’s Bistro in Sacramento, and the New Haven Pub & Grill in foothills Pollock Pines.

Add Rudy’s Hideaway to the list, the venerable seafood house that sells its lobster roll for $19, describing it as: “Over a quarter-pound of Maine lobster meat sauteed with a pinch of celery and served on a soft toasted roll with natural-cut fries. Drawn butter and mayonnaise on the side.”

The lobster roll is also served out of Rudy’s roaming food truck, the Cruzin’ Crustacean, which has a route of upcoming stops here.

Chris Macias
Chris Dooley of Ella Dining Room & Bar takes first place at the Midtown Cocktail Week cocktail competition and announces his retirement from the contest circuit.

Chris Dooley of Ella Dining Room & Bar (pictured above) emerged from Midtown Cocktail Week’s cocktail competition $1,000 richer on Tuesday night at Harlow’s. His drink, an elaborately presented “Bloomsbury Bramble” which was surrounded by orchids and looked like a scene from “Fantasy Island,” topped all contendors.

The eight bartenders duking it out cocktail style were actually the finalists from a pool of 24 hopefuls who competed in a preliminary round on Aug. 11. All hopefuls were required to use Tanqueray No. TEN gin in their drink. I helped determine the winner Tuesday night in a judging panel that included Jayson Wilde, a Shady Lady alum and current general manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco, Rick Dobbs (owner of The Last Word in Livermore) and Tanqueray national brand ambassador (and former Sacramentan) Rachel Ford.

Dooley scored big with his spin on a bramble, a classic and fairly sweet gin-based drink that’s synonymous with England and traditionally garnished with blackberries. Dooley enhanced the pronounced citrus notes of the Tanqueray with a bit of Japanese yuzu juice, used a sous vide technique to extract the maximum flavor from the blackberries used in his mix, and added a layer of coconut foam as a topper.

Alycia Rubio of Grange, who tied for third place with Shady Lady’s Travis Kavanaugh, also showed some crafty techniques in her cocktail. Her creation, the “Rusty Pearl,” was like something from The Aviary in Chicago. The cocktail was paired with an amuse bouche (amuse booze?) that incorporated Mission figs cooked sous vide style in averna liqueur, and then formed into a burst-in-your-mouth globule via a reverse spherification technique. The cocktail itself utilized the gin, honey liqueur, fresh cracked pepper and lemon zest. Yes, that’s quite a mouthful of a description, but the important part is the cocktail was done well and deserved to be in the winners’ circle.

Chris Macias
Chris Dooley’s winning drink from the Midtown Cocktail Week cocktail competition.

Eight of Sacramento’s best bartenders brought their A-game to Harlow’s Tuesday night for the Midtown Cocktail Week cocktail competition.

The drinks includes riffs on the Negroni, some Tiki-inspired cocktails and one with a touch of molecular gastronomy. At stake: $1,000 and some serious bragging rights.

We’ll have more shortly on the night’s proceedings and some words from this year’s cocktail champion. For now, here are the winners:

1st: Chris Dooley of Ella Dining Room & Bar

Wednesday, August 20 2014
Quick and easy sugars hit sweet spots
C&H Sugar
C&H Sugar’s new flip-top Quick Dissolve Superfine Sugar is perfect for adding to drinks, hot or cold.

Adding a touch of sweetness got a lot easier with two new products from C&H: Quick Dissolve Superfine Sugar and Pourable Golden Brown Sugar.

Rolled out in Sacramento supermarkets this summer, these products both hit their own sweet spot. Ground much finer than table sugar (and 15 calories per teaspoon), the superfine sugar dissolves on contact when added to drinks, hot or cold. That makes it perfect for iced tea, hot tea or even mixing cocktails (when you’re all out of simple syrup but got to have a daiquiri in a hurry). Unlike clumpy packaged brown sugar, this pourable variety flows easily out of the container in individual crystals, just right for sprinkling on oatmeal or over fruit — and only 10 calories per teaspoon.

Packaged in sleek 12-ounce flip-top containers, these sugars don’t take much counter or shelf space either. Suggested retail price is $2.75 for 12 ounces. Learn more and get a discount coupon at C&H Sugar’s official website.

Wednesday, August 20 2014
How many melons can you name?
Randy Pench/
A selection of a few of the many melons is displayed at Maple Rock Gardens on Aug. 7 in Penryn, Calif., as it readies for its first Melon Mania harvest festival on Aug. 23.

Melon Mania is shaping up to be tons of fun and flavor with more than 40 varieties of melon ready to hit their peak of ripeness.

We got a sneak peak of Saturday’s salute to heirloom melons at Maple Rock Gardens in Penryn. The farm and gardens are about 45 minutes from downtown Sacramento.

We saw — and tasted — many melons during our preview with farmer Jakob Stevens, who planted and tends five acres of melons at Maple Rock Gardens.

The whole project was an experiment, said owner Scott Paris. Among many things, it showed that melons actually grow pretty well in Placer County —particularly some of the lesser known heirlooms.

Wednesday, August 20 2014
Poised for expansion, Kru hires new chef
Bee staff
Chef Ricky Yap

Billy Ngo, the owner/chef of Kru, has hired a highly regarded chef from San Francisco as he readies for a major expansion in the coming months.

The new hire, Ricky Yap, studied at California State University, Sacramento, and fell into the world of sushi when he landed a part-time job at Tokyo Fro’s.

But that was years ago. Yap went on to star in San Francisco and turned heads when his food at Akiko’s Restaurant earned a glowing review in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I was hearing things about this restaurant, and so I went there and ate,” said Ngo, whose Japanese fusion and sushi restaurant is prized by aficionados. “I was really, really impressed with the level of food they were doing, with a lot of different techniques.”

Hector Amezcua/
A John Deer-BO model tractor that was built in 1946.

Celebrations of Sacramento as America’s “Farm-to-Fork Capital” will run from Sept. 13 to Sept. 28, and a preview event will feature a parade of tractors. This procession of tractors showcasing farm machinery from the past and present will take place along the Capitol Mall at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 12.

The event is similar in spirit to a cattle drive on the Capitol Mall, which helped christen the debut of “Farm-to-Fork Week” in 2013 and its showcase of the region’s agri-business through restaurant specials, a free festival and gala dinner on the Tower Bridge. More than two dozen tractors are expected to participate in the parade, with some of this farm equipment donated by the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“It obviously fits in with the theme of farm-to-fork,” said Mike Testa, vice president of the City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is a visual way to illustrate farming in this region.”

Allen Pierleoni/
You’ll find real East Coast pizza at Dominick’s, along with homemade meatballs covered in mozzarella cheese and baked in marinara sauce.

Husband and wife Dominick and Raquel Bellizzi came to town from New Jersey nearly 10 years ago, bringing their delicatessen and pizza-making expertise with them. Since then, their four-star trattoria and two delis have been reviewed in my column, “Counter Culture,” which appears in the Friday Ticket section.

Now word comes of their fund-raiser for the Greater Sacramento Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Pizza, wine-tasting and live entertainment will be on the menu from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Dominick’s New York Pizza & Deli, 187 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom; (916) 351-0900, Donations are $25. Proceeds will go to the society.

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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