Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Sacramento candy shop sprints to opening day

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

For just a moment, candy connoisseur Andy Paul has forgotten that he is sprinting toward the opening of his sweets shop at the 800 J Lofts building by Dec. 6.

Paul is completely focused on describing the delights that customers will find at Andy’s Candy Apothecary: “There’s this guy called Barlovento, and he’s out of Oakland. One of the first chocolates I’ve tried of his was a fresh mint chocolate truffle, and I bit into it, and I was tasting fresh mint in this crazy way that I’d never had before, and I said, ‘How do you do that?’ And he said he doesn’t use peppermint oil, which is what a lot of peppermint chocolates taste like. They taste kind of medicinal, you know. He steeps mint leaves in cream, and then he uses that cream to make the truffle center, and you get this crazy, fresh mint.”

That brief moment is a taste of what customers can expect from Paul, who won $135,000 worth of in-kind services in the Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s “Calling All Dreamers” business idea contest last July. He gave his employer two months’ notice and dived into all the little details and big ideas that it takes to open a business. He’s spoken with a legion of candy makers, big and small, providing them with the assurances they needed to let him sell their products. He’s worked with MC Designs to create a logo, packaging and labels for his candies. He and Vision Launchers are close to getting up and running. MarketOne Builders has gone into overdrive to have his space ready.

“There’s a thousand things on the to-do list, and it just never seems to stop growing,” Paul said. “It won’t all get done by the time we open, and that makes me a little nervous, but you know what’s funny? If you’d asked me three weeks ago, I’d have been really nervous about that, and we’ve just learned to just roll with it. You get caught up in everything being perfect from Day 1, and then you realize, ‘Well, no, you want to make sure you’re functional, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. If something’s not ready exactly on that day, we can roll it out in a month or two, and that’s just fine.”

Auctioneer’s new calling

People are always asking charity benefit auctioneer David Sobon whether he does estate auctions. For years, his answer was no, but that’s changed.

“Once every couple weeks, at least once a month, I’d get a phone call, ‘Oh, we have this stuff to sell. My grandmother died, and we’ve got a whole storage unit and we want to auction this stuff off,’” Sobon said. “I always referred all those clients away, and finally one day after meeting ( Conor McGowan) and seeing him do some of his nonprofit work, I said, ‘You need to come and join forces with me.’ So between him and Pat Hume, they were both trained in Billings, Mont., at the auction school, so they have all the experience in doing those kind of estate sales.”

Sobon is kicking off his entry into the estate auction business Dec. 7 by helping Fringe proprietress Audrey Wells sell off a number of items she acquired upon the death of antiques dealer John Conaty. For many years, before moving his business to San Francisco, Conaty ran X-21 Modern at the spot on 21st and X streets where Wells’ Fringe is now located.

Conaty sold notable pieces such as furniture designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eames swivel chairs, but Sobon said this auction won’t have much by these big names. Rather, he and Wells said, it is a tribute to Conaty’s knack for identifying period furnishings that are desirable. Sobon isn’t completely leaving his charity auction roots behind with this initial sale. He’s arranged for local artist Raphael Delgado to hand-pick a dozen items from the collection that will be sold Dec. 6 at an auction preview party, and proceeds will go to the Sacramento Arts and Business Council.

Want to learn more about the auction and preview? Go to

Raise your chopsticks

Basmati and Thai jasmine have dominated the winners circle at the World’s Best Rice competition for the past four years, but this year, Sacramento Valley growers took center stage at an industry convention in Hong Kong.

Gridley rice grower Matt Boeger was there to collect the award as Calrose, the medium-grain rice often used to make sushi, tied Cambodian fragrant rice for the title. California produces about 4 billion pounds of Calrose a year.

“Basmati and Thai jasmine type of rice, they trade at a significant premium in the marketplace as compared with what we see for Calrose,” Boeger said, “and I think California bringing home the World’s Best Rice award really validates what many of us have been saying for a long time. California medium-grain is a very, very high-quality premium variety in the global marketplace and should be traded as such.”

The industry’s leading trade publication, Rice Trader, names a Lord of the Rice to judge the contest with the help of chefs from the host country. This year’s Lord of the Rice was none other than Sacramento sushi chef Taro Arai, the owner of Mikuni. He told me that he inspected the grains and then cooked all 25 rices in the competition.

“I cooked each one 40 times, over and over to get it right before I tested them,” he said. “... I looked 10 minutes later, 30 minutes later to see if the rice kept the same quality or not.”