Friday, July 3, 2015

Pizza Rock offers how many styles of pizza?!?!

Yes, I've eaten at Pizza Rock on occasion, yet one can get an entirely different perspective when meeting the owner and learning more about the restaurant. Media events allow bloggers this opportunity so that we can share what we learn with our friends and readers. This week Pizza Rock's owner, Tony Gemignani, was in town to share some items that were being added to the menu at our Sacramento location.

Now most people may not realize who Tony Gemignani is in the pizza world. He's a pizza rock star. In 2007 he was the first American/non-Italian to win the World Champion Pizza Maker at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy. This was a very big deal, like when Napa wines beat French wines in 1976 (depicted in the movie Bottleshock). And actually, when you look at his pizza bio on the World Champions site, you learn that he actually has won 11 World Champion titles! Being the foremost American expert on pizzas, Tony now teaches classes on pizza making and has a book out, The Pizza Bible, covering every style pizza imaginable.

from Pizza Rock

The Sacramento Pizza Rock is only one of 14 restaurants that he owns in Northern California and Las Vegas. Unfortunately I think most Sacramentans just associate it with "the restaurant with a semi truck coming out over the bar". As I've been doing a lot of restaurant profiles for restaurants and restaurant groups/chains across the entire country (for my day job), I've learned a lot about quality and what makes a restaurant group a success so that it can expand. Tony has obviously found a winning formula by supplying the public with every pizza they could ever want. 

Turns out that Pizza Rock has 9 styles of pizzas and 4 different pizza ovens. I even learned of a couple of pizzas I'd never heard of before. Sure they serve American and Neapolitan, but they also have regional styles such as New York, New Haven, and Detroit. Keep in mind that all of these different styles require different crust recipes, pans, ovens, and temperatures. That's why there are always at least 4 pizza ovens in each of Tony's restaurants. Whether it's coal or wood fired, bread or cornmeal crusts, Tony makes sure that each pizza is made properly. For those that are gluten-free, they have a station and a dedicated oven just for gluten-free pizzas.

Detroit Red-Top style was one that was new to me and a new addition to Sacramento. It has a bread dough crust that is baked in steel blue square pans that originated in Detroit's car manufacturing. The pans get super hot and create a unique crust that is thick and yet the bottom has a toasty crunch unlike any other pizza I've had. It's topped with traditional Cabot and Brick Cheese and two "racing stripes" of marinara. Similar to a Squeeze Inn cheese skirt, the cheese on the edges of this pizza create a unique crusty edge.

Another one I was new to is the Roma pizza. Roma-style pies use more refined flour for the dough, requiring three separate fermentation stages instead of Neopolitan's one. It's rectangular in shape and baked in a Cuppone Italian Electric Brick Oven at a lower temperature than many other styles. This one had prosciutto, parmesean, and balsamic reduction.

A big hit with everyone was this Stout and Sausage pizza —  with Honey Malted Guinness Beer Dough, House Made Mozzarella and Beer Sausage, Caramelized Onions, Fontina, Green Onions, Crushed Red Peppers, Beer Salt & Sweet Guinness Reduction. Full of flavor!

There's more than pizza at Pizza Rock. For instance, they have a pretty good burger! The Burrata Burger is made with  Kobe Beef, Burrata Cheese, Crispy Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Arugula, Balsamic Reduction.

And we tried the Pasta Bolognese with house-made pasta, Italian Sausage in a Light Tomato Cream Sauce, Garlic, Ground Beef, Parmigiano, Onion, Provolone, Pancetta.

Speaking of house-made and sausage, Tony makes his own Calabrese and Sicilian sausage. Here is a new appetizer, the Calabrese sausage with honey. The sweetness of the honey works well with the spice of the sausage. 

If you want a delicious kind of Italian fries, then order these house-cut fries with honey and pancetta. 

There were more pizzas brought out, but it's time to move on to dessert. One of Tony's chefs learned that he like mud pies as a child and so he created 8 different versions and Tony picked the one he liked the most. This one is made with House Made Oreo Cookie Crust and Chocolate Ganache, Coffee and Vanilla Bean Flavored Ice Cream, Topped with Hot Fudge, Caramel and House Made Whipped Cream.

I was more into the Fried Banana Split with 4 Pieces of Fried Banana on Top of a Healthy Scoop of Sea Salt, Caramel and Vanilla Gelato, Topped with Whipped Cream, Caramel and Hot Fudge. 

I came away from the event not only sated with doggie bags for lunch the next day, but also with a new appreciation for Pizza Rock and Tony's expertise. When you consider that most pizza places only focus on one or two styles of pizza, to know that Sacramento has a place that not only serves all styles, but does so expertly and correctly to each style, gives any pizza lover an appreciation of how lucky we are. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Food Events - What will you eat this summer?

The great thing about Sacramento is that we have food events all year long.  Our name of Farm-to-Fork Capitol is appropriate with everything from Baconfest to the Banana Festival. In fact, sometimes competition is fierce for your attention and your dollar.

We are also blessed to be in the middle of so many destinations. With Napa, Tahoe, Reno, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey/Carmel, and Yosemite so close by, there are events to select from throughout Northern California.

Below is the Foodie Calendar through September's Farm-to-Fork Festival. The ones with comments are my favorites that I return to year after year.

July 17-18 Marysville Peach Festival
July 18 Capay Organic Tomato Festival 
July 24-26 Gilroy Garlic Festival
July 27 Courtland Pear Festival

August 2 Cochon Heritage Fire (Napa)
Probably my favorite of the summer, Heritage Fire is a meat lover's dream event. Plucking the best chefs from the Napa Valley and Sacramento. So far I see Michael Thiemann from Mother/Empress listed again and I'm hoping that we have some good Sacramento representation again this year. 

August 8 Woodland Tomato Festival 
August 8-9 Gravenstein Apple Fair

August 15 Sactown Wings

OK. I'm a sucker for wings.  Not the fake chicken breast, boneless wings, but fatty, boney, real wings. Unless I end up camping this weekend, you'll definitely find me here!

August 15-16 SF Street Food Festival

Almost cancelled this year for good, it was saved by moving it out of the Mission District to Pier 70. Another difference seems to be the large addition of actual restaurants instead of keeping the focus on food trucks and tent vendors. It also appears to be two days versus just the Saturday. I'll be keeping my eye on this one because it's a great festival, but undergoing a lot of change.

August 16 Have an Offal Day 3

This is my event and be there or be square! Obviously this is an event for those with strong stomachs. Offal is the term for all the "other" parts of the animal, including organs, skin, feet, tongue, etc. Twelve of Sacramento's top chefs are bringing out their A-game to prove to you that offal can taste offally good.

Aug 20-23 Eat Drink SF
August 29-30 Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival
Aug 30 Jewish Food Faire
Sept 4-6 Greek Food Festival
Sept 12 Fruit-to-Root Food Literacy Fair
Sept 12-13 Crawdad & Catfish Festival

Sept 17 Sac Burger Battle

Another Must-Do as this has got to be one of the best run food events in Sacramento put on by my very own friend, Rodney AKA Burgerjunkies. Do you have the stomach capacity to taste 15 burgers and then vote on the best one? It's an ordeal I am willing to do every September.

Sept 18-20     Eat Real Festival
Sept 26 - Farm to Fork Festival 

You have to be Sacramento proud and attend F2F! This festival is the finale of the month's activities, but the key is to keep an eye out for all the not yet announced activities and dinners during September. Some, like the Tower Bridge Dinner, carry a big price tag, but there are a few that are affordable or even free. 

By the way, if you are organizing an event yourself,  then consider using Eventbrite for ticketing and event management. I've been using it for the last four years and that's where Offal Day tickets are sold from. Not everything has to be cash transactions — they'll handle free events as well. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Checking in with Chando

via Sac Bee
It had been well over a year since I last saw Chando Madrigal. We had met in the early days of the gourmet truck movement here in Sacramento, at the time when we founded SactoMoFo. Chando was one of the first Sacramento trucks on the scene, close on the heels of Krushburger (then Miniburger) and Drewski's.

I was lucky in that my office building where I now work was hosting a luncheon for the tenants and they called in Chando's to cater it. I was happy to see that Chando himself arrived on site and we were able to take a few minutes to catch up.

Chando's been busy since those early days. Since we first met he's opened locations in South Sacramento and in Roseville as well as adding a second truck.

He's also been getting some great national press. Last year the blog FiveThirtyEight did a search for the country's best burrito.  For the entire nation, Chando's came in at a tie for 7th place and in the top 20 overall. (Many of the positions had 2 or 3-way ties.) Then in April Chando's was named in Saveur magazine's article on California's historic tortilla-packed Highway 99

I asked him if he was ready to open location #4, possibly in Folsom and he said he's taking a break. His next project is actually to create a central facility where all of the catering and supply will function out of. At this location he can accept all deliveries, prep for catering events, and even make his own tortillas and more items from scratch. 

Then I wondered if he was ever going to do a regular restaurant versus a fast food/fast casual concept. He says he has an idea in his head, but it will be some time before that comes to fruition.

In the meantime I'll have to head over to the Arden Way stand and try this famous burrito. He says that they don't put beans or rice in them, only all the other fixings. This suits me just fine as I always order mine without rice and beans anyway. It's less carbs and less of a gut bomb. I've always been a regular for his great fish tacos (grilled, not fried) and the mulitas. 

Whatever Chando touches has been golden of late and so as the future unfolds I'm sure we'll see even more great things. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First (real) look: Iron Horse Tavern

Trio of mac n cheese

Last week I wrote about the opening event at Iron Horse Tavern. I was (am) really excited about this particular new restaurant because I was impressed by the look, atmosphere, and the menu. Being that it was a special event, it didn't really count as a review.

Tonight I returned again with a group of old coworkers. I thought it would be fun for us to check out the Asian fusion tavern menu that Iron Horse serves. Now generally it's not good to review a restaurant so soon after opening, but I couldn't wait to really try them out and here was an opportunity to try several items with a group of friends.

Suffice it to say, we had a really great evening with service, food, and drink. We also lucked out.  After we put in our food order the first four dishes magically appeared in literally about a minute. We were like, "Wow! These guys are fast!" But we eventually figured out that our table had been delivered the order from the next table over, which was nearly exactly like our own order. So we got an extra pizza out of the deal. This table/food confusion continued throughout the night making me think I want to be sitting at that table from now on if the table confusion can continue in my favor! Except for that error, the service was very good. The staff were friendly, attentive, and efficient. 

I have to highly recommend Happy Hour. All the pizzas and small plates are half off from 3-6pm. We took advantage of that and for all the food you are about to see, the bill itself was only $68. There are, of course, drink specials as well. The only drawback is that the mocktails are not included in HH pricing, which seems stupid to me. After all, mocktails don't have any alcohol in them in the first place, so why shouldn't they be given a HH discount?

Out of the items you are about to see, the mac n cheese and the desserts are not included in the HH pricing. 

Let's start with the Trio Mac n Cheese seen at the top. Iron Horse has 9 mac n cheeses and for the trio you pick three. Our three were jalapeno, lobster, and chicken chorizo. You can see by the picture that the servings are small (note the spoon size next to the skillet). But mac n cheese is really rich and so do you really need more than that?  To break them down I'll say that the jalapeno either is really mild or they mistakenly gave us the pesto version instead of the jalapeno. It was the creamiest of the three, but not all that flavorful. The lobster was dull although it did have big chunks of lobster in it. The best of the three was the chicken chorizo. The other two needed that bit of spice and salt to waken them up.

The Bavarian Pretzel I had at the opening. It is served with mustard, jalapeno cheese, and bacon peanut butter. My favorite is the jalapeno cheese.

The Asian Style Short Ribs appear here like a large chunk, but these are actually cut Korean short rib style and so there are three thin cut ribs piled up here. It is served with a bit of kimchi and Asian pickles on the side. It's hard to mess up Korean short ribs and we all found these to be tasty.

The Beer Battered Chicken Wings are covered in a batter and then served Buffalo wing style with blue cheese drizzle and celery. I would have preferred with a lighter batter, but the sauce wasn't too hot, which was good for me. I'm not a Buffalo wings fan, so if you are, you might want more bite/fire to them than these had.

The Sweet & Spicy Shrimp was not what I expected purely because they were also covered in batter and deep fried and then drizzled with a sriracha and honey mayonnaise. I had envisioned a batter-less peel-and-eat style shrimp, so I was a little disappointed in the deep fried aspect of this dish. I will say the number of shrimp for this appetizer was good.

Everyone loved the Tuna Poke Nachos. This has crisp deep fried wonton chips and then there is chopped tuna with wasabi mayo drizzle over it. I would have liked a bit more tuna, but overall this one was a hit. I'm not a wasabi fan, so there were a couple of times I got a "hit" of wasabi that shocked me, but that's a personal thing. 

This pizza was one of the items delivered to us in error. Since they couldn't re-deliver it, we got it for free. The toppings were tasty, but I like the pizza crust at Masullo and Federalist better as far as texture and chew is concerned. 

The Red Velvet "Ho-hos" are another winner. A good sized ho-ho, there's a nice cream cheese filling, it was moist, and had a small bottle of milk to go with it. Fave!

The Beignets were a generous number in a metal basket served with two squeeze bottles of raspberry and vanilla bean sauces. My friend was concerned it would be heavy like a donut hole, but they were light and airy. Best eaten hot.

We did not try any entrees, so that will have to wait for another day, but for happy hour, Iron Horse is a hit and a great place to go if you are partial to HH eats versus drinks. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mini Review - Federalist Public House

destruction of the Marshall and the BFD

In full disclosure, I've known owner Marvin Maldonado and his wife, Bridgitte, for a few years now. Since the time when Bridgette's fashion truck, Gypsy Mobile Boutique, rolled on to the scene. That's why I've declined to write a review before - the association. 

I've gone to Federalist a few times now and the experience has been so good I just have to at least throw in my recommendation for a few pizzas. 

I really like the vibe at Federalist. So much so that I had my summer birthday party there. The inside/outside aspect of the shipping container construction gives it a casual, relaxed feel. Even in the winter it is sheltered enough, with heaters, to make it comfortable. 

I also appreciate the fact that they have non-alcoholic beverages, fresh made strawberry lemonade and kombucha, on tap. 

The pizzas are the main thing on the menu and I'd like to recommend my favorites. The Southside is a great one,  with roasted pork chorizo,  yukon gold hash, monterey jack, fontina, fiore di latte, chili oil. It's not very spicy, despite what you might think.  The Marshall was a flavorful delight with arugula pesto, salame rosa, mozzarella, pistachios, and pgrana padano.  

BFD, courtesy of Federalist

A big surprise and my new brunch favorite is the BFD, or Ben Franklin Deluxe: smoked Tasso ham, Romano sauce, Yukon gold potatoes, fresh mozzarella, hollandaise, green onions, paprika and two farm fresh eggs.  You break the egg yolks and spread it around and then I highly suggest you add some chili oil on top.  I happen to like my eggs with runny yolks so that I can sop it up with toast. This pizza does all that for you. 

There are some other gems on the menu as well. The cannonballs are full of flavor with ground pork, ground beef, and smoked meats covered in italian gravy topped with shaved grana padano & fresh oregano.  They are hearty and delicious and will make you think of them every time you have a crappy meatball somewhere else.

At my birthday I ended with the ice cream sandwich. It's made with oatmeal cookie. Vic's french vanilla ice cream. chocolate dipped. crushed pistachios. Wow.  That's the best ice cream sandwich I've had in memory. My only complaint is how messy it is to eat. But hey, take the good with the bad, right?

Overall I gotta say I love the Federalist. I just wish the pizzas weren't priced so high.  They are a few dollars higher than other places like Masullo's. I guess I'll just have to say I'm paying for the ambiance of the place. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

New R Street Complex - Iron Horse, Roxie, Dos Coyotes

I thought I was just going to another opening event last night. Instead I ended up leaving feeling pretty excited about the new R Street Complex, the one at 15th & R that includes the brand new Iron Horse Tavern, Roxie Deli & BBQ, and Dos Coyotes. Oh, and European Wax Center. Even better, the event was used to raise funds for the Children's Receiving Home of Sacramento.

Let's start with the big guy in the building, Iron Horse Tavern. Created by the Wong brothers who also have Mix and Cafeteria 15L, it's a great new place that's sure to be a big draw. 

I love the layout. Inside there is a long U-shaped bar with loads of bar stools, flat screens mounted above, and a couple of cozy nooks that would be great to snag if you have a group of friends. Next to it are long communal bar tables before the actual dining room seating starts. There are plenty of tables to feed the crowds that are sure to come.

There's a great patio on the outside with lots of long tables. My only thought on the patio is the lack of shade/cover structure for extreme heat or winter weather. Perhaps that is coming down the road.

I'm pretty excited by the menu. Starting in the bar, there are mocktails. For people like me who do not drink, this is a great consideration. In fact, the Wongs are good about putting mocktails on all their menus and I really appreciate it. The best one here is the Watermelon one because it has a bit of tang with the addition of li hing mui powder!  If you've been to Hawaii, you know this tart plum powder is awesome on so many things.

Tuna Poke Cups
On the food side, there's Wong Asian influence throughout the menu giving a lot of uniqueness to the menu from any other venue in Sacramento.  What I always love is when I can find unique items on a menu that I won't find somewhere else and the Wongs have not disappointed. From their Korean fried chicken to the Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls, there's a great Asian fusion thing going on. 

The Wongs have always done well with their great mac n cheese at Cafeteria 15L and they've upped the game here with a Mac n Cheese Bar, allowing you to choose from 9 types.  I tried the Chicken Chorizo and the Black Forest Ham. I would have loved to try the Jalapeno and the Pesto ones as well. And, of course, Lobster. You can order a single serving or a trio sampler.

For the dessert fiend the uniqueness doesn't stop. On the menu are the Red Velvet Ho-Ho, Coconut Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Monkey Bread, to name a few.

Moving next door to Dos Coyotes, I've always been impressed by whatever I've eaten at Dos Coyotes the few times I've been. But with none near me, going was a rarity. I'm thrilled to have this new location in Midtown just a few blocks away from me. I've been told by my coworker that the Paella Burrito is fantastic. What is great about Dos Coyotes is that it's not Mexican or Tex-Mex, it's Southwestern. Sure there are burritos and quesadillas, but these are American Southwest versions that are creative and delicious.

Next door to that is Roxie Deli & BBQ.  I've never been to the original location, so I was curious to see their menu. Excitement again to see their BBQ menu. Sometimes you are just in the mood for BBQ and to have this one so close by makes it really convenient for me. They barbecue a different meat each day of the week, so expect to see me on rib days for sure. 

They server breakfast items but I think that they need to take advantage of a breakfast menu + lots of State workers and open up earlier than their 10 a.m. start time. On weekends they were telling me they have a great Sunday brunch starting at 9 a.m. with some unique brunch items. Unfortunately as I check the menu I see no mention of the brunch items.  Guess I'll have to check it out in person some Sunday.

There's a vacant space still left. Personally I think it will end up with a service store. Maybe a nail salon or a tattoo parlor.  Ha! Get a tattoo while on your State lunch break.

Lastly is the European Wax Center. I'm a bit surprised that the only service they offer is waxing. Is that enough to keep a business running and profitable?  Must be a lot of hairy people getting waxed, I guess. For new customers you get a free waxing (brows or pits or bikini).

As I said, I'm excited by this new complex and the tenants. R Street has been popular already with Shady Lady and Magpie. Now Magpie is moving (looking forward to that re-opening) and so these new businesses will help keep the vibe busy and strong. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Revamped Paragary's

the new Paragary's patio

If you've lived in Sacramento for a few decades then at sometime you were sure to have eaten at a Paragary restaurant. For three decades Paragary's has seen a generation grow up, graduate, get married, and start another generation — all while celebrating over a meal with family and friends at the restaurant. Now the flagship restaurant has been overhauled and poised for relaunch this Friday.
Randy Paragary with wife, Stacy

The midtown location at 28th & N streets originally opened in 1983. For me, that's the year I graduated high school. Then I did my four years attending college in Portland before I moved to Sacramento in 1987. Even in college I was eating well and dining out often. My taste in fine dining came with me to Sacramento and I remember how, at the time, Paragary restaurants were the best in town. They were where you went to celebrate special occasions, Valentine's Day, or just wanted a good meal. I had a friend who was a manager for Zinfandel Grill Folsom and even had company Christmas dinners there. (Zinfandel Grills are no longer associated with Randy Paragary.)

Over the last decade (and since I've been food blogging for 7.5 years) I rarely ate at a Paragary restaurant. If I did, it was at their more casual Cafe Bernardo's. Having once been the leader of the Sacramento restaurant scene, it just seemed that they weren't keeping up with the times and were stuck in the late 90s. Not only with food and look, but also by their lack of social media and guest interaction. There were so many other new and more exciting restaurant concepts coming to town.

Last Friday I was invited to a media event to see the revamped Paragary's. Over the decades I probably ate there only a couple of times. I didn't even know they had a patio, although I heard about it. The old restaurant had dark wood, booths, and carpeting. 

You won't even recognize the place now. After being completely gutted and reconfigured, the new restaurant is bright, open, simple, clean. Someone referred to it as Napa French and that seems accurate. A California interpretation of French bistros. 

The most significant change is architectural. The windows were taken out and enlarged and the outside given a French bistro style facade. Inside walls were torn down, including the one that separated the back patio from the restaurant. In its place is now a wide open doorway leading directly into the patio. The bar was moved and also given the French bistro treatment. Even the kitchen was gutted, save for the wood fire pizza oven. All the kitchen equipment is new as well.  

The  menu is not all that different and certainly not edgy except for maybe a bit more use of offal. There's salads and small plates (gnocchi, liver mousse, pizza) and the entrees include French staples such as Steak au Poivre and Salad Nicoise. Paragary classics of their famous mushroom salad and their rosemary pasta remain.

Spataro and Ostrander
The kitchen will be helmed by Scott Ostrander, formerly over at sister restaurant Esquire Grill. Kurt Spataro is part owner of Paragary Restaurant Group and Executive Chef, overseeing the culinary side of all Paragary restaurants.

My feeling was that an important missing element these last few years has been a lack of good social media. Sure they send out email newsletters, but more creative and interactive engagement via Twitter and Facebook is needed to capture today's social media savvy crowd.  A good part about increasing your restaurant's reach is social engagement. This will be an important part of the restaurant's renewal.

It will be interesting to see if the revamp brings them up to date to attract the younger crowd. After all, it's this new generation of diners which will be the next set memorable meals at Paragary's.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sriracha Smoked Salmon

Last year I got a Brinkmann smoker and my goal once I got it was to learn how to smoke salmon. So far I have been pretty successful considering it is very hard to keep a low consistent temperature in this type of smoker. 

I started using charcoal and then bought the electrical converter hoping it would help with the temperature issue. It doesn't. I thought it would come with a control for the heat output but instead it's just either on or off. So there's still some learning to do.

But on the flavor front, I like a bit of spice and so I decided to incorporate Sriracha. I put it in the brine and also in the basting sauce. Turned out pretty good. 

I'm not going to go into the details of how to smoke fish in this post. I'm just going to share my Sriracha recipes.  I buy a side of salmon at a time when I smoke, so the recipes cover that amount. 

For the brine:
1 gallon water
1 cup of kosher salt
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of Sriracha sauce

Mix together, set the salmon in the brine and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.

For the basting sauce:
1/4 cup of Sriracha sauce
1/4 cup of honey
Cajun spice (optional)

Before placing the dried salmon on the grill to smoke, baste the fish with sauce in a thin coating. Sprinkle Cajun spice over the salmon if desired. Smoke fish per instructions. You can baste another time during the smoking time or when the fish is freshly removed from the smoker at the end. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Help Braeden get a Service Dog

There's is something special about the bond between a human and their animal friend. Even more special is a child with their first pet. The most special of all is the bond between a child and a service animal. The bond between the two is so strong and dependent.

Braeden is eight and has autism. He often has seizures and many doctors appointments which cause him stress and anxiousness. But Braeden calms down among animals. His family is hoping a service dog will help him to become more independent and build self confidence. A young service dog will grow with him through his teen years.

Service dogs are not commonly seen for children with autism and definitely cost a lot of money. Braeden's family must raise $8,000. So far they are half way to that goal. To help reach the goal, Lucca Restaurant is helping the effort. 

On April 21st they are hosting a 4-course dinner with all the ticket sales going to fundraiser for Braeden's dog. Chef Ian McBride will be cooking and there will be raffle prizes for gift certificates and more as well. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased at

If you can't make the dinner, you can still help out. Lucca has created a Braeden Burger with sauteed mushrooms, Fontina, and garlic aioli. The beef, of course, is from their sister company, Lucky Dog Ranch. The burger is $14 and $2 from each goes to the cause.

To donate directly, go to

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sacramento Shines at Pebble Beach Food & Wine

A few weeks ago I wrote about how we had a collection of Sacramento chefs going to the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Show. After a tiring weekend of nonstop events, we are all back home and the chefs are exhausted. 

Unfortunately my press pass was very limited in that I only got to go to the tasting events. No dinners, seminars, or cooking demonstrations. Also no after hours parties and that's where Bill Ngo and Michael Thiemann were.  Never did catch up with Ramon Perez or Ravin Patel. I did catch sight of Kelly McCown as he was leaving. He was done by Saturday afternoon and heading home. Therefore my coverage only extends to Meatopia on Friday and the Grand Tasting Tents on Saturday and Sunday.

Kudos must be shared for Michael Passmore of Passmore Ranch.  Most of the chefs used his fish (trout, catfish, sturgeon, caviar) and he even did a special for Kelly by supplying lamb. He also worked his butt off. He was assisting many of the chefs, but it paid off for him because he got to talk about his business with many people in the food business, including a posse of Top Chefs from the Bravo TV show.

Friday night - MEATOPIA!

Although no Sacramento chefs were featured at the Meatopia event, there was still a good showing as they assisted Chef Matthew Accarrino of SPQR in San Francisco. Accarrino was recently nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the West and he's a big fan of Passmore Ranch.  He had a great wow factor bite in that they served up sturgeon chicharron with caviar and then roasted sturgeon. 

The roasted sturgeon was pretty spectacular. Michael says that the fish was 120 pounds out of the water, pre-evisceration. They stuffed it with citrus and herbs and then put it on a spit. They encased it in chicken wire so it wouldn't fall apart as it cooked. As always, the sturgeon was delicious and I even scored the cheek!

Michael talks to celebrity chefs
Helping Accarrino that day was Michael Passmore and Bill Ngo and Tyler Bond from Kru.  I missed seeing Bill on his own as he had the After Parties on Thursday and Saturday nights and press pass had no access.

More from Meatopia...

Bottom left is Kevin Gillespie from Atlanta's Gunshow. You may recognize him from Top Chef. He once said on Top Chef Masters how our own Michael Tuohy was his mentor. I must say that both his bites, Friday and Sunday, were among my favorites from the whole weekend — packed with flavor. Friday's was pork belly with pickled apples and smoked peanut butter (and I'm no peanut butter fan).

Saturday Grand Tasting

Saturday was the second event for Oliver Ridgeway of Grange.  He had also done some catfish poboys for Thursday's golf event. Once again, Michael Passmore was on hand to help out. Oliver got many compliments for his dish being not only tasty, but standing out as different.  It was a dill Yorkshire pudding with trout rillette and caviar with shaved bottarga on top. Bottarga is a new term for me — salted and cured fish roe. It hardens into a block so you can shave it like truffles.  This bottarga was made with sturgeon caviar. (At the time I thought they were shaving truffles.)

Below are shots of some of the other areas.  Driscoll's was a major sponsor so you can see their Berryland in the top right - all berry desserts.  Lexus was also a major sponsor, thus the cars. There were a LOT of wineries represented. A ridiculous number. Lucky for me Perrier was also there. 

And, of course, plenty of bites. The ones in the middle are especially noteworthy. The beef pho from Charles Phan of The Slanted Door. It was good, but difficult to consume with the noodles, etc. The pie slice you see is foie gras and orange and it was delicious. It came from The Modern NYC. I also ran into Dana Cowin, Editor of Food & Wine Magazine (hosts of the event) and asked her to pay more attention to Sacramento, we have so much great food!

There were plenty of celebrity chefs, including Curtis Stone, Charles Phan, Aaron Burns, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Brian Malarkey (from The Taste on TV). I also spotted Elizabeth Falkner, Anita Lo, Jenn Louis, and Iron Chef Morimoto.

Sunday Grand Tasting

It was Mother's turn to shine on Sunday with Matt Masera representing.  I had seen Michael Thiemann on Friday and he explained he had to do the After After Party that night, but it turns out he had to return to Sac for other Mother obligations and so Matt was there with his wife, Dana, to man the fort. Their dish was an almond cake with pea dust soil, carrot puree, turmeric glass, and fennel frond.  He ran out about an hour before the event so hopefully they got to go around and eat what was left around the tent.

And, of course, more bites...
Notable in this collage would be the foie gras peanut butter doughnuts (didn't work for me) and the bottom right, which is Kevin Gillespie's pork and raisin crepinette that I liked. The bottom left is Morimoto's cold noodles with beef and that was a huge hit.  And there was Morimoto, on noodle duty, scooping out handfuls of noodles into each bowl and picking up droppings from the floor to be neat and tidy.

I didn't get too carried away with chef groupie selfies.  Took one with Kevin to say "hi" to Michael Tuohy and then had to get Fabio during prep time before the doors opened. I might not have gotten to more events, but at least it got me in early for the tastings. 

I want to thank Wagstaff Worldwide and Coastal Luxury Management for granting me the pass.  They don't give too many away to bloggers and so I was thrilled that they allowed me the opportunity to cover our Sacramento chefs. And they were a big hit too! Just check out's review of the event and see #4 and #12!