Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sacramento Chefs Represent at Heritage Fire

If you are into the paleo diet than you really needed to be at Heritage Fire on Sunday. This meat fest is part of the Cochon555 series of events and basically includes any type of animal protein that can be cooked over open flame. There is everything from sturgeon, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, rabbit, and more.

The cooking is being done by some of Northern California's best chefs. And this year Sacramento had good representation. The Selland Group sent John Griffiths and Randall Selland with assistance from Ravin Patel (Ella) and other Kitchen/Ella staff.  Michael Tuohy was there representing Lowbrau/Block Butcher Bar. Michael Thiemann was there as a pre-view of his upcoming Empress, the new rotisserie place going in on K Street.  He had a crew of Mother employees with him. Michael Passmore was there with his sturgeon and other fish and had assistance from Bill Ngo and Tyler Bond from Kru.

Thiemann, Florence, Selland
There were other familiar faces as well. Tyler Florence made an appearance. If you recall, Florence had temporarily stolen Thiemann from us until Michael decided to come back home. Also, Kelly McCown, Ella's first Executive Chef. He was one of the main organizers of the event and hosted many of the chefs during prep and at the after party at his restaurant Goose & Gander in St. Helena.

So here are images from the event.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Volunteering at the American Cheese Society Conference

If you love cheese, then Sacramento was the place you needed to be. Over the last 10 days the American Cheese Society was in town to hold their annual conference. Along with typical seminars and mixers, they also determine the best cheeses of the year for the Americas, both North and South.

As soon as I heard they were coming to Sacramento I immediately emailed them to see if they would need volunteers. Turns out they rely heavily on volunteers and there were plenty of jobs and shifts to choose from.  I worked on three different days and got a good look at the behind the scenes in regards to the actual handling and judging of the cheeses.

The first two days dealt with the arrival of cheeses shipped overnight from all over the United States and other American countries. Over 1,600 cheeses from about 250 cheesemakers are arriving by the truckload in ice chests and other makeshift packaging. 

The sorting takes place in a VERY cold part of the convention center to help keep the cheeses cold. They had the air conditioning cranked! The trucks would come in and we would sort the boxes alphabetically. Someone opens the box and checks the inventory, makes sure the cheeses have arrived within an acceptable temperature range, and then the cheeses are sorted by type. Most of the cheeses had been well packed with ice packs and in Styrofoam coolers, but the most creative and "green" cheesemaker sent his cheeses chilled by recycled soda bottles filled with ice. 

The judging is split into 160 categories and so the cheeses need to be separated.  All of the cheeses have coding on them and are not supposed to have any names, brands, logos, or identifying marks on them if they want to be judged. The code indicates the category, the number assigned for the company, and then a number indicating the number cheese entry it is.  Let's say Cowgirl Creamery is the 152nd company to send in their entry registration months ago, they get a 2 letter code for the category, their number, and the number for the cheese. So an example would be XX-152-09, meaning they sent at least nine cheeses to the conference.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pear Harvesting is Almost Over...Already

Bosc pears
I was a bit naive last year when I sat down to dinner with members of the California Pear Board. It was last September and we were at the Tower Bridge Dinner. The Board had been kind enough to invite me to be their guest and I had promised to write about pears. The problem? Pear season was already over.

I had always thought of pears as a fall fruit. Like apples. I think most of us put apples and pears into the same mental basket in terms of their growing season. Turns out that pears get harvested in July and August and are kept in cold storage and shipped throughout the fall and into winter. Considering this, it's almost a year since that dinner before I could watch the pear harvest and write about it. Here in the valley the main pear harvest is ending this week. Starting in August the harvesting will move to the other pear areas of Lake and Mendocino counties. 

All along the Sacramento river, from Sac into the Delta, there are pear orchards. The first pear trees came with the settlers and were planted in the 1850's. My harvest visit was at the properties of David J. Elliot and Son and their Stillwater Orchards near Courtland. The family is now into their sixth generation with their oldest pear trees being 160 years old! That's right. They have 160 year old trees still going strong.

My visit started in reverse in that we started at the packing facility with a guided tour by Richard Elliot. He tells me they have 1,500 acres of orchards with 1,100 of those being pear. The other 400 acres have cherries, apples, and kiwi. But for now they are full swing into pear harvest season and the packing shed is bustling. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dawson's Delights with Wine Pairing Dinners

I bumped into a few familiar faces the other night when I was attending the monthly wine pairing dinner at Dawson's. Turns out that they are regulars at these prix fixe feasts. I knew my friend Kristy, AKA Cavegrrl was a regular with her boyfriend Andy. I also ran into Barbara and her extended family. She used to be a coworker at CalPERS but it turns out we are both retirees, now that I just worked my last day. 

It was nice to be able to be able to celebrate my last day of State work. I had just had my retirement cake a few hours earlier. I brought along another coworker to enjoy this four course meal. As a disclosure, I was here on the invitation of Dawson's and Hyatt and so the evening was comped. 

The wine dinners are monthly affairs. The cost is $79 and includes valet parking. This night the winery featured was Alpha Omega Wines from St. Helena. August's winery will be Silver Oak.

Here are the courses with photos courtesy of Dawson's.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

San Diego Favorite, Sammy's, Arrives Locally

People who have lived in San Diego or Las Vegas will know, and even love, Sammy's Woodfired Pizza restaurants. For many of us in Sacramento, it's an unfamiliar brand.

Last month I received an email inviting me to a media dinner at Northern California's first Sammy's that is located in the brand new Stones Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights. My first inclination was, "why do I want to go to some restaurant in a card room?" Luckily I did just a little bit of research first. As I read the press release I caught upon the fact that there are 20 Sammy's locations throughout Southern California and Las Vegas.  And looking a little closer, it seemed that it was a pretty popular brand at that.

I emailed back the PR firm and asked them, "Why is this first Northern California location going into a card room?!" It turns out that the owners of Stones Gambling Hall are from the San Diego area, love Sammy's, and know Sami himself. 

Since 1989, Sammy’s has been firing up award-winning cuisine that has taken Southern California and Nevada by storm. Recognized for its innovative, Healthy Global Cuisine, Sammy’s Restaurants offer menu selections made with local, organic and nutritionally balanced ingredients. Sammy’s at Stones Gambling Hall is the first Northern California location, featuring a modern touch on classic tavern fare, paired carefully with a local brew list and hand-crafted cocktails, making it an instant crowd favorite.

Sami Ladeki opened the first Sammy's Woodfired Pizza in 1989 in La Jolla. That means they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. Back then he was one of the first to bring Italian style wood fired pizza to the dining scene. He continued to expand and open more restaurants and add international favorites to the menu.

This event was, as I said, a media dinner that was overseen by Sami and his Executive Chef. Therefore, it cannot be considered a review so much as an introduction.  Who's to say the quality will be the same under the local staff?  We certainly hope so. And my San Diego transplant friends are hoping so too. When I Facebooked that I was at Sammy's, my friend replied, "I love that place!"

Here are a few of the menu items we tried. One entree that I didn't get a picture of and have to mention is the Pad Thai.  I judge Thai restaurants by their Pad Thai and this was better than many Thai restaurants serve! It had such a great amount of ingredients with a nice kick of heat that I ended up taking the leftovers home. Luckily it was one of the last items and everyone was so full that there was a lot left. Yum!

One more thing. Since it is in a gambling hall, this restaurant will be open 24/7 with limited late night menu.

Organic Arugula & Pear Pizza

love me some burrata!!

Burrata & Pesto Pizza

Organic Kale Salad

Mini Duck Tacos

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Southern Chow Chow Recipe

Chow chow is a Southern relish that is known for including green tomatoes and a variety of other vegetables. It's one of those recipes that every family makes their own version.  I happen to like the extra crunch factor with corn.

What can chow chow be used for besides the common uses on burgers and hot dogs? Here are a few great ideas:
  • Mix it into tuna, chicken, or egg salads.
  • Use it in deviled eggs.
  • Mix it with mayo for a tartar sauce for seafood.
  • Mix it with sour cream or Greek yogurt for a dip.
  • Serve it on a charcuterie or cheese board.
  • Serve it with meats and seafood.
  • Mix it into your ground beef for burgers, meat balls, and meatloafs.

This recipe almost made 8 pts (1/2 pint jars shown)

Southern Chow Chow with Corn

  • 3 medium onions 
  • 1/2 medium head of cabbage 
  • 2-3 medium green tomatoes 
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 6 ears worth of corn kernels, cut from the cobs
  • 1/4 cup coarse salt
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 T mustard seed
  • 1/2 T celery seed
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Chop all vegetables, except for corn and jalapenos, using food processor. Place chopped vegetables, jalapenos, and corn in a glass bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Cover and let stand overnight.
    Place the vegetables in large colander and rinse well with cold water.
    Drain thoroughly and place in large stockpot. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Heat to boiling and then boil 4 minutes. Ladle into clean pint jars which have been sterilized in boiling water. Seal with sterilized lids according to manufacturers instructions. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sac Chefs Heading to Heritage Fire Napa

If you are a carnivore there is one place to be on August 3rd. That would be Heritage Fire Napa at the Charles Krug Winery. Heritage Fire is put on by Cochon 555

from 2010 event
During this meat fest you get to dine on all sorts of proteins: rabbit, lamb, pork, beef, sturgeon, chicken, and more! All done over outdoor fire pits watched by over 20 of the best chefs out of the Napa valley and Sacramento. 

In fact, we need a Sacramento contingent to show up for two reasons.  First, to support our local chefs. Michael Thiemann from Mother  (he needs a break from veggies) and Michael Tuohy from Block Butcher Bar will be there.  Also representing Sacramento, Randall Selland from The Kitchen with help from John Griffiths and  Ravin Patel from Ella.  Finally, there is ex-Sacramento chef Kelly McCown. We all remember Kelly from his days at Ella, but now he's at Goose & Gander in St. Helena. 

The other is that Michael Tuohy and I were talking and we think they need to bring Cochon 555 to Sacramento next year.  The Cochon events are all about pork - 5 pigs, 5 chefs, 5 wineries. You can read about my visit to Cochon Napa last March. We both noticed that the attendance was lower.  Also, there is another Cochon event in San Francisco each year.  So why not spread them a little farther apart distance-wise and have San Francisco and Sacramento? We all know how much Sacramento loves pork because we go crazy with Baconfest in January and BLT week in July. To me that shows that we are capable of filling a Cochon Sacramento. 

There's plenty more to Heritage FireIn addition to the meat-laden feast, the event includes animal theatre cooking, butcher demonstrations, lawn games, live music and the opportunity to learn directly from the farmers and producers behind the great wines, brews and ciders of the event. Bring a cooler so that you can purchase some of the butchered meats to take home. Money raised from the butcher sales will benefit the students of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

Come join me and our chefs and represent, Sacramento!

To purchase tickets, visit cochonheritagefire.com

Disclosure: I received a press pass for this post.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Goat Milk Ice Cream - Laloo's

Any good meal ends with a great dessert. So it seems to make sense that we end Goat Week with some goat milk ice cream. 

I was lucky enough to be sent a shipment of Laloo's Goat's Milk Ice Cream from Petaluma, Ca. They currently have four flavors: Vanilla Snowflake, Rumplemint, Capraccino, and Dark Chocolate. I hope they come out with more flavors soon because I'm more of a fruit flavored or swirl girl. 

As I mentioned earlier this week, goat milk is often an alternative for people that suffer lactose intolerance because the lactose level is much lower than cow milk. Therefore, after I tasted each one, I gave a couple of pints to Susan to taste test since she suffers from lactose intolerance. She was thrilled to help.

Even better is that Laloo's ice cream has about half the calories of the equivalent amount of Haagen Daz or Ben & Jerry's! Plus a lot less sugar and fat!

Susan and I agreed, the flavors were wonderful. I particularly liked that the slight goat milk flavor actually accentuated the vanilla for me. The chocolate is extremely chocolatey, made with Scharffen Berger's 77% dark chocolate. The ice cream is easy to scoop (not rock hard) and nice and creamy.  They were even kind enough to send a couple of pint coozies to keep the pints insulated while not freezing your hands when you eat.

So, as we end Goat Week, please be sure to go out and try some goat milk products. They are better for you than cow's milk, and really tasty too. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Redwood Hill Farm: Part 2 - The Creamery

Last post we learned a bit about goat raising from Scott Bice of Redwood Hill Farm. Now it's time to see what happens to all that organic goat milk that is collected each day from his farm and five others that Redwood Hill Farm works with. It all gets transported to their solar powered creamery on the outskirts of Sebastopol.

Goat milk products are becoming more and more popular as lactose intolerance, like so many other food allergies lately, is increasing in the population. Goat milk has lactose, but a lot less of it and so it can be tolerated by many people who can no longer drink cow milk. Goat milk happens to be closest in structure to human milk. The fat globules are smaller which aids in digestion and in a recent study of infants allergic to cow milk found that 93% of them were able to drink goat milk with absolutely no allergic reaction.

photo: Redwood Hill Farm
As early as 1972 Redwood Hill Farm started to branch out into new products with kefir, or drinkable yogurt. They now have three flavors of kefir and five flavors of yogurt. In 1990 they started into cheeses with a goat milk feta. Since then they have added four flavors of chevre, two cheddars, and five other types of cheese: Cameo, Camellia, California Crottin, Tetra, and Bucheret.

For my tour of the creamery I am met by Rich Martin, the Chief Marketing Officer. He's familiar with dairies as he worked previously at Strauss Family Creamery. 
installation of reverse osmosis system

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Redwood Hill Farm - Part 1 The Farm

There is no sweeter thing than playing with baby animals.  Especially if those babies are as young as four days old. 

I am visiting Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol. Redwood Hill is the first Certified Humane goat dairy in the country and is the where the goats are bred and raised for Redwood Hill Farm goat milk products:  cheeses, yogurts, and kefir. And it happens to be birthing season! Baby goats galore!

4 days old!
Redwood Hill Farm started back in 1968 when Kenneth and Cynthia Bice bought it so that they could get "back to the land" with their nine children. The children soon started to raise and show goats for their local 4-H and quickly they had a goat farm. Eventually the milk was sold to health food stores and the family started producing kefir. Eldest daughter Jennifer took over the farm and business and started to expand it by introducing cheese products. Now RHF includes not only the expanded farm property, but also a creamery/factory to produce the goat milk products, and a new company, Green Valley Organic, that makes lactose free yogurt, sour cream, and kefir.

In Part 2 I will talk about my visit to the creamery, but it all has to start with the goats. There are about 300 of them at the farm consisting of four different breeds. Along with farming the goats for their milk, Redwood Hill also takes them to national shows and often wins awards for best examples of the breeds. Scott Bice, the youngest sibling, gave me a tour of the farm and points out the four breeds...