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. 

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.

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

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.