all photos courtesy of Carson Valley Tours

One of my favorite wildlife shows has been Meerkat Manor. It is like a soap opera with meerkats. It followed a couple of meerkat troops in the plains of Africa and monitored the social dynamics that take place. Each troop had a queen, her mate, and all the lesser meerkats who were responsible for childcare and security of the troop.

What about the social dynamic of horses? After all, horses have been domesticated for millennia. They are, for the most part, kept apart in stalls and pens. What are horses like in the wild with no restrictions of man? What social structure and dynamic do they have?

Normally cheapskate me would be just crossing my fingers hoping that I might see some wild horses from my own car. After four trips to Virginia City, this did happen when some wild horses actually wandered into town. OK. Good. Been there, saw that.

This month was an entirely different experience when I went on a jeep tour to see the wild horses of the Carson Valley near Minden, Nevada. My guide was Dwayne Hicks, who runs Carson Valley Tours. Dwayne is a retired veteran who loves photographing the wild horses and the raptors in the area. He supplements his pension by selling his photographs and doing various tours in the valley. Dwayne loves the Carson Valley area the same amount as I love Sacramento - a lot. He knows its history, its inhabitants, its terrain, and its wildlife. He was a fountain of information and a wonderful tour guide. He is also nice enough to take care of the photography and send you the photos later. A bonus for me!

Dwayne drove us out to the east side of the valley, trying to get away from the ever increasing housing that eats away at the horses' territory. We were on part of the Bently Ranch (another blog post soon). The Bentlys are contrary to many ranchers in that they love the wild horses and so they keep their ranch pretty much free of fencing. Dwayne went over the rules regarding wild horses and the laws that are overseen by the Bureau of Land Management - no feeding or watering of the horses. Leave them alone and don't interact with them. Just observe. 

It didn't take long before we came across a group of three stallions. These guys were buddies hanging out for a drink. Dwayne explained that males that don't have a band or care about procreating hang out together in bachelor groups. All the local wild horse followers know and name the horses. This group had Red and two others. 

Dwayne was looking for particular bands with his favorite horses. We took off over a couple of more hills and came across another bachelor band with a few more stallions. In this group was Socks and Socks Jr.  Socks is an older horse of about 20 years old. Socks had once had a large band of his own until one day a younger stallion, Samson, came into the area and challenged him. Dwayne says that at the time, Socks was not at his healthiest and so when Samson challenged him, Socks took a stand and then changed his mind and said, "OK. You win." and walked off with his son Socks Jr. The locals didn't see him for several weeks and feared that he had gone off to die, but he later returned, recovered and healthy. Ever since he's been hanging out as a bachelor.

We moved further along and were very lucky to find more bands hanging out in close proximity to each other. 

Off to our right was Blondie with a group of about 14. Blondie has been in charge of his band for a few years and is about 10 years old. He was named, obviously, due to his recognizable blond mane. 

In the middle was Zorro with his two mares. He's a new stallion who only recently came into the region and decided he was ready to have his own band. He took over his females from another stallion, Skip. And then I was lucky enough to witness a confrontation...

Zorro confronts Blondie

Some of Blondie's group started to shuffle and Zorro, from a distance, saw and started galloping over. Blondie saw this and took a dump to mark his area. He then went out to meet with Zorro. Zorro approached all cocky and reared up. Blondie just sort of stood there like, "yeah, what?" Zorro kept up his testosterone act and then takes a dump also, saying, "Don't cross this line!" And that was that and both returned to their areas. 

Dwayne explains that is the usual interaction. The stallions meet up, discuss, go back to their groups. There's one case that he knows where the stallions actually fought to the death. The new stallion killed the elder.

I really enjoyed the day and loved learning about the lives of wild horses. It's something that did require a guide who knew the area and bands. The only way to get a real experience, short of living in the area yourself, is to do a tour. 

Carson Valley Tours
(775) 781-8808

Wow! This year Sacramento has 10 chefs going to the Pebble Beach Food & Wine weekend. During the weekend of April 5-8, they will be representing us and our Farm to Fork flavors. 

Our first female Sacramento representation will be Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, who is listed as from San Francisco as a way to promote her new location there. Meanwhile, nine other chefs will be representing us in a special Sacramento Farm to Fork event on Friday afternoon. The chefs are named and pictured above.

In the last three years that Sac chefs have attend PBFW, they've been usually scattered through other events such as the golf tournament, after-hours parties, and the Grand Tasting Tents. This year they get an event all to themselves!

Pebble Beach Food & Wine is a series of food and wine events sprinkled across four days. Celebrity chefs from around the country attend as well as California chefs. Among the celebrity chefs this year are Daniel Boulud, Jeremiah Tower, and Top Chef contestants John Tesar, Bruce Kaplan, Fatima Ali. 

Tickets are not cheap and are sold a la carte. The Grand Tasting Tents are $250 and our Sac F2F event is $225. 

I'll be there to cover it for you, but if you can, come join me for this extra special event. 

Some of my favorite food events are coming in the next two months. They are definitely pricey, but if you can afford a special culinary treat to check off your bucket list, then either of these will do. 

Cochon555 at AT&T Park - March 4

I love pork and this has always been worth the money. A couple of times local favorites have participated - Kelly McCown and Michael Tuohy.

Cochon555 is a culinary competition to promote local family farming and whole pig cookery through the eyes of five notable chefs. Each tasked with the goal to win votes from celebrity judges and participants, chefs have one week to prepare a 200 pound pig and present a “Judge’s Plate” scored on utilization; technique; and overall flavor. The winner of the local competition is announced the Prince or Princess of Pork and advances to the national finale, Grand Cochon on September 30.  Grand Cochon spotlights the 'Best 3 Bites' from all Cochon555 regional events in a head-to-tail, winner-takes-all showdown for the crown.

Tickets for general admission start at $130; VIP tickets (early admission + exclusive access to cocktail competition and allocated wines and spirits) are $200. Guests can purchase a $400 ticket that includes VIP and the Silver Oak "Swig for Swings" Vertical Tasting and Seminar with winemaker Nate Weis in the Press Box paired with four of the Giants' "Greatest Moments" on the big screen.
Where:           AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107
When:              Sunday, March 4, 2018
Time:               4 p.m. for VIP entry, 5 p.m. for General Admission, 3 p.m. “Swig for Swings” Seminar

Yountville Live - March 15-18

Last year I went to Yountville Live and really enjoyed it. The location is, of course, beautiful, the food and music are wonderful, and it wasn't too crowded!  I think it's the best little secret right now and will be sad as it grows each year. Sometimes you want things to stay secretly your own.

You can enter a chance to win a VIP experience here.

Yountville Live will feature James Beard celebrity chef Stephanie Izard, chef and Food Network host Bob Blumer and local renowned chefs including Bob Hurley, Chris Kollar, Morgan Robinson, Nick Ritchie, Nate Lindsey, Cindy Pawlcyn, Anita Cartagena and more. The four day event will include headline performances by X Ambassadors, Foy Vance, and NEEDTOBREATHE and intimate performances throughout the weekend by Dave Barnes, Emerson Hart, Marc Broussard, Jon McLaughlin, Logan Brill, Corey Harper, Keelan Donova, High Noon and more. Health and  wellness guru from the Today Show, Joy Bauer and “Eat Travel Rock” TV host Kelly Rizzo will host events throughout the weekend. Also set to be featured are some of the most celebrated wineries.

It's rare for me to go into San Francisco for a weekday event, but when I got an invitation, I decided to schedule work at our Bay Area location for that day so I could stay late to go to dinner at Old Skool Cafe.
Old Skool Cafe is a faith-based, violence prevention program, providing marketable employment skills in the restaurant industry to at-risk youth ages 16-22. Old Skool Cafe provides the opportunity to transform the loop of incarceration and recidivism into healthy life loops. Youth come from jail, foster care or situations of abuse and neglect into a supportive environment. 
The invitation had piqued my interest because the program reminded me so much of Saint John's Program for Change, which I had written about in 2015. Both programs help those struggling and in need of assistance with support and education. Both use restaurant programs to teach skills that will lead the participants to jobs in the industry. 

Old Skool is a much younger program in terms of age and, of course, its participants. Back in about 2004, Founder Teresa Goines came up with the idea. The first few years she was operating the program from her own home and with help from caterers and people who were able to give them spaces to do occasional popup dinners. As word spread, she was blessed when a church gave them an old building to use with minimal rent. In 2012 Old Skool Cafe opened in the Bayview Hunter’s Point neighborhood. In 2014 they purchased the building and over the last six months they've been closed for renovation. 

I was invited to a soft opening as they prepare to reopen in the next few weeks. We were treated to a menu of International Soul Food that included gumbo, ribs, a Tongan ceviche style dish, and a West African peanut butter stew. Everything was executed very well, from service to the tasty dishes. Please watch my short video with interviews with the founder and one of the participants.

Old Skool Cafe
1429 Mendell St
San Francisco

As podcasts gain in popularity I figured it was time for an update to my list. I listen to podcasts at work where I can stream off my work's wifi. I feel pretty food knowledgable and a lot of it has to do with continuous education - through podcasts.

The best way to find podcasts is through the recommendations of others. So here are my recommendations for foodie podcasts and at the bottom is a list of Sacramento (not foodie) podcasts.

Sporkful - Host Dan Pashman hosts this James Beard Award nominated podcast. The slogan is "It's not for foodies, it's for eaters. These are only half hour podcasts, so usually stay to one interview or topic.

Splendid Table - One of the most listened to podcasts features Francis Lam who talks to chefs, authors, restaurant owners, and food specialists. I like it because there are interviews mixed in with call-in questions and other fun food features.

Milk Street - After Christopher Kimbal left PBS and America's Test Kitchen, he basically copied everything for his new Milk Street. Same format as the old podcast with call-ins, advice, and food information.

Gastropod - This show mixes history and science to bring a new food topic to the show each week. You  might learn about the history and science of ice cream, for example. They interview people who have researched and written books on the subject or others who practice the science involved. An especially good one is the recent one on a sourdough study. I highly recommend that particular one. 

Special Sauce - This podcast is done by Ed Levine, the founder of Serious Eats. He talks with friends and celebrities about food.  

Good Food and Good Food on the Road by KCRW is a podcast covering all sorts of things food. Added benefit, the restaurant reviewer is the famed Jonathan Gold.

Eater - If you follow restaurants and, then this is for you. Interviews with famous chefs and restaurateurs about topics concerning the dining industry. 

Bon Appetit - No surprise, this comes from the magazine covering a variety of food discussions.

Spilled Milk - Need a laugh? Then this one is a great one. Two besties talking about a different food each week, cracking jokes. 

Burnt Toast is the podcast of and, as they say, includes stuff that they haven't put on the website. Hasn't been active for a few months, so it may be dead. 

Local Sacramento podcasts:

Sactown People (My episode from August 2014)

Serious Talk, Seriously (My interview February 2016)

Finding Sacramento