sacramento connect » Food & Wine sacramento blogs & community news around sacramento california Thu, 02 Oct 2014 07:20:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 — Shine Thu, 02 Oct 2014 07:08:00 +0000

Yesterday was the first day of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge. Since I wasn't going to be available to go to dinner at one of the Challenge restaurants, I decided to go to Shine, where Challenge items are offered at lunchtime too. Amanda Lawrence, one of the owners of Shine, is vegan herself, so the restaurant is already vegan-friendly, but they're going all out this month.

A menu board near the cashier lists the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge options. I ordered the Sweet & Spicy Tempeh Torta, a sandwich of tempeh, avocado, spicy chili sauce, and greens served on a ciabatta roll. A green salad with a spicy Thai dressing was served on the side. Delicious!

Everything on the top shelf of the deli case at Shine this month is vegan, so I checked out all the tempting desserts there. I chose a wonderful cardamom and rosewater tapioca, which was the perfect way to follow the spicy torta.

Other vegan options will be offered during the month, including things like Indian chaat salad, Latin quinoa salad, and, for dessert, pumpkin mousse parfait, so you may want to stop in often!

Shine is located at 1400 E Street, and their phone number is 916-551-1400. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.]]> 0
Dining News: New Chef at The Kitchen Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:58:00 +0000 0 TBD Fest Sacramento Wed, 01 Oct 2014 21:47:27 +0000 0 But wait, there’s more — dump cake Wed, 01 Oct 2014 21:13:18 +0000
Cathy Mitchell’s “Quick & Easy Dump Cakes and More” has sold more than 1 million copies.]]> 0
First Impressions: Yakitori Yuchan in Davis Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:13:16 +0000 0 New executive chef taking the stage at The Kitchen Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:50:15 +0000
David Chavez, 31, has been hired as executive chef at The Kitchen.]]> 0
A Fall Housewarming Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:00:14 +0000 Find more posts like this one at amy is the party

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Almond Crunch Soft Pretzels {photo tutorial} Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:00:41 +0000 If you find soft pretzels as irresistible as I do, then this is the post for you. Homemade soft pretzels with an almond crunch topping (just like at the mall!) are on the docket for today. (And I’ve got a photo tutorial on pretzel twisting for you!) #sorrynotsorry I have many food weaknesses, but my biggest […]

The post Almond Crunch Soft Pretzels {photo tutorial} appeared first on Crazy for Crust.

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Snip a bit of tarragon Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:00:00 +0000 Most herbs defy easy description. Trying to discuss the flavor of thyme or oregano leads only to vague adjectives. Calling rosemary “woody” doesn’t quite cut it.

But tarragon is easy. Tarragon tastes sort of like licorice.

It does not taste entirely like licorice; if it did, people would just put licorice in their food and that would be gross. But tarragon is certainly reminiscent of it, in a mild way.

This is not to say that tarragon itself is mild. It is quite strong; a little goes a long way. But when that little bit is applied to the right dishes, the result can be divine.

Most frequently, it is used as a bright punctuation to chicken, both in its later form (chicken) and its early one (eggs). Snip a few tarragon leaves over scrambled eggs and you have instantly elevated your breakfast. Mix a bit into chicken salad or egg salad and you have turned lunch from ordinary to grand.

Tarragon is also used frequently to bring out the best in seafood. A little tarragon added to shrimp, olive oil, shallots and garlic makes an outstanding topping for pasta. Most fin fish, too, benefit by being lightly blessed with tarragon.

And what about the other white meat? Pork is paired less frequently with tarragon, but the herb is an excellent complement to it. And you can even find respectable recipes for tarragon sauces to be served with big-flavored beef, though you won’t find them here. What you will find here are two recipes for chicken and one for salmon.

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The Mailbox: Readers requests recipes Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:00:00 +0000 Plum onion chutney, anyone?

Forty Mile Ranch was a true ranch outside of Placerville. It had a small lunchroom with some very good sandwiches and salads and a gift shop which sold jams, sauces and other non-edibles as well.

The one thing I loved was their plum onion chutney. It was delicious on meats and other items. They closed down several years ago but I’d love to have a recipe for it. I’m glad The Bee is still running the Mailbox. Thank you.

Pat Corrigan, Turlock

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Serve butternut squash in a variety of fresh ways Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:00:00 +0000 Just as you’re finally finishing up the mounds of zucchini that have haunted you all summer, autumn’s overabundance of butternut squash hits you. Time for some fresh ideas.

But before we get cooking, let’s talk prep. Butternut’s thick skin and rock-hard flesh can make the peeling, seeding and chopping part of the meal a challenge. No wonder those bags of prepped squash chunks at the grocer are so popular. But they also are pricy, so let’s talk tips for making the work a little easier.

Start by setting your squash on its side on the cutting board. Use a heavy chef’s knife to slice off the top (stem end) and bottom (wider end). Slicing off the bottom reveals the seedy-stringy interior. It also gives you a flat base so you can stand your squash upright without it wobbling. Now use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.

Once the squash is peeled, grab your melon baller. You don’t have one? Get one. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just sturdy. A melon baller – with its sharp edges designed for scooping and scraping – is the best tool for quickly and cleanly removing the seeds and strings.

Once the interior is scraped clean, return the squash to the cutting board on its side. Cut the squash in two crosswise, cutting just above the bulbous bottom. At this point, you have manageable chunks of squash with flat edges. And that means those chunks can be easily cut or chopped without wobbling.

10 fresh ideas

For simplicity, every recipe idea assumes you’ve peeled and seeded the squash.

•  Patties: Cut a squash into 2-inch pieces. Microwave until just tender. Allow to cool slightly, then arrange small mounds of cubes on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Use the bottom of a bowl or mug to gently smash each mound into a patty about 1/2-inch thick. Brush the top of each patty with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Bake at 450 F until browned and crispy, flipping the patties after about 10 minutes.

•  Hummus: Boil 2 cups squash cubes in water until tender. Drain well, then combine in a food processor with 1/4cup tahini, 2 cloves garlic, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, and salt and pepper, to taste. Process until smooth, then spoon into a bowl. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped Peppadew peppers. Serve with pita chips.

•  Salad: Boil 2 cups squash cubes in water until just tender. Drain thoroughly and set aside to cool. Toss the cooled squash with 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 cup cooked shelled edamame, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar and 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers. Season with salt and pepper, then top with shredded manchego cheese and toasted pine nuts.

•  Hash: Cut the squash into 2-inch chunks, then add to the food processor. Pulse until well chopped, but not pureed. Heat a splash of canola oil in a large skillet, then add the squash and an equal amount of chopped corned beef. Saute until the squash is browned and tender. Serve topped with poached or fried eggs.

•  Grilled: Slice the squash into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Drizzle each slab with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat until tender when pierced with a fork. If the squash browns too quickly, turn one side of the grill off and leave the other side on medium-high. Move the squash slices to the cooler side and continue cooking, with the grill covered, until tender.

•  Soup: Bring to a simmer 2 cups chicken broth, a 13 1/2-ounce can of coconut milk, 3 cloves garlic and 3 cups cubed squash. Cook until very tender. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of hot sauce. Stir in cooked shredded chicken or cooked shrimp, if desired. Top with shredded fresh basil.

•  Ganache: Boil 1 cup squash cubes in water until tender. Drain, then add to the food processor and puree until very smooth. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup heavy cream with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon ground dry ginger. When just hot, remove from the heat and stir in 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate bits. Stir in the squash puree until completely smooth. Serve warm over ice cream or toasted pound cake or gingerbread.

•  Biscuits: Boil 1 cup squash cubes in water until tender. Drain and mash with a fork; you should have 1/2 cup of mashed squash. Cool and stir together with 2/3 cup buttermilk. Freeze 6 tablespoons butter until it’s very cold but not rock solid. Grate the butter with a cheese grater into a bowl with 2 cups self-rising flour. Stir together with a fork. Add the squash and stir just until it comes together. Scoop 1/4 cup at a time onto an oiled baking sheet and bake at 425 F for 10 to 12 minutes.

•  Roasted: Toss squash cubes in a bowl with melted butter, salt, pepper, and Italian or Cajun seasoning. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 425 F until tender and browned, stirring occasionally.

•  Crab cakes: Drain a 16-ounce can lump crabmeat. Stir in 1 cup finely grated butternut squash, 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning, 1 egg and 1 2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Form into 8 patties and cook in a skillet with vegetable oil until browned and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side at medium-high.

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Don’t let pasta be a boring fallback Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:00:00 +0000 Pasta tends to be a dinnertime trap.

We get it. Feeding your family on a busy weeknight requires the navigation of a complicated matrix in which you must balance the competing demands of limited cooking time, ingredient availability, dwindling energy and patience, picky children, ridiculous afterschool activity schedules and homework.

You discover those two or three easy pasta dishes that somehow can come together in the midst of all that chaos and that everyone – or at least most of your family – will actually eat. And once you find those dishes, you soon find yourself in the pasta trap. You almost never make any other pasta dish.

But we wanted to help spring you from the trap. We came up with some fresh ideas for serving up pasta for dinner. None is complicated. All are versatile enough to adapt to whatever you have on hand. And all can be made with whatever pasta size or shape you’ve got. Because who has time to fuss over farfalle vs. penne when soccer practice is screaming down your neck?

What’s for dinner? Pasta

•  Caprese: Toss a pint of halved grape tomatoes, 2 cloves minced fresh garlic, a container of pearl-sized fresh mozzarella balls, and a handful of torn fresh basil leaves into a pot of drained hot pasta. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic glaze, salt and black pepper, tossing well.

•  Thai peanut: In a blender, combine 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar and a dash of hot sauce. Stir into hot pasta with cooked shrimp, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, snow peas and crushed peanuts.

•  Tex-Mex cheeseburger: Brown a pound of ground beef in a skillet. Stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 2 tablespoons chili powder. Add to hot pasta with a pint of halved grape tomatoes and 8 ounces of shredded cheese. Toss well, then season with hot sauce as desired.

•  Spanakopita: Thaw a package of frozen chopped spinach. Drain, using a mesh strainer to help squeeze out any excess water. Stir the spinach into hot pasta with 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese. Season with black pepper and lemon zest.

• Hawaiian: Stir 1 cup chopped deli ham, 1 can pineapple tidbits (drained), 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon and 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers into hot pasta. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

• Borscht: Brown 1 pound loose sausage meat. Drain and discard any excess fat, then stir in 8 ounces mascarpone cheese and a jar of drained and chopped pickled beets. Add to hot pasta and sprinkle with fresh dill.

•  Shepherd: Microwave and peel a large sweet potato. Brown and drain 1 pound of ground lamb in a skillet. Mash the sweet potato and mix together with the lamb, 4 ounces of cream cheese and a small can of corn kernels (drained). Add 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary, salt, black pepper and hot pasta.

•  Three-bean barbecue: Drain a jar of three-bean salad. Mix into hot pasta along with 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.

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‘Dump Cakes’ cookbook a best-seller for TV pitchwoman Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:00:00 +0000 Cathy Mitchell knows her audience. They could be her.

A working mom (and now grandmother) with 24/7 demands on her time, she likes to cook but rarely has a lot of time to devote to something fancy. Shortcuts at dinnertime are OK, if the family eats well and the meal tastes homemade.

“I can empathize,” she said, nodding her head.

Although her name may not be immediately recognizable as a best-selling author, Mitchell has a face known by millions from her “As Seen on TV” products and infomercials.

For a quarter century, Mitchell has successfully pitched small appliances and other products on television, often under the TeleBrands banner. From the SnakMaster to Turbo Cooker, Mitchell has sold truckloads of gadgets to viewers nationwide.

And now, her first (non-gadget) cookbook can carry the same banner as many of those irresistible time-savers: More than 1 million sold.

Mitchell’s “Quick & Easy Dump Cakes and More” (288 pages, $10 plus shipping) has been a runaway best-seller for TeleBrands. Making one of its first real forays into publishing with “Dump Cakes,” the company recently bought a half-page ad in The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, congratulating Mitchell for her milestone. (The book is available online at

To Mitchell, the cookbook’s success is simple. It lives up to its promise: “Make homemade desserts in minutes.”

“Dump cakes have been around a long time,” said Mitchell, who lives in Valley Springs, Calaveras County. “I noticed they started to come back again. It’s amazing how often things repeat themselves.”

First popularized in the mid-1950s, these dump cakes are generally two-step desserts, using boxed cake mixes (which debuted after World War II) and canned ingredients in novel combinations. They come with such evocative names as Banana Split Cake and Island Delight. The results usually are lip-smacking sweet and total kid-pleasers. Boomers such as Mitchell, who is in her 60s, remember them fondly.

And the name is a grabber: Who doesn’t smile at the mention of dump cakes?

“Every fourth-grade boy can make a joke about dump cakes,” said Mitchell, who recently came to Sacramento to demonstrate her dump cake techniques. “But what’s great about them is they really are quick and easy. Take a can of this, a box of that; bake and you’re done.

“A lot of them can be made in one pan (without a mixing bowl). They’re super fast – and delicious.”

Dump cakes do tend to draw chuckles. Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel used Mitchell’s book as part of his humorous “As Seen on TV” gift guide.

The cakes may not include ingredients you expect. Lemon-lime or orange soda, for instance, often is used as leavening instead of eggs.

Using processed foods and sugary sodas counters most healthy eating trends (although sugar-free sodas can be substituted in most recipes). While purists may frown upon such mix-and-match recipes, Mitchell finds the positives far outweigh any criticism.

“It’s nice to put together a quick homemade dessert – everybody loves the results,” Mitchell said. “And you usually have the ingredients at home.”

And these recipes are practically foolproof, as long as you don’t think too much. Mitchell recalled a relative who was a meticulous cook but was flummoxed by an early dump cake recipe that started with a boxed cake mix. Her dump cake always came out overly gooey.

“She kept adding the other ingredients (such as eggs, oil and water) to the cake mix before dumping in the canned ingredients,” Mitchell said. “But those canned ingredients take the place of eggs and water; they moisten the dry mix.”

And with the help of cooking chemistry, it all works, she added. “It’s amazing what you can do with a can of soda.”

Mitchell’s can-do spirit and infectious smile make any cook feel like they can work their own little miracles. That’s been the secret to her pitch-woman success.

“I’ve been preparing for this career since I was 8 years old,” Mitchell said. “I did ‘shows.’ While doing the dishes, I would talk to the invisible TV camera. All I’m really doing on TV (now) is what I’ve always done.”

As a cook and presenter, Mitchell was inspired by the pioneers of food TV.

“I loved Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr),” she recalled. “I loved anybody who was cooking on TV. I didn’t try to do any of it – it was all so involved. But as I started to cook for myself, I learned lots of little tricks (to improve a dish).”

Mitchell calls herself “a very basic cook,” but those early experiences nurtured her showmanship skills. She started her career as a part-time presenter on the California fair circuit, including the State Fair, while demonstrating gadgets in the halls of commerce.

In 1989, a TV producer asked her to record her pitch for a new product: the SnakMaster sandwich maker. In a rented studio not much bigger than a garage, they taped her spiel where she grilled a cheese sandwich with an iron, then switched to the SnakMaster with much better results.

“Afterward, the producer said I could be paid a flat fee (for her time) or 50 cents a unit,” Mitchell recalled. “I chose the latter – and sold a million of them.”

Since then, Mitchell has been one of the mainstays of infomercials. Her homespun presentation sets viewers at ease as she demonstrates the versatility of the latest pizza maker or counter-top roaster.

“I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t use myself,” she said. “I spend a lot of time working with these things to see how stuff works. At the end of the day, all you have is your word. If you see something I said I made a certain way, it better be just that.”

For the little booklets that accompanied these appliances, Mitchell had written hundreds of recipes.

“I wrote a cookbook for just about every product I ever sold,” she said. “But I never did ‘just a cookbook’ until (‘Dump Cakes’).

“I love cookbooks; I’ve got thousands,” she added. “And I’m known for crazy recipes with basic ingredients. This was fun.”

Shannon Mitchell, who serves as her mother’s assistant, taste-tested many of the “Dump Cakes” recipes along with other family members. Her favorite is one that makes more experienced cooks scratch their heads: pineapple angel cake.

“You wonder how she did it,” she said.

“It’s just angel food cake mix and a can of crushed pineapple,” Cathy Mitchell said. “But it bakes into the most wonderful light cake. ... You use a regular pan, not an angel food cake pan, and the pineapple can be in its own juice or heavy syrup. (The batter) looks like marshmallow cream, but it puffs up in a hurry. You’ve got to bake it right away. I like to sprinkle a little coconut on top, too.”

But wait, there’s more. In addition to the dump cakes and dump desserts, the cookbook features dozens of Mitchell family favorites including 30 different from-scratch brownies.

Out of more than 250 recipes in her cookbook, Cathy’s personal pick is her cherry dump cake with pineapple.

“It’s so good warm,” she said. “It’s almost like a cobbler.”

These recipes are so easy, anyone can make them – even grandkids, Mitchell said.

“Kids love to help,” said Mitchell, who has 13 grandchildren. “It’s so gratifying for them. When you’re a kid, there’s no better feeling than coming to the table and saying, ‘I made dessert.’ 

Of course, she recommends monitoring the process, making sure nobody (or the dessert) gets burned. But this is an easy introduction to culinary skills that can foster a future love of baking.

Memorable recipe names can help kids get interested, too.

“I love coming up with cutesy names because of working with kids,” Mitchell said. “Razzleberry cake sounds so much more fun than raspberry-lemon – anything to get them to try it.”

While Mitchell keeps pitching products, she’s found she really enjoys her latest sideline.

“I wish I’d started writing cookbooks sooner,” she said, adding that she’s working on more homespun “quick and easy” cookbook ideas.

“My goal right now is to just keep going,” she said with a wink.

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Thai Corn Chowder with Sriracha Popcorn Garnish Wed, 01 Oct 2014 06:41:00 +0000 0 Thai Corn Chowder with Sriracha Popcorn Garnish Wed, 01 Oct 2014 06:41:00 +0000 0 Dining News: Oak Park Brewing Company to Open in Late Oct. Wed, 01 Oct 2014 05:26:40 +0000 0 Corn Pesto Wed, 01 Oct 2014 04:05:29 +0000 0 Pumpkin Cinnamon Scones Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:13:00 +0000

Despite autumn being characterized by the shedding of old leaves after summer has come to a close, I find it to be refreshing, exhilarating, and representative of some of my favorite recipes.

As once-lush trees become deserted of their frond, and the warm summer air peels away to a reveal fall's crisp chill, evening drinks get warmer, desserts get spicier, and home gets cozier.

Hot cocoa, piping tea, and warm cider.
Sweet pumpkin and crisp apples.
The cozy aroma of cinnamon drifting from the oven and filling our home.
Being wrapped in oversized blankets by the fireplace as the temperatures and leaves fall outside.

Just as buttered rum and thick blankets by a fire warm the body, the gathering of family and friends does the same for the soul.

With our kitchen happily hosting guests and our oven producing endless fall-inspired feasts, this time of year brings much inspiration and fervor.

These pumpkin scones graced a mid-morning brunch with some cordial company. Their crumb is tender. Their flavor warm with aromatic cinnamon, cozy nutmeg, and spicy ginger. Gluten free, vegan, and sweetened with coconut sugar, their warm flavor is perfectly sweet and deliciously welcomed by gathering family and friends.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Scones
makes 8 scones

-1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (see below note for what I used)
-1/4 cup coconut sugar
-2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon guar gum
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-dash ground ginger
-1/2 cup dairy-free butter, chilled
-1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
-1 flax egg (1 Tbsp. ground flax + 3 Tbsp. water)
-3-4 Tablespoons coconut milk
-1 Tablespoon vanilla

optional turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat oven to 400F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick baking liner.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, guar gum, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in medium mixing bowl. 
3. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs no larger than the size of peas. Create a well in the center of the bowl. 
4. Add in pumpkin, flax egg, coconut milk, and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients together then fold dry and wet mixtures together just until combined.
5. Turn out onto prepared baking sheet. Pat into a circle 3/4" thick. Score into 8 wedges and let sit on sheet for 10-15 minutes to rest.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until edges are golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out with fine crumbs. Let cool 10 minutes, cut and serve.

adapted from this recipe by Leigh Olson
*gluten free flour: 1/2 cup millet flour + 1/2 cup white rice flour + 1/2 cup brown rice flour + 1/4 cup arrowroot starch
optional substitutions...
-coconut sugar: sugar, brown sugar
-guar gum: xanthan gum
-dairy-free butter: coconut oil
-coconut milk: other dairy free milk

Mangia! Mangia!

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Jerry Brown vetoes seafood labeling bill Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:31:28 +0000 0 Sactoberfest Happens Oct. 10–12 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:47:25 +0000 0 Three New Farm Trail Maps Debut Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:37:00 +0000 0 Try It: Tower’s Borracho Burger Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:36:00 +0000 0 Dunne on Wine: Richard Longoria Wines Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:00:00 +0000 Lompoc, a small working-class community at the western reaches of Santa Barbara County, customarily isn’t the focus of wine enthusiasts as they plan a tour of the region’s wineries.

That honor goes to the busier and flashier inland settlements of Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and Solvang.

Yet, Lompoc – pronounced lom-poke – is the epicenter of much of the winemaking that is drawing admiration to the wines of Santa Barbara County.

Specifically, that would be the Sobhani Industrial Park, a sprawl of low, strictly utilitarian steel structures secluded behind the Lompoc branch of Home Depot, not far off Highway 246.

Locally, the cluster is better and more affectionately known as the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto,” given that it is home to around 20 wineries, including such prominent Santa Barbara brands as Fiddlehead, Palmina, Stolpman and Sea Smoke.

And let’s not forget the very first inhabitant, Rick Longoria, who moved his and his wife Diana’s Richard Longoria Wines into the complex in 1988. For Longoria and others the move was a practical and inexpensive way to transcend the complexities and costs of building a winery elsewhere in development-cautious Santa Barbara County.

With this harvest, however, the Longorias are moving out of the Sobhani complex to new quarters in Lompoc, perhaps helping set the stage for the city’s evolution into a destination wine community to rival towns to the east.

Lompoc, after all, is in one of California’s accelerating American Viticultural Areas, the Sta. Rita Hills, a sub-appellation of Santa Ynez Valley. Ranging east from Lompoc, the Sta. Rita Hills, long recognized in agricultural circles for artichokes, asparagus, walnuts and flower seed, is the coolest of Santa Barbara’s wine enclaves, which helps explain the high standing of the enclave’s chardonnays and pinot noirs.

Rick Longoria makes chardonnay and pinot noir, to be sure, but he’s also in Santa Barbara County for its varied terrains, exposures and microclimates. That variety, coupled with the eagerness with which he and several of his neighbors embrace innovation and exploration, fosters a freedom that encourages him to make such other varietal wines as tempranillo, pinot grigio, albariño and syrah.

“The beauty of Santa Barbara is that we have the opportunity to make such a diversity of varietals,” Longoria is saying in the cozy tasting corner of his echoing quarters in the ghetto. “You don’t find that opportunity in other areas. They’re challenged by climate or tradition. Santa Barbara isn’t limited by climate or tradition. We haven’t pigeonholed ourselves.”

Longoria’s segue into the wine trade began in the early 1970s, when he was working on a degree in sociology at the UC Berkeley. On weekends, he escaped to Sonoma and Napa counties largely for their bucolic calm. “With my temperament I felt more comfortable in the country,” Longoria says. While there, he also learned that wine could come in styles more enthralling than the simple and sweet reds in screwcap jugs common to Berkeley.

Before he finished school, he opted for a career in agriculture, but he wasn’t sure what branch of farming would most appeal to him. In 1974 he signed on as a cellar worker at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma County.

He subsequently took classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and UC Davis and caught a break when Buena Vista’s consulting winemaker, the renowned Andre Tchelistcheff, alerted him to a cellar job at Firestone Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley.

“It was kind of home to me,” Longoria explained, his family having lived there when he was in his teens and his father was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base just north of Lompoc.

Longoria introduced his own brand in 1982 and founded his winery in 1988.

Over the past three decades his wines have become recognized for their lucidity and finesse. He buys grapes from growers throughout the region and also developed his own small pinot noir and chardonnay vineyard in a remote area just west of Lompoc. He calls it “Fe Ciega,” Spanish for “blind faith.”

He says his stylistic goal is to make complete, balanced, transparent wines in which no one element distracts from a wine’s other aspects. “I want oak so well integrated with the fruit that you can’t tell where it starts and ends,” Longoria says. “The wines have to have great acidity; they can’t taste flat. The tannins have to be well managed. They have to be transparent – true to varietal and true to vineyard. I want them to be harmonious. It’s like art or a piece of music. If the composition is really good, you know it, you know there was some thought behind it.”

During his time in Santa Barbara County the biggest change he’s seen grape growing and winemaking has been the increasing range of clones that vintners have adopted.

“Clonal variations have changed the quality of wines from here. They’ve given us more to work with, the ability to blend and create something new,” Longoria says.

The changes have worked out well for the Longorias. They make just 3,000 cases of wine a year, about two-thirds of which is sold directly to consumers. Those strong sales have given them the means to move this harvest from the ghetto to new nearby quarters anchored by a 1913 structure that long served as the clubhouse for one of Lompoc’s key employers, the Johns Manville Corp., which mines diatomaceous earth in the area, a principal component in the filtering of wine, among other products.

“We’re right up there with Francis Ford Coppola,” says Longoria, referring to the filmmaker-cum-vintner celebrated for transforming wineries in Napa and Sonoma into swanky tourist destinations.

While Longoria makes clear that he is joking in the comparison, his spacious new facility just may be the landmark that Lompoc needs for the community to rank high on the list of Santa Barbara County destinations for wine pilgrims.

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Salmon with Hazelnut Shallot Butter and a Cauliflower Sweet Potato Mash Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:25:50 +0000 ]]> 0 Peppermint Drizzled Chocolate Fudge Brownies Tue, 30 Sep 2014 04:47:45 +0000 {continue reading}]]> 0 Dining News: Federalist Public House Targets Oct. 20 Opening Tue, 30 Sep 2014 04:35:39 +0000 0 Bartender favorite Andrew Calisterio leaving Sacramento for Phoenix Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:28:15 +0000 0 Slow Cooker Mediterranean Chicken Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:19:55 +0000 I seem to have blinked and September is over. This has been the craziest/busiest/most fun month. We have had lots of house guests. It’s funny how people want to visit when you live someplace as nice as Cape Cod. I love it. I like showing off our new hometown and being able to take care of people when they spend [...]

The post Slow Cooker Mediterranean Chicken appeared first on Baked Bree.

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Free cups of Joe on National Coffee Day Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:41:32 +0000
It’s National Coffee Day and that means free coffee at some coffee shops.]]> 0
Buy One, Get One Free at Peet’s Coffee & Tea Today Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:30:00 +0000 0 Easy Apple Croissants Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:00:31 +0000 With just a handful of ingredients you can have apple croissants for breakfast. That’s a #hugewin in my book! As much as I hate our Sacramento weather, I absolutely love how close we are to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Foothills. In less than a 2 hour drive in any direction we can hit any […]

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Visit some blogs and win some prizes Mon, 29 Sep 2014 09:30:00 +0000 As usual when I come back from a food blogger conference, I've got too much swag (gifts). It's time for another swag giveaway.

But this time I'm participating in a round robin giveaway. Hundreds of bloggers attended the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle and some have stuff they want to give away. So visit each blog and leave a comment (or do what they ask for their giveaways) and you could win some goodies.

I've gotten rid of my microwave oven and so I'm giving away the Lekue Microwave Steamer (and a few other things). From the New York Times:
This new, effective microwave container from Spain is much lower-tech than the gizmos associated with Spanish chefs. Simply put some food to be steam-cooked into the oblong silicone case, fold the attached flaps to cover it and put it in your microwave or a moderate oven. The smaller size can hold food for two — like a pound of boneless fish with vegetables — and a larger size accommodates three to four servings. It comes with a rack so you can put stock or wine in the bottom. $30

To enter my giveaway, please do the following.  I'm really proud of my Farm to Fork series of articles (see tab above).  Choose a story, hopefully read it, and then comment below about an interesting fact you learned or the name of someone I interviewed.  Might I suggest my favorite article about harvesting of caviar?  

And if you want more things to win while checking out other blogs, visit the following: 

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The Fourth Annual Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Starts Wednesday Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:02:00 +0000
* 58 Degrees & Holding Co.
* Abyssinia
* Baagan
* Blackbird Kitchen+Beer Gallery
* Broderick Roadhouse
* Capital Dime
* Capitol Garage
* Evan's Kitchen
* Fahrenheit 250 BBQ
* Hook & Ladder
* Lou's Sushi
* El Papagayo
* Pizza Rock
* The Porch
* Shine
* Tower Bridge Bistro

This is our chance to remind local chefs that there's a significant vegan community in Sacramento. If large numbers of us dine at these restaurants and order from their special menus in October, maybe more chefs will consider offering vegan options year-round.

I'm going to try to visit all of these restaurants during the Challenge, and I'll blog about them within a day or two after each meal so you'll have a chance to see what's on the menu. I hope to see many of you out there!]]> 0
Dining News: Izakaya Daikoku at 19th & S to Open on Wednesday Mon, 29 Sep 2014 05:36:03 +0000 0 Pumpkin Pie Bars with pecan crumble Sun, 28 Sep 2014 10:00:18 +0000 Major confession: I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin but sometimes pumpkin pie can be just too…much. Can you forgive me? However, I think I finally figured out a way that I love pumpkin pie: in bar form! These Pumpkin Pie Bars with pecan crumble have the perfect amount of crust […]

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Chocolate Truffle Pumpkin Muffins Sun, 28 Sep 2014 04:59:04 +0000 {continue reading}]]> 0 ….. we came, we saw, we conquered. Sun, 28 Sep 2014 03:25:00 +0000 0 Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies Sat, 27 Sep 2014 15:49:00 +0000

Every so often, I step back to take a look at where I am, what I’m doing, who is in my life, and how much there is to be so very thankful for.
Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend while visiting the city for a conference. We talked for hours, catching up on life, congratulating each other on celebration-worthy life events, and being happy for each other because we have found ourselves at good places in life.

There may be days or times in life that can seem so difficult, that challenge us, or take a toll on our motivation, and those times help us grow, and they bring greater contrast to the brilliance of life’s good times.
Getting to catch up with my good friend was such a delightful experience; she has a genuine kindness, a sincere thoughtfulness, a warm understanding, a heart of gold, and a contagious happiness. Over strawberry basil margaritas and guacamole, we talked of life, love, good friends, and faded friendships that helped reveal who we choose to surround ourselves with and who we hold tight to.
A refreshing reminder, the time spent catching up with her sweet spirit left me so very happy for where she is in life, and thankful for where I am in life and all of the heartening individuals and experiences I am graced with.

Recently, a fellow enjoyer of good food and delicious recipes reached out to me with the opportunity to share a recipe with her community of food lovers and traveling enthusiasts over at Vegan Miam. I was thrilled to accept and decided to share a recipe that is quick and easy, travel friendly, and completely scrumptious.

These flourless, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, oil free, grain free cookies are made with just six ingredients (recipe here). Their cashew base presents a creamy texture, and using coconut sugar gives them a note of caramel. Some of the tastiest cookies I have ever whipped up and easily one of the simplest. If you’re in the market for a recipe with these qualifications and of this caliber, look no further.
I enjoy making delicious food, I enjoy eating it more, and even more than that, I enjoy sharing it with others-I truly believe that good things are meant to be shared, when others get to experience it, it increases its goodness exponentially.

Mangia! Mangia!
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Seasons 52 Wows Us with Service and their Gluten Free Menu Sat, 27 Sep 2014 14:31:24 +0000 ]]> 0 Blog to Business: 11 Tips for Good Blog Design Sat, 27 Sep 2014 10:00:30 +0000 Hello there! It’s time for part two of the blog to business series. Today we’re talking all about tips for good blog design! When you meet someone new, what’s the first thing you notice? Their teeth? Eyes? Smile? When you go to someone’s house what’s the first thing you notice? The outside? The landscaping? When you […]

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