BY DIANE NELSON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY KASSIE BORRESON

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Ten large, shiny tanks stand near the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis, holding more than a year of rainwater and the key to processing food and drink during a drought. The water tanks, and the teaching-and-research winery they support, are showing students and winemakers throughout the world how to reduce processing costs, improve wine quality and protect the planet's dwindling natural resources.

Read more: Environmental Winemaking 101: UC Davis Demonstrates Model for Sustainable, World-Class Wine

BY MARK ERIC LARSON

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Danna Cao, an instructor and Chinese tea expert at the Confucius Institute at UC Davis, is quick to note that tea drinking is on a big upswing in the United States. And loose-leaf Chinese tea is a big part of the trend.

"I cover all different categories of tea," she says. And while it's getting more popular in this country, she adds, tea drinking is already big everywhere else. "It is the second-most-consumed beverage worldwide, after water."

Read more: Confucian Wisdom: Tea Nourishes the Mind, Body & Soul

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY RYAN DONAHUE

"The people I love to work with are the great storytellers: the restaurants that are having so much fun with it. They're not taking themselves too seriously, they're confident and they are making their food about beauty, texture, brightness, freshness and a celebration of market-driven ingredients."

Read more: De Vine Inspiration: Seasonal Ingredients as Cocktail Mixers

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOAN CUSICK

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Old-meets-new: Buffalo memorabilia is on display at New Helvetia Brewing Company. The bottle opener was used as the inspiration for the shape of outdoor bike racks.


Two of Sacramento's historic beer brands are back on tap as part of a craft beer resurgence that has the city "swimming in beer again," according to food expert Darrell Corti.

"It's a new product, even though it has a historic name," Corti said. "And the beers are actually good."

Read more: Tapping into History: Ruhstaller and New Helvetia

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The 2011 James Beard Foundation Publication of the Year Award: EDIBLE COMMUNITIES PUBLICATIONS

The publications produced by the Edible Communities company are "locavores" with national appeal. They are locally grown and community based, like the foods, family farmers, growers, retailers, chefs, and food artisans they feature. The company's unique publishing model addresses the most crucial trends in food journalism; the publications are rooted in distinct culinary regions throughout the United States and Canada, celebrating local, seasonal foods with the goal of transforming the way we shop, cook, and eat. Their underlying values speak to today's spirit of shared responsibility: every person has the right to affordable, fresh, healthful food on a daily basis.

Read more: Edible Communities 2011 James Beard Award for Publication of the Year

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBBIE CUNNINGHAM

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We make no sleight of hand—we are priests presiding not magicians—bones to broth, fat and flour to roux, onion, celery, and carrot a firm beginning to soup. And here we are again talking transformation. It doesn't matter what we claim we believe what we do here—with fire and water and heat—what we do here says everything.

— Amanda Hawkins

BY MARK ERIC LARSON

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From left, Chefs Peter Selaya, David LaRoche, Ed Roehr, Veronica and Marisol Hermacillo, Oliver Ridgeway, N'Gina Kavookjian, Michael Sampino, Eric Alexander, David English, and Keith Swiryn


Preparing food in a restaurant kitchen is a fast-paced, high-stress orchestration of physical movement, basic knifery, cooking and plating skills, speed, cooperation, multi-tasking and flavor ventures. And it's all under the baton of the menu's maestro, the head chef.

I talked with a sampling of top-notch chefs in the region to get their unvarnished takes on what they look for in a cook, a sous chef, and the art of flavoring dishes to an affirming "Oh, wow, that's good!"

Read more: Ask a Chef: What Makes a Great Cook?

BY MIKE MADISON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY BENJAMIN DELLA ROSA

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Ask a few dozen chefs for a list of the 10 best books on food, and the results will be quite diverse. But there is one title that will be on every list: Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

And if you inspect the chefs' copies, you will find them bristling with yellow sticky notes, thumb-printed and gravy-stained, with the corners of pages bent down where desperate chefs tried to understand why their mousse wasn't setting up, or why their hard-boiled eggs smelled sulfurous.

The subtitle—science and lore—indicates the two sides of the book. What you learned about cooking from your grandmother is lore. "Always beat egg whites in a copper bowl—it makes them lighter," she tells you. McGee gives us the science behind it: The copper of the bowl bonds to sulfur atoms on the proteins of the egg, preventing tight cross bonds that make the foamed whites grainy and dense.

If the idea of a science-minded book about food makes you groan with anticipated boredom, allow yourself to be corrected. McGee's prose is lucid and engaging, and even the most science-phobic reader will find the science accessible. Moreover, the subject is inherently fascinating. Not everyone cooks but all of us eat, and you can open to any page and find yourself engrossed in etymology, history, culture, anthropology and the science of food.

Read more: Review of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking

BY AMBER K. STOTT

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The author's grandfather presents her with a winter wonderland cake.


I'm lucky. I was raised on rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a humble vegetable in the celery family. Its wide leaves and pink root are poisonous, but its sour stalk can be eaten raw (though I don't recommend it—unless you've got a jar of sugar to dip it into first). This veggie is almost always found sweetened and baked inside some tasty homemade dessert. Occasionally, a restaurant chef will deem it menu-worthy, but this is pretty rare. Rhubarb is a food of grandmothers' kitchens.

My grandma's kitchen was in rural Iowa in a town of 700 people. The rhubarb she baked came from a truck-sized patch grown in my family's backyard.

Read more: Raised on Rhubarb: Life Lessons from My Grandma’s Favorite Vegetable

BY JULIANNA BOGGS / PHOTOGRAPHY BY BENJAMIN DELLA ROSA

sacramentos food network 1In any busy evening at Mulvaney's B&L the dining room staff plays what they call the Rockaway Game. "Who's at table 12? Where are they from? Who are they connected to?" Chef Patrick Mulvaney explains. "In Rockaway Beach we'd say, 'I was out with Joe yesterday.' 'Oh, Joe from 98th?' 'No, Joe who has the sister Louise who lives on 104th.' "

The New York native, who's built a reputation as one of the most esteemed restaurateurs in Sacramento, knows the importance of building community, and how Sacramento, in the world of restaurants, is still a very small town.

In fact, the pedigree of dozens of successful Sacramento businesses from Bacon & Butter to Hook & Ladder can be traced back to young chefs cutting their teeth in Mulvaney's kitchen. Expand that to the kitchens of the Paragary Restaurant Group under the eyes of Executive Chef Kurt Spataro, and Randall Selland's family owned and operated endeavors at The Kitchen, Selland's Market Café and Ella, and the world gets even smaller.

Read more: Sacramento’s Food Network: Top Chefs Mentor, Learn from and Support Each Other

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