Buffalo beer

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

James Beard Award ECI 2011 3

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


last bite 1 2

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


ask a chef 1

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?


review of harold mcgees 1

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


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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


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


the art of cooking 1 1

"I love soup," she says while peeling heirloom carrots. "If it's just me and I'm alone and I get to choose something, it's soup."

Maren Conrad has not only learned the art of home cooking. She has also learned how to strike a balance between art and cooking.

Conrad, 35, is an artist, teacher, mother and entrepreneur. Just last year, she cofounded Prosper Design Studio, which features her work on a line of kitchen and table linens that are as beautiful as they are sustainable.

Read more: The Art of Cooking: Maren Conrad Finds the Recipe for Harmony


local farms and magpie cafe 1

Magpie's Chris Woo surveys the scene at Kingbird Farms.

The term "farm to fork" gets a lot of use around these parts, and may fall on weary ears as the term is often used. The good news is that it's more than just a marketing ploy. Many restaurants across the country are sincerely dedicated to bringing the freshest local products to their kitchens and dining rooms. Thanks to our great growing region, the restaurants in our area have some of the greatest opportunities to do so. It's encouraging that so many of our food businesses want to board this bandwagon.

Read more: Team Cuisine: Local Farms and Magpie Cafe Chefs Cook up a Tasty Alliance


a testament to taste 1Named after the ancient tribe of Judah that once roamed here, these semi-arid hills sit atop a limestone plateau about 2,500 feet above sea level. Since biblical times the region has been known for its hearty, herbacious terroir. There is ancient terracing here as old as the Bible.

According to our guide, Shmuel Browns, my traveling companion and I are seeing the hills in their climatological sweet spot. In a month or so the green hillsides will give way to the parchment hues one might expect in this part of the world. For now, the rugged topography of the Judean Hills is soft and lush and full of vegetation, much of which I will learn is edible.

Read more: A Testament to Taste: Now as in Biblical Days, Foraging a Feast in Israel