wine for the masses 1You've picked the date, you've invited your guests and you've selected your food. Now the tiny beads of sweat start slowly trickling down your forehead as you vacillate back and forth on that final element of your celebration, the one that can make even the savviest of entertainers doubt their party-throwing capabilities: the wine selection.

I talk with a lot of people about wine. It is safe to say I do that every day. As a known wine educator and writer, people love to chat with me regarding my recommendations and latest reviews. During these interactions, what I hear time and time again is that most everyone is quite intimidated by wine. Just standing in the wine aisle at the grocery store is overwhelming for most. Whether I'm conversing with a manicurist, lawyer, grandpa or grad student, the same words are spoken, "Which wine should I buy" and "I don't want to spend a lot of money."

Somewhere around the ninth century BCE, Homer said it well when he opined that "The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently, and rouses him up to dance." Seriously, when a beverage has the power to do all of that, it should be a part of any significant event you may be planning.

Read more: Wine for the Masses: A few tips to ease choosing (and buying)


malty matchmakers 1

Emily's idea was to offer a similar style of locally sourced ingredients for cooking classes and include wine pairings, but Darin had a different idea for which their endeavor is now known: beer pairings.

A salty hot afternoon of sunburns and beach volleyball? There's a beer for that.


Sweatshirt clad in the Sierras gathered around a crackling winter fire? There's a beer for that too.

In fact, since the number of craft breweries began springing up a few years ago, there's a craft beer for just about any situation you can imagine, and for food too. Where once wine and cheese pairings were the only matchmaking advice to be found, more and more restaurants and connoisseurs are enjoying the flexibility and variety that beer offers to complement everything from steak to seafood to roasted veggies and sweet desserts.

Read more: Malty Matchmakers: Local Couple Pioneers Beer Pairings


dinner at the overlook 1

California Congresswoman Doris Matsui was among the prominent speakers featured at the event.

 Sacramento's historic rail yards once served as the western terminus of the 1860s Transcontinental Railroad. Today, the 244-acre site is the largest unused urban development space in a metropolitan area in the United States.

Once a bustling transportation hub, the properties have long sat vacant. Redevelopment of the area has begun, promising mixed-use retail, housing, museums and more. On September 28, city officials and land developers partnered with the nonprofit Food Literacy Center to breathe life into the site once again. One of the development's bridges and an old warehouse served as the stage for a farm-to-fork five-course dinner created by more than 10 area chefs using food from more than 15 local farmers. The event, chaired by Food Literacy Center board member Peg Poswall and sponsored by LDK Ventures, brought together 120 attendees and raised $61,000 to expand food literacy education to low-income children.

Read more: Dinner at the Overlook


fresh from the orchard 1Think fresh, innovative and delicious.

This mantra was rushing through Fran Toves' mind when she conceptualized her company, Common Cider.

After selling a Salt Lake City–based ice cream company about four years ago, the self-proclaimed foodie and Reno resident was looking for another project to get her hands, and taste buds, on.

Her now-34-year-old son, Jeremy Shea, was an avid hobby home brewer at the time and had entered—and won—Backwash, a craft-brewing competition in Reno.

This created a friendly, but relatively serious, beer rivalry between Shea and Toves. The competition brewing between mother and son pushed them both to enter the Sierra Nevada Homebrew Competition.

Toves, although never having made a cider before, quickly learned the technical nuances of cider making and came in third place for People's Choice with her Clementine Cardamom. She entered three ciders and all of them placed in the top 10. The unexpected success and interest in her cider helped spur Toves' newfound love for producing and experimenting to evolve into a business.

Read more: Fresh from the Orchard: Local brewer brings crisp cider to market


gather around 1

Is it the crispness in the air or the impending end of the year that feeds a desire to share a special meal with loved ones? Perhaps it's both. Sacramento chefs are masters at combining gourmet comfort dishes with handcrafted cocktails that warm you from the inside out. The winter menus at Ella, Shady Lady Saloon and Hock Farm show that you don't need a special occasion to celebrate the bounty of Northern California. Savor a charcuterie plate, a platter of homey fried chicken or a tower of fresh seafood for a festive gathering. This may be a digital age, but there's never been a better time to gather some friends for some true face time.

Read more: Savor the Season with Winter Menus at Ella, Shady Lady Saloon and Hock Farm


seize the moment 1Summer is unarguably our region's favorite time to visit the farmers market. With spring's harvest on full display and the smell of ripe fruit in the air, the Valley's markets are always packed.

Aside from the pleasure of going to the market, many of us are there to quickly take advantage of the relatively short season of top-selling fruits and vegetables. And, with our current historically low rainfall, the season for that perfect produce may have been shortened considerably.

Luckily, there are folks like Dianne Madison of D. Madison & Daughters—makers of the very popular jams that are sold at the Davis Farmers Market on Wednesday and Saturday. In keeping with our issue's theme of sustainability and our current water shortage, we spoke about one of their top-selling products: apricot jam.

ES: Why apricot jam?

DM: Apricots are one of the most delicious of all fruits, but the season is very short, so it's good to be able to extend through the year by drying apricots or making jam. For the commercial apricot grower, harvest season is chaos. The crop can ripen in a very brief span of time and it's difficult to get it picked. The fruit is very fragile and perishable, and all of the other growers have fruit at the same time, so the market is crowded. By making jam we can turn a perishable product into a nonperishable one, and extend the season.

Read more: Seize The Moment: D. Madison Jams Capture Fleeting Apricot Season

last bite 1 5

We All Love the Bounty of Summer Produce, but Fall in Sacramento Yields Its Own All-Star Lineup of Fruits and Vegetables, Offering a Range of Intense Flavors and Textures. We Asked Some of Our Favorite Restaurant Industry Experts What Autumnal Ingredients They Look Forward to the Most, and Which Local Farms They Source From.

Director of Digital Marketing, Selland Family Restaurants
Last Bite: My favorite fall produce is really an end-ofsummer selection: last-of-theseason local heirloom tomatoes. They are so good in September! We tend to get our summer tomatoes from Watanabe Farms, and get our end-of-the-season beauties from Patrick's Garden in Placerville.

Read more: Local Restaurant Industry Experts on Autumnal Ingredients and What Farms They Source From


sweet peppers

The most popular and most familiar sweet peppers in the United States are bell peppers.

We tend to think of peppers as a summer vegetable but it is really fall—when the evenings and mornings are cooler and the days a little shorter—when the sweet peppers take over the market stalls in all their colorful glory.

All sweet peppers start out green. When they are green they are immature, but edible, as we all know, but as they mature they become red, yellow, orange, purple, "chocolate," even white, depending upon the variety, and also become much sweeter. The most popular and most familiar sweet peppers in the United States are bell peppers. A key element of the bell pepper is that it does not produce capsaicin, the compound responsible for heat in all the other peppers in the Capsicum genus.

Read more: Sweet Peppers: Savor ’em, Stuff ’em, Celebrate ’em

farm to every fork 1

The organizations came together with a vision to ensure that EVERY fork gets to transport healthy, good quality foods to every mouth.

What happens when we combine the determination of the food justice movement with the resilience of people who fight for the rights of the hungry and homeless? We get a coalition called Farm to Every Fork (F2EF). The organizations behind this coalition came together with a passionate vision to ensure that EVERY fork gets to transport healthy, good quality foods to every mouth. Period.

Farm to Every Fork is embodied by Slow Food Sacramento; Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC); Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services; River City Food Bank; Food Not Bombs; and several local urban farms. F2EF strives to acknowledge, support and spread awareness about the importance of food equality to ensure everyone has an opportunity to lead healthy lives.

Read more: Farm to Every Fork: Work Together to Bring Everyone to the Table


commodity vs Specialty coffee 1

The turning of honey processed coffee under a solar dryer.

I'd wager that many people don't realize how much coffees differ. Besides being produced in different countries and regions there are different levels and ultimately different tastes in the cup.

 Coffee is grown in the Equatorial range between the Tropics of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. It needs elevation, rainfall and sunlight, shade trees and breezes, a nutritious soil and careful pruning to be produced well.

Read more: Commodity VS. Specialty Coffee