BY AMBER K. STOTT

Local food blogger Garrett McCord's first cheese experience was very American.

"It was orange block cheddar from the grocery store," he says. "In fact, I have one in my fridge right now."

While McCord (a frequent contributor to Edible Sacramento) may still crave comfort foods from his childhood, his taste for cheese has expanded like the band of blue stretching across a chunk of Humbolt Fog.

October marks the release of McCord's first cookbook with co-author Stephanie Stiavetti. Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese is filled with reinterpreted recipes from the American classic. Yet, instead of orange block cheddar, these dishes rely on artisan cheeses like French goat cheese and smoked blue.

"Five years ago, I wouldn't have guessed I would be writing a cookbook, and I wouldn't have guessed it would be mac and cheese," says McCord, whose popular food blog, Vanilla Garlic, is filled with pastries, jams, Asian dishes and cocktail recipes in addition to cheesy creations.

Read more: Three Years in Cheese: The Making of Melt

BY AMANDA HAWKINS

kombucha

I was visiting my Aunt Susie a few years ago and noticed a large jar of liquid sitting on her counter. Something brown and flat floated on top of it. It was kombucha, a strange form of tea. The brown pancake thing on top was what kombucha enthusiasts called the "Mother," a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that feed on sugar. After a week or so on the counter the kombucha becomes bubbly and tangy and purportedly good for the gut.

Kombucha is as easy to make as sauerkraut – maybe easier because no chopping is involved. Every time a batch of kombucha is made the Mother makes a baby pancake colony, so even though you can buy a Mother online in starter kits, chances are there are baby Mother colonies near you waiting to be adopted.

Once you have a Mother, you just steep some tea, add some sugar, let it cool, and give that floppy Mother a little soak for a week or two in a warm, dark place. Of course, Aunt Susie also says everything must be "scrupulously clean."

Read more: Kombucha: One Funky Mother

BY BECKY GRUNEWALD / PHOTOGRAPHY BY RACHEL VALLEY

There isn't much of a "back of the house" at Maalouf's Taste of Lebanon because owner Adbul Maalouf is always manning the grill behind the counter, clad in his customary bright orange Maalouf's T-shirt and his rapper-worthy gold chain with a cedar – the symbol of Lebanon – on it. He is a bear of a guy with a soft voice, and he invariably admonishes me that it's been too long since he's seen me (even if it hasn't been that long).

maaloufs1

Read more: Back of the House: Maalouf's

BY NGAIO BEALUM / PHOTOGRAPHED BY JANINE MAPURUNGA

canna

Weed and food have a long and wonderful history together. And not just because "the munchies" have inspired countless food and flavor combinations (think about Ben and Jerry's ice cream, those dudes must've been high). Bhang lassi, a cannabis-infused yogurt drink, originated in India hundreds and hundreds of years ago and is still popular, especially during the festival of Holi. When used in moderation, marijuana-infused food can be a nice treat, and itmay even have a few beneficial properties as well. For many people with serious and chronic pain conditions, medical marijuana edibles, sometimes called "medibles," have been a blessing. There are people with insomnia who use pot instead of sleeping pills and folks who use cannabis foods to help with arthritis, MS, and other conditions. And some people just like to get high. A cannabis chocolate bar and a movie or concert go together very well.

Read more: Marijuana: It's What's for Dinner

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