THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY FRANK DOMPE
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
Welcome to edible Sacramento’s Edible Updates column. Here, we share the latest news from our area’s restaurants and food purveyors, updates from regional agricultural producers, and more details about our burgeoning food-and-drink scene.
Over the past seven years, the Sacramento Burger Battle has brought hundreds of people together annually for a fiercely competitive celebration of that most American of foodstuffs, the hamburger. The event’s tickets have sold out since its inception, and chefs begin fine tuning their entries weeks in advance. This year’s Burger Battle took place Sept. 13 in Downtown’s Cesar Chavez Park, with 15 competitors vying for two prizes: Judges’ Pick and People’s Choice. The results serve as a kind of map for diners who unabashedly look up from a menu and say “I’ll have the burger” on a regular basis —a pretty broad demographic. The mere fact that a restaurant chooses to compete says that it takes pride in its burger, and the kudos earned by the winners serve as a beacon to aficionados. This year’s entrants were: Adamo’s Kitchen Alaro Craft Brewery Burgertown Canon Capital Hop Shop Dawson’s Steakhouse de Vere’s Irish Pub Empress Tavern Localis Magpie Café Nixtaco Pangaea Bier Café Skip’s Kitchen South The Waterboy
Judges for the Burger Battle were, from left, Rick Mindermann of Corti Brothers, chef Pedro DePina of Selland's, food writer Janelle Bitker, and chef Billy Ngo of Kru
In addition to the main attraction, Bacon + Butter provided a fry bar, and more than 20 vendors offered beer, cider, wine, coffee, and dessert. The panel of judges included Kruchef Billy Ngo as well as Janelle Bitker, a former Sacramento News & Review food critic who now writes for Eater SF.
Bacon + Butter at the Burger Battle
The judges’ verdict? Just as in 2015 and 2016, Pangaea Bier Café took top honors, followed by last year’s winner, Empress Tavern, with first-time entrant The Waterboy,in third place. As for those in the crowd, they chose Pangaea as well, making it the first competitor to sweep both prizes. Second place in People’s Choice was last year’s winner, Dawson’s, a steakhouse in the downtown Hyatt Regency hotel. A locals’ favorite for fried chicken, South took third place in the popular vote with a creation that included fried green tomatoes and potato chips. Since its founding by burger blogger Rodney Blackwell, the battle has raised more than $200,000 to benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Blackwell’s Instagram page, @Burgerjunkies, has more than 47,000 followers. Turnover is fair play for local cuisine on K Street: Chain pub Bennigan’s has ended its short stint in the former location of restaurateur Randy Paragary’s KBAR and Cafe Bernardo, making way for a venture that aims to celebrate the best of Sacramento dining. It’s called The Grid. Executive chef Kent Souza, formerly a chef at Sacramento’s Kupros Craft House, among other area kitchens, has created a menu that draws on some of his favorite recipes from across the downtown grid. The bar offers craft cocktails and beers, and the large space is an ideal venue for live music. Auburn might not seem to be a likely place to find a taste of Brooklyn, but that’s what the North Fork Deli brings to the Sierra town. Owner Jake Somers returned to his hometown after more than a decade and a half as a New York restaurateur to open a delicatessen that serves traditional sandwiches such as pastrami on rye, meatball heroes, and Italian subs as well as vegetarian dishes. Somers’ wife, Christmas, bakes the deli’s chocolate chip cookies and created the recipe for the fresh kombucha on tap. North Fork takes its name from the branch of the American River that runs nearby.
Norlfolk Deli Potable posts
Fans of Ruhstaller beer can once again settle in to enjoy those steadfastly local brews now that the company has opened its new taproom in the Hardin building on K Street. The new location combines an enclosed front patio with an interior that matches the rustic coziness of Ruhstaller’s previous speakeasy-like digs in a basement near the Golden 1 arena. The selection has grown from eight beers to 18, with stalwarts such as the 1881 Red Ale joined by newer creations including a watermelon ale.
At the taproom, the ovens will turn out chicken, pork and … cauliflower? That’s where the focus shifts to Hook & Ladder alum Mansfield and his experience at Mother, a vegetarian restaurant that’s become a K Street stalwart, with dishes that draw a fair share of carnivores as well. More than 30 items comprise The Other Side’s menu, each a departure from standard pub grub. A sausage sampler from Sacramento’s V. Miller Meats shares the appetizer list with a pickle jar featuring veggies, chiles, and an egg. The cheesecake is infused with malted barley. Vegetarian options abound. Pets are welcome on the patio. What you won’t find are TVs — the owners’ goal was to create a community space that’s welcoming, inclusive, and family friendly.
Named after a song by Sublime that’s a mutual favorite of owners Pearl Spencer and Mark Eister, Badfish Coffee & Tea represents Orangevale with hometown pride. Beans from Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters are brewed alongside teas sourced from Sacramento’s Starwest Botanicals; provisions include pastries, bagels, and toast from Bella Bru and vegan cookies made by the Alternative Baking Co. in Sacramento; and the juices and smoothies are made with regional produce. Plus, the sleek space on Greenback Lane is bedecked with locally created artwork and crafts for sale.
Though it’s less than three years old, Alaro Craft Brewery in Midtown already has established a distinctive reputation. In September, Alaro became the youngest brewery to win a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Presented by the Brewers Association, GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world and recognizes the most outstanding beers produced in the U.S. The top three winners in the competition’s 102 beer-style categories were announced Sept. 22 at the awards ceremony held in Denver, Colo. Alaro was recognized in the English IPA beer-style category for its Castillo IPA, a classic English IPA made with a combination of American and English pale malts.
Alaro Craft Brewery wins gold at Great American Beer Festival
Edible events and accolades
We took note when Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou became the first woman from the area to pass The Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced Sommelier exam. Now Wine & Spiritsmagazine has named Mandalou one of America’s top five sommeliers. Together with her husband, chef Deneb Williams, Mandalou owns Woodlake Tavern, Uptown Pizza Kitchen, and their latest establishment, Allora, a veritable chapel dedicated to the marriage of food and wine.
Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou and Deneb Williams
Whether the citations are local, national, or global, our region continues to produce standout performances in the culinary arena. New events become ongoing traditions, and the development of Sacramento’s farm-to-fork movement strengthens the connections that have made this one of the nation’s foremost centers of talent in the edible arts.
Frank Dompe is a freelance writer and former McClatchy Co. editor with a longtime interest in cooking and coffee. He lives and works in Sacramento’s Alkali Flat neighborhood.