The Fresno Food Expo was yesterday, with 126 specialty food producers showing off their locally made food and drink. They were hoping to catch the attention of the more than 700 buyers who attended and market themselves to the more than 1,000 people who attended the public portion of the event in the evening. You can read all about the expo and see a video here. I spent the day bombing Instagram with food photos and of course, trying out the food. There were some standouts, so here’s a few of my favorites and where to get them. And if you attended the food expo, please feel free to share your favorites in the comments section.
The Sarah’s Harvest fresh green chickpea hummus, particularly the roasted garlic and rosemary, was hands down the best thing I tasted all day. It also comes in cilantro and spicy jalapeno flavor, and original recipe. This is a brand new product made by Sanger chickpea seller Califresh, so new it’s not in stores yet. They’re hoping some of the contacts they made at the Food Expo will lead to it being on store shelves. For now, you can get it at Grizzlies games during the Farm Grown Friday farmers market inside the stadium on Aug. 1, 15 and 29. The company recommends keeping on eye on this website to find out where you can get it in the future.
“The Music Man” is in its closing weekend in Clovis, and I couldn’t let the occasion slip by without giving 6-year-old Jackson Estep, who plays Winthrop in the show, a moment of Beehive fame. Here’s my video:
P.S. — I wrote about Jackson and the Estep family — there are five of them all appearing in the show together — in Thursday’s Life section. It turns out they have company. Cheryl Martin writes:
You may not be aware that there is another family with 5 members in the production. They are the Smiths. Father Patrick, sons Michael Patrick and Tim, daughters Anna and Joy (who played Amaryllis). What are the odds of that happening?
Think about it: Even with a cast of more than 60, the Esteps and Smiths together make up a significant percentage of “The Music Man” cast.
If you work in an office, it’s especially easy to let summertime slip past as you spend your days cloistered away in an air-conditioned cubicle. Sure, it’s glamorous, but do you ever find yourself wishing you were in a meadow somewhere, chasing butterflies?
Well, now you can! Who says the office can’t be your own very special meadow? Bring those beauties indoors. this project is so simple, even young kids can help.
Next time you’re stuck with a late-night deadline, instead of cursing friends and coworkers enjoying themselves at the beer garden — you can format those TPS reports in the midst of your own butterfly garden.
Michael Rooker has been a journeyman actor for almost 30 years appearing in a wide variety of TV shows and films. None of that work has brought Rooker a tenth of the attention the 59-year-old actor has been getting since he joined the cast of “The Walking Dead.” That attention will get ramped up even more as he stars in the latest big screen comic book-inspired offering, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
It’s hard to know which group is more rabid: “Dead” fans or comic book movie lovers. Either way, the combination is huge.
As for being part of another big franchise, Rooker smiles and says, “Why not?! Why not?!”
There are lots of theater options this weekend, but I want to give a last shout-out for Artists’ Repertory Theatre’s impressive “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” now in its final weekend at California Arts Academy’s Severance Theatre. It plays 8 p.m Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. From my review:
This is an exemplary production — one of the best of the year locally. Long before there were games involving hunger, George and Martha set the standard for weird, memorable and dangerous antics.
And if you’ve never seen the stage version of this acclaimed show, you owe it to yourself to see a great piece of American theater.
The Beehive caught up with Joel C. Abels of StageWorks Fresno, whose production of “The Mountaintop” opens Friday at the Dan Pessano Theatre. You can find excerpts from my Q&A interview in Friday’s 7 section. Here’s the extended interview.
Question: You saw “The Mountaintop” on Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. Describe your reaction and why you wanted so much to bring this show to Fresno.
Answer: There was something incredibly powerful and moving about that production that really inspired me to bring this play to Fresno audiences. Yes, seeing both of those actors performing such complex characters added to that but it was really the way with which Katori Hall allowed us to see another side of Dr. Martin Luther King when faced with his own mortality that was really impactful. One of my goals with StageWorks Fresno is to challenge our audiences with new and socially relevant works as well as showcasing local actors in dream roles. After seeing the play on Broadway in 2011 and having just worked with Camille Gaston on “Ragtime earlier” that year, it was abundantly clear that the role of Camae would be a fantastic vehicle for her, allowing audiences to see her in a completely different light.
Give us a brief synopsis.
In short, it is a fictional account of Dr. King’s last night on earth and his encounter with a maid at the Lorraine Hotel where he is staying. I don’t want to give too much more away, if you catch my drift.
The Woodward Shakespeare Festival production of “The Taming of the Shrew” is in its opening weekend at Woodward Park, and we caught up with director Aaron Spjute to chat about the show. You can find excerpts from the Q&A interview in Friday’s 7 section; here’s the extended version.
Question: I just want to make sure I’ve got your artistic concept for this correct. Are the traditionally male roles in “Taming of the Shrew” being played by women as women in the show? (Which would, essentially, make the relationship between Petruchio and Katharine a lesbian one.) Or do the male characters remain male but just happen to be played by women?
Answer: “The Taming of the Shrew” has over 20 parts and only three of them are female. In this production, every actor plays multiple roles and all are portrayed as men presented by an all female cast. So it’s all male characters presented by women.
Are you changing pronouns and other gender references? Are costumes gender-specific?
None of the names or pronouns have been changed. Baptista, presented by Jessica Reedy, is called “father” and nearly every character is referred to as “sir” or “lord.” The women wear dresses and have long hair; the men don’t.
When Tony, brandishing the optimism and ache of youth, is singing the last notes of “Something’s Coming,” how can you help but feel an anticipatory shiver? Then we shift in “West Side Story” to the famous dance in the high school gymnasium — the setting in which the rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks will square off, sparking love and tragedy.
I love this moment in the show when the music pounds an expectant beat and the twirling dresses of the women seem to float forever in a world of possibility. And it comes across gorgeously in the new and uneven Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater.
The dancing is the great strength of this production. With only a few exceptions, the cast does justice to the demanding choreographic expectations of this show — which requires a top-notch dance ensemble. The flashy steps of “America”? First-rate. The jittery kinetic flash of the “Jet Song”? Impressive. The comic moves of “Officer Krupke”? Slick and funny.
Co-choreographers Julie Lucido and Greg Grannis use the small Roger Rocka’s stage to maximum effect, and this is an occasion to single out the dance captains (Marc Gonzalez and Maria Monreal) and fight choreographers (tony sanders and Brent Moser) as well, because movement is what gives the production its sizzle.
That said, the acting, singing and direction in this production are not always as strong as the dancing.
In terms of aw-shucks family wholesomeness — the kind that seems tailor-made for good-hearted, sprawling summer community-theater productions — it’s hard to beat Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man.”
Consider a wonderful moment in the uneven new CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre production, now in its final weekend at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre. Watch 6-year-old Jackson Estep, a few years younger than called for in the script but already possessing an impressive confidence on stage, step out as Winthrop in the “The Wells Fargo Wagon” to belt out a lisp-dominated solo. It’s just so cute you want to box up the moment in a pretty package and take it home with you, there to enjoy at your leisure when the world gets surly.
There are some good reasons, then, that CenterStage loves this time-honored show. The company last produced “The Music Man” just six years ago.
It’s only natural for me to compare the latest version with the 2008 incarnation. While the new production, directed by Scott Hancock, has some exuberant moments and performances, including Winthrop in “Wells Fargo,” and a great “Shipoopi” dance number, it’s not as accomplished as the earlier version. Sometimes it seems downright creaky.
Now here’s a twist on the traditional “Taming of the Shrew” for you: The entire cast of the new Woodward Shakespeare Festival production, opening Thursday at Woodward Park, is made up of women actors. Aaron Spjute directs. From the company:
‘Shrew” is a comical battle of the sexes, an exploration of how men and women interact and a commentary on the roles society expects them to fill. Spjute has chosen an all-female cast in order to present an exaggerated theatrical experience. “…servants become masters, masters become servants and even the sun becomes the moon simply by being proclaimed as such,” Spjute explains. At its heart, the production challenges us to embrace the idea that we are so often much more than the labels others assign to us.
Coming Friday: excerpts from a Q&A interview with Spjute in Friday’s 7 section; and an extended interview with him on the Beehive.
The “Fifty Shades of Grey” trailer was released this morning. So other than that quick 2 1/2 minutes, you’ll be free to enjoy the dozens of live music events through next week. I give them to you here in list form as a weekly roundup known as BANDGEEEEK!
StageWorks Fresno on Friday opens a play that recently attracted a lot of attention when it appeared on Broadway in 2011: “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall. It’s a fictional account of the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, set in a Memphis motel room. It can be controversial to some because it presents King as a real person, not a saint. “It pushes some buttons, because people don’t want to recognize their heroes were not perfect, ” says director Joel C. Abels. (Coming Friday: excerpts from a Q&A session with Abels in the 7 section, and an extended interview on the Beehive.)
“The Mountaintop” plays at the Dan Pessano Theatre (on the campus of Clovis North High School) for just two weekends, through Aug. 3. And thanks to the Beehive, you have a chance to win a “four pack” of tickets to any of the opening weekend shows (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday).
I’m giving away two of these four-packs, and I’ll pick the winners randomly. To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: If you’d had the chance to meet Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you have asked him? (If you’d prefer not to get philosophical, you can just tell us why you’d like to see the show.)
Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Friday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winners by email on Friday at 10, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by 2 p.m. Friday, I reserve the right to pick another. You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at the theater box office. Rules are on the jump.
Lots of restaurant and retail news happening lately, so I figured it was time for a round up. Here’s what’s happening.
Lots of folks have been asking what’s happening at the former Fajita Fiesta on Shaw Avenue, just west of Cedar Avenue. It’s going to be Guri’s Grubhouse & Taps. It’s a gastropub (that means lots of craft beer and gourmet food) that the people who own Swigg’s are opening. You can read all about it here. No opening date released yet.
The long dead corner of Clinton and Weber will get a Vallarta Supermarket. The Hispanic grocer probably won’t open until the end of 2015, but it’s nice to finally have some action on the site of the former Mid-State Bowl.
The Elephant Lounge is open at 80 W. Shaw Ave. in Clovis in the former North India Bar & Grill. It quietly opened a few weeks ago to work out the kinks. The restaurants sells Indian food — both authentic and fusion — along with Italian and American. Stay tuned for more details on that from me.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries apparently really likes Fresno. A company that owns many of the franchised restaurants is planning to open 10 more — yes 10 — restaurants in Fresno. Encore Restaurants, LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Encore Enterprises, Inc. announced Tuesday that it has purchased the existing Fresno restaurant in River Park (along with the Five Guys locations in Elk Grove,Lodi, Natomas, Roseville, Stockton, Tracy, and West Sacramento). The company plans to open 45 more Five Guys locations in the state over the next four years, with 10 of them in Fresno.
Of course, this is the point where my suspicious reporter brain said “Really? All 10 in Fresno? Not the ‘Fresno area’ that could potentially stretch to Bakersfield?” Nope, said the marketing director who double checked with the company president. All 10 in Fresno.
They have found locations for the sites, but are not releasing addresses yet. Building will start in early 2015. Marketing director Amy Upton said: “They just have had a lot of feedback [from] people wanting them. There’s a need for it in the area. People are requesting them.”
Five Guys serves burgers, of course, but also hot dogs and sandwiches, along with providing peanuts in bulk for customers. Is this a challenge to the Valley’s beloved In-N-Out Burger perhaps?
Update: The winner of the Fresno Food Expo tickets has been randomly selected. Congratulations, Andrea (who likes local strawberries).
The Fresno Food Expo showcasing all kinds of locally produced foods is Thursday — and I have free tickets to give away. The public portion of the show runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Fresno Convention Center, New Exhibit Hall. If this show is anything like past years, the 125 vendors will giving out tons of food and you’ll get to taste lots of beer and vodka and other goodies. You can read more about the show itself here.
We’ve got a tight deadline on this one, so to enter to win tickets, tell us in the comments what your favorite locally grown or produced food is before 3 p.m. Wednesday. Winners will be chosen at random and notified via email (so check your email if you enter). These are physical tickets and must be picked up at the Fresno Bee office (1626 E St.) during business hours (that means before 5 p.m.). Keep reading for contest rules.
Last week, Alfred Yankovic, aka “Weird Al” Yankovic, or simply Weird Al, created a full-on media typhoon when he released eight days worth of videos to promote his latest album “Mandatory Fun.”
There have been no shortage stories and blog posts about the videos and their success, or about Al himself, a 50-year-old accordion player who destroys conventional thought about the pop-music industry with his very relevancy in it (and a No. 1 album to boot. He’s expected to chart near the top when the week’s tallies go up on Billboard Wednesday).
What Al did with these videos was a savvy piece of publicity; from the parodies themselves (who hasn’t had that grammar conversation with someone), to the choice of star cameos, to premiering each one on a different blog site each day, including the Wall Street Journal (thus ensuring total.internet.domination).
Let me jump on the bandwagon here and say that I love Weird Al.
Or, I loved Weird Al.
At least when I was 10 or 11 and so enamored with his album “Even Worse” that I started crafting my own parodies. There was a Guns N’ Roses parody I called “Welcome to the City,” which I convinced my family was an actual Weird Al song. Why they believed me (or how I knew about Guns N’ Roses at 11 years old) is beside the point.
Two things to remember about Weird Al.
1.) He’s released a fairly steady stream of albums since 1983 and has dozens of songs to his name. 2.) The guy is super, ridiculously talented, more than his parodies would let on, even.
So, you could do any number of “Weird Al” best-of lists (best polka-ized song, best food parody song, best homage), but here’s my top five Weird Al songs, in no particular order and based on little more than my own personal tastes.
Looking at the list now, I wonder what this list says about me.
The Big Fresno Fair adds ’70s radio rock to the country, hip-hop, pop and oldies groups already booked for year’s Table Mountain Concert series.
Classic-rock superstars REO Speedwagon will perform Oct. 11 at the Paul Paul Theater.
The band — a mainstay of classic-rock radio with hits like “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Keep on Loving You” — is currently in the midst of a co-headlining tour with the rock group Chicago and last played Fresno in 2009 as part of the Can’t Stop Rockin’ tour that stopped at the Save Mart Center.
Tucked into a tiny space at Gazebo Gardens nursery at Van Ness Boulevard and Shields Avenue is a little haven of deliciousness: The Ooh De Lolli Take Away Cafe. The cafe was opened recently by Donna Mott, the woman who sells ice pops (paletas, if you prefer) from a cart around town. It’s open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
The cafe is tiny, about 230 square feet. But there’s a handful of tables on a shady patio outside the cafe.
Her paintings in oil and acrylic are rowdy, funny, violent, tender, explosive and passionate. Fantastical creatures, Peruvian imagery, religious icons, sexual gyrations, unabashed nudity, street culture and personal trauma all swirl together into a colorful stew. Some of her paintings rollick with humor. Others bristle with anger. Some manage to do both.
I caught up with Herrera — a recent transplant to Lemoore who followed her Navy boyfriend from the East Coast — for an extensive email interview, portions of which I distilled into my Sunday column. Here’s that extended version.
Question: Painting is therapy for you. Tell us about the attack on you in 2004 and how you’ve coped afterward.
Answer: The details are not so important as much as the aftermath of this event is to me. One night in 2004, I was walking home. I never quite made it. Woke up in an ambulance with my face rearranged and with a skull fracture that ran from the top of my skull, down through my sinuses. I don’t remember the actual attack and I’m more than OK with that. It’s nothing I like to retell or think about too much in depth.
I had already had issues with social anxiety but after that ordeal I really shut myself off from the world. There were few people I trusted being alone with. Social engagements or crowds were not an option, and what I considered a crowd was anyone other than myself. I saw no one but my children, and even then I wouldn’t let them see me until my face was healed. Driving was close to impossible for me from my anxiety issues, so I just didn’t do it. I was a different person and understanding my reclusiveness was difficult for many.
This was when I started creating again. I had terrible insomnia and all those waking hours to fill with something hopefully other than anxious thoughts, so I painted. What seemed like cute or adorable images to other people were things in my head I really needed to work out.
Rock-n-roll-themed breakfast food truck Benaddiction has opened its sit-down restaurant. The truck is still rolling Thursday through Sunday, but now you can get the breakfast sandwiches, salads and other food any day of the week at the restaurant. It’s located at 3015 W. Bullard Ave., at the southwest corner of Bullard and Marks and is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
The menu is a little different from the truck. Pancakes are now available, along with appetizers such as Buffalo wings and onion rings. Customers can get the breakfast sandwiches on their own, or, since the business can actually use plates now, get them served open faced with french fries or breakfast potatoes. And clearly, it’s not just breakfast food, with wraps, salads and burgers on the menu too. “Any meal you want whenever you want it,” says owner James Caples.
The restaurant is little — about 1,000 square feet and seven tables — and the walls are decorated with album covers. The tables are painted with chalkboard paint and customers are encouraged to get artsy with chalk while waiting for their food. Customer art often gets photographed and put on the Benaddiction’s Facebook page.
The way Shazam Conner tells it (punctuated with a hearty laugh), H-Town is responsible for 1/3 of the population of the United States. In the 1990s, the Texas R&B group (Conner, along with his late brother Dino and friend G.I. Jackson) had hits with the songs “Knockin’ da Boots” and “Lick U Up.”
The titles tell you what you need to know. This is baby making music (NOT an official genre).
“The women at my shows are still making babies,” says Conner, in town with H-Town Saturday night at the Selland Arena, playing on a bill that includes R&B singer Al B. Sure and Keith Sweat. “We’re going to be singing all the hits,” he says.
Then, he lists them, starting with “Boots” and “Lick U Up,” and rattling through a half dozen others.
H-Town released its last album “Imitations of Life,” in 2004, just after the death of Conner’s brother Dino, but the group never really stopped playing, Conner says. In fact, he and Jackson just finished recording songs from a new album to be released next year.
A single should be out next month.
Lyrically, the new music is classic H-Town — full of down-and-dirty fictionalized love songs. Musically, it keeps the pairs’ signature melodies and classic R&B beats, but adds contemporary influences in the hooks, Conner says.
“It’s H-Town with a new millennial twist.”
It’s a sound that fans are ready for, says Jackson. While, H-Town tends to gets classified as old-school, or worse yet, adult contemporary, the pair is anything but.
Conner and Jackson are still in their (late) 30s. Their fans are listening to hip-hop and rap and R&B.
The O’ Jays, the Isley Brothers, those are real old school artists, Jackson says.
“We’re not there yet,” he says. “Maybe someday.”
Watch the video for H-Town’s “Knockin’ da Boots,” on the jump.
Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.
Nina Tassler, the Chairman of CBS Entertainment, has some big issues to deal with including changes in both of the network’s late-night programs, the launch of NFL games on Thursday night and a viewership that continues to skew old. It’s easy to face such issues when you are coming off another season as America’s most-watched network. If you are keeping tabs, that’s 11 times in 12 years.
Here’s what Tassler has to say about some of the issues she’s facing with the network:
Why programs like “Friends with Better Lives” and “Bad Teacher” only got a short window to prove their worth: “Every season we have shows that work and shows that don’t work, shows that get traction, others that don’t. And if we didn’t have that cycle, it wouldn’t create opportunity for other shows to get on the air. It’s a part of our ecosystem. Some shows take off, and some don’t.”
So you think you’re the biggest Star Wars fan ever? You’re not alone. Apparently, Stephen Colbert and John Stewart think they are, too. (But they’re misguided as CLEARLY they haven’t come up against uber fan, Rick Bentley.)
Disney is offering mega fans the opportunity to be in Star Wars: Episode VII via a donation contest in support of UNICEF.
THE BASICS: Go here, donate money, and be entered to win a spot in the film. The more you donate, the more entries you get, the larger your chances of winning.
How much theater is going on in Fresno this weekend and next? So much that we decided to take the titles of a bunch of local shows and turn them into their very own “Theater Sleuth” word search. It makes for a wonderful 7 cover: