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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Five Guys Burgers and Fries planning Fresno expansion

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, RosevilleStocktonTracy, 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? 

Win tickets to the Fresno Food Expo

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.

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Top 5 Weird Al songs (the deep cuts)

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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.

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Fresno Fair adds REO Speedwagon to concert series

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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.

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Baked goodies grab the spotlight at new Ooh De Lolli Take Away Cafe

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 sells “light bites.” That includes sandwiches and salads, breakfast frittatas and breakfast pastries with coffee, along with Mott’s ice pops and other frozen goodies. But it’s the baked goods that are taking center stage here. Jannine Fitzgerald and her FireHouse Cookies & Pastries are providing the goodies. (That’s her on the left and Mott on the right.) The baked goods include maple-glazed cronuts, lemon lavender scones, sweet buns that are 6 inches across and gluten-free peanut butter cookies (along with lots of not gluten-free cookies). There’s also something called Breton cakes, which are layers of thin dough alternating with layers of European butter that Fitzgerald actually pounds until malleable. The result is a personal-sized pastry with hundreds of layers of dough and butter that is nestled in a baking tin like a flower, sprinkled with sugar and baked so the outside layers caramelize. Hungry yet?

The cafe is tiny, about 230 square feet. But there’s a handful of tables on a shady patio outside the cafe.

The Beehive Interview: Jeannette Herrera talks about her show at Arte Americas

Jeannette Herrera’s new show at Arte Americas isn’t exactly a quiet affair. Her paintings seethe and shout. I felt their raw energy the moment I walked into the gallery.

In my Sunday Spotlight column I write:

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.

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Benaddiction restaurant is open and raising money for a good cause

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.

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Baby-makin’ R&B group H-Town in town Saturday night

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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.

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CBS dealing with late-night, contracts, viewers

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.”

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Star Wars Fans: THIS.

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. 

Regardless, check out the viral vid below.  

Word sleuth: the local theater edition

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:

Hat tip to Bee artist John Alvin, who dreamed up this cheery exercise. Here’s my 7 section theater roundup cover story.

Last night I got to see “West Side Story.” Tonight I’m dropping in on River City and “The Music Man.”

Two big plugs for continuing shows this weekend: “[title of show]“ at StageWorks Fresno (in its last weekend), and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” at Artists’ Repertory Theatre (only two weekends left).

And be sure to check out Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss’ “West Side Story” photo gallery. He has some really nice images. 

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

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Peel yourself away from the news for an hour or so …

1. Jose Canseco Home Run Challenge tryouts
I know next to nothing about baseball. What I do know is this: Jose Canseco swung HARD! Like, breaking-bat hard.

2. Opera Ambulante
Spanish Opera at River Park. The juxtaposition of cultures is just too much!
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3. The theater
Take your pick..

4. Rock & Roll: Behind the Scenes
A panel discussion on the nuts and bolts of rock and roll. Hint: It’s not as glamorous as you might think.

5. Meatball Magic
My favorite DJs return to my favorite bar. It’s been awhile.

And five for the music fans …

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Lucas Black makes big career catch

Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

Nineteen years ago, I found myself, during a CBS party, sitting with a 13-year-old Lucas Black. The Alabama native was making his debut in “American Gothic,” a short-lived drama from Shaun Cassidy. There wasn’t a lot to talk about with the young actor with no credits. I finally asked Black if he was planning to make acting his career or if there was something else he wanted to do.

“I want to be a professional Bassmaster,” Black told be with a southern accent so thick you could spell magnolias.

Fast forward to the current TV tour where Black has shown up to talk about his roll in the new CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans.” He obviously stuck with acting and has rolled up 24 TV and film credits. As for telling me he wanted to be a professional fisherman so many years ago, Black says back he loved to fish so much when he was young that’s why he thought it would be a great career.

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BANDGEEK: Shwaye, Sweat and the Summerland tour

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Planes are being shot out of the sky! We won’t fault you for not thinking about getting out to see some live music this weekend. Still, it’s my job to keep you informed. So here it is, your weekly music roundup (back from a short hiatus) … BANDGEEEEK!

TONIGHT:

  • Ghost Key.
    W/Castaway, Outlier, Rampage and Chip Spacey. At CYC. 6:30 p.m. $4. ALl ages. (Flier link)

  • Electronic Ladyland Tour.
    W/Je4sika Von Rabbit, Maria Del Pilar and Okapi Sun. At Audie’s Olympic. 9 p.m. No ticket price listed. (Flier link)

  • A beach party and potluck.
    W/Math, Suzy’s Dead, The P.I.T.S., Egg Slut and Sci-Fi Caper. At C.A.F.E. Infoshop. 6 p.m. $3-5. All ages. (Flier link)

  • Pinche Culture Night.
    5th Anniversary. W/Marcus Hernandez, Pa’Chango, Resident Alien and Conjunto Califas. At Cellar Door, Visalia. 7 p.m. Free. (Flier link)

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    Life peachy for ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ actor

    Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

    Keep an eye out for actor Joel McKinnon Miller, who plays Scully on the FOX comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” He could be in the Fresno area in the next few weeks.

    He’s coming to the area for fruit, specifically peaches from the farm of David Mas Masumoto. The Del Rey author is known for being a peach and grape farmer.

    “I adopted a peach tree from him 10 years ago,” Miller says during a chat on the set of the comedy. “Some friends and I share the tree. We will be going up in the next two weekends to pick part the fruit. And, it’s some of the best peaches you have ever eaten in your life.”

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    Ryan Beatty announces tour dates, spot at Lollapalooza

    While Fresno rapper Fashawn has had a big couple weeks (signing to Nas’ Mass Appeal Records and killin’ it on stage in Germany), Fresno’s own teen idol (and looks to be bonafide pop star) Ryan Beatty announced a new slate of tour dates that includes a slot at Lollapalooza.

    This is a big move for the 18-year old singer (one of the youngest performers at the festival), and sign that he’s growing into more than a flash-in-the-pan pop singer. Lollapalooza is arguably the best known American music festival (second maybe to Coachella) and is has a lineup full of heavy hitters: Eminen, Outkast, Kings of Leon, Lorde, Foster the People, Interpol, Grouplove, AFI and The Airborne Toxic Event (which features another Fresno ex-pat, so there).

    The announcement follows an Easter performance at the White House and a meet-and-greet with hundred of fans during Beatty’s first trip to Paris. Beatty is still working on his long-awaited debut album and continuing to grow his fan base — last week the singer hit 1 million likes on Facebook.

    Watch a video of Beatty doing a cover of Coldplay’s “Magic” on the jump.

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    Men’s room theft has happy ending in Visalia

    Facebook was buzzing yesterday when Pita Kabob, a gastropub in Visalia, posted this as its status: “To the person who stole the California republic bear picture and frame in the men’s bathroom. It’s all good, you needed it more than us, you could’ve just asked.”

    The theft of the image of the bear that’s on the California flag inspired tons of comments on the Facebook post, many of them unleashing their rage at the thief. At one point, whoever is behind the Pita Kabob Facebook post sought to calm things down, saying, “It’s all good everyone. We have a feeling of who the person is. Unfortunately people act silly when they drink…..”

    But it has a happy ending. This morning Pita Kabob posted that someone slid the picture under the door with a note that said, “Wasn’t funny. I apologize,” with a frown face. Even better is the flood of positive comments on that second post, things like “Faith in humanity restored!” and “Awesome! I love it when people who do rotten things make real amends. Good on ya anonymous person.” All is right with the world now.

    Opening tonight: ‘West Side Story’ and ‘The Music Man’

    Talk about a pair of American musical theater classics: Good Company Players opens “West Side Story” tonight at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater; and CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre opens “The Music Man” at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. They’re two slices of Americana.

    Watch for our cover story in Friday’s 7 section about how you can go on a local theater binge this weekend and next.

    Pictured: Above, the Jets in “West Side Story.” (Bee photo by Craig Kohlruss.) Below, Eric Estep, center, is Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” (Bee photo by Eric Paul Zamora.)

    Elaine Stritch, 1926-2014

    Can’t believe she’s gone. From the New York Times:

    Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.

    The tributes, posts, Tweets and memories are flowing in. I like this one from StageWorks Fresno’s Joel Abels:

    Rest in Peace Ms. Stritch. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Everybody RIIIIIIIIISE!

    Here’s a nice YouTube video (hat tip to Kyle Behen via Facebook) of Stritch and her famous song “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch”:

    THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Underpants’

    There are several problems with the well-intentioned but uneven production of “The Underpants” playing at the Fresno Soap Co., but the biggest is this: a sense of scale.

    Director R.S. Scott needs to dial back on the broadness of his cast member’s performances and the vigorous tone of his direction in this gentle farce about a woman in 1910 Germany who creates a scandal when she drops her underpants at a parade for the king. In a word, most of the performances are too big, especially in the intimate space of the Fresno Soap Co., formerly known as the Broken Leg Stage. Gestures, vocals and in general an overall sense of “staginess” need to be more restrained.

    “The Underpants” is a production of the Curtain 5 Theatre Group and Jump Right in Productions. I’m grateful that it decided to stage this comedy, adapted by the actor Steve Martin from Carl Sterheim’s German clever farce, because it was my first time seeing it.

    In the play, we meet Louise (Rhesma Meister),the young wife of a blustery Dusseldorf clerk. Her husband, Theo (Christopher Cook), is irate because she is the talk of the town for dropping her underpants at the parade. Her slightly salacious act seems to correspond with her own sexual frustrations. (Her husband says they can’t afford a baby.) Things get complicated when two men — a hypochondriac barber (Clinton Couron) and a suave and unctuous poet (Jason Andrew) show up wanting to rent a room in Louise and Theo’s flat. They aren’t so much interested in the lodgings as they are in the landlady.

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    THEATER REVIEW: ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

    The first real dagger of the evening comes early.

    “Lay off my father,” snaps Martha, aka theater’s most famous frustrated 1960s faculty wife. Leslie Martin, who brings the character in Edward Albee’s classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to life in an outstanding Artists’ Repertory Theatre production at the Severance Theatre, imbues her words to her husband with a steely, razor-sharp menace that could be the precursor to a “Game of Thrones”-style killing spree.

    Up till this point the slings and arrows in this whimsically ferocious outing have been of the play-fighting variety, as we watch one of the famous sparring couples in American theater history — Martha and her professor husband, George, played with towering skill and feeling by Brad Myers — spar with each other in an evening of “fun and games.” Martha’s father is president of the small New England college at which her husband works, and even though both enjoy mocking the old man, there are lines that can be crossed.

    One of the great strengths of “Virginia Woolf” is in the way it can turn dangerous on you in a split-second. I love how this production, directed by Myers, makes you feel that danger. But this is more than the story of an alcohol-fueled raging couple. The play is built on a toxic relationship, and yet Albee keeps us guessing throughout as to where these characters truly stand.

    There are far wider more perilous lines than sniping about Martha’s father that are crossed later in the play, but even when things get uglier — and, oh, how ugly they get — there’s always a sense of ambiguity.

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    ABC fall schedule more diverse

    Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

    The thing that jumps out about ABC’s portion of the TV Critics tour is how much the newtork has created more diversity in its prime-time lineup. The new Anthony Anderson comedy “Black-ish” looks at what happens when an unscale family becomes concerned that their children are losing all connections to their ethnic roots.

    Then there’s “Cristela,” a new comedy starring Cristela Alonzo. It looks at what happens when a young woman’s ambitions are not in line with what her Hispanic family has in mind.

    Here are some other updates for ABC as presented by Paul Lee, President, ABC Entertainment.

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    Wine tasting at Meux Home with Grocery Outlet

    Here’s an unusual place to host a wine tasting: The Meux Home Museum. The lawn of that gorgeous 1888 Victorian home downtown will be the site of Grocery Outlet’s first of many monthly wine tastings beginning Friday. The event, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., is a fundraiser for the museum and costs $10. No reservations or tickets needed, just make sure you bring your ID no matter how old you are because you won’t get in without it. Grocery Outlet is donating all the wine. 

    The event was inspired by Chris Caillier, the local owner/operator of the new Grocery Outlet across the intersection at Tulare and R streets. “I looked at that mansion and said, ‘We need to have a wine tasting there,’” he said. The store is partnering with the West Shaw Grocery Outlet for this event and all the area Grocery Outlet stores will be involved in future monthly wine tastings. They will eventually include food, live music and beer tasting. 

    It’s also a way for Grocery Outlet to bring some attention to its wine and beer department. Like many of its products, the stores gets overruns of wine when wineries have too much or change a label, for example. Caillier says the department is a good for way for wine drinkers who want to experiment but not spend a lot of money. Most bottles cost between $4.99 and $6.99 with the occasional $1.99 bottle.

    Most of the beer for sale at Grocery Outlet isn’t overstock, but comes directly from the sellers. The stores sell some interesting craft beers, including Tioga-Sequioa beer and Firestone (and I hear Riley’s is often sold at local Grocery Outlets too).

    Katherine Heigl still interesting interview

    It always seemed a little strange when all of the reports and rumors were spreading that Katherine Heigl was impossibly difficult. It all started with some very negative reports during the end of her run on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Then there was a series of failed romantic comedy movies that didn’t help her image at all.

    This never sounded like the Katherine Heigl I interviewed multiple times during the run of “Roswell” from 1999-2002. In fact, I interviewed her so many times during that stretch, I had to stop out of fear she would think I was stalking her. The reason we would chat was because I really liked the show because Chowchilla native Ron Moore wrote numerous episodes and Heigl was always very sweet and interesting during interviews.

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