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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

It’s Valentine’s Day … You may or may not have plans.

1. Tower District Mardi Gras Parade
If the parade is anything like this flier … Holy crud, watch out.

2. Love, Comedy and Poetry
It’s not love if you can’t laugh together.

3. “50 Shades of Grey
Who cares if the movie is terrible? Am I right?

4. “A Streetcar Named Desire
For background.

5. Blimprov Presents
Be warned: One couple’s story will become the basis for the night’s show.

Plus a bonus five concert picks.

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Ooh de Lolli goodies return to Fresno

After Ooh de Lolli Take Away Cafe closed at Gazebo Gardens, several you said something like “But wait! Where can I get that yummy food?” Now I have an answer for you: Mia Cuppa Caffe, starting Saturday.

In case you missed it, Ooh de Lolli closed at the end of December and coffee shop Cafe Van Ness has opened in its place already. (And P*DE*Q Corner has a new tenant too, with the Ampersand folks planning to open an ice cream shop there.) Ooh de Lolli owner Donna Mott has agreed to supply her savory goodies to the Mia Cuppa coffee shop (formerly the Revue) in the Tower District. She’ll be stocking their cases with salads, sandwiches — including the cashew chicken salad sandwich — spinach puffs (at right), egg fritatas, scones and her “power packed bars.” The “ever popular breakfast pudding” with avocado, banana, cocoa, chia seeds and sweetened agave nectar will be there too. All of this will be alongside other food providers, including Fresno Bagel and La Boulangerie.

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What’s your favorite appetizer in Fresno?

Restaurants are doing such innovative stuff with their menus lately, especially with appetizers. That’s a category that seems to attract a lot of creativity, plus it usually has lots of tasty fried stuff. I’ve seen kimchi fries at Little Leaf Bar, fried pickles at Westwoods, fries with jalapeno popper dip at the newly opened Bulldog Burger Bistro, and apparently the Vintage Press in Visalia is known for its wild mushrooms cooked in a cognac cream sauce and served on puff pastry.

So it got me thinking, what’s your favorite appetizer to get at a Fresno-area restaurant? Is it something new and different? Or is it an old standby, say, french fries, that are just really delicious? Whether fancy or down home, at an independently owned place or a chain restaurant, doesn’t matter, just let me know in the comments. This part is key though: tell me why you like it so much. We may feature a few beloved dishes in a story for print. 

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Aside from staring at the sky waiting for rain

1. Janessa Ramirez Memorial Car and Bike Show
Cars, motorcycles, food and live music. Supports the family of a 9-year-old killed in gang crossfire. Simple enough.

2. Highway 99 Derby
Soccer is the new football. At least until the next NFL preseason.

3. Gumbo Throwdown
Not Louisiana fast, but super delicious.

4. WordFest
My favorite. Books.

5. Fresno High Flea
Support your local crafters/up cyclers/artists and vintage lovers.

And a bonus five concerts picks.

1. ’90s Slaughter
2. Cloudship
3. Wailin’ Jennys
4. S
5. Sleepover Disaster

For more music-specific choices, check out the weekly BANDGEEK roundup.

TONIGHT: Feed our Future benefit w/Barry McGuire

Here is a crazy thought: More than 80% of students in Fresno Unified School District qualify for free school meals and for some it might be the only daily meal they get.

That means between lunch on Friday and breakfast on Monday, there are students who struggle to find food, says Jessica Nazaroff, who along with Shelby Dart started the nonprofit Feed our Future last march.

Each week, the pair provides bags of non-perishable, easily prepared food items to students at Addams Elementary. These are students with chronic food insecurity, Nazaroff says.

In less than a year, the program has grown from 50 students to 125 students.

Nazaroff would like to do more.

“I would love to see at at 300 by the end of the year,” she says.

To help the cause, Feed our Future is hosting a benefit concert, 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Tower Theatre.

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Small bites of food news: dessert, vegan cheese, free pizza and free coffee

I’ve been bombarding you with news of new restaurants opening lately (see here, here or here), but sometimes the ones that have been around a while have news to share too. So here’s a smorgasbord (heh, see what I did there?) of food news at Fresno restaurants.

  • The Daily Grill has revamped its dessert menu, cutting back on prices and portions. The traditionally big desserts were a lot to stomach after a meal, so the north Fresno restaurant shrunk them. The prices also dropped from $10 to $13 down to the $6 to $7 range. A carrot cake bread pudding was added to the menu, which still features favorites such as a brownie sundae, Key lime pie, sugar-free cheesecake (that’s it at right) and a daily cobbler that’s currently made with strawberries and apples.
  • Pieology Pizzeria, the custom pizza chain that opened in Fig Garden Village in October, sent a press release to reporters today announcing it is introducing vegan cheese. It’s news that surely would have excited local vegans and the lactose intolerant, except for one problem: There won’t be any vegan cheese at the Fresno location. Fresno doesn’t appear on the list of 29 locations that will carry it. It doesn’t say why, but apparently Fresno is just not enough of a hotbed of veganism like, say, the Portland area or Southern California, which will have the cheese. 

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TONIGHT: Ozmosis Happy Hour

Tioga Sequoia’s Beer Garden is what I’ve wanted in downtown for years. It’s a low-key spot where you can hangout and sample really solid craft beer without being overly saturated with hipsterness.

Also, its’ walking distance from where I live, which is a bonus and a half.

It’s good to hear that Mike Oz‘ monthly Ozmosis Happy Hour, which he does in conjunction with his radio show on New Rock 104, is taking up residence in the garden this year.

If you remember, the event had been jumping between different venues/bars around town. Having the Happy Hour at one spot gives it consistency, a struggle for lots of events around town. Each month will feature a rotating roster of live music, food trucks and other Fresno fare.

For January, local singer/songwriter Johnathan Sterling will be providing the entertainment. La Elegante will serves up tacos (arguably some of the best in town) and local crafter Janice Keith of Nola Love will be selling work — like a handy dandy beer caddy. It’s made of wood.

Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company will be pouring its new Belgian Quad Ale (which has me intrigued to no end). Also expect prizes and music from Mike Oz and the New Rock crew.

The whole thing kicks off at 6 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.
There’s no charge to get in.

The next happy hour is set for Feb. 19.

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

You could go watch some dudes climb a rock. Or …

1. “Force Majeure
Another beautiful foreign film presented by Fresno Filmworks. This one’s a swede, an actual Swedish movie, not the kind we’re known for.

2. “Inherent Vice
The new film from the guy who did “Magnolia.”

3. Fatty Cakes “Live at the Kirby”
An in-store performance at Tower District Records.

4. Judy Collins
The inspiration for CSN’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is as busy as ever.

5. Fresno Fuego v. SJ Earthquakes PDL
Pre-season kickoff for Fresno’s official soccer team. It’s a “friendly match” (quotes not mine).

For a full list of music-specific event, be sure to see this week’s BANDGEEEK roundup.

Cast your vote in the Fresno Bee’s People’s Choice Awards

Voting is now open for The Fresno Bee’s annual People’s Choice Awards — which lets The Bee readers voice their opinions on the best of what Fresno has to offer. The ballot (which you can see here) is more than 120 categories long and features everything from best yoga studio and car dealership (foreign, domestic and luxury) to radio personality and mortgage company.

These types of awards (both from The Bee’s and others) can be frustrating in that they aren’t always reflective of … actual reality. Taco Bell does not have the best Mexican food, anywhere. Just. No.

That said, anyone who believes that Fresno has some awesome, authentic businesses (and chain stores), should take this chance to get the word out. Just, don’t waste the vote on Walmart, Starbucks or Taco Bell, please.

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

nights

1. CalaGala
The reason for the season.

2. “Phantom of the Opera”
Silent horror film + pipe organ + Warnors Theatre = a step into the past. Seriously. When the theater screen this last year, 1,000 people showed.

3. Movember kick-off shave party
It’s not just for hipsters.

4. Offal Dinner
Can’t decide between the cow’s feet and the pickled tongue? Splurge and have both. It’s Halloween.

5. Arrogant Bastard Day
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.

Here’s bonus five for fans of live music.

1. The Purple Ones
2. Ape Machine
3. Flyleaf
4. Sleepover Disaster
5. The Cured

For a full list of music-specific choices see this week’s Bandgeek post.
And this is relevant for a few more hours at least.

Food reviews: Guri’s Grub House, Jack’s Urban Eats and Beer to the People

nights

Officially, I’m a music blogger.

I also love to eat and this is an exciting time for food lovers in Fresno. No, I’m not talking the Fresno Fair.

As my colleagues Bethany Clough and Bob Rodriguez have reported, several hip new restaurants and drinking establishments have opened in the last month or so, including a gastropub, a small-chain modern-day Hof Brau and a bottle shop.

Below are my reviews of each. If you’ve been to any of the three, we’d love to know your thoughts. Add your reviews in the comments section.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

nights

UPDATE: This story has been updated to remove the Mike Tyson show, which is not this weekend at all. Calendars are confusing.

Slather on some DEET and …

1. Metalachi at Arte Americas Nights in the Plaza
Who doesn’t want to hear a mariachi version of “Run to the Hills?

2. “Preacherman at Burning Man
Fresno is the Detroit of California, might explain this show’s inclusion as the best of West Coast fringe.

3. Taste of River Park
Remember when River Park put a curfew on kids? This is like that, but with Let’s Go Bowling.

4. Keyboard Concert Series
Garrick Ohlsson opens the 43rd season of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series. This should be on your list of “Things every Fresnan should do once.”

5. Madera Fair
It is officially fair season in the Valley. Enjoy!

For music-specific events, check out this week’s BANDGEEK roundup.

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

nightsWhile you’re figuring out which of the neighbors to snitch on first …

1. Zappa Plays Zappa
For fans of off-the-wall quirky, but thoughtfully composed, rock-and-roll-as art.

2. Wayans Brothers Live
Put the four Wayans brothers together and you have a comedy empire. Here, they do stand-up comedy together for the first time.

3. Audie’s Olympic Tavern
Great rock shows scheduled for tonight AND tomorrow. Take your pick, or go to both.
nights
4. “Life Itself
Thank Fresno Filmworks for bringing this to town.

5. Fig Fest
Fresno owes everything to its figs, which we honor by eating.

For a full list of weekend music options, check out this week’s BANDGEEEEEK!

Favorite foods from the Fresno Food Expo

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.

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‘Insanely hot’ Doritos, chocolate-dipped Twinkies and other weird food news

Chocodiles TwinkiesUpdate: How could I forget this one? If you dress up like a cow today and go to Chick-fil-A, you’ll get a free meal. It’s “Cow Appreciation Day” there. And these people are serious about humiliating you having fun – to get the full free meal you have to dress up “head to hoof” in cow attire. Customers who are too “chicken” to go all out get a free entree for wearing a cow-spotted hat, scarf, purse, etc.

Let’s take a quick break from all the wonderful farm-to-fork foodie goodness our Valley produces and focus on some of the more oddball munchies that have hit Fresno recently. First, Friday is 7-Eleven Day (it’s 7/11, get it?) and that means the stores will be giving away free small Slurpees — but only from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. of course. In the days that follow, you can get free snacks ranging from birthday cake-flavored M&Ms to yogurt bars if you download the 7-Eleven app. Details here.

Twinkies is reintroducing Chocodiles to stores. Chocodiles, which Hostess says developed a “cult-like following” are essentially chocolate-covered Twinkies. (I’ve never had one. How are they?) In the past they were only distributed to stores in the West, but appeared on eBay selling for $30 a box. Now you can get them again, along with strawberry creme, banana creme and chocolate creme Twinkies the company will be releasing this summer. (No word yet on where to get these Twinkies, but since Walmart had first dibs on the relaunch of the original Twinkies, they might be a good place to try.) Hostess is also inviting fans to submit new and inventive recipes that use Twinkies for what will become The Twinkies Cookbook.

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Celebrate the World Cup with discount food, drink

eureka

Photo of the Caipiroska cocktail courtesy of Eureka!

The World Cup started today in Brazil and there’s plenty of places to watch it. Some restaurants are also getting in on the fun offering discounts or free food. Here’s a rundown of some of the food and drink deals around town.

  • Rio Grill in Clovis and Visalia is showing the Brazil vs. Croatia match today and will be selling $1 beers if Brazil wins.
  • P*DE*Q, the maker of the little Brazilian gluten-free cheese bread, is giving away a set of two P*DE*Qs with purchase whenever Brazil or the USA plays a game.
  • Little Bean Cafe has hooked up a TV and if you buy a drink while wearing the jersey of the team that’s playing, you get a discount.
  • And Eureka!, the burger joint at Palm and Nees avenues, isn’t having any discounts, but it is selling a special World Cup-themed drink: the Caipiroska. It’s a spin on the very yummy Brazilian cocktail the Caipirinha. The Caipiroska involves vodka, orange rinds, lime wedges and a raw cane sugar cube and costs $8.

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

While you’re counting down to “Les Miz.“…

1-10-14-21.) “Her
This a a big weekend for lovers of independent/artsy films. Fresno Filmworks, the Fresno Jewish Film Series and the megaplexes all have offerings. Spike Jonze’ newest seems wacky cool and is getting raves from people I trust. So …

2.) Audiepalooza
Audie Paron does his annual birthday-bash music fest. The three days of local (and locally loved) music starts at 6 p.m. tonight.

5things-1-103.) James Garner’s Johnny Cash tribute
If you missed seeing Cash when he was alive.

4.) 2014 Tweed Ride
Old-time bicycle ride around downtown and Tower District. Seems like my kind of fun. Penny-farthing not required.

5.) Movie Night: Raider’s of the Lost Ark
The first in a seven-week series of movie nights and another mention for Peeve’s Public House.

Are you ready for some football (food)?

I’d just like to say thank GAWD the holidays are over. Beyond the cooking, the entertaining, the mad rushing about to create memories and the intense post-holiday exhaustion, I’m just glad to have that hulking, dead tree out of my house. To our credit, the sucker lasted until about two days after Christmas but then just became a massive fire hazard.  (Potted-tree people: DO NOT JUDGE ME.)

Of course, the end of the holiday season means only one thing in the mind of a DIYer: FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS. Sure, we give a tiny sigh of relief when New Year’s Eve passes, but then we flip the page of our mental calendars and begin planning for the next feast day. In this case: the first round of the NFL playoffs this weekend

Cheese dip (Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Cheese dip (Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Please don’t punch me in the face. I *get* that a lot of people aren’t football fans or don’t have football fans living in their homes. To these awkward, strange creatures I say YOU ARE MISSING OUT ON SO MUCH FOOD. Because while to some, football is a “game” that is “played” by “overlarge men” wearing “overly tight uniforms” that “hug every curve” — to me, it’s a queso-eating opportunity. And a wing-snarfing one. Also a ranch-dipping, guacamole-scooping, celery-crunching, chip-swiping, barbeque-noshing, beer-chugging, potato-skin-munching, chili-chomping EVENT. Yes I left some foods out. Yes I am open to adding more to the menu. BUT YOU GET THE POINT: Life is hard. Holidays are enjoyable but life is what happens all the days in between. So by that logic WHY NOT MAKE MORE HOLIDAYS? Because isn’t fun the best thing to have?

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Free screening of hunger documentary “A Place at the Table”

How can you be hungry and obese? How can we grow so much food yet still have people who go hungry? A free screening of the documentary “A Place At The Table” at 5 p.m. Saturday at Chukchansi Park answers these questions and others often asked in our Valley. Fresno Metro Ministry and the Grizzlies Community Fund bring us this film, along with food trucks, a farmer’s market and info booths. Judging from the preview below, this promises to be an intriguing look at food issues in our country. (And it’s streaming on Netflix if you can’t make this showing.)

Samba is back

Samba, Oahu, Hermosa 021Remember Samba — the Brazilian restaurant in northwest Fresno that closed a while back? It has reopened with a twist in Fig Garden Village. It’s now Samba Global Cuisine and serves Brazilian food, Indian, Mediterranean, pizza and burgers.

The restaurant took over the old Belana space near Wayside Noodles. It opened quietly last month and chef Goldie Bedi is the new owner.

It’s got quite the multicultural menu. You can still get the leisurely rodizio dinner, where waiters bring skewers of meat to cut at your table for $34. But there’s also the rice dish biryani, filet Mignon, a Portuguese pizza, and a picanha burger. The picanha burger is the same Brazilian steak served in the rodizio dinner, but turned into a burger and topped with mozzarella cheese, grilled mushrooms and bell pepper. There’s a lunch buffet too.

And it’s worth checking out the restaurant just for the decor. A cloudy blue sky has been painted on the ceiling. Colored lights behind the full bar gradually change from fuchsia to green throughout the night. And if you celebrate a birthday here they not only sing for you, they bring out a virtual percussion section with drums and a tambourines. Keep reading to see some pics and the menu (click to enlarge).

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Cupcakes on the patio in Old Town

cupcakeyI love this idea. What better way to unwind than by enjoying a cupcake and some iced tea on a shady patio while watching the world go by in Old Town Clovis? A Secret Garden Florist has started Cupcake Fridays in the Courtyard at its new location. The florist and its vintage/junk/cool old stuff side business dubbed Flea Market Divas recently moved to 522 Pollasky Ave., closer to the heart of Old Town (you can read more about that and what they sell here). Their pretty patio is the same one that Water 2 Wine and Giovanni’s restaurant used to occupy.

Here’s how it works: Make a reservation at (559) 297-0883. Cupcakes form a local bakery go for a “nominal fee” (tonight they come in lemon, strawberry and chocolate). Drinks — iced tea, lemonade and water — are provided free courtesy of A Secret Garden. They’ll be doing this for many Fridays to come, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. More details on the Facebook invite.

To do tonight: Taco Truck Throwdown III (UPDATE)

UPDATE:We now have a list of all the taco trucks participating in tonight’s event. If your favorite is not listed, make sure they contact the Grizzlies for next year. Also, congratulations to the Beehive’s taco-judge winner Angel Macias Jr. (du_ddah on Instagram).

If you’re still on the fence about going, here’s a video of the Grizzlie’s Sam Hansen talking about the Central Valley’s taco-truck culture and the motivation behind the throwdown.

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National cheesecake day = half price cheesecake

smorescheesecakeAs if you needed an excuse to eat cheesecake. But just in case you do, today is National Cheesecake Day. Otherwise known as shamelessly-promotional-way-to-get-people-to-eat-at-the-Cheesecake-Factory day.

The restaurant is selling cheesecake slices at half price today. It’s also unveiling its new Toasted Marshmallow S’mores Galore, pictured at right.

Let me know if you take advantage of the deal and what kind you get.

I’m hungry: Ribs, bacon, tofu and more

In case you missed my column on Friday, it’s about food. Specifically, it’s about the ideological clash (and misconceptions) that can exist between meat eaters and vegetarians. At least one reader wondered if I didn’t have anything better about which to write. And OK, I’m not exactly a foodie, but food has been big on my mind the past week or so.

I am always getting pulled into some kind of food/eating event. You old-school Fresno bloggers may recall Milano’s Megazone challenge. There was also last year’s Ultimate Fair Food Feast-off.

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This weekend I judged the Clovis Elk’s Lodge‘s 2nd Annual rib cook off. The Elk’s are known for their barbecue, especially trip-tip, which they sell at Big Hats Days. The nine teams that took part in the cook off weren’t bad at all and produced (mess notwithstanding) some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. That’s a picture of the winning team. And, an Elk.

On a side note: The Clovis Elk’s Lodge is pretty cool. A friend describes membership as “drinking and fundraising.” I’m thinking it’s more of the later. The group’s “Purple Pig” program (which includes various sizes of purple piggy banks) raises money for disabled children and veterans. Throughout the state, it raised more than $3 million this year alone. Little known fact: The Elks raised the money for the first Veterans Home in California. At least that is what I was told.

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