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.
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.
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.
Update: 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.
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.
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.
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 peopleI trust. So …
Audie Paron does his annual birthday-bash music fest. The three days of local (and locally loved) music starts at 6 p.m. tonight.
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)
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?
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.)
Remember 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).
I 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.
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.
As 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.
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.
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.
The bacon vs. tofu throwdown at a Grizzlies game June 27 is getting closer to reality. We’re practicing our “gimme a T’” and “gimme a B” cheers over here at the Beehive. Josh introduced us to this event last month, but in case you need a catch up, here’s his description from his blog:
“Fans show up at the game and choose sides. You’re either for #teambacon or #teamtofu. Fans can vote and the results will be tallied and announced at the end of the night. There will be themed-games between innings and bacon and tofu-oriented businesses will be on hand to showcase their products. Here’s the great part (and where The Beehive readers come in): The Grizzlies are looking for team captains, a couple of local chefs or foodie types who can whip up some culinary creations and help sway the vote.”
So, we’ve narrowed down the list of who might be there selling their yummy bacon or tofu to a handful of finalists on each side. Let us know who of the following you’d like to see going bravely into battle at this event. (This all depends on who is willing to do it, of course, but lots of votes will surely persuade a business to participate.)
In the bacon corner, we have:
Dusty Buns food truck, with the applewood smoked bacon on its Le Grilled Cheese described as “money” by Beehivers.
Charlotte’s BakerEatery is known for its fresh breads, baked daily. What they put inside of the bread (in the case wonderfully thick-cut bacon for its BLT sandwiches) ain’t bad either.
Keith’s The man behind the Boxcar Cafe knows his swine. As far as we known he single-handedly created Pulled Pork Lasagna. Plus, the guy smokes his own bacon, people!
In the tofu corner, we have:
Food truck Tako BBQ is getting a reputation for its spiced-up chunks of tofu used in burritos and bowls.
Chipotle is still testing its tofu-with-a-kick called sofritas — tofu seared and ground like sausage, and roasted with chipotle chiles, poblanos and spices — but it’s already getting lots of positive reviews.
Whole Foods sells prepared tofu in its deli case, with luscious flavors such as chili lime basil, sesame, and tofu marinated with mushrooms, red wine vinegar, garlic and oregano.
Customers wait in line for corn outside of the Fresno State farm store on Saturday, May 25, 2013.
As many of you know from past posts, I enjoy cycling around Fresno. The view from the bike gives me a new perspective on our cities, and it keeps me in shape. Sometimes I ride the Clovis Bike Trails, head to Woodward Park or go out into the country. I try to mix it up. And I’m always looking for somewhere new to ride.
On Saturday, I decided to join the Park to Park ride put on by the Fresno Bike Party and I Bike Fresno folks as part of Bike Month. We rode from Oso de Oro park to Roeding Park. With a few extra miles thrown in to make a loop to my house, the ride was a fun and social, and one that took me through diverse neighborhoods and past a lot of notable food spots, including:
Fresno State farm store: Known for its corn (see that line!), the store features produce grown by ag students, and student-made products like ice cream, sausage and wine. At the new market you can sample wine and grab a scoop.
Cinco de Mayo is this weekend and that means lots of yummy food and beer. The list of places doing something special for the day includes:
Downtown’s huge Cinco de Mayo festival on Fulton Mall starts Friday and runs through Sunday. Food booths, crafts, folklorico dancers and live music will stretch from Kern Street to Fresno Street. It runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
It’s “Cinco de Elbow” (huh?) at the Elbow Room, which is already partway through its five-day celebration. They’ll be Mexican dancers at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A Santana tribute band starts playing a noon Sunday. There’s food and beer specials too, including camarones a la diabla and posole.
The folks at Ramos Torres Winery in Kingsburg are celebrating their Hispanic heritage Saturday. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., they’ll be serving tacos with wine. The event is free for club members, $15 for everybody else.
I’m sure there’s more places having Cinco de Mayo events, so feel free to let us know.
Easter Sunday is about church, family and food. And since you guys know I’m all about the food, that’s what I’ll focus on in this blog. If you’re not planning to cook yourself, there’s several restaurants that are serving Easter meals. Be sure to make a reservation as they can get busy.
Chef Roy Harland and the Elbow Room are serving an Easter brunch and an Easter Dinner later in the day. The brunch, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., features eggs Benedict, a made-to-order omelet station, prime rib, and fresh blue oysters on the half shell. $24.99 for adults, $14.99 for children 12 and under.
At the dinner from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., diners can choose from roasted prime rib au jus, Australian lobster tail, and crab-stuffed jumbo prawns and other dishes.
You can have your Easter meal in the garden at Erna’s Elderberry House in Oakhurst Sunday. The $60 per person meal includes a choice of seared medallions of beef, sautéed Long Island striped bass with bay shrimp risotto, and chicken and ham with Gruyere cheese and polenta. You can see the full menu here.
Easter brunch will also be served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Blue Heron restaurant at the clubhouse in Yosemite Lakes Park in Coarsegold. It will feature an omelet station, eggs Benedict, prime rib with vegetables and breakfast staples like bacon and pastries. $21.95 and kids 6-12 $12.95.
An exhibitor from Phillips Farms demonstrates mixing finger limes into champagne.
After coming home from the Fresno Food Expo with a full belly Thursday, I’m convinced I have the most fun job on the planet.
Over the past few weeks I’ve written about the event, the yearly showcase of Valley-made foods ranging from grapes to white chocolate milk made specifically for mochas. And while there’s plenty of stories about the importance of exporting local products to the Pacific Rim, the most fun part is tasting all the food. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from the 2013 show. If you went to the public portion of the show, feel free to share your favorites in the comments section.
Finger limes. The weird little finger-shaped limes from Visalia-area Phillips Farms are just cool. Snap ‘em open and there’s little balls of “citrus caviar” inside. They can be added to ice cream, used atop sushi or swirled into Champagne and cocktails.
For now, they can only be bought online (though they are exported to Europe). Details: Phillipsfarms.net.
I’m busy writing my column about which restaurants are open on Christmas Day and the descriptions of food are driving me crazy: Deep-fried cheesecake at Chukchansi’s Noodle Bar, a slow-baked sugar-cured ham at the Mountain Room in Yosemite and dim sum at Imperial Garden.
You can read more about which restaurants are open in this coming Wednesday’s column, but in the meantime, let’s talk about what people eat for Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) — whether homemade or from a restaurant.
Do you have a favorite traditional holiday food?
For me, it’s my Aunt Janet’s challah bread. (I’m not sure how that became a family tradition as it’s a bread traditionally eaten on Jewish holidays and we’re not Jewish.) It’s a light, fluffy bread delicious eaten with a meal and is great for leftover ham and turkey sandwiches. (That’s not my bread at right, but a file photo of challah bread by Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss.)
So what about you? Do you have a special dish you make every year or something you go out for every year?
There’s always a bit of mental cringing that happens when you publish something personal in a newspaper that thousands of people read. That’s how I felt this morning with my column about my grandmother’s recent passing, her yummy molasses cookies and her incredible life.
You can read the column, and the recipe here. (Those are the cookies at left. Not the prettiest cookies, are they? Trust me, they’re delicious.)
Gram’s molasses cookies
But you readers made it all worthwhile. I’ve gotten some of the sweetest comments and condolences in my email box this morning. And several people said the column made them think about their own grandmothers.
Says reader Tiffiny: “ It brought back memories of my own tough bird of a granny who ended every serious exclamation with, ‘Well… sh*t the bed!’”
Sounds like there’s a lot of spunky grandmas out there. Cheers to them.
Everybody likes free food, right? And cheap food is the next best thing, so I’m sharing some edible deals you can take advantage of in the next few weeks.
Wednesday is free biscuit day at Carl’s Jr. The chain is debuting its scratch-made biscuits, the same ones it has sold for years at its sister company Hardee’s in the midwest and southeast. You can get a free sausage biscuit if you go into the restaurant Wednesday morning.
If you’re brave enough to wear your Halloween costume to Chipotle on Oct. 31, you can get cheap food. As part of its “Boorito” promotion, you can get a $2 burrito from 4 p.m. to close if you’re in costume. The money you do spend goes to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which supports sustainable agriculture and family farming.
And Marie Callender’s whole pie sale continues until the end of the month. The pies cost $7.99, plus the cost of the pie tin.
Update: My colleague Donald Munro points out that kids in costume can get free burgers and fries at Eureka! Burger. Only the first 100 under age 12 get the free food. The restaurant apparently understands that burgers, fries and a whole bunch of candy on the same day might be a bit much, so if you don’t want to eat the meal right then you can get a gift card for a kid’s burger and fries for later.