Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jim Denny's | Sacramento, CA

To say that they are as big as saucers would be an understatement. Some have affectionately called them hubcaps, while others have referred to them as manhole covers. We simply call them decadent, delicious, and filling. What am I talking about? Why, the pancakes at Sacramento's own Jim-Denny's Hamburgers and Chili, of course!

Considered to be one the oldest running restaurants in Sacramento, Jim-Denny's was founded by Jim Van Nort in 1934 on the corner of 16th and J Street, close to where the Memorial Auditorium now sits. As I understand it, his initial reputation was built on grilling up the tastiest burgers that his customers have ever encountered at that time. In fact, my father thinks very fondly of the days when he stopped for an order to go, knowing that the burger sitting at the bottom of the bag would not only be satisfying, but also a treat to brighten up the daily grind as he commuted to and from Dixon, CA.

How did Van Nort please so many? Quite simple. He used nothing but the finest beef and complimentary ingredients that money could buy. Couple that with his positive work ethic AND a well-seasoned grill, which, after 77 years, has become just as much of a treasure as the restaurant itself has become. The people kept coming. Politicians, city workers, commuters, tourists, and families. Jim-Denny's was said to have the "ten busiest seats in town." Still do.

Since those early days, Jim-Denny's was moved to its present location on 12th Street and saw ownership change hands four times. But one thing has always remained constant, the quality of service and food. As the current owners note when they recently acquired the restaurant, "It is our hope to continue the time-honored traditions started by Jim Van Nort (and the other before us) so many years ago." I'd say that they succeeded.

Now, having said all that, a few words to those who have never been to Jim-Denny's and are now jotting it down as a future stop. GET THERE EARLY!!! Or, at the very least, set aside plenty of time and reserve a good deal of patience. This is a small place with an equally small grill (and only one cook to work it). The wait for your order can be time-consuming, especially if there are a row of tickets ahead of yours, you have a large order, or you've included one of those ginormous pancakes to your order. Just one of these pancakes consumes the whole grill and can take as long as 20-30 minutes to properly "bubble and squeek." Should you or someone else ask for one of these bad boys, you will be waiting ... But it's worth it. Trust me!

Jim Denny's
816 12th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

South African Food & Wine Festival | Gum Spring, VA

(From contributing writer, Terry "Smitty" Ebright)

After experiencing consecutive days of relentless rain due to Tropical Storm Lee, the 6th Annual South African Food & Wine Festival hosted by
Grayhaven Winery was met with a beautiful sunny weekend on September 10 and 11. Nearly 2,000 people came out to the award-winning winery located on the Central Virginia countryside to taste over thirty wines from South Africa as well as Grayhaven’s selected vintages. The event presented a truly unique opportunity for visitors to sample imported South African wines that are not readily available to the public. And as an added bonus to this year's fest, two winemakers made the trek from South Africa to be on hand to discuss their distinctive wine culture.

Accompanying the wines were several South African foods such as Peri-Peri Chicken, Biltong (awesome jerky), Boerewors sausage with train smash (stewed tomatoes & onions), chutneys, and spices along with traditional wares from the country. As the organizers of the festival note, "Eating at the South African fest is kind of like going to a restaurant that happens to be outdoors and is only open 2 days a year. Most meats, vegetables, and fruit are from local farms. The Boerewors sausage is hand-made. Mielie Pap is shipped all the way from South Africa. In a nutshell - this is NOT your typical festival food."

And what's a celebration without music and entertainment? JuxtaPower, a production company that promotes South African talent and history through performance, provided entertainment during both days. Included in the mix were tribal songs, Zulu dances, and storytelling. And appearing for the first time, special guest David Jenkins - musician, singer, songwriter – gave great performances. Discovered on the television program South Africa's Got Talent, Jenkins is often referred to as the "White Zulu" due to his mastery of traditional Zulu maskandi music. More simply put, I equate him as the young “Justin Beiber” of South Africa with a traditional folk music bent.
That said, back to the wine and to the question of how does one taste so many in one afternoon? It was not easy. There were so many and most were really good. Among my favorites , these six topped my list:

- MAN Chenin Blanc 2010. Surprisingly light with tropical fruit flavors backed with refreshing acidity and minerality.
- Grayhaven Riesling. Made in Alsatian style, this selection is very food friendly. Crisp and clean with bright fruit notes.
- MAN Pinotage 2010. Made with the South African national grape, this red offers berry notes with touches of cinnamon, smoke, spice, and soft tannins. Nice & easy.
- Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2010. This one is on the dry side. Nice color with berry and lime notes aligned with hints of nutmeg and black pepper. Perfect on a hot summer day.
- DeToren “Z” Red Blend 2008. A very balanced blend of seven different red grapes delivering intense flavors of plum, berries, spice with notes of tobacco and leather. Very enjoyable.
- Vilafonte “Series M” Red Blend 2006. Another blend of four reds. A great combination of sweet berries, nuts, and milk chocolate. Quite silky on the palate. My favorite, and very popular with the festival attendees.

It was truly a fun event. Great wines, sunny weather, beautiful Virginia countryside ... Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Grayhaven Winery
4675 East Grey Fox Circle
Gum Spring, VA 23065

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Summer Snapshot :: Fresh Peach Shakes

With the last day of August having come and gone, that only meant two things to us: (1) the fun-filled days of summer were ending, and (2) time was running out to enjoy just one more fresh peach shake at Whitey’s Jolly Kone in West Sacramento.

The secret to their cold and frosty treat is the tree-ripened freestone peaches from Modesto. Share it with a friend or keep it all to yourself, they are pure heaven! With each slurp, we got a delectable taste of sweet peach bits mixed in with the thick vanilla ice cream.

The kids and I sipped slowly under the shade of the bright red umbrellas that adorned their patio tables. Each one of us hoping to stretch the summer hours just a little longer because we knew that once Whitey’s takes down their sign which reads "Fresh Peach Milkshakes," the summer was surely over ... And we didn't want it to end.

Whitey's Jolly Kone
1300 Jefferson Boulevard
West Sacramento, CA 95691

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants