Sacramento likes to call itself the “Farm to Fork Capital” because of its role at the center of California’s enormous agriculure industry. And, in recent years, the fine dining scene in Sacramento has mushroomed.

That’s why the region campaigned (and paid) to host the 2016 International Food Bloggers Conference, which runs July 28-31. I am looking forward to exploring the region, meeting farmers, chefs, and others who are helping bring great food to tables all over the country.

In a clever appeal to the seemingly growing interest (or at least conversation) among some Americans about moving to Canada if a certain person with small hands becomes president, Air Canada has launched a campaign inviting Americans to “test drive” their country now. 

“If you’re thinking of moving to Canada, it might make sense to #TestDriveCanada first. Try things out for a weekend or two and discover beautiful destinations while enjoying great value for your dollar.”
My friends in Canada tell me that immigration offices there have been swamped with inquiries. Many people are finding that although Canada is a very welcoming country, Americans may find that moving there permanently may be about as easy as winning a Stanley Cup.

But I certainly see why it may be tempting.

Air Canada’s “test drive” sale fares are available at http://bit.ly/29EfdC9.

Michel et Augustin cookiesWhen French bakery Michel et Augustin arrived in the United States in 2014, its founders brought with them what they describe as a “kooky” idea: Invite people to visit, send them away with cookies to share with friends.

It’s not really all that kooky. Lots of businesses grow by giving away samples. But for these people, it’s practically a religion. If you go to one of the monthly open houses at their modern space in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, you leave with a bag, several packages of cookies, and instructions on what to do with them:

“In your hands? 18 cookies to share. There’s 1 for you and 17 for your friends, family, roommates, neighbors, colleagues, grandma, cousins, bus driver, poney club…”

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French cookie maker Michel et Augustin welcomes the public to its Brooklyn, NY, home at monthly open houses. Guests leave with bags of cookies.

Odds are, giving one of these cookies to someone will make them a fan. The cookies are really good. Few other baked goods found on grocery store shelves have this much rich butter flavor. Even a commercial baker friend that I shared the cookies with was impressed.

“We want to bake very indulgent cookies,” says Antoine Chauvel, who heads the Michel et Augustin’s sales effort in the United States. “We try to use the best ingredients in the market, very simple ingredients, basic ingredients you can find in your own kitchen – fresh butter, wheat flower, intense chocolate. No weird chemicals.”

Decadence like this is not cheap: a package of eight cookies sells for $7 or $8. And the company has found some grocers reluctant to stock their products because their cookies have a shorter shelf life (about five months) than cookies with highly processed ingredients.

So far, Michel et Augustin cookies can be found in supermarkets in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut Tri-State area, including Fairway, Gristedes, Westside Market, and CVS stores. The company’s dark chocolate and lemon meringue squares also are sold at Starbucks stores nationwide. (For an interesting account of how the Starbucks deal happened, check out this article from AdWeek.)

“If they like the cookies, they will tell their friends,” says Chauvel. “We believe in word of mouth.”

Cookbook author Katie Workman
Cookbook author Katie Workman demonstrated the coffee-making refrigerator at a media event hosted by GE.

Ever thought about pushing a few buttons from your iPhone while still in bed so that you can stumble into your kitchen a have a fresh cup of coffee instantly? You can do that now. A new GE refrigerator has a built-in single-cup coffee brewer and can be controlled from a smartphone app – from your bed, or anywhere else.

When I first saw the news release about this GE Cafe refrigerator with a built-in Keurig K-Cup coffee brewer, my reaction was that this is a bit much, maybe suited only for the luxury set or gadget-lovers. After I saw a demonstration, my tune changed completely. In fact, I started regretting that I bought my own new refrigerator a couple of months ago, before I learned about this fancy fridge, which I found pretty compelling.

The unit, which lists for $3,300 (and is on sale at Lowe’s for $2,969 through Dec. 1,) has all the features one would expect of a modern French door style refrigerator, including adjustable shelves, excellent lighting, touch-screen controls and Energy Star rating. But it also has the Keurig coffee attachment that slips onto the external hot water dispenser, powered by an instant-heating system so that there’s no concern about hot water affecting the refrigeration inside.

“This is the way people are thinking about coffee these days,” says cookbook author Katie Workman, noting that single-serve coffee consumption has doubled in the past two years. Workman was given one of the refrigerators and has been test-driving it for a couple of months and demonstrated it at GE’s media event in New York. She said the energy efficiency was one of the more noticeable features, and her family liked the convenience of being able to choose their own hot beverages and make them quickly, one at a time. (Workman, whose latest book is Dinner Solved, also is one of my cousins. Her 2012 cookbook, The Mom 100 Cookbook, earned wide acclaim and was named one of the Five Best Weeknight Cookbooks of the past 25 years by Cooking Light.)

Indeed, the National Coffee Association found in its latest survey that single-cup coffee brewer ownership has gone from 15% in 2014 to 27% of consumers in 2015. More than half of Americans drink coffee daily, according to Daily Coffee News, a trade publication. Keurig Green Mountain, the maker of K-Cups, has also responded to critics who cite environmental concerns with a plan to make all K-Cups recyclable by 2020 and pointing out that single-serve coffee brewing reduces wasted coffee and wasted water. For a thorough analysis of the environmental issues surrounding K-Cups, read this excellent article by James Hamblin of The Atlantic.

GE's new refrigerator has a built-in single-cup coffee brewer.
GE’s new refrigerator has a built-in Keurig single-cup coffee brewer. (Image courtesy GE.)

Tourism officials report normal situation in Puerto Vallarta after powerful hurricane; no loss of life and limited damage

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO – SATURDAY OCTOBER 24, 2015 – 1PM (CDT) – Puerto Vallarta has returned to normalcy with all hotels, the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) and cruise port open and operating at 100% capacity. Puerto Vallarta weather is back to its typical clear skies and sunshine.
Jalisco State Authorities and Puerto Vallarta hotels started to transfer tourists and locals back to Puerto Vallarta from the shelters where they had been taken; when authorities determined last night that Hurricane Patricia would not be touching the city and was no longer a threat.
No human loss or infrastructure damages have been reported as a result of Hurricane Patricia.

Source: Puerto Vallarta Back to Normal After Hurricane Patricia

When the egg industry challenged Hampton Creek, a company selling a product it calls Just Mayo, many people scoffed at yet another Goliath v. David battle. According to a report today, the egg industry trade group’s president has stepped down as a possible consequence of her effort against Hampton Creek.

The issue is whether the words “mayo” or “mayonnaise” legally refer to a product that must contain egg. From a legal standpoint, the law seems to favor the egg industry: The federal government established standard definitions of common words on food labels so that consumers have some chance of knowing what is inside a package. “Mayonnaise” is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations at 21CFR169.140, which clearly says that mayonnaise must contain egg and may not include food colorings to simulate egg. What is not so clear is whether the word “mayo” is covered by the same law, which only refers to “mayonnaise.” This is the stuff lawyers love and drives most people nuts.

In the meantime, consumers still can make their own decisions.

Source: Egg Industry Group CEO Steps Down After Vegan Mayo Scramble – ABC News

Thanks to Susan MacTavish Best http://livingmactavish.com for posting this where I could see it.

While nearly all of the Lake County wineries in the fire-affected area have been able to resume operations or should be able to process fruit in this vintage, thanks to the enormous efforts of firefighters. Now, the hard work of restoring damaged lives is underway. 

Peter Molnar from Poseidon Vineyard & Obsidian Ridge Winery talking about the #ValleyFire and the 2015 harvest: “We feel very grateful for this vintage. It will be one we will not forget for a long time.”

Posted by Lake County Rising on Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Lake County Winegrape Commission, Lake County Winery Association, and Lake County Wine Alliance are leading a fundraising campaign, using the social media hash tag #LakeCountyRising.

From their news release:

Individuals and businesses who would like to support this effort can do so by visiting the Lake County Rising page on Facebook and making a donation online. Checks can be sent to:

Lake County Wine Alliance

P.O. Box 530

Kelseyville, CA 95451

Make checks payable to Lake County Wine Alliance, memo “Lake County Fire Relief Fund.”

Other donation options include this Crowdrise fundraiser for the regional American Red Cross Disaster Assistance program. Trione Winery is matching donations up to $10,000.