Rio Vista Slow Food

Chefs Culinary Creations Star of Slow Food Festival

The night before the June 21st Slow Food Festival hometown Chefs Shirley Lira will be peeling 76 tomatoes and a “crate” of cucumbers while nearby her husband, Jim Lira, will be shucking 100 ears of corn and seasoning 300 lamb ribs. Chef Robb “Rossi” of Pangaea Two Brews restaurant in Sacramento will be preparing 25 pounds of dry heirloom beans and hometown Chef Jenan Afaneh will be assembling 300 lamb and chicken kabobs. And that’s only a peek into the culinary activity prior to the festival.

Top row left to right: Chefs Wendy Adair, Jenan Afanch, Rachel Barrows and Jim Baumann Second row: Chefs Janet Blegan, George Burkhardt, Lous Bynoe and Sandi Jardine Third row: Chefs Jim Lira, Shirley Lira, Wendy Manfredonia and Sandra McCosker Bottom row: Gerald Norman, Beverly Ohanesian, Robb “Rossi” and Kathy Threlfall Not pictured: Chef Edwards and Trudy King

Top row left to right: Chefs Wendy Adair, Jenan Afanch, Rachel Barrows and Jim Baumann
Second row: Chefs Janet Blegan, George Burkhardt, Lous Bynoe and Sandi Jardine
Third row: Chefs Jim Lira, Shirley Lira, Wendy Manfredonia and Sandra McCosker
Bottom row: Gerald Norman, Beverly Ohanesian, Robb “Rossi” and Kathy Threlfall
Not pictured: Chef Edwards and Trudy King

The Slow Food Festival on June 21st is all about great, wholesome food from local providers and the cooks, hometown and professional, are definitely going to deliver. (And the wine will be excellent and plentiful too!)

Chef George Burkhardt’s appetizer will be lamb tacos with a feta, mint tzatziki sauce and a tomato cucumber relish. Chef Burkhardt trained at the Culinary Arts Institute of America and has, among others, worked at Domaine Chandon restaurant. He recently joined the kitchen at Sir Flairs Bar and Grill (formerly the Nines) in Trilogy. The Slow Food movement resonates with George, who participates in the event to meet people with similar ideas.

Hometown Chef Shirley Lira’s creation will be Spanish influenced gazpacho made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers, green onions, garlic and a variety of spices then chilled for a refreshing cold soup. Shirley likes the Slow Food message, which is to break the fast food habit and emphasizes food cooked traditionally from scratch and enjoyed with family and friends.

Hometown Chef Jenan Afaneh will be hand assembling colorful lamb and chicken kabobs with a delicious Middle Eastern herb marinade and tender crisp vegetables. Jenan is a “slow foodie” because she likes knowing where her food comes from and how it is grown or raised. Jenan says, “kabob skewers, anyway you look at it, is food on stick – plain and simple. However, getting the skewers to be ‘perfect’ isn’t that easy!”

Hometown Chef Trudy King’s appetizer offering will be Zucchini Bites made with healthy fresh-from-the-garden zucchini, cheese and spices.

Hometown Chef Wendy Adair is still tinkering with her recipe for White Bean Crostini. Look for a heavenly melding of cannellini beans, basil and tomatoes with oodles of garlic on fresh toasted baguette.

Hometown Chef Kathy Threlfall will be throwing everything but the “kitchen sink” into her delicious and healthy kale salad and topping it off with a savory dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard.

Since 1991, Chef Louis Bynoe has specialized in the authentic tastes of the West Indies. Chef Bynoe’s entree will be Jamaican Curry Goat, a favorite of customers of his Breadfruit Tree Restaurant in Stockton.

Hometown Chef Gerald Norman has been a Slow Food Festival contributor since its conception. He’ll be bringing back his crowd favorite, barbequed beef brisket.

Twenty-five pounds of dried beans poses no threat to hometown Chef Rachel Barrows. Rachel will be slow cooking healthy and protein packed rosemary cannellini beans. Rachel and her husband Andy are active community volunteers who like the Slow Food message of healthy eating.

Chef Edwards of Chef Edwards Bar-B-Que will return again this year with his signature Piggly Wiggly Sliders.

Hometown Chef Wendy Manfredonia’s entree will be Chicken Vesuvio, an Italian-American specialty dish that originated in her hometown of Chicago. It is a mouthwatering savory marriage of chicken, potatoes, artichokes, wine, fresh herbs and butter. Wendy is new to Rio Vista and she’s excited to be involved in her new community. According to Wendy, “Farm to table cooking with the freshest ingredients makes every dish better! Slow Food rules over Fast Food!”

Chef Jim Baumann, former chef at The Point Restaurant in Rio Vista is well known in the area. Jim will be preparing a delicious endive salad and lamb appetizer. Jim’s expertise and culinary creativity is a great addition to the festival. When asked to prepare an amazing salad and appetizers for hundreds of people, his response was, “Sure, I’ll do it!”

Hometown Chef Beverly Ohanesian loves to cook “for masses of people.” In fact, Beverly was an early innovator with a catering truck in Fresno well before they became the rage. Her creations are rice pilaf and Armenian yalanchi – grape leaves stuffed with a delicious blend of rice, parsley, lemon and onions.

Hometown Chef Sandi Jardine brings her gluten free expertise to the Slow Food Festival, creating various gluten free desserts, summer salad, and BLT quinoa cup appetizers.

Speaking of “grand finales”… hometown Chefs Sandra McCosker and Janet Blegan will be offering the quintessential taste of summer – strawberry shortcakes.

Bon Appetit! Come to the Slow Food Festival on June 21st and enjoy the culinary contributions from this dynamic group of hometown and professional chefs. And don’t forget, fine wine, great entertainment, art, local food producers and vendors, and more.

Tickets for the Slow Food Festival are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or in town at Books Rio V, This N That, Pets 4 All, Galleria Bra Room and Brand You.

Slow Food Festival Promises Variety & Abundance

Come look, swirl, sip, and savor wine during the 3rd Annual Slow Food Festival. One of the most entertaining aspects of the Slow Food Festival is wine tasting. Each year the Slow Food Festival attempts to introduce festival goers to different wine selections. Domaine Carneros will showcase its highly acclaimed sparkling brut this year.  Carvalho, California Natural Wines, Dancing Coyote, Flora Springs, Lucas, Michael David, and Sutter Home wines will be featured too.

Slow Food Festival attendees could choose between several types of wine.

Enjoy wine from eight different wineries at this years festival.

Come to learn the language of wine. Whether you consider yourself to be a novice or connoisseur of wines, there is always something to learn about them. You will have an opportunity to do comparative tastings to learn how different regions contribute their own unique character to the same varietal and which versions you prefer. This will be a fun opportunity for you to experience these differences as you sip and sample down near the waterfront.

I’m often intrigued by the conversations that people strike up at the festival about the differences among the wines. Wine experts Sandra Young of Carvalho Winery and Sara Helmers of Lucas Winery will be on hand to help guide you through the art of what to look for (e.g. aromas, flavors, texture, weight, overall balance, persistence on the palate). Okay, maybe I’m giving away the farm here – “TMI.” As the afternoon progresses you are sure to be able to discern the differences in complexity of flavors and between levels or characteristics of tannins (smoother, courser, or drier ones). Or maybe not! Either way you will have good wine, good food, and a good time.

But wine is not all that will be featured. Thanks to our hometown chefs this year’s menu is extensive. You will enjoy the following: Jamaican curry goat; barbeque lamb ribs, lamb and chicken kabobs, Chicken Vesuvio, brisket, rice pilaf, rosemary cannellini beans, Gazpacho, barbeque corn, Yalanchi – vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, endive salad, kale salad, and more! Light desserts will be on the menu too. We have something for everyone this year to include gluten free strawberry shortcake!

When was the last time you had an opportunity to sip wine, eat locally grown food prepared by hometown chefs, and socialize with friends near our beautiful waterfront for only $25? To purchase tickets, go towww.slowfoodriovista.org. For more information call (707)-374-6118.)

See you there!

Slow Food Rio Vista

Denny James and leehowardsmusicaluniverse to Play at Slow Food Festival

By Susan Whitesell

It’s not only delicious food and wine that you will enjoy at the upcoming Slow Food Festival on June 21st. While you nosh and sip, you will also delight in great music by talented artists Denny James and leehowardsmusicaluniverse. Chill to Denny James’ soft rock with country flavor and R&B influences and groove to leehowardsmusicaluniverse – a mix of world music and classic tunes from the rock, jazz and Brazilian songbook.

Musician Denny James, who will be appearing at the Slow Food Festival June 21st. Photo by Chris Kucala.

Musician Denny James, who will be appearing at the Slow Food Festival June 21st. Photo by Chris Kucala.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Denny James grew up with a blues and R&B background.He first picked up a guitar when he was 12 years old and by the age of 15, he was playing professionally in local clubs. Denny and his brother, who played bass, worked professionally with Lindell Hill of Stax Records for several years. For 8 years in the 70’s and 80’s, Denny played with D. James, R. Keith and Gagen, an acoustic trio, who toured the Midwest and South. After that, Denny performed solo and contract gigs, playing guitar and bass for various bands. The last 10 years Denny has performed as an acoustic solo act.

 Denny describes his sound as “A mixed bag of easy listening and soft rock with some country flavor and R&B influences.”

Denny describes his sound as “A mixed bag of easy listening and soft rock with some country flavor and R&B influences.” Denny’s two albums, She’s Gone and Holy Man with a Gun, can be found online on iTunes, cdbaby.com and Amazon.com. You can hear Denny play locally at Memo’s At The Point and (of course) at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

The group, leehowards musical universe, will be appearing at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

The group, leehowards musical universe, will be appearing at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

leehoward, bassist, composer, sound designer, singer and producer hails from the dairy country of Connecticut via the high deserts of New Mexico, and most recently the Bay Area, has been making eclectic world music in the Bay Area since 1994. lee’s great new band is playing throughout northern California.

 “I call it the Musical Universe ‘cause that’s what it is – a galaxy of music/songs and sounds from musicians who bring over 50 years of musical experience collectively to the table. It’s a worldly, textured music we’re creating,”

 “I call it the Musical Universe ‘cause that’s what it is – a galaxy of music/songs and sounds from musicians who bring over 50 years of musical experience collectively to the table. It’s a worldly, textured music we’re creating,” lee said. “Y’know, it’s funny, but this started out as a platform to get my songs for the new album videotaped and recorded. But the band kept sounding so good, we kept getting more and more shows, more and more fans,” he added. “We kept adding songs that we love playing- digging into the archive of great songs from over the years,” he added. “John and I really love Brazilian and Afro Cuban music, Chris brings his bluesy jazz background, sax player Kevin Galloway brings his beautiful tone and soloing, and violinist Trevor Lloyd’s experience is steeped in country, classical music and progressive rock. We’ve devised a set of music from an era that doesn’t get heard from much these days, jazzy pop from the mid 60’s, but also some Sting, Jean luc Ponty, Horace Silver, Depeche Mode, Miles Davis, Herb Alpert, Burt Bacharach, even some ZZtop, and Talking Heads”, beautiful melodies placed over beat happy rhythms.” lee goes on to say.

lee loves the idea of the band being paired with a Slow Food event. He says with a grin, “Our Music pairs well with the Slow Food Movement and Slow Food Festival because our music is hand made, slow brewed, nutritious and satisfying. Come by and say hello.”

His new album ‘leehowardsmusicaluniverse – The ReMastered Sessions 2014 out now on Cyberia Records, is a remix of some of his best music from over the past decade, re-recorded with the new band. The album can be found on itunes.com, cdbaby.com Amazon.com, and on his website www.leehowardsmusicaluniverse.net.

You can hear the band play at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

Tickets for the Slow Food Festival are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or in town at Books Rio V, This N That, Pets 4 All, Galleria Bra Room and Brand You.

The Slow Food Festival is still in need of volunteers, such as wine pourers, to help at the event. Contact Tom Surh at 374-5282 to volunteer or Janith Norman at 374-6118 for information about being a vendor or event sponsor.

Big Red Farms Coming to Slow Food Festival

Posted 5/28/14 to The Beacon

By Susan Whitesell

When Diane and Mike Mitchell first bought their 11 acres in the Capay Valley, they had no idea they would soon be producing an award-winning olive oil. And this year, they will be a vendor at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

Big Red Farms is a great fit for the upcoming Slow Food Festival. Diane says, “I really like the whole idea of it and I like a grass roots getting off the ground kind of thing.” She’s excited to have people taste Big Red Farms olive oil, which she says is, “Natural and good and fresh and it really makes a difference to your health.”

Mike Mitchell with his harvest of Big Red Farms hand-picked olives.

Mike Mitchell with his harvest of Big Red Farms hand-picked olives.

When Diane and Mike first bought the farm, which is 10 miles west of Cache Creek Casino in the town of Guinda, there was just the 1927 Sears and Roebuck catalog farmhouse and some very old and mostly non-producing almond trees. Diane muses, “We didn’t really know what it meant to have a good well and good soil.”

Friends were soon asking, “What are you going to plant?” In 2006, Diane and Mike Mitchell planted their first 1,000 Arbequina olive trees. The Arbequina is known for its hardiness and for the amount of oil produced by its relatively small fruit. The initial planting was a family affair with Mike’s mom overseeing and the extended family doing the actual planting.

Pieces began to fall into place for their first harvest when the state-of-the-art Seka Hills Olive Mill opened nearby in October 2012. By November their first batch of Big Red Farm olives were hand picked and pressed into 100 gallons of olive oil in the same day.

“People said to me ‘I never tasted olive oil that tasted like an olive!’”

Olive oil sales started casually. Diane says, “I’ve sold olive oil in my driveway. I’ve sold it to people in my [local] grocery store. I’ve sold at my beauty shop. I’ve even sold olive oil from my car. People really liked what they tasted. People said to me ‘I never tasted olive oil that tasted like an olive!’”

“We’re just a couple of people who planted all these trees and this has all happened for us!”

Big Red Farm won the Gold Award for medium intensity in 2013 and the Silver Award for mild intensity this year at the Yolo County Fair, which is known for its high quality olive oil competition. The Arbequina oil has a wonderful deep, rich, intense natural flavor with a mildly peppery aftertaste. On their early success Diane says, “We’re just a couple of people who planted all these trees and this has all happened for us!”

A vat of freshly pressed Big Red Farms olive oil prior to bottling.

A vat of freshly pressed Big Red Farms olive oil prior to bottling.

You can buy award winning Big Red Farm olive oil from their web site at http://bigredfarmscapay.com, the Capay Valley Vineyard and the Capay Valley Market. Diane says, “I like to keep my prices at a level where anybody can afford it.”

Meet Diane Mitchell of Big Red Farm and swirl, smell, slurp and swallow their award winning olive oil at this year’s Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

Tickets for the festival are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or in town at Books Rio V, This N That, Pets 4 All, Galleria Bra Room and Brand You.

The Slow Food Festival is still in need of volunteers, such as wine pourers, to help at the event. Contact Tom Surh at 374-5282 to volunteer or Janith Norman at 374-6118 for information about being a vendor or event sponsor.

Al Medvitz to speak at Slow Food Festival

Posted 5/21/14 to the River News Herald

By Susan Whitesell

The 3rd Annual Slow Food Festival June 21st has a distinguished speaker, Al Medvits. His topic is, “Farming at the Center of the World.” According to Al, this area is hugely important to California and world agriculture. It is not just, “A small rural place out in the boonies. We are part of a system that doesn’t depend on national boundaries. What happens here has a big impact someplace else.”

“This area is hugely important to California and world agriculture. It is not just, ‘A small rural place out in the boonies.'”

For 25 years Al Medvitz and his wife, Jeannie McCormack, have farmed 3,700 acres on the banks of the Sacramento River. Al is a former assistant professor of physical sciences and of international education at Boston University. He is a visiting scholar on agriculture and community at the University of California, Davis and is co-editor with Al Sokolow of “Farmland Under Urban Pressure: Statewide and Regional Perspectives.”

Al Medvitz, with McCormack Ranch land in the background.

Al Medvitz, with McCormack Ranch land in the background.

Al emphasizes, “California produces about 50% of the fruits and vegetables for this country. California is the third or fourth agricultural entity in the world. In terms of total gross agricultural product, the state is sixth or seventh.” California’s top exports, among others, are walnuts, almonds, grapes, and (of course) wine. Worldwide demand has been increasing for walnuts and almonds. California walnuts account for more than 99% of the commercial U.S. supply and control roughly 75% of world production. The Solano County 2012 Crop and Livestock Report identifies walnuts as first in crop ranking accounting for almost 47 million in crop value and almonds as ninth in crop ranking accounting for almost 13 million in crop value and contributing to California’s 82% dominance of world almond production.

Our area also exports sheep, goat and cattle meat and hides internationally. Wool from sheep is also exported. For example, McCormick Ranch sells their wool to a storehouse in Roswell, New Mexico, who in turn auctions the wool to bidders representing mills worldwide.

Come hear more about the worldwide demand for items farmed in this area and enjoy lamb donated by Al Medvitz and Jeannie McCormack at this year’s Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

Tickets for the festival are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or in town at Books Rio V, This N That, Pets 4 All, Galleria Bra Room and Brand You.

The Slow Food Festival is still in need of volunteers to help at the event. Contact Tom Surh at 374-5282 to volunteer or Janith Norman at 374-6118 for information to be a vendor or event sponsor.

Elegant Beans and Beyond at Slow Food Festival

Posted 5/14/14 to the River News Herald

By Susan Whitesell

Elegant Beans and Beyond of Mohr-Fry Ranches was recently awarded a Producer “Snail of Approval” by Slow Food Sacramento, recognizing businesses producing locally unique and sustainable foods. Elegant Beans and Beyond has also been recognized by Slow Food USA for growing several dry bean varieties identified in the Ark of Taste catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. You can see and taste the unique, subtle flavor of Elegant Beans and Beyond heirloom and exotic dry beans at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.

Feft, Jerry Fry and right, Chip Morris in front of their state-of-the-art Visys Python optical sorter that can polish and sort 4,500 lbs. of beans per hour.

Feft, Jerry Fry and right, Chip Morris in front of their state-of-the-art Visys Python optical sorter that can polish and sort 4,500 lbs. of beans per hour.

Jerry Fry of Mohr-Fry Ranches has a long history of farming that extends back to the 1850s. Today, Mohr-Fry Ranches grows 12 different wine grape varieties, Lupin, and the Heirloom Beans.   Mohr-Fry Ranches has grown Bing Cherries, Rainier Cherries, and Stevia. With Jerry, first cousin Chip Morris, farms several hundred acres and produces over 28 heirloom dry bean varieties on the sixth-generation family-owned and operated ranch.

That’s a lot of beans…

“95% of our [bean] business is wholesale,” says Jerry Fry. According to Chip, large food service companies, such as BiRite Foodservice Distributors and LA & SF Specialty, buy 2,000 pound totes that are repackaged in smaller amounts and resold to thousands of restaurants serviced by the distributor. Elegant Beans and Beyond heirloom and exotic dry beans are also available from Williams Sonoma, Whole Foods, their web site at www.elegantbeans.com, and soon at stores such as Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill.

“Beans are no longer something that you slap on a plate with a taco.”

According to Jerry, “Beans are no longer something that you slap on a plate with a taco.” There is a lot of interest in heirloom dry beans, which have emerged as an exciting and versatile gourmet food. “The timing couldn’t be better. People are looking at healthy eating.” Their high protein content makes beans an excellent low-fat alternative. Beans are high in soluble fiber and gluten-free, which is especially important to many health-conscious consumers today.

Packages of Elegant Beans and Beyond heirloom and exotic beans ready for shipping.

Packages of Elegant Beans and Beyond heirloom and exotic beans ready for shipping.

Jerry and Chip saw the opportunity for heirloom dry beans in the mid-90’s but first had to work out the growing, cultivating and marketing kinks. Harvesting heirloom dry beans in 15 to 20 acre plots, each with different maturity cycles, required Mohr-Fry to buy their own harvester rather than harvesting commercially. The team also had to overcome obstacles to sorting and cleaning various size beans in smaller batches. According to Jerry, “Bean cooperatives run millions of pounds of beans through their processors.” To switch off and run 15,000 pounds of a specialized variety was inefficient and costly to Mohr-Fry, forcing them instead to hand polish and sort their own beans. To solve this problem, Mohr-Fry recently purchased a specialized optical sorter that can polish and sort thousands of pounds of beans per hour. In addition to their other responsibilities, Jerry, Chip and Chip’s wife Bobbie are also the Elegant Beans and Beyond marketing team responsible for promoting and educating buyers about the benefits of their unique heirloom and exotic bean varieties.

Elegant Beans and Beyond is one of several local producers featured at the June 21st Slow Food Festival. Chip Morris will also speak at the event. Tickets for the event are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or in town at Books Rio V, This N That, Pets 4 All, Galleria Bra Room and Brand You.

Slow Food vs. Fast Food

shukaku_no_aki_autumn_fruit_vegetables.jpg

Posted 5/7/14 to The Beacon

By Susan Whitesell

Many people are still asking, “What is Slow Food?” Stated simply, “Slow Food” is the opposite of “Fast Food.” Slow Food is an alternative to the industrial system; one where all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who cultivate or produce it, and good for the planet.

"Slow Food" is the opposit of "Fast Food."

“Slow Food” is the opposit of “Fast Food.”

Slow Food USA has more than 170 chapters and 2,000 food communities in the United States, including one in Rio Vista, that supports these ideals.

“Taste a wonderful selection of area wines. Enjoy presentations, entertainment, art and local vendors. Bask in the conviviality of Rio Vista friends and neighbors.”

The third annual Slow Food Festival on June 21st is a “farm to table” event that celebrates the rich diversity of food and wine from this area. Dine on regional cuisine prepared by our own “home town chefs.” Taste a wonderful selection of area wines. Enjoy presentations, entertainment, art and local vendors. Bask in the conviviality of Rio Vista friends and neighbors. To quote the River News Herald regarding last year’s event, “While the food tasting opportunities were the premier draw to the event, there was no shortage of wine, music, presentations and art to round out the festival’s dynamic ensemble of participants and the pleasant byproduct was the sense of community that was facilitated by the artistic mediums of the day.”

Tickets for the event are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or Books Rio V and This N That in town.

This year’s festival is featuring “home grown” cooks. If you are a great cook whose culinary creations feature regional meat or produce, why not volunteer? If you are a wine aficionado we need you too! We also need volunteers help at the event. Contact Tom Surh at 374-5282 to volunteer or Janith Norman at 374-6118 for information to be a vendor or event sponsor.

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