Friday, Aug 23 2013 09:32 AM

THE DISH: Wiki retooling its menu offerings

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    A wine bottle and barrel fountain frames the patio section of the dinning room at Wiki's Wine Dive & Grill on a Tuesday night in Bakersfield.

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BY PETE TITTL Contributing columnist

Wiki Wine Dive & Grill, which opened last spring, is retooling as a result of customer requests.

Co-owner Rick Peace sent an email saying that customers requested "more comfort foods and tapas" and that they've dropped many items that "did not have as much interest." A mist system has been added to the patio, and live jazz will be playing there on the weekends.

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In a phone conversation with chef Thomas Laczynski, we learned that three new pizzettas were being introduced: Tuscan (spicy salami, Brussels sprouts), prosciutto (with arugula and shaved asparagus) and smoked chicken (Gouda, goat cheese, roasted corn and turmeric rubbed on the chicken).

Laczynski said more additions will be coming the second or third week, largely inspired by local ingredients.

"We want to keep the focus on what local producers offer," he said. "We'll be adding a pan-seared salmon with roasted beers, a parsnip puree and Chimichurri sauce. Grimmway has some amazing beets we'll be using."

Those beets should also find their way onto the winter menu, he said, when they'll be offering a twist on pot roast with a Bordelaise-braised top round with beets, parsnips and truffle macaroni and cheese.

Wiki has also created a special vegetarian menu based on customer requests, with about a dozen items, many of them meat-free variations on existing menu items.

Summer fair at Fresh & Easy

For those that think summer has come to an end, Fresh & Easy has something to say about that. The grocery chain continues its Summer Street Fair and Food Truck tour with a stop Friday at the Olive Drive store. The event has already made its way through parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada where stores are located and is now on its final leg of the Golden State.

On tap are a variety of events, most notably food samples from the Fresh & Easy food truck. Five dishes will be served: Southwest chicken tacos, spicy Soyrizo tacos, Thai turkey lettuce wraps, tangy blue cheese sliders and mango carnitas-stuffed peppers.

If you enjoy what you try, recipes will be available and a team member will be on hand to help you shop for ingredients in the store. A nutritionist will also be sharing other meal ideas and healthy eating tips.

Of course, for those who want to relax, picnic tables will be set up for people to enjoy their snacks as well as musical acts and other activities. You can also "take it easy" in a tent where massage therapists will offer free chair massages.

The free event runs from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Fresh & Easy at 11100 Olive Drive, Suite A.

The tour continues to Lemoore, Reedley and then the Bay Area before wrapping up Sept. 8 in San Jose. Follow the food truck on Twitter at @fneasytruck.

VillageFest on tap for Sept. 7

VillageFest officially opens Bakersfield's jampacked post-back-to-school social calendar when it welcomes thousands to the Kern County Museum Sept. 7. Though imbibing still is Job One for a lot of attendees, the event has grown into a pretty decent food festival as well, with 30 local restaurants signing on this year. In addition to the food, more than a dozen local bands will keep things lively on several stages throughout the grounds, and there's a sports tent for those who can't bear to go a few hours separated from their favorite teams.

There will be 60 breweries unveiling more than 100 different brews, and 25 Central Coast wineries will offer 70-plus featured pours. The festival is from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Kern County Museum, 3801 Chester Ave. Attendees must be at least 21. Tickets are $68 in advance, $70 the day of the event. For information on the festival and to find out where to buy tickets, visit bakersfieldvillagefest.com and look for a full preview in this Thursday's Eye Street section.

New and different

Macaroni Grill has updated its menu and added new wines. Menu additions include "braisers" such as chicken cacciatore ($18), Cremini pork shank ($23) and a "classic Italian bake" ($15) that includes meatballs, sausage, roasted tomatoes, ricotta cheese and rigatoni. The pork shank with its roasted potato wedges and mushroom gravy is just amazing ... Prime Cut has pulled out a new list of specials, including grilled smoked ham sandwich, a roasted Cajun turkey sandwich and teriyaki steak kabobs, all under $10 ... By now you should know the third flavor of Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell: fiery. But I'll bet you didn't know that there are 123 different Doritos flavors offered worldwide ... Tahoe Joe's has brought back railroad shrimp combo meals again (Joe's steak $14.99, or with bacon-wrapped petite filet $17.99). They're also offering summer sangrias ($5.95, red or peach) for a limited time ... Trader Joe's is selling ghee (clarified butter) for $3.29 (a great way to cook with butter, as it has a lower smoking point) and also now sells milk and honey biscuits imported from Italy ($2.49) ...

Coconut oil resurgence

It's wise to take a skeptical attitude toward stories about certain foods promoting health and others damaging the human body. Let's take coconut oil. Back when I was a teenage movie usher I used to scoop the white glop into the heating tank for the popcorn popper, and even then I knew that was the secret ingredient that made movie theater popcorn taste so much better than what they sell everywhere else. However, it eventually was tarred as one of those damaging oils, like palm oil, and the opposite of olive oil, which everyone is still touting for its beneficial impact on the circulatory system.

Now the worm has turned and some forms of coconut oil are being sold as health food products. Studies have shown that coconut oil may protect against heart diseases, cancer and diabetes as well as improve digestion and memory functions. We got an email from Carrington Farms in New Jersey, which sells 100 percent organic, non-genetically modified health food products and has a small 12-ounce container with a suggested retail price of $9.79. It's available at many stores including Whole Foods and Costco. The larger 42-ounce container is also available.

Carrington spokeswoman Kaitlin Dilworth said, "What sets coconut oil apart from other fats is the fact that more than half of it is made up of medium chain fats, known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike other types of fats, MCTs are rapidly metabolized and easily burned as energy so it is less likely to be stored as fat. The MCTs found in coconut oil can also increase metabolism to help us feel full faster."

Expect large prices for shrimp

The Wall Street Journal ran a story saying that a bacterial infection in Thailand, the world's largest shrimp exporter and the biggest importer to America's kitchens, has cut production of that seafood worldwide and is resulting in significant price increases. The infection, which poses no threat to humans, has been killing the shellfish before they reach maturity and reproduce. The problem had previously been an issue in China and Vietnam. Shrimp prices went up 20 percent last month. The fight to control the affliction, known as EMS, is continuing.

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