Friday, Oct 18 2013 03:30 PM

The Dish: Celebrate pumpkin at Kern River brewpub

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The Kern River Brewing Company on Sierra Way in Kernville.

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By PETE TITTL, Contributing columnist

Today is the annual Tap the Pumpkin party at Kern River Brewing Company up in Kernville.

The brewpub's famous Citra brew is not yet available, but a pumpkin ale will be today. Festivities run from 2 to 6 p.m. and include pumpkin carving for the little kids, "pumpkin beer for the big kids, pumpkin food and, well, a band with no pumpkins involved."

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Expect the release of Citra on Oct. 25. In order to get bottles, you had to have won a ticket in a special online lottery that expired Oct. 13, but they will be pouring it on draft at the brewpub on a first come, first served basis. They expect the supply to last two to three days based on previous releases.

It's good to be an avocado

Nancy Kruse , a national menu trends expert, says the ingredient of the year in restaurants is going to be fresh avocados. Other hot food and beverage trends include high-protein items, whole grains, flavored vodkas, green teas and sweet wines.

In a report published in the Nation's Restaurant News, Kruse said avocados benefit from their creamy texture, compatibility with a lot of other ingredients and even their green color, which she said consumers perceive as more healthful. Kruse also said to expect restaurants to emphasize nutritious ingredients rather than reduced calories, sodium or fat. New vodka flavors such as chiffon and cupcake are proving popular as are various forms of green tea. Moscato, a sweet wine, is expected to increase in popularity. Salted caramel and mini desserts will continue to grow in sales, she noted.

And speaking of avocados ...

One trend I just don't get, as someone who's reheated too many burritos with guacamole in them and lived to regret it, is the increasing use of avocados in hot dishes. I love them sliced and placed on a salad or plate of nachos after the heating process, but I've come across some uses recently that just make me wonder what people are thinking.

It started with fried avocados, as if folks were taking their culinary advice from a county fair food booth. But then it moved into pizzas. Under heat, avocados lose their appealing color and texture and seem to taste like mush. Maybe I'm not seeing something, or maybe chefs eager to embrace the latest "hot" vegetable are trying to be creative in how they use it. Go nuts. I just don't see how it works out.

New and different

Trader Joe's has coconut cashews (coated with sugar and coconut milk) for $6.99 and practically anything you could imagine featuring pumpkin, including pita crisps with cranberry and pumpkin seeds ($2.69), pumpkin spice granola cereal ($2.49), pumpkin biscotti ($3.99), pecan pumpkin instant oatmeal ($2.99), pumpkin cranberry scone mix ($3.69), pumpkin bar mix ($2.99) and pumpkin spice coffee ($6.99) ... Sizzler has brought back a popular entree from its glory days in the 1990s, the steak and Malibu chicken, offering it for $7.99 for a limited time. According to a Bloomberg report, Sizzler CEO Kerry Kramp said at that price it won't make money, but the chain hopes customers will add on other items such as salads and drinks and return to the restaurant. About 60 percent of the chain's 153 U.S. locations have been renovated in recent years, including the Bakersfield restaurant on Mount Vernon Avenue ... With a lot of TV promotion, KFC has launched its "Go Cup" food line to entice those who eat while driving to try its products. Priced at $2.49, the containers designed to fit into car cup holders can be filled with Original Recipe Boneless chicken, a Chicken Littles sandwich, two Extra Crispy Tenders, three Hot Wings or four Original Recipe Bites, plus seasoned potato wedges ...Wendy's is using the pretzel bun it used to grow business this summer as part of a cheeseburger in a new product, the Pretzel Pub chicken sandwich made with lettuce, tomato, a fried chicken breast, Muenster cheese, honey mustard and a melted cheddar sauce ... Macaroni Grill is offering half-priced glasses of house wine on the honor system (make your tablecloth) for $2.75 for a limited time ... Challenge Dairy has a new product in grocery stores, "spreadable butter" made with sea salt, cracked pepper, olive oil and canola oil.

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