By The Bakersfield Californian
BY PETE TITTL
Something to dish?
Do you have a tip, question or recommendation for Pete on Bakersfield restaurants, trends or food news in general? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and your input might wind up in Pete's The Dish column.
Pesky last-minute details are delaying the opening of the second Juicy Burger restaurant, which will occupy the old Dewar's building at Hageman and Calloway in the northwest, reports manager/co-owner Justin Smith.
The restaurant had been due to open this week, but inspections, hiring and the '50s-style mural being painted inside have yet to be completed.
Hurdles aside, the owners are happy with the expansion into a much larger space than the downtown location occupies, particularly with the 900-square-foot patio. And like the downtown location, it will be linked to a Dreyer's ice cream parlor.
"If you remember what it was like as a Dewar's, when you entered to the left there was a register space cut out of the wall," he said. "That's perfect for the ice cream space."
Smith said the restaurant will have cushioned booths and an original 1951 Seeburg jukebox that will play only '50s records at no charge. The kitchen will be open to the dining room, and the restaurant will be open as late as 11 p.m. on some days. And one interesting note: They will continue to sell both Coke and Pepsi.
Local artists Jennifer Shrader and Julie Armstrong are painting a mural of Bakersfield in the '50s, an era of so many restaurants and nightclubs now gone forever.
Smith reported that they've yet to fill 18 new positions for the new location. Those interested in applying can do so by visiting juicyburger.com.
Burning down the Villagefest
Longtime Bakersfield residents know the town really comes to life in spring and fall, with a plethora of outdoor festivals and festivities. The fact that the wonderful temperatures and typically clear skies in both seasons beckon us away from the AC and heater might have something to do with it.
The typical fall kickoff event is now called Villagefest , though it has gone by other names over the previous 16 years of its existence. It's a great charity fundraiser that allows you to sample food from most of the best restaurants in town (34 of them) as well as 18 wineries and 60 breweries this year, all shared at Pioneer Village with 4,000 people. There were stages with live entertainment spread throughout the area, and themed lands such as Cantinaville (for Mexican restaurant and beers) and The Big KahunaVille. MicroBlues was beer-drinker heaven.
I'd always heard it's wise to get there early (it ran from 6 to 10 p.m.) as some restaurant booths run out of food and, sure enough, the delectable chicken pita sandwiches from Cafe Med were gone just after 7:30 p.m. You get a map when you enter, with a check-box card limiting your alcohol tastings to 15 one- to four-ounce portions and a souvenir glass. Food samplings are unlimited.
Most of the restaurants were serving pulled pork, so it was possible to do a vertical tasting if you went from Buck Owens ' Crystal Palace (best bun, most generous sample) to On the Rocks, Riverwalk Cafe and Champs BBQ. The Padre had one of the most innovative offerings, a "pulled pork sundae": A cup that had mashed potatoes standing in for ice cream, with the pork in the center sticking out like a straw, cole slaw as the coconut, barbecue sauce as the hot fudge component, all topped by a pork rind acting as the cherry on top.
Other stars of the night included Victor's (chile verde with chips or a grilled chicken salad with cilantro dressing), Goose Loonies (pita bread with lamb and a yogurt sauce), Frugatti's (penne pasta in a marina sauce and a slice of baked chicken breast with a light mushroom sauce). Lengthwise had a whole roasted pig on display, but that was all gone by the time we got to that station at 7:45 p.m., the carcass still visible. Some were posing with it for cellphone pictures.
Dessert was not forgotten. Cold Stone had at least 10 different flavors ready to hand out in cups, and Sugar Twist was offering samples of practically everything, including the Baconator doughnut, their awesome lemon bar and tiny vanilla or chocolate cupcakes.
Nearby was the cool area with all those old Bakersfield neon signs such as Jim Baker Electrifier , the Silver Fox, Tops Fine Foods and the Far East Cafe . It's a great nostalgia trip at night.
The lines were reasonable, though the place was totally packed, which made walking from one location to another like being at the Kern County Fair on a busy day. The longest food line we encountered was at Frugatti's, and that took maybe eight minutes to get to the front. Wineries had almost no lines, but some beer stations, such as Stella Artois, were very long. The variety of beers was impressive. Yes, you could get Bud Light , but Sierra Nevada had some of their beers there that I didn't recognize.
Most of the crowd looked to be 21 to 35, but there were older folks, too. The dress ranged from county fair casual to Saturday night special.
Despite all the alcohol, we didn't notice too many problems with public inebriation. It's hard to get wasted when you can only get an ounce or two at a time. I didn't even get through the 15 marks on my punch card. Smarter people were getting drinks before standing in the food lines.
17th Street Cigar Company was stationed near the entrance, so there were a lot of cigar smokers walking around. Villagefest is definitely a something-for-everyone operation. The money goes to Children's Advocates Resource Endowment, a local nonprofit that keeps all the money in Kern County and is run by volunteers. Mark your calendar: Next year's event is already set for Sept. 7. Tickets this year were $63 in advance.
A proven winner for Kern River Brewing
What kind of beer would inspire people to stand in line for hours just to get a chance to buy five bottles?
You'll have to wait to find out. Kern River Brewing Company up in Kernville has a seasonal beer called Citra that has so inspired beer drinkers that it sold out in one weekend (Aug. 17-19), with many fans driving up from Long Beach and Los Angeles to buy what they could. Imbibe magazine in its September/October issue listed Citra as one of the world's 50 most- obsessed-over beers.
Imbibe wrote, "Among the new-breed hops, few varieties have incited as much excitement as the tropical-tinged Citra, which takes a starring turn in this hazy, pungent Southern California-brewed IPA. A gold-medal winner at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival (in Denver) has forced the Kern River to only sell the beer at the brewery. Just 120 cases were released over three days in March. The next release is slated for this fall."
Alas, those bottles are already gone. There was also a jalapeno version on tap, but that disappeared quickly. The website describes the Citra as "A double IPA that is hazy pale in color with a strong pungent aroma that comes from large amounts of Citra hops. The alcohol content is 8%"
Eric Giddens (co-owner with his wife, Rebecca, and brewmaster Kyle Smith ) said Citra takes so long to make that they fall behind in production of their other beers, so they can brew it only occasionally.
"It's a hoppy beer but to get the aroma we want, and not bitterness, you need to add the hops late in the process," he said. "This is a beer with an amazing aroma, very citrusy like grapefruit or pineapple. Not a bitter beer. Kyle is very good at brewing hoppy beers."
Kern River is working on other specialty beers including Dirty Hippy (an imperial red due out this month) and a pumpkin beer in October. Citra should reappear in November, but he has no date yet.
"The beer tells us when it's ready," he said, noting that customers can sign up at the restaurant website for notifications of specialty releases.
One interesting fact: Eric and Rebecca are former Olympic kayakers. In fact, Rebecca won a silver medal. Eric worked for NBC as an Olympic announcer this year.
The restaurant's website: kernriverbrewing.com.
Cheap wine tip of the week
Trader Joe's is featuring another $2.99 chardonnay from Sonoma County that makes a great table wine. The 2009 Landing Place wine is bottled in Healdsburg and it's a light sweet chardonnay, not heavy on oak, with creamy apple notes and sweeter than most. As always with products at Trader Joe's, get it quick because it could be a "special buy" with limited quantities. The Winnefred chardonnay we wrote about last time is already gone and a store employee said it's unlikely to return.