Friday, Mar 01 2013 01:24 PM

THE DISH: Lunchtime loss is afternoon gain at Valentien

By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

After a decade in operation, Valentien Restaurant and Wine Bar is making some changes. Many will be slowly implemented, according to co-owner Jennifer Sanderson.

But the first big change starts Monday, when the restaurant at Oak Street and Truxtun Avenue changes its hours, offering lunch just one day a week.

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The Dish

Lunch will be offered Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch menu favorites, such as lamb sliders and the beef and brie baguette, will be available as will the popular prix-fixe lunch for $16.

The restaurant will be open for dinner Monday through Saturday starting at 4:30 p.m. From 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., a prix-fixe dinner will be available for $25 for the "afternoon epicure." The full dinner menu will be offered from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Sanderson, in an email sent out to the restaurant's mailing list, wrote that she and co-owner Jeramy Brown "really agonized over" the decision. Reasons cited include supporting their loyal lunch patrons while also freeing up time for staff to revamp their dinner program as well as offering a nightly prix-fixe option.

Sanderson also mentioned that the weekly wine pairing specials, promoted via email and on Valentien's Twitter and Facebook pages, will continue to be offered at dinner. This week's pairing, which starts Wednesday, is crisped crepe of escargot with roasted garlic sauce paired with a 2007 Domaine Louis Boillot & Fils, Nuits -- St. Georges Burgundy. The selection celebrates one of Valentien's "classics," 10 dishes selected from its past menus or those that became instant classics. (A previous featured classic was sake-braised short ribs.)

-- Stefani Dias, Californian assistant lifestyles editor

Who needs ice when you can tilt?

Soireehome.com, based in New Jersey and Napa Valley, is famous for coming up with innovative products such as in-bottle wine aerators. Now they're out to replace ice with tilt, a gel-filled, stainless steel gourmet chilling sphere that you keep in the freezer and use to chill drinks, salads and dips. You get the chilling without the diluting impact of ice. It comes with a removable wand (we've all seen "A Christmas Story" and know what happens when flesh touches frozen metal). The package also recommends that for safety you should remove the tilt before consuming the food or drink. You can store it in a little bag or set it on a black plastic base.

It sells for $24.99 for one and $39.99 for a pair. Available at soireehome.com.

-- Pete Tittl, contributing columnist

Red wine fundraiser at California Pizza Kitchen

California Pizza Kitchen is partnering with Colby Red, a wine inspired by Colby Groom who endured two back-to-back open-heart surgeries as a child and enlisted his winemaker father to create a wine that raises money to help others. CPK will serve Colby Red wine by the glass or bottle across all of its locations through the end of April. Additionally, the company will donate up to $10,000 to charities that focus on heart health throughout the course of the year. Colby Red is a bold, flavorful California cuvee with rich fruit flavors and a soft finish and pairs well with their Original BBQ Chicken Pizza.

-- Tittl

New and different

Elephant Bar has three new Steak and Seafood combos: steak and lobster tail, Korean barbecue steak and lobster tail and top sirloin and shrimp scampi in lobster sauce. They're also continuing that "2 for $20" combo special with coupons printed in the Sunday newspaper (a $16 discount) that gives you a dessert or appetizer to share and two entrees, including the Parmesan-crusted chicken or wood-fired salmon in cilantro-citrus sauce ... Marie Callender's starts its St. Patrick's Day celebration this week, offering a trio of dishes -- a corned beef and cabbage dinner Reuben sandwich and Key lime pie -- from March 4 to 17 ... Romano's Macaroni Grill has brought back Italian nachos, a platter of fried pasta sheets and cheese ravioli topped and layered with four cheese sauce, Italian sausage, mozzarella, tomatoes, Calabrian peppers, green onions, olives and balsamic glaze ... Mimi's Cafe has rolled out a new menu that adds coq au vin, four cheese ravioli and mixed berry crepes as well as more petite plates such as corn chowder and seared scallops ...Quiznos has brought back its lobster and seafood salad sandwich, one of many chains adding seafood options during the Lenten season. The mix is 51 percent lobster, 49 percent white fish ... Hooters on Rosedale Highway now has two all-you-can-eat specials: boneless wings (Saturdays, $12.99 per person) and wings and fried shrimp (Wednesdays, $13.99 per person).

-- Dias and Tittl

Kosher and gluten-free

Manischewitz has expanded its line of kosher products that are gluten free. Since gluten-free products are acceptable for Passover, these new releases coincide with the holiday, which begins on March 25, and most are available year-round

-- Tittl

Hot restaurant trend

The Nation's Restaurant News had an interesting story about where Americans are dining, and it's trending away from fast food and casual chains to the "fast casual" restaurants like Panera and Chipotle. A market research firm found that 85 percent of consumers surveyed said they eat at fast-casual restaurants at least once a month, and 82 percent reported visiting a traditional casual-dining brand once a month. The strength of traffic at traditional casual-dining restaurants resulted in part from customers trading down from upscale casual, the report found, as only 40 percent of respondents who recently patronized a casual-dining restaurant also visited an upscale eatery in the same time frame.

The survey found that a key attraction was the ability to order healthful menu choices. Another story in the same issue said tea drinks are exploding in popularity across the country, citing innovative flavors offered by fast-food chains (raspberry remains the top flavor) and the popularity of Teavana, a company recently acquired by Starbucks.

A link to the story: nrn.com/latest-headlines/casual-dining-fast-casual-concepts-stealing-market-share.

-- Tittl

Where are crepe cakes?

One dessert trend I'm seeing in the media and out of town that hasn't, to my knowledge, hit Bakersfield are crepe cakes. We all know what a layer cake is, right? Two, three, four layers with frosting in between. Imagine up to 30 layers of cake stacked on top of each other with frosting or fruit in between. I've seen tiramisu cakes, Boston cream pie, strawberry shortcakes made with thin crepes. I'm sure it'll pop up somewhere soon. Let me know.

-- Tittl

Hot -- literally and figuratively

Times have never been better for Sriracha, the hot sauce from Thailand that popped up as a flavor for Frito-Lay potato chips (one of three contestants in the "choose the new chip" Facebook contest; the other being Cheesy Garlic Bread and Chicken & Waffles) as well as at Subway restaurants. The very sweet, very hot chili sauce, a competitor for Tabasco and Frank's Red Hot, is named after a coastal city in its home country and has a bit less vinegary taste than Tabasco. The key moment will come when McDonald's uses it for something.

Speaking of that Frito-Lay chip contest, more than 3,800 suggestions for chip flavors were submitted, including sausage, shrimp, Mastana mango, Walkie Talkie chicken, Caesar salad, chili and chocolate, late night kebob and even Cajun squirrel. Don't even want to think about the ingredients or inspiration for that last one.

-- Tittl

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