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Food Gal Ticket Giveaway and Foodie Happenings

Win tickets to the Los Angeles Grand Tasting Tour

Taste wines from more than 40 Paso Robles wineries and nosh on gourmet bites at the glam 2011 Los Angeles Grand Tasting Tour, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. March 2 at the Virbiana.

Tickets are $60 each. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern California.

Because the Food Gal has so many loyal readers who live in or travel regularly to the Los Angeles area, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be giving away three pairs of tickets to the event.

Contest: Entries should be limited to those who will be in Los Angeles on the day of the event, March 2. Contest runs through midnight PST Feb. 26. Winners will be announced Feb. 28.

How to win?

Tell me one of your favorite eats in Los Angeles and why I should try it the next time I’m there.

Here’s my own answer to that question:

“Do you love Chinese dumplings? And specifically, do you love xiao long bao, otherwise known as “soup dumplings”? Then, make a beeline pronto for Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for the very best dumplings you will ever have. I have Pulitzer Prize-winning, Los Angeles food writer Jonathan Gold to thank for telling me about this place. Here, the wrappers are the thinnest ever and so fragile you have to be careful picking them up with your chopsticks, lest you puncture them accidentally. They are tender, juicy, brothy and plain amazing. How good are they? So good that my husband and I ate there twice in three days last year. Until recently, its two Arcadia branches were the only ones outside of Asia. But Pacific Northwest foodies are sure to be rejoicing now that one just opened in Seattle.”

Winner of the Last Contest: In the most recent Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me your favorite thing to eat back in school. The top three answers will win an annual membership to Blackboard Eats.

Congrats to the winners:

1) Single Guy Ben, who wrote: “I felt like we had the best school lunches growing up in Honolulu. Every day was a different entree always served with a carton of milk, a side salad (which I always ate) and dessert. And I don’t want to date myself but we got all this for a quarter! (Yeah, back when we actually did walk a mile to get to school.)

One of my favorites is the good ole’ Sloppy Joe. It’s ironic that it’s my favorite because growing up (and still today as an adult) I’m a bit of a neat freak. I used to eat my lunch in sections, eating the salad, then the entree, then dessert. Never mixing bites here and there. So sloppy isn’t really in my vocabulary. But something about the Sloppy Joe, whether it’s the flavor or the fact that the sauce soaked into the bun and made everything soft and juicy, just brings a smile to my face. An oddly enough, the Sloppy Joe’s weren’t necessarily super slopppy. Sure, a few clumps of ground beef would fall out as I slowly ate the bun in a systemized concentric pattern, but it still held together.

It’s funny how a lot of school lunch favorites aren’t a part of our regular diet when we grow up. It may be my adversity to eating too much red meat, so I haven’t had a Sloppy Joe in many many years. Or maybe it’s because I don’t use those ready-mix packets any more so don’t have the perfect recipe for Sloppy Joe’s made from scratch. But when I look back, I think now that a perfect, juicy, Sloppy Joe may be just the item I’d like as my last meal on Earth.”

2) Sadie, who wrote, “We had different exchange students every year when I was growing up. Nothing was more wonderful than discovering that a stroopwafel from Barbara or a pulparindo (tamarind candy) from Claudia had snuck into my otherwise very Wisconsin-Midwestern lunchbox.”

3) Jennie Schact, who wrote: “We carried lunch to school. Mom would sandwich thick slabs of roasted turkey between slices of challah slathered with Russian dressing (which is to say, mayo and ketchup stirred together), wrap ‘em up, stack ‘em in the freezer, and throw one into the lunch bag in the morning. You were lucky if it was defrosted enough to eat around the edges at lunch time. Frozen turkey = not pleasant. She was also the innovator of leftover cold hamburger on a bagel. I preferred Ring Dings from the vending machine.”

Fabulous Restaurant Events

There’s still time to indulge in the annual Lark Creek Restaurant Group’s “Crab Festival.”

Through the end of the month, you’ll find special dishes at each restaurant that spotlight fresh, sustainable Dungeness crab.

Look for such lip-smacking fare as crab salad with grapefruit at One Market Restaurant in San Francisco; Dungeness crab raviolis with chanterelles and brown butter at Yankee Pier at Santana Row in San Jose; and chili roasted Dungeness crab with garlic and smoked paprika at Fish Story in Napa.

There’s also still time to try the the special prix fixe Black History Month menu with wine pairings from African-American wineries at 1300 on Fillmore in San Francisco.

The four-course dinner is $65 or $95 with wine pairings. Choices include Loch Duart salmon with Meyer lemon confit or grilled ribeye steak with Yukon Gold hash — each served with a glass of Brown Estate 2006 Cabarnet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley.

Up in Yountville, Bouchon Bistro celebrates the cuisine of Alsace with a special prix fixe dinner menu, Feb. 22 to March 6.

The three-course, $70 menu includes choices such as wild boar pate in pastry crust with cornichon marmalade, slow-poached Artic Char with shad roe roulade, and baba au rum with chocolate chantilly cream.

If chocolate is your  weakness, don’t miss the Savory Chocolate Dinner at Sent Sovi in Saratoga, 7 p.m.  Feb. 24.

Yes, chocolate in every course with wine pairings for $110 per person. Look for such imaginative fare as white chocolate, foie gras and roe salad; chocolate chili ginger prawns; and milk and chocolate braised pork with masa fritters.

Food Talk with Chad Robertson, Sue Conley and Kim Severson

Award-winning New York Times reporter Kim Severson invites you to a City Arts & Lectures program, 8 p.m. March 2 at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, when she’ll be talking about artisan food with Chad Robertson, acclaimed baker of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and Sue Conley, co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station.

Tickets are $21.

Restaurant Openings

In late summer, downtown Palo Alto will welcome LYFE (Love Your Food Everyday) to 167 Hamilton Ave.

The project is a collaboration by Founder Stephen Sidwell, an investment banker; CEO Mark Roberts, formal global president and COO for McDonald’s; and CCO Mike Donohue, former chief communications and external relations officer for McDonald’s.

But before you fear more pedestrian, fat-laden fast f00d, LYFE’s menu will be created by James Beard Award-winning Chef Art Smith, a former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey; and Chef Tal Ronnen, an expert in vegan and vegetarian cooking.

The concept centers around fast-casual food that’s nourishing and topping out at 600 calories at most per dish. The food will feature local, sustainable ingredients when possible.

San Jose’s Santana Row will welcome a branch of the Southern California-based Yard House restaurant in April. This will be the first Northern California location for the casual eatery that’s known for its huge selection of draft beers.

The centerpiece of every Yard House is its glass-enclosed keg room with five miles of industrial tubing that carries chilled beer to a center island where 130 taps are located.

Walnut Creek will welcome the first Bay Area location of Tender Greens in March.

The fast-casual restaurant, with other branches in Southern California, that specializes in humanely-raised meats, locally grown produce, sustainably caught fish, and local wines and microbrews.

The Walnut Creek location will feature house-made charcuterie and cheeses, as well as be the first branch to offer breakfast.

Chef Charles Hechinger, who will be manning the kitchen, is an Orinda resident who has worked at Silks in the Mandarin Oriental and Boulevard, both in San Franciso.

I can’t tell you how bummed I was with the closing of the Martini House in St. Helena. But I couldn’t be happier to hear that its former chef, Todd Humphries, will be back behind the burners this spring, when he opens Kitchen Door at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa.

In partnership with restaurateur Richard Miyashiro, Humphries is planning a menu of ingredient-driven, multi-ethnic comfort food such as chorizo hand pies with lime creme fraiche; Snake River Farms Kobe beef burger with wine-stewed onions; and candy cap bread pudding with maple anglaise.

The kitchen will feature a wood-fired rotisserie and pizza oven. Orders will be taken at the counter, then delivered to your table.

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