Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ike's Place Finally Opens in Santa Rosa!

Posted By on Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 7:12 PM

Ike Shehadeh, on opening day in Santa Rosa
The line was out the door, the parking lot was full, and the kitchen was bustling—meaning that yes, finally, after two years of permit wrangling, Ike's Place opened today in the former Merv's Little Super building on Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa.

Who should be delivering the sandwiches personally but Ike Shehadeh himself, clearly relieved to finally take down the "Coming Soon" banner and start serving his world-renowned sandwiches. In fact, in the 20 minutes I was there, I saw him hug at least a dozen customers.

If you're not familiar with Ike's Place, you will be. After all, this is a place that was evicted from its original location on 16th Street in San Francisco for essentially being too popular. Sure enough, for today's opening, and with only a Facebook posting as an announcement, the crowds turned out in droves.

I ordered a sandwich called the Matt Cain—the San Francisco Giants have a heavy presence at Ike's—and chatted with Ike a little bit about why he chose to open in Santa Rosa. Turns out his girlfriend is from Sonoma County, and in addition to his residence above the original Ike's Place in San Francisco, he now has a downtown apartment here in Santa Rosa.

So what's unique to the Santa Rosa spot? Customers will notice the local touches on the sandwich menu—the 'Luther Burbank,' the 'Charles Schulz,' the 'Deep Throat,' the 'Natalie Wood'—but in actuality, those are mainstay creations of Ike's Place that have simply been given localized names.

What's truly new are a few of Ike's sandwiches that are making their debut here in Santa Rosa. There's the 'Adam Richman,' which Ike and Adam designed on Man vs. Food: "It's a fried chicken cordon bleu, ham, honey, pesto, avocado. I really like that one," says Ike. Also new is the curiously named 'Don't F with Elvis Kieth' ("Elvis Kieth," misspelling and all, was Ike's high school nickname), the 'Huda and the Jillyfish,' the 'Dan Marino,' and the 'Scogee the Caveman.'

The sandwiches at Ike's aren't cheap—I ordered two sandwiches, and was surprised to have to fish for more than a $20 in my wallet. But holy shit, my sandwich was good. Hours later, while telling a friend about how delicious it was, I realized that I could still taste it. That's love.

"My lease is here for 20 years," Ike told me, after giving me a hearty opening-day hug. "So we'll be here."

Ike's Place, 1780 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Guy Fieri Afraid of the Pit?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Guy Fieri at the 2011 Wine Country Big Q. Photo by Derrick Story.

Guy Fieri will be in attendance at the Wine Country Big Q barbecue competition at Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa July 14, but he won't be cooking. He has hired a ringer to lead his Tex Wasabi team to what he hopes will be a second straight Grand Champion title and berth into the KC Royale BBQ Championship.

This is big time barbecue. This is one of just 29 officially sanctioned Kansas City Barbecue Society events in the state, and the only one in the North Bay. There are two dozen teams competing, and each has paid a hefty $300 for the privilege, in addition to bringing their own meat. There are over $7,500 in prizes available in seven categories. The winner gets a chance to compete in the World Series of BBQ, the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo, with over $300,000 in prizes available.

Ever seen the TLC show "BBQ Pitmasters?" This is that same circuit, and some teams from the show might be there, though not Californian Harry Su (he will be in London at the time, says event organizer Judy Walker). This is show-up-the-night-before-and-season-your-grill BBQ. This is rain-or-shine BBQ. This is two-coolers-of-beer BBQ.

But why isn't Guy "Full Throttle" Fieri manning the grill for this prestigious competition? Is he too popular for mere barbecue cookoffs? Too busy to hold a spatula? Will there not be enough television cameras or radio microphones? One might begin to think Guy's lost a step, perhaps he doesn't have the chops anymore? It almost creates demand for a Anthony Bourdain "Into the Fire" style episode of one of Guy's TV shows to see if he can still hack it in a kitchen.

Or, maybe he wants to win so badly that he hired the Joe Montana of barbecue. The guy who, with tongs in his hand, is unbeatable at his game.

The man's name is literally Dr. BBQ. On his birth certificate the name Ray Lampe is crossed out, and written in red pen (or is that sauce?) next to it is "Dr. BBQ."

Ray Lampe, AKA Dr. BBQ. Photo courtesy

Here are a few of his qualifications to be cooking under the Fieri name:

-Expert judge on the Food Networks "Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri."
-Appeared as a BBQ expert on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives."
-Cooked in over 300 BBQ contests and won over 300 awards.
-Written five cookbooks and is currently working on a sixth.
-Featured on numerous TV shows and in several magazines.
-Won the Wine Country Big Q for Fieri's team last year.
-Spokesman for the Big Green Egg, a formidable (and expensive) charcoal grill.
-Looks like Guy Fieri if Guy Fieri were in ZZ Top.

The competitions include brisket, chicken (any cut, though judges generally prefer thigh), pork ribs (any type is acceptable but spareribs are most common), pork shoulder (butt), leg of lamb and "mystery meat." The judges also determine a Grand Champion, who will be entered into the American Royal Invitational in October. Competitors include rookies, amateurs and seasoned veterans. Not only will they be cooking for qualified KCBS judges brought in from all over the state, they will be cooking for the general public, who have paid $20 to $45 per ticket to slather their faces and coat their stomachs in sauce and delicious animal fat.

Dr. BBQ knows the prescription for a winning brisket, but he will face some tough competition this year. Arizona's IAB (Ineed Another Beer) 30 BBQ, which is ranked No. 18 in the nation, just happens to be in town. And seeking revenge is Casual Smokers, from KC, Mo., who finished second, just behind Tex Wasabi in last year's pork shoulder category.

But no matter who wins, its unlikely anyone will go home feeling empty. The event is a fundraiser for the Children's Museum of Sonoma County, and barbecuing is just fun, even when it's hard work. Eating barbecue is even more fun, especially when you don't have clean up.

The Wine Country Big Q KCBS sanctioned BBQ Competition is July 14, 1 to 5pm at Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa. Tickets are $20 for youth, $45 general admission (including bbq, wine tasting, live music from Pete Stringfellow band and others). 707.523.3728.

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Steve Norwick Memorial Bike Ride on Sunday, July 8

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Steve Norwick with SSU students
  • Steve Norwick with SSU students

On June 8, Steve Norwick set out for his regular Friday morning bike ride from his home near the SSU campus to Penngrove, where he'd enjoy coffee and breakfast with friends. Tragically, Norwick was fatally injured in a hit-and-run crash on Petaluma Hill Road. The driver didn't stop (or even slow down, according to reports), even as Norwick was tossed into a ditch, where he lost consciousness permanently, dying twelve days later.

The man convicted of hitting Norwick, 68-year-old Robert Cowart, could now face charges of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run.

The case has sent shockwaves through the cycling community, as well as Sonoma State University, where Norwick taught for nearly four decades in the Environmental Studies and Planning Department. For those of us who ride our bikes everyday, whether for fun or commuting, the case is a reminder that some drivers just shouldn't be on the road (Cowart had suffered a stroke—most likely before the crash—and had to be wheeled out of the courtroom in a wheelchair) and that we must be careful and diligent at all times.

But Professor Norwick's loved ones have said that the last thing that the beloved father, friend and professor would have wanted is for people to stop riding their bikes. In that spirit, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, Jill B. Nimble Bike Club, and other partners will honor Steve Norwick by holding a memorial bicycle ride on Sunday, July 8th. Everyone is invited to participate.


·     The ride will begin and end in the parking lot at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park

·     Gather at 9:30 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. departure

·     There will be four routes to accommodate a range of rider ability/interest:

38 mile route led by Tom Helm:

14 mile silent route led by Dawn Silveira: ]

10 mile route led by Vin Hoagland:

SCBC ED Gary Helfrich will lead a ride (details to come) following a route Steve Norwick often followed when leading students on geology excursions.

For more information, contact Sandra Lupien, Outreach Director, 707-694-8702,

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Mom's First Tattoo

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Wes is concentrating on my moms tattoo.

She’s had the idea for a while now, but for whatever reason, didn’t want to really go through with it. This weekend my mom finally took the plunge and got her first tattoo.

When she saw my first tattoo, she shook her head either in disgust or disbelief. My second one, she feigned indifference. But the next time, something changed. I heard she told my sister, regarding tattoos and the stereotype she had associated them with, that I was “above the influence.” Mind you, this was when the commercials featuring the same tagline were running on television, but those were about staying away from drugs, not tattoos.

The final product, minutes after completion.

She’s had this drawing in her head of a tattoo for some years now, and for her birthday this weekend decided to get it inked. “Gentlehands” Wes at Monkey Wrench in Santa Rosa was her artist, and he did a good job with the art and working with her. He made helpful suggestions and explained why some of her ideas wouldn’t quite work out (in a very patient tone).

Overall, I think it looks good. It’s her children’s initials in their favorite colors surrounded by Mardi Gras beads. It might need a touch up, but that’s to be expected with color.

By piercing the flesh and leaving ink under the skin she has completed the generational link between her father and her son, both of whom have tattoos and only one of whom regretted it 40 years later. Happy birthday, Mom. Here’s hoping you will regret your tattoo at least 40 years from now, too.

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