Contributing columnist

One of the benefits of our Bakersfield climate is the extended barbecue season we get with our temperate spring and fall weather. As some parts of the country are putting the outdoor grill in storage, we're just getting rolling. Unfortunately, at this point in the year, it may need a serious cleaning.

We've found a couple new products for barbecue kings and queens, both made by Grate Chef . They have a non-stick Grill Wipe product that works on a heated grill with the typical wire brush that leaves behind a non-stick oil, making it perfect for a quick cleanup right before tossing the steaks on.

Unfortunately for amateurs like me, flare-ups can be a problem, especially when I'm cooking some of those great Johnsonville brats from Wisconsin and haven't been smart enough to pre-cook them in a pan (a criminal offense in some states, I realize, but much easier). For people like me, Grate Chef makes Flare Down , a spray product made from salts and water that attacks the grease without cutting the heat.

You can buy these products at Lowe's, Home Depot, Vons and Albertsons . For more info and locations, visit

Amazing gelato from Texas

I got a tip from a friend on Facebook about this amazing gelato found at Albertsons (on sale recently, two for $7). It's called Talenti , and the flavors include Caribbean Coconut, Tahitian Vanilla Bean, Caramel Cookie Crunch and Double Dark Chocolate. The chocolate one was sold out on most visits, but I finally snagged it, and it's a real diet-buster. Some of these have special ingredients that really punch up the flavor. For example one of the ingredients in the chocolate is vermouth, which adds a real liqueur-like intensity to the chocolate notes. The vanilla bean has a bit of lemon in it. The gelato comes in these interesting, clear-plastic containers with brown screw-top lids.

If you're a gelato fan, you must seek this out. The company website is If you visit you find they have more amazing flavors that haven't yet hit our shelves, such as black raspberry chocolate chip, blood orange, Roman raspberry and banana chocolate swirl. A guy can dream.

New and different

Trader Joe's has a variation on the Mounds bar, the Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Mango Bites ($3.99 for a 7-ounce bag).

Another solid new item is Rosemary Italian Style Crackers ($2.49), "rustic crackers infused with rosemary and sea salt." ... Applebee's has rolled out four new menu items with a Southwestern twist, including a Fiesta Chopped Chicken Salad, Chipotle Cream 7 oz. Steak + Shrimp, Southwest Shrimp Fettuccini and a new Weight Watchers® Grilled Jalapeno Lime Shrimp (8 pts.) ... Red Robin has brought back one of its most popular promotional items, the Oktoberfest Burger made with a beef patty, Swiss cheese, sauteed onions, beer mustard and Black Forest ham on a toasted pretzel bun. ... Famous Dave's has football specials available in the bar only all day Saturday and Sunday, as well as 11 a.m-3 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on Mondays during the season. The deals include drink specials starting at $3 and $5 onion strings, boneless Buffalo wings or "southside ribtips" ... Panera has two new shrimp offerings: the shrimp salad roll with avocado and lemon tarragon mayonnaise, and the chilled shrimp & Soba noodle salad with cabbage, baby spinach and peanut sauce ... Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar , 3310 Truxtun Ave., is considering continuing its summer movies on the patio series into the fall. You can vote by sending an email to ... Romano's Macaroni Grill is now offering online ordering at ... Muertos is now serving fish tacos and fish and chips only on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. ... Kern River Brewing Co. up in the canyon is planning a release of pumpkin ale on Oct. 5 with pumpkin carving for children and adults, and live entertainment from Out of the Blue ... Oreo has a new, well-publicized cookie made with Candy Corn frosting that I've been unable to buy locally. I've gone to countless grocery stores, and they're always gone. I finally went to the Target at Riverwalk where an employee told me they couldn't keep it on the shelf. "Nabisco really messed up -- they should've made more," he said. Or maybe it's just a Bakersfield thing.