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Richard Shiell

Delicious kale and purple ornamental cabbage are displayed by a seed breeder in Salinas.

This year's hot vegetable has to be kale, that wild cabbage with so many nutritional benefits it's ranking up there with broccoli and almonds.

The green is high in calcium, beta carotene, vitamin K, various anti-cancer properties and Indole 3 Carbinol, a chemical purported to boost DNA repair in cells. What some kitchens used to use as a garnish on an entree plate is now the star of salads. It works well with Asian foods, too. Now we've received a press release from the Vision Council of America that touts the vegetable for its ability to preserve sight.

The group quotes Edward Kondrot, an ophthalmologist, who says that kale decreases the risk for eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.

He also suggests regular consumption of butternut squash, zucchini, blueberries and Brussels sprouts as a nutritional way to preserve the health of your eyes.

"Colorful foods will give you clearer vision," Kondrot said.

New and different

Popeye's has brought back Zatarain's Butterfly Shrimp with a lemon garlic sauce, $4.99 for eight shrimp, fries and a biscuit ... P.F. Chang's has rolled out a summer menu with six new items and two drinks, including grilled pineapple-citrus swordfish and Peking Summer rolls with roasted duck and papaya ... Cold Stone Creamery is celebrating its 25th anniversary by bringing back some customer favorites, including signature flavors like Strawberry Blonde, Peanut Butter Cup Perfection, Oreo Overload, Birthday Cake Remix and Founder's Favorite ... Ruby Thai will be opening soon in the Valley Plaza food court, in the space last occupied by Dairy Queen ... Tahoe Joe's has brought back its Railroad Camp shrimp combo dinners ($14.99 with Joe's steak and $17.99 with the bacon-wrapped filet) ... At Todd's Mill in New York City, they're serving adult snow cones: liquor added. The flavors of the spiked creations include lavender-honey, cherry-peppercorn, plum-Thai chile, watermelon-jalapeno and peach-Thai basil. The choice of alcohol is up to the customer, and the creations sell for $8 ($3 for virgin-style) ... California Pizza Kitchen will be going back to hand-tossed pizza dough at all locations next month ... Kebab Corner is going into the old Little Caesars location on Stine Road just north of White Lane ... Costco is now selling bacon jerky made by Oberto, two six-ounce packs for $10.49 ... Panera has rolled out a new summer treat, strawberry rhubarb mini-cakes with a cinnamon crunch topping ....

New menu at famous Yosemite area restaurant

Central California's only five-star restaurant, Erna's Elderberry House , is debuting a new "bar bites" menu that will run from 5 to 8 p.m. daily with live music Friday and Saturday nights. Dishes on the new menu include organic chicken schnitzel, a cheeseburger slider with aged cheese and a grilled cheese sandwich with smoked gruyere and caramelized onions on a rustic house-baked bread. Everything on the menu is under $20 with many items falling under $10.

"The Cellar Bar has a full bar, with premium and well drinks and cocktails, as well as our award-winning wine list," said Molly Berg , director of operations for Erna's. "The cellar itself is made from stone, so it naturally keeps cool in the summer, making it a perfect place to escape right now. We welcome casual dress, no jackets or ties are needed."

All items are made fresh in-house. Ingredients are sourced locally, many from the Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno.

Erna's Elderberry House opened in 1984 and has gained a reputation over the years for the highest quality. Proprietor Erna Kubin-Clanin followed up by opening the attached Chateau du Sureau, a beautiful fairytale-like inn.

To learn more, visit

From the foodie bookshelf

One of the most influential books for nutritionists and foodies in recent years has been the controversial "Wheat Belly," written by William Davis . The book is subtitled "Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health." Davis, a cardiologist, maintains that a major reason for American obesity has been the manipulation of wheat.

"The wheat we're sold today is not the stuff mom or grandma had," he writes." It's a two-foot-tall plant that was changed by genetics research in the '70s for increased yield, but it has odd things about it that no one tells you about, like appetite stimulation. ... So the average person who consumes anything made of wheat consumes, on average, 440 more calories per day, every day, 365 days a year."

Davis's book advocates a gluten-free diet that he maintains will lead to weight loss of 20 to 50 pounds over the course of months, help with diabetes, cholesterol counts, bone density, celiac disease, hair loss, skin conditions, arthritis and even fatigue. He maintains that modern wheat causes inflammation in the body, which is the root, he said, of many medical maladies.

Critics have maintained the book is a sham and won't stand the test of time, taking particular issue with Davis' claim that saturated fat and red meat are good for you. Food blogger Melissa McEwen wrote, "This book is essentially a repackaged nouveau Atkins, with the wheat-free gimmick riding on the back of the growing gluten-free trend."

It doesn't sound like an issue that'll be settled soon. If you've tried Davis' diet and want to share the experience, please email me at