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Dining Out with Pete Tittl

If you get a chance to visit Luigi's during one of their seasonal wine-tasting dinners, take them up on it.

We had a chance to visit during the fall wine tasting on Nov. 14, and I understand there will be one coming up in February plus a spring event after that (dates yet to be determined).

For $75 you get to sample product from some wineries and a lot of distributors, including Josh Ochoa from Young's Market. No, it's not the store formerly located on Brundage Lane (he's probably sick of that question) but a distributor from up north. Wineries included Silkwood, J&L, Alpha Omega and Silver Oak. Jay Christiansen from California Cabs had five promising cabernets. Wines could be ordered on spot at a 15 percent discount for six or more bottles (mix and match) and 20 percent off solid cases.

The dining room was cleared of the interior tables for the event, with the wine tables ringing the rooms. In the center was a table with wines and cheeses and another room had oysters on the half shell and chilled jumbo shrimp. On the patio they were serving tri-tip with a horseradish sauce and caramelized onions; live entertainment added to the ambience. Staff was walking around with platters of food including an amazing rack of lamb and a marvelous mushroom risotto. The place was jammed even though it was a Wednesday night. Definitely a fun social event.

Tahoe Joe's has a new lunch menu. New items include Sierra Nevada fish and chips, bacon-wrapped bourbon shrimp, barbecue chicken salad (wood-grilled chicken, avocado, roma tomatoes, cucumbers, black beans and Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese atop mixed greens tossed with ranch dressing -- Joe's twist on a Cobb salad) and a sourdough melt (half pound pan-seared burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese, sauteed onions and a green chili on grilled parmesan bread); 20 of the lunch entrees are priced under $10 ... Applebee's has brought back "spirited cuisine" items (foods made with wine, whiskey, tequila and beer), including chicken and shrimp tequila tango, Napa chicken with Portobello mushrooms, brew pub pretzels with beer cheese dip and Marsala mushroom sirloin. That special menu starts at $9.99 ... Farmer Boys has brought back bread bowls (filled with chili or clam chowder) for a limited time, and is now offering "Natural Burgers" made with patties using antibiotic and hormone free beef ... Trader Joe's has brought back a number of seasonal favorites, including the amazing pecan pie ice cream ($4.49 a quart) made with shortbread chunks, brown sugar molasses and roasted pecan pieces ... Del Taco has added a beefy crunchtada tostada on a temporary basis ...Chick-Fil-A is offering its peppermint chocolate chip milkshake through the holiday season ... Panda Express has added Sriracha shrimp made with the trendy sauce for a limited time ... McDonald's will be offering a white chocolate mocha through January .... Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has added a pizza burger on a temporary basis. It's a regular patty topped with pepperoni, melted mozzarella, marinara sauce and grilled onion. Also available for the holiday season is a peppermint mocha concrete ...

El Torito closes

The chain restaurant on California Avenue, which had been open since the late 1970s, closed its doors in mid-November. Calls to company headquarters seeking details were not returned. The chain itself, like many mid-priced national Mexican chains, has been undergoing financial troubles in recent years.

Recommendation from a reader

Reader Craig Hollandis absolutely in love with the arroz con pollo served at Que Pasa at the Marketplace, noting the portion is so large he can turn it into three meals. "My wife is enamored with the seafood wrap, which is the Monday special at dinner but is available all week," he wrote.

One mystery solved

In our Nov. 17 Dish column we ran a request from Jim & Carol Ewing asking what happened to the Sub Machine Shop. Reader Gail Hoeft from Tehachapi wrote that owners Fran and Dick Barnes died, Fran in 2007 and Dick in 2006. "They loved owning that shop but getting older finally took its toll and they had to sell," she wrote. "We enjoyed their sandwiches and subs very much."

Sugar Twist Bakery expanding

Sugar Twist, the bakery at 9500 Brimhall Road, was temporarily closed for a remodeling and expansion last month, but reopened on Nov. 25.