The weather may start to cool in September, but this month is heating up with exciting food events. Here's a quick look at what's been going on.
Sonder (9500 Brimhall Road, Suite 100) is holding its grand opening Saturday. Along with unveiling new menu items, the northwest Bakersfield restaurant, which has been in a soft opening since last month, will offer live music and face painting during its daylong celebration. Stay tuned for more.
Johanna's Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe (1412 17th St. #G) will hold a ribbon cutting and grand opening on Monday. The business, located in the lobby of the Haberfelde building next to Sandwich Shack, is run by Cheryl Mattley and husband Joe Estrada. Mattley hand makes the chocolates, truffles and fudge sold at the shop. (I recommend the Irish creme truffle, classic chocolate fudge and toffee, which is also offered Victorian-style topped with nuts.) The ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Saturday will be officiated by Mayor Karen Goh.
Athena's Greek Cafe and Grill (1901 20th St. Suite B) opened on Thursday. This is the much-anticipated second location for owners Elias and Letty Skapinakis, who own Athena's Greek Cafe and Bakery in Rosedale. That eatery was featured by Guy Fieri on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" in 2015.
What might tempt Guy to this new spot are the burgers, which have a Mediterranean flair, including Athena's Greek burger ($8.99) with feta cheese, and gyro burger ($10.49), which piles gyro meat on a Greek beef patty. And, as he'd say, the fries are legit, served either seasoned ($3.99) or as Greek feta fries ($6.99), topped generously with cheese and drizzled with a feta sauce.
Pitas, gyro and salad are also on the menu, along with a rack of lamb ($21.99), the house signature dish.
(Note for longtime Athena's customers: The beloved patates lemonates — Greek lemon potatoes — and rice pilaf are not offered as sides. Plates here are served with fries and salad.)
The downtown cafe also features fresh baked goods, a staple of the flagship location made by Letty. For opening week, the case was filled with baklava, coconut macaroons, oatmeal florentines, rum balls, decorated owl cookies and a carrot cake so tall it looked like it could crush a child.
Diners can phone in their orders (800-5322), which might be a good idea for those looking to beat the lunch rush while the front of house staff gets up to speed.
Athena's is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, which can accommodate the crowd who wants to enjoy dinner with a beer or glass of wine. The restaurant is closed Sunday.
We're also anxiously awaiting word for when Rincon Cubano (Cuban Cafe) will open in its new spot on Truxtun Avenue next to Craft Tap House. The restaurant, formerly on South Chester, is taking over the spot last home to Valentien.
New festival looks for slice of market
Speaking of new, there is a fresh food festival coming to town next year. The Pizza & Beer Festival, not to be confused with the local Pizza and Craft Beer Fest that took place in May at Craft Tap House, is slated for Jan. 20. In a move modeled after the popular Village Fest, this gathering of pies and pints will take place at the Kern County Museum.
Organizers promise unlimited tastings of pizza from top restaurants and food trucks in the region along with tastings of craft beer from top local breweries. The event will also include boutique vendors, DJs, games and more.
The festival has two other dates before ours: San Diego this weekend and Los Angeles on Nov. 4.
This festival will run 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 20. Super early bird tickets are $29 (plus fees), available until Sept. 30. Presale starts Oct. 2 with tickets at $39 (plus fees) before the final jump to $49 (plus fees) from Dec. 14 until the event. Head to www.pizzabeerfest.com for tickets and more information.
Bakersfield on TV
Chef Meir Brown of Cafe Med competed on an episode of the Food Network's "Cooks vs. Cons," which aired this week. In the "Spice and Ice" competition, the local chef faced off against another professional chef and two amateurs, who filled the "con" role of the show, which asks judges to ID the pros.
Brown triumphed, winning a $10,000 prize, for making it through two rounds: an ice pop challenge, in which he incorporated a coconut and lime iced treat into fish curry with Israeli couscous; and a bean contest, in which he made edamame hummus topped with lamb and zehog. Host Geoffrey Zakarian made it clear that Brown successfully executing fresh pita in the 30-minute final challenge was what cinched the win.
The episode is not on the network's schedule to reair as of press time but should be available on demand.