Media Life: TV newswoman’s restaurant enterprise spawns move into salsa

Jodi Hernandez is co-founder of new Papalote enterprise; “Wonderful Life” a big State Theater draw again
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Bay Area TV reporter Jodi Hernandez isn’t about to give up her day job with KNTV. But Hernandez, a Colfax High School graduate who grew up in Auburn, has taken recent national exposure on “Throwdown!” with Bobby Flay for the San Francisco eatery she’s a partner in to branch out into one more endeavor – the salsa business. Hernandez, who has been reporting with KNTV for nearly a decade after eight years with Sacramento’s KOVR 13, unveiled her new salsa business venture this month – just in time for Christmas gift packages with a local flavor. The salsa is also an answer to all the requests for the restaurant’s flavorful salsa – which Flay described as Papalote’s “secret weapon” during last winter’s contest between the TV foodie and “Burrito Brothers” Victor and Miguel Escobedo. Victor, who’s married to Hernandez, and Miguel – who perfected the salsa with inspiration from the brothers’ father – won the cookoff with Flay. The three partners in the two Papalote eateries in San Francisco are using the “Throwdown!” exposure to introduce Papalote Roasted Tomato Salsa on a larger scale. “We’ve been getting some great press on the salsa and then, after the “Throwdown!” experience, we got a whole bunch of e-mails asking us if we shipped the salsa,” Victor said. “So I just set my mind to it and after six months of learning about the food production and distribution business, working with food chemists and co-packers, and dealing with vendors of all types, we’re finally ready to launch.” The planet’s best Winner of multiple Bay Area “best burrito” accolades, Papalote had been celebrated by many publications before Iron Chef Flay came to town for a burrito-making showdown, including a rave from Chow as the “best salsa on the planet.” The restaurant at 24th Street and Valencia Avenue has thrived – so much so that a second site has been added. And now the salsa is branded and jars are rolling out to a network of fine food stores that includes Bay Area Whole Foods locations. The salsa can also be ordered online at Staying true to her Placer County roots, Hernandez has also made sure that Auburnites have easy access to a special salsa with a connection to a 1987 Colfax High School grad and her family. The Confluence Kitchen on Bowman Road is the only business outside the Bay Area where the salsa is now being sold. Back at Jack’s Constable Jack’s in Newcastle continues to impress with a succession of high-profile blues and rock names playing in its cozy venue. The latest to rock the rustic small-town nightspot will be Auburn-area favorite Elvin Bishop. A blues artist whose career stretches back to the 1960s Paul Butterfield Blues Band and beyond, Bishop and the guitar he calls Red Dog are fresh off appearances at the KPIG Humbug Hoedown in Santa Cruz and the Hard Rock Café in Biloxi, Miss. He’ll hit the stage with his band Saturday. And co-owner Tim Looper reminds John Lennon fans that Sunday is set for a late-afternoon performance of “The Spirit of Lennon,” a tribute to the late, great Beatle. The Bishop show Saturday starts at 9:30 p.m. The Lennon tribute is at 4 p.m. and is open to all ages. Hot tickets “All ages” are also the keywords for the hilarious “A Christmas Story” movie from 1983 and the State Theater reports there are still plenty of advance tickets left for both the Thursday, Dec. 16 evening showing at 7 p.m. and the kid-friendly Sunday afternoon matinee at 2 p.m. Dec. 19. In the spirit of the film, audiences can come early Dec. 16 and buy a Chinese-food Christmas dinner similar to the one that plays a big role in the plot. Tickets are $8 for the movie and the dinner is extra. Tickets are also being snapped up for this weekend’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” live radio play at the State Theater. The theater’s Janis Wikoff said the 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday tickets are going particularly fast. There’s also a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. And yes, Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes will again be part of the cast, under the watchful eye of director Glenda Gonzales.