Trees and chiles

I’d driven by the new store on Main Street across from Chico Natural Foods a dozen times before I finally stopped to check it out. The sign on the window said “WTS”—and since it looked like lumberjack equipment inside, I thought to myself, Maybe it’s a storefront for M&S Wesley Tree Service. I was right.

When I popped in last week, I was surprised by how much specialized equipment they have in there. The clerk told me their best-sellers are the carabiners. I don’t think I’ve seen so many different styles in my life. “This thing looks like a weapon!” I said about a hunk of metal that resembled brass knuckles. “No,” the clerk chuckled. “That’s for attaching different tools to your belt.” Ah ….

“When my husband, [Marc], and I drove up Skyway to see our property after the fire, I could see all the tree trucks everywhere. I cried with gratitude to see them all here,” Shuree Wesley told me. “I felt close to a community of people that I understood was here for us and … it made me think about the shortage we have in supplies in our local area, and so my husband and I went to work getting the store up and running.”

Neighborly love Speaking of that strip of Main Street, chef Ann Leon, of Leon Bistro, competed on an episode of Guy’s Grocery Games filmed Nov. 14, as the Camp Fire raged. Leon competed against three other accomplished chefs, all of them hoping to donate their winnings to worthy causes. Leon’s, naturally, was for Camp Fire recovery.

Watching Leon concoct recipes on the fly and execute them for the judges was super exciting. It’s one thing to go to her classes and watch her demonstrate a time-tested recipe and quite another to see the chef under pressure. I’m told her chile relleno she made on the show will be a special on the menu when she reopens after vacation July 10. Check it out on the Food Network.

Comfort food I had an opportunity last week to sit down for the Camp Fire community dinner held at Paradise Alliance Church each Thursday. What an event! Hundreds of people were in attendance, with lines out the gym door and around the corner. I asked a woman, standing at the end of the buffet line, who had prepared the food. She said the church members did most of it, but that she and her husband made the main event: chili.

Turns out I was chatting with Kathy Macias, who with her husband, Manny, had owned Manny’s Chile Bowl. They retired 20 years ago, but the community has not lost its appetite for their cooking. I had to taste it—and it was divine. The flavor was robust, with tender chunks of ground beef, beans and, of course, plenty of chiles. No wonder there were lines!

Ciao Two local Italian restaurants called it quits this past week, with almost no warning. So long, Panighetti’s Eatery and Pete’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. I have it on good authority that Casa de Paradiso, which lost its home on the Ridge days before its 25th anniversary, will be taking over the latter.