THE FIX WAS NOT IN: Or so says the judging panel that crowned Concord the culinary champ in the first Contra Costa-Alameda County Mayors' Healthy Cook-off Showdown. The Concord team has won three of five Contra Costa competitions, and it has now expanded its excellent culinary reputation.

Judges, including TV and radio food and wine expert Narsai David and celebrity chef and Oliveto restaurant owner Robert Klein, were quick to mention that none of them was from Concord.

The Concord team -- Mayor Dan Helix, Chef Habib el Jacifi of Bravo Bistro and P-ZA Pie and student sous chef Eddie Ruiz from Mt. Diablo High School -- cooked up the winning menu of coq au vin with vegetables, spicy Mediterranean-style lentil salad, mashed potatoes and a dessert mixture of fruit, cucumber and dressing.

The Alameda County winning team was Livermore Mayor John Marchand and Chef Matt Greco of The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. "Nothing goes together better than fine food and wine," Marchand said. (That rates four stars from The Eye!)

Contra Costa teams taking second and third, respectively, were Antioch Mayor Wade Harper and Chef Jose Aguilar from the Lone Tree Golf and Event Center; and Pittsburg Vice Mayor Sal Evola and Chef Miguel Guillen of La Veranda Ristorante Italiano.

The other Alameda County teams that had placed in their county competition and were invited to the showdown tied for second: Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and Chef Jose Guevara from Johnny Garlic's; and Hayward Mayor Pro Tem Mark Salinas and Chef Tony Solorio from Tacos Urupan.


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PUMPKIN MYSTERY: There were tricks and treats but no clues as to the identities of the pumpkin smashers who hit "Pumpkin Man" Gary Gerner's patch on two recent occasions in San Ramon.

Gerner, a retired Oakland firefighter who gives away his pumpkins to neighbors every year, had more than a dozen of his prize produce turned into a pulpy mess. Since The Eye reported the incidents, neighbors have surprised Gerner with cookies, fruits and small pumpkins along with a plum cake.

Even San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson stopped by to offer his best wishes. Then, on the night before Halloween, a group of anonymous benefactors claiming to be witches left several large pumpkins on Gerner's doorstep, with a note taped to them:

"I would suggest that pumpkin smashing is about as clever as eating a toad," the note reads. "It takes hard work to raise a pumpkin, and we should all respect hard work of any kind. And remember little ones; pumpkins are part of the magic of Halloween. Magic is needed to counter the darkness that exists. And always, always don't hurt others."

That time of year: The Eye can't help but notice that retail stores tend to decorate for the holidays earlier and earlier.

But it appeared last week that one Antioch grocery store had all of its bases covered.

Raley's on Lone Tree Way had window stickers on its entrance door saying "Summer is here," with a picture of watermelon. Meanwhile, shelves and displays in the front of the store included pumpkins, Halloween cookies, balloons and large bags of candy for trick-or-treaters.

The Eye then walked into the store and found an aisle filled with miscellaneous items, including mini Christmas trees with lights, inflatable lawn decorations, some stockings, candy canes and other items for the winter holidays.

TREATS IN PLEASANTON: Legendary football coach and broadcaster John Madden usually devotes his morning radio chat on KCBS to breaking down the latest NFL games. But the Pleasanton resident on Friday was eager to break down the results of the trick-or-treating frenzy at his Pleasanton home the night before. Madden boasted that 750 trick-or-treaters showed up for some Halloween candy.

Given Madden's well-known affinity for kids and food, it's safe to assume they all left with a significant treat.

Staff writers Catherine D. Jacobson, Jeremy Thomas, Paul Burgarino and Craig Lazzeretti contributed to this column.