Jim Mills: Manifesting the Farm-to-Fork Goal

BY ANN M. EVANS / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBBIE CUNNINGHAM

mills and rohr

Beyond the policy makers who support rural-urban connectivity, such as Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork Capital marketing campaign, are practitioners who actually manifest the goal. Political leadership can create a framework for economic development, resource conservation and public health, but a thriving local restaurant and farm culture needs people like Jim Mills, a sales representative for Sacramento Produce Express and autodidact who learned the food business on the job. Mills connects chefs with farmers.

Read more: Jim Mills: Manifesting the Farm-to-Fork Goal

BY ANN M. EVANS

Organized gardeners know that winter is the time to clean, sterilize, oil, sharpen and restore your hand-powered garden tools so they will be ready for use come spring. Sharp tools make the job easier, clean tools reduce disease infestation and proper storage increases longevity. If you yearn to be more organized come springtime, read on.

I keep a five-gallon bucket filled with coarse sand by the door inside the shed. I dip shovels and spades in the sand throughout the year to remove clods of dirt. Even so, by January, the shed is a mess and my tools need care.

Read more: Care and Storage of Hand Powered Garden Tools

BY FRANK DOMPE

After four years of operation on 19th Street in midtown Sacramento, Preservation & Co. was burglarized in May. The list of items taken included cash, the register and electronics, as well as a few jars of the company's wares. They came for the valuables, and that included some of the good stuff: what was on the shelves.

If mere imitation is a form of flattery, larceny must be a higher form of underhanded praise. Preservation's founder Jason Poole reflected on the bumpy road to such recognition during a visit on November 14—National Pickle Day.

Read more: Time in a Bottle: Summer's Bounty Gets a Year-Long Life at Preservation & Co.

This is how the vast majority of Americans age wine: We buy it at the store, we drive it home, we open it, we drink it. In Sacramento, sometimes we buy wine in the foothills and take it to dinner the next weekend. That might be extended aging.

Which is why it sounds like advice from Mars when wine critics say "Hold a wine until 2027." First off, they're just guessing. More to the point, who keeps wine that long? Or remembers the exact time?

Some people do have deep, pristine cellars, but most of them will forget that bottle by 2027. (If you're someone with an actual cellar, or a vast wine fridge, you know. You've pulled long-held bottles, looked at the vintage, and thought, "Oops!"

For most people, storing wine is short-term— a week or two, a couple months, maybe a few years—and sometimes longer storage is an accident, like that bottle you were saving for a special occasion and just kept saving.

Still, when holding wine, even for a few weeks, there are a couple things to know.

First—and most basic: Store the bottle on its side. That keeps the cork moist so it won't shrink and air won't get into the bottle. Exposure to our friend oxygen changes everything: Think of a sliced apple on the counter—10 minutes and it's brown. Oxygen turns wine to vinegar. Consider it a reverse miracle.

If you've got a bottle for a couple weeks, don't worry about it. Any longer? Place it on its side, please. Nose down works, too. Cardboard wine carriers or case boxes are handy for that. Lots of stores and wineries will be happy to give you a box.

As for the conditions, think about temperature, light and vibration.

Temperature - The ideal temp for storing wine is 58° ... or 55°. There's some disagreement in the wine world. It's a long story. Anywhere near that range is fine, and if you're storing wine a couple months or less, just keep it under 70°.

If you're holding wine for longer, the most efficient way to regulate the temperature is to splurge on a wine refrigerator, which can run a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on your demands. But a cool, dark, quiet closet is just fine because a consistent temperature is almost as important as the actual number. Wine sitting at a steady 64° will be happy.

Light - Dark is good. Sunlight, even filtered, or fluorescent light will dull wines, especially whites with lighter-colored bottles. A British group of wine pros and technology experts called Wotwine examined 6,000 bottles in supermarkets over two years and found that light had dulled the flavors in 35% of them. Fluorescent light can damage wine within just hours.

The takeaway: Don't grab the bottle out in a store display, get one on the shelf and not the first in line. And the expensive stuff in supermarkets on the top shelf getting blasted by the lighting? Buy the darker bottles.

Vibration - Don't let the wine get much vibration— and that includes your refrigerator. (Wine fridges are designed to remain still.) Wine in any fridge for a week or so is no problem, but that's probably about it. Think of your wine like a sauce: too much action and it will break. Wines like calm.

All of this means wine racks anywhere in the kitchen are probably doing everything wrong: They're warm, bright and active. In fact, any decorative wine rack might not be great for more than a few days of storage, unless it's in a closet— remember, that good ol' closet is a fine place to store wine.

Probably 90° of wines in America are ready to drink when they're released— winemaking has improved vastly since most wines needed years to soften and coalesce. Some big reds can use a few years, like some Cabernet Sauvignons or Barolos, but none of them are cheaper, everyday drinking wines.

And the thing is, when wines age, they change. They get softer, but often lose some (or all) of the fruit and develop more gentle flavors of earth or wood or leather. Which means, if you're buying wine to age, buy it to eventually get these flavors.

So do you need a cellar or a wine fridge? Maybe. It depends on your wine buying habits and the volume you buy. A wine fridge can make life simpler and free up closet space, but it's easy to fill that fridge quickly. Then you're back where we started: Buying wine, driving home and drinking it. Like most of us.

BY AMBER K. STOTT

 

farm to fork defined

For three years, Sacramento has been trying to define for itself what it means to be America's farm-to-fork Capital. Is there a definition? Is there a set of standards that restaurants must follow the way farmers are required to abide by rules for growing organic foods?

No matter where I go or who I speak with, the question of farm-to-fork boils down to two important elements beyond the obvious "buy local" mantra: education and intentionality. Our grandparents likely remember a time before canned soup and processed foods, before the first chain grocery stores and before fast food. They likely cooked most meals from scratch using ingredients sourced from their local corner store, which in turn sold a variety of items purchased from local farmers. This wasn't necessarily intentional. It was all they had.

Read more: Farm-to-Fork Defined

BY PAUL TOWERS

Mead Donors

Bees across the country are declining at an alarming rate. But with the attention to the plight of these pollinators has come a bright spot: increased interest in bees and the products of their labor. Enter the oldest alcoholic beverage know to humankind: mead.

Mead is not just a drink of ancient texts or fantasy novels. The history of mead and beekeeping date back thousands of years, touching parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. A combination of honey, water, yeast and sometimes fruit or spices, good mead is the product of just the right balance of ingredients, along with the time allowed for fermentation. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau regulates it like wine, though not without some lingering confusion.

One of the oldest, if not the oldest, commercial mead makers in California is Chaucer's, part of the Bargetto winery founded in Santa Cruz County in 1964. And there haven't been a lot of new entrants into the market, until recently. According to the American Mead Association, 42 new mead-making businesses opened in 2014 and produced a total of 138,632 more gallons of mead, a 46% increase from the year before.

The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, part of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine Science, hopes to accelerate and support these emerging meaderies.

"It was an accident, serendipity," said Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. "A beekeeper approached me at a conference in San Diego and suggested we create a new program on mead. The thought had never crossed my mind. But within a week I spoke to the chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology, and within the year we offered our first course."

That was spring of 2014. Interest exploded and the class was soon at capacity, including visitors traveling from across the country and around the globe.

The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is building on last year's success to host an intensive two-day course in mid-November entitled "Beginner's Introduction to Mead Making", to learn about, taste and make small batches of mead, working with the Department of Viticulture and Enology's winemaker Chik Brenneman. Professional mead makers from California and across the country—including Mike Faul, the proprietor of Rabbit's Foot Meadery, and Ken Schram, author of The Compleat Meadmaker—will also take part.

"You learn your grapes with wine, but there isn't that level of knowledge yet with mead," Harris said. During the class, participants will have a chance to leverage the smarts of mead makers and the scientific prowess of university researchers, sampling and learning about the main varieties of mead.

Harris also plans to expand the course next spring to bring in more advanced levels of mead makers, and notes that there is a "great need for research on mead. Beer and winemaking have tremendous resources, but mead is still in the dark ages. [No two mead makers do] it the same way, and there's a need to better understand how honey and sugar levels interact with yeast."

That is good news for the emerging mead makers.

An increasing number of meaderies has opened up in California since the 1990s, including Rabbit's Foot in Sunnyvale (1995), Heidrun in Point Reyes Station (1997), Golden Coast Mead in Oceanside (2010), The Mead Kitchen in Berkeley (2012) and San Francisco Mead Company (2013).

One of the rare examples in the Sacramento region is Dan Slort who founded Strad Meadery in Fair Oaks in 2011, making traditional mead as well as apricot, Chardonnay, pomegranate and strawberry varieties.

Harris, whose family also runs Z Specialty Food, a gourmet honey and nut butter business, acknowledges honey prices are on the rise, and this can be challenging for a country that imports 70% of its annual honey usage. The continued loss of honey bee populations adds another serious challenge for meaderies.

According to the most recent data from the government-sponsored Bee Informed Partnership, bee populations are declining at unprecedented levels, over 40% in California last year—twice the loss rate considered sustainable.

An international research authority, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, recently reviewed over 800 studies and found that scientists are increasingly 38 | EDIBLE SACRAMENTO FEAST 2015 EDIBLE SACRAMENTO FEAST 2015 | 39

linking bee declines to pesticides. The chemicals are either killing bees outright or weakening them and leaving them susceptible to other factors like pests, disease and poor nutrition.

The Sacramento City Council declared the city a Honey Bee Haven in March, and councilmembers have been working to decrease pesticide use while also increasing healthy forage for bees.

Tim Clark, owner of Brew Ferment Distill in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood, said the uptick in local beekeeping has been one of the drivers of interest in mead and mead making. And that's good news for businesses like his that equip people with the tools to make "fermentables."

"When you've got an abundance of honey, you can be more creative with how you use it," he said. "Honey can be expensive to purchase unless you have a plethora available. But now we see more and more people ready to experiment."

He also noted that while many have tried and been turned off by large-scale commercial varieties of mead, people should try making their own, or visit the emerging craft makers. "Some commercial varieties can be cloyingly sweet and not pleasing to the palate. Homemade or craft varieties, by comparison, can be much more effervescent and nice."

To encourage people to try making it for themselves, Clark hosts classes with local advocate David Teckam, an Elk Grove home brewer and grand master beer judge.

"It's too easy not to make mead," said Teckam. "Without a doubt there's growing interest in mead and more California meaderies help prove that."

Clark and Teckam note that the interest in beekeeping and mead are growing in tandem.

According to Bee Culture, the average age of beekeepers is nearing 70 and only 8% are under the age of 40. But that's fast changing. A new crop of emerging 20- and 30-something beekeepers calling themselves the Next Generation Beekeepers Initiative are leading the way and hosting a gathering in mid-November in Sacramento as part of the annual California State Beekeepers Association convention.

"The sticky, sweaty, stingy, nomadic life isn't for everyone. When you factor in bee losses and financial hits, our vocation becomes less attractive. It's the most challenging time for beekeepers, and also the most exciting time for new ideas, opportunities, and growth," said Sarah Red-Laird, executive director of Bee Girl, and one of the leaders of the new initiative.

The success of beekeeping and mead are both wrapped up in the success of bees that make the honey. That's an awful lot resting on the shoulders of these powerful pollinators. And, according to Red-Laird, a lot on policymakers to keep them buzzing.

More information and registration for mead-making classes at UC Davis is available at honey.ucdavis.edu/mead. Registration is available through November 6.

More information about the statewide get-together of young beekeepers in Sacramento is available at beegirl.org or californiastatebeekeepers.com.

BY ANN EVANS

he greater Sacramento region may be home to as many as 4,000 hobby beekeepers, estimates Nancy Stewart, owner of the long-time family-run business Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies. Although the store doesn't officially keep track, Nancy says many of these beekeepers are families with children.

Children, starting at about 5 years old, can be beekeepers too. I began educating my grand-nephew, Finn Pegg, about my hives when he was 2, primarily for safety reasons. Along the way he developed a sense of curiosity about the hive, especially upon hearing stories about how there are robber bees, queen bees, guard bees and even nursery bees.

Together we read Lela Nargi and Kyrsten Brooker's The Honeybee Man, a story about Fred, an older man who keeps bees on his rooftop in Brooklyn. Through learning about what Fred does with his bees, Finn became even more curious to see the bees inside the hives in my yard. When he was almost 5, I got him a beekeeping suit.

Bees are responsive to the beekeepers' emotional signals, I told him, so we need to be very calm and move slowly when we work the bees. One morning with good weather, about 10am, we suited up and worked them for the first time. He showed no fear, held the smoker and the hive tool, and concentrated while we looked through three hives.

BY ANN M. EVANS

daisy

Almost every city worthy of the title "culinary destination" has a chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier (LDEI), an organization of professional women leaders in the food, beverage and hospitality industry. Why not Sacramento, the farm-to-fork capital of the nation? Elaine Corn, reporter at large for Capital Public Radio, former food editor for the Sacramento Bee and a long time member of LDEI San Francisco, decided it was time. Sacramento had become a culinary force.

Read more: Sacramento's Culinary Women

BY AMBER K. STOTT

 

darrel corti

Darrell Corti, owner of beloved grocery store Corti Brothers, is world-renowned for his knowledge of wine and food. While his reputation places him on a very tall pedestal in the food world, he's actually a true blue Sacramentan at heart, a practical guy, a home cook and purveyor of quality products that help everyday folks shine in their own kitchens.

When it comes to tradition and to holidays, Corti's approach blends his love of history with a realist's simplicity. These are his tips.

Read more: Holiday Food Traditions from Darrel Corti

By Joan Cusick

aj bogle
At the end of a white-knuckled drive on County Road 144 in Clarksburg, Bogle Winery offers a welcome respite from the twists and turns of the outside world. It's peaceful here: lush and welcoming.

If there's any doubt about what makes Bogle different, it's spelled out in foot-high letters on the tasting room wall: FAMILY. But that word is much more than a slogan. It's a way of life for three Bogle siblings who will oversee the farm-to-table production of an estimated 2.5 million cases of wine this year.

Read more: Bogle Winery: The Label’s Roots Run Six Generations Deep—So Far

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