BY AMBER K. STOTT

PART I

A THREE PART SERIES ON DEFINING FARM-T-FORK IN OUR REGION

farm to fork many voices

The City of Sacramento declared itself the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America in 2012. Since then, food has taken over the city. Streets and bridges that once held cars have been temporarily transformed to hold cows and dinner parties. Everything from bowling alleys to coffee shops has embraced the "local food" mantra.

Sacramentans have embraced their inner farm-to-fork. The way they choose to express it varies widely depending on who's cooking the food and who's eating.

Read more: Farm-to-Fork In Many Voices

BY GEORGEANNE BRENNAN

market talk interview 1

DAN BEST, COORDINATOR, CERTIFIED FARMERS' MARKETS OF SACRAMENTO, 11 LOCATIONS


Edible Sacramento Meets Our Region's Farmers Market Leaders
EDIBLE SACRAMENTO: How many farmer/vendors do you work with at peak season and off season?

DAN BEST: With the exception of a couple of bakeries and fishermen, we work exclusively with Certified California Agricultural Producers. Since we have five year-around markets there is no "off season" for us. Throughout the year we usually work with more than 200 different farmers.

Read more: Market Talk: Interview with Dan Best and Randii Macnear

BY MIKE MADISON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY BENJAMIN DELLA ROSA

the rise and fall 1

The knife, and later the spoon, were the first utensils. Forks didn't come to the table until much later.

The ancient Greeks had a large, two-pronged fork that they used to pin down a chunk of meat while they were carving it, but this was only for carving, not eating. Forks of the modern sort for getting food to your mouth showed up in the Renaissance, first in Italy and later in France.

When forks were first brought to England in the 16th century, they were disparaged as absurd affectations. But the nobles were attracted to them as a way to show continental sophistication, and as one more item to swell the ranks of polished cutlery on the table as a conspicuous display of wealth. And whatever the nobles did, the rest of the populace soon imitated.

Read more: The Rise (and Fall) of the Fork

Yisreal garden

It wasn't about celebrity chefs, it was about home cooking. It wasn't about sustainable caviar, it was about sun-ripened tomatoes. It wasn't about "foodie," it was about food. When the Yisraels learned this past summer that the Sacramento Farm-to-Fork week's Tower Bridge dinner would be selling tickets with triple-digit price tags, they took action to show that a celebration of good food did not require city permits or gilded pomp and ceremony. Instead, they hosted a farm to fork dinner at their own Yisrael Family Farm, pre-empting the Tower Bridge dinner by a week. For only $20 a seat, they helped to serve a five-course vegetarian dinner with their own produce to a garden-full of farmers, musicians, activists and neighbors seeking to share the bounty of a grassroots movement right where it was planted.

Read more: Yisrael's Urban Garden

BY JULIANNA BOGGS / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBBIE CUNNINGHAM

Screen Shot 2014 03 19 at 12.31.33 PM

In the midst of our current foodie culture, the word "harvest" is a romanticized idea that glosses over the hardships and realities of long hours in the winter shade. In September or October, a few days beneath the full silver canopy of the Oleaceae wouldn't be so trying, but come late November when the olives are just turning from bright green to a darkening mottled red, numb hands and tired backs are the sacrifices required for the liquid green gold of fresh-pressed olive oil.

Read more: The Olive Orchard

BY AMBER K. STOTT / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBBIE CUNNINGHAM

endive farming

If you visit the largest endive farm in the nation, you won't be standing in a field below a blue sky. There will be no sun on your face, or dirt on your boots. But you will hear the soft trickle of water through the deep darkness as you're surrounded by warmth and blanketed in shadows.

Endive (pronounced very French and fancy-like, "on-DEEV") is a peculiar little crop that can only be grown in the dark.

Read more: Endive: Farming in the Dark

BY BECKY GRUNEWALD / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT DUNCAN

back house press bistro

The Press Bistro describes itself on its website as a "neighborhood bistro" and "a place for friends and neighbors to meet for a drink, some bites or a full meal." The mental image conjured up by those words perfectly captures its cozy, clubby feel.

This ethos also gives you a clue to the menu, which is centered around rich pasta dishes and hearty cuts of protein. There are nods to seasonality on the menu, and the ingredients are well-sourced, but a meal at the Press Bistro is more about ordering that dish you already know you love than trying some foraged ramps that are in season for a handful of days.

Read more: Back of the House: The Press Bistro

Screen Shot 2014 03 11 at 2.21

BY SUSAN BROWN, CSW // PHOTOGRAPHED BY PENNY SYLVIA

On a recent 40° morning I wrested myself out of my cozy bed to make the trek to the Sierra Foothills, specifically the El Dorado American Viticultural Area (AVA). On the drive east from Downtown Sacramento I started craving apple pie and greasy cider donuts.

My Pavlovian response was obviously due to years of Apple Hill decadence: Highway 50 + El Dorado County + Local Fruit Crop = Apples, right? I needed an early a.m. adjustment to something more relevant, like: Grapes + Elevation + Perfect Climate = Tasty Regional Wine.

Read more: Getting Down and Dirty: Barnum Vineyards and Red Bucket Wines

BY ADAM PECHAL
CHEF/OWNER OF TULI BISTRO, RESTAURANT THIR13EN AND TULI CATERING.

Fly on wall

If you pay even cursory attention to the local media, you've heard the phrase "Farm To Fork." You've likely heard some good, maybe heard some bad, and hopefully missed the ugly as it all has permeated our local media-sphere.

At its core, "Farm to Fork" is a term that has been around for some time, at least since the 70's when the indispensable Alice Waters came on the Berkeley culinary scene. Farm to table, organic, local, seasonal, sustainable; marketing clichés that have been littering restaurant menus as long as I've been in the trade, but "Farm to Fork" is different. . . isn't it?

I sat down with six locals who eat, drink and breathe Farm to Fork every day to discuss how the concept is changing our local scene. What better place than Geoff's Curtis Park brewery Track 7 to lubricate the conversation! Their newly released "Hoppy Palm Pale" is a pale style ale made with Cascade hops grown on Geoff"s uncle's farm in nearby Hood, Ca.

ATTENDEES

GEOFF SCOTT: BREWER/OWNER, TRACK 7 BREWING

CHRIS MACIAS:FOOD & WINE WRITER, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

BILLY NGO: CHEF/OWNER, KRU RESTAURANT

MICHAEL PASSMORE: OWNER/FISH-WRANGLER, PASSMORE RANCH

BRIAN GUIDO: MICROFILM TECH AT CALIFORNIA STATE ARCHIVES/ FREELANCE BACON PROMOTER

CURTIS FONG: PRINT SHOP OWNER/MASTER EATER

ME: CHEF/OWNER, TULI BISTRO, RESTAURANT THIR13EN

AP "Now that's 'Farm To Glass' right there. . . These hops came directly from your family's farm, right?"

GS "My family's owned the land since the 40's. We've been growing pears and apples on the ranch, and some other row crops like corn and tomatoes and safflower. It started out as an asparagus farm, and my great grandfather had one of the first shipments of fresh asparagus back to New York from California. They were putting in I-5, and so he apparently figured out he would get paid more if I-5 went through his land if it were an orchard."

AP "So you and your family have been Farm to Fork for decades now! That's really interesting, and something I'm sure the average consumer doesn't always consider.

(TO CF) You're one of my best customers, and an impressive eater. As a guy who goes out all the time, do you think about what's Farm to Fork when you go out?"

CF "That' what is great about Sacramento; the local food culture here is a lot of small individual restaurants that are willing to use fresh local produce and meats and fishes. Everything is fresh, it's innovative, it's creative, and that's what people are looking for. . . That's what I look for when I go out to eat, definitely."

AP(TO MP) "As the local sturgeon peddler, how's it been trying to move such an unconventional fish such as sturgeon to local restaurants?"

MP "Sacramento diners have changed in the past three years. We've been serving chefs about three years now, from the time I first brought in a sturgeon to Randall (Selland). I was pleasantly surprised. . . and not because it's our fish, but I know if our fish is out there, it's not all salmon and halibut anymore. I think it's cool as heck that it's not just dominated by the major three fish."

CF "I had never tried sturgeon. Actually, I tried it at Kru first. It was just the seared. . . "

BN "Oh, it was the sashimi."

CF "Yeah and it was just like 'Whoa! Why haven't I had this before?' And then I've had it at other places like Grange on Friday night. It was incredible! The whole Sacramento food culture has changed."

CM "People love to eat, especially in Sac. Also, just like the variety of foods that you find down here too; it's not just like one thing. Bacon can be interpreted in so many different ways, whether it's some Korean bulgogi or whatever, but I think it always comes down to that accessibility."

AP "Speaking of accessibility, there's been a lot of talk about this bridge dinner and who it was for. Do you think this movement is targeting only certain demographics? Or can anybody Farm to Fork?"

MP "It was a pricey dinner. Right now my budget would not have allowed me to really go there, and I chose to work instead."

AP "Same here, although I honestly was happier to be on the bridge cooking and watching the whole thing go down."

CM "I think that the issue a lot of people have – they're not all foodies. People have felt the economic pinch here in a lot of ways, and some people haven't. When there's this perception that some people have access to the good stuff and it's not an even playing field, y'know Joe and Mary Public from Rocklin would love to have dinner on the bridge with all of these people, that's $350, that's a lot out of a typical family budget."

BG "That's really important to us when we do things like BaconFest and BLT Week. We only really have one event that we charge money for, and even that's a bargain. I mean its only 30 to 35 bucks, and you get all these bites, you get a few drinks out of it, and we pretty much give everything we make to, like the Center For Land Based Learning or something like that."

AP "Events like that can get tricky, though. Charities need money, people want a low price but the chefs want to give it their best and we often get caught holding the bag.

(TO BN) You know, you're at a lot of these events with me. At least you're bringing rice."

Laughter

BN "We donate our time, but you have to pay your staff members to go out and make the product. You make a joke about my rice, but product isn't cheap. . ."

AP "Right, of course, you're probably not using the cheap stuff ."

BN "My rice is not cheap."

CM "Where do you get your rice from?"

BN "Michael Bosworth. Next Generation Foods, out by Sleep Train Amphitheater. 100% organic, single lot. Most brands of rice there, it's all mixing groves and stuff. You hear that term with wine, but rice, typically, rice grows and they'll just grow like that and mix harvests together or sell to the big brands. They'll buy from different farmers, different lots but. . . "

AP "Like a field blend, if you will?"

BN "Yeah. So, y'know, you know where it's coming from."

CM "I'm just curious, as far as the restaurant goes, what's the difference in price? And I'm not talking in exact dollars and cents, but in getting that awesome rice out near Sleep Train versus getting Nishiki?"

BN "Oh, double the price."

AP "And that's just the thing; I hear people ask, "Where's all this money going to?" And the fact is, at the very least, some of it is paying for the local product, and going to the farmers, right?

(TO MP) "I mean, did you cut a deal for those fish for the dinner, those 75 sturgeon?"

MP "No, I didn't. None was asked for, none was given." AP "So you made a bunch of money?"

MP "I did, actually."

AP "Good for you!"

MP "That was the other cool thing. My wife and I were walking out of there, I see all of the toilets, I see all of the rental companies, I see the folks on their bikes grabbing all the bottles for recycling, and I'm thinking about how big just the impact was from that dinner alone on the local economy. It was completely unexpected, but not a bad thing."

CM "It's a little tough, especially when you have a movement that's trying to be populous about everything; the 'salt of the earth.' This is about the farmers, this is about local eating, and then when it looks like certain people have more access than others, that's where people get ruffled. I think that ultimately, though, it was really cool to see everybody coming together, good vibes, and just the camaraderie is what it comes down to. I don't really know if you find that a lot in other cities."

AP "No, you really don't."

BY SUSAN BROWN CSW / PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHARLENE MARCUM

time2Seriously, I never thought I'd say it, and it sounds cliché, but when you get a little older you do get a little wiser. Something I've learned with the passage of time is that ultimately most everything will change; life isn't static. Our preferences shift in many areas, and we age into a complex blend of interesting subtexts. Friends will move on, families will grow with births and shrink with deaths. That restaurant you love will take your favorite dish off the menu, or worse yet, close completely. While thoughts of change may fill you with melancholia, it's important to remember that change over time can produce amazing things in our lives, and this is nothing but true in relation to winemaking and cooking.

Great wines are a result of many time-dependent decisions made at points along the winemaking spectrum. Grapes need to be picked at just the right moment – that perfect blend of natural sugars and acids sets the stage for a good bottle. If grapes are picked too early, a resultant wine can be too acidic. If too late, the wine may be flabby and sweet, without enough acid to serve as a balance.

Read more: Time In A Bottle. . . And on a Stove

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