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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

BY SARAH SINGLETON

agedsteak

It's true. We are all eating slightly old beef. Whether one week or five, in plastic or in a dry environment, all beef needs to sit around for a while before eating unless cooked immediately after slaughter. This controlled rot allows the meat to evolve into a more flavorful and tender steak.

At the slaughterhouse, sides of beef are hung for a day to allow the muscles to relax out of the rigor mortis stage. This is the beginning of the aging process. At the packing plant, the carcass is then cut into "sub-primal" cuts – the stage between the whole animal and a small cut. Then it is sealed in plastic bags and shipped off to its retail destination. This process and the travel time effectively wet age the meat another week or two.

Read more: Aging Beef: Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

BY MIKE MADISON

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A customer who had a baby a few years back came by my stall at the farmers market. I said, "Your son must be about ready to start kindergarten by now." She raised her eyebrows. "He's in the fifth grade," she said. Yikes! How could a decade have slipped away so quickly?

As we age, our sense of the passage of time speeds up. When I was a thirteen year old suffering through Latin class in boarding school it seemed that there were far more minutes to an hour, and days to a month, than there are now. But in addition to this subjective sense of time accelerating, there are objective data to show that the world is indeed speeding up.

Read more: Fast Tomatoes, Fast Beethoven: Time is Accelerating

BY ANDREW BAKER & EDIE BAKER

coffeeprod2Coffee drinking is a daily ritual all around the globe; most of us take it for granted and believe that there's plenty of coffee for everyone and it's no big deal. But it is a big deal; it really is. Take a sip of your coffee and look at the 1,095 day journey it took to get to you. Three years and countless hands have helped create this amazing drink, so slow down and appreciate every sip.

Arabica Coffee is grown at high altitudes between 1000 to 2100 meters, only in the Equatorial regions between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. Coffee plants require an average temperature between 64-72° F and a minimum of 1200-1500 mm annual rainfall, with no longer than three months without rainfall. Oh, that's easy! Once all the conditions are perfect, coffee can be grown.

Read more: From Seed To Cup: A Timeline of Coffee Production

BY KEVIN CORCORAN

nathan corderoConsidering that this issue's theme is time, I decided that for the roundup I would taste through multiple vintages of mourvèdre I had saved from La Clarine Farm. La Clarine is a ten acre farm in Somerset owned by Caroline Hoel and Hank Beckmeyer. The wines are made with minimal intervention in the field and cellar, allowing unique expressions of each vintage to emerge. I wanted to taste how each compared side by side and how they held up over several years of storage. I also had a larger question in mind: who produces age-worthy wines in our region?

2010 LA CLARINE FARM MOURVÈDRE, "CEDARVILLE"

This was the most beautiful right out of the bottle, the brooding and sauvage aspects of the varietal met with floral elegance, pinned down by a peppery finish. Beckmeyer's notes indicate the 2010 was taken from cask to bottle faster than is typical in order to preserve the freshness of the vintage, and the perfume and fruit that term conjures up are still very much in focus. This, coupled with the subtlety of its tannins, makes the wine such a pleasure to drink now, but I believe it will continue to age gracefully based on the consistency with my impressions upon release. Slow and steady.

Grapes sourced from Cedarville Vineyard in Fair Play.

74 cases made, Stelvin closure, 14.2% alcohol by volume.

2009 LA CLARINE FARM MOURVÈDRE, "SIERRA FOOTHILLS"

Difficult weather late in the harvest season caused problems in the foothills for this grape. As a result, it was decided to blend mourvèdre from two different vineyards, roughly half and half. The wine maintained the most rawness out of the bottle and appeared lighter in the glass than the others. Initial impressions reminded me of tasting a tank sample, something still a bit unstable, but no flaws were readily apparent. Higher-toned fruit brought to mind fresh currants and dried cranberries, brighter and more tart than the other vintages, but the finish carried a similar black peppercorn and woodsy spiciness. Once open for a day things began to integrate. Tasting over the next two days gradually revealed the depth I had come to expect from this wine, which makes me even more curious about the future. Mercurial but promising.

Read more: Round Up: La Clarine

BY AMBER K. STOTT

Local food blogger Garrett McCord's first cheese experience was very American.

"It was orange block cheddar from the grocery store," he says. "In fact, I have one in my fridge right now."

While McCord (a frequent contributor to Edible Sacramento) may still crave comfort foods from his childhood, his taste for cheese has expanded like the band of blue stretching across a chunk of Humbolt Fog.

October marks the release of McCord's first cookbook with co-author Stephanie Stiavetti. Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese is filled with reinterpreted recipes from the American classic. Yet, instead of orange block cheddar, these dishes rely on artisan cheeses like French goat cheese and smoked blue.

"Five years ago, I wouldn't have guessed I would be writing a cookbook, and I wouldn't have guessed it would be mac and cheese," says McCord, whose popular food blog, Vanilla Garlic, is filled with pastries, jams, Asian dishes and cocktail recipes in addition to cheesy creations.

Read more: Three Years in Cheese: The Making of Melt

BY AMANDA HAWKINS

kombucha

I was visiting my Aunt Susie a few years ago and noticed a large jar of liquid sitting on her counter. Something brown and flat floated on top of it. It was kombucha, a strange form of tea. The brown pancake thing on top was what kombucha enthusiasts called the "Mother," a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that feed on sugar. After a week or so on the counter the kombucha becomes bubbly and tangy and purportedly good for the gut.

Kombucha is as easy to make as sauerkraut – maybe easier because no chopping is involved. Every time a batch of kombucha is made the Mother makes a baby pancake colony, so even though you can buy a Mother online in starter kits, chances are there are baby Mother colonies near you waiting to be adopted.

Once you have a Mother, you just steep some tea, add some sugar, let it cool, and give that floppy Mother a little soak for a week or two in a warm, dark place. Of course, Aunt Susie also says everything must be "scrupulously clean."

Read more: Kombucha: One Funky Mother

BY BECKY GRUNEWALD / PHOTOGRAPHY BY RACHEL VALLEY

There isn't much of a "back of the house" at Maalouf's Taste of Lebanon because owner Adbul Maalouf is always manning the grill behind the counter, clad in his customary bright orange Maalouf's T-shirt and his rapper-worthy gold chain with a cedar – the symbol of Lebanon – on it. He is a bear of a guy with a soft voice, and he invariably admonishes me that it's been too long since he's seen me (even if it hasn't been that long).

maaloufs1

Read more: Back of the House: Maalouf's

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