A Sacramento Chef Dishes on the City’s Farm-to-Fork Scene
Sacramento has become known as America's capital of farm-to-fork cuisine, and it’s easy to see why. Consider the geography surrounding the city: a whopping 70% of the land is either agricultural, forest, or open space, including the Sierra Nevada foothills and the Capay Valley. That means there are 7,000-plus acres of local farms that Sacramento restaurants can partner with to make farm-to-fork dishes. Many of these Sacramento farms still ship their products across the country, but regional restaurants have capitalized on an opportunity that's pretty much a chef's dream: pick up fresh produce in the morning, and serve it for lunch and dinner.
Oliver Ridgeway is the executive chef at Grange Restaurant, a prominent restaurant in the city's farm-to-fork scene. He first made connections with growers at local farmer’s markets, and now he visits mosts of the farms he buys from regularly. "Local food tastes better," he says. "They pick it, you eat it the next day. Simple."
But Ridgeway doesn't buy from local farms just because of the fresh taste. He's passionate about supporting a community, not to mention supporting a better environment. "Farmers work really hard to produce amazing ingredients that will supply our local restaurants, which helps the local economy," Ridgeway says. "It's great for our future. By supporting the farmers now, we will ensure the next generation is set up with nutritious and delicious food."
Ridgeway gave us some of his recommendations for farms that grow the best organic produce in Sacramento. And, of course, he also clued us in on some places to eat in Sacramento where the chefs are dedicated to the farm-to-fork concept.
Heirloom Tomatoes from Watanabe Farms
Chef Ridgeway loves all the farms he works with, but one of his favorite relationships is with Heidi Watanabe of Watanabe Farms, who helps supply the restaurant with different produce year-round. “She grows pristine produce,” he says. “She specializes in heirloom tomatoes that are some of the best I have ever tasted!”
Kale from Capay Organic
Capay Organic grows 130-plus fruit and vegetable varieties in the Capay and Imperial Valleys, on certified organic land. Green, red, and lacinato kale is grown year-round, along with other greens such as rainbow chard. The farm supplies to more than a dozen local restaurants, including Farmhouse Inn. There's a good chance you'll come across their produce in a main course such as Farmhouse’s roasted breast of guinea hen with grilled asparagus, leek potato puree, and celery soubise.
Honeyloupe from Full Belly Farm
Full Belly Farm grows many different varieties of melons perfect for late-summer snacking. Along with fresh watermelons in all colors and sizes, the farm produces honeyloupe, a sweet mix between a cantaloupe and honeydew with smooth, pale skin. Look for the farm’s melons at stores and markets around the city, and at Gather Restaurant in nearby Berkeley, where it’s served in the melon gazpacho.
Farm-to-Fork Meals at Downtown Sacramento Restaurants
Aside from Grange, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a farm-to-fork meal at these downtown Sacramento restaurants:
- Ella Dining Room and Bar: New American and French-style cooking made with seasonally and regionally sourced ingredients thanks to the Selland Family’s 20-year relationship with local farmers and ranchers.
- Kru: Chef and owner Billy Ngo prepares inventive Japanese dishes with the help of locally sourced ingredients.
- The Porch Restaurant & Bar: Chef Jon infuses Southern dishes with a Californian approach, using strictly local ingredients to make watermelon salads, skillet cornbread, and other regional classics.
Alison would rather interview a chef or food blogger than actually cook. She never says no to a Hamm’s Beer on special.