Thanks to chefs who want to show off their city and the farm-fresh produce, grains, meat and fish that surround us in the Farm to Fork Capital of America, Sacramento diners no longer have to drive to culinary temples in Napa and San Francisco to enjoy the work of Michelin-starred chefs.
Those chefs are now coming to Sacramento — as much for the raw ingredients we grow as for the customers hungry for a taste of fine-dining at a level previously reserved for out-of-town trips.
At Enotria, the Sacramento restaurant that’s clearly wishing upon a star from the grand dame of dining guides, Michelin-starred chefs are starring in monthly dinners.
Last night, chef Mark Dommen of San Francisco’s One Market visited Sacramento, teaming up with chef Oliver Ridgeway of Grange Restaurant on a five-course dinner for Farm to Fork Restaurant Week that showcased the food of five Sacramento-area farmers, one farmer per course — with everything in each dish grown, raised and harvested by the farmers Dommen and Ridgeway honored.
At $75 per person, it was provocative and delicious.
First course: Lamb tartare starring Rancho Cordova’s Soil Born Farms lamb. For anyone with an aversion to raw and lamb, keep reading because in this dish raw simply meant hillocks of cleanly flavored, tender meat. Pickled mustard seed infused the lamb with a sweet, puckery flavor, accented by melange of gypsy peppers, hatch chiles, bell pepper and garlic. None of that herby lambyness here. And because there’s a universal rule that if you serve lamb, feta cheese must be somewhere around the chefs shot Soil Born’s yogurt through a nitrogen charger, creating a fluffy “cream cheese” that had the tangy bite of feta.
Second course: Squash from West Sacramento’s Del Rio Botanicals — perhaps like you’ve never seen it before. Clearly, a Dommen dish. Chayote squash was cut into pillars. Crusted in quinoa and pan fried, they resembled an octopus-like legs. The quinoa was crusty, the squash inside was firm but tender to the bite. Small round squash, mini-eggplant and cherry tomatoes made the dish eat like a savory salad. A bed of purple sweet potatoes supported the vegetables. Cooked sous vide, the plastic-bag-in-water-bath technique turned the purple tubers light and creamy. Less sweet than regular sweet potatoes, these potatoes knew their place on the plate: a supporting role with star-quality flavor. Del Rio Botanicals farmer Suzanne Ashworth was finishing her dinner right across the room from me when this dish arrived. I saluted.
Third course: Sturgeon from Passmore Ranch. The meaty white fish was slow-cooked sous vide, then pan-sauteed and basted in butter to order. The fish, set atop tomato risotto with okra and padron peppers, was tender and juicy, with a hint of pink in the center.
Fourth course: Boar from River Dog Farms in the Capay Valley. As Ridgeway explained to me, the pork is a half-breed — part heritage Duroc and part wild boar, the latter of which impregnated River Dog’s livestock. The results were so good River Dog now breds the hybrid. For this entree, Ridgeway cooked pressed pork shoulder sous vide. The low and slow cooking method gave the compressed pork the tender texture of carnitas. Pan-frying a la minute added a crusty edge. The sausage was amazingly tender. Ridgeway emulsified the meat with pork fat, whipping up a creamy forcemeat whose texture dazzled me before its Andouille flavor kicked in. Watermelon rind is something that’s usually fed to pigs. In this dish, Ridgeway pickled the rind, adding acidity and crunch to the accompanying black-eyed peas and Tokyo turnips.
Fifth course: Bartlett pear from McCormick Ranch in the Delta. Ridgeway and Dommnen ended on a very high note. This would have been a clean, refreshing finish to a good meal on its own, but a lake of syrah grape consomme — sweet purple grape juice soup — had me spooning and swooning.
Farm to Fork Restaurant Week is sponsored by the Sacramento chapter of the California Restaurant Association in conjunction with the region’s Farm to Fork Capital America celebration.