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Sactown Dining: Defining Farm to Fork and Local Food Culture

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Since Sacramento was named the Farm to Fork Capital, many locals have been left with some questions. Some people still don't know what Farm to Fork means. This is somewhat surprising if you've payed any attention at all to the buzz it's created in our city and what local chefs have had to say about it.

Farm to Fork means a lot of different things to be honest, but its most obvious definition should be almost self-explanatory. This movement puts emphasis on what we as a city have to offer as far as food, what we farm, and what we grow. It's going local and staying local with all of the wonderful produce and meats we have available right here in Sacramento. Even more prevalent is providing these resources to so many other cities and states in the country. Farm to Fork also has to do with pride, pride in our products, pride in our food and pride in our city.

Then we are left with the question, what next? Well, in my humble opinion, we let things unfold naturally at the pace they've been going. We, as a food city, have already proven we have the chops to play in the big leagues. For the people who think Sacramento still does not compare to other cities known for their food or restaurants and that we are just a “cow town”, I say you need to get out more.

Let us start with what has already been mentioned which is the availability of so many local ingredients. There are few places that can boast fresh local ingredients and mean it the way Sacramento does. If this isn't enough then perhaps I can draw your attention to exhibit B, our highly successful Tower Bridge Dinner. We shut down a bridge so that 600 people could sit down and eat, and pulled it off like pros, if that isn't the makings of an amazing food city I don't know what is.

Still not a believer? Perhaps you should pay a visit to Chef Bill Ngo at Kru, whose passion for what he does is clearly translated into every dish he prepares with flavors bordering on the ridiculous. Ngo was also featured on the Food Network show, Cutthroat Kitchen where he proved to be a fierce competitor.

Looking for something a little different? Block Butcher Bar is a charcuterie style eatery with a full bar brought to us by the folks who own Lowbrau. The menu at Lowbrau was developed by the very talented Michael Tuohy, formerly from Grange at the Citizen Hotel who joined the team this past year.

If you STILL, think Sacramento is just a hub for chain restaurants and dives then go visit Chef Pedro Depina, long time chef at Ettore's, where Chef Pedro’s food has earned him the opportunity to compete on a national level. Pedro recently took over the kitchen at the Café Bernardo on 15th and R streets where he is implementing creative additions to a menu not used to seeing much change.

There are plenty of chefs in town working individually and together to make Sacramento a dining destination and contribute to the Farm to Fork movement, just ask Chef Adam Pechal former owner of Restaurant THIR13EN. Adam has been a leader from the start for Farm to Fork having his hands on a hundred things at any given point including being a long lasting contestant on nationally televised cooking competition shown on a major network. Pechal recently revived the river mainstay, Crawdads, as well as taking over the food program at Pour House.

It has long been my opinion all we have really needed to do to truly make our mark in the culinary world was to educate our guests on food, what's available and what's good. People love knowledge and they love to eat, why aren't we combining the two more often?

Yes there is still a forty five minute wait at Cheesecake Factory and Olive Garden, but it's only because the dining lemmings (my affectionate term for those who frequent corporate restaurants), don't know any better. The good news is, change for the better is taking place all around us. It is only a matter of time before we get people driving to see us for dinner from other prominent food cities. Our local chefs and their restaurants are not merely passing trends, it's all quite real. Our time is here.

Andy Soto

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