Tag Archives: Farm-to-Fork

Dinner in a Cave! #WBC17

Dinner in a wine cave. Check! One more thing off the bucket list!

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We had a lot of amazing experiences at this year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference in Santa Rosa, California. However, the unparalleled highlight was the Friday evening dinner at Thomas George Estates. When the list of dinner excursions was published several weeks earlier, we scanned the host wineries’ websites, and noticed that Thomas George Estates has a wine cave. A telephone call to the winery confirmed the WBC Dinner would be held in the cave. We made our reservation immediately!

With eager anticipation, we boarded the luxury wine-tour bus and settled into the plush leather seats. Under the soft mood lighting, we enjoyed the short ride to the winery. Upon arrival, we stepped off the bus and into the cavernous entryway of the cave.

There, we were warmly greeted by Thomas George Estates staff, who handed us each a glass of their 2014 Brut Blanc de Blancs. We sipped this delightful sparkler while visiting with our fellow diners, and nibbling on Hors D’Oeuvres including house-made cured meats, and roasted and marinated vegetables.

Soon enough, we were summoned to the dining table, located in a long corridor in the cave. The service was excellent, the wine free-flowing, and the food exquisitely prepared. We both agree this was among the top five meals we have ever experienced; and toward the top of that list, to boot! The first course was a roasted Brussels Sprouts salad with Black Pig Bacon, Asian pear, Marcona almonds, aged sherry vinegar, and Bohemian Creamery Capriago. This amazing salad was paired with the Thomas George Estates 2015 Chardonnay, Sons & Daughters Vineyard. It was during this course that we learned that all the pork served during the evening was hand-raised by our chef, Duskie Estes, of Zazu Kitchen & Farm in Sebastapol, California. Now that’s farm-to-fork, local food!

The main course was Cracklin’ Pork Belly (from our friendly neighborhood porker) with Star Anise Liberty Duck; a full leg quarter; served over black rice, with pomegranate and watercress. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the pork belly, but I was not disappointed! As much as I love duck, this crispy chunk of heaven was out of this world! Paired with the Thomas George Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Baker Ridge Vineyard, this was an entrée and pairing worth writing home about!

Amid friendly conversation, ample refills, and boundless frivolity, I wondered if it could get any better. Leave it to the good folks at Thomas George Estate and Zazu Kitchen & Farm to up the ante with dessert. Backyard Quince & Apple Tartin with Bourbon Gelato. Why, yes, I believe I will. Paired with the most amazing 2012 Late Harvest Viognier from Baker Ridge Vineyard, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Just look at the color of that Viognier! Divine!

Even after dinner, the hospitable staff kept our glasses filled, until it was time to, sadly, re-board the bus for the ride back to the hotel. But first, swag bags! We each received a gift of a bottle of Thomas George Estates 2016 Rosé of Grenache, a numbered bottle of their Baker Ridge Vineyard Olive Oil (delicious), and for a longer-lasting keepsake, a Thomas George Estates t-shirt.

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Back on the bus, we basked in the afterglow of a magical, memorable evening. One we will not soon forget.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photos by Kent Reynolds & Robyn Raphael

Dinner on a Bridge (#MWWC35)

The weather was perfect; sunny with temperatures in the low-80’s as the event started. We were fortunate to be there. This is one of the most anticipated events in Sacramento. It is so popular in fact, that tickets are sold by lottery. I’ve wanted to go in the past, but have not been able to attend. However, this year, for the Fifth Annual Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner, I won tickets in a sweepstakes hosted by the Golden 1 Credit Union, one of the sponsors of the dinner.

If you read my previous post, you know that Sacramento, California, is the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. As part of the annual festivities, the Tower Bridge Dinner brings together farmers, farm workers, renown chefs, local celebrities, politicians, and foodies of all stripes, for an epic and magical evening. Dinner on a bridge! The Tower Bridge is an iconic landmark in Sacramento, spanning the Sacramento river from Downtown to the city of West Sacramento. It is an active roadway and drawbridge, yet one evening each year, the bridge is closed to traffic and white-linen covered tables are stretched from end to end. The goal of the event is to be “a truly spectacular culinary event…” A meal that “showcases the incredible bounty being grown and raised by some of our region’s most prolific farmers and ranchers who are at the heart of the farm-to-fork movement.” Some of the region’s best chefs work their magic on the ingredients, and the resulting experience is spectacular!

Upon arrival, guests are welcome to grab a glass of local wine or beer, and wander the bridge while nibbling on a variety of amazing appetizers. We sampled oysters, caviar, carpaccio, and other delicacies. The wine was free-flowing, and throughout the evening we enjoyed glasses of Muddy Boot Clarksburg Chenin Blanc, Conduit Amador County Viognier, Turkovich Yolo County Tempranillo, Divergent Vine Amador County Barbera, and Rancho Victoria Amador County Petite Sirah. Each wine complemented the food and enhanced the magic.

The four-course meal started with Chile en Nogada, a roasted poblano chile with picadillo, and walnut crema, prepared by Chef Ernesto Delgado from the Mayajuel restaurant. The farms that provided the ingredients were were Rancho Llano Seco and Stephens Ranch. The poblano was a little hot for a few folks at our table, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and the Chenin Blanc paired nicely to cut the heat.

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Next up was Smoked Mount Lassen Steelhead Trout, with cucumber, crème fraiche, flowering herbs, and cured roe. This was prepared by Chef Kurt Spataro from the Paragary Restaurant Group. The trout was sourced by Passmore Ranch, from Mt. Lassen Trout Farm, and the vegetables came from Soil Born Farms. The trout was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and absolutely delicious!

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The third course was a Smoked Grassfed Ribeye, with curried turnip puree, pickled onions and sweet peppers, Easter Egg radish, cherry tomato, and chimi-churri sauce. Prepared by Taylor’s Kitchen Chef Casey Shideler, it was cooked to medium-rare perfection and fork-tender. The beef came from Richard’s Grassfed Beef, and the produce from Riverdog Farm and Aldon Leafy Greens. I went with the Petite Sirah with this and it was amazing!

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The fourth and final course was a two-parter. First was grilled lamb loin with bronze fennel yogurt, compressed cucmuber and tomato salad, and nasturtium. The farms providing this delectable delight were Azolla Farms, Emigh Lamb Co., and Laughing Duck Farms. The dish was prepared by Chef Chris Barnum-Dann from Localis restaurant. I lack the vocabulary to adequately describe this sensational dish. Exquisite. That’s the best I can do.

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Finally, we ended the meal with “Pork and Beans.” No, not your campfire can of Van Camp’s. This was sliced prochetta with a late harvest corn and bean medley, and stone fruit gastrique. This round was prepared by Chefs Michael Tuohy and Santana Diaz from Legends Hospitality at the Golden 1 Center, Sacramento’s new sports arena. The ingredients came from Rancho Llano Seco, Dwelley farms, and Twin Peaks Orchards. Another amazing dish that was immensely satisfying on all levels.

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Once dinner was over, guests were invited to stroll the promenade and indulge in small desserts and dessert wines. As if we needed more to eat and drink! Still, we’re not quitters, so we made our way over to enjoy the view of the river, and just a few more bites and sips. The Late Harvest Viognier from Legendre Cellars in Fiddletown was a real treat and a perfect way to end the evening. Completely satisfied, and full of great new memories, we summoned our Uber for the ride home.

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I cannot thank Golden 1 Credit Union enough for sponsoring the sweepstakes that allowed us to attend the Tower Bridge Dinner. It was a night we will never forget. The food, the wine, and the wonderful people of Sacramento created a dining experience that has eclipsed all others I’ve enjoyed.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

In addition to describing this heavenly event, this post is also my submission into Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC35). Last month’s winner, Erik of Red, White & Cru, selected to topic “Eclipse” for this month’s theme. The Tower Bridge Dinner certainly accomplished an eclipse of astronomical proportion in my culinary experience.

Cheers!

 

Farm-to-Fork Legends of Wine

Among other things, Sacramento, California is known as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. Each year, the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts several Farm-to-Fork events, celebrating the region’s agricultural heritage and commitment to farm-fresh, local dining. This includes not only food, but wine as well. This past Thursday, we were fortunate to attend the annual Farm-to-Fork Legends of Wine event.

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Held on the front steps of the California State Capitol building, the Legends of Wine event features wine tastings of several local wineries from the region. Attendees had the opportunity to sample the some of the best wines produced in the Lodi, Sierra Foothills, and surrounding areas, and enjoy small bites like lamb sliders, gourmet cheeses, fresh-baked bread, and gelato. Many winery owners and winemakers were on hand to pour and answer questions about their wines.

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Darrell Corti, left, and David Berkley, right. Dude taking a picture, in background.

Sacramento’s wine legends Darrell Corti and David Berkley help to prepare the event by selecting the best wines and wineries. One of Mr. Corti’s claims to fame is the long-running Corti Brothers market. Originally opened in downtown Sacramento in 1947, and relocated to its current East Sacramento location in 1970, the store features an authentic Italian deli and one of the best independent wine shops in the region. So beloved is Mr. Corti and the Corti Brothers store that, in 2008 when on the verge of losing the lease, Sacramento’s top celebrity chefs turned out in support and helped keep the market open.

David Berkley started his journey in wine as a part-time wine merchant at Corti Brothers. He went on to open his own wine and specialty-foods store in Sacramento, which sadly closed after 25 years in business. Yet, his story doesn’t end there. Mr. Berkley has served as a wine consultant for the White House, serving President Reagan, both Presidents Bush, and President Clinton.

After several weeks of scorching heat, the weather cooperated and graced us with a perfect, late summer evening. Clear skies, and temperatures in the low-80’s at the start of the event, created a delightful atmosphere for tasting, noshing, and mingling. I lost count, but there were well over two-dozen wineries present. We tasted several old favorites from wineries we know, and found a number of new favorites. Our weekends will be full over the next few months, visiting all the new wineries and winemaker friends we met at the event.

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Unintended cool photo effects when the flash accidentally went off.

If you happen to be in the Sacramento area in a future September, check out the Legends of Wine event. Perhaps we’ll see you there!

Cheers!