The Tower Bridge Dinner is sold out, but aren’t you dying to know what’s going to be served to Sacramento’s elite?
It’s always a formal affair with an epic appetizer portion, freely-flowing wine and a family-style feast. The biggest change in the fourth year is an emphasis on local farmers. While the Farm-to-Fork Celebration’s landmark event has always featured area farms, the farmers weren’t actually present or particularly prominent. This time around, farmers and chefs—including the first two women to cook the esteemed meal—paired up on each dish. Michael Passmore of Passmore Ranch spearheaded the change, noting the importance of farmer-chef relationships.
“My ranch could not survive without the chefs,” he said.
Passmore also noted that many Sacramento area farmers serve chefs far outside the region, and that’s why Las Vegas celebrity chef Rick Moonen is joining the party. Overall, it’s arguably the strongest culinary team to lead a Tower Bridge Dinner yet.
Before you start complaining about the $199 price tag and exclusion and whatnot, remember it is a fundraiser for the free Farm-to-Fork Festival the day prior on Saturday, September 25 on Capitol Mall.
Allyson Harvie, executive chef of the still-to-come Patriot in the Milagro Centre, will start off the meal with a bean salad, sourced from R Kelley Farms and Terra Firma Farms. Speaking of farmer-chef relationships, Harvie has personally been working with Terra Firma for about a decade, and here she’ll chill and smoke their green beans with charred tomatoes and pickled shishito and gypsy peppers. Dollops of burrata fill out the plate, which gets topped with fried shallots, pickled shiitakes, basil and watercress.
The second course comes from Rick Moonen, who couldn’t be in Sacramento to present his dish. He’ll brine Passmore Ranch catfish for several hours, then cold smoke it for several hours, and serve it with German potato salad, horseradish-caviar cream and aleppo pepper.
Billy Ngo of Kru is serving oyakodon, which translates to “parent-and-child donburi.” That means a simple but comforting combo of chicken, egg and rice. The rice comes from Rue & Forsman Ranch, and the Riverdog Farms chicken gets braised in soy sauce and sake. Crispy skin, slow poached eggs and pickles add textural contrasts.
Michael Fagnoni and Molly Hawks of Hawks Restaurant teamed up with Van Vleck Farms for zabuton. Unlike Oliver Ridgeway’s now-famous smoked- and braised-preparation, Fagnoni and Hawks grill the front shoulder steak and serve it with charred peppers from Azolla Farms, cherry tomatoes, onion soubise and sour gherkins. Van Vleck Farms feeds their cows a primarily all-grass diet before finishing them off with organic grains for the best flavor and marbling.
More meat? More meat! Kelly McCown of the Kitchen will go old school with lamb crepinette. He’ll braise shoulder in tandoori spices and separately make some merguez sausage, then roll them up into caul fat for a final roast. Served on a bed of summer beans and candied garlic, the Emigh Farms lamb gets topped with tomato jam. Those tomatoes are among the last from Watanabe Farms, and they get an extra tangy jolt from the addition of kimchi.
Puur Chocolat’s Ramon Perez served us white miso ice cream tucked inside a thin layer of mochi, in a pool of local olive oil with candied eggplant. He’ll switch things up slightly for the Tower Bridge dinner, though, collaborating with Del Rio Botanical and using pink lemons from his backyard for a charred lemon ice cream filling.