A very wet Wednesday did not stop me from joining fellow foodies at Grange Restaurant and Bar to follow Executive Chef Michael Tuohy on a tour of the farmer’s market in downtown Sacramento’s Cesar Chavez Plaza.
The farmer’s market/plaza is right across the street from Grange. Chef Michael said that it was like having a farm right in his front yard. The tours were started several years ago to connect the community with local growers, but I only learned about them after taking two seasonal cooking classes with Chef Michael at the Sacramento Co-op. Several people at my table had been on the tours and I knew it was something I would enjoy. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my 7th wedding anniversary and day off. The only bummer was that Dan could not be there to join me.
Kristen and I arrived early and waited in the bar area for everyone to show up. Due to the rainy weather, we had a small group of 7 – which turned out to be really nice.
We crossed the street and started on the right side of the plaza and made the loop around the seasonal spread.
Chef Michael pointed out spots where farm booths were missing – most likely due to the rain. He introduced us to the farmers/growers at each booth, shared cooking methods and discussed seasonal fruit and vegetable selection with us as he purchased items for the restaurant.
These red spring onions were just waiting to be photographed.
The rain was very light and then all of a sudden it really started coming down. I was juggling my purse, camera, bag and umbrella as water soaked the back of my jeans. Kristen and Chef Michael were the only smart ones to wear hats. Mental note: It’s nice to have free arms and hands at the farmer’s market.
Chef shared some of the different cooking methods for root vegetables… Someone in the group talked about roasting beets and Chef Michael also suggested boiling them to help maintain moisture.
Another group member mentioned that she had her own solar oven… made out of recycled plastic bottle material. She shared some of the things she has cooked using it, pretty cool stuff!
A big bag of squash was purchased for the restaurant and we learned a little bit about squash blossoms.
More umbrella action as we gathered around to listen to Chef Michael.
The torpedo onions were incredible looking… so vibrant in color. The grower explained that they were an Italian heirloom variety and very sweet.
Chef Michael was very familiar with them and purchased a bag for the restaurant.
Kristen was grabbing up all kinds of great things and I was just busy trying not to kill someone with my umbrella as I took photos. I did stop to taste and purchase some Medjool dates that were incredible. The vendor gave us a recipe for chocolate mousse – 1/2 cup dates, 1/2 cup avocados and 1/3 cup cocoa – I just received a box of avocados from Foodbuzz, I’m thinking I might give this a try.
I had never tasted a pummelo before, so I took advantage of the sample. The Pummelo is said to be the ancestor of the grapefruit although it is much sweeter and less acidic – I liked it! By far my favorite sample of the day was the Skyline Ranch pomegranate grenadine – Kristen purchased some to add to champagne.
Incredible purple garlic caught Chef Michael’s eye. He took out his cell phone and we both started taking photos. Wish I had my macro lens on the camera.
He purchased a small bunch to “play with” back at the restaurant.
Can you tell that I was a little obsessed with the beauty of the purple garlic?
A few more booth stops, a blueberry purchase and some more rain… then we made our way back to the restaurant for a wonderful meal prepared using some of the farmer’s market finds. Chef Michael disappeared into the kitchen and returned to present each course to our table.
We started with a glass of white wine. The Crusher – Wilson Vineyard Chardonnay 2008.
Fresh bread and herb butter was then brought to the table.
We were all still pretty chilly from being wet – so the first course was perfect…
Pureed Asparagus Soup – loved the crouton, asparagus tip and oil drizzle. I could easily have eaten an entire bowl – the table agreed. Incredible!
Our second course was compressed (vacuum sealed) apriums (a hybrid of plums and apricots), North Valley Farms feta cheese, balsamic reduction, oil and micro greens. I’m certain that I missed some details, I was trying to listen to Chef Michael and his crew as he presented the items – while typing on my iPhone one handed – under the table. 😉 Just call me classy.
There was nothing left on my plate, I couldn’t believe how much flavor the apriums had.
Our main course was Passmore Ranch trout with an herb aioli on top of a fava bean, flageolet bean (I think), English pea, pancetta, spring green onion and asparagus ragu.
I have never ordered/eaten trout in a restaurant and was pleasantly surprised. I loved it! Probably due to the fact that it was swimming a few days earlier and super fresh.
Small side trout story – One of my only experiences with fishing (I was 6 years old) involved catching a dead trout. Yes, you read that correctly… I hooked the hook of a dead/slimy rainbow trout and I screamed like a total girl as I pulled it out of the water. My Uncle came running over and I pretty much quit fishing and ran back to the camp ground crying. This was the same trip that I got stung by a bee – in the corner of my eye. Camping failure for sure.
The last course of the day was pure heaven.
Amaretto semifreddo with compressed strawberries, vanilla bean balsamic sauce and a crushed amaretti cookie crumble.
Too. Die. For.
Everyone at the table agreed that it was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.
Thank you Grange staff and Chef Michael for a wonderful day and dining experience.