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Farmers Markets

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Farm to Fork Field Trip: Restaurant Thir13en

Does this Red Russian Kale look familiar?

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Well, it should! A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit Feeding Crane Farms to learn a little bit about the emerging Farm-to-Fork movement here in Sacramento, California. In my attempt to follow the kale from farm to fork for this project, I also enlisted the help of Chef Adam Pechal with Restaurant Thir13en and Tuli Bistro. If you're a fan of ABC's The Taste, you may recognize him from the first season as a member of Team Malarkey.

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I stopped by Restaurant Thir13een on the beautiful (yet soggy) first day of spring to talk a little Farm-to-Fork shop. If you've never been to the restaurant located on the ground floor of The Sterling Hotel, I highly recommend it. I've spent quite a few happy hours on their sweet little patio out front.

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The mood shifts a bit when you step inside, which makes it a fantastic date night spot.

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And the food? Well, I'm a pretty big fan. Chef Pechal kindly let me in the kitchen to catch a glimpse of the beginnings of a Red Russian Kale Pesto. To get started, he removed the stems from each leaf:

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He then blanched the kale by putting it in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes (until the leaves were bright green and tender):

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Then the kale moved on over to the ice bath to cool:

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Eventually the blanched kale will be transformed into a beautiful pesto for all of those delicious pasta dishes. I wasn't able to partake in the entire process, but Chef Pechal did agree to share the recipe with us. The good news? It's a super easy recipe that will be making it to my fork at home very soon.

Restaurant Thir13en's Red Russian Kale Pesto

  • 2 bunches Red Russian Kale, blanched & chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Awesome for pizza, pastas or anywhere else you'd use pesto!  --  Chef Adam Pechal

Side note: If you subscribe to Sactown Magazine, you may recognize this pesto from page 52 of the latest issue. Great minds think alike here in Sacramento and the folks at the magazine devoted almost an entire issue to the Farm-to-Fork movement.

What can I say? We love our farmers and we love our food!

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I also had the opportunity to ask a few questions about how Chef Pechal and his crew incorporate food from local farms into the menus at both Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en.

From which local farms do you source food for your restaurants? We work with Feeding Crane Farms, Del Rio Botanical, Ray Yeung, Soil Born Farms and Waldorf School. Some of the food is delivered through Produce Express, which is a huge proponent and distributor of local farms. Others deliver farm direct like Feeding Crane Farms.

What types of food do you source locally? Mostly produce but lately we've been getting whole hogs from fairly local sources like Stone Valley Farm and a few other very small independent ranchers. Lucky Dog Ranch is a local ranch that produces great grass-fed beef. We've also got some great cheese producers like the Sierra Nevada Cheese Company.

Are some products tough to find here in Sacramento, California? Nothing is hard to find here in Sacramento. I feel lucky to have restaurants here with great access to top-notch products. With the addition of the new Sunh Fish here downtown, we now have access to amazing seafood from both local California sources and sources around the world.

What are your favorite locally grown foods to use in the kitchen? One of my favorites would have to be Del Rio's arugula. I've been using three or more cases a week for most of Tuli Bistro's lifetime (over five years). It's typically available year round, which is awesome for us chefs trying to plan menus. As cliche as it is, I'd be lying if Sacramento heirloom tomatoes weren't at the top of my list. Every year I see new and different varieties popping up which makes it one of the most fun foods out there. The variance in colors and flavors make them so adaptable to so many preparations.

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Be sure to check out the tasty food at Tuli Bistro and Restaurant Thir13en, my friends. I love knowing that so much of the food at these local restaurants comes from right here in Northern California!

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For those of you interested in my final map design project (which spurred this little field trip), here it is:

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I decided to craft the final design as a tool for storytelling, rather than trying to map the entire Farm-to-Fork movement in Sacramento. Plus, it's been a long time since I've used my animated GIF-making skills. The photos don't render well in the GIF format, but you get the idea!

If you'd like to see how the project unfolded, you can read more here.

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Here's to eating more fresh, local foods!

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Farm to Fork Field Trip: Feeding Crane Farms

As I mentioned last week, I'm currently enrolled in Anne Ditmeyer's Skillshare class, Map Design: Learn to Communicate Places Beautifully.My project is a map illustrating the route(s) food takes to get from farm to fork here in Sacramento, which is just one out of hundreds of projects posted by students from around the world.

I've been working to set up field trips in an effort to better understand the ins and outs of the farm to fork process. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to tour Feeding Crane Farms, which is located just a few miles north of the central city.

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It was a beautiful day. Everyone on the team was happy to let me document the harvest and ask a ton of questions. I even had a chance to chat with General Manager Shannin Stein about the farm and the part they play in the farm to fork process.

Founded in 2011, Feeding Crane Farms has quickly become a respected source for fresh, organic produce among chefs and local foodies. The team supplies products to dozens of local restaurants and several grocery stores in the Sacramento area, they have a presence at farmers markets in the fall and summer months and will relaunch their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in the coming weeks.

According to Stein, the next several months will bring an increased focus on community partnerships, educational opportunities and events both on and off the farm. "Our goal is to really be viewed as Sacramento's farm," she said. "We are so close to town and have an opportunity to offer a place where people can come connect with farming."

Needless to say, I was very impressed by the attention to detail in their efforts to boost community engagement and cross-promotion with other small businesses. They're reaching out to unconventional partners to better serve neighborhoods in our area without much access to fresh produce and the team seems incredibly committed, not only to maintaining a sustainable business, but also to helping others do the same.

Keep your eye on Feeding Crane Farms, my friends. They're doing amazing work in the Sacramento area. If you want to learn more about the farm and get updates about future events, be sure to sign up for their newsletter on the homepage. You can also find them on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

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As for my map project, I didn't get a chance to capture the delivery process to a local restaurant. However, I do know that some of that beautiful Red Russian Kale is being delivered to Corti Brothers, if any of my Sacramento friends are in the market for fresh, leafy greens.

I'm hoping to set up the restaurant portion of this field trip very soon. Stay tuned!

Your turn: Do you have a favorite small, urban farm in your community? Have you ever wondered how far your food has to travel to get to your plate?

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