Downtown kitchen takes advantage of regional bounty
By Greg Sabin
Just steps from the Capitol, Prelude Kitchen & Bar serves a splendid lunch and dinner to more than politicians and lobbyists. “Like any Downtown restaurant, it’s a mix of tourists and locals,” says executive chef Tom Patterson. Given the diversity of culinary influences and focus on seasonal ingredients, Prelude appeals to just about anyone.
Prelude’s location is coveted real estate. Two previous eateries, Chops Steak Seafood & Bar and The Diplomat Steakhouse, both put in time at the spot. Now, Prelude looks to eclipse those previous tenants, creating a farm-focused yet innovative menu that might garner Michelin attention. At least, that’s what some involved with the project proclaimed when Prelude opened last December.
For now, the focus is on quality cooking with local bounty. “We use the freshest seasonal and highest quality ingredients we can find,” Patterson tells me. “(We take) advantage of the local bounty of products that the Sacramento area provides.”
He doesn’t exaggerate. The bruschetta appetizer takes the ripest peaches, plums and nectarines and elevates them with house-made ricotta and prosciutto di Parma. My charming dining companion said it was the best bruschetta she ever had. While I was too much of a gentleman to ask how many bruschetta she typically consumes each year, it was a high compliment.
The late summer menu was full of creative uses of seasonal ingredients: stone fruit complementing the green salad, peaches cooked into a mostarda (an Italian fruit and mustard condiment), corn risotto, compressed melon and heirloom tomato salad.
The joy of such an approach to cooking is that by the time you read this, the menu will have pivoted to an early autumn palate of apples, squash, persimmons and more. Our local bounty is so robust, so undeniable, I often take it for granted.
I was reminded of this while I drove a coworker visiting from Indiana up and down the valley. He asked about every tree and plowed field, wondering what was growing. I listed the ridiculous number of fruits, vegetables and nuts produced outside our backdoors. His response was that in Indiana, just about every field is corn or soybeans.
So yes, it’s easy to take this embarrassment of riches for granted. But Chef Patterson does not.
“Connecting with local farmers is what we do. Some of our produce even comes from the Sacramento Waldorf School, where kids learn to grow and harvest seasonal fruit and vegetables,” he says.
The tight, approachable menu is served in a comfortable, clubby atmosphere. Simple tables surround a substantial bar, with a fireplace and overstuffed chairs creating a lounge atmosphere. Out of sight from most diners is a private dining space that can accommodate up to 80 people downstairs.
The outdoor patio, shaded by trees and sighted directly on the Capitol, is a great place for a fall lunch or dinner on a warm Sacramento evening.
When I ask Chef Patterson to name his favorite dish, he says, “My favorite at the moment has to be the bucatini pasta carbonara with house-made lamb bacon and summer peppers. But I’ve been told many times by diners that we have the best pork chop in town.”
If sampling flavors of the season is on your to-do list or you happen to be Downtown for pleasure or on business, Prelude is a worthy stop.
Prelude Kitchen & Bar is at 1117 11th St.; (916) 898-1071; preluderestaurant.com.
Greg Sabin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insideasacramento.