Our region is perfect for olive trees. Drive from Sacramento in any direction and you encounter olive groves unfolding away from the roadside, their branches reaching for the sun, standing tall in orchards.
Each year, local olive ranchers practice harvest preservation by curing olives or pressing them into gold-green oil. As a devotee of extra-virgin olive oil, I’m always searching for the area’s best orchards and olive mills.
For several years, I’ve headed south on Interstate 5 and driven to the tight and trimmed rows of the Coldani family Calivirgin Winery and Olive Mill on North Thornton Road.
My dinner tonight is tender, flakey and buttery black cod, known as sablefish, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, torn basil confetti and crushed cherry tomatoes.
It’s the freshest fish I’ve had in town—and it came from a waterfront stand off South River Road in West Sacramento.
Down South River Road’s bends and twists, across the river from Pocket and just before Vierra Farms, there’s sign for Ferrari Fisheries. The trail leads to a stall with a table and containers.
The sign brings to mind the timeless, muddy Sacramento River floating past. Yet here is some of the area’s freshest ocean fish. The fisherman is Anthony Ferrari. He carries on a family tradition started decades ago by his father.
One of the many aspects I love about Sacramento is how, in the middle of urban and suburban sprawl, we have pockets of agriculture—acres that reflect our agrarian roots. In this beautiful place, we are reminded of the connection to fertile soil and ideal growing conditions on almost every block.
Otow Orchard in Granite Bay captures this convergence between a populous region and its steadfast agricultural lands. Minutes from Douglas Boulevard’s big box stores and shopping plazas rests an oasis of fruit trees tended by the Otow family since 1911.
Soil Born Farms is the farm in the farm-to-fork capital.
Walking the farm at American River Ranch, off Chase Drive in Rancho Cordova, the bounty and its possibilities present themselves in powerful ways.
First, let’s admire the farm beds, prepared a year or two in advance with cover crops that promote carbon sequestration. Next, here’s an area soon to be planted in tall oaks. Nearby is a restored creek, cleared for salmon and steelhead spawning.
A walkway features hundreds of California native plants. An outdoor classroom is shaded by hanging grape clusters. At the demonstration garden, children find runner beans, sunflowers, peppers and tomatoes flush for picking.
For almost six years, I cooked at a farm-to-table restaurant that bought a whole lamb every week, locally raised, sustainably grown.
We butchered down the lamb into meals and made salumi and sausage with the scraps. Bones went into our Brodo, a mixed meat stock. We cooked and sliced kidneys and tongues for salads or antipasti dishes. Every part of the lamb was used and appreciated.
I also worked for restaurants and catering companies that relied on industrial produced lamb cuts, racks and deboned legs, shipped from Australia or New Zealand, where the animals were brought to slaughter in mass for lower cost.