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.
One afternoon in my community college English classroom, four students arrived with an assortment of Fiery Hot Cheetos, Skittles and sodas. Students aren’t supposed to eat in classrooms, but it was lunchtime. I knew the students were hungry and didn’t interrupt their snacking before class.
No surprise, by our 1:30 p.m. break, the students who devoured vending machine snacks were lethargic and barely able to participate.
The trends are horrifying and unmistakable. Forty percent of California fifth graders are overweight or obese. A disproportionate number among them are minority students. We know young brains need nourishment. The mind-body connection is under-addressed in our schools.
The Food Literacy Center wants to change how kids eat, teaching them about nutrition and how to prepare culturally relevant, nourishing foods.
When I visited Chateau Davell in Camino, the Sierra’s incremental unfolding of redbud, dogwood and lilac blossoms just reached the small vineyard at 3,100 feet elevation. As Emily Hays invited me into the tasting room, I could see the Sacramento Valley unfold across verdant grass and opening buds.
Eric and Emily Hays started Chateau Davell in 2007 with a land purchase. The couple wanted to spend time with Eric’s mom and dad, and raise their family in a healthy place with a sustainable environment.
At Chateau Davell, the couple uses biodynamic methods to nourish the land and the people who work the vineyard and enjoy its bounty. Southdown sheep prowl the vineyard to graze down weeds between the rows. They aerate the soil with their hooves and fertilize with nitrogen rich manure, the owners tell me.