Sufficed it to say, Sacramento isn't exactly known as a town populated by gastronomes, or, for that matter, restaurants of Michelin-level repute. Cue fable about the tortoise and the hare, in which the older, wiser reptile, with its under-the-radar pace (in this case, Sacto), crosses the finish line ahead of its swift and overachieving competitor (aka the SF Bay Area). As such, the dining scene in our state capitol is rounding a corner, gaining momentum in farm-to-fork cuisine. The area’s four-season climate makes it a hotbed for farming that even SF’s best hash slingers frequent: Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn and Corey Lee of Benu, for instance, source their sustainably aqua-farmed fish from Passmore Ranch, just 30 minutes from central Sac. Other farms in the area are familiar presences at San Francisco farmers markets and in our beloved CSA boxes—you may have relished heirloom tomatoes or baby squashes (plus blossoms!) from Del Rio Botanicals, or sweet and juicy stone fruits from Capay Organic, the largest organic farm in the country.
For its part in putting Sacramento on the map as a culinary destination rather than a deluxe pitstop on the way to Lake Tahoe, the Citizen Hotel, a reportedly haunted (friendly ghosts!) and historic downtown inn, is hosting two weekend-long culinary getaways—the first on June 20-22 to take advantage of the summer bounty, and the second on October 10-12 to celebrate the autumn harvest. Each 48 hour epicurean sojourn includes a scrumptious gourmet brunch, dinner, and a seasonal cocktail sesh at Grange the Citizen’s on-property restaurant and destination for beautiful, in-the-know people. It’s here that chef Oliver Ridgeway pairs tiny, quick-pickled farm-fresh strawberries with house-smoked salmon, creamy ricotta, and honey. Or where the lamb shoulder achieves ultimate succulence and spoon tenderness only through an expert, and loving, touch. The good news is this: When you’re done savoring every unique dish and flavor combination possible, you can be back in your elegant room, wrapped in your fluffy robe, and reclining in your cushy bed, actively resting and digesting in three minutes flat.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it—and god knows we wouldn’t blame you if you decline, given the luxurious, self-sustaining bubble at the Citizen—is to venture to other farm-to-fork restaurants during your stay. Ex-Tyler Florence culinary director Michael Thiemann has just opened the all-vegetarian restaurant Mother, just around the corner from the Citizen. Try the chile verde with an egg, a hearty dish that’s surprisingly soul-satisfying in spite of its distinct lack of tender pork goodness. The skillet cornbread, served with honey and creamy nut butter is a lovely pairing. The iconic Mulvaney's Buildilng & Loan is also a great option for heartfelt, locally sourced fare, on a fine-dining scale. Consider it for a pre-theater meal—the shows at the very intimate Capital Stage are well-produced and generally awesome. Because taking in a little culture amidst the gluttony is probably a good way to pace yourself.