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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