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  • Allen Pierleoni /

    Roasted pork with blistered peppers and other veggies will be one of the four courses at the Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner, one among many noting the capital area’s farming-dining culture.

  • Randall Benton /

    Patrick Mulvaney at his restaurant, Mulvaney’s B&L, last year. “This is all the chefs working together in a (program) to bridge, if you will, the rural and urban connection,” he said of the Sept. 29 dinner.

An inside look at what’s on the menu for Farm to Fork’s Tower Bridge Dinner

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 - 11:24 am

Like few other A-list restaurants in Sacramento, Mulvaney’s B&L has worked to make the concept of seasonal-local-sustainable dining a reality since it opened in 2006, with a menu that changes daily. But even before that, chef-owner Patrick Mulvaney was helping pioneer the local farm-to-fork movement, along with such people as Rick Mahan (The Waterboy), Randall Selland (Ella) and Gabriel Glasier (Maranello).

So it was natural for Mulvaney to take a lead role in planning Sept. 29’s Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner, the capstone event for the inaugural Farm-to-Fork Week (Saturday-Sept. 29), a celebration of growing, harvesting, eating and drinking in the Sacramento region that features special events at area farms, restaurants, breweries and supermarkets.

Mulvaney hosted a “walk-through reconnaissance” for the sold-out dinner Monday at his restaurant. More than 20 chefs, kitchen staff members, bakers and servers from Mulvaney’s, Ella, Grange, Magpie, Hawks, Tuli Bistro and Karen’s Bakery-Cafe gathered to discuss the meal, to view the dishes to be served, to see the place settings of the tables and to discuss the mechanics of cooking for and serving a family-style meal for 600-plus hungry guests.

It was less than a year ago that Mayor Kevin Johnson — backed by a consortium of chefs, restaurateurs and the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau – proclaimed Sacramento as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.” Since then, restaurateurs, farmers and civic boosters have been cooking up ways to bring something big to the table.

And they continue to do so with Farm-to-Fork Week. The week’s two centerpieces will be the free Farm-to-Fork Festival (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 28 on Capitol Mall) and the sold-out Tower Bridge Dinner, an evening that includes appetizers followed by four main courses with wine and beer served at tables set up on the bridge.

The $175-per-person tickets sold within hours of being offered in July, organizers said.

As for the menu, The Bee got up close and personal with the four dishes displayed in a side room at Mulvaney’s. The locally sourced, family-style meal looks like this:

First course: A salad of tomato, melon and cucumber with lemon verbena dressing, topped with mint and basil leaves.

Second course: Hardwood-grilled lamb sausage on top of summer-vegetable succotash, splashed with chimichurri sauce.

Third course: A whole roasted pig, boned and reassembled into a “pave” (paving stone shape) and topped with blistered peppers, onions and other goodies.

Fourth course: Brined, cold-smoked and roasted whole sturgeon, tied into a circle. In the middle, heirloom tomatoes, pear compote, endive, runner beans and crispy potatoes.

Which restaurants consulted to create and refine which dishes?

“For us, the whole thought is that this is a celebration of Sacramento chefs celebrating Sacramento’s food, so we all agreed (to say) that we all did the food, we all take the credit,” Mulvaney said. “This is all the chefs working together in a (program) to bridge, if you will, the rural and urban connection. You’ll see 100 or so chefs on the bridge that night. We all have egos and we all work in an autocracy, where we’re all used to being the king. So it’s cool to see everybody step back and work together.”

In another room, attendees sat attentively at long tables and listened to Bobbin Mulvaney, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, talk about the hands-on logistics of the bridge dinner. She is organizing the “front of the house,” she said, and gave presentations on such topics as platter refill, dish management, service and inventory control.

“This isn’t a street fair, so we want to do it right,” she said in an interview. “There are a lot of logistics, and my role is to make sure we have the foundation to hold up the event, keep the continuity and fulfill the original vision.”

As part of her presentation, Bobbin Mulvaney set up a model of one of three dessert stations that will be positioned after dinner on the patio of Embassy Suites, across the street from the Tower Bridge on the Sacramento side.

“It’s to show the (pastry chefs) the things they can use to display their desserts,” she explained.

A farm-to-fork postscript: Organizers for the sold-out Tower bridge dinner aren’t the only ones preparing a feast for Sept. 29.

The Off the Bridge Dinner at Broderick Roadhouse (319 Sixth St., West Sacramento) is $40 in advance ($45 at the door) for courses that include pork, lamb and side dishes. You won’t be passing platters to Sacramento’s elite foodies, but you can grab a beer and listen to live music by Unsupervised, a funk, soul and R&B band featuring Mike McGowan (a Yolo County supervisor), Phil Serna (District 1 Sacramento County supervisor) and Chris Ledesma (West Sacramento City Council).

Tickets are available at


What: Celebration includes events at local farms, restaurants, wineries and breweries, and is anchored by a daylong, family-friendly festival at Capitol Mall on Sept. 28.

When: Saturday through Sept. 29


Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni

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