The chips are made from chia, flax and quinoa. The chicken is free range, the beef grass-fed. Yet samples of Golden 1 Center food previewed for the media still tasted enough like regular nachos, chicken tenders and burgers to be recognizable as arena food.
On Thursday, executive chef Michael Tuohy opened the center’s kitchen, laying out a spread of food items that will be served in the $556.6 million downtown Sacramento Kings arena when it opens with a pair of Paul McCartney concerts Oct. 4-5.
The vast majority of ingredients used in the arena’s food will come from within 150 miles of Sacramento. Sustainable and responsible sourcing are key, too, but the emphasis is so great on tapping food producers in the vicinity that the arena’s food-service program has been dubbed “local eats” rather than “concessions.”
The reliance on local ingredients is “unprecedented” among the nation’s sports venues, Tuohy said.
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This ethos, already prevalent in Sacramento, America’s self-proclaimed “Farm-to-Fork Capital,” is inarguably admirable. But the question arose, once the vision for the arena’s food was announced, of whether this food might also be fun in the way basketball games and concerts are fun?
While committed vegetarian McCartney likely will appreciate Golden 1’s careful sourcing, will the people who attend monster truck rallies care where their hot dogs came from? (For the record, they are from Schwarz Fine Sausage in Fairfield, and are all beef).
“One of my goals, personally, is to show that fast food doesn’t need to be bad food,” Tuohy said.
Thursday’s samples included sausages from LowBrau, burgers from Cafe Bernardo and street tacos from Bernardo’s fellow Paragary Group restaurant Centro – all Golden 1 vendors. The items would meet most everyone’s definitions of easy-to-eat treats.
A quick survey of several media members in attendance revealed the biggest culinary hit to be the non-arena-like porchetta pork roast, a Tuohy specialty. Tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned with earthy, slightly sweet spices, the porchetta made it seem momentarily as if October had already arrived.
Arena food prices are not yet set, Tuohy said, “but it is looking pretty good, pretty comparable to where it was at Sleep Train (Arena),” the Kings’ old venue.
In other words, somewhere north of reasonable and south of astronomical.