More highlights of 2013’s food scene: chef camaraderie, building bridges with other cities

As we reported recently, 2013 was a banner year for Sacramento’s food scene and the stage has been set for a bountiful 2014 and beyond. Many of these highlights were summed up in a recent story, but here are some more thoughts on the fruitful year that was 2013:

One key factor behind the year’s overall success was the camaraderie among local chefs. The local restaurant landscape tends to be a competitive place, and many chefs aren’t above some smack talk about their colleagues, whether it’s in the spirit of fun or clamoring for customers.

But despite the business and bottom line pressures, Sacramento chefs sure know how to come together. It’s how two dozen or so top local chefs came together for the “Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner,” sharing a fairly tight space to feed 600 people, sometimes jumping in to help with service and looking happy to just hang out as a crew that’s proud to represent the 916 (and neighboring area codes as well).

We’re also thinking of the “Freaks of the Industry” dinner series where local restaurant industry workers come together for a night off and have someone else cook for a change. These dinners featured collaborations from Tyler Bond of Enotria, Esquire Grill’s Scott Ostrander and others for a night of good food and community building among cooks.

And how about the “Dirty Feet Dining” pop-up dinner, with a triple threat team of chefs including Bond, Billy Ngo of Kru and Ostrander?

Sacramento also built bridges with some of the country’s most significant chefs. Enotria‘s guest chef dinner series brought such Michelin starred chefs as Dominique Crenn, Mark Liberman and Matthew Accarrino to cook side by side with Sacramento’s Pajo Bruich and his kitchen staff. All four of these dinners were sell-outs, and in the case of Crenn (the country’s only two-starred-Michelin female chef) all reservations were gobbled up in three hours for the $175 dinner.

In the case of Crenn, the festivities and hospitality extended beyond Enotria. Following the dinner, Ngo opened his Kru restaurant to feed Crenn and her crew until the wee hours. Other visiting chefs were also introduced to local purveyors with the hopes of establishing business relationships, while also showing off such local spots as The Shady Lady and Red Rabbit.

Look for more guest chefs in this series to be announced soon.

That Michelin shine could also be seen at Passmore Ranch in Sloughouse. The purveyor of sturgeon and other freshwater fish played host to Christopher Kostow, the three-Michelin-starred chef from the Restaurant at Meadowood, who prepared a $400 feast for 12 people. (Proceeds benefitted the local Future Farmers of America).

And not to be all Debbie Downer, but we can’t ignore some of the low points. The much heralded Feeding Crane Farms went belly up in November, and the list of restaurant closures ran more than two dozen deep:

Absinthe Bistro & Lounge, Beantrees Cafe, Blackbird Kitchen & Bar (but plans to re-open), Cafe Americain, Café Mediterranee (Davis), Capital Tea Garden, 4th Street Bar and Grille, El Mariachi (Davis), Futami Restaurant, Gallagher's Irish Pub, Greek Village Inn, Hads Steak & Seafood, Hamburger Patties, It’s a Grind, J.R.'s Texas Bar-B-Que, Kamon, Lake Forest Café, La Boheme, Maranello, Market Club, Michelangelo's, Mighty Kong Café, Momiji Sushi and Grill, Mongo, Mongo, Mooney's Restaurant & Bar, Folsom, Negril Island Grill, Pho Bac Hoa Viet, Phu’s, Purgatory, Pyramid Alehouse, Rostini Italian Kitchen (Davis), Spataro Restaurant and Bar, Tex Wasabi’s, Thai Cottage, The Broiler, Townhouse Lounge, Trio ... and Vanilla Bean Bistro.


But overall, there’s plenty to look forward to in 2014. The much-anticipated Mother is expected to open shortly, we’ve got a national cheese convention coming to town, Bacon Fest and Sacramento Beer Week are coming soon, and that’s just for starters.

Stay tuned.