California has been my travel destination about a dozen times, both in pre-adulthood and in my gloriously legal gay days. The trips have been mainly to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Napa Valley, and once to Sacramento. The first three locations I have been to multiple times and with my trip in 2016, it was to all three.
The goddesses must be rolling the dice in my favor in the big casino in the sky for this past weekend, I found myself in Sacramento, California. It was a meant to be trip, a trip to update me since my last visit to Sactown, almost 20 years ago.
If you’re looking for a new way to experience California, look no further than Sacramento. Once a quiet government town, the Golden State’s Capital City is experiencing a renaissance that has quietly transformed the region. The city is bustling with new restaurants, a thriving public art scene, exciting redevelopment and amazing weather to complement any activity. – Visit Sacramento
That was what I was going to be looking forward to, seeing how a quiet government town that I visited in the late 1990’s has transformed itself into a place of food, culture, art, and livelihood.
What better time to experience Sacramento than during the region’s annual Farm-to-Fork Celebration. The festivities lasted all September long with farm tours, special dinners, street parties, culminating with the Farm-to-Fork Festival on Sacramento’s Capitol Mall during the last weekend. And then there is the big finale, a dinner on the city’s iconic Tower Bridge. The drool was happening even before I stepped foot onto the plane. Let's see how the weekend began and where I ended up.
Our home for the long weekend would be the The Kimpton Sawyer, (500 J Street, Downtown Sacramento). Just a brief 20-minute ride from the Sacramento Airport, this newly constructed Kimpton is home to the Sacramento Kings as it sits next to the Golden 1 Center. I’ve stayed in many Kimptons and they all have impressed, always with service, cleanliness, welcome-ness, and making you never wanting to leave. The Sawyer’s location could not have been better for what I wanted to experience while in Sacramento; art, the farm to for festival, and getting a better feel for the redeveloped downtown SAC. That never wanting to leave feel was magnified as the property features a rooftop pool and bar (Revival at the Sawyer), as well as Echo & Rig’s second steakhouse location in the United States.
The Kimpton Sawyer is also conveniently located next to the Downtown Commons (DOCO) entertainment and retail complex.
Beer and barbecue were to be ingested during our first night in Sacramento and the choice of venue was Urban Roots Brewing and Smokehouse. Walking into the restaurant, you knew they took both beer and bbq seriously. Sacramento had a rich beer presence before prohibition and is now gaining ground back to recapturing its old title of “The Beer Capital of the West.” Having more than 60 craft breweries seems to be a great start in wearing that crown once again.
We loved the energy present at Urban Roots Brewing and Smokehouse and the assistance we received from the handsome Bennett Cross, General Manager. Just get everything since it was all amazing (try all the sauces, too), but if you want some of the best smoked turkey you have ever tasted, seriously, it is here.
Another libations home you should wet your lips in is the Bike Dog Taproom. There are two locations. The one I rested my rump and worked out my liver at was at 915 Broadway Suite 200, next door to Selland’s Market Café (where I had a great meal and will share that in another post later this month). Sitting there I met Jenny, who, besides giving me an amazing Wit, also gave me the lay of the land, what men are like in Sacramento, and what she’s looking for in a man. Did I mention the Wit? It was intense. The others were very good too as this was my second Mexican influenced beer. IPA’s are not my cup-o’-tea, but I will drink them to compare, love the doubles and wished I was there for Bike Dog’s seasonal triple Bigger Boat. Jenny and Bike Dog, thanks for a great time during my weekend.
Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Celebration.
6th Annual Farm-to-Fork Festival – Designed to showcase where our food and drink come from, Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival has grown to be one of California’s most- anticipated food events of the year. Hosted on Sacramento’s iconic Capitol Mall, the admission-free festival boasts over a half-mile (and more than 80 vendors) of local food, beer and wine, along with exhibits from farms, ranches and other food and ag vendors. Attendees will also find live music, cooking shows and a butchering competition on several demo stages and much more. The 2017 Festival attracted more than 60,000.
The largest commodity coming out of Sacramento County is wine grapes, so when in Ro … when in the Clarksburg wine country, you have to drink wine. Bogle Vineyard, just 15 to 20 minutes outside downtown would be where we got our taste of Sacramento, California wine.
The Bogle location was separated into three major areas, the tasting room downstairs, an upstairs private wine tasting room, and the lawn area with family and adults only area. We entertained our taste buds with 10 different wines, accompanied with some cheese, crackers, meats. Needless to say, I came home with two new favorites.
Bring a blanket, some goodies and enjoy a bottle or two of the one(s) that tasted the best. The tasting was great, listening to the explanations of the wines was educational, but enjoying the wines while sitting on the Bogle Vineyard’s grounds with friends was the most relaxing time of the weekend. I’m closing my eyes and remembering that moment now.
Fine Dining Restaurant
Dinner at Ella Sacramento was not an eyes-closed moment for the sights and colors at one of Sacramento’s best downtown fine dining locale are ones to enjoy. Founder Randall Selland, known to be an integral part of Sacramento’s farm- to-fork movement, ensures that his restaurant’s menu is designed around the farm-to-fork mentality. After eating at Ella, it is clear why it is a staple in the region’s dining scene.
Other things to do.
We optioned to do one of the Sac Tour Company’s offerings. Wide Open Walls (Sacramento’s mural festival) walking tour took us around town to see a multitude of creativity splashed along walls, alleys, dumpsters, and entryways. Sac Tour Company provides walking and running tours that help visitors and locals explore Sacramento and get a sense of its culture, all at the same time. The weather, which I am beginning to think is beautiful all the time in Sacramento, was perfect for a quick walk around town. More murals are added every year, some change, and some go away, so the tour changes every year, too.
Tower Bridge Dinner
This has to be one of the highlights of the culinary scene and maybe in all of Sacramento as the Tower Bridge Dinner finds 800 people dining on one of the most iconic structures in all of the city. It is the culmination of the month-long Farm-to-Fork Celebration. The the region’s top farmers and chefs must work for a whole year to plan such an event. Six is my lucky number so attending this celebration in its sixth year was just meant to be. The Sacramento’s Tower Bridge Dinner was led by famed Chef Jeremiah Tower.
Mike Testa, President & CEO, Visit Sacramento introduces U.S. Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Chef Jeremiah Tower at the Tower Bridge Dinner.
Recognized by Martha Stewart as “a father of American cuisine,” Chef Tower is renowned for leading the kitchen at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, where the insistence on fresh and local ingredients quickly gained notoriety. Chef Tower will collaborate with chefs and farmers from the greater Sacramento area to make the 2018 dinner truly unforgettable. The late Anthony Bourdain produced a documentary on Tower that is available now on Netflix – The Last Magnificent.
Not only is the Tower Bridge Dinner an amazing night out for 800 people, it also serves as a critical fundraiser that feeds back into the system. A portion of the proceeds help pay for the free Farm-to-Fork Festival on Capitol Mall that attracted more than 65,000 people in 2017. Last year, Visit Sacramento also utilized a portion of the proceeds to fund the first in a series of scholarships for CAMP students, children of migrant farmworkers, at Sacramento State.
After dinner, we left the bridge to walk along the Sacramento riverside to partake in the Tower Bridge Dinner Dessert on the Embassy Suites Riverfront Promenade. If we were not stuffed already, this made us overflow.
The amount of new friends I made, the amount of food and wine I ingested, Sacramento will not be forgotten any time soon. I do think that I did just scratch the surface of this city and will return soon.
Here are some of my other journeys in California that I have shared on Instinct Magazine.
Here are some other pictures of my trip to Sacramento.
Thanks to the following
Facebook: @VisitSacramento, @FarmtoForkCapital
Twitter: @VisitSacramento, @SacFarm2Fork
IG: @VisitSacramento, @SacFarm2Fork