When I signed up for a Sacramento food tour I was looking for redemption. Not for myself but for Sacramento. I knew there had to be more to Sacramento than Old Town. My fellow AFAR Ambassador Jenna Francisco of This is My Happiness lives in the region and I knew from her that this area has lot to offer, yet I had not experienced any of it.
In came Local Roots. A Sacramento Food Tour company that explores neighborhoods of California’s capitol via the most important sense there is…taste! At the heart of the company is Lisa Armstrong, a foodie, and traveler who was inspired to launch her company after visiting Chicago and learning that 75% of the food products in restaurants there came from the Sacramento area.
Sacramento Valley (along with San Joaquin) is known as the nation’s breadbasket due to the incredible amounts of food that come from the farms in the region. More than 230 crops are grown here as well as it being the primary source for a number of food products throughout the United States, including tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, and asparagus, walnuts, and almonds. In fact, there are 6,000 almond growers that produce more than 600 million pounds a year, about 70 percent of the world’s supply!
Ah I digress, all this food talk, I could go on for hours…but back to Local Roots.
I decided to do the Gourmet on K Culinary Walking Tour with the hopes that walking between eating sounded healthier!
I met my guide, Ashley, and the rest of my group at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento. Strange place to start a food tour? Well, actually not. The Hyatt Vines restaurant inside the hotel run by Chef Michael Grands cooks everything from scratch with products that are locally sourced, some coming from the garden created right outside the restaurant. The hotel chefs also shop from the local farmer’s markets.
While we chatted with Chef Grands (who had recently come from the Grand Hyatt in Washington DC) we were treated to a small sampling of the magic coming from the kitchen. A pacific salmon with quinoa, Asian pear, endive, mushroom and olive oil sauce. It was divine.
After this lovely beginning, we headed out to K Street where we would be spending the rest of the afternoon. Ashley began to tell us about the revitalization of The Kay (written in the “old style” of writing the address). This had been one of the main streets in Sacramento. Gold miners hopped off boats (more like abandoned) and hopped onto stagecoaches or any other means to get them into the hills and hunting for gold.
By 1850, 33 ships had been abandoned and left at the foot of K. These were transformed into stores becoming one of the most bustling shopping areas in the state with lots of retail history. As we got to know more about the history of the street, I also benefited from the additional color the lovely ladies in my group added. They had all grown up in the Sacramento area and had great stories to share, I could not have asked for better tour mates!
Our next stop was a beautiful wine bar called Downtown & Vines. It is the only wine tasting spot in downtown (lucky us!). They feature local Amador Valley wines and serve as the only tasting room for many of the wineries. We sampled some great ones (in this part of California, Barbera is king) paired up with local cheese and sun-dried tomatoes from the region.
Our next stop was Tequila Museo Mayahuel. I know. You are starting to wonder if this is a drinking tour!? But trust me, despite the fact Mayahuel is a tequila museum, the food here is killer.
We were greeted by a tequila sommelier (yes, they exist!) who brought us a drink called “Si Sabe México” with watermelon and other tasty ingredients. We drank this along with a sampling of some of the restaurant’s most popular options. And it was at this point I began to wonder if my dinner plans for the evening were going to be spoiled…
I am not going to detail every spot we stopped at, that is the secret sauce of the tour and I think you should take the tour! As we made our way up The Kay we learned about the history of the buildings along the way including one of the original department stores that were designed after Paris’s Printemps and a church modeled after the Holy Trinity Church in Paris (a tour after my own heart!).
After several stops, we landed at a relatively new spot that was celebrating it’s one year anniversary that very night. Blackbird Kitchen and Bar is a local pub with great food. We had a small sampling of some of their menu items including fresh oysters, rice croquettes and a simple cheese plate that was anything but simple. Served with a black pepper glass using isomalt, the blue cheese was to-die-for.
Our last stop (and the one that sealed the deal for my inevitable dinner cancellation) was at Ambrosia Cafe where we had a delectable tiramisu. We discussed our journey and shared our favorite dishes while the afternoon wound down.
Thanks to Local Roots, Sacramento had redeemed itself big time. I was hooked and wanting to visit the other neighborhoods in the city as well as the surrounding area. There is deep history and new movements in sustainable agriculture. Sacramento is the Farm to Fork capital and I was beginning to see why.
If you are anywhere near Sacramento, I strongly urge you to stop and take the time to explore a bit. Don’t go to Old Town! Go on a Local Roots food tour or take their farm tour where they visit 3-6 farms in the region (I am waiting for the hot weather to pass and then I am going on this one!). This little company is all heart and run by really good people.
[Disclosure: I benefitted from a media discount towards the price of my tour, but opinions here can’t be bought, this is entirely my own, unbiased view.]
See more about Sacramento in my Sacramento Souvenirs & Gold Country Wanderlist on AFAR. Also, I found this great book on the food, culture, and history in this region, it looks fascinating. Check out Edges of Bounty if you are interested.
How about you? Have you ever been to Sacramento? Were you aware of its history?
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