Each year, Northern California rancher Bill Niman of the high-profile Niman Ranch brand of meats rounds up about half a dozen restaurant chefs from around the country and takes them to Iowa, where they team up with local colleagues to put on a multi-course all-pork dinner in appreciation of his scores of hog farmers.
This Saturday's dinner in Des Moines will be the eighth annual. In all that time, I can't recall a Sacramento chef who has been invited to join the pilgrimage. Niman is getting close, however. This year's crew includes executive chef Mark Estee of the fine Truckee restaurant Moody's Bistro & Lounge.
Other California chefs making the trek are Guy Frenette of Oliveto in Oakland, John Jackson of the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco and Charles Phan of The Slanted Door in San Francisco.