June 8, 2012
SacTown Dining Collective debut event a tasty success

The SacTown Dining Collective's kickoff event at Plate's Cafe on Thursday night couldn't have gone smoother. Some 350 tickets had sold out 10 days prior, all of the food courses came out in a timely fashion - many of them even ahead of schedule - and the Sacramento chefs and restaurateurs who make up the collective reveled in their camaraderie. Most of all, their food was superb.

The SacTown Dining Collective formed with the idea of mobilizing local food movers-and-shakers to show how much culinary talent exists in this town, along with highlighting the local farmers and purveyors who provide first rate ingredients. Getting this group off the ground wasn't so easy at first, and for a minute defining the collective's mission and goals was more like the SacTown Herding Cats Collective. But on Thursday night, there was Mike Thiemann of Ella Dining Room & Bar testing out his fried chicken course - which had first been cooked sous vide before frying - on chef Oliver Ridgeway of Grange. Out on Plate's Cafe's lawn, near the dinner's family style seating, you'd find Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro/Restaurant Thi13en) working side by side with Rob Venditti of Mulvaney's B&L and David Hill of The Chef's Table.

The dinner also attracted a who's-who of Sacramento's food scene, including three generations of the Selland family, winery owner Sean Minor, Nguyen Pham of Sunh Fish, chef Pajo Bruich, Taro Arai of Mikuni and Kimio Bazett of Golden Bear, who was also a key organizer of Thursday's dinner with local food enthusiast Amber Turner.

The food was outstanding across the board, including a hand cut papardelle with hatch chili pork ragu made by the tag team of Mulvaney and Ridgeway, and a first course of cold ramen with pork belly and Passmore Ranch catfish by Kru's Billy Ngo, Hill and Aimal Formoli of Formoli's. It's doubtful anyone went home hungry, especially with a plate of smoked Lucky Dog Ranch beef and fava bean succotash by Pechal and Ettore's Pedro Depina, followed by Thiemann's fried chicken. (For the full menu, click here).

Overall, an outstanding night for all involved. It was also heartening to see local purveyors step up, with 140 pounds of beef donated by Lucky Dog Ranch and sizable donations of veggies by Feeding Crane Farms. Passmore Ranch also donated 50 pounds of catfish for that fantastic first course.

So, what's next for the SacTown Dining Collective? According to Mulvaney, plans are forming for a second dinner to be held Sept. 22 in conjunction with the California Association of Family Farmers. Formoli and Depina are said to be heading that upcoming dinner. Stay tuned for more details on that one.

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