From Preview Plates to Gourmet Dinner on the Bridge

Three articles celebrating Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival

This year I wrote three articles. inconjunction with Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork festival. With minor modifications, they are here in their entirety and first appeared in Outword Magazine in August and September 2023. Below them I include the photographic equipment I used for each shoot.

Farm-to-Fork Festival ready to celebrate its tenth anniversary

The most high-profile culinary experience in Sacramento turns ten next month. The inaugural Farm-to-Fork Festival in 2013 was a one-day event that included a variety of activities such as vendor booths, cooking demonstrations, a farmers market, and educational exhibits. The Tower Bridge Dinner was subsequently added in 2014 as a signature event, where a long table was set up on the Tower Bridge, and a farm-to-fork meal was served to guests. 

This year, the three-part event will move from wine tasting at the Capitol, to dinner on the bridge to a street fair on the Mall. As always, the festival aims to allow collaboration between local producers, chefs and consumers, emphasizing sustainability and community engagement. 

Raise a Glass

The first part of the festival kicks off on Thursday, September 7 with “Legends of Wine.” This wine-tasting event will be held 6:00 – 9 p.m. at the West Steps of the State Capitol. Local wine legends Darrell Corti and David Berkley have chosen varieties from regional Sacramento wineries, and local restaurants will also be onsite with selections of Sacramento’s farm-to-fork cuisine. As of presstime, tickets were still available for $75.

Dinner on the bridge

Next, the iconic Tower Bridge dinner is scheduled for Sunday, September 10. This fundraising event has tapped five distinguished chefs to put on a multi-course dinner for what was over 800 people last year on the city’s golden bridge. 

This year’s team of chefs are all local, and include:

  • Rebecca Campbell of Sac City Brews and Nourish Event Kitchen
  • Sean Rumery of Canon East Sacramento
  • Derek Sawyer of Allora
  • Dennis Sydnor of Renegade Dining
  • Craig Takehara of Binchoyaki

After an initial preset of pork rillettes and seafood conserva, the five-course meal includes charred stone fruits and corn spoon breads, furikake-crusted albacore tuna with mixed heirloom rice, roasted mushroom and harvest squash, pork belly al forno and smoke-roasted whole duck. Outword was invited to attend the preview test kitchen event, and the food was both delicious and beautiful.

Lucky lottery winners for the event pay $600 for two tickets, but the bulk of ticket sales comes from corporate sponsorships. These funds help Visit Sacramento put on the street festival portion of the event. The Tower Bridge Dinner also supports a series of scholarships for CAMP students at Sacramento State, who are the children of migrant farmworkers.

The Street Party

If you’d rather save your time and money for the main event, the Farm-to-Fork Street Festival returns to the Capitol Mall on Friday, Sept. 22 and Saturday, Sept. 23. The event includes local food, wine and beer, interactive exhibits and live music performances. 

The 10th anniversary of the Farm to Fork Festival will feature free concerts from Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Cannons. Also performing will be Danielle Ponder, Eric Gales, and Zia Victoria. Further local bands and DJs will be announced soon.

A chat with Farm-to-Fork Festival insider Chef Rebecca Campbell

While at the Tower Bridge preview event, Outward had the chance to chat with local chef Rebecca Campbell, of Sac City Brews and Nourish Event Kitchen. We asked her what life is like for a culinary artist.

“The reason why I’m here at this event is not because of nachos and wings, which we sell every day, but also because we do seasonal beer dinners and wine pairings as well.  We do a fourth quarter quarterly food and beer pairing. I find a region and four beers from there, and then build a menu around the five different beers. So it’s been a really fun sort of thing to add into our regular laid back brewery atmosphere, but we also kind of get fancy four times a year.”

Cambell’s Background

From rural Pilot Hill originally, Campbell has a perfect farm-to-fork background. She grew up on farms in El Dorado County,  working at farmers markets before she moved on to use a degree in community development to help local farmers. These days she’s helping growers gain access to larger and bigger institutional markets, like the Bridge event.

 Notably, Campbell is the one female participating as a chef this year, a role that she’s used to but says isn’t always easy.

“It’s intimidating a bit,  I’m not gonna lie,” she says. “ I’m walking in when you know,  you’re the only woman in the room.” Campbell’s the mother of two, with one newborn at home.  

“I’ve  got a lot going on being a woman, but at the same time, these guys are really welcoming and very team-oriented. This is a very collaborative group. And I love that.”

She’s also loving getting ready for the event itself. “I’m very excited because we’re all out here trying to do our best and this is a big stage. This is a big stage in Sacramento!”

For more information, please see farmtofork.com

In-kitchen Camera Equipment for the Farm-to-Fork Festival

  • Nikon D780 body
  • Tamron 24-70 2.8 zoom
  • Nikon SB700 flash
  • On-camera Magmod Magsphere diffuser (bounce flash)

My challenges for this event were the tight kitchen space with a bunch of us taking photos, and the harsh lighting. I was glad to have a low ceiling so I did not need to get out my flash bracket. The group shots are chaotic, so it can be hard to get everyone to look at you at the same time. It’s good to ask for them to look at you.

Quintessential Sacramento!

As a gentle Delta breeze took down the heat a degree or two, 850 lucky diners gathered last Sunday for the ever iconic Tower Bridge Dinner. White-linen covered tables with simple leafy garnishes stretched across the historic bridge as excited diners arrived in the late afternoon in their summer chic to take part in the five-course gourmet meal. With appetizers and desserts provided by 50 local eateries, and the entrees prepared by celebrated local chefs, the culinary extravaganza is one of several events that Visit Sacramento holds each year during the Farm-to-Fork Festival. Despite the high pedigree of the meal, however, the event was casual, colorful and fun. Glasses clinked, friends hugged, and strangers sat elbow-to-elbow as the sun glinted off the  bridge’s golden girders. Noting the tremendous logistics that the organization has to put in place each year for this special event, Kari Miskit of Visit Sacramento believes that fine dining on a piece of city infrastructure that has one of the best views of the city is simply “quintessential Sacramento.”

Proceeds from the Tower Bridge Dinner help fund the free farm-to-fork street festival held later in the month, as well as scholarships for the children of migrant farmworkers.

  • Nikon D750 and D780 bodes (smallest, lightest full-frame sensor Nikon bodies)
  • Nikkor 20mm, 1.8G (just for big bridge with sign shot)
  • Nikkor 70-200 2.8 zoom

My challenges for this event was all the shadows from the bridge girders, the extreme contrast with the shadow and bright areas and how crowded the event was in places. I lucked out when the chefs came. outand wanted their picture taken in front of the sign (these guys were really cute – I also took their picture covering letters so that just “Ramen” was visible, since Craig cooks ramen at his restaurant).

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All photos are copyright Chris Allan and cannot be used without my written permission. Please contact me for usage rights. Thank you for reading my blog post “From Preview Plates to Gourmet Dinner on the Bridge ” To learn more about me and my work, please see my About page.

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