While hanging out at Hook and Ladder in Sacramento, waiting for the first leg of repairs to be completed on our recently rear-ended ALFie, we told the story of our Free Range Quest to our server Micheal and handed her one of our business card seed packets. She suggested to us that our next stop should be The Chef’s Table in Rocklin, California; a suburb of Sacramento.
We trusted Micheal’s direction because she was a fantastic Server; all of the food and expertly-mixed cocktails at Hook and Ladder that she recommended to us were great. Hook & Ladder is a casual place, their patio garden strung with twinkling lights and filled with the gentle, jubilant roar of diner’s conversation. We shared the Ahi Banh Mi sliders and a slew of charcuterie between three of us and left more than satisfied, and very curious to try what was supposedly the pinnacle of Sacramento-area locavore dining.
A couple days later we got an enthusiastic email from Chef Joey Malim, of The Chef’s Table, inviting us to dine about 15 minutes from downtown Sacramento on what happened to be our wedding anniversary.
Rocklin is where local, organic food has come to the strip mall. To be honest, this is not a place we would have stopped if we had been just passing through — it doesn’t stand out much, the sign is neon and clearly in accordance with the suburban neighborhood bylaws. The Chef’s Table is a gem hidden in plain sight; right between a coffee shop and a credit union.
Chef Joey, who has worked in fine restaurants all over the Bay Area, and the rest of the talented crew at The Chef’s Table create a new menu usually on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Each dining experience is a surprise, a new way to interpret the regional ingredients available to the ardent Chefs at TCT. If you read some of the online reviews, you’ll see that some people in the area are confused as to why this is a good thing — or why the food might be a bit pricier than other fare in the strip mall — or why they don’t offer a variety of takeout options. Sigh. Sacramento recently won the title of Farm-to-Fork capital of the USA, and these guys are doing their best to be reflective of that ethos. You can tell this is the region where all the good stuff grows, The Chef’s Table clearly aims to make fresh, local, expertly-prepared food accessible, appreciated, and utilized to it’s full potential.
The pics can tell you more, but some of our tastes included a Pacific Bay oyster shooter with ponzu and sake; beet salad with arugula, heirloom tomato confit, and lemon emulsion; seared Ahi tuna over gazpacho with avocado, pistachio dust, and pineapple salsa; an astonishingly tender salt and pepper calamari, a basil gnocchi with bacon, and the topper (for me) the peanut butter bacon cheeseburger.
Chef Joey handled each ingredient with great care. To watch each tender crab cake, sprinkle of toasted cumin, or leafy green placed with thoughtful measure on this culinary artist’s palette, makes the experience that much more special and engaging for your mind and tongue.
The place was full and hopping all night.
We were spoiled silly by the staff who were kind enough to explain the creation of each dish in detail and who seemed real stoked to take a tour of ALF and to further encourage our Free Range Quest. TCT was an unexpected oasis where we were made to feel right at home. They represent one reason why we are doing what we are doing; to encourage more people to provide to the world something organic, local, simple — Something created and shared with a lot of love.