Dinner at the Barn 2016 – A ‘Center for Land-Based Learning’ Event

When a community comes together for a cause, magic happens!

“What an amazing event! Walking through tables full of guests and having people stop to tell me how much they loved the delicious and flavorful food was probably my favorite part of the event. I was floored by the overwhelmingly positive response”

Christine McMorrow, Director of Development at the Center for Land-Based Learning couldn’t be more pleased with the success of their recent event ‘Dinner at the Barn’.  The event, held at the new Barn at the River in West Sacramento’s Bridge District on Sunday, September 11th, featured our own Señor Ernesto Delgado and his team.

Señor Ernesto Delgado and his Team of Culinary Students creating magic!
Señor Ernesto Delgado and his Team

Twenty-eight High School Culinary students helped serve the Farm-to-Fork style meal to 220 guests. The Center for Land-Based Learning has a total of seven acres in West Sacramento, where they provide education for students who aspire to become farmers. They also offer continuing education for new farmers, with access to new markets for their produce. A weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program provides fresh produce to 32 households so far, with plans to open to the public next summer. The California Farm Academy is just one of the programs offered by the Center for Land-Based Learning, click here for more information.

A culinary and events venue celebrating the beauty of the area with a building which rises like a living sculpture and features an 80-foot long canopy, The Barn was the perfect place to hold this year’s Center for Land-Based Learning fundraiser. The event sold out in just a day.

A beautiful venue! Photo Courtesy Tia Gemmell and Center for Land-Based Learning
A beautiful venue!

This was the first ‘sit down’ private dinner at the barn. The Center for Land-Based Learning held this year’s fundraiser to build a new one-acre working farm at The Barn.  The land is in a perfect location – West Sacramento – and although it is bare land, the compacted soil must be amended with truckloads of compost. A water supply will need to be brought to the site as well.

You’ll Wish You Were There

Señor Delgado served truly Mexican dishes using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Guests began with Bocaditos de México – small bites with Requeson cheese, Cochinita Pibil, and Chicken Tinga, served with an Asi Sabe México – our signature cocktail with fresh watermelon, cucumber and lime juices mixed with Dos Volcanes Tequila.

Asi Sabe México - the perfect summer Margarita
Asi Sabe México

Following the appetizers was a salad with juicy watermelon, luscious ripe figs, tender spinach, caramelized walnuts and fresh orange vinaigrette. The main course was a Chile en Nogada – a fresh roasted chile poblano pepper stuffed with picadillo (ground beef, ground pork, plump raisins, ripe figs, juicy peaches, crisp apples and fresh herbs) and topped with a sauce made with double cream, fresh cheese, and tender walnuts. Ripe pomegranate seeds are scattered over this beautiful dish which represents the lively colors of the Mexican flag.

Chile en Nogada, a traditional dish of México. Photo Courtesy Tia Gemmell and Center for Land-Based Learning
Chile en Nogada, a traditional dish of México.

The ‘Imposible’ was served for dessert – rich, moist deep chocolate cake on the bottom, with creamy, caramelly flan magically above. Served with toasted almonds, walnuts, and freshly whipped cream. Fresh Horchata was served as well.

Salads of fresh watermelon, ripe figs, caramelized walnuts, tender spinach and fresh orange vinaigrette. Photo courtesy Tia Gemmell and Center for Land-Based Learning
Fresh salads with local produce

The produce for the event was donated by local farmers, including Jay Cuff-  Hearty Fork Farm,  Hope Sippola & Shayne Zururilgen –  Fiery Ginger Farm, Toby Hastings- Free Spirit Farm, Michael Bosworth – Rue & Forsman RanchRiverdog Farm, Matt Byrne – Sunfed Ranch, and Sara Bernal- West Sacramento Urban Farm, 5th & C.

Señor Delgado donated his time and that of his team. In preparation for the event, The Center for Land-Based Learning included a ‘Meet the Chef’ interview, in which Señor Delgado shared some of his secrets – such as his culinary idols and his favorite food memory.  Click here to see the interview.

Christine added “Ernesto was so kind – thoughtful and sincere. When challenges came up, as they always do, he calmly helped problem-solve. He and his team were such a pleasure to work with! They cared about the food, the presentation and the guest experience” Her favorite dish? “Chile en Nogada! It was so beautiful, and perfectly expressed the seasonality and value of local, fresh produce.”

Señor Delgado loves to share his passion for the delicious foods of México
Señor Delgado sharing his passion!

Supporting the Future of Our Local Resources

Ernesto Delgado supports a number of Community Outreach programs in Sacramento, including the Center for Land-Based Learning, and the California Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s ProStart program.  Look for future articles and photos in our newsletter (click here to sign up), website and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

We encourage you to support the Center for Land-Based Learning with your donations, participation in their great events, and volunteerism. Click here to read more about Land-Based Learning. Without farmers, our legacy as the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America would not be possible!


Photos used courtesy Tia Gemmell and The Center for Land-Based Learning


The ‘Farm to Fork’ Movement – Fresh Food Past and Present

Written for Señor Ernesto Delgado


Sacramento is America’s Farm-to-Fork capital. The movement, which has been sweeping the nation in recent years, brings to the forefront the desirability of using fresh, seasonal meats and produce from nearby sources.  Many chefs contract with local growers to ensure they will have the freshest of ingredients available to serve their customers.

After all, fresh food just tastes better. Picked at the peak of ripeness, produce contains more of the vitamins and minerals Nature intended. Heirloom tomatoes alone contain over 68 chemical compounds which affect aroma and flavor.  (If you love science, you might want to check out this article in Science Direct).

Juicy, locally grown Heirloom Tomatoes
Juicy, locally grown Heirloom Tomatoes

Purchasing local meats and produce also brings jobs to the region.  Farmers are often able to add new employees because of the increased demand for more diverse products. New, young farmers are enthusiastically embracing farming as a viable business with the recognition that our health, in large part, depends on the quality of the foods we consume.

While the ‘awakening’ of the public to the desirability of fresh local food is trendy, it’s not news to any of us who grew up in rural America. For our parents, it was simply the way things were done. You planted seeds, protected them from frost and opportunistic creatures, and watched them grow. When harvest time came – usually at the hottest part of the year- the whole family participated in the process of canning and dehydrating the bounty. Outdoor kitchens were not a luxury – they were a necessity to escape the steam filled, humid air created by several canning pots filled with boiling water noisily rattling on the old O’Keefe and Merritt stove. Back then, even ‘canned’ goods were more flavorful and retained their nutrient value better because the produce was picked at perfect ripeness.

Fall harvest celebrations were common from the time of our grandparents and great-grandparents. Friends and neighbors would gather after spending long weeks in dust and grit behind hard-working draft horses or mules to share the best of their harvest.  They would take a rare day off, dress up and get together for squash, corn and beans. Often venison was served alongside whole roasted pigs. Sweet potatoes and bread right from the wood fired oven were proudly placed on the table, and the aroma of freshly made corn tortillas filled the air. Mezcal made from the beautiful wild Agave graced many community gatherings. Adults talked about the weather, rain and the harvest while children ran giggling after startled, cackling chickens.

Chile Poblano Soup - one of our 'signature' dishes. Be careful - it's addictive!
Chile Poblano Soup – one of our ‘signature’ dishes. Be careful – it’s addictive!

Even in more recent times, many of us who grew up in the 1960’s knew exactly where our tomatoes came from. We likely were given the task of weeding the garden before we were old enough to help with the planting. One such child, who shall remain unnamed, managed to not only rid the garden of weeds, but also of all the tomato and pepper plants in the process. There was a very limited supply of tomato sauce and salsa that winter.

For Ernesto Delgado, providing fresh local produce has been a way of life long before the recent re-discovery of the goodness of fresh foods. There is nothing quite like sitting at the table with those you love, enjoying a salad made with greens picked early that morning; the juice from the heirloom tomato escaping down your chin. The exquisite flavor of a soup created from the freshest Poblano chiles is unmistakable – rich, earthy, with just the right amount of spice. A Margarita made with fresh watermelon juice from a melon that was picked in the hot sun the previous afternoon will make you swoon with pleasure at the crisp, clean sweetness given freely by nature.