“Root to Leaf: Dinner Deconstructed” Prix-Fixe

Join us September 22 to 27 for our next prix-fixe event, starting at 5 p.m. each evening.  Four courses with choices for $59.95 per person plus tax and tip. Reservations are recommended; go to www.opentable.com or call 530-823-0320.

Many years ago, I moved from Chicago to work for a telephone company in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The change in lifestyle was remarkable for a city boy, punctuated starkly one fall day when my secretary, Wanda, told me her family was about to slaughter pigs.  She explained the process, and I was so intrigued, I convinced her to let me photograph the proceedings.

Her entire family participated, and I have a vivid memory of the men doing the killing, hoisting the carcasses up on A-frames to hang and bleed, then butchering to produce all manner of pork cuts.  The women were consumed with scraping hides and making sausage.  Everyone worked feverishly as a team and when it was over, everything had been processed, including the head and feet. . .there was no waste.  I asked Wanda’s father-in-law about this, and he replied, “Son, we use everything but the “oink.”

Chef Alexander is employing this concept with our next prix-fixe event, “Root to Leaf:  Dinner Deconstructed,” in which all elements of all produce will become part of the dinner.  Nothing is going into the compost pile.  Chef is really pumped about this all-new theme because it’s an extension of an event in which he is participating in a sold-out dinner hosted by Sacramento’s Food Literacy Center.  Along with a host of luminary chefs (including Randall Selland, The Kitchen; Oliver Ridgeway, Grange; Billy Ngo, Kru; Rick Mahan, Waterboy; Michael Touhy, Sacramento Kings) Chef Alexander will be helping prepare “Fruit-to-Root,” a pre-party on October 6 in advance of a on-stage interview called, “Dan Barber in Conversation with Amber Scott.”  Barber has written a book called The Third Plate, focusing on food waste and drought-tolerant foods.

Here’s how Chef elaborated on the prix-fixe concept in a note to me:  “The theme is that we waste so much food at all levels of the supply chain, and as Americans we need to stop “cherry picking” our cuts of meat or parts of the plant when the whole animal or vegetable is edible and can be made delicious if prepared with care and skill.  This movement is growing rapidly and chefs and restaurants are the greatest educators.  Remember, whoever heard of braised pork belly 20 years ago before chefs started preparing it?  Now it’s as ubiquitous as pork tenderloin.  Anyway, I think the idea is not only unique and original but will also be delicious and educational for the customer.”

Here’s a sampling of what Chef has planned:

• He will use the entire plant when he prepares carrots sous-vide; the tops will be used as a sauce component and even the peels have a role. . .they will be crisped and used as a garnish.

• Pesto will be created using tomato leaves.

• A pork belly dish will feature pickled watermelon rinds.

• A cream sauce will be made from parmesan rinds.

Although vegetarian options will be offered, this menu will feature plenty of protein. We’ll have a complete rundown of each dish in next week’s Window on Old Town.