Last night it was another city, another book dinner for Hunt, Gather, Cook. Only it wasn’t. This wasn’t just any city, it was Sacramento, my home. And the restaurant was Grange, as close to a home as I have in the world of professional cooking. Several weeks ago, I got early word that the reservation book was filling fast. By Monday it was closed: 100 bookings. A full house. No pressure, right?
What’s more was that there was a new chef in the kitchen. Chef Michael Tuohy has moved on to Napa, where he’s the head chef for the Dean & DeLuca there. In his stead stood Tuohy’s sous chef, Brad Cecchi. This would be something of a coming out party for Chef Cecchi, and he could have easily folded.
But he didn’t. His menu was a perfect amalgam of my style of cooking with his own, here a classic Cecchi touch, there a near-perfect mimic of my own food. It was a joy to see.
Smoked Cured Sturgeon & Sturgeon Tartare
nasturtium buds / fennel / preserved lemon vinaigrette
Crispy Boar Shoulder
foraged green salad / saskatoon berries / pakistani mulberries / mulberry coulis
Devil’s Gulch Rabbit Roulade
shasta porcini / horseradish leaf salsa / rabbit jus
Wild Berry Pie
wildflower honey & rosemary ice cream
Diners began to filter in right a 5 p.m., and I spent the next four-plus hours greeting people, signing books, laughing with friends new and old, and generally trying my damnedest to make people happy. I especially need to thank the waitstaff at Grange for helping make sure I did not miss a single table of diners: Several times they let me know a table was nearing the end of their dinner, just in time for me to greet them.
It was close to 10 p.m. before I got a chance to actually eat Brad’s food. I’d heard nothing but good things all night, and as it turned out they weren’t just blowing sunshine up my ass. The sturgeon dish was a wonderful combination of textures and flavors, only the barest hints of smoke and bitterness (from the preserved lemon), all balanced by the rich meat of the sturgeon and the herby hit from fennel flowers. A great starter.
The only other dish I got a chance to eat — the others were sold out — was the rabbit, and it too was a great dish. I loved the gentle horseradish hit of the salsa, something I’d never seen before. It was an excellent foil for the rich jus and mild rabbit.