Serving Up Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Baklava
Last weekend marked the Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork celebration with local restaurants featuring daily delicious and creative specials, a festival on Capital Mall and a Gala Dinner held on Sacramento’s golden Tower Bridge. Organized by the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau the Farm-to-Fork event has quickly gained popularity and attention in Northern California.
Sacramento is the largest agricultural producer in the nation. Being that the city is situated between farms, ranches and vineyards there is no better place than Sacramento to host a week long celebration focussing on the farm-to-fork concept. The quick facts are amazing and I invite you to read more about the agricultural powerhouse that is Sacramento (for example:Japan consumes more Sacramento area-grown sushi rice than its own domestic rice!).
Over 50,000 people visited the festival on Capital Mall. Tickets for this year’s Gala Dinner sold out in 30 minutes. 800 guests were lucky enough to attend this festive evening of 4 courses led by Chefs Oliver Ridgeway of Grange and Ravin Patel of Selland Family Restaurants. Although I was not one of the 800 seated at the beautifully decorated table on the Tower Bridge, I was selected as a participant for the Dessert Buffet. I set out to prepare one of my most popular modern Greek creations: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Baklava. Organizers ask participants to utilize ingredients and products farmed within a 100 mile radius of Sacramento. I have to admit, this task was a lot of fun.
I started with my main ingredient: walnuts. A few days before I was to begin baking I drove to Yuba City and picked up 30 lbs of fresh nuts from the Sacramento Valley Walnut Growers Association. Sacramento Valley Walnut is a grower owned processor and marketer of California walnuts. SVWG was founded on the idea of bringing together a small group of successful walnut growers. Their walnuts come from their growers’ own orchards. Being owned by growers allows SVWG to ensure quality from the orchard to the box.
My next task was to find local honey. In June a pool-party guest gifted me with a jar of honey from their farm in Stonyford. It was quite possibly the best hostess gift ever gifted to me, ever. I thought of Pendell Apiaries immediately for my Baklava. Pendell Apiaries started in 1991 on a third generation ranch in Stonyford, California. They are family owned and operated and over the past 25 years have raised three children who grew up working the bees with them. Their children learned to extract honey, cage queens, help work the hives, and they have all worked for the company post-college. There company mainly works to sell Queens and not necessarily distribute honey so therefore, I feel extra fortunate to have received their honey for my project.
To provide guests with the freshest dessert I needed to prepare accordingly. 10 pans of Baklava were prepared 4 days before the event with the help of my mom in the kitchen. I decorate each piece separately so the caramel and chocolate can drip down the sides of the piece.
With the assistance of two very sweet friends who helped me set up my display and chat with guests about Figs & Feta, over 645 pieces made their debut at the Gala Dessert Buffet Sunday night to rave reviews. It was exciting and flattering to receive such wonderful feedback from the Gala guests. I even had an inspiring conversation with Chef Randall Selland of Selland Family Restaurants who offered some great advice for me opening my bakery in town.
5 days post event and I am still in the clouds about how well the event went for Figs & Feta. I am humbled by the complements my dessert received and so thankful to be apart of the 2015 Farm-to-Fork Gala Dinner! I’m looking forward to participating again!