Chef Michael Tuohy recently moved here from Atlanta to run Grange Restaurant in The Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento. But he didn’t waste any time discovering the Sunday farmers market under the Capital City Freeway at Eighth and W streets. “It’s my absolute favorite,” he says.
At Grange, Tuohy works mostly with organic products that are locally grown or raised. He likes to do the same when he cooks at home. At the farmers market, he buys pork blade roasts and shoulder blade chops from John Bledsoe, handcrafted farmstead goat cheese from North Valley Farms and locally made Lienert’s honey.
While he loves the Sunday farmers market, Tuohy is an equal-opportunity shopper: He also frequents the Wednesday farmers market in Cesar Chavez Plaza, the Saturday farmers market in Davis’ Central Park, Corti Brothers, Whole Foods Market and Taylor’s Market in Land Park. “I’ve been finding all these Sacramento treasures,” he says enthusiastically.
In his grocery bag: Lienert’s honey, Bledsoe pork, North Valley chèvre
Best buy: At Whole Foods, he picks up Samuel Smith Organic Lager, imported from England. “It’s fantastic!”
Shopping philosophy: Buy whatever looks good at the farmers market.
TERESE HOLLANDER ESPERAS
Caterer and cooking instructor Terese Hollander Esperas does most of her grocery shopping at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. “I love their organic produce,” she says, noting that the co-op carries fruits and vegetables from local growers she knows, such as Riverdog, Full Belly and Terra Firma.
Hollander Esperas, who co-owns A Healthy Kitchen catering company with her husband, Dionisio Esperas, heads to the co-op for the heirloom produce and lesser-known varieties that she likes to cook with—everything from heirloom peaches to fava greens. She also loves the store’s selection of bulk spices. “It’s a treasure chest,” she notes. “I do a lot of ethnic cooking, and I love to buy just the amount of spices I need. If I need a pinch, I don’t have to buy a whole jar.” The retailer carries unusual spices, such as asofetida, used in Indian cooking.
From the meat department, Hollander Esperas buys Prather Ranch organic beef and Mary’s free-range, air-chilled chicken. “The birds are small and juicy—the perfect size,” she says. “And air chilling gives them a better flavor” than water chilling.
Since giving birth to her first child two years ago, Hollander Esperas has acquired an even greater appreciation for the co-op’s selection of healthful foods. “I don’t have to read as many labels,” she notes. One of her daughter’s favorite treats: bits of Laura Chenel goat cheese, rolled into little balls.
In her grocery bag: Greek yogurt, organic dried unsulfured apricots, organic sweet potatoes, Laura Chenel goat cheese, Stonyfield Farm Organic YoBaby yogurt
Money-saving tip: Buy just the amount of spices you need from the bulk bins.
Shopping philosophy: Eat organic, locally raised foods.
Cullen Newhoff, who runs the kitchen at Seasons Restaurant in Davis, doesn’t venture far afield for his personal foodstuffs: He shops at Davis Food Co-op, just a few blocks from the restaurant.
“They have the best selection of organic produce,” he says. “It’s just amazing.”
Newhoff shops like a European, going to the store almost every day. He raves about the store’s “great cheeses” and bulk foods and buys almost everything—beans, grains, granola, dried fruits, even dog food—at the co-op.
One thing he doesn’t buy there: peanut butter. His 18-month-old son prefers Safeway’s store brand of organic peanut butter.
In his grocery bag: Organic milk, cheese, dried beans
Money-saving tip: Buy from the bulk-foods department. “There’s no packaging, so it’s more efficient, and you can buy the amount you want,” says Newhoff. “Plus, you can see what you’re getting.”
Shopping philosophy: Shop daily for meats and produce.
It should come as no surprise that famed Italian restaurateur Biba Caggiano shops at Corti Brothers, the famed Italian grocery store.
“When I need a special ingredient, I go see my friend Darrell Corti,” says the chef/owner of Biba restaurant in midtown.
She pops into Corti Brothers for Italian specialties such as mostarda di Cremona (candied fruit in mustard-flavored syrup, used as a condiment) and mozzarella di bufala (mozzarella made from the milk of domestic water buffalo). She also likes Corti’s selection of imported Italian olive oils.
When she wants to splurge, she heads to Whole Foods Market on Arden Way. “Oh, my God!” Caggiano exclaims. “I just love the way they present the fruits and vegetables. I also like their cheeses and breads. I just walk around and spend money.”
In her grocery bag: Imported olive oil, Italian cheeses
Money-saving tip: Caggiano occasionally shops at Save Mart Supermarket. “They have very nice produce at great prices.”
Shopping philosophy: “When I find a good ingredient, I buy quite a bit. I’ll double or triple the recipe and put the excess in the freezer.”
Chef Fred Haines does most of his personal shopping at Whole Foods Market on Arden Way. “I live in the Arden Park area, and it’s convenient,” says Haines, whose company, SRO Inc., owns seven restaurants, including 33rd Street Bistro, Riverside Clubhouse, Bistro 33 and Tre.
He swears by Whole Foods’ produce, dairy and fish departments. “Their seafood is the best in town,” he declares. “It’s fresher than anybody else’s. I buy a lot of salmon and bass there.” He also likes Whole Foods’ selection of smoked fish.
At the meat counter, Haines purchases ground chicken and turkey. “They carry both light and dark meat, which I like to blend when I make a chicken or turkey patty,” he says. He frequents the store’s serve-yourself olive bar, but he tries to avoid the prepared-foods section. “When I hit the salad bar, I end up with a $20 salad,” he says. “There’s a reason people call it Whole Paycheck.”
In his grocery bag: Milk-free frozen “Marry Me” Tofutti dessert bars, Plugrá European-style butter, big joint bones from the meat counter for his dog, and O brand’s blood-orange-infused olive oil and Zinfandel vinegar. “They’re pricey,” Haines says of O’s infused olive oils. “But they’re really clean and flavorful. I don’t need to use a lot.”
Money-saving tip: Plan your shopping so that you can get two or three meals out of one dish. For instance, roast a chicken for dinner, then use the leftovers for sandwiches and the carcass for soup.
Shopping philosophy: Buy quality, not quantity.
Scott Rose, the chef at Cosmo Cafe in downtown Sacramento, is a big fan of Trader Joe’s. “I live around the corner from a Raley’s, but I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s,” he says.
There, Rose buys nuts, dried fruits, granola, coffee and Greek-style yogurt, as well as cage-free eggs—“the eggs are a really good price,” he notes. He also picks up unfiltered maple syrup. “It’s pretty expensive, but it’s good quality. It’s real maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup.”
Rose thinks Trader Joe’s has “a pretty good organic produce section.” And he likes the fact that the retailer carries products you can’t get at most big grocery stores—fresh pizza dough, for instance.
In his grocery bag: Fingerling potatoes, frozen parbaked pizzas imported from Italy, Trader Joe’s organic sprouted wheat bread (“the best bread I’ve ever had”)
Money-saving tip: Buy chicken legs (Trader Joe’s has them at a good price) and use them for stir-fries and fried chicken.
Shopping philosophy: Buy in season.