Restaurants without walls, California’s outdoor farm-to-table experiences bring the freshness of fields, orchards, and artisanal foods directly to your table. Chefs harvest bountiful ingredients on property and prepare simple but beautiful dishes for guests to savour onsite—often right on the beautiful farms, vineyards, and ranches where some of the ingredients were harvested. These special experiences not only deliver amazing meals in unforgettable settings, but also a chance to see and learn first-hand how California’s farmers, ranchers, and artisanal food purveyors make the most of the state’s fertile land.
With its proximity to local farms, Sacramento is at the forefront of fresh, seasonal cuisine sourced right from the city’s backyard.
California is undeniably the land of plenty—the largest agricultural producer in the country. And it doesn’t get much more farmer than the region surrounding Sacramento. This fertile acreage, with remarkable soil and abundant sunshine, means Sacramento has incredible access to the juiciest fruits, freshest vegetables, and an ever-increasing array of artisanal, farm-based products. Area chefs take advantage of the bounty by forming close relationships with farmers and sourcing ingredients that will end up on diners’ plates that very same night. Taste the results at favourite eateries including Ella Dining Room & Bar, Mulvaney’s B&L, Waterboy, and The Kitchen Restaurant. Sacramento’s chefs also craft their seasonally driven menus by shopping at local farmers’ markets—more than 10 sprout up at different locations year-round. For a novel experience, join a Market-to-Plate Executive Chefs Tour, offered by Local Roots Food Tours. Walk with chefs as they shop, get tips on what to buy and how to prepare it, then relax with lunch made from the day’s bounty. Chef Oliver Ridgeway, who focuses on hyper-local sustainable ingredients at Grange, also offers market walks on Wednesdays, followed by a three-course lunch. If you’re visiting in September, you’ll want to be part of Sacramento’s annual Farm-to-Fork Celebration, a two-week affair that gathers farmers and chefs to showcase the best in food and wine. To cap off the festival, celebrated chefs prepare an exclusive farm-to-fork meal at an iconic city landmark for hundreds of food-loving attendees.
Outstanding in the Field
Reserve the spot with the ones who started it all.
You can credit Santa Cruz-based chef and environmental artist Jim Denevan for the prevalence of pop-up farm-to-table dinners. Denevan founded a series of migrating meals, which he named Outstanding in the field with a goal to make a lasting connection between the public and the farmers, ranchers, and winemakers—and their hard-working crews—who grow California’s incredible produce. The results have done that—and more—creating magical marriages of food, place, and people. Picture a seemingly endless picnic table, set for dinner with tablecloths, place settings, and fresh flowers. Now put that table in the middle of a beautiful orchard in bloom, or a field on a coastal ranch in view of the sea, or a handsome vineyard amid sun-burnished hills. For guests, these events start with tours of the farm or ranch property, followed by multicourse meals prepared by celebrated chefs in the region, with ingredients that may have been sourced on site. Farmers and producers sit with diners to share stories about their work, and soon the entire table is talking about food and community. The remarkable event that started here in California has mushroomed to include events in nearly every state, but the new ones here, like ones at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival south of Palm Springs, continue to sell out weeks and even months in advance.
Wildsoul Enchanting Gatherings
Downward dog meets local eats.
Think Dalai Lama meets Alice Waters. At Wildsoul Enchanting Gatherings, founder Ben Crosky calls attention to his favorite Bay Area locations with a health-and-wellness-focused trifecta: yoga, farm tours, and creative culinary experiences. Through a series of on-site yoga classes followed by meals cooked from foods harvested from local farms, Crosky aims to “strengthen the ties between creator and consumer.” Sessions typically include a 90-minute outdoor yoga class, an hour-long farm tour, and a multicourse meal using ingredients sourced from neighboring farms. Learn about the history of apple orchards-turned-vineyards in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, or sample the blue cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, north of San Francisco. Choose from locally sourced breakfasts, wine-pairing dinners, and other events in evocative and inspiring surroundings.
Future Foods Farms
An aquaponic greenhouse in Orange County
Think Dalai Lama meets Alice Waters. At Wildsoul Enchanting Gatherings, founder Ben Crosky calls attention to his favourite Bay Area locations with a health-and-wellness-focused trifecta: yoga, farm tours, and creative culinary experiences. Through a series of on-site yoga classes followed by meals cooked from foods harvested from local farms, Crosky aims to “strengthen the ties between creator and consumer.” Sessions typically include a 90-minute outdoor yoga class, an hour-long farm tour, and a multicourse meal using ingredients sourced from neighbouring farms. Learn about the history of apple orchards-turned-vineyards in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, or sample the blue cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, north of San Francisco. Choose from locally sourced breakfasts, wine-pairing dinners, and other events in evocative and inspiring surroundings.
Carmel Valley Ranch
Ranch hands and five-star farm-to-table in Carmel
Right off the coast in the romantic seaside town of Carmel is a 500-acre, all-suite property in California’s Santa Lucia Mountains known as Carmel Valley Ranch. Despite a sprawling golf course and luxurious spa, the resort’s farm is as popular an amenity as anything else on site. The ranch offers several farmstead experiences, including a signature bee session, where adventurous guests can go behind the scenes of the onsite apiary—home to 60,000 honeybees. Weekly farm tours with organic farmer Mark Marino lead to hands-on gardening breakouts and impromptu “chicken chats.” Other onsite artisans teach classes in soap making (featuring lavender from surrounding fields), and lessons in how to make Monterey Bay sea salt with resident “salt guy” Bob Kirkland. Guests can enjoy the fruits of their labour at monthly garden parties. They can also sip Pinot Noir from the property’s vineyards, included as part of the resort’s dinner series.
Local Food Tours
Explore California’s bounty on these fun, informative tours
Shining a light on the diverse crops and artisanal foods that come from the Sierra Foothills, Local Roots tours take you to vineyards, nut and fruit orchards, and groves of olive trees, all aiming to open your eyes—and your mouth—to the region’s bounty. You’ll discover a cornucopia of fresh fruit, produce, nuts, and wine produced in this Placer County region. As you drive from stop to stop or five guides share local insights and stories, as well as plenty of samples. Chat with farmers and growers while you snack on fresh cheese or unpeel a just-picked Mandarin (one of Placer County’s signature crops). Travel to different sites in a cushy “executive” bus, with time out for a gourmet lunch.
Love Apple Farms
A farm-chic culinary experience in Santa Cruz
Nestled high in the mountains above the beaches of Santa Cruz, Love Apple Farms is the exclusive produce provider for Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant in nearby Los Gatos. At Love Apple, it’s all about top-notch crops and impeccable farming practices—and not usually about tours and tastings. But at special seasonal dinners, farm tables are arranged among garden beds for alfresco dining as evening falls, with on fog-free nights views of Monterey Bay in the distance. Past menus have included such mouth-watering dishes as fresh green peas with lemon oil and coconut-pearl tapioca, and main courses such as braised lamb shanks with polenta, mustard greens, and triple-cream. Prior to the meal, guests meander through garden beds with a resident farmer, who sheds light on Love Apple’s organic and biodynamic practices.
Candlelit farmhouse dinners in Pescadero
Perfect for out-of-towners and locals alike, Harley Farms’ tours and field-to-fork dinners set the scene for country-style romance. A restored Victorian hayloft on farmland halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz transforms into a backyard restaurant awash in candlelight and brightened with freshly picked flowers. Chefs prepare a five-course seasonal meal with ingredients from the property, including some of the world’s finest goat cheeses made with milk from the farm’s resident herd. Guests are invited to bring their own wine, beer, or other beverages. And while children are welcome to frolic on the farm with baby goats during the day, evenings are reserved for adults only. Perhaps a date night is in your near future?
Visit a mother ship of sustainable farming
A second-generation farm built on the idea of producing the best tasting fruits and vegetables on the market, Capay Organic dates back to the early days of the organic food’s movement. Over the years, the Capay family has introduced new crops and techniques, becoming next-gen pioneers in sustainable cultivation of varied crops, including cherry tomatoes, ambrosia melons, and even sweet-smelling sweet pea flowers. Farm tours and activities for the whole family are also a hallmark at Capay Organic. Hop on a tractor and listen to a farmhand talk about what’s in season. Get your hands dirty and help harvest produce, then take it home with you. Spread out a picnic beneath a shady tree to soak in the view of cultivated fields, orchards, and golden hills in the distance. At the farm, July means the annual tomato festival, and September brings Capay Crush, a harvest grape celebration.
Marin Agricultural Land Trust
Field-to-fork access to private farms
The Marin Agricultural Land Trust, known to locals as MALT, provides unprecedented access to the farms and ranches of West Marin. Otherwise off limits to the public, these celebrated establishments, most of them situated in rolling coastal hills about an hour north of San Francisco, open their gates for occasional tours and tastings led by MALT members and educators. A day with MALT might mean a burrata cheese-making workshop with SF Milkmaid Louella Hill, an Italian Harvest dinner at Moore Ranch in Nicasio, moving cattle across the pastures at Stemple Creek, or a field-to-fork supper at Fresh Run Farms in Bolinas showcasing the culinary talents of chef Sarah Hodge from Cowgirl Creamery. Some events, like sheep-shearing and nature-oriented experiences, can be great fun for families.