July DigIn! Dinner draws large crowd despite high temperatures

Pangaea executive chef Brett Stockdale wows community members and leaders with locally sourced three course meal

Originally published in the August 24, 2016 print edition of the West Sacramento News-Ledger

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July 28 DigIn! Dinner featured chef Brett Stockdale and West Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem Beverly Sandeen. Photo by Daniel Wilson.

As the sun prepared to set on a day when temperatures reached upwards of 103 degrees, community members and leaders in West Sacramento gathered under the big tent on West Capitol Avenue in front of City Hall alongside the West Sacramento Farmers Market for the second of three 2016 DigIn! Dinners.

The dinner was held July 28 and featured West Sacramento native Brett Stockdale, who is the executive chef at Pangaea Bier Café in Sacramento. Stockdale prepared an original meal using ingredients that were available to purchase at the market or that came from local farms.

Before the dinner kicked off for the approximately 100 people in attendance–which included members of the community, Stockdale’s family and friends, city officials, members of the Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the event’s sponsors such as Raley’s and Burton Law Firm–a short introduction by outgoing CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce Denice Seals, Mary Kimble from the Center for Land-Based Learning and Jeb Burton of the Burton Law Firm, was followed by Stockdale presenting a demonstration, with the event’s host Mayor Pro Tem Beverly Sandeen acting as assistant chef, on how to make the dinner’s first dish Panzanella Salad.

The salad was then served to each table by a volunteer staff that included members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Land-Based Learning and the farmers market.

According to the menu and Stockdale, the salad was made using ingredients from Chavez Farms, Fiery Ginger’s Farm, Root Cause Farms and Toledo Farms and included a mix of grilled bread, gold tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, red onions, Sherry vinaigrette, Cotija cheese and basil.

After the starter course, attendees spent time drinking beer and water and other beverages provided by Bike Dog Brewing Co. and Raley’s, respectively, chatting, and mingling. Most were fanning themselves with the provided “I’m a Fan of West Sacramento” paper fans and the small electronic fans that lined the green and white cloth-covered tables.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce, including Cindy Tuttle, were shooting squirt guns at one another and Tuttle sprayed water on guests with a water misting device. As the sun began to set and the lighting under the big tent grew a  bit darker, the beloved Delta breeze helped cool down the crowd.

Incoming president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Verna Sulpizio said a few words about the event before introducing Stockdale to talk about the main course.

“I am West Sac proud like nobody’s business,” Sulpizio said to the dinner guests. “And you guys are, too, because you’re out here in 100 degree heat and I really, really appreciate that.”

The main course consisted of ingredients sourced from Fiery Ginger’s Farm and Toledo Farms. Attendees enjoyed a dish of smoked and braised chicken with roasted red potatoes, peppers, squash, crispy shallots and natural jus.

A lengthy break after the main course allowed guests to continue drinking and getting to know each other. Sandeen shared her thoughts on the event and talked up how proud she is of the success of the farmers market and the DigIn! Dinner series.

“It brings the community together and it helps showcase all the farmers we have at the market as well as gives chefs a chance to show what they can do with in the farm-to-fork movement,” said Sandeen. “Adding in the non-profit organization as the beneficiary is another way to give back and have non-profits become known to folks who are attending. It’s a wonderful partnership across many boundaries.”

Sandeen spoke highly of Stockdale and said she hopes he’ll inspire more people from the city to gain interest in the culinary field.

“We’re really proud that he’s a [chef from West Sac],” said Sandeen. “I hope that he inspires more folks to want to go into being a chef.”

Dessert was served just before 8 p.m. following an explanation from Stockdale of what to expect from the dish. The dessert course included ingredients from Sola Bee Farms and Ahmad Farms and consisted of biscuits, sliced pluots, toasted almonds, whipped cream and honey.

Stockdale said he was grateful for the opportunity to be able to showcase his cooking for his friends, family and the West Sacramento community.

“The turnout is great and I’m happy to see all these familiar faces,” said Stockdale. “My grandparents are out here, mom, dad, old friends [I haven’t] seen for a while. Everyone is supporting. It’s amazing. I’m super happy with the turnout and I’m happy that everyone likes the food. I haven’t been able to make my food for West Sac yet, so I’m happy that a menu that I’ve created has finally gotten to West Sac.”

Stockdale’s dad Mark Stockdale expressed how proud he was of his son.

“We’ve been a part of this community for a long time,” said Mark. “It’s nice to see [Bret] come back and get a chance to show what he’s learned and to bring that back to the [West] Sacramento area. This gives a chance for people to see what the local restaurants and folks with the local produce can do here.”

The owner of Pangaea Rob Archie spoke about what the event meant for both Stockdale and the restaurant.

“[Brett] loves his hometown, so this dinner is special because of that,” said Archie. “Pangea is known for beer and because we’re No. 7 in the world for best hamburger, that’s kind of overshadowed a lot of great stuff that comes out of that kitchen, and I can put our kitchen up against any kitchen in Sacramento and this event gives us a chance to show that.”

Archie also shared his thoughts on the meal.

“One thing is Brett doesn’t cook a lot of the same dishes twice, you know, he’s always innovative,” said Archie. “This was the first time I’ve had this stuff, so it was great.”

The next and final DigIn! Dinner for this year will be held August 25 and will feature The Patriot restaurant chef Allyson Harvie. Mayor Cabaldon will host the event. Tickets are once again $65 each with a portion benefiting the non-profit Assemble Sacramento. Attendees will also get $5 in vouchers to spend at the Farmers Market.

More information is available on the West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce website under the Chamber news and events section.

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About Daniel Wilson

I am a student at California State University Sacramento (Sac State) majoring in journalism, pursuing a Bachelor's degree with a minor in communications. Please visit both www.saccitygamer.com and www.dwilsononline.com for more information.
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