A new downtown restaurant named after John Sutter’s Hock Farm pays tribute to both our region’s history and bounty.
Roasted kabobs with local lamb and beef on minted yogurt.
Photos by Jeremy Sykes
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OOne of Sacramento’s hottest new restaurants was fast-moving enough
to open in just three weeks (in the prime downtown space formerly occupied by Spataro), but it reaches back far into the distant past for its name and inspiration.
Sacramento has never been a town to ignore its own history (just read Joan Didion or ask anyone who’s been to Old Sacramento lately), but Hock Farm Craft & Provisions—named for John Sutter’s Hock Farm, established as an agricultural settlement in 1841—may get the local prize for the oldest namesake. (It beats out Hook & Ladder, named for an 1850 volunteer fire corps, by nine years.)
Hock Farm is a Paragary Restaurant Group (PRG) eatery, but its management and ownership structure is a departure for the company, with Randy and Stacy Paragary ceding day-to-day control to the team of chef-partner David LaRoche (a longtime PRG staffer who served as chef at Spataro for four years), managing partner Shaun Freeman (a native of Pollock Pines who managed such restaurants as Cafe del Rey in Marina del Rey before returning to the Sacramento region to work for PRG at Cafe Bernardo), and bar manager–partner Brad Peters, a veteran of another Paragary restaurant, Centro Cocina Mexicana, who recently helped to open Hook & Ladder and Pour House. When Spataro closed on March 16, the trio was ready to jump in and reopen quickly, thanks to preplanned designs for the minimalist interior (which sports an aesthetic Freeman describes as “industrial-colonial”) and a lot of hard work. “I was in here on St. Patrick’s Day, doing all sorts of stuff,” says Freeman with a smile, describing the subsequent opening of the restaurant on April 11 as “quite a feat.” Indeed, the turnaround might set a restaurant-launch record.
Diners might be forgiven for not knowing immediately what the name Hock Farm refers to. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time driving up and down Highway 99, you probably missed the historical marker for Sutter’s Hock Farm (south of present-day Yuba City), which supplied Sutter’s Fort and other settlements with food. As a brief glance at the menu—which lists purveyors on the back—quickly reveals, there’s no single farm supplying Hock Farm, the restaurant, but just like in the 1840s, the rich farmland surrounding Sacramento fills Sacramento tables.
Chef-partner David LaRoche, however, is quick to point out that Hock Farm isn’t exactly jumping on the farm-to-table bandwagon, despite the recent initiative declaring Sacramento America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. “[Farm-to-fork] is just the way that we’ve always done things,” says LaRoche, who has been with PRG for 15 years, first at Paragary’s Bar and Oven (where Patrick Mulvaney was his sous-chef) and later at Spataro. “The purveyors that I’m using now are the purveyors that I’ve used ever since I’ve been in charge. The guys that I go to buy fish from every day are the same people that I’ve bought fish from every day for 12 years. It’s just the ethos.”
Those purveyors include many of the top farms and suppliers around the Sacramento area, such as West Sacramento-based Del Rio Botanical and Rancho Cordova’s Soil Born Farms, though most of the produce sourcing is not specifically called out on the menu (“If you call everything out, your menu becomes five pages long,” LaRoche says). Some of the local items include lamb from Dixon in kabobs with minted yogurt, and Vega Farms eggs from Davis topping a small plate of Delta asparagus.