Take two

Hock Farm Craft & Provisions

Good for: much-improved farm-to-fork cuisine
Notable dishes: peas and carrots, porchetta and new potato pizza

Hock Farm Craft & Provisions

1415 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 440-8888

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That seems to be the motto the Paragary Restaurant Group embraced with the successful reworking of Hock Farm Craft & Provisions.

Hock Farm opened three years ago to mixed reviews, but it scored a new head chef last fall in Jason Azevedo, most recently of Mighty Tavern. Per usual with Randy Paragary’s restaurants, including Paragary’s, Cafe Bernardo and Esquire Grill, Kurt Spataro oversees as executive chef. Still, it’s Azevedo, already respected around town for his charcuterie skills, making the day-to-day decisions in the kitchen.

“I’m full fat, full flavor,” Azevedo says, although that may mislead you on his skills with vegetables. Hock Farm displays the joy of ingredients in the farm-to-fork trope.

One of the clearest examples of Azevedo’s subtle cleverness appears on the menu as “peas & carrots” ($5), a simple-sounding side dish. He steams delicate baby carrots and crisp snap peas and arranges them artfully on a long plate with a smear of crème fraîche, toasted pistachios and fragrant tarragon. It’s simply delicious.

In the beginning, Hock Farm tried too hard to exclaim, “Farm fresh!” Now, it forgoes naming every ingredient source and gets on with actually proving how good local products can be.

Azevedo butchers half to a whole pig every week to make items like smoky beerwurst for the charcuterie and cheese board ($17) and rotisserie porchetta for the pizza with new potatoes ($15).

One evening, the charcuterie board also offered a dry-cured crespone salami, which is not made in-house. Azevedo hopes to increase charcuterie production over time, though. The only drawback to the platter was too few grilled toasts, which is a common misstep.

The pizza game in town has improved exponentially in the last few years, but Hock Farm holds its own. The thin, chewy crust displays excellent blistering from the super-hot wood oven. A base of silky garlic confit balances the salty porchetta and creamy potatoes, with spicy chili oil and fontina rounding out the punchy flavors.

An appetizer of salt-roasted beets ($12) surprisingly comes with a mound of peppery arugula and endive over chunks of sweet red beets. Pistachio-crusted chèvre crowns the top. While it wasn’t what we expected, it was—like the peas and carrots—better than we imagined.

Everyone seems to have macaroni and cheese these days. Here, Azevedo shows off his sense of fun as well. Hock Farm’s version ($8) tastes shockingly like unctuous Velveeta, but is actually a beer-spiked nacho sauce made to mimic the processed cheese product. Nuggets of smoky bacon and crunchy bread crumbs add a textural counterpoint.

Dinner entrees skew somewhat pricey—the New York steak costs $35—but the pappardelle ($19) is a decent deal, with a hearty bowl of tender noodles supporting a stew of pork-cheese ragu, braised vegetables and greens. Perhaps it’s too hearty for spring, but the plentiful tarragon here, too, adds freshness.

Unfortunately, the end to a meal at Hock Farm is much less inspired than the main event. Desserts seem rather standard: crème brûlée, chocolate cake, gelato, a cranberry-apple crostata ($8) with a mediocre crust. Hopefully, Azevedo can eventually work his magic with the desserts as well.

Hock Farm is named for John Sutter’s farm, the first large-scale agricultural settlement in Northern California. There’s a quote from Sutter figured in neon over the kitchen: “Patriarch, Priest, Father and Judge.” Don’t count that odd benediction against Hock Farm, though, even if you weren’t previously impressed. It succeeds in balancing flavor with beauty—not always a guarantee in our rapidly growing restaurant community.