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Lampkin perched at the Blackbird bar. Photo: William Leung

By Lovelle Harris

Originally published in Sacramento News & Review on 06.14.2012

Carina Lampkin and her flock of foodies have settled into new downtown digs on Ninth Street and are ready to unleash the bounty of summer’s harvest at Blackbird Kitchen & Bar. Lampkin’s gastronomical style, a mix of East Coast swagger and California cool, is in full display on her brash menu: gems from the sea, specialty cocktails and organic, farm-fresh produce.

“I go to the market every Sunday, and I kind of just go with whatever inspires me at the moment,” Lampkin says of her hyperseasonal approach to cooking. “Two things that will definitely be here this summer are tomatoes and corn. I make a badass gazpacho [topped] with fresh bay scallops and basil oil. I [also] make a chilled corn chowder with Dungeness crab and a little chili oil.”

In keeping with her mission to keep it fresh and local, Lampkin sources her fish from Passmore Ranch and her produce from farmers in the Capay Valley.

Lampkin, who spent her summers as a child on the shores of Maine, moved to the West Coast in 2003 and brings her passion for the sea to the River City. From briny bivalves to the fleshy decadence of succulent spiny lobster meat, the menu is an ever-changing symphony that marries the crystalline elegance of the raw bar with comfort foods like fish tacos and savory burgers.

“I love cooking,” Lampkin says. “It’s all I know how to do.”

The summer menu also promises an opus of delicate young vegetables with an occasional smattering of locally foraged morsels. Lampkin’s culinary partner-in-crime at Blackbird, chef Kevin O’Connor, has a fondness for showcasing ingredients that flourish in plain sight. This may show up on the menu in the form of edible flowers, wild fennel and herbs.

Blackbird Kitchen & Bar, 1015 Ninth Street; (916) 498-9224; http://www.blackbird-kitchen.com.

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