Now I like Fridays as much as the next person. First, and because it was pay day, my father used to say, “The eagle flies today.” Second, being the end of the work week, many of us go out to blow off some steam. Now we have some great steam blowing venues here in Vallejo: Mare Island Brewery, where I was found last night for a pint. Napa Smith Brewery, where I was found earlier in the week . . . for a pint. The Townhouse, downtown, where I was found . . . okay, you got the picture.
Last Friday night was different. Last Friday night was not just about blowing off steam. It was about something much deeper and closer to the heart. Last Friday I witnessed a searing moment of pain for Vallejo that in turn became forged into something remarkable. I am referring to the opening of the Art of Peace exhibit at the Temple Art Lofts, 707 Marin St, here in Vallejo. The tone was somber to be sure, as Patti Navalta Poblete spoke about the shooting death of her son and the formation of the Robby Poblete Foundation. The Art of Peace exhibit is as unique as it is powerful. With a Swords into Plowshares mentality, Patti worked together with community leaders and the Vallejo Police Department to raise funds and orchestrate a gun buyback program with the main idea of turning those weapons into works of art. She did, they did, and then the artists showed up.
The opening in itself was fantastic, complete with gigantic, flaming, steel feathers crafted by the Flaming Lotus Girls. You can read more about their amazing work here www.flaminglotus.com. While I could not stay for much more, the evening promised even more fireworks. For those of you in the know, and if you have ever seen a parade here in Vallejo, then you have heard of Obtainium Works. Obtanium Works is a local cadre of talented artists capable of transforming anything metal into, well, anything. Last Friday that had a portable forge on Virginia St and anyone who wished could forge a broken piece of a reclaimed weapon and hammer it into their own piece of art. Go see the exhibit. I hope that you find it as moving as I did.
But wait! There is more. Just down the street table after table after table were to be found as League of Chefs started up their monthly pop up dinner series. This Friday was entitled, Paris in Spring, and by God it was glorious. I do not know how she did it, but owner Nicole Hodge, in crafting a most memorable evening, had not forgotten to order up perfect spring weather. The evening remained warm the entirety of the dinner, with puffs of warm air carried downwind to us by the flaming feathers all alight up the street.
Dinner was wonderful and I was lucky and pleased to be sitting with Vallejo’s own Fabrice Moschetti and Diana Lang. I even saw one of my neighbors close by. The night was light and convivial as the Berkeley High Jazz Band played behind me. The weather was not the only pleasant thing Nicole ordered up. Dinner started with 160 of us enjoying a lovely Amuse Bouche of Endive with goat cheese and pistachios. Just the right idea to get my palate started. First course, a pleasant Vichyssoise striped with creme fraiche and chive oil. I find in my recounting of this part of the evening that I am rushing through the courses. The exact opposite occurred that evening as the pace of the meal was as thoughtful and well planned as the menu. The pauses between courses allowed for a never ending flow of conversation and the West End of Virginia was alive and pulsing with the very best that Vallejo has to offer. Even Mayor Bob was heard to have said, this is Vallejo at its best! (Not that he is a curmudgeon, just the opposite in fact. Hang Loose Bob!)
Now, if you do not know me well then you would not know that I am a perfectionist when it comes to cooking. I was formally trained in the classical manner and some things are just not meant to be messed with. One of them is Cassoulet. Cassoulet is . . . well . . . how do I put this . . . Cassoulet is French beanie weenie. White beans and garlic sausage thrown together with a hefty chunk of fat back and often left on the back of the stove for days to cook. When I read that Cassoulet was to be served I rang the charming Ms. Hodge a month prior and asked her if she had started it yet! Now gentle reader, please set aside the preconceptions that I have left you with and take this next part away with you. Lisa Lees, chef at League of Chefs, served a deconstructed Cassoulet which, I am delighted to say, I enjoyed very much. Barring my expectation of a large soup plate brimming with beans and sausage, the well-crafted plate was cooked and served perfectly. I could not have done a better job myself.
Vegetarians were offered a Caramelized Onion Tarte Tatin. Being a bit of a foodie, I bribed a willing waiter and was slid a second entrée to try. The onions were like butter and the pastry sublime. Last Friday, as my dear old friend from Alabama would say, “There was a party in my mouth.” Clafoutis brought the evening to a close. Served fresh from the oven so delicate was the custard and richly stuffed with blueberries that I could barely finish my portion. Fear not! I was successful.
Just yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend the grand opening of Factory OS, the modular home manufacturing plant on Mare Island. During his dynamic speech, Larry Pace COO, referred to, “ . . . the depth of community here in Vallejo . . .” Better words I could not have chosen myself. Thank you Larry for your exact and kind words. Here in V-Town, our town, I have found such a richness and diversity that, well, I am looking forward to next Friday.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often