Too much of a good thing…is wonderful!

Some of you may recognize the title of this post as a quote made famous by Liberace – one of Las Vegas’ greatest showmen of all time. Earlier this week, Chuck and I watched the HBO movie, “Behind the Candelabra”, about the life of Liberace behind all the outlandish costuming and showmanship. I was in awe of Michael Douglas’ performance as Liberace. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is worth a view.

The film got me to thinking about a past foray to Las Vegas, Nevada – a town that has the fine art of showmanship mastered! We were only in town for a couple of days but consider ourselves lucky that it occurred during the six weeks when the Liberace Exhibit was on display at the Cosmopolitan.  At the time, this was the only way to see any of the memorabilia as the Liberace Museum closed in 2010 and hasn’t reopened.

Liberace Exhibit

The exhibit was billed as Liberace’s ‘return to the strip’ and it was wonderfully displayed in the windows of the Cosmopolitan. Seeing his costumes up close and personal were phenomenal with the details of the stitching and the careful placement of thousands of rhinestones, both inside and out on his over garments. With all that adornment, one of the capes weighed over 80 pounds! Having backpacked a few times in my life with a 35 pound pack on my back, I still find it amazing that this guy performed with the equivalent of two and half packs draped over his shoulders. What the guy wouldn’t do for the show!

I remember seeing Liberace on television when I was little. I can’t recall if my parents were fans or not, and I was too young to care, but I do remember seeing him drive out on stage in a car covered in rhinestones and play a piano all covered with rhinestones with a glitzy candelabra on top. It was a spectacle and it made an impression even to a five-year-old. Upon walking through the casino doors at the Cosmopolitan, the rhinestone studded car was sitting there to great you and the piano was right around the corner. Again, what showmanship!

Liberace Exhibit

While I haven’t been back to Vegas in the past two years, I did recently read that the Liberace cars are now viewable again at The Liberace Garage for to price of a $14 ticket. As for those incredible costumes, they are available for you to see if you sign up for an exclusive, private, guided visit to see The Liberace Museum Collection. As I understand it, for roughly $130 per person, they will pick you up from your hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and take you to the venue where you are served a light champagne lunch at Michael Jackson’s Thriller Villa and given a tour of the memorabilia. Liberace has long left us but his showmanship lives on!


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Tasting of Summer Produce

To many a foodie, if I were to say ‘Judgment of Paris’, they would know exactly to what I was referring. Not the oil painting by Rubens, but rather the 1976 event in Paris that pitted California wines against French wines where the California wines took the top spots at the event. There has been a book, a few movies and even some large-scale, modern-day fine art made to commemorate the event. But If I were to say ‘Tasting of Summer Produce’ to the same foodie, I am doubtful that I would get the same result…yet the event is just as significant to their world.

The ‘Tasting of Summer Produce’ was a trail-blazing dinner held at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco in 1983.  The dinner was ‘trail-blazing’ because it was the first time such an event was held to introduce California chefs to California farmers. Although this just seems to be common-sense today, it was a radical idea in 1983. At the time, it was the brainchild of Sibella Kraus who was studying agricultural economics while working as a cook for the culinary pioneer, Alice Waters, at her restaurant in Berkeley, Ca – Chez Panisse.

The menu from the event reads like many a fine restaurant’s menu today:

  • Puff Pastry Tartswith grilled eggplant, grilled peppers, basil and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Salad of Red and Yellow Tomatoeswith Moraga mozzarella
  • Garden Vegetables– beans, potatoes, beets, baked onions, grilled squash with aioli
  • Deep Fried Squash Blossomsstuffed with Moraga mozzarella and herbs
  • Sweet Cornwith roasted chili butters
  • Garden Saladwith herbs and flowers
  • Peaches and Strawberrieswith Creme Anglaise
  • Assorted Melons– Ambrosia, Crane, Charantais

There were roughly 80 people in attendance at this first tasting. It was such a hit and led to so much collaboration that, by the time there was a second event held the following summer, both the attendance and the variety of produce to be tasted were in the hundreds. By the fourth year, the event was open to the public and by the sixth year, the farmers were letting Sibella know that it was no longer needed…the collaboration between chef and farmer had become a way of life!

Being one who has enjoyed picking from many menus that read like the one above, I am nothing but grateful for Sibella Kraus’ contribution to our edible experience. I am also appreciative that she didn’t rest on her laurels.  As an advocate for year-round farmers markets, she was instrumental in the 1993 opening of the famous San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Today, she is president of a non-profit organization called the Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE) that is working hard to take sustainable agriculture to the next level. If the ‘Tasting of Summer Produce’ is any indication, we will all be the benefactors when she succeeds. My taste buds thank you, Sibella!

SAGE – Sustainable Agriculture Education

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The Scent of a Clove

As I was peeling three cloves of fresh garlic harvested from our garden to make a batch of hummus, it occurred to me that it must soon by time for the Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.

I remember the first time we drove in to the town of Gilroy. Even before we saw the signs for the highway exit, we smelled the sweet scent of fresh garlic in the air. It was really rather pleasant. Pleasant enough that we followed our noses to find out where it was coming from and came upon a food processing operation called Gilroy Foods.

Gilroy is known as the “Garlic Capital of the World” because that company processes more garlic at that location than any other place in the world. Much of that garlic is grown in the fields in and surrounding Gilroy. Between the factory and the fields, there is plenty garlic aroma to go around at harvest time which is right about now – late July. And when there is a garlic harvest going on, it is also time for the garlic festival. A quick check on-line revealed that this year’s fest is next weekend – July 28, 29 and 30, 2017.

Previous years, I have had the pleasure of trying garlic ice cream, garlic chocolate, shrimp scampi, garlic fries, and a host of other garlic-infused edibles. And the fun doesn’t stop with just food and drink. They also have the selection of Miss Gilroy Garlic, cooking contests, music, games and arts and crafts. I remember being enamored one year with a tie-dye t-shirt that had little garlic cloves creatively dyed into the pattern. Not sure how they tied that one to achieve it but it sure was well done!

All this talk of garlic and garlic festivals is calling me. If it is calling you too, get your tickets. Maybe I’ll see you next weekend at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. All proceeds go to charity so it’s a great way to eat, drink and be merry all in support of a good cause.

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