On yesterday’s blog, I wondered what walkers do when they can’t walk much. Well, it didn’t take long to find a few activities to get us going!
Last night was the kickoff of the summer season of the Napa Downtown Chefs’ Market, held Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 pm. Concerned that the night might be cool, we arrived shortly after 5 pm to find the event in full swing: two blocks of food venders, a block of produce booths, a block of kid’s activities, another block or two of crafts, a block devoted to non-profits, and a stage for recipe demonstrations, enlivened by the music of four bands scattered about.
We browsed the length of the market, scouting for our dinner and determined not to fall for the first yummy aroma to waft our way. Believe me, this is not your average festival fare! The Napa Valley is a hotbed of good cooking, adventurous and inventive chefs taking advantage of the varied and quality ingredients available to them (not to mention the open-minded and free-spending diners).
Our first course came from a food truck, Mark’s The Spot (their motto: Prepared Slow, Served Fast). We ordered a trio of tasty sliders – this is their description:
Oooh Girl Chicken - Buttermilk fried organic chicken thigh with pepper aioli and slaw; Baby Bubba Burger - Niman Ranch beef patty with red onions 2 ways, spicy aioli and slaw; BBB Good - Bacon basil and brie with caramelized apple and red onion jam.
Odel picked up a Fat Tire beer, we found a convenient stand-up table (there were many counter-high PVC tables scattered around the dining area), and dug in. YUMMY!
Thus refreshed, we wandered over to the chefs’ demonstration area and enjoyed the swing music and hilarious patter of the All American Hot Dogs (the band pictured above). We had seats in actual chairs (with backs!), set up for the cooking demonstration that was scheduled to follow the band. Great people-watching while we recovered our appetites.
My next stop was the BBQ oyster and shrimp booth; Odel patronized the taco stand next door. His carnitas taco was inhaled in a couple bites, and my Cajun-spiced, grilled shrimp skewer disappeared in a heartbeat. What a fun place to hunt our dinner!
As we headed back to the car, we walked along the sidewalk behind the food vendors (the main street of downtown Napa is shut down for this event, so the venders face into the street from both sides). This guy had an amazing job making Kettle Corn.
When I first saw him, he was at rest, waiting for his kettle to heat up. We chatted while he worked – heating the kettle to just this side of blazing, he added a pint of oil. When it began to smoke, he tossed in a few kernels of popcorn. When they exploded, our conversation ended when he pulled on his OSHA approved face protection, and added about a quart of popcorn kernels – then started stirring quickly with his big paddle.
He paused to add a quart of sugar and the smoke really began to billow while he leaned in close and stirred like a madman. The popcorn rose up the sides of the kettle (notice the difference in the photos?) – it smelled like heaven – then he grabbed the side of the kettle closest to us and flipped it up. The other side was hinged, so the red hot kettle turned upside down onto the huge bowl on the other side – where the server scooped it up for the customers.
As soon as he had emptied the kettle, he got started on the next batch. When I commented on the heat, he said it wasn’t bad this time of year, but that it is a really sweaty job in summer. I can only imagine.
Today we awoke to “marine layer”, the damp gray overcast that often hides the sun around here in the morning. No worries, it burned off by 11 am. We headed north in lovely sunshine, windows down and sunroof open, to visit our friend Kathy (Don’t Fence Me In), another full-timer we originally met here in Napa. She had an afternoon free in Calistoga, and we enjoyed what our friend Al would call a “good long chin-wag”.
Perhaps it won’t be too difficult to figure out how to fill our time after all. :)