Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ratatouille on the Roof

My eyes opened wide when I looked out the office window that morning: 48' of billboard plastic spread across the front lawn. Going outside, I see three cartoon characters bigger than myself in action, the skyline of Paris behind them. One, a mouse, well, OK, an enormous RAT, wields a huge soup spoon, while the other two, a boy and a girl in chef's uniforms, gaze at each other with goofy smiles.

Whoa, this is going on our roof? Can we put it face up so the low-flying planes and helicopters looking for ganja plantations can spot a bit of Hollywood √° la Pixar razzle-dazzle here on top of the mountain? Sadly, the top secret agreement via our friend and the billboard supplier, is no, all that happy color must go face down, onto the shingles, no longer serving as advertising, but keeping us from using our pots and pans to gather rain-water indoors during the Big Sur winter.

Over coffee, we discuss the placement of the three heavy duty billboard tarps, which should last us 3-5 years, so our roof-tarping work parties will no longer be an annual event. Pity. The plan is to divide the roof in thirds, draping each sheet over the tippy top of the roof, like strips of wide pasta over and down, tucking them up under the eaves. Voil√°, a leak-proof home! Now we sleep under the roofs of Paris, which will doubtless inspire our dinner parties and our dreams.

So far so good with our new roof, with tempest winds last night rattling the redwood strips (that help hold the tarps in place) just a little. Since I have a touch of vertigo, I was exempt from the actual labor (thanks to neighbors Aengus, Bill and John on that one) but did manage to climb the ladder this morning (had only a minor fainting spell afterwards) to take this snap of our neatly finished "Ratatouille Roof."
And here's the best part: we saved the billboard section featuring rat and spoon for use as a water slide at our next Easter Party...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A dream fulfilled

Last weekend marked the launch of the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival, brainchild of Toby Rowland-Jones, led to exquisite fulfillment by a local team of gifted and passionate food and wine professionals.

That's Rosalia Byrne, Matt Peterson, Toby, Aengus Wagner, Alicia Hahn and Adam Olthof, all happy as clams after their amazingly successful event. The weekend popped with sheer joy: Big Sur wore her warm, sparkling fall light, splashed across the mountains and ocean. Everyone present glowed with the pleasure that comes from good food, wine and communion with friends in a beautiful place.

Crafted as a fund-raiser for the Big Sur community last January, when we all wondered if a) the road would hold during winter storms and b) the economy would keep folks properly employed, the BSFWF brought together Central Coast winemakers, their many fans, generous business sponsors and a crew of indomitable volunteers.

Over the past year, I've discreetly observed these volunteers grow into themselves in new ways. Their strategic planning and communication skills soared, plus they managed to drink excellent wine at all their meetings, definitely an organizational plus. After the Saturday night auction at Ventana Inn, Rosalia and Alicia treated the crowd to a fire dance, Big Sur style.

While stress levels reached the stratosphere in the weeks right before the festival, in the end, everything worked beautifully: people dined in a variety of locales, experiencing the culinary richness and romance found here.

Under the 501c3 umbrella of the Big Sur Arts Initiative, funds were raised for community non-profits such as the Volunteer Fire Brigade and the Health Center, as well as for a culinary institute scholarship for local youth.

Last Sunday afternoon amid laughter and some tears, several of the planning committee members met beneath the small oak tree on the point that we call the "wedding tree". Here they re-affirmed their commitment to giving to their community in the way they know best: loving people by leading them in feasts and celebrations of the grape.

The Algerian singer Idir, from the Berber tradition of Kabylia, says this in his lyrics, "Sing, dance and make merry. This is the only time when God joins us here on earth. Offer up a plate of couscous, and put aside your problems. On with the music!" Please plan to join us at next year's Big Sur Food and Wine Festival, when we’ll call down the gods to play with us again on November 5, 6, and 7, 2010.

Group photo by Linda Sonrisa
Sunset group photo "Victory" by Rosie Kenworthy