An Italian “staycation” at Foothills Event Center

Mardie Caldwell, founder and owner of the Foothills Event Center in Grass Valley, has done a great  job with the venue, helping to bring people to our area and host local nonprofits, along with weddings, anniversaries and special events. We’ve been to several events there.

This weekend we enjoyed a “staycation” that was redolent of traveling in Northern Italy by attending the first annual Italian Bagna Cauda at the event center. The luncheon was a fundraiser for Mardie’s local nonprofit Lifetime Adoption Foundation.

We’ve been to crab feeds (our son’s school) and Cioppino feeds (the Fairgrounds Foundation) in our area, but this was the first Bagna Cauda — a testament to Mardie’s creativity. Although I’d heard of this type of Italian feast, I’d never been to one. (My grandfather Joseph Pelline was born and raised in a little town on the Swiss-Italian border before coming to America and settling in Sebastopal, CA, where he had a prolific Gravenstein apple orchard).

“Every year since the 16th century families and friends have enjoyed this recipe and tradition,” as Mardie explained. “Joining together to celebrate with a pot of hot olive oil and massive amounts of garlic with chicken, shrimp, beef and assorted fresh vegetables simmering at your table along with Ciabatta roll.”

Literally translated as “hot bath,” the dish is consumed in a manner similar to fondue. I found a video of cooking icons Martha Stewart and Alice Waters making the dish; you can watch it HERE.

The Bagna Cauda luncheon at Foothills Event Center  was catered by Granzella’s in Williams, which have been putting on these events for over 20 years with an authentic recipe.

For almost two decades, Granzella’s has hosted an annual Bagna Cauda event for the 11-99 Foundation, founded to support the families of California Highway Patrol officers killed in the line of duty, or severely injured, offering aid and scholarships. Granzella’s also has hosted the event where the funds benefitted breast cancer organizations.

About 100 people were in attendance, including many from out of the area, such as Roseville and Rocklin. We enjoyed meeting Mardie’s parents at our big round table (#6) and catching up with her husband, Jeff, as well as Lifetime Adoption director Heather Featherston, whom we’ve gotten to know. (We’ve written about the Foothills Event Center in our magazine). An accomplished accordion player — Steve Albini — provided the music and singing at this weekend’s luncheon, a good backdrop.

We also participated in a silent auction, which included some creative baskets of food, bottles of local wine, and artwork. All told, it was an enjoyable afternoon, thanks to some local ingenuity and culinary talent.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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