Memories of a farm-to-table banquet in our town

A cool Facebook memory popped up on my page this morning: The Nevada City “farm to table banquet.” As I reported at the time:

“Welcome friends, neighbors and guests!” read the program for the sold-out Nevada City farm to table banquet on Sunday night in the historic downtown. “Tonight you will encounter the culmination of months of dreaming and laying plans on how we could deliver the best of Nevada City and its abundance.

“This seven-course meal has been tailored by the seasons and the hard-working hands of our farmers. We come together so as to assist the ever popular First Friday Art Walk and their music scene on the Boardwalk.

“But the biggest reason we hold this banquet is to simply exemplify the potential of Nevada City, its citizens, and the abundance that originally brought us to this area and keeps us here.”

We all sat at one long table of 120 diners on Commercial Street under the terrazzo lights — a magical setting. It was our third time, as one of the servers Mackenzie Hardwick reminded us. We noted how our son’s middle name was Mackenzie (one of his grandmothers’ maiden names). It was an eclectic mix of diners.

Toward the end of the night, I sat on a hay bale with Matt Margulies, and we marveled at the sight (joking that it contradicted the often acrimonious nature of late in Nevada City). 

Like the Amgen Tour of California (thanks to Duane Strawser), events like this showcase our outdoors, bounty of local food, farmers, music, arts and culture, and the bright side of small-town life.


“Reopen the Mine” now sending us mailers

This weekend, we received a slick four-page mailer from “Rise GV” asking us to “urge the Board of Supervisors and other county officials to jump start our local economy by strongly supporting the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine.”

It began: “Today, Nevada County is struggling to build a stronger economy, and Rise Grass Valley’s plan for the Idaho-Maryland Mine offers a bright future to families who want to deepen their roots in Nevada County.”

One of the bold claims: “The mine will add $50 million annually to the local economy — while protecting our natural environment.”

It included a postcard for us to fill out with our name, address and phone under the heading “I support re-opening the Idaho-Maryland Mine.” We were supposed to mail it back to the “Rise GV” group. “No postage necessary if mailed in the United States,” it read on the other side.

“We’ll use these cards later to show the Board of Supervisors that there is there is strong support throughout the community for re-opening the Idaho-Maryland Mine,” the postcard read, directing us to the

Let the Games begin!

A gold medal for the “state of Denmark”

Hamlet would have been proud! Tonight, we watched Anne-Marie Rindom of Denmark win a gold medal in the women’s sailing competition in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic  Games. Sweden finished second, and the Netherlands finished third.

The race is in a one-person Laser Radial sailboat ( 

American Anna Tunnicliffe won the competition in 2008 in Beijing. She is now a CrossFit competitor.

In Sweden, Anna-Marie also incorporated sailing into her schooling. She studied Sport Science at Aarhus University, where her thesis involved developing a fixed physical test for Laser sailors.

We’ve sailed Lasers on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. It is a great all-around boat for the Lake and used in beginning, intermediate and advanced sailing classes.

The first Hmong American to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics

“The first Hmong refugees arrived in Minnesota in 1975,” according to “Today that population has grown to 80,000 people, its members now represented throughout business, government and culture in the North Star State. On Thursday, a daughter of that diaspora added a new milestone to the Hmong American story: Olympic champion.

“Sunisa Lee, an 18-year-old from St. Paul who goes by Suni, won the women’s gymnastics all-around gold medal, scoring 57.433 to hold off Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade by .135 and the Russian Olympic Committee’s Angelina Melnikova by .234 at Tokyo’s Ariake Gymnastics Centre. Fellow American Jade Carey placed eighth, scoring 54.199.

“With her win, Lee, the first Hmong American to make a U.S. Olympic Team, becomes the fifth American woman to win the Olympic all-around title in the past five tries. Combining the Olympics and world championships, a U.S. woman has now won every global all-around title since 2011.”

Memories of Hmong American agriculture

Sunisa Lee’s gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games reminded me of this: Though little known, Hmong American agriculture — much of it near Fresno — has long helped make California prosperous. (More than a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of our fruits and nuts are grown in California). I remember that California’s Gold with Huell Howser, a favorite program, once highlighted this.

Our partisan fireworks will be hard to put out

“While July Fourth is the holiday that most directly celebrates Americans’ common heritage, this year it comes as their extreme divides underscore how difficult it has become for any president to set a unified direction for the country,” according to a political analysis on CNN.

“From vaccination rates to voting rights, from immigration policy to racial equity, blue and red states are hurtling in antithetical directions at staggering speed, even amid President Joe Biden’s persistent calls for greater national unity and his attempts to foster more bipartisan agreement in Washington.

“Across all of these issues, and more, Republican-controlled states are pursuing policies that amount to a wholesale effort to counter Biden’s direction at the national level — even as they look to block some of his key initiatives with lawsuits.

“In some ways, the red state recoil from Biden’s agenda echoes the ‘resistance’ that exploded in Democratic-controlled states to Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency; in other ways, today’s actions in red states may constitute even greater evidence of the country pulling apart.

“Especially striking is that, as during last year’s lockdowns and mask mandates, the separation between red and blue America is occurring not only at the level of government policy, but also in individual behavior, with all studies showing Republicans are being vaccinated against the coronavirus at a much lower rate than Democrats.”

The rest of the article is here.

Maine lobster rolls for July 4

We are celebrating the Fourth with fresh lobster rolls shipped from Maine, thanks to Beal’s Lobster Pier and Goldbelly.

“If you are dreaming of a summer day in Maine, Beal’s Famous Lobster Rolls will take you to the shore of the Atlantic at Beal’s Lobster Pier. Each Beal’s lobster roll is a butter brioche piled high with 1/4 pound of lobster per roll. You and your family will enjoy lobster rolls that taste just like the ones they make right at the pier.”

Beal’s Lobster Pier has been providing Bar Harbor and the rest of Maine with the freshest boat-to-table lobsters and seafood since 1932.

(Photos: Beal’s Lobster Pier and Goldbelly)

Scoop: Foothills Event Center plans sale to Ag Natural in GV

The landmark Foothills Event Center in Grass Valley is being sold to the owner of Ag Natural, a thriving business across the street that sells organic garden and hydroponic supplies, greenhouse products and other ag-related items, Sierra Foothills Report has learned.

Mardie Caldwell of the Foothills Event Center — a popular and elegant gathering space for weddings, fundraisers and other local events beside Hwy. 49 — and Roy Harris, who owns Ag Natural and Grass Valley Hydrogarden, both confirmed the planned sale to me this afternoon. The deal is in escrow, and it expected to close in July.

“We’re expanding — we’re overgrown,” Ag Natural founder and owner Roy Harris said. Ag Natural is located across the street from the Foothills Event Center on Idaho-Maryland Road.

“If it has roots and it has flowers, you can grow it with my products,” he said, emphasizing, “I’m not a cannabis business; I’m a garden supply business.”

“It’s going to be a soft, gradual opening,” Harris said and will gradually become “one big shopping center.” As a result, the businesses workforce might grow from 15-20 to up to 30 workers, he said.

For her part, Caldwell circulated this statement to clients about the sale:

“It is with some sorrow that I share with you that I will be selling The Foothills Event Center to new owners.  They are also Nevada County residents; however they will not be operating it as an event venue.

“When I purchased the building in 2013, it was a true labor of love to rehabilitate it and offer it to the community as a gathering place.  I have been honored to be a part of so many celebrations over the past eight years.  Your weddings and celebrations of life, fundraisers and parties, concerts and seminars, reunions and faith celebrations.  Every one of them has been unique and it has been amazing to be a part of each one.

“2020 looked to set the stage for our best year yet! We were booked solid in January and February and had four weddings in March!  We were looking to hire more staff because of your events.

“Then Covid-19 came along.

“We made it through a year and a half of no events. During that time, we offered our space to the hospital if overflow hospital space were needed, to the county as a testing or vaccine site, and to all first responders to be of any service to our community.  Unfortunately, we were not offered the opportunity to bid on the Covid testing or vaccines, nor were we selected for the Nevada County Anchor Grants that were awarded to the other large venues in the county.  We applied to various other county and state grants four times to no avail.”

Mardie concluded: “The blessing of 2020 is that we completed work at Rough & Ready Vineyards, an outdoor wedding venue just 10 minutes from downtown Grass Valley. Many of our Foothills brides are choosing to move their indoor wedding to our beautiful outdoor venue.

“Our staff is currently contacting our booked clients and closing out their future events.  While it is farewell to The Foothills Event Center, I’m happy for the memories that have been created here and hope to see you at an event or paint class this summer, before we close up shop.”

A local trend?

The site once was a car dealership called Weaver Auto Center — just as Hometown Hydroponics on 800 South Auburn St. off Hwy. 49 once was a Ford dealership. Hometown Hydroponics relocated to the Ford space from its much smaller previous location on Clydesdale Court — near the former offices of the Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp., another business that has been long proposed for our town.