RIP, Marie Johnson

(Credit: Foothill Flowers)

This past Monday, I received an email that I’d been dreading for a while — but had been preparing for. It was from our friend Mark Johnson, who said that his 87-year old mother Marie — Grass Valley’s beloved “Flower Lady” to all of us — was winding down. We spoke on the phone for some time. I knew it would only be a matter of time.

On Facebook, word of Marie’s condition began to leak out later in the week. Her friends were visiting her bedside. I felt comforted to read that. I discussed Marie’s condition with our family, and we all said prayers for her, along with Mark and his brother Todd.

This morning, Marie, 87, passed away. Like much of Grass Valley and Nevada City, we all will miss her.

We have been regulars at Foothill Flowers for a decade, and Marie was like a grandmother to our son after his own grandmother died in 2007. Marie would greet him in the flower shop with a big smile, “Hi Mitchell!” — and often a handful of suckers or M&Ms.

Our son came to anticipate an annual “back to school” flower bouquet that had Marie’s special touch — a porcelain sports car filled with fresh and colorful flowers. In subsequent years, we brought the toy car into the shop for a “refill” each September.

(Credit: Doris Foley Historical Library and

For my wife and I, Marie helped fill a void after we lost our own parents. We shared stories, and I learned about her upbringing. She was an inspiring single mom and entrepreneur, opening her flower shop in downtown Grass Valley in 1966.

Like others, we enjoyed gathering at Marie’s annual Santa Lucia festival at the flower shop in December and learned about her Scandinavian heritage. We met the Johnson’s friends, including author Gage McKinney, one of my favorite people. It was a quintessential small-town experience.

We also talked flowers with Marie. My mom taught me to admire fresh bouquets of flowers. I told Marie about my favorite florist when I was growing up — Jacob Maarse in Pasadena — and was thrilled when I learned that Todd regularly decorated floats in the Rose Parade. It was like reliving a joyful part of my childhood as an adult in Grass Valley.

Earlier in the week, Mark shared with me that Marie would be buried next to her daughter in Greenwood Memorial Cemetery in Grass Valley. (Beth died in a 1976 car accident, when she was a junior at NU).

A celebration of live is planned at Foothill Flowers on September 15, and the historic building will be filled with admiring friends and family members.

The Union’s obituary about Marie is here.

The Fair!

Our high-school age son and his friends had a wonderful time at the Fair this afternoon. All of them had been looking forward to it, and put it on their summer calendars. Our son recounted the rides, corn dogs, exhibits and good times. Our Fair is a local treasure.

Nevada City Council asks for a “redo” of the Aaron Sargent statue proposal

After a long public discussion, the most telling comment came from a resident who observed:  Confederate monuments are coming down in the South at the same time Nevada City is thinking about putting one up to honor someone who was a noted proponent of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Case closed. Meeting adjourned.

Architectural Digest honors Nevada City as one of the “30 Most Beautiful Main Streets Across America”

(Credit: Kial James)

We are subscribers, and were pleased to see that Architectural Digest honored Nevada City as one of the “30 most beautiful Main Streets across America,” a high honor.

“Nevada City, California
During the California Gold Rush, dozens of towns cropped up across the state, one of them being Nevada City. At its peak more than 10,000 residents crammed into the community, though today that population has dwindled to a more comfortable 2,800. Nevada City has largely retained the look of its earliest days, preserving many old structures along and around Broad Street, the historic main route that today is filled with dining options.”

The introduction reads:

“Between the major cities on the coasts of the United States are hundreds of small towns where a good portion of the American population lives today. Established over the last two centuries as the country expanded west, the majority of these municipalities have one thing in common: a charming main street. Lined with shops, restaurants, and other small businesses, these broad boulevards— often with their vintage flair intact—are a quintessential hub of any small community. Sure, European towns might have main streets with fairytale-esque cobblestones and half-timbered façades, but nothing says Americana like a paved road flanked by old brick buildings and hand-lettered signs. Here, a look at 30 of the most beautiful main streets across the country.”

The other cities mentioned, ranging from Northampton, Mass., to Telluride, Colo., are HERE.

A sneak peek at a Golden Era pop-up dinner

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

The Golden Era Lounge in Nevada City is thinking about hosting monthly “pop up” dinners — pairing imaginative dishes with craft cocktails and fine wines —  and we joined a gathering of “friends and family” this week for a sneak preview.

Since emerging over a decade ago, pop-up dinners have become one of the fastest-growing culinary trends. They remind me of the homey Sunday dinners at my grandma Clara’s house in the ’60s — but with modern scratch cooking (fresh and local, never frozen) and invitations blasted out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (not a rotary-dial phone).

Our six-course dinner, lovingly prepared in Golden Era’s commercial kitchen by super-talented local chefs, was a big hit. Like all my favorite pop-up dinners, the focus was on the food and drink, the sourcing and ingredients — and good conversation.

The Giardinas — Steve and Cindy and their children Eric and Jessica — are ebullient hosts. We sat at a long table, along with neighbors from Wheyward Girl Creamery, the Ham Stand, and singer Lorraine Gervais, who often performs at Golden Era.

Golden Era’s foray into pop-ups is the latest example of a culinary renaissance in the foothills — at restaurants such as Twelve 28 Kitchen in Penn Valley, Stone House and Polly’s Paladar supper club in Nevada City, and soon-to-open Watershed in Grass Valley, among others.

The dinner showcased our area’s local culinary talent. Local chefs Jesse Hanshaw and Kevin Soares, Rosemary Fisher and Tom Bevatori (Lorraine’s son), created imaginative dishes. Bartender and craft cocktail connoisseur Eric Giardina came up with some delicious drinks to go along the dishes— a growing trend. (Read how bartenders and chefs are collaborating in inventive, unconventional ways). We also enjoyed a house red wine from Avanguardia, thanks to the talents of winemaker Rob Chrisman.

Some examples from the menu:  fresh oysters (cucumber melon granita, brut rose mignonette), paired with “rose punch,” a light and delicious Mezcal-based cocktail; corn bisque and summer squash (tempura blossoms, shrimp, pickled squash, peppers, and greens, paired with a light Bloody Mary-like cocktail; and fresh-made squid ink linguini (mussels, preserved Meyer lemon, tarragon, radish and bonito) paired with “gold matter,” another light, refreshing cocktail.

Avanguardia’s red or white wine was paired with fresh sturgeon (rye crumb, mustard aioli, tomato dill salad and charred broccolini); and dessert was almond cake (fruit and whipped creme fraiche), paired with “Sweet, Sweet Bliss,” an imaginative dessert cocktail.

Thoughout the meal, Jesse, Kevin, Rosemary, Tom and Eric discussed and answered questions about the menu, including the sourcing from local farms. The melons, corn and fresh herbs came from Mountain Bounty Farm; the squash blossoms, microgreens and peppers were from Blue Dane Garden; the greens and green beans were from Fog Dog Farm; and the sturgeon is farmed from a pond in Elverta, Jesse told us.

Eric is a craft cocktail expert. He travels regularly to Oaxaca, hosting tours of artisan Mezcal distilleries.

The Golden Era is ideal for a special dining experience. The venue at 309 Broad Street harkens back to the Gold Rush era, with a decorative gold tin ceiling, chandelier, Edison lights, and polished wooden floors. A fireplace glows in one seating area, and a fresh rose adorns each table. The bar area is anchored by a Brunswick, Balke, Collender “Record” bar that was made in the mid-1890s in Chicago, and it has been in place since 1904.

I’m hopeful that Golden Era will go ahead with the pop-up dinners. The monthly gatherings will compliment our dining scene, now on a roll and gaining attention throughout Northern California.

Hodge to run for Grass Valley City Council

I received this press release. I’m posting it from my phone:

Grass Valley resident Hilary Hodge, who just completed a race for Nevada County Supervisor and missed her election bid by less than 1 point, has announced her intention to run for Grass Valley City Council. Hodge has completed and submitted the appropriate paperwork to form a campaign committee and enter the race.

“My resolve to serve and to work for the people of Grass Valley has never been stronger,” says Hilary Hodge. “My bid for Nevada County District 3 Supervisor gave me the opportunity to talk with our community in a deep and meaningful way. The people of Grass Valley are ready for innovative ideas and new opportunities and I am ready to lead for the people of Grass Valley.”

Hodge, a first-time candidate in the Supervisor’s race narrowly missed beating long-time incumbent Dan Miller.  “It’s clear to me that there is momentum for new leadership at all levels of government,” notes Hodge. “I’m ready to take what I learned on the campaign trail for Supervisor and move forward for my city.”  The City of Grass Valley lies entirely within the boundary of Supervisory District 3.

Hodge will still need to pull the appropriate paperwork from the City of Grass Valley and submit valid signatures by the filing date.

Remembering local Ray Shine

Ray Shine (credit: Debbie Lange’s Facebook page)

I received an email from a friend stating that longtime local  attorney Ray Shine — whom I knew, along with countless others — had passed away this past weekend. I will miss him.

I notified Don Rogers and Brian Hamilton at The Union last night, who thanked me for the head’s up, and decided to let the news percolate for a while until the word got around to more of Ray’s closest friends. Now the news is getting out on social media, and locals are remembering Ray.

“With a heavy heart and so saddened to find out Ray Shine passed,” as local Debbie Lange wrote on her Facebook page this morning. (This photo of Ray is from her Facebook page). “I have seen Ray recently as we talked about his health and his family, giving me updates of the girls as he told me he was retired but kept his license active to volunteer for community legal every Thursday.”

Wrote another: “A grand Grass Valley native son.”

I got to know Ray when we were on the high-school scholarship committee for the local Cal Berkeley alumni group; both of us were Cal graduates —and we discovered later, members of the Episcopal Church. I headed the scholarship committee, and Ray would come over to the house for the meetings.

I appreciated Ray’s wisdom and his passion for education and parenting.  He adored his daughters Molly and Sarah, and his wife Amy.

Ray graduated from Cal’s prestigious Boalt Hall Law School; he was admitted to the State Bar in 1973. He was a candidate for local Superior Court Judge as well; Tom Anderson won that race.

Ray worked in the Old Post Office building at 131 S. Auburn St. in downtown Grass Valley. He talked about it here. I often caught up with Ray when I saw him at the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Pioneer Park in Nevada City; we both were regulars.

Ray was president of the Friends of Nevada County Military, which sent support packages to solders deployed in combat zones.

In a 2014 article The Union reported: “Shine, whose practice has emphasized property and criminal law, is a partner in Shine Compton, APC. He began his career at the law firm of Larue and Francis, and he was president of the (Nevada County) Bar Association in 1978. Shine has also taught at Sierra College, served on the Nevada County Board of Education, the grand jury, and the Grass Valley Charter Revision Commission. He was the founding president of Nevada County United Way, and he has been active in many other community organizations.”

Ray would sometimes comment on this blog. Last fall I wrote about a walk that took place in downtown Grass Valley to show support for racial tolerance. The details are here.

Ray commented on the post: “The 5 o’clock walk was lovely. No violence, no damages. Just Nevada County clearly stating that we, like the GVPD, have his back.”

A longtime Republican, Ray had a keen sense of humor. As Debbie Lange, his good Democratic friend, wrote on Facebook: “I remember when the girls were little, Ray and I carried the Donation Day parade banner (the girls were between us), and Ray made me laugh as he said, ‘Okay Debbie, I will be on the right, and you will be on the left.”

Rest in Peace, Ray. Thanks for your contributions and inspiration as a community volunteer, legal professional and a loving dad. I understand a Memorial is planed for Friday at 2 p.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Grass Valley. I will update this post when more information becomes available.