If you are bored with the usual strolling through downtown on Second Saturday yet still want to enjoy it with friends, you might want to consider hanging out with Adam Pechal, chef/owner of Tuli Bistro and Thir13een. You won't find him at either of those two restaurants though. Instead he'll be over at Lulu's Kitchen, formerly known as Steel Magnolia Commercial Kitchen, hanging out, doing a little cooking, and sharing some of his Northern California Favorites.
This past Saturday marked the first edition of what is being called "Adam Pechal's Northern California Favorites" and is described as "a monthly class featuring the best of local beer, wine, produce, and more hosted by Chef Adam Pechal". For March they featured "Beer, Beer, Beer: Tasting and Pairing with Berryessa Brewing Co. and brewmaster, Chris Miller".
Now for those who know that I don't drink, we all wonder why I'd go to a beer focused event. Honestly, I did too, but I was assured there would be food involved. There was, but not as much as I hoped for. More on that later.
Let's back up a minute and review the history of Steel-Magnolia-now-Lulu's-Kitchen. As I reported in my post less than a year ago,Steel Magnolia Keeps Cooking, the commercial kitchen was established in 2009 by Gail von Huene. Here was a place that small entrepreneurs could produce their food goods following the State requirement that food sold be produced in a commercial kitchen. The two kitchens were also rented out for pop-up restaurants, food events, even weddings. But the bad economy was hard on the income and last fall Gail sold the kitchen to Feeding Crane Farms to be used for their food production while still being available for rent.
Shannin Stein, General Manager, is at the kitchen for the event. I asked her about the name Lulu's Kitchen. She explains that it is an homage to owner Brian Shaad's grandmother, the one who gave him his incredible appreciation for food and gardening.
The event starts at 4 p.m. and a small group gathers in the dining room, starting to sip on some of Berryessa Brewing's beer. I've been to a couple of events now with Pechal and so I'm not too surprised to see him rushing in rather harried. He seems to be a last minute type of guy. But that doesn't take away any of his enthusiasm and charisma. He's in a happy mood as he rushes to set up his first item.
Keep in mind this is a "first-time" event and as always, kinks need to be worked out. That said, more clarification on the event descriptions would be my first critique, which is easy to fix. Some of the Facebook and Twitter promos I was seeing implied cooking classes with Pechal. This evening there was one short cooking demo for making the shrimp fritters, but otherwise we kept to the dining room socializing, drinking beer, and waiting for the next pairing.
And that was what this was, a beer pairing with small bites, not a meal. The foodie-non-drinker in me was disappointed that we just had a few nibbles. The beer drinkers, meanwhile, were happy with the ever-flowing beer.
So, how the evening progressed was that Pechal would come out with a bite to go with whatever beer matched it. He would describe why he chose the food and Miller would describe the background of the beer. For instance, the shrimp fritter had the Common Sense beer mixed into the batter to give it some lift and that was the beer was served with it. Later the Cease and Desist was served with the house cured sausage and spicy mustard.
The event was scheduled until 6, but we ended at 7. We were all so busy making friends and chatting away. Pechal spent most of the time chatting with us as the rest of the items were simple or pre-made, like the chocolate covered bacon.
I asked Stein about future Pechal Second Saturday classes and she explained that they will all focus on what of Pechal's favorite products from the region. April will be Sean Minor Wines with cheese and cheese recipes while other months might focus more on a food item. Sometime soon, for instance, they will focus on oysters.
Everyone left having enjoyed a fun evening. I will personally look forward to some of the upcoming classes - the ones with more food.
The Second Saturday classes are not the only ones available at Lulu's Kitchen. There are many classes throughout the month, many of which are hands-on.
For more information about upcoming events at Lulu's Kitchen, be sure to click on their Facebook and Twitter links.