This is the last weekend in July, which can only mean one thing: the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
What? You’re not going? You don’t want to drive into the hot, garlic-scented valley on a one-lane highway rife with minivans with bumper stickers that read: “It’s Chic to Reek”?
Can’t say that I blame you, but honestly: everyone should go at least once. It’s a kick. The atmosphere is contagiously goofy, and the air smells so strongly of garlic that even if you don’t eat any (impossible during the festival weekend), you’ll smell like it for at least three days afterwards. I spoke to Andrea Froncillo yesterday, chef at The Stinking Rose; he’s on his way down to Gilroy today for three days of garlic madness. He’ll be judging the Garlic Cook-Off, and then taking the stage himself, cooking from The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook.
He’ll be in his element; the man is a born performer. He loves the energy of the crowd. I’ve often thought that his restaurants should have counter seating, where he could cook for an audience; it's truly what inspires him.
Which brings me to my fig story.
A few years ago, Andrea invited me to a dinner party hosted by his business partner in a gorgeous home in Russian Hill. About two hours before dinner was supposed to start, Andrea drove to Whole Foods and made up his menu on the spot in the produce section. He didn’t give it a thought before the moment he walked into the store; that there would be ten or twelve hungry mouths to fill in a short time didn’t daunt him in the slightest. He bought whatever was fresh and in season and piqued his fancy. Arms loaded with bags, he proceeded to the house, where he chopped and stirred, moving leisurely until guests began to arrive. Then he really started cooking.