Thursday, July 4, 2013

Corndogs, Dames & Daddy-O's! ... Mid-Century Supper Club Picnik 2013

How to stuff a wild picnic... Mid-Century Supper Club Picniks attack the Oakland waterfront!  (click pic for full size)

It was THAT time again. Time for the Mid-Century Supper Club to convene for some fun and frolic among platters that matter overflowing with vintage-inspired dishes large and small, tall and fat, obtuse and three dimensional. Be they tasty traditional classics from tried and true vintage recipe books or grotesque experimental recipes from the more obscure 50s & 60s culinary ephemera...or even the oddball post modern edible presence, we were all in for a treat. One thing is a given with these parties, flavors and seasonings (and mystery ingredients) aside, the food was sure to 'look' appealing and/or 'authentic' in it's often gelled and technicolor glory....which is half the battle and all the fun. On this, the first day of summer the theme was for BBQ/picnic oriented fare, and as usual we supper-club purveyors of obsolete cuisine pulled out all the stops.
For the uninitiated, the Mid-Century Supper Club is a group of like minded folks with a deep love for the magical days of 1940s-late 60s style and culture, our fascination extending from clothes and architecture and music to popular edible party dishes of the era. These golden years were the times when socializing was the real deal and the focus fell hard on the creativity and appearance of the food we enjoyed at social gatherings. Hosting elaborate thematic parties from one's home was a preferred way to enjoy each other's company, and these parties were rife with well-dressed revelers, potent cocktails, and unique snack trays which bore the latest trend in foodstuffs. These dishes required meticulous preparation and stylistic display techniques which we simply don't see in our current socializing environment. While the intensive ritual of artisan cocktail imbibing reaches ridiculous levels in today's social scene, many forget about the brightly colored angular and symmetrical aspic laden jell-o-ver the top world of vintage dishes and hors d'oeuvres. Not for us, the MCSC have become the torchbearers for this affinity for defunct recipes and we faithfully recreate them for the enjoyment (and horror) of the rest of the group. It is incredibly fun to share this spirit with kindred friends, a group of nutters who appreciate the finer things in life that our parents (and even grandparents) enjoyed.

(for more background on the MCSC, see 'Food Photography And The Art of Irritation, rule #6 : Join The Club' here)

A small sampling of the variety of mid-century picnic cuisine which arrived for our feasting enjoyment.
(more photos here)

After the hugely successful annual Supper Club holiday party last Christmas, it was quite clear that these events had caught on with our extended family of food classicist aficionados like a fever. The word had spread in a great way, and attendance was overwhelming... however this also meant we had outgrown the traditional methods of the parties being held at either of the supper club hostesses Karen Finlay or Jennye Garibaldi's homes. It was time for a little organizational magic from the Dames aux Gateaux, an all-ladies social club with a flair for the past and the spirit and passion for celebrating the vintage lifestyle in the modern day. These girls seek out local Bay Area haunts for their dining pleasure, descending for dinner and drinks on long-time establishments which have retained some of their vintage charm and been spared the dreaded face-lift of the all too frequent 70s & 80s remodel. For this event, the Dames were on the ball as expected, and we were going to need their expertise what with Jennye away in New York for the scheduled time of the party (we missed you dude!). With some careful planning and strategizing, The first edition of the Mid-Century Supper Club Picnic was set for June 23, 2013.

The Dames aux Gateaux 
Moe GadishuAlexandra TylerLynn LandryShona Spitfire
Baby-Doe von Stroheim, Karen Finlay and Rusty Blazenhoff 

It was Saturday, the day before the big picnic and after a lucky last minute schedule change which freed up my Sunday, I was only able to confirm my attendance two days before. I was at my brother's place in Stockton without much of my 'secret weapons' for the shindig, and besides this last minute planning didn't leave me much time to pour through my vintage cookbooks and pamphlets to find something kooky and authentic to bring to the party. It had been widely publicized on the facebook Event page that we weren't allowed to have any hard alcohol in the building itself which sparked a desire in me to find a creative solution to our problem. After searching around for unique Jell-O shots as options, I found this very inspired recipe for watermelon margarita shots using fresh watermelon, tequila and gelatin, poured into hollowed-out lime husks and sliced to resemble mini-watermelon wedges. Although a definite deviation from classic mid-century eats, it was a perfect one I thought. I doubled and followed the recipe faithfully save for skipping the chocolate chip 'seeds' in favor of poppy seeds and substituting the tequila for vodka (a more popular party liquor and hard to turn down the bottles of Stoli Apple staring me down from their end cap at Trader Joe's at only $5.99 a pop). Thanks to the thorough assistance from my brother Billy (aka misterbigidea, don't miss his insanely cool photo documentation of everyday life in the Central Valley here), we spent the majority of the evening and on into the wee hours of Sunday morning making our little spiked watermelons.

My other hurdle was a proper outfit for the picnic. A crucial element that is always a priority of mine for the MCSC, but this time I had to wing it. Again, with limited resources and no time for a dry-cleaning run, I opted for a decidedly east coast Corinthian flavor fit for lazy days lounging around dockside.The simple pairing of patchwork madras casual slacks and red deck shoes would do the trick... ironing a blue oxford shirt and dusting off my vintage Ray-Ban aviators and I was feeling somewhat presentable for the picnic.

Sunday morning came on like a fluorescent light and I was out of the house unshaven and in a blur to make my train to Oakland. I was met at the Amtrak station by Karen's husband Jon Burchard, a good mate of mine who had his kids Annabelle and Andrew in tow, both of them happily cruising in the back seat excited for the picnic. This was a unique opportunity for the youngsters in our Supper Club family to join the festivities too and several kids were scheduled to be there. The Dames had rented the Martin Luther King Shoreline Center in Oakland, a quaint architecturally pleasing multi-purpose reception facility situated on clean sprawling grounds right on the waterfront. We pulled in and pitched a hand to apply the picnic fabric on the tables, fired up one of the barbecue pits and cracked open a beer... Miller High Life, of course. 

Matthew fires it up. Burn baby, burn... almost as lethal as his Coleman full of margaritas

Right at high noon the guests began filtering in and spreading their dishes out on the tables, coolers of beer and sodas were towed in, three more barbecues were ignited, and by 12:30 the picnic was already in full swing. Everyone mingled about sampling this and that, talking and laughing enthusiastically over beverages and plates of food, all of us admiring the show of exotic edibles on display while children scurried around and played games. A few vintage cars pulled up front and center and we found ourselves in the midst of a mini makeshift car show, the owners more than happy to talk about their rides.

Vanessa Kunkel makes the scene in her beautiful Nash Metropolitan... sporting festive togs to match, natch.

Once mood master Otto von Stroheim hit the grounds and dialed in his sound system, things really got cookin'...a sure thing when Otto is deejay-ing, he never fails to set a perfect ambiance for every occasion with tunes culled from his extensive collection of boss sounds.

Don't mess with the men in plaid, dad!  Obviously me and Otto mean business of some sort

With the party at full kip and stomachs starting to fill up, it was time for the awards. The Dames rallied us all  onto the front deck for the prize giving, the extremely informal MCSC tradition to distribute silly cool prizes to the more outstanding dishes and their creators. Always a highlight of our Supper Club parties, this 'ceremony' was no exception, laughter and applause were shared and proper nods given to the exceptional artists and their creations. A big 'thank you' was showered on us by the Dames, the music kicked back into gear and we were well into the mix again, picking and nibbling at the remaining food until the sun began to dip low and the picnic inevitably wound to a close.

Clutching a bottle of Chandon, the prize for 'best use of alcohol' for me and my bro's 'Water Mel-O' watermelon shots. Many thanks to Rusty Blazenhoff for the pic, be sure to check her out on flickr here
If I look a little smug in this photo, it's because I've won a prize at all but one of the MCSC events I've attended. Not an easy feat, just ask my arch-rival Enid Westberg aka froggyboggler, cultivator of all things knick and knack.
Check out her awesome photos here

We had the extreme pleasure of hosting two accomplished authors for the picnic, Heather David who wrote 'Mid-Century By The Bay' and Andrew Danish who penned 'Palm Springs Weekend', a real treat to chat with them about their mutual love for mid-century culture. There was a rumor floating around early in the weekend that we would possibly see our hero the Maestro himself Charles Phoenix in attendance, however he was booked for one of his infamous gigs on Sunday and was unable to make it. Hope to see you at the next one, Charles! We'll save some better weather for you. Despite this being the 'first day of summer', we were teased all afternoon by rain that never quite materialized, rather setting an interesting vibe of overcast skies and the occasional misty air, a nice moody backdrop for our little picnic.

Local celebrities all... Andrew Danish, Baby Doe von Stroheim, Heather David and Karen Finlay

Many thanks to Karen and The Dames for executing the most ambitious Mid-Century Supper Club potluck to date... this went down as smooth as marshmallow Fluff and without a hitch. And thanks to all of you super cool folks in attendance that continue to outdo yourselves and make these parties what they are, an explosion of creativity and camaraderie which oozes massive style and originality. Hats off to all of you.

See you at the next one mates.


Oakland Hillbillies in full flex...
Greener pastures with Dolin, Matthew, Griselda, Mari, Dr. Kirk, Jon, Karen and my brother the scarecrow.

Mid-century cuddles and ruckus at the 'juvenile delinquent table' with some of my favorite people... Barbizon, my brother Billy... and local legends Mark Kliem & Mark Ruisi - Mousketeers by day, Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence by night.

If this type of throwback thing us up your alley like O'Malley, don't miss the legendary Southern California celebration of all things tiki otherwise known as Tiki Oasis, this hip-happening is from August 15-18 in sunny swingsville San Diego. Follow the link below for all the latest news from T.O. HQ

Tiki Oasis homepage

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