Ventura County's Support-Local Program

And A Good Time Was Had By All

TLVC’s “Dinner At the City” offered the locavore’s dream, and a bit of something for everyone.

As the Bard famously penned, “There’s nothing new under the sun;” especially among the cosmopolitan set, it’s not easy to find an evening offering an experience that isn’t “old hat.” Thus what a challenge was undertaken last week with Totally Local VC’s groundbreaking event Dinner At the City, an al fresco dining adventure in the shadow of Ventura’s City Hall that, by all accounts, was like nothing the hundred-plus guests had experienced before.

The unprecedented civic affair represented a veritable tapestry of logistic challenges. Yet despite the myriad details – from complex catering, to parking, decor, entertainment, a tour, and more – the fete was widely acclaimed as a triumph of community building, and quite simply, a good old-fashioned good time. “It was a truly warm and welcoming community evening,” recalled Ventura resident Merle DiVita. “The glow we all left with was from more than the Limoncello and fabulous wines!”

Old Creek Ranch Winery owner John Whitman pours the wine for Totally Local guests

Intended as a multi-faceted showcase of what it means to “live local,” Dinner At the City united an historic local location (Ventura’s City Hall) with locally grown food (McGrath Family farms, Dave Pommer and Petty Ranch) expertly prepared by a renowned local chef (Rachel Main of Main Course California), paired with the product of local vintners and brewmasters (Old Creek Ranch Winery and Surf Brewery, respectively).

While the event was meticulously planned, it also – being something brand new – comprised a giant leap of faith by all involved: from organizers to purveyors to guests, nobody truly knew quite what to expect. Imagine a single table spanning over a hundred seats, relative strangers ranked shoulder-to-shoulder and sharing platters of sumptuous local fare: with so many variables at play, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that nearly anything could have happened. Happily, the result was not merely as intended, but exponentially so, demonstrating that it is possible to deepen and broaden our sense of participatory community while supporting parallel constructive agendas in eating, playing and celebrating all that is truly local to our community.

Savory hors d'oeuvres from Main Course California

The evening began with a wine- and beer-tasting reception on a broad patio just off City Hall’s sweeping main stair. Old Creek Ranch wines were poured from the hand of the owner himself, John Whitman, while directly opposite, Surf Brewery’s Doug Mason and Bill Riegler offered two varieties of their local beer on tap, as servers circulated with platters of savory Main Course California hors d’oeuvres. Underscoring the dynamic fare and animated discourse, Main Course’s Robert Jacobi displayed virtuoso skill on acoustic guitar, a performance he’d repeat at dinnertime.

Once the capacity crowd settled in they were treated to a tour of Ventura’s municipal seat by none other than Richard Senate and his daughter Megan. The duo offered perspectives on the famed structure – a storied edifice in more ways than one – not only recounting its history, but also lesser-known tales of its numerous ghostly residents.

At the tour’s conclusion guests passed from the structure’s main entrance to find the long communal table, elegantly dressed by Ventura Rentals, each plate “garnished” with one of Chris Sayer’s beautiful Meyer lemons. For the balance of the evening, the diverse group of resident Venturans and adopted “Venturans-for-an-evening” (who hailed from points as far away as Los Angeles and beyond) rubbed elbows and steeped in the singular ambiance that makes our home so unique.

Guests dined in the time-honored family-style tradition, serving each other from heaping communal platters

They shared a banquet that won’t soon be forgotten, through multiple courses, to dessert by Petite Reve Cafe, to a final toast with the smooth and fiery sweetness of Ventura Limoncello’s celebrated liqueur. As the courses arrived, guests were offered perspective on the foods from the farmers themselves, a rare peek at the too-seldom regarded but essential connection between the living earth and a well-laden dinner plate.

The event was conceived and styled to benefit Food Share, and the renowned non-profit was well represented in both attendance and in their small army of volunteer staff, an alliance for which both sides can be proud. Food Share’s Bonnie Weigel commented with inimitable charm, “Delicious food is all the more memorable in the company of others who appreciate conversations around what is good and beautiful in this world.” Her remark underscores both the goal of the evening, and the larger mission that informs all that is Totally Local VC – not only supporting community, but advancing it as an ethic worthy of all our support, in the many facets in which it can be found – from food, to commerce, to entertainment, to art, advocacy and so much more.

“We couldn’t be happier with the success of the evening,” remarked Totally Local VC founder Kat Merrick, who first imagined that an event like Dinner At the City could be possible, and whose energy saw it through every step, from a mere concept to the triumph it became. “Our only regret was that our table was limited to a hundred – better that it should have been a thousand, ten thousand, or an entire community, joined together in food and fellowship. How amazing would that be?”

The seats were indeed limited; less so was the abundance of great food and a very good time. Totally Local VC will do it all again next month with the second event in the series, Dinner At the Cross, endeavoring to capture the same lightning in a jar – this time from high on the hill in Grant Park, commanding a sweeping view of the Gold Coast and the sea. Seats will once again be limited, but are on sale now: log on to TotallyLocalVC.com for tickets or more information.

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Learn more about author James Scolari

James Scolari

About the author

James Scolari is a writer and photographer. Though his seedling sprouted in other soil, after transplanting to the Gold Coast it has flourished and bears fruit in Ventura throughout the seasons. Late of local print journalism, Scolari edits TLVC content for publication and offers odds and ends from his own pen. He's also a staffer and advocate for Ventura's Rubicon Theatre, and teaches his own brand of image-making in the ongoing Mind's Eye photo workshops. Check out his website at www.JamesScolari.com.

 

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