On Sunday, May 20, 2007, I went to the Mountain View "a la carte" Festival. As I explored, I quickly realized it was one of the coolest and ritziest street fairs to which I've gone. Its main appeal was countless booths displaying sophisticated, quality artwork. For a reference point, many pieces had price tags in the hundreds of dollars, and more than a few booths had items labeled with prices over a thousand dollars. I enjoyed browsing here more than I have at many museums.
Feeling lazy, I took the Caltrain to Mountain View. Upon arriving, I remembered that the Mountain View farmers market is on Sunday. Having not been to it in years, I explored. It's just the right size, enough that there's a few purveyors of everything but not so large as to be intimidating. Aside from food, it has a small Acme bakery outpost as well as a few other bakeries, many selling desserts. Some booths sold Indian foods. Others sold Russian foods (e.g., piroshki). Some horticultural booths sold flowers, plants, and herbs. Top it off with a blues musician and you've got a very pleasant experience.
As I was anxious to get to the festival (and its prepared food) and didn't want to carry something around all day, I didn't buy anything.
I spent a good four or five hours exploring the festival, more than at nearly any other festival I've attended. Of course, part of the reason for the length could be that it was a nice day, certainly warmer than at the previous day's festival in Berkeley. The festival included lots of art: paintings pottery, handbags, jewelry, wind chimes, photography, glasswork, sculptures, pewter figurines, hats, clothing, ... There was so much stuff to see that I got faired out before I'd seen everything. I occasionally took pictures and videos of sights that I found particularly remarkable. But for many booths I didn't feel comfortable taking a picture or felt a picture couldn't represent what I wanted to capture; hence here's a list, in no particular order, of the other cool sights:
- Hang Five sells wood carved to look like miniature surfboards, designed to hold towels, hang aprons, act as a clock, etc. Cute. The about page has links to pictures of their products.
- One booth sold kaleidoscopes as well as candles mounted in wine glasses.
- Seashell Fine Art Collections mounts shells in frames. I didn't take a picture because the beauty of these is in their depth. Given the frame setting, it feels like the contents should be flat; seeing 3-d is a surprise. The portfolio section of her (ugly) web page has pictures of her art, but these pictures have the same flaw that worried me. They're all taken from the perpendicular and hence don't display any depth. Incidentally, I asked and learned that the woman doesn't find the shells herself -that would be cool- but rather imports them from Asia.
- Jim Guthrie does incredible panoramic photography. I especially liked his photograph of Mossbrae Falls. Of course, it's much more impressive when you see the picture printed so it's five feet across ($1,550). I learned he uses a special panoramic camera with negatives that are the relatively enormous size of 2.25 x 6.75 inches and thus can make such large prints. I noticed an unusual feature of his booth: most of the photographs he had displayed were taken in California. Considering most booths selling photographs involve shots taken in exotic, far off continents, seeing such local photography reminded me of the beauty there is in California. Incidentally, if you browse his web site, you'll see he also has photographs from remote locations as well. Flip through his image gallery: you'll be glad you did. Even his thumbnail images are incredibly vivid.
- Bill Wehner also does good photography. When I visited his booth, my first impression was that it wasn't as impressive as Guthrie's (but then, what could be?). After browsing the pictures on his web site, I think he's equally impressive. I attribute my initial reaction to be a simple consequence that Guthrie had larger prints on display than Wehner. Incidentally, I enjoy Wehner's comments on each of his pictures explaining its content, the emotions it evokes, or the technique by which he made it. Also, one of the cameras he uses seems like an antique, but, like Guthrie, he uses it to capture images on large negatives.
- Butterfly Gallery mounts dead butterflies. The colors are so fantastic I think they're unreal, but I believe I heard the artist say everything is natural. Prices range from $49 to $6,500!
- Anne Xu has stunning photographs of China. Browse her web site.
- Art Anvil makes funky spirals cut out of metal, as seen in this and this picture.
- Someone named Michael Wood had nice photographs of San Francisco taken from the air. Sadly, I can't find a web page for him.
- At every festival, the local police department has a booth for community relations, eduction, and recruiting. Mountain View's Police Department's booth had the nicest exhibits I've seen from any police department, including displays of items for different ways of securing one's home or business (e.g., locks, signs) and a variety of goggles that give the feeling of being drunk (daytime, night-time, blood alcohol content 0.07, 0.1, 0.2, ...). It's all very hands-on.
- I saw a booth selling hand-made wooden pens and thought it unique. Then I found another such booth.
- Bob Bowman has a number of pictures and paintings from Paris.
- One booth specialized in soaps that look like desserts: creme bars, pineapple cakes, etc. It's a bit of a contrast to the soap that look like sushi I spotted at fairs last year.
- From my experience in a glass class, I decided as a general rule opaque and transparent glass often don't look good together. B Sharp Accessories, especially with plates that combined the two, disproves my theory.
- One booth sold pretty hanging pieces of glass in shapes like a four leaf clover, a star, a five leaf clover, and a sliver of a waning moon.
- Someone makes wool sculptures!
- One guy cuts shapes out of coins by hand with a saw. For instance, he cut the deer out of an Irish one pound piece to get a coin with a deer silhouette. That requires a lot of precision.
- Incredible Edibles had a booth of fruit photography.
- I walked by Metal Souls. As you can tell from their web site, they make small metal sculptures of everything from sci-fi characters to sports players to musicians to animals. I'm sure I would've stopped and photographed some had I not already gotten tired of viewing art.
The kid's zone, filled with rides, a bouncy castle, and a big slide, was at one end of the fair.
Regarding musical entertainment, the festival had only one stage. The first time I walked by the stage, it was occupied by a rock band, Full Throttle, that didn't appeal to me. Happily, I found more and better music played on the street throughout the fair; some recordings are at the photos and videos link above. Still, the music was more limited than at other festivals but I didn't mind given all the cool art.
Of course, while at the festival, I had to eat. The selection included the usual booths of grilled meats, teriyaki, sausages, kebabs, and garlic fries. I bought a combination plate at the only interesting place, Sophie's Island BBQ. I liked my bbq rib. My chicken drumsticks had a good exterior flavor but the insides were a bit dry. My plate also had some pickled daikon, a decent potato salad (effectively a traditional potato salad to which black olives were added), a scoop of (orange!) sushi rice, and a scoop of red rice. The latter had flavor. I'm sorry I can't find a more descriptive word; it's entirely my fault. Was it flavored with vinegar? Wasabi? Something pickled? Egg? I'm really not sure.
The festival had wine, beer, and margaritas. Wine was the only item I was in the mood for. Sadly, I had to pass because they wouldn't serve anyone wine without a commemorative glass and I didn't want to buy a commemorative glass.
The long list of cooking demonstrations on the festival's web site was one of my primary reasons for attending the festival. But I got so distracted by the artwork that I didn't get to see many demos. As my pictures show, I watched part of a demo on how to make edible centerpieces. I also watched a sushi "cooking" demonstration during which I learned how to shred daikon and a little about what types of fish can be frozen and defrosted acceptably. (Tuna is fine frozen; whitefish should never be frozen.) Finally, I saw an unofficial demonstration: Byetta, a prescription drug to treat type 2 diabetes, had a booth in which Chris Smith, The Diabetic Chef, talked about making healthy meals. He was quite an entertainer. I learned his way to check whether meat is done: if the meat has the same feel as your cheek when poked, it's rare; if it feels like your chin, it's medium; if it feels like your forehead, it's well done.
In the amusing t-shirt category, I spotted people wearing:
- "I Make Stuff"
- "I HEART Asian Girls" (worn by a white male)
- "Save Water, Drink Beer"