Most of the group had never met, so we all had a merry time getting to know each other over mimosas and a buffet breakfast brunch. McCovey’s (as you might guess from the name) is a sports-themed restaurant, which offers an impressive breakfast/brunch buffet during the football season. It was no place for a diet because the long serving area had a seemingly endless number of choices including pancakes, French toast, bacon, eggs in almost any style you wanted, fresh fruit.... Following brunch we walked to Christine’s lovely We Olive store where we were warmly greeted by her husband, Mike, who spent a few minutes educating us on the Virgin Olive Oil industry. Mike described the health benefits of using olive oil for cooking and seasoning. We sampled the Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil that included flavors of tropical fruit and fresh artichoke, and is great for salad dressings, greens, or garden pestos. We also sampled a pairing of Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Aged Balsamic Vinegar. The Basil Olive Oil and Blackberry Vinegar combination was my favorite. It was so delicious that a few of us bought bottles to take home.
We Olive offers such a rich range of products that we could have spent the entire day tasting, sampling, and exploring. Besides an enormous variety of olive oils, they sell tapenades, various flavors of mustard, dipping oils.... the list is long. Christine is a member of the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) taste panel that is responsible for certifying the Extra Virgin Olive Oil products sold in California. Christine must be a wonderful asset in that position because we discovered that she has an amazing palette with an awesome ability to pick out the flavors and ingredients of whatever she is tasting. The type of products they sell brings the olive oil and wine industry close together, so it is appropriate that Mike and Christine are opening a wine bar. They gave us a flight with some of the labels they are selling, each of which was delicious. The wine bar will be an intimate venue with seating for 16. Customers will be served in glasses that are so cute I really wanted to take one home. Julee Herrmann, and her husband Simon, played host and hostess at our next stop, which was their Canvas and Cabernet venue. One of the art instructors, Jocelin Rodriguez, gave us a painting lesson. Each of us was givenbrushes, an apron, a set of paints, and a mimosa. The drink was especially welcome because the so-called Dutch courage imparted by the alcohol fortified me to face the blank canvas that appeared malice. I am no artist nor have I ever intended to become one. However,
Jocelin turned out to be a truly exceptional teacher. She began by getting us pumped up, ensuring us that anyone can learn to paint, and then demonstrated the truth of her assertion by leading us through the process one careful step at a time. We had a small party with music and drink to celebrate the successful accomplishment of each milestone in the process. Before we progressed very far, the periodic celebrations together with Jocelin’s incredible skills as a teacher had banished my fear. Before I knew it I was actually having a great time with my brushes and colors. I noticed that my friends, none of whom had any more experience than I, were also smiling and obviously having as much fun with their acts of creation as I was with mine.
After an hour-and-a-half of our splashing paint on canvas, Jocelin announced that we were going to have a dry break. My heart sank because I thought it meant the bar was closing but was relieved to realize that the break was to allow the paint to dry on our canvas before the next step. We took advantage of the downtime by sharing a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that we bought from Simon. I found an opportunity to chat with Jocelin, and learned that she had grown up in East Oakland, and had begun drawing at a very young age. Jocelin is passionate about art. I loved this about her. She shared with me that working at Canvas and Cabernet was a dream come true, because it gave her the opportunity to share her love for art with people who, like me, were complete novices. She always enjoys watching the magic that would happen as students experienced moments of joy and delight at seeing something lovely come into being through their own efforts. I understood what Jocelin meant when she spoke about how fulfilling it is to do something you love doing; some activity that you seem to have been made for. When my picture was finished it felt like a child that I had given birth to; I wonderful! I have to admit Angela Bradley, who is a preschool teacher played an important role in making this a success. My efforts at mixing paints to obtain the shade I wanted didn’t go well, at a few points. Angela was able to exactly create the color she wanted so on a few occasions she shared her paints with me. We took childish delight in mixing those paints — most of which ended up on our pictures, I think, but anyone could tell from looking at our aprons, arms, and hands what colors we had been using.
Our final stop was Happy Hour atModern China Café. Julee joined us too. We walked in holding up our heads in pride and holding up our pictures so that others could see and admire our handiwork. The outdoor café at Modern China’s lovely patio provided a perfect scene to conclude the day’s happy activities. Furthermore, we discovered Rose Gimlets to be the perfect drink to end the day with. We also sampled a Cocktail called “No Name” that had me wondering if the Mixologist had tried so many combinations of ingredients that when finally arriving at the perfect combination he/she had temporarily lost a lot of vocabulary.
We feasted from the tasty items featured on the Happy Hour menu including Peking Duck, some amazing Dim Sum, Basil Chicken, Vegetarian Chow Mein, and many more choices. Not only is that one of the greatest Happy Hour menus I ever saw, Modern China offers it all day every day, except Friday and Saturday.
Our first Sunday Funday was a resounding success. One of the best things was that we had begun the day as a group of people who were mostly strangers to each other and by the time the day had ended we were friends. We learned some surprising things about eachother — such as the fact that Christine was born in Germany and Julee’s fatherin- law had immigrated to the USA from Germany in 1967 with $300 in his pocket and subsequently invented the concept of Genetic Counseling. Once the two women, who had not met each other until that day, had learned of their mutual ties to Germany, they discovered a shared desire to visit the Fatherland and went on to talk about cross marketing their two businesses. The synchronicity was wonderful!
We all ended the day with a renewed appreciation for Walnut Creek as a truly great place to live. We felt fortunate to have so many great things to do right on our doorstep. Our Sunday Funday had only scratched the surface of the possible downtown places we could go and the things we could do. We should have one of these every month!