This is another in the continuing account of my encounters with Philip Gelb’s underground vegan salon now called Sound and Savor. For some twelve years now he has hosted a series of dinners, brunches, and cooking classes. Many of the multi-course meals also feature some of the finest musicians, many from San Francisco and the east bay.
Today’s brunch started with fresh brewed coffee with a dollop of ginger (vegan) ice cream along with fresh baked bialys with cashew cream, pickled red onions, and “carrot lox”. So we began with a vegan Jewish theme. Needless to say these were delicious and the coffee helped waken anyone not ready for this 11AM start.
The next course was a similarly delicious borscht (beet soup) with beet pakoras. And clearly Phil has introduced this traditionally Indian dish which worked remarkably well with that soup. Again all were hot out of the pot/fryer clearly in our view.
As Phil performed his culinary alchemy in the kitchen we were most attentively served by his assistant for this meal, Letitia, a smiling joy of a woman who seems to have the knowledge and genuine caring of customer service in her blood. She was equally attentive to all in the crowd of about twenty diners with the usual mix of familiar faces and few new ones. Indeed the beautifully presented courses came at just the right pace.
The main course in this brunch was a Potato-Onion Tortilla, blood orange salad. And once again the diversity of cultures mixed to truly savory results as the friendly conversations flowed. At this point even the hungriest would hope for a pause and that’s exactly what happened.
With a judicious touch of rearranging Phil prepared a performance space for the three musicians who graced us on this beautiful sunny Oakland day. Jay Ghandi, bansuri (Indian Flute), Sameer Gupta, tablas (a staple of Hindustani music), and David Boyce, saxophone and bass clarinet (need I say a staple of jazz?). The alchemy of the food would now find an analogy in this jam session. Boyce and Gupta had played here about a year ago and Ghandi is a frequent collaborator with both musicians. All three had played yesterday in San Jose and were scheduled to play in San Francisco at the Red Poppy Art House. They are touring to promote their recent release A Circle Has No Beginning. These are just three of the musicians who participated in this crowd sourced disc which is itself worth your attention.
The energy was immediately palpable as seen in this excerpt from one of three pieces they played.
This last excerpt demonstrates the ease of communication between these musicians who blend diverse backgrounds of jazz and Hindustani musics seamlessly into something new and wonderful. The audience was energized to a level beyond what coffee could do and broke into appreciative applause after each piece.
The brunch ended with a dessert of (again fresh baked) Citrus Semolina Cake and more of that delicious coffee and ice cream. And, of course, more conversation.
These events have become a regular part of this writer’s recreational time and a real reason to celebrate living in the diverse and creative east bay. Phil’s judicious blend of cultures in his culinary experiments provide a parallel to his curation of some of the finest musicians with the only purpose in both case to entertain and enlighten. He achieved both is a big way this day. Thanks to all who participated.