The Valley Line: Gumbo and bluegrass on the menu

We are about to say adieu to the month of August and I did enjoy the lovely and unusual cool mornings we had. Obviously Mother Nature was giving us a fragrant little surprise, as the lawn and foliage around my house were wet with dew, filling the air with a heady sweetness.

The back-to-school madness has begun for some La Cañada families and is about to begin for others. Car pools are beginning to form, heralding the beginning of another school year.

It has been a very long time since I was ferrying kids to and fro, but I look back on those days with a certain amount of nostalgia, even though some of them were rather frantic. Unfortunately, my grandchildren live too far away for me to re-enter the car pool lines. Heather’s children, Catherine and Ryan, are in Palo Alto and Christopher’s kids — Aidan, Lucan and Morgan— are in England.

Happy back-to-school, everyone!


Here is a mouth-watering item for you to peruse and to make plans for next year. Chef Claud Beltran knows a thing or two about Louisiana-style crustaceans. He recently gathered a joyful group of foodies and musicians to celebrate what he called “Mumbo Gumbo Fest.”

This fabulous all-you-can-eat feast, which drew more than 250 guests, was a first large-scale eating frenzy event set behind the Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. Chef Beltran is the executive chef and co-owner of Noir Food & Wine Restaurant/Claud & Co. Catering. A portion of the proceeds went to Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, founded a century ago.

Hathaway-Sycamores is one of the largest nonprofit, private children’s mental health and welfare agencies in Los Angeles County. Over the years there have been numerous La Cañada Flintridge community members who have been volunteers with the agency and also have served on its board of directors.

Getting back to the tasty tidbits that Chef Beltran was serving up: For several years he has been hosting a similar gumbo fest for close friends, and of course it was a huge hit. This year he decided to expand the guest list and invite any and all who wanted to partake of fabulous food, and to also make a difference in the lives of the children at Hathaway-Sycamores.

The event took on a “Big Easy” ambience as guests donned colorful Mardi Gras beads. Chef Beltran said, “Laissez le bon temps roule,” which means, “Let the good times roll.” There is nobody that enjoys a good party more than Beltran.

He was in culinary glory planning the menu and preparing 150 pounds of shrimp, 50 pounds of crawfish, 30 gallons of gumbo, 35 baguettes, 15 pounds of rice and lots of garlic aioli.

And if there is good food at a party, there just has to be good music. Wreck N Sow made ’em happy and tapping their toes, and Blues Bettie blew the roof off the event.

Wreck N Sow is a string band specializing in a unique blend of bluegrass/country-western/Americana and old-timely music with an alternative edge. Blues Bettie is a unique style of funky electric in-your-face-and-body blues funk and soul music that features a vocalist, trumpet player, arranger, composer and songwriter Joel Porter.

“I would like to sincerely thank Claud for his continued support of our organization,” said Rob Myers, executive vice president of development for Hathaway-Sycamores. Myers grew up in La Cañada Flintridge.

Yes indeed, a good time was had by all.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. She can be reached at

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