El Cerrito - Where's the beef? Well, 2000 lbs of it was at the Portuguese Festa at St. John's
The ceremony was better at the San Pablo festa, but the sopas at St Johns are the best I've tried to date.
I swear they allocated 2 - 3 lbs of beef per person and a half a dozen inch-thick slices of French bread soaked in juice. I exaggerate not at all. The sopas are free.
It was simple. It was simply great.
Unlike some sopas ... no cabbage ... no mint. Just meat, bread, beef juices. yum.
Each table of 12 got two huge platters of fall apart tender beef with a little succulant fat attached here and there. What worked here was the bread, those thick, slabs swimming in a bowl of meat juices.
The bread is already sitting in the meat juice, but because they were so thick everyone would dip the big ladle in the bowl and pour more juice over the beef and bread. So good.
As in the San Pablo festa there was some baked goods, sandwiches, and beverages for sale if the impending beef binge is not enough.
There were big rounds of Portuguese sweet bread from Portugese Bakery (Santa Clara) $6. There were also small sweet rolls for 50 cents. Linguica on crusty rolls was $3. Hot dogs $2. Candy $2. Rice pudding $2.
I think the rice pudding was from Portuguese Bakery also. I skipped it because I've had their rice pudding before. It is a very tasty rice pudding flavored with lemon. I was disappointed there were no filhos, Portuguese donuts.
I bought a bottle of Sagres Branca, a Portuguese beer.
There was also wine $2 (Carlo Rossi jugs), mixed drinks $3 and soda/water $1.
I guess the Holy Spirit guided me there today. I didn't know a festa was being celebrated and by accident I attended that mass. The Portuguese festas celebrate the feast of the Holy Spirit which occurs approximately seven weeks after Easter
I missed the mass near my house and St John was the next local mass. I walk in and all these young Portugese girls are dressed in their puffy white or gold dresses, shiny tierras in their hair. There was a brief blessing after mass with everyone invited to the festa. As parishioners left the mass, Portuguese ladies gave out little bags of sweet bread from Portuguese Bakery.
There is a parade with a statue of St John on a bed of red flowers carried by four young men, the Portuguese princesses and a band. Not only were these girls in gowns, a few had huge velvet capes lined with fur ... think Queen Elizabeth in full royal dress. Actually, they are commemorating the good works of Queen Isabel of Spain.
This was a major trek dressed like that in this heat. From St. John's on San Pablo, they marched up Potrero to Richardson and then the Portuguese Hall on Portola ... this is about 12 blocks, some of it uphill, all of it in the blazing sun. Everyone lived.
At the hall there is a small chapel. The Star Spangled banner was played. The crowd, hands over their hearts sang along. Then there was the Portuguese national anthem and finally the Holy Spirit Hymm.
Then it was time to eat.
First of all, who knew there was a Portuguese Hall? It is up the street from Safeway.
I thought the little room with a dozen tables was where where the dinner would be served. Nope. When 'Sopas' was called out, people lined up at a door at the end of that room which opened into a huge room with long white picnic tables. A few old travel posters of Lisbon were on the walls. Tables were covered with white plastic and set with white paper plates, napkins and plastic ware.
Next year's festa will be on June 27, 2010. If you don't want to attend mass, show up at the hall at about 1 pm.
The gentleman who seemed to be heading the event was great. He announced what was going on, directed the whole food distribution, took time to smooze with the tables. It was well-run. San Pablo had a little more pomp and ceremony with the parade part. However, this was a very convivial festa and sitting in that hall, I'll bet was little different from what it might be like in Portugual.
Last year's report about the San Pablo Festa with lots of background detail about Portuguese festas
San Pablo Portuguese Festa – Sopa do Espírito Santo, filhos, massa sovada, bagpipes & tiaras
St John the Baptist Catholic Church
11150 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA