It’s the last Saturday in September. In an attempt to play the role of middle aged adult, I’m heading to meet two friends and explore the Valley Urban Market. It’s brand spanking new; the brainchild of three women; Jordyn Grohl, Megan Gefsky & Deborah Saly, currently in residence Saturday’s 10am-4pm at The Sportsmen’s Lodge in Sherman Oaks. Or more accurately, it’s in a small section of their parking lot. The Valley Urban Market, or VuM, (with a — over the U, the meaning of which eludes me) is designed as an oasis to foodies and families. It promises an array of food trucks, music, and the best parts of an outdoor marketplace.
The parking is unclear. The signs say “Hotel Parking Only” and I wonder if that extends to VuM (—). After a few minutes of confusion and uncertainty in the lot, I opt to head out and grab street parking. It’s easy enough if you’re willing to feed a meter or park a few blocks away. After parking I try to take a short cut through The Sportsmen’s Lodge from a side entrance and wind up wandering around confused and eventually at a Bar Mitzvah. L’Chaim! I recover and find my way to the main entrance where I meet my compatriots. For today’s adventures I’m palling around with friends Darnell and Tommy. The only drawback of our threesome is that size wise standing all together we look like we could be a set of Russian dolls and I’m the smallest babushka.
Tommy was first to arrive and texted out, “I’m here, it’s small but lively”, an accurate first impression; followed by “Jeff Probst is here”. The Valley Urban Market is much smaller than expected. It’s about half the length and half the width of a football field. The sides and far end are lined with food trucks; in the center benches, umbrellas and a temporary tattoo and face painting stand. There is DJ spinning; DJ88, Bree DeLano, another Valley Mom. Enjoyably not the first image that comes to your mind when you think DJ. There is a free photo booth, as well. Outside, a small crowd has gathered as Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters frontman, is hanging inside his tour bus in the parking lot. “Market” and the one bit of press I read left the impression it would be more a marketplace. I expected farmers market, maybe crafts and such, in addition to food trucks. No. It’s a circle of food trucks and benches. It’s $5 to enter, which frankly doesn’t feel earned. Farmers markets and food truck gatherings abound in LA and I’ve never had to pay an entrance fee. Did I mention how small the event actually is? Darnell questions the admissions fee and is told a portion is donated to the Valley Food Bank. “What portion?”, is met with shrug. Some research also adds this nice fact, “Every dollar you donate, Valley Food Bank will get an additional $10 from stores like Trader Joe’s, for example”. We fork over the fee and move inside.
VuM (—) is bustling. Lots of people and lots of food. Tunes spin and the valley sun beats down something fierce making it feel more mid summer than start of fall. Because we’re patriots, we start with some Sam Adams beers and devise a strategy. We’ve secured a metal, high top table to stand around, though the reflecting sun makes a personal assault on Tommy. He kinda asked for it. The conversation flows as we conclude sharing is the best way to go. Tommy starts things off by grabbing a drink from The Base Natural Sweetener Co., while I fetch dumplings from Dina’s Dumplings. We sip the delightful, no sugar added, blackberry and soda concoction with decorative flowers on top. Very refreshing. Would it be nice with vodka added? I mean, I’m just putting the question out there. We pop savory pork dumplings in our mouths; nod, smile and approve, cause they’re great. We discuss that situation where one of your friends has a friend that you keep getting stuck hanging out with but don’t like. What to do? – stories and opinions. Round 1 in the books. Everyone is a winner. Darnell is up next and delivers lobster nachos from Lobsterdamus. Solid, though I wonder why with such elevated meat melted Velveeta is still the choice of cheese. Tommy and Darnell agree lobster, in general, is overrated, and I silently judge their character and souls for such blasphemy. Sticky rice is next, actually more accurately, Omusubi. These are Japanese rice balls with different fillings inside, wrapped with nori. We have a trio of mushroom miso, beef miso and curry chicken from the food stand named Sunny Blue. All are yummy. The curry chicken is the surprising winner, packing the most flavor. The conversation has segued to current events. We are two days removed from the Supreme Court hearings where Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh delivered testimony. I’d wager half of the Valley Urban Market patrons touch on the subject themselves today. It’s an ugly, big moment in US history. Naturally, the only way to wash it down is with a spam burger. For every ailment, a prescription. We split a spam burger from Wa-ii Kamikaze. Hello sodium. I’m glad I ate 1/3 not a full spam burger but there is no denying it’s a bomb of meat and salt goodness! No lie, it’s tasty. And there’s a meal and friends well met.
The unendurably long line for The Beached Pig, the most popular food truck at the event, has subsided. Only later, with some research do I learn the truck is actually owned and part operated by Dave Grohl , married to Jordyn Grohl, one of the three founders. Oooooohhhhhh. Well that makes sense. The truck’s offerings sound delicious, but we’re stuffed; doing that thing where you stumble, slow down, and rub your belly a little. Still, the Wanderlust Creamery Honey Lavender Bar is candy for the eyes and mouth. It’s a sophisticated, retro desert. Like a real amateur Darnell can’t handle his lactose, so he opts for the vegan and dairy free Irish Cider Sorbet. It tastes exactly like cider. Valley Urban Market conquered, we meander our way out. Maybe I’ll see how that Bar Mitzvah is going. But first, the photo booth.