Saturday, June 06, 2015

A Last Hurrah at Sunset Magazine's Menlo Park Campus This Weekend. Come Celebrate the Best of the West!

Sign from 2014 Celebration Weekend
If Sunset Magazine is said to celebrate the life in the West, the sale of it's famed 1951 Cliff May-designed Menlo Park campus is the end of an era and this weekend's Celebration Weekend could be the public's last chance to experience the mid-century landmark.

The move represents not just a change for the home, garden and travel icon of the West but for the population it serves in the coastal and southwestern U.S. Ever larger homes and gardens in suburbia are in many areas being replaced by an urban lifestyle accented by chickens, sustainable container gardens and recycled, homemade artisan maker-style crafts and projects.

Perhaps that shift in interests is reflected by the magazine's planned move in December from it's seven acre suburban campus filled with indoor and outdoor test kitchens, test gardens, wine cellar and offices to Oakland's Jack London Square. A second facility with wine and garden facilities is also planned for Sonoma County north of San Francisco.

At least that's the take I get from talking to Sunset editors at a recent media preview of the June 6 and 7 Celebration Weekend and from Editor in Chief Peggy Northrup's blog post.

Editors at the magazine vow to continue its coverage for both suburban and urban sectors of its audience and their passion for helping their readers live better shone throughout my tour.

The public can come experience all Sunset has to offer during the magazine's 17th annual Celebration Weekend at its campus at 80 Willow Road in Menlo Park.  It is always well attended but Sunset is expecting upwards of 20,000 attendees this year, so I recommend buying tickets in advance. (Plus you'll save $10). Tickets to some tastings and special activities are already sold out.

I went to the weekend last year and thoroughly enjoyed the food samples, kitchen tour, gardens, special exhibits and vendors for home, garden and travel as well as the entertainment and food trucks.
(Here's my write up of last year's event.)  Check the Sunset website for a full schedule of cooking demos (from famed chefs and Sunset staff) as well as entertainment, gardening, decorating and travel presentations..

This year I attended a media preview of Celebration Weekend.  Some highlights of that are below.
Please watch for a separate post with a cocktail and a mocktail recipe from the event.

Living in the West 
This is the dining room and kitchen of an almost 400 square foot "accessory house" set up on Sunset's grounds.  It illustrates the increasing importance of living well in less space, but also works well as a guest house or studio on a larger property.  Landscaping around the house by Sunset editors is so low water as to be almost no water.  I particularly liked the zone designated as the "relaxation" area.

This mini abode will be on the Celebration Weekend tour and then carted off by its owner to be a rental unit near Lake Tahoe.

Designer Orlando Soria gave the inside a contemporary spin on mid-century with a combination of new and vintage furnishings, including pottery and other items from his mother's home in Sonoma.

Gardening in the West
Dunec Hoang 
A tour of Sunset's gardens (originally designed by Thomas Church) always makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland.  The scenery keeps shifting depending on what projects the garden editors are working on and there is always something magical happening. Garden Design Assistant Lauren Dunec Hoang was so excited about her test of an olla, or ceramic watering bowl for gardens, she knelt in the dirt to demonstrate it's water sipping ways and show off a basil plant that was thriving near by.

The gardens were laid out along a creek to mimic the geography of the West from desert to redwoods.  Flowerbeds abound, as do fruit and vegetable plantings. Garden Editor Kathleen Norris Brenzel walked through the gardens pointing with pride to new plantings that were thriving and to a collection of plants Sunset had chosen to highlight and help market to its readers.  She said many of the plantings will be moved to the new garden site in Sonoma.

Camping in the West
Camping is a special theme this year and Sunset editors and project managers have put together a virtual Camp Sunset filled with exhibits, vendors and hands on experiences to highlight this theme.
Expect lots of tips, tricks and speakers as well as hands-on trail mix making and scavenger hunts.
One activity will be camp-friendly mocktails presented by travel editor Nino Padova, who serves as a defacto spirits and beer expert.  Watch for a separate post for his recipe as well as tips on drinking with spirits while camping.

Cooking in the West
Getting to see where Sunset tests all their recipes and hear about how Sunset designs and tests its recipes was a highlight of the media tour. I was pleased to meet food editor Margo True. I plan a future post on the topic.

The Celebration Weekend is jam packed with cooking demos.  See the presentation link for the full schedule.  If you do go, hang on to the speaker booklet.  It contains the recipes chefs ranging from Martin Yan to Craig Stoll will be presenting.

Drinking in the West
Another highlight was getting a tour of Sunset's wine cellars from Sara Schneider, the magazine's wine editor.  Funny, knowledgeable and very approachable she was the opposite of a wine snob. Look for her and Sunset to increase its wine outreach and education with the new Sonoma campus.

Tickets to the weekend's special wine and beer seminars are now sold out.

No comments: