Beatrice Valenzuela does it all—artist, designer, stylist, mother, and co-founder of Echo Park Craft Fair along with her counterpart Rachel Craven. On top of all her many jobs, she's also a phenomenal cook. Her food is joyful, in both taste and preparation; it's a perfect expression of her open spirit and warm heart.
We're having an early seafood dinner at Bea's. Her house feels like a beautifully designed treehouse dream with a balcony view of the hills of Echo Park. Her house feels like a place that's always buzzing with visitors, creative energy flowing through and in and from this home and family. Jaimie is taking photos, Mar Peidro is making cocktails, Jeff is shucking oysters, and I'm slicing octopus. All the while Astrid (Bea's daughter) is getting tarot card lessons from Wendy Polish and Agnes Baddoo and Bea is dancing over her siren soup. It's the most wonderful frenzy and Bea's magic is at the center of all of it.
We start with oysters, a favorite of Astrid's, with a simple mignonette. Bea recalls craving excessive amounts of raw shellfish while pregnant with Astrid, indulging herself at Hungry Cat in secret every now and then, eating something perfectly luxurious just for the pleasure of it.
Jeff is shucking and eating at the same time, passing around oysters on the knife. There's something about afternoon oysters...especially with the mezcal and the Italian rose liquor cocktails being served. We all have a hand in squeezing the citrus for the cocktails and Bea finishes the drink with sumac and orange peel.
The soup has been going for 2-3 hours. There are whole crabs, a salmon head, and swordfish bobbing in a pink tomato broth. Bea pulls out the salmon head and puts it through a food processor before adding it back to the soup, letting it thicken up in its own fat.
We snack on thinly sliced octopus dressed in nothing but olive oil and salt, a little parsley to finish. Mar and Bea are dancing in the kitchen like they're conjuring kitchen magic and everyone is multi-tasking with a drink in hand. It's happy work, which might be the very magic at play.
We go down the assembly line to build our bowls of siren soup, layering big chunks of opaque fish meat with crab legs, and then drowning the whole thing in broth. We're all standing around the table, not even bothering to sit down. The soup is thick without being stew-ish and the texture is near velvet. It has to be the salmon head, Bea explains, that gives it that silkiness.
There's more rosé and white wine; the mezcal is long gone. Ramsey, Bea's partner, is rolling cigarettes and we're all taking turns telling stories around the table while the sun is setting behind Los Angeles. The lights on the balcony are practically cinematic and I imagine the many happy dinner parties that have been and will be hosted here. We hear about how Bea and Ramsey fell in love traveling Europe and future plans for a summer in Italy.
It's the first time many of us have met or have shared food together and the ease is notable and truly a relief. It's such a pleasure to feel natural and open among new and old friends in the same blurry way and share bits of living over good food and good wine. I'm sure it has something to do with Bea, or this place, or the siren soup, or likely all of the above.
It's the most beautiful long Sunday afternoon fading into evening, and I'm again reminded of how food is always at the very center of things, the reason for communing and I feel grateful to be part of this moveable feast.
Photos - Jaimie