An upcoming dinner will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, with a blow-out, family-style feast cooked by one of the Bay Area’s most popular Indian American chefs. Diners likely know chef Preeti Mistry as the talented mind behind Oakland’s Juhu Beach Club, the once wildly popular Temescal restaurant that introduced the Bay Area to a new vision of Indian street food before its closure back in 2018.
But for the past few years, Mistry has been focused on a slightly different cause: bringing more diverse voices into the wine-making and wine-pairing spaces. After moving to the North Bay during the pandemic, Mistry linked up with Healdsburg’s J Vineyards to launch a dinner series called Shifting the Lens. The goal, Mistry says, has been to show diners that wine-paired dinners don’t have to feature short ribs and polenta.
Now, they’ll take that vision down to San Francisco for a one-night-only event at the Cavalier. On Tuesday, November 7, Mistry will cook a four-course dinner alongside Cavalier chef Jennifer Puccio to celebrate Diwali. Optional beverage pairings will feature wines made by Naidu Wines, a Sonoma County winery run by Indian American winemaker Raghni Naidu. Mistry says when they moved from Guerneville to Sebastopol, they had no idea they’d be living just up the road from a woman- and BIPOC-owned winery. In the time since, Mistry and Naidu have been exploring opportunities to work together — hence, this dinner. “Overall, I think it’s gonna be pretty spectacular,” Mistry says.
Tickets to the event, which are available via OpenTable for $120, include four-courses served family-style. The two chefs still need to hash out the details, but Mistry says they’re planning to offer two dishes per course — an illustration of abundance. “It’s a big celebration,” Mistry says. “It’s about pulling out all the stops.” They’ll also look to pull in ingredients that reflect that celebratory feeling, think Liberty ducks and perhaps a Dungeness crab curry or crab served with curry leaf butter. Mistry’s menus have always reflected the seasons, so they hope to incorporate persimmons and pumpkins, too.
They’re playing with the idea of pani puris filled with lamb or tuna tartare; beets would sub in for a vegan option — and duck-stuffed momos might make an appearance. Mistry says they’re also talking about riffs on Scotch eggs, fitting because of the Cavalier’s London-inspired concept and the dish’s history, which stretches back to the Indian dish nargisi kofta. The version of the dish Mistry used to cook at Juhu Beach Club featured a runny yolk-filled duck egg, wrapped in minced lamb, and finished with a curry sauce.
Since stepping away from the restaurant game, Mistry has been looking for other ways to continue their work of highlighting underrepresented voices in the food and beverage space. During the early days of the pandemic, that led Mistry to step into the farming world and the idea of someday opening a restaurant with a working farm attached. Since then, Mistry says it’s become clear permitting hurdles might not make that dream feasible in Northern California. Instead, they’re focusing on finding ways to create community and recenter women, queer, and BIPOC voices through events like this Diwali dinner. “I think that, ultimately, is more important than fighting for this gazillion-dollar idea of having a restaurant on a farm,” Mistry says. “It’s something that I continue to want to push forward.”