The annual Victorian Christmas extravaganza that fills the streets of historic Nevada City with visitors and vendors has been going on for at least 20 years. On Sunday, it was bigger and better than ever.
The main and side streets of the town were closed to traffic to accommodate the 1,500-plus revelers who strolled from booth to booth buying hats and scarves, jewelry and art. They also lined up for fragrant street food - wood-fired pizza and smoked brisket, Thai noodles and steaming hot dogs, freshly popped kettle corn and fat enchiladas. And they eagerly jammed the shops and restaurants that line the streets. Gratifyingly, the bookstores were doing brisk business.
Roaming costumed characters and carolers got plenty of smiles from curious children. Street musicians played fiddles and banjos. Families lined up for horse-drawn carriage rides.
We got lucky when we blindly chose the 9-year-old family-owned-and-run Cirino's for lunch shortly before the Victorian Christmas crowds began arriving. Still, the restaurant was jammed, but we miraculously found two seats at the 19th century bar, where the mixologist specializes in bloody marys.
The room was alive with diners' conversations and laughter, the two cooks moving at double-time speed, flipping this and plating that, the servers never losing their smiles. A certain holiday spirit was in the air inside and outside.
The lunch menu showed Sicilian sausage, meatballs, calamari, burgers, pasta, grilled polenta and salads. We settled for an unusual take on the classic clubhouse sandwich, which was more of a single-decker grilled cheese (with luscious Fontina) layered with turkey, ham and grilled tomato on toasted sourdough (hold the mayo, please). It packed plenty of rich flavor and soothing texture (pictured; $9.95). Cirino's is at 309 Broad St., (530) 265-2246; www.cirinosbarandgrill.com. There's a sister restaurant in nearby Grass Valley.
Dessert was excellent handmade-in-Nevada City English toffee from the Sierra Sweets kiosk (www.sierrasweets.net).
There's one more chance to catch the Victorian Christmas excitement. The last of five celebrations will occupy the town from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. Information: ((530) 265-2692, www.nevadacitychamber.com.