Posts Tagged ‘oakland’

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Restaurant Report: Winter 2011

February 25, 2011

Wow, look at what happens when you take a few months off! Last time I posted on neighborhood restaurants was last May (good grief) and there’s been plenty happening since then. Here’s a very quick rundown of what’s opened or is opening soon in the ‘hood…

Temescal/Pill Hill

  • Homeroom, a new macaroni-and-cheese restaurant, is now open at 40th and Shafter. We have yet to try it but it sounds tasty and has been met with great fanfare—even my sister in Denver heard about it (though in fairness, she does work for the American Cheese Society, so it’s her kind of place!) Full report once we make it there.
  • CommonWealth has been open at 29th and Telegraph for a while now. Check out the details here. [Side note: One review of CommonWealth describes its location as “where Uptown meets Pill Hill.” Discuss.]
  • Remedy has been open since forever at Telegraph and 43rd, but I realized I forgot to include them in the last list. Which is bad, because they’re awesome!

Piedmont Avenue

  • Shimizu Sushi is now open at Piedmont and Echo. Haven’t been yet, but have heard good things!
  • It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve wandered down Piedmont, so I have a feeling I’m missing some changes. (Or maybe it really has been quiet?) Updates after we get a chance to walk down that way!

Grand Lake/Lower Grand

  • Ikaros (Greek) on Grand and Caña (Cuban, with a cabaret license, it looks like?) on Lake Park are both open as of this month. Yum! [Yes, I know the Ikaros link doesn’t work yet, but hopefully it will soon…]
  • Lin Jia Kitchen has been open on Lakeshore for a while now in the old L’Amyx space; still on the list of new places to try!
  • Room 389 opened this fall where the Golden Bear used to be.
  • Mimosa (at Santa Clara and Grand) has closed again after a brief revival, and is reportedly going to reopen under a new owner as a larger Ethiopian restaurant later this spring. Hopefully the third time’s the charm!
  • Sadly, Di Bartolo Café has closed, but happily,  Boot and Shoe will be taking over their space, expanding to include a patio and reportedly opening for brunch and lunch. Mmm doughnuts…
  • The Flip Side on Lakeshore, a project by the owners of Flavors of India, will be serving up gourmet burgers. (This is the old Adam’s location.)
  • Restoration of KwikWay on Lake Park is well underway at long last! Hoping they’ll be open by the summer, but that might be overly optimistic. Last I heard, the plan was still to do an upscale version of the old burger joint, but we’ll see.
  • Zoey’s Afghan Bistro has sadly closed, not too long after it opened.

Uptown/Upper Broadway

  • 3000 Broadway is now open at, umm, 3000 Broadway. Still haven’t been, but very curious!
  • Plum has been open for a while now, and is slated to open a bar soon. We checked it out when they first opened and are headed for a second visit soon, so I’ll write that one up soon.
  • Next door to Plum, the Punchdown opened quietly last fall in Franklin Square Wine Bar’s old space. Still need to check this one out too!
  • Next door to Mua, Nex is open. Check out the review here. (Can you tell how long it’s been since I’ve done one of these updates?!?)
  • Café Randevu is open too, just across the way from Mua and Nex. They have an eclectic menu spanning a number of cuisines.
  • Bar Dogwood, a new venture by the former owner of the House of Shields, is now open for  “cocktails and cured meats,” which is definitely up my alley! It’s at 17th and Telegraph.
  • Shuga Hill, the soul food truck-turned-restaurant that was originally eyeing a location at 29th and Broadway, has instead settled on a location at 27th and San Pablo that seems to be coming along nicely.
  • Xolo, the new taqueria from the Dona Tomas/Flora crew, is still under construction. Still. They’re also working on a bar in the space between Flora and Xolo.
  • Just up the street at 18th and Telegraph will be Oakland’s own branch of Brooklyn’s Weather Up. They’ll also be serving up cocktails and snacks.
  • Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café is opening its second location next-door to the Fox Theater. Apparently my wish for cocktails and brunch (no, not together…well, sure, why not together??) has been heard!

I think that’s it for now. I’ve undoubtedly missed a few openings and closings in these neighborhoods since I’ve been a bit out of the loop this fall and winter, so feel free to add them in the comments. And I promise to update this in a more timely manner next time around!

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Dine About Oakland: CommonWealth

February 14, 2011

Yeah, yeah, yeah, still here. And our kitchen is still not done, so still no time for writing. But one of my new year’s resolutions was to try to shake the dust off this blog and get it up and running again…though given that it’s already February, I’m not doing so well on that front! I’m going to try starting with some bite-sized tidbits in the interim, though.

So for now, here’s a happy Valentine’s post on CommonWealth, one of Oakland’s newer restaurant pubs, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite neighborhood haunts (and that’s not just because we still have no working stove and they have shepherd’s pie!) CommonWealth opened last summer not long before our wedding, so although we sent some of our wedding guests there to watch World Cup games, we didn’t actually go ourselves until many weeks later. For most of 2010, they had pretty limited hours, and were often closed when we wanted to go. (This is, incidentally, one of the biggest frustrations of living in an up-and-coming gourmet hot spot in the shadows of downtown; lots of restaurants debut with weekday lunchtime hours, which I understand but which we can never make, so I get all excited and then have to wait for weeks for nighttime or weekend hours…augh!) But happily, with the arrival of 2011 came expanded hours so that CommonWealth is now open every day of the week, and every night except Sunday! In recent weeks, with no easy way to cook, we’ve headed there for all sorts of tasty goodness. (They also now have a gorgeous new façade, so if you haven’t been to go check it out, go take a look!)

The little storefront CommonWealth is in used to be a coffee shop, and it’s very tiny for a bar. But they’ve packed it with tables and lined the windows with stools, so we’ve never had a problem finding a place to sit (though I will say that they are more and more crowded with each passing week…) On the drinks front they just serve beer and wine, but they always have a great and largely local selection of those (plus interesting sodas, coffee, breakfast, and lunch, too). They also offer wifi, so there’s usually a small laptop contingent.

There’s a basic menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups, but the real treats are usually the specials. Shepherd’s pie pops up regularly, and a few weeks ago they even had a veggie haggis version. We’ve tried mac and cheese, pasties, sandwiches, and my favorite, their excellent beet salad. Dessert was also delicious: a chocolate stout float with cookie ‘n’ caramel sauce on the side! Really, how can you beat that? Beer on tap is often local and always interesting and varied; it’s never been the same selection twice, even when we’ve been there two nights running. There’s also a bottle list that is pretty consistent, plus an assortment of wines, sodas, and other drinks if alcohol isn’t your thing.

My favorite thing about CommonWealth, though, is that they are also an exceptional coffee shop, something that our immediate neighborhood is sorely lacking. (Yeah, I know we can walk to Piedmont or Grand Lake or Telegraph, but the nearest coffee shops on each are a mile away, and even Farley’s East is a ten-minute walk. Need an indication of just how much our ‘hood needs some good local coffee shops? Just go take a peek at how packed Whole Foods Café is from opening to closing every day! ) So it’s good to have coffee a bit closer to home. We’ve taken the dog over a couple of times, and you can either sit outside when the outdoor table and chairs are there as long as you don’t take the alcohol out, or have one person sit inside at the window, since the window sill is a perfect little counter. They have excellent currant scones, and they actually know how to make scones, which is not to be taken lightly. (Okay, I admit it, I’m a scone snob! My mom made us wonderful traditional cream scones growing up, and now I really can’t stomach what many coffee shops, particularly certain national chains, try to pass off as “scones.” But these are terrific!) They also have great coffee—they use Oakland/Emeryville-based Roast and also sell beans. And they make perfect Gibraltars—also not to be taken lightly! (Random factoid: I only recently learned that Blue Bottle invented the Gibraltar, which is named after the Libbey Duratuff rocks glass it’s served in. Granted, a Gibraltar is really just a true short cappuccino—that is to say, not the “short” cappuccino you can order at Starbucks, which is actually what the rest of the world would consider a normal cappuccino—or a tall cortado, which no one but the one barista who briefly worked at the Peet’s by my office two years ago seems to know how to make. But still, both D. and I have happily embraced this new coffee development—it’s a much easier way of ordering a not-too-milky espresso drink without having to specify “a cappuccino with an inch less milk than you were planning to put in.”) There’s also a brunch menu on weekends and a lunch menu on weekdays, though we haven’t ventured into that territory yet.

So, in a nutshell: local beer, local coffee, shepherd’s pie, scones, no wait, and six blocks from my house. What’s not to love?? If they had outdoor seating where you could have a beer too, it would be practically perfect!

Grade: A
Price: $-$$

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What we’ve been doing: Getting married!

July 7, 2010
Ceremony at Oakland’s Lake Temescal (Photo from Steve)

Ukelele vows!Ukelele vows! (Photo from Oliver & Nicole)

Exchanging the ringsExchanging the rings (Photo from Oliver & Nicole)

Among the many things we’ve been busy with while this blog has been on hiatus for the past five months is, of course, our wedding! A very big thank you to everyone who made our wedding day amazing:

  • Our wonderful friends and family, of course (and especially our fantabulous parents, siblings, and friends-turned-officiants, who really went the extra mile to make the weekend incredible!)
  • The East Bay Regional Parks District staff and Lake Temescal Regional Park, home to the Beach House, which turned out to be a practically perfect venue
  • Carrie Dove Catering in Emeryville/West Oakland and especially Kelly and Adam, who not only did a terrific job running the show before and during the reception, but even left a goodies basket on our doorstep a few days beforehand to get us through the last hours of planning
  • Pizza Politana and especially Joe, who cooked us tasty pies that we’re still hearing about (and remembered to bring anchovies for D!)
  • Moonbaby Cakes in San Francisco, who baked up a beautiful sea of cupcakes
  • Oak Barrel Winecraft in West Berkeley, who hooked D. up with his homebrew supplies to make half the beer, and Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro, who handled the rest
  • Slanted Door in San Francisco and their amazing sommelier, who handled the wine (thanks J!)
  • Fran Guidry, who serenaded the crowd with his slack-key guitar
  • DJ Tim, who not only jumped in on an eleventh hour recommendation (thanks J & K!), but managed to please just about everyone…and all without playing the Chicken Dance!
  • Christina Richards, who took an amazing number of photos (with an impressive array of cameras!) that we can’t wait to see (Update: first pics are posted here!)
  • Western Sun Floral at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, who supplied the beautiful flowers and bouquet (which my parents, aunts, and uncle turned into incredible arrangements!)
  • The Wedding Party in Rockridge, where Clara and Jennifer hooked me up with a lovely dress
  • Philippa Roberts on Piedmont Avenue, where we found the perfect rings (made by Carla Caruso) and jewelry (from Philippa’s collection)
  • Entourage Spa in Orinda, who not only handled our bunch of girls with grace, but also got bonus points for letting us watch the U.S. battle Ghana at the same time…
  • The Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, where our friends and family had a great stay
  • Cocina Poblana in Jack London Square, where D.’s parents hosted a delicious welcome dinner (with amazing margaritas!) for friends and family, and where we may have convinced at least a couple of people to move to California for the food!
  • The Claremont Hotel, where we successfully pretended to be a million miles from home on the wedding night thanks to a wonderful gift from D’s parents

Thank you, thank you, thank you—we love you all!

Trivia prizesCeremony trivia prizes! This is what happens when your best friends are artists… (And it was awesome—thanks J, N & D!)  (Photo from Steve)

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Won’t you be our neighbor?

June 23, 2010

We’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like YOU! We’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with YOU!

But really—while we’re sad that our neighbors are heading off, this means their 3BR/2BA Arts & Crafts house (which is actually two houses on one lot, with a newly built 2BR/1BA cottage in back) is for sale. And just down the street, another neighbor’s 2BR/1BA TIC unit is for sale (sorry, this one seems to be in escrow or otherwise off the market!) in an Arts & Crafts fourplex, which means we get more fun new neighbors. It’s been nearly three years since any homes on our block have turned over, so I’m excited to see who’ll be moving in.

If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that I think we have a pretty awesome little block and ‘hood. But I figured this was as good a time as any to spell it all out.

TOP TEN REASONS I ♥ OUR BLOCK:

1. Walk everywhere! We can walk to:

  • Upper Broadway/Auto Row shops and restaurants (3-5 minutes)
  • Lake Merritt (5 minutes)
  • Bus stops for the 11, 51, and 1R, which will get you to Downtown Oakland and Berkeley, Temescal, Rockridge, San Leandro, and beyond (3-10 minutes)
  • Bus stop for the Transbay bus—several lines to choose from depending on which way you walk, including the NL, which runs all day long and through the weekend, unlike most Transbay lines (5-10 minutes)
  • Kaiser and Pill Hill doctors (5-10 minutes)
  • Piedmont Avenue shops and restaurants (10-15 minutes)
  • Uptown restaurants (10-15 minutes)
  • 19th Street BART (15 minutes)
  • MacArthur BART and the Emery-Go-Round (15 minutes)
  • Grand Lake/Lakeshore shops (15-20 minutes)

2. Bike everywhere! We ride our bikes (and take the bus) to many of the spots listed above, and also to:

  • 19th Street and MacArthur BART (5-10 minutes)
  • Downtown Oakland/Old Oakland (10 minutes)
  • Jack London Square (10 minutes)
  • Temescal (10 minutes)
  • Rockridge (10 minutes)
  • Emeryville (10-15 minutes)
  • Berkeley (15-20 minutes)

3. Easy access to BART and the freewaybut far enough from both to be healthy and quiet, as city living goes. If you’re freeway-bound, it’s just minutes to the 580, 880, 980, and 24how’s that for choice? And because MacArthur BART is a major transfer station, you can get to all of the East Bay lines in one spot. We hop on BART (or drive) to:

  • Downtown Berkeley/UCB (15 minutes)
  • Downtown San Francisco (15-20 minutes)
  • Alameda (10 minutes)

4. Lots of everything nearby! Within two miles of home, we’re fortunate to have:

  • Restaurants and coffee shops galore (including the brand-new Commonwealth and three new restaurants due to open this summer!)
  • Grocery stores (Whole Foods, Oasis Market, Piedmont Grocery, Trader Joe’s, Grocery Outlet, and Safeway, plus lots of little produce shops on Piedmont, Grand, and Lakeshore)
  • Not one or two but THREE great weekend farmer’s markets: one on Saturday (Grand Lake), two on Sunday (Temescal and Jack London)—and that’s not even counting the Friday Old Oakland market!
  • Bike shops (Bay Area Bikes, Pioneer, Montano Velo, Manifesto, Tip Top, Cycle Sports, and hopefully soon Spokeland!)
  • Parks and playgrounds galore, including Mosswood and Lakeside Parks (and, of course, the lake!)
  • The Oakland YMCA, yoga and martial arts, gyms, Mosswood Rec Center, the Temescal Pool, your choice of library branches, and more
  • Mosswood Dog Park (one half for big dogs, the other for little dogs!)
  • Schools (Piedmont Avenue, Lakeview, Cleveland, Hoover, and Emerson Elementary Schools; Westlake Middle School; Oakland Tech; Oakland School for the Arts; St. Paul’s; St. Leo’s; Park Day; Archway; and Grand Lake Montessori, not to mention all the preschools)
  • Theaters (Grand Lake, Piedmont, the Paramount, and the Fox)
  • Children’s Fairyland, the Lake Merritt Gardens, and the Junior Center of Art and Science—all within walking distance—and the Oakland Museum, Museum of Children’s Art, and Studio One, not too much further afield
  • More religious and spiritual spaces than I can list!

5. Wonderful friends
Our neighbors will fill a whole table at our wedding…’nough said! We got incredibly lucky when we landed on our street—the people we share our block with are pretty awesome, and I love that we live in a place where people still sit on their front steps and talk (okay, or drink homebrewed beer and amazing whiskey sours made with backyard lemons…) Dog-sitting? Baby-sitting? All covered!

6. Shared harvests
If you move in, we will give you bushels of persimmons! (Okay, actually we’d give you bushels of persimmons anyway, but you get the idea…) I have a lot of fun trading fruits and vegetables with our neighbors, and collectively our block has lemons, oranges, apples, figs, loquats, cherries, more lemons, pomegranates, persimmons, plums, even more lemons, tangerines, and more. There are also plans afoot for a communal chicken coop in one neighbor’s yard.

7. Active block watch
Yep, we’ve got one of these too. And because we have all sorts of different work schedules, there’s almost always someone around, keeping an eye on what’s going on. We have access to each others’ homes and cell phone numbers to call if a dog gets out or a garage door is left open. For city living, that’s hard to beat.

8. Inside the Shan Dong delivery radius!
Think you want to live in Temescal or Glenview? Well, I’m sorry to break the news, but Shan Dong won’t bring you any dumplings there! This is the place to be if your favorite late-night snack involves handmade noodles and steamed buns, since they’ll only deliver within 1.5 miles of the restaurant—and we just squeak in. Mmm!

9. Block parties
Our street hosts an annual National Night Out party every August (this year’s will be August 3rd) and we’ve been talking about trying to have block parties more regularly in the summertime, too. Come check it out and meet the neighbors!

10. History
In the time that we’ve lived on our street, I’ve learned a lot about its history (much of which is documented here) and the rich history of this neighborhood. I’m a lover of old houses to begin with, and the more I learn about the families who’ve lived on our street over the generations, the more connected I feel to it. Our neighbors are talking about having a 100th birthday party for their 1912 home, and it’s pretty cool to know that at one point, two brothers lived on our street, one in our home with his family and the other in theirs. And our next-door neighbor’s house was built by the same family that built ours, so we love to compare notes on what’s been changed or kept the same over the years. If Arts and Crafts homes are your thing, there are some great examples tucked in amidst the mid-mod buildings that abound in our neighborhood.

Have a question about our ‘hood? Feel free to send me a note, and I’m happy to answer it.

Disclaimer: I have no interest in the sale of either of these properties, other than wanting some awesome new neighbors! For specific information on the properties themselves, you should contact the respective realtors.

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Restaurants coming out my ears (or: the spring restaurant report)

May 11, 2010

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted any restaurant news….which means there’s a whole lot happening to report! Here’s a quick pass at what’s coming up. (I’m quite sure I’m missing a bunch of stuff, since I haven’t been paying much attention to much of anything but work and wedding planning this spring….but I promise to catch up this summer!)

Temescal/Pill Hill

  • Little Mac, a macaroni-and-cheese restaurant (?!? sign me up!) that will also have craft beer and tasty sounding salads and desserts, is slated to open at 40th and Shafter this fall.
  • Commonwealth is due to open later this month at 29th and Telegraph, and will be a British-style pub. If they have good fish and chips, we will be regulars!

Piedmont Avenue

  • Sparky’s is indeed open. And it is indeed an extension of the burger place up in the hills.

Grand Lake
Grand Lake is kickin’ this spring!

  • Mimosa reopened as Mimosa Ethiopian Restaurant at Santa Clara and Grand.
  • YaYu Ethiopian is also now open on Lakeshore where Vine used to be.
  • La Taza de Cafe plans to reopen (yay!) where the Grand Lake Neighborhood Center used to be on Lake Park. There will apparently be a small Cuban takeout place next to a larger cabaret, says the Splash Pad newsletter.
  • Good Chemistry Baking, a gluten-free bakery, will open where Daily Delectables used to be.
  • Yogofina, another of the trendy tart yogurt shops, is coming soon on Lakeshore (and also to Montclair Village).

Uptown/Upper Broadway
…but not as much as Uptown!

  • Pakxe is going in at Broadway and 30th where Union Auto used to be on Auto Row. This is super exciting because it’s the first reuse of an auto space on the main Auto Row drag. (Mua also reused an auto space for their Webster Street place.) No clue what kind of food it will be, but the name suggests Laotian.
  • Plum, Daniel Patterson’s new restaurant,  is coming soon where Louisiana Fried Chicken used to be—and will be expanded in the coming months to include a bar where Franklin Square Wine Bar used to be. This is exactly what I was hoping for in this space. (Well, okay, I didn’t necessarily have a chef in mind, but broadly, it was the perfect timing to combine the two spaces and really make use of Franklin Square’s plaza, as FSWB was doing.) Go Uptown! Also, it is named after a William Carlos Williams poem that was one of my favorites in high school, which bodes well…
  • Xolo, the new taqueria from the Dona Tomas/Flora crew, is still under construction.
  • Uptown Café & Crêpes is now open at 21st and Franklin.
  • Bakesale Betty is open at Broadway and Grand! (Woohoo! Now if only they had weekend hours…)
  • More pizza! Hurray! (Because, in case you haven’t figured this out, D. and I really, REALLY like pizza.) Mua is expanding into the space where the short-lived Cafe Noir used to be on Webster, and will be making pizza for me (okay, and everyone else in town…) (Cafe Noir had a wood oven, so I presume it stayed with the space.) No details yet. (Incidentally, is this Uptown? Or Upper Broadway? Or still Auto Row? Curiouser and curiouser….one of our neighbors predicted we’d live in Uptown in ten years’ time, and I do have to say that it seems to be creeping this direction!)

And falling off the radar…

  • The third Pizzaiolo location in Uptown now has a “for lease” sign back in its window, which I presume means that project is toast. Boo. (But at least we’ll always have Boot and Shoe…)
  • Kotobuki Sushi on Piedmont has moved to Montclair.
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Building Oakland’s neighborhoods through community art

April 2, 2010

Community building and neighborhood identity are two of my favorite things to think about, and I’m very lucky to be surrounded by many friends who share these passions. We each have our own take on these ideas, and last winter, some of us found ourselves talking about how we might bring our diverse interests together into a single project, and specifically, a community arts initiative.

Over a year after we first conceived of this little project, we are extremely pleased to announce that City Canvas, our brand new community art organization, is finally ready for prime time! And I’m very excited that our very first pilot project is right here in my own neighborhood!

What is City Canvas?
City Canvas is a grassroots project intended to foster neighborhood identity across the East Bay through community-driven public art. A collaboration of professional and seasoned teaching artists, community builders, city planners, and arts administrators, the City Canvas team was brought together by our common desire to contribute to the vibrancy of our cities. Currently, our city faces high crime rates and heightened racial tensions, with few venues to come together and celebrate our individual and collective identity as Oaklanders—yet we know that Oakland is teeming with creativity, diversity, and youthful energy. City Canvas will create opportunities for shared visioning and creation of public art in neighborhoods across Oakland through partnerships with city agencies, neighborhood schools, businesses, residents, and local artists.

The idea for City Canvas emerged from:

  • A commitment to the diversity and vibrancy of Oakland, its neighborhoods, its culture, its businesses, and its residents;
  • The knowledge that art is a universal language and that collaborative, creative expression helps build individual and collective identity;
  • A trust in the transcendent power of our individual and collective connections to the places we love;
  • A belief that every individual has a story, a voice, and the ability to share it with the world;
  • A love of public art that is bold, beautiful, and an honest representation of the community in which it lives; and
  • The desire to connect with and contribute to the beautiful city of Oakland.

What is the Westlake Project?
Our pilot project, a series of murals that will be installed on traffic signal boxes in the Uptown/Lake Merritt neighborhood, is currently underway. Through a grant from the City of Oakland Public Art Program’s Oakland Open Proposals (which in turn is funded by the Open Circle Foundation), City Canvas is currently working with an eighth grade leadership class at Westlake Middle School near Lake Merritt. As part of the class, the students will work with the community, create art that explores their identities as youth and as Oakland residents, and examine how they fit into the broader civic community.

Lead teaching artist, professional muralist, and Oaklander David Stern-Gottfried will adapt this art into a format to be painted and installed on a series of traffic signal boxes throughout the Uptown/Lake Merritt neighborhood. As part of the design process, students are actively engaging local residents and businesses, and an open paint day in May will provide an opportunity for interested community members to be directly involved in the project. Student work may also be featured in gallery settings as part of Oakland’s June First Friday Art Murmur. The murals will be installed in late June 2010, with a dedication to follow in the fall.

Westlake students work with artist David Stern-Gottfried on collages to represent their identities

How can you get involved?
Whether you live in the neighborhood or not, we would LOVE to have you involved! Community residents and businesses are invited to come and participate in the project. We also plan to present the finished canvases as part of the June First Friday celebration before they are installed on the signal boxes. (Know anyone with gallery or window space who would like to host the exhibit? We’re hunting for a great spot in the Uptown/Upper Broadway area.)

Westlake Community Paint Day
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10 am to 1 pm, First Congregational/Westlake Parking Lot (entrance at light on Harrison across from Whole Foods)
Come help the City Canvas team, students, and their families paint the parachute cloth that will ultimately be installed on signal boxes. You don’t need to know anything about painting or have any art skills—we will provide all of the materials and will walk you through the process of translating the designs the students and artist have created into large-scale pieces of art. We will also provide refreshments and water.

June First Friday Celebration
Friday, June 4, 2010, 6 pm to 9 pm, Location TBD
Once the canvases are finished, they will be on display in early June so that students, their families, and other interested community residents can get a peek before they are installed on the traffic signal boxes in late June. There will also be a formal dedication of the boxes sometime in the fall.

Our partners
This project would not be possible without the hard work of a lot of key partners across the city. Among them are:

  • City of Oakland Cultural Arts & Marketing Division: CAM coordinates public art throughout the city, and funded our project through a competitive grant from the Open Circle Foundation.
  • City of Oakland Public Works Agency (PWA), Electrical Services Division: We have an active partnership with PWA, and are extremely excited to be working with their team for this project. We hope this can be a model project for other neighborhoods in the city hoping to use City-owned spaces for community art in the future.
  • Westlake Middle School, where administrators, teachers, and students have worked hard to make this project a reality. We hope to work with Westlake again in the future!
  • First Congregational Church, Westlake’s next-door neighbor and a supportive partner on this project.
  • Whole Foods Oakland, providing food and drinks for project workshops.
  • Benjamin Moore Paints, donating paint for the project.
  • Local businesses in the Westlake neighborhood, who are helping to ensure that the project is a success.

A very big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped City Canvas get off the ground!

Want to learn more? You can check out our website, which has more on City Canvas, the Westlake project, and our second project, an art class at King Middle School in Berkeley that will become a part of a much larger mural project on Shattuck Avenue. You can also contact us via the website (or via this site) for more information on how to get involved, or if you have ideas to share.

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Our bungalow in a BOOK!

March 16, 2010

Or, to be a bit more accurate, on a book. Jane Smiley’s new novel Private Life, to be exact.

Yep, that's our house there at the bottom! (Image from Faber & Faber)

This is a story of amazing discoveries:

First, a great-grandaughter of Walter and Mabel Kiedaisch, the couple who owned our home from 1921 to 1927, stumbled upon this blog last year after I posted a little history of our house. (Side note: We have now been in contact with five of the nine families who have lived here over the last century, including the family who built the home in 1915….that’s pretty amazing!) We’d known that Walter Kiedaisch was a photographer—and as it turns out, his great-granddaughter has his photograph archives. Lo and behold, she hunted down a snapshot of our house! (This is especially impressive given that she did this in part by looking at the little chopped-and-shopped graphic of our house in the corner of the homepage, which—though it is in fact adapted from a real photograph—takes a lot of artistic liberties…)

Then, even more astoundingly, Faber and Faber, a British publishing house, found the photograph on this blog while searching for pictures of Bay Area bungalows to use on the cover of the British edition of Private Life. (The moral of the story is: tag, and tag well!) They were good enough to write and ask for formal permission to use the image, and have included a photography credit for Walter Kiedaisch, fifty years after his death. And the icing on the cake: this gig even came with an honorarium for use of the photograph that, with the blessing of the Kiedaisch family, we asked the publisher to donate to the Oakland Heritage Alliance (OHA), where it will go to work preserving Oakland’s history (not to mention helping to fund the cool history lecture series and walking tours that OHA offers).

This experience was also a good lesson for me in learning to be less paranoid—my initial reaction to the email that showed up from the publishing house was “what kind of a scam could this be??” But a little digging on the interweb revealed that everyone was indeed who they said they were, and it was all real. So, working with three women I’ve never met on two different continents, we coordinated all of the logistics—and here it is!

I have yet to actually read the book—we haven’t received our copy yet as it doesn’t officially come out until May, so that’s a project for later this spring!—but I’m very curious, since the novel is about a young woman living in the Bay Area in the early 20th century with her naval officer/astronomer husband. I don’t think the book itself is set in Oakland—the few excerpts I’ve seen refer to a San Francisco naval base, which, in the 1920s, would likely have been Hunters Point in San Francisco, one of the first Pacific naval bases established. The Oakland Naval Reserve Air Base, located where the Oakland Airport is today, did not go into operation until 1928. Alameda Naval Air Station in West Alameda was acquired by the Navy in 1930, and Treasure Island, midway between San Francisco and Oakland, was the last to go to the Navy in 1940 as part of a land swap that got the City of San Francisco property near Millbrae to build the airport that is now SFO. But regardless of the setting, the novel should be an intriguing snapshot of Bay Area history. (Author Jane Smiley is a Northern Californian herself, so I imagine she had a chance to delve into all sorts of fun aspects of the history of this region.)

And speaking of Bay Area naval bases, here’s some fun trivia: in 1927, the Oakland City Council bought Bay Farm Island, now part of the city of Alameda except for OAK, to build the city an airport. A few months later, the Army got in touch to say they wanted to try the first flight from the mainland to Hawai’i, and wanted Oakland to build a runway for them. So, working 24 hours a day for three weeks (sound familiar, Caltrans??), Oakland crews built what was then the world’s longest runway, and on June 28, 1927, a flight from Oakland to O’ahu became the first successful flight to Hawai’i from the U.S. mainland. The Navy took over the next year, launching a long history of naval aviation in the East Bay.

Anyway, if for some reason you want to be the proud owner of a book with our house on the cover of it, you can get it here. (The photograph is only on the UK paperback edition of the book.) We’re picking up a few extra copies to pass along to any future owners of the house, too, since it’s such a fun story—and looks eerily the same as our house today. (And, of course, we’re ignoring the somewhat creepy sub-heading on the cover, given that we’re down to just a few months before our wedding….)

Turns out that a little history goes a long way!

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Kitchen Chronicles: A little Oaktown history!

February 26, 2010

Yeah, I know it’s been weeks since I’ve had anything to say about our kitchen remodel. This isn’t because it’s fallen to the wayside—in fact, it’s chugging along nicely, on track for a post-wedding July start—but because I’ve had absolutely no time to sit down and write much of anything. Soon, though! In the meantime, here’s a little fun history I ran into along the way.

If you’ve ever worked on a kitchen remodel, you’ve probably encountered the kitchen work triangle—the magic space that is supposed to connect the areas for preparation (sink), cooking (stove), and storage (refrigerator). What you probably didn’t know, though, is that this simple-but-revolutionary theory was pioneered by (among others) Lillian Moller Gilbreth, the first female industrial psychologist, one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. at Berkeley (although for complicated reasons, she never received her degree), and a native Oaklander. That’s right—the work triangle theory has its origins in our city, and even—amazingly!—on our very street, where Lillian grew up over a century ago. (Back in those days, our house was still just a twinkle in Edward Brown Walsworth’s eye; the Presbyterian minister from Cleveland ran the Female College of the Pacific on what is now Pill Hill, and owned the tract of land that would ultimately be subdivided to create our neighborhood. Our stretch of Harrison Street north of 27th/Bay was called Walsworth Avenue in his honor up until the 1930s, when it was finally renamed to create more consistency in the street grid.)

So what’s a work triangle?
The basic tenets of the work triangle theory are:

  • Each leg of the triangle should be between 4 and 9 feet
  • The total of all three legs should be between 12 and 26 feet
  • No obstructions should block a leg of the work triangle
  • Household traffic should not flow through the work triangle
What your work triangle is supposed to look like...

What your work triangle is supposed to look like

If you can get all of that accomplished, you’ll have a more efficient kitchen. It should be noted, of course, that all of these dimensions were refined back in the 1930s and 1940s, when kitchens were a whole lot smaller and it was pretty simple to accomplish this. (In fact, our current kitchen meets all but the last work triangle requirement!) Back then, the concept of maximizing efficiency in the workplace was pretty novel—before the late nineteenth century, designers hadn’t thought about this as scientifically. Enter consumer science and industrial psychology!

The "Kitchen Practical"

The "Kitchen Practical"

And who’s Lillian Moller Gilbreth?
Lillian Gilbreth is probably best known these days as the matriarch of the Gilbreth family, whose adventures were chronicled in the books (and later two rounds of movies) Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes. But while her husband Frank’s work in scientific management and efficiency studies was groundbreaking, Lillian’s work on motion studies, time management, fatigue, and stress—and especially, on work issues affecting women—was equally critical to the development of modern domestic science and ergonomics.

Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Lillian was born Lillie Evelyn Moller, and grew up on our street a few blocks west in a house that was sadly torn down in the 1940s to build part of what is now the Summit Medical Center campus. (She changed her name to the more formal “Lillian” later in life.) At the time, “Academy Hill,” as Pill Hill was originally known, was prime real estate in Oakland, with a number of sizable mansions in the area. The Mollers lived in a large home there with two Japanese servants.

Lillie’s father, William Moller, was a partner of Robert Dalziel (another name that should be familiar to anyone who’s spent time at City Center!), and their plumbing and gas fixture empire, the Dalziel-Moller Company, was one of the largest wholesale plumbing dealers in Oakland and San Francisco in its heyday. (It later became Dalziel Plumbing Supply and ultimately closed in the 1980s.)

Her maternal grandfather, Frederick William Delger, was considered Oakland’s first millionaire, and owned a huge estate bounded by Telegraph, Broadway, 17th, and 20th on the land that is now the Uptown apartments. Much of the estate was dedicated to renowned gardens that filled entire blocks. (The Delger family also built the building that now houses Smart & Final in Old Oakland.) Delger initially made his name as a shoe salesman with stores across the Bay Area to serve the Gold Rush miners, but strategic investments in downtown Oakland and San Francisco secured his fortune. The Delgers were also key supporters of Fabiola Hospital, which later became Kaiser Permanente’s first home, and the Altenheim, which was initially founded in the Dimond as a senior home for German immigrants. (Thanks to significant reinvestment in 2007, the Altenheim is still providing affordable senior housing for older Oaklanders and is now also on the National Register of Historic Places.)

During the time Delger lived in Uptown, he named the streets on his land Frederick Street (now 19th), William Street (still there!), and Delger Street (20th). Gotta love creativity. (If you’ve ever wondered why many of the numbered streets in downtown Oakland are only in a kinda-sorta grid, it’s because the numbering was done after the fact; in the city’s earliest stages of development, many of the streets were named for and platted by the landowners, but in later years as the city grew, a numbering system was superimposed. In contrast, the numbered avenues in East Oakland were planned before much of that development went in.) Delger and his family are now buried in an ornate mausoleum in Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont.

The Delger mansion on 19th Street (from the Oakland Museum)

The Delger mansion on 19th Street (from the Oakland Museum)

Lillie, the oldest of the Moller children (excepting an older sister who died as an infant), was first home-schooled, and briefly attended Miss Snell’s Female Seminary before transferring to public elementary school in Oakland. (I haven’t been able to figure out which one; the only clue is that after the Moller family moved away from Pill Hill, Lillie had to take the streetcar to school. But since I’m not sure where they moved to and many of the streetcar lines converged on Broadway at that point, that doesn’t help much!) From there, she attended Oakland High School—Oakland Tech had not yet opened—and overlapped for a year there with author Jack London. Finally, following graduation, she went on to UC Berkeley, becoming one of the first women to pursue graduate education there.

While Lillian’s Oakland story ends there—she moved out east, married Frank Gilbreth, and settled there, only returning to California for visits after that point—she went on to do all sorts of work, pioneering the new field of industrial engineering and helping to lay the groundwork for modern industrial engineering. But that’s a story for another day!

Anyway, none of this has helped advance our kitchen project much, but it’s been fun to wade through some of the history on this. If I get a chance (that would be this summer at the earliest!) I’ll pull it together into something a bit more comprehensive with some better pictures. Still, it’s a cool little window into our neighborhood’s past.

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Dine About Oakland: Boot and Shoe Service

February 5, 2010

I should probably start this review off by saying that I love-love-love Pizzaiolo. We’ve been waiting excitedly for Charlie Hallowell’s two new projects to open in Grand Lake and Uptown, because then we will live smack in the middle of the Pizzaiolo Golden Triangle, with three different restaurants in easy walking or biking distance. So, obviously, I was a little biased as we finally headed to check out Boot & Shoe Service, Pizzaiolo’s new sister restaurant on Grand, with a friend who was visiting—but I tried to leave my expectations at the door and give this little restaurant a shot at its own identity.

I really didn’t need to. This place is a) wonderful and b) exactly the pieces of Pizzaiolo that I would want to copy and paste into my neighborhood, which is to say that it’s a slightly lower-key version of its big sister. Boot & Shoe, named in honor of the cobbler’s shop that was originally here, serves up pizzas—including takeout—and a small selection of appetizers and salads, but for the most part they leave off the entrees that Pizzaiolo is known for. That’s perfect, since it makes for a casual (and far less costly!) night out. Astoundingly, we walked right in on a Thursday night (after trying and failing to get in a couple of weeks earlier). The space is much smaller than Pizzaiolo, but it works with the scaled down menu. The front half of the space that once housed DiBartolo is tables, while the back has a bar that stretches across if all you want is a cocktail and a snack.

We tried a mix of dishes, including one pizza that we’d had at Pizziolo a couple of times as a reference point. We also happened to be there on Stand with Haiti night when the restaurant and wait staff were donating 15 percent of sales and tips to Partners in Health, so we ordered an extra dish for good measure. Our meal started off with the complimentary house olives—mmm!—and included:

  • Burrata with toast and radishes: This was good burrata, although my favorite version of this dish uses warm burrata, and this was cold (as is most common). However, the bread-and-cheese theme ended up overlapping a bit too much with the pizza that followed, so I think next time I’d try one of their other starters, and save this for a night when I’m just headed there for a cocktail and a snack.
  • Salad! Forgot this the first time. And I can’t remember what kind it was, since D. picked it. I wanna say there were beets involved, but I might be making that up.
  • Margherita pizza: Astoundingly, we’ve never tried Pizzaiolo’s version of this, even though D. swears you must use the margherita pizza as the baseline to judge any good pizza joint. Great mozzarella and good tomatoes with a perfect crust—D. pronounced it better than Marzano’s (which is a high compliment since we’re big Marzano fans).
  • Wild nettle and ricotta salata pizza: Wild nettle pizza is one of my favorites at Pizzaiolo, and I was pleased to find the Boot & Shoe version very comparable. If you’ve never had nettles, try some! Again, a great crust on this. (I’ve seen B&S list this with other types of cheese some nights as well, so it would be interesting to see how they compare.)
  • Beer and housemade tonic: To drink, the boys ordered local beer while I had my favorite, a gin and tonic made with the housemade tonic. (It’s the same as the housemade tonic at Pizzaiolo, which they didn’t have the last time we ate there—so I was excited to see it again!)
  • And finally,  a cannoli filled with ricotta, pistachios, and blood oranges. We ordered this on a whim, and it was an unusual pick. First, I grew up in New Haven and also spent a lot of years in Boston, where cannolis are an art form, so I’m a pretty picky cannoli eater. And D. generally hates them altogether since he’s not a fan of ricotta-based anything. But the pistachios and oranges sold him on this one, so we gave it a spin. Yum! Not quite a traditional cannoli, but very good in its own right, with a light filling and a crispy shell. Not a dessert to get for takeout—the shell wouldn’t last long—but a nice bit of sweetness to end a meal.

Here are some shots D. took with his schmancy new phone to send to our friend’s wife back in Colorado (with apologies to our wonderful waitress, who asked with a raised eyebrow, “oh, are you Yelpers?” when D. started snapping shots…err, not exactly?)

Mmm....

Mmm....

Move along, now, nothing to see here...

Move along, now, nothing to see here...

All-in-all, I’m excited to welcome this spot to our neighborhood. It’s practically perfect. Our dinner—which included a bit more than we generally order, plus a round-and-a half of drinks and great service!—still wound up under $100 for three of us, which really can’t be beat. The only things that could be improved? I would love for Boot & Shoe to be open on Sundays (they’re currently closed Sundays and Mondays, and Pizzaiolo’s closed Sundays too). And I’d REALLY love for them to be open for breakfast a la Pizzaiolo (or even weekend brunch with doughnuts and breakfast pizzas like Marzano used to serve). But for now I’ll be content to dream about buttermilk doughnuts while we enjoy dinners and takeout there.

Update, 5/4/10: Boot and Shoe is now open on Sundays!

Grade: A A+
Price: $$

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Community-supported meat, cheese, and bread—yum!

January 20, 2010

For the past several years, we’ve been getting a tasty farm box stuffed with fruits, nuts, and vegetables each week, which has many a night been the saving grace for dinner. Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, subscriptions also help small farms stay in business—each subscriber pays in advance and receives some of the bounty each week. In good years, boxes are overflowing; in bad years, there may be some gaps from time to time. It’s a way of sharing the risks with the farm owners who might not otherwise have the resources to stay afloat year to year. We’ve been very pleased with our farm box, and they do a great job of trading their surplus with other nearby farms to balance out the box contents.

But at the end of the day, one cannot live on vegetables alone. (Well, okay, maybe you could—but it wouldn’t be much fun!) Enter community-supported food. Way back in 2008, I promised to follow up the Bay Area CSA list with a list of other delicious goodness you can get—so here it is, a little late! In the East Bay, you can now get just about anything in local subscription form—and the eating’s never been better! Here’s a sampling of CSF organizations with drop-off spots in Oakland and Berkeley.

Meats
Meat shares provide a way to purchase meat and eggs from small local ranches that raise their animals more sustainably. Each ranch’s program is a bit different as far as what you get and how much control you have over that, so check the details for the one you’re interested in.

Grains
Many fruit-and-vegetable CSAs also offer nuts and grains, but a few farms specialize in these less common staples.

  • Windborne Farm (many grains, beans, and seeds)
  • Massa Organics (brown rice, wheat berries, and almonds for sale online or at Oakland and Berkeley farmers markets)

Cheese
Not exactly CSAs per se, but these cheese clubs offer fun (if pricey) ways to support local producers while trying a nice assortment of new cheeses.

Groceries and prepared foods
This is a new spin on an age-old concept: the basic components of your meal, carefully selected and prepared for you to pick up at worker-owned cooperatives.

And new to the scene: bread!
Last but not least, an old co-worker of mine has started up her own community-supported bakery, so this spring we’re getting fresh-baked bread once a week (conveniently on the same day we get our farm box, so Wednesday night dinners are pretty tasty these days!) You can get the whole scoop here (and can also find out more about her other food projects, like the Indilicious food cart that is making its way through the streets of San Francisco).

Yum! Now all we need is some chickens and a goat, and we’d be all set! (Although in fairness, that won’t help D. much—we need to start growing rice for that…)