EDITOR’S NOTE:

mockfrontWe begin this month’s newsletter with an important commercial announcement.  Last October, in a moment of temporary insanity, I unilaterally ordered 250 t-shirts for Splash Pad’s 10th Anniversary Celebration.  Four months later, we still have about half those unsold along with $1400 in unpaid debt.

To hopefully remedy this situation, we’re launching a raffle.  The Grand Prize will be two Premium Suite tickets for the Golden State Warriors game against Sacramento on April 4th.  Seats in the suites  are not generally available to the public but the VIP parking pass,  which is included, goes for $30.  This pair of tickets is, at a minimum, worth ten times that much.

Other prizes include a 75 piece Family Pack from Wingstop.  Four Family Passes from Children’s Fairyland.  A $25 gift certificate from Lin Jia. A lovely 8 x 10 print by Annie Galvin donated by Panorama Framing.

Individual raffle tickets are $5.  For $10, you can either get 3 raffle tickets or 1 raffle ticket and a t-shirt.  Since the weather tomorrow is iffy and since I’m a bit wiped out late this evening, I’ll be at market tomorrow with a sign and raffle tickets – but no canopy, tables or t-shirts.  If you don’t see me, please check with the information booth and they’ll send you in my direction.  I’ll be at the market the following Saturday with both shirts and raffle tickets and, weather permitting, I may also set up a table on Lakeshore during the week.

The raffle will close when the last t-shirt has been claimed or March 30th at the latest.

GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS

Last month, I apologized for all the misinformation I’d been spreading – particularly with regard to the change in ownership at Monkey Forest Road. As it turned out, I was also wrong about the eventual name choice.  Just hours after we published in January,  Luke Tsai (reporting HERE in the East Bay Express) noted that the new project under the helm of Doug Washington would be called “Grand Fare” – not Grand Market.

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Earlier this week, I caught up with Doug after taking this photo of him in the black t-shirt.  He told me that he and his wife are genuinely thrilled with the reception that they’ve received and the amount of traffic the overstuffed chairs and comfortable surroundings have been generating.   As evidence of just that, moments before I had stopped to say “hello” to  Lydia from Grand Flowers who chose Grand Fare as the ideal place to sit down for coffee with clients who were planning a wedding.

From what Doug told me, the details reported by Luke Tsai are essentially correct with the possible exception of the timetable.  He doesn’t seem to be in a big hurry to implement major changes.  When he does so, everything is going to be organic – as is the case now with their baked goods and coffee.  Doug repeated what he’d said previously in the EBX article.  That is,  he didn’t want an establishment that carried “precious” foods.  The prices would be affordable but of amazing quality.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

According to Peter Mustacich, the owner of the Alchemy Bottle Shop, they just received their ABC license and their contractor is about to wrap up construction within a few days. Peter says they hope to schedule their Grand Opening for early April – but will finalize a date within the next several weeks. Unless you’re one of those folks who much prefer surprises, check out this PerfectSpot blog  about Peter and Tova’s project.  It includes a few photos but they were taken four weeks ago before the flooring was installed and much of the cabinetry finished.

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SHOGUN Japanese Sushi and Grill” opened a couple of weeks ago at 3417 Grand in the space previously occupied by Prime Spot.   Like most new restaurants (including most recently, Penrose) they had some early problems in the kitchen but owner Billy Quan tells me they’ve since been resolved and they will be celebrating an official Grand Opening next Thursday, March 6th.  Beginning that evening and continuing for the next several weeks, all dinner customers will be treated to a free appetizer and a free dessert.  I had a Bento Box last week and was quite pleased with the quality and with the serving sizes.  In addition, all the sauces are house-made and simmered for up to three days.

 

Camino continues to be the subject of all kinds of great press.  This past month, Linda Holland, brought to my attention this glowing review from Michael Bauer in the Chronicle. Needless to say, it’s always nice to have Mr. Bauer in your corner.  In addition, the LA Times published a piece entitled, “7 Great Things to Eat in San Francisco and 1 in Oakland“.  The one in Oakland:  crab grilled over an open flame at Camino.

In addition to an assortment of classes, Studio Grand has seven special events scheduled for March including performances by Valerie Troutt on March 13th and Amy LaCour on the 15th.

Patrick at Panorama Framing will be celebrating its 1st Anniversary on Sunday March 16th from 3-7pm.  When you’re at Panorama for the First Thursday event or the following week for the Anniversary party, be sure to check out the original paintings depicting baseball in the Bay Area including images of the SF Seals, the Giants and the A’s.  These are on consignment through the George Krevsky Gallery.

Earlier this month, I was over on Grand and witnessed something I don’t expect to see again in my lifetime.  Half of a dozen people in kitchen attire were posing in front of the entry to Boot & Shoe Service and two of them were holding up severed pigs’ heads as if they were masks.  The woman out in the street who was taking photos or videotaping the proceedings told me it was for the Paris Pop-up event that was scheduled the following evening for Penrose.  Sorry, no photos! I did have my camera with me – but I must have been in a state of shock. If any of our readers was fortunate enough to attend, send me a review that I can post next month.

FIRST THURSDAYS ON GRAND

March 6th’s slate of participating galleries is back up to at least eight with several big openings scheduled. All hours are 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

      • Studio Grand’s exhibit of paintings by Todd Thomas Brown entitled “Abstracts in the Way of Being” continues through March 247th.
      • Panorama Framing  will be hosting an opening night reception entitled, “California: Works By Creative Couples.” The show features original paintings & limited prints by Eric Rewitzer & Annie Galvin of 3 Fish Studios; photography, multimedia & prints by Jay Watson & Jamie Welsh Watson; and custom hollow body surfboards by Shaun Horne. Refreshments will be served and entertainment provided by Oluyemi and Ijeoma Thomas.
      • Galleria Scola is staging a major showing of new watercolors by Kevin Woodson entitled, “Flowers of the New Year, Kevin’s Inner Heart Garden”. If you’ve gone to the Farmers Market lately, you’ve likely seen Kevin painting in one of the orchid booths. Most of his floral and bird subjects are found at Lake Merritt and in gardens all around the East Bay. For details, visit Kevin’s Facebook event page and the Galleria Scola web site.
      • Jaujou Studio will be featuring whimsical bird portraits by PJ Watson.  They should have refreshments available and always offer a 15% discount on store merchandise.
      • Rebooty will be featuring two artists on the 6th.  – Kat Beight from Whoop Kat will be showing and demonstrating her  handmade hula hoops while Carol Harrell will be showing lamps made from repurposed materials.  Refreshments will be served.
      • Kingman’s Lucky Lounge  isn’t very good about communicating their plans in advance – but last month, they had an interesting grouping of paintings, a live band and, on First Thursdays, beer, wine, and house liquors are always half price.  Surprise yourself and check them out. You’ll be glad you did.
      • Urban Furniture had a great turnout for last month’s opening night reception for artist, Valerie Medina.  They also had conga drums and dancing.  This month’s First Thursday will feature a pop-up shop curated by Indego Africa showcasing crafts handmade by women artisans in Rwanda.  This is a real coup for Urban Furniture – made possible by their shared commitment to empowering women across the globe. Everyone is invited to come celebrate with “light refreshments and happy jam”.
      • Better Homes and Gardens Realty will be exhibiting the vibrant paintings and prints of Samuel Renaissance.  Sam did us a huge favor back in October by donating a fabulous painting of the park for our Silent Auction.  I’m returning the favor to some extent by helping him get set up on the 6th.  Please stop by and say “hello”.  If I can get my act together, I’ll put some of our organic Meyer Lemons to use in a Sangria.
      • Oak Common’s Backstock Gallery will be celebrating it’s First Anniversary beginning with a March 8th opening reception for a group show featuring many of the artists who have exhibited there previously including Simon Pyle and Adrienne Heloise.  At press time, Jeffrey wasn’t sure that the show in its entirety would be up by the 6th – nor could he guarantee that the doors would be open that evening.  Check back with their web and Facebook pages for updates.

A printable list of galleries and businesses offering special discounts (when you have your hand stamped at a participating gallery is available HERE while the latest updates can be found on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays website.

Photos from previous First Thursdays are posted in the gallery below. More still are available on my Flickr page.

LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS

Pamela Drake’s BID blog this month is all about ongoing changes on Lakeshore including the opening of Unleashed by Petco, street repaving, new trash compactors, new landscaping and the upcoming openings at Michel and Shakewell.  Please click HERE for all the details.

GRAND AVENUE — WEST OF 580

This month’s West of 580 blog by LZ (our otherwise anonymous contributor) is about the East Bay Veterinary Clinic that opened this month at 568 Grand Ave.   Previous West of 580 blogs are archived here.

SPLASH PAD PARK

As reported last month, we’re finalizing plans for major improvements to the park over the next four months.  The biggest single push will likely come when we celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, April 27th.  Due to the presence of the Farmers Market, we traditionally schedule our work day on Sunday – a day later than the rest of the city.  Please put the 27th on your calendar and make plans to join us.  We can’t promise that you’ll have fun but we can guarantee that you’ll go home with a feeling of accomplishment.

In preparation for our Earth Day activities, we’re also scheduling a volunteer work day for Sunday, March 9th which will be postponed until the 16th in the event of rain.  Mostly, we will be weeding the two beds that we will later be landscaping – but we’ll also be transplanting some of the plants from the original California Native plant bed. If you’re going to join us, please email us at info@splashpad.org so we can be sure to have an adequate supply of tools and gloves.

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The two bicycle corrals that Jennifer Stanley designated for the park are now complete with a total of eight rings in two different locations – providing parking for up to sixteen bikes. These were installed by a Public Works crew and the workmanship was superb.  City employees (particularly those that are in the public eye) take a lot of heat and from my personal experience, it’s unwarranted.  In general, they are far more conscientious than the outside contractors frequently employed by the city.

To cite just one example, the one detail about the racks that isn’t finished is back-filling the decomposed granite around the perimeters of the concrete pours.  The City employees are insisting on using the original materials including a binder.  In direct contrast, last year, one outside contractor dug up fairly large sections of the DG to install wiring and then simply dumped it back in the trench without a binder and without compacting.  Two others (working at opposite ends of the park) left large drain rock scattered atop the gravel beds.  I’d prefer city employees virtually any day.

 

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One of those city employees is Christian Boyle, the Crew leader who is responsible for Splash Pad Park – as well as the Rose Garden, Mandana Green and a number of other smaller locations.  When you walk through Splash Pad, check out the lawns which are looking better than they have in a long time.  A big part of the improvement is due to the Farmers Market management’s efforts to protect the turf with plywood and other safeguards but Christian has been fine-tuning the irrigation and making sure the lawns are mowed and edged.  In the next few weeks, he will be aerating and re-seeding the lawns and we should be seeing still more improvements.

Although I just berated outside contractors, I would hasten to add that there are exceptions.  I met one of them last Sunday when I encountered an employee from First Building Management who was busily cleaning the parking lot under the freeway.  Daniel took time to talk with me and then, to my delight, resolved a problem with bagged trash that we’d been dealing with for well over six months.  Thank-you! Thank-you! Thank-you!

FARMERS MARKET

St. Benoit CreameryLife Food Gardens

As I reported last month,  St. Benoit Creamery  is new to the market with organic milk and organic French Style Yogurt which is made sustainably in Petaluma.
Lifefood Gardens, which is based outside of Kelseyville in Lake County,  made its debut at the market a couple of weeks ago and immediately developed a big following.  Their microgreens are one of the few products that were not previously represented at the market and it’s obviously much in demand.

Also new at the market is Curbside Creamery which, like Bicycle Coffee, is pedal powered. Come summer, the little ones (upon arrival at the market) will face a real dilemma. Do they head to the fountain, to the jump houses or to the ice cream tricycle? Fortunately, they are all close together in the plaza.

As for long-time vendors, we have good news and bad news.  As for the latter,  Emmett Brady, the Market Manager, reported at the Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Group meeting that Octoberfeast had gone bankrupt and is permanently closed. The good news is that Peggy and Helen from Kassenhoff Growers have found a new nursery location.  As reported in this blog post, they’ve leased the area in front of the historic Central Station in West Oakland. That post is a bit dated and they have since moved in all their equipment and are already in production getting ready for Spring sales.

On a related matter, Helen is one of a dozen artists who have contributed artwork to the Edible East Bay Magazine who will be participating in the EDIBLE ART SHOW at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center on March 9th from Noon to 3:00 p.m.

At the SPFMAC meeting last week, Emmett also disclosed that the market management had again applied for a grant that would provide matching funds for the purchase of EBT coupons.  They will know within a couple of months if their application has been approved.

Just after the Feds announced that Central Valley Farmers would have their water allotments cut off, I talked to several of the farmers at last week’s market.

EGB Farms said they do have access to well water and other farms in the area are beginning desalinization projects.  Due to the lack of water, they do expect that this year’s crop of almonds will likely be smaller.  They don’t, however,  expect to lose trees.

Jay at Gascon Farms says that their water costs have already doubled but he doesn’t anticipate a lot of problems.

Javier at Ledesma Farms seemed legitimately concerned over water supplies at both his farms – one in the valley and the other nearer the coast.  Apparently, they are getting one last water delivery this week.  After that, he said he’d just have to wait and see.  Worst case scenario would be a reduction in the amount of acreage that he plants.

The owner of Feather River Farms has few personal concerns since he’s well up in the north with access to water from the Yuba River.  He did, however, note that the California drought would have a nationwide impact and he was certain that prices are going to rise.

For more on the drought and specifically on how it is affecting dairy farmers in Marin County, check out this article in the SF Chronicle from February 13th.

Are you a Wild Boar tomato devotee, then you’ll love this article in the Napa Valley Register:  “Brad Gates Eats, Breathes  and Lives Tomatoes

My request for a volunteer to help report on the Farmers Market brought one very much appreciated reply.  Linda Holland, who is the author of the EAST BAY envy blog, has promised an occasional report on the subject.  Her most recent blog, “Why I moved to California” is totally apropos AND beautifully illustrated with her photographs.

Here’s the music schedule for March provided by Emmett Brady.  Please take special note of what’s scheduled for the Plaza for March 22nd.  It’s going to be various contingents from the Oakland School For the Arts (including VOCAL RUSH!) performing throughout the day.

March 1st:   Prairie Rose Band (country/western) in the plaza and Billy D (folk) under the tree
March 8th:  Brian Bergeron (indie folk/rock) in the plaza
March 15th:  Anderson Gram (folk) in the plaza and  “In Steel” (steel pan drums) under the tree
March 22nd:  Oakland School for the Arts in the plaza and Mama Mia Debruzzi (jazz/blues/americana) under the tree
March 29th:  Country Casanovas (honky tonky country) in the plaza

ODDS AND ENDS

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This past Sunday, Lake Merritt was the host of a bioblitz sponsored by half a dozen environmental advocacy organizations.  The event was reported by the Scientific American in this article that focused on the high tech tools that were employed in the course of the survey.  There was also this article in the SF Chronicle that was more focused on the people who were involved. The photos in the latter article were taken by a Chronicle intern who has a bright future ahead of her.  I spent a couple of hours taking photos including the x-rated one embedded here. The rest of my photos from this event can be viewed on this link.

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Pamela’s Lakeshore report is quite comprehensive but she was out of town the day Marcia Lam celebrated the Chinese New Year at Lin Jia and I was happy to fill in the void.  Two photos are embedded here and a bunch more are on this Flickr link.  About the photo embedded here on the right.  Please note that Marcia Lam in the background has her ears covered to mask  the sound of the firecrackers.  To her left, Stephen Duffy has covered the ear’s of the kid perched on his shoulders.  For someone who earns his living teaching and playing music, that’s a noble sacrifice.

 

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Just before the New Year’s celebration at Lin Jia, three turkeys turned up in my neighbor’s yard – just one short block off of Lakeshore Avenue.  The cat in one these photos is known as a fearless mouser – but shortly after this photo was taken, it turned tail and took off running.  Discretion is the better part of valor.

 

.I'm Doing My Part

One more piece of advice about the drought.  Last week, Buckingham Wine and Spirits recommended that you save water by drinking beer – a sentiment I heartily subscribe to.  This week, the recommendation is to drink wine.  I take it that one of their wholesale wine distributors demanded equal time.

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I‘ve written previously about the donation bins that you’ll see all over Oakland.  There are probably about 200 total and, with the exception of five that are operated by St. Vincent de Paul, none of the donated goods stays in Oakland and the same can be said for the profits from their sale.

The City of Oakland and its residents are getting virtually nothing in return.  Even if the operator is registered with the city and paying business taxes, the total paid is a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars that are being realized from the sale of clothes, shoes and donated books.

The City Council’s Community Economic Development Committee will be considering a regulatory ordinance that’s sponsored by Pat Kernighan when they meet in late March.  We’d much appreciate letters of support addressed to the members of the committee.

More information about this will be available shortly at DonateOakland.org.    For the time being, the home page consists of a list of Oakland non-profits  that welcome donations of clothes, shoes, books and household furnishings.

CALENDAR

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All newsletters from 2007 to the present are archived HERE.