Thanks to everyone who purchased raffle tickets and/or t-shirts and thanks, as well, to those who donated prizes. The lucky winner of two premium suite tickets to the Warriors game this Friday is Susan Gill, who, after purchasing three tickets, announced that she never wins anything – to which I can now reply, “there’s a first time for everything.  Richard Weinstein  won the gift certificate from Wingstop which he’ll either use for a party celebrating their revamped kitchen or for their National Night Out block party.  If Terence doesn’t have kids, he’ll have to borrow some or hold out for the one night a year when Fairyland is open to grown-ups.   David Gans and his wife, Rita will eat well thanks to a gift certificate from Marcia Lam at Lin Jia.   And finally, Sue Tomidy is the lucky recipient of the California bear print from Patrick Cheatham at Panorama Framing.   Thanks again to everyone who participated as their way of showing support for Splash Pad Park.


Shelving at Alchemy Bottle Shop

Shelving at Alchemy Bottle Shop

Tova Ree and Peter Mustacich

Tova Ree and Peter Mustacich

2nd Floor at Alchemy Bottle Shop

2nd Floor at Alchemy Bottle Shop

With very little fanfare, the Alchemy Bottle Shop quietly opened this past Wednesday at 3256 Grand.  The interior is just as attractive as we predicted and the shelves are full of a diverse assortment of hand-crafted distilled spirits including liqueurs plus a smattering of wines plus a fine selection of cocktail necessities such as bitters. As I mentioned last month, Peter and Tova sampled virtually everything before placing orders and are quite happy to make recommendations and talk about the individual producers.

The upstairs space which is illuminated during the day by the floor to ceiling windows overlooking Grand Avenue looks a bit bare at the moment – but will be transformed once artwork is hanging.  In addition to housing their art gallery, they will use the 2nd floor for tastings and classes.  On Saturday, April 5th, they will be hosting a formal, Grand Opening Party and everyone is invited.  Prices will be reduced 10% for the occasion.  Look for Alchemy to join the First Thursdays on Grand event in May.

Last month I noted that Camino continues to be the subject of all kinds of great press and cited, in particular, a review by Michael Bauer that Linda Holland had brought to my attention.  In the history repeats itself department, just minutes ago, I found, on her Facebook page, a link to a New York Times article about Camino in which Mark Bittman waxes ecstatic:

What’s important but is impossible to describe is the strength and utter brilliance of his flavor combinations and the downright simplicity of it all. Moore has a palate that cannot be stopped; everything tastes as if it were created to go with everything seasoning it. Ignacio Mattos, the chef at New York’s Estela, which many believe is the best recent opening in town, used to work with Moore. He put it more succinctly. “Russ? He’s [expletive] unbelievable.”

Congrats to Russell and Allison who must be walking on air this week.  As an aside, I’m forever grateful to Bittman for a recipe that turned brussells sprouts from something I barely tolerated into one of my favorite veggies.  Be forewarned, however, you have to love garlic as well.

In the Grand Lake District, we are, of course, super fortunate to have two Chez Panisse alumni cooking up a storm on Grand Avenue.  An article by Michael Taylor in this month’s edition of California Magazine notes that Russell Moore and Charlie Hallowell are just two of some seventy Alice Waters’ proteges who have ventured out on their own to help change the way we eat.

The article is based on the doctoral treatise written by Sohyeong Kim, who, “while slurping up Hog Island oysters in the upstairs café at Chez Panisse,  got the idea of focusing her Ph.D. dissertation on the exuberant, wild, open-ended, sometimes chaotic and always innovative world of Alice Waters”.   If you’re a foodie, this is probably a must read.

Holly Schneider at Studio Grand continues to amaze.  Their line-up of concerts, classes, and readings is truly remarkable.  One of the many highlights this month is a birthday concert on April 17th for Valerie Troutt. A summary of their calendar is HERE but visit the Studio Grand website for all the details.

Kingman’s Lucky Lounge will be hosting an artist reception for a show called “Street Dreams, Urban Gems” on April 11 from 6:00 – 10:00 pm.  Participating artists are Vanessa Solari Espinoza, Eli Lippert and Fred Alvarado.  Music will be provided by DJ Shorterm.

Alyce Preston, the owner of Newfangles, will be joining the list of businesses hosting art shows at this coming Thursdays First Thursday on Grand event.  Alyce has also scheduled an “INDOOR BLOCK PARTY” for Sunday, April 20th with music and refreshments.  Festivities begin at 1:30 pm.


April 3rd’s slate of participating galleries has a new addition – Newfangles Tall Women’s Fashions.   For all the galleries,  hours are 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Later in the week, please check back for updates here and/or at the  Grand Avenue First Thursdays website.

  • Newfangles is featuring the artwork of Juliette Evans through the month of April.  Opening night reception with refreshments, April 3rd.
  • Panorama Framing will be hosting a reception for the second month of a show entitled, “California: Works By Creative Couples.” The show features original paintings & limited prints by EricRewitzer & 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.
  • Galleria Scola’s show of new watercolors by Kevin Woodson continues for a second month. In addition, Elida will be doing the first in a series of “art in action” beginning with a demonstration of the Art of Assemblage”.
  • Jaujou Studio will be showcasing the artwork of Melissa Bolger for the month of April. Refreshments will be offered along with a 15% discount on store merchandise.
  • Kingman’s Lucky Lounge still isn’t very good about communicating their plans in advance – but they do now have a show coordinator and on First Thursdays, beer, wine, and well drinks are always half price.
  • Better Homes and Gardens Realty not yet scheduled.
  • Oak Common’s Backstock Gallery will be continuing it’s First Anniversary group show featuring many of the artists who have exhibited there previously including Simon Pyle and Adrienne Heloise. 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 .

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


Pamela Drake’s BID blog this month covers the upcoming Easter Parade, new regulations and enforcement for Lakeshore’s offstreet parking and the opening of Michel on April 8th.  Please click HERE for all the details.


LZ (our intrepid reviewer of everything on Grand East of 580) is taking a “Spring Break”. When she returns in May, LZ promises “a feature about California Document Preparers, the story of which will be much more interesting and charming than the business name might suggest”.   If you missed it, LZ’s blog about the East Bay Veterinary Clinic at 568 Grand Avenue is still posted HERE.  Previous West of 580 blogs are archived HERE.


Newly planted bed in foreground

Newly planted bed in foreground

Bed to be converted to DG

Bed to be converted to DG

Slowly but surely, under the guidance of Mary Jo Sutton, we’re making progress on maintaining and expanding the California Native plant bed that SplashPad.org adopted just over ten years ago.  If you have any doubt about Spring’s arrival, take a stroll through the park.  Currently in bloom, are the Iris, the Fremontodendron, the bush poppy, the first of the Tidy Tips and Tarweeds and, the Ceanothus that was bustling with Bumblebees and other California Native bees when I visited Sunday morning.

In the past couple of months, we’ve added a couple dozen new plants to the smaller of the two Dogwood beds at the base of the plaza wall and, when they start to fill in, they will provide lots of color and greenery.

The adjacent Dogwood bed where there’s a Queen Palm will be the site of much of the work we have planned for Earth Day on Sunday, April 27th.  We’re planning to weed thoroughly; lay out a weed barrier and then cover with six inches of mulch.  By the end of July we’re hoping to have this area landscaped with California Natives, as well

We’re also talking about some infrastructure improvements which would primarily entail installing decomposed granite in the bed on the inside wall of the plaza while also creating  short DG pathways inside the two beds we’re landscaping.

Earth Day will be celebrated at Splash Pad on Sunday, April 27th from 9:00 a.m. until Noon.  The last couple of years, neighboring restaurants (Yayu, Lin Jia, Lanesplitter, Ikaros, Kwik Way, Boniere Bakery, Grand Bakery) have provided lunch complemented with fruit and salad provided by farmers market vendors – all washed down with bottled water provided by Ken Betts.  We plan to do much the same again this year.  If you’re able to join us, please RSVP to info@splashpad.org.


InzanaRanchNew to the market this past month is Inzana Ranch and Produce which is based in Hughson – just outside Modesto.  Currently, their inventory is exclusively trail mixes, dried fruits and nuts including almonds, pistachios, filberts, pistachios, walnuts and pecans. If I’m not mistaken, Inzana is the first vendor at the Grand Lake Market to offer pecans and they’re big and plump and gorgeous. They also grow figs, olives and a variety of stone fruits.   If you visit their home page, you’ll find that Tony and Joye have totally refurbished their 1890 Victorian farmhouse and have converted the ranch to solar and geothermal energy sources for its power.  In addition, irrigation is provided through flood, drip and micro-sprinkler systems. 

Inzana’s use of environmentally sound irrigation practicesis the perfect segue to an article in the Mercury News this weekend about the impact the current drought is having on California’s Central Valley.  With top soil up to fifty feet deep, it is, perhaps, the most fertile agricultural region in the world.

Cultivation, however, depends upon an ample supply of water which, this year, doesn’t exist.  The federal government and the state have both cut off water deliveries through the aqueduct system.  What farmers are doing out of desperation is tapping ever deeper into the aquifer.

I talked this past Saturday to Javier Ledesma about the drought and the rain that was then drenching the farmers market – reducing it to about half its normal size.  Javier said the rains this past week will definitely help by eliminating the need to irrigate now and at least some of the rain would percolate down to help replenish the aquifer.  But it’s clear from the Mercury News article that this is just a drop in a very big bucket with devastating consequences facing California farmers.  The most startling consequence of the deep drilling is the resulting subsidence of the farmlands – up to a foot per year in some areas where the land has already subsided up to 25 feet.

In a follow-up story in today’s Mercury News, Paul Richards reports on a growing consensus that may result in state legislation regulating the amount of ground water that’s pumped and requiring that the aquifer be re-charged.

Entertainment Calendar:

April 5:  Flowtilla  and Keenan Webster’s “Talking Wood

April 12:  Lunarville and Ron Dubin

April 19:  Fred McCarty and Suzanne Holland

April 26:  Damond Moodie


DISCOVER BOOKS - 98th Avenue

DISCOVER BOOKS – 98th Avenue

48th and Bancroft

48th and Bancroft

If this month’s newsletter seems a bit slim, blame it on the unattended donation bins which have been taking up an unseemly amount of time over the past couple of weeks. The City Council’s Community Economic Development Committee met on Wednesday and, thanks to a huge assist from Councilmember Kernighan, the end result is likely to be an ordinance that is far more stringent than what we thought possible.  There’s also an outside chance that a majority of the full council may vote for an outright ban.


The more I investigate the bin operations, the more convinced I am that a ban is the right thing to do.  To cite just one of the for-profit operators, USAgain collected 4 million pounds of clothes and shoes in the SF Bay area last year – a good part of which should have gone to any of the dozen local non-profits that give away clothing or recycle it or sell it for reuse – in the process, funding valuable services to Oakland residents.  When I crunched the numbers, I’m estimating that they paid businesses taxes in Oakland totaling about $96.  They also attracted lots of graffiti and illegal dumping as you may have noticed from the two bins that are in the 76 station on Lakeshore.  By the way, the manager there has been requesting that the bins be removed for several months and so far, they’re still there.

This issue is on the agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting and you can help immensely by emailing or phoning all eight members of the council today or tomorrow.  Their contact information is listed on the “Make a Difference” page on the DonateOakland.org website.  If you do send emails, please send carbon copies to donateoakland@gmail.com – so we can post the best online.

P.S.  DonateOakland.org will be one of the exhibitors at this year’s Earth Expo environmental fair in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Wednesday, April 9th from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm.  Stop by and say “hello”.

So many good things are happening on Grand Avenue that it is hard to keep track but, for future reference, watch for a community effort to assist Grand Avenue merchants with tree planting and some serious pruning.  This effort was instigated by local resident and realtor, Russell Hill, who tallied twelve missing street trees between the Grand Lake Theatre and Safeway.  He and Eric Hughes will be coordinating this effort which has already been approved in principal by the city’s tree services department.


          • Tuesday, April 1, Oakland City Council meeting
          • Thursday, April 3, 6:00 – 9:00 pm: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
          • Friday, April 4,  5:00 – 9:00 pm: First Friday Art Murmur
          • Saturday, April 5,  5:00 – 8:00 pm: Grand Opening Party at Alchemy Bottle Shop
          • Wednesday, April 9, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.  Oakland Earth Expo in Frank Ogawa Plaza
          • Wednesday, April 16, 7:00  – 8:30 pm: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
          • Thursday, April 17, 9:30 – 10:30:  Studio Grand Birthday Concert for Valerie Troutt
          • Sunday, April 20,  1:30 – 5:30 pm:  Newfangles Indoor Block Party with music and refreshments
          • Saturday, April 26: 9:00 – Noon: Oakland Earth Day citywide
          • Sunday, April 27: 9:00 – Noon: Earth Day at Splash Pad
          • Saturday, May 24: Eastlake Music Festival at Lake Merritt Blvd. Ampitheater

If you have friends or neighbors who may be interested in receiving this newsletter, please forward a link to the newsletter and invite them to subscribe by sending an email to info@splashpad.org.

All newsletters from 2007 to the present are archived HERE.