Montclair Restaurant Walk, Going Once

The Montclair Restaurant Walk is one hot ticket.  We suggest you act now, or else miss out on this great excuse to graze around the Village and contribute to a good cause or two.

Tickets cost $25/person, and you’ll receive a ticket book filled with coupons for each restaurant.  Buy yours today at Montclair Book Tree, Pacific National Bank, Raimondi’s Paint & Wallpaper or Viewpoint Optometric in the Village.

From what we have learned, the confirmed participants include these sixteen places:

Amba Colonial Donuts Crogan’s Montclair – El Agavero Mexican Cuisine & Bar – Farmstead Cheeses and Wines – Flavors India Bistro – Grille OneItalian Colors Ristorante – Kakui SushiMetro Cafe & Bar – Montclair Baking – Montclair Malt Shop – Pararung Thai Cuisine – Taqueria Las Comadres – Toshi Sushi – Yogafina

After the inaugural events last year, the Restaurant Walk has become a proven success for the Lions Club.  Proceeds go to Lions Blind Center of Oakland; Oakland Fund for the Arts; Montera, Skyline and Oakland Tech Schools; Fred Finch Youth Center; Lincoln Child Center; Local Boy Scout Troops  and other Lions Foundations.

Going once, twice, three times.  Remember to buy your ticket and then pencil in the Restaurant Walk date:  Tuesday, April 20th, from 6:00 – 8:30 pm.

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Thanks For The Trefoils

Just a week or two before the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, our local Girl Scouts reappear with their annual supply of trefoils and thin mints.  There’s something wonderful about this fundraiser which teaches girls about business, while feeding the craving masses.

Today the Girl Scouts were set up in Montclair Village, and selling their stash.  We watched and recorded ’em in action below.  First, the scouts marketed and hawked cookies with plenty of verve!

Then it was time to check out the goods up close, artfully displayed and ready for the taking.  Did you know the cookie boxes all say “courage, confidence and character” on them?

At around 2pm, the girls were experiencing a lull in the post-lunch crowd.  Like all good retailers, they patiently waited for shoppers to stop by their stand.

Within minutes, we caught one happy buyer and seller in mid-transaction.  No matter what happens over the decades, the buyers still want these cookies and are pleased to fork over $4 per box.

There were several signs that we’re living in 2010, though.  One buyer didn’t want to be photographed acquiring her contraband, explaining that she was buying it as a gift.  Plus the Girl Scouts now sport nicer-green vests festooned with earned badges, which seem much cuter than we remember.

Cheers to these girls, hard at work.

TV News Airs Montclair Bubbly, Chocolates

We get all warm and fuzzy when Bay Area telecasts feature the Montclair District, because it’s a rare event.  Tonight we saw the requisite Valentine’s Day story with an economic twist, and two Montclair businesses were highlighted:   Farmstead Cheeses and Wines and Le Bon Bon.

KTVU Reporter Tom Vacar was making the point that Valentine’s Day still packs a profitable punch, even though people want to economize a bit.  Our local business owners felt pretty optimistic so far.

“Valentine’s Day is all about sparkling wine,” exclaimed Jeff Diamond, who owns Farmstead. He added that all holidays matter, including  V-Day, and that his business has picked up versus last year.

“We are happy,” declared Le Bon Bon’s proprietor, Ugyen Triantopolous.  She explained that some customers buy a little bit less, but business is looking good this year.

Check out the the video and our two new celebrities.  You’ll see plenty of air time for the two stores, along with bubbly and trays of chocolates.  You can’t really go wrong with these affordable luxuries for V-Day.

New Sushi Spot In Two Weeks

We are really excited about Kakui, a new sushi spot that’s scheduled to open in two weeks.  Today we stopped by this former Jamba Juice location to check the progress, and you don’t see much that makes you think “banana smoothie” anymore.

Years ago, there was a 50’s era restaurant here and maybe some features will re-emerge now.  Much of the exterior stucco has been removed, and you see a nice wood-topped entry instead.

We took a quick look inside.  The first thing that stands out is an elegant north wall with vertical cut-outs for sake.  A sushi bar takes its position on the opposite side, but doesn’t overwhelm the place.  Although Kakui’s tables and chairs were wrapped up, some espresso wood pieces peeked out.

Fortunately we ran into the proprietor, Yingji Huang, who was overseeing all the preparations today.  He’s eager to fill the gap for a top-notch sushi restaurant, and we can’t argue with that goal.  While Toshi Sushi is not far away, some serious competition is a very good thing!

Back in 2008, we asked about your Asian food consumption and half reported eating sushi once or twice monthly.  The most ardent sushi eaters didn’t stick around much at all, traveling to Berkeley and even San Francisco for fresh fish morsels.

My sense (and hope) is that Kakui will shine – and look forward to giving it a test run soon.

More info:  Kakui is at 2060B Mountain Blvd, in Montclair Village.  You may reach them at (510) 338-1188.

It Was Late In The Evening, At 8pm

Last night, several of us had gathered in downtown Montclair after work.  We were “doing good” for a local non-profit, and making some decisions about our online tactics.

Then the clock struck 8pm, and our carriage turned into a pumpkin.  All the third-place places on Antioch and Mountain row were closing up – and we were bereft.

Horrors of horrors! We realized there would be no regular drip of WiFi ’til the morning light.  And we headed to the lonely street.

So where do you spread out, grab a coffee, and get down to work?  Without a hotspot from Metro or Peet’s, the only open place nearby was El Agavero.  Luckily they were gracious, even though we rang up a minor tab.

In most cosmopolitan reaches, that 8pm bewitching hour is earlier than suppertime –  but not here.  Welcome to Oakland, the city that gets its sleep.

Fresh Fruits And Veggies In Wintertime

Montclair’s one local shop for fresh fruits and veggies appears to be kaput.  After only nine months on Thornhill, the green grocer closed for good last week.  We all liked the owner, but he wasn’t turning inventory – the neighborhood just didn’t give him sufficient business.

So it’s back to the Montclair Farmers Market, not that we’re complaining or anything.  If you’re like me, then you pick up a few things during that Sunday stroll.  You probably venture to the supermarkets in between, buying whatever produce is on hand there.

Well another option walked up to me, last week.  That’s when a Farm Fresh To You sales rep stopped me in the Village.  With pamphlets in hand, Richard asked if I ate my fruits and veggies!  He was ready to discuss organic farm deliveries, right to my doorstep.

Farm Fresh sounds interesting, because they adjust delivery quantities and frequencies to meet your requirements.  You may also pick and choose what’s in the seasonal deliveries, at least a little bit.  The service does seem pretty convenient.

Of course, we had milk and eggs delivery when I was a kid…showing my age!  More recently I tested out the Safeway delivery, but would advise packaged goods there; my fresh stuff arrived with near (and past) expiration dates.

So has anyone tried out organic farm deliveries yet?

Fantasy Pick Comes True: Hummus

A while ago, we were looking at Montclair Village’s prime storefronts that were “for rent” and made fantasy picks about new food and non-food occupants.  Among the fantasies, we wanted someone to “offer Middle Eastern takeout, including authentic falafel, hummus, tabouli, salads, etc.  Why wait for the falafel stand on Sundays?”

Over on Moraga Avenue, that fantasy pick is coming true.  We took snapshots of Amba, which plans to serve up all the good stuff – namely falafel, hummus, salads and fries. The store posted their “opening soon” sign along with construction permits received last May.

Amba - Soon

We noticed activity near Amba, and peeked inside to see construction underway.  The counter features cool green-aqua-white tiles.  Also the place seems large enough to have tables and chairs inside, which the Village needs.

Amba - Construction

The workers, who were pulling wires today, didn’t know very much about the place.  Based on the building materials scattered around, there should be some walls going up soon.  While it’s hard to read tea-leaves about Amba’s opening day, I’ll guess less than a month or two.

We originally made our fantasy pick to replace the old Jamba Juice location.  However you won’t hear any complaints, at least from this corner, about the proper location for Middle Eastern morsels – it’s terrific to have this fast-food option in the Village.