Get Yer Ticket For Restaurant Walk

We suggest you get your ticket book now for the Montclair Restaurant Walk, scheduled on October 6th.  The first-ever walk last spring was a sold-out affair, and it’s possible to miss this great grazing opportunity if you delay.

With book in hand, you’ll be able to sample offerings from restaurants and stores scattered throughout the village – in 2.5 hours or less!  The Lions Club has added this fundraiser to their long-standing Easter and Halloween events, and it’s nice that adults can have some gluttonous fun for a good cause.  All proceeds go to charity, of course.

Montclair Restaurant Walk - Oct 2009

To get your mouth watering, the confirmed participants include:

A. G. Ferrari Foods – Crogan’s Montclair – El Agavero Mexican Cuisine & Bar – Farmstead Cheeses and Wines – Flavors India Bistro – Flipper’s Gourmet Burgers – Il Porcellino – Italian Colors Ristorante – La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill – Le Bon Bon – Metro Cafe & Bar – Montclair Baking – Montclair Bistro – Pararung Thai Cuisine – Silver Palace Restaurant – Taqueria Las Comadres – The Full Plate – Toshi Sushi

So what’s next? Until the ticket books run out, you may stop in the Village and buy them at Montclair Book Tree, Pacific National Bank, Raimondi’s Paint & Wallpaper or Viewpoint Optometric. These books cost $25/person, and are filled with coupons for tastings. Remember to pencil in the Restaurant Walk date, which is October 6th, from 6:00 – 8:30 pm.

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The Loneliest Fruit In Montclair

Usually, the Montclair Farmers Market conjures images of great looking fruit or veggies.  The reliable vendors show up with their seasonal cornucopias, along with all the other goodies.

Until now, I never considered how the fruit might actually feel.  What happens to the fruit during the Sunday market?  We came across these images taken by photographer Heather Jean, and they tell the story – and made us smile.

Farmers Market, Only The Lonely

In “Only The Lonely,” one luscious strawberry has been left behind and will never get consumed.  Don’t you feel a little sorry for the lone piece of fruit?

Farmers Market, The Disregarded

“The Disregarded” fruit are assembling together, and no longer lonely.  Why are these good-looking folks thoroughly abandoned and orphaned?

Farmers Market, Freckled Fruit

We are optimistic about the “Freckled Fruit,” properly displayed together.  These bashful and not-so-beautiful pears gather strength in numbers.  Don’t you think this fruit will go home with Montclarions?

Nothing like anthropomorphizing the fruit to make your day, hhmm.

Support Oakland’s Mai-Tai Campaign

After its summer somnolence, let’s re-activate Oakland’s Mai-Tai campaign and support the cocktail as the official drink of Oakland.  After all, the drink was literally born in our city.

A month ago, it looked like the City Council might put this all-important declaration on their agenda.  The pro-tiki, grassroots movement had made headway, as reported by Diablo Magazine and the SF Chronicle.  We even heard that one of the council reps was supportive as well.

While plans to get this formal recognition were lining up, other Council priorities like the budget pushed everything else aside.  It’s time to make sure the mai-tai matter appears on the city agenda, when the Council reconvenes in September.

Peck, Conga Lounge

We believe Oaklanders would unite behind something like the mai-tai, even though Hawaiians and chain restauranteurs have co-opted it as their own.  It turns out the drink was actually invented here, and a declaration could go a long way towards staking our claim.

Mai-tai cocktails were first served by Trader Vic, at his place on San Pablo Avenue.  Victor J. “Trader Vic” Bergeron set the record straight many years ago, explaining that he created the drink in 1944.  Here are the salient facts from Vic:

I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant.  I took down a bottle of 17-year-old rum.  It was J. Wray Nephew from Jamaica; surprisingly golden in color, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavor particular to the Jamaican blends.  The flavor of this great rum wasn’t meant to be overpowered with heavy additions of fruit juices and flavorings.

I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy Syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle almond flavor.  A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after.  Half the lime shell went in for color.

I  stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti, who were there that night.  Carrie took one sip and said, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae.”  In Tahitian this means “Out of This World – The Best.”  Well, that was that.  I named the drink “Mai Tai.”

Your local tiki bars serve up the legacy cocktail today, including Oakland spots on College Ave, Piedmont Ave, 29th Ave, one place in nearby Alameda, and the Trader Vic’s in Emeryville.

Our opinion?  The sweet mai-tai would provide a boost for Oakland natives and visitors.  We are only asking for a positive push by the halls of city government.  Let’s make sure that our representatives are listening – and perhaps we’ll get this lovely concoction some long-deserved recognition.

Peet’s Only Gets Bronze Medal

According to Zagat’s fast food survey, Peet’s only gets a bronze medal nationally for best coffee.   This is cause for distress, because Starbucks was awarded the gold and Dunkin’ Donuts received the silver medal.  McDonald’s and Caribou Coffee rounded out the list.

Zagat results came from 6,107 surveys which split 53% male and 47% female, clearly enough to place Peet’s in the top echelon.  We think results were skewed because the Berkeley-base coffee pusher has the fewest retail outlets.  It’s the smallest winner by far, with 188 retail stores versus next closest Caribou’s 414 company-owned and 97 franchised locations.

Outside of coffee rankings, Zagat surveys placed Peet’s on their lists three more times this year.  Our local chain continued to hold its own when compared to other “quick refreshment chains” as well.

2009 Zagat Peets

Peet’s received bronze awards for facilities and service respectively, which are nice gets.  We know you can easily waste hours in the Montclair Village outlet, and there are enough seats to handle the morning rush. Starbucks also made these lists yet our Village shop isn’t ideal; it’s a tiny place for visitors to pick up their familiar brews, and hardly conducive to meeting folks.

We had to laugh about Peet’s appearance in the food category, though.  You can pick up nibbles there, but when was the last time you were waxing poetic about them?  Maybe that rank reflects a low hurdle, since we’re talking about refreshment chains and everyone really eats meals elsewhere.

How do you achieve coffee chain supremacy?  I suppose some Peet’s aficionados will need to consider joining the Zagat voting pool next year – or else the Bay Area’s contribution will continue to pale next to Seattle and Boston’s best of breeds.

More info:   Check out our local coffee options – click here for comparisons and also here for a newcomer.

Thornhillers Must Buy Hyperlocal Veggies

The gauntlet has been thrown.  Today a brand-new market with fresh veggies and fruits has opened on Thornhill Drive, in the little strip mall next to Thornhill Coffee.  It’s up to Thornhillers and other Montclarions to support the new place, and create healthier options than our beloved 7-Eleven.

Delicious Avocado

Even though I was headed to work, I stopped by and bought my first avocado.  It was $0.99 and this item typically runs $1.50 or more at the supermarkets.  My specimen was getting ripe, looked good, and tasted great for lunch – rivaling the farmers market quality.

This new market is small but quite nice looking, with flowers for sale placed outside the front door.  Inside you will see dark-tile floors, wood shelving and artfully displayed freshies plus other goods.  The proprietor was friendly and I look forward to getting to know him.

Because change is so gradual around Thornhill, I shared my glee while picking up morning libations next door.  Sure enough, the contractor who built out the market was getting coffee and was duly proud of his recent work.

As someone who lives nearby, I’m bound and determined to have a market survive here.  Yet stores won’t survive on a single veggie purchase, so this is a challenge for Thornhillers to graciously accept.

New Montclair Fundraiser In The Works

We’re always game for a good cause, especially when bribed by food and drinks.

The Montclair Village Association has announced a brand-new Restaurant Walk this spring, which is destined to become an annual charity event.  Coupon books are getting printed now, and will soon be sold for $25/pop at these locations.

Then you’ll be set to nosh your way through 18 places – all in one April night.  The coupons list what each restaurant or shop will offer, so you’ll be able to plan ahead for  the key pit stops.

Montclair Restaurant Walk

This April 21st event is actually a joint effort between the Montclair Village Association and Lions Club.  Proceeds will be donated to the Lions Club as well as other charities.  After years of the same Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween Parade, it’s about time the Lions branched out!

For more info, please click here or e-mail  montclairvillage@sbcglobal.net.

Farmers Market Is An Art Exhibit

When shopping for veggies, have you ever taken a minute to admire their sheer beauty?

One Berkeley native, Kimbar, casts an artistic eye and likes to create veggie still-lifes.  She visits the Montclair Farmers’ Market regularly, and just added several winter images to her art exhibit.

Let’s start with some freshly-harvested brussel sprouts.  Even if you are a sprout hater, the range of natural green-blue colors, shapes and sizes are oddly compelling.

Brussel Sprouts

Next we see a cornucopia of veggies, which rivals the old masters.  I wonder if Kimbar captured what the vendors presented or set the stage herself.

Veggie Art

The last work is a radishes bouquet.  If you look carefully, you will see these radishes are a close-up of the veggie cornucopia.  They look so nice in their natural and root-filled state.

Radishes

There’s just something about these winter seasonals which are irresistible – whether you love to eat ’em or simply hate ’em.  This should snap us out of the storm doldrums, right?

Postscript:  Hardly anyone made it to the Farmer’s Market this weekend, except for the vendors who faithfully showed up with their goods.  The weather and holiday weekend conspired to keep the place empty.