Weekend Update

Grand Lake Farmers Market

Anna and I had coffee on Friday morning with Deb from Today in Montclair. We met and chatted at Metro Cafe, where Royal Grounds used to be on Mountain Blvd. The coffee was drinkable. There’s a great, tall community table where we sat. Royal Grounds, which occupied the space when we lived in Montclair, featured a slightly grittier aesthetic. (Which was why I liked it.) There was an art gallery in the back room that featured some very interesting installations. I remember sitting at Royal Grounds and interviewing Herb Kennedy, a teacher from Skyline, for an article I was writing for the Montclarion in the early 1990s. Kennedy was a beloved English teacher and sitting down to talk with him for this assignment was a real thrill for me, so seeing that Royal Grounds had died made me sad. Metro has done away with the grit and the gallery in the back. There was art on the dark walls but the space felt as though it had been sterilized.

When I say that the coffee was drinkable, I mean that it was like coffee in many coffee houses around the country. Not at all unpleasant, but unremarkable with respect to flavor overtones. I should say that drinking coffee, like drinking wine, is often something one does in a social context, and if you are engaged in pleasant conversation or happy to be sharing a moment with someone you like, the coffee becomes a secondary component of the moment. Under those circumstances, I don’t require the blueberry overtones of The Sermon by Verve. A warm drink that tastes like roasted beans is sufficient in that moment. Metro serves such a cup of coffee.

Later in the evening we stopped by the Wood Tavern on College. It’s a restaurant owned by Rich and Rebekah Wood. Rebekah is one of our dear friends from our Montclair days. Laura, Rebekah’s sister, was one of the boys’ favorite babysitter/companions when they were little. She took care of them and enriched their lives. Now Laura and Rebekah are grown women. Laura has a successful interior design business and Rebekah is a restaurateur. Wood Tavern is the second restaurant for Rebekah and her husband. Their first was Frascati in San Francisco.

Wood Tavern is the kind of place you need to call for a reservation. We walked in and snagged two of the last four seats at the bar. It was 5:30 on a Friday and the dining room was already full. We ordered a cheese plate and a couple of drinks and enjoyed the ambiance for a while. We’ll go back again (when we’ve remembered to call ahead for a table). Since it was crowded, and Anna and I don’t really like to eat dinner sitting at the bar, we decided to head home and make a big Caesar salad for dinner. Anna makes a wicked Caesar dressing. I grated some parmesan cheese and roasted some baguette into crunchy garlic croutons. We tossed them together with a bowl full of chopped romaine for a quiet, simple, romantic meal.

On Saturday we got up, drank a cup of coffee, and strolled up Grand to the Farmer’s Market and Trader Joes. It was a lovely morning. The sun was shining, there were big puffy clouds, and the neighborhood was crawling with walkers and bikers. The Oakland Teachers were out in force drumming up support and handing out flyers. It was very interesting to watch them as they singled out people on the sidewalk. From what I could tell, they were going after parents of younger children. When Anna and I passed each of three teachers stationed at strategic locations around the market, they smiled at us, but made no attempt to hand us a flyer or engage us in conversation. I imagine we look too old to have young kids (although we’ve seen plenty of parents in the area with toddlers who look like they are at least as old as we are). I had hoped one of them would hand us flyer — I’d have been interested in talking with a teacher about the school district challenges in Oakland. If I am fortunate (I’ll hear from Teach For America in a little more than a week) I will be joining that adventure in the near future. I know Oakland teachers are tackling issues of employment justice and equity, but I’d be interested to have the conversation and gain some first hand insight.

We toted our market purchases home, heated up a bite to eat, and then I rode my bike over to Home Depot in Emeryville to pick up a few items I needed to secure our makeshift kitchen pantry shelves to the wall. The system we devised was to mount a cable system we bought at IKEA in front of some repurposed book shelves to hold them agains the wall. The cable also serves as a front rail on each shelf to prevent the contents of that shelf from walking forward and falling to the floor in the event of a quake.

Justin stopped by later and we sorted through some artwork we had stored here for him. He also wanted to collect a cast iron skillet we promised him so that he could cook some risotto in the new apartment that he and Zina rented. It’s a studio on Hyde Street in San Francisco. Zina describes the neighborhood as “The Tenderhill” — it’s between Nob Hill and the Tenderloin, just a couple of blocks from St. Francis Hospital. The apartment is a cute space, with french doors in the dining nook that open onto the fire escape. It’s on the fourth floor of a four story building — a walkup. They’re artists, young, and in love, so it’s perfect for them.

Anna was hungry and asked Justin about a recipe for one of her favorite pasta dishes at the restaurant where he and Zina work. I did my best to re-interpret the dish using the ingredients we had on hand. It was pretty close. The recipe calls for a generous dose of butter to finish the sauce. I didn’t use as much butter as Justin suggested, opting to save a few calories for a small dish of Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream later in the evening.

This is my last weekend at home before a two month stint in Rock Island to direct The Seagull at Augustana. I’ll be boarding the Zephyr in Emeryville next Friday for a two day cross country train ride. I’m glad to be spending most of this weekend in the company of my beloved Anna. It’ll help me weather the coming separation to have this weekend’s fresh, tasty memories.

Justin and Zina's Fire Escape

Saturday February 27, 2010 — Mark —