West Coast Spring Swing, Part Two

May 5-17

Two short weeks passed and we were back at the airport on the Thursday the 5th for our flight to San Francisco, the beginning of one of our regular not quite two week visits to see Jessica and Kris.  By now these trips have become routine, much like the many we undertook after first moving to Charlotte, when Southern California and UC Santa Barbara were the focus.

Our pattern is to fly in on a Thursday, arriving at San Francisco International in late afternoon or early evening, making the 45-minute run on the BART Pittsburg/Bay Point line to the 12th Street/Oakland City Center stop for the five block walk to the apartment.

bart map

Bart Map

We generally stay until Monday when we take off for some nearby destination; last fall it was Yosemite and this spring it would be Kamp Angst in Selma, Oregon.  We’d return to Oakland the following Friday and spend another four nights before departing for home.  This way we get two longish stints with Jessica and Kris (J&K) and while they are working during the week, get a chance to visit others.

The next day, Friday, we followed our usual pattern of seeing J&K off to work, then walking up to Broadway to stop for lunch at, where else, Café Gabriela for one of those outstanding pulled pork adobo sandwiches and a big latte.  A short walk away is the weekly Old Oakland Farmers Market where we picked up some cheese, hummus,  homemade lemon Pita Chips, and fresh cut flowers.  We’d talked a bit when we were all in Las Vegas about one of the places we might visit for dinner this time around and one kept sticking in my mind, close by to the apartment and yet I’d not been yet.

Old Oakland Farmer's Market

Old Oakland Farmer’s Market

This is the Tribune Tavern, located in the old Oakland Tribune building, an iconic structure in downtown with a lit tower that can be seen for miles.  We’d tried to come here once before, but it was during Oakland Restaurant week and couldn’t get a table.

Tribune Exterior

Oakland Tribune Building

This time around we were seated quickly in the main dining room and as we often do with J&K, spent the evening ordering a sampling of dishes to share, including the fish and chips, Ahi Poke Tartar (with Brokaw Farm Avocados, Easter radish, pea sprouts, and chili/garlic sauce) and a couple of sides of sautéed Asparagus.  Mix in a couple of tasty cocktails and it was a nearly perfect way to close out the day.

Tribune Tavern

Tribune Main Dining Room

Saturday morning Kris and I walked over to Peoples Barber Shop for a shave, the first time I’d experienced one other than by my own hand.  Located across the courtyard from one or our frequent stops, Drakes Dealership (home to good beer and food) this large facility has numerous chairs and was crowded when we arrived.  I took the first shave and found it to be an interesting time, lots of facial prep (hot towels and lotions applied), then the shave, then a final round of hot and cold towels and lotions.

People's Barber Shop

People’s Barber Shop

It was indeed one of the closest shaves I’ve experienced and it was nice to be pampered (including consuming a very good maple bar donut and strong coffee) but at the price charged, $40, not a regular treat for me in the future.  We returned to the apartment and then the four of us ventured out in search of lunch, a pop up noodle cart J&K had heard about serving outside of the Tokyo Fish Market on San Pablo in Berkeley.  Our first stop was at the nearby Fieldwork Brewery, new to us, and located in a nice building on the corner of 6th and Harrison.  We enjoyed a beer apiece and couldn’t resist splitting an order of sausage pastry puffs, good enough to make one want to try some of their homemade pasties.

J and J at Fieldwork Brewing

J and J at Fieldwork Brewing

But we had noodles on the brain and so we made way to the fish market to slake our hunger.  Upon our arrival though there was no cart in sight and it took us some time to inquire and discern that it wouldn’t be there that day.  Undeterred we picked up some very nice red and yellow bell peppers for dinner that night, a lamp based pasta dish that Joanna and I have had good success with.  Stops at Safeway for the ground lamb and Phoenix Pastificio for fresh pasta completed our outing and we returned to the apartment for a night of good food, wine, and a movie.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with lamb and sweet pepper ragù

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with lamb and sweet pepper ragù

Sunday would be a quiet day as Kris had to go into work for a few hours.  Joanna and I took a walk in the morning around Lake Merritt, stopping in briefly to check out the hours for tours at the Camron Stanford House as we planned to come back later that day for a visit.  We were briefly startled when we rounded a corner of the house to find a homeless couple camped out under a balcony, nicely laid out sleeping bags, their belongings stacked nearby.  These folks didn’t appear to be down and out, maybe choosing this lifestyle deliberately, wild camping in the city.

Camron Stanford House

Camron Stanford House

We returned with Jessica that afternoon for our tour.  First occupied by the Camron family in 1876, three more families (including Josiah Stanford, brother of Leland Stanford) would call it home for the next thirty years until 1907 when it was purchased by the City of Oakland for $40,000.  It would serve as the city’s museum until 1967 when that institution moved to a new site and in deteriorating condition, was saved by a small group of individuals who, concerned about Oakland’s architectural heritage came together in a successful effort to save the building from demolition.


House Interior

Raising more than $800,000 in capital and gifts-in-kind to restore the city-owned building, they had to overcome extensive alterations made during the museum years, falling ceilings, and defective electrical, plumbing and heating systems.  Lacking photographs of the interiors, researchers selected items such as the wallpapers and friezes after careful study of 19th century guides to interior decoration, photographs of other local houses of the period, and the interior decoration of the Alfred H. Cohen house in Oakland.

Lake Merritt Site Map

Lake Merritt Site Map

The tour included a presentation on the history of Lake Merritt, which is not really a lake but a body of water known as a slough (pronounced slew), a quiet shallow backwater where fresh water from creeks and runoff from land mixes with salty ocean water and at low tide mudflats appear.  During the late 1800’s this self-flushing slough was used by the City of Oakland as a part of its sewer system, creating a cesspool.  Between 1871 and 1890 Oakland’s population quadrupled from 10,500 to more than 48,000, resulting in more than 400,000 cubic yards of human waste being dumped into the lake.  It was not until 1906 that Oakland’s Mayor succeeded in having voters approve a $588,000 bond issue to fix the cesspool.

Early Depiction of the Lake

Early Depiction of the Lake

We returned to the apartment and spent the rest of the day reading and conversing.  Dinner that night would be a couple of entrees J&K had received as part of their Blue Apron subscription.  We’d end up having a couple of meals like this and found that the selections were all imaginative, tasted great and were fairly simple and quick to prepare.  Another bit of watching television finished the evening for us as Joanna and I prepared to drive to Oregon the next day.  We’d had yet again another fine short visit to Oakland and looked forward to our return in a week.


Café Gabriela: http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-gabriela-oakland

Old Oakland Farmers Market: http://www.yelp.com/biz/old-oakland-farmers-market-oakland

Tribune Tavern: http://tribunetavern.com/

Peoples Barber Shop: http://peoplesbarber.com/

Drakes: http://drinkdrakes.com/visit/dealership/

Tokyo Fish Market: http://www.tokyofish.net/

Fieldwork Brewery: http://fieldworkbrewing.com/

Phoenix Pastificio: http://www.phoenixpasta.com/

Camron Stanford House:  http://www.cshouse.org/

Blue Apron: https://www.blueapron.com/


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