On the way back to Oakland on Friday we stopped in Grants Pass to get the car washed (it was very, very dirty), fill the tank, and pick up a big coffee at Dutch Bros Coffee, our go to stop just before getting on the I-5. I parked the car some feet away from the booth, choosing not to use the drive-through, as I wasn’t sure what to order and needed time to examine the menu.
I walked to the window to place my order and while doing so a Toyota Camry pulled up in the drive-through lane to do the same. Not long after an older couple in a Chevrolet Impala drew up behind the Camry and were waited on by one of the staff member who’d walked up to the driver’s side to take their order. I picked up my coffee and returned to the car, walking in between the two in the drive-through lane and just before I reached ours, heard a loud crashing sound, turning around to see the Impala bouncing off the rear end of Camry.
The driver must have accidentally hit the gas instead of the brakes and though there wasn’t much damage to either car, I climbed into the driver’s seat marveling at whatever benevolent forces exist that allowed me to escape what would have been serious injury had I crossed the path of those two cars just a few seconds later than I did. How much of life is driven by just a few seconds, by the seemingly random timing of events that can mean the difference between success and failure, injury or good health?
We arrived back in Oakland without further incident later in the afternoon; stopping only for gas and lunch at the burger chain we miss the most, In-N-Out. We ate lightly there, opting for a smaller cheeseburger apiece and no fries (yes, and a chocolate shake for Joanna) as we knew we’d be going to Corso for dinner that night. At the appointed hour, 7:00 pm, we arrived and were seated promptly. Jessica and Kris come here regularly and are familiar to many of the staff; nice to have a restaurant that feels like home. Owned by the folks at Rivoli, the inspiration for the menu comes from Wendy’s (Owner, chef and creative force) living in Italy as a child.
I ordered a Sleepyhead to drink (brandy, muddled orange & mint, lemon, and ginger beer) and found it so deliciously refreshing that I had to restrain myself from ordering them by the gallon. We split two orders of grilled Asparagus to start and then two entrees, the infamous Pollo al Burro alla Sostanza (butter-roasted Hoffman Farms chicken breast and lemon) and the Branzino (grilled whole Mediterranean sea bass with arugula and lemon).
It was the first time since our return to the states last year where we had a whole fish at the table, a practice we found common in Europe, particularly Spain and Italy. Although hard to get the meat off the thin and delicate bones, its quality was all the reason we needed to work a bit for our meal. The Pollo al Burro, cooked in butter (the recipe calls for four breasts and a pound of “red label” unsalted Plugra butter) is simple in presentation, but rich in flavor, a traditional dish served at Tuscany’s Trattoria Sostanza, which has probably featured this regional specialty since it opened in 1869.
The next day, Saturday, we drove over to Jack London Square, home to shops, restaurants, and the ferry building that Jessica and Kris use each day to commute over to San Francisco. We arrived to find a craft fair in progress and spent an enjoyable hour walking from booth to booth, purchasing a t-shirt along the way and listening to an entertaining pitch from a team selling various scents, one in particular to aid with sleeping and one guaranteed to drive a cat crazy.
We then stopped in at Heinold’s Last Chance Saloon for a beer, entering the dark crowded interior carefully so as to not slip down the steeply slanted floor. Opened in 1883 at this location, the name refers to the time in which for many sailors, the pub was the first and last chance to drink alcohol heavily before or after a long voyage. Built from the remnants of an old whaling ship, it was originally designed as sleeping quarters for the workers of the nearby oyster beds, and was used as a bunkhouse for nearly three years.
It is the last commercial establishment in California with its original gas lighting, the furnishings are all original, and it still holds the original potbellied stove used to warm the room, the only source of heat since 1889. The slanted floor formed in 1906 during the great San Francisco earthquake when a portion of the piles the pub is built on in swampy ground sank. In the corner of is a clock that has been stopped since the moment of the 1906 quake, at 5:18.
On the way back to the car we paused briefly to examine Jack London’s cabin, where he lived for a period starting in 1897. It was relocated here from the North Fork of Henderson Creek, roughly 100 miles south of Dawson City in the Klondike. We drove a few blocks east and parked outside of Independent Brewing, entering to discover that the noodle stand we’d been seeking the weekend before had set up shop for the day inside the brewery.
We ordered a round of beers and a bowl of noodles to share, enjoying both types of refreshment with gusto but not wanting to eat too much as we knew we’d be meeting Lydia and Walter that evening at Speisekammer for dinner and Gypsy Jazz. A good day was going to get even better.
Dutch Bros Coffee: http://www.dutchbros.com/
Jack London Square: http://www.jacklondonsquare.com/
Heinold’s Last Chance Saloon: http://www.yelp.com/biz/heinolds-first-and-last-chance-saloon-oakland
Independent Brewing: http://independentbrewing.com/