We’d been home for a week or two when our governor lifted the state-wide lockdown freeing us to ramble far and wide and thus, we made tracks for Oakland to spend a long weekend with Jessica, Kris and Baby Gemma. Not having seen her for two months, those of us with children who have grown up tend to forget how babies, infants, and toddlers tend to develop in spurts. When we last saw Gemma, she was just figuring out how to crawl. And now, just celebrating her first birthday, she crawls like a pro and is beginning to figure out the walking thing.
And now, two months later, as we celebrate her birthday as one year old a day late, she motors around the apartment on hands and knees and is just figuring out how to walk. And bringing entirely new insight into adequate baby proofing. Our one outing involved combining a trip to the Optometrist for Jessica with lunch for us at Beer Baron Whiskey Bar and Kitchen. Seated at a table in the corner of the patio we started with a round of drinks, an EZPZ Pilsner for me and a Oaxacan Grapes (Los Vecinos Mezcal, Pavan and St George Spice Pear) for Joanna along with Crisp Cauliflower Florets with Chipotle BBQ sauce to tide us over until Jessica could join us.
It was a warm day sitting in the sun and glad to be out in public, we entertained ourselves by watching Gemma wiggle in her baby carrier attached to Kris and the other patrons enjoying time out of doors after the long lockdown. Soon Jessica joined us and along with another round of drinks Kris ordered the El Cubano (Toasted Ciabatta, Roasted Pork, Ham, Monterey Jack, House Pickles and Mustard) sandwich while Joanna and I split the excellently done Fish and Chips (Beer Battered Tilapia Filet, Duck Fat Fries, Cabbage Slaw, and Beer Mustard Remoulade). Normally I’m not a fan of thick French fries but these were likely double fried and combined with the Duck Fat made for a crisp exterior and rich taste.
Later in the weekend we’d walk down the shore of Lake Merritt and spend an hour in the afternoon sun, watching Gemma crawl around and checking out the parade of folks on foot and bikes passing by us, a pleasant way to bid the day farewell. We returned home on Monday for a week of miscellaneous doctor’s appointments, our usual routine of bike riding, and a couple of memorable meals at restaurants we consistently return to.
The first of those is the Wurstkuche on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice (they have a sister venue in downtown Los Angeles). We arrived just after they opened at 5:00pm and grabbed a table in the patio at the back of the restaurant. One goes inside to order, the empty interior with tables and chairs stacked hinting at the vibrancy the indoor location must deliver when we can gather indoors. Joanna started with a Vitus Weizenbock (7.7% ABV) and I a La Chouffe strong blonde ale (8% ABV) for me. This is a fine as way to start the evening as any I can think of each sip of a Belgian takes me to Brussels, or Bruges, or some other European spot where a Belgian is the micro-brew most likely available.
A number of swallows later it was time to go inside and order a second round (they were small pours of 250ML), for me another La Chouffe and for Joanna a St. Louis Framboise Raspberry Lambic (4.5% ABV), an almost non-beer like brew that reminds me of Beverly’s smile when we talked her into having one in Bruges.
Oh, and some food which meant a Bratwurst (Pork, Coriander and Nutmeg) and a Bockwurst (Veal, Pork and Spices) with condiments of our choice and an order of the Belgian Frites. With Curry Ketchup of course.
We’ve used Frankfurt, Germany as the gateway for short and long European trips (1984. 1992, 1999, and 2007), opting each time not to spend the first night there, but instead in a smaller village an hour or so drive away (Giessen, Rothenberg, Wurzburg, and Bacharach, respectively. And each time our first stop after arriving was to consume, in no particular order a Currywurst, beer, and a piece of Apple Strudel.
We finished up with a St. Bernardus ABT 12 Quadruple (10.5%) as we ate the last of the fries and soon departed, pleasantly full and not too buzzed as the pours are small, which is a good thing when you are talking about beers with and ABV of greater than 8%. Our second memorable meal took us to nearby Rustic Kitchen for their Happy Hour.
Since our last visit they’ve dramatically improved their outdoor dining space, with a large canopy covering approximately four to six parking stalls behind the building and using covered chain link fencing as a couple of walls to create a buffer between the parking lot. We started with a glass of wine apiece, a rose for Joanna and a Portuguese white (Animus Vinho Verde) for me and two appetizers off the happy hour menu, the Curry Chicken Slider and Avocado Fries.
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, the standard bearer for a fried avocado dish remains the one at Cane and Table in New Orleans and I’m happy to report that the Rustic Kitchen offering is just as good, perfectly fried crispy coasting, just warm avocado and tangy dipping sauce. Along with another glass of wine for me, the Accent de la Vigne Pinot Noir, we opted for a special that month, the Black Cherry BBQ Glazed Bone-In Pork Chop, served with smashed potatoes.
The chop was delightfully good, the glaze providing a savory accompaniment to the muted flavor of the pork as the potatoes melted in your mouth with each bite. We finished up with a tab of $64 (not including tip), reasonable by L.A. standards for a filling meal and three glasses of good quality wine. The lifting of the lockdown meant a return to something vaguely approximating normal life, at least as far as outdoor dining is concerned, and it felt good to be eating somewhere else besides at the kitchen table at home. With mass vaccinations on the horizon and the Covid curve dropping, life could soon regain some semblance of balance. Until then, stay safe!
Beer Baron: https://www.beerbaronbar.com/oakland
Rustic Kitchen: https://rustickitchen.la/