February 25 – March 5, 2021
A couple of weeks later we took off for Oakland to spend five nights with Jessica, Kris and Gemma, to be followed by three nights in Yosemite. Kim and Marty joined us on Friday and on Saturday we hosted a BBQ on the roof of the apartment. James joined us with his new electric bike as did Kim and Kourosh and their little infant, KIan, just a couple of months old. I made a large batch of a Prosciutto and Creamy Mustard Potato Salad that we cribbed from a Blue Apron recipe and along with Burgers, Brats, marinated Chicken Thighs and a respectable number of adult beverages, we whiled away the afternoon as clouds chased each other across the downtown Oakland skyline.
Sunday afternoon, after some morning appointments we drove two cars up into the Oakland Hills to Joaquin Miller Park, a 500-acre open space named after early California writer and poet Joaquin Miller (1837-1913), who bought the land in the 1880s, naming it “The Hights”. He lived in a nearby house preserved as the Joaquin Miller House (Purchased by the city of Oakland in 1919, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962). The park is heavily wooded with coast redwoods, live oaks, and pines, many of which were originally planted by Miller himself.
Kim, Marty, and Joanna hiked to an upper viewpoint while I stayed behind with Jessica and Kris and watched as Gemma spent some time in the playground area on the swings and with assistance, descending the children’s slide. When finished, the four of us hiked up to a lower viewpoint where we reunited with the rest of the group.
Back to the cars, we drove down the hill to Luka’s Taproom on Broadway, which we had visited with Jessica and Kris a few months back on a nice afternoon, the parking lot having been turned into a dining pavilion, now resplendent in cabana’s and outdoor heaters. After a short wait we were seated at a large picnic table and proceeded to order two pitchers of Margarita’s, one Cadillac (Cazadores reposado tequila, lime, Grand Marnier, and agave syrup) and one Pomegranate (Espolon silver tequila, lime, fresh pomegranate puree, and agave syrup) and a West Grand Sidecar (Hennessey, Grand Marnier, lemon and sugar rim) to start with.
We landed on a bunch of food to share, including a bowl of the Clam Chowder (made-to-order with in-shell clams, bacon, cream, fumet and crouton) while we all dipped into the Carne Asada Fries (Frites with chopped bavette steak, cheese, crema, avocado salsa, and grilled jalapenos), Catfish & Kale (catfish bites served with a kale salad and spicy remoulade sauce) and the Spicy Korean Wings (Chicken wings tossed in spicy gochujang sauce).
No gathering would be complete without some type of dessert and so in honor of nephew Dillon, we finished up with two orders of Mini Churros (Churros coated with cinnamon and sugar with a chocolate dipping sauce), reminiscent of the many we consumed during our time in Spain.
Monday morning was dedicated to some errands and then with Jessica and Kris working Kim, Marty, Joanna and I took off for Santa Rosa and a stop in at Russian River Brewing. Known for Pliny the Elder IPA, a highly sought-after brew that, due to limited brewing capacity, used to be hard to find outside of the brewery’s pub, the addition of a new larger brewing facility in Windsor, California had enabled them to distribute it more widely, a boon to those who enjoy this great beer.
Marty and I both started with a Pliny apiece and the table split an order of Pliny Bites, a pizza done with white cheddar and jalapenos and sliced up into bite sized pieces accompanied by a side of marinara sauce.
For a second beer, I went for one the Belgians, the Benediction, an Abbey-style Double. Marty chose a recently released Pliny Double Dry-Hopped (DDH). I suggest that non-IPA lovers skip this next part:
The original Pliny and DDH Pliny both have the same hop bill, while the number of dry hops is roughly doubled in the DDH Pliny. The original Pliny is dry-hopped on day 7 with about 2 pounds per barrel, and DDH Pliny is dry-hopped on day 1 and again on day 6 for a total of about 4 pounds per barrel. This double dry-hopping process adds even more flavor, complexity, hop aroma and freshness to the beer.
In 2020, they brewed Pliny for President by taking the original recipe and adding a 2 step double dry-hop (DDH) process. It was so well received that they decided to bring it back in 2021 with DDH Pliny the Elder. Last October Joanna and I enjoyed a nice meal at a favorite local spot, the Library Alehouse, sitting in their back patio. Pliny for President was on the menu and of course I ordered it, enjoying its smooth delivery of a muted hoppiness.
Marty picked up a few four packs to take with us and we soon took our leave of Russian River and Santa Rosa, reminded of visits past and wondering when we might next find ourselves here enjoying this uniquely good beer. Chances are though that our next visit north will take us to another longtime favorite, Lagunitas, in nearby Petaluma. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it.
Joaquin Miller Park: https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/joaquin-miller-park
Luka’s Taproom: http://lukasoakland.com/
Russian River Brewing: https://www.russianriverbrewing.com/
Library Alehouse: https://libraryalehouse.com/