Friday K and I went to Mountain View Cemetery to check out the annual tulip festival. The outdoor displays this year weren't very good. I don't know if they planted too early or too late or what, but the outdoor beds were fairly sparse. The indoor displays are gorgeous and worth the trip, but only run through today (Sunday) at 4pm, so you better hurry!
Thursday I met up with Dan and Ashley from Bison Brewing, Carlo and Geneva of Savor Oakland food tours, and the folks at Forge Pizza in Jack London Square to talk about Meatless Mondays, food and beer pairings, and supporting local businesses.
Bison founder and Chief Hoperations Officer Dan Del Grande told us a bit about the Meatless Monday movement. The name started during WWI, when the U.S. government encouraged people to eat fewer key staples like meat ("Meatless Mondays") and wheat ("Wheatless Wednesdays") to help feed the troops in Europe. The idea returned during WWII and went through the post-war years to help feed war-torn Europe. The modern movement in the U.S. began in 2003, with the message of "one day a week, cut out meat" as a way for individuals to do something good for themselves and for the planet. The movement got a big boost in 2009 when Paul McCartney and his daughters started a Meat Free Monday campaign.
Raising cattle, pigs and other animals for meat takes a lot of resources and take a toll on the environment. One of those resources is water, something of interest to every Californian; raising a pound of beef takes somewhere between 1,800 and 2,500 gallons of water. Eating less meat is a way to reduce the impact on the planet. That's the main reason I've been vegetarian for over a decade. But reducing your meat intake by 1/7th is even easier.
Dan has been doing #MeatlessMonday for years, but that's not the only way Bison Brewing practices sustainability. Bison was one the first U.S. breweries to be certified fully organic (finding organic hops was a problem). Bison is also a certified B Corporation, meaning they have to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Next, we talked about food and beer pairings. It's not just the right wine that can compliment food; so can the right beer. Imagine one of Forge Oakland's margherita pizzas, accompanied by a Bison Honey Basil or two. Or a Chicory Salad and a Saison de Wench. All of the spec sheets for Bison's beers include suggested food pairings, and not just vegi options. I'm wondering which beer would go best with their awesome Cauliflower pizza—maybe a Chocolate Stout?
Finally, (all the while sampling Bison's various tasty brews), we heard the stories behind some of the beers. When Bison first went organic, the hardest thing to get was organic hops; that's part of why some of Bison's early beers aren't very hoppy. When they finally could get organic hops, they got a lot. And hence Kermit the Hop Double IPA was born. Bison has been doing different Saison-style beers each year for a while. This year's was inspired and created by Bison's Director of Awesomeness, Ashley Rouston (aka @TheBeerWench), based on Bison's farmhouse ale. Saison beers were originally made with whatever was in season, and in springtime that meant lots of flowers and botanicals. This Saison includes rose petals, lemongrass and hibiscus!
I don't know what's next for the #MeatlessMonday movement in Oakland and the East Bay, but you can do your part any day of the week. The Savor Oakland food tours of Jack London Square includes a stop at Forge Pizza; hopefully soon you'll be able to add a Bison beer to go with your sample, and triple the local (and meatless!) love.
Painting "en plein air" is the fancy French way of saying "painting outdoors". But whatever you call it, I've seen people painting near Lake Merritt, in Joaquin Miller Park, and in Mountain View Cemetery, but this was the first artist I've seen painting outside nearby Chapel of the Chimes.
Ivolunteered again as a course marshal for the Oakland Running Festival, assigned to the same spot as last year. This year I came better prepared. I brought sidewalk chalk to help indicate the course, and a chair so I could sit and rest my back between groups of runners. The festival was once again a big blast of Oakland love. Tons of smiles, thumbs up, high fives and thank yous were my payment. And what more beautiful place to hang out for a couple of hours than on the shores of Lake Merritt? It was also fun to see people come out to cheer. Some had family or friends running, but some people came out just to cheer the runners on.
I took pictures of lots of half, relay and full marathon runners, near mile 11 / 24. Feel free to use pictures of yourself, and let me know if you want a higher-res version of a particular picture (see the Contact tab above.)
We started in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall, and wound our way around downtown, finishing at Camron-Stanford House. Rather than recap the entire tour, I'll simply point to the Oakland Wiki page I prepared about the tour, which has lots of pictures and lots more info.
Thanks to everyone who came out for the walk, and for your patience as we ran longer than expected! A great tour, one I hope we an do every year.
I've posted the Golden Bull sign before, but it's changed several times over the years. The above picture is from 2011. For a time, it was the Golden Bull cocktail lounge. Then it was home to Awaken Cafe, before they moved to their new space around the corner on Broadway. Now the space is about to be the Golden Bull once again, but alas, the classic sign is gone, replaced with a mostly plastic sign for the nearby Venue.
But the Golden Bull is coming back, and should have a soft opening soon. It will be alongside the new restaurant, Analog, which have a seriously retro theme.
On Saturday, dozens of neighbors and other Oaklanders volunteered with Urban Releaf to help green Oakland. Trees don't just help provide shade, they also improve air quality and beautify neighborhoods.
Urban Releaf was founded in 1998 by Kemba Shakur to serve economically-disadvantaged and ecologically underserved neighborhoods. Since then, the organization has planted thousands of free trees around the East Bay. It's also provided education and employment for at-risk youth.
Saturday provided near perfect weather for the tree planting near 89th Avenue. Some neighbors knew about the tree planting and were there at the start. Others saw the activity and came out and joined the work. It was great to see people of all ages and backgrounds working to make Oakland greener and a better place to live.
Saturday a surprisingly large group turned out for what was billed as "a strenuous and technically challenging walk." Led by Stan Dodson of the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park (FOJMP), about 44 people and two dogs explored the park and looked at trail restoration work that's been done, and some work that still needs to be done.
We met at the bottom of the Palos Colorado Trail, the lowest point in the park, and a section that many people don't know about. After powering up with some tasty treats from La Farine Bakery (Stan is the manager of the Dimond branch), we walked up the trail that parallels Palos Seco Creek. It's one of the main tributaries of Sausal Creek, and always has a least a little water. Since we've had a few good storms (like the one that postponed the walk from last month) there was a nice flow of water and things were a vibrant green.
The trail took us to the site of the former Sinawik Cabin. It was built in 1949 for the Girl Scouts, but was in disrepair since the 1980s, before burning to the ground on July 4, 2013. From there we headed further up hill, along several trails that have been rerouted by FOJMP and other groups like Volunteers for Outdoor California. Still climbing, we went up the Cinderella Trail, where Stan showed us a unique area that showcases all the major ecosystems contained within Joaquin Miller Park.
We took an alternate route hoping to find some open restrooms, but alas, they were closed. The detour wasn't all bad, though, as it took us along one of the most beautiful and most-used trails in the park, the Big Trees Trail. After a bathroom break at another set of bathrooms and a bit of rest, we looped back past the Sinawik Cabin, then out of the park onto Castle Drive. A couple of hard-to-find urban paths and side streets took us to Mountain Boulevard, past the tunnel under highway 13 which connects to Dimond canyon, and back to our starting point.
Another great walk! Thanks to Stan for leading the walk, everyone who came out, and to everyone who donated after the walk. The donations were given to the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park to help continue the great work they've been doing on improving and maintaining the park.
A map of our route (which was a bit different than what was originally planned).
Sunday was a special version of the city's downtown walking tour of Chinatown, for a late celebration of the lunar New Year. I've been on the tour of Chinatown before, so I was expecting I'd only learn a few new things. Instead, Mayor Jean Quan not only came on the tour, she co-led it with Annalee Allen, the director of the city's walking tour program. While we went many of the same places and talked about the same people, Mayor Quan had a different and often personal experience of them.
We started in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza, which is home to various shops and restaurants as well as the Asian branch of the Oakland Public Library and the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Mayor Quan told us about Chinese family associations and early organizations to help Chinese immigrants, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the experiences of her own ancestors.
After winding around past the Asian Resource Center building, a quick stop for some fresh from the oven fortune cookies, and a look at the Chinatown Dragon Mural, we came to Lincoln Square Park. Normally it's a busy, vibrant place, but because of the intermittent rain, it was empty. We checked out one of the markers for the 10,000 Steps project, a Chinese herb shop, and then we were back to our start. A great tour, and nice to have a different perspective on it—there's always more to learn.