EUREKA NEEDS MORE PARKING!!

It didn’t make any of the local papers but Eureka businessman Don Davenport stood up at the July 21 meeting of the Eureka City Council and made an impassioned plea for more parking in Henderson Center.  Mr Davenport and I have had our differences in the past, but on this subject he’s absolutely right.  Last Monday I tried to meet a  friend who volunteers at the Cancer Society and drove around for fifteen minutes trying to find parking.  I finally resorted to the Rite-Aid lot, where I squeezed into a space that was already occupied by a scooter. Pathetic!

I asked everyone I could buttonhole what the problem was and no one knew. Here’s a wild guess: there’s not enough parking in Henderson Center!!  And with two new restaurants (Zöe and Diver Bar& Grill)  slated to open in the next few weeks, the situation in Henderson Center is only going to get worse.

It’s no better downtown. I routinely drive around Old Town looking for parking and go elsewhere when I can’t find it.  And I have a disabled placard! That means I’m not just looking for marked disabled parking, but ANY parking because I can use the placard in any marked space. I still end up driving elsewhere because there’s not enough parking.

What are our city officials doing about this problem? Making it worse!  Mr. Rob Holmlund, the city’s Community Development Director, has drawn a bead on the few available spaces and would like to see some of them set aside for “parklets”. Thank God the current proposal is only for four such spaces and we’ll all be curious to see if the property owners and merchants in Old Town really benefit from clearing space in front of their businesses. Considering the large population of homeless and poorly-housed folks within a block or two of the proposed “parklets”,  will it really be shoppers who fill the spaces?  We’ll see.

I believe Mr Holmlund’s well-intentioned proposal would be more suitable for Los Altos than for Eureka. 

Ditto for his similarly well-intentioned desire to preserve the neighborhood markets of yesteryear. Yes, neighborhood markets are a great convenience but most of them are just getting by. I miss Songer’s and Cannam’s too but nostalgia won’t pay the bills.  I wish Handee Market and the others all the best,  and hope they survive but if they survive it won’t be because of city planning.  It will be because they’re filling a need. And they have nearby parking.

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The BEST Strawberries on the Planet

Those of you who know about Saechow’s strawberries in Fortuna, you can skip this. Those who don’t, you owe me a big favor for telling you.

What: Mr. Chan Yan Saechow began growing strawberries after he was laid off from Eel River Sawmill. Thank God he was laid off, because he grows the best strawberries you have ever had. They have vegetables,  too, but the berries are the thing. And we still have a good chunk of summer left.

Where: Take the Kenmar exit and when you reach the bottom of the ramp go left. (Right takes you to the River Lodge). Then go about a block and make the first right, where you see signs  advertising berries,  butterflies , burls, a gun range , etc.  Saechow’s stand is about a mile own the road on your left and you won’t miss it. 

When: When I went there Saturday, they handed me a business card with their number and suggested calling ahead to see when they’re open.  There were a few traumatic weeks when they were NOT open but now they’re back. Just call 707-845-3930 to make sure.

And you’re welcome.

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Summer Sounds- Brian Wilson, Black Keys

I can’t settle down to mundane matters such as business and the economy while summer is bustin’ out all over. Instead, let me share with you the music I’ve been playing the last couple of weeks.

Brian Wilson is everywhere these days, including the movies and my CD player. The magnificent “That’s Why God Made the Radio” from 2012 is up there with Sergeant Pepper in my book but his newest,  “No Pier Pressure”, is also a beautiful, meditative work. It features a bizarre company of guests, including Zooey Deschanel and Kacey Musgraves along with Don Was and several cellos. Yes, that’s Al Jardine you hear on the vocals.  “Whatever Happened” is a beautiful ballad you will be hearing a lot. You’re supposed to stream music these days,  but streaming isn’t as much fun as going down to The Works.  Plus streaming doesn’t get you the lyrics and photos and you want these. Wilson’s battered jalopy of a face shows every one of his seventy-three years. The notes contain a special thanks “To Capitol Records my musical home for 50 years.”  That says it all. What a magnificent career!

My other recent purchase is Black Keys’ “Turn Blue” which is a much different kind of work and which I am still trying to get my mind around. I LIKE it but it’s going to take a while to assimilate. Anyway I would recommend either CD for driving around with your windows down annoying as many folks as possible. That’s what you do in the summertime.  If you don’t have a convertible, rent one. 

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Have You Tried Sammy’s BBQ Catering in King Salmon?

No one goes to King Salmon by accident. You have to want to go ‘way out there. When I heard about Sammy’s it was from friends in Washington State,  go figure.
So when my friend and I checked them out on Tuesday, they had already been open for a year. The first thing we learned was, don’t go late. We thought showing up at 1:30 was the right thing to do, but they were already out of tri-tip by then. As you can gather from their website,  they usually have tri-tip, kalua pork, pork ribs, teri chicken, and meatballs.

The sides include chop suey, unusual for Humboldt but considering it’s a Tongan family that runs the place it all makes sense.  The menu is similar in part to that of the Banana Hut and it would be interesting to do a side-by-side tasting of the two versions of kalua and the two versions of pineapple gravy. The chop suey is made with glass noodles which I hadn’t seen before.  They also have a pineapple cole slaw which I didn’t expect to like, but I did.

I had the kalua pork, salty as heck but I can never resist it, and the ribs , which could have used more cooking. They were okay but not falling off the bone.  My friend got ribs which were too fatty.  The lady who was serving was slow about offering to replace them, and an unseemly discussion ensued during which my friend pointed out the layers of fat on her rib. Hers were too fat, mine were not. I liked the potato salad, wasn’t crazy about the meatballs. Things would have gone a lot better if we’d gotten there early enough for the tri-tip. 

The whole family works the restaurant .  When I lived on Oahu I had Tongan friends who used to come and visit me out on the North Shore and every time they would find an excuse to clean my house, which was not up to their standards. Sammy’s is spotless.

I see an ad for Sammy’s in the Times-Standard this morning, but the print is so muddy you can’t read it.  I hope they got their money back. Sammy’s will be open tomorrow and Friday but closed on the Fourth.  Check them out and have  a great holiday.

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ZOE Coming to Henderson Center.

“Gonna be a Chinese restaurant!” said the beefy security guard in front of the BofA on F Street in Henderson Center. 
I was squinting at the chalked message on the window of the former Safeway Pharmacy and wondering how another Chinese restaurant would fit in, considering the Hunan is well established a block away.

When I caught up with the owner, Marsa Jordan, she explained that “Zoe” is actually the Greek word for ‘Life”. She also explained that the restaurant will not be Chinese and will be more upscale than anything currently in Henderson Center. “Casual sophistication” is the byword, and she will be offering organic, vegetarian and vegan choices as well as catering services.

Marsa, who’s originally from Fortuna, is also emphasizing original touches such as homemade hand-made crackers. Do fresh-baked oyster crackers sound good? With one of at least two homemade soups daily? I thought so. She’s still waiting for her permit but Zoe should be serving beer and wine by the time it opens, and seating 65 customers.

Marsa has shared her DRAFT menu and opening night menu with us.  Since the restaurant is still settling equipment issues, there will be changes before the opening,  but this is a chance to see the direction she’s going in.  Sadly, I couldn’t get the link to work and so I’ll have to leave you with “Appetizers: Caramelized onion with Gruyere in pastry, Cream puffs filled with Salmon and dill mousse, Baked brie with fruit compote, served with our house made crackers..” as a hint of what is to come.

Turning a retail location into a restaurant is a mighty undertaking so we’re not looking at an opening sooner than September. A sign in the window is already announcing that resumes for servers and other staff may be forwarded to Marsa at :  zoe2850fst@gmail.com. 

The advent of an upscale place is an exciting development in Henderson Center, where the long-anticipated “Henderson Center Marketplace”, which was supposed to go into the Robert’s space, is apparently wrecked on the shoals of we-couldn’t-get-financing although none of the principals have seen fit to answer my phone calls. On the same block, work is continuing on The Diver, a bar with an excellent logo that is already visible from the streetside. (Their menu was printed in the recent NCJ Menu of Menus but it’s awfully hard to read.) Lots going on in Henderson Center and the guard at the bank will keep you informed. I hope somebody’s already told him Zoe is not going to be a Chinese restaurant. I don’t want to be the one to break it to him.

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Weed TV

There is so much programming on TV about weed or cannabis or whatever you want to call it that it seems inevitable that there will eventually be a whole channel or channels devoted to the plant, its cultivation, its politics, its uses. I’m surprised no one has done it yet although I’m sure there are “channels” on You Tube that fill the void.

In terms of network television, however, we’re getting a lot of repeats and reruns, that is if you can figure out the programming. CNN has Sanjay Gupta going on and on about weed,  HBO had something that I can’t remember. CNN is also airing the only show of this ilk that is at all interesting. It’s called “High Profits” and I THINK the last episode runs tonight at 7pm.  When you have to depend on the info on the Suddenlink program guide and Google comes up empty, that’s where we’re at.

The show is about the efforts of some young entrepreneurs to expand their mj dispensary business in Breckinridge, Colorado, a rich ski resort community many miles away from anywhere else, sort of like Aspen.  So far, they have heavily invested in a huge growing facility but they need to retain their retail location on the main street of Breckinridge, or believe they do, in order to move all that weed.  The cast of characters includes the business owners  the local pols, the developers who want a “family” atmosphere on Main Street and of course the vile consultants who gravitate leech-like to the controversy. Last week they lost the special election which would have given them a permanent place on Main Street, and now they are being forced to remove out to Airport Road with the rest. It all sounds awfully familiar but in an interesting locale, quite different from ours. If you want to see it, set your recorders for CNN at 7pm.

I note with regret that “One Good Year”,  the Redway-produced documentary about the local scene apparently never got a distribution deal. It’s available on YouTube in a one-hour version although it was originally publicized as feature-length. Maybe they ran out of money.  It happens. 

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Friday is NATIONAL DONUT DAY!

And the lovely Happy of Happy Donuts (2916 Central in Eureka, across from Eureka Mall) said that as of 4pm Thursday she had orders for 60 dozen donuts. I can’t count that high but it’s a lot.
Happy and staff are having a party today with a DJ, gifts and door prizes and she’s running a special involving a free soda with one of their Asian entrees. All well and good, but the crowning glory of Happy Donuts is the spring rolls, which are world-class and if you call ahead they will make them WITHOUT CILANTRO which is a godsend to cilantro-haters like me. I’m picking mine up at noon.

See you there.  Happy National Donut Day!

Some Thoughts on Wild Oaks Grill

I had been driving past the Wild Oaks signs in front of the Vets’ Memorial in Eureka for several weeks when I finally got a chance to stop and see what they had.  It was pouring rain but the two fellows at the grill were cheery and efficient.

This is not your ordinary food truck. They don’t sell sandwiches, just meat- in big chunks. Like all food trucks they have a website which explains the situation. No sides, no fixin’s, just meat. Well prepared meat, but in large quantities. You can get pastrami and brisket by the pound, but a lot of the other meats require a three to five pound purchase.  I had hoped to try their brisket but Rob, the friendly honcho,  said they were about half on hour away from finishing . I would have waited if it weren’t raining- the company was pleasant enough- but in the end I went home with about two pounds of pork belly which had been rouladed with peaches and other interesting flavors and then smoked and grilled. It was creative and well-executed, and I look forward to tasting their other wares. Next time I’m having company for dinner, I’m going to call ahead to pin down a time for getting brisket and let Rob and his staff do the prep. Their prices may seem a little spendy but you’re getting hours of real smoke.  Serve with a twice-cooked potato and fruit salad from Murphy’s and  you’ve got a no-fuss meal.

Wild Oaks has a few challenges.  Their website is a mess.  Their ever-changing locations and lack of sides or sandwiches may not be a sustainable model but for now they’re kicking butt.  The aroma from the grill will convince you. I asked Rob which location did the most business.  It’s McKinleyville,  with all those two-income commuters. 

So check them out and tell them I sent you. I note with interest that two of their three Yelp reviews to date were negative and focused more on the appearance of the staff rather than the quality of the food. The day I was there, we all looked like hell. It was raining!

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“Best of the North Coast”? Yeah, right.

The Times-Standard published its “Readers’ Choice Awards” this morning. We’ve had a lot of fun with these lists in the past and they will never be credible until the T-S starts publishing their tabulations (and a system to prevent duplicate voting).  Still,  they’re a basis for discussion. And some of them are actually well-deserved. 

I was pleased to see that Bob’s Footlong retained its rightful place on the top of the hot dog pyramid. I don’t know what it is about Bob’s that makes their dogs taste so good but I rarely go to Fortuna without stopping by.  It is gratifying to see Eureka’s AA Bar & Grill retain its rightful place at the head of the “steak” list and CC Market is definitely a great caterer. But I have a quibble with listing Hole-in-the-Wall as BOTH “Best Delicatessen” and “Best Sandwich Shop”.  It is a great sandwich shop but if you’ve ever been to Cantor’s or David’s or Katz’s,  you know that Hole-in-the-Wall is a sandwich shop, not a deli.  We are long overdue for a REAL kosher deli up here. I don’t know if I’ll live to see it.

I was really surprised  to see Ferndale’s Ivanhoe listed as the “Best Restaurant, (Overall)”. Really? Anyone been there? What do you think?

Finally,  I was pleased to see Redwood Acres recycling receive some recognition. This is one of my favorite businesses in  Humboldt County.  Great people, and they make the recycling experience almost fun. 

So what do you think of the “Best of the North Coast”?  Did they get it right?  Did they leave out your favorite? Let us know what you think!

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