Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Britney Spears must visit Oakland's Lake Chalet Restaurant!

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I couldn't wait to visit the new Lake Chalet Restaurant at the restored Lake Merritt Boathouse, so I made a plan with my friend Gab to be there when the doors opened for the first time right at 5 PM last Monday, August 17th.

As you may recall, I recently posted a video-blog of the day the ribbon was cut to dedicate the boathouse and Lake Chalet owner Lara Truppelli and Executive Chef Jarad Gallagher were kind enough to give me an interview at the bar as the eatery was under construction. Now, it's open and man is it terrific!

What's so exciting is the setting. The Boathouse is right on the shore of Lake Merritt and a seat at the "Pumphouse Bar" section of the place on a sunny day as Monday was is a treat to the kind of Oakland many of us have wanted to see and cause to happen for a long time. That's where we sat after we arrived.  The interior is both modern, futuristic in a way, and warm.

Lara came over to say hello and check on us; she and her husband Gar Truppelli really deserve all the accolades they get for creating a new destination place in Oakland right where it should be at Lake Merritt. As Gar said "It's wonderful. Three-and-a-half years it took to get to this."

We were like kids in a candy store, my friend and I, trying to figure out what to order. So, we turned to Gallagher who said he wanted us to try "something that we normally would not get" and offered several suggestions. Out of those, we ordered two dishes: Brandade Fish Sticks and Herloom Tomato and Buratta Cheese. We also elected to go on a kind of tour of Lake Chalet's cocktail offerings starting with me and Old Whiskey and a kind of mint drink Gab had that I can't remember the name of and I'm not going to bug her to ask about it.

Then Gallagher brought over a nice surprise: his special English Pea Soup.  Now I haven't eaten pea soup since I was six, but I never had English Pea Soup with White Truffle Oil, (and found this great blog post about making it!).  I hated pea soup; not this time.  Not this kind.  

The soup and the Herloom Tomato and Buratta Cheese were out of this world!  Gallagher said he had the Buratta Cheese delivered from Italy and so wanted us to give him our impression of it and the tomatos. As we said in the video, just great.  The meal dances in your mouth. 

Since we were part of the first set of patrons to arrive at the Lake Chalet it was a perfect place to talk and to just stop and admire the place. Then the rush came in and the Lake Chalet became a kind of cool center of Oakland.

It seemed as if almost everyone in the town walked in at some point that night: people who live around the Lake, folks young and old, and even celebrity politicos like California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who, Lara told me, was really helpful in helping them get a good lease agreement, my friends the ever-energetic Oakland builder Mike Baines, and Bob and Barbara Schock (Bob's a well-known Oakland-based lawyer), and of course Helen.  I think we ended up closing the place down.

Yeah. We did.  Thanks Lara and Gar! 

Folks, I love this place. You've got to visit it. Soon.

Don Hewitt of 60 Minutes passed on

Just a quick note on the passing of Don Hewitt of 60 Minutes, and who created the show. What he developed changed the face of television news and made CBS News relevant through the 21st Century. He will be missed.

Welcome William Wong to CityBrights on

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I write this with a large degree of bias because he's my friend, but I'm welcoming William Wong to and the CityBrights blogger section. "Bill", as I call him more than deserves to be here. He's written expressively about his Asian American culture and in the process has given all of us a great window into a world too often ignored in America.

Bill wrote for the Oakland Tribune for more years than I can remember and offered views on everything from Oakland politics to sports and of course his life. But Bill's also written for the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, too. His work has received much attention. But his best stuff in my view is in Images of America: Oakland's Chinatown and in a multi-part series ran in the Oakland Tribune about his trip to China and a rediscovery of his roots.

I'm a big believer in celebrating great people while they're here, and that should be done for Bill Wong. Please join me in welcoming Bill to and CityBrights!