BROTZEIT LOKAL Oakland- Breadtime Stories on the Water

My chariot to heaven

My chariot to heaven

SUMMER MEMORIES: of Rivers and water-skiing…

When I was a kid, I spent every Wednesday of every summer on the river. My father was an accomplished water skier, and a skilled navigator. I would watch him cover the dining room table of my grandfather’s home with maritime charts, tirelessly mapping out new routes to explore on another of our weekly adventures. He knew where every island and inlet was along the 1,100 or so square miles of the Sacramento River Delta.

Dad kept his boat moored at Frank’s Tract. As soon as we arrived at the slip, my sister and I would race each other to the boat and pace back and forth along the narrow wooden dock to wait for the men to remove the tarp. The moment the familiar yellow of the boat beneath was revealed, we would clamber aboard and be off. My father’s boat was a Donzi, a newer, smaller, more compact and most importantly, even faster version of his last boat, the Cigarette. That craft had been lost to a late evening mishap that had damaged the hull and stranded my father and a group of friends overnight on an island in the Delta, an adventure that my 10-year-old self imagined straight out of Robinson Crusoe.

The Donzi fairly flew, skimming along the surface of the water like a giant hummingbird. The wind would whip our hair against our faces, as we struggled to catch our breath, but we

Sausage and Pickled sides

Sausage and Pickled sides

never slowed, not until we reached a spot far out from the other boats, isolated and removed, where the waters were glassy and still. Perfect for water-skiing. Dad would slow to a stop and kill the engine. Jumping overboard, he’d gesture to his friend Carl for a ski. Moments later he was flying along behind us, riding in and out of the wake of the boat, the sunlight hitting the sheets of water that rose from the edge of his skis in giant plumes of white foam. My father was a magnificent looking man. Handsome and slim, his caramel-colored skin damp and glistening. Cradled in that halo of light and water, he appeared to me like a god possessed of magical powers, spinning and cavorting in the wake of the boat, his acrobatics mesmerizing as he moved on the water with the ease of an athlete.

After a morning of water-skiing, we would always find one of our favorite spots to eat. Moore’s Riverboat, with its toasted bread and butter-drenched abalone sandwiches, was a particular favorite. I will never forget those carefree days, nor the peaceful meals we shared together as we watched the water from our tables along the windows. Everything tastes better when one can smell the water while taking a bite. Magic.

THE RESTAURANT: Dining on the water…

Brotzeit.Lokal (17)

German Potato Salad

These were the thoughts that filled my mind when I recently visited Brotzeit Lokal, a relatively newish addition to the Oakland dining scene that is nestled neatly beside the docks on the Oakland side of the Estuary, near the site of the new Brooklyn Basin. The views of the water are spectacular, and with my inbred love of aquatic-themed dining adventures, I found it reminiscent of my days on the Delta. The briny air, the cool breeze off the water, all these things whet my appetite for a cold beer and something fried and yummy.
Brotzeit Lokal did not disappoint. Most Fridays my office often holds an out-of-office lunch meeting to go over our week’s progress while breaking bread and loosening up a bit after a week of the regular grind. This place is tucked away nicely, and a bit hard to find, so keep an eye out for the cloth banner at the front of the Homewood Suites, so you don’t miss your turn into the driveway.

There are plenty of communal tables outside on a spacious patio, a few in the bar, and another set of tables in a lovely little enclave between the outdoor seating and the barroom. These are protected by the wind, but the windows open to allow the sea breeze to brush against your face, so we decided that enclave was the best of both worlds. Same view and no breeze to whip those paper napkins about.

Cheers!

Cheers!

We tried a number of Brotzeit’s German-themed dishes, among them Mussels in Beer Broth, Sausages of several varieties, and my favorite, a fantastic rendition of a German potato salad. Traditionally served hot, this dish was chilled, but on a steamy summer day one could easily forgive the decision to leave it chilled & refreshing. German potato salad, when done correctly, is nothing like the heavily-mayonnaised versions found in most American picnic baskets. The German version is lighter, more acidic and to my taste, infinitely more delicious. The lovely small red potatoes used at Brotzeit are also my personal favorite, their unique and buttery natural flavor lending a balance to the dish that we all found irresistible.

Brotzeit Lokal is a solid little pub, with a respectably varied menu. It’s a great place to gather on the waterfront to watch sporting events, or collect your thoughts and refuel after a day on the water. I will be back to enjoy a beer and a Bratwurst, and almost certainly remember once again my own days spent skimming the wet fantastic. There’s nothing quite like it. If you haven’t been lucky enough yourself to spend time aboard a vessel, head over to Brotzeit, grab a beer and watch the boats go by. Pleasant indeed. Check it out, make a memory of your own.

Brotzeit Lokal
1000 Embarcadero,
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 645-1905
http://brotzeitbiergarten.com/
email: brotzeitlokal@hotmail.com

JUHU BEACH CLUB: Bollywood Bliss in Oakland’s Temescal District

Delectably spice Tomato Shorba

Delectably spice Tomato Shorba

When I was a kid, my babysitter, Carol Neill, would tell us that if we behaved all morning, we would get a special treat. We all knew what that meant, a trip to Lake Temescal. Once there, we knew we would spend that summer day in a delirium of fun as we swam and cavorted on it’s tiny beach, burning off that youthful energy that children seem to amass in droves, with hours and hours of waterplay. In my young mind, it was a far off destination, and these outings an incomparable adventure. We would wade in with her three children, our steadfast playmates, and challenge the beckoning waters that lapped at the edge of its beachfront. I haven’t been back there in years, and imagine it would seem very small now indeed to my grownup self. But when I was a child, this was our private retreat, an oasis nestled in the heart of Oakland. It was indeed a magical place. Beaches hold a beckoning sort of vastness at their edges, the shore is a promise of explorations to be, and as children the thrill of picturing the imaginary creatures who might populate the waters off the shore never grew old.

Naming an urban restaurant after a beach resort, then, is high promise indeed, conjuring up the images of abandon and pleasure that one might expect from a seaside escape. Fortunately for her patrons, Priti Mistri’s Juhu Beach Club delivers on that promise. On a recent visit to Juhu Beach Club, itself perched unassumingly in a tiny strip mall, rather than on an oceanfront pier, we embarked on a journey of exploration of our own. We arrived on a particularly chill and rainy day, so one of the first dishes that caught our eye was the Bombay Sandwich, a lovely medley of pressed cheese, cilantro chutney, and beets played against a spicy chaat masala. The optional cup of Tomato Shorba seemed a must in the gloomy weather, and the warm tomato-ey spices were just the ticket. We ended up using it as a “dip” for almost all the other goodies that we sampled.
We’d have ordered more, but it’s only available separately as a dinner menu item. Definitely an incentive to return for dinner.

There were many appealing choices, so we were forced to “man up” and attempted to do our best at sampling as many variations as we could

master in one sitting. The sandwich choices allow for mixing and matching in reasonably priced combos, so we got two sets of three sandwiches to be split among the four of us, in addition to the Bombay. They are a nice sized sandwich here, just a bit bigger than a slider, but with that lovely polished finish one expects from this modern “bite on a bun.” This presentation is almost a “hamburger tapas” and it makes me happy. Like mini cupcakes, they are small enough to allow the diner to really get in there and try a variety of flavors, yet large enough to fill one up if you only want one or two.

Trio of Indian Goodness on a bun!

Trio of Indian Goodness on a bun!

The promised heat of the Vaga Pav appealed, with its potato and ghost pepper blend. We found it enjoyable, but not particularly spicy, which was a surprise. It had a kick, but nothing jarring, as my non-spice-eating spouse was able to enjoy it with us. I’m not sure this is typical, as I didn’t get a chance to chat with the chef to ask about the intended heat levels. The Chowpatty Chicken with its blend of green chillies, chicken and tangy slaw was a refreshing bite. We also tried the Holy Cow, which features the lovely melted beef of a brisket-texture to its meat, the fat of the toothsome beef offset well by the nicely acidic cucumber raita. My favorite sandwich bite may have been the Pork Vindaloo, an Indian take on pulled pork, gently slathered in a vindaloo barbeque sauce and finished with a nice yoghurt sauce.

Each sandwich was sufficiently different that we were continually bouncing between the flavors. I’ve never had anything but the classic Indian fare found in hot buttery naam or a nice bowl of tikka masala, so I really loved experiencing a lighter hand and more subtle take on all the flavors of South Asian cuisine offered here. The dishes were solid, and even though sampling so many in one sitting was a whirlwind, it was a dining experience we thoroughly enjoyed. The was indeed an adventure, and one I intend to repeat, and soon.

If you’d like to try something out of the box, but with all the love and attention of simple street food, with a touch of culinary genius, then Juhu Beach Club would be a great option to try in your own very near future.

Go on. Check it out for yourself, and make some new memories of your own. You know you want to.

Bonus dish of popcorn munchies, Indian-style

Bonus dish of popcorn munchies, Indian-style

Juhu Beach Club
5179 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
b/t Claremont Ave & 52nd St in Rockridge, North Oakland
(510) 652-7350
juhubeachclub.com

LAZY DOG-Concord: A Home Run for the Whole Family

SONY DSCThere is nothing quite as exciting as the atmosphere in a really good sports bar. One walks in the door, and experiences a rush of electricity as people are gathered together to cheer on a favorite team, or just have a bite and a beer after a long day. The creation of atmosphere is everything. Some entrepreneurs get it absolutely right, creating an environment that is completely conducive to the best time possible. Well-laid out spaces with comfortable chairs and ample table space that allows room for both food and for kids to do the things kids can’t help but do. Spaces that contain televisions sufficiently large and plentiful, as to be easily visible so that those who choose to be mesmerized by the screen in the hopes of one more goal, touchdown, basket or base hit can each get their fill. Lazy Dog Restaurant in Concord is that, but it is also a place where families with children can gather together to enjoy a great meal.

The recipe for a good time also calls for great food and plenty of variety in beverages. Lazy Dog in Concord has fulfilled all the

Beer Sampler - a little something for everyone

Beer Sampler – a little something for everyone

requirements for the family-friendly outing, and they have done so with a deft hand and an eye toward what it is that we Americans love best: the comforts of home without the effort, some imagination in the presentation, and a well-executed variety of choice. Lazy Dog provides all these and more. The food is delicious and the vibe electric.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a soft-opening, which allowed me the opportunity to try out more of the offerings on the menu than one might ordinarily experience in a sitting. Starving when I arrived, I accepted the luscious flatbread offered me before I even took off my coat. Crunchy crust, hot melted cheese, what’s not to love? One of the things I found most compelling was the range of the dishes offered. One minute I’m facing down a platter of perfectly steamed Shu Mai, the next minute I’m chowing down on “Grandma’s” Pot Roast, gently moistened with dark, elegant gravy and perched temptingly atop a mound of buttery mashed potatoes.

Mouth-watering Pot Roast just like Grandma used to make!

Mouth-watering Pot Roast just like Grandma used to make!

Thinking outside the box seems to be a trademark of the owner-partners. In my conversations with them, I learned that in his own way, each is dedicated to really delivering on a promise, be it the flavor explosion of their spectacular Sweet and Sour Calamari or the toothsome crunch of an oven-fired Black & Bleu (bacon and blue cheese anyone?) Pizza. Many of the selections offered were outside-the-box, but that’s pretty much the style of the owner-partners. If they love it, they’ll try to make it happen in their restaurants. Their executive Chef is a part of the process, constantly creating new items for the menu’s evolution.

Lazy Dog also possesses an equally inventive bar menu. A particular favorite of

Black & Bleu Pizza~ BBQ Chicken, Bacon and Bleu Cheese crumbles on a perfectly baked crust.

Black & Bleu Pizza~ BBQ Chicken, Bacon and Bleu Cheese crumbles on a perfectly baked crust.

mine was the spicy jalapeno and tequila concoction, whose title escapes me at the moment, as I am a huge fan of sweet with a kick, it really hit the spot. Lazy Dog pride themselves on their beer samplers, one set of six craft beers that are brewed in house, the other set a hand-picked variety of local breweries chosen to be showcased. All the beer choices were interesting. They covered a multitude of ambers, bitters, wheat and hops in a rainbow of amber golds, rich reds and beguiling darks. The range of knowledge about each variety demonstrated by the servers was likewise impressive. Which reminds me, the servers were incredibly well-informed, cheerful and attentive. They rounded out the experience to perfection. Pleasant and skillful bunch, all.

Desserts were equally good, and equally plentiful. Two words: Butter. Cake.

Lazy Dog has several locations in SoCal, but this is their first venue to be situated here in Golden State North. A truly good idea can withstand repetition, and Lazy Dog Café & Restaurants are a good idea. I for one, am glad they made the trip. Check it out for yourself, and make a memory of your own.

Butter Cake~ Hot buttery pound-style case on a river of dark cherries.

Butter Cake~ Hot buttery pound-style case on a river of dark cherries.

LAZY DOG – Concord
Willows Shopping Center
1961 Diamond Blvd
Concord CA 94520
Ph. (925)-849-1221