Saturday, July 25, 2009

Park Street Art & Wine Faire

Today was the first day of the Park Street Art and Wine Street Faire. The weather was cooperative and turned out to be a warm and sunny day. This year celebrates 25 years of the Art and Wine Faire which is a great accomplishment for the small town of Alameda. I've been attending the event for close to a decade and enjoy attending every year.

The food vendors are basically the same players who participate in the street faires in San Francisco every weekend. As I walked around today from Lincoln to Encinal along Park, the food choices available were pretty much bad for you. A majority of the food was deep fried or there were plates of food being served with a lot of grease. Nonetheless, gallons of wine and beer were flowing like a river. People loved the idea of walking around with a beer in hand, shopping, eating and talking.

Even though the street faire is about the wine and art, I believe the live music was by far the best part of the event. The musicians showed real talent and skill. The bands performed cover songs, but they were good and sounded very similar to the original recordings. Whereas the art vendors who showcased their work was mediocre. The end products did not reflect real talent or creative ingenuity. I think someone forgot to tell the artists that we are in a recession and that customers don't want flattened wine bottles hanged on their walls. The level of art was disappointing. I guess after a few beers, any art looks awesome.

Overall, it was a good day had by all. I even think the dogs appreciated going out and meeting other furry friends.

Cafe Envy

A new cafe on Webster Street has opened for business. The name of the establishment is Wescafe. I believe the space was a former television repair shop where it appeared worn and tattered. Thank goodness a new owner has come in and made the space inviting and comfortable. Wescafe offers hot breakfasts, coffee, hot chocolate, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, tea and sandwiches. Another great feature of the new spot is the outdoor patio in the back. On a warm day, the patio is a great place to eat, relax and enjoy the surroundings. The patio has beautiful flowers and it's a great, clean environment. Wescafe is definitely welcomed to the West End since Tillie's is closed for business.

Another pleasant cafe across town on Encinal Avenue is Shay's Cafe. Shay's has a completely different vibe inside the space. The food counter is light and bright and showcases the open kitchen. The dining side of the room is dark blue in color and a bit somber if you ask me. The space is large and seats plenty of customers, but the color brings down the lightness of enjoying food. There is a kid's corner in the far right side of the room which is a great idea so Mom and Dad can sit and read the paper. The owners (husband and wife team) are pro-active business people and participated in the 4th of July Alameda Parade with a cool banner, kids and parents. The signature dishes are the East Coast inspired sandwiches. The weak points are the desserts. I am very happy that Shay's Cafe moved in since the previous business, Muffins, Muffins and More lost complete control of quality assurance of the food products.

Dependent upon what side of town you are at, you can't go wrong with either one of these cafes. If you are ambitious, you can ride your bike and go to both and check it out yourself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Frozen Yogurt Phenonmenon

For some reason there is an explosion of frozen yogurt joints all around Park Street. Frozen yogurt has been around for a few decades and I don't understand the sudden supply of yogurt stores. This reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where a particular yogurt joint suddenly becomes popular because the owner proclaims the frozen yogurt is fat-free. Customers can't get enough and wait long lines for the dessert. Jerry gains weight from the yogurt and smuggles the yogurt to a food laboratory where it tests positive for fat. The yogurt shop is then forced to hang a sign that states the yogurt is not fat-free, and the business goes bust.

The places around Park Street are Tuttimelon, a new place under construction on Santa Clara, and Yogofina recently opened at Park and Encinal. Yogofina is a cute and colorful space with friendly interiors. It's a small and cozy room, but does not hold a lot of customers, especially on warm days.

I wonder how long the frozen yogurt trend will last? The yogurt joints may have a chance just as long Tucker's doesn't get into the yogurt business.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Another Victim of the Economy

The Dock Cafe and Tiny's Candy Store is no longer in business on Webster Street. Tiny's lasted for a few good years before the husband and wife team decided to expand into the space next door. Who would have known that a tiny, hole in the wall candy store would create enough business for expansion? Unfortunately when the couple thought they had enough regular clientele to expand, the Dock Cafe did not work.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ghost Town Alameda

A few hours after the Fourth of July Parade was over, Downtown Alameda was a ghost town. I brought out-of-towners to Park Street after the parade and a majority of the retail stores were closed. A few bars and restaurants were open, but the town appeared to be shut down. I was surprised to see many closed stores and businesses on a Saturday, where hundreds of people were walking around at one time. The Downtown, Park Street tour lasted less than thirty-minutes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fourth of July

Fourth of July is a great time to relax, hang out with friends and family and watch the Alameda Fourth of July Parade go by. What is really special about Alameda is the community spirit and hometown feel. My favorite parade moments were the Mexican Cowboys riding horses down the parade route and watching the horses perform tricks. The horses were graceful dancers and it's wonderful to watch them prance with regal flair. It's also great to see the various local high school marching bands, organizations and companies participating in a city event.

When you think of Fourth of July, hot dogs, potato salad, and hamburgers come to mind. After the parade is over, the City hosts a party in one of the parks with jumpers for kids and food booths. The food booths tend to be the same players who participate in the Earth Day event meaning Croll's Pizza and a non-profit organization selling hot dogs and drinks to raise money. The food is nothing special and it's mobile food to walk around with ease.

If you don't pack your own food basket, The New Zealander is a good place to eat at after the parade and get a pie and a pint. A hamburger from Nation's is a decent choice for hungry eaters on a budget. Havana is a cool place to hang out and look good at the same time. Linguini's is the only front patio restaurant along the parade route. A great pizza or pasta dish at this place would satisfy an empty stomach. Higher end restaurants are not open for business during lunch times on holidays so Acquacotta or Yume is not an option. Too bad. However Cera Una Volta is open on the weekends for lunch, so this a great choice on Saturday. If the fourth is a beautiful, sunny day than Julie's on Park Street is a wonderful and quiet outdoor setting for a sandwich or a beverage and a baked good.