Jeri Howard loves good food – and coffee. She drinks so much coffee in the books that someone once mentioned it on DorothyL.
Years ago, a writer friend suggested that I write a column called “Jeri’s Best Picks.” I laughed and said it was a good idea. It is. But I won’t limit myself to restaurants.
Jeri’s Best Picks – an eclectic mix of my favorite things.
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Someone once wrote that Frank Sinatra may be called the chairman of the board, but Mel Tormé is the president of the company.
I agree. I’ve been a fan of that velvety voice for years.
Mel, known as the Velvet Fog, was born in Chicago in 1925. He was sublime singer with nearly perfect pitch.
Here’s Mel on the Nat King Cole (another great voice!) show, singing “A Foggy Day In London Town.”
He was also a composer, music arranger, drummer, actor. And he wrote five books, including an entertaining autobiography called It Wasn’t All Velvet.
Many years ago I glanced through the concert listings in a Bay Area newspaper and saw to my astonishment that Mel was doing a gig with the Chabot College Jazz Band. For ten bucks. I was in the audience that Saturday. I also saw him perform with the San Francisco Symphony Pops.
That said, I will admit that nobody could sing One For My Baby like Sinatra.
Then there’s Johnny Mathis. My mother’s favorite. I’ve teased her about that for years.
However, Johnny is indeed a fabulous singer. And he’s still out there performing after more than 50 years in the business. I saw him at the San Francisco Symphony Pops a few years ago.
But Mom had never seen him live on stage. She lives in the Denver area, so I kept checking the Mathis concert list. Finally, after a couple of years, I discovered he was scheduled for a gig with the Denver Symphony. So I bought tickets, flew to Denver, and took Mom to the show.
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The California State Railroad Museum. Climb around on trains! Get an up-close look at California history. Great research library where I got lots of material for my upcoming train mystery, Death Rides the Zephyr. If you plan to attend Left Coast Crime in Sacramento next March, this is one of your priority stops.
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Cupkates. A mobile cupcake bakery. They bring the cupcake to you. What’s not to like? So far my drug of choice is the salted caramel, a dark chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting. Right up there on the list is the S’Mores cupcake. Red velvet, tiramisu, the list goes on. These cupcakes ought to be a controlled substance. Right now the only control is that the cupcake truck shows up in the vicinity of my office one day every two weeks. Check the Cupkates website for the schedule, look for the truck with the adjacent line.
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I’ve been buying strawberries from Yerena Farms – Apolinar “Poli” and Silvia Yerena – for as long as I’ve been going to the Old Oakland market – since before their youngest child was born! Their children are grown up now and Poli and Sylvia are grandparents. In addition to the Old Oakland Farmers Market, they are vendors at the Ferry Building, Alemany and Mission farmers markets in San Francisco. In case I don’t make it to the market, I can find their berries at the Alameda Natural Grocery. Their berries and veggies are organic and they are great people. You can read about them here, and here.
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Bodie once had a population of 10,000 people. Nine stamp mills operated 24 hours a day, six days a week. In the boom days of the 1870s and 1880s, an estimated $34 million in gold was dug out of the high plateau (8379 feet above sea level) northeast of the broad blue surface and eerie tufa towers of Mono Lake.
Bodie is a ghost town now. Over the years the gold ore played out and the goldseekers moved on to other mining camps. Longtime residents stayed for years as a long slow decline emptied the town and a fire in the 1930s destroyed 75 percent of the structures. In the early 1960s California acquired the land and Bodie is now a state park, in arrested decay, but the structures are remarkably well-preserved due to the dry climate. It’s well worth a visit.
So is Mono Lake, which teems with bird life and history. Watch the seagulls run along the shore with their beaks open, all the better to catch alkali flies.
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I used to belong to a gym but I don’t really need to. I live some three blocks from San Francisco Bay and have a perfectly good beach to walk along, with views of San Francisco in the distance.
But over the years I got tired of walking up and down that straight path, looking at the same scenery. Now I sample the trails offered by the East Bay Regional Park District, a treasure that encompasses 65 parks and over 100,000 acres of land, spanning Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
That was when I became interested in birding. First it was “what is that bird?” Then I bought a book, Birds of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Next was a guided bird walk at Coyote Hills park, down in Fremont, which not only has hills, trails, and an old Ohlone village, but a marsh teeming with bird life. From there it was a slippery slope to the beginning birding class and field trips offered by the Audubon Society and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.
Favorite East Bay parks, in addition to Coyote Hills, include the Hayward Shoreline, Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline (otherwise known as Arrowhead Marsh), and Point Pinole, where the Giant Powder Company used to make dynamite.
Then there are Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, an old coal mining district on the eastern side of Mount Diablo, Sunol Regional Wilderness, where eagles and hawks sail overhead, and Ardenwood Historic Farm, for a glimpse of what farming was like a hundred years ago. The list goes on.
EBRPD also teaches classes, like the ones I took in Basic Land Navigation and Survival Skills, and there are outings such as that guided bird walk, history walks, and outings such nature cruises to the Farallones or in the Delta. If you’re looking a stroll or a more strenuous hike, check out the riches offered by the East Bay Regional Park District.
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Nan Yang Burmese Restaurant
In Kindred Crimes, Jeri Howard and her friend Cassie Taylor have dinner at a Burmese restaurant called Nan Yang, then located in Oakland’s Chinatown. The restaurant is mentioned in subsequent books as well.
I started going to Nan Yang a few years it opened. I worked nearby and was at the restaurant at least once a week. I became a big fan of the Thai garlic noodles, ginger salad, and chicken curry noodle soup. I also got to know the owners, Phillip and Nancy Chu. A customer once told the Chus she’d come to Nan Yang because it was mentioned in my book.
When I was researching the restaurant information for Don’t Turn Your Back On The Ocean, I interviewed Phillip Chu on the subject of sabotaging a restaurant, so he’s mentioned in the acknowledgements of that book.
Nan Yang is no longer located in Chinatown. It moved to a larger location on College Avenue restaurant in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood.
If you’re in Oakland, go check out the ginger salad at Nan Yang.