Getting Down in the Mud

As I write this, there are three houses within about 250 feet of me that are under construction. Two are “remodels”—the builders essentially tore down the original houses, but left just enough to presumably qualify as a remodel—while the latest is a full teardown. The backhoe tore into it on Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon it had been completely reduced to a pile of rubble. I can hear the sounds of the backhoe driving over the pile, grinding the remains into a smaller, more manageable one. At the same time, workers are separating the materials so that the remains can be recycled.

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The level of construction activity in our neighborhood—which I see mirrored throughout the residential parts of Redwood City, if not to quite the same degree—is higher than I can ever recall seeing in the 26 years that my wife and I have owned our home. While I’m looking forward to when the projects are done, and quiet returns to our neighborhood, I cannot really complain. After all, my wife and I have done our share of remodeling over the years, and people do have a right to do with their homes what they want (within reason). I’m particularly grateful that although the new homes are bigger than the old, they still remain very much in scale with the neighbors: no McMansions, these. More and more homebuyers seem to be choosing reasonably sized homes over the multi-story monstrosities that had been popular in the recent past. Thank goodness…

You’ve probably noticed the city’s heavy promotion of the Harambee art projects that took place in three of Redwood City’s parks last week. I was fortunate to attend all three. They took place on three consecutive days, starting on Friday the 16th. The Friday event took place at Andrew Spinas park (at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Bay Road). Taking place as it did, at 3:30 on a school day in a park only three blocks from Fair Oaks Elementary, you just knew that it would draw a lot of kids. At the start there were just a couple of dozen adults and a handful of kids, but before long some 20-30 elementary-school-age kids trooped in to join the fun. And fun it was! The primary event was a “mud stomp”: the artist, Michael Koliner, shoveled clay, sand, and straw onto a plastic tarp, after which he added water. The kids (and numerous adults, as well) jumped in with their bare feet, and proceeded to mix the ingredients to form adobe. Spurred on by a live DJ playing music to dance by, the mud stompers made short, messy work of the mixing process. They then hand-formed the adobe into balls and then smooshed the balls onto metal forms that the artist had previously constructed. Once the forms were completely covered, numerous people massaged the adobe into a smooth surface. After the adobe has cured, the result will be an artistic bench—the kind that people sit on—that kids and community members can look on with pride, having had a hand in the construction process.

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Because only so many people could stomp in the mud, the project organizers had thoughtfully set up other activities. Kids could create and decorate adobe balls, and could create adobe handprints on sheets of paper. It was gratifying to see kids running, laughing, and playing in the mud—with nary a cellphone or tablet in sight (except for those being used as cameras, of course). The City, along with their partners Fung Collaboratives, the Parks and Arts Foundation, and Michael Koliner (the artist), are to be commended for showing kids the joy of creating physical objects such as these adobe benches.

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While I didn’t see quite as many kids at the similar events on Saturday (at Mariner Park, in Redwood Shores) or on Sunday (at Mezes Park, just north of Redwood City’s downtown) nevertheless at each there were plenty of people of all ages stomping and playing in the mud. Each park is getting its own unique bench design; they are all well worth checking out. The grand unveiling for each will take place on Sunday, October 25: Andrew Spinas Park at 9:00 a.m., Mezes Park at noon, and Mariner Park at 3:00 p.m. (for more information, see the city’s website, here). If at all possible try to make it to one or more unveilings. Otherwise, drop by after Sunday and see what Michael Koliner and your fellow citizens have wrought!

In the “I thought I’d seen everything” department, as I was leaving Mariner Park, I happened upon these folks:

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They’re playing a game called “Bubble Soccer” from a Fremont company called, naturally, “Bay Area Bubble Soccer.” For a fee the company supplies the bubble suits, the goals, and the referee. Apparently you play by normal soccer rules, scoring points by kicking the ball into the appropriate goal (not visible in the above picture). The bubble suits protect the players and help ensure that hilarity ensues. And indeed, there was plenty of laughter and much crashing about, resulting in a lot of people falling over. It was odd to watch, but looked like a lot of fun to play.

While on the subject of parks, I wanted to note that just about a month ago the City Council accepted a $4.44 million bid to replace the synthetic turf on all three athletic fields at Red Morton Park, and to replace the tennis courts, upgrade the existing tennis court lighting, and install new lighting on 49er/Mitchell Field. Red Morton’s athletic fields have had synthetic turf for some eight years now, and that turf has reached the end of its functional life. Over that time the city estimates that it has saved roughly 24 million gallons of water when compared to real grass. As for the new lights, adding them to Mitchell Field will help teams spread out their schedules and reduce some of the pressure on the field during the day. Construction should begin in early November and should wrap up by early March.


Now that I’ve visited it twice, I feel I can properly review Timber & Salt, which can be found on “Theatre Way” between Arya and Portobello Grill. It bills itself as having “artisan comfort foods” and “craft cocktails.” Whatever they call them, after two visits (along with my wife and two others) we call them “outstanding”. Although we limited ourselves primarily to wine, on our first visit one of our companions decided to have a whiskey. This caused Brian Matulis, the head bartender, to drop by and chat. He certainly knows his stuff, and he’s stocked his bar with a fascinating array of rare and unusual liquors. He provided tastes of some of the whiskeys he had on offer, and from those our companion happily chose one that was to his liking. As for the wine, Timber & Salt offers half-glasses! That is something I have rarely seen elsewhere, and is most appreciated.

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Both visits we started with the “House Picked Vegetables”—they were that good. The assortment of pickled veggies we got differed from one visit to the other, but both times it was quite unusual. This is NOT a plate of conventional pickles. The first time around we got pickled carrots, some sort of tiny mushrooms, beets, fennel (we think), and cauliflower, all of which were very tasty. Along with the pickled veggies we shared a couple of Grilled Caesar Salads, which were nicely charred and lightly covered in an excellent Caesar dressing. The salad, too, was so good that we ordered it again on our second visit.

As for entrees, on our first visit our table ordered the Fattoush salad (tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, pita); the Ahi Orb (Ahi and Avocado on a dish of Gazpacho); Quail, which came with some lovely Kale Salad summer rolls; the Timber & Salt Burger (minus the bun and the fries; our dining companion was on a diet); and the Scallops. The Scallops were mine; they were large and very tasty, and were perched upon a bed of “Vadouvan Spiced Green Farro/Griddled Squash”, which was just fantastic. All of the entrees were terrific: we spent our meals oohing and aahing over our meals, and comparing the various dishes.

On our second visit we tried the Chicken Jamon and the Cassoulet. Cassoulet is a slow-cooked casserole consisting of meat and white beans. Mine was made with sausage and duck, and had croutons in the mix; it was quite yummy. The Chicken Jamon is a chicken thigh stuffed with Jamon (a dry-cured ham from Spain), with grits and Brussels Sprouts. My wife, who ordered that particular dish, loved it.

We never managed to try their desserts—on both occasions we were stuffed!—but if they are up to the standards of the food we had, they should be excellent.

Timber & Salt fits in a remarkable number of people given its size. They have a dozen or so outside tables, for those who enjoy dining al fresco. We ate inside both times, and I took the opportunity to watch the crowds. The first time we visited we went in at 5:00 p.m. on a Thursday. When we sat there were five people at the bar, and we were one of the only tables that had been seated. By 5:40 p.m., the bar was full. When we left, at 6:45 p.m., the restaurant was half-full, both inside and out. Two weeks later, when we visited for the second time, we arrived at 5:45 p.m. (this time, on a Friday) The outside was full, although there was room inside. By 8:00 p.m., though, every table was taken.

Despite the fact that you may need to wait for a table, Timber & Salt is well worth a visit. Timber & Salt is closed on Monday; Tuesday through Sunday they are open from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (on Friday and Saturday they’re open until midnight). They are not open for lunch, and do not accept reservations.


Finally, I want to extend a warm welcome to our new City Manager, Melissa Stevenson Diaz. Melissa, who was sworn during last Monday’s City Council meeting, comes to us from the City of Mountain View, where she served as both Assistant City Manager and Interim City Manager. Before that she performed various duties for the cities of Fremont and Morgan Hill. She replaces long-time City Manager Dr. Robert Bell, who retired last June. As Mayor Gee noted after her swearing-in, Melissa is the first female City Manager in the history of Redwood City. I’m looking forward to getting to know Melissa, and hope to take her out for a walk around our beautiful downtown.

2 thoughts on “Getting Down in the Mud

  1. We’ve been to Timber & Salt twice and love it … now we also need to try The Striped Pig (on Main replacing Little India), which appears to be of a similar type and caliber.

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