I am not registered for vote-by-mail: I prefer to vote in person. For me, physically going to my polling place and stepping into the booth (or what passes for a voting booth these days) seems to place greater emphasis on just how important the act of voting is. In my mind filling out and then mailing in a ballot reduces the act to the significance of a “how did we do” survey from an insurance company or medical provider—although I acknowledge that this is probably just me, and that in the end a mail-in ballot is just as effective. Not everyone can make the time to vote in person, and not everyone is physically able to do so, so I certainly don’t criticize anyone’s choice to vote by mail. But for as long as I can, I plan to continue making the 3-1/2 block walk to our local polling place each election day to cast my vote.
I love the walk both to and from my polling place, which for all the years but one since I moved to Redwood City has been in the same place: the Unitarian Universalist Church at the corner of Brewster Avenue and Lowell Street. For some reason one year our polling place moved to the garage of a single-family home on Alameda de las Pulgas, but the election after that it moved back. And one year, although my assigned polling place was at the Unitarian Universalist Church, I was scheduled to be out of town on Election Day and so voted early at the County Center instead.
Many people don’t seem to know that 555 County Center is reconfigured during elections to act as a general polling place for any resident of San Mateo County (note the large “Vote Here” banner on the corner in the above picture). You can vote early there: this year, they were open and accepting voters from October 11 through election day. But although the materials I received (electronically) from San Mateo County’s Chief Elections Officer did note that County Center was one site for early voting, they seemed to put more emphasis on the county polling place at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo (near the intersection of Highway 92 and Ralston Avenue), which is of course much less convenient for those of us who live in Redwood City. As for those of you who are registered as “vote by mail,” know that you always have the option to carry your mail-in ballot to your designated polling place where you can either hand in your filled-out ballot to be counted as-is, or surrender it and vote using the polling place’s voting machines. I point all of this out in the event that you, like me, prefer to physically go to the polls but can’t always guarantee that you’ll be free to do so on voting day.
Although I rarely express opinions here, I will say that the presidential candidate that I voted for did not win. I was somewhat depressed when I woke up on Wednesday morning, but decided that the best thing I could do was to get to work. I knew that both the physical exercise I get from walking the city and the spiritual uplift I get when I discover new things to report on would be good for me, and I was right. The sun was shining, the temperature was ideal, and I had a marvelous couple of hours wandering around taking pictures and making notes. I capped my day by having my wife join me at our newest wine bar, Cru Wine Bar and Merchant, which is located in the Crossing 900 building closest to the Caltrain station:
As you can see Cru has some nice outside seating. However, this being our first visit, I elected to have us sit inside so that we could soak in the decor and watch the operation in progress. I’m glad we did: it is a very inviting and comfortable space.
(As you can see from the large TV over the bar area, I couldn’t get entirely away from the election!) Cru is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends starting at 11 a.m. In the morning they act as a coffee bar, serving espresso, cappuccino, latte, mocha, and the like in addition to drip coffee, tea and baked goods. At lunch they serve salads, sandwiches, and slices of “pizza al taglio,” which apparently just means “rectangular pizza.” In the afternoon and evening the menu switches to charcuterie (cold cooked meat), cheeses, and various small plates, plus those pizzas. All in addition to, of course, a wide variety of wines and a nice assortment of beers, plus coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks. Finally, the left and right interior walls are lined with bottles of wines for sale: Cru is a wine retailer in addition to a wine bar, and sells a wide variety of wines from around the world (many more than they serve, in fact).
My wife joined me at Cru at around four in the afternoon. It was an ideal time to go, as it was still pretty quiet and thus we felt comfortable chatting freely with our waitress. In response to my wife not recognizing some of the white wine varieties on the list the waitress suggested bringing us a taste, which she promptly did: three glasses containing a couple of sips of three different wines. Allowing you to taste a wine before you commit to a glass is a good sign in my book, and it proved to be a good selling strategy here: upon trying all three one was a clear standout and made the choice easy (if you must know, it was a 2014 Domaine d’Edouard Bourgogne Aligoté).
We also shared a plate of assorted cheeses, which were accompanied by crostini, a ramekin of jam, and another of sweet chili peppers. I particularly enjoyed the Queso Manchego, while my wife favored the Queso Azul, a blue cheese made from a combination of cow’s and sheep’s milk. Everything was excellent—we ate it all—and together with a glass of wine apiece it was a delightful way to spend an hour or so. Provided that Cru doesn’t get so crowded as to make it uncomfortable, I expect we’ll be spending a lot of time there.
Cru is not the only new place in town, of course. While I was out and about I dropped in on our new downtown Starbucks, at the corner of Broadway and Hamilton. I’ve been watching them for some time and was delighted to finally be able to step inside. Although I’m not a coffee drinker, I was pleased with the interior: it has a very open feel, and I really like all of the natural materials they’ve used.
Originally this location was to serve the “Starbucks Evenings” menu, which includes wine, beer and small plates. Indeed, for part of the construction there was a liquor license application notice affixed to one of the entry doors (that license is still in the system, but as yet is marked as pending). However, it seems that the powers-that-be have chosen to instead just serve coffee and baked goods. Even so, this is no ordinary Starbucks. Instead, it is two Starbucks in one. In the above photo, see how the main counter has a gap? Look carefully and you’ll notice that the materials that make up the two counters are different, as are the materials and design of the area behind each counter. The right-hand counter is pretty much a typical Starbucks. But the left-hand one serves and sells Starbucks Reserve® coffees. According to Starbucks these are rare and exotic beans, specially roasted for the optimal flavor. My understanding (not being a coffee drinker) is that your chosen coffee is then individually brewed when you order it. It certainly looks, and sounds impressive, but I’ll have to rely on those of you who are really into coffee to tell me just how special what they are doing really is. If you give them a visit, post a comment here and let the rest of us know what you think!
Finally, I have one last food-related item for this week. As many of you know, each month Steve Penna, publisher and editor of The Spectrum Magazine, selects one of my columns to include in the next month’s issue. Thus, I make it a point to read each and every one. As I was flipping through the November issue, an unfamiliar ad caught my eye. It was for Crack’d Toffee Company, a new Redwood City business. They make “handmade, artisanal” toffee in original, dark chocolate and white chocolate variants, but the ad didn’t say where to buy it. For that, I had to go to their website (http://crackdtoffee.com). They’re in search of retail outlets; for now, their one conventional outlet is the KITCHENTOWN Bakery Café in San Mateo. More conveniently you can find them at one of two upcoming events here in Redwood City: the “Downtown Redwood City’s 3rd Annual Holiday Shopping Extravaganza!” (on Thursday, December 1, in Courthouse Square), or Redwood City’s Hometown Holidays event, on Saturday, December 3 in downtown Redwood City. Me, I wasn’t willing to wait—and I was pretty curious about KITCHENTOWN—so I headed up to San Mateo and bought a 1/3-pound box. When I was there Kitchentown only had the white chocolate variety, which wouldn’t have been my first choice. However, having tried it, I must say that it is very good indeed. What I got isn’t a hard, brittle toffee; it was soft but very, very tasty. From the pictures, the other varieties may be different; I’ll have to do some taste-testing, I guess! Oh, the hardships I have to go through for this column…
In reviewing what I’ve written, it may appear that I’m dealing with the election results through food. I’m not, really, but getting out and walking on the day after Election Day really did lift my spirits somewhat. And the new sources I found for food and drink in Redwood City cheered me as well: more choices are almost always good, in my book. While in the short term they make choosing a bit more difficult, the more choices we have the better the chances that each of us will find that place that is just right. While I suspect that it’ll take me quite a while to figure out how to adjust to this year’s election results, for now, at least, I intend to focus on my family and my local community—and on Walking Redwood City.
It’s a bit short notice, but Gambrel & Co., our wonderful local downtown butcher shop, is putting on a class on butchering a hog this Sunday (November 13), and they’ve had some cancellations. If you or someone you know is interested, please contact them as soon as possible via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city is interested in hearing from you about how you use and/or would improve transit. Consider taking their brief survey by November 28 to make your voice heard.