Town Crier: Greek Fest was epic, but hold the retsina

MONTCLARION: May 23, 2014

I’m going out on a limb with this. I sincerely hope no one’s offended. Of all the Greek wines I tried last weekend, there’s one I will not buy again.

I do not like retsina. I do not like this Greek wine. I don’t like it with Dolmas. I don’t like it with lamb. I won’t even drink it with green eggs and — you get the point.

Still, I had to try this white wine laced with pine at the three-day Oakland Greek Festival. The wine tasting booth was just one drawing card to my favorite annual event at the Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral. A steady flow of people enjoyed the food, drink and music of Greece, and I even got to play my flute at Sunday’s Greek Music Jam Session.

And so, we move merrily into festival season. Hardly a weekend goes by when there isn’t something to celebrate. The next big event in the hills is Montclair’s annual Fine Arts Sidewalk Festival June 27-29. More than 80 artists will display their wares along with a special Saturday Beer and Wine Celebration — complete with craft brews, artisan wines and live music. Let the summer season of fun begin!

Email bag: Thanks go to reader Erich Smith, who has volunteered to help fix the old Montclair firehouse. The general contractor who grew up in Montclair contacted me after I wrote about the shuttered storybook building in my April 25 column. Smith is a good example of someone wanting to give back to our community, and he says he has colleagues who are also willing to help. So — the next step is for someone to spearhead the project — to step forward and organize the “troops.” Let’s not let this sweet Hansel-and-Gretel house crumble. As Smith says, it’s a Montclair icon and should be saved.

Free friends: It’s raining cats and dogs at the Oakland Animal Shelter. The shelter is full of sweet animals looking for homes, and next weekend they’ll be free for qualified adopters. How could you turn down Horatio, the joyous Lab mix that’s looking for a jogging partner; or Cupcake, the Turkish van kitty who loves a good lap. Not only are adoption fees waived next weekend, Maddie’s Fund will donate $500 to $2,000 to the shelter for each adoption. Find out more at

Animal Tales: Cheese may come from a goat or a cow, but that doesn’t mean dogs don’t like it. In fact, Jeff Diamond met his cheese-eating pup when a customer walked into his Montclair shop, Farmstead Cheeses and Wines. Diamond offered the dog some American cheddar, and he gobbled it up with a look of intense satisfaction.

“I said to the customer, ‘You’ve got a great dog,’ and he said ‘Do you want her?’ ” The rest is history. Doris lives with Jeff and wife Carol now, and clearly she couldn’t be happier. And yes, the pooch’s palate has improved. She’s now eating cheese that costs $40 a pound.



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