Town Crier: Montclair’s caffeine scene creates traffic hazards

MONTCLARION: May 30, 2014

The need for caffeine can make motorists do dangerous things. The other day I was sitting in Montclair, grande mocha in hand, watching the traffic patterns of a Village fueled by coffee shops on almost every corner.

In a time span of 45 minutes, here’s what I saw: almost immediately, a motorist pulled up to Starbucks and let passengers out in the red zone. Then she waited for 15 minutes, forcing cars to veer around her SUV on a dangerous curve.

A few minutes later, near the same spot, a sedan pulled up to the coffee shop. The driver, seeing nowhere nearby to stop, double-parked in the street. Did he exit the car with some urgency, run in for coffee and return? No. It was 20 minutes before he emerged, seemingly clueless to the hazard his car was creating.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I need caffeine as much as the next person. This column wouldn’t get written without it. But coffee already costs plenty. You don’t need to add the price of a traffic ticket — or worse yet, an accident — to the cost of a cup of joe.

Around Town: The tasty side of Oakland continues to seduce diners. One new standout is Doukkala, a Moroccan-inspired restaurant in the Temescal neighborhood (4905 Telegraph Ave). Last Sunday night, every table was full as handcrafted lanterns cast a glow on the golden silk canopy draping the ceiling. The ambience, alone, is a draw but the menu makes it irresistible. Chef Eric Lanvert has a winner with this restaurant from the care he takes in sourcing local ingredients to the way he creates intensely flavorful dishes like Northern California quail pastilla, chorizo-stuffed squid a la plancha, maple leaf duck tagine and wild salmon caught from Half Moon Bay. Oh, and he also serves one of my favorite zins, from Oakland boutique winery Dashe Cellars. The website is

Meanwhile, Oakland commuters are in for a treat. Chef Dionne Knox is about to open a deli across from the West Oakland BART station. I had a chance to cook with Dionne at La Cocina, a nonprofit that provides kitchen space to low-income food entrepreneurs. Knox’s family recipes for fried chicken, Monterey Jack and cheddar mac and cheese and other southern dishes are absolutely delicious. You can find out more at

Zella’s Soulful Kitchen’s website,

Wide web: Isn’t the Internet something? I’ve got readers in London and readers in France and even a reader in Oregon. The owner of Kim Elsner Photography, in Salem, says she was googling mother-son Disney vacations, and up popped an article I’d written four years ago after taking my son to Disneyland. “This post reminded me how important it is to have personal time with each of your children when you can, as life is so busy and short!” she wrote on my comment page.

Email bag: Reader Jillian Quist takes exception with me on last week’s rant about retsina. She says my taste buds aren’t tuned to the pine-laced Greek wine because I tried it too late in life. “Some of us wouldn’t naturally like it, but we traveled through Greece in the ’70s, and, with peer pressure and trying to be cool, we swilled it even though our ‘inside’ noses were turned up.” Quist says a glass of retsina reminds her of Greece and the friends she made there, and, in that way, it’s intoxicating.



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