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Highlight: Aili Ice Designs

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The growth and development in downtown Redwood City hasn’t upended the balance of nature at Alili Ice Designs.

Judging by the full-service florist’s shop at 2363 Broadway, the business still strikes that natural balance with exotic floral arrangements, healing crystals and more.

Alili Ice Designs has been in business for 14 years, including four in its current downtown space. That’s enough time to see the transformation happening downtown. But Becky Medina, the director of operations for Alili Ice Designs, said that has only added to her clientele.

The store, which employs seven and prides itself on creating floral arrangements with a great deal of thought and heart, specializes in corporate events and hosting classes and workshops. For example, bridal parties come often to take classes on floral arrangements, while the Leadership group from Gilead recently participated in a teambuilding workshop.

Aili Ice Designs is one several local businesses Climate Online will visit as we look to highlight local shops providing worthwhile services to the community.

Photo Courtesy of Aili Ice Designs

When Main Street Was Literally Redwood City’s Main Street

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By Jim Cifford

Movie lovers in Redwood City have plenty of choices at the Century 21 Theater, which lures them with multiscreen offerings. Decades ago, the cinema “menu” was pretty well limited to what was shown a block away on a single screen at the Fox, which today features live productions. Both theaters are on busy Broadway, but there was a time when all the action was on adjacent Main Street.

The Alhambra Theater opened on Main in 1896 with stage shows upstairs, a debut that came shortly before motion pictures revolutionized the entertainment industry. The building designed by noted architect A. Page Brown, whose resume included the Ferry Building in San Francisco, was billed as the finest entertainment site between San Francisco and San Jose. On the street level below the stage was a popular restaurant and bar where the patrons included Western legend Wyatt Earp could meet and eat. Today a photo of Earp standing at the bar and gazing into the camera adorns the wall at Martin’s West, a popular dining spot that occupies the same space where the famed lawman tossed back a few while his actress wife performed in plays upstairs.

The first movie house in Redwood City was the Bell Theater, which opened in 1910 a few doors down from the Alhambra, according to researchers at the Redwood City Library’s history room. Newspaper clippings of the time said the Bell was little more than “a corrugated building with a stucco front.” The advertisements for the opening promised “continuous performance. Latest Eastern and European novelties. Moving pictures and illustrated songs.”

In 1914 the Bell was bought by a dynamo of an entrepreneur named Ellis J. Arkush, whose name would become linked to most entertainment offerings on the Peninsula. Arkush remodeled the Bell by adding a lobby and bringing in 150 chairs. A year later the Bell was showing films that starred such luminaries as Theda Bara, known as “the most beautiful wicked face in the world.”

The Bell wasn’t enough for Arkush. In a few years he joined forces with West Coast Theaters to form a new corporation called West Coast Peninsula Theaters that embraced movies houses in Burlingame, San Mateo, Palo Alto and Redwood City. The Redwood City showplace was the Sequoia on Broadway, just a block or so from today’s Fox and Century 21.

Both the Alhambra and the Bell were located in what would be today’s Main Street Historic District, which takes in several pioneer buildings, among them the Sequoia Hotel on the corner of Main and Broadway and a brick building at 726 Main that was the Diller-Chamberlain Store when it opened in 1859. Still standing, it is San Mateo County’s oldest commercial building.

The Masonic Order bought the Alhambra building in 1921 and used the upper part for meetings. The bottom was leased out for retail stores. At one time there were so many antique stores on Main Street the area was dubbed “antique row.” In 2001 a fire gutted the upstairs but the building was saved and today serves as office space.  Recently, The Acclaim Companies announced plans to add nearly 80,000 more square feet of office space in the 800 block of Main Street.  The company hopes to revitalize a street it called “the birthplace of Redwood City.”

The numbering system for buildings on Main Street can get tricky because the original address numbers changed over the years. For instance, the Alhambra address today is 831-835 Main, but the 1912 City Directory lists it at 235 Main. The 1916 directory shows the Bell at 263-265 Main, the location of today’s Angelica’s Restaurant, which boasts dinner theatre – but no movies.


Spring Sips: Three Ways to Rosé

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By Emily Mangini

Growing up, “rosé” was a bad word in my house. My dad loathed the stuff, calling it “the bastardization of wine.” In fairness, he developed his bias honestly. Like so many Californians in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he had fallen for the misconception that rosé is white and red wine mixed together. Rosé’s bad reputation wasn’t all based on ill-informed rumors. I recently sat down with French winemaker Julien Fayard and he told me, “Even ten years ago, “quality” and “rosé” really didn’t go together in the same sentence.”

Thankfully, the times have changed and rosé is no longer shunned. That’s not to say that all are created equally. Like any wine, there is a decent amount of swill masquerading as the real-deal. To sidestep the pink-hued landmines, follow these two simple steps.

  1. Choose wisely. Pick a rosé that is made by an actual Frenchman, or at the very least, an ardent Francophile who was trained in France. Even in France, rosé is considered a “fun wine” – but it should still be made with grace and intention. I have yet to find a decent “table” rosé, so gauge your price point expectations accordingly.

This is a good time to address the current trend of canned wines. I did my fair share of research on canned rosés for this column; my verdict is simple: Don’t do it. I won’t name names, but I cannot in good conscience recommend any of the ones I tried.

  1. Drink wisely. By this, I mean drink like the French. Rosé in France is sipped in the warmth of spring and summer. It’s a light, carefree wine meant for light, carefree moments. Pair it with a fresh tuna nicoise salad, or enjoy it as a pre-dinner, al fresco sip in the sun.

Still need a little direction? Here are my top three, in alphabetical order, because simply put, I could never rank these beauties.

Azur Rosé 2016 ($32): Frenchmen Julien Fayard makes this aromatic rosé under his Azur label, at his winery, Covert Estate in Coombsville (Napa’s newest appellation). He uses the traditional method known as “direct press,” which means instead of using leftover grapes, he grows and harvests Syrah fruit specifically for this wine. The light salmon hue is a byproduct of his deliberate process – the grape skins are left on for a mere hour, imparting a light tint that alludes to the fresh, bright flavors.

Tasting notes: “Delicate bouquet of white flowers with seductive peach accents. Fresh and focused, the sophisticated palate offers elegant layers of raspberry, strawberry and watermelon. An alluring mineral finish completes this purely harmonious wine.” –

Ehlers Estate Sylvian Rosé 2017 ($36): Described as a classic, old-world rosé, Francophile winemaker Kevin Morrissey had to convince Sylvian LeDuc, his French boss and owner of Ehlers Estate, that this was a wine worth making. Kevin retold the moment to me: “She said to me, you know Kevin, rosé is not a serious wine, and Ehlers is very serious.” Kevin’s reply? “Well if it’s the best, then it’s serious, right?” One sip and she was convinced.

Tasting notes: “Aromas of watermelon, raspberry and cotton candy mingle with orange sorbet and fresh red cherries. Sparkling acidity, low alcohol.” –

Viver 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($19): Like many French winemakers in Napa Valley, Stephane Vivier fell in love with the American girl and the California sun, but missed a taste of home. For him, home tastes like Pinot Noir—even more specifically—Rosé of Pinot Noir. “I grew up with Rosé of Pinot Noir in Burgundy. I would come home and sit outside with my parents. My mom would bring in things from the garden, and my dad wine from the cellar. We would talk about the day, and most everyday have a bottle of rosé.”

Tasting notes: “The floral result offers notes of citrus fruit and plum, and a fine, harmonious nose. Red fruit brings an almost flinty power to the palate, while the structure is fresh and sophisticated with concentration at its core.” –

À votre santé!

Entertainment Galore, But… How can downtown Redwood City become a shopper’s paradise?

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By Scott Dailey

Two years ago, the City of Redwood City asked 476 residents where they shopped. Guess how many patronized stores downtown. How about 200? Too high? Maybe 100? Try 15.

That’s right.  In a downtown district that one local merchant describes as “hopping,” with crowded restaurants, bars and coffee shops, a huge cinema complex, a well-attended regional theater, new high-rise apartments, a major employer such as Box and a central gathering place that attracts thousands of people for summer concerts and other events, just 3 percent of the survey’s respondents said they shopped there.

It might sound surprising – but the reasons turn out to be pretty simple.  In comparison with downtown Burlingame or Laurel Street in San Carlos, for example, there’s just a handful of stores.  And instead of being clustered in a single location, those shops are sprinkled throughout the area.  That makes it difficult for customers to stroll, compare goods and window-shop.  In addition, regional malls such as Hillsdale and Stanford soak up potential shoppers, as do nearby downtown districts that offer major retailers including Apple, The Gap and up-and-coming chains such as Lululemon.

Then there’s competition from other retail zones in Redwood City, principally along El Camino Real, Woodside Road and Veterans Boulevard.  There, reported rents for retail storefronts run approximately 30 percent cheaper than downtown, attracting business people and their customers to such locations as Woodside Plaza, Kohl’s Center and other open-air malls.

Indeed, even with the relative lack of shopping downtown – that is, principally along Broadway and nearby thoroughfares from El Camino to Veterans Boulevard and Brewster Avenue to Maple Street – retail business in general appears healthy in Redwood City.  Because of the way business categories are grouped together, sales tax revenues represent an imprecise measure of retail shopping; that said, the city government received nearly $19.5 million in sales tax revenues in 2017.  Of that, around 30%, or nearly $5.9 million, came from general retail sales (as opposed, for example, to business-to-business sales, car sales and sales in construction and other sectors).  In turn, that translates to roughly $590 million in business for the city’s retail shops, restaurants and other such establishments (cities receive one percent of gross sales as their share of California’s basic 8.5 percent sales tax).  According to city economic data, the largest geographic contributor to Redwood City’s sales tax revenues was Redwood Shores, which generated $2.3 million.  Downtown was second, with more than $1.3 million.

Catherine Ralston, the city’s economic development manager, reports that even with the downtown district’s higher rents, the retail vacancy rate there is just 2.5 percent.  (“Retail” in this sense refers to everything from shops to restaurants, nightclubs, dance studios and hair salons.)  Although she counts herself among those who wish for more shopping downtown, she cautions it may not happen soon.

“In downtown, rents are very high,” she observes, quoting average monthly rates of $4 to $5 per square foot for retail space.  “Restaurants are able to support those rents, but not necessarily retail.  You have to sell a lot of items to keep that rent up on a regular basis, versus a restaurant or a bar, where you get a lot higher customer turnover and sales happening.”

How much does a retailer need to sell in order to justify a given rent?  Michael Berne, principal of Berkeley-based retail planning and real-estate firm MJB Consulting, says sales need to be approximately 10 times the rent.  Throw in additional overhead such as insurance, utilities and other expenses, and the multiplier grows to perhaps 12.  At a monthly rent of $4.50 per square foot, that comes to minimum monthly sales of $54 per square foot.  If business owners can afford those rates, Berne says, they can consider a class-A mall where their stores can cluster with others of their ilk.

“Rent is a very big factor,” confirms Scott Dewar, whose consultancy, Site Perfect Solutions, helps businesses select locations.  “It’s huge in terms of people making their decisions.”

Even more than rents, however, the lack of clustering may be affecting downtown Redwood City’s shopping prospects.

“When there are large clusters, more retailers want to be there and the clusters get even larger,” says Berne, who gave a presentation about retail business to the Redwood City Council last August.  “So you see these concentrations, whether it’s at Stanford Shopping Center or Valley Fair (in San Jose) or Burlingame Avenue or Union Square or Fillmore Street (in San Francisco).

“Downtown Redwood City right now doesn’t have an existing cluster to play off of, at least with stores selling goods,” Berne continues.  “If it had 15 clothing stores, for instance, that would be one thing, because the sixteenth would want to be there.  They’d want to be able to take advantage of all the people who were coming there to shop.  But since it doesn’t have 15, it’s not as much of a shopping destination as retailers aren’t as eager to be there, and you’re fighting something of an uphill battle.”

Ralston agrees with the clustering concept, but says, “The other piece is, I don’t have vacancies right now to put a cluster of retail stores in.  It’s one here and one there.  Ultimately, we can get to that goal.  But it’s going to take a really long time.”

Berne says building a successful retail shopping district is an evolutionary process that has stages in which retailers start to arrive, prosper and attract others.  Those phases, Berne says, include drawing first not major retailers such as Apple and The Gap, but “maybe boutiques or small, local chainlets, so that you’re starting to build that cluster.  And if boutiques and small local chainlets start to perform and do really well, larger chains will start to take notice.  And then you’ll get interest from the early adopting chains, and then, over time, you could become another Burlingame Avenue.”

Burlingame Avenue.  That’s what people often say when they’re asked how they want downtown Redwood City to look.  So how did downtown Burlingame become what it is today – a thriving retail district with more than 500 businesses, from mom-and-pop stores to major chains such as Apple, J. Crew, Pottery Barn and others?

Cleese Relihan, Burlingame’s economic development specialist, points to numerous elements, including steady foot traffic, a large streetscape project completed in 2014, the presence of supporting professionals such as attorneys, business advisors and accountants, the city government’s relationships with present and potential business owners, and, not least, a variety of store sizes.

“There’s a lot of flexibility on Burlingame Avenue for larger and smaller spaces,” Relihan says.  “That’s come up in a lot of discussions I’ve had with brand names.”

With its retail vacancy at just 2.5 percent, downtown Redwood may lack that type of available space.  And what Relihan doesn’t mention is the concentration of wealth in Burlingame and especially neighboring Hillsborough, which has no commercial district of its own.  Redwood City, on the other hand, is more economically diverse.  That said, it’s not poor, either, and Atherton sits just next door.  But downtown Redwood City does face significant competition on the Peninsula from other places that attract retailers who decide rationally about where to set up shop.

Dewar, the location expert, says those decisions tend to focus on several factors.  Included are the service area, demographics and their fit for a particular business (Neiman-Marcus and Target are looking for different customers), the presence of competition, and the site itself – especially how easy it is to get to and who else is around to help drive business.

“I think one of the differences between a downtown location and a (shopping center) is the draw potential,” Dewar says.  “You also have potentially a different proximate customer base.  Downtown, you might have more businesses with people from offices and such.  Is that appropriate (for a given business) – is that who you’re looking for?”

In a sense, Redwood City’s recent strategy for developing its downtown has been the opposite of the famous line from “Field of Dreams” – “If you build it, they will come.”  Instead, by seeking residents in large apartment complexes and employees at organizations such as Box and the coming headquarters of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, it’s been more like, “If people come, retailers will follow.”  So far, that’s worked especially for restaurants, which are indeed clustered along Broadway and Theatre Way, and whose patrons jam sidewalk dining areas even in winter.  Restaurants, in fact, benefit from two shifts – the lunch bunch from downtown offices and the dinner trade from nearby residents.  They also profit, Dewar says, from variety, because people often want to try something different.

Volker Staudt sees the service-versus-shops issue from both angles.  Along with his wife, Mary Ann, he owns Gourmet Haus Staudt on Broadway – a combination German restaurant and grocery-and-gift store.  With more people coming – and living – downtown, both businesses are flourishing.

“It’s no longer Deadwood, it’s Redwood,” Staudt says.  ”For a person owning a business on Broadway, everything’s been pretty positive, in my opinion.”

That said, Staudt adds, “I wish there were more retail.  But I get why there is no more retail.  It’s tough to be in the retail business, with Amazon and everything else going on, and the cost per square foot to operate in this environment.”

Cost per square foot – in other words, rent.  In interviews with merchants, the “R” word kept coming up.  Steve Goetz, who recently moved his family’s decades-old Goetz Brothers sporting-goods store from Broadway to the industrial east side of San Carlos, cited concerns that “we were going to be priced out” among the many factors that led to relocating his business.  (The others included a need for more space, more parking and freeway access for a regional customer base.)  Even so, he says, “Both communities have been really good to us.  We hated to leave Redwood City.”

Retailer Stephanie Kolkka also relocated her business, Brick Monkey2, to Theatre Way after the building on Broadway where she operated the original Brick Monkey store was sold in January 2017 and the rent increased dramatically.  Brick Monkey2 specializes in clothing and jewelry, and stays open late to catch the crowds coming out of adjacent restaurants and the Cinemark movie multiplex.

Although she felt forced to move, she says when it comes to rents, “I get it.  I understand that if I owned a building down there, I’d want to get the maximum out of it.”

And even with the relatively high retail rents downtown compared with other parts of the city, building owners are not necessarily maximizing their investments.  Ralston, the city’s economic development manager, says rents even for non-premium office space downtown are topping $8 per square foot, as opposed to the $4-to-$5 range for retail.  To promote retail business and prevent downtown from converting strictly to office space, the city has zoned the first floors of buildings on Broadway and Main Street as retail-only.

Even that move arouses suspicions among retailers who are skeptical of downtown landlords.  One merchant said he thought building owners would keep first-floor rents artificially high, and then, failing to rent to retail businesses, would ask the city to permit ground-floor offices again.

To that, Ralston says, “There may be a few landlords who may try that.  I think at the city, at this point, we’re seeing that there is enough interest in those spaces.  So we’re not going to quickly jump and let office uses go back in on the ground floor.

Ralston says, in fact, that the city government is seeing so much interest from potential downtown businesses that it’s currently not recruiting additional retail establishments to locate there.  At the same time, she’s aware of the desire for more retailers, and the city is now forming a retail task force to create a vision for retailing in Redwood City.  The group is expected to begin meeting this month, and should report its findings to the Council by year-end.

Rather than seek certain business types, Ralston says, “It’s really great to let that kind of naturally happen, because those are businesses that are ready to be a business downtown.  They can support those higher rents, they’ve done their market studies, they know that this is the place that they want to be.  And so those often times are your more successful businesses (rather than those that the city might try to bring in) that may not be ready for this market.”

Ralston says Internet-based sales may be part of the reason why brick-and-mortar retail stores aren’t at the top of the list of businesses looking at Redwood City, although she also says shop owners are adjusting to the challenge posed by e-commerce.  For example, Jim Hornibrook of outdoor-gear supplier Redwood Trading Post notes that his business is developing a website that will lead customers into the store after they find what they want online.

Another necessity – as vital as adjusting to the Internet – is parking.  Ralph Garcia, the owner of Ralph’s Vacuum and Sewing Center on Main Street, notes its importance for retailers, especially those who serve customers from around the Bay Area, as he does.  Garcia’s business includes a parking lot, but, he says, “I feel for the other folks who don’t have parking, or whose customers may have difficulty finding parking or may have to pay for it.”

Ralston says gripes about a perceived lack of parking downtown – a common grievance of shoppers and business people alike – disappeared after the city installed electronic signs showing the number of spaces available at garages.

“Several years ago, people would have said there’s no parking downtown,” she says.  “Within a week of those signs going up, we stopped hearing complaints that there was no parking.”

That notwithstanding, shoppers still may not be able to park on the same block as the store they’re visiting.  That, Berne says, offers an advantage to shopping centers, whose parking lots can more easily cater to what he terms the “in-and-out” shopper.  Downtown shopping districts, on the other hand, are built more for the strolling shopper who may want to accomplish many things in one trip.

That’s the sort of customer who drops into Holly Hill, an upscale women’s clothing and jewelry store on Laurel Street in downtown San Carlos.  The shop sits on the same block as a card store, a kitchenware shop, a pet-supply-and-grooming outfit, a shoe-repair shop, a dry cleaner, a jeweler, a barber shop, several restaurants and a bank.

“I think what really works for this town, at least just from how we see customers, is that people here have many errands they run when they’re downtown,” says owner Holly Hill.  “They go to the dog-food place, they get their shoes repaired, their husband gets a haircut.  They stop at Hallmark and buy a card.  They pick up their coffee.  So it’s a real walkable, errand-running downtown.  We fit right into that, and we’re a regular stop-off for many, many women who live here and around here.”

Hill says the multitasking nature of the downtown San Carlos shopper results in a high volume of foot traffic, and Laurel Street’s popular restaurants lead to what she calls “nose prints on the windows” from passers-by in the evenings.  Her prescription for downtown Redwood City, where her sister and store manager Shelley Hill resides, is for three or four stores to go in simultaneously – to which Shelley Hill asks, almost rhetorically, “And where would that be?”

One location that will offer approximately 12,000 square feet of retail space is the new headquarters of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, currently going up on the corner of Broadway and Jefferson Avenue.  (The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a philanthropic organization started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.  It will occupy the building’s more than 100,000 square feet of office space.)  Scott Smithers, managing partner of the building’s developer, Lane Partners of Menlo Park, told the San Francisco Business Times in July that he had received “a ton of interest” from retailers.

Another prospective location sits on Main Street, between Ralph’s Vacuum and Sewing Center and Angelicas Bistro.  Dubbed “851 Main Street,” the proposed four-story development would offer nearly 79,000 square feet of office space and close to 7,000 square feet for retail and parking for 246 vehicles.

More retail space – even if filled by competitors – would be a welcome sight to Elizabeth Strumpell, owner of downtown linen and gift store Pomegranate Seeds.

“We would love more competition, we would love more people here, we would love just to have more retailers on the street,” Strumpell says.

Like Kolkka, a member of the coming retail task force who describes herself as “way-pro-Redwood City,” Strumpell is high on the community.  She wishes the city government would do more to attract retail stores because, she says, “Redwood City’s a great spot.  I really like the town.  I like the people.  I like the feel.  I think (the city government) has done a really nice job of balancing the residential and the office space component of things.  I think it’s a nice, growing community, and kind of the heart of the Silicon Valley.”

When it comes to the importance of a vibrant downtown, Ralston gets it.

“The downtown is really the heart of the community,” she says.  “I like to refer to it as the living room of the community.  It’s the spot where the community can come together and gather for special events and occasions and fun things to do.  And so when you have a lively downtown, it becomes that part of your home … a great, thriving downtown increases property values, and it becomes a quality-of-life piece for the entire community.”

As Staudt says, there’s no doubt the downtown district has traded “Deadwood” for “Redwood.”  The new residents and employees have helped turn the area into a throbbing hub of dining and entertainment.  To turn “Field of Dreams” on its head, the people have come.  Now the question remains:  Will the retail shops follow?

Vote for the Best of Redwood City

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Voting is now live for the the 2018 Climate Best Awards! Thanks to the nominations of our readers, we have more than 180 nominees in more than 40 categories, all representing the best Redwood City has to offer. Voting will end April 18, and winners will be announced at the first-ever Climate Best Awards Bash on April 26. The Climate Best Awards Bash will be held at Angelicas (nominated in several categories) and will feature eats, drinks, local entertainment and a chance to toast the 2018 winners.

Please vote here.




Museum to host 13th Annual Maritime Day

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The San Mateo County Museum is set to hold the 13th Annual Maritime Day highlighting the Charles Parsons’ Ships of the World exhibit on April 28.

The free event, set to run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2200 Broadway, features 24 model ships handcrafted by expert model maker Charles Parsons.

Children are invited to design their own model ships, make old-time cargo, create miniature lighthouses and learn about knot tying. This year’s Maritime Day is being organized in conjunction with the San Mateo County STEAM festival.

For more information about the event please visit here or call 650-299-0104.

The perfect springtime dessert: Eton mess

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By Emily Mangini

I don’t remember the first time I learned of Eton Mess, a simple yet refined dessert of soft whipped cream dotted with shards of crushed meringues and juicy, ripe strawberries. What I do remember is thinking, “Ooh, I bet there’s a good story behind this dessert.”

It turns out I was wrong. My research quite sadly revealed that there’s no real story behind Eton Mess. There is plenty of lore—including one story that has the dessert created when a golden retriever sat on, and ruined, a strawberry pavlova. This tale has since been discredited which makes sense; after all, who would really eat something after it has been sat on by a dog?

The only real background information I was able to gather was that it dates back to 1893, was made popular at the British all-boys school, Eton College, and is the traditional dessert served at the cricket match between Eton College and Harrow School. For someone who loves food history, that’s not the most exciting of tales.

Even without a cool back story, there is much to love about Eton Mess. In addition to be being creamy, crunchy and fruity all at once, it is one of the easiest desserts to pull together. And, despite its sloppy name, it presents beautifully.

The first step to Eton Mess is to crush meringue cookies. While I made the meringue cookies from scratch, this is definitely not a requirement, as even I will admit the Trader Joe’s variety is lovely. Whether they’re store bought or handmade, grab ‘em and crush ‘em with your hands, leaving the crumbles and shards haphazard and varied in size—this will guarantee a nice texture.

Next, whip your whipped cream. This is the only step I insist you make from scratch. Making whipped cream by hand is essential here (and really, always) because 1) whipped cream from a can is gross and 2) you want the cream to be lighter and softer than the ready-made stuff. Last but not least, chop up the ripe strawberries and mix them with a little sugar and lemon juice. Blend all three components together and voilà, you’ve got Eton Mess.

Now it’s time for the presentation. Take your whipped cream with crunchy bits of meringue and juicy bites of strawberries both hidden and poking out from its silky peaks, and gently spoon into serving cups. Adorn with a mint leaf, and there you have it: a perfectly elegant, but totally not fussy dessert ready to be served and wow your guests.

Other versions of Eton Mess suggest that you can mix up the fruit, making this an even more versatile dessert. Simply put, back story or no back story, this dessert is the perfect way to start celebrating the fruits of the season. Bon appétit!

Eton Mess Recipe

By Nigela Lawson

This is one of those the desserts that it’s okay to “wing it” with the measurements.  It  just depends on how many you intend to serve, how big your serving dishes are, and how crunchy or fruity you want the end result to be. For those who find that idea more daunting than freeing, start off with this recipe, courtesy of Nigela Lawson.


  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate or lemon juice
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 packet individual meringue nests*


Hull and chop the strawberries and put into a bowl and add the sugar and pomegranate juice and leave to macerate while you whip the cream.

Whip the cream in a large bowl until thick but still soft. Roughly crumble in four of the meringues nests. You will need chunks for texture as well as a little fine dust.

Take out about half a cupful of the chopped strawberries and fold the meringue cream and rest of the fruit mixture together.

Arrange on four serving plates or glasses or in a mound, and top each with some of the remaining macerated strawberries.

*This is British-speak for meringue cookies.


Public-private partners try to bridge the school funding “G a p”

in Community/Education/Featured/Headline by

By Bill Shilstone

A dedicated band of public education advocates in the Redwood City Education Foundation used to just roll up their sleeves and do all the hard work to raise extra dollars for the schools. Now they have switched to a more strategic approach to assault the rich-poor inequities of the state’s property-tax-based school funding formula that is so disadvantageous to the Redwood City district.

Foundation leaders call it “The Gap,” a $1,200 shortfall between what the state formula provides and the actual annual cost of educating a student in the Redwood City district. For comparison, the neighboring Woodside Elementary District is allowed almost double the $9,420 the Redwood City district receives.

To date, the contributions of the 35-year-old foundation have been modest, but it is raising its sights — and goals — with several new initiatives aimed at building community support and attracting serious corporate Silicon Valley money. In the past two years, the board size has doubled, from eight to 15. The foundation hired its first executive director and set a goal of doubling its revenue this year, to $1 million. That’s quite a leap from the $300,000 given to the district for the 2017-18 year.

Traditionally used for early-grade music instruction, foundation money now also pays for teacher training, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) instruction, and other class-size reduction measures such as instructional aides and small-group resource teachers. Funds are distributed equitably among the district’s 16 schools and used to meet needs identified by district Supt. John Baker, advised by individual site councils. Adding Baker to the board to help match money with need is part of the foundation’s new look.

“Teachers are trying to help students be all they can be. We gather resources to help them do that,” said Executive Director Kathleen Harris, who began her career as a middle school teacher in San Francisco and took the Redwood City job in June. “Schools can’t do it alone. Education foundations are about partnerships to protect a community asset. We make sure companies know what their responsibilities are. It might be science kits, or health education, or, through their employees who live here, volunteering and supporting tax and bond issues.”

Donors who are answering the call include the Redwood City developer Jay Paul Company ($100,000 per year for five years) and Stanford University, which is building a 2,700-employee campus on the former Ampex Corp. site. The Paul and Stanford donations, the largest the foundation gets, pay for the new executive director.

“Supporting education in Redwood City was a priority for both Stanford and the city,” said Steve Elliott, managing director for development at Stanford who negotiated the university’s project application. “So among other benefits, we committed to making a $50,000 contribution to RCEF for five years.”

Bristol-Myers Squibb wants to develop scientists, Harris said, so in addition to giving $35,000, it conducted training for teachers on how to coordinate math and science. Oracle gave $25,000 and wants teachers and their students to understand technology.

Google won this year’s Redwood City-San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce Golden Apple award for contributions to Redwood City education ($45,000). In accepting the award, Google’s Rebecca Prozan noted that the company “wants to build creators, not just consumers.”

Some of the other donors and their level of giving in 2017: above $10,000 – Premia Capital, Edward Jones Investments, the City of Redwood City Cultural Commission and the Scandling Family Foundation. Above $5,000: Blue Oak Foundation. Total contributions from board members were $64,000. Total giving in 2017 was over $200,000.

It’s not all big-bucks donations. One Redwood City resident gives a small amount from each paycheck to the foundation. “I give because I know the district is underfunded by the state and cannot provide all the learning opportunities children need,” she said.

“There are thousands of ways to support schools,” Harris said. “That way is meaningful for her. We ask businesses what is meaningful to them. ”

Some foundations, including the Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation ($750,000 this year) and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative ($250,000), give independently of the RCEF, but Harris hopes to coordinate the effort. “Foundations can benefit from feedback we can provide on what is happening to their money and what the results are. We can coordinate goals – that’s community building.”

Harris had 20 years of community building before she came to Redwood City, most recently in Oakland advocating for children in vulnerable populations as CEO of the Youth Ventures Joint Powers Authority, and in Chicago with the Urban League and in the school system’s principal certification program. In Chicago she encountered another community organizer, the pre-presidential Barack Obama. “We raised $50,000 for him at a house party,” she said. “That’s one plate today.”

Before her experience in Chicago, Harris formed her own nonprofit organization in San Francisco that recruited and eventually placed 1,000 minority teachers in classrooms in 34 cities nationwide, “clearing barriers and creating pathways.” Similarly, she said, she was attracted to Redwood City “because I saw potential for applying the resources of the community to create pathways to better opportunities for kids.”

One barrier in that quest, she said, is competing for the community’s attention with myriad communication sources. The foundation’s strategy is a continuing series of small-group talks, including Fireside Chats with Baker, outlining what schools need. There will be a breakfast March 8 for people who want to get involved, with Prozan of Google moderating a discussion with Baker and Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain. Anyone interested is invited to email Harris or board President Marilyn Ezrin (

“We’re not trying to tap parents for money, we just want to get them involved,” Ezrin said. She has a master’s degree in social work and is the parent of a student at North Star Academy, which, she said, has a “give-back focus” that produces many RCEF volunteers. “I got involved because I was able to create positive change at my own children’s schools and I wanted to be able to have a positive impact on the community as a whole.” Many of the other board members, a diverse group offering a variety of skills and experience, echo her commitment.

The newest member, Giselle Hale, is a city planning commissioner and a marketing director at Facebook. She hosted an event in February aimed at young families that drew 50 participants. “I believe in early investment, which is why I got involved years before my own daughters, ages 4 and 18 months, will attend.”

The longest-serving member is Jason Galisatus, a Stanford employee who is a product of district schools. “I joined the board my senior year at Stanford because I wanted all students in the district to have the same opportunities that helped get me where I am.”

The vice-president is Whitney Glockner Black, a Roosevelt parent who works for ZScaler, an internet security firm. “We were able to transition from a ‘roll up your sleeves’ volunteer board to one that guides the fundraising, policy and strategy for the organization.”

Eric Takaha, retired from Franklin Templeton Investments and a parent of high school and college-age children, joined in 2016 as treasurer. “It seemed to be a great fit for me.”

Others with finance backgrounds are Connie Guerrero, also a planning commissioner, and Ed Yee of Oracle, a North Star parent.

Board members Gabriel Swank and Leslie Stafford work in marketing. The foundation had advertised for a fundraising race director on, and Swank, who had experience in the field, first got involved by answering the ad. The foundation conducts two fundraiser races each year. Stafford is president of SEPTAR, an organization dedicated to children with special learning needs.

Colleen Wilson, with children at North Star and Roy Cloud, is head of corporate communications at the biotech company Actelion. “I brought my passion for education into my professional life by developing corporate partnerships with public school districts, and I’ve seen how those programs can create opportunities for students.”

Shannon Petrello is director of grants and marketing for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula.

Michele Harkov, a district parent of three and an agent for Alain Pinel, has conducted “coffee talks” for 80 realtors “to help them better understand our schools so that they can educate their clients looking to buy on the Peninsula.”

Jeannie Karl is a North Star parent who works for Genentech.

Mike Wells, a Google engineer and parent of daughters at Kennedy and Adelante, joined last year because “I wanted to help make an impact across all schools, and I liked the direction the organization is heading, including the hiring of the new executive director.”

Ezrin’s summation: “We’re a small nonprofit start-up with one paid employee, — but we have lofty goals.”

STEAM Fest on the Square coming to Redwood City

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Redwood City’s Courthouse Square is known for hosting family friendly festivals throughout the year, and this April is no different.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 28, the Redwood City Library is hosting STEAM Fest on the Square featuring over 50 hands-on activities exploring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The festival aims to inspire San Mateo County’s diverse youth to see themselves as scientist, artists, creators and inventors.

For transportation information, general festival information or event FAQS please visit here.

Dragon Theatre to celebrate Irish women at Women’s History Month event

in A&E/Community/Featured/Headline by

In celebration of Women’s History Month and St. Patrick’s Day, Dragon Theatre at 2120 Broadway is set to host live music and readings honoring Irish Stories by and about exceptional Irish women on March 23.

Nattergalen: The Legacy of Bold Grace will feature local Bay Area talent, including voice actors reading classic and popular short stories accompanied by live music. The event will start at 10:30 p.m.

Admission is $17 in advance or $20 at the door and each ticket includes one beverage. This event is ages 21 and over.

For advanced tickets visit here.

Photo courtesy of Dragon Theatre

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