About David Allen

A journalist since 1987, David Allen has been writing a column for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin since 1997 and blogging since 2007. He's a native of Illinois and lives in Claremont. Otherwise his commute to Ontario would take days. E-mail David here. Read recent columns here

‘Too bready’: Restaurant of the Week descriptions

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Rather than give you a Restaurant of the Week right before a holiday weekend, here’s something Restaurant of the Week-related that I’ve meant to share for weeks now.

My friend Pam Arterburn gave me a silly but thoughtful homemade gift back in March for my birthday: She power-read her way through all my past restaurant blog posts and compiled her favorite descriptions or observations into a poster. Ha ha! (Click on the image for a larger view.)

You can judge for yourselves what the phrases add up to, but she said she was struck by how low-key and middle of the road they were, and so was I. With a couple of bolder exceptions (“excellent,” “amazing”) they stake out very modest territory. What can I say, I don’t feel qualified to write these restaurant posts anyway, so why go out on a limb?

Before you ask, she placed Bieber stickers on the poster because I’m a superstar. Obviously.

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Reading Log: June 2014

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Books acquired: none.

Books read: “All the President’s Men,” “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; “President Fu Manchu,” Sax Rohmer.

“Doonesbury” repeats this spring reminded me that Nixon resigned 40 years ago this August, and that made me think this would be a good summer to read the two Watergate books on my shelves. So I did.

I really liked “President’s Men,” which was published in early 1974. Told in the second person, it follows the two reporters as they chase leads, hit brick walls, knock on doors, meet a source in a parking garage and occasionally flub a story. These were two intrepid guys, and they were far more dedicated than I am, or any reporter I’ve ever known. Another thing I learned: Woodward was a registered Republican. Rather than trying to bring down a president, he and Bernstein were both shocked and disturbed that the trail of Watergate led as high as it did.

With that finished, did I want to read the 500-page “Final Days,” an inside look at the last months of Nixon’s presidency? I thought I’d read it a while and see. Well, I thought it was fascinating, and there was no question of not finishing it. In this one, private meetings and conversations are quoted as if they’re unfolding in front of us, reconstructed either by interviews with the participants or with people they shared their version of events with. It’s a neat trick that allows for privacy-invading scenes like Nixon forcing Kissinger to pray with him, and if asked Kissinger could plead that he wasn’t one of the direct sources.

Normally I’d say these sort of books aren’t my thing, but the subject was one that has always held an interest for me because Watergate occurred on the edge of my consciousness, being 9 and 10 at the time, and I was glad to finally know more about it. (I’m likely to write a column about it in August.)

Obviously I read “President Fu Manchu” the same month as something of a joke. But it legitimately was the next book in the series; I’d left off with book 7 a couple of years ago and I was overdue for book 8. In this one, the only volume set in America, the evil genius (and here I’m referring to Fu Manchu, not Richard Nixon) is pulling the strings of a populist candidate for president who would institute a dictatorship. Online sources say the 1936 novel pulls from real events involving Huey Long and Father Coughlin. So that’s neat, although the novel is otherwise the least distinguished so far.

One weird side-note: Fu has a lair reachable by a river tunnel under New York’s Chinatown, and the hidden entrance is referred to as his “water-gate.” You can’t make this stuff up.

I don’t recall where I got any of these three books, although I’ve had “Final Days” for maybe 10 years, picked up “President’s” maybe five years ago, and “President Fu” around the same time, all used.

What were you reading in June? Speak a little louder, I’m not sure my secret taping system is picking you up.

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Wussy!

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Above, from left, Joe Klug, Lisa Walker, Chuck Cleaver and Mark Messerly; off-camera, John Erhardt.

This has nothing to do with the Inland Valley, but it’s a chance to put in a plug for my favorite band, Cincinnati’s Wussy. They say they’re “bridging the gap between The Band and Sonic Youth,” and the band X is another point of comparison. Two friends and I saw them at the Silverlake Lounge on Friday night and we stood just feet away. What a thrill.

Also, I ran into co-lead singer Chuck Cleaver on the sidewalk before the show and he signed one of my CDs, took it into the tour van for everyone else to sign, and posed with me for a photo (see below). Try getting U2 to do any of that.

The sound’s not so hot, but I recorded two short videos on my phone: “Maglite” and “Yellow Cotton Dress.” Of course, Maglite flashlights are made in Ontario, so there’s your local connection if you need one.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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Column: Mandolins, muffins: Just another day in Claremont

Friday’s column is partly about a “Good Day L.A.” segment Tuesday on the Claremont Village that was charming, if a little overdone. You might get more sugar shock from the coverage than from Some Crust. After that: news items from Upland and the cultural scene, and a promo for this blog. If you’ve read my blog this week, my summary of the biggest news is kind of an inside joke for your benefit.

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Restaurant of the Week: Bardot

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Bardot, 206 W. Bonita Ave. (at Harvard), Claremont

For 21 years the corner of Bonita and Harvard was home to Harvard Square Cafe, perhaps the quintessential Claremont restaurant: largely outdoors, urbane, cozy and slightly boring. But the cafe closed in 2012 and after extensive renovations, interrupted by weeks or months when nothing appeared to be happening, its replacement, Bardot, opened in March.

Co-owner is Alain Fournier, who founded Harvard Square before leaving it to other hands in 1995 and opening Caffe Allegro. Bardot is updated with a more modern look: more white, more light. The interior has a bar as its centerpiece. (Longtime residents, by the way, will remember the distinctive brick building as the Village Theater.)

As with Harvard Square, the patio — now shaded by a canopy — seems to be the spot, especially if you want to be one of Claremont’s beautiful people, the envy of anyone walking or driving past. A friend and I had dinner there recently and chose the patio.

Bardot’s menu has small plates, salads, sandwiches and a few entrees; it’s described as French fusion, but there are only a few French dishes, perhaps because even Claremont can’t support an outright French restaurant. Main courses range from $14 to $38. There’s also wine, 16 beers in bottles or on tap, and a selection of cocktails.

We stuck to the lower end of the food spectrum with $14 entrees: My friend had the croque monsieur sandwich with tomato bisque soup, I had the portobello sandwich with fries (both pictured below), and we liked them both. She had a Pomona Queen beer ($7), I had a refreshing water (free).

Judgment: We liked the place, and the food was fine, although we weren’t blown away.

Two minor but noticeable downsides: The overhead misters are overactive and practically enveloped my friend in a cloud of spray. (See photo at bottom, shot on a different evening, for an example. When we ate, the misters ran until about 7 p.m., kind of late given the mild temperatures.) Also, the chairs are a couple of inches lower than the bench seating around the perimeter, and consequently the table was a couple of inches too high for comfort for me.

Overall, though, the patio ambience is so pleasant that as long as the food and service are acceptable, which they were, Bardot was worth the splurge. “It’s so nice out here,” my friend said contentedly, and I had to agree. I don’t know if any passersby or motorists envied us, but I like to think they did.

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Coming soon: ‘Pomona A to Z,’ the book

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For years, people have asked, “When are you going to do a book?” At last I have an answer: “On July 18.”

That’s the release date of “Pomona A to Z,” a collection of newspaper columns by yours truly from a decade back. Each of the 26 columns, published in 2004 and 2005, featured something unique or unusual in Pomona for each letter of the alphabet.

This book has been in the works for more than a year, but this is the first I’ve mentioned it. For one thing, I didn’t want to get my hopes up until the book was in my hands, i.e., real. Also, I’ve hesitated to beat the drum too hard by starting too early. Now that we’re close to a release date, though, it’s time you knew. (And note that you blog readers have the scoop before print readers.)

For your $20, you get the original 26 columns, and the photos, as well as a couple of related columns that rounded up the reaction. You also get introductions before each letter that update the original columns. There’s also a foreword by KPCC-FM host Steve Julian, a Pomona native, and an introduction by me. It’s a paperback, 244 pages.

All this and, at no extra charge, a dedication, front AND back covers and a copyright notice. Gosh!

Readings and signings will be announced as they’re set up, but I can tell you now that a release party is planned for the evening of July 18 in downtown Pomona (where else?). Mark your calendar.

In the meantime, here’s a press release, here’s the Amazon listing, here’s the Facebook page and here’s a blog post by Chris Nichols of LA Weekly. The publisher is Claremont-based Pelekinesis. The writer is a familiar name, but I can’t place him.

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