Restaurant of the Week: Mezzaterranean

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Mezzaterranean, 9491 Foothill Blvd. (at Malachite), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; closed Sundays

I learned about Mezzaterranean, the name being a clever mashup of Mediterranean and mezza, the Lebanese name for appetizers, from a friend’s Yelp reviews, and eventually got around to going once I figured out where it was, the Auto Zone center, which many of us would tend to think of as the Taco Hut center.

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Opened in 2014, it’s a small place, and packed during the lunch hour; on my first visit, at noon, a friend and I had to sit at the makeshift counter as all 25 or so seats were taken. On a second visit, around 2 p.m. (on a different day, just to be clear), I got the only indoor table that was free, although it did clear out over the next hour. It’s a popular place, with many getting take-out besides the dine-in orders.

You order at the counter, from a menu with hot and cold mezza, soups and salads, sandwiches and plates. The open kitchen is right behind, a hive of activity. That first visit, I had a lamb kebab plate ($12) and my friend ordered a beef shawarma sandwich ($7).

The place was crazy busy and our orders seemed to get misplaced; eventually someone noticed we hadn’t gotten our food, asked what we’d ordered and made it, upgrading my friend to a plate and giving us free baklava ($1), which was very good. And so was the food.

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I went back a few weeks later and ordered the soujuk sandwich ($7, below), a spicy beef sausage on a pita with pickles, tomatoes, hummus and sauce. I’d never tried that, and it was okay, but I should have gotten fries or rice or something on the side.

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On a third visit, I tried the chicken shawarma fries ($8-ish), at a friend’s recommendation, and those were really good too.

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I like Mezzaterranean, although I might give the edge to Zait Bistro, elsewhere in town, for Rancho Mediterranean — which wouldn’t be a bad name for a city.

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Column: His 2,400 CDs get another spin — over 10 years

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A few weeks ago I completed a personal project: to play all my compact discs again. It took 10 years. I write about that in Wednesday’s column. Above: half of my collection; another two bookcases stand on the other side of my stereo.

You might wonder after reading this column — you will read it, won’t you? — what happens next. For starters, all the CDs I’ve pulled have been saved atop my bookcases until my project was done. Now I can trade or sell them. Also, playing my CDs again will be something of a lifelong project, I think, in that I will continually have to pull more to trade/sell if I’m going to keep buying new ones, shelf space being finite. But I’m unlikely to start listening to them again from the beginning.

I didn’t have room to get into this either, but there’s the matter of whether some of these CDs that I’m keeping will ever be played again, and if not, was keeping them a futile act? That’s a tough one. What I can say is that since 2006, every CD I own has been played once. Can you say the same about yours?

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Smudging the citrus groves

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People who grew up here into the 1960s can recall or maybe took part in the wintertime ritual known as smudging. If temperatures dropped to freezing, a citrus crop might be ruined, and thus orchard heaters were put out in the groves and lighted to generate artificial heat. In a sense, they were the forerunners of the heaters used on restaurant patios, except these burned oil and created a blanket of haze.

It was a process that might last all night, as heaters were set out, lighted, checked, refilled or relighted. On the Rancho Cucamonga History page on Facebook, Jane Vath O’Connell recently penned a reminiscence of those days, which she invited me to share.

I remember the frosty nights in Alta Loma when my family would sit around the radio and listen to the ‘frost reports’. In every rancher’s kitchen it would be the same sight. If they predicted a freeze, my brothers would call their Alta Loma High School friends. Time to go to bed. Mom & I would stay up to check the grove thermometers. When it got to 29* we would wake my dad and brothers. My brothers would call their friends and there would be a commotion in the house while they assembled and I would drift off to sleep with the sound of the wind machines used to keep the air flowing through the groves. Throughout the night, I would hear the guys as they came back to the house to get food or hot drinks to get them through the night.

The next morning, when I got up for school, there would be a thick, black haze in the air and my brothers would be allowed to sleep in. Half the boys in Alta Loma High School would be absent and that’s just the way it was in this farming community. Dad was making breakfast for me, not having slept at all. He had to go to work but would first stop by Growers Service on Baseline and Hellman to order more smudge oil. I would go with dad sometimes and always enjoyed jumping off the loading dock amid the smell of smudge oil.

I’ve heard many stories of how those long, cold nights turned many boys into men. As did many ranchers, my father had a ‘day job’. He would come home after work that day and try to catch some sleep as the whole process started again.

Thanks, Jane. One aspect of her story that I hadn’t understood before, but which makes perfect sense, was that for many, farming was a sideline, probably because citrus isn’t a year-round crop. You might tend your grove, even all night when it was freezing, and then go to your real job.

Does anyone have memories to share of that era?

Photos are courtesy of Jane Vath O’Connell

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Remembering Torley’s Market

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Photo courtesy Ontario Library Model Colony History Room

Torley’s was a classic Ontario grocery, located at 416 E. A St., later known as Holt Avenue. According to the city of Ontario’s Facebook page, which has been posting historical photos for the city’s 125th anniversary, Torley’s Big Store opened in 1930.

On Dec. 31, 1935, a fire damaged the building so severely that the remainder was pulled down. The rebuilt structure was larger but did not have the original’s high tower, probably because ostentation didn’t become the depths of the Depression. Says the FB writeup: “Torley’s Big Store appears to be Ontario’s first ‘big box’ retail store.”

Torley’s is often spoken of by longtime residents, along with King Cole and Boney’s, two other locally owned markets. Alas, Torley’s closed its doors for good in 1976 and the building is long gone.

Do you remember Torley’s? What was it like? What did it sell?

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Column: For your reference, RC librarian leaves

Sunday’s column starts with news from Rancho Cucamonga, from the departure of its top librarian for Pasadena to development items and more. Then come five Culture Corner items, one of which involves an Ontario concert with which I’m participating, plus a Valley Vignette.

As a behind-the-scenes tidbit, some of these RC items, just as with some of the Chino Hills items Friday, were written weeks or even months ago. This is a year-end move to take some material that has been bumped from previous columns, or saved for future use, and clear it out.

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Restaurant of the Week: B & F Japanese

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B & F Japanese Restaurant, 3495 E. Concours St. (at Haven), Ontario; open for lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner only Saturdays and closed Sundays.

B & F is in a plaza off Fourth and Haven not far from our office, and a colleague had said something nice about it recently. When a friend who once lived in Japan wanted to meet for lunch, I suggested B & F.

The plaza is less visible than before due to the apartments that went up on the southwest corner — it used to be visible from Fourth — but then again, the center suddenly has a few hundred neighbors instead of an empty lot, and that’s gotta be good for business.

The restaurant is medium-sized, sushi bar off to the right, dining room to the left. We sat in the dining room. All the tables have heating elements on the top and range hoods overhead, and they seem like holdovers from a previous restaurant, as nothing on the menu looks like anything you would need to cook yourself, unless you decide your sushi is too raw.

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We got bento box lunches: sashimi and salmon teriyaki for him (top), nigiri sushi and garlic pork shogo yaki for me (above; $10 each). They came with small salads, fried tofu, a scoop of potato salad that was more like mashed potatoes, and orange segments, with a bowl of rice on the side and a bowl of miso soup to start.

What we had was acceptable, but nothing special, and it didn’t live up to the current four-star Yelp rating. The fish was sliced a little thin and wasn’t outstanding. That’s not to say something else on the menu might not be very good; people on Yelp rave about the amount of fish in the chirashi bowl.

The service was attentive and friendly. The restaurant doesn’t seem to be Japanese-run, which didn’t bother me or my friend, but might bother you. So, an okay spot, but unremarkable. You could get sushi just as good or maybe a little better down the street at Benihana.

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Column: Stone rolls into Upland as first woman mayor

Incoming Upland Mayor, Debbie Stone during the oath of office ceremony at the Upland City Council meeting, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Eric Reed/For The Bulletin/SCNG)

Incoming Upland Mayor, Debbie Stone during the oath of office ceremony at the Upland City Council meeting, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Eric Reed/For The Bulletin/SCNG)

Wednesday’s column is a report from Monday night’s Upland City Council meeting, in which Debbie Stone became the city’s first woman mayor and Janice Elliott’s swearing-in as a councilwoman gave the council a female majority.

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The nighttime parade with Larry Wilmore

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The host of the former Comedy Central talk show “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” was grand marshal of Saturday’s Christmas parade in his hometown of Pomona.

Beforehand he was kept busy as people introduced themselves and asked him to pose for photos. I have to say, people’s photo-taking skills are rather poor, or maybe their celebrity-inconveniencing skills are high; Wilmore would freeze with a smile, arms around a fan or two, and whoever was taking a photo would act like they had all night, opening up their app, touching the screen, etc. One woman who looked as if she were going to take a picture stopped to take a call instead. “Phones are supposed to be faster than cameras,” Wilmore joked at one point. But he was a good sport about it all.

Because I’m not a pushy person, I never actually got to meet him, waiting a couple of times and giving up. (The fans were largely African-American and I felt like it probably meant more to them to meet him, even though I had interviewed him by phone in October.)

After the parade, he was walking away not far from me and I called out “Mr. Wilmore!,” but not with enough force for him to hear me. I decided, oh well. A few minutes later, talking to a friend at the Kiwanis food booth, the man suddenly said, “Bye, Larry,” as Wilmore had walked by behind me to get to his car. It obviously was not meant to be.

I did have the satisfaction later of Wilmore “liking” one of my tweets — so there’s that.

I was in the parade myself, riding in a 1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup driven by its proud owner, Terry Hoefler, as we made the circuit of Second Street, Park Avenue, Mission Boulevard and, briefly Garey Avenue. It’s fun being in a parade: Everyone’s in a good mood, smiling and happy. They wave at you, or will wave back if you wave and make eye contact.

Hoefler was impressed that so many people shouted my name, especially children, and asked if I were a teacher. Heh. I chalk most of it up to my name (“David Allen”) being on signs on both sides of the car. Reading comprehension among Pomona’s youth is outstanding, and my compliments to the Pomona Unified School District. To those who actually did know who I am, my thanks.

And merry Christmas.

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‘Getting Started’ is coming

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Since reader DebB asked, and people who’ve seen the change in my Twitter avatar have noticed, my second book is coming soon. Above is a promotional piece. The book collects the best of my first four years of Daily Bulletin columns, from 1997 to 2000. No, my best isn’t seven pages, but a generous 315. “Getting Started” may not come out precisely on Jan. 15, which is a Sunday, but look for news of a book launch somewhere to be determined.

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