Column: Baking news: Claremont club crafts cake for columnist

A speaking engagement on my birthday was accepted with misgivings, but the University Club treated me right: with a treat, namely, a cake. That kicks off Friday’s column. Under an equal-time statute, an item is given to the Claremont Pie Festival. Then there’s a Culture Corner and a Valley Vignette about an Upland figure.

Above, club member Anne Sonner, who baked the cake, poses with me after Al McCombs of the Chino Champion, another club member, found the cake’s headline free of typographical errors, if perhaps not free of hyperbole. Below, details of the award remain maddeningly vague.

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Restaurant of the Week: Min’s Dumpling House, Rancho Cucamonga

Min’s Dumpling House, 9789 Baseline Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily

There are Min’s Dumpling House locations in Chino, Corona and Rancho Cucamonga, the latter of which I tried out recently at lunchtime with two librarian friends. It’s in the 99 Ranch center, home to another Chinese restaurant, a Korean restaurant and a boba shop.

Min’s is on the small side, but brightened by sunlight, art, carved screens and other decor, and the seating is spaced apart, giving everyone some elbow room. Its menu is on the large side, with 156 items: rice dishes, dim sum, soups, seafood, hot pot and more, including 15 vegetable-only dishes. The specialty is cuisine from the Hunan province. Many dishes are spicy, but they’re marked as such on the menu and we stayed away.

We ordered six items: pork dumplings (item 1, $7); BBQ pork buns (item 5, $6); shrimp and pork dumplings (item 19, $9); sweet and pungent spare ribs (item 59, $11); Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce (item 123, $8); and vegetable fried rice (item 150, $7).

I was a big fan of the dumplings — the pork were soup dumplings, the shrimp and pork were simply filled — and the pork buns. Nothing wrong with the broccoli either. The others liked the spare ribs and rice the best.

Min’s is among Rancho Cucamonga’s best Chinese restaurants, and given that the menu has a couple of my favorite items, cumin lamb and beef roll, I’m sure I’ll be back.

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City of gracious book talks

Photo by Allison Evans

Last Wednesday evening I spoke at the Carnegie Building in Upland for what turned out to be one of my most successful events ever. There were 36 in the audience, according to one friend who counted. After speaking and reading for maybe 20 minutes, I took questions. And questions, and questions. Interesting, amusing, thoughtful questions, for a little more than an hour.

Usually, say at a service club talk, there’s only 20 or 30 minutes for questions, so to have a relatively open-ended discussion was rare. But even at that, no audience has ever had this many questions. There might have been a couple more if the librarian hadn’t wanted to wrap up. Because people seemed so interested, my answers tended to be full and reflective as I talked about books, writing, my journey to Ontario, council meetings and more.

One friend said afterward, “I’ve never seen an audience so engaged.” Thanks to everyone who turned out — including three Upland council members — for being there and being, sincerely, such a great audience. It was lucrative too: I sold 16 books.

Photo by Ann Lara

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Column: After 20 years of questions, finally, some answers

Friday marks 20 years for yours truly at the Daily Bulletin (huzzah!), and my column is about the milestone. Rather than reflect on two decades, I did something I’ve considered doing for a slow day for years: I compiled a FAQ about me and my job. Hope you find it of interest, and thanks for reading me for whatever portion of my 20 years you’ve followed by work. Even if it’s just since, say, Wednesday, it’s appreciated.

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Restaurant of the Week: Thai Original BBQ

Thai Original BBQ, 2911 Chino Ave. (at Peyton), Chino Hills; open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ah, the food of Thailand. With Chinese food on the rise thanks to a wave of immigrants, Thai cuisine is kind of waning, it seems to me, aside from Pok Pok and Jitlada in L.A.

Thai Original BBQ has been in the Rolling Ridge Plaza for some years, so it’s nothing new either. But a Thai-shy friend had tried it out, liked it and suggested meeting there for dinner.

There’s a fish tank as you walk in and the walls have a lot of tourist posters, not to mention portraits of the Thai royal family (RIP). You get the sense that the owners haven’t redecorated in a while, but the look is comfortable and lived-in. So was our sagging banquette.

We examined the menu closely. It has the standards in pork, chicken, beef, noodles and rice dishes, but with more emphasis on seafood than is often seen.

I got the mixed pad Thai with chicken, pork, shrimp and tofu ($10 for the basic, probably a couple of bucks more for this version), which was solid and unspectacular.

My friend had the crab cakes, which appear on the menu as “Dearest Crab” (!), two fried crab cakes the size of baseballs with crab, pork, mushrooms and onion, served atop shrimp fried rice ($13). We liked it. If you’re married and eating there, call your spouse “dearest crab” at your own risk.

Service was attentive. Overall, this was a pleasant, old-school Thai experience but an unexceptional one. The restaurant is part of a small chain founded in 1978 that has locations in LA, Fullerton and Cerritos.

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Ontario among ’30 Best Neighborhoods in America’

The blog of CarRentals.com chose the “30 Best Neighborhoods in America” — among them: The Woodlands, Texas; Minnetonka, Minnesota; Beaverton, Oregon; and Salem, Massachusetts — and Ontario was among them. The city is described as being in the Riverside Metro area rather than a suburb of LA. Here’s what the blog says in full, under a photo of the Improv stage:

The Inland Empire of Southern California is loaded with cheeky towns that are perfect for weekend getaways. One such town is Ontario, where the Chaffey Community Museum of Art will invigorate your passion for fine paintings. After talking in hushed tones at the art gallery, enjoy side-splitting laughs at the Improv Comedy Club. Who knows, you might just witness the next Eddie Murphy take the stage.

Perhaps not how many of us would think of Ontario, but it’s always interesting to see ourselves as others see us. Still: “cheeky”?

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