Column: Jack Smith didn’t win a Pulitzer, only a ‘Pullet Surprise’

A short tribute to the late Times columnist Jack Smith and his book “How to Win a Pullet Surprise” begins Sunday’s column, followed by a bunch of Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette.

The Smith item, by the way, wasn’t especially premeditated; I cranked it out one afternoon a couple of weeks ago in some spare time and set it aside for when I needed something to fill space. It came in handy to lead off a column at the end of this busy week, and besides, it’s past time my admiration for Smith’s work was expressed at some length in print — not that it’s a secret to regular readers of this blog.

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Restaurant of the Week: Frary Dining Hall, Pomona College

Fray Dining Hall, Pomona College, 347 E. 6th St., Claremont; open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with afternoon breaks

I’ve made a slow circuit of the dining halls of the Claremont Colleges, hitting Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Scripps over the past few years. Since they’re open to the public, they’re fair game for a Restaurant of the Week.

The food at all the above is pretty good and varied too, with potentially more vegetarian and vegan options than many restaurants, thanks to the ethical, philosophical and gastronomic attitudes of the college population. And the chance to mix in a collegiate environment may be a nostalgic experience for post-collegians. The dining is almost certainly better than you remembered.

Pomona College’s Frary Hall (hours and menus here) is the granddaddy of the dining halls, opened as it was in 1929. I went there for lunch recently with two friends, one of them a colleges employee.

The environment is the best of the dining halls, a grand space with cream walls, dark wood and a soaring, arched ceiling. It’s the Hogwarts of the Inland Valley. (A Potter fan might really like a meal here.) And you get to see the “Prometheus” mural by Jose Clemente Orozco.

My friend said Frary has the worst food of all the colleges. And the choices that day did not inspire: not one but two nacho bars (if there was a difference, we failed to discern it), pizza and dim sum. Meanwhile, over at Pitzer, they were feasting on blackened pork loin with nectarine avocado salsa and broccoli.

We had nachos and dim sum, which consisted of vegetable spring rolls, pork siew mai, cha su bao and meatless Hoisin meatballs, with three dipping sauces.

It was all acceptable, and washed down with papaya mango iced tea. Dessert offerings consisted of cookies and fried cheesecake. I’ve seen soft serve, hand-scooped premium ice cream, brownies, pastries and more at other colleges. As the president might tweet about the photo below: “Sad!”

Still, for $14 for a visitor, the price for an all-you-can-eat buffet is all right, and the quality beats the inedible Hometown Buffet by a mile. But Frary might be due for an upgrade.

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Mr. Milk Bottle, Pomona

One of the silliest business signs in the Inland Valley is for Mr. Milk Bottle, an anthropomorphic container of milk outside a convenience store at 1533 Indian Hill Blvd. in Pomona.

The view above is looking south. That side is in decent shape, although the B is missing and the neon is long gone, just as it was when Charles Phoenix photographed it for his 1999 book “Cruising the Pomona Valley.” The paint was peeling like a bad sunburn when Phoenix visited, which is no longer the case.

“With bow tie, top hat and cane, this neon sign is dressed to a ‘T,'” Phoenix wrote, dating the business to “early 1960s.”

As the Waymarking site, which has a page on the sign, observes: “Mr. Milk Bottle advertises for a dairy/convenience store in Pomona, California. He holds a cane in one hand that is pointed at the store, and with his other hand he doffs his top hat to passersby.” I like a polite, friendly sign.

The other side of the sign is in worse shape, with almost every letter gone.

I was scrolling through microfilm of the Claremont Courier last spring when I spotted a Nov. 20, 1961 ad for the business, reproduced below. Mr. Milkbottle (ugh, I hate it as one word) seemed to specialize in milk, cream, half and half, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, ice cream and a few non-dairy items like bread, fruit punch and frozen pies (the better to go with ice cream). Click on the image for a larger view if desired.

Any former or current customers want to share a comment or memory?

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Column: Dining hall masterpiece provides food for thought

In writing last month about the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA show at Pomona College, I said I’d come back to the topic of the college’s celebrated “Prometheus” mural. At last, I do so in Sunday’s column, where you’ll learn how the first Mexican mural in the United States came to be painted in Claremont, what it’s about and what (tee-hee!) seems to be missing.

It’s a relief to have written this, by the way: My research started in March 2016 when I attended a talk on the mural and continued through the reading of two college-published art books, attendance at two events this fall around the PST show and interviews with several of those involved, all culminating in lunch in the dining hall earlier this month where I could see the mural. Whew!

Now I can finally get these books and notes off my desk. My only regret is that I forgot to make the dining hall my Restaurant of the Week — but maybe I’ll do that this week.

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Restaurant of the Week: Guadalajara Bakery

Guadalajara Bakery, 4727 Riverside Drive (at Yorba), Chino; open daily, 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

A friend who was making an informal survey of local panaderias scored Guadalajara Bakery fairly high. Two years later, this fact clicked in on a morning in which I had to drive to central Chino. So I headed to the Stater Bros. Plaza to find the bakery.

It’s a small place with three bakery cases. At mid-morning, I was the lone customer at that particular moment. I grabbed tongs and a tray and picked up six items. Cost: a mere $5.05. The nice woman behind the counter rounded the bill down to $5.

Unusually, some of the decor is vintage Coca-Cola items. The woman told me the bakery has been there 16 years. As I left, another customer entered.

Back at the office, I laid out the pan dulce expectantly. It turns out I’d picked a day when literally nobody was in the newsroom but me. So much for my heroic effort. Later an editor came in and had half a pastry. I ate a couple and took the rest home, polishing them off the next two mornings.

Not bad for five bucks.

My friend, it turned out upon a rereading of his recommendation, had said Guadalajara was essentially a solid middle-of-the-road panaderia, one to use as a baseline from which to judge ones worse and better. I don’t have a lot of experience with panaderias, so that’s good to know. I had found Guadalajara Bakery perfectly good but not amazing, which may mean my tastes are in line. But besides being good, it’s friendly. Also, according to Yelp, they have tamales.

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