A bet, a beating, and a basket: Mayor Liccardo’s San Jose-themed gifts to Pittsburgh’s mayor

By: Vaughn and Jordan

As many of you know, the Sharks didn’t bring home the Stanley Cup. (I know, I know–sorry to reopen the wound).  What you might not have known is that Bill Peduto, the Mayor of Pittsburg and our very own Mayor Sam Liccardo had a friendly bet riding on the series. First, the losing mayor had to take a picture in the opposing team’s jersey and post it to social media. (It’s too painful to repost here. We’re sorry. We just can’t do it). Second, the losing mayor would send a gift basket full of treats representing his city to the winning mayor.

 

If you missed Mayor Liccardo’s basket on social media, here it is:

Mayor Basket

Looks like a great assortment, but what IS all of that in there? And more importantly, WHY is it in there? And most importantly of all, what’s missing that should have been included?

 

Let’s take a closer look at the contents:

 

Schurra’s Fine Confections

Schurra’s has been in business on the Alameda for over 100 years providing fine confectionary treats to young and old alike.  A strong choice from the Mayor regardless of if he went with chocolates, brittle, or the delightful Beethoven Bon Bon’s (and why not, as readers know San Jose is home to the Beethoven Center).  See’s Candies might be the first shop people think of concerning Bay Area candies but do yourself a favor, skip the chaos and go to Schurra’s instead.

 

La Vic’s Orange Sauce

La Vic’s has become so synonymous with their oddly addicting and widely adored orange sauce that they proudly proclaim themselves as, “the home of the orange sauce” and after Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto polishes off the bottle of J. Lohr and the sixer of Gordon Biersch he too will undoubtedly fall in love with the delightful concoction.  While Liccardo can share the La Vic’s orange sauce he’ll never be able to tell about its ingredients.  La Vic’s, who claim that the sauce originated in their first restaurant near the SJSU campus, continues to keep the recipe secret to this day.  

 

Greenlee’s Bakery Best Cinnamon Bread

Liccardo continued his stroll a bit further down the Alameda to visit Greenlee’s Bakery and pick up a loaf of their nationally renowned cinnamon bread.  Greenlee’s has been baking in San Jose for over 90 years and thanks to QVC, Amazon, and Costco the delightfully tempting and aromatic bread has become available beyond the South Bay.  It’s unclear how Greenlee’s cinnamon bread earned the honor of being the best but take one bite and I’m sure you’ll agree.  

 

Gordon Biersch beer

Arguably, the most popular brewery in San Jose is the beloved Gordon Biersch brewery and bottling facility, opened in 1997 and designed by Dan Gordon himself. It’s state-of-the-art, uses San Jose water so you get a taste of San Jose in every sip, and offers fact-filled tours of the brewery throughout the week. Not to mention a few other secrets we’ve uncovered as well. A perfect addition to the basket; we can see Mayor Peduto pairing it with one of those Pittsburgh pierogis now…

 

Fruit cocktail

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: the familiar go-to serving of canned fruit from our childhoods has its origins here in fine city of San Jose. The first reference to delicious, syrupy pear, peach, cherry, and…whatever other chunks are in there being referred to as “fruit cocktail” was right here in San Jose in 1930. Ignore that this can is Raley’s brand; the original San Jose fruit cocktail was produced by Herbert Gray of San Jose’s Barron-Gray Packing Company. (Though the jury is out on this. For a rundown of the great “Fruit Cocktail Mystery” check out the online History San Jose exhibit).

J. Lohr wine

First of all, if you’re not having a sip of J. Lohr wine as you read this, stop right now and go pick some up. I’ll give you a few minutes…

Back? Okay good. And cheers.

 

J. Lohr Winery, established in 1974, has become a local favorite in a city not known for its fine wines. In 2013, it was named Tasting Panel Magazine’s Winery of the Year. It’s become so popular, the mayor’s basket wouldn’t have been complete without it. You can find their wine in most grocery stores around the city, as well as at the winery itself. (Which you should definitely plan to hit up for your next date night; check their events calendar to see when they have live music and special pairings/tastings).

 

Chiaramonte’s Sausage

We reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out Liccardo’s sausage of choice from Chiaramonte’s Deli & Sausages however aides declined to comment (ok, fine they didn’t even reply)*.  It doesn’t really matter if it was the Italian hot sausage or the Portuguese smoked sausage, we know regardless that Chiaramonte’s is San Jose’s go to for handmade sausages.  Contrasting the burgeoning La Vic’s, Chiaramonte’s has quietly remained a South Bay staple of sausage for over 100 years from its quaint deli just outside of Japantown.  Come for a taste of Sicily, stay for the cool collection of antiques and the beautiful vintage sign outside.  

*Mayor Liccardo responded to confirm that it was the spicy Italian sausage.  A fine choice indeed.

So what’s missing? While it poses shipping issues, Eggo waffles invented in San Jose in 1953 (and a LOVELY accompaniment to fruit cocktail, I might add) would be a critical addition to this basket. Also burnt almond cake from either Dick’s Bakery or Peters’ Bakery (don’t even get us started on THIS rivalry!) has become a food synonymous with the city. And, seeing that San Jose was the first commercial producer of broccoli, for good measure—and a pop of color—a nice heap of broccoli would top this whole basket off.

And perhaps a challenge to a rematch next year.

The Sarah Winchester Movie: A Former Winchester Tour Guide Weighs in on What Should be Included

Winchester_Mystery_House_(door_to_nowhere)

Will the Sarah Winchester movie be a hit? Or will it go…nowhere?

As many of you San Jose enthusiasts already are well aware, Helen Mirren is slated to play our beloved Sarah Winchester in a movie sometime in the next year. We’re already dying of curiosity to see what type of angle this movie takes.

So what should the movie include? We thought that the best person to ask is someone deeply familiar with the Winchester story, and the mansion itself. Cue our resident Winchester expert Brian, former Winchester Mystery House tour guide. Here are his thoughts on some ways Hollywood can maximize the story.

The earthquake
“If there’s one scene that I would love to see put to screen, it would be the 1906 earthquake. The mansion used to be considerably larger than it is now, and the most spectacular piece was the large, 7 story tower. Following the earthquake it was so damaged that it had to come down (and an entire wing of the mansion was sealed off to boot), but it’d be very slick to Hollywood that up. Add in the shrieking of angry spirits and so forth as the gigantic 7 story tower goes toppling down to the path below. And it should also probably explode.

In seriousness, though, it seems like the earthquake had a pretty profound effect on Sarah. She was trapped in an unfinished room for several hours, and while I’m not sure that she blamed the spirits for the earthquake, she definitely blamed them for her being stuck in that part of the mansion. She boarded it off (basically the entire front part of the mansion, aka the only part of the mansion that actually looks a little bit nice) and focused more on cheap, rapid, eternal building. That’s one of the reasons for the varied designs you see when you walk through the house. You have her initial, crazy stage where she’s trying all sorts of fun, kooky stuff (the secret passages, traps, and so forth). Then she gets to the, “Oh… wait… I’m rich…” portion, where she tries to make things look like a rich person’s home. Then the earthquake hits and suddenly she goes into the “clearly I’m not building fast enough” phase, where she just builds as cheap and fast as humanly possible.”

The supernatural

Meet Brian!

Meet Brian!

“If they’re going to go with the ghost angle, it might be fun to have the workers (who are supposed to be the current ongoing residents of the mansion, not Sarah) start developing their unnatural connection to the place. Like you could have one of them quit and move away, but the work crew continues to see him around the site. They could even telegraph him to make sure he’s not still around, but he’s just sort of left this permanent imprint. Or you could have them develop their own superstitions and paranoias about various portions of the house.

There was one spot in there that always freaked me out at the end of the day. When we would shut the lights off and begin to close up, there was a long hallway that had an intersection with another long hallway. No matter which way you looked: in front of you, behind you, to the left or to the right, the hallways stretched straight away into dark eternity. I HATED that part of the mansion. I can’t help but imagine that the workers would develop their own aversions, maybe particularly to the sealed off front part of the house.”

The Winchester rifle victims
“Another supernatural angle: what if the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchesters forgot how to be human, and so they started imitating the workers whose routines were predictable and constant? So the ghosts at the mansion today are actually the same ones Sarah was afraid of, only they behave like the workers they observed for so long.”

What do you think should be included in the movie?

San Jose – Where Beer and Baseball Met

GB25_Celebration_Glassware_Logo_2-color-page-001

It’s opening day and a great time to remember just how well baseball and beer go together.  In 1997 Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch were in dire need of space.  For nearly 2 decades Dan and Dean had been successfully brewing their Gordon Biersch beer out of a small restaurant facility in downtown Palo Alto but the pair was finally ready to hit the big leagues of bottling and distribution.  One problem, brewing and bottling mass quantities of beer takes a massive amount of space, something that was sorely lacking in Palo Alto.  Enter Mr October; Reggie Jackson.  By this point the hall of famer was enjoying retirement and his hobby of collecting classic cars, many of which were housed (along with 81a-MTfWWLL._SY355_an alleged mistress in a top floor penthouse as the tale goes) in a large warehouse facility on East Taylor and 9th just outside of Japantown in San Jose.  Fortunately for Dan and Dean, Reggie had found a new space for his vehicles in Monterey and was vacating the San Jose warehouse.  Gordon and Biersch snapped up the space (presumably without said mistress) and the South Bay’s largest brewery remains there to this day.

Fortunately for Mr October, if he’s missing his San Jose digs Gordon Biersch offers free tours of the brewery and bottling facility Monday through Thursday by appointment.  The tour is a fantastic way to learn more about the colorful history of Gordon Biersch (followers of 16th century German beer purity laws), the brewing process (Gordon Biersch uses San Jose water!), and the business of beer (Gordon Biersch restaurants are not actually owned by the brewery).  Check out the Gordon Biersch Brewery website to learn more and to schedule your group’s tour!

The Penultimate Frontier

DSC_9412    A long time ago, in a neighborhood actually very near, there existed a place where children’s imaginations could run wild like the mustangs and frolic in the memories of bygone eras.  No, I’m not talking about the Children’s Discovery Museum.  That’s still DSC_9472there.  You should maybe take the children in your life there sometime.  I’m also not talking about Happy Hollow.  That’s also still there.  In fact, not too long ago, it got a pretty great face lift.  Might want to put that on the to-do list also.  No, I’m talking about a little land of wonder called “Frontier Village”.  If you haven’t heard of it, and aren’t over the age of 35, don’t fret.  It left this Valley before you arrived.  And yet…something survived.

Frontier Village was first built in 1961, the brain child of Joe Zukin after he visited Disneyland, and decided San Jose also needed such an attraction.  It had gunfights and burro rides, and Congregation at Frontier villageeven a roller coaster.  What it didn’t seem to have, unfortunately, was enough visitors.  In 1980, after 19 years of operation, it sadly closed its gates to the children who had played there.  But as it happens, some of those children didn’t feel going along with that version of the story.  Shaughnessy McGehee was 16 when Frontier Village finally succumbed to the pace of life in the Valley, and missed the magic he felt there.  And so, DSC_9466when the park was parceled out and and sold at auction, he began what was to become a lifelong passion for collecting bits of it.  He managed to get miniature cars and toy horses and signs, and the things he couldn’t get, or couldn’t fit into his sizable backyard, he decided to recreate, on a more manageable scale.  And a very impressive collection it became.

But like the park itself, all good things must come to an end.  McGehee will be moving soon.  His collection may not be.  He can’t take it with him, and those to be the new owners of his house don’t share his love for this particular piece of history.  Thankfully, Great America and New Museum of Los Gatos have both agreed to take some pieces of his DSC_9427collection for their displays.  And Frontier Village will live on, at least a little longer.  Of course, if you would like to see it for yourself, there will also be an opportunity for that.  New Museum will be holding their first showing on Nov 7th 2015.  The exhibits taken by Great America will open some time later.  But the last viewing of these relics in their second home, the Final Frontier, as it were, will be an open house (really an open backyard) being held by the McGehees on DSC_9488Halloween, Oct. 31st 2015.  Come and experience this second-hand piece of San Jose history first-hand!

 

DSC_9462

Great Scott! San Jose has a Back to the Future Connection!

Century DomeBack to the Future Day may have come and gone however its celebration allowed us here at SearchlightSJ to go back to the past and find an interesting San Jose connection to the film.  The bonus features include commentary from Bob Gale, the Co-Creator of the trilogy.  In the commentary Gale describes the first public screening of the film in which movie-goers entered the theater not knowing what to expect and left not wanting the fun to end.  Steven Spielberg remarks that other than E.T. the first screening of Back to the Future was the greatest preview he had ever seen.  Where would such an enthusiastic and fun audience come from?  From San Jose of course!  In May of 1985 Back to the Future received its first test screening at the Century Domes Theater Complex off of Winchester (the dome has since been granted historic building status by the City of San Jose saving the now defunct theater from the wrecking ball).  The screening went so well that the release date was moved up from mid-August to July 3rd in order to capture larger summer audiences.  It also resulted in the removal of over 6 minutes of footage which are now available as bonus scenes in the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the trilogy.

One question remains unanswered surrounding the screening; what prompted the creators of Back to the Future to hold their first screening in San Jose and not at Universal?  Spielberg, with his South Bay ties, may have had familiarity with the dome which was completed in 1964, a year prior to his graduation from Saratoga High School.   Perhaps more importantly, the creators of Back to the Future wanted an initial screening to occur without the presence of studio executives to maintain creative control over the film.  Following the screening several minor tweaks were made before a formal screening at Universal Studios which included studio executive who gave their immediate approval of the film.  Regardless the reason of how the sneak peek ended up at the Century Domes it just goes to show that whether back to the future or back to the past, we can always bring it back around to San Jose.

Now and Then: The Ghosts of Roller Rinks, Restaurants, and Amusement Parks Past

A moose-themed arcade/restaurant.

An amusement park straight out of the Old West.

A roller rink where you probably had your birthday party at least once and wore an L.A. Gear shirt and a denim vest (yes, VEST), and hoped that the boy you liked would hold your hand even though he was surely playing pinball and eating greasy pizza instead.

Whether you love or hate change, it happens. And, as San Jose continues to morph and develop, some of the places you just assume will always be there suddenly become a distant memory (And maybe the denim vest should REMAIN a distant memory…)

Let’s look at some historic (and some NOT so historic…one just closed this past year) San Jose fixtures and what now stands where they once were.

THEN: Bullwinkles

Opened: 1981

Closed: 1996

Bullwinkles

I remember visiting Bullwinkles as a kid and even then feeling like it was Chuck E Cheese done more upscale. (I mean, what’s more appetizing anyway: a mouse or a moose?) Based on the beloved cartoon characters of the ‘60’s, Bullwinkles was designed to look like a woodsy edifice on the outside, and inside was a cornucopia of arcade games, climbing structures, and even a show with animatronics that would run a couple times per hour. Other Bullwinkles locations exist today, but sadly the NorCal birthday go-to couldn’t keep its doors open.

Now: DaVita Santa Clara Dialysis/D1 Training Center

DaVita

In 1996, Bullwinkles closed and was replaced by a nightclub. And then another nightclub. And then I’m pretty sure one more nightclub before it finally landed in the hands of a completely different industry: healthcare. There isn’t a discernible trace of the old family entertainment center (or smarmy club scene) here anymore, but at least it’s moved on to a place where people can maintain health and happiness—even without the help of a cartoon moose.

THEN: Aloha/ Roxy’s/ Golden Skate/ San Jose Skate Roller Rink

Opened: 1977

Closed: December 2014

Rollerrink

Even though everyone agrees that it was a “bit” run down, the place consistently smelled like a foot, and the employees seemed like they would rather be doing anything…ANYTHING… than refereeing an organized game of Shoot the Duck, everyone also agreed that this place also just reeked of memories. The ultimate personality crisis, this rink went through at least 4 name changes but people generally fondly remember the original Aloha Roller Palace days where you DEFINITELY weren’t in paradise, but you got a little slice of roller heaven for 2 hours. Then get off the rink dangit. It’s roller derby practice.

NOW: ACO Furniture

Sigh. From a place that stood for pure, sheer, unadulterated fun to a chain furniture store that will probably be claiming that it’s going out of business and everything must GO, GO, GO! in no time, makes this one of the most depressing then&now’s in San Jose history. But all is not lost. If you stand in the middle of the concrete show floor, close your eyes, and just take the littlest whiff, you maybe—just maybe— might still detect the faintest aroma of skate sanitizer in the air.

THEN: Frontier Village

Opened: 1961

Closed: 1980

Frontiervillage

Some recent articles and videos (like this AWESOME one from Lost Parks of Northern California) have perhaps introduced you to Frontier Village, the Disneyland of San Jose back in the day. And from what I’ve learned, it was completely and utterly charming. Stories about the park abound, from the variety of rides and gunslinger shows, to canoe marathons, and even a Lutheran church that used to meet in the upper room of the Saloon. And overwhelmingly people that either worked in the park or visited it agree: IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE CLOSED. But you know, there’s still Happy Hollow.

NOW: Edenvale Park

edenvalepark

Nestled just adjacent to Hayes Mansion, this park is a favorite for South San Jose residents and features beautiful walking paths, mature trees, volleyball and tennis courts, and multiple play structures including a giant climbing rock (which used to also be a slide). Also, the park nods subtly to the ghost of its past with old maps of Frontier Village in display cases, and the occasional homage to former park decor (like this little frontier house and others atop light posts in the park).

Depressed that it’s no longer a theme park? Go get a drink at the bar in Hayes Mansion, or join the groups of people that reunite every year to reminisce about the former Frontier.

Stay tuned for more “Now and Thens” coming soon!

Setting Sail on the Mighty Guadalupe

A few of our favorite San Jose sites had recent posts about the short lived Guadalupe Lake, a small lake with boat rentals that was formed in 1914 with the damming of the Guadalupe River.   This got us wondering here at Searchlight SJ, when the rains return and the Guadalupe rises, is the river still navigable by boat?  After some extensive searching we came across this intriguing and somewhat amazing sign:

riversign

That’s right, brown water rafting (new favorite term) right here in our own backyard!  In rainy years the Guadalupe can be floated on in several different areas.  One particularly memorable route sets sail from Park Ave downtown and takes you all the way into the Alviso Slough that feeds into the Bay.  One veteran of these trips recommends that they be made in early spring, only after a winter with strong rains.

Sadly there are no dedicated Guadalupe River guides however experienced kayakers can learn about some of San Jose’s urban runs here.  Care to take your urban kayaking to the next level?  Check out this Stanford Kayak Club video where members not only found Guadalupe River runs, but also some fast moving surf under 880 perfect for back flips and barrel rolls.   For those less adventurous the recently completed Alviso Slough boat dock offers gentle kayaking at the southernmost tip of the Bay.

Bon voyage!

Secrets of the Library

What does a secret hiding spot, a hilarious window, and a really creepy lock of aged hair have in common? They’re all part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. library in San Jose, which is so much more than a bunch of books and college students half-reading them. If you’re meandering through downtown, stop in at the library and check out these hidden gems along with a favorite book:

Secret in the Browsing Library: On the first floor of the library in the area labeled “Browsing Library” you’ll find a Harry Potter-esque secret hiding space. One of the bookshelves, when pushed, will swing open and reveal a space large enough to hide inside.

Spinning bookshelf

The Reason Why San Jose is the North American Vienna: Thanks to a donation in the early ‘80’s by avid Beethoven collector, Ira F. Brilliant, the DMLK library’s third floor houses the largest collection of Beethoven paraphernalia outside of Europe. An impressive collection of fortepianos, manuscripts in Beethoven’s own handwriting, and…yes…a now famous lock of Beethoven’s hair (clipped off of his dead body by a visitor to the funeral home where he was temporarily housed *shudder*), make this museum a must-see if you’re making your way through the library’s oddities.

Fortepianos at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library

The oldest lock of hair in the MLK library

Alice’s Adventures in the Elevator: In the southernmost elevator on the first floor of the library, you’ll see a door that is totally inefficient for anyone riding up to check out a science textbook, but just perfect if you’re 2 feet tall and fixing to go to Wonderland. The door, otherwise known as the “Hatch,” is a work of art by Mel Chin, who contributed to artistic installations throughout the library.

The Hatch

The Burned and the Banned: Throughout the library are bookshelves that stand over “vaults” of books that have been burned or otherwise banned in the past.

Wisecracking Windows: On the 7th floor bridge you’ll find a window paying homage to artist Marcel Duchamp’s “Large Glass.” Look closely and you’ll find that the cracks are comprised of eensy-weensy etched jokes and puns.

Am I hearing things?: On the third floor around call numbers 642-658, you’ll hear the sound of pages turning above you followed by the sound of a book closing as you reach the end of the row.

Finish your trip to the library with a literature-themed sandwich from On Fourth: A Novel Café on the ground floor. (I highly recommend the “Great Gatsby!”) For a complete list of oddities to round out your library scavenger hunt, visit http://www.sjlibrary.org/melchin-art-list.

Eggo – The San Jose Treat

There are plenty of tremendous dining establishments that go unnoticed in San Jose (more to come on this later) but there is one contribution to the culinary world that stands out amongst all others; the Eggo.  Undoubtedly you’ve enjoyed them at one point in your life be it in the styling of chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberries, added fiber, honey oats, low fat, cinnamon sugar, antioxidized, or just plain ol’ thick and fluffy original, but you probably never realized that they were an invention of San Jose.

Eggo originated with an investment of $50 by three South Bay brothers (Tony, Frank, and Sam Dorsa) in the mid 1930’s as a dry waffle batter that required only milk and soon evolved into the frozen waffle to accommodate a growing demand for the product.   Originally named Froffle (as in frozen waffle) the Dorsa’s eventually adopted the name Eggo to reflect the unique eggy taste.  Despite a fire that burned the San Jose factory to the ground in 1946, a sale of the company to Kellogg in 1970, and a production issue that caused the Great Eggo Shortage and subsequent Eggo rationing in 2009, the tasty frozen treats continue to be churned out just off of 101 at the Kellogg factory on Eggo Way.  While you can’t take your out of town guests to tour the factory you can certainly head to your local Zanotto’s or Mi Pueblo Markets (both San Jose originals) and impress them with the vast selection of Eggo products, born out of the dream from three brothers for warm flaky goodness.  A dream that has people worldwide saying “Leggo my Eggo” to this day.