More History to be Destroyed?

It was around 1890 that Andrew Mattei, an Italian immigrant by way of Switzerland, Continue reading More History to be Destroyed?

Whats a Tour Guide to do?

(When last we checked in, I was saying how we are days behind on a web update)….I have a conference call with the web guys followed by several hours of edits.
Afternoon: Wednesday is organization day in my office. And since I woke up feeling a little stressed and frazzled by my lack of food rations at home, I think organization can only help. The month is nearing its end, it is time to update the dominant engine that drives our office: The Big Dry Erase Board.
Evening: A day of dates, details and difficult web edits can be so discouraging and I could use a laugh. And thankfully Rogue Festival starts around town. Tonight seems a splendid night for a little something silly. The lively and lovely Lindsay sells me on the cross promotion of my tours and her comedy shows. My stressful day falls seamlessly to the sidelines. Lindsay and I strike a great deal — suspecting my foodie fans might find Rogue’s comedy an equally delectable feast. rogue

ThursdayColor Me Happy
8:55am: I wake up in panic fearing I will be late to work. It’s five minutes to 9. Then remember I have the day off. and yet each and every Thursday I have the same heart pounding panic attack.
A few hours later: I meet my tour guide, former roommate and friend (that’s all one person) Nancy. Nancy is an excellent tour guide and a talented singer. We’re off to walk and talk on this soggy day. ladies-out-walking-tate-hamilton
7pm: There’s one meeting that I hate to miss: my weekly Weight Watchers meeting. When you do dinners out for work as much as I do, and especially after my year-long binge while designing our newest Food Tour, you need to figure out a way to reign it in. This way works. I love Weight Watchers’ old school approach with its equally modern and relevant ideas. I love walking into a room full of people all seeking a satisfying meal paired with a slender silhouette. I love the old lady who talks about things just seemingly off topic but them reveals some great pearl of age acquired wisdom in the weight department. And I love that this week I am down 1.6 lbs which means… I reached my goal. My Food Tour research pounds are gone and then some. And I stay loyal, week in and week out, to the one “diet” that actually worked after all my crazy juice fast frenzies had failed.

FridayNeed Some Lovin
7:30am: Up and excited to get to work. After a full day off, I suffer slight withdrawal. I miss my foodie friends and could use a hug from a sweet chef or a handsome host. Thankfully Friday is field day for me. I’m out of the office almost all day and off to foster my friendships with each establishment on the tour. I genuinely feel a kinship with these kitchen kings and queens and I love that About Town Taste tours has the ability to share their tasteful talents with our tourists.
9:30am – 12:00pm: I’m off to the famous Frosted Cakery. It’s a great day: Beverly & Megan, mother daughter baking duo, are here in the bakery and they’ve got a few minutes to spare for me. They remind me of my mom a bit – but will a full deck of decadent desserts at her disposal. We catch up for a while. They give me a little piece of chocolate and gently remind me: “Just one.” Frosted Cakery
12pm: Back to the office for lots of emails from customers and private tour requests.
4pm – 8pm: The very best part of my week has arrived. I’m off to visit the owners and managers of all the restaurants on our other food tours around town. I place all my food orders for tomorrow’s tours and use this as a chance to catch up and check on the tours and see how seamlessly they are running. I also love this part of my day because I am in awe of restaurant workers. I love these people — the ones that do this dinner dance in their dimly lit spaces as diners soak up that eternal evening energy.
Later that night: On my way to meet the boss I stop at Pinot Wine Bar to drop off my food orders for tomorrow. Pinot Wine SignEvery week I see the same man, sitting on the same bench, in front of the same shop. I don’t know his name. He speaks little English and wears a hearing aide. Every time I pass by he gives me a nod and a smile as is we have been friends for a lifetime.
Dinnertime: I engage in a regular Friday ritual, dinner with my boss and Erick (our friend, neighbor and colleague at About Town Taste). We dine at the most basic and nondescript spots in an effort to get away from all the fancy food and fine dining. Throughout the planning of our tours, these dinner dates and taste tests revolved around each of the neighborhood tours. It was (and is) a much-loved ritual.

Saturday- Winter Weather Advisory
7:30am: I wake up to winter wind advisory on TV News. Gusts and blowing, icy wind expected. What might be normal non-important small talk for some is make-or-break for our walking tours. A weather warning worries me and I wonder what alternative tour routes I can come up with: Skip the park even though it has loads of art, linger at the Galleria longer since they have multiple eateries in one space for the tastings, do your overview in the sunshine, make sure your tour attendees are warm enough and happy and that no downed trees are in their food-laden path. cold day tour
9:00am: Saturday is our busiest day with several tours all occurring around midday. My job on Saturday is to hang out in front of The Pacific Building (our meeting location and tasting spot on our Urban Taste adventure tour this week) and greet the early arrivals and the latecomers so the tour guides can focus on what they do best.
11:00am: I chat with Nancy about the weather scenario and give her a few tips for which streets are safer to do her tour overview today.
11:30am: I race from one neighborhood to the next to greet the tour attendees on tour. I race back to Fulton to…12:15pm: Greet a gaggle of girls that I set up with one of our Private Food Tours. It’s a bachelorette party but thankfully, a relatively tame one. Moms and Aunts and sisters and friends — all eating their way down Olive Ave with Erick, my guide, at the helm.
4:30pm: Quick visit with a special friend before he starts his evening shift. Then back to my apartment. Rest.

Unapologetic for Human Presence

Fresno’s Fulton Mall is among the earliest, designed by a partnership of Gruen Associates and Garrett Eckbo, who was one of the most highly respected and influential American modernist landscape architects of the 20th century. Working to overthrow the Beaux-Arts system of landscape design which came before he sought to develop an approach that would address the social and economic challenges of the modern world, Eckbo was deliberately experimental, his designs centered on the garden, which he believed was the prototype for all landscape design.

His work was influenced by modernist European architecture, modern art favoring a more casual and fluid use of space, utilizing clustered plant materials, geometric abstraction, and circular space to lend unity to the landscape. In Eckbo’s mind the human pedestrian was part of “a designed landscape that would stress the relations between human and land without apologizing for the human presence.” Eckbo saw landscape architecture as a social art, and to the Fulton Mall, applied principles consistent with many of his civic projects: space between buildings to encourage group gathering, the use of water as a unifying focal element that also animated the public spaces, and the incorporation of shade that reflected the regional palette.
Drawing inspiration from the surrounding valley and Sierra’s he brought the nearby natural context into the city center. The pedestrian mall, constructed of stained concrete punctuated by sometimes gently curving or angular lines, suggests the contours of the valley floor and also provide a utilitarian purpose of assisting with run-off drainage.

Years later, some similar malls, such as Charlottesville remain economically viable, while others in Sacramento, Minneapolis, Allentown and elsewhere have been reopened to vehicle traffic. And Fresno? Well our mall was recently determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but its condition is rather sad and the city has yet to finalize the placement to the register. What’s happening in Fresno is playing out elsewhere in communities with modernist urban landscape architecture as our rich and diverse legacy of modernist landscape architecture struggles for visibility with many of these designs misunderstood and under appreciated.

Join About Town Taste’s next walking adventure experiencing some of Garrett Eckbo’s brilliant work, the Fulton Mall, before its too late. Our tours feature exclusive interior access to some historic buildings and food stops along the route all woven together with stories of those who came before us. Reservations required

Land of Sunshine and Flowers

Unlike other California cities, Fresno did not get its start during the gold rush, as prospectors simply passed through the area on the way to the Sierras. After the gold rush land was used for cattle grazing. 002

Along came Anthony Easterby in 1867, purchasing land bounded by present day streets Chestnut, Belmont, Clovis and California avenues. Unable to grow wheat for lack of water, he hired Moses J. Church to build an irrigation canal. And on our little patch of California a community developed.

In 1872 when the railroad staked a claim along the edge of Easterby’s property; the town of Fresno was born. Our name is derived from the Spanish word for ash trees, native to the Central Valley. With the coming railroad all were provided the economic push needed to start a town in the frontier lands of the Old West. 1882 Fresno

The bright prospects held forth by the fertile valleys of California allured many an ambitious young man to the land of sunshine and flowers.

Those who contributed to the establishment of our city were drawn to Fresno following the Civil War and brought with them talent and experience in the lumber industry, railroads and agriculture.

Church’s ditch and irrigation transformed us from dry desert into one of the most fertile and agriculturally diverse regions that produces most of the world’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. Fresno’s history is as rich and diverse as the people who live here, with over 30 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, Fresno’s urban core is again drawing interest as it re awakens in a new wave of business boom. Why not take a closer look on Saturday morning (2/2/13) when we step out on the next Urban Taste walking adventure?
There are some delicious tastes ready for us along with the great art, all found downtown.
Tickets available at

Historical Source: California History & Genealogy Room, Fresno County Library

Perception is NOT Reality

Have you ever heard someone say, “No one goes to the Fulton Mall”? Well, the data is in, and we can finally lay that one to rest.

Celebrating local band Fierce Creatures’ new album titled Catacomb Party, nine other bands joined them as well as about 1,000 friends. The crowd filled in the block of the Fulton Mall between Fresno and Merced streets, in front of Fresno Brewing Co.

It was a huge community event unseen here at Fulton Mall since the sixties.

The big story here, though, is the gap between public perception and reality on the Mall.

Last year the Downtown Association commissioned a study of pedestrians on the Mall. During the weeks after the count, the association sponsored a ‘Guess the Pedestrians’ contest in which the public was invited to guess the number of pedestrians who passed by a set location on the Mall.

The guessers vastly underestimated the number of pedestrians on the Mall:
Average guess: 1041
Median guess: 625
Lowest daily guess: 55
Highest daily guess: 7000
Interestingly, however, the wildly optimistic guesser estimated pedestrians on Saturday at only 600, implying that even this person was very pessimistic about pedestrian activity on the Mall on weekends.

The recent catacomb party also demonstrates the Mall is far from over. Evaluating the success or failure of the Fulton Mall is a complex thing. The issues are up for debate, but, make no mistake about the numbers: each day, over four or five thousand people walk the Fulton Mall. And this party rocked!

And for an in-depth look at the Mall and the surrounding area About Town Taste adventures sets foot there Saturday morning (before it gets too hot!) Advance tickets are being offered at a huge discount….Go to