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Rediscovering Downtown Oakland: Cafes

2 Jan Farley's Tiles

Several weeks ago I promised to restart my Rediscovering Downtown Oakland series and asked for suggestions on what categories to cover. I’m starting off with Cathy’s request: “how about coffeeshops? with room to sit in?” I was a bit surprised, looking back at my 2009 series, that I had not covered cafes, especially since there are several fantastic places to sip coffee and tea downtown. It seemed like an appropriate place to start, since as many of us return from vacations to work this week we might need or benefit from some extra caffeine.

Here are a few of my favorites. (Note that besides being great cafes to enjoy with friends or colleagues, all of these places also offer free wi-fi so they’re great places to work too.) Continue reading

Karen Hester: Show Up, Eat Up, Speak Out – Interim Mobile Food Policy Comes Before Council this Tuesday, Dec 6th

3 Dec Bites off Broadway Chefs

This guest post was written by Karen Hester, an events producer who lives in Temescal Creek Cohousing and often cooks dinner for her community of 25 folks. You can subscribe to her event listings by signing up on her website. She is a board member of Destiny Arts Center, a bike enthusiast and loves to eat almost any street food, including fried crickets in Cambodia.

In the scheme of things, I’m a relative newcomer to the food fights in the mobile food landscape. City staff and some local food truck operators have been pushing for a new kinder, gentler mobile food policy for almost 2 1/2 years.

Last spring Ed Manase and staff from Planning got push back from the City committee called Committee for Community Economic Development to reach out more to stakeholders and naysayers. He had tried to push through a comprehensive policy for the whole city, which makes sense, except in Oakland since Desley Brooks and Larry Reid don’t want mobile food in their districts. Which is a shame as the poorest parts of Oakland are the ones that perhaps stand to benefit the most as food trucks are a great incubator for food entrepreneurs who can develop a loyal clientele without investing in a brick and mortar restaurant. I predict that whoever replaces Larry Reid next November will realize the lost opportunity and get onboard.

So now while Ed Manase and staff work on a comprehensive policy to hopefully be adopted by the Council by March, Councilmembers Kaplan and Brunner have worked with some of us in the community to put forward an interim food pod policy that will be good until January 2013. Continue reading

Growing & harvesting potatoes

21 Oct Potato Mosaic 2

Last month I wrote about preparing our winter garden. At the time, I knew I would soon need to harvest potatoes, as the potato plant was beginning to yellow and die:

When most plants start yellowing in our garden, it’s very sad and I try to figure out how to save them. But when potato plants turn yellow, I get very excited and watch eagerly as the plants start to die. A couple of weekends ago, the plants looked terrible and were very close to being entirely dead. Since there was a break in the rain, I decided to harvest. Continue reading

Turning a shelving unit into planter boxers as we prepare our winter garden

21 Sep Lettuce in Top of Shelving Unit

Though I’ve found little time for blogging in the past month, I have found time to dedicate to at least one non-work, non-political activity – gardening.

I’ve been gardening for several years now. First at my wife’s parents house, in their huge back yard (we built many raised beds and a chicken coop – it was a huge undertaking). Then on our apartment’s balcony. And a year and a few months ago we moved our container garden to our new home, with much more space, and we added several larger containers.

But over all of those years, gardening was just another thing I did – something I enjoyed and that kept me busy and sometimes distracted. I can’t explain what happened to me this spring, but something changed and gardening is now a way of life for me. It’s integral to my daily, weekly, and monthly routines. Continue reading

Karen Hester: Bites off Broadway – Mobile Food and Family Fun

21 Jul BitesonBroadwayPoster

This guest post was written by Karen Hester, an events producer who lives in Temescal Creek Cohousing and often cooks dinner for her community of 25 folks. You can subscribe to her event listings by signing up on her website. She is a board member of Destiny Arts Center, a bike enthusiast and loves to eat almost any street food, including fried crickets in Cambodia.

When I started Bites on Broadway last June, I wrote a pretty optimistic blog as it seemed pretty straight forward. We had permission from the Oakland Unified School District  to use the Oakland Tech Plaza for a weekly food pod event, I had a partner in the venture and we had plenty of food trucks lining up to participate.

What a difference a month makes. The risk manager for OUSD ended up denying our permit to use the plaza because of “liability issues” and I got an email from their legal counsel noting that I was engaged in “criminal activity” by trespassing on their lawn. Trespassing in this case means folks sitting to eat their pulled pork sandwich. I kept the event going because I believe that neighbors should be able to enjoy the public lawn that we pay for through taxes and that in fact the connection between Oakland Tech and the community was a positive thing. Continue reading

Awaken Cafe is back!

13 Jul Awaken Cafe 1429 Broadeway

 

 

UPDATE: The Awaken Cafe cart opens tomorrow, Friday, July 15th!

Awaken Cafe has always been one of my favorite Oakland cafes so when they closed about a year ago, I was super sad. Since then I’ve missed their absolutely delicious chai, foam art, and friendly staff. I’ve tried out many cafes downtown and now have a few I rotate between, but none of them have filled Awaken’s spot for me.

I’ve been closely watching their new space on Broadway at 15th for the past few months, watching for signs of progress and telling everybody I walked by with that someday Awaken would reopen there.

So you can imagine how excited I was yesterday when on my way back to work from lunch I saw this sign: Continue reading

Check out the Temescal Street Fair & Oaklandish County Fair this Sunday

8 Jul TemescalStreetFair

I’ve been going to the Temescal Street Fair for years so I was super bummed when I had plans for the date it had been scheduled for in June. Lucky for me (but not so lucky for the event organizers), it was rescheduled due to the rain for this Sunday, July 10. (You’d think it would be safe to schedule an outdoor event in June, but with the crazy weather this year, I guess not.)

I’m a big fan of street fairs and festivals. I love seeing normally car-jammed streets filled with pedestrians. I love having so many different food vendors and other small business vendors crammed together and so convenient. I love running into Oaklanders from the neighborhood and beyond.

The Temescal Street Fair is special to me though because for five years it was my neighborhood street fair and had to substitute for my neighborhood block party, since living on Telegraph, it’s not so easy to set up a block party.

This year, the fair has a similar structure to past year’s events, except for one awesome addition – the Oaklandish County Fair. But this isn’t your regular county fair. Instead of farm animals and pie eating contests, they’ll have pop-up soccer, bike dances, wrestling, a photo booth, and much more. Continue reading

May showers bring June flowers in our garden

7 Jun tomatoes

Last time I checked in here about our garden I was harvesting, but out of luck, not work. I had neglected our garden for months, yet it was still somehow producing. I promised myself at the time that I would spend more time in the garden, and I’m happy to report that I’ve kept up with this promise and my work has yielded some wonderful results.

A couple of months ago my wife and I planted a new round of crops – lots of lettuce, pole beans, onions and later on four beautiful tomato plants and a pepper plant. A week or so ago, we added more lettuce and two alpine strawberry plants. Continue reading

Karen Hester: Bites on Broadway – Mobile Fun and Family Fun

3 Jun BitesonBroadwayPoster

This guest post was written by Karen Hester, an events producer who lives in Temescal Creek Cohousing and often cooks dinner for her community of 25 folks. You can subscribe to her event listings by signing up on her website. She is a board member of Destiny Arts Center, a bike enthusiast and loves to eat almost any street food, including fried crickets in Cambodia.

Bites on Broadway is my latest attempt to actually do something about the blight I experience everyday along Broadway, especially between 49th and up to College Avenue. I am an events organizer so it seems natural that the idea of a local homegrown mobile food meetup combined with urban games would excite my interest.

I teamed up with Guerrilla Grub co-owner Elizabeth August whose healthy California comfort food I relish. We come out of the same mold as community organizers. First, identify the issue: lack of healthy affordable food, especially around 45th and Broadway, where fast food is king. Broadway, a main thoroughfare in Oakland that has become the ugly step child of Telegraph, College and Piedmont Avenues, a boulevard no one in the City seems to even remotely pay attention to, except for the few tried and true businesses like Art Tile and Bay Appliances and newbies like Oakland Karate and New Style Motherlode, opening a much needed dance studio once all the City permits are navigated. Continue reading

Alethea Harper: Help chart a course for the future of urban agriculture in Oakland

13 May Peas

This guest post was written by Alethea Harper, the Coordinator of the Oakland Food Policy Council (OFPC), an organization housed at Food First. Alethea holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley where she focused on food systems and urban agriculture through her award-winning thesis and a research trip to Latin America.

The Oakland Food Policy Council has identified support for and expansion of urban agriculture (UA) through local policy and coordination as one of our top goals.

Broadly, UA encompasses the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers or herbs, and/or raising animals and livestock in cities. Oakland is already home to a thriving community of urban farmers and gardeners who contribute to our city’s culture, health, environment, and economic vitality.

However, our planning process identified a number of areas where Oakland residents could benefit from clearer, updated, and streamlined local policies related to urban agriculture – especially in our zoning code. Continue reading

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