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Blogs worth reading from Oakland organizations

18 Apr Ella's Voice

I was so excited last week to find out that TransForm had started a blog, and it got me thinking about the other great Oakland based organizations that have blogs. I link to some of them in my blogroll but felt it was worth a post to spread the word about these great blogs:

TransForm – TransForming the Bay Area: The blog is new so it’s hard to know the scope, but judging by its name and TransForm’s mission, it is likely to cover transportation and land use issues in the Bay Area.

Ella Baker Center – Ella’s Voice: Ella’s Voice covers a wide range of issues that the Ella Baker Center works on – the environment, criminal justice, civil rights, and much more. I’ve been following the blog for a while and have enjoyed the mix of story telling, action alerts, and policy updates. Continue reading

Just 2 days left to donate to the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Frost Bite Fund

30 Mar frozen lettuce

Earlier this month I featured a guest post by the Alameda County Community Food Bank that asked for donations to their Frost Bite Fund. As the post explained:

While the Bay Area was abuzz about the snowfall that wasn’t a few weeks ago, the fresh produce that the Alameda County Community Food Bank relies on was freezing in the fields. We were two truckloads short of food last week (that’s 80,000 pounds), and the impact of the freeze on newly planted crops will be felt well into the summer months.

Continue reading

Alameda County Community Food Bank: Frost Bite

8 Mar students sorting food bank apples

This guest post was written by the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which has been in business since 1985 … with a vision toward a day when we can go out of business. We are the hub of a vast collection and distribution network that provides food for 275 nonprofit agencies in Alameda County. In 2010, the Food Bank distributed 20.1 million pounds of food — 52% of it fresh fruits and vegetables.

While the Bay Area was abuzz about the snowfall that wasn’t a few weeks ago, the fresh produce that the Alameda County Community Food Bank relies on was freezing in the fields. We were two truckloads short of food last week (that’s 80,000 pounds), and the impact of the freeze on newly planted crops will be felt well into the summer months. Continue reading

3000 Broadway

22 Feb 3000 Broadway

One of the reasons my wife and I moved to our neighborhood was because of the promise of Broadway auto row. There were tons of vacant storefronts and whether the Broadway-Valdez planning process moved forward or not, we were confident that more and more of these vacant spaces would fill up with bars, restaurants and retail.

We knew we were in it for the long haul and this process could take years so when I saw this sign on a storefront just two blocks from our house back in October (in the midst of super stressful campaign season) I literally jumped up and down: Continue reading

Harvest from my neglected garden

9 Feb Greens

In October I shared photos (that were actually taken in September) that showed my garden at the height of its beauty and production. Shortly after that, my wife and I harvested the summer bounty of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, radishes, and more. It was all totally delicious – I made the best salads I’ve ever had from the harvest.

I probably harvested again haphazardly at least once more before the end of the campaign season, and I think I recall planting some seeds – more radishes, carrots, and some mixed greens (kale, chard, collards, etc.). But then it was the end of campaign season, and after that we went on our honeymoon to Hawaii, and then it was Thanksgiving (the first we’d ever hosted at our home), and December flew by. Continue reading

Disco Volante opens for dinner this Wednesday!

1 Feb

If you went to the blogger party a month ago, you know how awesome Disco Volante is. And if you missed the party, chances are you’ve heard about what you missed out on and wished you could drop by Disco Volante another night but couldn’t because they were only open for lunch. Well, this is your chance to finally check it out or stop back in, as Disco Volante opens for dinner this Wednesday night.

Disco Volante is in an incredibly beautiful building on the corner of 14th and Webster, and the owners have done a great job renovating it. Their vision includes more than a restaurant – several nights a week they plan to feature jazz bands and other live music. If Alt Tal, the band that played at the blogoaksphere party, is any indication of what’s to come, we should all be very excited because they were very talented and the perfect accompaniment to the night. And they’ll be playing again at Disco Volante on February 25th.

But don’t worry – the focus on atmosphere and music does not detract from the food. Everything I’ve eaten there has been delicious. I absolutely love the avocado tacos – the perfect small plate to accompany a cocktail, and Disco Volante serves up some very tasty cocktails. For the blogger party, they came up with this special menu:

I somehow managed to make it through the night without tasting a Living in the OJ, probably because I quickly got hooked on Dirty Eighth Notes. My guess is that their regular cocktail menu is not quite as entertaining but is equally delicious.

Here are some photos from the blogger party to give you a taste of Disco Volante’s style. First, a couple taken by Jimmy Kwong of the beautiful stained glass and the band from above:

And some photos taken by Genie Gratto of Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and AC Trasit Director Elsa Ortiz, and of the bar:

For more photos of the blogger party, check out Genie’s Flickr collection.

Stop into Disco Volante soon for dinner or drinks and to enjoy some music. Starting tomorrow night they’ll be open until midnight Monday-Wednesday and until 1:30am Thursday-Saturday. Soon entertainment will be listed on their website, but until then, they update their Facebook page frequently.

I’ve known a couple of the owners for a while and am so excited about what they’ve done with this place so I’ll definitely drop in soon, and I’m sure I’ll be adding Disco Volante to my regular bar/late night restaurant rotation.

Finally, a full (and tasty) meal at Plum

21 Jan

In honor of Oakland’s first Restaurant Week, which starts this Sunday, I thought it was about time I posted my very belated review of Plum, one of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. After having stumbled into Plum’s grand opening party in September, I didn’t manage to make it back for a full meal with my parents and wife until December 26th. It was definitely worth the wait.

Going into the meal, I knew what to expect, since I had read reviews and talked to friends about there experiences. I knew that they annoyingly tack on a service charge no matter how small your party so I was ready for that. And I knew that the plates were pretty small and some complained that they were too small. So when our waitress told us we should order about three plates a piece, we listened and ordered close to that.

I’m a vegetarian and since we all wanted to share we ordered every vegetarian item on the menu, plus a couple of seafood dishes. We started off with the three vegetarian “snacks” on the menu – popcorn (not pictured here), potato chicharrones, and a chickpea based panisse (thanks to Jasmine for figuring out the name!), which was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. As you can tell by the photos, these really are snacks, not appetizers so don’t expect to fill up on them and you won’t be disappointed.

Next, we moved onto the “to start” part of the menu. My mom ordered a salad – I can’t remember what it was and they don’t have it on the menu anymore, but we all enjoyed it. I ordered the turnip and apple soup, which was perfectly balanced between bitter, sweet, and earthy. I nearly licked the bowl. My wife got the oyster and parsley root stew, which she enjoyed as well.

Moving on, we chose from the “vegetables” and “animal” sections of the menu, ordering the beet boudin noir, cauliflower, and grilled clams. The cauliflower was good, though I can’t remember much about it beyond that. The beets, which came with brussel sprouts, were intensely flavored – my wife liked them but couldn’t eat too much of them, which was fine by the rest of our table, as we finished them off. The clams also were all eaten, and I heard they were delicious.

All of the food we ordered was delicious, but none of it was as amazing as the dish the hostess brought us. Why was the hostess bringing us a free dish? Well, it’s probably because she’s a really great hostess and could see what terrible service we were receiving from our waitress. It was the worst service I’ve ever experienced at a nice restaurant. Our waitress would disappear for long periods of time, which was extra frustrating because she had our bottle of wine chilling in the back. For our second bottle, we had her leave it on the table unchilled. Luckily, the hostess noticed and since she had seen that we had vegetarians at the table, she brought us over carrots. We nearly inhaled them and had to order a second serving of them.

As it was the evening after Christmas (and my wife’s birthday), we were a bit tired of sweets so we skipped dessert. I’ve heard Plum has an amazing pastry chef though so I’ll definitely save room for dessert next time.

Despite the poor service, I still highly recommend Plum. Our experience seems like an anomaly since everyone else I know has received excellent service there – maybe our waitress was new or just having a bad night. When you go, remember to order many dishes and be prepared for the 16% service charge that will be added to your bill. And make reservations! I had to make mine a month in advance, and even if you want to sit at the bar, you probably still need reservations – it’s just that good. Or, go during off hours – for lunch or after 10pm. I’m not sure what their menu looks like for Restaurant Week, but give them a call and find out, since it’s a perfect time to try out Plum if you’ haven’t already.

Oakland Restaurant Week – a great opportunity to check out new (or new to you) restaurants

18 Jan

You know that restaurant you’ve been meaning to try but keep putting off? The one you’ve read amazing reviews about and friends have recommended, but maybe it’s a bit too pricey or in a neighborhood you don’t often frequent. Well next week’s the week to stop procrastinating and to check it out already in honor of Oakland’s first Restaurant Week. San Francisco has had a restaurant week for years, and it’s appropriate that Oakland will finally have one of our own, considering how many incredible restaurants have opened here in the past few years.

The restaurants participating in Restaurant Week are all offering incredible deals from January 23rd-29th. At $20 for lunch or $30-40 for dinner, this is a great opportunity to check out new or new to you restaurants.

You can see the full listing of participating restaurants at the Restaurant Week website, but here are a few of my recommendations from the list:

Bay Wolf – RW Deal: $20 for three-course lunch $30 for three-course dinner BOOK IT

Bay Wolf is one of the better restaurants I’ve been to in Oakland, but maybe because it’s been around for quite some time, it doesn’t seem to have the buzz of the newer restaurants. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.

Encuentro – RW Deal: $30 for one small bite, one bruschetta and one small plate, plus a glass of wine and chocolate truffle

Encuentro is the only vegetarian restaurant participating in Restaurant Week and whether you’re vegetarian or not, I promise you’ll love their food and wine. Plus, the owner’s really friendly and it’s fun to sit at the bar or at one of the tables facing towards their giant windows.

Hibiscus – RW Deal: $30 for four courses and a rum flight BOOK IT

Hibiscus is actually not a place I intend to go back to, at least not for a meal, but it’s not because the quality of food wasn’t excellent (it was). Unfortunately, they have very few vegetarian options. But if you eat meat, please check out this Uptown restaurant that’s a bit off the beaten path but offers more interesting food and is less crowded than Flora.

Monaghans on the Hill

Councilmember Libby Schaaf introduced me to Monaghans, which is in the hills of District 4, and I’m glad she did. The food is delicious, the staff are incredible, and they have a really nice outdoor patio to enjoy on a sunny day.

Plum – RW Deal: $40 for four courses

This barely needs mentioning, since I’m sure you’ve been to Plum, are planning a trip there, or are sick of hearing about it. But $40 for four courses there is too good of a deal to pass up so I thought I’d highlight it. (Stay tuned for my Plum review, hopefully this week, and for now enjoy this photo of my favorite dish I ate there.)


Sidebar has somehow fallen off my rotation, but as you can see in my review shortly after they opened, I love this place.

Spice Monkey – RW Deal: $30 for four courses and a glass of wine

Looking for a more casual meal? Spice Monkey is your place. I’ve always loved the architecture of this building, which used to house an Indian restaurant, and Spice Monkey has done a great job accenting the architecture with rotating artwork. The food is dependably good, particularly the salads and soup. I’ve also heard that the pork sandwich is amazing.

Yoshi’s – RW Deal: $30 for four course dinner in the Dining Room BOOK IT

Most people think of Yoshi’s as a place to see and hear live jazz, which it is, but it also is one of the best Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area. Everything I’ve had at Yoshi’s has been perfect or close to it, but whatever you do, you absolutely must try the garlic soy edamame, which I could probably eat five servings of.

Those are my recommendations. Let me know if there are any other restaurants that pop out to you that I should try. I hope you participate in and enjoy Oakland’s first Restaurant Week – I know I will!

Two warming recipes to get you through these cold days

11 Jan

The last few days have been really cold in Oakland, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. There are plenty of ways to warm up, but my favorite way to do so is with food. So here are a couple recipes to warm you up on these cold days.

Miso Rock Soup

  • Several cups of water
  • A few tablespoons of white or red miso paste
  • Vegetables of any kind
  • Tofu, noodles or eggs

For a couple of months, my wife and I were both unemployed so we needed to stretch our dollars. One of the cheapest meals was miso “rock” soup. It’s rock soup because you can add just about anything to it and it will taste good.

Just boil several cups of water (depending how much soup you want) and add about a tablespoon of miso paste at a time, stirring until it’s fully dissolved. Taste and add more miso paste until it’s sufficiently flavorful.

Now comes the fun part – raiding your refrigerator. You can put almost anything in miso soup and it will taste good. Steamed vegetables, left over noodles, left over mushu, hard boiled eggs, etc. Get creative. If it’s neutral or Asian in flavor, chances are it will taste delicious in the soup. If you don’t have any leftovers, grab kale, mushrooms, carrots or pretty much any other vegetable that’s new or on the edge, chop it up, and throw it in the broth.

Besides being super cheap and easy, this soup is great because it keeps for several days in the fridge so you can get several meals out of it.

Coconut Quinoa

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • One can coconut milk
  • Handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, or any other nuts you have on hand)
  • Handful of dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, currants, apricots, etc.)
  • Agave to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste

Lately I’ve been really bored with breakfast. Some days I have time to make a hot breakfast, but usually I’m stuck with toast or cereal, which just isn’t satisfying. So last night I made a big pot of coconut quinoa so that I’d have warming breakfasts for the next several days.

First, rinse the quinoa thoroughly with cold water. Next, put the quinoa, water, and coconut milk in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cover. After about five minutes, toss in a handful of nuts. Five minutes later, add in the dried fruit. Five minutes after that (15 total minutes of simmering), the quinoa should be ready. Most of the liquid should have soaked in or evaporated. Taste the quinoa. If you’d like more flavor, add some agave and/or cinnamon to taste and stir. Agave works much better than sugar or honey since it integrates much easier and more evenly.

Not only does this make a hearty, warming breakfast, it’s also a great, healthy late night snack.

I hope these recipes help you stay warm!

Help Awaken Cafe reopen & bring a needed community space to Downtown

3 Dec

Longtime readers of this blog might remember that ever since Awaken Cafe was being built out back in 2007, I was a huge fan. And when they did open, many months later, I was not disappointed. They make excellent coffee and tea, their staff are incredibly welcoming, featured incredible local art, and regularly hosted live music.

A few months ago, Awaken had to leave their space on 14th Street and soon will be moving into Frank Ogawa Plaza. At this new space, they hope to follow through with their original plan of creating a larger community space that stays open later, serves more food, and offers beer and wine.

I loved Awaken in its smaller incarnation, but the idea of a larger community space is always what excited me more. The thought of being able to hang out just a few steps from City Hall drinking a glass of wine before Council meetings start or while waiting for a particular item to come up on the agenda sounds awesome. And since they’ll have free wireless internet there, this will be super easy to do.

But this new, much larger space is going to cost significant amounts of money to get up and running and to build out. Awaken has a smart plan – sometime this month they plan to open a coffee cart outside, just like Remedy Coffee in Temescal did, and they hope to have the full cafe open a few months after that.

To make this happen, they need community help. The New Parkway was incredibly able to raise nearly $57,000 in small donations from nearly 1000 supporters so I’m sure Awaken Cafe can surpass its goal of $3,000 in the next two days.

Here’s a brief video from Cortt Dunlap, the owner, further explaining Awaken’s vision and why they need help:

Even though I don’t have a full time job right now, I chipped in and I hope you can do the same. Just like the New Parkway did, they’re offering perks including admittance to their opening party and free coffee. Please give what you can to support a fantastic local business that will bring a much needed community space to downtown.


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