Friday, August 17, 2018

Chinatown Update: Yun's Idea Cuisine, Huangcheng Noodle House, and So Much Boba

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Aug 17, 2018 at 9:26 AM

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While many Oakland Chinatown restaurant spaces languish empty, others have been churning through concepts rapidly.

The single storefront to see the most change in the past couple of years is located at 366 8th St. In late 2014, Kee Wong and Hon Chan opened Chilli Padi, which was Oakland’s only Malaysian restaurant at the time. But it didn’t last. Last year, the owners rebranded and reopened it as Hotpot Factory, a spot that seemed to capitalize on the soaring interest in hot pot. That didn’t even last a full year. Earlier this week, the owners tried a new concept: Yun’s Idea Cuisine. Manager Kevin Li said the owners no longer wanted to use open flames in the dining room, so they brought on a chef from Shanghai to specialize in Shanghainese cuisine.

“It’s really good. It’s very beautiful,” Li said. “The taste is really good.”

The lengthy menu includes soups, dim sum, noodles, dumplings, cold dishes, and more than 20 Shanghainese options, which tend to taste sweeter than other Chinese regional styles. (Li specifically recommended the Shanghai-style pork in soy sauce, fried pork in sweet and sour sauce, and pork soup dumplings.) Folks who work in the area might want to try Yun’s Idea’s $9.99 lunch specials, which include a main dish, vegetables, rice, soup, and small appetizers.

Earlier this summer, Chinatown’s long-running Shanghainese restaurant, aptly called Shanghai Restaurant, closed for good. It, too, was abruptly replaced, with Chan’s Kitchen (930 Webster St.), a Taiwanese spot with another branch in Newark, opening just weeks later.

And then there’s Huangcheng Noodle House (734 Webster St.), which replaced Nan Cafe, which went through multiple iterations in its short existence as a Hong Kong-style cafe and then a Sichuan restaurant. Now, the space specializes in Shanxi-style knife shaved noodles, a thick and chewy style that’s notoriously tricky to make. The technique involves taking a block of dough in one hand and a knife in the other, and then rapidly shaving slices into a pot of boiling water.

Meanwhile, the parade of bubble tea spots never seems to end. Royaltea (702 Webster St.), the second branch of a popular Fremont business, recently opened with a classy interior. One Zo, a relatively new Taiwanese brand that claims to be the world’s first bubble tea store to make its own boba fresh onsite, will enter the Bay Area market at 362 8th St. The inner East Bay’s first location of Meet Fresh, a Taiwanese drinks and dessert chain, is also under construction at 382 8th St. While the East Bay hosts a number of Hong Kong-style dessert spots, there are far fewer places to find Taiwanese-specific sweets. Expect shaved ice, herbal jelly, taro balls, and tofu pudding topped with an assortment of mung beans, barley, lotus seeds, or sweet potato. At least it’s not another place solely devoted to boba.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

With New Fellowship, Mamacitas Cafe Opens Its Doors for Women, Non-Binary Folks

by Momo Chang
Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 12:31 PM

The women behind Mamacitas hope to one day run their business cooperatively. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MAMACITAS CAFE AND CATERING
  • Photo courtesy of Mamacitas Cafe and Catering
  • The women behind Mamacitas hope to one day run their business cooperatively.

Mamacitas Cafe and Catering is about to launch a paid fellowship for young women and non-binary individuals who want to become future food leaders.

The program is in partnership with the Young Women’s Freedom Center in San Francisco and the Lorry I Lokey Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at Mills College. Starting this fall, four to six young women and non-binary individuals ages 18 to 24 will learn how to start a small business. The nine-month-long paid fellowship is intended for those who have been impacted by incarceration, the foster care system, domestic violence, and sex trafficking.

The fellowship program continues the social enterprise company's goal of training and employing underserved young people — and giving them the skills to be successful.

Mamacitas was dreamed up by co-founders Shana Lancaster and Renee Geesler about five years ago and officially launched in 2014. (Geesler has since stepped back and works at the Akonadi Foundation.)

Last summer, Mamacitas ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in hopes of moving into a brick-and-mortar near Laney College, but the deal fell through. (Mamacitas previously operated out of Qulture Collective in downtown Oakland). Instead, the owners used the funds raised to move into Forage Kitchen to expand their catering service and bring on more young women entrepreneurs.

The owners call it "temple food." - PHOTO COURTESY OF MAMACITAS CAFE AND CATERING
  • Photo courtesy of Mamacitas Cafe and Catering
  • The owners call it "temple food."

Since then, Mamacitas has expanded to a full catering menu, bringing on Roxanne Swaminathan as catering director to focus on events and weddings. The donut kebabs, paired with coffee from Red Bay Coffee, are still popular. (The chefs bring a fryer on-site.) Seasonal menu items now include a slow-cooked romanesco, chickpea, and potato coconut curry, and other California-fresh, world-inspired dishes. Breakfast packages are named after powerful women in history: “Dolores” for Dolores Huerta, “Yuri” for Yuri Kochiyama, and “Angela” for Angela Davis.

The food reflects the employees, who are based in the East Bay but whose families may be from all over the world. One side of Lancaster’s family, for example, were refugees from Armenia. “What the food reflects is our own flavors,” said Mamacitas Chef Simone Obidah, who met Lancaster while working together at Miss Ollie’s and joined the team in 2015 as its third founder. “It’s Oakland comfort food, not traditional comfort food.”

The founders liken it to “temple food” — clean and healthy, with a focus on fresh and seasonal vegetables and fruits.

All are women who have worked in the male-dominated food industry. Some of the women say they didn’t feel it was safe to be creative in some of their past kitchens. “The love and creativity in food can be overshadowed by sexism,” Executive Director Lancaster said. “Our biggest success is folks coming together and feeling safe, creative, and nourished.”

There is also a collaborative nature in the way they create the business and the menu. Caridad Johnson, one of the Mamacitas catering cooks, said she and Obidah come up with new recipes together, like making powdered sugar from dried hibiscus, which lends a light pink color to olive oil cakes.

In fact, they hope to work toward a cooperative business model one day. The goal is to continue to support young women entrepreneurs, focusing on “sustainability and healing and upward mobility for communities that have been here for a long time,” Lancaster said.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

2nd Half Sports Lounge Opens with Smokin' Woods BBQ in Tow

by Momo Chang
Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 3:41 PM

Smokin' Woods BBQ will sell more than meats and sides at 2nd Half Sports Lounge. - FILE PHOTO/RICHARD LOMIBAO
  • File photo/Richard Lomibao
  • Smokin' Woods BBQ will sell more than meats and sides at 2nd Half Sports Lounge.

Oakland’s newest sports bar also just happens to host some of the East Bay’s best barbecue.

Erika Dailey’s 2nd Half Sports Lounge (4307 Telegraph Ave.) opened in Temescal’s former Urban Latino space on July 30. “It’s a wooden tavern. It’s really sexy,” she told the Express. “It’s like a date night spot where you want to have good food, good music, and hang out.”
Erika and her husband, James Dailey, also own Halftime Sports Bar in downtown Oakland. The new restaurant and lounge boasts a full bar and seats about 100 people.

While 2nd Half has its own full, Southern-inflected restaurant menu, serving mac ’n’ cheese, fish and chips, gumbo, sliders, Cajun shrimp pasta, and vegan dishes, the kitchen closes twice a week to make way for Smokin’ Woods BBQ. On Sundays and Mondays, Smokin’ Woods BBQ chef and owner James Woodard brings in his menu of meats cooked over cherry and oak wood.

Smokin’ Woods BBQ started in 2013 primarily as a catering company. Woodard was still working a corporate job at Frito-Lay. He started an Instagram account, posting photos of his food. “People wanted to try my food,” Woodard told the Express. “They asked, ‘I can only try if if I [order] catering?”

Woodard left his job last September and moved into Forage Kitchen’s pop-up cafe space to serve his mix of Texas and Kansas City style ’cue. It was met with a rave review in the Express, and more recently, Food & Wine named Smokin’ Woods BBQ one of the country’s best barbecue joints. Smokin’ Woods recently left its Forage Kitchen space, but fans will be able to find favorite dishes and even more at 2nd Half. While the Forage edition focused on plates of brisket and pork ribs — with popular beef ribs on Fridays only — the pop-up at 2nd Half will feature beef ribs both days as well as items previously only available through catering, such as salmon and Brussels sprouts. The rest of the week, Woodard will continue to focus on catering as well as opening his own permanent space. “We’re in the build-out process near downtown Oakland, and hope to open a full barbecue sports bar in 2019,” he said.

But there are more reasons to check out 2nd Half beyond the barbecue. Erika designed the space as well as a full slate of daily events. There’s Taco Tuesday, Wine Wednesday with poetry, Ladies’ Night Thursday, live bands on Fridays, and brunch on Saturdays. Thursdays are closest to Erika’s heart. Her grandmother was killed in Oakland by a boyfriend, so she dedicates Thursdays to empowering women and raising money for domestic violence shelters.

On Thursday nights, 2nd Half sells leggings and exercise wear for women made by Ola Couture. Profits go toward domestic violence shelters, in honor of Erika’s grandmother. The exercise clothing line sends the message to “just keep it going, stay active about being better, and creating better,” Erika said.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Alice Collective to Launch with Cafe, Local Food Businesses in Historic Oakland Building

The new cafe and community space is scheduled to open on Monday, Aug. 13.

by Momo Chang
Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 8:21 AM

Naan topped with curry chicken salad and arugula. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ISABEL BAER
  • Photo courtesy of Isabel Baer
  • Naan topped with curry chicken salad and arugula.

The Alice Collective
is much in line with what’s happening with a lot of food spaces in the East Bay: a food incubator mentality with a shared sense of community, where locally owned food businesses can get a leg up and thrive. The new, downtown Oakland cafe and community space (272 14th St.) is scheduled to officially open on Monday, Aug. 13.

Ted Wilson, founder of The Hall in San Francisco and cofounder of Metal & Match Catering, is bringing a similar sensibility to the new Oakland venture. The upstairs cafe will be open to the public, while the large commercial kitchen in the basement will house local food businesses.

“We want all these brands to be successful,” Wilson told the Express. “That’s the collective mentality behind it. The idea is giving small food businesses a place to have a home, and then ultimately to give them a place to have a storefront.”

The upstairs cafe, which is about 3,600 square feet, will feature sandwiches, pastries from Oak & Fig Baking, and a full coffee bar from Red Bay Coffee. There is also an 800-square-foot patio space with a bamboo grove and birds of paradise. The cafe will be open weekdays during breakfast and lunch. In the evenings, the space will be available for events.

Christine Wells, who cofounded Metal & Match with Wilson, will oversee the food program as the Alice Collective’s executive chef. “We’re looking to bring in fresh and clean flavors — simple, California fresh food — to that area.” This might mean sandwiches with arugula salad or grilled naan with curry chicken salad.
The historic downtown Oakland building has been well-restored. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ISABEL BAER
  • Photo courtesy of Isabel Baer
  • The historic downtown Oakland building has been well-restored.

The basement includes Andrew Lawrence Schiff of Oak & Fig Baking, who was previously sharing kitchen space at Forage Kitchen. Metal & Match also operates downstairs, and the collective is hoping to bring another local tenant in soon.

During the evenings and weekends, the space will be available for private events. Veteran bartender Nancy Chung, who owns The Wooden Nickel in San Francisco, has been tapped as beverage director of the venue.

The Alice Collective’s building used to house the family-run Holmes Book Company, a bookstore, for many decades. Later, it was the Silk Road Fabric store. “The building has an amazing history,” Wilson said. “The place is stunningly old and well-restored.”

Wilson said he was approached by the owner of the building because of the work he’d done at The Hall, which was a gourmet food court, bar, and community space that closed last year. “I just looked in here and said, ‘People need to be in here,’” he said.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

An Oven in The Village Homeless Encampment Provides Warmth and Wood-Fired Pizza

by Momo Chang
Mon, Aug 6, 2018 at 3:57 PM

One person used chicken nuggets as a pizza topping. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MOMO CHANG
  • Photo courtesy of Momo Chang
  • One person used chicken nuggets as a pizza topping.

Last week, Miguel Elliott fired up his homemade oven and
served dozens of pizzas to the local crowd: neighbors in a homeless encampment dubbed “The Village,” which is home to about 80 people.

“Most people here may not have experienced wood-fired pizza,” said Elliott, who owns Living Earth Structures, which specializes in building out of cob. “It’s considered somewhat of a luxury item. And since they don’t have access to other cooking utilities, it would be about the most appropriate place to have a wood-fired oven.”

Elliott, who had been a part of the Occupy movement, has come by the encampment before. There is no refrigeration, and there was no real way to cook until he brought the oven a few weeks ago. “I’d like them to learn how to make their own bread instead of having it donated, and have some creativity in the process,” Elliott said.

At the first pizza firing, people came out of tents, makeshift structures, and homes to have a slice. Many started making their own pizza. As the evening went on, people got more creative. One woman who came to check out the scene made a heart-shaped pizza. One man who was wearing his dog in a backpack began making a cheese pizza, and a minute later, one of his neighbors came by with a box of chicken nuggets and laid out the nuggets on top. Later, one man cut up hot dogs and put them on his pizza after the pepperoni ran out.

The pizza takes just a couple of minutes to blister and cook in the hot oven. “Pizza definitely has a unifying effect on the community,” Elliott said, as he busily turned the pies.

The Village is located at 23rd Ave. and 12th St. in Oakland. Many say there has been a sense of community cultivated here.

But city officials have told Village residents that everyone needs to leave the encampment by November, when the freeway nearby needs to be retrofitted. (The Express called Assistant to the City Administrator Joe DeVries but did not hear back.) “It just started to feel like a community, started to have some hope, and now the city is saying, ‘We’re going to tear it all down,’” Elliott said. “It’s difficult to keep people together.”

Miguel Elliott made The Village's cob oven. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MOMO CHANG
  • Photo courtesy of Momo Chang
  • Miguel Elliott made The Village's cob oven.

Still, the community is forging ahead. Elliott said he would like to bring more of his structures, which are made with wooden pallets, stuffed with insulation (including trash, plastic, and clothes), and covered with mud that essentially turns it into an adobe structure that he said is fireproof.

“My designs are considerably more affordable and they’re using all recycled materials, and the residents living here can help build them and learn a skill in the process,” Elliott said. He is hoping to raise some money to demonstrate at the Village how people can build these small homes using materials that are lying around. He estimated it costs between $700 and $1,000 to build one.

Kaleeo Acatar was one of the attendees and volunteers during the recent pizza party. He used to live under the freeway bridge in the encampment. Now, he works at Pixar as a dishwasher and as part of the nightshift maintenance crew. He’s saving up for a place of his own but currently lives in his car nearby. “None of the houses have a stove where they can cook,” he said. And the pizza? “It was delicious. It was definitely appreciated.”

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

La Marcha Team to Open Alcalá in Montclair Village

by Momo Chang
Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 1:19 PM

The paella will reflect the restaurant’s emphasis on seafood. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PHI TRAN
  • Photo courtesy of Phi Tran
  • The paella will reflect the restaurant’s emphasis on seafood.

A new Spanish restaurant will be coming to Montclair Village in Oakland in 2019, helmed by the owners of the popular La Marcha Tapas Bar in Berkeley.

Chefs Sergio Monleón and Emily Sarlatte are the duo behind the business. The new 3,000-square-foot restaurant is named Alcalá (2084 Mountain Blvd., Oakland), which translates to “citadel” in Arabic.

“It’s a play on the fact that every village in Spain had a citadel, and we are moving to Montclair Village,” Monleón told the Express. The name is also inspired by the restaurant’s aesthetics, which will be rustic and castle-like.

Raiden Brenner will serve as executive chef. Brenner has cooked in the kitchens of Oliveto and Duende, among other restaurants. Brenner traveled to Spain earlier this year for inspiration for Alcalá. “He gets our vision really well. He understands our cuisine and adds new elements that will make it unique,” Monleón said.

The menu will feature Spanish cuisine, focusing on paellas, which will be cooked in a wood-fired oven. (La Marcha also specializes in paella, but the selection at Alcalá will be different.) There will also be a focus on using the whole animal, butchered in-house and grilled in the wood-fired oven, along with seafood dishes, tapas, a full bar menu, and meats aged for house-made charcuterie.

A rendering of the dining room. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STUDIO KDA
  • Photo courtesy of Studio KDA
  • A rendering of the dining room.

While La Marcha is a more casual tapas bar, the plan for Alcalá is a more formal full-service restaurant with bigger tables and a quieter atmosphere. All of it will come together in a rustic style. “The style of using whole animals is a nod to the cuisine of an earlier time,” Monleón said.

Chef Sarlatte is an Oakland native who graduated from Laney College’s culinary program and spent time studying in Spain, where she fell in love with the cuisine. Monleón was raised in California in a Spanish household and spent six years living in Madrid, Spain.
Sarlatte and Monleón met working at Trattoria La Siciliana in Berkeley. In 2012, they teamed up to start Ñora Cocina Española, a Spanish catering company, serving paella and other dishes at weddings and festivals such as Eat Real. In 2015, they opened La Marcha Tapas Bar.

Alcalá joins their Gran Via Restaurant Group, which includes La Marcha, the upcoming Mile Limit bottle shop, and Ñora Cocina Española.

There is not a date set yet for the new restaurant’s opening, but owners are shooting for sometime in 2019. The site is currently under construction, with a new building going up on the corner of Mountain Boulevard and Antioch. The restaurant will be on the ground floor of the new construction, designed by Lowney Architecture, and the restaurant is being designed by Studio KDA, which also designed Berkeley’s Comal and San Francisco’s Nopalito.

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Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine Opens in Jack London Square

by Momo Chang
Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 9:52 AM

Floral accents dominate the spacious restaurant. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FARMHOUSE KITCHEN THAI CUISINE
  • Photo courtesy of Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine
  • Floral accents dominate the spacious restaurant.

From the owners of Daughter Thai Kitchen in Montclair comes a new Thai restaurant on the Jack London waterfront. Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine (366 Water St., Oakland) opened last week.
Similar to Daughter Thai, the new restaurant, which is located between Forge Pizza and the new Belcampo, boasts an atmosphere that is homey, lush, fun, and family-friendly. Flowers abound, and the decor is flecked with gold accents and white marble.

Chef Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang is originally from Thailand, and says the waterfront reminds him of places in Thailand. “When you face the water, see the sunlight, it’s similar to Thailand’s weather,” he told the Express. “I’m a guy who grew up in the countryside. I really like the water, trees, and birds. It reminds me of who I am.”

Saengsawang co-owns the restaurants with his wife, Ling Chatterjee.
The Thai restaurant is a welcomed addition to the neighborhood, where there is currently no other place for Thai food. The couple’s first restaurant, Farmhouse Kitchen in San Francisco, opened four years ago, and another one opened in Portland. Daughter Thai in the Montclair Village opened in 2016 and has quickly become a popular local spot. While Daughter Thai specializes in southern Thai cuisine, Farmhouse focuses on dishes from the northern part of the country. The Farmhouse team is still tinkering with the Oakland menu, but for now, there is some overlap between the two restaurants.

When Saengsawang moved to the U.S. 18 years ago, he was studying computer science. A few years later, he noticed that Thai food was really taking off. He felt like he had the knowledge and skills to cook his native cuisine, so he attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and became a chef. “Cooking is me trying to remember who I am,” he said. “I use my own memory of when I was young. I learned to cook from my grandma.”

He recalls helping his grandmother by going to the markets to buy ingredients, haggling with vendors for the best prices on spices, and learning how to select the best produce and meat. He still chats with his grandmother every day, now that he’s successfully opened several restaurants. He said she always jokes, “‘Don’t forget to cut me a share,’ because I learned a lot from her.”
Daughter Thai Kitchen's popular Hat Yai fried chicken is currently on the Farmhouse menu. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FARMHOUSE KITCHEN THAI CUISINE
  • Photo courtesy of Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine
  • Daughter Thai Kitchen's popular Hat Yai fried chicken is currently on the Farmhouse menu.

The chef hopes to introduce people to different types of Thai food beyond pad Thai and pad see ew (although those staples are also on the menu), including braised meat curry dishes, wild salmon cooked in banana leaves, and a very spicy papaya salad. The restaurant strives to use quality ingredients, including locally sourced meat from places like Mary’s Organic Chicken. The restaurant has a full bar with Asian-inspired cocktails as well as dog-friendly outdoor seating.

Like Daughter Thai, Farmhouse brings a playful spirit to dining, including spicy food eating. Birthday celebrations are not for the shy, as they sing a “crazy birthday song” and put the spotlight on the honoree. “I wanted it to feel like people are coming into their friend’s house,” Saengsawang said.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Update: How Hasta Muerte Coffee Successfully Secured Its Building

by Momo Chang
Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 2:45 PM

This building now belongs to Hasta Muerte. - PHOTO BY MOMO CHANG
  • Photo by Momo Chang
  • This building now belongs to Hasta Muerte.

In late May, Hasta Muerte Coffee (2701 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland), a worker-owned cooperative that was thrown into the national spotlight for refusing to serve uniformed police officers, launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy its building.

In mid-July, Haste Muerte successfully preserved its space, along with two residential rental units in the building, with the help of the Oakland Community Land Trust. The collective raised more than $50,000 through the crowdfunding platform alone to go toward the purchase.

In a statement to the Express, the collective stated: “In general, we believe that this was entirely a community effort and as major beneficiaries of the deal, cannot say thank you enough to those that embraced our vision of sanctuary space and defended our long-term sustainability.”

The cafe opened less than a year ago and has come under intense national media coverage and scrutiny. Pro-Trump supporters rallied in front of the cafe, and a few months ago the building went up for sale, prompting fears that a new owner might raise the rent and displace the business. Nonetheless, Haste Muerte continued to serve food and coffee to the community.

Technically, the Oakland Community Land Trust owns the building and land, but the goal is to eventually work something out with Hasta Muerte and the tenants. If the collective purchases the building from the Oakland Community Land Trust, the land trust will still own the land for 99 years.

Steve King, executive director of the Oakland Community Land Trust, said they partnered with Hasta Muerte because “we were both interested in helping them as a worker-owned cooperative to save their space, but we were also concerned about the two residential units.”

Oakland Community Land Trust was formed in 2009 at the height of the foreclosure crisis. Its goal is to gain “community control of land and housing, something that remains permanently affordable,” King said. “The nature of the crisis has changed from foreclosure to now one of mass displacement.”

While some have claimed that the cafe is an example of gentrification, the deal preserves the two top units as affordable housing for at least 99 years. The land trust and the collective also intend for the downstairs commercial space to serve a community purpose into perpetuity. Even if Hasta Muerte buys the building from the land trust, it will not be able to resell it at market rate.

Since the building has been purchased, Haste Muerte is forging ahead to keep the Fruitvale neighborhood cafe as a sanctuary space.
As the collective stated: “Now we are excited to focus on our shop as a cultural center, a ‘history of de-colonial struggle’-themed bookstore, and a café where BBQ Beckys and Permit Pattys of the Bay know they will be most unwelcomed.” 

Read the Express' prior reporting on the deal here.

Editor's Note: This original post, published on July 13, announced the purchase. On July 24, we updated it with more reporting and an interview with Steve King.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Mak-‘amham Aims to Bring Back Indigenous Ways Starting with Café Ohlone in Berkeley

by Momo Chang
Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Vincent Medina (left) and Louis Trevino are co-founders of mak-'amham. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE MADDOX
  • Photo courtesy of Michelle Maddox
  • Vincent Medina (left) and Louis Trevino are co-founders of mak-'amham.

There are no people with a deeper connection to the East Bay than the Ohlone, the original people of this area. Yet so little is known about Ohlone people and culture due to colonization.

Through a new cafe called Café Ohlone by mak-‘amham, Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino hope to bring back traditions by serving modern Ohlone food — the only restaurant of its kind anywhere.

“There isn’t a place where you can see Ohlone culture represented through food,” Trevino said. “It’s a powerful way to reach people and change their minds about us.”

The two trace their roots back many generations, Medina from what is now known as the East Bay and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and Trevino from the Carmel Valley and the Rumsen Ohlone community.

Together, they created mak-‘amham, which means “our food” in the Chochenyo language of Medina’s tribe. Both see food as one avenue to connect their own communities as well as non-indigenous people to Ohlone culture.

They started by hosting community meals in their homes, organizing pop-ups, and collaborating with other organizations, such as the People’s Kitchen Collective.

This September, Café Ohlone by mak-‘amham will open in Berkeley (2430 Bancroft Way), in the back patio area of University Press Books. The small-bites spot will be open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday.

The seasonal menu will include teas made with ingredients such as yerba buena, elderberry, and rose hips, gathered locally and blessed in traditional ways. There will be hand-pressed hazelnut or walnut milk; coffee infused with local bay or piñon nuts; acorn flour brownies; seed cakes; native greens salad; and quail eggs with walnut oil.

There will also be meat dishes: rabbit, duck, salmon, goose, or venison, with a meat smoker in the back. The food served is pre-colonial, using almost exclusively ingredients recognized by Ohlone ancestors. But the pair also takes a contemporary approach to create dishes such as acorn flour brownies (made with local walnuts, locally gathered salt, and chocolate, which is not something that is native to this area). “For so many of our people, especially the young people, they’ve only read about acorn in books. So many people have not tried it before. We want the first bite they get of acorn to be something that’s favorable, that they immediately like,” Medina said. “We’re using ingredients that our people cherish, but we are modern, too. We’re a living culture.”

While the food and drink may be tasty, it’s also a pathway to connecting with culture, history, storytelling, language, geography, art, and other traditions such as basket-weaving.

“We want to see all of those things brought back in our world,” Medina said. “The holistic revival of our culture is what we want.”

Their website is noteworthy too, full of language and information that manages to avoid feeling didactic while still being very educational. It’s been at least two generations since Ohlone people spoke their languages at home, they said. On the website, there is a recording of how to pronounce “mak-‘amham” and there are descriptions of their vision, the dishes, and more. Medina serves on the board of Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, and the two met at an indigenous language workshop at UC Berkeley.

Mak-‘amham also caters and plans to host quarterly events such as dinners honoring elders and families or workshops on how to gather ingredients. “People are already proud of who they are, but when they get to see it practiced in a big way, it makes them more proud,” Trevino said.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated Trevino is part of the Rumsen Ohlone Tribe. Rumsen Ohlone community is more accurate.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

At Forage Kitchen, Food Startups Creatively Collaborate

by Momo Chang
Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 12:48 PM

Some of Oak and Fig Baking’s savory hand pies feature bacon from the Baconer. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW LAWRENCE SCHIFF
  • Photo courtesy of Andrew Lawrence Schiff
  • Some of Oak and Fig Baking’s savory hand pies feature bacon from the Baconer.

Just shy of being two years old, Forage Kitchen in
Oakland has housed dozens of food incubators. The commercial kitchen, cafe, and event space now includes 45 food businesses as tenants — some don’t have the capital for a brick-and-mortar just yet, others came to cooking without professional training or as a second career.

The Baconer’s Camilo Velasquez was one of Forage Kitchen’s first tenants, making specialty bacon with flavors like sweet maple, smoky paprika, and jalapeño. The bacon is smoked and sous-vided. He sells online and at farmers’ markets such as Grand Lake, Kensington, and Montclair. The Baconer sells thick cuts, lardons (smaller chopped pieces), and bacon steaks (half-inch cuts of pork belly), and hopes to sell to restaurants soon.

With close proximity to other food purveyors comes some fun collaborations. Last summer, Andrew Lawrence Schiff of Oak and Fig Baking started making savory hand pies using Velasquez’s bacon. “I was excited by the idea of working with other chefs,” Schiff said. “It was a way to embrace this concept, to play together.”

Schiff is a former menswear fashion designer who left the corporate world to start his business about two years ago. He trained in high-end French pastry-making while getting his college degree, and found that baking helped him during stressful times. Now, he puts his creative energy into baking everything from macarons to cookies, cupcakes, and wedding cakes.

Other collaborations include Samara Southern Creations, also a tenant at Forage Kitchen, who has used the Baconer’s bacon for Monte Cristo sandwiches and bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Good to Eat Dumplings has also collaborated with their fellow tenants. Known for their creative dumpling fillings as well as Taiwanese gua bao and round twisted baos, they debuted a potsticker with the Baconer’s bacon inside and crispy bacon sprinkled on top. They also made a mac ’n’ cheese potsticker, stuffed with mac from one of the former chefs at Forage. For their fish dumplings, they source sustainably caught Monterey Bay cod from Fresh Catch, also a former tenant at Forage Kitchen. Good to Eat Dumplings has been popping up regularly at breweries and will soon offer delivery through Caviar with a bigger menu that also includes soup and salad. “We always share and eat each others’ foods and keep experimenting and tasting new things,” said Tony Tung, owner of Good to Eat Dumplings, referring to her and her co-founding team members Stacy Tang (who co-owns Taiwan Bento in Oakland with Willy Wang) and Angie Lin.

Both Schiff and Velasquez want to eventually move on to their own space. And Smokin’ Woods BBQ, the current tenant in the cafe, will be moving on soon to a permanent location. “The whole idea is to support them,” said Iso Rabins, co-founder of Forage Kitchen with Matt Johansen.

“This is where we cut our teeth as budding food professionals,” Schiff said. “This feels like home. We hold each other up.”

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