Friday, November 16, 2018

Fundraise for Camp Fire Victims With The Hog’s Apothecary and 7th West

This Sunday at 7th West, drink beer from local breweries and eat Filipino food from Jeepney Guy to support those affected by the Camp Fire in Butte County.

by Katherine Hamilton
Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 11:43 AM

  • Photo courtesy of 7th West
This Sunday, 7th West and The Hog’s Apothecary are teaming up to host a fundraiser for victims of the Camp fire, which has become the deadliest and most destructive in state history.

According to Hog’s Apothecary owner John Streit, three employees have families impacted by the fire; among them, a total of seven homes and a barn, along with priceless memories, were lost. For the fundraiser, Hog’s Apothecary has secured donations of kegs from local breweries including Sierra Nevada, Wildcard, Faction,
Barebottle, Old Kan, and South City Ciderworks. Meanwhile, Dennis Villafranca of The Jeepney Guy will be serving up his Filipino fare. There’ll also be music from DJ SoMakesSense, also known as Felix the Dog.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation. The fundraiser takes place Sunday, Nov. 18, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., at 7th West, 1255 7th St., Oakland.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

At One Zo, Boba Is Made Before Your Eyes

The Taiwanese chain recently soft-opened its first Northern California location in Oakland Chinatown, and the grand opening is coming soon.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 11:51 AM

One Zo pearls are a lot softer than what you’d find at other shops. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ONE ZO
  • Photo courtesy of One Zo
  • One Zo pearls are a lot softer than what you’d find at other shops.

From matcha to black sesame to taro to red beet, there’s a flavor of fresh, house-made boba for everyone at One Zo Oakland.

And the term “fresh, house-made boba” doesn’t just refer to the drinks. The boba (tapioca pearls) themselves are made in-house, and because the shop has complete control over the boba-making process, boba makers can add ingredients like matcha powder or black sesame seeds to change the flavor of the boba itself.

In the East Bay, where boba shops are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, handmade, flavored boba makes One Zo stand out from the crowd. “It is a lot different from any other boba shop you can get boba from in the Bay Area,” said Neville Yeung, manager of the Oakland One Zo shop.

“The boba that they’re using is prepackaged boba, while we don’t use any pre-packaged boba at all. We make our own boba.”

Most pre-packaged boba is black in color, which Yeung said comes from the black sugar used to flavor it. Most boba shops only offer plain boba, and according to Yeung, pre-packaged boba typically contains preservatives that give it a shelf life of one or two years.

But at One Zo, flavors are added into the tapioca starch during the boba-making process to create a flavored “dough,” and the boba attains the color of whatever ingredients are added for flavor. Black sesame boba is grayish-black; matcha is green; taro is purple; honey is golden; and beet is red. The pearls are also a lot softer than what you’d find at other shops. Yeung said the shop has experimented with making about 15 different flavors, and there are typically five or six flavors available on any given day. Customers can ask to sample the boba before deciding which one to order. The shop has also been experimenting with making boba that contains two or three layered flavors in a single pearl; Yeung hopes to offer multi-colored boba in the coming months.

And unlike pre-packaged boba, One Zo’s boba is made fresh, so it doesn’t contain any preservatives. Since One Zo makes its boba in small batches, they typically have to make fresh boba every day to keep up with demand. There’s even an open area in the kitchen where customers can watch boba being made.

As for the drinks themselves, the current menu is smaller than most other boba shops. There’s still a wide range of choices, like fresh fruit tea, matcha lattes, jade green tea, and taro milk tea. Yeung’s favorite is the caramel oolong latte, crafted with house-made caramel. (Most other shops, according to Yeung, use a store-bought caramel syrup.)

The shop has been in soft-opening mode since October. The grand opening will take place on Nov. 18 and 19 at the Oakland location (362 8th St., Suite A) from noon to 10 p.m. There’ll be free drinks for the first hundred customers on Nov. 18, and on both days, the shop will be running a buy one, get one free promotion.

... In other food news, Starter Bakery has moved from Oakland to Berkeley, and now occupies the former Pyramid Brewing space (901 Gilman St.). The new space is 10 times larger than the previous space, allowing the bakery to expand its list of wholesale clients. The bakery specializes in pretzels, pain de mie burger buns, and laminated dough pastries such as kouign amann. But with the expansion, the bakery also plans to increase its focus on bread. Best of all, there’ll be a retail shop opening up eventually — the date has not yet been determined. And as of Nov. 8, chef Tanya Holland of recently shuttered Brown Sugar Kitchen is serving up a new menu at the Oakland Floodcraft Taproom, inside Whole Foods (230 Bay Place). The menu features snacks like sweet corn and jalapeño hush puppies, small plates such as jerk pork belly sliders, and entrees including fried chicken sandwiches and vegetarian muffulettas.

Inside UC Berkeley’s Food Pantry

The first year the pantry opened, 500 students came in to use it. Now, nearly 7,000 students use the UC Berkeley Food Pantry a year, out of 42,000 students on campus.

by Momo Chang
Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 11:40 AM

Members of the Friday restock team at the UC Berkeley Food Pantry. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GRETCHEN KELL
  • Photo courtesy of Gretchen Kell
  • Members of the Friday restock team at the UC Berkeley Food Pantry.

A study conducted across the UC system shows that 44 percent of undergrads and 26 percent of grad students in UC schools experience food insecurity, according to a report from the UC Global Food Initiative.

The UC Berkeley Food Pantry first opened its doors in 2014 and this summer was redesigned with the help of the College of Environmental Design. It’s located in the basement of the MLK Student Center.

Students who need food are allowed to take what they need in terms of produce and bread, but for shelf-stable foods such as pasta, canned beans, and more, they are allotted about five per visit, with a cap at two visits per month.

The organizers know that the pantry is just one point of entry for those who may have other needs — a short-term, if vital, way of supporting students. Some of them are referred to CalFresh (known as food stamps, or SNAP, in other states). Last year, 1,300 students signed up for CalFresh, and this school year, the Basic Needs Committee hope to sign up 3,000.

Reniel Del Rosario, an art major, is one such student who experienced food insecurity. Originally from the Philippines, he grew up in Vallejo in a family that utilized social security. During his second year, he walked into the food pantry.

That same day, he asked if he could volunteer there. Now, he is one of their star volunteers who helps on “restock” days — Tuesdays and Fridays — when new produce, dry goods, and other items come in. “I feel very satisfied when I do this,” he said.

Produce stand inside the UC Berkeley Food Pantry. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE UC BERKELEY FOOD PANTRY
  • Photo courtesy of the UC Berkeley Food Pantry
  • Produce stand inside the UC Berkeley Food Pantry.

The food in the pantry is high quality and nutritious — staffers worked with a dietician to ensure what they’re ordering or receiving is healthy — and much of it is organic and local. There are instant udon bowls, organic soups, canned wild salmon, boxed cereals, canned organic sweet corn, and more.

By 11 a.m., 30 minutes before the door opens on days where items are restocked, there’s already a line forming.

Del Rosario also hopes to erase the stigma of being on food assistance. “If you need help, then you have a right to get services,” he said on a recent Friday morning while adding boxes of tofu to the refrigerator. “Everyone should have access to food.”

Stella Zhu and Ibrahim Ramoul are two paid student coordinators who manage 65 volunteers. The pantry is largely student-run, and students do the heavy lifting — organizing, restocking, and more. Some get academic credit for volunteering. “I wanted to be involved in tangible way in changing food system,” said Zhu, a senior majoring in sociology and molecular and cell biology.

Vikrem Padda, UC Berkeley's CalFresh Coordinator, with Stella Zhu and Ibrahim Ramoul, UC Berkeley Food Pantry coordinators.
  • Vikrem Padda, UC Berkeley's CalFresh Coordinator, with Stella Zhu and Ibrahim Ramoul, UC Berkeley Food Pantry coordinators.
Ramoul is a public health major and sees working on food systems and equity as a good application of his studies. The student coordinators buy 200-300 pounds of produce a week, with the rest of the produce donated from farmers markets such as the one in Kensington, along with Monterey Market, Daylight Foods, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, individuals, and UC Berkeley’s own farms and gardens.

Students are three times more likely than the average Alameda County resident to be food insecure: 44 percent versus 13 percent of residents at large. And 57 percent of UC students who are food insecure are for the first time.

“There’s something unique about the college experience that’s creating food insecurity,” said Meg Prier, Cal’s Basic Needs food manager.

Berkeley has additional assistance, including a food assistance program that is for students not eligible for CalFresh but who still need funding for food

“The pantry is an emergency support,” Prier added. “We’re really trying to take a structural and systemic approach and take a preventative model. Fundamentally, we know that students are facing food insecurity because financial aid isn’t enough.”

The UC Berkeley Basic Needs Committee, which oversees the food pantry on campus, advocated for several bills in the state alongside other UCs, Cal State universities, and community colleges that allowed students to sign up for CalFresh. Previously, college students were not eligible.

In addition to the food pantry, Berkeley is building a space next door for basic needs. It will offer workshops, help more students sign up for CalFresh or UC Berkeley’s Food Assistance Program, work with homeless students, and more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Direct Action Burritos

Volunteers with East Oakland Burrito Roll meet monthly to make burritos for their unhoused neighbors.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 2:37 PM

The nonprofit has worked in a variety of locations. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EAST OAKLAND BURRITO ROLL
  • Photo courtesy of East Oakland Burrito Roll
  • The nonprofit has worked in a variety of locations.

For East Oakland Burrito Roll’s founder Kira Clarence, making burritos is a form of direct action. Part of her inspiration for the project, she said, was “fighting Trump and fascism and just not wanting to numb out, and wanting to take action, help people around me.”

“It’s a crazy crisis that’s going on in the Bay Area with all the displaced people, and [I was] tired of walking by and looking the other way,” Clarence said.

East Oakland Burrito Roll is a monthly gathering of community members who volunteer to make a total of 500 burritos and distribute them to unhoused people, primarily in East Oakland. Volunteers also distribute supplies, like bottled water, fresh fruit, and dog food. Right now they operate primarily out of donated commercial kitchen spaces, and most of the expenses come out of pocket.

Clarence originally wanted to volunteer with other groups who give out prepared food to the unhoused, like Punks with Lunch and the San Francisco Burrito Project. But she found that she couldn’t make her schedule work with those groups. So in February, Clarence started making burritos at home with the help of her friends. “I figured I’d just start doing direct action myself on days I knew I could make it possible,” she said.

Clarence chose to focus on East Oakland because the camps of unhoused people there are smaller and tend to move a lot, meaning they often receive fewer resources than larger camps. She also worked with the East Oakland Collective, a community organizing group that, among other services, holds a bimonthly sandwich giveaway called Feed the Hood. When she first started out, the collective helped Clarence locate camps in East Oakland where she could donate burritos.

Clarence and her friends cooked for the East Oakland Burrito Roll in homes until July, when they began working out of donated commercial kitchen space. Then, they started recruiting volunteers from the general public. East Oakland Burrito Roll has worked in a variety of locations, including Food Foundry, Agnes Memorial Church, and even a bicycle nonprofit. They’re still looking for a permanent commercial kitchen space.

“To go and pay for a commercial space would just not be feasible, because the price of renting a space would cover the entire Burrito Roll for the month,” Clarence said. “So we’ve been trying to … find someone who’s also passionate about helping unhoused folks and isn’t trying to make that capitalist dollar off of us, and sees the good that we’re doing and the direct action we’re taking. We’re still putting out feelers and making calls and trying to find the right spot.”

Meanwhile, East Oakland Burrito Roll has been gaining new volunteers via word-of-mouth and Instagram. Volunteers typically meet on Friday nights to make rice, beans, and salsa — a process that Clarence said “involves a lot of chopping veggies and onion tears.” On Saturdays, volunteers roll the burritos and deliver them to local encampments. Volunteers can sign up for shifts as short as 1 hour.

Currently, the project is primarily funded by Clarence and her friends. But East Oakland Burrito Roll now has a fiscal sponsor, SocialGood, that allows people to make tax-deductible donations to the East Oakland Burrito Project online.

Although the group hasn’t found a commercial kitchen space yet, the next East Oakland Burrito Roll will take place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Events have also been scheduled for January and February 2019. To donate or volunteer, visit

Above all, Clarence hopes people take action. “You don’t need to come and volunteer with us in order to have empathy and help out your neighbors,” she said. “Anyone can do this. You don’t have to be a professional cook. You can just buy a few extra loaves of bread and make sandwiches.

“I’d be super happy to hear that other people helped out and fed other folks or gave them water. Or just had a bit more humanity, you know?”

Friday, November 2, 2018

Oakland Artist Favianna Rodriguez Talks About Her Work on Ben & Jerry’s Pecan Resist

Rodriguez designed the carton for the limited-batch flavor, which was created in resistance to the Trump administration.

by Katherine Hamilton
Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 2:02 PM

Rodriguez said that since Trump was elected, “I’ve had to be not just making art, but participating in building social movements.” - PHOTO COURTESY OF BEN & JERRY'S
  • Photo courtesy of Ben & Jerry's
  • Rodriguez said that since Trump was elected, “I’ve had to be not just making art, but participating in building social movements.”

Ben & Jerry’s released this week a limited-batch flavor called Pecan Resist — and the carton is graced with the vibrant art of Oakland mixed-media artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez.

According to Ben & Jerry’s spokesperson Lindsay Bumps, Pecan Resist was created out of the “need to speak out about what was happening with the current administration… a lot of the values that we believe so strongly in are being attacked.”

In connection with Pecan Resist, Ben & Jerry’s is donating a total of $100,000 to four organizations that align with the company’s values in the face of the Trump administration: Color of Change, Honor the Earth, Women’s March, and Neta.

Pecan Resist is a rebranded version of the popular flavor New York Super Fudge Chunk, which consists of chocolate ice cream with white and dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts, and fudge-covered almonds. This isn’t the first time Ben & Jerry’s has rebranded a popular flavor in connection with a social cause. But according to Bumps, it is the first time Ben & Jerry’s has featured art on its carton.

“It was a really cool opportunity for us to work with somebody [who] had like-minded values, and somebody as talented as her,” Bumps said.

Rodriguez was born and raised in Oakland. Her art focuses on social justice issues, including feminism, environmental justice, and immigrants’ rights. “I’m an artist [who] tackles a lot of issues that have affected me personally,” Rodriguez told the Express. “I’m the daughter of immigrants. I grew up in the Fruitvale, which has very poor air quality because of fossil fuels burning along the 880. … As a woman artist, I very much deal with a lot of sexual harassment in the workplace.”

Rodriguez also runs the nonprofit CultureStrike, a collection of artists working toward social justice.

Rodriguez said that since Trump was elected, “I’ve had to be not just making art, but participating in building social movements.” She recently went to the Mexico border to protest the separation of families. With CultureStrike, she also created an art project, #ClimateWoke, about the disproportionate impacts of climate change on communities of color.

Recognizing all the art and activism Rodriguez has done over the years, Ben & Jerry’s representatives asked her to work with them. Rodriguez said she “really meshed” with the ice cream company. “I’m very much interested in the way food can help be an expression of values.”

Rodriguez’s design on the Pecan Resist carton features three characters. Two of them are women and one is genderqueer; all are people of color. “I wanted to showcase women of color in leadership. … I wanted to show dignity and also some fun in the images,” she said.

  • Photo courtesy of Ben Jerry's

The character in front is a woman with purple hair. Rodriguez said the character was partly inspired by Nia Wilson, who was killed at MacArthur BART in North Oakland around the time Ben & Jerry’s approached her about the project. “I really wanted to create a character who’s a young Black woman who… communicates this message of confidence, but also of what our youth are like today,” she said. “I was very moved by her story. I was very saddened to know that this is the kind of world we live in — that this kind of violence is inflicted on women of color.”

The character on the right is a woman wearing a red hijab, inspired by her friend Linda Sarsour, a civil rights activist involved in the Women’s March. The character on the left is genderqueer. “I wanted to show a more masculine-looking person who’s fighting back,” Rodriguez said.

To celebrate the launch of the new flavor, Rodriguez headed to Washington, D.C. for a community celebration. Ben & Jerry’s created an ice cream truck with her art on it and parked it in front of the White House. Rodriguez said the experience was “amazing.”

“What was surprising to me was just how much people really resonated with the design — especially people of color.”

Pecan Resist is available in Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops, including the Jack London Square location, and on Ben & Jerry’s website.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

As Kneaded Bakery Prepares for Grand Opening

The woman-owned wholesale bakery will soon open its first brick-and-mortar in San Leandro, featuring unique loaves including honey rye porridge, sesame miche, and challah.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 1:30 PM

The grand opening will be Nov. 3 and 4. - PHOTO BY KATHERINE HAMILTON
  • Photo by Katherine Hamilton
  • The grand opening will be Nov. 3 and 4.

Iliana Berkowitz, founder of As Kneaded Bakery, said she “kind of stumbled upon bread by accident.” She graduated from college with a degree in anthropology during a recession and struggled to find work. But growing up in a food-loving family in the Bay Area, Berkowitz loved to bake. “I thought, maybe I can find a job doing something I really enjoy doing at home, which is baking.”

Berkowitz took a job in a bakery in West Philadelphia, where she was living at the time. There, she learned to make laminated dough-based pastries, like croissants. “I really loved that. So, pretty much right away, I became a professional baker,” she said. She then worked as a baker in a French bistro.

Berkowitz has lived in San Leandro for the past three years, and she began selling her own bread under the As Kneaded name in 2016. At first, her bread was only available via subscription to her bread club or through weekly pop-ups at Cleophus Quealy Beer Company in San Leandro. Then she started selling her bread at farmer’s markets in Kensington and San Mateo. And now, As Kneaded Bakery is preparing to open its first brick-and-mortar location in San Leandro.

“I have my own community there, so I can think of no better place to set up shop,” Berkowitz said.

Iliana Berkowitz, founder of As Kneaded Bakery. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNA MAASS PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo courtesy of Hanna Maass Photography
  • Iliana Berkowitz, founder of As Kneaded Bakery.

While the San Leandro storefront had been home to different food businesses for the past few decades, from a deli to a Southern restaurant to a Mediterranean restaurant, the store sat empty for the past year. “When I finally met the owners of the place, it’s like they were waiting for me,” Berkowitz said. “It sounds kind of magical, but as soon as we met, I felt … this was definitely gonna work.”

Speaking of magical, the breads here are something special. Each type of loaf is distinct, Berkowitz said, “unlike other bakeries in the Bay Area, where they take one dough and add mix-ins — I call it Cold Stone Creamery-style.” Here, on the other hand, each of the breads are made from carefully time-tested recipes. “They all come from somewhere in my history as a baker,” Berkowitz said.

The honey rye porridge is one of As Kneaded Bakery’s top sellers. “It’s very moist and custardy in a lot of ways that people don’t think bread should be.” The miche, available with or without sesame seeds on top, is a country whole wheat levain-style bread with a touch of whole dark rye, modeled after the famous Parisian bakery Poilâne. In a nod to Berkowitz’s Jewish heritage, there’s also challah, with a dark golden brown exterior and fluffy, eggy interior.

The honey rye porridge is one of As Kneaded Bakery’s top sellers. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUSTIN BRENNEMAN
  • Photo courtesy of Justin Brenneman
  • The honey rye porridge is one of As Kneaded Bakery’s top sellers.

Berkowitz also plans to roll out a series of what she calls noshes — sweet and savory bread-based snacks. She’s thinking about pizzettas, hand pie focaccias, and Turkish sesame rings called simit.

The grand opening will take place on Nov. 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at As Kneaded Bakery, 585 Victoria Court, San Leandro. There will be free samples, free giveaways for the first 20 customers, and of course, loaves of bread available for purchase. For the next month, the store will be open Saturdays and Sundays only, while Berkowitz determines final hours of operation. As Kneaded’s breads can also be purchased at Estudillo Produce in San Leandro from Thursday through Saturday, at the Kensington Farmer’s Market on Sundays, and via Good Eggs. She’s also looking to expand sales to more grocery stores and cafes throughout the East Bay; wholesalers can get in touch at

As to which loaf you should choose?

“Oh my God, they’re all my children. I can’t even choose one,” Berkowitz said. “They’re all so good.”

Alameda Wine Shop’s Lease Terminated

City officials say Alameda Wine Company repeatedly fell behind on its rent. Shop owner Karen Ulrich says she’s closing on Nov. 6.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 11:30 AM

Alameda Wine Company opened in 2008. - PHOTO BY KATHERINE HAMILTON
  • Photo by Katherine Hamilton
  • Alameda Wine Company opened in 2008.

The city of Alameda terminated the lease of a small wine bar and bottle shop located between the Alameda Theater & Cineplex and the Cinema Grill in downtown. The city owns the property, and Alameda officials say Alameda Wine Company repeatedly fell behind on its rent payments. Wine bar owner Karen Ulrich told the Express that she’s been ordered to vacate the space at 2315 Central Ave. by Nov. 30 but plans to close on Nov. 6.

Ulrich, who built out the shop at her own expense, calls it an “orphan space”; it only has 525 usable square feet. She said she had a 15-year lease with the city that began in 2008, and in 2016, she started receiving pay-or-quit notices due to late rent payments. Ulrich asserted that she was only three months behind on rent. She said when she attempted to pay the late rent with a credit card, the city refused to accept payment.

But Nanette Mocanu, Economic Development Division manager for the city, told the Express that Ulrich owed much more than three months’ rent, though she declined to specify the amount. “I’ve been reading that she said three months, and that is not correct,” Mocanu said. “There was a consistent delinquency that she cannot deny. It was the city trying to … help her succeed, but then the delinquency grew. … The credit card would eventually not be able to support her rent. That’s not a good business model anyway.”

Ulrich said business began to decline in 2016 when she lost $40,000 in gross sales, and attributed that in part to Cinema Grill. Cinema Grill opened in 2014 and is owned by Kyle Conner, who also owns the Alameda Cineplex, the collection of smaller, newly constructed screens (he does not own the city’s historic theater). Cinema Grill is allowed to sell its wine and beer in the historic theater and attached cineplex, but Alameda Wine Company is not. Conner declined a request for comment.

Mocanu, on the other hand, attributed the closure to a number of factors, including competition from several other businesses. “Competition was getting stiff, and with the dip in her patronage and just needing to figure out how to recreate herself, I just think that it didn’t happen. And that happens to a lot of businesses.”

Alameda Wine Company primarily focuses on European wines at affordable prices — the motto on its website reads, “Where good taste is never expensive.”

Ulrich said, “This wine bar was intended to be for women. … A lot of my customers are women, and they considered my shop a safe zone.” In the window of Alameda Wine Company, Ulrich posted a letter written by a 92-year-old woman customer, who wrote that she “cannot think of a nicer place to rest after watching a movie next door.”

But not everyone saw Alameda Wine Company in the same light. “We had many complaints about aggressive, abusive behavior,” Mocanu said. Mocanu said the city had also received complaints about racial discrimination. Reviews alleging inappropriate behavior and racial discrimination also appeared on Yelp.

Regarding her Yelp reviews, Ulrich said, “I could have been off my mark one night, because I felt like the city was against me, and I could have said something negative. But, no, I have a lot of customers of all racial profiles. … I am not a racist.”
Mocanu said these complaints didn’t play a factor in the city’s decision. “The lease is terminated solely on the rent issue,” she said.
“I have no plans to relocate, because I think rents are untenable,” Ulrich said. “I just wish the city would give me another chance, and a new lease.”

…In other food news, Spenger’s Fish Grotto in Berkeley closed without warning on Oct. 24. The restaurant opened as a clam shack in 1890. And hybrid market, bakery, and cafe Chow Oakland announced via Instagram that its last day in business would be Oct. 29. The Oakland branch of Chow, which also has locations in San Francisco and Lafayette, opened in February. And Filipino restaurant FOB Kitchen (5178 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) has set its opening date for Friday, Nov. 16.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tilden Cafe Benefits the Deaf Community

The new food truck celebrated its grand opening at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, serving its signature smoky grilled cheese sandwiches.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 10:22 AM

  • Photo by Katherine Hamilton

On Oct. 12, a crowd of more than 200 people gathered at California School for the Deaf in Fremont for the grand opening of a new food truck, Tilden Cafe. Little clouds of smoke billowed from the truck’s wood-burning oven, which the staff used to bake loaves of bread and make their signature smoky grilled cheese sandwiches. Three options were available: a three-cheese grilled cheese, a caprese grilled cheese, and a grilled cheese and ham with onions. The side of the truck read “Say Cheese!” along with a picture of two hands making the sign for “cheese” in American Sign Language.

Tilden Cafe is the newest venture from Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA), founded in 1964 and headquartered in San Leandro, with offices throughout the Bay Area. The nonprofit provides deaf people with social, employment, and advocacy services, and more.

According to executive director Raymond Rodgers, DCARA is shifting its focus toward operating as a social enterprise, meaning that it’ll operate other nonprofit businesses. “They get revenue and use it to support the services so they don’t have to depend on grants, donations, or government assistance,” Rodgers said through an interpreter. “And now Tilden Cafe is one of our businesses.”

Rodgers said he came up with the idea to start a food truck last summer while talking with a member of the organization’s development staff. Shortly after, while Rodgers was talking with one of the founders of San Francisco deaf-owned-and-operated pizzeria Mozzeria, they mentioned that they were thinking of selling one of their food trucks. So DCARA got a bank loan and did some online fundraising, and the next thing they knew, the truck, complete with a wood-burning pizza oven, was theirs. The staff named the truck after Douglas Tilden, a renowned deaf sculptor from the Bay Area whose work appears in Fremont, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

“It was an impulsive move because of the timing,” Rodgers said. “It’s like the universe [was] telling us to go ahead.”

Tilden Cafe has two goals. The first is to raise money to support DCARA’s services. “There’s a high demand for more services within the deaf community,” Rodgers said. “And the cost of living is rising here, and so we need new streams of funding.” And the second is to provide much-needed vocational training to deaf people.

“The food industry, all over the nation, is really expanding, and deaf people need to be part of that,” Rodgers said. In fact, an increasing number of deaf people are opening up their own businesses, like restaurants and breweries. “It became a hot trend for the deaf community to set up businesses, but the problem is, where’s the training for that? …. You can’t set it up without being taught or consulted.”

Many deaf people looking to get involved in the food industry had to learn from hearing people who knew a little bit of sign language, or use an interpreter. “It’s like a three-way conversation, so they miss out on a lot of stuff,” Rodgers said. “I really identified the need to set up some kind of training program connected to the food industry.”

So far, Tilden Cafe has hired three employees, all of whom are former Mozzeria employees. The manager, Mark Farr, worked at Mozzeria for four years using the same food truck that now belongs to Tilden Cafe. And the menu was designed by Debbie Call, a former culinary instructor at the California School for the Deaf. Tilden Cafe plans to eventually hire and train new employees, including referrals from the California Department of Rehabilitation and students from the California School for the Deaf.

But there have been some bumps in the road along the way. Tilden Cafe originally planned to park the truck on the site of the Deaf Community Center in San Leandro — a property that belongs to DCARA, conveniently located across the street from the San Leandro BART station. But San Leandro zoning laws didn’t allow for more food businesses at that location. “We went back and forth, and we couldn’t bend that rule,” Rodgers said.

Now, Tilden Cafe is partnering with Food Truck Mafia and hopes to partner with Off the Grid. They’ll soon apply for permits in different cities in the East Bay. Meanwhile, grilled cheese lovers can track Tilden Cafe’s progress on Instagram (@tildencafe) or on DCARA’s website (

Rodgers is excited about Tilden Cafe’s future. He hopes to open more trucks in different locations throughout the region. And beyond the Bay Area, Rodgers said, Tilden Cafe is in the “spotlight, nationally, for the deaf community. They’re all kind of looking to see what happens.”

… On Oct. 25, select Bay Area restaurants and bars will be participating in the Dine Out for Democracy fundraiser. A portion of the proceeds from participating restaurants and bars will be donated to two organizations: The National Voter Protection Action Fund, which combats voter suppression, and the Alliance for Youth Action, a network of organizations dedicated to encouraging young people to vote. Participating restaurants and bars in Oakland include Doña Tomás, Make Westing, Ramen Shop, Starline Social Club, Camino, Home of Chicken and Waffles, and Beauty’s Bagel Shop. Participating Berkeley businesses include Saul’s Deli, Gather, Tacubaya, and Homemade Cafe. For more information, visit

Corrections: The original version of this story erroneously stated that Debbie Call is an instructor at California School for the Deaf. She is retired. The story also should have stated that Tilden Cafe is partnering with Food Truck Mafia and hopes to work with Off the Grid.

What’s New at Swan’s Marketplace

Yammy’s Ethiopian food, plus Cupcakin’ coming soon.

by Momo Chang
Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 10:20 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Yammy’s Deli & Café

Swan’s Market in Old Oakland, which celebrated its 100th year last summer, has some new tenants. Many of the food businesses who have moved in since the re-opening of Swan’s are first-time food entrepreneurs — and many are women of color.

Yamrout Gebremedhin said she’s always dreamed of opening a restaurant, and now, at 50, her dream has come true. Gebremedhin recently opened Yammy’s Deli & Café (542 9th St., Oakland), serving mostly traditional Ethiopian food to the downtown lunch crowd, along with deli sandwiches. She worked as a massage therapist for 20 years, most recently at the Claremont Resort & Spa. But since she was a child, she wanted to run a restaurant.

When the previous tenants, Dallaq Market & Deli, were leaving, she jumped at the opportunity. The previous market and deli served Ethiopian and Middle Eastern cuisine; Yammy’s has included some of the same on her menu, including cold deli sandwiches, and of course, Ethiopian food.

The self-taught cook is left-handed; while she was growing up, she was not allowed to help cook. “Left-handed is a curse in that part of our culture. They didn’t let me touch anything,” she said. She learned by watching her grandmother and mother cook.

Gebremedhin says she takes a lot of inspiration from her grandmother. “She was the best cook.” Her grandmother was a coffee farmer before the Marxist revolution in Ethiopia in 1974, when the government then took over land. After that, her grandmother ran a hotel and restaurant.

Gebremedhin grew up in Addis, the capital of Ethiopia, and moved to the United States in 1990. “I came to this country, and I was hungry,” she said. “The food was weird. I needed to start making my own food. I’d been watching my mom and grandma do it all my life. Out of nowhere, I just knew what to do.”

Yammy’s serves many traditional dishes, such as a veggie sampler. Gebremedhin says most Ethiopian restaurants serve the same dishes because of the long tradition of culture. “There’s a lot of deep history. We’ve never been colonized. The Ethiopian identity has always been there. We’ve never eaten with a fork. And we still don’t want to do it.”

She said that, because of the strong culture and history — showing in a swift motion, twisting her wrist, and motioning picking up food with injera, the classic thin bread made from teff flour — there’s also resistance within the community to change recipes that have been passed down for generations.

However, forks are available at Yammy’s, and instead of injera, one could choose rice. Gebremedhin also rolls her own injera burritos — a vegetarian version, and what she calls “Ethiopian style sloppy joes,” made with minchet abish wot, an Ethopian ground beef dish, wrapped in injera.

  • Photo courtesy of Cupcakin’ Bake Shop

Old Oakland had several food shakeups recently, including the closing of Smart & Final grocery store last month and the opening of Benchmark Pizzeria. Another tenant will be moving into Swan’s later this year. Cupcakin’ Bake Shop will be operating the space where Hen House used to be (907 Washington St., Oakland). Owner Lila Owens currently has a store in Berkeley (2391 Telegraph Ave.). She plans to open the Old Oakland Cupcakin’ in late November or early December. After that, she will run the space at the former Virginia Bakery (1690 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley), which will also serve as the commissary kitchen for her business.

The cupcakes, with flavors such as key lime pie made with a graham cracker crust and lime curd, will be similar at the Old Oakland shop, plus a few specialty items exclusive to Oakland. Owens was born and raised in Oakland, so opening a storefront in Oakland has always been a dream. “I’m excited to be coming home,” Owens told the Express.

  • Photo courtesy of 1951 Coffee Company

… In other food news, the nonprofit 1951 Coffee Company is now selling its own coffee roast. The company recently launched a line of single-origin and coffee blends in partnership with Coffee Manufactory. The coffee is roasted in Oakland and will be served at the store in Berkeley (2410 Channing Way) and at other local cafes, such as Third Culture Bakery (2701 Eighth St., Berkeley). 1951 Coffee Company trains baristas who are newly arrived refugees or asylum seekers; each year, they train about 100 baristas and help place them into coffee-related jobs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Alameda County's New Pop-Up Program

The new program, which is expected to be in operation by December, addresses a gap between California food safety laws and the East Bay restaurant scene.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 11:51 AM

Korean-American pop-up restaurant Nokni was shut down by an Alameda County health inspector. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JULYA SHEN
  • Photo courtesy of Julya Shen
  • Korean-American pop-up restaurant Nokni was shut down by an Alameda County health inspector.

Restaurants such as Nyum Bai and Augie’s Montreal Smoked Meat both started as humble pop-ups with unusual concepts, and today, they operate as successful brick-and-mortars. That’s why the East Bay restaurant industry was shocked when an Alameda County health inspector shut down Nokni, a Korean ssam pop-up inside the Kebabery, on Aug. 21, declaring that “pop-ups are illegal.”

On Sept. 10, recognizing the important role pop-ups play in the East Bay restaurant industry, the county announced its decision not to enforce laws prohibiting pop-ups until it could establish pop-up regulations. “The pop-up restaurant scene here in Alameda County is important and evolving faster than existing food safety laws,” said Wilma Chan, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, during the September meeting.

San Francisco has explicit regulations regarding pop-ups, while Contra Costa and San Diego counties have used existing regulations within the California Retail Food Code to allow for them. Ronald Browder, director of the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, reviewed these counties’ regulations while developing the county’s new pop-up program, which will explicitly allow for pop-ups using existing California Retail Food Code provisions.

At an Oct. 8 board of supervisors meeting, Browder laid out the proposed regulations for Alameda County’s pop-up program. Under the proposal, pop-ups may be hosted only in permitted food facilities, known as host facilities. Host facilities will be required to notify the health department of all proposed pop-up operations and submit an application, including dates and times of operation, a proposed menu, and a to-be-determined fee. Pop-ups must also have a person-in-charge from the host facility, and there must be at least one person with a food safety certification on staff. Only an ABC license holder may serve alcohol. The program is expected to be go into effect by December. Sherri Willis, public information officer for the Alameda County Public Health Department, said these proposed regulations are still open for comment and subject to change.

Chan praised the health department for quickly developing the pop-up program to address the discrepancy between state law and the current reality of the East Bay food scene. However, Steve Joo, one of the chefs from Nokni, said at the meeting that the health department was “a little out of touch” with the food industry today, referring to restrictions regarding menu changes and that some staff he spoke with from the Department of Environmental Health didn’t know what a pop-up was. The supervisors noted that the Department of Environmental Health would be open to discussing these issues with Joo and other pop-up owners in the future.

...In other food news, a new woman of color-owned coffee bar, Fig and Poe (396 11th St., Oakland), has opened in downtown Oakland, serving Ritual coffee and Firebrand pastries. Popular Temescal tofu soup hotspot Pyeongchang Tofu House opened its second location on Oct. 9 (1269 University Ave., Berkeley). A new permanent dinner series at the Gastropig, Abstract Table (2123 Franklin St., Oakland), opened on Oct. 5 and will feature five and seven-course seasonally changing dining “exhibitions.” And Oakland restaurant Camino (3917 Grand Ave., Oakland) is scheduled to close at the end of December after 10 years in business.

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