Saturday, November 23, 2013

Savor Oakland food tour of Jack London Square

On Friday I joined some other curious and intrepid souls for a Savor Oakland food tour. But the tours aren't just walking from place to place and eating. Our guide, Carlo, is very knowledgeable about the food and the places we were going, as well as Oakland history. He humbly says his wife Geneva is an even better guide. Either way, they've put together a great tour around Jack London Square. I highly recommend it.

We started at Home of Chicken and Waffles, and they'd made arrangements for a vegi option for me, replacing the chicken with mac and cheese. Carlo told us about the invention of the combination, originally a favorite of jazz musicians after a late night gig, it was popularized in Los Angeles at restaurant called Roscoe's. But he also told us about the origins of fried chicken (Western Africa and Scotland) and of waffles (Europe, popularized in the U.S. in part by Thomas Jefferson).

Then we walked past Cerruti Cellars, one of a number of wineries based in Oakland, where Carlo told us about the burgeoning wine scene in Oakland and the East Bay. We walked through the warehouse district and Carlo told us a bit about the history of Oakland and the railroads.

We stopped near Blue Bottle Coffee. Because of their demands for freshness, it's not practical to stop there with a group, so instead we had a taste of some of their New Orleans-style iced coffee. It's different than most iced coffee you've probably had. Instead of putting ice cubes and sugar into regular coffee, the coffee is cold-brewed for 18 hours and combined with some chicory and some organic cane sugar. The results are delicious. On our way to the produce market area, we walked past nearby Bicycle Coffee, and we heard more about the "third wave" of coffee, from the likes of Folger's, to Peet's and Starbucks, and now careful, small-batch roasting that Blue Bottle and Bicycle do.

At the produce market it was relatively quiet, since most of the activity starts early each morning. We about the history of the produce market, which was originally further up, but has always been a bustling area even back to the days of horse-drawn carriages.

Heading north, we went next to Authentic Bagel Co. for some samples. It was started by two brothers from the East Coast, Mark and Jason Scott. During a stint making brunch at Monaghan's, they started making their own bagels. They found a hand-written recipe from their grandmother and used that as the basis of theirs. The results are great. Not the bready things you get most places, but a nice, chewy, flavorful bagel. Then we took another pause from eating and stopped by the lOAKal Art Gallery & Boutique. Besides their usual assortment of locally-made and local-loving items, they currently have a show on display from Peter Adamyan.

Walking past another local art gallery, The Hive, we came to Urban Legend Cellars for some wine-tasting. Marilee and Steve told us about their wine making and about their name. Part of their story is about breaking down myths about how wine is made, so their name and logo is a nod to that. Despite the persistence of the rumor and even t-shirts, the port cranes in Oakland were not the inspiration for the Star Wars AT-ATs walkers—that's a local urban legend.

We looped back along the waterfront, taking in the beautiful (though still sometimes breezy) day, and hearing more about Oakland's history. Our next stop was Forge for some tasty Neapolitan-inspired pizza and some local beer from Linden Street Brewery. We lingered there for a bit, then headed next door to Bocanova. Most folks had some ceviche while I had a very tasty quinoa salad, and we followed that with some churros dipped in chocolate. Yum!

Our final stop was Miette, where we heard about their story, and (since we were pleasantly full), we got some macarons to go. It was a great tour. I'm looking forward to their next Savor Oakland destination: Chinatown.

Lots more pictures from the tour:

Since a number of people asked about other walking tours in Oakland, here's the Oakland Wiki page on Walking Tours.

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