Oakland news and notes 2018

So sad. I admired him for being able to wrassle very ripe grapes into big, elegant wines. He was devoted to local vineyards; I opened a bottle of 2002 San Francisco Bay appellation mourvedre last year, and it was honestly one of the most profound wines I’ve ever had, layer on layer of almost psychedelic flavors. He was also a supporter of home winemakers, selling grapes from his prime vineyards to us “homies”. In fact, I have a bottle of 2005 Rosenblum Paso Robles zinfandel down in the cellar, next to a couple of bottles of my own wine made from the same grapes. I think I’ll open it soon.

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OAKLAND– Mam Cultural Festival
September 15 @ 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm

OAKLAND–The Mayan Cultural Exchange will showcase the traditions and history of Oakland’s indigenous Mam (Mayan) community. Join us for traditional live music and food!

Saturday, September 15
2:00 pm – 4:30pm
César E. Chávez Branch Library
3301 East 12th Street
Cost: Free


Over 6 million people across Mexico and Central America — including diaspora communities here in the United States — speak one of 30 different Mayan languages. Today, East Oakland is home to several thousand speakers of Mam — a Mayan language indigenous to Guatemala.

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Cacao is endemic to the lands of the Maya, who were the first to take the seeds of the fruit and roast them to make hot chocolate. The ancient Maya didn’t make candy bars, nor did they add sugar and milk to the cacao. Instead they took their chocolate as a ceremonial elixir and a savory mood enhancer. For the Maya, cacao was a sacred gift of the gods, and cacao beans were used as currency.

Sheldon Simeon knows that a trip to California isn’t complete without a visit to a local farmers market, so he’s stopping by an Oakland market with chef Dominica Rice-Cisneros in this episode of Cooking in America . “My true joy was going to the markets,” says Rice-Cisneros of her time spent in Mexico City. “I wanted to recreate that here in Oakland.”

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Very interesting. I hadn’t heard of the Mam language before. Many years ago in my much younger days, I spent a month in a Guatemalan town called Quetzaltenango, short for Xela in Mayan. According to Wikipedia, ‘Mam is a Mayan language with half a million speakers in the Guatemalan departments of Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Retalhuleu, and 10,000 in the Mexican state of Chiapas. There are also thousands more in Oakland, California[3] and Washington, D.C., in the United States.

Because of the 80’s film El Norte, I was under the impression that many of them ended up in Los Angeles. So I had no idea that some of those in the highlands around Xela displaced by the brutal civil war ended up in East Oakland.

The article you linked to about the top Mayan foods said the following about Traditional Breakfast: ‘Simple foods are often the best. The typical Maya desayuno includes scrambled eggs, a side of black beans, fried plantains (akin to bananas but larger, with more complex flavor), a bit of queso blanco (white cheese), and a cup of rich coffee made from local beans. It’s all accompanied by a cloth-lined basket of warm yellow corn tortillas.

That is so true. The week I spent with a local family in Xela, that’s pretty much all I ate every morning, and evening. I can say that every meal eating nothing but that quickly got old for me, since I didn’t grow up with that food.

So I did a Yelp search of Guatemalan restaurants in East Oakland, a few came up:

  • Comedor Guatemalteco
  • La Bendicion de Cristo
  • Rinconcito Chapin
  • Chapinlandia Bakery
  • Las Marianas Food truck

Wonder if any of them are run by the Mam community?


Oakland Magazine: Eat Real Festival Debuts Workshops

Classes on cheesemaking, fermenting, and tea-leaf-salad-making are new this year.

“The popular free-entry festival, set for Friday through Sunday, Sept. 14 through 16 in Oakland’s Jack London Square”

New this year and spanning Saturday through Sunday, the educational ticketed events include a “Fermenting Rainbows” class (about fermenting vegetables that the whole family will love), a “Two Cheeses in Under 10 Minutes” class, and a “Tea Leaf Salad with Grocery Cafe” class in which chef William Lue teaches participants how to make Southeast Asian tea-leaf salad.


A slate of ticketed events will also take place at select venues, including a screening of Sean Wells’ film Town Spirit: A Tribute to Oakland’s Enduring Bar Culture — which features local bars, bartenders, owners, and patrons at Heinold’s, Merchant’s Saloon, 7th St. Walk of Fame, The Alley, Trader Vic’s, Ruby Room, and Cafe Van Kleef — and a reception at the Oakland Museum of California.

Oakland Cocktail Week (Sept. 15-23) is a celebration of the city’s history, creativity and community through the lens of Oakland’s vibrant cocktail culture. Dozens of libations were created just for the event and will be served up at more than 40 locations all around the city (and in a couple of places in Alameda and Emeryville) for $10 each.



Nosh first spoke with a worker on the phone at Cam Huong Bakery, located a couple blocks away at 1088 Webster St., who confirmed that the sister restaurant will close because the owner is retiring. The bakery will remain open and the staffer said that it will offer banh mi, rice plates, noodle dishes and an abbreviated menu of the café offerings after the closure; unfortunately because the bakery’s kitchen is too small, it will not be able to serve some popular items, like egg rolls and fried rice. Cam Huong Café in East Oakland (702 International Blvd.), which is run by the owner’s daughter, will also remain open.

Moments later, we spoke with the restaurant owner, Huong Luu, who sounded happy on her last day in business. “I work too long; I work 38 years non-stop,” she said about why she decided to close. That, and her lease is coming to an end. She urged Cam Huong customers to visit the restaurant on International Blvd. “I’ll be there sometimes.”

A BBQ pork sandwich from Cam Huong in Chinatown. Photo: Alex D./Yelp


Typically, the preparation for Horn’s barbecue pop-ups begin 48 to 72 hours ahead of the actual date. He takes no shortcuts and uses no processed or packaged foods in his preparations, making all rubs and sauces from scratch. His brisket jiggles perversely and glistens with gelatinous collagen, while the crusty bark provides a slight resistance, but eventually surrenders. Using trimmings from his brisket and pork cuts, homemade sausages emerge from the smoker with rubber band-like snaps. Unlike the unseasoned versions lining grocery store shelves, his potato salad has become a revelation for barbecue fans accustomed to sides as a second though, with large and tender pieces of red potato blending in with mashed potato pieces, egg, mustard, and other secret ingredients. His barbecue beans are tender and sweet, smoky, and slightly spicy.

The family business model comes from the top. Horn attributes his work ethic to his grandmother, Emma Lula Cora or Elsie (a phonetic pronunciation of her initials, ELC). Born in Oklahoma in 1927, Elsie passed away in 2017. “She was the only woman I knew who was 80 years old still working two jobs, [who] could carry a gun, make church hats, and butcher a pig,” says Horn. In conversations with Horn, the word “legacy” comes up often. Not just in terms of leaving a legacy for his future children, but his responsibility to pass something down to the black-owned barbecue community, which is becoming more scarce as time goes on.

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East Bay Express To Get Oakland Latino Buyer?

Not yet directly related to food news but could be an interesting turn and opportunity for food coverage in the future in the East Bay.

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Summit Café, Oakland

Meals provided by nutrition services company Morrison Healthcare.

Meal: “Caribbean day” included braised oxtails in sofrito sauce, callaloo turnip greens, turmeric yellow rice. Salad with Marin County pattypan squash and quinoa pilaf. Coconut macaroon. Dasani sparkling water.

Price: $13

  • Photo by Melati Citrawireja
  • Summit Cafe, Oakland.

La Torta Loca
3419 International Blvd., Oakland

This little sandwich shop lives up to its name — it’s crazy good. La Torta Loca shares space with a laundromat in the heart of the Fruitvale’s business district, and the door to the kitchen is open so you can watch and listen as they build your sandwich and grind carrots and beets into juice. The tortas are made with telera bread and include thin flavorful slices of fresh cheese. We asked for extra pickled jalapeños to stack on our sandwiches and they happily gave us a small bowl. Try to the Hawaiiana, which includes roasted slices of pineapple combined with jamon. Most of the meat here is of good quality, the prices are cheap, and the sandwiches, while not small, also don’t leave you feeling over-stuffed. Also, they make great jugos.

The succulent panang nuea short rib is slow braised and served with grilled broccolini and fried basil.


A massive short rib that’s braised in panang nuea curry for 48 hours evokes a childhood memory, Saengsawang says, of when a whole cow was cooked luau-style for two days to celebrate Thai New Year. (He still recalls the beefy aromas wafting into his bedroom.) Served on a red plate with blue rice and fresh greens, it calls for a party. Even the chicken is dramatic: A whole breast is fried in a red curry–paste batter and served with a giant knife thrust into its crunchy skin.

On our first visit to his new Farmhouse, we started with the textural blue rice salad. The jasmine grains are steamed and then tinted with pigment from the colorful butterfly pea flower; it’s a perfect example of Saengsawang’s refined interpretation of the countryside fare he enjoyed as a child.


Jeepney Guy
1225 7th Street

FOB Kitchen
scheduled to open in October 2018 in the former location of Preeti Mistry’s Juhu Beach Club

5179 Telegraph
Oakland, California
(415) 644-8149


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Benchmark Oakland
in the former Desco space at 499 9th Street

opens Thursday, October 4. Hours will be 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Starting Monday, October 7, Benchmark will also open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday


Pho U is now pho-ing you on 62nd/ Claremont.

La Grana Fish- seafood taco place in E Oakland.

Has anyone tried this Russian food truck Kolobok? https://kolobokfood.com/