As some of my readers know, I moonlight as a guide for Edible Excursions, a culinary tour company that leads intimate groups of guests on gourmet walks in San Francisco, Berkeley, and beyond. In addition to feeding folks well and introducing them to a new neighborhood, we serve up a side of edible education in these three-hour tours.
This week mark’s the one-year anniversary of our launch of the Temescal Tastes Tour, which I designed, to showcase the diverse range of eating establishments in this thriving North Oakland community with a hipster village vibe. Temescal Tastes was dubbed best of the Bay’s neighborhood eat-arounds by San Francisco magazine last year. To celebrate our milestone, we took 26 college students on a wander through the ‘hood yesterday, a rare Friday jaunt for us, since we typically start the tour at the farmers’ market on Sunday.
The students were delighted to eat, of course, as part of a food writing class. They were also intrigued by the stories of the food professionals who took time out of their busy days to share their stories. Preeti Mistry of Juhu Beach Club‘s playful presence can be found in her food, her restaurant’s ambiance, and in her presentation to the group, who ate up every word about her winding path through the culinary scene while noshing on potato pavs. Jena Davidson of the Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop explained why she left the fine dining world to open a food-oriented corner store, even though she didn’t know a ton about cheese at the time. She served mac & cheese topped with their signature sweet cock sauce (that’s honey & Sriracha in case you were wondering). And Danny and Henry, cool caffeine geeks at Cro Cafe, patiently explained the nuances of all things bean related, while students soaked up the charm of their alley store and sipped on some freshly-brewed Sightglass coffee.
A highlight of the day: Alison Barakat (aka Bakesale Betty) making a personal appearance, blue wig and all, to talk shop with the class while they tucked into her fried chicken sandwiches, which have their own cult following. A long line of people by the store with no sign enjoyed hearing snippets of Barakat’s back story while they waited for their lunch. Details like how she arrived in Berkeley from her native Australia and landed a job as a line cook at Chez Panisse, where she first learned how to make buttermilk fried chicken.
Today, I’m soft launching a new Oakland tour for Edible Excursions, this time in the Uptown area, which has rapidly earned a reputation as a dining destination. We’ll visit relative newcomers such as Stag’s Lunchette, Duende, Bar Dogwood, Sweet Bar Bakery, Two Mile Wines, and Plum Bar, as guests get a feel for the flavor of this entertainment district, which is experiencing a long overdue renaissance. Retail and residential elements are in the works, but it’s the food, drinks, and arts scene that’s creating energy and luring folks back to the neighborhood. And, as always, it will be the people behind these edible enterprises–as much as their well-executed dishes and carefully-crafted cocktails–that resonate with guests.
As I told the food writing students: It’s an honor and a privilege to showcase the people who produce our food. And it is.
You might also like:
A Culinary Confession
Any Females in the House? Oakland’s New Wave of Top Women Chefs
Stag’s Lunchette & Bar Dogwood: Winning Combo in the Heart of Oakland
How Sweet It Is
Bay Area Food Tours: Behind the Scenes with Edible Excursions Founder Lisa Rogovin