oakland

Could the newest trend in Bay Area food be… edible insects?

 

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Their table was a tableau of a meal interrupted: a platter of half-eaten roast chicken, a bowl of Jap chae noodles, a can of Diet Coke tipped over on its side, and dishes slick with the residue of dipping sauces, kimchi, and pickled vegetables. They talked and they laughed as the rain poured outside. Their food grew cold and their drinks turned warm and they bobbed their heads to the music as they waited for the waitress to bring out their last dish: a bowl of soup.

They smelled it before they saw it: salty and rich, smoky with a beefy undertone. It came in a small stone bowl on a small black plate. Bits of browns and yellows and greens floated on the surface of the steaming russet broth and someone remarked that it looked like minestrone soup. Except that it wasn’t minestrone soup. It was beondegi: vegetable soup with boiled silkworms.

“I grew up eating this,” said Howard Kim, the manager of Dan Sung Sa, as he dipped his spoon into the briny broth. “It’s more common in Korea, but you can still find it in markets or drinking spots like here.” Beondegi, he said, was one of the first dishes that was added to the menu of this late-night Korean bar (also known as a soju bar) in Oakland. (Click here to read more)

Lil Debbie’s New EP, Home Grown, Is An Ode To Weed

LA Weekly

IMG_3210 It’s Friday night, a little after 10:30, and I’m hoofing it through Hollywood to a spot called Las Palmas where Lil Debbie is premiering her new EP, Home Grown. There are stragglers hanging out front and they’re all young, definitely not over the age of 25, some of them probably not even over 21, which I assume is why they are hanging outside to begin with. Because that’s the thing about rap and hip-hop shows: They’re always mired with youngins.

The last — and only — time I saw Lil Debbie was back in 2013 at a place called Venue in downtown Oakland. The Venue is one of those multi-use spaces with a stage and a bar and lots of floor space, and I remember being impressed with the size of the room when I got there. Impressed because I didn’t know much about Lil Debbie, other than the fact that she was in the White Girl Mob, and impressed because I hadn’t been to a rap show since high school.

V-Nasty was there, and probably Kreayshawn, too, but all I can remember is Lil Debbie strutting across the stage in a pair of silk boxer shorts, gesticulating and waving the mic around. Her tiny, 5’2″ frame was a mere wisp compared to V-Nasty, and yet she was just as fierce, just as tough. The rest of the night is a blur — let’s be honest, I probably drank one too many glasses of Moscato — but I remember watching her perform as if it were yesterday.

(Click here to read more)

Time For A Typewriter Renaissance?

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Salon

IT WAS 4 P.M. ON A THURSDAY, two hours until the end of Jesse Banuelos’ workday. He was standing behind the front counter of Berkeley Typewriter, his trademark green apron tied around his waist. A dozen broken typewriters — some electric, but most of them manual – were stacked in a corner on the brown linoleum floor.

Forty years ago, the shop was at the top of its game. But during the ’90s, as computers became more affordable, fewer customers bought typewriters or needed them repaired. Many typewriter stores went out of business. Berkeley Typewriter laid off some staff and managed to remain open by offering services like printer, photocopier and fax repair. Banuelos is the store’s only remaining technician who knows how to fix typewriters. He never learned how to type on a computer and for a time he worried that the typewriter industry would soon disappear.

He was wrong. In the last few years, both typewriter sales and repairs have increased at the store. Berkeley Typewriter experienced an increase in overall sales in 2011, moving about two or three a week. It’s not like the olden days, Banuelos said, but it’s enough.

Most of the typewriters that he sells or takes in are manual machines made between the early 1900s and the 1960s. The dozen or so brands displayed in Banuelos’ front window read like a row of multicolored tombstones: Royal, Remington, Underwood, Smith-Corona, Olivetti, Corona, Adler, Oliver.

(Click here to read more)

The Party That Never Ends

The East Bay Express

nvr ovr, oakland, somar, the layover, rap, trap, 2 step, hip hop, It’s Saturday night at The Layover and the bar is close to maximum capacity. People of all ages are crammed onto the tiny dance floor, their foreheads glistening with sweat as they shake and bob to the music. A gaggle of girls start twerking in a corner and a young couple lock lips on a couch. Squelchy slap-bass and booming 808s pulse from the speakers as the DJ spins a mélange of trap, rap, dub, and electronica beats. More people filter in. Space becomes even tighter. Bodies collide. Cocktails are spilled. But the party keeps going. Welcome to NVR OVR.

Every fourth Saturday, The Layover hosts one of the most lively parties in Oakland, called, appropriately enough, NVR OVR. The massive dance party attracts a few hundred people every month and often lasts until 2 am. NVR OVR founder Marty Aranaydo (aka DJ Willie Maze) and resident DJs Starter Kit and Neto187 (of Trill Team 6 and Sick Sad World) are known for spinning tracks spanning a variety of genres and eras. Local DJs and musicians such as Antwon, Main Attrakionz, So What, RNB Millionaires, Nanosaur, Pony Loco, and Bobby Peru are regular attendees, and it’s not unusual for them to perform as well. Aranaydo also designs and sells a new NVR OVR T-shirt every month, and up until recently, the ladies of local nail polish company Floss Gloss provided in-house manicures.

(Click here to read more)

Jennifer LeBarre Makes Sure That Oakland Students Get A Healthy Lunch

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The bell rings— a prolonged buzzing signaling the end of class.

Attention students: lunch is being served in the cafeteria, announces a female voice over the intercom. Lunch is being served in the cafeteria. There’s chicken wings and fries, pizza and fries, and salad bar.

Within moments, hordes of students come rushing into the Oakland Tech cafeteria, sidling up in line in front of the kitchen and dropping their backpacks and jackets off at one of the circular red tables. You can tell they’re hungry. They joke and they jostle and some try to cut ahead in line by joining up with their friends.  Pizza and hot wings are popular entrees, as evidenced by their almost daily appearance on the menu—but today’s piece de resistance is the big pile of strawberries in the salad bar.

“Hey, hey, hey! Only four strawberries a person,” says Sharif Patterson, a transitional trainer for the special-needs students, who’s volunteered to watch over the salad bar today.   And next to her, arms folded, dressed entirely in purple, is Jennifer LeBarre, the director of nutrition services for the Oakland Unified School District, who is on a site visit at Oakland Tech this Wednesday afternoon.

“Every week I just go out and I try to get to as many schools as I can,” she says. “It’s one thing to be at the desk and hear from people, but I really want to see how things are operating.”

(Click here to read more)

Getting Trippy

Marielle V. Jakobson’s new album, Star Core, will make you feel like you’re on drugs.

SF Weekly

music1-2Last Saturday night at The Lab, roughly 50 people tripped — on music.

Around 10:30 p.m., after a number of failed attempts at setting up the projector, a petite, flaxen-haired woman by the name of Marielle V. Jakobsons took the stage, along with backing bassist Chuck Johnson. Conversations among audience members faded into silence as Jakobsons, robed in a white dress with red stitching, adjusted her position under the lone spotlight. A ray of light beamed from the projector, and psychedelic, abstract patterns fluttered in the background — the result of an instrument Jakobsons built that uses sound vibrations and light to create images in a small pool of water.

Things were already starting to get trippy, and the music hadn’t even started.

Holding a flute to her lips — the same flute that she played in her middle school band class — Jakobsons blew a long single note. Using her laptop to loop and distort it, the 34-year-old waited as the note replayed through the speakers, coated in feedback. Buzzy streaks of synthesizer that sounded like shots from a ray gun peeled through the air, followed by a weightless, tinkling piano melody that sounded like it could defy gravity. And then came the violin: hypnotic and flirtatious, with an exotic bent that could have been culled straight from the 1970s Alejandro Jodorowsky film Holy Mountain.

As blurry swathes of orange, pink, and purple morphed into indecipherable shapes on the screen, the crowd sunk into a stupor. In place of the sounds of whispers, clinking beer bottles, and creaking chairs that once filled the room, now all that could be heard was breathing. Calm, measured, and relaxed inhales and exhales from a room of people who hadn’t ingested drugs but were definitely off in a far away place. (Click here to read more)

After Years of Busking and Touring, Fantastic Negrito Prepares to Release His First Full-Length Album

SF Weekly

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“It’s a bit far because we’ve got to go all the way to the basement,” says Xavier Dphrepaulezz, as he heads down a carpeted flight of stairs into a downtown Oakland gallery and recording studio. As the 48-year-old, better known as the black-roots musician Fantastic Negrito, turns a corner and leads me down a concrete hallway, he lists his most vital health tips.

“Exercise is good for you, so I’m always walking,” he says. “I don’t drink sodas or eat fast food, either. I’ve got to stay healthy. I’m only two years away from 50.”

We head down a second flight of stairs, and a wave of cool subterranean air washes over us. The dim basement, which smells faintly of dust, is cluttered with building materials, tools, and broken furniture. Not too many people come down here, Dphrepaulezz says, and I can understand why.

Suddenly, he stops in front of an old wooden freight elevator. “So, this is it,” he says. “This is where we were that fateful night.”

He’s referencing the evening over a year-and-a-half ago when he, three other musicians, and their instruments (a guitar, an upright bass, and percussion) squeezed inside of the almost-100-year-old elevator to record “Lost In A Crowd,” the Southern-inspired blues ballad that won NPR’s 2015 Tiny Desk Contest.

(Click here to read more)

Kehlani’s Tsunami Christmas was a Tsunami of Mishaps and Disappointments

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Kehlani has had a hell of a year.

The 20-year-old R&B singer signed to Atlantic Records and embarked on her first international tour. Her second mixtape, You Should Be Here, dropped in April and is now nominated for a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Rolling Stone named her one of the “10 Artists You Need to Know” and Billboardcalled You Should Be Here the “first great R&B album” of the year.

Her back-story is interesting, too. Kehlani, who grew up in Oakland, lost her father shortly after she was born due to gun violence. Her mother, a drug addict and criminal, was arrested when she was a baby, and Kehlani was taken in by her aunt when she was three-months old. When she was 16, she moved out and became homeless, stealing from big chain stores and sleeping at trap houses. She’s also openly bisexual, and it’s common knowledge that she had her first girlfriend by ninth grade.

So, when I heard that she was headlining a show at the Fox Theater (two shows, in fact), I figured I should check her out. Given all the hoopla about her this past year and her recent single, “The Way,” with Chance the Rapper (which has almost 8 million plays on YouTube), I was intrigued. Why is Kehlani so hot right now? I wondered. Not only was the Saturday night show I was about to attend sold out, but the Sunday night show was, as well. And there weren’t even any named openers – the show is billed simply as “Kehlani and Friends.”

(Click here to read more)

A Neighborhood Reawakens

The East Bay Express

Caffe Nonna on the corner of Bancroft Avenue.

Caffe Nonna on the corner of Bancroft Avenue.

Few people, if any, refer to the crossroads of Bancroft and Fairfax Avenues in East Oakland as the Bancroft-Fairfax Business District—and yet, there’s a sign at the intersection designating it as such.  Most people know it by one of its older names, like Antique Row or Antique Alley, even though the last antique shop closed down about two decades ago.  Since then, the district has struggled to reinvent itself.  In the early 2000’s, hair salons and barbershops were the main industry and the rest of the neighborhood was pocked with empty storefronts.

Fast-forward to today, and these dark ages are but a distant memory. The Bancroft Fairfax Business District is experiencing a comeback as a shopping destination. The economy is thriving and nary a storefront is vacant. In the last year, six new businesses, among them a clothing store, a café, a coffee shop and tattoo parlor, have opened and the neighborhood’s first-ever Merchant’s Watch Association was formed. A skincare salon is slated to open this summer, and plans for a parking lot, fitness center, and multi-unit live/work space are underway. The neighborhood still has a ways to go, but the future is starting to look much brighter.

(Click here to read more)

Oaklandish: Booming Business Rooted in Oakland Pride

San Francisco Chronicle

920x920 Running a business as large and varied as Oaklandish — ranked 33rd on Fortune’s list of the 100 fastest-growing inner-city companies in America last year — isn’t easy. On the eve of the brand’s recent yearly warehouse sale, with a website revamp under way and spring line about to roll out, owner and founder Angela Tsay sat down to talk about Oaklandish’s circuitious journey.

“I think sometimes people think we’ve had it really easy, but it has been hard,” she explained. “We’ve really done a lot of this ourselves.”

In the last nine years, Tsay has turned what started out as a T-shirt stand at a farmers’ market into an apparel empire, beloved and recognized by an entire city. The Oakland institution now has three store locations, a warehouse in Jack London Square and two offshoot brands, Oakland Supply Co. and NSEW. Instead of mere T-shirts and sweatshirts, it now makes everything from beanies and underwear to knee socks and coffee mugs. The brand, which once had trouble persuading San Francisco stores to sell its gear, is now sold in a dozen stores all over the Bay Area and has customers worldwide.

“Oaklandish has had great success,” Tsay said. “But we did not have some grand plan. It just kind of came together.” (Click here to read more)

A Cafe Oasis in Deep East Oakland

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The East Bay Express

The chances of finding a cup of coffee in deep East Oakland — not to mention a sandwich or a pastry to go with it — are relatively slim. The nearest Starbucks or Peet’s is in Alameda or by the airport. So if you’re jonesing for a cup of joe, there’s only one place to go: Caffe Nonna.

On January 25, Sandra Bradford opened Caffe Nonna on the corner of Bancroft and Fairfax avenues, in one of deep East Oakland’s oldest (and perhaps only remaining) commercial districts. Forty years ago, the area was known as “Antique Row” because of its many stores selling furniture, ceramics, and other artifacts from bygone eras, but today, hair salons and barber shops occupy most of the storefronts. There are a few eateries in the area, such as Luis’ Coffee Shop, Westbrook’s BBQ and Seafood, and Taqueria La Nueva, as well as a smattering of other businesses including a Laundromat, dollar store, botánica, auto repair shop, and a liquor store. This has not been a part of Oakland where you’d find turkey pesto panini or spinach salads — until now.

(Click here to read more)

City Council Meets To Discuss Occupy Oakland Camp

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on November 4, 2011–

 

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The first thing the crowd noticed at the Thursday night Occupy Oakland City Council meeting was the table piled with signs, shields, and protective gear that police had taken from demonstrators during Wednesday’s Occupy Oakland-led strike. “They’re bringing in signs and stuff. Really? Oh my God,” said Ishua Bnjoube, an unemployed Occupy Oakland demonstrator who was leaning against the back wall of the Council Chamber. “This is going to be really interesting.”

The meeting, which began a little after 5:30 pm and continued until 11 pm, was held to discuss recent events pertaining to Occupy Oakland, notably the vandalism and property damage that occurred late Wednesday night, when protesters clashed in the street with police officers. Almost 150 people signed up to speak before the council.

All eight city council members were present at the meeting, although Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan (District 2) and Mayor Jean Quan arrived roughly an hour late. By the time the meeting began, a couple hundred people had packed into the council chambers. The extra screening rooms on the first floor of City Hall were also used to accommodate the crowd.

During the first speaker session of the council meeting, a majority of speakers decried the mayor’s, city council’s, and police department’s treatment of the Occupy Oakland camp and its supporters since the group’s initial eviction from Frank Ogawa Plaza in late October. (Click here to read more)

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