san francisco

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

 

Bee-LT-300x216

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)

Time For A Typewriter Renaissance?

royal-300x178

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)

After Oakland Hills Fire, Residents Build Off-The-Wall Homes

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on October 19, 2011–

 

housesedit-620x420-1

Robert Pennell shifted the gear to neutral and parked the car along the side of the road. “There,” he said, pointing out the open window to a cluster of houses across the street. “That one is modern and the one next to it is traditional. Then you have a contemporary California ranch style house and over there you have an English Tudor.”

A partner at Jarvis Architects, Pennell navigates the narrow hillside streets with an ease that comes from years of driving through and working on the homes in this post-fire destroyed Oakland Hills neighborhood.  Although there are some trees, they are young and sparse, and the streets are drenched in sun, causing Pennell to squint behind his gold-rimmed sunglasses.  It wasn’t just the houses that burned, he said—much of the vegetation, including the canopy of trees that once shaded the streets in this sleepy, secluded neighborhood, were burned, too. (Click here to read more)

Jennifer LeBarre Makes Sure That Oakland Students Get A Healthy Lunch

oaktech-620x406-1

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)

Throwback on Wheels

There’s just something about riding in a vintage Volkswagen van that makes taking a tour of San Francisco so appealing.

SF Weekly

feature-vwbusA vintage Volkswagen van covered in psychedelic, S.F.-centric paintings idles on the corner of Jefferson and Hyde streets, its doors wide open with Redbone’s 1974 hit single “Come and Get Your Love” blaring through its speakers. With cobalt-blue seats, orange shag rug flooring, and plastic beaded curtains, the van looks like a perfectly preserved time capsule from the Summer of Love, replete with a license plate that reads “P4PEACE” and a pair of blue-lensed “John Lennon” sunglasses hanging from the rearview mirror. It’s part of a fleet of four vans — each with their own names, like “American Pie” and “Liquid Dreams”  — owned by San Francisco Love Tours, a sightseeing company that adds a hippie twist to the regular tourist experience.

Started in January 2015, San Francisco Love Tours is the brainchild of Allan and Roberto Graves, two brothers with a passion for VW buses who learned their trade from their father, a longtime tour guide in Costa Rica. Though their buses visit many of the hotspots you’d expect for a tourist-geared business — think Lombard Street, North Beach, the Castro — the retro vans add a fun-loving flair to the experience, as well as a certain level of intimacy, since they can only sit six people at a time.

“We always wanted to create the feeling that we’re driving around our relatives and close friends that are visiting from out of town,” Allan says.

It’s 2 p.m. on a Friday when I arrive at the meeting spot near Fisherman’s Wharf, and I get assigned to a van named Sunshine, along with a family of four from Maryland who are all sipping iced drinks from Starbucks. (Click here to read more)

Another Go For Faith No More

The punk-rockers are re-releasing their out-of-print debut after founding bassist Bill Gould discovered the masters in his basement.

SF Weekly

music1-32e698ecedc07409It’s San Francisco in the early ’80s, and Faith No More is a little-known punk-rock band consisting of four musicians all under the age of 21. In their short time together, they’ve already had three name changes — previously they were Sharp Young Men and Faith No Man — one demo-tape recording session in the garage of a friend’s parent’s house, and an array of “shitty gigs” at seedy clubs that never card and never fail to schedule them for 1 a.m. performances just before closing.

“We spent three years just gigging and trying to find our way,” Faith No More’s founding bassist, Bill Gould, remembers. “People didn’t really know what to make of us, so we had a hard time getting our name out.”

Undeterred, the fledgling band — which made a point of avoiding covers — chugged away creating new material, holing up in apartments, smoking weed, and “just making noise.” It was on one such day that the group stumbled upon a drum beat that would eventually become the backbone of their biggest hit, “We Care a Lot.” Gould and the other musicians chimed in with similar looping melodies, which were then incorporated into drummer Mike Bordin’s original pattern.

“It was just one of those things that clicked,” Gould says. “Like, we heard [Bordin’s] riff, and in five minutes were like, ‘That’s it!’ ” (Click here to read more)

Iamsu!’s debut album falls short

cover

Hot New Hip Hop

It only took one day for Iamsu!’s debut album, Sincerely Yours, to reach iTunes’ top album charts, a feat which is, quite frankly, surprising. Though the album is not a flop, it’s not a work of artistic genius either. There is nothing about this album that differentiates it from his previous seven albums, and many of the songs on it sound alike. The Richmond rapper’s previous mixtapes, Kilt II and Million Dollar Afro (featuring Problem) easily outshine Sincerely Yours in both depth and ingenuity, and while there are some singles, like “Only That Real”, that are solid bangers, the album on the whole doesn’t leave much of an impression, unfortunately.

The production quality of the album is on point and the cover art is amusing, too. But if fans were expecting something new, or even inventive, from the HBK Gang member, they’re going to be sorely disappointed. Compared to his other works, this album lacks intensity and comes across as glib and hasty. The over-amped club bangers are monotonous and the lyrics do little to make the songs stand out. There are a few wildcard tracks that are sprinkled conveniently at the end of the album, but though the change of pace is refreshing, they don’t mesh cohesively with the rest of the work. (Click here to read more)

Jewelry designer Laura Bruland turns old book covers into wearable art

laura_bruland_by_joseph_schell_26

SOME JEWELERS WORK WITH GOLD. Others beads. As for Laura Bruland, she works with books.

But this wasn’t always the case.

Bruland, 25, started her jewelry company Yes and Yes Designs in 2007 as a fun side project in addition to her day job as a barista at Oakland’s Subrosa Coffee. Her initial creations were made solely out of wool fabric, which she crafted into flower-shaped designs for use on headbands and pins.

But fabric flower jewelry, it turned out, was already a lot more popular than Bruland had thought. “I was seeing a lot of fabric flowers out there, so I was thinking maybe I’m not adding that much to inspire people,” she said. “I didn’t see why I should keep making something that other people were making.” (Click here to read more)

Actual Cafe’s owner raising funds to open Victory Burger, a burger stand next door

photo-3

IT’S LUNCHTIME AND YOU’RE HUNGRY. “Hamburger,” your stomach growls at you.

OK, you’ll get a hamburger—a simple, inexpensive, easy to eat sandwich. You want something substantial; a hamburger made from quality ingredients and grilled to perfection, not like the ones served at North Oakland’s fast food joints. But where can you get one like that?

If you’re anything like Sal Bednarz, the owner of Actual Café, you’ve been in this situation before. “I love burgers, but most of the burgers around here are just not that interesting,” Bednarz said on a recent Wednesday morning. “The good burgers, of which there a few, are almost all fine dining white tablecloth $15 burgers.”

This, he said, has to change. Good burgers at a reasonable price should not be so difficult to find. Not only are they  an American staple food, but their mere existence stems from the fact that they are inexpensive. Hamburgers are a product of the industrial revolution, invented to feed the growing masses of people who had little time to both cook and consume their food. And people today, Bednarz reasoned, are not that much different. “We, as a society here in Oakland today, like our food,” he said. “But we don’t always want to take a half a day and fifty bucks to go eat it.”

His solution? Victory Burger. Slated to open next fall, Victory Burger, Bednarz’s latest culinary endeavor, will be, as he said, “a casual experience where you can still get a really good burger.” It will be located around the corner from—or, depending on how you look at it, behind—Bednarz’s other business on San Pablo Avenue, Actual Café, and will be “more like a food truck without wheels,” he said, albeit one with plenty of outdoor seating.

The plans for Victory Burger started last fall, but Bednarz, who has lived in Oakland for the last 22 years, said that the idea has always been in the back of his mind. “This neighborhood is just lacking in food options,” he said. “I live four blocks away and just so many nights when I don’t feel like cooking, there’s no place to go.”

(Click here to read more)

Oakland biking group Fix Without Dix puts on a heated alley cat race

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on August 30, 2011–

 

bikez-620x465

Mikey Hodgson and Cecilia Lanyon are early.

“Well, technically we’re on time,” says Hodgson as he surveys the tree-lined square outside of the Lake Merritt BART station in downtown Oakland.

It’s empty. Hodgson and Lanyon are the first to arrive. They wheel their bikes over to a low brick wall and sit down. It’s 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon and the sun beats down mercilessly. Sweat pools beneath Hodgson’s grey beanie and Lanyon presses a can of Diet Coke against her cheek to cool down.

To pass the time, they talk. Hodgson tells her about how he brought his Doberman into a pizza joint last night, but admits that he can’t remember much else because he drank so much that he blacked out. They both confess to having painful hangovers, and say that neither of them got more than four hours of sleep.

“But I had coffee. Lots and lots of coffee,” says Lanyon whose eyes are still caked with last night’s shadow and mascara.

“Me too,” says her friend. “And a super taco from the Mexican market on the corner.”

You wouldn’t know it from looking at them, but Hodgson and Lanyon are about to compete in a 30-mile bike race. They’re not wearing helmets or cycling shoes or moisture-absorbing fabrics. But they do have bikes—which is all that is required.

“I’m ready to race,” Hodgson declares, stubbing out his second cigarette. “I’m ready to go. And I’m gonna win. I seriously think I can get first place this time.”

(Click here to read more)

At open house on redesign of Lake Merritt BART area, talk of bike lanes, security improvements

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on September 13, 2011–

 

20110912_BART1_schiewe-620x465

Dave Campbell, the program coordinator for the East Bay Bike Coalition, wants wider bike lanes, and Alisha Tran from Asian Health Services wants improved safety measures on the streets. Mark Shimamoto from the Buddhist Church of Oakland wants a community center for Madison Square Park, but Laney College student Valerie Stout would rather have more parking spaces. The demands of the community are diverse—now it’s just a matter of which improvements city officials will choose to implement first in the redevelopment of the Lake Merritt BART station neighborhood.

“It’s a question of priorities and figuring out what the most important ones are,” said Ed Manasse, the strategic planning director for the City of Oakland, who helped organize the open house for the redevelopment project on Monday evening in the Laney College Student Center. “Everyone can agree on changing Streets X, Y, and Z, but which ones do you focus on first?”

In 2009, the City of Oakland, BART and the Peralta Community College District received a grant of over $1 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments to create a plan for redeveloping the area around the Lake Merritt BART station. The project focuses on an area a half-mile across which includes many downtown neighborhoods and institutions—Chinatown, Laney and Peralta Colleges, Madison Square and Chinese Garden Parks, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Lake Merritt Estuary. The redevelopment plan would make changes to land use, buildings, design, circulation, streetscapes, the BART station, parks, and public spaces in the area.

The goal of the project, said Manasse, is not only to improve and redevelop the area as a whole, but to do so in a way that appeals to the community members and groups that use the area. “After all,” he said, “they’re going to be the ones who live, work, shop, and play in that area on a daily basis.”

(Click here to read more)