This city gets a bum rap. There are those who scoff at the mention of its name and are more than quick to pass it on their way into San Francisco. But let's stop for a moment and think of all the little treasures in life that you've possibly overlooked merely b/c you didn't take a second glance. I'm talking about my beloved Oakland. Berkeley's little sister past the Alcatraz border (the street, not the island) that moves to the beat of its own spoken word artists.
Many moons ago, as a college student who pretty much cooked her way through school as a means of sustenance and securing lifelong foodie friends, Oakland was my mecca of an ethnic food enclave that served up some of the best Chinese dim sum, fresh rice noodles, hearty Vietnamese pho, and in my case, fresh, green papaya (so perfect for my papaya salad obsession). I remember making Saturdays my "Let's Venture into Chinatown in Downtown Oakland" days and hopping on the 51 bus line to make my 45 minute jaunt into a hub of life and personality that only Oakland could have provided for me at the time. As I oohed and ahhed over the bounty of the greenest bok choy, ong choy and scents of star anise that clung to the glistening skin of succulent Peking ducks hanging from the shop windows, all I could think of was how I missed home and being surrounded by so much food. To this day, the sight of these ducks brings me back to Oakland.
I will be updating this post with more pictures of Oakland's Chinatown (so please stay tuned), but for the time being, I wanted to capture a scene from my dining al fresco at the lovely Levende East Restaurant in Historic Old Oakland and getting a chance to sample a tidbit of the city's lunch-time Farmer's Market with my amazing friend and budding vintage fashion guru (and fellow Dragon Fruit lover), Miss. Jenny. The restaurant screams of swanky/cool/casual all at once, and J and I were able to walk right up to it with our bag of cherries in hand.
BTW: In case you're wondering. I will only blog about restaurants that I feel are worthy of the rave and have received my personal stamp of approval (thanks to my handy dandy tastebuds).
On our lunch menu:
Starting off with a savory tomatoe bisque topped w/caramelized sweet onions & fresh chopped basil that was thoroughly enjoyed with a crispy grilled cheese sandwich that could have been an entire meal in itself (it was THAT good!)
And then followed by a sweet braised pork belly with a light salad mizuna greens and tart apples, shitake mushrooms with a champagne dressing.
And finally, we nibbled on some good ole' Latin American favorite: fried plantains w/brown sugar.
I love seeing the ooey goodness of cheese being pulled apart.
And then from the there was the farmer's market..so fresh and yet another reminder of why I love California.
And of course, my dear Jenny: the coolest chick ever! She never disappoints me when it comes to our eating adventures--which is precisely why we are headed to Chicago together to celebrate her amazingness. Check back next week for a food tour through the eyes and mouth of yours truly as I devour my way through the Windy City! So excited! I've already put in a request to my host to have my bib & spork ready as soon as I land.