A historic Oakland establishment is closing on April 30th. Genova Delicatessen has been in business in the Temescal District of Oakland since 1926. A loved spot by many, patrons have lined up amongst the aisles for decades, watching the numbers tick by until they could put in an order for their favorite Italian deli sandwich. Genova has been a testament to how a business can thrive for close to 100 years; good service, good food, and a dedication to old world Italian roots. I decided to make a final trip on Monday, to brave the wait with two small children, to order a #9, and to say thank you. It was perfectly apropos that as I tried to explain to my four year old that the deli was closing and that we needed to wait our turn, he said, “but when they close the doors, who is going to open them again?”
Today is Earth Day. As we honor the land, air, sea, and all that is our planet I choose to share pictures of the Serpentine Prairie in the Oakland Hills. Last weekend I spent some time wandering the prairie at dawn. The word prairie is something we typically associate with the endless grasslands of the Mississippi River Valley, but tucked in this corner of Redwood Regional Park we have our own little prairie, one that holds a flower that is unique to only two places in the world. While I was a bit early in the season to see the Presidio Clarkia in bloom, which grows only in the Serpentine Prairie and the Presidio of San Francisco, I was still able to enjoy the quiet, the color of the wildflowers, and to appreciate yet another amazing spot within our city limits. Named for the rock Serpentine, which is the state rock of California and found throughout this area, the Serpentine Prairie is yet another reason why I love Oakland.
When my host removed the chain and bolt and pushed the doors open, my breath caught. The first words out of my mouth were, “It’s stunning.” Stepping into such a grand, open, and iconically historic space is moving. To stand almost alone within it, listening to someone share its story, one of great historic value to our city, followed by even greater mistreatment and disrespect by its own, is enough to break your heart. The 16th Street station is beautiful, yet in shambles. What I would soon learn is that much of what I was looking at was actually remnants of a movie set. Once I readjusted my vision, I still saw what it could be. With the tremendous light hitting the white marble floors, I turned my mindset to one of hope, hope that someday it will once again become the grand destination it was in its past. So as I share both its history and its present, I chose to blend them together into one tone, a nostalgic twist to remind us of what could once again…be grand.
During my visit to Angel Cakes a few weeks ago, I was drawn to the lovely arrangement of flowers sitting on the coffee table. Rustic and colorful in a mason jar, just as I would do at home, I couldn’t resist taking photos of the mix of pink, orange, and purple blooms. When owner Jen Angel told me that they had come from a local non-profit called WOW Farm, a program teaching Oakland youth about small business management and sustainable gardening, I was intrigued. When I heard the flower farm was located in front of the historic 16th street train station in West Oakland, the appeal of Oakland history coming together with a great cause within the community took hold. I knew I had to learn more. On an overcast Saturday morning just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of spending time with these hardworking teens. As an added bonus, I got to spend some time inside the historic station. Once again, my appreciation for Oakland and its beauty, in the form of a empty shell of what once was and rows of blooms offering hope to its future, grew.
I love bread. I love cookies. I love to bake. I admire anyone who has taken these same loves and kneaded them into a career that combines their own passion for flour and sugar with a business that brings fulfillment to not only themselves, but to the community around them. Matt Kreutz and Colleen Orlando have created this version of the American dream with Firebrand Artisan Breads. A wholesale brick oven bread bakery that has grown at an alarming rate in seven years, now encompassing a retail location in The Hive Complex on Broadway’s Auto Row in the Uptown neighborhood of Oakland.
Juhu Beach Club has been on my radar for quite some time. The name kept popping up on the Oakland restaurant lists that I love to peruse, and I became curious. When I heard the phrase “Indian street food” I shied away, unsure of what that meant and pretty sure my aversion to things hot and spicy would result in a dining out disappointment. Yet it kept calling out to me; rav reviews and a visit from Anthony Bourdain had me wondering if my wimpy taste buds might actually be in for a treat. I moved it to the top of my list. When I heard that this neighborhood spot has carved out a special niche for kids, I was sold.