Fentons Creamery: An Oakland Tradition

Fentons Creamery is an Oakland tradition, making handcrafted ice creams and sauces since 1894.  Fentons moved to their current storefront on Piedmont Avenue in 1961.  Although ownership has changed, it continues to be a family business bringing joy to ice cream lovers of any age including myself.

As a child, I had fond memories of Fentons.  I remember sharing “The Kitchen Sink.”  This is many scoops of ice cream and toppings on a display that looked like a model kitchen sink. 

My favorite thing today is still the “black and tan.”  This is toasted almond ice cream and vanilla ice cream layered with caramel and fudge sauce, topped with toasted almonds, whipped cream, and a cherry. 

Fentons opened a second location in the Nut Tree in Vacaville in 2007.  This is perfect for travelers on the I-80.  I’ve stopped at this location a few times, driving back from a long road trip and wanting to enjoy something special.  This is also a signal that I am an hour from home. 

The animated Pixar movie “Up” released in May of last year prominently featured Fentons.  I recall watching the film at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland; and when Fentons appeared, it got huge applause from all their fans. 

I just discovered Fentons scoop shop opened up at Terminal 2 of the Oakland airport.  For those Southwest Airline travelers just coming in and out of the Oakland airport, it gives them an opportunity to try something famous.

This is the first weekend of summer and a trip to Fentons was calling me.  Of course I ordered a black and tan.  It’s great that they offer this in a junior size making it perfect for me and my waistline.

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Where, Oh Where, Has My Falafel Truck Gone?

Where are all the food trucks?  Food trucks are turning away from Oakland to cities like Emeryville and Alameda because Oakland doesn’t have its SH*T together.  The Liba Falafel Truck got booted out of Oakland because of a complaint from a restaurant.  The permit process is not very clear for food trucks in Oakland.  I had the opportunity to try the Liba Falafel Truck before it disappeared from Oakland.

What is a falafel?  A falafel is a fried ball made of ground chickpeas that is served on  pita bread and topped with salad and sauce.  It is a food of the Middle East.

To tell the truth, I’ve never really been a big fan of the falafel.  It’s a vegetarian dish that I have always thought of as somewhat “dull and boring.”

Liba is operated by a woman named Gail.  Liba means “love” and you can tell that Gail puts a lot of love into her business as she happily greets and takes orders outside her truck. 

This is how it works.   You order your falafel (comes in two sizes).  Once you get your falafel made to order, you take it to the “falafel bar” to top it off.  Liba has over a dozen toppings and dressings.  She uses mostly organic and local ingredients.  Here’s the list of toppings available:

  • Roasted Eggplant in Tomato Sauce
  • Tomato Cucumber Salad with mint
  • Red Cabbage Ribbons
  • Red Beets with Lemon and Thyme
  • Olive-Orange Relish with Thyme
  • Rosemary Peanuts
  • Pickled Onion
  • Tomato Ginger Chutney
  • Dill & Cardamom Pickle
  • Lemon Wedge
  • Feta Cheese
  • Hummus
  • Harissa Hot Sauce
  • Yogurt Raita

 

I think I went a little topping crazy.  I piled on what I thought looked good and interesting, which was most of them.  This was not like any other falafel I’ve had and definitely not “dull and boring”.  This was a Liba Falafel with flavors bursting all over.  The toppings were all very tasty and when I got to the falafel itself, it was a really nice surprise.  The falafel stayed crisp even with all the toppings overflowing. 

I also ordered a side of their sweet potato fries with cilantro, garlic, and lime.  They were delicious. 

I already miss Liba and guess I’ll have to travel to Emeryville to get my fix.  You can follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/libasf

Redefining Take Out: Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop

My BFF had her b-day celebration partially catered by Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop located on College Avenue in the Elmwood District of Berkeley.  The idea of Summer Kitchen is offering local, sustainable, and seasonal foods for take out.  Unlike what you think of as normal take out – Fast Food, Chinese food, picking up a pizza or a burrito, this is gourmet take out.  Summer Kitchen was the perfect place for my friend to pick up food for her party.  She wanted to serve picnic style foods that are able to be served cold or at room temperature. 

The following items were ordered from Summer Kitchen:

  • Fulton Valley Fried Chicken
  • Herbed Orzo Pasta Salad with Cucumber, Peppers & Feta
  • Summer Bean Salad with Kalamata Olive & Piquillo Peppers

The fried chicken smelled so good when we placed it in the trunk of my CRV.  We hadn’t even driven one block on College Avenue before the fragrance forced us to each have a drumstick in the car.  This is unlike the normal fried chicken that I’m used to.  This was not temperature hot, the chicken skin was not crispy, and it was not juicy.  This was picnic fried chicken and a very good one.  It was well seasoned, tender, and had nice crunchy bits of batter. 

The orzo was another good choice for picnic food.  In general, I love the texture of orzo.  Orzo is a cross between pasta and rice.  It has the shape of rice, but it has a softer, smoother texture of pasta.  I enjoyed the light herb flavor of the dill; and the cucumber, peppers, and feta cheese each added an additional variation of fresh flavor and textures. 

 

I also enjoyed the bean salad very much.  This was a last minute change, but a good one.  The salad had a mixture of white beans and green beans with the addition of kalamata olives, peppers, onions, garlic, and olive oil.  I liked the density and creaminess of the white beans and it matched well with the sweetness of the green beans.  The other ingredients were also well infused into the dish.

Having opened last October, this is the first summer for Summer Kitchen.  If you have plans this summer for a picnic or in general want good quality foods, don’t feel like cooking it yourself, but want to eat it at home, I recommend Summer Kitchen.  This is not the first shop to redefine take out, another gourmet take out place I recommend is Gregoire that’s been in existence since 2002.  They have two locations – one in the gourmet ghetto of Berkeley and one on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.  I look forward to a summer of love.

Pig Tales: My Adventures in Pork

This tale is an ode to bacon.

I remember when bacon was just something you had as a side for breakfast.  These days it is more than just a complementary food.  Bacon is now king!  Bacon is so popular that you can even purchase a subscription to the Bacon of the Month Club. 

Dynamo Donuts in the Mission District of San Francisco is known for their unique donuts.  I’ve been intrigued by the bacon selection for awhile.  Recently a friend and I decided to drive across the Bay to San Francisco one morning just to pick up some donuts and bring them back to the office.   The master chef donut maker at Dynamo Donuts rotate an assortment of 7-10 varieties of donuts daily.  The flavor that is available every day until sold out is maple glazed bacon apple. 

As it turns out, we were destined to take the trek that morning!  As we waited in traffic to get through the toll plaza, we found ourselves behind a truck with the name “BACON” stenciled on the back.    We next scored a parking spot right in front of Dynamo that already had an hour on the meter.  Then, as I put the car in park, the morning show DJ’s that we had been listening to happened to receive a delivery of Dynamo Donuts from one of their clients. A bacon trifecta!

We arrived at about 8am and these were the selections available:

  • carmel de sel
  • lemon thyme
  • vanilla
  • maple glazed bacon apple
  • chocolate spice
  • milk chocolate passionfruit

It’s a good thing there is a bridge away from me and Dynamo or it could be a very dangerous thing.  Dynamo, keep up the great work!

My bacon fever now at its height, I decided to check out a maple bacon latte that was sold in the same neighborhood.  The Pirate Radio Café was about seven blocks away from Dynamo Donuts.  This is my kind of community! Although I was hesitant, I had to go for it.  I needed something to wash down my maple glazed bacon apple donut!

The latte is made of two shots of espresso, refined bacon fat, maple syrup, whole milk, and topped with bacon bits.  I was surprised but the latte was quite tasty.  Upon his visit Anthony Bourdain called it “evil and good” and that is the perfect description.  If you drink your coffee slow, I would recommend removing the bacon bits after they’ve settled.  It was kind of gross when the melted fat bits softened and went down my throat without the fatty flavor.

I hope that this blog is the first of my “Pig Tales: My Adventures in Pork”.  I am entering a contest to win eight trips around the world by Backroads.com called “blog your way around the world”. I ask for your support in letting me blog around the world about the “other white meat”.  I’m sure there are bacon-loving communities around the world and I can’t wait to visit them and share my travels with all!  Please vote for me!  http://www.blogyourwayaroundtheworld.com/blogs/view/997