OAKland is A-OK! Bocanova, El Tio Juan and Adesso

4 Aug

My move to San Francisco has really been quite extraordinary and I always seem to sum it up into a single word: Roots. Nope, no mini-series about slavery. This transition in my life is about coming back to my Bay Area roots and about planting my own. The best part of this experience is reconnecting to my old roots and that means family and friends. The picture above is me and my friend Analisa, and it was taken at our Junior High graduation. We have been friends since 4th grade when we were both newcomers to the same school. She has always been someone that I have respected and considered a friend but in high school I very much went my own way. I knew since I was 14 what college I wanted to go to and that I wanted to live in LA, so high school always felt like a holding cell. Analisa and I had been friends via Facebook and Twitter for the last few years but I really had not heard her voice since our high school graduation (4 years after that photo was taken). When I moved to San Francisco, a month ago, I reconnected with this old friend and it has been fantastic. I have learned that she is a Social Media expert and quite the little foodie. We are made in friend heaven. In fact, the first time I saw her she took me to Comstock, which I am dying to return to. We drank cocktails and ate chicken fried rabbit and all was right in the world; we were back to being friends. Analisa lived in San Francisco for a while after college but now she lives and works in Oakland and for me atleast she is Oakland’s greatest advocate.

Two weeks ago, I set forth on my first real Oakland adventure. I had met her there once prior but this was going to be the ultimate tour. Tying to shed myself of my LA ways, I took the bus and BART to Oakland. It was all fairly painless especially since Analisa cued me into the almighty Clipper Card. She picked me up right out of the station and she took me to Bocanova. Well well well I wasn’t expecting this, we walked into an over-designed gorgeous industrial styled restaurant and were asked if we had a reservation. I knew that the NY Times had recently written about them but still I was impressed. We sat at the chef’s counter and I ordered my new signature cocktail: The Last Word. It was excellent, as was our server and the bartender who came up to me saying how much he liked my drink choice. We then went on to Walu “White Tuna” crudo and the bone marrow. The crudo was refreshing and we had to keep it just with papaya on top because I somehow remembered that Analisa had a mango allergy. This is mission fruition and I think I make it pretty clear  that I love fruit components on every dish. The bone marrow was yummy, but when isn’t bone marrow delicious? Although, I was disappointed that they cut it vertically instead of horizontally. I always get the impression that I am eating a push-pop when I eat that way. Also, after Animal’s perfect pairing of bone marrow and chimichurri there really is no better combination for this dish. All other bone marrow dishes have been put to shame.

The service and the atmosphere were so good that I could have stayed at that bar and ordered more and more food, spent a ton of money, and watched the chefs all night but thankfully Analisa saved my wallet and we had more planned for the evening. I remember from our days of class plays that Analisa was a good actress and on this particular night she was going to be in a production of Steel Magnolias. I had seen the movie and was looking forward to but I didn’t realize until Analisa was talking to the waitress that she had the Julie Roberts role. Hold the phone, I was having cocktails and plates with the star of a play that would happen in less than an hour. Not only that but the waitress knew all about the production and said that the host wasn’t there tonight because he had to see the play. I was given strict orders to look for him: the flamboyant guy with blue hair. I was a little bit in celebrity awe and now more excited than ever to see the show. Analisa has a boyfriend who loves taco trucks. After years of living in LA and late night Highland Park taco runs, I share his love. I was still a little hungry from these plates and was shocked when she asked if we wanted to go to the best taco truck before her play. Um, does the Pope where a funny hat? How did this girl know me so well?

In a short amount of time we arrived at the El Tio Juan truck. It’s funny both Analisa and I took four years of Spanish in high school but her spanish trumps mine, so I left the ordering to her. She swore by the chorizo taco and I was up for it, shocked that the star of the play would eat curbside with me. She also asked for a side of the grilled onions. Now these onions weren’t the kind of grilled onions that you get with your bacon wrapped hot dog at 3A, not that there is anything wrong with that. These were cipollini onions that were thrown on the grill skin on and my god they were delicious. This should be a condiment at all taco trucks. Speaking of condiments, on top of our tacos was a variety of pickled vegetables. It was more than the just the pickled carrots and jalepeno, there were radishes and cucumbers and even more onions. The tacos were perfection, with just enough heat. Not enough to make me say, “I need someone to make out with me, my mouth is on fire” I have sadly said that on several occasions but this was also more heat than your average taco truck.

Analisa then drove us to the theater, quickly brushed her teeth, and transformed into a Southern Belle. She did all this while I reminiscing on my tacos and said hello to my new blue haired friend. Right before the play started the director came up to me and said, “Hi Carina, Analisa told me to say hello to you” I told him how excited I was and that this was my first real time in Oakland, He corrected me that this was Alameda. Oh well, close enough. For the next two or so hours I was completely transported to that beauty salon. There was nothing but a handful of women on stage and they all shined brillintly. This play was superior to the movie and while I may be biased, Analisa was more charming than Julia Roberts. I left the play with Analisa and we still had more of Oakland to see.

Our next stop was Adesso and we were joined by my new Bulgarian friend. It was a dark bar with salumi for days (Bay Area lingo), strong cocktails, and this snack buffet on the side that was complimentary. That is my favorite price and I filled up on breads, cheese, and olives. My friend Kristina, the Bulgarian, just got off work and wanted chocolate cake. Analisa and I didn’t complain and we all indulged in a delicious flourless chocolate cake. After fish, bone marrow, chorizo tacos, and chocolate cake others may have stopped but we had the hankering for more meat. We got a sample salumi platter and I was set.

If you don’t all have an Oakland ambassador as fantastic as Analisa then simply follow these exact plans…you will be in heaven. Oakland has high-end food, low-end food, culture, arts, and even hip little late night places offering free salami. Yes, I am currently overwhelmed with how many places in San Francisco there are to try but Oakland is definitely on my radar and I have Analisa to thank for that!

Bocanova

55 Webster St
Oakland, CA 94607
Neighborhood: Jack London Square

(510) 444-1233

www.bocanova.com/

El Tio Juan Truck

40th Ave. and Foothill

Adesso

4395 Piedmont Ave
(between Brandon St & Pleasant Valley Ave)
Oakland, CA 94611
Neighborhoods: North Oakland, Piedmont Ave

(510) 601-0305

www.dopoadesso.com/

Analisa Svehaug

http://analisasvehaug.com/

http://twitter.com/socialarts

Altarena Theater

http://www.altarena.org/

Steel Magnolias playing until August 8th

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One Response to “OAKland is A-OK! Bocanova, El Tio Juan and Adesso”

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