Little Black Book

The Slow-Food Train Stops in Oakland

by Kim VanderVoort
Camino The open fire at Camino. Photo by Yoko Takahashi.

Anya Fernald, Top Chef judge, California locavore crusader, and multi-talented heavy-hitter shares the message of her sustainable food company along with a list of her favorite shops in Oakland.

OAKLAND, California – Years living and working in Europe as a cheesemaker ingrained in Anya the importance of ingredients. Upon returning to the U.S. nearly a decade ago, she helped launch Slow Food Nation alongside Alice Waters in 2008, and Oakland's annual Eat Real festival in 2009. In 2011, feeling the lack of sustainable farms, she co-founded Belcampo Meat Company, a humane-certified organic farm and processing plant. Most recently, she authored a cookbook (check out one of her recipes) that gets back to the basics of traditional Italian home cooking. Between Belcampo and her latest cookbook, Anya is dedicated to sustainable food systems and responsible agriculture. I asked her what, besides her passion for food, propelled her to the forefront of the slow-food movement.

"I love the business aspect," she said. "But I also want to prove a point. I think that you can have quality food and a reliable business, and I want to show that that can happen."

Anya has made her point and then some: Between butcher shops and restaurants, Belcampo currently operations six locations throughout California, as well as a farm and agrotourism lodge in Belize. She resides in Oakland, choosing to remain in Northern California where she grew up. When I asked the locavore about her favorite spots in San Francisco's underrated neighbor city, she rattled off eight of her top picks. True to form, each of Anya's go-to shops and eateries offers local goods and sustainable foods.

"I used to be more blasé about it, but in the industry I'm in, I'm exposed to a lot of information about what happens in conventional ag[riculture]. I can't do it anymore. I can't eat meat that's not clean. It's kind of limited my dining, but that's why I like these places." Who better to show us around Oakland than the slow-food meat maven herself?

Where to Shop

Alchemy Bottle Shop
3256 Grand Ave.; +1-510-488-3637
A specialty liquor store where "you can find really cool artisan spirits. There are no mainstream brands. They have every interesting thing, like Leopold Bros' Aperitivo, which is like artisan Campari."

420 3rd St.; +1-510-891-1024
Formerly known as Oakland Crush, Minimo (Italian for minimal) sells wines from small producers who use minimalist intervention practices in their winemaking. They have great customer service, and "lots of bottles under $20 that are affordable and delicious."

821 Washington St.; +1-510-832-6503
"A terrific old-school grocery story that's been in continuous operation in downtown Oakland for over 100 years. It was originally a Gold Rush store, but it's an Italian-American family and the kids still run it. They've got salted anchovies and good olives, and they always have fresh ricotta."

Umami Mart
815 Broadway; +1-510-250-9559
Beautiful, high-quality Japanese cookware and barware, as well as sake and Japanese beer. "I always go here for gifts."

Where to Eat

Boot and Shoe Service
3308 Grand Ave.; +1-510-763-2668
"Pizza and Italian food. One of my top recommendations and I go all the time. Definitely my favorite cocktails in Oakland."

3917 Grand Ave.; +1-510-547-5035
"A classic for fine dining and open-fire cooking. For Italian-influenced brunch it's terrific. It's a little more expensive for dinner, but brunch is rather affordable."

Hawker Fare
2300 Webster St.; +1-510-832-8896
"An excellent Thai place that uses good ingredients and high-quality meats."

Tru Gourmet at Grand Lake Farmers Market
Grand Lake Ave. and Lake Park Ave.
"Great, simple dim sum made with good, clean meat. You can grab it at the Saturday market and sit out on the lawn and eat it. I take my daughter there and she eats, like, 100 dumplings."


The Return to Cucina Povera: Anya Fernald's Farinata Recipe
Looking Afar and Wide in West Oakland
The Ambitious Eater's Weekend Guide to SF

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