Domenica Rice Solomon, a former Chez Panisse line cook, stood in the kitchen of Cosecha cafe turning a filet of what looked like salmon grilling over a medium flame. Just over a year ago, the kitchen didn't exist.
The range, the window seats, the counters where regulars slurp pozole and the farm tables filled by families for Sunday brunches were all just images Rice Solomon had of what the then-ailing Swan's Market on Ninth and Washington streets could become.
Back then, when the corrugated metal shutters came rolling down on Swan's Market at 6 p.m. sharp, Rice Solomon talked about opening up late weekends. There were only a few stalls left in the once thriving Swan's -- Taylor's Sausage and Sincere Seafood.
Swan's Market and Old Oakland have evolved since then. Or should I say they have evolved again.
Ratto's, Washington Inn, Caffe 817, Cockadoodle Café, Liege, The Trappist and Tamarindo date back to the first, second and third progressions of Old Oakland. The City Team shelter has survived despite decades of gentrification.
Cosecha hosts happy hour on Thursday from 5-7 p.m. Two fish tacos and a beer for $12. Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays the cafe is open until 9:30 p.m.
B Restaurant and Bar made way for Borgo Italia. "Opening soon" read a sign is taped to the door.
Levende East is now District and mostly packed on weekends. New owners have breathed a little life back into Caffe 817. A former Hibiscus chef took over the long-dormant Jesso's restaurant on the corner of Washington and Ninth, and Rice Solomon said Rosamunde Sausage Grill will replace the Japanese restaurant that always smelled like ammonia further up the block on Washington.
The storefronts on Ninth, which have rarely if ever been filled to capacity, house Marion and Rose's Workshop, McMullen clothing, Crown Nine jewelry, the charmingly eclectic vintage boutique, Piper and John's General Goods. They belong to the corral of PopUp Hood, a marketing enterprise founded by Tamarindo's Alfonso Dominguez and Sarah Filley that bends the "pop up" concept by matching vendors with empty storefronts.
Another PopUp Hood store, Umami Mart, has extended the practical boundaries of Old Oakland to Broadway. Before, Ninth Street at Broadway is where the momentum stopped. The narrow building housed Sticks + Stones Gallery and before that it was a gallery that also opened on evenings for independent film screenings.
"Those girls are great. They're food industry people," Solomon said about Umami Mart's Yoko Kumano and Kayoko Akabori.
Kumano is a former bartender at Camino, whose lineage is traced directly back to Chez Panisse. "We come from the same kind of father," Rice Solomon said. Akabori worked weekends at the Takara Sake counter in Berkeley and lived in Tokyo for five years before she moved back to the East Bay.
The story about Umami Mart is probably already familiar to most people by now. The store began as a blog about Japanese food and drinks. Five years later, Dominguez was buying some of Umami Mart's high-end Japanese cocktail implements and invited the women to join PopUp Hood venture and open a shop.
They opened Aug. 3.
Cocktail implements are still their signature item. Japanese bar wares are sought after, Akabori said, because of the quality of the glass and stainless steel.
The store sells crystal Yarai mixing glasses, a quintessentially Japanese bar accouterment, Akabori said.
"Japan is so obsessed with ice," she said about the two different popular ice picks I stared at on a table near the door.
The three-pronged version works for splitting big sheets of ice, she explained. Bartenders use the single-pronged one for shaping smaller pieces of ice.
A $15 egg separator is also popular and they sell Hawthorne strainers, in demand for their long handle and heavy weight, according to a little sign on the table describing the shiny silver disks ringed by a coil of metal.
They also sell bitters bottles, cocktail shakers and highball glasses.
"High balls are coming back in," Akabori said.
She was preparing for the final Thursday "Sip & Shop" evening of the month, a Takara sake tasting with two varieties brewed in Berkeley and two from Japan. Beginning in September "Sip & Shop" will run 6-8 p.m. every third Thursday at different businesses.
Umami Mart stocks an array of other Japanese kitchen tools and tea implements. I had to restrain myself from buying the cutest coffee travel cup.
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