Oakland is the new Brooklyn. I heard it again the other day from two people who live -- of all places -- in Brooklyn. The food scene, the attitude and Oakland art have created a buzz that's undeniable.
Over dinner at Piedmont Avenue's popular restaurant Homestead, owner-chef Fred Sassen said Oakland's food scene shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it's exploding.
"The chefs were the first wave of people to move out here," he says, adding the drawing card was the low rents. "Now with this tech boom in San Francisco, you're seeing all sorts of people moving out to this area. Restaurants will get busier, and with all the restaurants busy, there'll be more restaurants built. It's just beginning, I think."
Sassen and wife Elizabeth opened Homestead this past August in the 1920s Julia Morgan building at 4029 Piedmont Ave. They met while working at Farallon in San Francisco, where they learned skills like salami curing and cheesemaking.
"We make so much from scratch. We churn the butter from scratch, we make the bread from scratch ... we make our own mustard, we make our own Worcestershire sauce, we make our own ketchup," Sassen says.
Homestead is riding a wave of popularity (they recently added Sunday night dinners) that Sassen sees washing over to the Temescal District.
"You've got the Blue Bottle (the new cafe and coffee shop in the historic W.C. Morse building), the new TrueBurger opening (on Broadway), you have KronnerBurger opening right next door, you have a butcher shop opening on Broadway, a wine shop opening on Broadway, you have a produce market opening on Broadway, The Hogs Apothecary just opened (at 375 40th St.) -- I mean all these places are exploding right now."
Where is Montclair in all this growth? The wave may still be coming. Sassen says a good friend and great chef is negotiating, as we speak, to open a restaurant in Montclair. Stay tuned.
Paws up: Oakland's animal shelter got a nice shot of cash during the recent Maddie's event fundraiser. Not only did they make almost $70,000, the shelter found homes for 110 cats and dogs and one rabbit. And when the fur stopped flying, volunteer Jamin Hawks says the workers enjoyed the sweet sounds of silence coming from empty kennels -- if only for a few hours.
Book it: Two East Bay mystery writers will read at the Montclair Library at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It's the first Mystery Night at the library with authors Terry Shames and Jonnie Jacobs. Shames is the bestselling author of crime novels set in a small town in Texas. Jacobs, of Piedmont, has written 14 mystery and suspense novels, including the Kali O'Brien and Kate Austen series.