A tasting tour on two wheels
on August 30, 2010
Fine wine, microbrews and delicatessen chocolate never tasted so good with a little bike grease.
In conjunction with the Eat Real Festival last Saturday at Jack London Square, 13 two-wheeled foodies pedaled along Oakland’s waterfront to meet the neighborhood’s culinary artisans and sample their creations. Riders ranging from ages 20 to 60 spent the balmy afternoon meeting others who shared a passion and palette for local, sustainable chocolate, tea, beer and wine.
At $40 a person, or $30 for members of East Bay Bike Coalition and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, the bikers were invited to share what tour organizer Karen Hester says are three of her greatest loves: eating, biking and drinking.
There’s a lot of exploring to do in Oakland, Hester said, who considers this tour, now in its second year, “like going on a little day vacation in my own backyard.”
Throughout the four-hour bike ride that began and ended at Jack London Square, riders pedaled for a total of six miles. They dismounted at their first stop before they could break a sweat, and were welcomed to Linden Street Brewery with pitchers of cold microbrew lagers.
Located in a historic 1890’s brick warehouse near the Port of Oakland, Linden Street Brewery makes beers native to the West Coast. By using a lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures, Liden produces a similar recipe to the European lagers early immigrant gold seekers tried to recreate in the warmer Bay Area climate. The brewery is known for its Burning Oak Black Lager, a roasty, slightly sweet light-bodied black beer, which debuted at last year’s Eat Real Festival.
A self-defined “neoindustrialist,” owner and beer architect Adam Lamoreaux says he’s committed to the revitalization of Oakland by bringing high quality food and drink manufacturing back to the city.
Lamoreaux delivers most of his beer via bicycle, and told the bikers he’s trying to source all his ingredients within 100 miles of Oakland and keeping the end product 80-90% organic. “If you see a guy carting two kegs of beer behind him,” he said, “that’s probably me.”
Beer and chocolate seemed like a strange combination, but at Vice Chocolates, the second stop of the tour, the unusual combination of unlikely ingredients is emphasized. I-Li Brice, a one-woman chocolate-crafting machine, sells at her online store and at the Oakland Temescal Farmers’ Market. One step into Brice’s chocolate-producing kitchen and the decadent aromas ensured the riders that they would have no problem following Vice Chocolate’s motto–Just Give In.
The Vice product uses fair trade chocolate from Venezuela, and is loaded up with unlikely ingredients, like lavender, chipotle, garlic, merlot and lychee. A favorite of one rider, Nancy Finkle, was the “Vixen,” a Dark chocolate ganache, passion fruit and chili pepper chocolate that gave a spicy edge to the inherit sweetness of the fruit.
Finkle, an Oakland resident, was on the tour with her husband, who was managing the drinking and chocolate-eating while riding a unicycle “This is a way for us to get in a little bit of a ride,” Finkle said. “We’re tasting some really great local food and getting to know the producers, and can still join in later at the Eat Real Festival.”
With beer and chocolate fresh on the tongue, riders staggered onto their bikes and cleansed their palette with the wind off the bay before landing at their third destination, Urban Legend Cellars. Owner and producer Steve Shaffer poured his biodynamic, organic wine, starting with a crisp 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, progressing to a deep and smooth 2008 Teroldego.
The grapes are brought down from a couple of different Northern California wineries, he said, and are fermented at the Shaffers’ Jack London-district warehouse space and tasting room, which opened in March of this year. Even the glass is made in Oakland, and all the pre-material that is part of the process is composted, he said. “We think this helps lower our carbon footprint by not trucking our product and materials around,” Shaffer said. “We’re aimed at catering to locals.”
The final destination on the tour was the tearoom and warehouse of Numi Organic Tea. By this time, there was no hiding the barrage of yawns. Nearly four miles, five wine tastings, two beers and enough chocolate to work off for the next week, it was time to indulge in simpler refreshment. While sampling Numi’s iced teas, the crew continued to enjoy one another’s company.
“These are old traditions that we lose track of,” Hester said. “If you go to the Arabic world people spend a lot of time drinking tea and sharing tea.” As she hugged some riders, now new friends, goodbye, she continued, “I love that about this tour. We just spend time hanging out, drinking and eating together.”
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