I love Oakland for so many reasons, though most of them are food related. To start off with, sushi. Sushi in Santa Barbara is a sad joke compared to what I’ve found in the Bay. Our restaurants here are very, very stingy. And so are the supermarkets. They give you small pieces of fish with a ton of rice and a rather large bill. But at Ichiro’s, on 15th in downtown Oakland, the rolls are gigantic and the sashimi hangs off the sides of their rice balls when you order nigiri. Whatever you order, it is presented just so – a dash of wasabi under the yellow tail nigiri here, a strand of seaweed tying the eel to the rice there. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures. You’ll just have to believe me when I say that when I was handed my platter, the amount of gorgeous fish so surprised me I didn’t think it could possibly be mine. I will be lusting for this place for a very long time, unless I return sooner than expected.
And dim sum! We stayed in a hotel just a block or two away from Chinatown, near where Tony used to live. Every weekend he and his roommate would walk there and go to the shop with the longest line (that’s how you know it’s the best). I found that my favorite treats were the red bean sesame balls and the fried taro dumplings. The hand rolled, thick noodled chow mein was also a favorite.
Santa Barbara just doesn’t have the variety of cultures, and, thus, foods and markets, that I so appreciate about Oakland. One of my favorite things to do there is go to a huge Korean food market. We can’t bring back or eat everything that we’d like – no refrigerator in the hotel and then the hot drive home – but I still admire the spread and then perhaps buy some kimchi and sake.
Then of course there’s Lake Merritt, the large population of pitbulls, and barbeque (my favorite place is Elve’s on MLK). Sigh. Oakland gets a bad rap but it is such a cool, interesting city.
To prove how cool it is, listen to this – they have a fiber festival! And I went, and it was great!
The vendors all had very unique things and were so friendly and enthusiastic. Many of them raise their own alpacas, llamas, sheep, and/or angora rabbits. One woman, at The Loom Room (www.fanfarefarms.com), has a son and daughter who both show rabbits on the national level (who knew there was such a thing for rabbits?) and her daughter got best in breed! I bought three skeins of her Black Welsh Mountain Sheep yarn (all from two sheep, Opal and Ebony) mostly because Tony really wanted me to make him some ridiculously warm and thick socks, and as he was so patient at the fair and had introduced me to Ichiro’s, and is a wonderful person, I felt he deserved at least a pair of socks :)
I wasn’t interested in this yarn at first, but Tony kept bringing us back to it. He really likes the type of sheep it’s from and how dark the color is. And the more I touched it, the more I realized how truly rich the fiber is, and how surprisingly soft as well.
For myself I took home two skeins of sock yarn, from different vendors and both hand dyed:
I have no idea why I was so enamored with neon that weekend, but I don’t regret it. Something about the incredible pinkness of the skein above grabbed me. I don’t even wear much pink. It is just – SO – pink and I love it! (And it was very hard to get a true picture of the insane color.)
There was a ton of spinning going on at the festival. Lots of roving, dyed and braided or in bags, lots of drop spindles and wheels – if I remember correctly almost no one had a tent of just yarn. There was also weaving and a tent for crocheting, though I noticed two people sitting under it were knitting. Ha!
Needless to say, I caught the bug. I can’t afford a wheel but I bought a drop spindle and some roving and have been eyeing it since. I don’t know if I’m ready to pick up another time consuming hobby, but I fell in love with the roving and am always so impressed by spinners’ pictures of what they’ve done. Hand spun skeins are simply beautiful. I especially love how you may think the color combinations of the roving odd, but once it’s spun up it looks perfect and interesting and not quite how you would have guessed.
Ahh, the promise of a new skein of yarn…and another skein…and some roving…