Saturday, May 24, 2008

East Bay Sunday

Who: VN Managing Editor Aurelia d'Andrea + her partner in crime, Jeff Rogers
What: An East Bay food-and-art excursion
When: Sunday, May 18
Where: Berkeley
Why: Because we're always hungry for food and anything art-related

The Scoop: After listening to countless friends and colleagues rave about the food at downtown Oakland's newest veg chowhouse, Souley Vegan, I couldn't wait for a free weekend to head east and into new restaurant territory. That empty Sunday finally arrived, and all week leading up to the day, visions of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and barbecue tofu danced in my head. Man, was this going to be good. So, Sunday morning, Jeff and I skip breakfast to ensure there's plenty of room for all the stick-to-your-ribs fare we'd soon be indulging in. Before heading out the door, I gave a quick call over to Souley Vegan to make sure they were, in fact, open on Sundays. Guess what? They're not. After a brief episode of complete devastation, we moved on to Plan B.

Rather than allowing ourselves to get sucked into the heavenly Indian-food vortex at Berkeley insititution Viks like we always do, we stuck with the new-dining-experience theme and decided to give Ital Kalabash a try. This cute little veg restaurant (pictured above) in Berkeley serves Jamaican sandwiches, salads, and smoothies, plus sides like fried sweet plaintains and tostones. Yum-ola.

We each ordered a jerk sandwich with the works; Jeff got the "fish," and I the "chicken," and we devoured those in exactly two bites, washing it down with a shared glass of Ital Kalabash's icy, homemade ginger beer. We were dying to try the tostones (savory fried plaintains), but another sad note to the day was that they were fresh out of those. We were steered toward the fried plaintains instead, and again, those took all of three seconds to consume. We decided we liked the vibe of this place, but wouldn't have complained one bit if the portions were just a wee bit larger.

We'd have stayed and ordered seconds, but the clock was ticking and we needed to get to the Berkeley Art Museum to catch artist Sunaura Taylor speak as part of the MFA graduate student exhibition. Sunaura, who just completed her MFA at UC Berkeley, is a profound painter whose latest works feature sad subject matter: factory-farmed animals. The chickens, veal calves, pigs, and other beings made real on her canvasses were created with a gentle touch and sensitivity that is palpable; I got especially teary-eyed over the calves, and other museum-goers were clearly moved by Sunaura's work as well. After the artists gave their individual presentations, I had a chance to speak with Sunaura (that's her below, next to one of her larger paintings), and learned she's recently gone vegan after growing up veg. Hurray! We'll be featuring more on her in an upcoming issue of VegNews. Keep your eyes peeled.

After our art fix, we had to dash back to San Francisco since we had another veg-related engagement to attend. That one involved a bio-diesel bus, lots of wine, sweets, and interesting people. More on that later!

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