The Black Food & Wine Experience explores Afro-Caribbean cuisine and more
From June 11–18, The Black Food & Wine Experience returns for its sixth year of Bay Area-wide celebrations.
Founded by Aminah “Chef Mimi” Robinson-Briscoe, the weeklong event includes a food and beverage summit, a winemaker dinner series, a tasting at the San Francisco Ferry Building and an Afro-Caribbean dinner at Lita’s Restaurant & Bar in Walnut Creek.
A few months after opening their doors, Chef Sean Streete joined Lita’s, which serves Latin Caribbean cuisine. Streete was born in Jamaica, grew up in Trinidad and worked in Miami’s restaurant scene before moving to California. When Lita’s management team approached him, his background turned out to be a perfect fit.
Since he arrived in Lita’s kitchen, Streete has been reworking some of the flavor profiles. In May, the restaurant launched a new menu with his modifications. The chef began to implement his changes starting with the salsa. He noticed that the texture and consistency was muted. “The first thing we did was to add in fresh tomatoes and more citrus,” Streete said. After this minor but crucial change, the housemade chips and dips starter has become a favorite with diners.
Streete describes West Indian food as a cuisine that formed out of necessity. “We didn’t have much refrigeration—even to this day—in parts of Jamaica,” he explained. “We had to season our foods heavily.” The most familiar example is the flavor profile of jerk spices. “Historically, it was one of the dishes prepared to preserve the meat,” Streete said.
For The Afro-Caribbean Experience dinner on June 13, Streete is preparing oxtail, a saltfish buljol from Trinidad with tomatoes and olive oil, and a variation of roti called “buss-up-shut,” a.k.a. “bust-up-shirt.” The roti is served with a chana chickpea curry. And for dessert, the chef will be making a rum raisin gelato as well as a play on sweet plantains.
When Alicia Kidd started The Wine Noire in 2017, opening a brick and mortar wine shop was always in the cards for her. The Wine Noire is a self-described “Black Woman-Owned Distribution/Wholesale Import/Export company representing Black, Women-Owned” wine and spirits brands. After launching the first division of her company, Kidd opened Coco Noir Wine Shop & Bar in December of 2022.
Customers can buy wine at Coco Noir Oakland retail shop but there’s also a tasting room and a space that can accommodate private events and music. Kidd’s personal taste in wine ranges from reds—“I love an Oakville cabernet”—to whites, “I’m more of a Sauvignon Blanc drinker,” she said. She also loves sparkling wines from France and Italy.
When it comes to natural wines Kidd said, “I’m all for sustainably farmed wine.” But her main criteria for choosing to sell a wine is, “Who’s the maker of the wine? I look for diversity and inclusion.” She notes that the wine industry itself is not very inclusive. “We do have women winemakers who do dry farming. And a lot of our international wines are sustainably farmed – they don’t use pesticides,” Kidd said. In Napa, the Brown Estate winery’s grapes are certified organic. “But the number one thing I need to know — ‘Are you an underrepresented brand?’”
On June 15, Kidd will be one of the speakers at the 2nd annual Food & Beverage Industry Summit in Oakland. Colleen Vincent, vice president of community for the James Beard Foundation, will lead the event “aimed at supporting BIPOC Food & Beverage entrepreneurs.” Kidd is “super excited” to partner with Chef Mimi. “I think it’s the perfect synergy for anyone who’s looking to learn about wines that are produced by winemakers of color,” she added.
Kai Nortey, co-founder of kubé ice cream (which is intentionally not capitalized), is participating in The Black Food & Wine Experience for the third time. “It’s a super vibrant, engaging professional network of people in the food industry with foodies and cultural artists from all walks of life,” Nortey said. “It’s shining a light on Black food artisans, Black chefs, Black makers, Black wine purveyors and winemakers, and Black dessert food makers,” she added.
“We’re not always seen or provided with opportunities to be seen in society,” Nortey said. “And this is a great way to build relationships and to invite various cultures from the Bay Area to come and enjoy food from the African diaspora.”
The term “kubé” means coconut, from the Fante region of Ghana. Nortey, kubé’s CEO and co-founder, was finishing her master’s degree in marketing and communications when she became lactose intolerant. “I was tasting all the different non-dairy ice creams with all these chemicals, GMO oils and artificial flavors,” Nortey recalled. Additionally, they didn’t taste very good. She asked the question, “Why are these companies profiting off of diluted coconut milk?” Since she was already making her own almond milk, Nortey decided to make a coconut milk ice cream herself.
Nortey co-founded kubé with her husband Nee-Nueh, who is Canadian-Ghanaian. When the couple visited Ghana, Nortey tasted the fruit of a mature coconut and thought it was amazing. She decided that, instead of almond milk, she should be making her own coconut milk. Nortey started to do her research and eventually found coconuts to import from Mexican farmers who are using regenerative farming methods.
Once imported, kubé cold-presses “full-fat coconut cream” from the organic, mature coconuts (a video on kubé’s IG account shows the process). “We’re cracking, shredding, pressing the cream out and using the water when we can,” Nortey said. “The goal is to provide a beautiful display of gelato flavors to the public.” She explained that coconuts grow across the coastal areas of West Africa and in the southern and eastern coastal regions there. “People think coconuts are just in Hawaii, Mexico or Thailand but they’re grown all over the world,” she said.
Nortey said the top selling ice cream is the toasted pecan. “We roast the pecans and make our own salty caramel in a vanilla base and people just love it,” she said. But customers also love chocolate too. “But I have a beautiful passionfruit, which is this very creamy smooth sorbet.” kubé will soon be opening a storefront in the East Bay. “I’m excited because it will be an opportunity for us to inspire and awaken people to what is real and what is meant for them by Mama Earth.”
The Black Food & Wine Experience, June 11–18, thechefmimi.com/bfwe.
Lita’s Restaurant & Bar: litawalnutcreek.com
Coco Noir Wine Shop & Bar: coconoirwine.com