Oakland Food Lovers Start a Podcast

Plus, B-Dama launches lunch menu as test run for new Swan's Market restaurant.

Plenty of food-loving couples in the Bay Area spend their free time exploring new restaurants and taking long romantic walks at the local farmers’ market. But Ray Gonzales and Jacqueline Gleason, an Oakland couple with a shared passion for food and food politics, decided that they wanted to take their mutual spare-time activity to the next level: Earlier this fall Gonzales and Gleason launched a new food-focused biweekly podcast, Real Food Real Talk, which they produce out of a small studio they’ve set up in their home.

The two have day jobs in the food world, too — Gonzales works for Revolution Foods, an Oakland-based provider of healthy school meals; Gleason interns for the Oakland Food Policy Council while she pursues her Master of Public Policy, with a focus on food justice. So it’s no surprise that the podcast has a food-justice bent, though Gleason stressed that they take an extremely broad, inclusive approach to the topic: “Food justice can be any kind of healthy food business.”

Gonzales added that they’re interested in telling the stories of all the people who are doing interesting things in the Bay Area food scene — everyone from restaurateurs to amateur homesteaders to food entrepreneurs who have launched a new product. Each segment tends to be short, snappy, and very upbeat.

Full disclosure: I’m a featured guest in the podcast’s second episode, “Waste Not, Want Not,” wherein I read excerpts from my reviews of two new, inexpensive Oakland restaurants that I love — Lucky Three Seven and Tian Jin Dumplings. The episode also features interviews with Matt Teichmann, founder of San Franola Granola, and Dana Frasz, the executive director of the food-waste reduction organization FoodShift.

You can listen to the podcast at TalkRealFood.com or by subscribing via iTunes, Stitcher, or Spreaker.

B-Dama Launches Lunch Service

For more than a year, Chikara Ono has been plotting a Swan’s Market offshoot to B-Dama (4301 Piedmont Ave., Oakland), Ono’s casual izakaya — a favorite among local chefs as well as Japanese expats — but up until now details about the new spot have been scarce. Although the restaurant still doesn’t have an opening date, Ono said he does have a pretty good idea of what the new spot might serve: rice bowls.

On Wednesday, October 9, B-Dama will launch lunch service, with a rice-bowl-centric menu that will serve as a kind of test run for the new project — “practice,” as Ono put it.

According to Shin Okamoto — who will helm the kitchen at the as-yet-unnamed restaurant, along with fellow B-Dama cook Asuka Nadeshiko — the rice bowls will fall somewhere between traditional Japanese food, street food, and fast food. They’ll be somewhat similar to donburi, the Japanese term for rice bowl dishes that function as “one-bowl meals”: meat, vegetables, and, often, eggs, all simmered together and served atop a generous portion of white rice. But whereas a donburi usually consists of traditional ingredient combinations — chicken-and-egg or marinated-beef-and-onion, for instance — B-Dama’s rice bowls will incorporate traditional Japanese elements but also, in some cases, American, Chinese, and even Italian influences.

One of the combinations the three chefs have come up with is a rice bowl that includes gravy-soaked Japanese hamburger steak, cooked vegetables, a salad, and a poached egg — kind of a Japanese twist on Hawaiian loco moco. Other bowls might feature tonkatsu (fried breaded pork) or shogayaki (ginger pork) or the Japanese version of mapo tofu. Yet another bowl will bear some resemblance to Korean bibimbap. On any given day, there will be four or five different basic rice bowls priced at around $10, and diners will be able to customize each one with various add-ons.

Part of the idea is to test out these recipes and gauge customer response, Ono explained. If the rice bowls turn out to be a hit, it’s likely that tweaked versions will have a prominent place on the menu at the new restaurant, which will serve both lunch and dinner.

In terms of the project’s nitty-gritty details, Ono told What the Fork that he’s building a 600-square-foot kitchen and cafe counter inside Swan’s Market, which is located at the intersection of 9th and Washington streets. Ono’s restaurant will sit directly across from Cosecha, and it will share the building’s large, luxe-cafeteria-style communal dining area with Cosecha and fellow newcomer The Cook and Her Farmer.

The exact timeline for the restaurant remains unclear, but Ono said he’s applied to the city for all of his permits and hopes to begin construction by the end of the month. If all goes well, the restaurant might be ready to open sometime in December.

In the meantime, lunch service at B-Dama will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

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