Support Oakland Food Vendors at Eat Real Fest

OFPC eat real fest


Eat Real Fest is coming back next weekend, so there will be lots of food vendors in Jack London Square.  Some of them are based in Oakland and we love them for representing the town!  If you’re planning to go, be sure to support these #realoakland businesses.  

We would love to see even more Oakland food vendors participating in the future, so take a look at our list and let us know who’s missing.   Which food vendors should be at Eat Real Fest next year?

  1. Alamar
  2. Baia Pasta
  3. Barlavento Chocolates
  4. Blue Chair Fruit
  5. Bombezies BBQ
  6. Cholita Linda
  7. Hella Vegan Eats
  8. Keena’s Kitchen
  9. Mamacitas Cafe
  10. Oaktown Jerk
  11. Shades of Sugar Bakeshop
  12. Sosu Sauces
  13. Sweet Bar Bakery
  14. Tante’s Catering
  15. Vanilla Baking & Catering Co.

A Tour of Black- and Latino-Owned Wineries Offers an Antidote to #LaughingWhileBlack


By Luka Tsai posted on East Bay Express

Last month, news broke that employees of the Napa Valley Wine Train had kicked eleven members of a women’s book club called Sistahs on the Reading Edge — ten of whom were African-American — off a train for talking and laughing too loudly. Train officials marched the eleven women, one of whom was 83 years old, off the train, and posted — and quickly deleted — a statement on Facebook to the effect that the book club members had been verbally and physically abusive toward other guests.

Napa Valley Wine Train executives subsequently apologized and accepted full blame for the incident. But many observers concluded that the treatment of the predominantly African-American book club was racially motivated — particularly the Facebook post, whose claims the women vehemently denied. The hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack went viral on Twitter.

Now, an Oakland-based nonprofit is offering one potential antidote: the Wine Soul Train, a daylong tour of Black- and Latino-owned wineries in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. The initial tour will take place on Saturday, September 26, with a tour bus that seats 35 people departing from Miss Ollie’s restaurant (901 Washington St., Oakland) at 10 a.m. But if the Wine Soul Train is successful, it might become a semi-regular event.

Esperanza Pallana, director of the Oakland Food Policy Council, was among those who felt a rising sense of indignation as details emerged about the wine train incident. “Those days are over,” she said. “We don’t do that anymore, and when it happens, everybody needs to be outraged.”

Pallana, who is Mexican American, started to think about what it would be like if people of color had their own wine train. What would that look like? How would its priorities be different? The idea of putting together the Wine Soul Train grew out of those initial thoughts.

The Oakland Food Policy Council works to promote equity in the food system, so the appeal of such a tour would be in the way it would highlight and support people of color who are taking leadership roles in a mostly white-dominated industry. And, of course, the tour will offer a setting in which black- and brown-skinned people — and anyone else who cares to join the party — can laugh loudly and have a good time without fear of racial animus.

After all, part of the reason the Napa Valley Wine Train incident resonated with so many people is because of the perception that the wine industry as a whole isn’t particularly welcoming of people of color — that the various wineries and tasting rooms in the Bay Area are by and large, as Pallana put it, “a white space.”

Rafael Rios, who is the Mexican-American proprietor of Justicia Wines, a small, Calistoga-based boutique winery that is, according to its mission statement, committed to “freedom, equality and justice,” is also the president of the Napa Sonoma Mexican-American Vintners Association. The vintners association currently has fifteen members, and Rios estimates that there are another eight to ten Latino-owned wineries in Napa Valley alone — out of a total of about 450 wineries in Napa. That’s a small percentage, but it’s not as though they, and the small handful of Black-owned wineries, are nonexistent. Their lack of visibility, though, is a big part of Pallana’s motivation for organizing the tour.

The Wine Soul Train’s $100 price tag will include lunch, snacks, and tastings at three different wineries. Pallana and her colleagues at the Oakland Food Policy Council are still hammering out the final details, including the specific wineries that will participate. Justicia Wines was at the top of Pallana’s list; after all, the name alone was perfect for the theme of the tour. But Rios doesn’t have his own physical winery — his wines are made to his specifications at Maldonado Vineyards, a winery in Calistoga owned by his sister and brother-in-law. Maldonado is one possible tour stop, then, and Pallana has also been in touch with three Black-owned wineries: Everett Ridge Winery (in Healdsburg), Sharp Cellars (Sonoma), and Esterlina Vineyards (Healdsburg).


The Oakland Food Policy Council doesn’t actually have access to a private train, but Pallana has come up with a perfect partner for the project: The Mexican Bus, a San Francisco-based charter bus company known for its rollicking, colorfully decorated vehicles — an homage to the kinds of buses that are common in many parts of Latin America. Pallana said touring wine country in one of the company’s idiosyncratic buses would maintain that spirit of supporting businesses run by people of color — and also of addressing a serious issue with a light, humorous touch.

Tickets for the tour are available via EventBrite.

Changing the Narrative: Carolina Abolio of Miss Arepita

miss arepita quote

We should all have access to culturally relevant food, but sometimes there’s a void.  A civil engineer by trade, Carolina Abolio started her business because she missed Venezuelan food and wanted to share her culture with the Bay Area.

I’ve been following Miss Arepita on Facebook for a while, but just met Carolina at an Oakland Grown event.  We got together for coffee a few weeks ago and had a great conversation about how she learned how to cook, how she tested her business idea and about the “Godmother of Miss Arepita.”

The beginning

Carolina originally started Miss Arepita because she loved to cook for friends.  She said it will always be a mobile business because she wants to bring her food to the people.

She grew up with amazing chefs in her family and learned how to slow down the food to get more flavor.  According to Carolina, an arepa is technically a “fast food” because it takes only a minute to serve, but the cooking process is actually quite slow.

Burritos, tacos and even pupusas can easily be found in Oakland, but arepas are different so she wasn’t sure how people would receive them.  After coming up with the idea to start a business, she talked to Tina Tamale, who she affectionately calls the “Godmother of Miss Arepita.”   They planned and hosted a successful pop-up fundraiser for East Bay College Fund at La Borinqueña and Carolina was able to make connections with more people in the community:  “You need a small village to run a small business.”  When she realized that people were loving her food, she decided to go for it and start her business.


While Carolina sometimes pops up at events around town, she’s at the Phat Beets Farmers Market every Saturday.  She is always growing as a person, and giving back to her community as well.  Her life as an entrepreneur changes all the time, so she’s never bored.

If you’re thinking about starting a business

Carolina’s learned a lot through the years and she has some advice for aspiring small business owners:

Adapt to the situation.  

She struggled with advertising at first, because the market is small and hidden.  It was a challenge to get customers, but her friends invited their friends and eventually her business grew.

Be consistent.  

Keep striving so the customer gets the same experience on Day 1 and Day 260, without loosing the original intent.

Take small business classes – but not too many.  

She recommends taking business classes, but cautions against too much research: “Don’t take so many classes that you don’t start.”

Go and do it.  

She says, “Take the risk and do it.  Believe in yourself!”