California is too vast and diverse a state to capture through just one medium. That's why Oakland Museum of California combines art, history, and natural science collections—more than 1.8 million objects total—to tell the state’s story.
Organized around themes of land, people, and creativity, the art gallery showcases more than 70,000 works from the 19th century through present day, ranging from paintings and sculptures to new media. Encompassing more than 100,000 artifacts, including several thousand bird eggs, the natural sciences gallery spotlights seven particular landscapes, including Yosemite and Mount Shasta. The history gallery includes more than 2,200 objects that trace major periods in the state's history, tying together the lives of the indigenous people, incursions by Spanish settlers, and the giggling mad dash of the gold rush. In a nod to the history of Tinsel town, the interactive Creative Hollywood station lets visitors create an animation, add sound effects to movies, and forget a personal assistant’s birthday.
Forming the roof of each level, verdant gardens separate the galleries, while more greenery and sculptures beautify the museum's outdoor roof gardens and courtyards. The museum uses more outdoor space to hosts its Friday Nights @ OMCA, a family-friendly market full of live music, dance lessons, and local cuisine. Local and seasonal ingredients, meanwhile, flavor the dishes available in the museum's Blue Oak café. The café doubles as a residency for jazz bassist Ron Crotty, a founder of The Dave Brubeck Quartet, who grooves his way through jazz standards every Friday.
A single weathervane squeaks as it sways in the breeze atop a peaked roof. Below it, a building dating back to 1948 houses Montclair Bistro amid fieldstone and brick pathways created in french provincial style. At 7 years old, future chef and owner Henry Vortriede began his cooking career by thumbing through culinary magazines and preparing meals for his family of eight. After going on to earn diplomas in food and wine at Le Cordon Bleu and L'Académie du Vin in Paris, France, he honed his skills as a chef in several French restaurants and created chocolate art showpieces at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco.
Today, as owner and chef at Montclair Bistro, Vortriede draws on his culinary background to create a rotating menu that includes organic chicken scaloppini sourced from Petaluma Farms, duck-and-wild-mushroom quesadillas with brown-butter chestnuts, and thick, double-cut pork chops with sweet-potato-apple pancakes. Another menu of brunch fare combines traditional favorites such as scrambled eggs with black truffle and eggs benedict with lobster cake.
Vortriede's taste is on display not only on plates but also on the restaurant’s walls, where elegant painted canvases hang. Two hundred bottles of wine stand nearby on storage racks inside walk-in glass covered with the pressed noses of oenophiles. The decor, which includes dark carpeting and dark chairs, white-linen-covered tables, and flickering candles, helped earn the restaurant OpenTable's 2012 Diners' Choice award for romantic restaurant in East Bay.
Ayalnesh Chanialew learned the art of Ethiopian cooking through observation. She first watched cooking techniques and styles in Ethiopia, where she was born. As a child, she frequently traveled to different countries with her father, an ambassador. Through her travels, she learned to adapt her palate and cooking style to incorporate those of different cultures. This knack for adaptation shines in her cooking, whether she is substituting herb-infused olive oil for the traditional butter in her restaurant's dishes or making chips out of Ethiopian flatbread for a new textural experience.
At Sheba Dining, guests feast on both vegan entrees and meat, ranging from lean beef and sautéed lamb to raw ahi tuna, all seasoned with signature spices such as ginger, cardamom, and chili. After testing out her injera chips on customers, Ayalnesh began packaging and selling them as a commercial snack, which are now sold at health-food stores including Whole Foods. Her desire to promote Ethiopian cuisine has led Ayalnesh to expand her commercial exploits to sauces and dips, including a spicy red-lentil sauce made from those lentils that fail their anger-management-therapy course.
After catering for two years, Blackberry Soul Bakery and Cafe finally settled in a brick-and-mortar building, where owner-baker Rene prepares her Southern-influenced cakes, cookies, and savory snacks for visitors. The 2004 winner of the Taste of the Bay award and a requested favorite of the 100 Chefs Can Cook United Negro College fundraiser, Rene applies plaudit-earning skills when mixing fresh butter, real vanilla beans, just-harvested wooden spoons, and a few of her grandmother's recipes to whip up delectable, tooth-ready treats. She specializes in sweet-potato pie, pound cake, oatmeal cookies, and cobblers, though the piping-hot menu also includes cakes, cupcakes, and puddings. Red velvet cake supplies means of satiation for sweet teeth, and two types of cornbread furnish the means of satiation for teeth made out of bread. The café takes custom orders for pickup or delivery, and Rene accommodates customers out and about by supplying treats at many local jazz festivals and community events.
Rated Best Thai Restaurant by the East Bay Express in 2011, Chai Thai Noodle earns its title with a vast menu of authentically prepared dishes imbued with vibrant flavors and spices. Chai Thai Noodle's masterful and lively preparations have earned the chefs enthusiastic accolades and multiple high-fives from local press; their pork leg stew in particular inspired across-the board ardor. The San Francisco Chronicle's Carol Ness credited owners and chefs Sangchai Vatanachai and Amnouy Manyvong for making "'pork leg stew' three of the most exciting words in the language of Thai food." John Birdsall of the East Bay Express mentioned that it had to rate "among the most satisfying meat dishes in all of East Oakland," and SF Weekly’s Meredith Brody cited the stewed leg, accompanied by pickled vegetables and mustard greens, as her primary motive for dining at Chai Thai Noodle.
Owner Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars has always been interested in the world of wine, but it wasn't until he tasted a Chateauneuf-du-Pape that the cosmos unfurled before him. "To go from tasting only single varietals to a blend really opened my eyes," he wrote in his bio. He started crafting his own wines and tinkering with production methods, experimenting with different yeast strains. Cohn eventually produced the 2003 Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel, which was named number three on Wine Spectator's Top 100 List—the first time a California Zinfandel had even been in the top 10.
Now, Cohn curates a roster of 21 vintages based on Rhone grape varietals at JC Cellars. The wines are the product of both his own production techniques and time-tested French methods. Visitors to the cellars can gaze upon the aging barrels during tastings led by seasoned wine educators, before taking a bottle home to christen a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.