Mac & Cheese Night #4: Homeroom

My 4th Mac & Cheese Night took place at the East Bay’s prime mac & cheese destination along 40th Street in Oakland: Homeroom.


Nearly every time I’ve mentioned my mac & cheese quest, I’ve been interrupted by an excited new acquaintance asking if I’ve tried Homeroom yet. Finally, FINALLY, I can say yes when asked.

Schoolroom décor in keeping with their name. I approve.

Schoolroom décor in keeping with their name. I approve.

Homeroom is owned by a pair of friends with a passion for comfort food, Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade, who also happen to both be pregnant with their second children right now, which I found out from reading an article about their planned expansion for Homeroom in the fall. That expansion will be geared toward meeting their to-go and large party needs, which are big contributors to the constant wait times at the midsize restaurant.

Well…the fall is not now, so our party of six was prepared for those long wait times at 8 on a Friday night. I had to laugh when I signed us in and asked the host if we would fit—there are not many tables available for more than four people. “Oh, no problem,” he said, quickly followed by a snarky, “but it’ll be a minute.” I knew a minute would be a lot longer than that and it took over an hour. At least owner Erin made the rounds of waiting customers, offering water. Much appreciated!

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Red Blossom Tea Tasting at Café 4

Dragon Pearl white tea

Dragon Pearl white tea

Last week, I took part in a free Chinese tea tasting held at Café 4, one of my favorite coffee shops round these parts. One of these days, I’m going to give Café 4 its own post to highlight how awesome it is, but for now, just know that you can find it right near these guys.


Yep, Café 4 is housed in Castro Valley’s Neighborhood Church, easily recognizable by those three crosses whether you’re driving or BARTing in. The coffee shop resides in the church sanctuary’s foyer.



And yes, it is that beautiful. But enough about Café 4 for now. We’re talking tea!


Namely, the teas offered by Red Blossom Tea located in San Francisco’s Chinatown. This company flies to China multiple times a year to procure their wares, and the care they take in making quality selections shows.


I was impressed by how easily Alice, daughter of Red Blossom Tea’s founders, explained the basic concepts of what they look for: which mountain the tea comes from, what elevation the tea is grown at, and what time of year it’s harvested.

The dried versions of the teas we were about to sample.

The dried versions of the teas we were about to sample.

I was also impressed by how easily she and her assistant navigated the 20 of us gathered for the tasting.


I did not expect that many people for a tea tasting at a relatively unknown coffee shop! Good job getting the word out, Café 4.

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WBC14: Syrahs of the Ballard Canyon AVA

My favorite educational session at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (WBC14) was assuredly our introduction to the Ballard Canyon AVA. This region of Santa Barbara County was just designated as an appellation in October 2013. If this panel and tasting were any indication, Ballard Canyon’s winemakers and their syrahs are ready to prowl.


Patrick Comiskey served as our moderator for the panel, and his introduction wrapped humor, warmth, and imagery around us like a slam poet let loose at Open Mic Night.  I’m going to thank Solo Syrah right now for his great write-up of the session because I’m pulling heavily from it, including this quote from Comiskey’s blog, which was part of that introduction.

[Syrah’s] best attribute, its defining attribute, has always been wildness. Not beauty, though it can be beautiful, and not grace, though it can be graceful, not even power, though it certainly can be powerful. No, the reason we love syrah is the reason we love thunderstorms and thrillers, gooseflesh and gambling, bullfights, food fights, mud runs, grunge rock, sour beer, and stinky cheese.

The panelists included eight of the appellations’ nine winemakers, and how often can that be said of any region?


Each of them, in turn, introduced the syrah they brought in for us to taste. The panelists conducted themselves as besotted lovers, though ones that recognize how much work it takes to win the affection of their betrothed: the syrah grape. I was also struck by the praise Ballard Canyon AVA President, Peter Stolpman, heaped on Ruben Solórzano, winemaker of the new Kimsey Vineyard and a man with over 20 years of experience growing vines in every nook and cranny of the canyon.

My notes will start, as the tasting did, with Ruben’s wine.

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