Souvenirs, I think, are an important part of travel. The little objects and tokens that we bring home with us are the holders of our memories; they evoke their place of origin and take us back there, if only for a moment.
Food is an especially evocative way to step back into a beloved place. Oakland is so full of wonderful deliciousness, it's near impossible to narrow a selection down to just five things so, with one notable exception, I went with portability as my other criteria. All but one of these items are small enough to tuck into a corner of your bag.
5 Edible Treats from Oakland
1. Inna Jam, from $12
While not technically made in Oakland, Dafna Cory's jams, pickles, and shrubs are made just over the border in Emeryville. Still, you will get lots of local flavor, as Inna sources all of their fruit from nearby farms and orchards. There are many jam and shrub flavors to choose from, but if you happen to see the salt-preserved Meyer lemon or Bearss lime, snatch it up — it's a rare find.
2. Persian Lime Curry Rub or Shichimi Togarashi, from $5.50
A visit to Oaktown Spice Shop should be top on your list; you will smell the place before you even see the door! Oaktown makes their own spice blends, which means that their curries and other blends are unique. Two popular blends are the Persian lime curry powder (which is made with Persian limes and is not a Persian curry!) and the shichimi togarashi, which is like a Japanese seven-spice blend and is great on udon, rice, or fish, or in marinades.
Where to find them: Oaktown Spice Shop
3. Kick That Cold, $5.50 per ounce
Traveling is great, but being exposed to all those germs is not! This lovely tea, a blend of echinacea leaf, yarrow, elderflower, peppermint, chamomile, rose hips, and lemon balm, can help you fight off any nasties that you may have been exposed to before, during, or on your way home from your trip. Plus, it's delicious.
Where to find it: Homestead Apothecary
4. Pizzaiolo Bread, $10
If you're a carb-lover, be sure to stop by Pizzaiolo and purchase a loaf of their delicious bread. In fact, if you have your heart set on a loaf, call ahead and reserve it, as they tend to sell out. The extra-dark and intense crust will keep it fresh until you arrive home.
Warning: The loaves are roughly the size of a house cat, so you may have to make extra room in your bag. Do it, though — it's totally worth it! When you get it home, cut it in half (share one half with a friend?) and keep your half cut-side down on your cutting board. It will last for about 5 days, no wrapper needed.
Where to find it: Pizzaiolo, bread available mornings only (8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Saturday)
5. East Fourteenth Coffee, $18
Oakland's best-known coffee roaster is probably Blue Bottle, which is awesome, but Red Bay Coffee is another great local roaster to keep your eye on. Owner Keba Konte brings a strong social justice component with an employee profit-sharing business model and a commitment to injecting diversity into the third-wave coffee world.
Red Bay's beans are roasted in a tiny coffee "dojo" in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. A delicious, single-origin, dark-roast coffee, East Fourteenth is a nod to the former name and history of Fruitvale's main thoroughfare, International Boulevard.
Where to find it: Red Bay Coffee Box