Tag Archives: Michael Chabon

Tanya Holland: A soul food pioneer in West Oakland

Tanya Holland. Photo: Jody Horton
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You’d be hard-pressed to venture down Mandela Parkway late morning and not see a line tumbling out of Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen. Since its opening in 2008, the truly soulful West Oakland restaurant has garnered a loyal following. Some slip in for a cup of coffee soon after it opens its doors, others brave the long lines for a brunch of fried chicken and waffles, and still others come in for a late lunch of gumbo or pulled pork. There’s really not a bad choice on the menu.

Holland has been working in kitchens since she was in college at the University of Virginia, and she formalized her skills at a culinary school in France and with a stint at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. While her face may be familiar to some outside the Bay Area after a run on the Food Network’s “Melting Pot” television show, she is most well known here for her transformation of two small West Oakland storefronts — Brown Sugar Kitchen and San Pablo Avenue’s B-Side Barbecue. Holland has just released a new cookbook, Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland, and it’s chock full of recipes from both of her restaurants.

Berkeleyside NOSH sat down with Holland to learn more. You can meet Holland at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas, organized by Berkeleyside, on Oct. 24 and 25. (Note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.) 

When did you land on the soul food concept?

When I was living in New York before I went to cooking school, I never really saw examples of soul food restaurants where the food and the room and the ambiance and the service all came together. I either felt like people would try to put their cuisine in sort of a high-end venue but it didn’t really deliver on all fronts, or else they’d serve their cuisine in a really low-end venue where people just went for the food, not caring about the service or the vibe. … Continue reading »

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Local stars come out for the Berkeley Public Library

BPLF Authors Dinner 2013 - Berkeley CA.
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By Mal Warwick

Who knew? Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart isn’t just a musician. It turns out he’s also a musicologist of considerable note, and he’s collaborating with neurologists to conduct research on the potential use of rhythm to reawaken brain function in people with dementia. Hart’s brief conversation in the spotlight with Event Chair Linda Schacht Gage at Saturday’s 11th Annual Berkeley Public Library Foundation Authors Dinner was the hit of the evening. Yes, Hart writes books on his research, too, and he was one of thirty recently published authors honored at the dinner.

Running a close second as a crowd-pleaser was Sam Barry, a San Francisco humorist, the brother of Pulitzer-Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry, whom he closely resembles and whose greetings he passed along. Sam Barry was recently a candidate for Mayor of San Francisco, running under the slogan, “How bad could he be?” But there’s more. Barry is also a virtuoso on the harmonica, and one short command performance led to an electrifying encore that left smiles stretching all across the room. … Continue reading »

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Podcast

Podcast: The Three Michaels in conversation

Michael Chabon, Michael Pollan, and Michael Lewis appeared at a Berkeleyside event in December 2012.
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Two weeks ago, 600 Berkeleyside readers were treated to 90 minutes of conversation with The Three Michaels: Michael Chabon, Michael Lewis and Michael Pollan, moderated by Sedge Thomson. As a special holiday treat, here’s a podcast of the evening. To listen, either click on the link or right-click to save to your computer, tablet or phone. You can subscribe to Berkeleyside podcasts using our feed.

Among the highlights of the conversation:

  • How Pollan’s car crashed into Lewis’ studio
  • The professionals’ approach to Star Market’s annual pumpkin carving contest
  • The truth and fiction of Berkeley stereotypes
  • Balancing writing and family
  • The difference between Berkeley’s and “Republican” softball teams
  • How web browsing can lead you from spark plugs to the Partridge Family … Continue reading »
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‘3 Michaels’ talk writing, inspiration and Berkeley quirks

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In an evening designed to focus on the “Berkeleyishness” of Berkeley, and raise money for a great cause, three of the city’s most renowned Michaels kept hundreds of local residents laughing for the better part of 90 minutes with their wit, charm and candor. [Listen to the podcast of the evening.]

Writers Michael Lewis, Michael Pollan and Michael Chabon — all of whom live in Berkeley — answered questions from West Coast Live host and Berkeley native Sedge Thomson, who moderated “The Three Michaels: A Berkeley Conversation” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre on Monday night.

This was the third public forum Berkeleyside has put on, part of its commitment to providing quality conversations and debates on issues that matter to Berkeley, both on- and off-line. (Scroll down for a slideshow, courtesy of Pete Rosos, from the forum.) … Continue reading »

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The ‘Three Michaels of Berkeley': Supporting, supported

Final poster
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Authors Michael Chabon, Michael Lewis, and Michael Pollan, who all live in Berkeley, will appear at the Berkeley Rep in “The Three Michaels: A Berkeley Conversation,” an event organized by Berkeleyside, to help enable the creation in Oakland of a tutoring and creative writing center for East Bay youth modeled on the highly regarded 826 model.

The original 826 center, 826 Valencia, founded by Dave Eggers and Nínive Calegari in San Francisco ten years ago, is dedicated to supporting students, ages six to eighteen, with their writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. All their programs are free of charge and, so far, their model, which combines a writing hub and retail storefront, has been replicated in eight locations nationwide. … Continue reading »

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‘Three Michaels’ sold out, last chance to snag tickets

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As you may have heard, Berkeleyside is organizing what promises to be a hugely entertaining evening on Monday Dec. 10. The “three Michaels of Berkeley” — Michael Chabon, Michael Lewis and Michael Pollan, all Berkeley residents — will come together for the first time to talk place, politics, people and, no doubt, writing. The event is a benefit for 826 Oakland, a new youth writing program for the East Bay, inspired by Dave Eggers’ pioneering 826 Valencia. The event is sponsored by One PacificCoast Bank.

We are delighted to announce today that “The Three Michaels: A Berkeley Conversation” is sold out. Clearly many people are as eager as we are to support a great cause and to hear from three of the country’s best writers, all of whom do fascinating work in their fields.

There is one last chance to snag tickets, however. … Continue reading »

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Authors rally to raise funds for Children’s Hospital

Berkeley writers Michael Chabon and his wife, Ayelet Waldman. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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As the parent of four children, Berkeley author Michael Chabon has had the unfortunate opportunity to use the emergency room at Children’s Hospital in Oakland a number of times. Every time, the hospital took care of his kids. Now he is returning the favor.

On April 28, Chabon will be one of a number of high-profile writers and musicians who will appear at Notes & Words, a benefit for Children’s Hospital and Research Center. From the stage of the Art Deco Fox Theater, Chabon, Anne Lamott, Kelly Corrigan, and John Hodgman will talk about their lives and work. The band Cake will also perform.

“As a parent of four children, I have had to visit that portal of the emergency room a few times,” Chabon told Diablo Magazine in a recent interview. “The extremely high-quality and thoughtful and sensitive care that my family has directly received at Children’s Hospital is consistent with everything I have heard from other parents in the community. When I drive by the hospital on Highway 24, or fly over the hospital into Oakland Airport, I always find a sense of comfort when I see the rubber ducky on top. It’s a place that radiates comfort and promise.” … Continue reading »

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Events

What is it with this new generation of Jewish writers?

Rebecca Spence
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If nothing else, Berkeley writer Rebecca Spence has chosen an irresistible title for her Sunday talk at Afikomen: Portnoy’s Restraint: How Jewish-American Writers Have Learned to Stop Kvetching (and Love Being Jewish)

Spence, who has her MFA from Bennington College and worked as the West Coast correspondent for The Forward, is writing a Jewish-themed novel of her own.

In her talk, she will discuss Jewish-American writers — from Philip Roth to Michael Chabon, from Nicole Krauss to her husband Jonathan Safran … Continue reading »

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The Escapist comic book store opens on Claremont

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The Escapist, the comic book store that rose from the closing of Comic Relief, opened last night at 3090 Claremont Avenue, a couple of doors down from Dark Carnival, the specialists science fiction, fantasy and mystery bookstore that bought the old store’s stock.

An enthusiastic crowd of comic book fans packed the store to browse both familiar commercial titles and a trove of small-press comics. A cake, with The Escapist‘s skeleton key symbol, was served, but the … Continue reading »

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Comic bookstore The Escapist to open on Claremont Ave.

Escapist
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Michael Chabon will be happy. A new comic bookstore, whose name was inspired by a character in one of Chabon’s own novels, will open soon just a hop and a skip away from his Berkeley home in the Claremont neighborhood.

Jack Rems, owner of science fiction and fantasy bookstore Dark Carnival says he will open The Escapist at the retail space he owns two doors down from his shop at 3086 Claremont Avenue, and it will be stocked with the inventory he bought from Comic Relief, the venerable Berkeley store that closed down on Valentine’s Day.

As we reported on January 18, Rems had originally wanted to take over the lease at the Comic Relief space at 2026 Shattuck Avenue. But, he says, that proved unworkable.

“I was less than confident I could pay the rent there,” he says, explaining that the landlord, John Gordon, had made concessions to the previous tenants which he was reluctant to do with a new one. Rems also felt unsure about the potential of the location. “There are a lot of boarded-up stores in that block of downtown,” he says. “I like it here better,” he says referring to Claremont Avenue. “There are no parking meters and I can control both stores more easily.” … Continue reading »

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From the ashes of Comic Relief, a new store is set to rise

Dark Carnival: owner Jack Rems is bidding to re-open a comics bookstore after demise of Comic Relief.
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The news that iconic store Comic Relief was closing came as a shock to many, most notably the comics-loving community, but it seems a knight in shining armor may yet save the day.

Jack Rems, owner of Dark Carnival, another Berkeley bookstore which has become an institution after operating for several decades on Claremont Avenue, has bought Comic Relief’s inventory and is hoping to open a new store, possibly at the Shattuck Avenue premises of the original.

Rems says he … Continue reading »

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Michael Chabon on his adopted hometown of Berkeley

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Writing in The Atlantic today, bestselling author and Elmwood resident Michael Chabon muses on the meaning of the word “hometown” and the arbitrariness of borders. While he grew up in Columbia, MD, a place he describes as “fulfilling the promises of the American experiment one neocolonial tract house at a time”, Chabon’s more obvious hometown is Berkeley, where he has lived since 1997.

It was Chabon who composed what to many is the definitive piece of writing on the city, … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley

A Berkeley celebration of Mark Twain

Guests browse Twain's papers
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Since the esteemed humorist died 100 years ago and couldn’t read from his own text, other authors, poets, actors, and filmmakers did the honors.

Under a carved wooden ceiling in the Heyns Reading Room of Doe Library, Michael Chabon, Maxine Hong Kingston, Rita Moreno, Mary Roach, Robert Haas, Bob … Continue reading »

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