THE BLOG
07/16/2014 08:05 am ET Updated Sep 15, 2014

Love Letters: Oakland

Preeti Mistry was born in London and raised in the Midwest. While she considers herself a 'child of the universe', she didn't really find her home until she moved to Oakland three years ago. She is currently the chef and co-owner of Juhu Beach Club, an Indian Street Food restaurant in Oakland's Temescal District. Prior to Juhu Beach Club, Preeti held Executive Chef roles at The de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, and Google HQ and was a contestant on Bravo's Top Chef Season Six.

Oakland,

I love that I own a business in the same neighborhood in which I live...about a 4 minute bike ride away. My restaurant is serving my neighbors. Oakland, you are my community...you are home to me. All the interesting, cool people I knew that lived in San Francisco 15 years ago now live in Oakland. The new younger generation of artists, activists, cooks, urban farmers and creative people are all moving here without bothering to stop in San Francisco. We moved to Oakland and our first thought was 'Why did we wait so long'? Your vibe is just "Oaklandish" and that's why I love you.

I don't know how many friends have visited me and I have taken them to Joaquin Miller Park, Jack London Square or Lake Merritt and they have asked in surprise, "Wait, this is Oakland?" The parks are simply gorgeous; the city has so many beautiful green spaces. We actually have a lake right in the middle of our city. We live outside and love biking, hiking, fishing, playing tennis, golf, picnicking, barbecuing or just lying in the sunshine and we can do this because there are over 300 days of sunshine per year.

From the stately Victorian homes in West Oakland to the charming Craftsman bungalows in Temescal, the architecture is as diverse as the people who live here. The smell of jasmine and magnolia permeates the air during the spring. Even the industrial parts of the City have their own special rugged beauty. I love to watch the sunset over the West Oakland cranes at the Port of Oakland because it gives you a different perspective on beauty. All of this and we happen to have the most glorious weather in which to enjoy it all. Thank you, Oakland, for giving me a special place to finally call home.

Sundays are generally a day off for me. Usually my partner and I start the day by either riding our bikes to play tennis at Mosswood Park or to the Temescal Farmer's Market. The Sunday Temescal Farmer's Market has a great selection of seasonal fruits, vegetables, charcuterie from Boccalone, which is made here in Oakland by Chef Chris Cosentino (of Food Network fame). Their Njudia, Pancetta and Salamis are amazingly delicious. We always stop at Starter Bakery to see owner Brian Wood and buy some of his cult status Kouign Aman pastries. These sweet, salty, buttery creations hail from Brittany and are possibly the most delicious flake morning pastry ever created. My favorite is the TCHO Chocolate flavor because the addition of the bitter, creamy chocolate seems to complete the flavor balancing act. Starter Bakery also makes all the bread for our restaurant like our slider buns and Pullman loaves. Another favorite at the market is the locally-made pasta from Baia Pasta, they use whole grains and traditional methods to create a number of delicious dried pastas. Brunch just the two of us or with friends is almost always at the Boot and Shoe Service restaurant owned by Chez Panisse alum Charlie Hallowell. They have the best Bloody Mary and Bloody Margaret in town. The Bloody Margaret's use gin instead of vodka and anchovies are pounded into them and they are topped with house made pickles.

In the evenings, once a month it's fun to go to Uptown for 'First Friday' to check out the party. The scene is exhilarating and the art from the local artists is unique and inspiring. If we don't go out in the evening then often I will stop by Market Hall in Rockridge for the absolute best cheese selection and a chat with the very knowledgeable cheese aficionados. I usually pick up some meat at Marin Sun Farms and make dinner at home. My sister lives just down the street from me so she usually comes over, and we cook together. This town is truly a foodie's paradise.

Oakland, you are a beautiful town full of so much diversity. You have a long history of political activism which makes for an atmosphere ideal for forward-thinking individuals. People here think "Why not try?" as opposed to "This is how it has always been". Your style is like a breath of fresh air. You are hip and urban, casual and irreverent. I have spent almost my entire life feeling like an outsider everywhere I have lived, until now. The sense of pride I feel in living in Oakland is that of an "underdog" type of pride. I have always been the underdog and Oakland, you celebrate diversity and adversity against the odds and this is why I love you.

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