All was quiet on a recent Friday morning on a cozy residential street corner in Oakland's Maxwell Park neighborhood when a little red van pulled up to the curb, offering early risers what to many groggy-eyed Americans might sound like a dream come true: fresh coffee delivered practically to your doorstep, in some cases before the sun has even risen.
The coffee truck, Get Goes Mobile Cafe, is the brainchild of husband-and-wife owners Jeff and Zeva Williams, who came up with the idea about twenty years ago when they were tasked with packing up orange slices and Capri Sun for their kids' soccer matches — only to find that no one had brought anything for the grownups.
Fast forward to 2011, and the couple finally turned their undercaffeinated moment of inspiration into an actual business. The decision just made sense, Zeva explained. Her husband Jeff had already accumulated thirty years of experience in the coffee industry as a barista and cafe manager, and operating a gourmet food truck was just starting to emerge as a viable way to earn a living in the Bay Area.
The basic philosophy of Get Goes is "getting coffee to where coffee isn't," Zeva said. The truck does a fair amount of catering — to office buildings, elementary schools, and, of course, the baseball and soccer fields that were the couple's original inspiration. Three days a week they do a brisk business selling to morning commuters at the Alameda Main Street Ferry Terminal, many of whom text in their orders ahead of time.
But the Williamses said they were proudest of doing something they say no one else is: Starting at around 6:30 a.m. on Friday mornings, they drive their truck through Oakland's Maxwell Park, Allendale, and Millsmont neighborhoods and sell coffee at about a dozen predetermined stops — often to pajamas-wearing customers who have literally just crawled out of bed. (Check the company's Facebook page for an updated schedule for the route each week.)
In that way, Get Goes aspires to be more like an old-fashioned ice cream truck than your typical gourmet food truck — bringing their product to people at (or at least near) their homes, as opposed to the currently fashionable "food pod" model, where a food truck parks near a bunch of other trucks for several hours at a time. In fact, Zeva said she and her husband originally planned to outfit their truck with the same bells that the classic Good Humor ice cream trucks use — but then realized that non-customers probably wouldn't appreciate hearing that at 6:30 in the morning. Still, she said, for loyal customers the truck's approach inspires the same frenzied impulse to scrounge up change from between the couch cushions. And Get Goes' more popular stops have become real community gathering places, where neighbors meet and converse — often for the first time.
As for the coffee itself, Get Goes offers drip coffee (brewed to order using the same pour-over method you'll find at any number of reputable cafes) and a full slate of espresso drinks — "anything you can get at a coffee shop," Zeva said. The truck also offers homemade blueberry muffins (if you can snag one before they sell out) and coffee milkshakes that are so popular that their customers refer to them as "crack shakes." I was tempted to order one — you know, for the sake of journalism — but couldn't quite justify the sugar rush first thing in the morning. Next time I'll be sure to indulge.
What better way to ring in the greenest of seasons than by feasting on local asparagus? While a plate of blanched asparagus with aioli will always be a tried and true California classic, it's great to see East Bay chefs coming up with more creative offerings. Here are four dishes that caught my eye:
1) One of my favorite things about Abura-ya (380 15th St.), Uptown Oakland's Japanese fried chicken pop-up, is how chef Adachi Hiroyuki shows off farmers' market produce without making a big deal of it. Case in point: The restaurant's spring special features an entire bunch of Capay Organic asparagus served three ways ($10): steamed and topped with miso ranch dressing, grilled with garlic miso seasoning and lemon, and fried with ginger teriyaki sauce.
2) If you're looking for a pretty plate, look no further than Haven (44 Webster St., Oakland), where chef Charlie Parker has been serving "Roscoe's Asparagus" — named after farmer Roscoe Zuckerman, who supplies the restaurant with its green bounty. The current version, offered as the vegetarian entrée option for Haven's $60 dinner prix-fixe, is blanched, then pan-roasted, and served with pea romanesco and a slow-cooked egg.
3) For another version of the asparagus and runny egg combo, try Juhu Beach Club's (5179 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) Asparagus Nest ($14) appetizer: a bed of asparagus segments that have been sautéed in curry-leaf ginger butter and topped with a gorgeous, orange-yolked soft-cooked duck egg and fresh fenugreek "salsa verde."
4) Asparagus makes a couple of appearances at Liba Falafel (380 17th St., Oakland) this week: In the falafel toppings bar, you'll find pieces of asparagus that have been pickled with cumin and coriander. And the soup of the week is a purée of roasted asparagus topped with parsley gremolata: so much green in a single bowl.