How The East Bay Helped Our Love Bloom

Why we love being in love in Oakland.

Photo by Alicia Cho; Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Alix is a branding, marketing, and PR professional who has worked with some of the world's top chefs, viral fast-casual chains, and buzzworthy wineries. Ali is a chef who has cooked at the James Beard House, been a featured chef at Google, Twitter, Instagram, and Yankee Stadium, and collaborated with culinary powerhouses Gail Simmons, Alison Roman, and Katie Parla. Together, the couple does pop-up events centered around flour, water, and wine as Ali & Alix. As told to Danielle Dorsey.

We met while working together and spent a summer falling in love in NYC before booking one-way flights to Northern California and settling in Sebastopol for two years. Sonoma County inspired us to forage and farm for everything we ate and drank, and gave us a chance to truly connect and explore our relationship while detoxing from New York and making our first vintage of wine. But we were still missing a diverse and queer community so we decided to move to East Bay, ironically landing in Oakland just one week before lockdown.

Even masked and socially distanced, we felt an immediate sense of community here. That’s something we lacked while living in New York and Sonoma Valley, and the East Bay has made our world so much bigger. The local community is involved, committed to change, and truly cares. The businesses support one another. Oakland believes love is love, science is fact, and that all races, religions, and humans are equal.

We fell in love with the city because it’s normal to be different here. Being queer means being ourselves. Living authentically is a privilege and we feel lucky to be in a place where all members of the LGBTQ+ community are embraced. Oakland provides us with education and appreciation on a daily basis.

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This has been a year of adversity and growth and we’re grateful to live in a place where Black power is so deeply rooted and change is a priority. Oakland’s energy is unlike anything we’ve experienced. The struggles that local small businesses have undergone has shifted our work to focus more on supporting local queer, BIPOC, and women-owned food and beverage businesses. The industry has shown so much resilience and we plan to continue to support the space that is the foundation of our careers, families, and communities.

There are so many talented, creative, and passionate individuals who live here. We’re constantly hearing about some place or someone that we need to go check out or meet. Food here is produce-forward and proteins are local and sustainable. We have access to the best ingredients and culinary talent in the country. Bay Area folks in food create with a purpose: to educate about where they come from and their experiences. There is soul in the food here. Oakland inspires us to focus on what matters and explore what we don’t know while working towards our end game. Yes it's about good food, but it’s also about so much more.

We became regulars at Alkali Rye - Oakland’s Beverage Shop, Alix's first Oakland client. The shop is owned by Jessica Moncada-Konte and Kori Saika Chen, two lifelong Oakland residents and friends who make it a point to stock BIPOC-, women-, and LGBTQ-owned brands that use environmentally sustainable practices. Also in Oakland, Friends and Family is a queer- and woman-owned bar that truly lives up to their name by creating an inclusive space where everyone feels welcome. The East Bay has a thriving arts scene and we’re both mesmerized by visual artist Amira Sade Moodie, whose work weaves poetry with abstract paintings that you’ll easily get lost in. For fancy date nights, we love heading to San Francisco’s Michelin-starred Sorrel Restaurant for their market-fresh California cuisine, and are thrilled that we can once again enjoy chef de cuisine Kirsten Shaw’s seasonal delights in person. Finally, we don’t know where we’d be (probably hungry!) without WOC- and queer-owned Super Bloom Bakery’s baked-to-order breads that are gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, nut-free, gum-free, preservative-free, and refined sugar-free so that anyone can enjoy them.

After such a challenging year, this Pride is all the more meaningful. It’s a way for us to recognize, give thanks, and celebrate the queer and trans people of color who made it safe for us to love the way we love. This will be our first year joining Pride as East Bay residents and we’re so excited to be collaborating with some of our favorite local queer-owned businesses. Ali is partnering with Super Bloom on a pride pasta and Alix is in the midst of planning a queer food and drink supper club mashup with lots of amazing California women for a fundraising dinner at Alkali Rye - Oakland's Beverage Shop. We’ll probably be hosting something involving Ali’s pizza oven, BBQ, and rainbows with vaccinated friends at our new home in Alameda. Pre-pandemic, we hosted Ali & Alix pop-up events and there’s no better time than Pride to kick things off again. 

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