Congratulations to Romney “Nani” Steele and Steve Day on getting their new place open, THE COOK AND HER FARMER, in the historic Swan’s Market in Old Oakland (the whole process has been a bit of haul—the landlord is a nonprofit, so getting approval for the space took awhile). Steele’s family is behind the mythic Nepenthe in Big Sur, and she wrote two books, My Nepenthe and Plum Gorgeous. Her partner in the venture, Day, spent a year learning about farming oysters in Tomales Bay (at the now-defunct community farm, Pickleweed Point). He was a teacher in the Oakland public school system, and community involvement is an important part of their business model.
It’s a casual spot, with the vibe of a wine bar that has a raw bar and serves light fare. Steele really wants to keep things focused on serving simple, good, local food, and intends to create food for everyone. The plan is to serve a light breakfast (with De La Paz coffee); salads, soups, and sandwiches for lunch; oysters in the evening (you’ll find oysters from Tomales Bay Oyster Co. on the menu—they don’t sell to many restaurants), along with nightly rotating specials, like black-eyed peas and ham hocks, or a flatiron steak, plus some sides. An expanded breakfast, weekend brunch, and Sunday supper will come later on.
Steele makes lots of jams and preserves (she has been jamming since she was 16), and likes to make pickles, too, so you’ll see those items on the menu. She mentioned how important it is to her to feature items from people she has relationships with, from the herbs they’ll use from Novella Carpenter to the wines they’ll pour to the beer from Linden Street—everything has a connection and relationship behind it.
The light-filled space has a big, custom-built, communal table (made from two old-growth redwood slabs gifted by a friend), with room for 12-15, plus 16 bar and counter seats. There will be additional seating in the communal area of the marketplace area too. There are cheerful red accents throughout, including the beams, stools, and overhead lights, and a bright blue wall (tablehopper heartily approves this color scheme).
They are just starting this week with coffee at 9am, and then launching lunch on Wednesday (it will then be served Mon-Sat 11:30am-3pm). On Friday and Saturday evenings (starting at 5pm) there will be “pop-up dinners,” with oysters, Kennebec fries, a charcuterie and pickle plate, and artisan grilled cheese, until they are staffed and ready to ramp up more. Follow along on Facebook for updates. 907 Washington St. at 9th St., Oakland, 510-285-6140.
The very happy Romney “Nani” Steele and Steve Day. Instagram photo by Sara Remington (via Facebook).