The next best thing to being a regular at West Oakland’s restaurant Brown Sugar Kitchen is picking up this terrific cookbook from proprietress Tanya Holland. Packed with generous, down-home recipes like Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Cornmeal Waffles, Bourbon & Chili-Glazed Salmon, and Caramel Layer Cake, Holland’s book also captures her soulful spirit and celebrates the diversity of a community. Highly recommended—a joy to read and cook from!
— S.B., Cookbook Buyer
Brown Sugar Kitchen is more than a restaurant. This soul-food outpost is a community gathering spot, a place to fill the belly, and the beating heart of West Oakland, a storied postindustrial neighborhood across the bay from San Francisco.
The restaurant is a friendly beacon on a tree-lined parkway, nestled low and snug next to a scrap-metal yard in this Bay Area rust belt. Out front, customers congregate on long benches and sprawl in the grass, soaking up the sunshine, sipping at steaming mugs of Oakland-roasted coffee, waiting to snag one of the tables they glimpse through the swinging doors. Deals are done, friends are made; this is a community in action. In short order, they'll get their table, their pecan-studded sticky buns, their meaty hash topped with a quivering poached egg. Later in the day, the line grows, and the orders for chef-owner Tanya Holland's famous chicken and waffles or oyster po'boy fly. This is when satisfaction arrives.
Brown Sugar Kitchen, the cookbook, stars 86 recipes for re-creating the restaurant's favorites at home, from a thick Shrimp Gumbo to celebrated Macaroni & Cheese to a show-stopping Caramel Layer Cake with Brown Butter–Caramel Frosting. And these aren't all stick-to-your-ribs recipes: Tanya's interpretations of soul food star locally grown, seasonal produce, too, in crisp, creative salads such as Romaine with Spring Vegetables & Cucumber-Buttermilk Dressing and Summer Squash Succotash. Soul-food classics get a modern spin in the case of B-Side BBQ Braised Smoked Tofu with Roasted Eggplant and a side of Roasted Green Beans with Sesame-Seed Dressing. Straight-forward, unfussy but inspired, these are recipes you'll turn to again and again.
Rich visual storytelling reveals the food and the people that made and make West Oakland what it is today. Brown Sugar Kitchen truly captures the sense—and flavor—of this richly textured and delicious place.
About the Author
Tanya Holland is the executive chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in West Oakland, CA.
Jan Newberry is a food writer and former San Francisco Magazine food and wine editor based in Oakland, CA.
Jody Horton is a food photographer based in Austin, TX.
Michael Chabon is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of more than 14 novels, novellas, and essay and short story collections, including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Telegraph Avenue, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. He lives in Berkeley, CA.
"Tanya Holland and her Brown Sugar Kitchen represent everything that is great about Oakland: diversity, collegiality, rugged entrepreneurialism, and soulful authenticity. In her restaurant and this cookbook, she has captured something deliciously simple yet extraordinarily powerful: the food that embodies our shared American roots, and its power to bring us together." - Aisha Tyler, comedienne, actress, and author of Self-Inflicted Wounds
"To be outside the South at the Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, California eating shrimp n' grits with a side of cornbread and a glass of lemonade is priceless!" - Taj Mahal
"Tanya's come-hither cookbook inspired both the armchair traveler and the armchair chowhound in me. Reading it, I imagined the pleasure of living in West Oakland, having a regular seat of my own at Brown Sugar's counter, and ordering up my favorite dishes without even having to look at the menu. With this book in hand, I know that every choice is a winner." - Sara Moulton, host of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television
"Tanya Holland has made a beautiful commitment to West Oakland, creating a vibrant, joyful restaurant that is a pillar of the local community. With robust, soulful recipes using seasonal and local ingredients, this book is a wonderful reflection of the spirit she has fostered at Brown Sugar Kitchen." - Alice Waters