The Mai Tai, Rocky Road Ice Cream and popsicles got their start in Oakland
On the other side of the Bay Bridge, Oakland has long been known as one of the most vibrant and ethnically diverse cities in the country. But did you know that this cultural hub is also the birth place of some of America’s favorite treats?
Creativity and innovation seem to intersect in Oakland, and the result has been fun twists on food and drinks. Here are four treats we can thank Oakland for.
Rocky Road Ice Cream
The iconic Rocky Road ice cream flavor is characterized by mixing almonds and marshmallows into a chocolate ice cream base. The origins of this sweet and crunchy flavor has been debated thoroughly, with both Fenton’s Creamery and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream claiming to have invented Rocky Road.
While both are Oakland-based ice cream companies, it was William Dreyer who coined the name. As it was invented during the Great Depression, he wanted to pick a name which would make people smile.
Now, many decades later, the ice cream has brought smiles to kids and adults alike across the country. There is no debate about that!
With it’s tropical flavors and exotic name, we were surprised to hear that the Mai Tai was not invented in a faraway paradise location but rather right in Oakland. Tiki culture, a blend of Polynesian and Caribbean culture, originated in Oakland.
At Victor Jules Bergeron’s restaurant, Trader Vic, the first Mai Tai was created in 1944. Originally, the drink was made from an aged Jamaican rum, fresh lime, orange curacao, sweetened with rock candy syrup and French orgeat syrup. It was topped with half a lime shell and sprig of mint, meant to mimic an island.
The drink has evolved over the years and inspired the birth of the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai. While still rum-based, the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai includes orange and pineapple juice, giving a decidedly tropical flavor. This hugely popular variation is likely what comes to mind when you first think of a Mai Tai and for good reason — it is simply delicious!
Corn nuts are a popular snack in South America, known as “cancha” in Peru or “chulpi” in Ecuador. In 1936, Oakland-native Albert Holloway brought these deep-fried corn kernels to America and sold them to bars as bar snacks.
With it’s crunchy texture and salty taste, CornNuts pair especially well with beer. Starting in 1948, CornNuts were produced at Hollaway’s family factory, located in Oakland’s South Stonehurst neighborhood, a location you can still visit today.
In 1905, an 11-year old-Frank Eppersen of Oakland, left a glass of lemonade soda and stirring stick on his porch overnight. It was a cold night, so Frank woke up in the morning to a delicious treat waiting for him. These turned out to be a hit among his friends, and thus the first popsicle was born.
While the name ‘popsicle’ wasn’t patented until 1923, these fruity treats were sold at the Neptune Beach amusement park for everyone to enjoy on a hot summer day.
Oakland is still home to creative people who stretch the boundaries of their industries, whether in the culinary arts or elsewhere. While San Francisco may get more attention, the city across the Bay is supporting urban wineries, farm-to-table restaurants and an arts and music scene with a strictly Oakland flavor. What we want to know is, what’s next?