The next morning we headed to Pepples Donut Farm. There's an obscure white sign hanging out front that says "Donut Farm" in what looks like black marker or slapdash black paint. A pink neon sign that reads "vegan" glows in the tinted window.
Luckily the interior is nothing like the exterior. Brightly painted walls slat and vintage diner chairs bedeck this food stylist's dream space. The windows that, from the outside, look untrustworthy and unapproachable let in a gently filtered light.
All this would be nothing of course without the main event - sickly, sweetly glazed donuts. The flavors ranged from Kefir Lime to Earl Grey to Coconut and everyones old favorite, Cinnamon Sugar.
We ordered a box of donuts and some sandwiches to take on the road and puttering around the store. While deciding on our flavors a voice interjected into our process from behind.
"Oh you gotta try the coconut."
We turned to see a slimmed Missy Elliot look-alike. Her hair hung in long braids under a roomy, velvet newsboy cap.
As we waited for our purchases I set up shots with the donuts, moving closer and further away, shifting things in and pushing things out of the frame methodically.
"Put the green one on top. Yeah, like that,"
Missy smiled at me and I realized she'd been studying me as she sipped her coffee.
Pang lowered her camera and came over to eagerly insert herself into the developing exchange. We slid into chairs across from Missy.
"My name is Heather," Missy said.
"You girls partners?" Heather asked after Pang had explained our mission in California. In the moment that we found ourselves nodding and thinking "yep, we're business partners I suppose you could say," it seemed to dawn on us both that we had misinterpreted the question.
"Uh friends," Pang sheepishly corrected.
Heather seemed unfazed by our momentary panic. "Oakland is where us girls can feel at home. They call this the town and San Francisco the city. About thirty years ago all us lesbians got kinda kicked out of the city so we came to the town."
A conversation from the night before came to mind: "You'd think San Francisco would be just generally queer friendly," Angie told us, "But actually the lesbians and gays don't seem to get along well. San Francisco is for the men."
Heather asked about our interest in vegan donuts and assured us that she was a well known regular in the shop. As we got up to leave, Pang snapped a quick portrait and almost as quickly as we met her we were walking out of her life.
The brevity of happenstance friendships while traveling has always attracted me. The generosity of strangers to let other strangers into their lives, if only for a few minutes, is one of the those reaffirming life moments.
A fresh box of donuts is a wonderful thing. Especially for a vegan who has given up many of those nostalgic foods.
Pepples definitely hit the spot but beware - if you don't eat sweets often getting a whole box for yourself is a dangerous move. While I found each flavor to be well rounded and delightful, ultimately it was too much sugar for me to eat all at once.
Pang and I did balance our sweet with savory though and got iced coffee and sandwiches to go, which I would recommend!
603 San Pablo Avenue
Oakland, CA 94608
Tuesday - Friday 7:30am to 3pm for coffee and donuts
lunch from 10am-2pm
Saturday - Sunday 9am to 3pm for brunch