You’ve likely heard that the University Avenue Andronico’s in Berkeley is wheezing out of business this week. As dying stores do, this one staged a deep-discount wind-down that ensured it would be a pristine skeleton by the last day of business (Saturday). Feeling uneasily similar to the deal vultures marauding the aisles, I paid a visit to Andronico’s yesterday to see if I could scavenge a bit of human interest from the wreckage.
Off the Grid impresario Matt Cohen has a new lark. Each week he’s loaning out a food truck to a different Berkeley brick and mortar for his Wednesday night pods. “Everybody likes to do something quirky and new,” Cohen said. Oh you crazy guy.
This May, almost the entire kitchen staff of Sausalito’s Plate Shop restaurant threw down their aprons and walked out in a show of labor solidarity. This left some of the area’s best culinary talent adrift, most notably executive chef Kim Alter. Alter was very much an “it chef,” and food blogs were agog with breathy speculation on where she would land. Oakland, as it turns out.
Bites Off Broadway’s six-truck pod staged its last event of the season on Friday, drawing record numbers. “I think people heard we were shutting down, and they wanted to check us out while they still had a chance,” said proprietor Karen Hester.
Walking off a hearty lunch in Piedmont last weekend, I happened upon the Los Carnales/La Familia Motorcycle Club BBQ. It was a rough-and-tumble affair, beer and belly laughs and lots of (non-Folsom Street Fair) leather. Also: puffs of aromatic meat smoke wafting toward the sidewalk. My stomach a taut balloon, I still entertained the notion of grabbing a hot dog.
October has been a big month for upper-tier chef turnover in the East Bay. First there was the high-profile revelation by the Chronicle’s Inside Scoop blog that Jeremy Waag would be taking over David Tanis’ co-chef role at Chez Panisse starting next summer. Waag is a busboy-turned-sous chef, but his upward arc isn’t exactly groundbreaking; Panisse has a long-standing democratic tradition of discovering and promoting internal talent.
Tell people you’re going to an Armenian food festival and see what happens. Puzzled faces mostly, with heads tilted to the side like a cocker spaniel. If they care (or want to do a good job pretending), they’ll try to place Armenia on the globe, then deduce the cuisine based on its neighbors. “Lots of onions? Lamb? Hearty grains?”
Hello. I’m taking over food coverage for the Express from my colleague and friend, John Birdsall. I’ve been writing about food for years, but I’d rather skip the yawn-y details of my resume. I’ll just tell a story.
Rockridge used to be the center of East Bay high-end restaurant culture but no more. All through last decade, the neighborhood grew older, better off — same thing that happened to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto the decade before that — and things got stuffy. Oakland’s fun center shifted to Uptown, a setting more thrilling, more awesomely urban than the low, orderly storefronts of College Avenue. The Great Recession bit hard in Rockridge. The Water Lounge and Raw Bar space is still empty; so’s Citron (a recent report suggested À Côté owner Jack Knowles has plans to open a casual place there called Next Door, though the launch date is probably sometime in the second half of 2012, at the earliest).
A restaurant review, a former editor liked to say, is a snapshot in time. Kitchens change: staff moves on, recipes change, ingredients move in and out.