Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, a weekly roundup of restaurant openings, chef arrivals and departures, and other nuggets of gossip from the East Bay dining scene.
If you're looking for ways to perfect your strawberry preserves recipe, there's certainly no lack of options. But Food Craft Institute, the school in Jack London Square that will open its doors in April, is not for the casual weekend jammer. The institute, founded by Anya Fernald of the Eat Real Festival, is for the home artisan who is looking to get serious about his craft.
Michael Davidson, aka the Grilled Cheese Guy, has a life that runs like a screenplay. After moving to the Bay Area to pursue a career in medical diagnostics, he hurt both his hands in two freak biking accidents. His day job soon became too physically grueling and he needed an out. When a national grilled cheese competition came to town, Davidson thought, "By gosh, maybe this is my chance!" On a wing and a prayer, with a surplus of elbow grease and moxie, he went all in … and lost.
Last Friday, Swan’s Market seemed to have shrugged off its longtime curse, if only for a night. In the midst of bitter winds and rain, die-hard diners packed Cosecha’s wooden tables for a night of pop-up meets brick-and-mortar.
“I’m wearing a bulletproof vest right now, and I’m armed!” These are the precautions Chef Russell Jackson said he took to prepare for his all-foie gras dinner last weekend. Jackson, owner of Lafitte restaurant in San Francisco, has provoked the expected amount of rage and rancor since staging his first “FU Foie Gras” event last fall. He said he receives hourly death threats against him and his family, and the protestors “terrify the living shit” out of him. Still, Jackson plans to double or triple the frequency of these dinners, and apparently now he’s packing heat. Other San Francisco chefs are planning similar events before California’s foie gras ban takes effect in July.
Express staff writer/web editor Ellen Cushing was nominated today for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award for journalism excellence in covering wine, spirits, and other beverages for her cover story “How Peet’s Starbucked Itself” (9/21/2011). Cushing, who also writes the weekly column “Last Call” on the East Bay bar scene, is the only Northern California newspaper reporter to be nominated for this national award. She’s also only one of two alt weekly reporters nationwide to receive a nomination.
Rising from the (depressing) ashes of Sweet Jimmie's at 311 Broadway is the Night Light, founded by Ruby Room, Radio, and Kitty's alums John Nackley and Doug Kinsey, and set to grand-open tonight. It's a dark, Forties-inspired, vaguely libraryish (in a good way) little place, with velvet wallpaper, tons of dark wood, and gorgeous chandeliers; I went there last night and it's pretty great. Eventually, Nackley and Kinsey hope to have DJs, dancing, live music, and an upstairs member-only lounge, but for now, there are six beers on tap — including two from Linden Street and Trumer Pils — as well as an unshowy-but-solid cocktail list, reproduced just for you below. No food, but Nation's is right next door, just' sayin.
It was standing-room only last week at Revival Bar and Kitchen in Berkeley, when four of the Bay’s most prominent butchery experts got together for some meaty discourse. The free event came with tiny meat snacks and a big, chunky title: What Meat-Eaters Need to Know: Guidance On Making Good Food Choices From Experts In Carnivory. Said experts included Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats, Marissa Guggiana of The Butcher’s Guild, Morgan Maki of Bi-Rite Market, and Peter Hertzmann, author of Knife Skills: Illustrated.
Let’s get this out of the way: Mani Niall was Michael Jackson’s personal chef for a few years in the ‘80s. It wasn’t a career-defining moment, and his other accomplishments have been a lot more substantive — starting an iconic artisan bakery, blazing trails for restricted-diet eaters, writing three cookbooks, etc. But if the King of Pop gets his name out there, he’s not complaining.
Inside Scoop has some sad news for fans of Chez Panisse's more modest cousin, Cafe Fanny. Citing "economic difficulties," the owners said they had no choice but to pull the plug. No word on what will replace the cafe, but they are exploring "new possibilities for this small space that can still house the romance and idealism of the original."