Friday, June 29, 2012

Free Cake! Punsters, Do Your Best (or Worst)

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 11:52 AM

The newest arrival to Emeryville’s Powell Street Plaza is a franchise of Nothing Bundt Cakes (5745 Christie Ave.), a Las Vegas-based chain of bakeries serving, you guessed it, nothing but bundt cakes — “modern yet nostalgic” versions of those ’70s throwbacks, in a variety of sizes.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mid-Week Menu: Father-Daughter 'Guest' Duo, Stag's Lunchette Launch, and a Couple of Chef Interviews

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.

1) One of the most highly anticipated culinary teams to debut at Guest Chef, the Oakland restaurant with its endless rotation of pop-up guests, turns out to be a couple of amateurs: David Hung — the founder of a San Francisco-based biotech company — and his daughter Maddy Hung, a recent high school grad who's heading off to Harvard in the fall. Apparently, the two have been inseparable in the kitchen ever since Maddy was a little girl, and they've always dreamed of opening their own restaurant. I'd hoped to blog about the father-daughter team's Marco Polo-themed menu, featuring Chinese-Italian fusion dishes like Red Wine and Soy-Braised Spaghetti (with Szechuan chilies) and "Peking" Porchetta (served with mandarin pancakes). But their two-week stint at Guest Chef, which ends on Friday, was more or less completely booked before the restaurant even began officially taking online reservations.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Schmendricks Brings Brooklyn Bagels to East Bay (for One Night, Anyway)

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Last Thursday, the proprietors of Schmendricks, the latest contender in the Bay Area’s ongoing search for a Brooklyn-worthy bagel, made a rare appearance in the East Bay. In the back section of Saul’s Deli, about 40 or 50 bagel enthusiasts and East Coast fetishizers gathered, packed six to a booth, for a $25-a-person ticketed event titled “New York Bagel Education.”

On hand to make a presentation on the cultural significance of bagels as an ethnic food in America and other assorted bagel trivia were three of the San Francisco based pop-up’s founding partners: David Kover (who writes about pizza for Serious Eats), his wife Dagny Dingman, and their friend (and lead baker) Deepa Subramanian. A fourth partner, Subramanian’s husband, Dan Scholnick, wasn’t present.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Think You Know Beef? What About Seasonal Grass-Fed Beef?

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Shop often enough at the embarrassment of riches that makes up the Bay Area’s farmers’ market scene and you can’t help but start to get a sense of the seasons: fava beans and sugar snap peas in the spring, tomatoes in the late summer, hachiya persimmons for a few glorious weeks in the fall.

But if you’re anything like me (assuming you eat meat), you probably think of beef as a year-round indulgence — one that’s restricted more by your cholesterol level or your bank account than by what month it happens to be.

Not so, says Bill Niman, whose Bolinas-based company, BN Ranch, rolled out this year’s first shipments of one-hundred-percent grass-fed, seasonally-slaughtered beef earlier this month. It’s a project Niman says he’s been working on for about a decade, but many of the Bay Area’s eco-conscious, flavor-savvy diners are just now starting to wrap their heads around the concept.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mid-Week Menu: Authentic Bagel Company Nixes Cafe, Maoz Goes Turkish, and Free Ice Cream!

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.

1) A few weeks ago we reported that Mark and Jason Scott, the Rhode Island brothers behind Authentic Bagel Company, had taken over the Cafe Zoe space at 6000 College Ave. with the intention of turning the Rockridge spot into a bustling bagel cafe and deli. Change in plans: Jason told me that he and his brother had several disagreements with their partners in the cafe venture, and so they dissolved that partnership. As of this posting, no word on whether Zoe will remain Zoe, but either way the Scott brothers are no longer involved. Instead, they're in the process of signing a lease on a different location in the Jack London Square area and are hoping to open by July 1. The new space is too small to house a cafe, but the Scotts will run their wholesale operation from there and open the shop for retail sales two or three days a week. Meanwhile, the bagelry has started doing home deliveries (!) — with two days' advance notice and a minimum order of dozen bagels (for $15), they'll drop the goods off at your front door.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

OUSD Looks to Revamp School Lunch Program

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 8:00 AM

It may have slipped slightly under the radar, but a few weeks ago the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) passed an ambitious $1.5 billion Facilities Master Plan that outlines a wide range of projects the district wants to implement in the next five to ten years. Included in the plan is an estimated $44 million that OUSD hopes to budget toward revamping its school lunch program.

The proposal is based on the recommendations of the Berkeley-based nonprofit Center for Ecoliteracy, and it sets some far-reaching goals, including the creation of a central commissary kitchen and adjacent 1.5-acre farm, plus the refurbishing of dozens of outdated school kitchen facilities.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Phat Beets Launches New North Oakland Farmers’ Market

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 2:49 PM

In this week’s news roundup I included a short blurb about the new North Oakland farmers’ market that the food justice collective Phat Beets Produce is launching at 942 Stanford Avenue (at Lowell Street). The North Oakland Flea N’ Farmers’ Market moved to the new location on June 2, but will be host an all-day Juneteenth celebration this Saturday — during the market’s regular 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours — as a livelier and more official kickoff.

Yesterday I had a chance to catch up with Seema Rupani, a member of the Oakland-based collective, who gave me more details about the market and its food justice slant.

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Oliveto's Oceanic Dinners Celebrate Sustainable Seafood

by Yirmeyah Beckles
Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Oliveto co-owner Bob Klein may run one of the East Bay's most celebrated restaurants, but he has never been interested in doing mundane wine dinners. The restaurant, which opened in 1986, has hosted regional dinners for several years, including one that focuses on the top dishes of Puglia, Italy, where Klein travels every year with chefs and select farmers.

One of Klein’s big interests is the integrity of the sources of his food. The restaurant has a local grain project for pastas, using grains native to California sourced from local makers. Klein, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Maggie, also has the restaurant using a unique polenta — red flint corn as oppose to a yellow — which grows from seeds sourced in Italy. (“Right now the pasta on the shelves is made with commodity wheat,” he said. “We know it’s from Yolo or Sacramento County but we don’t know what farm.”)

And now, for the last four days, the restaurant has been honoring sustainable and local seafood with its 11th Annual Oceanic Dinner series. The meals have included historic San Francisco seafood recipes like cioppino made from local fish and shellfish, Crab Louie, Hog Island Oyster po’boys, and salt-roasted black sea bass with Romano beans — and the menu is transparent, listing where every fish was caught and how.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mid-Week Menu: Sketch Ice Cream Lovers Rejoice, Maoz Lovers Mourn, and Bagel Lovers...Get Educated?

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.

1) Berkeleyside brings exciting news for fans of Fourth Street's Sketch Ice Cream: After a three-year hiatus (to spend more time with their newborn daughter), owners Eric Shelton and Ruthie Planar-Shelton are reopening the popular ice cream shop just down the street from their original location. As noted in the Berkeleyside report, the new space at 2080 Fourth St. will be quite a bit larger than their former location. The couple is hoping to open in mid-July.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Double Dutch Sweets’ Six-Dollar Snickers Bar: 1.8 Ounces of Childhood Bliss

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

In the world of artisan sweets, you hear a lot about pâtissiers and chocolatiers, and even makers of specialty doughnuts are having their moment in the sun. What you don’t hear about much is the humble candy bar.

But that may change soon enough if Oakland’s Shiyuan Deng has her way. Since last fall, the self-taught confectioner has been selling an all-natural, 100 percent handmade version of a Snickers bar — a product she’s dubbed the Ramona Bar, after the protagonist of the popular Beverly Cleary children’s books — at high-end Bay Area food shops.

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