Pop-ups started as a way to give new food businesses a boost. Places like the now-defunct Pop-Up General Store introduced people to new products, like the now ubiquitous kouign amanns produced by Starter Bakery. That particular pop-up, situated in North Oakland, allowed people to pre-order goods from small producers, then pick them up at an occasional market.
But that pop-up, while wildly popular, ended — partly because of its popularity.
“The Pop-Up General Store was a pretty fabulous event but it was logistically quite difficult to organize — not that it wasn’t well organized. It was just tricky,” said Sylvan Brackett, whose bento-box business, Peko-Peko, participated.
Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.
1) The sale of Peet’s Coffee & Tea to German investment company Joh. A. Benckiser is the big news this week. As previously reported in the Express, the publicly-held company’s effort to keep stockholders happy has caused a shift in culture, from laid-back to straight-up corporate. The stock buyout could increase Peet’s’ presence nationally (it currently includes 200 storefronts, plus a robust distribution model). And we all know the East Coast could use more good coffee. Peet’s’ headquarters are expected to stay in Emeryville.
2) Also going private is Rogue Café, the pop-up brunch spot located in a South Berkeley backyard (complete with treehouse). The two-person operation became a private club on Monday, just hours after Berkeleyside published a piece about it. A spate of irate comments from readers about commercial zoning ensued. “We’re taking heat,” said chef-owner Eric Thoreson in a recent email, “and this is the only way to keep it ‘legal.’” To remain privy to Thoreson’s homemade English muffins and silky-smooth pour-overs, email hyperbole (at) oneninetyseven.com.
3) Another hurdle to East Bay food fun: The postponement of the opening of the Uptown Farmers’ Market in Oakland, which, besides the usual market stands, promises a beer and wine garden featuring local brews. The farmers’ market, one of the few in Oakland operated by an Oakland-based company, was set to open in early August, but due to issues of location, the projected opening is now next spring.
Whoa: The Chron (and others) are reporting that the Emeryville-based, Berkeley-born coffee chain Peet's is being bought for almost $1 billion in cash (or $73.50 a share) by the German investment group Joh. A. Benckiser. The deal boosted Peets' share price by about 29 percent after a rough last quarter, according to the Wall Street Journal, but what's most significant in the long term is probably the fact that the deal means Peet's will now be a private company: As astute readers of this newspaper may remember, back in September I wrote a cover story about shifting corporate culture, workplace speed-up, and all kinds of other not-awesome things happening at Peet's — much of which my sources attributed to a pressure to grow that came when the company went public in 2001. Benckiser says the company will retain its current headquarters and organizational structure, so it'll be interesting to see what, if any changes, the company makes now that it doesn't have its shareholders to answer to (spoiler alert: I'm not holding my breath, and nor should you). And, N.B., the deal's not entirely done yet: as the WSJ explains much more elegantly than I ever could, "The nearly $1 billion enterprise value of the JAB agreement could stoke a competing offer or shareholder objections if it is seen to underappreciate Peet's growth prospects" — which means we all get to keep alive the perpetually circulating rumor that Starbucks is going to buy Peet's.
In the new documentary Edible City, goats amble past the Jack in the Box on San Pablo Avenue. Carrots grow near freeways. Guerilla gardeners plant vegetables in front of Frank Ogawa Plaza, then, a year later, take over the Gill Tract Farm in Albany, armed with chickens and seedlings.
The film, which is screening around the Bay Area and online at EdibleCity.net, chronicles the urban farming renaissance over the last few years — the gradual takeover of empty lots and their conversion into organic gardens as a natural and practical response not only to Big Ag, but to urban problems like food scarcity and obesity.
“I need to constantly remind myself that the world has always been crazy,” says Antonio Roman Alcala of Alemany Farm in the film. “… Because you look around and it seems nuts. I went from ‘I’m going to escape to the country, I just need to learn how to grow food first’ to ‘The only place we’re going to solve these issues is the city.’”
A year after Whole Foods Parking Lot blew up the internet (and changed our relationship with quinoa irrevocably), looks like our favorite Berkeley-bred viral-video collective, Fog and Smog films, are at it again — and this time, the target's something we here in the Bay Area know plenty about: Pretentious-to-the-point-of-parody cocktail temples and the people who patronize them. "Mixologist" takes (good-natured!) swipes at flaming cocktails, ironic mustaches, and "big-ass ice cubes"; basically, if you've ever found yourself waxing rhapsodic about tea foams or shelling out upwards of $10 for a bunch of stuff in a glass*, this will ring very, very true. Behold:
*No judgement! Obviously.
People who like to keep their pantries stocked with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables should consider themselves blessed if they live in the Bay Area: There are farmers’ markets just about every day of the week. There are weekly community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes you can pick up or have delivered to your home. Even many of the regular supermarkets — from Berkeley Bowl on down — have produce sections impressive enough to make out-of-staters fly into a jealous rage.
So it wasn’t as a response to a shortage of options that Corey Tufts and Wayne Pierson tossed their hat in the ring. The two Coast Guard veterans founded Golden Gate Organics, an Alameda-based organic produce delivery service, almost exactly one year ago. Although the business is still developing its customer base, Tufts and Pierson feel confident that convenience- and budget-minded shoppers will find value in their weekly organic fruit and vegetable box.
Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.
1) Last week we got the sad news that Marion Cunningham, the iconic food writer and cookbook author, had died. She was 90 years old. Here in the Bay Area, many will recall her long friendship with Alice Waters, and the role that Cunningham played in helping to bring Chez Panisse into the national spotlight. Cunningham had Alzheimer’s disease, and to celebrate her life, Oakland’s Camino (3917 Grand Ave.) is donating the proceeds from each order of the doughnuts on their brunch menu — through this weekend — to the Alzheimer’s Association. The recipe is adapted from Cunningham’s Frannie Farmer Cookbook. There are three doughnuts in each $7 order.
Sad news out of Temescal, as Remedy Coffee’s last day of business was this past Friday, and it still isn’t clear what happened. Less than one week prior, someone at Remedy was still posting updates to the cafe’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Then, suddenly there was a video of baristas toasting the coffee shop goodbye (“Das it!”) and — just like that — the windows were papered over and the website was dead.
A couple of months ago we reported that Ippuku, the downtown Berkeley izakaya, was launching lunch service with an all- (or nearly all-) soba menu — seventeen different variations, both hot and cold.
Among the three major Japanese noodle genres, soba tends to get overlooked in this country. Even the most generic Japanese restaurants always have some kind of udon offering, and ramen gets all the food-nerd love. But you’ll rarely see a dedicated soba shop in the Bay Area (are there any?), despite the fact that these thin buckwheat noodles are ubiquitous in Japan — they’re especially common at train stations, I hear.
So I was excited to hear that Ippuku was making soba from scratch using flour imported from Japanese island of Hokkaido, as is traditional. A couple of weeks ago, I finally had a chance to check it out.
At two o’clock yesterday afternoon, the Berkeley Tuesday farmers’ market opened for business for the first time at its new location, along a parking bay at the intersection of Adeline and 63rd Streets. Within a half an hour, the market was fairly bustling with a mix of new faces and old — longtime customers reorienting themselves to find their favorite stalls, and folks from the neighborhood strolling out to take a look.