Friday, August 31, 2012

Gluten-Free and Amazingly Good: The Grease Box’s Fried Chicken

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 5:13 PM

It’s easy for folks with food allergies or other dietary restrictions to feel like they’re stuck eating pale imitations of the "real" thing: the gluten-free version of something that’s supposed to be made out of wheat, or the sugar-free version of something that’s supposed to be sweet. After all, how much deliciousness can you preserve when you strip a food of its essence?

But point-counterpoint: The Grease Box mobile kitchen, an Oakland-based gluten-free food cart, has been popping up at various Bay Area events for the past year — most notably at the First Friday festivities in Temescal Alley. The very name of the cart bespeaks decadence and plenty — not the kind of austerity you might normally associate with a gluten-free (or whatever-free) diet.

More importantly, chef-owner Lizzy Boelter’s mostly-fried offerings are the real deal, especially her bread-and-butter dish: gluten-free fried chicken that has all the crispy, juicy, lip-smacking goodness you could ask for.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mid-Week Menu: Pizza Hacker, Alice Waters, and Michael Jackson’s Favorite Cookies

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 7:00 AM

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

1) Earlier this year, What the Fork reported that Mani Niall, a former personal chef of Michael Jackson’s, will be opening a bakery called Sweet Bar Bakery at 2355 Broadway in Oakland. The build-out is moving along (though Eater reports the opening has been pushed back to September/October), and today, from 3 p.m. until he sells out, Niall will commemorate the King of Pop’s birthday with a pop-up cookie sale outside the bakery. He’ll be selling what he says are some of MJ’s favorite cookies — ’ookies, Niall calls them, since they contain no sugar or white flour.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

At Cal Memorial Stadium, the Menu also Undergoes a Facelift

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Maybe you’ve heard that Cal Memorial Stadium just finished a pretty big renovation project? Yes, after 21 months of construction work, the home to the Golden Bears will reopen this weekend with Saturday’s season opener against the University of Nevada.

Easily overlooked among news of some $321 million in pledged funds (and the memory of all those tree sitters) is another, perhaps less glamorous, change: The stadium’s concession stand menus have also been given a facelift, adding globally-inspired items like hummus, sushi rolls, chicken bao, and Sriracha-spiked buffalo chicken sandwiches to the usual array of burgers and hot dogs.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Form and Function: A Closer Look at Umami Mart

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Things you can buy at Umami Mart include: a Japanese pickle press, a razor-sharp paring knife encased in a handsome wooden sheath, a packet of shiso seeds, and an assortment of shiny jiggers and cocktail shakers (some of them gold-plated) that can only be described as “baller.”

Every item in the shop is carefully curated and a potential conversation piece. Every item reflects the impeccable taste of the owners, Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano, who have turned a food and drink blog — and a shared passion for Japanese food culture — into a real-life brick-and-mortar shop at 815 Broadway in Old Oakland.

So when Umami Mart, their store dedicated to Japanese barware and kitchenware, opened on August 4, there was good reason for Bay Area cocktail mavens and Japanese foodstuffs enthusiasts to rejoice.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Opening Today: Sketch Ice Cream ‘3.0’

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Three years ago, fans of Berkeley’s Sketch Ice Cream were heartbroken to hear that the shop would be closing, as husband-and-wife owners Eric Shelton and Ruthie Planar-Shelton shut down their retail operation to focus on raising their soon-to-be-born daughter, Audrey.

Now, Audrey’s off to preschool, and the Sheltons decided they were finally ready to turn their attention back to their “first baby”: Sketch reopens today, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. — at a new, larger store at 2080 Fourth Street (down the street from the old location, which now houses Chocolatier Blue).

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mid-Week Menu: La Perla to Call It Quits, Rosamunde’s Old Oakland Outpost Delayed, Bocanova Turns Three

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Aug 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM

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

1) The Contra Costa Times brings news that the five siblings who run Richmond’s La Perla (338 Nevin Ave.) are preparing for retirement and will close the 63-year-old Mexican deli by the end of the year: “The plan is to close the shop when the building is sold or at the end of the year, whichever comes first.” Check it out before it's gone, if you're so inclined. An intrepid eater at Chowhound offered this tip a while back: The old school Mexican-American items are the things to get — think hard tacos and cheesy nachos.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Beauty’s Bagel Shop Update: For Fans of Montreal-Style Bagels, the Long Wait Is (Almost) Over

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Last April, Beauty’s Bagel Shop burst onto the scene with dense, ever-so-slightly-sweet bagels that were better than anything most of us long-suffering East Coast transplants had been able to get our hands on since — well, since we moved out West.

Still shopless at the time, Blake Joffe (then the sous chef at Pizzeria Delfina) and partner Amy Remsen (a server at the now-shuttered Addie’s Pizza Pie) were baking Montreal-style bagels in the wood oven during off hours at Addie’s and hawking their hand-rolled wares by way of two local delis: Wise Sons in the Mission and Saul’s in Berkeley. All the while, rumors kept circulating about an actual brick-and-mortar bagel shop that was supposed to open in Temescal, at 3838 Telegraph Ave.

So we, the bagel-obsessed, waited … and waited … and here we are more than a year later, and still no Beauty’s Bagel Shop. But this week, barring unforeseen circumstances, the wait finally ends: With one final hoop to jump through (the health inspection, which should take place early this week), Beauty’s is set to softly open as early as this Wednesday or Thursday.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Malaysian ‘Guest Chef’ Makes a Big Impression

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 5:11 PM

Yihshyong “Shy” Leong, the latest contender to “pop up” at Oakland’s Guest Chef (5337 College Ave.), has done pretty well for himself since his two-week stint at the the restaurant began. He’s drawn rave reviews on Chowhound. Apparently, he’s turned enough tables to warrant a weeklong extension to his stay — he’ll be manning the stoves through the end of this weekend.

What’s more, Leong is shining a light on a cuisine that’s little known to many Bay Area residents: the food of his native Malaysia.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mid-Week Menu: Portal, Township, and So Many Ways to Indulge Your Summertime Sweet Tooth

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 7:00 AM

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

1) As noted on East Bay Dish, Portal (1611 2nd Ave.) opened on Lake Merritt about a week and a half ago, serving vegetable-heavy Northern Californian cuisine with lots of international influences. Co-owner Jennifer Tucci told me one of the restaurant’s biggest selling points is its large (~80-seat) outdoor patio overlooking Lake Merritt. She added that while the restaurant isn’t vegetarian per se, any meat or fish that’s served is sustainably sourced — all of the produce, too, is organic and local. Portal just started serving brunch this past weekend, and on Thursday, August 23, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the restaurant will be holding a grand opening party with live music, a DJ, and some Lagunitas beer specials.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Borinquen Soul: Street Food for the Homesick Boricua

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 3:42 PM

Oakland’s Mexican food deserves all the praise it gets, but the Bay Area has a paucity of options for many of the other Latin American cuisines. Where do you go for good Dominican food? Or Colombian food? Or Puerto Rican food? (These are honest questions; feel free to enlighten me in the comments.)

In most instances, you’re lucky if there’s even a single local restaurant to carry the banner. Homesick natives have no choice, then, but to trek out to San Rafael or somewhere deep in the Mission for arepas or pasteles that may or may not bear a passing resemblance to what they ate growing up.

So Chris Caraballo and Eric Rivera, two Puerto Rican guys who moved to Oakland four years ago, decided to take things in their own hands. Two years ago, the pair of New York City transplants started a catering company called Borinquen Soul, serving up traditional Puerto Rican dishes like empanadillas (beef turnovers) and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). Three months ago, their operation went mobile, as the pair launched what they say is the first Puerto Rican food truck in Northern California.

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