Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mid-Week Menu: A16, Brotzeit Lokal, and Berkeley Ice Cream Drama

by Luke Tsai
Wed, May 29, 2013 at 1:00 PM

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

1) Oakland’s booming Italian restaurant scene now has another heavy hitter: The new Rockridge outpost of the San Francisco’s A16 restaurant will open this weekend at 5356 College Ave., in the former Hudson space. The opening was originally slated for as early as this Thursday, but Inside Scoop reports that it’s been pushed back to Saturday, June 1. A seafood-intensive menu, from chef Rocky Maselli, will focus on Italy’s Puglia region. As with the original San Francisco A16, there will also be Neapolitan-style pizza from the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. Check out a preliminary menu here, courtesy of Tablehopper.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Guest Chef: The End of a Grand Experiment

by Luke Tsai
Tue, May 28, 2013 at 1:30 PM

When Guest Chef (5337 College Ave., Oakland) opened a year and a half ago, there was nothing else quite like it: a brick-and-mortar restaurant with no permanent chef and no fixed concept — a place where change was the only constant, and where the whole enterprise reinvented itself every two weeks. The restaurant, the brainchild of real estate developer Scott Cameron, pioneered an innovative business model whereby chefs of all different levels of experience could try their hand at running their own restaurant for a two-week stint — all without assuming any greater financial risk than the cost of groceries.

It was a bold idea, and one that was refreshingly democratic. So when Guest Chef had its last day of service last week, it left fans of the restaurant — and of alternative business models in general — wondering what went wrong.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mid-Week Menu: American Oak Reopens, Chez Panisse Soon to Follow; Guest Chef and Sumo Grub Close

by Luke Tsai
Wed, May 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

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

1) The Los Angeles Times reports that Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck Ave.) will reopen on June 21. The iconic Berkeley restaurant has been undergoing significant construction work ever since it suffered an early morning fire on March 8 — one that destroyed much of the restaurant’s facade and front porch area. Before you get too excited, we should note that the summer solstice reopening event won’t just be any ordinary dinner. Since it’s a fundraising event for Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project, a seat in the upstairs cafe will run you $1,000; tickets for the downstairs dining room are $2,500. For those whose pocketbooks aren’t quite that deep, the restaurant will begin accepting regular reservations by phone on Monday, May 27.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

At Berkeley’s Cottage Food Market, ‘Homemade’ Means Homemade

by Luke Tsai
Tue, May 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM

On a recent Saturday evening in Berkeley, eight vendors set up tables inside the Firehouse Art Collective’s hangar-like event space to sell homemade food items, which ranged from chocolate chip cookies to jars of mustard and jam. Before January 1, such an activity would have been illegal. But thanks to the passage of the California Homemade Food Act, the Bay Area Homemade Market gives fledgling business owners the opportunity to present their products to the general public.

The one-of-a-kind Bay Area event geared strictly toward homemade (or “cottage”) foods debuted on March 16, and the third market will take place at the Firehouse Art Collective (3192 Adeline St.) on Saturday, May 25, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is by donation (on a $1 to $5 sliding scale), though no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Fire Shuts Down Genny's BBQ

by Luke Tsai
Fri, May 17, 2013 at 4:50 PM

Sad news out of East Oakland, via Chowhound: Genny’s BBQ (6637 Bancroft Ave.), reviewed favorably in The Express just two weeks ago, has been shut down due to a kitchen fire.

Chef Virginia Roberson, a first-time business owner, told me the fire took place last Friday morning. A chimney flue attached to one of the restaurant’s smokers caught on fire while she was in the kitchen cooking. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but in order to extinguish the blaze, the fire department ended up putting a hole in the roof.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mid-Week Menu: Commissar, Bourbon and Beef, and Chop Bar’s First Pig Roast of the Season

by Luke Tsai
Wed, May 15, 2013 at 11:00 AM

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

1) Inside Scoop reports that Berkeley’s zoning board has approved plans for a multi-use complex in the former Cody’s Books space (2454-64 Telegraph Ave.) called Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media. The project is the brainchild of Rasputin Music founder Ken Sarachan, and will include a performance space; a store selling books, records, and tapes; a flower shop; and a full-service restaurant known as Commissar, which will serve mostly-vegetarian “upscale peasant’s and worker’s food.” According to Inside Scoop, the restaurant component will be run by Craig Becker of Berkeley’s Caffe Mediterraneum and Scott Cameron of Oakland’s Guest Chef.

Berkeleyside Nosh has more of Sarachan’s comments from the zoning board meeting, including this gem of a quote: “We’re not gonna have gangster rappers. We might have rappers more like Tupac, who have poetry, who speak to educate people, but … it’s not gonna be a dance club with DJs and bou bou bou bou stuff. That gives me a headache.”

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reclaiming the 99-Cent Menu at Lena’s Soul Food Cafe

by Luke Tsai
Tue, May 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM

In this post-Fast Food Nation, post-Super Size Me world, the very idea of the Dollar Menu is anathema in certain circles. Good food takes time and costs money, the thinking goes, and it seems criminal for corporate bigwigs to fatten their pocketbooks by selling highly processed, sugar-laden junk to the young and the poor.

But what if the dollar menu — or 99-cent menu, in this case — featured food that was actually homemade, served at a small, family-owned business?

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mid-Week Menu: Merritt Bakery Shut Down by Fire, Bites Off Broadway Returns, and Nick’s Pizza Is Serving Free Pizza TONIGHT

by Luke Tsai
Wed, May 8, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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

1) Sad news early this morning in Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood: The Mercury News reports Merritt Bakery and Restaurant (203 E. 18th St.) was severely damaged by a kitchen fire that broke out early this morning. No word yet on the exact cause of the fire and when the six-decade-old restaurant — popular among locals for its fried chicken, in particular — might reopen. In the Mercury News story, Battalion Fire Chief Coy Justice estimates that even in a best case scenario, the restaurant will be closed for several months.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Paella Pop-up Lands (Semi-Permanently) in Alameda

by Luke Tsai
Tue, May 7, 2013 at 8:00 AM

What the Fork previously noted the recent death of Soleil Banguid, beloved chef of Soleil’s African Cuisine, which for too short a time served some of the tastiest West African dishes around at the unlikeliest location — a bluegrass and country western bar in Alameda called The Frog and Fiddle (1544 Webster St.). Now comes word on the bar’s new plans for its kitchen program: Paul Skrentny, the paella-centric caterer and longtime standby at Oakland’s Guest Chef — having logged seven two-week pop-up stints — has taken over indefinitely.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Cooking Channel’s Pizza Cuz Gives Props to East Bay Pizzerias

by Luke Tsai
Mon, May 6, 2013 at 4:15 PM

In a surprising wrinkle to the longstanding, often heated feud between East Coast and West Coast pizza snobs, two New York City pizza chefs recently visited Temescal stalwart Pizzaiolo (5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) to shoot the first episode of Pizza Cuz, a new program on the Cooking Channel, and came away from the experience with … nothing but love for their Bay Area pizza brethren.

Quipped Francis Garcia, one of the show’s pizza-slinging co-stars, “I really did leave my heart in San Francisco.” Cue rimshot. But when What the Fork caught up with Garcia and Sal Basille (Garcia’s cousin and co-star) for a recent phone interview, it was clear that the pair’s Bay Area pizza love was sincere.

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