Celebrate Easter this year with the dove-shaped Italian Easter bread known as Colomba di Pasqua, courtesy of Oakland-based Starter Bakery. The cake-like bread is a close cousin to the better-known Italian holiday loaf pannetone, which is typically served during Christmas.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I sat down with Dafna Kory, the proprietress of the Emeryville-based jam producer INNA Jam, to throw back a few shots of vinegar.
Well, that’s not exactly right. What Kory in fact set before me were several thimbles worth of shrub: a kind of syrup that she makes with equal parts vinegar, sugar, and fresh fruit. And though I did sip some of it straight up, mostly I drank it as Kory intended, mixed with seltzer water to create fruit-flavored sodas that struck a great balance between sweet and tart — as refreshing a cold beverage as one could hope for on a warm day.
A few months ago, the following Chowhound discussion header caught my eye: “Best Bay Area high tea? In a museum in Oakland!” The poster, “jaiko,” raved about crustless, open-face finger sandwiches and warm hospitality — as though s/he’d been invited over by “a group of good cooks [who] were in friendly competition to see who could produce the best ‘goodies’ that day.” By the time I’d read there were lemon curd tartlets to be had, I knew further investigation was in order.
Plenty has already been written about Starter Bakery’s remarkable, world-beating kouign amann (pronounced something like “Queen Iman”). Suffice it to say the hockey-puck-sized pastry — a distant, slightly sticky cousin of the croissant — is dangerously habit-forming: crisp and chewy, salty and sweet, and luxurious in the way that things made mostly of butter and caramelized sugar are.
If you’re a Bay Area cafe-goer, chances are you probably already know two or three different places that carry them. But maybe you didn’t know this: Oakland’s Highwire Coffee Roasters now sells an espresso custard kouign amann — decadence on top of decadence. Following a tip on Chowhound, I headed over to Highwire’s Rockridge Market Hall retail shop (5655 College Ave.) to check it out.
After a sneak-peek soft opening yesterday, today is the first full day of business for Uptown Oakland’s Sweet Bar (2355 Broadway), the highly anticipated artisan bakery from Mani Niall, the man perhaps best known for being a former personal chef to Michael Jackson.
When I stopped by this morning to check it out, who else would be on the speakers but the King of Pop? It turns out that today happens to be the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Thriller — a landmark event for American pop music, of course, but also one Niall credits with landing him that initial personal chef gig, and ultimately helping to launch his career in the food biz.
All and all, a fortuitous day to start this new project.
By this point I’m sure you’ve got your Halloween plans locked down, but what about the week’s other ghostly holiday, El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), which is coming up on November 1 and 2?
As per usual, here at What the Fork we’re mainly interested in what tasty treats the two-day festival has to offer, and the holiday’s signature food item, pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”), is well worth seeking out — a not-too-sweet respite from your trick-or-treat-fueled sugar rush.
This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Sunday, September 30, and for billions of Chinese people around the world that means one thing: mooncake time.
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.
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.
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.