Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mid-Week Menu: Borgo Italia Reborn as Desco, Comal Team Aims to Open New Elmwood Restaurant, and Kingston 11 Is Delayed

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM

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

1) Tablehopper first reported that Donato Scotti (of Donato Enoteca in Redwood City) might be taking over Old Oakland’s Borgo Italia (499 9th St.). Now, with Inside Scoop’s latest update, the other shoe drops: The restaurant has already closed, and it will reopen — in late July or early August, and under Scotti’s majority ownership — as Desco. It sounds like the rustic Italian concept won’t change much, and the main motivation behind the sale is that owner Paul Ferrari is taking a medical leave. Here’s to hoping he has a speedy recovery.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SpoonRocket Delivery Service Takes Flight

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 2:28 PM

You might call Anson Tsui and Steven Hsiao the kings of late-night food delivery for UC Berkeley and its immediate surroundings. Since the pair graduated from Cal in 2009, they’ve built up an impressive mini-empire, marketed under the Late Night Option brand name (tagline: “Your Late Night Delivery Food Court”). To their initial pho delivery service, Pho Me Now, Tsui and Hsiao have added businesses that specialize in burritos, rice bowls, and other convenience foods that appeal to hungry college students. All of the food is prepared, boxed up, and delivered — until 4 a.m. every night — out of a commercial kitchen in Berkeley.

Now, the ambitious young entrepreneurs are hoping to tap into a slightly older market demographic: young professionals who don’t have time to cook, but who might have more refined tastes. Their new company, SpoonRocket, offers gourmet meals — cooked by a chef with a fine-dining background — delivered to customers in Berkeley and Emeryville in ten minutes or less, via the website or a corresponding smartphone app. The meals are currently $6 each, and Tsui said he intends to keep prices reasonable — no more than $10 for a complete meal.

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Supreme Court Rules Against Oakland Restaurant in AmEx Suit

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 7:00 AM

It’s not every day that an Oakland restaurant headlines a Supreme Court ruling, but that’s what happened last Thursday when, with little fanfare, the court handed down its decision for American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant. The case hinged on whether Italian Colors (2220 Mountain Blvd.) and several other restaurants could file a class-action suit against American Express for what they believed to be unjust fees — despite the fact that they’d all signed a contract specifically waiving their right to class-action arbitration.

If you accept Italian Colors chef-owner Alan Carlson’s characterization of the lawsuit as a case of “David and Goliath” — well, in this instance Goliath won out: The court voted 5 to 3 in favor of American Express, with the conservative majority ruling, essentially, that the contract that Carlson and other restaurant owners had signed took precedence over all other considerations.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mid-Week Menu: The Star Is on Its Way, Encuentro Is Moving, and Gregoire Is Serving Breakfast

by Luke Tsai
Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM

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

1) The Star (3425 Grand Ave.), the new Little Star Pizza offshoot, is opening soon in Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood — as early as this week, according to Diablo Dish. In addition to the cornmeal-crusted deep-dish pizzas that are Little Star’s calling card, The Star will also offer an expanded list of appetizers and salads, a selection of East Coast deli-inspired sandwiches, and — a real boon to solo diners — personal pizzas, available in both deep dish and thin-crust versions. The restaurant’s owner, John Guhl, was one of Little Star’s founders, but he and former partner Brian Sadigursky recently split up the company and aren’t using the Little Star trademark for any of their new solo ventures.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marcus Samuelsson On Eating For the Soul

by Madeleine Thomas
Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Acclaimed celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson visited Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church last night while on the road to promote his new memoir Yes, Chef.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Grease Box Lands a Brick-and-Mortar Home

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Great news for fans of The Grease Box Mobile Kitchen’s amazingly good fried chicken and other gluten-free goodies: Owner Lizzy Boelter told What the Fork that she just signed the papers for a brick-and-mortar space in Oakland’s Temescal district. It'll be a quick turnaround: Boelter hopes the restaurant will be ready to open, after a slight remodel, sometime in mid-July.

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At Oakland's Hutch, Southern-Style Grits Are King

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 9:00 AM

When chef David King surveyed the Bay Area restaurant scene, he was blown away by how many restaurants were serving classed-up versions of mac ’n’ cheese — mac ’n’ cheese with shaved truffles, mac ’n’ cheese with lobster, mac ’n’ cheese with obscure and non-traditional cheeses. In Oakland, there was even an entire restaurant, Homeroom, dedicated to variations on a theme of elbow-pasta-in-creamy-sauce.

King, a native of Memphis, Tennessee — where mac ’n’ cheese is liked well enough — couldn’t help thinking that not enough love was being given to another staple of the American South: grits. When he started planning a new restaurant in Uptown Oakland, he thought, “Why can’t I have three, four, or five grits dishes on the menu, and try to promote grits as the new mac ’n’ cheese?”

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mid-Week Menu: East End Pizza 2.0, Father’s Day Options, and the Ice Cream Rumor Mill

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 9:42 AM

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

1) The ice cream gossip mill is in full swing, with a couple of Bay Area favorites rumored to be adding locations in the East Bay. Tablehopper was the first to report the rumor that Smitten, the liquid-nitrogen-based ice cream shop in San Francisco, might be adding a location in Rockridge. Diablo Dish got confirmation from the owners and, after some sleuthing, found out the potential location: Looks like the owners are trying to get a conditional use permit to take over the former Great Harvest Bread Co. location (5800 College Ave.). An additional piece of ice cream gossip, also courtesy of Diablo Dish: The owners of recently reopened Berkeley soft-serve fave Sketch (2080 4th St.) are looking into adding a second location in the East Bay.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sista Sandwich Allows Gluten-Free Diners to Grab and Go

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Laura Tucker was tired of tubs of yogurt and plastic baggies filled with almonds — tired of the sad little snacks she always had to tote around, ever since a gluten-free diet cured her of the stomach ailments that had plagued her for the better part of two decades.

Like many gluten-free eaters, Tucker was a snack-carrier by necessity. Out in the world, she just never knew if she would be able to purchase something substantive to eat — whether in a restaurant or in a convenience store or in the Starbucks where she sat with her sister, Sharon Pearlstein, one day in the fall of 2011, lamenting how lunch was, once again, yogurt and nuts, when all she really wanted was a sandwich.

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U-Mart: Umami Mart's New Store Within a Store

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Last week, Umami Mart (815 Broadway), Old Oakland’s uber-stylish purveyor of Japanese barware and teaware, announced its newest project: a konbini (or Japanese-style convenience store) that they’ll be setting up in the back section of their shop. As first reported by Inside Scoop, the store-within-a-store, which owners Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano have dubbed U-Mart, is currently still in the planning stages, but is expected to launch with an opening party that’s scheduled for Tuesday, June 25.

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