Monday, September 25, 2017

Former Corso Chef Readies Juanita & Maude in Albany

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 1:02 PM

The exterior of Albany's upcoming neighborhood restaurant. - COURTESY OF JUANITA & MAUDE
  • Courtesy of Juanita & Maude
  • The exterior of Albany's upcoming neighborhood restaurant.

After nine years of executing handmade pastas and other Northern Italian fare at Berkeley’s Corso, Scott Eastman is ready to do his own thing.

Eastman was one of the opening chefs with Corso and spent six years as its chef de cuisine. He left in April to work on his first restaurant with his wife, Ariane Owens, who also designed the space. The result is Juanita & Maude (825 San Pablo Ave.), which is scheduled to debut Oct. 17 in Albany.

At Juanita & Maude, Eastman will prepare New American dishes informed by his background in Italian cuisine. But he also plans to incorporate German influences and perhaps venture into other European regions.

“It’s a little vague by design. ... It’s going to be American because it’s really for our tastes. Authenticity — we didn’t want to be held to that,” he said. "We're hoping to take the neighborhood for a little ride."

For example, there will always be a stuffed pasta of sorts, but it might be Italian ravioli one week and Polish pierogi another. A commitment to whole animal butchery will also influence the menu, which will be divided into three sections: shareable small plates, lighter dishes, and more conventional mains. Expect to spend about $55 per person.

Owens said they were drawn to the space, which used to be occupied by Nizza La Bella, for its excellent enclosed kitchen and beautiful bar. Owens recruited local makers to craft tables and ceramics for the restaurant. Otherwise, there weren’t any dramatic changes.

“We just want to bring it back to life,” Owens said.

Eastman and Owens are joined by general manager Nicholas Danielson, who will also handle the craft cocktail program. His resume includes Corso, Eccolo, Fonda, and Rivoli.

Juanita & Maude will open Oct. 17 at 825 San Pablo Ave., Albany. Hours will be Tues.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.

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Smokin’ Woods BBQ and Ducks & Dragons Bakery Start Residencies at Forage Kitchen

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 10:03 AM

Has gluten-free bread ever looked this good? - PHOTO COURTESY OF MINA MAKRAM
  • Photo courtesy of Mina Makram
  • Has gluten-free bread ever looked this good?
It’s a new season over at Forage Kitchen. Since cult sandwich purveyor Pal’s Take Away stayed almost a year at the Uptown Oakland food incubator, it’s easy to forget that Forage’s cafe was always meant to rotate concepts.

Earlier this month, Pal’s exited to make way for two new businesses: Smokin’ Woods BBQ and Ducks & Dragons Bakery. Yes, the lack of Pal’s is depressing, but there are some pop-ups already planned while owner Jeff Mason looks for a new home. The next one takes place on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Oakland’s Cole Coffee (6255 College Ave.).

At Forage (478 25th St.), you’ll now find Smokin’ Woods on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays and Ducks & Dragons on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

In a town short on barbecue, Smokin’ Woods is a welcomed addition to the neighborhood. Pitmaster and owner James Woodard started catering back in 2013, succumbing to requests from friends and family who praised his home cooking. Last month, he finally quit his day job to focus on turning Smokin’ Woods into a full-blown, brick-and-mortar restaurant in Oakland. This test run at Forage is the next big step.

He describes his style as “Bay Area barbecue,” a sort of no-rules cross between Texas and Kansas City ’cue.

“It’s our own style,” he said. “We’re trying to be a little different.”

One of the biggest distinctions is Woodard’s emphasis on vegetarian options. He’s been experimenting with smoked jackfruit to throw in a pulled pork-esque sandwich, for example. He also smokes cauliflower and grills asparagus with mushrooms.

At Forage, he’ll always have ribs, chicken, and tri-tip available, plus sides and daily specials. If you’re craving brisket, head over on a Thursday. Sandwiches start at $10.75 and the most expensive item is a three-meat combo for $19.95.

Ducks & Dragons, meanwhile, was launched by Mina Makram and Kim Sullivan in 2015. But really, their story starts about three years earlier, when Makram started dieting and ultimately lost 200 pounds.

“Growing up, having bread was such an integral thing,” he said, recalling one of his happiest memories: a tradition of eating a fresh baguette in the car after a family grocery outing.

But he couldn’t go back to his normal bread intake, so he started trying all the gluten-free and so-called healthier breads he could find. “They straight-up tasted like cardboard, and none of them were available fresh,” he said.

He started experimenting in the kitchen — remarkable, considering he never knew how to bake or even cook before — and eventually launched Ducks & Dragons, the first paleo bakery in the Bay Area. His breads, bagels, and other treats are baked in a gluten-free facility in San Carlos. Prior to Forage, he only sold his goods at farmers’ markets and wholesale. East Bay residents can also find Ducks & Dragons at Rockridge Market Hall.

According to Makram, what sets his gluten-free, almond flour-based breads apart is that they actually taste like bread and that they’re full of nutrition. They’re also free of oil, dairy, and soy.

In addition to picking up baked goods, folks can choose from toasted bagels, bone broth via Broth Baby served with bread, or a series of toasts. Think toast topped with almond butter and fruit or avocado toast made with caramelized onion bread.

As with Smokin’ Woods, Makram eventually wants to launch a brick-and-mortar bakery, though it will mostly likely be on the Peninsula, where it all began.

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Say Goodbye to Pacific Coast Brewing, One of Oakland's Oldest Breweries

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Pacific Coast will soon vacate its historic building. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RICKY W. VIA YELP
  • Photo courtesy of Ricky W. via Yelp
  • Pacific Coast will soon vacate its historic building.

After 29 years in business, Oakland’s Pacific Coast Brewing (906 Washington St.) will close up shop in November.

Pacific Coast was a craft beer pioneer in the East Bay, opening long before the nationwide explosion of interest in malt and hops.

In a statement, co-founder Steve Wolff and his wife Laura blamed the decision on “the rapid changes coursing through the Bay Area’s restaurant industry” and, in particular, the uncertainty of Pacific Coast’s lease in Old Oakland.

General manager Alan Fullerton explained that the brewery's existing long-term lease expired earlier this year. After negotiations and a short-term extension, the landlords offered Pacific Coast a two-year lease — but both parties would have the ability to terminate it with just two months notice.

“Normally we would have been thrilled by a two year extension, but unfortunately with the two month caveat and the fact that we would regularly have prospective new tenants tour the property over the last couple of months, it left the owners with little faith that we would have a long term spot in our same location,” he wrote to the Express.

In their statement, the Wolffs emphasized their excitement for Oakland’s future even though Pacific Coast will no longer be part of it.

For the brewpub’s final two months, it will bring back some popular dishes from decades past. A four-day Last Anniversary Celebration will take place Oct. 19-22.

Pacific Coast Brewing, 906 Washington St.,

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