Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nestlé Buys Blue Bottle Coffee

But the company will continue to operate out of its Oakland headquarters.

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 10:27 AM

  • Courtesy of Blue Bottle/Facebook

Today, Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee announced it’s selling a majority stake to Nestlé.

It’s the third major third-wave coffee company to sell to a larger corporation after Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Chicago’s Intelligentsia both sold to JAB Holdings, best known for acquiring Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Hipster coffee is clearly going the way of craft beer.

Blue Bottle will still continue to operate out of its Oakland headquarters, though, and CEO Bryan Meehan and founder James Freeman are staying on.

Over its 15 years in business, Blue Bottle has already spread beyond its Bay Area beginnings with cafes in New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. By the end of the year, 25 new cafes are due, including in Washington, D.C., Miami, and Boston. The deal with Nestlé means even more cafes and roasteries are coming on an international level and, according to a press release, plans to develop new coffee technology.

Perhaps most relevant is the expansion in consumer packaged goods. Currently, you can find Blue Bottle cold brew cans, pre-ground coffee, and New Orleans iced coffee cartons in some grocery store aisles.

So, is Blue Bottle going to go the way of Starbucks? Ironically, when Blue Bottle was purchased by venture capitalists a few years ago, Freeman insisted that selling to a major corporation was not the plan.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Grand Bakery Rises Again

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 12:01 PM

  • Courtesy of Grand Bakery via Instagram

Just in time for the Jewish High Holidays, Grand Bakery is back in business.

The storied kosher bakery on Grand Avenue closed in December 2016 after more than 50 years of supplying Oakland with some of the best challah, coconut macaroons, and Hamentashen around.

This year, New York native and former Grand Bakery regular Sam Tobis bought the business and transformed it into a primarily wholesale operation, as first reported by J Weekly. Starting Thursday, Sept. 14, folks can call for special orders of round challahs and the like for Rosh Hashanah and pick them up at The Food Mill (3033 MacArthur Blvd.).

That means the familiar storefront on Grand isn’t coming back, but you can still find the same kosher treats at a slew of grocery stores in the East Bay, including Piedmont Grocery, Farmer Joe’s, Berkeley Bowl, and Oakland Kosher.

Grand Bakery, 510-465-1110,

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Catered To You's Fish Sandwich Focus of New Short Film

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Oakland filmmaker Tony Nguyen has been frequenting Catered To You for the past eight years, hooked on owner Teena Johnson’s fried fish sandwich.

He decided to make a short piece about Johnson and her Uptown, Oakland takeout window — an idea originally focused on what he thinks is the best fish sando in town (former Express food critic Luke Tsai was quite taken with it as well) but grew into a meditation on the rapidly changing neighborhood.

Fresh Frozen premiered at DocLands, a new documentary fest in San Rafael, and hit film festivals on the East Coast as well. Its local debut took place during Nguyen’s Oakland Shorties screening at the New Parkway Theater earlier this summer.

Now, you can watch the film on YouTube. The narrative is slightly outdated, as Nguyen stresses Uber’s recently abandoned plan to open an Oakland office as a cause for concern over Catered To You’s future. Still, Johnson’s lease is up next year, and displacement stories have become frighteningly common.

“That’s a big question mark,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen typically focuses on Asian-American stories — his past films include Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory, a movie about his mom that aired on PBS, and Enforcing the Silence, a documentary about a Vietnamese man murdered in San Francisco. Exploring Asian-American and particularly Vietnamese-American identity is still his primary interest, but Fresh Frozen certainly proves the potential for more Oakland-focused works in the future.

“I’m open to telling stories about anyone and everyone,” he said.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Original Pattern Brewing Nears Its Debut in the Jack London Area

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Sep 11, 2017 at 2:10 PM

Max Silverstein, Ryan Frank, and Caitlin O’Connor (from left to right) make up two-thirds of the Original Pattern team. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Max Silverstein, Ryan Frank, and Caitlin O’Connor (from left to right) make up two-thirds of the Original Pattern team.

Ryan Frank and Max Silverstein met in brewing school eight years ago. Max was married to his college sweetheart Margie Silverstein. And Frank would soon hit it off with an old acquaintance from college, Caitlin O’Connor, on a beer-related trip to the Czech Republic.

The two couples stayed in touch over the years, eventually settling in the Bay Area. Many homebrews later, they decided to go into the beer business together.

They’re the four owners of Original Pattern Brewing Company (292 4th St., Oakland), which is scheduled to open by the end of this year in the Jack London neighborhood. The brewery is still in the build-out phase, but the 5,500-square-foot building already shows tons of character. The exposed brick walls crawl up to a ceiling so tall you can barely see it — or maybe that’s just because it’s covered in skylights.

The plan is to have an open floor plan, where the bar sits in between the seating areas and the tanks, so “you’re gonna feel like you’re in the brewery,” Frank said.

Frank is the head brewer, and he’s got some serious credentials: five years at 21st Amendment Brewery, closing out his tenure as director of brewery operations. He was a major part of 21st Amendment’s move to San Leandro, which means he’s already known what to expect with Original Pattern in the early construction stages. But the jobs are very different. He described his work at 21st Amendment as akin to “manufacturing,” whereas he’ll get to brew the stuff of his dreams at the new brewery.

Indeed, the Original Pattern crew plans to offer a wide variety of styles — both traditional and experimental — though the initial focus will be on Belgian and farmhouse ales. Expect to see sours and barrel-aged beers as well as renditions of old European brews, such as an English ale, Helles lager, or Kölsch. There will be six to 10 beers on tap at a time — an effort to ensure optimal freshness and always have something new to try. Beers will also be served in the appropriate glassware. The owners recently held a taste test with dozens of different glasses to find the right combinations.

Frank also envisions rolling out some fun concepts, such as an international lager series showcasing styles from various countries but with non-traditional additions — for example, a Japanese lager infused with cherry blossoms.

Frank, Max, and O’Connor each emphasized how they want to expose longtime beer drinkers to new styles just as much as a non-beer drinker. They feel passionately that there is at least one beer out there for everyone.

That means educational components — and the appropriate glassware for each beer — as well as a cozier atmosphere, despite the large, industrial venue. They’re working with a designer on custom furnishings, including a large communal table and booths upholstered with leather. As Max quipped: “No hard metal chairs.”

Max and Margie live in Palo Alto, where they still hold down their day jobs. But Frank and O’Connor reside in Oakland, and they’re excited to serve their city.

“We want to make this a community spot,” O’Connor said. “A place where people feel really comfortable.”

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Proposition Chicken to Open a Second Location in Oakland

The Hayes Valley restaurant is coming to Lakeshore Avenue.

by Matt St. John
Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 1:54 PM

Fried Chicken with sweet buttermilk biscuit at Proposition Chicken. - COURTESY OF PROPOSITION CHICKEN
  • Courtesy of Proposition Chicken
  • Fried Chicken with sweet buttermilk biscuit at Proposition Chicken.
Oakland chicken lovers will soon have another option for their poultry cravings. After four years of running their San Francisco location in Hayes Valley, Proposition Chicken is opening a second location in Oakland (3260 Lakeshore Ave.) next Wednesday.

If the name didn’t give things away, the wall-sized, rooster photo dominating the restaurant’s casual dining room most certainly will. Theses guys and gals are chicken fanatics. And while its owners have some Bay Area, barbecue credibility — co-owner Elizabeth Wells also owns Southpaw BBQ in San Francisco — don’t expect hamburgers or pork sliders. This is purely a chicken affair.

The simple menu allows them to focus on freshness and consistency. All of their chickens are free-range, antibiotic-free, and take 48 hours of brining, prepping, and marinating before they hit your plate.

The restaurant serves their chicken three ways: fried, flipped (24-hour rotisserie roasted), or fake, if meat isn’t your thing. You can get it in a sandwich, in between a baked roll with spicy slaw and mayo ($10.75), or in a salad, with kale, romaine lettuce, black pepper Parmesan dressing, and other fixings ($11.75). You can also get it as an entree with a sweet buttermilk biscuit and a tomato cucumber salad ($12.75). The fried chicken comes in a gluten-free option as well.
Bone broth at Proposition Chicken. - COURTESY OF PROPOSITION CHICKEN
  • Courtesy of Proposition Chicken
  • Bone broth at Proposition Chicken.

And wing fans need not worry. The restaurant serves traditional buffalo wings, with classic blue cheese dressing, as well as honey-mustard style and BBQ ($7.75). Sides include hand-cut fries with crispy sage and malted mayo ($3) and chicken bone broth, made in-house ($7.75). The restaurant will also serve beer and wine.

Founder and co-owner Ari Feingold, who also owns Straw in Hayes Valley, said he came up with the idea for Proposition Chicken in 2012, when he heard a certain fast food restaurant’s views on gay marriage.

“It all started as a big ‘F- you’ to Chic-fil-A,” said Feingold. “I’m serious.”

Now the restaurant's name makes much more sense.

The restaurant’s official opening is Wednesday, Sept. 13, but if you want a sneak peek, they are giving away free chicken sandwiches on Sunday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Chick’n Rice Brings Americanized Thai Street Food to Downtown Berkeley

by Amyra Soriano
Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Khao mun gai tod and khao kha moo. - AMYRA SORIANO
  • Amyra Soriano
  • Khao mun gai tod and khao kha moo.
A new fast-casual restaurant centered around khao mun gai — a Thai street food traditionally consisting of poached chicken, rice, and a fragrant broth flavored with ginger, garlic, chilies, and soy sauce — opens tomorrow in Downtown Berkeley.

Chick’n Rice, located at 2136 Center Street (between Shattuck and Oxford), will offer not just poached chicken but also fried chicken and braised pork — all served with rice, cucumbers, cilantro, sweet-and-sour sauce, and a side of chicken broth. A vegetarian tofu option will also be available.

The restaurant is the vision of John Keh and Chavayos (Bob) Rattakul of Tenyuu Restaurant Group in Thailand, who met while Keh was traveling in Southeast Asia and fell in love with the chicken dish. Keh, along with co-owners Jason Wang, Shawn Tsao, and Vince Cao, are cofounders of Caviar, the food delivery app.

According to Keh, the team traveled around Thailand searching for the perfect flavor combinations.

“Some people might think it’s too spicy or the soybean paste is too strong,” Keh said at a media preview party on Wednesday, Sept. 6. After exploring the country, “Bob” and the team came up with the Chick’n Rice menu. “Our goal was to create something American fitting,” said Keh.
Co-founder John Keh in front of the restaurant. - AMYRA SORIANO
  • Amyra Soriano
  • Co-founder John Keh in front of the restaurant.
Aside from meat, rice, and broth, Chick’n Rice also offers ice cream with sticky mango rice and refreshments like Thai iced tea, lychee juice, and coconut water. Optional add-ons include a soy-marinated egg, greens, and extra of anything.

“We’ve created a menu for all types of taste palettes.” Keh said. “For something saltier, they can try the moo [braised pork] or for something sweeter, the gai tod [fried chicken].”

With its minimalist, farmhouse-chic decor and intimate seating just steps away from the UC Berkeley campus, it’s an ideal place to grab lunch between classes.

Keh says they’re hopeful their new restaurant will take off. “If all goes well with this, we’re hoping to open one up somewhere in the South Bay,” he said.

Chick’n Rice opens to the public today.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Savor Oakland Adds Fruitvale Food Tour

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Obelisco serves pozole with all the fixings. - COURTESY OF FERRON SALNIKER
  • Courtesy of Ferron Salniker
  • Obelisco serves pozole with all the fixings.

A few companies offer food-focused walking tours of various neighborhoods in the East Bay, but until now, no one ventured into Oakland’s Fruitvale district.

Thank goodness for Savor Oakland, because if there’s one district that truly deserves a tour, it’s Fruitvale. (Okay, and Chinatown, but it has one already!) Areas like Temescal and the “Gourmet Ghetto” have plenty of delicious eateries, but they also tend to be places widely covered by the media and attract tons of ratings on Yelp. Fruitvale is so dense that it can be tempting to find your taco joint and stick to it for the rest of your life.

As a tour company, Savor Oakland sets itself apart by focusing on the history of its neighborhoods in addition to its delicious eats. The just-launched Fruitvale edition is designed and led by local food writer Ferron Salniker, who shows off a range of neighborhood hubs, including a market, a 19-year-old tamale stand, a Mexican ice cream shop, and new independent businesses such as Reem’s and Red Bay Coffee. At a media preview tour, we sampled torta ahogada (a sandwich drowning in a mild salsa, stuffed with barbacoa) from the tucked away Pipirin Taco Stand and three styles of pozole (hominy soup) with organic tortillas from Obelisco, among other bites.

The most appealing part of the tour, though, was learning tidbits about Fruitvale’s history and culture: the enduring influence of Native Americans, the waves of immigration, and the factors that made it Oakland’s most diverse neighborhood.

Tours last three hours and cost $65 to $75 per person, depending
on the size of the group. Learn more at

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Alice Waters Releases Long-Awaited Memoir

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Alice Waters changed the way we eat.

In 1971, she opened Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, which became one of the most famous restaurants in the country. At a time when the food world was obsessed with speed and convenience, Waters slowed down in pursuit of perfection. She focused on fresh produce from local, organic farms long before it was trendy or expected.

She was also only 27 at the time. In her highly anticipated memoir, Coming to My Senses, Waters traces the events that led her to Chez Panisse: growing up in suburbia, traveling through France, and, perhaps most importantly, living immersed in the counterculture of 1960s Berkeley. The book comes out today via Penguin Random House.

Unlike other big-name chefs in the Bay Area, Waters never expanded Chez Panisse beyond its single location. Instead, she expanded into food activism, inspiring a flurry of vegetable gardens being planted in schools nationwide. Now, the focus of her Edible Schoolyard Project is school lunch reform. Imagine the possibilities if more chefs followed her lead.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

The Periodic Table and Fish Face Poke Bar Now Open in Public Market Emeryville

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 11:18 AM

The Periodic Table's design features Japanese patterns. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PERIODIC TABLE
  • Photo courtesy of The Periodic Table
  • The Periodic Table's design features Japanese patterns.

The Public Market in Emeryville keeps edging closer to completion.

The road work should be done by the end of October, and Portland-based grocery store New Seasons Market is set for a November opening. And next year will see the completion of the parking garage and retail buildings. That’s all according to Mark Stefan, co-founder and president of City Center Realty Partners, which owns and manages the market.

For now, stalls are still slowly filling up the food hall. The latest additions are the Periodic Table, which softly opened earlier this week, and Fish Face Poke Bar, which just opened today.

The Periodic Table is owned by the same team behind Shiba Ramen, which also maintains a stall in the market, and will be the first bar in the East Bay dedicated to sake. Yes, there are sushi restaurants with bars that carry the Japanese rice wine, but the Periodic Table holds immense promise as a destination for regular exploration of various sake styles. Sake tasting flights are the main draw, though the bar pours beer as well. Plus, unlike the other stalls, the Periodic Table isn’t just a walk-up kiosk; there’s actual seating inside the bar area, so folks can relish in the hip, modern space, which is punctuated by Japanese geometric patterns in laser-cut wood screens.

Meanwhile, Fish Face Poke Bar provides a welcome respite from the proliferation of mediocre poke bowls overloaded with fake crab salad. The mini-chain stems from Sacramento, where owner Bill Ngo also runs one of the city’s most heralded restaurants, Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine.

Expect raw fish that’s a cut above in quality, bathed in onions, sesame seeds, seaweed, and a sauce of your choosing. You have to pay for additional toppings, but that’s actually a good thing; the simplicity results in cleaner flavors, with the ocean really coming through. It steers the bowls closer to — albeit, not exactly like — what you’d find in Hawaii.

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