Monday, October 16, 2017

Copper Spoon and Paulista Brazilian Kitchen Now Open in Oakland

After months of buzzing and waiting, two high-profile restaurants finally opened in Oakland this weekend.

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 11:51 AM

Crowds flooded into Copper Spoon as soon as it opened Sunday night. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Crowds flooded into Copper Spoon as soon as it opened Sunday night.

The owners of Copper Spoon (4031 Broadway) spent two and a half years renovating the former Art’s Crab Shak location in North Oakland, and it’s paid off. The space is barely recognizable, with tall ceilings, lots of natural light, an enormous wood bar, and all the hip accents you might expect. Owners Vita Simone Strauss and Carmen Anderson previously ran the quirky Sassafras Seagrass food truck, and truck favorites stud Copper Spoon’s menu, including the lamb merguez burger and salmon hand rolls.

Their eclectic approach to locally sourced California cuisine is taken a step further with executive chef Andre Hall, who has held positions at big-name spots in San Francisco such as Bar Tartine, Alexander’s Steakhouse, and Fifth Floor, and has a thing for Japanese cuisine.

You can that fondness for Japan in dishes like the soba noodles with miso dashi, wasabi, avocado, and a 62 degree egg. You can also see Hall's time at Eastern European-centric Bar Tartine in the country bread served with eggplant harissa, tomato-bacon jam, and a sweet potato-maple spread.

With its late-night hours — 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily — Copper Spoon is fittingly bar-focused. Strauss is a well-known fixture in the bar scene, having worked at Bar Dogwood, Prizefighter, and Kingston 11. Unsurprisingly, Copper Spoon’s cocktail menu looks bold and exciting, with mezcal heavily featured on opening night.

Meanwhile, Paulista Brazilian Kitchen & Taproom (4239 Park Blvd.) owners Jesse Madway and Alex Yamamoto have been teasing followers on social media all year with its progress in the Glenview neighborhood. Paulista is the first Brazilian restaurant of its kind in Oakland: an all-day destination focused on everyday Brazilian dishes and street food. In other words, it’s not an all-you-can-eat steakhouse.

It's still in soft opening mode, but today Paulista opened its cafe at 7 a.m., serving acai bowls, smoothies, and pastries. The taproom portion, focused on local beers, wines, and ciders, opens at noon. Dinner service starts at 5 p.m.

The opening weekend menu featured coxinhas, fried croquettes filled with cheese and chicken; pastel, a thin-crust pie filled with savory beef; and, of course, Brazil's national dish, feijoada, a black bean stew punched up with sausages, beef, and pork.

Copper Spoon, 4031 Broadway, Oakland,

Paulista Brazilian Kitchen & Taproom, 4239 Park Blvd., Oakland,

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Absinthia Brings Organic Absinthe to Oakland

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 9:00 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Absinthia's Bottled Spirits
  • A new look for absinthe.

J. Absinthia Vermut first tasted neon green absinthe in 1996. A year later, she was already making her own.

“It fascinated me. I wanted to know why it was illegal for so many decades, why it was so loved and then so hated,” the Oakland resident said.

For years, Vermut worked on her absinthe and became known for serving the anise-steeped spirit at Burning Man parties. Someone gave her the nickname "Absinthia," and she identified with it so much, she made it her legal name. In 2007, the absinthe ban was finally lifted, and Vermut set her sights on launching her own small-batch absinthe brand using organic, West Coast ingredients. Now, it’s ready: Absinthia’s Bottled Spirits.

Absinthia is currently just selling blanche (white in French) absinthe, although a verte (green) version is in the works. Vermut recommends mixing roughly two-and-a-half parts water into one part absinthe, until the color turns milky. Compared to other absinthes I’ve tried, Absinthia’s Absinthe Superieure Blanche is lighter, cleaner, and exceedingly smooth. The other artisanal absinthe player in the region is Alameda's St. George Spirits, which makes an also delicious but very different version that’s more floral and intense. Absinthia’s recipe follows a traditional Swiss style, and it's even made in copper pot stills.

Given the spirit’s relatively recent legalization, plenty of people have still never tasted absinthe. Vermut, who is also behind the popular Caged Heat cocktail syrup, is ready to educate. She hopes people won’t cling to their initial reaction, which is often that absinthe’s anise makes it taste like black liquorice.

“Of course, everyone hates those cheap, nasty candies,” she said. “That’s the first association people have but it’s not correct.”

Certainly, it's an herbaceous drink, full of fennel, coriander, lemon balm, and, yes, wormwood.

Absinthia's Blanche is available in 375ml bottles for $35 — Vermut decided to go for smaller bottles and a lower price point than the norm in an effort to convert new drinkers. Similarly, she moved away from absinthe’s more typical imagery of evil, death, and darkness. Instead, her bottles sport a minimalist look.

“I really wanted to make it alive and approachable. People have been scared off for a long time,” she said. “It’s such a misunderstood, demonized product. … I want to see it as popular as it was at the end of the 1800s.”

In the East Bay, find Absinthia at Alchemy Bottle Shop (3256 Grand Ave., Oakland), Crown Liquors (6125 Medau Pl., Oakland), Eddie’s Drive In Liquors (5491 College Ave., Oakland), Ledger’s Liquors (1399 University Ave., Berkeley), Savemore Market (4219 Park Blvd., Oakland), and Sidebar (542 Grand Ave., Oakland).

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