Tuesday, May 29, 2018

With Kid Creole Soul Food, David Smith Channels Creole Cooking with California Inspiration

by Momo Chang
Tue, May 29, 2018 at 12:26 PM

David Smith runs Kid Creole Soul Food as a pop-up. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID SMITH
  • Photo courtesy of David Smith
  • David Smith runs Kid Creole Soul Food as a pop-up.

At last Sunday’s “BBQing While Black,” David Smith set up
a tent alongside Oakland barbecue staple, Everett & Jones. Both vendors gave out free food to attendees, no doubt contributing to the sense of joy and community at the lake that day. The event was organized in response to the incident where a woman called the police on a group of mostly Black people barbecuing at Lake Merritt. (Smith is friends with the two men in the video.)

“It was like family,” Smith said about the barbecue.

Smith grew up with two grandfathers as chefs in his household; one owned a barbecue restaurant, and the other was a chef at a Jewish men’s club in Oakland.

When he was a teenager, he took care of his maternal grandfather and learned how to cook alongside him. “I would work with him at events,” Smith said. “I learned his recipes and adapted them.”

His pop-up Kid Creole Soul Food’s menu includes items like kitchen-sink gumbo, shrimp po’ boys, ribs — and the classic Southern dish, shrimp and grits. His take on it is a mix of his New Orleans-raised grandfather’s recipe and his own twist. Most shrimp and grits have a tomato base, but Smith uses homemade chicken stock and ground up shrimp tails to create the flavor base. He describes his cooking as “healthy soul food.”

Smith has always been about bringing people together. He’s currently a culinary instructor at Hayward Unified School District, where he teaches middle and high school students how to cook. He often employs students at catering events.

He brought students from Hayward High School to the barbecue event at Lake Merritt. They grilled corn to make Cajun-spiced elote and hot links, and attendees set up a tip jar for the students.

Smith credits one of his co-conspirators, Romney Steele, as a mentor. Two years ago, Steele, chef and co-owner of The Cook and Her Farmer in Swan’s Marketplace, held a jazz brunch with sf|noir, and Smith was the lead chef. The dish? Shrimp, grits, and greens. “He really cooks from the heart,” Steele said. Smith has brought groups of children on field trips to The Cook and Her Farmer, where kids learn about food and try their hand at recipes. “He’s introducing all these kids to different foods,” she added.

Smith recently received a grant to hire youth leaving juvenile hall in Contra Costa County, and the county will pay for their wages to work with Kid Creole Soul Food.

Kid Creole Soul Food pops up twice a month, every other Friday, at Federation Brewing near Jack London Square. The next pop-up is June 1, 5 to 9 p.m. at 420 Third St., Oakland.

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The General Storehouse to Bring 80,000 Square Feet of Commercial Kitchen Space to Alameda

by Momo Chang
Tue, May 29, 2018 at 10:00 AM

A rendering of The General Storehouse. - COURTESY OF ALAMEDA POINT REDEVELOPERS
  • Courtesy of Alameda Point Redevelopers
  • A rendering of The General Storehouse.

Hangar One, St. George Spirits, Faction Brewing, Rockwall
Wine — these are just some of the companies turning Alameda Point into a food manufacturing center in the Bay Area. As the Point continues to develop, one upcoming project will contribute to the growth by providing live/work spaces and up to 40 units of commercial kitchen space.

The General Storehouse is a new project coming from one of the
developers behind the Berkeley Kitchens, Jonah Hendrickson, who took a historic and unused site in West Berkeley and turned it into a food incubation space.

After the Berkeley Kitchens was completed in 2013, Hendrickson started looking for a new project. He knew there was a demand for this type of space. “I wanted to produce more of it,” said Hendrickson, who grew up in Berkeley. About three years ago, he started working with the City of Alameda to turn a former Navy warehouse called the General Storehouse into usable space.

In total, 300,000 square feet will be turned into a mixed-use space with the entire ground floor devoted to rentable kitchen space — enough for up to 40 different companies or entrepreneurs. The developer group, Alameda Point Redevelopers, is led by Hendrickson and Adan Martinez, formerly of Cushman & Wakefield Food and Beverage Practice Group.

The rooftop might feature a beer garden. - COURTESY OF ALAMEDA POINT REDEVELOPERS
  • Courtesy of Alameda Point Redevelopers
  • The rooftop might feature a beer garden.

The bottom floor will be leased for food production and manufacturing, with features such as washable walls, commercial hoods, floor drains, dock loading, and space for a potential cafe or other retail business. The second and third floors will include 88 live/work units. They hope to add a rooftop deck and beer garden with views of the bay. Hendrickson said they already have prospective tenants, including a gluten-free bakery and an olive oil company.

Trish Baldwin, president of Stonehouse California Olive Oil, which has a storefront in San Francisco’s Ferry Building and also makes Williams-Sonoma’s Olio Santo line, is one prospective tenant. Her company is currently leasing office space at the Berkeley Kitchens, but they need a larger space where they can store containers to blend vinegars and oils. “I really can’t wait for it to open because it’s really hard to find reasonably priced space in the Bay Area right now,” said Baldwin, who is currently working out the lease.

The ground floor should be ready by summer 2019. While the concrete building is being renovated, the General Storehouse will host Alameda’s first Mini Maker Faire in front of the building on July 8.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Well to Reopen with Kava, Accessible Meals

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, May 24, 2018 at 2:48 PM

  • Photo courtesy of The Well via Facebook
After sitting closed since late 2017, Temescal health-focused cafe The Well (5443 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) announced that it will reopen this summer under a new owner, Anwen Cai Baumeister.

The news came today via two open letters. The Well's founder, Marielle Amrhein, stated, "it has become clear that I am no longer able to provide the leadership that is needed for the sustainability and thriving of The Well."

Baumeister, meanwhile, detailed her new vision for The Well. There are aspects she plans to keep: herbal drinks, workshop space, local sourcing, fair wages for employees, and toys for kids, for example. But she’s expanding the concept as well, creating a line of organic Chinese teas and offering tea ceremonies in honor of her heritage. Kava will be a key part of expanding into evening hours, as late as midnight Monday through Friday. There will be more community events, such as open mics and art nights. And in an effort to be more accessible, The Well will serve one pay-what-you-can rice bowl and drink option per day.

Baumeister will launch an Indigogo campaign on June 12 to raise funds to expand the bar seating for kava, add more outdoor seating, implement a Chinese tea tasting corner, build a stage, buy a sound system, and more. Look for The Well to open Aug. 1.

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Citing Struggles with Landlord, Richmond's Salute E Vita Ristorante to Close

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, May 24, 2018 at 11:25 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Salute E Vita via Facebook
After 25 years in business, Richmond's Salute E Vita Ristorante will close its doors on July 6. The Italian restaurant occupies a 100-year-old Victorian with a patio looking out onto Marina Bay.

Displacement in Oakland's central business districts has been well-documented, and the threats are making their way to Richmond, too. Owner Menbere Aklilu first received a 30-day notice to vacate in 2016. According to a press release, community efforts pressured the landlord to rescind the eviction notice, but Aklilu has struggled to negotiate a new lease ever since. After running the restaurant on a month-to-month lease for well over a year, she has decided it's time to say farewell to Salute E Vita.

Fans of the restaurant are invited to celebrate Aklilu's birthday at Salute E Vita (1900 Esplanade Drive) on July 5 and 6 with a free meal. Instead of gifts, she hopes folks will donate funds to members of her staff, who now need to find new jobs. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Athletic Club Oakland Opens with Sports Bar Fare, 37 TV Screens

by Momo Chang
Tue, May 22, 2018 at 9:49 AM

A burger at Oakland's newest sports bar. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JORDAN WISE
  • Photo courtesy of Jordan Wise
  • A burger at Oakland's newest sports bar.

Oakland has a new dedicated sports bar, and the owners really went all out. The Athletic Club Oakland has 37 plasma TV screens and three projectors, and the owners clearly invested a bunch of money into the state-of-the-art sound system.

The bar and restaurant opened last Monday, just in time for Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. The line was out the door that day to enter the new establishment and catch the Warriors beat the Rockets.

The place still smells new, and that’s because workers were still hammering and getting the spot ready for opening. Previously Izzy’s Steak & Chop House, which shuttered earlier this year, the space at 59 Grand Ave. has been redone to create a casual and cozy environment.

Owners Miles Palliser and Ezra Berman actually met at a sports bar some 13 years ago, when Palliser worked as a bartender at Kezar Pub in San Francisco. They talked about opening their own sports bar for years and opened the San Francisco Athletic Club in 2014.

The bar tops are made from reclaimed basketball court in Palo Alto, and the back of the bar is made from reclaimed bleachers. There’s a trophy case in the middle of the room, shuffleboard, three pool tables, and metal cages that people can fill with baseballs. Customers can buy a baseball for $10, write a nice message on it, and drop it in the cages. Proceeds will go toward a local nonprofit; in San Francisco, they have donated about $5,000 to the Boys & Girls Club there.

One unique feature is buying beers by the case for a 15 percent discount, and the wait staff will bring the 24 beers in an ice-filled vintage cooler for parties of six or more, “kind of like bringing the tailgate inside,” Palliser said. Booths can be reserved ahead of time with a minimum food and beverage charge.

  • Photo courtesy of ACO
The “Skybox” level, previously office space, has been converted to a nice upstairs lounge area with dedicated screens that overlook the entire restaurant and bar. They serve sports bar food — think hotdogs, fries, grilled chicken-and-bacon sandwiches, a veggie burger, nachos, and the like, with wine on tap, beer on tap and in bottles, and cocktails with names such as “The Town.” (The bar menu was developed by Matty McGee from Flora and Era Art Bar and Lounge). The menu is currently limited but should expand soon with “boozy slushies” and other food options, similar to the San Francisco menu.

Palliser said that he hopes the sports bar will be welcoming and comfortable for everyone. That includes having clean bathrooms and hooks under the bar top to hang coats and purses — it’s all in the details.

For now, the Athletic Club opens at 4 p.m. daily, with hopes to add brunch this summer. For special sports events, they’ll also open earlier. They added that they won’t add a cover charge for any events, unless they have to pay for Pay-Per-View.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Likha Opens Inside Hometown Heroes Sports Bar with Modern Filipino Food

by Momo Chang
Fri, May 18, 2018 at 2:19 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Aggie Revane/@missmiyaggie
  • A full spread at Likha.

Filipino food pop-up Likha has been rotating through locations like Starline Social Club and Ramen Shop for more than a year. Earlier this week, it softly opened within Emeryville’s Hometown Heroes Sports Bar. June 1 marks the grand opening, which is when Likha will be open daily for dinner. Until then, you can check it out on nights the Warriors are playing.

The bar itself is also brand new, located in the former Propaganda space at 4000 Adeline St. This is the bar owners’ third one; they also have South San Francisco’s Hometown Heroes and San Francisco’s Trademark & Copyright. The bar manager is BJ Tilos, who formerly worked as a bartender at Blind Tiger.

Likha means “to create” in Tagalog, and chefs Jan Dela Paz and Bobby Punla infuse that idea into their food. They met while cooking at Ramen Shop. Both are classically trained and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants prior to working at Ramen Shop. They fuse French techniques with traditional flavors, yet their food isn’t fussy — it’s at a sports bar, after all.

“Everyone is excited about tasting Filipino food,” said Punla, who was born and raised in Richmond. "We just wanted to get back to our Filipino roots — going with tradition, but using fresh produce from California.”

The chefs hope that one day, Filipino food will become as popular as Thai or Vietnamese, especially given that Filipino Americans are the largest Asian American population in California at about 1.5 million.
Likha started as Dela Paz’s pop-up with another Filipino American chef who worked at Ramen Shop, Catherine Baquiran, who later moved out of state. “That was fun,” Dela Paz said about that first pop-up. “It was exciting.”

Dela Paz, who started working at Ramen Shop because he wanted to open a ramen restaurant in Napa, was born and raised in the Philippines. But now, Dela Paz said he has changed his mind and feels committed to serving Filipino food. “Why do something else, if this is what I grew up knowing and eating?”
Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LIKHA
  • Photo courtesy of Likha
  • Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz.

Currently, their menu includes dishes such as a Patis caramel fried chicken sandwich ($14). The chicken thighs are brined in Patis fish sauce, lemongrass, and ginger; fried in a rice flour batter; and then covered in Patis-caramel glaze. It comes with fries, with the highlight being the house-made “banana ketchup” made from roasted plantains, which is probably the best house-made ketchup out there. They also have chicharrones with adobo spice ($5), barbecued ribs ($14), and a healthy portion of Niman Ranch pork lumpia ($8) with two types of dipping sauces.

On June 1, they will debut a fuller menu with rice bowls — think chicken adobo with a sous vide egg; sisig (marinated pork served on a sizzling plate with vinegar) and lechon kawali (fried, crispy pork belly) and more lumpia.

Their “from scratch” approach leads them to creating things like Spam longanisa (sweet Filipino sausage), using a terrine and sous vide process, which they hope to add to their menu soon in the form of sliders or sandwiches, as well as when they eventually add breakfast and brunch.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

In West Oakland, Sweet Maria's Sells Green Coffee Beans for Home Roasters

by Momo Chang
Mon, May 14, 2018 at 1:19 PM

Sweet Maria's sells green beans for you to roast at home. - MOMO CHANG
  • Momo Chang
  • Sweet Maria's sells green beans for you to roast at home.

If you’ve ever thought about roasting your own coffee, Oakland is the place to be. Sweet Maria’s Home Coffee Roasting in West Oakland sells green coffee beans for folks who want to try their hand at making their own coffee.

Thompson Owen started the company 20 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, out of a basement and sold beans online. “It was back in the day when Friends was on TV,” said co-owner Maria Troy, who is also Owen’s wife. “You had these cafes where people go and hang out, but the coffee was terrible.”

The company moved to Emeryville in 2002, and then to a warehouse in West Oakland. In 2016, they moved into an even larger, West Oakland warehouse twice the size of the previous location. They’re among several food businesses in West Oakland, including Hodo (formerly Hodo Soy), the new Ghost Town Brewing, and artisanal spirits-maker Wright & Brown Distilling Co.

Sweet Maria’s ships beans mostly to people in the U.S., who hear about them largely through word-of-mouth. While they might be one of the largest green coffee bean wholesalers in the country, Troy adds that home roasting is still a tiny part of the coffee industry. “The whole world of home roasting is extremely small,” she said.

Nowadays, you can get green coffee on eBay and Amazon, but Troy says they take a quality approach, selecting each bean from different importers — year-round, they sell about 60 bean varieties, which vary by season. Chain shops mostly use blends so the coffee tastes consistent throughout the year. But some people may prefer variety, and some want a hands-on approach.

“There’s this trend in people being interested in the quality of the things they consume,” Troy said. “People have an interest in producing things themselves — you can make your own bread, you can make your own kombucha. Home roasting is something that’s pretty easy and you get pretty good results, even better than some specialty coffee shops.”

Sweet Maria’s currently ships to about 2,500 home roasters a week, including many regular customers. Green coffee stays good on the shelf for six months, and once roasted, Troy says it should be consumed within a week. Sweet Maria’s also has Coffee Shrub, which is their arm that sells to retailers. Modern Coffee, which has three locations in downtown Oakland, buys beans from Coffee Shrub but roasts all of the coffee themselves. Timeless Coffee, which has locations on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland and College Avenue in Berkeley, also roasts in-house, using beans from Coffee Shrub.

While home roasting may seem daunting, Troy says that it’s pretty basic. “If you can get your hands on green coffee, it’s actually a pretty simple process to roast at home,” Troy said. “You can roast in a toaster oven, hot air popcorn popper, on the stove in a frying pan or wok. And of course, you have to have a grinder, but you can do these things in your kitchen.”

Sweet Maria’s sells starter kits to and is open to walk-in customers during business hours on weekdays at 2823 Adeline St. They’ve offered roasting classes in the past, and will be launching new classes soon.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Citing Gentrification, Craft & Spoon Announces Closure

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, May 11, 2018 at 2:02 PM

Charleen Caabay will soon close her Oakland restaurant. - SANTANA BELLAS/FILE PHOTO
  • Santana Bellas/File Photo
  • Charleen Caabay will soon close her Oakland restaurant.

Despite the success of chef Charleen Caabay's Filipino restaurant Kainbigan and her rise after becoming the first Filipino chef to win Food Network's Chopped, her latest restaurant Craft & Spoon is set to close on Friday, May 18, after less than one year in business.

Caabay, which owns Craft & Spoon with Christine De La Rosa, Aima Paule, and Michael Schlieker, announced the closure on Instagram. "With the fast moving aches of gentrification, being offered a LEASE for $225,000, is simply absurd and ridiculous," she stated. "It's not easy running a business in a city that's changing by the minute."

The concept for Craft & Spoon (1629 Broadway), which sits in the rapidly developing Uptown neighborhood, is a lunch spot where the office crowd could get something quick, simple, and relatively healthy, with subtle hints of Filipino flavors. It never seemed to find a large audience, despite immediate support from the queer community. Some of Caabay's fans from Kainbigan wanted to see her continue to serve traditional Filipino dishes.

"From this we've learned how much of an importance it is to have a POC presence in the heart of The Town," Caabay continued on Instagram, before asking supporters to spend their dollars with other small, local businesses helmed by people of color.

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Roam Artisan Burgers Opens First Oakland Location

by Momo Chang
Fri, May 11, 2018 at 8:45 AM

Roam's special Springtime Burger with chimichurri and fresh mozzarella. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KASSIE BORRESON
  • Photo courtesy of Kassie Borreson
  • Roam's special Springtime Burger with chimichurri and fresh mozzarella.

A popular, local burger chain is coming for Oakland.
Roam Artisan Burgers (1951 Telegraph Ave., Ste. 2) opens today in the Uptown neighborhood, bringing sustainable burgers — including some vegetarian options — to the neighborhood.

Roam first opened in San Francisco’s Marina/Cow Hollow district in 2010. Since then, it has expanded with more outposts in San Francisco, Lafayette, and San Mateo, serving burgers, sides, shakes, sodas, and wine and beer on tap.

“We’ve been excited about the area for a long time,” said Joshua Spiegelman, co-owner of Roam Artisan Burgers with Lynn Gorfinkle. “It’s a good mix of demographics. There are a lot of young people — office workers during the day, and vibrant activity at night.”

What sets Roam apart from most burger joints is the focus on quality, sustainable ingredients. Spiegelman said they also strive keep items at affordable price points. Much of the produce is sourced locally — they serve a seasonal farmers market salad, for example. Their sodas are all housemade (“no Coca-Cola, nothing artificial,” Spiegelman notes). Their rich shakes are made from Straus Family Creamery’s organic soft serve.

Roam moved into a retail space on the bottom floor of The Uptown Apartments, in a previously unoccupied space that is about 2,000 square feet, right next to Little Giant Ice Cream.

For vegetarians, there is a housemade organic veggie burger made from quinoa, brown rice, black beans, beets, and spices. And the gluten-free can get their burger on a gluten-free bun or wrapped in lettuce. Their burger menu includes a 100 percent grass-fed beef burger (from 4K Ranch in Montana), a free-range turkey burger (Diestel Family Turkey Ranch in California), a bison burger (made from pasture-raised bison), and a rotating protein, which is currently elk from Durham Ranch in Wyoming. There are fries, too, and plenty of drink options, including wine, local beer on tap, and kombucha.

The basic burger starts at $9.50, and the kids’ meals start at $7.50 for a grilled cheese-and-fries combo. The menu is similar to other Roam locations, including signature burger styles, like the BBQ, with aged white cheddar, barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, jalapeno relish, and oil and vinegar slaw. They also offer a few seasonal options, like the Springtime Burger with chimichurri, fresh mozzarella, tomato, arugula, and an herb mayonnaise.

Roam is open for lunch and dinner. The ambience is modern-rustic, with a large communal table made from Douglas Fir. There’s also bar seating, regular tables, and an outdoor patio. “We’re really excited to open it in Oakland,” Spiegelman said. “This project has been a long time coming. With all the arts and entertainment going on, we’re really excited to be a part of it.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Burger Philosophies Abound in KronnerBurger Cookbook, 'A Burger to Believe In'

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, May 8, 2018 at 10:06 AM


A strange thing is happening in the East Bay cookbook world. James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare cookbook came out several months after the seminal restaurant closed. Preeti Mistry’s Juhu Beach Club Cookbook arrived soon after she announced the closure of her beloved restaurant. And now, we have the KronnerBurger cookbook at a time when KronnerBurger has languished empty and dark ever since a February fire. With Chris Kronner’s new post at Henry’s in Berkeley, KronnerBurger’s fate remains a mystery.

I sincerely hope A Burger to Believe In: Recipes and Fundamentals, which arrives May 22 via Ten Speed Press, doesn’t become a relic of KronnerBurger like the Hawker Fare and Juhu Beach Club books — something to cling to and cry over when your recreations, despite meticulously following the recipe, just don’t come out quite as wonderful as your memories.

In A Burger to Believe In, you will find the recipe for the restaurant’s eponymous burger, notoriously served rare and only rare. It was the result of Kronner’s 10 years of research and experiments. Every tiny element has been ruthlessly thought out: the cow’s diet, the aging process, the grind, the fire, the cooking time, and the most minimal of extras. At a time when many chefs were adding foie gras, bacon jam, Sriracha leather, edible gold, and other superfluous items to the humble burger, Kronner focused on the essentials, and that’s what made his burger special.

If you love this burger, you will be delighted with the level of detail in the eight-part recipe, for there are sub-recipes for the pain de mie bun, dill pickles, charred onion, cheddar mayo, roasted bone marrow, tomato, and lettuce. But if you are a fan of the restaurant, you probably love much more than the burger. There’s the exceptional patty melt, which gets its zing from Chinese
hot mustard; the veggie burger, which gets its umami from mushrooms and mushroom powder; the avocado and crispy rice salad, inspired by Vietnamese flavors; and the flagship dessert, the sweet-salty honey pie. There are also recipes from Kronner’s past gigs, specifically at Slow Club and Bar Tartine in San Francisco, and originals developed for the book.

It’s also a delightful read all around. Co-written by Paolo Lucchesi, food editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, A Burger to Believe In dives deep into burger land with equal parts nerdom and irreverence. There’s the story of Bill Niman of Niman Ranch fame, a tale about an unusually old cow, musings on the burger’s role in American culture, and short interludes penned by folks such as Bradford Taylor, the owner of Oakland’s Ordinaire. Eric Wolfinger’s bombastic, over-the-top photography sets an appropriate tone. You will probably laugh out loud. More importantly, you will actually learn something.

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