Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why a Cofounder of Homeroom Now Hosts Free Pasta Friday Dinners

The goal is to serve a different pasta dish every week for a year.

by Cirrus Wood
Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 10:44 AM

Pasta makes it easy to feed a crowd. - LANCE YAMAMOTO
  • Lance Yamamoto
  • Pasta makes it easy to feed a crowd.

As a crowd casually socialized around her, Allison Arevalo mixed ingredients on the kitchen island of her Rockridge home. Arcs of olive oil and fat blobs of cheese landed on a casserole dish holding five pounds of cooked pasta. Finished, she climbed a chair and announced the evening’s menu. “Spaghettoni del Leone with Sicilian red pesto, English peas, and burrata,” she said. The audience approved, applauded, and then uttered soft groans of desire at the word “burrata.”

There was also, this evening, a salad of young lettuce, fried lemon, chorizo, and corona beans. And instead of a final topping of croutons or grated parmesan, Arevalo shredded an entire loaf of bread, toasted it, and mixed the crumbs with diced pancetta. There were cheers, and then the mumbled din of 30 adults and 15 children assembling, slurping, and enjoying their meal.

The event was part of Pasta Friday, a near-weekly series of dinners Arevalo began hosting in August of last year. The goal is to serve a different pasta dish every week for a year — 52 dishes in all — culminating in a cookbook of the same name. This evening’s event marked number 30.

Arevalo cofounded Temescal’s popular mac ’n’ cheese restaurant Homeroom in 2011 with Erin Wade. Though rewarding, the experience left her feeling isolated from her community. “After opening a restaurant and having kids, it just became really hard to have a social life,” she said.

She sold her share of Homeroom in the fall of 2017, shortly after she began Pasta Friday, a combination chef’s table, supper club, and salon. “Friends that I used to see every six months I now get to see every week.”

A sponsorship from pasta maker Rustichella d’Abruzzo ensures that not only is Arevalo sure to never repeat a dish, she is likely to never repeat a shape. The company offers more than 120 different varieties. “They really were into the idea of the 52 dinners and their pasta is just amazing,” said Arevalo.

Pasta Friday is a free event. The point for Arevalo isn’t to build up a business, but a community. “Everyone tells me that we should start charging for this,” she said. “But I feel like that’s not really the spirit of what we’re doing right now.”

Space is a limiting factor, though, even if cost isn’t, and attendance is restricted to just how many people the chef can comfortably fit in her house. “More than around 30 and people don’t socialize so much,” she said. But, she adds, the number could go up if she were to prepare a Pasta Friday in a bigger house — in other words, if any East Bay residents were open to handing over their kitchen for an evening.

For those who can’t make it to one of Arevalo’s dinners — or who prefer to play host themselves — the chef makes it easy to throw your own with weekly newsletters. Subscribers get tips, recipes, and notifications of upcoming meals, all of which come free of charge. Money may make the world go round, but pasta can be at least one of the things to hold it together.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Pâtisserie Rotha to Bring Traditional French Sweets to Albany

by Cirrus Wood
Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:52 AM

A new bakery promises to be a destination for flaky, buttery croissants. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROTHA IENG
  • Photo courtesy of Rotha Ieng
  • A new bakery promises to be a destination for flaky, buttery croissants.

The word Proustian may be among the more overused in the food world, but it’s not wrong to think that smells, textures, and flavors can recapture the past and return the eater to a state of nostalgic innocence. Those looking to sample literature’s most famous teacake can find it at Pâtisserie Rotha (1051 San Pablo Ave., Albany), a new traditional French pastry shop scheduled to open June 30.

Pâtisserie Rotha is the venture of pâtissier Rotha Ieng, a relative newcomer to the East Bay food scene and a graduate of the Ecole Ferrandi, a culinary school in Paris. Ieng also trained under Pierre Hermé, a Parisian pastry chef renowned for presenting the season’s sweets with the pluck of haute couture. (The only stateside location for Hermé’s confections is at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The macarons are flown in daily from Paris.)

For those looking for Parisian quality without having to endure frisking from the TSA, Rotha will offer such classically French confections as pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and chausson aux pommes (apple turnovers). The menu also offers a few outliers from well outside the 20em arrondissement, such as pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts), canelé (caramelized yet custardy cakes from Bordeaux), and the very much en vogue kouign-amann, a Breton butter pastry, folded into a cup shape and strewn with layers of caramelized sugar. And for those with a yen toward recreating Proust’s epiphany and reclaiming lost time, there will also be madeleines.

This will be Ieng’s first business, and while the chef is still finding his way in the culinary world, he has settled firmly on sweets. “It seems to me that I have the talent with pastry instead of the other stuff,” he said. “Pastry gives me the ability to think about creativity and come up with different things. I have to be alert all the time.”

Ieng previously worked as a data administrator at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, the multilingual (but mainly French) private school in West Berkeley. At the school’s annual market event, Ieng would offer some of his home experiments, which were received with much enthusiasm from the Francophone community, who encouraged him to turn the hobby into a profession. Ieng took the advice to heart and left his position with the school last week to focus on pastries full-time.

Ieng plans to vary the menu throughout the year, keeping pace with the calendar. Patrons can expect bûche de Noël in December and galette des rois in January. After the grand opening on June 30, the patisserie will be open on weekends only from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended weekday hours to come later this summer. Private vendors have already expressed interest in entering contracts with Rotha, but he has yet to accept. At least for now, the only place to get Ieng’s pastries will be at Pâtisserie Rotha itself, which may just make it one of the sweeter excuses for a drive up San Pablo.

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Fire Temporarily Shuts Down Firebrand Artisan Breads

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:08 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Firebrand Artisan Breads via Facebook
Due to a fire over the weekend, Firebrand Artisan Breads is closed.

The Oakland bakery, located in Uptown's Hive complex (2343 Broadway), went dark when one of Firebrand's oven hoods caught fire, according to Misha Dennis of Firebrand's accounting department. It wasn't huge, but enough to shut down the entire operation for likely a week. The bakery hopes to be back up and running by Saturday, June 23, depending on clearances from the city.

Firebrand is also one of Oakland's biggest wholesale bakeries, stocking many cafes in the East Bay with tempting treats. The fire means that all of those businesses may be without breads and pastries this week, too. 

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Jack London Brewing District Forms as More Taprooms Plan to Open in Neighborhood

by Momo Chang
Mon, Jun 11, 2018 at 10:19 AM

Oakland United Beerworks will brings its ƒn (IPA) and other beers to a new taproom this summer. - PHOTO COURTESY OF OAKLAND UNITED BEERWORKS
  • Photo courtesy of Oakland United Beerworks
  • Oakland United Beerworks will brings its ƒn (IPA) and other beers to a new taproom this summer.

Several quality Oakland breweries are just a hop, skip, and short walk or bike ride from BART, Amtrak, and the ferry.

The newly formed Jack London Brewing District — recognized by the neighborhood’s business improvement district — highlights the growing number of small craft breweries in the neighborhood. “We just decided it’s time to get [the brewing district] together,” said Aram Cretan, co-founder and head brewer at Federation Brewing. “We spend so much time together hanging out and working together.”

The four founding breweries of the district include Independent Brewing (444 Harrison St.), Original Pattern Brewing (292 4th St.), Oakland United Beerworks (formerly Linden Street Brewery, opening this summer at 262 2nd St.), and Federation Brewing (420 3rd St.). The local beers from these small craft brewers can already be found in many Bay Area restaurants and bars, including ones just footsteps away such as Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, Chop Bar, Beer Revolution, Forge, Plank, and Yoshi’s.

To kick it off, they created a collaborative, limited-edition brew called “Jack London Jam,” a 100 percent spelt beer. The tart summer beer debuted about a week ago at Independent, Original Pattern, and Federation, and is almost sold out.

Before forming the district, they were already working together. For example, the breweries put their spent grain in the yard of Independent Brewing, owned by Steve McDaniel. Once a week, a rancher comes and picks up the grain and feeds it to the cows on the ranch.

There’s another side to sticking together. With the boom of craft breweries across the country, larger companies have bought out smaller ones and packaged them as craft. (Anheuser-Busch InBev’s purchase of Golden Road Brewery is one example.) Sticking together as independent breweries also means sticking it to the big corporations. “We want to show the market that we can work together,” said Matt Hunter, co-founder of Federation Brewing.

The combination of industrial and residential spaces in the neighborhood creates a good location for small-scale food and drink production, with enough people living nearby to walk up and enjoy them. “It gives people an opportunity to try four breweries and take public transit home,” said Shane Aldrich, head brewer at Oakland United Beerworks.

They plan to create more limited-edition beers together and hold quarterly events, including block parties and fundraisers for local organizations.

Original Pattern just opened in April, around the corner from Independent Brewing. “It’s been a great culture,” said co-founder Caitlin O’Connor about the collaboration.

And craft beer’s presence in the Jack London area shows no signs of slowing down. Federation Brewing, which opened its tasting room in March 2017, is expanding next door to give more room for its taproom. Oakland United Beerworks will open a 4,000-square-foot taproom and brewery this summer in the former Public Bikes space on 2nd Street.

At the former World Ground Cafe (308 Jackson St.), a new bar serving local beer called Tiger’s Taproom will be opening — permits pending — likely in early fall. “We’ll definitely promote the Bay Area brewing scene,” co-owner Brian Chan said. “It’s perfect timing for us to go in there.”

If the first collaborative beer is any indication, the new brewing district is onto something good. The limited release “Jack London Jam,” a sour framboise with a hint of raspberries, is all about summer vibes and good feels.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

West Oakland's Drip Line Closes as Chef Departs

by Momo Chang
Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 8:02 AM

Nora Haron-Dunning merged Southeast Asian flavors with California cuisine at Drip Line. - ANDRIA LO/FILE PHOTO
  • Andria Lo/File photo
  • Nora Haron-Dunning merged Southeast Asian flavors with California cuisine at Drip Line.

Drip Line was the spot in West Oakland to get pastries,
great drip coffee, and excellent Singaporean-inspired dishes from Executive Chef Nora Haron-Dunning. The immaculate, cozy neighborhood cafe and restaurant just closed without notice; the last day of service was this past weekend, and the chef’s and the rest of the staff's last day was yesterday.

Drip Line (1940 Union St., Ste. 21) opened on Valentine’s Day in 2017. Haron-Dunning received many accolades for her unique dishes that can’t be found elsewhere in the East Bay. She became known for fusing her native cuisines — she’s of Indonesian and Indian descent — as well as the food she grew up eating in Singapore with California sensibilities and Southern dishes (her husband’s family is from the American South). Haron-Dunning was previously the head kitchen manager and culinary operations manager for Blue Bottle Coffee, director of food operations for Farley’s, and executive chef at Monkey Forest Road and Crema.

Some of the standout dishes at Drip Line included the shrimp and grits, made with coconut cream, sambal, and a fried egg, and the Malaysian shrimp laksa, which featured rice noodles in a spicy coconut broth and rauram (Vietnamese coriander). Another crowd favorite was her fried riff on Singaporean chicken rice, which Haron-Dunning cites as one of her favorites growing up.

Haron-Dunning reassures that people who enjoyed her dishes will be able to experience similar flavors again soon. While she’s keeping mum on specifics for now because she’s still ironing out details, she said she plans to open up a new spot in Oakland in about two months. The restaurant will have a new name and will be in a central Oakland location. The food, though, will remain similar to her vision at Drip Line.

“It will be the menu that everybody loves,” said Haron-Dunning, an Oakland resident. “It will be food that is relatable to me, so it will be similar.”

Drip Line is owned by architects and co-founders Carrie Shores and Josh Larson of Larson Shores Architecture and Interiors. Haron-Dunning said she and the Drip Line partners ultimately had different visions for the culinary direction of the restaurant and are parting ways amicably. “Josh and Carrie did a lot of good for me in providing a platform for me to showcase my talent,” Haron-Dunning added via text message. “Although it ultimately didn't work out, there was a lot of good done.”

Shores said they also hope to reopen the West Oakland cafe space, likely sometime in the fall, with more details about its concept to come. “We’re excited about what Nora has created here, and excited to see what she does next,” Shores said.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hang Out With E-40 at Lake Chalet's New Tequila Pier Bar

The rapper will share his E. Cuarenta Tequila line.

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 8:15 AM

E-40: rapper, businessman, tequila maven. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LAKE CHALET
  • Photo courtesy of Lake Chalet
  • E-40: rapper, businessman, tequila maven.

Legendary Bay Area rapper E-40 is swinging by Oakland's Lake Chalet today to greet fans and show off his new line of tequila. The visit coincides with the next Warriors game and Lake Chalet's debut of its new Tequila Pier Bar.

From 4 to 6 p.m., the rapper will share his Silver, Reposado, and Anejo tequilas on his E. Cuarenta Tequila line ("E-40" in Spanish), which he launched in February. The pier bar's cocktail menu will reflect the guest of honor, with concoctions such as the 40th Sunrise (E-40's silver tequila, champagne, orange juice, and grenadine).

While Lake Chalet, the only restaurant that sits directly on Lake Merritt, has long had seating on its spacious pier, this particular bar option is brand new. Beyond today's visit, the pier bar will be open seasonally depending on weather and focus on tequilas and beers from south of the border. Food-wise, it'll exclusively serve ceviche tostadas, such as tequila-infused shrimp ceviche with serrano pepper and cucumber salsa. And for the rest of the NBA Finals, the bar's only tequila in stock will be E-40's E. Cuarenta.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

With #AllergicToEverything, Oakland Resident Aims to Publish Cookbook with Food Allergies in Mind

by Momo Chang
Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 10:03 AM

The recipes aim to avoid common food allergens. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSICA GRAY SCHIPP
  • Photo courtesy of Jessica Gray Schipp
  • The recipes aim to avoid common food allergens.

What’s it like to all of a sudden be allergic to everything? Oakland resident Jessica Gray Schipp had to experience that herself after falling ill and going through an elimination diet. Now, she’s hoping to help others who have multiple food allergies.

Schipp has been developing recipes and researching food allergies for the past six years. While looking for resources to deal with her own allergies, she realized there’s not a one-stop shop for people coping with allergies.

“The most important thing is to get it into the hands of people who have food allergies, the people who need it,” Schipp said. “But I’m looking for everybody around to rally and to help make it happen.”

Schipp is running a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to publish her book, #AllergicToEverything - A Cookbook & Lifestyle Guide for Food Allergy Collectors & the People Who Love Them. The crowdfunding campaign ends June 17. So far, it’s raised roughly $10,000 toward a $33,111 goal. The money raised would go toward first edition printing costs and hiring an editor and illustrator. Incentives include five PDF recipes with a donation of $5 or more, and a copy of the cookbook for $35 or more.

The book is part lifestyle guide, part cookbook. For example, there’s a four-page symptoms tracker. “That was something helpful to me,” Schipp said. “It walks you through a version of the elimination diet — things like, how to read ingredient labels, and where your allergens hide. It’s such a personal journey.”

The more than 100 recipes are all free of gluten, wheat, corn, oats, eggs, shellfish, sesame, and soy (Schipp’s own allergies), but they can be modified for other allergies. (The top eight food allergies are wheat, peanuts, eggs, milk, soy, fish, nuts, and shellfish). Her recipes may include dairy, for example, but it’s fairly easy to use a milk substitute.

“A lot of the recipes are comfort food and kid-friendly, things I grew up eating,” Schipp said. One of the recipes, for example, is cornbread stuffing. Her grandmother would make it during the holidays and use it for turkey stuffing. Schipp created a “corn-free cornbread” recipe for it using coconut flour. “It tastes pretty much like cornbread,” she said.

Schipp, a former school teacher in Oakland, is now working full-time on the project. She previously spent time as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer in Oakland, living off of food stamps, so she includes money-saving tips in the book, too. There are also recipes for body balms and yoga mat cleaning sprays.

For more information, visit HashtagAllergic.com.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Anti-Gentrification Cafe Hasta Muerte Coffee Fears Displacement

Their building is for sale, but the collective has launched a fundraising campaign to buy it.

by Momo Chang
Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 11:02 AM

Hasta Muerte's building is for sale. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AZAEL GARCIA
  • Photo courtesy of Azael Garcia
  • Hasta Muerte's building is for sale.

After gaining national attention for not serving
uniformed police officers, Oakland’s Hasta Muerte Coffee is now under threat of displacement.

The building they currently lease from was put on the market about two months ago, just four months after Hasta Muerte opened for business. Located at 2701 Fruitvale Ave., the mixed-use building includes the worker-run coffee shop downstairs and two low-income residential units upstairs. The coffee collective has launched a GoFundMe fundraising campaign in hopes of buying it.

The building is listed at $960,000 on Redfin, and there's an offer that's currently pending. But there’s a catch: in the lease between Hasta Muerte and the building owner, there is a right of first refusal clause, meaning the collective has a chance to match the highest bid if the building went up for sale, according to the collective.

In the East Bay, many restaurants have had to close or move due to leases doubling or more. While the coffee shop still has over a year left on their lease, they see this as an opportunity to stay in the neighborhood long-term — which is their hope — while keeping the upstairs units for low-income residents, who are on month-to-month leases.

The two worker-owners interviewed said they have put in an immense amount of sweat equity and investment building out the cafe. They spent a year refurbishing the space, which was previously a gambling spot that was raided and shut down. “It was just an empty shell,” said Matt Gereghty, one of seven members of the co-op. “The thing is, we didn’t have a lot of money. We spent about a year between getting the permits, digging the trenches, putting [in] all the plumbing required, and all the electrical upgrades. We’ve invested so much in a social way, with the labor and all we’ve put into it.”

Located in a residential neighborhood in the Fruitvale district, the corner cafe is easily spotted by its bright murals — one side was done by 67 Sueños, while the other was a collaboration between artists Mazatl and Killjoy. They roast their own beans, serve a mean latte, host community events, and are committed to providing a family-friendly space. Hasta Muerte came under scrutiny in March — complete with pro-Trump protesters — when media caught wind of their policy to not serve uniformed police officers in an effort to keep the cafe a sanctuary space for people of color, low-income residents, and immigrants. 

The crowdfunding campaign was launched May 24 and has raised a little over $10,000 toward their $75,000 goal. They have until June 8 to match the offer. Aside from the money raised from crowdfunding, they are working to secure loans.

Hasta Muerte has teamed up with the Oakland Community Land Trust, so the nonprofit would be the initial buyer and eventually transfer the building to the collective. The trust would still keep the land that the building sits on for 99 years to prevent the building from being sold at market rate in the near future, which would also ensure the upstairs units continue to be for low-income residents.

“If we’re asking folks to contribute, they have to know we’re not going to resell it in two years for $2 million,” said Gereghty, an Oakland native. “The purpose is to help us continue the work of creating and promoting sanctuary spaces — places where low- income folks, mostly folks of color, in this neighborhood can just be and exist and be appreciated and respected.”

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The Halal Guys to Open First Oakland Location

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM

The chicken platter comes with tomatoes, lettuce, and pita. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HALAL GUYS
  • Photo courtesy of Halal Guys
  • The chicken platter comes with tomatoes, lettuce, and pita.

The Halal Guys might be taking over the Bay Area. After first entering the market in 2017, the popular New York City-based chain opened a Berkeley location in January and is now preparing to open an Oakland location this summer. It will be located at 2214 Broadway, in the former Locol location in Uptown near Ike's Sandwiches.

The Halal Guys started in 1990 as a hot dog street cart before the founding partners recognized a demand from Muslim cab drivers looking for halal food. The chain's menu has remained short and straight-forward all of these years later: chicken, gyro, or falafel, served as a sandwich or rice plate. Perhaps more famous than the meals are the red and white sauce that go with them.

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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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