Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Alameda Serves Up Red-Hot Restaurant Week Deals

The restaurant week is only in its second year, but there are some excellent deals to be found.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 1:11 PM

At Trabocco, you'll get a four-course dinner for $40. - PHOTO BY ALAIN MCLAUGHLIN
  • Photo by Alain McLaughlin
  • At Trabocco, you'll get a four-course dinner for $40.

Alameda Restaurant Week is only in its second year, but there’s already an impressive list of about 40 restaurants to choose from — some of which are offering big savings on their menus. Deals are available starting Thursday, Jan. 17 and run through Sunday, Jan. 27. I’ve gone through participating restaurants’ menus and picked out the best (and tastiest) deals just for you. For more information, head to AlamedaRestaurantWeek.com.

Mama Papa Lithuania
You certainly won’t find Lithuanian cuisine at any of the other East Bay restaurant weeks — in fact, Mama Papa Lithuania (1241 Park St.) has claimed to be the only Lithuanian restaurant in the West. Nor will you find a deal so good anywhere else. The restaurant is offering a three-course lunch and dinner special for just $12. There are two menu options available. The first begins with a cabbage and vegetable soup, followed by a main course of handmade dumplings stuffed with mushrooms, sauerkraut, onions, and potatoes. Dessert is a homemade butter cookie. Or go with the second menu, which consists of pea soup topped with bacon, wild cod fillet with mashed potatoes, and a slice of Lithuanian lazy pie for dessert. Both meals also come with herbal hot tea. The lazy pie alone would normally run you $6, so this is a great deal.

German restaurant and biergarten Speisekammer (2424 Lincoln Ave.) is offering solid lunch and dinner deals this year. The lunch special, which is also offered on the weekend, will run you just $15. It includes a starter of either pickled vegetable salad or potato-bacon soup, your choice of two mini sandwiches (bratwurst, weiner schnitzel, or schweinebraten), plus your choice of fries or roasted potatoes as a side. The three-course dinner special for $30 includes a starter of fried brussels sprouts, your choice of one of three main courses (beef goulash with spätzle, wild boar hunter’s pie, or grilled trout with rice pilaf), and a dessert of apple strudel with vanilla ice cream. End the meal with the included apple schnapps. A full-sized dinner entrée alone at Speisekammer would normally run you about $20, so $30 for three courses looks like a pretty good deal.

West End diner Neptune’s (630 Central Ave.) is serving up a three-course brunch for $22. For starters, choose from longanisa-stuffed lumpia, housemade ricotta toast, or avocado-furikake toast. Entrée choices include a West End omelet with bacon, cheddar, tomato, mushroom, and avocado; a sweet waffle topped with ricotta, fruit, honey, and almonds; a smash burger with umami mayo and all the fixings, plus a side of fries; or market veggies with black turtle beans, tomatoes, and home fries. And for dessert, you’ll have to somehow decide between an affogato with macapuno (young coconut) ice cream, or banana lumpia with caramel sauce. Depending on which options you pick, this deal gets you a savings of about $5 compared to normal menu prices.

Don’t let Trabocco’s location (2213 S. Shore Ctr.) in the South Shore Center fool you — it’s by far my favorite Italian restaurant in Alameda, and one of my favorites in the East Bay. The lunch special on offer this year — three courses for $28 — is a good value. You’ll get your choice of the soup of the day or a kale, lemon, and bean salad, an entrée of housemade oxtail ravioli, chicken salad, or tuna salad, plus tiramisu for dessert. Compared to normal menu prices, you’re essentially getting a tasty tiramisu at no extra cost. Or for dinner, you can get four courses for $40. For the antipasti course, choose between soup or a winter salad with chicory, grapes, pears, gorgonzola, and Prosecco dressing. The primi course offers a choice between crab cakes in a lobster-brandy cream sauce or braised pork belly with a lentil-farro pilaf. Choose from three main course options: a wood-fired half chicken with potatoes, grilled Scottish salmon and potatoes, or housemade butternut squash ravioli. And of course, the dinner deal includes tiramisu for dessert.

Berkeley Restaurant Week Is Back

There’s no better time to visit your favorite Berkeley eateries — or try out a new one.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 10:08 AM

Longbranch is offering a three-course prix fixe menu for $35. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT BERKELEY
  • Photo courtesy of Visit Berkeley
  • Longbranch is offering a three-course prix fixe menu for $35.

Starting Thursday, Berkeley Restaurant Week is back for its seventh year. From Jan. 17-27, more than 45 Berkeley restaurants will offer prix fixe menus ranging in price from $25 to $35. Here are some of the best values and most interesting deals. For more information, check out VisitBerkeley.com/Dine.

This year, Longbranch (2512 San Pablo Ave.) is offering a three-course prix fixe menu for $35 with four options for each course. For appetizers, choose from butternut squash soup topped with crème fraîche and pepitas; a citrus salad with chicories, blue cheese dressing, and pomegranate; a goat cheese and beet brioche tart; or roasted bone marrow with Acme levain and quince-chile jam. Next, pick from entreés including stuffed honey butternut squash; boudin blanc with cabbage and pancetta; seafood risotto with saffron and smoked tomato; or braised leg of lamb with orecchiette and pumpkin seed pesto. Wrap up the meal with your choice of dessert: a pecan s’more, chocolate pot de creme, coconut chiffon cake, or apple upside-down cake. Plus, this deal is a pretty good value. Salads go for about $12, while entrees are priced around $21-28, and desserts at $8 — so you’re looking at savings of up to approximately $13.

Saha (2451 Shattuck Ave.) is a hotspot for reinvented Middle Eastern food and classic Yemeni dishes. The restaurant week deal gets you three savory courses for $35 — a savings of $5-10 over their daily vegetarian and meat/seafood prix fixe menus, respectively. There are too many options to list here — I counted 12 options for the second course alone — but here are a few highlights: First courses include choices like a chicken liver salad, seared octopus salad, fattoush, or stuffed avocado. For your second course, select from dishes like a lobster or wild mushroom knafeh, ginger-orange scallops, chicken or duck bastilla, or Yemeni okra. And for the main course, there are options like a spicy seafood tagine, crispy-skin branzino, or the Saha ravioli stuffed with shiitake mushrooms in a mango-mint sauce. Bonus points: There are plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free selections to satisfy most dietary needs.

La Marcha
You’ll certainly get the most courses for your money at La Marcha (2026 San Pablo Ave.), a tapas bar. For $35 per person, the prix fixe menu includes a whopping five courses. Start with a plate of sheep’s milk cheese with quince paste, Marcona almonds, and olives. The next course is a trio of tapas including a Spanish tortilla with chorizo aioli, cheese-stuffed mushrooms, and a clam and bone marrow croqueta. The meal continues with a chicory and kale salad, followed by wild boar meatballs. Last but not least, there’s paella made with chorizo, pork belly, and pork shoulder, pasilla peppers, and chickpeas. A sharing size portion of paella would normally cost about $32-36, so this is a great opportunity to sample a large portion of the menu at a relatively low price.

Munch India
Newcomer Munch India (3015 Shattuck Ave.) has only been open since November, but chefs Diana Afroza and Nick Ahmed bring decades of cooking experience, plus their experience running the Munch India food truck for the past few years, to the kitchen. Here, the rotating menu features a selection of regional Indian dishes you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Their three-course restaurant week menu is priced at $35. The menu includes an appetizer of urulai kizhangu bonda, breaded potato-vegetable balls served with chutney. For mains, choose from vegetarian shahi aloo gobi (sauteéd cauliflower with potato fondant) or lazeez murgh khatta dopyazia (broiled chicken in cumin-tomato gravy with double onions). You’ll also get an order of rasmalai — cottage cheese balls soaked in saffron — for dessert. (Note: We just learned that Munch India has closed temporarily due to a family emergency. Please check their Twitter feed @MunchIndia for updates.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Five Soups to Help Warm Up This Winter

Looking for comfort food? Here are five Oakland picks for warming winter soups.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 11:51 AM

Kuy teav Phnom Penh is the dish that put Nyum Bai on the map. - FILE PHOTO BY ANDRIA LO
  • File photo by Andria Lo
  • Kuy teav Phnom Penh is the dish that put Nyum Bai on the map.

It seems like ever since December hit, I’ve been craving soup a lot  more often. When you want to tuck into a bowl of steaming soup, here are a few suggestions to help you stay warm in Oakland.

Kuy teav Phnom Penh from Nyum Bai
Kuy teav Phnom Penh is the dish that put Nyum Bai on the map back in its days as a pop-up, and for good reason. The rich pork broth is simmered for seven hours, resulting in a broth that’s sweet, salty, garlicky, and a little funky. The soup is chockfull of rice noodles, pork, and shrimp, topped with bean sprouts, cilantro, and a wedge of lime. Pro tip: I usually order mine with extra noodles, and I like to add a little smoky chili sauce. And if you’re visiting with vegan or vegetarian friends, I’m also a huge fan of the vegan machoo manor soup, a sweet and sour broth filled with fried tofu, pineapple, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

3340 E. 12th St., Ste. 11, Oakland, (510) 500-3338

Green pozole from Obelisco
Just across the plaza from Nyum Bai in Fruitvale Village is Obelisco, a place I’ve been visiting for years for its pozole, ever since it was known as Taco Grill. The pozole here comes with a red, green, or clear broth — one for each of the colors in the Mexican flag. I’ve tried them all, and in my opinion, the green one with pork is the best. The spicy green chile broth is sure to warm you up, and the squeeze of lime on the side adds an enjoyable hint of acidity.

3411 E. 12th St., Ste. 110, Oakland, (510) 534-3752

Jook from Gum Kuo
Whether you call it jook, congee, or porridge (as it’s listed on the menu here), it’s basically liquid comfort in a bowl. If you can’t get it homemade, Gum Kuo is the next best option, and there are enough varieties of jook here to make your head spin. My favorites are the salted pork and preserved egg porridge, the abalone and chicken porridge, and the sliced fish and pork ball porridge.

388 9th St., Ste. 182, Oakland, (510) 268-1288

Short rib stew from Pyeongchang Tofu House
Pyeongchang Tofu House is known, of course, for its excellent soft tofu stew. But I’ve also been a longtime fan of its short rib stew, which is listed toward the end of the menu. The clear bone broth is so rich that it almost tastes like it’s made with butter. The short rib meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon, and the cabbage adds hearty crunch. Plus, you get a complimentary extra “soup” — ask your server to pour hot tea into the crisp rice that’s left in the stone bowl at the end of your meal.

4701 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 658-9040

Carne en su jugo from Tortas Ahogadas Mi Barrio
Just a few weeks ago, I went to Tortas Ahogadas Mi Barrio to try their namesake tortas ahogadas — but I was pleasantly surprised to find carne en su jugo on the menu. It’s a soup popular in Guadalajara that’s typically made by simmering tomatillos and beef in bacon fat. Pinto beans and chunks of bacon are then added to the soup, which is served with tortillas on the side. Beware, the carne en su jugo is only available on Saturdays and Sundays, and it tends to sell out.

4749 International Blvd., Oakland, (510) 434-9454

Oakland Restaurant Week Is Just Around the Corner

It’s your chance to grab a multi-course meal at a discounted price — and maybe even for a good cause.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 11:40 AM

Chef Nelson German of alaMar. - PHOTO BY MELATI CITRAWIREJA
  • Photo by Melati Citrawireja
  • Chef Nelson German of alaMar.

This Friday marks the start of Oakland’s ninth annual Restaurant Week. From Jan. 11-20, select Oakland eateries are offering special restaurant week deals on prix-fixe menus ranging in price from $10 to $70. These are my picks for the best restaurant week deals on offer this year. New restaurant deals are constantly being added, so check the Oakland Restaurant Week website for the latest.

Plus, Oakland Restaurant Week is partnering this year with the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Some restaurants are donating a portion of restaurant week proceeds to the food bank, and all restaurant week customers are encouraged to make a donation. The food bank will use the proceeds to distribute fresh food and alleviate child hunger in schools and the greater community. To view more information about participants or to donate, visit OaklandRestaurantWeek.org.

Chop Bar
Chop Bar (247 4th St.) is offering a three-course dinner with a glass of Urban Legend Wine Company tap wine for $30. For starters, choose from an arugula salad with Point Reyes blue cheese, candied walnuts, and fruit, or the soup du jour. For mains, choices include meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes and trotter gravy, polenta with smoked pork shoulder and Brussels sprouts, or veggie pasta with goat cheese. For dessert, choose between banana rum chocolate chip bread pudding or a fruit crisp. This deal offers some serious savings; the meatloaf entreé will normally run you $22, and the salad will run you $12.

Clove & Hoof
For $20, Clove & Hoof (4001 Broadway) is offering its famous cheesesteak, made with thinly sliced sirloin, onion confit, mushrooms, matchstick-cut turnips, and a warm beer cheese fondue on a hero roll. The deal also includes beef tallow French fries, a chocolate chip cookie, and a restaurant week-exclusive rosemary Meyer lemonade. The cheesesteak and fries alone would normally cost $20, so you’re essentially getting the lemonade and cookie at no extra cost.

Copper Spoon
Copper Spoon (4031 Broadway) is offering an exciting $40 three-course dinner menu with plenty of choices. After an amuse bouche, choose from three appetizers: roasted garlic hummus with homemade pita chips, chicory Caesar salad, or bean and kale soup. For mains, go for crab and shrimp gumbo with jalapeño cornbread and strawberry-persimmon jam, or choose honey-smoked glazed chicken with lentil-eggplant purée and a grilled persimmon-celery root salad dressed with chimichurri. There’s also peanut tempeh mafe with black eyed peas and chickpea croquettes. But dessert may be the hardest choice of all. You’ll have to decide between chai tea shortbread cookies with hot cinnamon milk, rosemary olive oil cake, or vegan coconut ice cream with pomegranate syrup. Copper Spoon’s entreés typically run $22-27 and salads run $12-14, so three courses for $40 looks like a good deal.

This year, alaMar (101 Grand Ave., Ste. 111) is offering deals for every time of day. For lunch, Tuesday through Friday, the $10 deal includes your choice of fish tacos or chicken tostadas, both served with a mixed greens salad and soft drink. Or head over on a weekend for brunch. For $20, you’ll get a pineapple mimosa, plus your choice of red velvet pancakes with wings or a fried oyster hash with poached egg. The deal also includes a side of sweet plantains, lemon pepper spiral fries, or andouille sausage. Or for dinner (excluding Saturday, Jan. 19), there’s a $30 two-course menu. Start with shrimp sopes or wings. Entrées include chicken with mango salsa or oxtails with rice, black beans and plantains, or shrimp with crema criolla sauce, potatoes, and chorizo. Brunch is a particularly good value; the pancakes with wings normally cost $13, and the lemon pepper fries typically cost $8, so you’re saving a little money and getting a mimosa, too.

Brotzeit Lokal
Waterfront biergarten and German restaurant Brotzeit Lokal (1000 Embarcadero) is offering a $10 lunch deal that includes a sausage with fries or salad, or a lunch salad topped with potatoes, bacon, egg, and avocado. Or there’s a $40 dinner prix fixe that includes your choice of appetizer (including potato pancakes), an entrée (think goulash or a game sausage platter), and dessert (apple strudel or bread pudding, anyone?), plus a signature cocktail. If you order the prix fixe dinner on Saturday, Jan. 12, Brotzeit will donate a portion of those proceeds to the food bank. There’ll also be live music that night for diners to enjoy.

Correction: The original version of this report misstated the prix fixe dinner at alaMar. It's $30, not $40.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Redfield Cider & Bottle Shop to Open in Rockridge

Plus, Town Tavern and Marley G’s Pizzeria arrive on Alameda’s Park Street.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 2:41 PM

Redfield Cider & Bottle Shop will offer about 150 bottled ciders. - PHOTO COURTESY OF REDFIELD
  • Photo courtesy of Redfield
  • Redfield Cider & Bottle Shop will offer about 150 bottled ciders.

Cider lovers, you’re in for a treat this week. Redfield Cider & Bottle Shop is set to open in Rockridge on Sunday, Jan. 6, with 16 beers and ciders on tap and approximately 150 bottled ciders.

As the Express reported in April, Redfield Cider was founded by Olivia Maki and Mike Reis, a husband-and-wife team. According to Redfield’s website, it’s named after the Redfield variety of apple, with a tart, astringent flavor that’s not great for eating or baking, but is ideal for making cider.

The East Bay-based couple bring years of experience in the food and beverage industry to the new bar and bottle shop. Maki is a former employee of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, and Reis is an Advanced Cicerone who’s worked at The Monk’s Kettle and Lagunitas Brewing Company. In June, Maki and Reis even started their own cider-focused podcast, Redfield Radio.

Along with ciders, Redfield will also offer a “simple but satisfying” menu of salads, sandwiches, and small plates that are made in conjunction with local farmers and food producers, and “influenced by the cuisine of great cider cultures,” according to a recent press release.

“Oakland is a city that appreciates great food and drink, and nothing like what we’re hoping to do currently exists here,” Reis said in the release. “We are thrilled to be in a position to introduce some really tasty products to the Bay Area’s established cider lovers and those that are new to the drink.”

Redfield Cider & Bottle Shop is located at 5815 College Ave. in Oakland. It’ll be open from noon to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.

… In other food news, Alameda’s Park Street has had a couple of newcomers in recent weeks. In mid-December, Town Tavern opened at 1437 Park St., which formerly housed a gift shop, Silver Tree. There’s a menu of signature craft cocktails, as well as ciders and beers on tap from East Bay breweries, including Drake’s, Faction, and Old Kan. Plus, there’s a tasty-looking menu of sharable plates including karaage style chicken bites, pierogies, chicharrones, poutine, New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, and housemade ricotta with warm bread.

And just a few blocks down the street, Marley G’s Pizzeria opened in early December at 1330 Park St., the location formerly occupied by Bowzer’s Pizza. It’s the newest venture from the owners of Scolari’s Good Eats, who operate a main location just across the street from Marley G’s, as well as a location at Alameda Point and an Airstream trailer. The menus at the Scolari’s locations include burgers, barbecue, tacos, and pizza — but notably, stromboli, which Scolari’s was known for, had been absent from Scolari’s menus in recent times. (Stromboli, for the uninitiated, is a turnover similar to a calzone that originated on the East Coast.)

Thankfully, you can now get your stromboli fix at Marley G’s in three varieties: the classic, filled with ham, salami, pepperoni, and mozzarella; the “whitey,” with goat cheese, olives, pesto, and spinach; and the “guatso,” stuffed with beef meatballs, sausage, pepperoni, and mozzarella. There’s also a menu of chicken, eggplant, meatball, and veal parmesans; rotisserie chicken; salads; pasta; and of course, pizza. There are currently 10 varieties of pizza to choose from, including the banana chicken curry pie: a curry sauce base topped with sliced bananas, mozzarella, red onion, chicken, and cilantro. Gluten-free cauliflower crust is also available. There’s also a short-but-sweet dessert menu (including cannoli!), and beer and wine are coming soon. The pizzeria is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A New French Pâtisserie Is Coming to San Leandro

At Atelier Colibri, you’ll find croissants, macarons, crunchy-topped cream puffs, and more.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 5:00 PM

Hawkins also plans to sell chocolate tarts. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ATELIER COLIBRI
  • Photo courtesy of Atelier Colibri
  • Hawkins also plans to sell chocolate tarts.

For Lori Hawkins, owner of San Leandro’s forthcoming French pastry shop, Atelier Colibri, baking is her third career. She worked for 18 years as a metallurgical engineer, and then went on to work as a bond trader for three years. But Hawkins is no stranger to working with food.

“I basically grew up in the back of a Chinese restaurant,” Hawkins said.

Growing up, her immigrant parents owned a restaurant, where she helped out after school. “I watched the chefs there cook, and I watched my mother cook, I watched my father cook. And as years went by, I learned to cook, and I loved to cook,” she recalled.

Then she got her first introduction to Western pastry during a junior high school home economics class. “Ever since then, I had a real interest in baking,” she said.

But she only recently decided to pursue baking as a career. “[In an] immigrant family, we were supposed to enter into certain professions. Medicine, engineering. ...And that’s what I did. I was not rebellious and did what my family expected me to do.”

Then she joined the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies program at the City College of San Francisco, where she learned to cook, bake, and manage the finances of a food business. She had become enamored with French pastries during her travels to Europe with her husband, and at City College, she learned how to make them. The experience she gained there gave her the courage to move forward with opening her own bakery.

“Two years ago, it occurred to me that I could finally do what I wanted to do at my age, rather than what I should be doing,” Hawkins said. “Finally, I was 59 and I decided, ‘Well, if I don’t do this now, it’s going to be never.’ And so I made the leap.”

Hawkins said Atelier Colibri means “hummingbird workshop” in French, named after the numerous hummingbirds she’s seen in San Leandro since moving there three years ago. She describes the bakery as a classic French pastry shop. She’ll sell traditional French pastries including well-known favorites like croissants, tarts, and macarons (though the macarons will come in some non-traditional flavors like green tea and black sesame). There’ll also be some more uncommon French pastries, like choux au craquelin (cream puffs with a crunchy, cracked top) and religieuse (two stacked choux buns stuffed with pastry cream and topped with ganache and buttercream).

She also plans to serve one completely non-traditional menu item: cruffins. For the uninitiated, a cruffin consists of croissant dough baked in a muffin tin, then filled with your choice of buttercream, jam, pastry cream, or fruit. “Everyone’s going crazy over cruffins now,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins is particular about the ingredients she uses. She prefers organic when possible and will use cage-free eggs. She’s even making a line of vegan pastries using Miyoko’s vegan butter. “I’m not vegan myself, but I made a batch of croissants with it, and I actually like it better,” Hawkins remarked.

Hawkins had planned on serving seasonal items this year, like bûche de Noël and peppermint macarons, but unfortunately, the bakery’s opening was delayed. In fact, the bakery has been a work in progress for nearly a year since she signed the lease last January.

Hawkins cited lengthy city and county permitting processes and a backlog of applications as the reason for the delay.

Hawkins expects that Atelier Colibri, located at 138 Pelton Center Way in San Leandro, will open Jan. 5.

Correction: The original version of this story stated that Atelier Colibri was expected to open on Jan. 2, but it is now slated to open on Jan. 5.

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream in Temescal to Become I Scream Donuts

But don’t worry — you can still get Tara’s Organic Ice Cream at the new shop.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 4:49 PM

The transition to I Scream Donuts has been a win-win for Tara Esperanza (left) and Katie Wages. - PHOTO BY NICK HEMPHILL
  • Photo by Nick Hemphill
  • The transition to I Scream Donuts has been a win-win for Tara Esperanza (left) and Katie Wages.

For Oakland ice cream lovers, changes are coming to Temescal. Tara’s Organic Ice Cream’s Temescal location (4731 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) is closing on Dec. 30, 2018 at 9 p.m., and will reopen sometime during January 2019 as I Scream Donuts.

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream owner Tara Esperanza decided to close her Oakland location in order to make more time for her art and to pursue her goal of showcasing her paintings in local galleries. (The Berkeley location at 3173 College Ave. will remain open.) Meanwhile, I Scream Donuts’ owner Katie Wages wanted to bring her favorite Sacramento treat, ice cream donuts, to the East Bay.

“I am really excited to bring one of my favorite desserts from Sacramento to the Bay Area! As a Bay Area native that was half raised in Sacramento, my heart naturally lies in both places. I noticed that ice cream donuts hadn't made their way to the East Bay, so I thought it would be a great addition,” Wages said in a press release.

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream was originally established in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2005. The Berkeley shop opened in 2008, and the second location in Temescal opened in 2010. The shop makes ice cream with high-quality, organic ingredients in a unique array of flavors including Bay laurel Chinese five spice, Darjeeling tea, saffron, and ylang ylang — earning the shop an Express Best of the East Bay award in 2009 for Best Ice Cream Flavors.

Coincidentally, Tara’s Organic Ice Cream is also Wages’ favorite ice cream shop, so at I Scream Donuts, you’ll be able to get Tara’s ice cream and vegan sorbets served inside a warm donut, or in a cup or cone. And Wages also plans to continue hosting monthly art shows — a tradition that started at Tara’s.

The transition to I Scream Donuts is not only a win-win for both parties, but has also resulted in a connection and friendship between Esperanza and Wages. “When we first met, the energy was right. I knew she was the right person to take over the space, and it’s been amazing to make a friend in the process,” Esperanza said. “It’s a joy to have another woman in business here in Temescal. And I think she has the next food trend, here in the Bay Area. I Scream Donuts is going to be amazing.”

A Model for Food Recovery and More

Alameda nonprofit Food Shift not only gives away recovered food but it now trains formerly homeless people and disabled people as apprentices in its kitchen.

by Momo Chang
Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 4:28 PM

Food Shift is also looking for more catering gigs. - PHOTO BY MOMO CHANG
  • Photo by Momo Chang
  • Food Shift is also looking for more catering gigs.

Food Shift, an Alameda nonprofit, recently celebrated its seven-year anniversary. Food Shift receives thousands of pounds of donated produce each week, from several places, including Imperfect Produce and the San Francisco Produce Market. It’s become a hub for recovered produce and food, and it redistributes the produce. Half of it goes to the Alameda Food Bank, just across the street from Food Shift (677 Ranger Ave.).

“The cosmetic standards in grocery stores and markets are so high that if an apple or lemon has any blemish, it would be taken off the shelf,” explained Dana Frasz, founder and executive director, referring to the donated produce that they receive.

Food Shift staffers also send food to City Ministries in downtown Oakland. Each week, hundreds of pounds also go to Earth Freedom Collective’s free food stand, which takes place on Wednesdays in front of Resilient Wellness in West Oakland (2461 San Pablo Ave.).
They give away produce and some prepared foods for free (they encourage people to bring their own bags, containers, and utensils) in a neighborhood known for having few options available for fruits and vegetables.

About 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. Frasz has been working on food recovery issues since she was 18 and has been thinking of solutions for years. She realized that recovering food alone was not enough.

What started as a waste reduction and food recovery program has now grown into a larger mission of feeding people and creating jobs. For the past two years, Food Shift has been working with Alameda Point Collaborative, hiring its tenants, who are formerly homeless or have disabilities or disabled family members, as apprentices in the Food Shift kitchen.

Frasz said 75 percent of those who graduated from their job training program are either now working or back in school. Over several months, the trainees are paid minimum wage and learn cooking and job skills.

“Saving food and feeding people with the food that would otherwise be thrown out was rewarding,” said Regina Oliver, who graduated from the program in January and now works at UPS.

  • Photo courtesy of Food Shift

Nonprofits and corporations have been hiring the graduates for catering. Food Shift’s catering menu is entirely vegetarian, and almost nothing is bought from the grocery store.

On a recent fall weekday, staff, apprentices, and a group of volunteers were cooking a red enchilada casserole made from cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, corn tortillas, and potatoes, along with some nutritious side dishes: sautéed bok choy and kale spiced with cumin and garlic, and pinto beans. They were cooking food for a three-day Green Peace conference.

Suzy Medios, culinary instructor and head chef of catering at Food Shift, works with whatever vegetables they get and does not seem fazed — and is, in fact, excited — by the challenge. “All the vegetables we are getting are in season and at their prime,” Medios said. They also keep dry staples like beans and rice, and many of the spices and oils are also donated.

One of the main challenges in food recovery and food security, Frasz added, is finding funding. The services they provide, from buying a van and hiring a driver to picking up produce every day, costs money. Recently, Imperfect Produce started to foot a portion of the bill for transportation, and Frasz believes more food companies that are wasting food should contribute financially to food recovery efforts.

Food Shift currently is in its final stretch of a year-end fundraising campaign so it can keep programs like the food apprenticeship program going. The nonprofit has had success with catering, including clients such as Kaiser, Clif Bar, and LinkedIn, and is looking for more ongoing catering gigs such as at a senior center, school, or corporate meal service. Food Shift also offers other services that generate funding, including consulting for companies and nonprofits for waste-free events.

To find out more about Food Shift, visit FoodShift.net and FoodShiftCatering.org.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Farewell to El Sabrosito, A Pupuseria on Wheels

Plus, Arizmendi’s Emeryville location is closed until further notice due to a fire.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 1:46 PM

This week will be the public’s last chance to taste the Zavala sisters’ food. - PHOTO BY MARIA ZAVALA
  • Photo by Maria Zavala
  • This week will be the public’s last chance to taste the Zavala sisters’ food.

Shortly after celebrating its three-year anniversary, Salvadoran food truck El Sabrosito reported on Dec. 10 via social media that the truck’s last day of business will be Saturday, Dec. 22.

The business is owned by sisters Maria and Claudia Zavala, who opened the truck in December 2015. Maria said they are closing the business for a “change of careers.”

The mobile pupuseria brought pupusas, tamales, bean soup, and other Salvadoran eats to Jack London Square during weekdays, as well as to Temescal Brewing on Saturdays. The truck also appeared at the Alameda Point Antiques Faire on the first Sundays of the month. El Sabrosito also garnered praise from the Express in 2016 for being an old-school food truck serving up comforting, homestyle food rather than catering to trends.

One of the most unique items on El Sabrosito’s menu was the Lola’s special: a pupusa of the customer’s choice topped with a fried egg, curtido, and Salvadoran chorizo. The dish is named after Maria and Claudia’s mother, Lola, who created the dish. “She was living with me for a while, and she actually made it for me one day when I was in a hurry. I didn’t have time to eat breakfast,” Maria recalled.

During its last week of operation, El Sabrosito will be open during its normal hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays at 333 Broadway in Oakland, and Saturday from 1 p.m.-8 p.m. at Temescal Brewing at 4115 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.

This Saturday will be the public’s last chance to taste the Zavala sisters’ food. According to Maria, they don’t have plans to relocate or reopen.

“It’s a good business, it works, but it does have some limitations, with the food setup and costs being the way they are,” she said. “Who knows what the future has, but for the time being, we’re not moving elsewhere.”

Maria expressed gratitude for the Oakland community. “The community here was very welcoming. Even though it’s a big city, everybody just makes it feel like it’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody. They’ve just always been very supportive. I’m very thankful for everybody.”

…News of another closure also rattled the East Bay on Dec. 10, when cooperative bakery Arizmendi Emeryville (4301 San Pablo Ave.), known for its daily vegetarian pizza slices and corn-cherry scones, announced that it was closed due to a fire that occurred that morning. According to an Alameda County Fire Instagram post, multiple cars collided in the parking lot, causing one of the vehicles to hit the bakery’s back wall. A gas line was hit, causing a fire to erupt. One person sustained minor injuries but declined medical treatment. The bakery is closed until further notice.

On Dec. 13, Arizmendi Emeryville updated their webpage with a note stating that they will re-open in the future, but asked for space as they grieved for their communal workplace.

“The bakery is not just a workplace, it is a community space: a second home for us. Every day we meet there. We commune. We commiserate. We have conversations about so many things beyond just our products and our business. We are friends. We are loved ones. We all care deeply about one another as human beings,” the note read.

Cam Huong in Oakland Chinatown to Become Cam Anh

The sandwich shop will have a similar menu with more vegetarian options and may open as early as January.

by Momo Chang
Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 11:03 AM

Anh Nguyen.
  • Anh Nguyen.

Anh Nguyen’s dream was 28 years in the making.

Nguyen left Vietnam as a young adult on a boat for refugees, ending up in Hong Kong and then eventually reuniting with her brothers in Oakland. One day, one of her brothers brought her to eat breakfast at a modest shop in Chinatown, called Cam Huong. She remembers getting caphe (Vietnamese coffee) and a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich).

“I was happy that there was good Vietnamese comfort food in Oakland and always thought that it would be a dream to own such a restaurant,” Nguyen said, adding that the place reminded her of home. “It’s always busy, there’s excitement and activity going on.”

She put that dream on hold as she became a business owner in Oakland. For the past 20 years, she’s worked at Folks Art — originally on Piedmont Avenue, and recently relocated to the Montclair Village (6123 La Salle Ave.). The shop, which was founded by 14 local artists 43 years ago, and which Nguyen now owns, is a retail jewelry and gift store — including many handcrafted holiday ornaments right now.

Still, Nguyen never let go of the dream of owning the sandwich shop. She visited Cam Huong many times over the year. When she found out that Cam Huong in Chinatown was closing in September because the matriarch, Huong Luu, was retiring (the Cam Huong on International Boulevard remains open, as does the bakery), she was sad, like many loyal customers.

  • File photo by Momo Chang

She reached out to the owner of the building to inquire about leasing the space. “The keys dropped in my hands,” Nguyen marveled. She credits her family, friends, and the owner of Cam Huong, “who believed in me,” she said. “Sometimes, you want something so bad, you make it happen. I’m still blown away. I still can’t believe my dream is coming true.”

If you walk by now, you may see workers remodeling the restaurant. She hopes to freshen up the shop and open it in January. Fans of Cam Huong (920 Webster St.) — which were many, during the more than three decades it was in Chinatown — will be happy to know that much of the menu will remain the same, but with an upgraded interior. “I plan to keep the spirit of Cam Huong,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen will also add her touches, such as more vegetarian options, and for tea, using honey instead of sugar. (Nguyen has run more than 40 marathons and is very health-conscious.) “My goal is to make it the most healthy place in Chinatown, if I could,” Nguyen said.

And the store will be renamed Cam Anh. If her current business, Folks Art, is any indication, Nguyen is set for success. As customers walk in, she greets each one warmly, remember faces and what individual customers like. “Never give up on your dreams,” Nguyen added.

… In other news, one of the only Mongolian restaurants in the East Bay, Togi’s in downtown Oakland, has closed, according to Eater SF.

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