Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bushka's Kitchen Debuts a New Line of Ready-to-Eat Meals

Avid backpacker Deana Del Vecchio founded Bushka's Kitchen to give consumers a nutritious option for freeze-dried meals.

by S. Rufus
Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 1:00 AM

The unstuffed pepper at Bushka's Kitchen. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ETHAN RIGHTER
  • Photo courtesy of Ethan Righter
  • The unstuffed pepper at Bushka's Kitchen.

Bushka's Kitchen is making a new line of ready-to-eat meals in Oakland. Seeing a need in the industry for freeze-dried meals so nutritious and tasty that she would happily choose them herself, avid backpacker Deana Del Vecchio founded Bushka's Kitchen last year.

"Consumers have become accustomed to opening a pouch and seeing a lump of unidentifiable ingredients that reconstitute into a meal that has little depth in flavor or texture. We are changing that with our products," Del Vecchio said in a press release. "When you open one of our pouches, you can immediately identify an apple or a Brussels sprout - which is how food should be. All of our meals are made in small batches in our Oakland kitchen. We chop, cook, and freeze-dry our ingredients and then hand-package each pouch."

The new meals include two vegan choices: Citrus Chia Morning (creamy citrusy chia pudding topped with coconut, pineapple, and kiwifruit) and Zesty Noodles (parsley-avocado sauce with zucchini, pasta, tomatoes, and fennel), as well as two meat options: Unstuffed Pepper (seasoned ground beef in tomato sauce with quinoa, red bell peppers, and green onion) and Harvest Bowl (ginger-spiced wild rice and pork with roasted Brussels sprouts, caramelized onion, and apple).

An "obsession with quality and detail allows us to produce the absolute best possible meal-in-a-bag experience," Del Vecchio said.

Yummy Tacos

A new taco spot, Rico Rico Taco, has landed at 3205 Lakeshore Ave. in Oakland and appears to quickly be gaining fans. Hoodline.com reported the taqueria opened Feb. 15 in a former Subway outpost. Yelp reviewers have complimented it for its tasty fish tacos, crispy carnitas, and fresh homemade tortillas.

Marica Is Back

After a short go as an upscale pizza house called Pizza Marica that debuted in November, Marica, the longtime Rockridge seafood-forward restaurant, has returned to its tried-and-true seafood ways, according to Berkeleyside's Nosh. On Yelp, co-owner Nedda Cheung wrote, "After doing pizza for about a month, we had many more requests to bring back our old menu, seafood and classic dishes."

Funds for Back to the Roots

Oakland organic food-and-gardening outfit Back to the Roots announced recently that it has raised $3 million in new series C funding — led by Central Garden & Pet, a major lawn/garden/pet company, and joined by new investor Blue Scorpion investments.

Founded in 2009 by then-UC Berkeley students Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora, Back to the Roots aims to "undo food" with organic cereals, DIY indoor gardening kits, and other products. Back to the Roots will use the capital to "fuel its growth" and has a dozen-plus new products lined up to launch in 2019, according to a press release.

"It's a really exciting time for the company," Arora said after the funding was announced. "What started off as a college project has grown into a national brand that's re-connecting millions of families back to where their food comes from. Our whole team is incredibly inspired by the opportunity to help every family and kid experience the magic of growing their own food. As we look to 2019 and beyond, we're excited to offer Back to the Roots in even more national retailers and make organic gardening accessible to all — no backyard or green thumb needed."

Last year, the brand formed a partnership with Ayesha Curry and increased its national retail footprint with a launch into Target stores. Central Garden & Pet, meanwhile, "is continually looking for innovative and passionate companies to invest in and help take to the next level. Back to the Roots embraces the future of both of our segments," said CG&P's CEO George Roeth.

In Other News ...

A new Porky's Pizza Palace restaurant is opening in Pleasanton. Having thrived for 30-plus years in San Leandro, the family-owned restaurant is coming to a Hopyard Road space that formerly housed Straw Hat Pizza. The Valenziano family will serve the same menu as at their original San Leandro location.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tasting Collective's San Francisco Chapter Expands to Oakland

The members-only dining community gives chef-owners an opportunity to tell their stories, experiment with new dishes, and gain valuable feedback from guests.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Patrons can hear chefs talk at the Tasting Collective. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TASTING COLLECTIVE
  • Photo courtesy of the Tasting Collective
  • Patrons can hear chefs talk at the Tasting Collective.

Ever wished you could sit down for a leisurely six-course meal and, in between courses, hear from some of the most acclaimed chef-owners in Oakland? Tasting Collective might be able to help.

Tasting Collective is a membership-based dining community that was started in New York City by founder Nat Gelb, who felt that dining experiences in the city were missing an important element of human interaction. Many restaurants, Gelb said, rely on a business model that requires them to turn over as many tables as they can in one night, meaning that there's little opportunity for chefs to share their stories.

But at Tasting Collective events, which take place approximately every two weeks, members take over an entire chef-owned restaurant — typically on one of the restaurant's slower nights — and enjoy a six-course family-style meal. The experience gives chefs a chance to showcase the restaurant's most popular dishes, try out some experimental dishes, and tell their stories. After the meal, guests provide their feedback to the chef and participate in a Q&A with the chef. Tasting Collective has since expanded to several cities across the country, including San Francisco in June 2018 — and recently, the San Francisco chapter has begun to partner with chef-owned restaurants in Oakland.

In January, Tasting Collective's San Francisco chapter held its first Oakland event at Pucquio, the Rockridge Peruvian restaurant led by chef-owner Carlos Moreira. The menu featured a couple of Moreira's classic cebiches, plus dishes like a five-spice poussin and a marinated pork loin with pork shoulder beignet. On March 6, Tasting Collective returned to Oakland once again, this time at chef-owner Kyle Itani's Uptown Japanese-influenced American restaurant Hopscotch. The menu there included Hopscotch's signature Yonsei oyster and buttermilk fried chicken, as well as black cod with roasted broccoli rabe and beluga lentils and andouille sausage and shrimp gumbo. The next Oakland restaurant in the lineup is chef-owner Silvia McCollow's Mexican restaurant Nido, though the menu and date are still being finalized.

Gelb said he's excited about the San Francisco chapter's expansion to Oakland, where he believes the often less-expensive real estate prices make it possible for more independent, chef-owned, creative restaurants to operate at Tasting Collective's $50 price point. Plus, Gelb added, he's excited for chef-owners in Oakland to be able to share their stories.

Annual membership fees for Tasting Collective normally cost $165, but are currently $115 in San Francisco. Once they've paid the annual fee, members can purchase tickets to brunch events for $35 and six-course dinner events for $50, not including tax and tip. (Gelb added that Tasting Collective runs entirely on membership fees, and doesn't make any money off the tickets — all ticket sales go directly to the restaurants.) Tickets for nonmembers are available for $25 more, though nonmembers must be accompanied by a member. Memberships also include special perks at partner restaurants, such as a discount, free drink, or dessert, which can be redeemed when visiting those restaurants outside of Tasting Collective events. To learn more, visit TastingCollective.com.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What's New at Third Culture Bakery

An expansion to Colorado, a new pop-up from Kimchee Jeanius, and a new spring menu.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 1:00 AM

wtf-1-512c695ed16e7597.jpg

Muffin and donut fever have hit the Bay Area hard. All over social media, it's hard to miss Third Culture Bakery's colorfully glazed mochi donuts, artfully drizzled custard cakes, signature sesame-studded mochi muffins, and artfully layered matcha and cold brew drinks that taste just as good as they look.

Third Culture Bakery's pastries have become so popular in the Bay Area that it's easy to forget that the formerly wholesale-only bakery, open since 2015, opened its first showroom in Berkeley less than a year ago in June 2018, while expanding to nearly 60 retail locations.

And now the bakery is expanding to Aurora, Colo. According to Wenter Shyu, co-founder of Third Culture Bakery along with his business and domestic partner Sam Butarbutar, expansion has been part of the plan "since day one."

"We were always looking to expand," Shyu said. "We were always waiting for when ... our operations here in Berkeley would be stable enough for expansion, and now it has."

The Colorado location will feature largely the same menu as in Berkeley, with the addition of a full espresso bar. Most of the ingredients, including the mochiko rice flour from California's Koda Farms, the bakery's in-house brand of matcha, and coffee beans from Berkeley's 1951 Coffee Company will remain the same, but Shyu said the Colorado bakery will likely use locally sourced dairy products.

Along with delicious donuts and muffins, Third Culture Bakery is also hoping to expand the safe space and welcoming community it created in Berkeley as two gay bakers who are also "third culture kids" — the children of immigrants.

"So much of it is ingrained into our company culture. ... We do want to instill all of these great philosophies and create the safe spaces, and create these comfortable environments for our customers and our staff," Shyu said. "Hopefully that resonates with everyone in Colorado, too."

For those of us here in the Bay Area, Third Culture Bakery is offering up some exciting new things, too. The bakery recently teamed up with Kimchee Jeanius, a pop-up from kimchi maker Jean O. O recently moved to the Bay Area from Los Angeles, where she was a fermentation consultant for chef Ricardo Zarate at Rosaliné. Being of Korean descent, O grew up eating kimchi, but never thought much of it. Her interest in learning to make kimchi piqued when she began to read about its health benefits, and she began watching her mother make kimchi — using sugar, anchovy paste, shrimp paste, and lots of salt.

"I was thinking ... if there's a way to actually prepare kimchi in ways that we can eliminate the sugar or the shrimp paste, maybe just add enough salt ... and see if I can come up with a recipe, that would be super cool."

After many test batches and taste tests among friends and family members, O then began selling kimchi to friends and family members. On Feb. 16, O held her first pop-up at Third Culture Bakery, where she was able to share her kimchi with a wider audience.

The first pop-up was a success. "We're super excited to have her," Shyu said. In fact, Shyu was so impressed with the kimchi that he's considering incorporating it into a savory waffle as part of Third Culture Bakery's new spring menu, which will feature several new donuts and waffles and is expected to launch March 15.

O's plant-based, no sugar added Napa cabbage kimchi (also known as baechu) will be available for $10 for a 16-ounce jar at Third Culture Bakery in Berkeley (2701 Eighth St.) every first and third Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. until kimchi is sold out. The next pop-up date is March 16.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Brown Sugar Kitchen Returns to Oakland

Plus, Cupcakin' expands to Swan's Market

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 7:57 PM

Lila Owens of Cupcakin'. - PHOTO BY CHRIS ANDRE
  • Photo by Chris Andre
  • Lila Owens of Cupcakin'.

Ever since chef Tanya Holland shuttered Brown Sugar Kitchen on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland last August, fans have been feeling the absence of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland's brunch scene.

But on Feb. 20, Holland opened the doors to Brown Sugar Kitchen's brand-new flagship location at 2295 Broadway in Oakland. Measuring 4,000 square feet with 85 total seats, it's a significant expansion over the West Oakland location, with a modern interior and a full bar. But for those loyal to the original location, the menu hasn't changed much. For brunch, Holland has retained her signature buttermilk fried chicken and cornmeal waffles with brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup, plus the popular barbecue shrimp and grits, beignets, and bacon-cheddar-scallion biscuits. For lunch, familiar dishes like smoked chicken and shrimp gumbo, blackened catfish, oyster po-boys, and pulled-pork sandwiches grace the menu. The restaurant is sticking to breakfast, lunch, and brunch for now, but plans on adding dinner service in the future.

The Oakland location follows just weeks after Brown Sugar Kitchen opened its new location in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. More expansion is already on the horizon: Holland plans to open a location inside Oakland International Airport later this year, and a location also is planned for the Warriors' Chase Center Arena in San Francisco.

Speaking of expansion, Cupcakin' Bake Shop has expanded from its location in Berkeley (2391 Telegraph Ave.) to a second outpost at Swan's Market in Oakland (538 9th St.), which opened on Feb. 22. For owner Lila Owens, the new Oakland location marks a kind of homecoming. "As an Oakland native, I'm thrilled to bring Cupcakin' to my hometown," Owens said in a press release. "It's particularly exciting to open at Swan's Market because it's such an important piece of Oakland's history."

At Cupcakin', dessert lovers will find cupcakes in classic flavors like red velvet, double chocolate, vanilla, and salted caramel. But the bakery also has become known for its pie-inspired cupcakes in flavors like Key lime and lemon cream pie, which feature a graham cracker bottom, citrus curd filling, and whipped cream frosting. The menu also includes cookies and cream cupcakes with an Oreo cookie bottom, plus vegan cupcakes and gluten-free cupcakes in flavors like raspberry chocolate chip. Along with cupcakes, customers will also find cakes perfect for celebrating special occasions. All of the treats at Cupcakin' are made with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.

But Owens isn't done expanding. Plans are already in the works for a third flagship location in Berkeley, at the site formerly occupied by 65-year-old Virginia Bakery (1690 Shattuck Ave.) That location will serve as the commissary kitchen for all three locations of Cupcakin' Bake Shop, as well as Owens' catering business. The bakery will also serve some of Virginia Bakery's signature recipes, like sprinkle cookies. The third location is expected to open in June. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Dozen Cousins Wants to Bring Healthy Eating to a Wider Audience

The new Berkeley-based natural food brand believes healthy eating can be culturally relevant and taste good, too.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Three types of beans from a dozen cousins. - PHOTO COURTESY OF A DOZEN COUSINS
  • Photo courtesy of A Dozen Cousins
  • Three types of beans from a dozen cousins.

For A Dozen Cousins' founder Ibraheem Basir, food is inextricably linked with family. "Food was always a really big deal in my household," he said. "Food was what brought us together at the end of the days. It's also the way we celebrated; it's the way we marked different milestones."

Basir, along with his nine siblings, grew up in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, which he described as "a Black and Brown melting pot." His mother, who is from South Carolina, often made black-eyed peas or red beans for family dinners, but he also grew up eating dishes like Cuban black beans. Today, Basir has a daughter, plus 11 nieces and nephews, hence the name A Dozen Cousins. Those huge family dinners back in Brooklyn were the inspiration for A Dozen Cousins' first line of products: beans made using Black and Latino recipes. "A lot of what we do as a brand is to kind of just pay homage to that really diverse food culture," Basir said.

After graduating with an MBA in marketing, Basir worked for General Mills in Minneapolis, and then went on to work for Berkeley's Annie's. When Basir first moved to Berkeley a few years ago, he said, he was struck by the different approach many people took toward food.

"In Berkeley, everyone is super health-conscious, environmentally aware," he said. "And then I go back home [and] spend time with my family, and the conversations we were having around food were completely different. We were focused on seasoning, and does it taste good, is it gonna fill me up."

That got Basir thinking about how to combine the best of both worlds. "There was just this dichotomy. ... I'd think, there has to be a way to bridge the gap a little bit." He was particularly concerned about the fact that health food wasn't being marketed toward Black and Brown consumers, especially when food-related illnesses, such as diabetes, tend to disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities. "That's the consumer that I would hope to help introduce into the space, and that's a lot of what the brand is built around," Basir said.

A Dozen Cousins beans come in three varieties, all of which are vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free: Cuban black beans with onions and bell pepper, Mexican cowboy beans with tomato and green chili, and Trini chickpea curry with cilantro and turmeric. The beans come pre-cooked in a BPA-free pouch, ideal for reheating for a quick work lunch or simple dinner or side dish. Right now, they're available on A Dozen Cousins' website and on Amazon, though Basir is looking to expand into more brick-and-mortar retailers soon.

The brand also hopes to make a broader social impact through food. Though Basir said the details are still under wraps, A Dozen Cousins plans to provide grants to support nonprofits that focus on solving food-related health disparities.

It's part of A Dozen Cousins' larger mission to get young people of color to eat healthier. "One of our founding beliefs is that you can't separate culture from food. They're linked together," Basir said. "And if we had a mission statement, it's just around, how do you harness the power of culture to get people to eat better?" 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Classic Cars West Parts Ways With Hella Vegan Eats

Plus, Crooked City Cider softly opens in the Jack London district

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 1:00 AM

After nearly three years at Classic Cars West, Hella Vegan Eats, a trans-queer POC-owned restaurant, has been asked to leave at the end of February.

"We just have different styles and different values, and honestly it just hasn't been working out, even though it's been almost three years," said Silvi Peligras, who co-owns Hella Vegan Eats along with Tiff Esquivel.

"It just gets to a point where you realize you're not gonna be able to work together anymore," said Michael Sarcona, owner of Classic Cars West. Starting March 1, Sarcona will serve a new vegan menu with items like Impossible burgers, vegan sausage, salads, soups, and Creole-inspired fare. There'll also be vegan coconut gelato made in-house by Kokolato.

Hella Vegan Eats began about a decade ago when Peligras and Esquivel started selling vegan tamales at Oakland's Art Murmur. Today, the restaurant is best known for its comfort vegan food, with lunch and dinner options like the potsticker burrito and cauliflower tacos, and brunch dishes like chicken and waffles and chilaquiles. It served food in the beer garden at Classic Cars West, while the latter ran the car showroom, art gallery, and beer garden. Despite cooking and serving food in that space, however, Hella Vegan Eats did not have a formal lease. "We've invested a lot financially and also emotionally, but we're not protected under a lease at all," Peligras said.

Peligras said the restaurant hopes to find a new brick-and-mortar location in Oakland. "We're Oakland people," Peligras said. "Oakland's very much embedded in my DNA, personally. It's helped me become who I am."

Although Hella Vegan Eats formerly operated out of a food truck, Peligras said they don't plan to return to the food truck model. Peligras and Esquivel are also working to support their staff of about nine employees. The restaurant started a GoFundMe page to help cover relocation costs and to provide their employees with supplemental income beyond what unemployment benefits can offer. After just two days, the restaurant had raised over $8,000 of its $10,000 goal.

Peligras said the restaurant is trying to relocate as soon as possible, but "it's just been really difficult to find space here in Oakland." In the meantime, the displacement will be a major loss for the communities who love Hella Vegan Eats.

"All of the weirdos, the queers, the freaks, the trans people, the people of color who come support us because we're people of color, all the freaky vegans who dine with us who are down for radical politics and our wacky clown ways — we're a home base for so many of these people who come and eat with us all the time," Peligras said.

After months of anticipation, Crooked City Cider's taproom softly opened on Feb. 6 in the Jack London district (206 Broadway, Oakland). The tap list features dozens of ciders, including several from Crooked City, plus guest taps from Hidden Star Orchards, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and Richmond's Far West Ciderhouse, among others. You'll find ciders both sweet and dry, as well as some with fruit infusions like raspberry, pineapple, and cherry. There's a rotating food menu featuring bar bites like deviled eggs and heartier offerings like meatball subs. Photos of owner Dana Bushouse's Prohibition-era moonshine-producing great-uncles, Peter and John Bushouse, overlook the seating area. There's even a selection of board games, pinball machines, and dartboards. Soft opening hours are Monday through Thursday 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m.-midnight, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to midnight.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Let’s Talk About Diversity in Bay Area Craft Beer

Temescal Brewing, Oakhella, and Los Angeles’s Dope & Dank are collaborating for Hella Halftones, a SF Beer Week event.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 2:25 PM

L-R: Seneca Scott of Oakhella and Joshua Diggs and Sam Gilbert of Temescal Brewing. - PHOTO BY ALEX MILLER
  • Photo by Alex Miller
  • L-R: Seneca Scott of Oakhella and Joshua Diggs and Sam Gilbert of Temescal Brewing.

Who are some of the biggest producers and consumers of craft beer? An image of a bearded white man might pop into your head. But Temescal Brewing, Oakhella, and Dope & Dank are looking to change that.

“For years, craft beer has known there’s a diversity problem,” said Sam Gilbert, founder and owner of Oakland’s Temescal Brewing. “And everyone pays lip service to diversity, but nothing happens, or it doesn’t move past that.”

But Hella Halftones, at a Feb. 8 event to be held at Temescal’s Outpost in Jack London Square (621 Fourth St.), aims to talk about why diversity is so lacking in the craft brewing scene and come up with solutions for how to change that.

One of Temescal Brewing’s founding bartenders and event organizers, Joshua Diggs, took the lead in organizing Hella Halftones. Diggs got his start in the world of craft beer as a brewery tour guide and says he can count maybe three or four other people of color working in the craft beer industry in the Bay Area.

Temescal Brewing has hosted events aimed at making craft brewing more inclusive of women and the LGBTQ community, but this is the first public conversation they’ve hosted about racial diversity. “If you’re really genuine about a topic, it’s not gonna come to your front door,” Diggs said. “You have to go out there and be uncomfortable and talk to people. If people are feeling excluded, you have to go out of your way to make them feel included.”

A couple years ago, Diggs met Teo Hunter, one of the founders of Los Angeles Dope & Dank along with Beny Ashburn. So Diggs asked Hunter and Ashburn to get involved and come speak on the panel at the Hella Halftones event. Dope & Dank, whose motto is “Black People Love Beer,” was created to bridge the gap between communities of color and the craft beer community. Hunter came up with the idea when he was in line for a beer festival a few years ago and noticed there were no other black people at the event. “It was jarring,” Hunter said.

Craft brewing, Hunter said, has traditionally been something practiced in more rural areas. But as gentrification has seen more craft breweries opening in cities like Oakland — particularly in Black and Brown communities — the lack of diversity in who’s consuming and making beer is particularly concerning.

Hunter thinks part of the diversity problem is due to the way beer is advertised to communities of color. “The big beer companies have done a damn good job at just pandering and creating this image of what our relationship should be with beer, which is malt liquor, which is cheap, extremely high-octane, poorly made beer.”

But it can also be difficult to learn the lingo of craft beer, especially in an environment that’s dominated by white men. Diggs said he loves working at Temescal Brewing because it’s a place where anyone can learn about craft beer. “I have so many people from Oakland that grew up in the neighborhood that come and bring their friends. They tell me, ‘I like coming here because I feel welcome here … I don’t feel like I have to be a beer snob in order to walk through the door. If I … don’t know about beer, I can ask, and someone’s gonna help me.”

Knowing how to talk about craft beer doesn’t just help with enjoying craft beer — it can also lead to jobs in the growing industry. “We really started to have to shift to looking to see what we could do in terms of helping people understand how they can gain entry to the industry … [and] the way that they describe and break beer down, so they can potentially get more opportunities in taprooms, at craft breweries, in their community,” Hunter said.

But the event is also focused on making craft beer appealing and exciting to everyone. “Our Dope & Dank platform was created to … talk about craft beer not only in the way that all the craft beer geeks do it, but in a way that someone that loves hip-hop would talk about it,” said Hunter. The event will kick off with beer and food from Oakland’s Roderick’s BBQ. The founder of Oakhella, Seneca Scott, will be speaking on the panel along with Gilbert, Diggs, Ashburn, and Hunter. Oakhella, which is known for throwing day parties at community gardens in West Oakland with great food and music, will also be hosting an after party, with DJs Drow Flow and M.C. K~Swift.

The Feb. 8 event kicks off at 5 p.m. with food and beer; the panel will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $3. To purchase tickets, visit EventBrite.com.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Meet The North Light

Temescal’s hybrid cafe, bar, bookshop, and record store.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 12:42 PM

The North Light will eventually be open seven days a week. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SAVAGE BUREAU
  • Photo courtesy of The Savage Bureau
  • The North Light will eventually be open seven days a week.

Ever wished you could sip coffee, wine, or a craft cocktail, plus shop for books and vinyl at the same time? At The North Light (4915 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), Temescal’s newest bar, cafe, bookstore, and vinyl shop, which opened on Jan. 17, guests can do just that.

Dan Stone, one of the North Light’s owners, lives in the Temescal district, just steps away from the North Light. He and co-owner Lee Smith created the concept based on what they felt was missing in the district. “The whole model of what we were doing was inspired by what we thought this neighborhood would be happy to have,” he said.

The North Light is open from 7 a.m. to midnight every day except Monday (North Light will eventually be open seven days a week), so you’ll find suitable refreshments for any time of day. The food menu comes from chef Ronnie New, who was the opening chef at Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco’s Mission district. Though the kitchen is limited, Stone said, “It’s sort of like writing formal poetry, you have to work within constraints — and sometimes if you do that, the results can be even better than if you had everything you wanted.” The menu is primarily Mediterranean-influenced, and many of the plates encourage sharing.

For breakfast, you’ll find things like a breakfast sandwich with bacon, pepper jelly, a soft-boiled egg, and Manchego cheese, and a breakfast scramble made with patatas bravas. The lunch menu features a meatball sandwich, plus plenty of vegetarian options like a little gem salad with grapefruit and avocado, or baby beets with harissa. There’s also a daytime menu with bites like avocado toast, and a kids’ menu offering grilled cheese. Along with coffee, there are unusual drinks like a Cafe Du Monde shakerato, lavender-matcha soda, and cereal milk horchata. For those visiting in the evening, there’s a menu of bar snacks like sardine crostini and deviled eggs with blue crab and bacon. On the heavier side, there are plates like a whole roasted cauliflower, ricotta meatballs, and a flat iron steak.

Stone said The North Light is primarily a bar, so you’ll also find a Mediterranean-inspired bar menu designed by bar manager Den Stephens. There’s an amaro-heavy list of cocktails, suitable for both day and night, plus a wine list featuring wines from France, Spain, Italy, and Greece.

But Stone and Smith also love books and music. Stone is a writer, and he also founded and edited Radio Silence magazine, which merged literature and rock ’n’ roll. “This bar is sort of the physical embodiment of that magazine,” Stone remarked. Smith, formerly of Bill Graham Presents and Live Nation, is the founder of Prescient Entertainment.

On the literary side, you’ll find a curated collection of books from a wide range of authors, like Samin Nosrat and Michael Chabon. In keeping with The North Light’s kid-friendly attitude, there are also children’s books. Guests will be able to hear records being played all day long, and when the vinyl selection is officially rolled out in the next couple of weeks, it’ll feature a collection curated by Pat Spurgeon, the drummer of Oakland band Rogue Wave.

“There aren’t many places open in the afternoon here for somebody to go get a cup of coffee and work, or get a glass of wine and meet a friend,” Stone said. With cozy indoor tables and a bar, plus a covered outdoor patio, The North Light looks like a good place to do just that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

California's New Food Laws

The following legislation went into effect this month.

by Momo Chang
Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 11:54 AM

Food prepared by a former Josephine home cook in Oakland. - PHOTO COURTESY OF C.O.O.K. ALLIANCE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF C.O.O.K. ALLIANCE
  • Food prepared by a former Josephine home cook in Oakland.

A slew of new food-related regulations went into effect this month in California, including a law concerning home cooking vendors, a plastic straw restriction, and required overtime pay for farmworkers.

Assembly Bill 626, by Rep. Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, regulates “microenterprise home kitchens” and allows cities and counties to decide on how to regulate food made in home kitchens. The law potentially impacts an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 home cooks and entrepreneurs. However, each jurisdiction still needs to opt-in in order for home cooks to legally sell their goods.

Senate Bill 1164, by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, increases the amount that craft distilleries can produce and allows distillers to sell products directly to the public. Another Skinner bill, SB 1138, requires hospitals, nursing facilities, and prisons to offer plant-based, vegetarian meals.

AB 1884, by Rep. Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, bars full-service restaurants from giving out single-use plastic straws unless one asks for them. Fast food joints are excluded.

AB 1066, by Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, requires farmworkers to be paid overtime if they work more than 9.5 hours a day, or over 55 hours a week. Eventually, farms will be required to pay overtime at the standard more than eight hours per day and 40 hours a week.

AB 1976, by Rep. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, requires employers to make a reasonable effort to provide a space for lactating employees in a room or private space that is not a bathroom. A previous law required employers to provide break time and space other than a toilet stall (including inside a bathroom), to express milk.

SB 946, by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, decriminalizes sidewalk vendors.

AB 1192, by Rep. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, prohibits restaurants from offering soda or juice as the default option for kids’ meal drinks. They can still be requested by the customer.

AB 2914, by Rep. Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, prohibits restaurants and bars from selling cannabis-infused cocktails, citing that “mixing alcohol and cannabis can lead to dangerous interactions, including a compounding impairment effect.”

… In other food news, Community Foods Market was able to buy the land that the new grocery store is being built on, from the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, their community development partner. “Purchasing our property has enabled Community Foods Market to eliminate the risk of losing a lease in the future and empowers our social enterprise to become a long-term anchor in the West Oakland community,” the market noted in a newsletter.

And, it looks like Meet Fresh, a Taiwanese dessert, bubble tea, and shaved ice chain, will be opening soon in Oakland Chinatown; it recently put up its sign. l

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.

Speisekammer
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.

Neptune’s
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.

Trabocco
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.

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