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Diablo Dish — August '08


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After 11 years of earning adoration for his creative cocktails, bartender Manny Hinojosa has left the Walnut Creek Yacht Club.

The gregarious mixologist, who won “best bartender” five times in Diablo, signed on with Bacardi last month to represent the company’s tequila brands, Cazadores and Corzo. “They looked for someone to fill this position for a long time,” says Hinojosa. “I feel very fortunate to be the guy.” The job involves travel to Mexico, Miami, and New York, but Hinojosa remains based in the East Bay. The Yacht Club has hired Windsor Wong, the opening bartender of Bridges Restaurant and an industry veteran, to replace Hinojosa.

There have been other shake-ups in Walnut Creek’s restaurant scene. Terramar, which opened in March, closed its doors within four months. Oi-C Bowl, a Chinese restaurant down the street, was set to move into the space last month. Zheng Long is gearing up for a relaunch in early 2009 after a fire destroyed its newly remodeled space. Its new name will be Red Door Asian Bistro. Owners Eric Zhang and Steven Chen have hired Jon Nelson, from the Waterfront Restaurant in San Francisco. Finally, Ephesus Kebab Lounge has closed, and the owner is developing a new concept. More when we know it.

At Walnut Creek’s Newell Promenade, it’s good news for toddlers and parents. Little Star Café, a casual spot where youngsters can cavort in a playroom while moms and dads linger over their Pinot, is slated to open this fall. “Kids can move seamlessly from mealtime to playtime, while grown-ups continue to enjoy a café atmosphere without the rush,” says owner Jennifer Cazares.

It was an abrupt end for a longstanding restaurant when Mudd’s announced its June 24 closure “forever” after 27 years in business in San Ramon. Meanwhile, it’s both an address change and a name change for Café Esin, which was to move from San Ramon to the Rose Garden in Danville in mid-July. The restaurant is now Esin Restaurant & Bar. Owners Curtis and Esin deCarion say they’ll use the bigger space to offer specialty cocktails at the bar and patio seating.

Rosenblum Cellars, the Alameda-based winery known for its Zinfandels, has joined British beverage giant Diageo, a company that owns numerous California wineries. Diageo purchased Rosenblum earlier this year for $105 million but has given Kent Rosenblum a multiyear contract to remain as winemaker.

Oakland dining news is fast and furious. Miss Pearl’s Jam House, an island-inspired restaurant modeled on the San Francisco original, is slated to open this month in Jack London Square. Joey Altman, who was Pearl’s opening chef back in 1989, is behind the project. New Orleans native Michael LeBlanc aims to open Picán Restaurant this fall on the ground floor of the Broadway Grand, a new residential high-rise in the Uptown district. In the Temescal, Daniel Olivella, chef of San Francisco’s B44, hopes to open a tapas place, BarLata, by year’s end.

Got Dish? E-mail us at dish@maildiablo.com.

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