Weekly Dish: Chronicle Drops Top 100
East Bay gets a little love from the Chron; two new unusual dessert options to beat the heat; Toast of the Town this Thursday in S.F.; and more in this week's Dish!
Ippuku in Berkeley was added to the SF Chronicle's Top -100 restaurants.
Well, it's that time of year when the San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Bauer releases his eagerly anticipated and always controversial Top-100 restaurants in the Bay Area. I know I always look forward to checking out the list and being surprised by new additions, gratified to see my favorites on there, and outraged when some of them are left off (La Ciccia, when will your long exodus end?). It's also always fun to read Bauer's often pained explanation for how and why he included some and didn't include others: Love him or hate him, you can't say he doesn't take his job seriously.
Anyway, here's my East Bay-centric take on the list... 12 East Bay restaurants made the cut this year, including six from Oakland, five from Berkeley, and one from Walnut Creek. There are a few newcomers, including the not-surprising addition of Plum, Daniel Patterson's popular new spot in Uptown Oakland and the a bit more surprising selection of Ippuku, the new Japanese Izakaya spot in downtown Berkeley made semi-famous for putting raw chicken on its menu. Also, nice to see À Côté back on the list after being absent last year.
There were also a few subtractions this year, including a perhaps long-in-the-tooth Bay Wolf (whose owners have been rumored, off and on, to be selling) and Flora, which experienced some mini-upheaval in the kitchen when they briefly experimented with classing up their menu by bringing in a chef with Michelin star experience. They've shifted back to their previous, more accessible menu now, but the change clearly hurt them in Bauer's eyes. Also falling off the list were Vik's Chaat Corner (a fun, casual Indian spot that always seemed a bit of a stretch to include on the Top-100) and Wood Tavern, whose loyal clientele (that place is always packed) will undoubtedly still show up in droves. The always popular Chow (with locations in Danville and Lafayette) mysteriously fell off the list as well.
I don't disagree with any of the restaurants included, but there were some strange omissions, most notably Commis, which may not be everyone's cup of tea but most certainly would seem to deserve a spot among the region's top-100 (could this be Bauer differentiating himself from the competing Michelin Guide, which gave Commis its only East Bay star?). A couple other new restaurants that garnered a lot of buzz locally but didn't make the cut were Berkeley's Gather and Meritage, and Bocanova, Ozumo, and Picán in Oakland.
Finally (and this is it, I promise), I do think that the East of the Caldecott Tunnel coverage seems a little lazy. I certainly can't find fault with Va de Vi's addition, but the Walnut Creek small plates eatery, which has made the last few Top-100 lists, seems almost like our token addition at this point. Why no Prima? Or Esin? Or Incontro? Or any of the other stellar (925) restaurants. Throw us more than one little bone over here, Chron!
Anyway, it's always interesting, and kudos to Bauer for putting together a perennially excellent water cooler topic for foodies. CLICK HERE to check out the list. Here are the 12 East Bay honorees...
A Cote, Oakland
Chez Panisse, Berkeley
Corso Trattoria, Berkeley
O Chame, Berkeley
Va de Vi, Walnut Creek
While we're on a San Francisco bent, there's a cool little event happening in the city this Thursday. Wine Enthusiast's Toast of the Town event brings together more than 500 wines from all over the region to pair with food from 35 of the Bay Area's finest restaurants, including Limon, Flora, Waterbar, Wente Restaurant, and the Ritz-Carlton. Best of all, it's happening at San Francisco's majestic City Hall building. Should be a fun event, tickets are $99 ($150 VIP), and the event lasts from 6 to 10 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information and to buy tickets.
Also, just in time for this wonderfully warm weather, here are two new unique icy dessert spots to check out in the East Bay. First is CREAM (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me), a new shop in Berkeley that specializes in gourmet ice cream cookies. You heard right, you now have several alternatives to an It's-It this summer. Cream lets you build your own ice cream sandwich, including giving you the choice of eight different cookies (peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip...) and 14 different ice creams, as well as letting you build a single, double, or triple-decker.
And over in Dublin, Snowflake has opened in the Ulfert's Center. Snowflake serves up Taiwanese shaved ice made with ice blocks mixed with condensed milk. To my knowledge, this is the first place to offer this dessert specialty, so it should be fun to check out.
Finally, Rockwall Wine Company has announced the opening date for its new tasting room. The Alameda winery, located in a 40,000-square-foot hangar facility, will open its tasting room adjacent to the winery on the weekend of May 14 and 15. Rockwall is also a co-operative facility that houses eight additional boutique wineries, and the tasting room will offer at least 20 different wines for tasting, including those from co-op members Blacksmith Cellars, Carica Wines, Ehrenberg Cellars, Eno Wines, Joseph Gary Cellars, JRE Wines, Mercy Wines, and R&B Cellars. The grand opening weekend will be open to the public and free of charge from noon to 6 p.m., and there will be a "Sunset Celebration" (RSVP required) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. that will feature appetizers and musical entertainment.