Weekly Dish: Chef Shuffle
Va de Vi and Table 24 get chef changes; gourmet pastrami truck on its way to Contra Costa; Lottie's Creamery update; and more in this week's Dish!
Va de Vi Meatballs
First of all, happy holidays to everyone out there. I just had my first moment of sheer panic where I realized that there is only six more days until Christmas and I still have a lot of shopping to do. So best of luck to everyone out there battling the hoards of X-mas shoppers, may the next week be relatively stress-free and full of plenty of great food... (and for those of you looking for holiday Dish, sorry, I'll be taking a one-week vacay, so look for the next column in 2013!)
OK, first thing's first. The big news in Walnut Creek is that Va de Vi's stellar chef Shane McAnelly is leaving the popular small plates eatery and wine bar for a new gig in wine country. What's that new gig? Well, he can't say anything about it just yet, but rumor is McAnelly will be taking over a rather high-profile spot up in Sonoma County where he'll be given the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new restaurant concept.
"[My wife and I] have always talked about getting up into wine country and this opportunity presented itself a lot earlier than I thought that it would and it was something that I just couldn't pass up," McAnelly said, who came on board at Va de Vi in April 2011. "It was a really hard decision to make and I appreciate everything the people at Va de Vi have done—they've been so supportive. I told [owner John Walz] that they wouldn't have a problem getting someone else in here, it's such a great place for a chef to be able to come in and have real creative control over what they want to do."
McAnelly said he would be leaving sometime in mid-January and would help with the process of finding his replacement and to make the transition "as smooth as possible." Walz confirmed that there are no hard feelings with the split. "He did a fantastic job for us here and we're really thrilled for Shane on his next opportunity." As for changes at Va de Vi? "We'll continue to do what we do: global, eclectic, small plates, wine bar," Walz said. "We have no intention of changing, and we want to find someone who’s very high quality to take Shane's place."
The man behind the beautiful Va de Vi (and Sasa), BH Development head honcho Brian Hirahara, has some new details sketched out for his latest downtown Walnut Creek project across the street from Va de Vi at 1500 Mt Diablo Boulevard. It should first be noted that none of these plans have been approved by the city, however, the scope of what's being planned looks pretty spectacular: a two-story brick & steel building with an anchor retail tenant and most importantly (to me, anyway), an ambitious three-level space for a restaurant that would include a ground floor bar, second-story dining space, plus a rooftop dining patio with a "green roof," herb and vegetable garden, and panoramic views over downtown Walnut Creek. Check out the video below for a better look at the project.
No word yet, according to Hirahara, on who would be taking over the retail and restaurant spaces.
Another chef change over in Orinda, where Jason Moniz, who came on board as executive chef at Table 24 earlier this year to help open sister Mexican restaurant Barbacoa next door in Theatre Square, has moved on. Taking his place as director of operations and executive chef at both restaurants is Russell Rummer, who brings culinary experience from several San Francisco restaurants including Absinthe, Acme Chophouse, and Sellers Markets. Rummer will be bringing back some of the favorites from the restaurant's original opening menu, according to co-owner Michael Karp.
Speaking of Karp, his Les Bon Temps restaurant group's first project, The Forge, is moving along swimmingly in Jack London Square and looks like it will be ready for a mid-January opening (stay tuned for details on what should be a fun pre-opening party). I had a chance to take a mini-tour of the under-construction space and it looks very cool, featuring industrial-rustic architectural details to complement the area's working port history, and a real inside-outside–friendly design that will take advantage of the restaurant's fantastic location right on the water overlooking the Marina (there will be a covered outdoor patio with two fire pits). In case you don't remember, the concept is wood-fired, Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza (in an 800-degree Valoriani oven capable of cooking a pie in 90 seconds and featuring dry-farmed Early Girl tomato sauce courtesy of The Pizza Hacker), a big bar with 12 craft beers on tap, plus a menu of suped-up American classics designed by former Chow and Gigi–chef Jeffrey Amber.
And for those of you that can't make it over to Jack London, a mini, cafe-version of The Forge is being planned to take over a section of the Lunardi's market in downtown Danville with an estimated Spring 2013 opening.
You may have come across Jesse Gilbert in his Best of Show hot dog truck, a fixture in the late-night downtown Walnut Creek post-drinking dining scene until the city banned mobile trucks. Well you should be seeing a lot more of him now, as the food truck entrepreneur has teamed up with food & wine veterans John Schwartz, Dennis Berkowitz, and Michael Dellar to operate their Pastronomy food truck, billed as a New York-style deli on wheels. Gilbert will be running the Pastronomy truck, co-branded with his Best in Show, in Contra Costa County as well as Napa starting in January, offering up house-cured pastrami, corned beef, and Reuben sandwiches in addition to Gilbert's selection of hot dogs and sausages. "We use primo meat that we cure for a long time—our goal is to have the best pastrami sandwiches on the West Coast." As for where you'll be able to find the truck, Gilbert said it would definitely be at the Sunday morning farmers market in Walnut Creek. For other locations and updates on when Pastronomy will be live in the 925, you can go to pastranomy.com or follow Gilber's Twitter @findBestInShow.
Mitchell Katz's proposed new tasting room in south Livermore was approved last week, not without a bit of controversy. Despite the objections of a handful of neighbors, the city council voted to okay the 9,300-square-foot building planned for the northwest corner of Hansen and Arroyo roads. According to city planner Scott Lee, only about half of the space would be occupied by the tasting room, while the other half could be leased out to another tenant, including possibly a restaurant.
The Baskin Robbins in downtown Danville closed, alas. But the good news is that Lottie's Creamery, the eagerly anticipated artisan ice cream store planned for downtown Walnut Creek, is this close to opening. According to co-owner Cesar Angobaldo, he and ice cream guru Deb Philip's store, should be debuting by January 15 at the latest. Not the best time for ice cream, granted, but this should be good stuff—Philips actually makes her own ice cream base from scratch and will be using very high-quality, seasonal ingredients in the mold of Berkeley's Ici ice cream (where Philips worked for a year). Check out facebook.com/LottiesCreamery to keep tabs on the official opening.
Also, Loard's Ice Cream is set to open another Livermore location at the end of this month, replacing The Wild Vine at 2187 1st Street.
San Francisco's popular Rosamunde Sausage Grill appears set to open its new Oakland restaurant within the first couple weeks of January in the city's hopping Old Oakland district. Owner Josh Margolis told me he has to clear just a few more inspections and will then be free to finally start offering his 15 regular sausages (plus 4 to 5 daily specials) and 16 craft beers on tap. Margolis also confirmed that he would be selling two sausages from Taylor's, the excellent meat purveyors who make their own sausages in-house next door in the Swan Market—you can even buy sausages at Taylors and take them over to Rosamunde to grill up—sweet! Check rosamundesausagegrill.com for official opening updates; it'll be open for lunch and dinner daily, seven days a week, to start.
I had a chance to swing by Paul Canales' soon-to-open Duende last week for a little pre-opening music show featuring Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola. The fantastic jazz duo were jamming in Duende's mezzanine, which will play host to periodic shows, mostly of the experimental jazz variety. It's a great little space and should be a nice complement to the Uptown's bigger music venues, while the main restaurant is pretty stunning as well—should be opening in the next couple weeks, check Facebook for updates...
According to the San Francisco Business Times, upscale bar and cocktails pioneer Brian Sheehy (the man behind SF's Swig, Bourbon & Branch, and Local Edition) is planning another version of his über high-end liquor store Cask, to be located either in Rockridge or Berkeley. According to the Times, Dahee is planning to lease a 5,000 to 6,500-square-foot space that will serve as a retail store, showroom, and warehouse to stock booze for a growing online business.
Some small bites...
There's a new order-at-the-counter Mexican restaurant coming to Pleasanton: Cocina Mexico is taking over the shuttered Amelia's Deli at 55 W Angela Street.
Here's a way to save a little dough during the holidays: all through this month (and probably into January and February) kids under 12-years-old eat free at Danville's Incontro Ristorante on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. incontrodanville.com
Tired of the in-laws? Simply Fondue has just the thing: a sampler tasting of six Holiday-themed martinis, including gingerbread, peppermint, eggnog flavors. That should do the trick...
A little Christmas gift for the sweet toothed out there: Cupid's Tooth candy shop in Pleasanton reopened under new ownership after closing its doors after Halloween.
Per Patch, Tri-Valley-centric Schubros Brewery is close to opening their new tap room later this month. Featuring a flat screen TV, small lounge, four beers on tap, and growlers to take home (and back to refill), the new tap room is located at the brewery's new HQ at Alcosta Boulevard and will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check the Facebook page for opening updates.
Buffalo Wild Wings is, apparently, killing it at its new San Ramon location, and I've heard surprisingly good buzz about the new Bar Tatami restaurant located in Livermore's Casino 580. Word is, always double down on the $6 Korean tacos... 962 North Canyons Pkwy., Livermore, (925) 800-0076, bartatami.com
Congrats to Livermore's Concannon winery, whose Irish whiskey was just awarded Best won New Irish Whiskey of the Year at this year's New York International Spirits Competition.
Looks like local deep-dish favorite Zachary's is getting close to opening its newest location in Pleasant Hill—a recent Craigslist ad states late-2012, early 2013 as the launch goal.
Also sounds like Camber Restaurant & Bar at 1540 Broadway in Uptown Oakland is getting ready to open. Last time I chatted with him, first-time restaurateur Irfan Joffrey was planning a 5,800-square-feet restaurant (Camber is a hybrid of his kids' names, Cameron and Amber) with an upstairs private lounge that would be serving Asian-fusion cuisine with a California touch—plus dry-aged steaks.
And a tip of the cap to Patxi's Pizza, which raised a total of $83,000 through their 52 weeks of giving program in which part of the proceeds of their eight restaurants (including Lafayette) go to a partnering non-profit.