Weekly Dish: Lotsa Lunch
Walnut Creek’s surprising new lunch counter; San Ramon’s bright restaurant star; fun in Livermore; holiday gifts; and our best bites.
Courtesy of Elévé
Hard-working—and super talented—chef/owner Michele Nguyen of Walnut Creek’s Elévé Restaurant took a minute to share some really delicious news with me after I popped in for dinner last week.
In a few weeks, Elévé will completely change up its lunch service. Instead of the award-winning Vietnamese-inspired fare (which will still be served in the evenings), at lunchtime the popular restaurant will transform into Main Street Luncheonette, a grab-and-go (or grab-and-sit) salad-and-sandwich parlor.
“It will be fast, fun, and at a lower price point,” says Nguyen of the new all-American menu concept that she and husband/partner, mixologist Cuong Du, are planning. “A restaurant within a restaurant.”
Santa in Walnut Creek ...
There are just two more Walnut Creek Wednesdays—tonight and next Wednesday—to visit Santa, take horse and carriage rides, listen to carolers, and more. So get out there!
Kudos to ...
San Ramon restaurateur Melanie Bartoletti (wife of Italian stallion Gianni of Gianni’s Italian Bistro in San Ramon), who launched the fundraiser Tips for Change to support local nonprofits. As Melanie prepared for this week’s Paws For Change fundraiser, the last event of the year, she said that Tips for Change has already raised more than $60,000 for local nonprofits this year.
Tips for Change operates like this: Nonprofit organizations provide volunteer wait staff to serve dinner to supporters and fans on a Monday night when the restaurant is closed. Servers donate their tips to the cause, and the Bartolettis throw in 10 percent of the nightly take.
For running a successful business while strengthening the community (she also founded the SonRise Equestrian Foundation for troubled kids), Bartoletti has been named Business Person of the Year by the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce. Now that’s what I call a restaurant star! Congrats, Melanie.
Fun in Livermore ...
I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of Livermore during the holidays, when wine country is positively twinkling with fun events. There’s always something great to do with visiting friends and family.
Tomorrow, McGrail Vineyards will be putting on a Riedel Wine Glass Presentation and Tasting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The $75 price tag includes a set of 4 Vinum XL Riedel wine glasses. (Now there’s a great holiday gift.)
And this Sunday, check out the B.Y.O.C—Be Your Own Corker—at Charles R Vineyards on Crane Ridge Road, where you are invited to bring your own wine bottle, fill it up with wine, and customize it with your own message. Bottles are $10 each, and decorative labels and corks provided.
Also in Livermore, according to Internet buzz, the owners of Sanctuary Ultra Lounge--Livermore’s swanky, red-walled club--have purchased The Wine Makers Pour House on First Street. The cozy wine bar is closed for remodeling, but will reopen in a few weeks with a new lineup of wines as well as a varied selection of beer, apps, and flatbread pizzas.
Also from internet rumblings, Cravings Stone Fired Pizza and Pasta, another First Street restaurant in Livermore, is slated to open soon, and will serve “ooey gooey chicken calzone,” sausage subs, and other classic Italian fare such as fettuccine Alfredo with garlic cream sauce.
Another reason to love Fridays ...
Oakland chef Jen Biesty and general manager Tim Nugent are opening the doors of their Spanish-Mediterranean restaurant, Shakewell, for lunch on Fridays. What a way to welcome the weekend!
You don’t have to wait until Friday, though, to enjoy crazy French fries with toppings (chicken fajita and veggie nacho, anyone?) served at Berkeley’s new Smoke’s Poutiniere. Smoke’s opened Monday, and judging by the line of Cal kids around the block, owners Danny Rodriguez and Robert Parada have hit a smokin’ home run. Smoke’s will be open late--very late--from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily (yes, you read that right.).
Delicious holiday gifts ...
Wente Vineyards, Livermore
Just when you thought you had everything your favorite foodie could want for the holidays, here comes bacon, because, as they say, “bacon makes everything better.” This year, Wente’s executive chef, Matt Greco, has really stirred up some trouble with a recipe and all the festive holiday packaging you’ll need for a batch of bacon brittle (made with toasted peanuts, of course.).
Cult Wine Discounts
The Vine at Bridges, Danville
From 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 20, Danville’s favorite wine shop will give 20 percent off all wines in stock, including cult bottles of Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family, Continuum, and more. Join the wine club and get discounts at both Bridges Restaurant and The Vine at Bridges. Hang around, and Wine Director J.J. Foster might share something even more precious with you: a little wine knowledge.
Jams, Shrubs, and Pickles
Join jam maker extraordinaire Dafna Kory for an open house at her aromatic Emeryville kitchen, and you just might leave with the perfect stocking stuffers. Inna opens the doors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 13 and 20, for sampling and shopping. The store will even have its salt-preserved Meyer lemons available in addition to brightly colored jams, vinegar-based shrubs (great for holiday cocktails), and seasonal pickles.
Best bites ...
Corner’s Tavern, Walnut Creek
Chef Gavin Schmidt can single-handedly break down a whole lamb carcass and still show the lightest of hand with his soft and dreamy Local Rock Cod with Dungeness crab, marble potatoes, citrus, and saffron cream. Yum.
Sasa 2.0, Walnut Creek
Don’t ask what it’s called: Just put it in your mouth. The creamy Chawan Mushi is a savory egg custard with shrimp, clams, white fish, and a dash of dashi sauce, all topped with bright pink salmon roe and served in a darling ceramic tea cup-size covered bowl. Sasa’s new menu is worth checking out.
American Kitchen, Lafayette
Bright-orange delicata squash is halved and roasted, and then stuffed with quinoa, mushrooms, and Israeli couscous before it’s drizzled with slightly spicy romesco sauce. You’ll never miss the meat. This is one of several great new items on the menu at American Kitchen.