Weekly Dish: Dig into Dirt Dinners

Monthly dinners featuring produce from community gardens debuts at Berkeley's Eve; beer geek heaven coming to Walnut Creek; president's Day weekend barrel tasting at Wood Family Vineyards; Chik-fil-A looks to join the fast food hoards invading East Bay.



Eve's Christopher and Veronica Laramie at Berkeley Youth Alternatives Garden with garden program manager Kim Allen (left).

"Sunchokes!" exclaims Christopher Laramie as he toured the Berkeley Youth Alternatives Garden on a beautiful sunny February morning.

"Oh no, he's obsessed with sunchokes, he uses then in everything," Christopher's wife Veronica sighs as her husband darts off to check out the potato-like tubers.

The husband and wife chef/owners of Berkeley's Eve restaurant were touring this non-profit garden in search of ingredients for their first Dirt Dinner, a family-style dinner that will highlight produce gathered from one of the many community gardens sprinkled throughout Berkeley. Happening six times this year, the first dinner debuts this Sunday at 6 p.m., and yes, it will feature sunchokes (a chunky sunchoke and potato mash to be specific).

"It was one of the first things we noticed when we moved out here, all these community gardens everywhere," says Christopher, who moved out with his wife from Colorado last year to open Eve. "So we thought why not take advantage of it and use it in our restaurant occasionally—it doesn't get much more local than this."

Hyper-local produce from the Berkeley Youth Alternatives GardenPriced at $40 per person, $10 from each diner will go back to support the community garden, in this case the Berkeley Youth Alternatives Garden, a pretty and rather large community-based garden providing youth with an education and training in gardening, nutrition, and cooking.

The pickings were fairly slim at this time of year between growing seasons, but the Laramies managed to find plenty to feature in their Sunday meal: nettles to use in a pesto sauce for a pappardelle; fava beans that will be sauteed with pancetta, walnuts, and shallots; plus plenty of citrus fruit from the garden's small adjacent orchard. And hey: "It beats what's available in Colorado," says Christopher.

Check out the menu below and call (510) 868-0735 to make reservations for Sunday's dinner. 1960 University Ave, Berkeley, eve-berkeley.com. The next two dirt dinners are scheduled for March 20 and April 17. For more information on Berkeley Youth Alternatives, go to byaonline.org.

Menu for February 20
Pappardelle with nettle pesto
Meyer lemon and sage roasted organic chicken
Chunky sunchoke and potato mash
Sauteed fava leaves with pancetta, walnuts and shallots
Apple galette with rosemary and orange anglaise


Some cool news for beer geeks as Chuck Stilphen from The Trappist is planning a specialty beer store/tasting bar in downtown Walnut Creek. CLICK HERE to read the whole story, but Stilphen is hoping to open up Hop Jack, pending city approval, by June of this year at 1541 Giammona Drive near Shiro, Élevé, and Skipolini's.


Looking for something to do this weekend? Well, considering you might have an extra day to recover from any wine hangovers, you might want to check out Wood Family Vineyards. The LIvermore winery is hosting its fifth annual barrel tasting weekend this Saturday and Sunday, featuring pours of their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, McGrail Vineyards, plus tastes of their home-grown olive oil. 7702 Cedar Mountain Road, Livermore, (925) 606-7411, woodfamilyvineyards.com.

Speaking of wine, some cool news for Golfer Annika Sorenstam, who is planning her own golf show Golf a la Carte. The show would build on her growing involvement in the food world, including her recently formed ANNIKA Vineyards, a collaboration with Livermore's own Wente Vineyards (CLICK HERE to read our story). The show, which is being shot at golf clubs across the country, doesn't have a home yet but producers have filmed several episodes and are hoping it will debut this fall. ANNIKA Vineyards, will also be releasing a 2008 Syrah on May 1, and a 2009 Chardonnay on July 1.


Finally, Chick-fil-A, the southern fast food chicken chain with a cult-like following has applied to open up a location in Walnut Creek. The store would be part of a larger project that would bring a 24 Hour Fitness to northern Walnut Creek near N. Main Street and Treat Blvd. Chick-fil-A joins Five Guys burgers in Pleasant Hill (and which is also eying a spot in the Tri-Valley), The Habit Burger, and a couple new planned In-N-Outs as fast food chains trying to make themselves at home in the East Bay. Well, except McDonald's—the Golden Arches withdrew their application to open up a new store on Oak Grove Road.