Weekly Dish: Lotties Creamery Opens / Tara's Comes to Pleasanton
Artisan ice cream opens in Walnut Creek and headed for Pleasanton; Rustic Kitchen coming to Lafayette; kid-friendly tavern planned for Blackhawk Plaza; Scream Sorbet in danger in Oakland; and more in this week's Dish!
Lotties co-owners Cesar Angobaldo and Deb Phillips
Well, it’s been a long time coming, but Lottie’s Creamery finally opened its doors on North Main Street in downtown Walnut Creek. (**Note: this is still a soft opening, check their Facebook page for current hours). I’ve written previously about Lottie’s, but the highlights are that co-owner Deb Phillips worked and studied at the artisan ice cream altar of Mary Canales’ Ici in Berkeley before signing on to open up her own shop in Walnut Creek with friend and co-owner Cesar Angobaldo. She’s dedicated to making seasonal, ingredient-driven ice cream, everything made from scratch, which includes making her own cones, toppings/sauces, and even her own ice cream base from scratch in her in-house pasteurizer (the only shop in the Bay Area to do so).
Had a chance to swing by this week to try a few flavors, and can report that upon first taste, this is really good stuff. Phillips herself admits that they’re still perfecting the consistency, and the ice cream was indeed a little dense, but the taste certainly didn’t need any improvement. Phillips explained that she’s all about capturing the clean, unfiltered essence of the ingredients, and that really came across in what I tried—I particularly enjoyed the fresh mint and roasted banana, both of which exhibited wonderfully simple, pristine flavors.
There will be nine flavors at any given time, several of which will rotate seasonally. Other goodies include sundaes, brownies and cookies, and Blue Bottle coffee, and there are plans to eventually start making ice cream sandwiches. So take advantage of the warm weather and go check ‘em out, Lottie’s is well worth a try.
1414 N Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 472-0723, lottiescreamery.com
More good East Bay ice cream news, as the popular Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, with locations in Berkeley and Oakland, is expanding further east with plans to open a new shop in Pleasanton later this spring. Tara’s is well known in these parts for its huge collection of eclectic all-organic flavors like adzuki black sesame, allspice, truffle with caramelized pear, rooibos tea, even cucumber-basil-agave sorbet. Having just signed a lease with Lafayette’s Main Street Properties, the new store is going into downtown Pleasanton at 349 Main Street—look for an interview with owner Tara Esperanza soon. tarasorganic.com
More interesting dining news for Lafayette, as three former Lark Creek alums are opening up Rustic Kitchen, taking over the Roya’s Garlic Garden in downtown this spring. This following the news that McCormick & Schmidt’s scion Andrew McCormick is replacing Petar’s with Cooperage, an upscale bar and grill concept set to open in the fall.
The Rustic Kitchen team consists of Gary Rust, the executive chef who brings years of cooking experience, most recently at San Jose’s Yankee Pier and San Francisco’s One Market, his wife Tressa, who brings similar service experience working the front of the house at Lark Creek restaurants, and Chris Amsden, a former co-owner of Lafayette’s French Bakery. The trio originally met when they all worked together at Lark Creek Walnut Creek. For Rustic Kitchen, they’re planning a menu of seasonal, California-American fare, including daily housemade pastas and flatbreads, grilled fish and grass-fed steak, salads and sandwiches for lunch—all in an elegantly rustic setting (no tablecloths, plenty of reclaimed wood) that they’re renovating mostly themselves.
Gary, a seasoned mushroom forager, plans to source local and seasonal products, some of which may come from the Rusts’ half-acre backyard vegetable garden. It’s a DIY ethos he says he learned growing up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, where his grandfather had an organic vegetable garden and where he used to dig up his own clams on the local beach. "I think it all stems back to how I grew up, and it's also what drew me to the Lark Creek restaurant group, that sense of seasonality which will be our main drive: it's going to be hands-on food, fresh food, with fresh, seasonal ingredients."
The Rustic team is hoping to keep the vibe casual and family friendly, but expect a lively bar scene—they’re bringing in ex-Walnut Creek Yacht Club mixologist and cocktail consultant Manny Hinojosa to help out with the bar program.
Look for an opening sometime in late March, early April.
Some other Lafayette news: looks like there is a new Mexican restaurant called Rancho Cantina going into the vacant space at 3616 Mt. Diablo Boulevard. I’ve got no more detail than that, but readers may recall that’s the same space where plans fell through last year for a planned French brasserie.
And just down the street, Mountain Mike’s Pizza closed down after several years dishing out great craft beers and affordable pizza. No word yet on any replacement.
Got some more details on the restaurant replacing Roti-8 in Danville’s Blackhawk Plaza. It’s called Field House Sports Grill & Tavern, and owner Mike Banducci said the heavy emphasis will be to create a friendly atmosphere for the plethora of youth athletes and parents in the area. The restaurant’s motto: Cleats Welcome. “We want to capture the families and sports enthusiasts in the area,” said Banducci, a San Ramon resident who also owns the Tassajara Learning Center in Danville. “There’s really not a lot of places that families can go, so I just think this fills a big need.”
There will be plenty of televisions for sports and a full bar, while the menu will offer “healthier pub food” with pizzas, salads, and heartier fare—sort of a “miniaturized BJ’s-style menu,” according to Banducci. Expect an early summer opening.
Couple other East of the Caldecott tidbits…
According to Beyond the Creek, it’ll be the same folks that own Oyama Sushi in Lafayette who are opening a new restaurant in downtown Walnut Creek, replacing the former Pizza Place on North Main Street. I haven’t been able to pin those guys down on details, but will keep you posted.
Also per BtC, the beloved Mr. Pickles is opening a new sandwich shop in Walnut Creek at the corner of Ygnacio Valley Rd. and N. Broadway.
Havana, which just held its grand opening the other day for its catering HQ and café next to Autopia car wash, debuted a new late-night happy hour. Starting at 9 p.m., you can now get select tapas for $4, $5, and $6 (my favorite, the ropa vieja empanadas, are just $5).
March is wine month at the Restaurant at Wente, which means all bottles of wines are half-price through the end of the month.
A new location of the popular Tri-Valley pizza spot Ascona is headed for Safeway shopping center on Bernal in Pleasanton—construction is already under way I’ve heard.
Looks like the La Boulange rollout of products in East Bay Starbucks is happening, much to the chagrin of Diablo’s managing editor, a great admirer of the apparently phased-out cinnamon swirl coffee cake. Alas, change is hard sometimes…
OK, let’s move on over to the 510…
Sad news in Oakland’s Temescal, as Scream Sorbet looks to be shutting its doors soon. Here’s owner Nathan Kurz, courtesy of the East Bay Express: “We'll be closing down in early March unless our situation rapidly changes for the better. It's not a certain fate, but definitely the direction we are headed.” Sounds grim, but EBX reports that Kurz, who is $50,000 in debt, is still holding out hope that a new investor or business partner will emerge to save the day. And as a great admirer of Scream’s diverse array of fantastic sorbets, I’d just like to add: c’mon wealthy sorbet-lovers, put your money where your mouth is! This is definitely a place worth saving…
Better news in the same hood, as it looks like Preeti Mistry’s new Juhu Beach Club appears set for a March 1 opening. CLICK HERE to check out my previous sneak peek preview on Juhu.
More quick bites...
Also per the East Bay Express, it sounds like Beer Revolution’s new restaurant, Olde Depot Public House, has opened next door to the popular Jack London Square brew spot.
And according to Inside Scoop, El Gusano, sister restaurant to San Francisco’s popular Tropisueno, opened in Old Oakland at 1015 Clay Street. The taqueria-by-day, full-service-restaurant-by-night Gusano promises “straight-forward Mexican” on it’s still bare-bones website.
Bec’s Bar and Bistro quietly closed its doors in downtown Berkeley. The new bar lasted just a couple years after replacing the long-standing Beckett's Irish Pub at 2271 Shattuck Ave. Suddenly, with the Shattuck Down Low getting replaced by Build pizzeria, there’s a dire lack of watering holes in the neighborhood... There is, however, a Asian fusion noodle bar: Toss opened at 2272 Shattuck Ave last month, and has been generating some positive buzz.
Finally, Berkeley’s Zagat-star Indian restaurant Ajanta is debuting a new Chef's Tasting Menu, which will be served from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every night and priced at $27 ($24 for vegetarian). That will include three appetizers and four main dishes, sides of rice, naan bread, chutneys and pickles and a choice of dessert.