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Weekly Dish 7/17

Livermore wine events; Denica's expands to Walnut Creek and Livermore; Mexican small plates in Danville; and more!


Livermore’s wine country brand has grown steadily over the last half-decade, and now its premier food & wine fest is growing too, expanding this year into four full days of foodie fun. Things will kick off on Thursday night with the annual Taste Our Terroir, which matches the area’s top chefs and winemakers to create 20 tasty pairings.But new this year are three additional days of activities including an Olivina tour and lunch at Retzlaff Estate on Friday, cooking demo with

 Ryan Scott on Saturday, and a wine and cheese tasting on Sunday. There are a bunch of other very interesting (and delicious) sounding events over the course of what should be a fun weekend. CLICK HERE to check out all the events and to buy tickets:

Big news out of Dublin, as the Tri-Valley city’s beloved Denica’s Café is expanding… twice. The fast-casual eatery was started by James and Denica Freitas in 1999, and the husband-and-wife-team will be opening a new location in Walnut Creek inside the old Carl’s Junior in the BevMo shopping center at Oak Grove and Ygnacio Valley roads near De La Salle High. James and Denica Freitas“We’re out of room in Dublin,” Denica said. “Our biggest complaint is that we’re too crowded, so we figured it was time to grow.”

According to Denica, the new restaurant will be slightly larger than the original, and will carry pretty much the same menu items with even more of a focus on breakfast (including their gi-normous house-baked pastries), which has proven so popular in Dublin. If all goes well, the Freitas are targeting a late-October debut.

Not only that, Denica’s is currently in negotiations to open another East Bay restaurant, this one in Livermore. They’re mum on the exact spot since lease details are still being worked out, but Denica did say that this location could potentially open even sooner than in Walnut Creek. denicascafe.com

Rockridge remains perhaps Oakland hottest hood, as another established San Francisco eatery is expanding to College Ave. Certified sommeliers Sarah Trubnick and Carolyn Johnson are opening a second iteration of their Barrel Room wine bar at 5330 College just a few doors down from another SF transplant, the recently opened A16 Rockridge. In fact, Trubnick cited A16 as an inspiration in deciding to expand over to the sunnier side of the Bay. “We were over in Rockridge, and peeked into A16 when it was under construction,” Trubnick says. “We ended up really liking the area and found this great spot.”

The wine trio are planning a very similar concept as their San Francisco location, which focuses on rare boutique wines from all over the globe. Barrel Room also has a heavy educational emphasis as well: all their wines by the glass are poured in flights to encourage comparison, and they completely switch up their tasting menu every six weeks, each time with a new wine theme focused on a different region of the world. While the tasting menu will be identical between both locations, Trubnick said Rockridge will have a larger menu with entrée options versus just small plates and charcuterie and a heavier retail emphasis (i.e. selling bottles of wine). Owners are shooting for a September opening.  For more info, go to barrelroomsf.com.

Even more Rockridge news, as across the street, it sounds like Guest Chef finally has a permanent tenant. It had previously been reported that the restaurant, whose unique concept was designed so that a brand new chef and menu would appear every two weeks, was closing after two years in business. However, Tablehopper reports that Pucquio, a contemporary Peruvian street food eatery that had previously popped up there for a two-week stint, will take over the space full-time. It’ll be open for dinner-only to start, says Tablehopper, with a fairly seafood-centric menu. Lunch likely to follow. pucquio.com

And more… Nan Yang, the Bay Area’s first Burmese restaurant, shut its doors at 6048 College Ave. The popular eatery had been in that location since 1992: CLICK HERE to read a great profile of chef-owner Philip Chu via Inside Scoop—pretty cool story. According to ABC license reports, Nan Yang will be replaced by something called Red Den, rumored to be a high-end Chinese restaurant.

And even more… Also closed on College Ave is Thai food restaurant Pearl of Siam. Rumor is that will be replaced by another Thai food place, this one called Sukho Thai per another ABC posting. 

As for Box and Bells, Michelin-starred Commis chef James Syhabout’s new Rockridge eatery? Don’t ask. At least that was the impression I got after touching base with the somewhat frustrated-sounding Syhabout. Latest ETA? “2014,” he jokingly said. “I’ve given opening dates six times and I’ve been wrong six times, so I’m going to stop guessing. It’ll open when it opens.” Needless to say, it won’t be launching this month as previously hoped. Syhabout told me that delays have to do with more instituting more ambitious plans for the project that he originally planned.

Over in Danville, Mexcal quietly debuted downtown, taking over for the shuttered Uptown restaurant at 327 Hartz Avenue. A new higher-end sit-down restaurant from the owners of the Cinco de Mayo taquerias, Mexcal specializes in antojerias, the Mexican version of small plates, along with a full bar stocked with a large selection of hard to find tequilas and mezcals. Menu items include prawns, pork ribs, and hangar steak in addition to tacos: look for the grand opening sometime next week.

Also in Danville, Pau Fresh Food Now replaced Bagel Box in the Crossroads shopping center. Pau focuses on food that is “fast, convenient, fresh, healthy and affordable," with menu items that include noodle soup, cast-iron beef short ribs, and a “superfood” plate with quinoa, feta cheese, mint, edamame, grapes & champagne vinaigrette. paudanville.com

Sad news in Alamo as Forli Ristorante has closed. Russ Belleci and Gabriele Davanzante opened the popular Italian eatery eight years ago and recently decided to sell the business to a couple of local investors. No word on the restaurateurs’ plans, although Belleci did say that he would be back “after a break.” Also no word on Forli’s replacement. EDITOR'S NOTE: A reader just informed that apparently Forli will be replaced by another Italian restaurant, Izzy's, helmed by a chef with a pretty impressive pedigree: CLICK HERE to read more on SF Eater.

Colin Etezadi at Boot & Shoe ServiceSad news also on Oakland’s Piedmont Ave., as one of my favorite go-to weekend brunch spots, Local Café, closed down last week. Good news is, it will soon be replaced by what should prove to be a pretty sweet pizza joint. Colin Etezadi, opening chef at Boot & Shoe Service and veteran of East Bay thin-crust havens Pizzaiolo and Gioia, is taking over the space to open Slicer Pizzeria. Etezadi plans to incorporate all that experience into a family-friendly eatery, which will focus on serving affordable and seasonal pizza (whole and by the slice) and salads with an emphasis on takeout. There will also be handcrafted drinks, artisan beer, and desserts. “I really wanted to create a rad, easy neighborhood joint that offers amazing quality at an affordable price— somewhere you can just sneak in and grab a bite and maybe a beer, or pick up something fast for the family and go.” Sounds good to me. Look for a September debut.

Lamorinda’s favorite cupcakery, Republic of Cake, will soon be expanding to Oakley. After a few hiccups, Chih-Chung Fang says that he and co-owner Peter McNiff hope to start construction on the new store in the next couple months, which they're aiming to open between Thanksgiving and Christmas. CLICK HERE to read a nice Q&A with the cupcake duo in our most recent Best of the East Bay issue. republicofcake.com

As baffled by this whole America’s Cup sailing contest as I am? Well, get all your questions answered by some experts at Walnut Creek Yacht Club this evening. The sailing-themed seafood restaurant is an official sponsor of youth sailing Team 45 USA, who are sailing in this year’s Youth America’s Cup. WCYC is hosting a meet and greet with the team today (Wednesday) from 5 to 8 p.m. that will include a raffle, gear, pictures, and autographs, so swing by and say hello. Also, the Yacht Club’s Last Wednesday four-course dinner this month will serve as a fundraiser for Team 45: call (925) 944-3474 to sign up for that. wcyc.net

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Happy Hour Bar & Bites at
The Cooperage

Monday through Friday
3pm – 5:30pm


This isn’t your typical happy hour. This quintessential neighborhood spot offers high-quality craft cocktails on tap and tasty bites. Menu features: $10 cocktails on tap, $5 select beer & wine, $1 oysters, $7 bacon cheeseburger sliders, $7 crispy beer battered shrimp sliders, $9 sashimi-grade ahi tuna tartare. 

32 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette
​Reservations: www.thecooperagelafayette.com or 925.298.5915

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