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Weekly Dish: Wine Time

Wine Walk in downtown Walnut Creek tonight; Auburn James pouring in Danville; rave reviews for a $125 blend from Livermore Valley; best martini contest winners are in; and more in this week's Dish!


Residual Sugar / Photo by Matt Edge

First of all, don't forget to vote for your favorite restaurant for our annual Food Awards. CLICK HERE to tell us your pick.

Hope everyone's enjoying the warm weather. A nice way to take advantage of the long summer days is with downtown Walnut Creek's slightly misnomered Spring Wine Walk happening tonight (wednesday) from 6 to 9 p.m. Too late to buy advance tickets but you can purchase passes any time today at Residual Sugar Wine Bar at 1684 Locust Street for $35—there'll be more than 45 different wines being poured by participating merchants and this year will feature live music. CLICK HERE for more info.

Speaking of Residual Sugar, Diablo's Best of the East Bay winner for best wine bar is celebrating its one-year anniversary this weekend from Friday to Sunday. To celebrate, owner Jim Telford says there will be live music, wine raffles, and an Anniversary Special: $10 for a glass of wine, sampling of cheese and charcuterie, and a tasting of port and cupcake. 1684 Locust Street, Walnut Creek, residualsugarwine.com.

Auburn James in Danville / Photo by Bryan M./YelpI mentioned this one a while back, but not sure if I've updated that Auburn James Tasting Room and Gallery is open in downtown Danville. I've heard some nice things about this place, which pours wines from owner Matt Ospeck's Livermore winery and features art from local, as well as national and international, artists. It also has a nice-looking small plates menu, featuring the usual tasty subjects: artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, crostinis, brushetta, olives... 321 Hartz Avenue, Danville, auburnjames.com.

Chris Avant told me that his long-awaited Moraga wine bar to be housed in his LEED-platinum Canyon Construction headquarters in the Moraga Barn is coming along and that he's added a wood burning flat bread oven and later hours to the plans. 

Congratulations to Livermore's Steven Kent Winery, whose cabernets have received some impressive scores from some heavy-hitter wine critics. The winery's 2007 "Clone 4" scored 95 points, the "Clone 337" 92 points, and the "Clone 30" 90 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The same mag also scored a 94 for Steven Kent's debut "Lineage" Bordeaux-style blend... priced at what might be a record high for the Livermore Valley: $125. stevenkent.com.

Walnut Creek Yacht Club bartender Jay Crabb (center) with owners Kevin Weinberg and Ellen McCartyContinuing on with the alcohol theme, congrats to Diablo's Best Bartender Jay Crabb who emerged victorious at Monday's Best Martini Contest at the Lafayette Park Hotel with his Andalusia, which combined Effen Cucumber Vodka, roasted red pepper syrup, lemon juice, and sherry, surrounded by a rim of smoked Spanish paprika. The Roundup Saloon nabbed 2nd and Berkeley's FIVE restaurant got third, while Moresi Chophouse's Strawberry Shake Martini won the People Choice for the annual event that benefits the Project Second Chance adult literacy program. CLICK HERE to check out photos from the event.

A couple of grand openings tonight (Wednesday). New comfort food restaurant Cellar 9 in Dublin will be celebrating its debut tonight, while Patxis Pizza is officially marking its opening with complimentary bites of pizza, balloons, and sticker-tattoos for kids  from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Lafayette. RSVP here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=222823341068907.

Some odds and ends...

Good news sandwich lovers: not only is Buckhorn Grill's Walnut Creek location back open after shutting because of a grease fire earlier this year, but they'll be opening a new location in Pleasanton's Stoneridge Shopping Center, which will replace the California Pizza Kitchen ASAP, set to close once the full-sized CPK opens later this year. buckhorngrill.com.

Saw a big sign advertising the imminent opening of Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine in downtown Walnut Creek. That'll be on Locust Street replacing the old Huynh Vietnamese restaurant.

I'm a little late on this, but the cupcake trend continues unabashed as Cupcaked opened in April on Larkspur Drive in Livermore. Cupcaked specializes in "unique flavor combinations" including a line of liquor-infused grown up flavors such as margarita, cosmopolitan, and Piña Colada. 925 Larkspur Dr., (925) 373-0742, becupcaked.com.  

Piatti's reopened last Monday after a month-long renovation with a redesigned bar and a new bar menu filled with all kinds of Italian goodies such as burrata, polpettini, piadine, and arancini. Click here to take a look. 100 Sycamore Valley Road West, Danville, (925) 838-2082, piatti.com.

Berkeley's Five restaurant has started up its BBQ, Brews and Blues series every Thursday evening in its outdoor patio, featuring live music, and barbecue goodness from Executive Chef and Texas-native Banks White. $25 gets you a plate of ribs, brisket, sides, and a glass of beer. 2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-225-6055, five-berkeley.com.

Jacques Pépin, Brooke Schwartz, and Dorothy Cann HamiltonHad a chance to go to a meet-and-greet for the new French Culinary Institute in Campbell. Taking over for the financially troubled Professional Culinary Institute, the FCI has hit the ground running, nabbing a couple of big-name chefs to act as deans for the West Coast branch of this New York-based operation: David Kinch from Los Gatos' two Michelin-starred Manresa and Emily Luchetti, executive pastry chef for San Francisco's Waterbar and Farallon restaurants. Sounds like they'll have some cool programs there, including culinary exchange opportunities to the FCI in New York and campuses in France and Italy.

And what about bringing a European-influenced cooking school to a more casual California setting? Says FCI founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton: "What we teach are classic cooking techniques: that is going to be the foundation. You have to know how to handle a knife, you have to know how to braise, you have to know how to sautée, but we're going to overlay that with California products and with a California sensibility. That's why we brought on David and Emily as deans, so they can help us be sensitive to that and get us up to speed. This will be a California institute." 

They'll offer a range of amateur classes as well. Culinary legend, and FCI dean, Jacques Pépin was also on hand and was appropriately charming: below are a few of his better lines:

On the popularity of chefs today: "It used to be parents would want their kids to become a doctor or a lawyer, never a cook. Now, we are geniuses."
On when he knew he was a professional chef: "When I knew that anything I could think of in my head, I could do."
On the value of the FCi education: "We make craftsmen, we don't make great chefs. We don't know who has talent—if you happen to have talent, you will be able to take it to the next level [with what you learn]."
On how to become a good chef: "Take your time, work with good people, and try to learn."
On how he stays motivated and inspired as a chef: "I'm hungry all the time."

Please e-mail me with dining news at dish@maildiablo.com

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