Weekly Dish: Sweet Dreams
Smitten in Oakland? Barlovento in Walnut Creek? Bittersweet in Berkeley? Dessert rumors abound in the East Bay; plus modern Indian fusion coming to Walnut Creek; a beer garden debuts in Oakland; and more opening updates; all in this week's Dish!
Allow me to whisper sweet nothings into your ear... Sorry, I couldn't resist. So, there are a few dessert-related rumors swirling around the East Bay this week; let's tackle them one at a time and separate the fact from the fiction.
► First up, Tablehopper reports that San Francisco's hipster-favorite Smitten is eyeing an East Bay location in Oakland's red-hot Rockridge neighborhood. Smitten, a partnership between founder Robyn Sue Fisher and pastry chef Robyn Lyn Lenzi, has been hugely popular since debuting a couple years ago in Hayes Valley. A large part of the appeal is Fisher's incredible self-made ice cream machine "Brrr," which can mix fresh ingredients and turn them into ice cream in 60 seconds, via the use of liquid nitrogen. Pretty neat trick... So Tablehopper gets the scoop, but didn't pin down the exact location, which a representative from Smitten (who did confirm a Rockridge store) declined to give out as well. However, I was able to confirm from the leasing agent that the Smitten folks are currently working on getting their Conditional Use permit to take over the old Great Harvest Bread Co. at 5800 College Avenue. That's a great corner location, and Smitten seems like a perfect addition to the neighborhood. Those CU permits can get be a bit tricky, however, so it's not a lock yet: stay tuned for further details.
► Second up is Beyond the Creek's scuttlebutt that Oakland's excellent chocolate-maker Barlovento is looking to open a brick and mortar store in downtown Walnut Creek. While not untrue, this one sounds a bit less definite. I talked to Barlovento owner Peter Brydon, who told me he is indeed looking to open a retail store on the Contra Costa side of the hills, but that the process is just starting and that he's looking at locations in other towns (such as Moraga) besides just Walnut Creek. Brydon did have some concrete news, however, telling me that Barlovento would soon be available at both of Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe Oakland locations.
► Which brings us to the third item: Bittersweet to Berkeley. And this one actually isn't a rumor but a confirmed fact from yours truly. According to Bittersweet's store manager the popular Oakland company, with locations in Rockridge and downtown Oakland, is opening a third cafe at 1952 University Avenue, taking over for the New Amsterdam coffee shop in downtown Berkeley. The new location's offerings will be similar to the downtown shop with beverages (including Bittersweet's sterling hot chocolate), salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. They're looking to open by the end of this month.
► And while we're at it, why not throw one more rumor out there. I've been hearing a couple things about Berkeley's artisan ice creamery Sketch, and called up co-owner Eric Shelton. Shelton confirmed that he and wife/co-owner Ruthie Planas-Shelton are indeed looking around the East Bay for a possible second location, but that the process was very preliminary and no leases are close to being signed. "It's the kind of thing where it might not happen for another four years, or it might never happen," Shelton told me. Nevertheless, Temescal seems like it'd be a natural fit now that Scream Sorbet has closed. Just sayin'...
Okay, back to the savory world, as I was able to chat with Paramita Roy, the chef du cuisine and owner behind the new eatery taking over for Fujian at 1518 Bonanza Street in downtown Walnut Creek. Kanishka's is an intriguing concept that Roy describes as a modern, contemporary restaurant that offers Indian fusion fare with global influences served in a shareable small plates format. The Walnut Creek-resident and first-time restaurateur is aiming high: she lists celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Mario Batali as influences, and hopes to draw crowds from across Contra Costa County. “This will be highly ambitious cuisine; we want it to be one of the hottest scenes in the East Bay.” There will be wine and beer (mostly small craft micro brews), and Roy says she's shooting for a mid-September opening.
I wrote a while ago about the very cool-sounding Brotzeit-Lokal headed for the Oakland waterfront. Well, East Bay Express reports that that the new German-style beer garden from the same owner as Jack London Square's Chop Bar is holding its soft opening next Thursday June 13. Read EBX's comprehensive round-up for the full scoop, but Brotzeit-Lokal, located on the Oakland estuary about a mile south of Jack London Square, is primarily a beer bar with 16 beers on tap and another 20 by bottle, but will also be serving a range of housemade sausages and family-style platters. Plus, I just think it's going to be great to have a waterfront beer garden during the warm summer months, and Brotzeit-Lokal has actually rented out a couple of marina berths so it's accessible by sea.
One more interesting spot that appears very close to opening. Hutch Bar & Kitchen (thanks to Dish reader Paula Martersteck for reminding me about this pace), taking over the former Olufé space at 2022 Telegraph Ave in Uptown Oakland, looks set to debut very shortly. I touched base with owner-chef David King, who told me that pending final permits, Hutch could actually be open as soon as this Friday. I wrote about Hutch when King first acquired the space and it's an interesting concept: a bourbon-centric bar with food that combines a raw bar with southern specialties tapping into King's culinary background cooking in Memphis. Well, the menu on the website looks pretty cool, and includes items such as fresh oysters, local Albacore crudo, and pickled shrimp from the raw bar, and hush puppies, fish & grits, and rabbit Brunswick stew from the regular menu. Cocktails look good, too. As King told me when I first spoke with him, he wants to make Hutch a "real friendly, relaxed experience, and where you can get a drink and grab a couple of small plates with some friends, eat hearty, and get some grits.” Go to hutchoakland.com for more.
One more Oakland note. The folks at Hog's Apothecary, the American-style beer hall and gastropub headed for Lower Temescal, are holding a social fundraising campaign and they need your help. This should be a cool restaurant, and they especially need a little love since co-owner Bradford Earle hasn't been able to put in as much sweat equity since getting injured in a ladder fall. CLICK HERE to invest and get some cool swag in return, including bumper sticker and trucker hat (that's a pretty bad-ass logo they've got...). If all goes according to plan, the Apothecary will be open in early July.
Okay, last Oakland thing: Toast Bar & Kitchen's newly expanded space with full kitchen is officially launching tomorrow, Thursday. June 6.
Couple Lafayette updates...
McCormick & Schmick’s scion Andrew McCormick’s large new bar and grill concept in Fiesta Square is still on track for a November opening. Cooperage is taking over the former Petar’s and Storyteller’s spaces, and McCormick is still hoping for a November 6 debut. “Although Thanksgiving would be nice too, and it falls on my birthday this year," he says. And it’s all systems go for Rancho Cantina, the elevated Mexican spot planned for 3616 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, which cleared a major hurdle in getting design review approval from the city. Owner Julie Mitchell says the plan is to serve Spanish-inflected Mexican food cooked in a wood-fired grill with approachable fare catering to families, as well as some more sophisticated dishes. She’s hoping for a Fall opening.
Per Tablehopper, Fournee Bakery has debuted at 2912 Domingo Ave near the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. Delicious-sounding array of items from owner-baker Frank Sally, including classical French baked goods, seasonally driven pastries, pizza by the slice or a whole pie, cakes, and around seven different breads. Sally teaches at the San Francisco Baking Institute and worked for a spell as a pastry chef at three Michelin–starred Meadowood restaurant in Napa.
Also, Barkada bakery in Temescal is slowly expanding its menu and is now serving fresh-baked breads to go.
A shout-out to Demitri's Taverna, which won the best chili in Livermore's 2013 Chili Shooters Stampede and Western Heritage Celebration. Winemaker's Pourhouse was second, and Sauced BBQ & Spirits nabbed third place...
A quick congrats as well to the always-popular Jack's Restaurant & Bar, which is celebrating its third anniversary in Pleasant Hill this month. They've also just opened a new location in San Mateo, so the Marcovici brothers don't appear to be resting on their laurels...
Finally, Chipotle is hosting a free one-day festival in Golden Gate Park this Saturday. The all-day Cultivate Festival held in Hellman Grove will include cooking demos and talks by celebrity chefs (such as Michael Chiarello and Sarah and Evan Rich), live music, local food artisans (including the East Bay's Hodo Soy and Cafe Fanny granola), regional beer and wines, a special Chipotle festival menu, and "other activities emphasizing fresh and affordable food made with sustainable ingredients." Should be fun, go to chipotle.com/cultivate for all the deets.