Weekly Dish: Bakery Bonanza
Artisan bakery boom in the East Bay; Mexican update in Lamorinda; Patxis opening date set for Livermore; free martini station at Corners Tavern; and more in this week's Dish!
It's pretty interesting what's happening with bakeries these days: they've sort of become ground zero for the percolating debate about the health effects of processed breads and flours. More and more are offering products that are organic, gluten-free, whole wheat, or made with heritage or heirloom grains. Here's some info on a couple of upcoming East Bay bakeries, as well as a couple that have opened recently.
In Temescal, Christina Bondoc is hoping to open her Barkada Bakery & Cafe in a few weeks in mid to late April. Bondoc, who is opening the restaurant with Rick Yarussi, is committed making at least some of her products with ingredients like heirloom, heritage wheat from Phoenix-based Hayden Mills, whole grain flour from Oliveto-owner Bob Klein's pet project Community Grains, not to mention using grass-fed butter, and local coffee (west Oakland's Scarlet City) and Charcuterie (Berkeley's Fifth Quarter). CLICK HERE to check out Barkada's sample spring menu.
"It's been interesting. [The heritage wheat] is very expensive to ship so we're starting out by only using it in a few items," she says. "The long-term goal is to use it in all our products, but we'll see how people react to it."
Mani Niall's Sweet Bar Bakery in Uptown Oakland is another that places a strong emphasis on where its ingredients are sourced. Sweet Bar goes so far as to provide info cards on each product, listing each ingredient and where it comes from. That includes organic and whole grain flours from Central Milling, organic sugar and agave syrup sweeteners, organic local dairy, cage-free eggs, and fruit and produce that often comes from local farms. Niall also provides several vegan and gluten-free options (including a fantastic cranberry-pumpkin muffin that I tried the other day, really delicious). sweetbarbakery.com
Frank Sally is aiming to open his Fournée Bakery in the former Bread Garden space in Berkeley’s Claremont neighborhood by the end of April. He says he's also hoping to incorporate alternative and heirloom grains into his baking, but will likely start out using more traditional flours, organic when and where he can. "At least to start, I'd like to keep it more familiar and be able to work some of it in over time," he says. Sally knows a little about organic baking: the Oakland native and former consultant for the San Francisco Baking Institute represented the U.S. and took home first place in the organic baking category of France's Mondial du Pain baking competition. Sally will also try to source as much locally as possible, something he says is more and more common among bakeries: "It seems like a place like Tartine really changed the game as far as American bakeries: before people didn't really look to bakeries as being local or sustainable and that's changed with the newer places opening." Go to fourneebakery.com to check out a sample menu of what Sally will be offering.
And one more quick note on bakeries with a local, seasonal focus: Cake in Lafayette, which closed down for a few weeks, is back up and running. They're currently offering a key lime version of their excellent coconut macaroons... cakelafayette.com
Hey, this weekend is Easter folks! We put together a round-up of brunch happenings around the East Bay: CLICK HERE to check it out.
Also, one final reminder to vote for your favorite dining spots in our annual Best of the East Bay. There's only one week left to vote, and you could win a sweet getaway package to the Silverado Resort in Napa: CLICK HERE.
One last thing, and this is completely un food-related. If you're into animals, CLICK HERE to participate in our annual Pet Madness photo contest, it's good fun...
Got a little update on Rancho Cantina, the Mexican spot planned for 3616 Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette. I spoke with property owner Julie Mitchell, who told me that while she's still in the process of getting approval from the city, she's hoping to open an approachable, casual Mexican concept that also has a focus on fresh, local, high quality California ingredients. She's applying for a full bar, and the interior should be pretty chic: she's using the same designer who worked on such sleek restaurants as Comal, Nopalito, and A Cote. More info on this project when I get it.
Speaking of Mexican, I had a chance to check out the new menu at Orinda's Barbacoa the other day. Replacing Jason Moniz, new executive chef Russell Rummer has tweaked the menu to include more traditional American-Mexican fare: in other words, say hola to items like burritos, nachos, and fajitas that Moniz had previously sworn off on the restaurant's opening day menu. It was an interesting experiment, attempting to bring über authentic Mexican fare to a suburban East Bay town that gravitates more towards more approachable, family-friendly fare, and ultimately it wasn't the right fit. Nevertheless, several of Moniz's barbacoa-grilled meats remain on the menu, and I've got to say: those fajitas were pretty damn good (as was a Mexican torta sandwich with carnitas that transitioned over from the lunch menu).
Had a chance to chat with owner Michael Karp, who told me that his planned mini Forge concept inside the Lunardi's in Danville has passed most city hurdles and should start construction soon—he's hoping that could open as soon as late summer. I wrote about the team behind Forge in Oakland's excellent Neapolitan-style thin-crust in this month's issue, but one thing I didn't get a chance to mention was their non-pizza menu. It's mostly souped-up American comfort food items and it's done very well, especially their intensly smoked chicken wings (pictured), which are really worth seeking out.
Also, don't forget to check out this month's review of Duende in Uptown Oakland. It's a good read about an exciting new place...
Patxi's Pizza, the popular Chicago-style pizzeria with one location already in Lafayette, announced an opening date for its newest East Bay restaurant. Patxi's in Livermore will officially be open Monday, April 15 on First Street downtown just next to the Bankhead Theater. In addition to the deep dish, thin crust, and small plates, diners can look forward to:
-- Old-world chrome lighting fixtures, exposed brick walls and reclaimed wood inside an 80-seat dining room.
-- Indoor/outdoor bar separated by two large industrial-style garage doors that can be opened to expose the outdoor portion of a 21-seat island style bar.
-- Full-covered outdoor seating space for 40 guests that's fully covered with fans and heating elements for temperature control.
Couple of quick food recommendations that I've gotten recently from some trusted sources that I wanted to pass along to Dish readers: an "amazing" Meyer lemon panna cotta at Mint 54 in Concord, which the chef apparently makes from his own lemons; and the pork belly sandwich (pictured) at the relatively new Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland, which is "really good: flavorful and porky with pickled fennel and mustard seed."
Some quick hits for the road...
Congrats to Corners Tavern, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary tomorrow (Thursday), March 28. The popular Walnut Creek hot-spot is honoring the occasion by offering up complimentary passed appetizers and drinks, including a martini station (that sounds fun), to guests from 5 to 7 p.m.
Some news percolating a possible owner/restaurant change at The Rising Loafer in Danville. Can't say anything yet but stay tuned... Likewise for Residual Sugar's rumored expansion next door into the former Bake/Walnut Creek Baking Company space: more on that next week, hopefully.
More news on the ever-expanding beer front: Berkelyside Nosh reports a nano brewery in the works in Berkeley on Alcatraz Ave.
Marrow, the interesting lunch restaurant in Oakland that I wrote about a few weeks ago, is in the middle of a kickstarter campaign to raise money for the opening. CLICK HERE to give a helping hand if you're into it. And remember: you're basically just pre-paying for meals that you'll cash in once they open...
Looks like Lalime owner Haig Krikorian has divested himself of another of his K2 restaurants. After selling off T-Rex and Sea Salt (which morphed in the short-lived Eat + Drink), he's sold Fonda in Albany. According to ABC records and a staff member at the restaurant, the new owner is Hal Brandel, a co-owner of Caffe Trieste and Bar César on Oakland's Piedmont Ave. According to the staff member, the menu and concept at Fonda would remain unchanged under the new ownership.
Yet another new ramen spot coming to Oakland: this one Ramen Tomo at 4390 Telegraph Ave. on the outskirts of the Temescal district.
Word is on the street that Mr. Pickles sandwich shop in Walnut Creek is opening first week of April. And I keep saying this, but Ike's in Walnut Creek should be open any day now...
Finally, does it get any better than a mai tai (or piña colada) while watching the sun set over the Emeryville marina at Trader Vic's? Methinks not...