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Weekly Dish: Wine it Up

In wine news: Berkeley Wine Festival opens this weekend, 3 Steves grows in Livermore, and Residual Sugar expansion rumors in Walnut Creek; three new eateries coming to Dublin; Cake reopening in Lafayette; and more in the Dish!


A little East Bay wine news round-up.

This Saturday marks the start of the Berkeley Wine Festival with an opening gala held at the Claremont Hotel & Spa. I’ve been the last few years and it’s always a fun event, offering more than 45 wines to pair with dishes from great Berkeley spots like Summer Kitchen Bakeshop, Trappist Provisions, Kirala, and Wood Tavern. Tickets are $75, go to berkeleywinefestival.com to purchase tickets. The event also kicks off three months of dinners every Friday evening through May 24 at Meritage restaurant, in which chef Scott Quinn creates four-course meals to pair with wines from some of the region’s best vineyards.

Had a chance to chat with Steve Burman, one of the three owners of 3 Steves Winery up in Livermore (I’ll let you guess the first names of the other two). Burman told me that 3 Steves has been going great guns since they opened a tasting room in Livermore’s Blacksmith Square about a year ago, and that they now have plans to take over the Red Feather winery property at 5700 Greenville Road right next to Livermore’s McGrail Vineyards. “We’ve tripled our production in the last year and just exceeded our capacity,” he says. “It was time to grow up.” They hope to be up and running by the end of the month, and Burman said they were even exploring the possibility of opening an offshoot of Swirl on the Square on the vineyard property.

Residual Sugar // Photo by Matt EdgeIn Walnut Creek, Bake!, the bakery that replaced Walnut Creek Baking Company under somewhat controversial circumstances last year has closed after just a few months in business. Beyond the Creek reports rumors that the next door wine bar Residual Sugar may be expanding into that space and adding a full kitchen. That's pretty accurate according to my sources, who tell me that owner Jim Telford is actively exploring the idea of expanding as a way to both get some more elbow room for his popular, but crowded, wine bar, as well as expand the food program. Telford declined to comment one way or the other when I talked to him, but did say, "I've said in the past that I would like to develop more of a food concept. Our goal is to offer guests a unique wine experience, and to provide that you need to have food as a complement."

(Speaking of bakeries, good news in Lafayette as the folks at Cake bakery report that they should be reopening by this Saturday after closing briefly for “restructuring.”)

Over in Brentwood, Hannah Nicole Vineyards was bought by California-based JINTA Vineyards & Winery. The 18,000 square foot winery, tasting room, and event venue will continue under the same management.

On Oakland’s Grand Avenue, The Red Whale, a wine bar and shop is expected to open sometime this spring according to East Bay Dish, who mentions that owner Bradford Taylor is a grad student in literature (the name is a reference to Moby Dick).

Finally, I checked in with Calicraft brewery owner Blaine Landberg, who told me he’s working on the second iteration of his interesting Wild Whit, formerly Buzzerkeley, a sort of hybrid between a Belgian wheat beer and a white wine in which he adds two types of California honey and local coriander. Look for that to be released for the summer in mid-May. He’s also working on the release of a Chez Panisse Farmhouse Ale, in which Landberg collaborated with staff at Chez Panisse to create a beer (which includes lemon verbena blossom, anise hyssop, and Meyer lemon leaf) to celebrate the anniversary of the café's opening. Even more exciting for Contra Costa fans is that it sounds like Landberg is close to securing a location for his planned brewery/tap room in Walnut Creek. We’ll keep you posted on that…

Speaking of Chez Panisse, most foodies out there already know that the famed Berkeley institution suffered a fairly bad fire last week, likely the result of an electrical problem. According to news reports, the cafe will likely remain closed until at least March 30 as the fire-damaged front porch is rebuilt, and there is no timetable yet for the more directly affected formal restaurant downstairs.

Couple nice recent nods for East Bay chefs. Kyle Itani, co-owner of Oakland’s Hopscotch (which we named one of Diablo’s top new restaurants last year), was named one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s five Rising Chefs. Also, Haven executive chef Kim Alter was nominated as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs in California: CLICK HERE to vote for her. Congrats to both, well deserved.

Bocanova has a new executive chef following the departure of John Ledbetter. New head chef John Jackson (pictured right) brings 15 years of culinary experience from places like The Village Pub in Woodside, Mix Restaurant in West Hollywood, and most recently as executive chef at Michael’s at Shoreline in Redwood City, Beets Hospitality Group in Livermore, and the Toll House Hotel in Los Gatos. He’ll collaborate with chef-owner Rick Hackett on putting his own spin on the restaurant’s Pan-American dishes.

And in Orinda, Barbacoa’s new executive chef Russell Rummer has debuted a new, more approachable menu at the Mexican eatery, including the addition of such dishes as iron skillet fajitas, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and enchilada, as well as a more accessible “littles” and “middles” menu that caters to kids and tweens.

And SF Eater reports that Chop Bar and Lungomare-owner Chris Pastena announced an executive chef for his upcoming Tribune Tavern. It'll be Huw Thornton, formerly of A16 and SPQR, and more recently the short-lived Locanda de Eva in Berkeley. New opening date is set for April 10.

Dublin’s Ulfert’s Center is getting three more eateries. Serendipity, the sister restaurant to the popular Sri Lankan restaurant Kadupul should be opening by early April. New Japanese yakitori restaurant, Yakitori-Hiroshi should be launching by early May, followed by Soho Café after that.

In Danville, McGah’s Pub & Pianos will hold its grand reopening this Sunday, St. Patrick's Day. McGah's, formerly That Bar, is offering an expanded food menu that includes dishes like shepherd’s pie, Irish reuben, short rib French dip, corned beef and cabbage, and a build-your-own-burger section of hte menu. The name is a tribute to co-owner Sherratt Reicher's great grandfather E.W. McGah, one of the founders of the Oakland Raiders. 148 E. Prospect Ave., Danville, (925) 743-8466.

Last week, I wrote about Henry Alvarez, the on-leave director of San Francisco's Housing Authority who is starting a new comfort food restaurant Next Door in Berkeley. Looks like Alvarez may have more to worry about than just the logistics of opening an eatery. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on troubles at the Housing Authority under his leadership, Alzarez is facing questions about the appropriateness of opening a restaurant while on paid medical leave. CLICK HERE to read more about it in the Chron (and that "East Bay magazine" they're referring to is indeed Diablo...).

Couple of tid bits from Berkeley. Tablehopper reports that Easy Creole is bringing New Orleans-style specialties with veggie and vegan options to 1761 Alcatraz in Berkeley. Go to facebook.com/easycreole for more info.

Couple items courtesy of Berkeleyside's Nosh: French restaurant La Fable has opened in the gourmet ghetto, replacing longtime Berkeley staple Chester's; T-Rex BBQ, under new ownership, is offering up Memphis-inspired barbecue buffet tonight from 6 to 9 p.m.—that's all you can eat for $20; and hot sauce–specific shop Heat is planned for 1922-B Martin Luther King Jr.

East Bay Express reports that Jason Kwon, chef-owner of Joshu-ya Brasserie in Berkeley, is taking over Ann's Kitchen at 2498 Telegraph Ave and planning a "community based" restaurant.

And even further west, I had a chance to dine at A16 in San Francisco's Marina district last week for International Women's Day (yes, I know, I took my wife...). I'd been several years ago, but it was nice to go back to get reaquainted with what a fun, hopping scene it is, as well as how good the food is. We tried several dishes from guest chef Maria Sinskey's special menu including a a jaw-droppingly good oxtail ravioli (left). We also ordered a seriously funghi-fied Funghi pizza (below right) off the regular menu, overloaded with sauteed mushrooms and spiked with smoked mozzarella, grana padano, and dandelion greens. It's really well-executed, interesting Italian, and it was a further reminder that their Oakland restaurant, set to debut later this spring, should be a welcome addition to Rockridge's College Avenue.

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