Weekly Dish: Diablo Food Awards!

Diablo's top East Bay restaurants; the East Bay scoop on the latest Bay Area Michelin Guide; Nibblers owners debut Origen this week in Berkeley; Charlie Parker leaves Plum; and more in this week's Dish!



Well, it's here: the November food issue. This is one we always have a blast putting together, and while we might gain a few pounds by the time it's over, that's a price we're willing to pay... CLICK HERE to find out this year's winners, and we hope you have as much fun reading it as we did putting it together. And don't forget to get your tickets for our Gourmet East Bay event on Saturday, November 5. It's always a fun and delicious night and will feature many of the award-winning restaurants we featured in the magazine. Just go to diablomag.com/gourmeteastbay.


On a similar note, the eagerly anticipated 2012 Michelin Guide also dropped this week. There's not too much new to report as far as East Bay stars are concerned. James Syhabout's Commis in Oakland retained its one star (the rankings go up to three stars) while Alice Waters' Chez Panisse did not regain the star it surprisingly lost last year. As far as Bay Area-wide, the only three-starred restuarants remained The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood, which made the leap from two stars last year. There were three new two-starred spots in this year's guide: Baumé, Benu, and Saison, while Coi, Cyrus, and Manresa retained theirs from last year. Among the one-starred restaurants, there was a bit of movement. New this year are Atelier Crenn, Michael Mina, and Sons & Daughters in San Francisco; Terrapin Creek in Bodega Bay; and, surprisingly, La Costanera, a Peruvian restaurant in Half Moon Bay. CLICK HERE for the full list.

While there were no new stars for the East Bay, the editor-in-chief of Michelin's North American guides (no name was given since she also anonymously reviews restaurants) told me that our little pocket of the East Bay was certainly on their radar and that she planned to visit at least two eateries in the coming year to judge whether they are star-worthy for next year's guide. Which ones? Well, that's top secret... "We're really like the CIA here; I haven't even told my husband," the Michelin editor said with a laugh. More good culinary news for the region: The East Bay continues to rack up coverage in the prestigious French guide, including several Bib Gourmand selections (value-oriented restaurants where you can get two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less). East Bay restaurants accounted for 17 of the 77 Bib Gourmand selections, including East of the Caldecott spots such as Artisan Bistro, Chevalier, Laurus, and Thai House in addition to several Oakland and Berkeley restaurants.

CLICK HERE for the full list and official press release, and CLICK HERE to buy a copy.


Trace Leighton and Daniel Clayton, the owners of Nibblers-turned-Fig Tree in Pleasant Hill, are at last set to debut their new farm to fork restaurant in Berkeley named appropriately, Origen: a Farm to Fork Restaurant. Come Thursday, Origen will take over the former location—some would say bad luck location—at 2826 Telegraph Ave., previously home to Zax Tavern, Martime East, and the ill-fated Locanda da Eva, among others. The restaurant will feature a highly seasonal menu with ingredients from local, sustainable farms and venders (Origen is a Catalan word meaning “from the source”). The food will have a similar international flair as Nibblers, while also offering casual fare such as burgers and flat-bread pizzas from the wood fired oven, as well as a daily changing chef's tasting menu (the five course menu costs just $32 on the opening night menu). Some other interesting quirks: PlumOrigen will offer a paella by the hour that is custom made with different ingredients each time, they'll offer a quick-serve "chef's plate" at lunch for diners who don't have a lot of time, and there will be a special in-between bar menu from 3 to 5:30 pm. It'll be a full bar, along with sangria and 30 wines by the glass.  Origen is opening for dinner on Thursday and for lunch next Tuesday, November 1.


Charlie Parker left as executive chef at Plum just a year after taking over at Daniel Patterson's popular Oakland restaurant. This definitely came as a bit of a shocker: Parker had been doing some solid work since taking over last October: The San Francisco Chronicle named him as one of this year's Rising Chefs and Diablo just awarded Plum third place in our Food Awards issue. I interviewed Parker a month ago for the November issue and was struck by his passion for the job—but he also admited that running a seven-days-a-week restaurant with the difficult task of providing highly seasonal fine dining cuisine at casual dining prices was a major workload to manage. No word yet on where Parker's landing next (although rumors are linking him to a possible project with former Ubuntu chef Jeremey Fox), but Daniel Patterson’s corporate chef Ron Boyd will take over the Plum kitchen.

More Daniel Patterson news: His upcoming Haven restaurant, set to open by the end of the year in Jack London Square, is holding a series of preview dinners the next three Tuesdays, November 1, 8, and 15 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Executive chef Kim Atler is preparing a four-course menu for $60 per person that will include sweet treats from pastry chef Matt Tinder and cocktails from acclaimed mixologist Scott Beattie. To make reservations, call Plum at (510) 444-7586 or visit plumoakland.com.


More news out of Oakland: The upscale Mexican restaurant Doña Tomas is brining back its popular Mexican brunch on weekends. From 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, the Temescal eatery will dish out such specialties as carnitas hash with a farm fresh poached egg, huevos rancheros with a crispy tortilla and pickled carrots, churros with mexican chocolate sauce, and huevos benedictinos, in addition to serving Bloody Marias and mimosas. Meanwhile, owner Dona Savitsky's other Oakland restaurant, the more casual Xolo Taqueria, just opened its expanded dining room, giving diners a little more room to enjoy Xolo's tasty tacos, burritos, danger dogs (bacon-wrapped Niman Ranch hotdog served Mexican style, with beans, salsa, avocado, and pickled vegetables).


On that taco theme, Vanessa's Bistro 2 in Walnut Creek has started up a new Taco Tuesday promotion: $10 gets you three fish tacos and an Avion Tequila margarita (that's the tequila featured on HBO's Entourage, points out Vanessa's owner Michael Nguyen), half off the regular price. Down the street, Tender Greens has debuted a new breakfast menu. I'm a sucker for breakfast and TG's lineup sounds pretty tempting with dishes such as granola and Greek yogurt with seasonal fruit, root vegetable hash with poached eggs and corn sticks (pictured right), and marmalade, preserves, and Home Town honey butter served on warm brioche and breakfast breads. CLICK HERE for the full menu.


On to dessert... it's never to early to start thinking about Thanksgiving, and Teacake Bakeshop, with locations in Emeryville and Lafayette, will debut its first ever seasonal pies available for special order at all its stores this Thanksgiving. There are three classic options—caramel apple crumb, maple pecan, pumpkin toffee—and if they taste as good as they look in this pic (left), then you can count me in. Pick up will be only on the Tuesday and Wendesday before Thanksgiving and pre-orders start Tuesday, November 1.


Thanks to Berkeleyside for this: Andronico's and A.G Ferrari were rescued from bancruptcy when both were purchased by Renwood Opportunities Fund. A.G. Ferrari closed its Solano Avenue store, while Andronico's will shut down its University Avenue location in Berkeley. But it appears the worst is over for these longtime Bay Area mainstays.


By popular demand, Off the Grid, the weekly food truck gathering in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto North Shattuck neighborhood, started up again last Wednesday. The event lasts from 5 to 9 p.m. every Wendesday: go to offthegridsf.com for more info.


Foodie Events! Go check 'em out...

October 26: Gather Restaurant Hosts Lindencroft Farm Harvest Dinner
Berkeley’s Gather Restaurant is hosting a special four-course harvest dinner showcasing fall produce from Lindencroft Farm. Wine pairings and vegan and omnivore options will be available for each course.
Gather Restaurant, 2200 Oxford St., Berkeley, 5-10 p.m., $47, (510) 809-0400, gatherrestaurant.com

October 27: Piemonte Dinner at Prima
Join Prima for a special seven-course prix fixe Italian meal. The Piemonte dinner will feature polenta crostini with toma, asian pear, honey, and marjoram; veal shoulder braised with Piemontese spices; hazelnut cake with hot custard, and more.
Prima Ristorante, 1522 N Main St., Walnut Creek, 5:30-9 p.m., $148, (925) 935-7780, primawine.com

October 29: Pleasanton Brew Crawl
Try some grown up trick-or-treating by shopping through Pleasanton’s Main Street, sampling local craft beers and enjoying food pairings. Costumes are encouraged!
Downtown Pleasanton, 5-8 p.m., $25-30, $10 for designated drivers, (925) 484-2199, pleasantondowntown.net