Weekly Dish: Sweet Lafayette
Susie Cakes and Cake bakeries sugar up Lafayette; A16 comes to Rockridge; Royale Bourbon Society classes up Pican; winemaker dinner in Livermore; cheese tasting in Berkeley; new BBQ in San Ramon; a shout-out to FuseBox; and more in this week's Dish!
OK, Lamorinda sweets lovers, you've got a couple cool new bakery options to satisfy your sugar cravings...
Let's start with SusieCakes, which will be opening at 3598 Mt. Diablo Blvd at the end of the month. I had a chance to take a hard hat tour of the space, located right next to Pizza Antica and across the street from La Boulange. Owner Sarah Sarich grew up in Chicago and learned to bake from her grandmothers, and her stores (there are seven others in L.A. and the Bay Area) has a very all-American, '50s, retro theme. Expect to find a lot of modern takes on classic desserts, like whoopie pies, Southern red velvet layer cakes, frosting-filled cupcakes, puddings, and (take note holiday pie shoppers) seasonal pies—using all-natural ingredients with everything baked on-site. Still, the emphasis here will be on custom cakes—the store has a "celebration specialist" solely dedicated to helping customers design cakes for special occasions.
Sarich says she very much gears her store for moms and families, which is why she chose Lafayette, versus, say, Walnut Creek, for her first East Bay store. "We want it to be very comfortable and family-friendly—an easy place to come and pick up your pie or cake," she said. "Lafayette just seemed perfect. It's got this wonderful downtown, but it's not as crazy as Walnut Creek—and there's easy parking." Another cool thing about SusieCakes is Sarich intentionally made her store hours reasonable (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) to create a work environment that is more user-friendly for working moms.
Interested? SusieCakes is holding a grand opening Sock Hop Party on Saturday, October 27 from 1 to 4 p.m., featuring 1950s tunes, kids activities, vintage cars, and, most importantly, complimentary treats! 3598 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, SusieCakes.com.
While you're waiting, the similarly themed Cake. opened nearby in Lafayette's Fiesta Square, replacing the shuttered Teacake Bake Shop. Had a chance to swing by there, and thought it was really cool. Co-owner Andrea Quinn is an East Bay-native (and Athenian high school-grad), a professionally trained pastry chef who interned at Chez Panisse and has worked in some really nice Bay Area restaurants including Bay Wolf and Rivoli (most recently she ran a bakery in Kauai for the last seven years). Her new store is small, but the attention to detail and quality is obvious. A few examples: they serve Sightglass coffee, which might be the furthest east this acclaimed San Francisco roaster can be found; Cake offers ice cream floats with locally-made Devil's Canyon root beer (available on tap!) topped by housemade ice cream; and Quinn says that they source almost all of their ingredients organic.
Speaking of which, I had a chance to try a few treats, and have to mention the A-plus chocolate chip cookies (the chocolate chips still gooey in the center) and the super-moist bread pudding filled with beautifully ripe seasonal berries—good stuff Cake team... Also, check out their great coconut macaroons, now also available at Diablo Foods. Like SusieCakes, the main emphasis here—as you might be able to tell from the name—is on custom cakes (they catered up to 300 per year in Kauai).
Going forward, look for savory items like veggie and meat empanadas and quiche, as well as soft serve ice cream coming in the spring (with which they'll be offering cold brewed coffee affogatos, mmmmmm). 35 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette, (925) 283-9900, cakelafayette.com.
Holy bombshell... according to Tablehopper, A16, the critically acclaimed, super-authentic Italian restaurant in San Francisco is coming to Oakland. Where, you ask? Another shocker, as it'll be replacing another foodie-lauded local favorite, Hudson, on College Avenue is Rockridge. According to owners John Hurley and Justin Hafen (who ran Hudson as Garibaldis for years before changing the concept), they are selling Hudson to free up time to travel and expore new business opportunities—they'll hang on to their other two restaurants Marzano in Oakland's Glenview district and Garibaldi's in San Francisco.
As for A16 Rockridge, according to Tablehopper, the executive chef will be Rocky Maselli, who has worked in Oregon the past 15 years and was the chef-owner of Osteria Sfizo. After a renovation (look for an open kitchen with counter seating) owners are hoping for an early 2013 opening...
Shocker closing to report as Sasa-owner Philip Yang's modern-European Blackhawk Plaza restaurant Roti-8 Rotisserie & Bar shut its doors suddenly over the weekend after just 10 months in business. I spoke with Yang, who placed the blame squarely on the newly renovated Blackhawk Grille, and their bar's 2 p.m.-to-close happy hour. Yang said that extended happy hour ($3 wine, $5 cocktails) decimated his bar business by more than 50-percent, making the restaurant's long-term survival impossible. "The restaurant was doing okay and we wanted to stay, but in the end we just couldn't compete with those kinds of prices, we wouldn't be able to survive," he says. "It just wasn't worth it." Yang said that after he was unable to broker a solution with the shopping center, he made the decision—rather suddenly—to close down after last Friday night. Yang says his just-debuted Blue Gingko at Blackhawk is doing well and will remain open, at least for now—he's currently working on a new Happy Hour menu...
Michelin announced its Bib Gourmand winners in anticipation of the release of its 2013 Bay Area guide. Couple of interesting notes: first-time winners include Berkeley's Comal, while Bay Wolf and Pican in Oakland did not make the list. There were about a dozen East Bay eateries, including Chevalier and Artisan Bistro in Lafayette and Thai House in Danville. CLICK HERE to check out all the winners (these are restaurants where you can get two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less, not including tax and gratuity).
Wence's Restaurant is now open in Pleasant Hill. I'd previously reported that 1515 chef Gerardo Wence was taking over the former Fig Tree location at 1922 Oak Park Blvd. Looks like he didn't waste any time, opening the doors to his new California Cuisine eatery last week. I wasn't able to get a hold of Wence himself, but two dishes that will definitely be available, according to the still-unfinished website, are fish tacos and Mediterranean mussels. 1922 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, (925) 566-8971, wencesrestaurant.com.
The downtown Berkeley food scene continues to evolve as Eureka Burger, an upscale burger chain with seven other California locations appears headed for 2086 Center Street where it will replace Chinese restaurant Peking Express (this according to a recently posted ABC license). According to Eureka's website, burgers (and there are about 15 different ones available) are made with Angus chuck beef, while the menu also has gourmet salads and a variety of sandwiches and appetizers, including truffle fries, riblets, and calamari.
Looks like Belli Osteria, the new ravioli-focused Italian restaurant next door to Comal on Shattuck Ave quietly debuted over the weekend. CLICK HERE for more info. 2016 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, (510) 704-1902.
Down the street, Five restaurant in the Hotel Shattuck Plaza unveiled their new fall cocktail menu packed with autumnal ingredients like cinnamon, lemon, and cloves. Five was generous enough to share some recipes for a few of their drinks—including an Apple Spice and, one of my favorites, the Hot Toddy—CLICK HERE to check 'em out! 2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, (510) 225-6055, five-berkeley.com
In Walnut Creek, Corners Tavern has a new weekday Happy Hour with cocktails, select artisan beers, eclectic wines, and bar bites all available at special mid-day pricing from 3 to 6 p.m.—that means $6 wines, $5 cocktails, $4 draught beers, and cheap bar bites like chef Esteban Escobar's smoked chicken wings, homemade pretzel, and killer burger. CLICK HERE to check out the menu. 1342 Broadway Plz., Walnut Creek, (925) 948-8711, cornerstavern.com.
Lark Creek Walnut Creek debuted its new Sunnyside menu. Offered once a night by special reservation for eight diners or more, the sunnyside menu is served family style on Lark Creek's pretty outdoor patio (or inside the restaurant with advance notice) and offers wood oven-cooked dishes featuring seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Dishes include baked prawns with spaghetti squash and Marin Sun Farms leg of lamb: CLICK HERE for the menu. 1360 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-1234, larkcreek.com.
There's a couple new eateries coming to the San Ramon Marketplace. Rubs BBQ Bistro will be a "fast casual" barbecue concept, according to owner Hans van Oosterwijk, that offers a few different styles of barbecue in multiple forms such as sandwich, rice bowl, and wrap. The meats will be slow-cooked with an emphasis placed on the dry rubs: "You go to a lot of barbecue places and it's all about the sauces. Well, we have four different kinds of sauces, but for us its all about the dry rubs that we cook meat with." That will include chicken with a mesquite-java rub that has ground coffee. Expect an early 2013 debut.
Also coming to the marketplace is Crème Si Bon. No info on that yet though, check back for details...
Bits and pieces...
Up in Concord, La Sen Bistro is replacing Sushi Ya at 2002 Salvio St just off of Todos Santos Plaza.
Plum Bar in Uptown Oakland is celebrating Octoberfest the rest of this month with a special deal: Bratwurst with sauerkraut and mustard, house-made pretzel, Paulaner Oktoberfest Beer, and Purgeist whiskey for $17!
Rebecca Boice is celebrating her full transition from Zuni to executive chef at Toast Wine Bar in Oakland with a special chef's tasting dinner on Sunday, October 28. CLICK HERE for the menu, price is $40 for dinner, $60 with wine pairings.
Some place called Firehouse Subs is going to be flooding the sandwich market with plans to open 75 stores in northern California, including several in the East Bay.
Chick fil-A's Walnut Creek opening was delayed again, this time until November 8. Protesters remain in waiting...
A few East Bay foodie events for you...
Cheese-lovers (count me among them) should dig this Saturday's event at Berkeley's Pasta Shop: Cheese blogger Kirstin Jackson will talk about her popular blog and her new book, It’s Not You, it’s Brie: A Guide to America’s Unique Cheese Culture. Attendees will get to taste and compare some of the cheeses featured in her book, enjoy cheese pairings, and meet cheesemakers from Bellwether Farms, Fiscalini Farms, and Franklin Peluso. And by the way, in honor of American Cheese Month (I had no idea), The Pasta Shop is featuring artisan cheese from around the country through the rest of October. 1786 4th St., Berkeley, (510) 250-6004, pastashop.net.
Wine And Dine in San Ramon is happening this Thursday, October 18. The 24th annual event brings together some of the area's best wineries, restaurants, and breweries for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink good time.Tix are $35 in advance, $45 at the door, CLICK HERE for all the details.
Beer lovers should get geeked for the Pleasanton Halloween Brew Crawl happening this Saturday, October 20: Participants can enjoy 32 different beers in 25 different locations while shopping and strolling the city's quaint downtown. Tickets are $30 at Main Street Brewery (830 Main Street), Redcoats Pub (336 St. Mary Street), and Studio Seven Arts (400 Main Street), and online at PleasantonDowntown.net.
Double Barrel Wine Bar in Livermore is hosting a winemaker dinner with local winery Nottingham Cellars tonight, October 17. We profiled Colin Cranor, Nottingham's dynamic young wine maker in our October issue's Livermore Wine Country Guide—they're putting out some great wines, and this should be a great dinner. Call (925) 243-9463 for reservations and CLICK HERE to check out the menu.
Pican's Royale Bourbon Society debuted with a four-course bourbon tasting dinner on Tuesday featuring distiller Lincoln Henderson. The aim of the bourbon society, according to Pican-owner Michael LeBlanc, is to "bring together bourbon aficionados from all over the Bay Area" for monthly dinners, bourbon tastings, industry events, and educational seminars and cooking classes. For more info, go to picanrestaurant.com and click on the "bourbons" tab.
SHOUT-OUT OF THE WEEK: FUSEBOX
FuseBox is a great example of Oakland's burgeoning dining scene. It's an odd concept (sort of a fusion-y, Korean-style version of a Japanese Izakaya) in a completely out-of-the-way location (the industrial section of West Oakland), that's thriving because it puts out good, interesting food that East Bay foodies are willing to search out. Oh, and did I mention it's just open for lunch (for now) Wednesday through Saturday?
Well, it's worth carving the time out of your schedule to go. First of all, it's a really cool space, located in a former furniture outlet that's been eclectically renovated with a shabby-chic front patio and smaller, sleekly modern interior. The food is modeled after Korean soju bars that serve small bites for drinking patrons, and owner Sunhui Chang mixes his obvious love for Korean fare (he grew up in Korea and Guam learning to cook from his mother, a Korean chef) and his love for California cuisine (he also grew up watching PBS cooking shows including Julia Child and ran his own catering business in the Bay Area for years) so everything is made from scratch with quality ingredients.
I tried a bunch of great dishes, but standouts included the grilled skewers (try the asparagus and chicken trio), the tender marinated galbi beef over rice, and the absolutely stunning KFC (that's Korean fried chicken): spicy chicken wings with a crispy, almost glassy skin, savory-sour sauce, and perfectly moist meat—possibly the best wings I've ever had, and I've had a lot of wings in my life... Also, don't miss the kimchee—Chang makes it himself weekly and that really shows in the flavor.
So in conclusion... check 'em out!
2311A Magnolia St., Oakland, (510) 444-3100, fuseboxoakland.com
2011 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay:
Toasted pine nuts, fresh zucchini, fuji apple, shaved fennel, taleggio, apple cider vinaigrette
2010 Micro Lot Reserve Livermore Valley Del Arroyo Vineyard Chardonnay:
Vanilla butter poached lobster, smoked corn puree, lemon herb pomme frites
2009 Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:
Pork confit, braised shell beans, wine stewed cippolini onions, bacon cranberry relish
2009 Vineyard Designate Del Arroyo Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon:
Pancetta pea bisque, lamb hash with oyster mushrooms, smoked blue cheese, truffle herb hollandaise
2009 Micro Lot Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:
Chestnut bavarois, espresso sorbet, cocoa cris
1oz Famous Grouse, 1/2oz Canton, 1/2oz Frangelico, 1oz apple juice, and 2 cloves – shake with ice, strain into coupe, sprinkle with cinnamon and all spice
1.5 famous Grouse, .5 Amaretto, .25 Benedictine, pour into rocks glass, top with ice
.75 Seagrams Gin, 1 Jim Beam, .75 brown sugar spiced simple syrup, 1 lemon juice, shake with ice, strain into coupe, garnish with lemon twist
¼ Knob Creek Bourbon (to burn), 1 ½ Jim Beam, 1 lemon juice, ½ brown sugar spiced simple syrup, ~4 oz hot water
soup: potato puree with manila clams, buttermilk, poblano pepper cream
little gem lettuce salad with hard-cooked egg, chives, radishes, mustard vinaigrette
braised pork shoulder with baby carrots, greens, farro "grits", chili vinegar, prosciutto chips
sour cream panna cotta with strawberries, pumpkin seed brittle
Boon Eat + Drink
Brick & Bottle
Cook St. Helena
flour + water
Hachi Ju Hachi
Hot Box Grill
Kabab & Curry’s
K & L Bistro
Old Mandarin Islamic
Slanted Door (The)
The Girl & the Fig
Willi’s Wine Bar