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Weekly Dish: Restaurants and Food Producers Celebrate Anniversaries

Lunch options expand in Walnut Creek; street fairs; and shrub cocktails.


Courtesy of Va de Vi

According to a recent story by ABC news, October 5 is the most common birthday in the United States!

I was newsified of this fact last Sunday as we were celebrating my own daughter's birthday dinner. All the birthday kerfuffle (not a culinary term) made me realize this is a great week to mention some of the East Bay restaurants and food companies celebrating their own birthdays this year.

Ten years ago, a small plates wine bar opened its doors in Walnut Creek, the same year I wandered East (2004), making me believe I just might be able to survive life in the suburbs. I’ll never forget the global cuisine of Va de Vis opening chef Kelly Degala, whose menu landed Walnut Creek smack center on the dining destination map. Current Executive Chef Andy Phillips is making a similar brew of magic. Congratulations Va de Vi!

Courtesy of Doña TomásTemescal’s Doña Tomás is celebrating its quinceañera and fans are looking back at the restaurant created by owners Dona Savitsky and Tom Schnetz that marked the beginning of an era for that once sketchy Oakland neighborhood. I know. I lived around the corner when the only evening entertainment in the area was the Pussycat Theater at 51st and Telegraph. A year after DT opened, Chef Charlie Hallowell, a Chez Panisse alum, carved out his hit, Pizzaiolo, on the same block and quickly other great eateries followed, transforming the neighborhood into something quite especial! The intoxicating Latin flavors at Doña Tomás paved the way for an entire family of great restaurants by Savitsky and Schnetz including Tacubaya and Xolo as well as Flora and Bar Fauna, culminating in a huge impact on the East Bay dining scene. Congratulations, Doña Tomás!


Courtesy of Mi Rancho Tortilla Company


The East Bay is hot-packed with artisan food producers. Danville residents and owners, Carol and Manuel Berber are celebrating 75 years of producing more than a dozen varieties of hand-crafted tortillas at Mi Rancho Tortilla Company, the brand that seems to be available at a who's-who list of restaurants: Maria Maria, Chow, and The Walnut Creek Yacht Club. Family-owned and operated by the third generation, Mi Rancho rolls out 4.5 million tortillas a day and distributes them internationally. Now that's a local success story.


Courtesy of Semifreddi's





Finally, local bakery hero Semifreddi’s has announced their 30th anniversary. In my bread box, that stacks up to 30 years of making some of the most beautiful bread in the industry. Talented owner and Moraga resident, Tom Franier, works all the gluten angles with his sister, Barbara Rose, and brother-in-law, Mike Rose, at their impressive 33,000 square-foot facility near the Oakland Airport where I had a tour a few years ago. At Semifreddi’s it’s all about “breaducation.” It’s also about community. Semifreddi’s has supported Oakland’s Bread Project with donations totaling $150,000 in the last two years. www.breadproject.org. Semifreddi's creates hand-crafted breads and pastries on a local (if not small) scale -- 190,000 loaves of bread and 40,000 pastries a week. Just think… they started 30 years ago in a 450 square-foot space in Kensington. Check out this interesting article about Semifreddi's in the Berkeleyside.

Lunch news: There’s one table I’m looking to fill this week, and that’s at Kanishka’s, Walnut Creek’s Neo-Indian Gastro-pub, which is now open for lunch. Woot! Kanishka’s is serving up “gastro-wraps,” chef signature lunch boxes, as well as fusion salads, street tapas, and marsala chai lemonade. Served Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30-2:30 p.m.

Courtesy of Rockridge Out and AboutWeekend Street Festivals: It’s hard to hit them all, but this is one I never miss: The Rockridge Out and About Festival, this Sunday, October 12, from noon-6 p.m. Maybe it’s because this is a foodie-focused event, but Out and About is always on my must-do menu, and it should be on yours, too.

Rockridge Market Hall always seems to pull out all the stops (including the best stop of all … the BART stop right across the street), attracting local chefs and merchants who offer free tastings and demos and more. Check out the highlights below. Best event: the always-popular Cookbook Exchange—bring a used cookbook and take one home.

There is dancing and live music for the adults and hay bales and pumpkins for the kids. Because it’s always in October, Out and About feels something like a community pumpkin patch event.

Chef Stage Highlights: Free food tastings and gift certificate giveaways, as well as:

  • Community Grains vs. OO Flour comparative pasta tasting
  • A16 Pastry Chef Hannah Buoye demos a dessert
  • Itsy Bitsy's Shun Yang teaches the traditional tea ceremony
  • The Pasta Shop Cheese Counter staff goes undercover with the king of all cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano, by cracking a full wheel.


Courtesy of Revel Kitchen and BarShrubs: As long promised, here’s a little run down on the latest cocktail craze out there: cocktails made with shrubs. No, I am not referring to the tall bushes growing in your backyard. I mean those mysterious vinegar-sugar-fruit preparations that, according to Brian Elder, Beverage Manager at Danville’s Revel Kitchen and Bar, add a certain umami to hand-crafted cocktails.

The name, shrubs, derives from the Arabic word sharab, meaning “beverage,” and is probably related to the word “syrup,” too. Made from fresh fruit that is macerated and then boiled with sugar and vinegar (to preserve the freshness and to add acidity), shrubs are aged for several weeks to let the natural flavors develop. Colorful and confounding, these elixirs have become hugely popular in our happenin’ East Bay cocktail scene.

Revel Kitchen and Bar co-owner Esin DeCarion makes the shrubs herself using seasonal produce. Fennel, pear, and beet are on the menu for fall; blood orange is on line for the winter. Mixed with herbal liqueurs of all persuasions, as well as artisanal alcohol, shrubs produce a cocktail of uncanny depth of flavor. Check ‘em out!

Best Bites

American Kitchen's True Cod Slider with pickled vegetablesAmerican Kitchen – True Cod sliders

This thick-fleshed fish is lightly grilled and then slipped inside a fresh artisan bun. Loaded with crunchy vegetables and packed with flavor, these sliders offer all the decadence of meatier sliders while delivering a lighter calorie punch.

Va de Vi's Apple Crostata

Va de Vi – Apple Crostata

A crisp little ball of hand-worked pastry is stuffed with seasoned apple slices that are soft and buttery. Topped with salted caramel ice cream and caramel sauce, this may just be the perfect fall dessert.

Got Dish? Send me an email at dish@maildiablo.com.

Happy Hour Bar & Bites at
The Cooperage

Monday through Friday
3pm – 5:30pm


This isn’t your typical happy hour. This quintessential neighborhood spot offers high-quality craft cocktails on tap and tasty bites. Menu features: $10 cocktails on tap, $5 select beer & wine, $1 oysters, $7 bacon cheeseburger sliders, $7 crispy beer battered shrimp sliders, $9 sashimi-grade ahi tuna tartare. 

32 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette
​Reservations: www.thecooperagelafayette.com or 925.298.5915

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