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Best of the East Bay - Food



Kane Sushi
Photo by Anne Hamersky

Editor Pick

New Winery

Despite Livermore’s rapid development in the past few years, it still has a few country roads. Les Chênes Estate Vineyards, the area’s newest winery, sits at the end of one such path, stoney Victoria Lane, just off Tesla Road.

Richard and Candice Dixon officially opened Les Chênes, which means the oaks in French, this spring. The winery produces balanced Syrah and a muscular red blend called Deux Rouge with the grapes Richard carefully grows on the property. Les Chênes was once a wheat farm scattered with old chicken coops, but the Dixons spent eight years converting the site to vineyards, a winery and tasting room, and their home, complete with a prolific rose garden.

“The kitchen and range were the first things I had built,” says Candice, a beaming blond, as she stands before the stove in her tasting room. “I’ve always loved to entertain.” The first Saturday of every month, the winery is open to the public, and Candice prepares a succulent dish, such as plum pork, for visitors to pair with the wine. All the samples are free, but you might find yourself wanting to buy some land of your own at the end of a country road.

Les Chênes Estate Vineyards, 5562 Victoria La., Livermore, (925) 373-1662, www.leschenesvine.com. —Kathryn Jessup


Editor Pick

Singing Farmers Market Vendor

If you’ve ever been to the Walnut Creek farmers market, you probably know who Santiago Marin is, although you may not know his name. He’s the guy at the Paredez Farms stall singing about peaches and, usually, rain or shine, the beautiful day. He sings, without tune, “Nice day, nice people, nice customers!” And when he’s bagging your produce, he’ll often say, “One for you, one for me,” and load an extra peach or two into your bag for free. Whatever the transaction, he’ll sing it: “Money, money, yippee, yippee!”

Customers can never say no to the slices of fruit he thrusts their way with an oh-come-on-and-take-it grin. Esther Florendo, Marin’s colleague who makes the three and half hour drive with him every Sunday from Exeter, California, agrees that his charm helps sales. “He could sell rocks,” she says.

Paredez Farms sells fruit year-round at the Walnut Creek farmers market, Sundays 8 a.m.–1 p.m. in the library parking lot at the corner of North Broadway and Lincoln Avenue. For information about the market, visit www.cccfm.org. —Catherine Cromelin

Reader Pick

Freshest Sushi and Best Japanese Restaurant

When you walk into Kane Sushi, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the ordering possibilities. In addition to an extensive menu of Japanese food, including soba and udon noodles, donburi, teriyaki, and the house list of sushi (including the cucumber, salmon, and hamachi roll at right), the walls are lined with descriptions of sushi rolls dreamed up by loyal customers. Each page has a childlike glee: The customer’s first name is posted along with a playful line drawing of the roll and a list of its ingredients.

Geoff’s hand roll bursts with grilled eel, crab, tempura vegetables, and avocado. Daryl’s roll comes with scallop, tobiko, and “special sauce,” and Sue’s crunchy maki boasts tempura shrimp, crab, avocado, and “crunch.” Regardless of what you decide on, the portions will be generous and the fish fresh. Both the Danville and Lafayette locations get crazy busy at mealtimes, but diners love Kane to bits regardless, especially when they’re washing down their dinner with a cold Sapporo served in a thick, icy beer stein or ending a meal with silky rounds of mochi filled with vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream.

Kane Sushi, 125 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 362-8686; 3474 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-9709.

Editor Pick

Mother's Savior

I don’t like to cook, and I’m not good at it—there, I’ve admitted it! I don’t mind washing dishes after cooking, but now I don’t even have to do that, thanks to my new best friends at Now We’re Cooking.

Once a month, I spend a couple of hours putting together meals to keep in my fridge and freezer. At dinnertime, I pop pork chops with apples or, our other favorite, chicken enchilada casserole, in the oven, whip up a veggie and a salad, and present my family with a wonderful dinner that I “made” especially for them. The meals are dee-lish, and if I run out, I can stop by the shop and pick up a pre-assembled entrée from its stash of yummy dinners. And here’s the best part: If I can’t get to them, they’ll deliver to me!

Now We’re Cooking, 148 E. Prospect Ave., Danville, (925) 743-1212, www.nowwerecooking.com. —Carolyn Rovner

Photo by Anne Hamersky

Reader pick

Vegetarian Meal

It might come as a surprise that a restaurant known for its gourmet hamburger, its short ribs, its pork chop, and its lemon-rosemary chicken won the most votes for best vegetarian meal, but Chow does it all.

A respect for pristine produce is at the core of this community gathering place, where newly appointed executive chef Adam Marchetti (pictured at left) presides over the kitchen and high standards for the ingredients are in evidence in the adjacent market. Vegetarians can feast on organic spinach salad studded with slivered red endive, feta cheese, dried currents and cranberries, and walnuts. The dressing is an aged sherry vinaigrette made with pureed pear. Farfalle pasta tossed with house-made basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, and cubes of fresh mozzarella tastes like summer in a bowl, and the vegetarian lasagna is a beautiful dish layered with Bellwether Farms ricotta from the Sonoma Coast. It’s these sorts of details that make the vegetarian fare at Chow sing.

Chow, 53 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette, (925) 962-2469.

Editor Pick

Reading Selection

There are a lot of reasons to like Bo’s Barbecue in Lafayette. Owner Bo McSwine might be the friendliest restaurant owner on earth, always greeting customers with handshakes and hugs. The spacious patio is perfect for summer evenings, especially when there’s a live band playing. And Bo keeps a giant stack of architecture, lifestyle, and newsmagazines, as well as the daily New York Times, by the front door, so single customers will never be bored. Oh, and the barbecue is awesome.

Bo’s Barbecue, 3422 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-7133. —Peter Crooks

Editor Pick

Sugar High

When South America came to Lafayette in the form of the Patio, the restaurant introduced a Peruvian treasure. The dessert called dulce de leche mousse consists of a melt-in-your-mouth creamy pudding, a subtler version of the milky caramel confection traditionally called dulce de leche, on a delicate, crunchy crust. Who said cocaine was Peru’s most intoxicating export?

The Patio, 960 Moraga Rd., Lafayette, (925) 299-6885, www.thepatiotapas.com. —Michaela Jarvis

Editor Pick

Nontraditional Brunch

Sunday brunch at Berkeley’s Thai Buddhist Temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram, is nothing if not unique. Diners make donations to the temple in exchange for tokens, which they use to purchase food. And eggs and bacon aren’t on the menu. Instead, you’ll find aromatic red, yellow, and green curries; spicy green beans; fresh pad thai; a whole trout cooked in Thai spices; and, for dessert, sticky rice served with mango slices and custard.

You can get a big meal for less than $10, but don’t expect a white tablecloth—the best seat is often a patch of grass at the busy corner of Russell Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Be sure to get there early; lines get really long the closer it gets to noon.

Wat Mongkolratanaram, 1911 Russell St., Berkeley, (510) 849-3419, Sunday brunch 9 a.m.–2 p.m. —Justin Goldman

Editor Pick

Happy Ending

Pinky’s Pizza has been a family-friendly institution since 1962, but on February 6, the unthinkable happened. The pizzeria, and its neighbor, Sunrise Café and Bakery, closed due to an electrical problem. As the property owner and PG&E squabbled about who was responsible for repairs, Pinky’s and Sunrise stayed shut—and it looked like another case of the neighborhood little guy getting squeezed.

But then, Pinky’s owner, Tom Beisheim, and Sunrise’s owner, Cindy Gershen, announced they would hold a rally to inform the public of their plight. Within 24 hours of the announcement, PG&E fixed the problem. Nevertheless, legions of loyal customers turned out for the weekend rally, and instead of being a sad occasion, it felt like the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life (every time a bell rings, an angel orders a pepperoni and black olive pie).

Both businesses are back up and running again, although Sunrise is still operating from its sister location around the corner. We’re so glad we didn’t lose them in the end.

Pinky’s Pizza, 1379 S. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 932-2728, www.pinkyspizza.com. Sunrise Bistro and Café, 1559 Botelho Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 930-0122, www.sunrisebistrocatering.com. —Peter Crooks


San Ramon Farmers Market
Photo by Ann Hamersky
Reader Pick

Thai Food

When Plearn Thai Palace came through the tunnel from Berkeley and opened a location on North Main Street in Walnut Creek in 2003, Thai food lovers rejoiced. This year, their fervor for Plearn’s pad thai, the ultimate triumvirate of sweet, salty, and crisp, reached a new height, as the restaurant earned more votes than any other for best Thai restaurant.

Don’t miss the golden brown ghio krob (spicy Thai wontons stuffed with curried potatoes); the summery yet pungent som tum (shredded green papaya salad); the creamy red chili–flecked pumpkin curry with chicken; or the chef’s special ma kuer pad, sautéed eggplant punched up with chili peppers, garlic, and basil.

Plearn Thai Palace, 1510 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-7999; 2050 University Ave., Berkeley, (510) 841-2148. 

Editor Pick

New Farmers Market

The Tri-Valley has a new farmers market, and it rocks. On Saturday mornings, 16 acres of gently rolling hills that Ruth Boone bequeathed to the city is the setting for the San Ramon Farmers Market at Forest Home Farms. Vendors sell cherries, flowers, basil, summer squash, apricots, shellfish, and other treasures, many of them organic, from up and down the state.

 Prepared food, from handmade Argentinean empanadas to sweet Brittany crepes and nitrite-free Old World sausages, will tide you over while you shop, and live music, such as funky jazz from the group Gemini Soul, keeps the atmosphere light. Don’t hesitate to bring along little ones—with the free samples of fruit, the sheep shearing demonstrations in the adjacent lot, and the crisp-sweet kettle corn, you’ll have to drag the kids away.

San Ramon Farmers Market at Forest Home Farms, 9 a.m.–1 p.m., Saturdays from May to October, 19953 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 973-3280, www.sanramonfarmersmarket.org. —Kathryn Jessup

Wedge Salad, Faz
Photo by Harvindar Singh
Editor Pick

Wedge Salad

It’s the Revenge of the Wedge. Walnut Creek cooking legend Marion Cunningham famously horrified Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters with her loyalty to iceberg lettuce. But perhaps we can thank Cunningham for the fabulous iceberg wedge salads in evidence all over Diabloland today. The ingredients, iceberg aside, have gotten a gourmet update since the 1950s.

Faz: You can enjoy the best wedge salad in the Tri-Valley amid the shady peace of Faz’s redwood courtyard. The cool iceberg is drizzled with Gorgonzola dressing and sprinkled with crisp bacon bits, fresh basil chiffonade, and lively toybox tomatoes, which add a welcome note of acidity. Tender hard boiled egg comes on the side. 600 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 838-1320, www.fazrestaurants.com.

Walnut Creek Yacht Club: Fresh-from-the-ocean scallops, bay shrimp, and lobster dress up the wedge at the Yacht Club, and chef Kevin Weinberg serves it with his tasty house-made Louis dressing. 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, www.wcyc.net.

Max’s Diner: The Hearts of Iceberg salad at Max’s is best in summer, when the kitchen tops it with heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, a crumble of Danish blue cheese, and a zesty buttermilk dressing. 2015 Crow Canyon Pl., San Ramon, (925) 277-9300, www.maxsworld.com.

Chow: Roasted red beets, shaved carrot and radish, and house-made torn garlic croutons set this wedge apart, but the classic blue cheese dressing brings it back to the ’50s. 53 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette, (925) 962-2469 —K.J.

Patrick David's Chocolate Souffle
Photo by John Edwards, Courtesy of Patrick David's Fine Foods

Reader Pick

Local Desserts to Go National

For regulars at Patrick David’s restaurant in Danville, chef Patrick David Schoolcraft’s desserts are the stuff of cravings. Now the rest of the country can get a taste of his talent. A loyal diner with a marketing background, Amy Phillips, has taken Schoolcraft’s chocolate soufflé and brioche bread pudding recipes and created gourmet packaged desserts that busy shoppers can buy at the store and bake at home in minutes.

“There are people across the country just like me,” says Phillips. “We love to entertain at home, but between working and being a mom it has been hard to find the time to create gourmet desserts.”

The new product line, Patrick David’s Fine Foods, retails at Costco, Lunardi’s, and Whole Foods, and re-creates Schoolcraft’s luscious desserts with astounding accuracy. This could be dangerous for dieters, but we’re proud that our local chef’s name, and his wonderful work, will soon be known from sea to shining sea.

Patrick David’s Fine Foods, www.patrick davidsfinefoods.com. —Kathryn Jessup

Reader Pick

New Restaurant

It has been an excellent year for restaurant openings in the 925. Since our last Best of the East Bay issue, we’ve seen Izzy’s Steaks and Chops and Zachary’s Chicago Pizza open in San Ramon, Uncle Yu’s at the Vineyard open in Livermore, and Huynh open in Walnut Creek. Some of these spots, such as Izzy’s, opened their doors after we’d finished collecting your votes (they’ll get a shot next year), but of those in contention, the competition was most fierce between two Tri-Valley spots: Forbes Mill Steakhouse and Incontro Ristorante.

 Both brought in loads of votes, Forbes for offering well-sourced melt-in-your-mouth Kobe steaks and an electric bar scene, and Incontro for its pure, sublime rendition of real Italian cuisine. In the end, Forbes pulled in four more votes, but you, our readers, clearly love them each heartily.

Forbes Mill Steakhouse, 200 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 552-0505, www.forbesmillsteakhouse.com.

More Reader Picks

Walnut Creek Baking Company
, 1686 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 988-9222, www.walnutcreekbakingcompany.com.

Manny Hinojosa at the Walnut Creek Yacht Club
, 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, www.walnutcreekyachtclub.com.

Breakfast Joint
Millie's Kitchen,
1018 Oak Hill Road, Lafayette, (925) 283-2397   

Kevin Weinberg at the Walnut Creek Yacht Club,
1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, www.walnutcreekyachtclub.com.

Coffee House
Yellow Wood Coffee and Tea,
215 Alamo Plaza, Alamo, (925) 837-1234.

Cooking School
Viking Cooking School
, 1604 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 943-3191, www.viking cookingschool.com.

Date Restaurant
Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Lounge,
1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-2464, www.bingcrosbysrestaurant.com.

Genova Delicatessen,
1105 S. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-3838; 5095 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 652-7401.

Hubcaps Diner,
1548 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 945-6960, www.hubcapsdiner.com.

Fine Dining
Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Lounge,
1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-2464, www.bingcrosbysrestaurant.com.

George’s Giant Hamburger
, 1491 Newell Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4888.

Ice-Cream Shop
Loard’s Ice Cream and Candies,
various East Bay locations, www.loards.com.

Indian Restaurant
Breads of India,
1358 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-7684; 2448 Sacramento St., Berkeley, (510) 848-7684.

Italian Restaurant
Prima Ristorante
, 1522 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 935-7780, www.primaristorante.com; Montecatini Ristorante, 1528 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 943-6608.

Lunch Salad
Yellow Wood Coffee and Tea
, 215-E Alamo Plaza, Alamo, (925) 837-1234, www.ywtakeout.com.

El Charro Mexican Dining
, 3339 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-2345.

Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Lounge
, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-2464, www.bingcrosbysrestaurant.com.

Mexican Restaurant
Casa Orozco,
7995 Amador Valley Blvd., Dublin, (925) 828-5464; 325 S. LSt., Livermore, (925) 449-3045; www.casaorozco.com.

Hubcaps Diner
, 1548 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 945-6960, www.hubcapsdiner.com.

Outdoor Dining
Va De Vi Bistro and Wine Bar
, 1511 Mount Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek (925) 979-0100 www.vadevibistro.com.

Pizza Parlor
Zachary's Chicago Pizza
, 3110 Crow Canyon Place, San Ramon, (925) 244-1222, www.zacharys.com.

Place for Appetizers
Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar,
1511 Mt. Diablo, Walnut Creek, (925) 979-0100, www.va-de-vi-bistro.com.

Place for a Late-Night Snack
Hubcaps Diner,
1548 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 945-6960, www.hubcapsdiner.com.

Place for Dessert
Café Esin
, 2416 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Ste. 140, San Ramon, (925) 314-0974, www.cafeesin.com.

Place to Get a Cocktail
Bing Crosby's Restaurant and Piano Lounge
, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-2464, www.bingcrosbysrestaurant.com .

Seafood Restaurant
Walnut Creek Yacht Club
, 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, www.walnut creekyachtclub.com.

Side Dish
Regatta Fries at Walnut Creek Yacht Club,
1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, www.walnutcreekyachtclub.com.

Steak House
Vic Stewart’s,
850 S. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 943-5666, www.vicstewarts.com.

Chow Ciao’s at Susan Foord Catering,
965 Mountain View Dr., Lafayette, (925) 299-7616, www.susanfoordcatering.com.

Wine Shop
Wine Thieves
, 3401 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-9070; 5443 Clayton Rd., Clayton, (925) 672-4003, www.winethieves.com.


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