The people and craft behind the East Bay’s artisanal food movement.
Thanks to a growing group of local, small-batch food producers, the kitchen arts are trending again. Artisan canners, jammers, picklers, preservers, brewers, bread-makers, and sausage shapers are building thriving businesses dedicated to food that is packed full of flavor and crafted by hand from quality ingredients. And they’re eager to share their wares—and kitchen wisdom—with a public that’s smitten with excellent edibles. Discover the top food entrepreneurs in our neighborhoods.
Est: 2012 / Location: Livermore / Founders: Lenore & Richard Denoix
A former software engineer follows a second career calling: baking bread.
French-born and -raised Richard Denoix, a former Air Force officer and software engineer who lives in Pleasanton, had long used his math- and science-oriented mind to perfect baking bread at home. When he found out last year that his job was being outsourced to India, he seized on the opportunity to make a dream come true.
Denoix’s wife, Italian-American Lenore Colarusso-Denoix, says, “He told me: ‘I don’t want to be an engineer anymore; all I want to do is bake bread.’ ” She notes that Richard, the seventh of nine children, was a keen observer of his mother’s baking skills.
The culinary couple (she’s the cook; he’s the baker) made the dream a reality in June with the opening of Casse-Croûte in Livermore. And since its beginning, the bakery has attracted lines out the door for its rustic loaves and flaky pastries. “We’ve been surprised at how quickly things have taken off,” says Lenore. “This community has really welcomed us.”
What’s not to like? The mom-and-pop shop features locally milled organic flours in its traditional levains and baguettes, and serves viennoiserie (pastries) reminiscent of Denoix’s homeland: croissants, brioche, and fruit tarts. Casse-Croûte means a simple meal or light lunch, and true to its name, the new hot spot also serves sandwiches and soups, cooked by Lenore and staff in the open kitchen.
· Chocolate croissants, pain de campagne, pain d’épi, and baguettes. Casse-Croûte, Livermore, c-cbakery.com.
· Edible Schoolyard levain made with local whole wheat, baguettes, and cinnamon currant bread. Acme Bread, Berkeley, acmebread.com.
· Morning buns, croissants, scones, and breads. La Farine, Berkeley and Oakland, lafarine.com.
· Sourdough and sweet baguettes, rosemary focaccia, and apple turnovers. Semifreddi’s, Berkeley and Kensington, semifreddis.com.
· The kouign-amann (pronounced KOO-ine ah-MAHN) has a cult following in cafés in Berkeley and Oakland. Starter Bakery, starterbakery.com.
· Bread- and pretzel-making classes. Back to the Table, Lafayette, backtothetablecookingschool.com.
· Rustic French breads and other baking classes. Draeger’s Cooking School at Blackhawk Plaza, Danville, draegers.com.
· Two six-week handcrafted bread classes: an introductory series and one focused on old-world artisan styles. Kitchen on Fire, Berkeley, kitchenonfire.com.
Adesso/ Dopo Meat
Est: 2009 / Location: Oakland / Founder: Jon Smulewitz
Two go-to charcuterie spots channel Paul Bertolli and Sicilian heritage.
Jon Smulewitz was schooled in the fine art of curing meats at Oliveto, under the tutelage of former chef and co-owner Paul Bertolli, a sausage king in these parts. Smulewitz also learned a thing or two about cooking and curing from his Sicilian grandparents at family meals in New Jersey. He runs two popular charcuterie destinations on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, Dopo and Adesso, and he’s passing on his knowledge to new chefs in the kitchens—and learning from them, too.
Breaking down beasts, curing meats, and slicing salumi are all part of a day’s work for Smulewitz’s staff.
He credits local, sustainable farmers and ranchers for raising animals responsibly, and with flavor in mind.
At Adesso and Dopo, there’s a designated salumi chef, Chad Arnold, whose sole job is to make salumi, which comes in some 50 different flavors such as adesso (fennel, pork, and salt), mortadella (pistachio and black pepper), and Piemontese (warm spice, red wine). Adesso won a Good Food Award for its speck, receives rave reviews for its in-house pâtés, and counts its prosciutto among its best-sellers. Accolades are great, but this restaurateur hasn’t lost sight of what’s important. “I just keep my head down, keep it pure, and focus on serving food I’d want to eat with my family,” says Smulewitz.
Customers keen to find out what’s so special about Smulewitz and crew’s charcuterie can sample complimentary bites as part of Adesso’s two happy hours at 5–6 p.m. and 11 p.m.–midnight (one of the worst-kept secrets in the East Bay food world).
· Black pepper– and wine-cured bresaola, with a leaner cut of beef and topped with olive oil for richness, or 50 other variations of salumi. Adesso or Dopo, Oakland, dopoadesso.com.
· Beef tongue and duck pâté in the meat market. Café Rouge, Berkeley, caferouge.net.
· Crumbly boudin noir (pigs’ blood sausage) or duck pâté with cherries at the Berkeley farmers markets. The Fifth Quarter Charcuterie, thefifthquarter.co.
· Paper-thin slices of salami and delicate mortadella from former Oliveto and Chez Panisse chef Paul Bertolli. Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Foods, Berkeley, framani.com.
· Chorizo, kielbasa, and bacon jam. Harley Richter Meats, Berkeley, harleyrichtermeats.com.
· Sausages such as lamb and rosemary, turkey and basil, and classic fennel. The Local Butcher Shop, Berkeley, thelocalbutchershop.com.
· A platter of in-house cured salami, including picante, bresaola, and paesana. Oliveto, Oakland, oliveto.com.
· Sausage-making classes. Back to the Table, Lafayette, backtothetablecookingschool.com.
· Butchering classes and meat-curing instruction. Institute of Urban Homesteading, Berkeley and Oakland, iuhoakland.com.
· Butchering and cooking classes. The Local Butcher Shop, Berkeley, thelocalbutchershop.com.
Inna Jam Preserves
Est: 2010 / Location: Emeryville / Founder: Dafna Kory
A self-taught preserver buys a home in a fruit-filled ’hood, and the rest is history.
Dafna Kory discovered the delights of jalapeño jam during a Thanksgiving gathering. She went out to buy a jar and couldn’t find the mighty spicy condiment anywhere, so she began experimenting and making her own. It became an instant hit among her family and friends.
At first, the self-taught preserver thought her hobby would make nice gifts. Then, she moved to Berkeley and saw the abundance of fruit growing in her neighborhood, and Inna Jam (the name is a playful pun) was born. Demand grew by word-of-mouth, and Kory, a freelance editor by profession, found herself looking for her own commercial kitchen.
Her single-varietal preserves come sans added herbs or flavorings. She sources local fresh fruit picked at its peak of ripeness. It’s the kind of jam for slathering on a piece of toast or stirring into a bowl of yogurt.
“I like transforming fruits into something totally different while maintaining their essential taste,” she says. “I’m really trying to pull out the complexity of a variety—whether it’s a Polka raspberry, Seascape strawberry, or Royal Blenheim apricot—and let its uniqueness, natural subtleties, and bright flavors shine.”
In May, Kory moved into a newly outfitted commercial kitchen in Emeryville, following a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Inna Jam is available online, at select Berkeley and Oakland stores, and at Occasio Winery and Tasting Salon in Livermore. True to her DIY roots, Kory also delivers by bike to Berkeley and Oakland customers.
· Chunky Albion strawberry jam spooned on a flaky croissant. Inna Jam, Emeryville, innajam.com.
· Unusual fruits in intriguing pairings such as Provençale tomato and white nectarine jam. Blue Chair Fruit, Oakland, bluechairfruit.com.
· A nicely tart Dapple Dandy pluot jam. Emmy’s Pickles and Jams, Emeryville, emmyspicklesandjams.com.
· The popular peach conserve, perfect on pancakes or waffles. Frog Hollow Farm, Brentwood, froghollow.com.
· Memorable marmalades such as bright and tangy grapefruit and Meyer lemon, or rich, sumptuous blood orange. June Taylor Jams, Berkeley, junetaylorjams.com.
· Seasonal conserve and marmalade classes. June Taylor Jams, Berkeley, junetaylorjams.com.
· Seasonal canning classes. Institute of Urban Homesteading, Berkeley and Oakland, iuhoakland.com.
· Canning and jamming classes. Back to the Table, Lafayette, backtothetablecookingschool.com.
· Introductory, advanced, and holiday preserving classes. Blue Chair Fruit, Oakland, bluechairfruit.com.
· Monthly jam-making classes. Inna Jam, Emeryville, innajam.com.
Est: 2012 / Location: Walnut Creek / Founder: Blaine Landberg
A brewing company that blurs the lines between beer and wine.
From the time he was 14, Walnut Creek’s Blaine Landberg knew he wanted to become a brewer. Growing up outside of Chico, Landberg’s family gatherings often featured hand-brewed beer “not so much for the alcohol content as for the social factor and craft,” says Landberg. While at UC Berkeley, he made his first batch in his dorm basement at 19, and he’s been hooked on home brewing ever since.
Landberg had every intention of turning his brewing hobby into a business but says he got sidetracked—for 13 years—in his job for Honest Tea, where he learned a lot about the art and craft of sales, marketing, and distribution. Recently, he launched Calicraft, a brewing company that blurs the lines between beer and wine, and, with the help of contacts he made in his old job, his product has caught on quickly.
Landberg sources locally: malt from the Klamath Basin, hops from Lake County, and honey from the foothills outside Willows, on his family’s ranch. “I want my beers to have the taste of terroir in the same way wines do,” says Landberg, who’s making a Kölsch-style brew called Cali Colsh and Oaktown Brown, a darker brew with caramel and coffee notes, among others.
Bottles are available at Whole Foods, and Landberg intends to open a small brewery and tasting room in Walnut Creek’s Shadelands area. On draft, his ales are available at ØL Beercafé and Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek, Pete’s Brass Rail in Danville, Handles in Pleasanton, Beer Revolution and Ben and Nick’s in Oakland, and Revival Bar and Gather in Berkeley.
Oh, and did we mention he’s the maker of the Panisse Pale Ale, timed to celebrate the 41st anniversary of Chez Panisse? The clean malty blend with strong citrus notes was designed, natch, to pair well with food.
· Buzzerkeley, a sparkling ale that works well with fruit, shellfish, and white meats. Calicraft, Walnut Creek, calicraft.com.
· Orange Kush, a wheat brew with orange peel, coriander, and chamomile notes. Ale Industries, Concord, aleindustries.com.
· Organic, spicy Gingerbread Ale, or hearty Chocolate Stout, with a blend of cocoa powder and six malts. Bison Brewing, Berkeley, bisonbrew.com.
· Drakonic Imperial Stout, a malty beast of a brewskie with licorice, coffee, and chocolate flavors. Drake’s Brewing Company, San Leandro, drinkdrakes.com.
· The Nico American Wheat works well with grilled chicken, bratwurst, and nutty cheeses. Schubros Brewery, San Ramon, schubrosbrewery.com.
· Meet home brewers at Bay Area Mashers meetings in Oakland and elsewhere. bayareamashers.org.
· More Beer More Wine, a Concord home brewers’ supply store, offers regular classes. morebeer.com.
· DOZE: Diablo Order of Zymiracle Enthusiasts is a group of home brew hobbyists who meet monthly in Walnut Creek. clubdoze.com.
Happy Girl Kitchen Pickles
Est: 2002 / Location: Oakland / Founders: Jordan & Todd Champagne
A fun-loving couple brings pickled veggies and canning classes to the Bay Area.
Their slogan—“There’s a party in my pantry”—pretty much says it all. While Jordan and Todd Champagne of Happy Girl Kitchen take their work seriously, they subscribe to the notion that preserving nature’s bounty is a playful endeavor, too. Their time spent working on farms together in Norway also taught them the importance of capturing the growing season’s glut for future enjoyment at the table.
Proving that everything old is new again, these modern-day homesteaders ferment a revolution in jars, transforming organic produce—cucumbers, carrots, beets—into tangy tastes like sour dill pickles, kimchee, and sauerkraut. The pair owns the Happy Girl Kitchen Café in Pacific Grove, where they also hold workshops. Fortunately, they sell their goods and teach classes in our neck of the woods, too. “Pickling is the new knitting,” says Todd. “It’s a tradition that conjures up a different time for people and suggests getting back to basics and learning skills and knowledge that make sense during lean times.”
That’s not all. “Preserving food is an investment; it’s like saving the past,” adds Todd, an instructor at Oakland’s Food Craft Institute, where he’s teaching the next generation of artisan picklers. “Eating a pickle makes you pucker and wake up. It’s a snappy, crunchy, salty bit of fun.”
Find Happy Girl pickles and preserves online, at Star Grocery, Summer Kitchen and Bake Shop, Monterey Market, and the Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley; and Whole Foods and Sacred Wheel Cheese and Specialty Market in Oakland.
· Spicy bread-and-butter pickles. Happy Girl Kitchen, Pacific Grove, happygirlkitchen.com.
· Spicy oregano purple carrots. Cultured Pickle Shop, Berkeley, culturedpickleshop.com.
· Amber-hued turmeric cauliflower. Emmy’s Pickles and Jams, San Francisco, available in various East Bay shops, emmyspicklesandjams.com.
· The Sa’Or, a sweet and savory stewed onion bathed in olive oil. Studebaker Pickles, Oakland, studebakerpickles.com.
· Pleasantly gingery green beans. The Uncommon Pickle, Oakland, theuncommonpickle.tumblr.com.
· Pickle- and chutney-making classes. Back to the Table, Lafayette, backtothetablecookingschool.com.
· Pickling, preserving, and other DIY classes. Happy Girl Kitchen, Oakland, happygirlkitchen.com.
· Fermentation classes. Institute of Urban Homesteading, Berkeley and Oakland, iuhoakland.com.
· Pickling, preserving, and curing classes. We Olive, Walnut Creek, walnutcreek.weolive.com.
Sarah Henry’s work has appeared in Edible East Bay and San Francisco. She blogs at lettuceeatkale.com.