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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quick Take: Four Great Dishes at A16 Rockridge

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 5:30 PM

  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • Testa pizza
As it enters into its fourth year of existence, A16 Rockridge has all the makings of a classic. Certainly, College Avenue has only continued to accrue an ever-greater density of destination eateries — among them Millennium, Ramen Shop, and Smitten Ice Cream — in addition to the older mainstays like Wood Tavern and À Côté that preceded A16's 2013 arrival on the block.

Buzz almost inevitably fades away, but a recent visit found a number of excellent dishes on chef Rocky Maselli's menu to recommend. Here are four.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How to Eat LocoL: A cheat sheet for interpreting Oakland's latest fast food fad

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 1:00 PM

  • A.K. Carroll
Roy Choi (Kogi BBQ) and Daniel Patterson (Coi, Plum Bar, Haven) are on a mission to change the way you think about fast food. Their brain child — LocoL — aspires to offer quality food at affordable prices, while also serving as a platform for social change in dynamic neighborhoods.

The duo opened their first location in the Watts neighborhood of LA in January and their second in Uptown Oakland late last month. The latest LocoL is decked out with comic book cartoon characters, electronic kiosks and a menu that takes a little effort to decode.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday Six: Rockridge Improvement Club; Eatsa initiates breakfast menu; Shark fin ban upheld

Posted By on Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 7:00 AM

7-Eleven's delicious abomination - ALI WUNDERMAN
  • Ali Wunderman
  • 7-Eleven's delicious abomination
Plus sharks celebrate multiple wins with a continued ban on their fins, while 7-Eleven debuts a shark-themed donut full of shock, awe, and jelly.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sophina Uong Kicks it Up a Notch at Calavera

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Wood Fired Squash Blossoms - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Wood Fired Squash Blossoms

Spicy is the name of the game when it comes to the culinary undertakings of Executive Chef Sophina Uong (Waterbar, Revival, Picán), the latest to helm the kitchen at Oakland Mexican hot spot, Calavera. After joining the team this past March, Uong has had her way with the menu, keeping a few house favorites, like the nopal asado and the carnitas tacos, while also introducing an array of tasty (and often spicy) small plates.

Cascabal Chile Smoked Duck and Mezcal chicken liver mousse - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Cascabal Chile Smoked Duck and Mezcal chicken liver mousse
Sea of Cortez Bay Scallops
  • Sea of Cortez Bay Scallops
As someone who cooks with habaneros and balks at the thought of "mild" salsa, my palate was primed to handle something spicy, but even I couldn't finish Uong's sultry wood-fired squash blossoms, stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and creamy sikil pak (pumpkin seed salsa) and languishing in a vibrant red salsa infused with habanero and serrano peppers. The bay scallop crudo was more my speed, with chunks of avocado and sweet slices of golden tomato to take the edge off of a charred-habanero and pineapple sauce. Fat stalks of spring asparagus came charred to submission, drizzled in molé and topped with flecks of breadcrumbs. I am a huge fan of salsas, moles, and sauce of any kind, but the most satisfying entree of the evening was a juicy carnitas taco, topped with delicate white onion and served with avocado tomatillo salsa.
Pork Shank Carnitas Tacos
  • Pork Shank Carnitas Tacos
Puerto Escondido
  • Puerto Escondido

No meal at Calavera is complete without a couple of Michael Iglesias' flashy mezcal concoctions. Most memorable was the Puerto Escondido, Iglesias' take on the pina colada. Inspired by the first beverage Iglesias ever imbibed — sneaking sips from his mother's glass on hot summer nights — the Puerto pairs smoky mezcal with Demerera rum and a house-made toasted coconut cream that lacks the saccharine sweetness of a traditional beach-side drink. Highly recommended as a means of keeping (or restoring) your cool.

2337 Broadway, Oakland, 510-338-3273 

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

West Oakland's Trouble Coffee: Still Gleaming White, One Year In

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Cinnamon toast a la Trouble West Oakland - A. K. CARROLL
  • A. K. Carroll
  • Cinnamon toast a la Trouble West Oakland
Nearly one year after Giulietta Carrelli opened her third Trouble Coffee on a nondescript street corner off of 16th and Willow streets in West Oakland, I finally tried the $4 toast that starting making headlines in 2014. The place was quiet: dead quiet.

“Are you working today?” the barista asked, making me wonder how often she gets a customer at 11 a.m. on a Monday. I would have returned the question, but it seemed a foolish thing to ask the woman who was buttering my toast.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Find the Perfect Cuppa at Sophie's Cuppa Tea

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 12:30 PM

  • A.K. Carroll
“Are you looking for a tea?” asks a kind-faced man with curly gray hair and glasses.

“I didn’t think I was,” I respond. “But I guess I am now.”

I’ve just wandered into Sophie’s Cuppa Tea, a tea market and sipping spot on Antioch Court in Oakland's Montclair Village. I was, I admit, on my way to do some writing at the Peet’s down the street, when the red paper lanterns caught my attention through the window.

The man behind the counter — who I later find out is owner John Brown — offers to help me figure out what I’m after. Do I want more caffeine, less caffeine, no caffeine? Do I like floral, herbal, sweet, smoky, fruity, honey, or the pure taste of tea? I opt for something smoky and Brown delves further into my palate preferences.

“Can I ask if you're a scotch drinker and do you like the flavor of smoke in your scotch?” he poses.

I think about scotch and I smile.

“Yes,” I answer. "Unquestionably, yes."  I am one of the more indecisive people that I know and there are precious few decisions that I make quickly. I am grateful for Brown's spot-on assistance.

"I think I'll start you off with the Smokey Pine," he offers.

"Sounds great," I say.

"I'll brew it strong if that's okay. Most smoky scotch drinkers tend to like the Smokey Pine strong."

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Farley's East: In Search of a Local Coffee Shop That Doesn't Smack of Hipsterdom

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Farley's gibraltar
  • Farley's gibraltar

I recently returned from a three-week stay in the Midwest. For those of you who can't fathom why anyone would willingly spend time in the windy nothingness and freezing-cold tundra of the Great Plains in the winter, let me assure you that you don't know what you're missing out on.

Despite the fact that northwestern Iowa — where I spent my undergraduate career and all of last weekend — does not offer much in the way of foodie culture (or winter produce), it is home to The Old Factory Coffee Shop, an unassuming local gem that couples Midwestern friendliness and community with a California-worthy commitment to local seasonal ingredients and damn-good — er, darn-good — coffee.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Spoonful of Sugar, Sugar at Firebrand Artisan Breads

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 1:30 PM

  • Jeffrey Edalatpour
  • Bread

The first bite I tasted of a pain au chocolat was a revelation to my sullen adolescent soul. My stepmother brought them home one day out of the blue, as if she knew instinctively what could cure my teenaged ills. Ever since then, bakeries have been a salve, healing my every wound, the one place in this lonely world that can lift, unfailingly, a pessimistic mood into the beatific. The instant my feet are on the ground in any new city — Chicago, Seattle, New York — I point them in the direction of bread and pastries. I like the taste of place, the discovery of differing regional approaches and familial traditions in the making of a croissant and baguettes and eclairs. It is, therefore, unnerving to have already lost my enthusiasm for the arrival of a new bakery in downtown Oakland.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Oakland's Haven Has a New Chef, But It's as Delicious as Ever

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Haven's "Breaking Bread" concept is a fantastic way to start a meal. - ALIX WALL
  • Alix Wall
  • Haven's "Breaking Bread" concept is a fantastic way to start a meal.

Since opening at the end of 2011, Oakland’s Haven, in Jack London Square, has cycled through several executive chefs. Charlie Parker is the latest to move on, to San Francisco’s Alfred’s Steakhouse — which was recently sold to the Daniel Patterson Group (DPG) — and executive chef Matt Brimer has come on board.

Haven — also owned by the DPG — has had a family-style menu since its inception, under executive chef Kim Alter. But when Parker came on board, he introduced a “breaking bread” starter course, giving the restaurant a chance to show its charcuterie chops by offering several kinds of housemade breads, crackers, vegetable spreads, and cheeses. As the dessert and side dishes were fixed, the diner was left with only one choice to make: a vegetarian or meat entrée.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Iron Pan Boozes Up and Rebrands as Urbano Latino

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 1:00 PM

Ceviche trio - A. K. CARROLL
  • A. K. Carroll
  • Ceviche trio

The food scene in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood continues to develop as eating establishments of all shapes, sizes, and persuasions pop up and change over. Capitalizing on the current culture's fascination with small plates and curiosity in craft cocktails, Waleed Jueiwnat's Iron Pan (a restaurant that recently set up shop in the former home of Aunt Mary's Cafe) has recently rebranded as Urbano Latino and rebooted their offerings with a full liquor license, new menu items, and weeknight specials to boot.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"