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Berkeleyside writer Sarah Henry wins journalism award

Sarah Henry
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Sarah Henry, Berkeleyside’s food writer since March 2010, was last night presented with the Karola Saekel Craib Excellence in Food Journalism award in recognition of her fine writing and reporting.

The San Francisco chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international philanthropic society of female leaders in the culinary world, established the fellowship in honor of Karola Saekel Craib, the San Francisco Chronicle reporter whose writing helped to define food journalism as we know it. Saekel Craib, who lived in … Continue reading »

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Pianist Sarah Cahill plays Berkeley Arts Festival

Berkeley pianist Sarah Cahill will play at the Berkeley Arts Festival on Sunday Sept. 22. Photo: Christine Alicino
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About six years ago, anguished by America’s ongoing foreign wars, Sarah Cahill decided to take matters into her own hands. Ever since John Adams wrote his early breakthrough piece “China Gates” for her in 1977 the Berkeley pianist has specialized in presenting new music by living composers, and she launched her own anti-war campaign by commissioning a series of new works.

Cahill’s gorgeous new album A Sweeter Music (Other Minds Records) features eight of the 18 composers involved in the project. She celebrates the album’s Sept. 24 release with an Other Minds event Sunday afternoon at the Berkeley Arts Festival space on University, performing excerpts at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. (a copy of the CD is free with any donation over $15).

The album’s title references a line from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel lecture, “We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody, that is far superior to the discords of war.” She singled out composers who share a similar light-a-candle-rather-than-curse-the-darkness outlook. While one might expect the music to reflect the horror of war and the anger of activists protesting recent US military interventions, the mood is more elegiac than outraged. … Continue reading »

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Bites: What’s new, what’s hot, what’s happening, III

Miss Ollie's big
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Bites is Berkeleyside Nosh’s round-up of restaurant, bar and food-related news in the East Bay. To stay up-to-speed with all that’s going on locally, read our daily Nosh Wire, and check out previous editions of Bites. We always love receiving food-related tips at nosh@berkeleyside.com.

Freshly served…

MISS OLLIE’S After months of build-out work, Miss Ollie’s opened last week in the former Jesso’s space on Washington Street in Oakland. Chef-owner Sarah Kirnon, formerly at San Francisco’s Front Porch and Oakland’s Hibiscus, named her new restaurant after her grandmother, and is serving Caribbean dishes including fried chicken, curry goat and plantains. Right now, it’s only open for lunch, Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with expanded hours soon. Miss Ollie’s, 901 Washington St., Oakland, 510-385-6188.

THE BUREAU Tablehopper alerts us to the fact that The Bureau just opened on Hollis Street in Emeryville. James Sansangasakun, owner of Summer Summer Thai across the street, brought on Edward Higgins (chef de cuisine at Quattro Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto) to consult on the menu. There are burgers and sandwiches with global influences including the Chips n’ Salsa Burger (jalapeño, tortilla chips, roasted tomato salsa, lettuce, nacho cheese), and Tempura (fried rock shrimp patty with wasabi mayo served on a rice “bun”). The Bureau5800 Hollis St., Emeryville, 510-595-1000. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Bartavelle
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BARTAVELLE TAKES FLIGHT  Remember our news that Suzanne Drexhage was taking over the shuttered Café Fanny space on San Pablo Ave.? Well, she quietly opened her Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar today, Tuesday. It’s deliberately a “super soft opening,” she said, “relying only on the stupendous lines at Acme to get us by, and to allow us to get a few of our ducks in a row.” Word must have spread fast, however, as Sarah Henry reports that the place was serving Sightglass coffee from 7 a.m., as well as porridge and pastries for the breakfast set — and the line was out the door. “Around noon, some folks were nibbling on avocado toasts paired with a glass of white wine,” said Henry. The café will build up its menu in anticipation of Saturday, Oct. 27, when next-door neighbor wine merchant Kermit Lynch is holding his 40th anniversary parking lot party. “Then we’ll kick it into high gear,” Drexhage says. Bartavelle, 1603 San Pablo Ave. Open Tues-Sun, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Wine merchant Kermit Lynch celebrates 40th anniversary

Kermit Lynch: Rocker-turned-wine-importer. Photo: Courtesy KLWM
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Following in the footsteps of long-time culinary anchor institutions in Berkeley such as Chez Panisse and the Cheeseboard, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant celebrates its 40th year in business on Saturday Oct. 27 — with the parking lot of its store at 1605 San Pablo Avenue turned into a party venue featuring, of course, fine food and wine.

Kermit Lynch, a wine retailer and importer, is widely regarded for writing one of the best books on the wine business — Adventures on the Wine Route – and is also known for selecting and selling quality pours from small, family-owned estates in France and Italy.

Lynch imports wines from around 140 producers and he’s garnered an international reputation for singing the praises of wines without well-known pedigrees, particularly from France, where he’s traveled the back-roads in search of hidden gems of great value by looking, as he likes to say, where no one else was looking. … Continue reading »

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Chew on this: John Birdsall on Berkeley’s food scene

John Birdsall Photo: Roxanne Webber
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John Birdsall knows his way around the Bay Area’s best food trucks, noodle shops, and unpretentious taco stands. Currently a senior editor at Chow, he was previously the food editor at SF Weekly‘s SFoodie site, and has done two stints as food critic for the East Bay Express.

Along the way he’s penned his fair share of food stories with Berkeley roots, including a profile of Alice Waters for Gilt Taste and an article on the relevancy of Chez Panisse at 40, as well as restaurant reviews, and nods to new food artisans.

Birdsall has a reputation for insightful and stylish — if sometimes provocative — prose. In the flesh he’s soft-spoken and mild-mannered. A professional cook for some 17 years, he switched to the food scribe beat more than a decade ago and, for the record, says cooking for a living is even more all-consuming than food writing. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley acupuncturist finds bliss in seasonal food

Simple sauerkraut: A popular fermented food. Photo: Nishanga Bliss
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“We Americans are eating ourselves to death” sounds like a total Debbie Downer way to begin a book, doesn’t it? But the recently released cookbook Real Food All Year, by Berkeley’s Nishanga Bliss, offers an opportunity to explore seasonal eating in tandem with the principles of Chinese medicine and holistic nutrition in a manner that isn’t overly negative or earnest.

Bliss, a professor of Chinese medicine at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College (AIMC) in downtown Berkeley, where she works as an acupuncturist, nutritionist and herbalist, peppers her book, published by local press New Harbinger, with her professional expertise. She focuses on the healing potential of seasonal eating and cooking to support the health of key organs and overall energy.

So readers will find cheery chapters such as “Feeling Spring,” which encourages eaters to embrace the appearance of fresh, new greens at the market, cleanse, detoxify the liver, and cook for shorter times, with less oil, and lower temperatures than in winter.  … Continue reading »

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900 Grayson: American food with flair in west Berkeley

The restaurant storefront. Photo: Courtesy of Yelp
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From the start, restaurant goers and food critics dug the low-key, west Berkeley breakfast, lunch, and brunch spot serving stylish takes on classic American fare with quirky names like The Demon Lover (spicy fried chicken and buttermilk waffles).

900 Grayson, an unassuming corner restaurant with a maple pink facade, quietly attracted a following for its menu of comfort cuisine made from quality ingredients –  like the natural beef burger with applewood smoked bacon and house-made BBQ sauce — as well as its fresh seasonal fare with Asian undertones like the Ladyboy (a Vietnamese inspired dish with lemongrass prawns, mango, daikon, rice noodles, toasted rice powder and micro greens).

Not long after it opened six years ago, though, the business started by four partners hit some snags. First came the fast departure of chef-partner Sophina Uong (now behind the stoves at Oakland’s Pican). Eighteen months later her former life and work partner, Josh Pearl, followed suit.

A legal dispute over money followed:  The two ex-partners were pitted against brothers Anthony and Christopher Saulnier, who stayed on to run the restaurant. Add to that wranglings with Berkeley’s zoning department over dinner hours — the city had concerns about noise and congestion from the restaurant, which is in a residential area that fronts busy Seventh Street — and the restaurateurs had their hands full.

But the Saulniers weathered that early rough patch and now boast a loyal breakfast crowd, which mostly hails from Berkeley, and a steady lunch-time clientele, thanks largely to nearby businesses such as Pixar, Bayer, Novartis, and a host of smaller companies. These days the kitchen is run by committee, with two chefs, Eric Larson and Nick Spelletich, in charge. Larson was featured serving up 900 Grayson grub on an episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” show for the Food Network.

Berkeleyside spoke with co-owner Chris Saulnier, 43, after the lunch rush last week. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley food blogger serves up gluten-free food for all

Erin Scott
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Food, portrait, and lifestyle photographer Erin Scott, who lives in North Berkeley, is the voice behind the popular blog Yummy Supper, a source for simple, seasonal, and gluten-free recipes accompanied by sumptuous photos that would whet any eater’s appetite — the gluten-free or not.

Scott is also currently recipe testing for her upcoming cookbook, The Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious, and Honest Recipes from a (Gluten-Free) Omnivore.

Many of her ideas feature ingredients picked from her backyard garden, which boasts fragrant herbs, salad and saute greens, and citrus trees.

Scott’s images has been featured on the food porn sites foodgawker and tastespotting and her recipes and photography have gotten nods from sites such as Gourmet Live, Glamour, and Fine Cooking.

With a background in fashion and design, and as the former co-owner of the clothing store August in Oakland, Scott never thought she’d end up spending most days in the kitchen taking pictures.

But her dad gave her a leather-bound Polaroid when she was little so she started snapping photos at an early age.  Scott also enjoyed cooking beside her mom as a young child, and planning, making, and eating a nourishing supper has brought pleasure ever since.

Over nectarine friands and lemon verbena tea, Scott, 41, spoke with Berkeleyside this week about her blog, pending cookbook, and eating well with her husband and two kale-munching kids. … Continue reading »

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Ippuku’s owner: Making Japanese food with integrity

Christian Geideman, owner-chef of Ippuku in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Nicole Rosario
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He’s run a pizza joint in Montana and a Japanese restaurant in New Mexico, but Berkeley-bred Christian Geideman has perhaps earned the highest marks for coming home and opening a stylish izakaya restaurant, Ippuku, in downtown Berkeley.

Izakaya is Japan’s answer to the tapas bar or gastropub: a casual joint to go after work for strong drinks, small plates, and a chance to unwind with friends.

Ippuku opened two years ago on a strip that typically serves the student set and it’s been widely praised since then. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Michael Bauer heaped compliments on the place. Alice Waters is a regular and calls Ippuku one of her favorite spots to dine in town. And local chefs laud the restaurant for its drink list, including shochu (a distilled spirit typically made from barley, sweet potato, rice or black sugar) and craft beers on tap, as well as its authentic, Japanese fare. The restaurant showcases yakitori, or grilled skewers of just about any cut of meat from chicken, including neck, heart, liver, knee cartilage, shoulder blade, tail, gizzards, and skin.

Clearly, Geideman takes the trend of whole-beast cooking to heart. The dish that’s garnered most attention on the menu is chicken tartare. That’s raw chicken, topped with daikon sprouts, Korean chili paste, and a raw egg to the uninitiated — what Bauer described as “a double dose of culinary danger.” … Continue reading »

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North Berkeley merchants want parklets for the people

A parklet in San Francisco's Noe Valley neighborhood. Photo: San Francisco Pavement to Parks
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Businesses in the Gourmet Ghetto are keen to jump on the parklet bandwagon — bringing outdoor seating to the streets for espresso sippers, pizza eaters, and world watchers in lieu of parking spots — but must first wait for the city to come up with a process for making the spaces available.

So-called parklets — slivers of open space sprouting in cities around the globe — are a big trend in urban design, with San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks leading the way locally, and Oakland following suit (a pilot program is under review there.) Berkeley is a little late to the take-back-the-public-space movement but eager to come up with its own ideas to beautify public areas where community members can congregate. Leading the charge is the North Shattuck Association, which is helping businesses in its café- and restaurant-heavy district organize around the concept.

“The parklets pilot project was conceived by the association based on our experience with hosting temporary parklets during past years on Park(ing) Day and the Spice of Life Festival,” said Heather Hensley, executive director of the association.

Park(ing) Day is an international movement conceived to help city residents around the world reimagine the humble parking space. One day each fall, D.I.Y., creative urbanistas are encouraged to transform parking spots into parks, playgrounds, pop-up cafés — anything other than a lowly (though coveted) place for cars. Park(ing) Day parklets have sprouted in Berkeley in past years in front of the Cheese Board Collective and the late Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley serves up an edible education this fall

Graduate School of Journalism professor Michael Pollan. Photo: Fran Collin
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Tonight marks the return of Edible Education at Cal, with solo instructor Michael Pollan kicking off the 16-week course. The class is open to both undergraduate and graduate students — and, like last year, some 300 free seats are reserved for the public. (See details below for nabbing a ticket to these popular sessions, which typically fill to capacity each week.)

The Graduate School of Journalism professor, and guest speakers from the food and farming world, will examine the future of farming and food and explore how the U.S.’s industrialized food system impacts the environment, health, farm and food workers, as well as the culture at large.

“Food politics are in the forefront of students’ minds these days,” said Pollan, known to tackle wonky food subjects in compelling prose in bestselling books such as “In Defense of Food.” “They like hearing from non-academics — activists, farmers, and journalists.” … Continue reading »

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Sketch ice cream returns to Berkeley’s Fourth Street

Sketch will serve its signature soft serve, vanilla bean, organic ice cream.
Photo: Courtesy Sketch
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They’re back: and just in time for the passing of Fogest (that’s August to the uninitiated) and the arrival of real summer in Berkeley and elsewhere around the Bay. Sketch returns today — three years to the day that the popular ice cream spot shut up shop (and as tipped by Berkeleyside in June).

A culinary couple with a fine-dining pedigree, Eric Shelton and Ruthie Planas-Shelton opened Sketch on the busy shopping strip along 4th Street back in 2004 (in the slip of a space that’s now home to a Chocolatier Blue outlet). At the time, the store was one of the first small-batch, organic ice cream purveyors in the area — before gourmet cup and cone businesses took off around the Bay.

The pair weren’t planning to return to Berkeley — let along the same street — when they started scouting around for a new location for their signature sweet treats last year. Shelton, 44, and Planas-Shelton, 31, who live in Jack London Square, had their sights set on an Oakland location, but when a deal fell through, they agreed to check out a space in the new 4th & U complex on the quieter end of 4th Street. It felt like a good fit. So, yet again on the food front, Oakland’s loss is Berkeley’s gain. … Continue reading »

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