Author Archives: Risa Nye

Ms. Barstool: Cocktails at garden-inspired Tigerlily

Photo: Tigerlily/Facebook
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The first thing you notice when you enter Tigerlily on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley is the greenery: an assortment of plants hang from the ceiling while others appear to be growing on the walls. Pots filled with plants hang throughout the bar. The bar itself is covered with a canopy of what looks like grass growing upside down. A light-colored bark covers the lower part of the bar and curves around the inverted lawn above. If you feel as though you’ve wandered into an urban garden, you have. Everything you see has a garden tie-in somehow, including the occasional spot-them-if-you-can red-hatted gnomes.

Tigerlily has a small number of tables out front, allowing patrons to observe the passing parade on Shattuck — lively at any time, but especially on an evening when the street is filled with shoppers on their way to browse at the farmer’s market, or lined up across the street at the Cheese Board. … Continue reading »

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Alice Medrich on the eye-opening flavors of flours

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After being seduced by truffles in Paris in the mid-1970s, Alice Medrich opened her own chocolate dessert shop, Cocolat, in Berkeley. Since selling that business, she has written many bestselling books. Her most recent one, Flavor Flours (Artisan Books, Nov. 2014), won the James Beard Foundation Award for best book of the year in the baking and dessert category. The book is the result of her interest in baking with a wide variety of whole and ancient grains, nuts, and other non-wheat flours. Berkeleyside Nosh had the chance to speak with Medrich just before her appearance at the Uncharted Ideas Festival on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Are your recipes simple to follow using these other types of flours?

Many of them are very simple. Most of them are very simple and some are indeed simpler to mix up than a traditional recipe with wheat flour.

So you don’t have to let things get to room temperature?

Often you don’t have to worry about the temperatures of the ingredients. And of course you don’t have to worry about accidentally developing too much gluten and coming up with a tough cookie. The instructions in that book are pretty detailed. And if you just follow them, you’re going to get a nice result. Not too much rocket science there! The rocket science went into figuring it all out on our side. … Continue reading »

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Grand Fare Market: Oakland’s new neighborhood hub

Brother & Sister Flower Shop in Grand Fare Market. Photo: Michael David Rose
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Grand Fare Market, Doug Washington and Freya Prowe’s market and outdoor dining courtyard, opened earlier this month after much careful preparation. The market, and its adjoining 3,500-square-foot, tree-lined courtyard, at 3265 Grand Ave. in Oakland, was designed by Emeryville-based Robert Fink of Fink Architecture as a destination that seamlessly blends dining, shopping locally and socializing.

It’s a place to sit and visit over a morning cup of Linea coffee, pastries and Humphry Slocombe ice cream served up through the window of a snazzy 1946 blue and silver Spartan Mansion trailer. It’s also a place to enjoy a sandwich, salad or a cheese and charcuterie board in the shady courtyard — and it’s a place to pick up dinner or linger over a plate of oysters and a glass of wine of an evening. The idea, Washington says, was for Grand Fare to be the “one stop” for a great meal any time of day. … Continue reading »

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Ms. Barstool: Kona Club on Oakland’s Piedmont Ave.

The Undertow from Kona Club. Photo: Risa Nye
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It’s tiki time.

During the recent heat waves, the promise of tiny umbrellas in our drinks and a fondness for tiki ambience drew us to the Kona Club in Oakland. The moment we walked into the bar on the corner of Piedmont Avenue and Pleasant Valley Road, we left the heat and traffic behind and entered a unique world full of surfboards, glass floats and blowfish lamps.

Coming in from the light, one cannot help notice the change: it’s always twilight at the Kona Club. But it’s all the better to see the volcano behind the bar and appreciate the mechanical hula dancer who begins undulating at 5 p.m. … Continue reading »

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First Impressions: Sequoia Diner in the Laurel

Photo: Sequoia Diner
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As a longtime fan of the departed Full House Café, I was eager to check out the new Sequoia Diner that now occupies the space at 3719 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland’s Laurel District. We planned to get there as close to 8 a.m. as possible, since we expected the recent buzz would mean big crowds early in the day.

As it happens, we were right about the crowds: at 8:15 we got our pick of tables for two, which are in the center of the room. The booths, one holdover from Full House, are for larger parties. Counter seating was also available. By 8:30, the house looked pretty full with families, friends and a number of single diners enjoying their breakfasts. One woman at the next table loved her huevos rancheros so much, she showed me the photo she took of the dish, which she not only described as “setting a new standard” but also declared “a work of art.” … Continue reading »

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First impressions: KronnerBurger on Piedmont Ave.

Kronnerburger 5/20/15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Having followed the buzz about the highly anticipated new hamburger place opening on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue this month, I was delighted to find KronnerBurger already open for business.

The distinctive white and cobalt blue triangular building is located in the former home of J’s Mexican American Food at the corner of Piedmont Avenue and 41st Street. The building itself is notable for its clock tower and historic link to the old Key Route system. The building has a fresh new look, minus the old mural — a fact that has pleased some and rankled others. … Continue reading »

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Turning tables: Ms Barstool goes to cocktail school

Matty at Flora. Photo Risa Nyejpg
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Flora, Uptown Oakland’s popular art-deco restaurant and bar, began offering classes for cocktail enthusiasts this year. The first session (offered in February and March) focused on Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, with tips on techniques, a sampling of the history of American whiskeys, some “hands-on” opportunities, and plenty of tasting involved.

The class I attended, the first in a two-part series offered in April and May, was supposed to focus on the coast to coast variations of citrus-based drinks. As happens sometimes in the best teaching environments, an instructor — in this case, the enthusiastic Matty McGee — took his cues from his students, and tweaked the curriculum a bit.

We began with a discussion of the daiquiri. According to my somewhat blurry notes, the differences break down like this: East Coast daiquiris are more sugary, boozier, and made on a larger scale, while West Coast drinks are more condensed with more equally balanced ingredients. The way he describes it, the rebels on the left coast felt it necessary to break away from the more “old-school, classic styling” way of mixing these sour-based drinks. … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Fruity infusions at Oakland Juice & Co.

Oakland Juice
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We felt very much out of our element walking into Oakland Juice and Co. recently. Located in the Jack London Warehouse District, this is an establishment that serves juice: a juice bar, not a bar bar. But Ms Barstool had heard about the company’s new collaboration with Verbena infusions (which do include alcohol), and decided to sample the new menu, which is billed as “OJ & Co. Cold-Pressed and Fresh-Fruit Infused Cocktails.”

As long as there are cocktails to try, we will be there. Even if “there” is a place that serves raw, cold-pressed juices by day (and night).

On the evening we made our tentative entrance, Oakland Juice & Co., in collaboration with Verbena, was introducing a number of inspired fruit-infused cocktails, which are being served Thursdays through Saturdays from 5:00 p.m-10:00 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Spirits aplenty at Longbranch Saloon

Longbranch Saloon. Photo: Risa Nye
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While the décor at Longbranch Saloon may be minimal, the bar menu is not. If you’re looking for a staggering array of whiskeys (or “whiskies,” and more about that distinction later), you need look no further than Longbranch, now occupying the former location of Sea Salt restaurant on San Pablo Avenue in West Berkeley.

Longtime Berkeley residents and fans of Asleep at the Wheel may be confused by the reappearance of the Longbranch name. There may be mixed feelings about the long-gone $1 cover charge, the sawdust on the floor, the free draft beer and the indoor motorcycle parking — none of which feature at the new incarnation. (Our server informed us that the old joint was further up the street on San Pablo anyway.) So those with long memories are advised to come around and see what the 21st-century version is all about. … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Drink well at Shakewell

Jen Biesty and Tim Nugent of Shakewell. Photo: Alanna Hale copy
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Shakewell is a fairly new addition to Oakland’s Lakeshore district. Continue reading »

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With new studio space, Shotgun aims for bigger footprint

scenery shop
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Berkeley’s Shotgun Players launched their new studios at an event on March 2 to celebrate what they hope will become a center for creativity and a hub for emerging performing arts groups in Berkeley.

The former home of Serendipity Books has been transfigured into a theatre company’s dream: two studios large enough for rehearsals and classes, along with costume and scenery shops, and a café/green room/future theatre library. (Read more about the history of this space and the full Shotgun Players schedule.)

In the new Shotgun Studios, located at 1201 University Ave., actors can now begin rehearsing on the actual set that will appear on the Ashby stage during performances. Accommodations for sound and a grid for lights are also in the works for Studio A, the larger of the two studios. Studio B will be lined with mirrors for use by choreographers during rehearsal, and for dance and movement classes during daytime non-rehearsal hours. … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: 5 cocktails to warm your heart

Haitian Toddy at Box and Bells
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As the rain lashes the window-panes, gusts of wind bring down tree limbs, and the power goes out… again… what better way to mark the turn of the season and the holidays than to head to a cozy bar and order up a warming winter cocktail? Ms Barstool has tried five and recommends them all. Cheers!

Haitian Toddy at Box and Bells

Served in a teacup and garnished with orange peel and a stick of cinnamon, this drink is made with aged Haitian dark rum, Benedictine, house-made honey syrup, and seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice (pictured above). Served at Box and Bells in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood: 5912 College Ave., Oakland. … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Cocktail invention at food mecca Corso

Justin Sutton making cocktails at Corso. Photo Corso
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At the height of service, it’s not always easy to get into a conversation with a bartender, even when you are a person who calls herself Ms Barstool. So we set up a pre-cocktail meeting with bar manager Justin Sutton and bartender Matt Bruns prior to hopping on a barstool at Trattoria Corso in Berkeley.

We wanted to hear about some changes the trattoria has undergone, including a new bar program, and what happened when they took the TVs away.

Sutton, a former Marine, had jobs in several local dining establishments, including Absinthe in San Francisco and Revival in Berkeley, before finding his way to Corso. Bruns went to culinary school, worked in several restaurants in Atlanta, then moved here and started a new business in town.

Both Sutton and Bruns were delighted to have the chance to talk about what they do, and to share some of their behind-the-bar techniques. A dedicated bartender will tell you that what one orders off the cocktail menu is often the result of several tries at getting the drink just right. Bruns said he likes to put a “modern-day twist” on the cocktails he creates. (Bruns also creates at Shrub & Co based at Berkeley Kitchens, producing a variety of shrubs: a blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar—originally intended as a way to preserve fruit in Colonial times, now enjoying a second career as tasty additions to cocktails.) … Continue reading »

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