Author Archives: Risa Nye

Ms. Barstool: Drexl bar in Uptown Oakland

The bar at Drexl. Photo: Drexl/Facebook
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Ever since we met one of Drexl’s ace bartenders at an Oakland event several months ago, we’d been meaning to visit this place in Oakland’s vibrant Uptown. Watching the talented Drexl bartender Marguerite Ann Regan expertly crafting four cocktails in a timed heat at the recent San Francisco Speed Rack competition further inspired us to check it out at last. After hearing the buzz about this bar for so long it was time to see — and sip — for ourselves. … Continue reading »

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Angel Cakes: A bakery in a gingerbread house

3/24/16 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Angel Cakes, baker Jen Angel’s brick-and-mortar cupcake shop, opened for business in Oakland on March 23. We dropped in to take a look on her second day of operation, and found the little shop on the corner bustling with eager cupcake buyers. On her first day, she told us, she sold twice as many cupcakes as she thought she would. A happy beginning for her, and for those who wish to stop by at lunchtime or after work to pick up their selection of cupcakes.

Located at the corner of Fifth and Brush Streets, the shop occupies one section of the distinctive building that once housed TJ’s Gingerbread House restaurant, a Cajun and doll house-themed restaurant that operated from 1974 to 2007. After TJ’s closed, the building sat vacant until the kink social club, Mission Control, moved to one section last fall.

As a nod to TJ’s, Angel Cakes is decorated with pink accents throughout. A small painting of the restaurant graces one wall. … Continue reading »

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Taylor’s Sausages: Linked to past, trending today

Sausages at Swan's Marketplace. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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You may be familiar with what Otto von Bismarck probably never said about “laws and sausages.” As our lawmakers in Washington continue to butt heads instead of getting things done, the notion that one loses respect for knowing how both laws and sausages are made had me wondering. I decided to test the accuracy of this maxim for myself, but first I needed to learn more about the other half of the equation. So I paid a visit to Taylor’s Sausages in Swan’s Market in Old Oakland.

I’d had a brief conversation with owner Raymond Gee previously, and he suggested I come back when I had time to watch the entire sausage-making process. I was certain that seeing this had to be a more positive experience than what I’d been reading in the news about Congress lately. … Continue reading »

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A grand taste of Paris at Oakland’s La Parisienne

Photo: La Parisienne/Facebook
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Barely open a couple of weeks, the newest addition to Grand Avenue has already attracted connoisseurs of fine French pastries.

La Parisienne, located at 3249 Grand Ave., offers delicacies that one would expect to find in a traditional Parisian boulangerie and pâtisserie: several varieties of quiche (potato, leek, and ham), croques monsieur (with ham, salmon or bacon) and croques madame; baguettes; a dizzying variety of pastries, cookies and croissants; espresso drinks; and some heavenly chouquettes, those little clouds of puff pastry. New on the menu last week was a lychee mousse made with chocolate and ginger, as well as a colorful assortment of pâtes de fruits — little jewel-toned squares of fruit jellies rolled in sugar. … Continue reading »

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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

medrich featured
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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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