Author Archives: Tracey Taylor

Mark Bittman: Berkeley has got a hold on him

Mark Bittman with Saru Jayaraman at Manifesto Café in Los Angeles. Photo: University of California
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Mark Bittman is driving around rural Massachusetts and he’s lost. Then he figures out a shortcut and our phone conversation is back on track. I assume he’s on assignment — after all he has just launched a video series shot around California precisely, he tells me, because he wanted an excuse to get out and about across the state and “talk about food” — but I am told that’s not strictly the case. “My eldest daughter is getting married,” he explains. “Why else would I be in rural Massachusetts?”

The New York Times writer and bestselling cookbook author has been on an assignment of a different nature recently — for the past semester he has been a distinguished visiting fellow at the Berkeley Food Institute at UC Berkeley.

And he has enjoyed his time teaching at Cal and living in North Berkeley so much he has decided to stick around. He says he has committed to staying another year, working at Cal, probably in a couple of different roles “that have university affiliations.” He hasn’t signed on the dotted line yet, so is reluctant to say more. … Continue reading »

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Elmwood restaurant The Advocate to open in July

John Griffiths, executive chef at The Advocate. Photo: Postcard PR
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John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman’s second Berkeley restaurant after Comal will be called The Advocate and is slated to open next month in its Elmwood location, at 2635 Ashby Ave.

The name was chosen because it was also the name of Elmwood’s original newspaper, said Paluska. It also seemed fitting for a restaurant in a city known for its activism. “It’s a tip of the hat to Berkeley,” he said. Hoffman added: “Like Comal, The Advocate is a Berkeley restaurant, very much of its place and its neighborhood.”

The name could also be seen as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the legal battle the owners had to fight to open the new eating spot.

The Advocate will offer a menu of dishes inspired by southern Mediterranean and Moroccan/North African cooking, “all viewed through a Northern Californian lens,” according to the owners. (At Comal, chef Matt Gandin serves refined Oaxaca-inspired Mexican-Californian cuisine.)

Paluska and Hoffman have recruited John Griffiths to be the new restaurant’s executive chef. Griffiths was most recently at The Kitchen in Sacramento, a well-known spot where food is treated as theater and chefs are expected to emcee as well as to cook. Griffiths left The Kitchen in October after 16 months in the job to join The Advocate. The Michigan native was the opening chef at Larry Forgione’s An American Place in St. Louis, and was later executive chef at Truffles in the same city. He has been working with The Advocate team in December 2014. … Continue reading »

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First Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley a soaring success

Books appear to fly at the Lacuna installation in front of Old City Hall at the first Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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How do you decide if an event is a success? One clear indicator is how many people turn up, but the day after the inaugural Bay Area Book Festival came to a close, its creator and executive director Cherilyn Parsons was still trying to put a number on that.

“I would say 50,000 to 60,000 as a ballpark figure,” she mused Monday, after throwing out some venue capacity numbers and drawing on estimates suggested by festival colleague Lisa Bullwinkel who produced the whole show.

The truth, as anyone who attended the two-day festival that took over downtown Berkeley on June 6-7 can testify, is that there were lines down the block to get in to most author events. Of which there were 100 at indoor venues across town, with many more happening outdoors on the teen and children’s stages. More than 300 authors flocked to the city to participate, and stayed on to sign books and attend panels. And the festival’s centerpiece, the dramatic Lacuna “temple of books” installation in Civic Center Park, which Parsons said quickly became “the emotional and spiritual heart of the festival,” was thrumming with people all weekend. To the extent that the 50,000 free books on offer were almost all gone by the end of the festival’s first day.

So, it seems fair to say the first Bay Area Book Festival, conceived by Parsons three years ago, and inspired by her experience working at the Los Angeles Book Festival, was an outstanding success. … Continue reading »

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Squirrel causes power outage for 45,000 in East Bay

People in Cafe Tibet on University Avenue, near Milvia Street, sit by candlelight during a power outage, in Berkeley, on Monday, June 8, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Update, 10:35 p.m. A squirrel that scampered into a substation in El Cerrito caused the outage that deprived much of the East Bay of power for two and a half hours, according to PG&E.

J.D. Guidi, a PG&E spokesman, said the animal — which died — had impacted the equipment that triggered a massive power failure at 8:03 p.m., causing 45,000 people to be without electricity. Power was restored around 10:30 p.m. The affected cities included Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington, Richmond and San Pablo.

Update: 10:25 p.m. Still no official word from PG&E on the cause of the power outage but people began reporting via Twitter around 10 p.m. that power was returning to various parts of Berkeley.

Original story: An estimated 45,000 people in Berkeley and the surrounding East Bay area experienced power outages Monday night, according to PG&E spokesman J.D. Guidi at around 9:45 p.m.

Affected areas included parts of downtown and North Berkeley, South Berkeley, West Berkeley and the Elmwood, as well as areas of Oakland, Richmond, Albany, El Cerrito and San Pablo.

Starting at around 10 p.m., reports began coming in via Twitter that power had been restored to much of the area.  … Continue reading »

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Goats take over Berkeley hills, but what is their intent?

Goats on Centennial Drive 6-2-15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Reader Eric Cotts recently shared the photo above with us. It was taken on June 1, and shows a large number of goats on a hill near the Berkeley Lab. It inspired us to send our photo intern Melati Citrawireja to capture more images of the animals everyone seems to adore (see them below the fold).

While goats are commonly used to clear brush and grass in the East Bay (Berkeleyside has written about this use of goats for fire prevention), Cotts was not convinced the cloven-hoofed herd was there for such a benign reason. “I would not be so sanguine about the intent of these agile Bovidae,” he wrote us. … Continue reading »

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Jittery John’s cold-brew coffee lands in Berkeley

Judy Schlussel (left), who runs sales for Jittery John's, and co-founder Kristina Barnes at the Berkeley production plant the cold-brew coffee company moved into recently. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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When a man accidentally dropped a Viagra pill into his glass of cold-brew coffee recently, then wrote about it on Reddit, a certain Berkeley startup got a lucky break. The man wrote that he had to drink the coffee — pill and all — because the cold brew was just too good to throw away. For Kristina Barnes, co-founder of Jittery John’s, the first sign that her brand had had a moment of viral internet fame was when she noticed a sudden spike in online sales.

“People on Reddit asked the guy which brand of cold brew was so good, and after he told them it was Jittery John’s, it led to lots of new customers,” she said a couple of weeks ago at the cold-brew coffee company’s new West Berkeley production facility. “We couldn’t have asked for better free marketing!”

Marketing is not something the young company has done much of so far. Word of mouth has been the main way people have discovered the rich-tasting coffee concentrate that is sold in sturdy glass bottles evocative of those that held tinctures and tonics in days of old. … Continue reading »

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Fathers the focus of Nancy Rubin’s photography show

Photo: Nancy Rubin
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UPDATE, 07.16.15: Nancy Rubin’s photography exhibition at the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library has been extended until July 31.

ORIGINAL STORY: When Nancy Rubin taught the pioneering Social Living class at Berkeley High School from the late ’70s to the ’90s, she became something of a public figure and was often asked to comment on the challenges faced by teenagers. People would say: if there was one thing that could be changed to help the kids who are getting in trouble, what would it be? Rubin was quick to point out that there was no “magic wand.” However she did have a suggestion: “Put a loving father in every home.”

That’s not to say that children can’t be raised exceptionally well by a single mom or two women, Rubin said recently at her home, where she was preparing for her first solo photography exhibition that centers on fathers. All sorts of kids do really well in all sorts of family situations, Rubin stressed. But as someone who grew up with a “wonderful, warm” father, Rubin could only wish the same for the students she was mentoring, some of whom had no relationships with their own fathers. … Continue reading »

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Shakespeare & Co. closes after 51 years in Berkeley

Shakespeare & Co. on Telegraph Avenue and xxx closed on June 2, 2015. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Shakespeare & Co., a used bookstore that has been operating on Telegraph Avenue since 1964, closed its doors for good this week.

The owner, Jon Wobber, said the store was not earning enough income for the time he was putting in. He made the decision to shutter yesterday, on June 2, and served his last customer before locking the door for the last time around 8 p.m.

The building that houses Shakespeare & Co., at 2499 Telegraph Ave., on the corner of Dwight Way, was bought last year by Telegraph Partners, LLC, which plans to extensively remodel the building. Telegraph Partners managing member Ito Ripsteen said the company was open to the bookstore remaining, said Wobber. But the store would have had to close for three months, so Wobber thought the time was right to close the business. … Continue reading »

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Sunset is moving to Oakland’s Jack London Square

A rendering of Sunset's new headquarters in Jack London Square. Image: Sunset
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Sunset, the venerable Californian publishing company best known for the monthly Sunset Magazine, is moving its headquarters to Jack London Square in Oakland.

The move, which is set for December, will see the company leave the beautiful Cliff May-designed Menlo Park campus that it has occupied since 1951. That property was sold last year by Sunset’s owners, Time Inc., to Embarcadero Capital Partners, a San Francisco real-estate investment and management company.

Along with the company’s Oakland editorial and business offices, to be designed by San Francisco architects RMW, Sunset will establish an additional presence at Cornerstone in Sonoma. That will include a test garden, outdoor kitchen and live programming.

The new headquarters will be located at 55 Harrison Street, Sunset announced today. The company will be in the same building that will house the Water Street Market, an artisan food marketplace being developed by Carlin Company, the team behind San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace and Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Love Our Neighborhood day on San Pablo Avenue

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On Saturday, a one-mile stretch of San Pablo Avenue, from Ashby to Stanford, was closed to traffic for the second annual East Bay Open Streets’ Love Our Neighborhood Day. The event was a production of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) in association with the Downtown Berkeley Association and the North Shattuck Association. (We flagged it up on our weekend It List.)

People came out to walk, bike, skate, dance, stroll, play and experience the neighborhood, that takes in North Oakland and Southwest Berkeley, in a new way. There were health, fitness and arts activities hosted by local artists, performers, community organizations, churches, neighborhood groups and area businesses, as well as live music and great food.

We sent Melati Citrawireja to capture the day. The results speak for themselves. … Continue reading »

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Three injured in early-morning fire in Southside Berkeley

A resident walks out of an apartment building at 2510 Regent St., where a two-alarm fire struck shortly before 3:00 a.m. in Berkeley, on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Three people were injured and several had to be rescued by firefighters. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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Three people were taken to the hospital, and firefighters had to rescue several tenants from an apartment building, after a fire broke out in Southside Berkeley early in the morning of Sunday, May 31.

According to Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong, a fire at 2510 Regent St. (at Dwight Way) was called in at 2:54 a.m. While firefighters were en route to the incident, reports came in that occupants were jumping from a balcony with people still inside the building, Chief Dong said. On arrival, the response was upgraded to a two-alarm fire.

Once on scene, crews had to deal with heavy fire and smoke coming out a third-story apartment unit balcony, Dong said. There was fire lapping up to the fourth floor, and three of the building’s occupants were injured, he continued. They were transported to the Bothin Burn Center at the Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, and to Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Court takes Berkeley’s side in Mitch Kapor home case

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The California Supreme Court has left intact a ruling limiting environmental review of large single-family homes, such as the one philanthropist and Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor-Klein applied to build at 2707 Rose St. in North Berkeley.

The decision, which was released on May 27, was the latest development in the Berkeley Hillside Preservation vs City of Berkeley case that has been in and out of court since 2010 when Kapor was given approval by the city of Berkeley to build a 6,478-square-foot home (with a 3,394-square-foot garage) on the sloping Rose Street lot.

Catch up on Berkeleyside’s full coverage of the Rose Street case.

Arguments have centered over whether Berkeley should prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project — for which single family homes like this one are exempt unless unusual circumstances can be proved. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First's production of Glenngary Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre. Photo: Theater First
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GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre, as its run has its final day on Sunday. David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about working-class real-estate salesmen trying to eke out a living in the fast-paced economy of the 1980s and claim their piece of the American Dream became an instant classic of American theatre and is regarded as one of the playwright’s best plays. For details and to buy tickets, visit Theatre First’s website or phone 510-981 8150. … Continue reading »

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