Tag Archives: Cheese Board Collective

Farmers’ market favorite Phoenix Pastificio

Mike Detar hawks Phoenix products -- and serves up recipe suggestions -- at the market.
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It’s one thing to run a successful food business. But to have two edible start-ups do well, even in a food-friendly town, is quite an accomplishment in an industry known for slim profits and fickle customers.

That’s the case for couple Eric and Carole Sartenaer, who started off with a little bakery in Kensington called Semifreddi’s — ring any bells? — sold that for a tidy sum three years later, then departed to Oregon for seven years to run their own bakery before returning to the Bay Area in 1993.

Eric worked for Fat Apple’s in El Cerrito for two years, but he was eager to start another food business. So, in 1995, he set up shop, and later a restaurant, on Shattuck Avenue turning out fresh pasta at The Phoenix Pastifico. The company also makes a line of baked goods — cookies, macaroons, and biscotti  — as well as its signature olive bread and pasta sauces. … Continue reading »

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Café Yesterday: Cocoa Puffs and Verve coffee for all

Cafe Yesterday mixes granola and gummi bears.
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When Midwest transplant Ryan Brinson recently set up shop in Berkeley, he thought he’d died and gone to heaven. Well, that might not be how Brinson, an ordained minister, would characterize it. But the rock and roller with religious roots definitely felt like he had come home.

Brinson, a keyboard-playing long-time preacher in San Diego, decided to switch gears and locations to open Café Yesterday, a nonprofit java joint with a charitable and compassionate community approach — as one might expect from a man of the church. … Continue reading »

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Food Day: Growing a movement around what we eat

Tara xx Farm: one of the farms on Ecology Center tour to mark Food Day
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Can Food Day, which is on October 24th, do for the growing food movement what Earth Day did for the nascent environmental movement back in 1970?

The organizers, the Center for Science in the Public Interest in D.C., certainly hope so. A national, grassroots campaign, Food Day is designed to celebrate what we eat while drawing our attention to the need to overhaul this country’s food system from farm to fork. In this way it is similar to Earth Day which sparked widespread interest in the fragile nature of our planet.

Events planned for Monday, including in Berkeley and around the Bay Area, will highlight the good, bad, and ugly of the way we consume food in this country.

Simply put, how we grow, transport, process, market, and eat is not sustainable for the environment or our health, said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI and the creator of Food Day in a recent piece for The Atlantic. Dietary diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks are rising at alarming rates. Industrially raised meat sucks up energy, pollutes the land and water, and is cruel to beast and worker alike.

Even in places like Berkeley where local, seasonal, organic, sustainable, and fresh food is available in abundance, too many people lack access to good grub and/or go hungry or malnourished. … Continue reading »

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Out in Berkeley: Kickin’ the Mule at the Cheese Board

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Listen to Kickin’ The Mule while you read our review: Rockin’ Pneumonia & Boogie Woogie Flu by Kickin’ the Mule

With its expanse of east-facing windows thrown open to Shattuck Avenue, dearth of cigarette smoke and ample selection of healthy beverages, no one is likely to mistake the Cheese Board Collective for a down home juke joint. But over the past 18 months or so, the soul-powered band Kickin’ The Mule regularly transforms the Gourmet Ghetto eatery into a groove-laden crossroads where slinky T-Bone Walker-esque West Coast shuffles, Stax soul scorchers and raucous Chicago blues all converge.

“I sing songs from every different genre,” says the Mule’s drummer and vocalist Kelvin Dixon, who returns to the Cheese Board with the quartet on Friday (and again on October 14). “The people at the Cheese Board have been great. They say: do whatever you want, though they really like novelty numbers like Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry’s ‘Ain’t Got No Home.’ They’re back there dancing, making pizzas.”

For much of the group’s seven-year run, it served as a forum for Freddie Hughes, the venerable Berkeley-raised soul crooner who scored a major R&B hit in 1968 with “Send My Baby Back” (he’s a story for another day). … Continue reading »

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Cheese Board Chez Panisse celebration closed down early

Cheeseboard-police
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The Cheese Board Collective marked Gourmet Ghetto neighbor Chez Panisse’s 40th birthday by serving free slices of its legendary pizza to customers on Saturday night. The celebrations were curtailed at around 10:30pm, however, after the police, acting on a call from the public, asked that crowds disperse and the party be wound down.

According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt Mary Kusmiss, at around 10:00 p.m. a community member called to report a noise complaint consisting of a “loud … Continue reading »

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Cheese Board Collective: 40 years in the Gourmet Ghetto

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Exploring alternative ways to work in the food industry is a hot topic. Last week in San Francisco a sold out Kitchen Table Talks, a monthly panel showcasing local food folk, featured a discussion about successful edible enterprises that haven’t started the conventional route.

Two of the four panelists hailed from Berkeley. Three Stone Hearth‘s Jessica Prentice, previously profiled on Berkeleyside, talked about her cooperative kitchen model. Cathy Goldsmith represented The Cheese Board Collective.

Beyond the obvious culinary connection, each business is unique. What they have in common? A desire to build community — of workers, artisans, and customers — around their real food ventures.

Case in point: The Cheese Board Collective, which has served as a beloved anchor institution in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto for more than 40 years.

Goldsmith, who has a restaurant background, has been a worker-owner at The Cheese Board for 16 years. She likes to say that the collective got going “back in the day” and people who work there do  everything “from soup to nuts.” What that means is the 52-year-old finds herself serving cheese one day, rolling out dough the next, dealing with health insurance and other human resource issues on another, along with stocking bread bags, sweeping floors, and scrubbing toilets.

Goldsmith also tends to do the collective’s media outreach, though she declined to be photographed for this story because, perhaps fittingly for a collective owner-worker, she wanted the spotlight to be on the group — which numbers more than 45 — not on any one individual. … Continue reading »

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The best pizza in Berkeley? Our readers decided

Young customers enjoy the pizza at Emilia's Pizzeria, which came in fourth in the reader rankings
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Wow. Who knew Berkeley residents were so passionate about pizza? It’s right up there with free speech, free love, and free-range eggs — or so it seemed based on readers’ record responses to our request last week for their choice of the best pizza places in town.

Before we announce the winners of our, let’s face it, less-than scientific survey, a few caveats up front. Stunned by the sheer number of votes (over 220 comments including input on Facebook) we realized, after the fact, that we should have employed a poll counter. Next time. And, we’ll be sure to include a category for “other,” so you can weigh in with a pick not mentioned in the post.

Because it turned out, that despite writing in the story and later in the comment thread (several times) that the dozen pizza purveyors listed represented a sample of savory pies on offer here, many of our readers — including one rather irate pizzeria owner — read it as this site’s “best of” picks.

Privately, folks pointed out, too, that businesses left off that list may have been unfairly handicapped, a not unreasonable assumption, and it is duly noted.

So, we didn’t make it easy on you. And you didn’t make it easy on us. Some voted for more than one place. Some voted on Facebook or Twitter but not here. The crack accounting team at Berkeleyside opted to err on the side of generosity in tabulating results, including all favorable mentions in the count.

Many mentioned that a top pizza pick might vary depending on factors such as deep dish versus thin crust, East vs. West style, delivery, location, and omnivore/vegetarian/vegan options. Some argued that the pie produced at Cheese Board isn’t even pizza. (Where is the sauce? Potatoes and kale topping?) As one self-described pizza snob wrote: “While Cheeseboard is undeniably delicious, it’s not pizza.” … Continue reading »

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Where do you get the best pizza in Berkeley? You tell us

Cheeseboard Pizza straight from the oven. All photos: Christina Diaz
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Today this space is all about cheese. And crust. And toppings.

Got opinions about who turns out the best pizza in town? We know you do. So here’s your chance to share your pie picks with fellow readers.

That’s right folks, today, the Friday food column takes a break from regularly scheduled programming to poll readers about their pizza preferences. (The first in an occasional series where residents weigh in on their favorite foods found close to home.)

We know that for every die-hard devotee of Cheese Board pizza there’s an equally loyal Gioia fan to be found.

There’s pizza for all palates and pocketbooks here, whether you favor California-style, wood-fired pies pioneered by the  Chez Panisse crew (foraged greens and artisan goat cheese, anyone?), Brooklyn-inspired bites with trademark thin crusts and judicious use of ingredients, or the sloppy cheese slices popular among the campus crowd. … Continue reading »

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Arts

Out in Berkeley: Delectable blues with Cheese Board pizza

Nancy Wright
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By Andrew Gilbert

Would you like a little grease with your pizza? When the swaggering tenor saxophonist Nancy Wright is slinging the funk, of course you do.

A Cheese Board regular, Wright performs at the Gourmet Ghetto institution on Friday 11:45 am to 2:45 pm with her organ trio, blowing delectable blues, ballads and soul jazz standards. Featuring Hammond B3 veteran Wayne De La Cruz and supple drummer Kent Bryson (regularly heard with vocalist Kim Nalley), the trio … Continue reading »

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Alice Medrich’s sweet life

143_Bittersweet Decadence. deborah.jones
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Alice Medrich, the author, is best known for her high-end sweets cookbooks devoted to serious bakers and dessert makers, including the bestsellers Pure Dessert and Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. Alice Medrich, the dessert chef and chocolatier, is best known for her influential and ahead-of-its time shop Cocolat. Medrich ran the store, opened on Shattuck Avenue in 1976, for 14 years.

In both careers Medrich earned a reputation for meticulous recipe testing, a commitment to quality ingredients, and originality in her elaborate baked goods.

So some may be surprised to learn that her eighth cookbook is about, well, the humble cookie. Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies (Artisan Books, hardcover, $25.95) in fact. And, as is today’s norm for authors of new books, Medrich, 60, is even blogging about her latest work.

Medrich’s foray into food started in her early 20s with a hand-written recipe for the tiny cocoa-dusted chocolate truffles given to her by her Paris landlady in 1973. Truffles were virtually unheard of in America at the time.

She sold the pure bittersweet confections at the Pig-by-the-Tail Charcuterie (since replaced by The Cheese Board Collective, which has a memento to the shop’s past on display in the store). She also carried a sign and took orders for elaborate cakes and desserts that people could pick up at the end of the week. Sometimes, she says now, she needed all week to perfect the recipe. … Continue reading »

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John Scharffenberger: From chocolate and wine to tofu

John Scharffenberger/Photo: Anne Hamersky
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Long known for the success of his premium wine and chocolate companies, John Scharffenberger is making a name for himself these days as a tofu hawker.

In June, Scharffenberger, 59, who divides his time between a home in North Berkeley and a place in the country, signed on as the CEO of the Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland, an artisan food factory that makes products from organic, non-GMO soybeans.

The company, whose founder Minh Tsai was previously profiled here, makes fresh tofu, yuba (tofu skins), and soymilk, as well as prepared dishes such as spicy braised tofu salad, poached yuba loaf, and soy omelette. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: Alice Waters

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Do Berkeleyside readers even need an introduction to the mother of the American fresh, local, sustainable, organic food movement?

Alice Waters is a living legend. For four decades, the California cuisine innovator, Chez Panisse chef, Edible Schoolyard founder, school food reformer, and Slow Food advocate, has influenced how people in this country buy, cook, eat, talk, and think about food.

As with any icon, Waters has her fans and foes. Some see her as … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: Berkeley Student Food Collective

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It seems unthinkable that the People’s Republic of Berkeley has existed without a food co-operative for more than two decades. Well, try not to choke on your non-GMO, organic, fair trade, soymilk chai latte, but the co-op is coming back to Berkeley.

The Consumer’s Cooperative of Berkeley was the place to shop for the politically correct for 51 years. It opened in the heart of the Depression, when families came together to form buying clubs so they could afford to put … Continue reading »

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