Tag Archives: Gourmet Ghetto

Waters: Response to fire is why I live in Berkeley

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, June 20, 2013
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Alice Waters admits there have been times — many times in fact — when she and her team have considered relocating Chez Panisse.

“We have thought about moving,” she said on Thursday last week, as, all around her, cooks and carpenters, contractors and chefs made final preparations for two sold-out fundraising dinners that were to take place at Chez Panisse the next day. The iconic restaurant, which re-opens to the public today after being closed for reconstruction following a serious fire in March, is in a building that was originally designed as a home and, with its various nooks and crannies and rabbit-warren-like layout, is hardly conducive to housing a world-class restaurant.

On every significant Chez Panisse anniversary, Waters has discussed with her staff whether to move somewhere else, she said.

“We were going to do it when we were 20, then 30, because it can be such a struggle here. We dreamed about having a large space, like they have at Camino,” she said referring to the Oakland restaurant co-owned by Chez Panisse alum Russell Moore, “with a big old fire, a place for teaching and room for interns to gather.” … Continue reading »

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Meat matters: 2 new films focus on hot issues

Ashton Kutcher is the executive producer of a mini-documentary about Bay Area butcher shops which features Berkeley’s own The Local Butcher Shop, along with 4505 Meats and Avedano’s Holly Park Market in San Francisco.

The subject of meat, America’s industrial meat system and the growing movement towards more sustainable, humane practices is a hot one right now.

On Feb. 4 UC Berkeley is hosting a free screening of American Meat a pro-farmer documentary which takes a critical look at cattle, hog, and chicken production in the U.S. and examines the viability of moving the industry over to more sustainable practices. A discussion will follow the screening, moderated by Novella Carpenter, author of the best-selling memoir Farm City and co-owner of Berkeley’s BioFuel Oasis which, as well as selling bio-fuel to cars, offers urban farming classes. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley documentary filmmaker Les Blank to be honored

Les Blank
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Update, 9:10 p.m.: Les Blank was able to attend the City Council meeting and heard the proclamation that was made about him. He was accompanied by his son Harrod Blank and many friends showed up to support him. Berkeleyside’s Emilie Raguso was at the meeting and posted the photo below to Twitter and on our Facebook page (where there’s also video of Harrod Blank addressing the Council.)

Original story: “Les Blank is one of the best documentary filmmakers in America,” says Susan Wengraf, councilwoman for district 6 in Berkeley, who plans to present Blank with a proclamation at tonight’s meeting of the City Council.

Blank, who has lived in Berkeley for 35 years, and whose company Flower Films, is based in El Cerrito, may not be able to attend the meeting at which he will be honored, however, as he is very ill. (On Monday, Blank’s son Harrod told friends he hoped his father would be there.)

Wengraf, who has know the filmmaker for nearly 40 years, says she is crossing her fingers Blank will be there, but she takes comfort from the fact that an informal proclamation was made at a recent screening of clips of Blank’s films. Many of his friends were there and Blank answered questions from the audience. “Harrod said it made him very happy and lifted his spirits,” Wengraf says. … Continue reading »

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Off The Grid says goodbye to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto

Off the Grid
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Off The Grid, the food truck fest that has been a fixture on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto every Wednesday evening since June last year, had its last day in that location yesterday.

The city took the decision to stop hosting the market due to its impact on local brick and mortar businesses and property owners, and also because a reconfiguration of the space it used — at the intersection of Shattuck and Rose — is due to begin next year.

The sudden departure of the hugely popular street food gathering will come as a surprise to the estimated 1,500 people who make a beeline there every week to tuck into on-the-go edibles from the likes of Brass Knuckle, Fiveten Burger, Liba Falafel, and the CupKates Truck. … Continue reading »

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Let in snow: Kids, adults come out to play in Berkeley

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Never let it be said it doesn’t snow in Berkeley. Kids turned out in their warm fleeces and mittens on Sunday to enjoy a winter wonderland on Snow Day in the Gourmet Ghetto. The Snow Queen paid a visit to the transformed parking lot near Virginia Street, there were holiday crafts, and warm cider and cookies courtesy of Andronico’s Community Market. The event was organized by the North Shattuck AssociationWilliam Newton dropped by and took these photos.  … Continue reading »

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Andronico’s unveils new-look Gourmet Ghetto store

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On Saturday, Andronico’s Community Markets held a day of celebration to reveal to the public the results of seven months of work that have gone into making over its Shattuck Avenue store.

The BHS jazz band and the Cal “Straw Hat” Marching Band were both whipping up lively tunes near the store’s entrance, there were numerous tasting opportunities, and a raffle to benefit Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) was giving out prizes on the hour. Otherwise it was business as usual, as customers arrived in droves to shop for groceries and take in the new-look grocery store. … Continue reading »

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

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DAY OF THE DEAD  The 1400 block of Shattuck in North Berkeley will be the center of this year’s Dia de los Muertos celebration Friday night. Join dozens of people walking in a candlelight procession as they honor those who have passed on. There will be a community altar from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and the procession runs from 7:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. There will be free face painting, mariachis, Aztec dancers, fire dancers, food trucks and a beer and wine garden. Comal, the Mexican restaurant on Shattuck Ave., will also be holding a Dia de los Muertos themed evening.

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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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After 30 years, what’s next for Vegi Food on Vine Street?

Kim Phuong and My Chan, who have run Vegi Food on Vine Street for almost 30 years, may need to find a new home for their hole-in-the-wall. Photo: Sarah Henry
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My Chan and her husband Kim Phuong have been cooking Chinese vegetarian dishes to a loyal clientele in the small, unassuming Vegi Food in North Berkeley for 28 years. But that may be about to change.

Recently, the building housing the restaurant at 2085 Vine Street (between Henry Street and Shattuck Avenue) changed hands. Chan and Phuong, who rent on a month-to-month basis, are concerned that the new owner is looking to lease the space in this locale on the edge of the Gourmet Ghetto to prospective tenants who have more cash to invest in the restaurant-retail space than they do.

Make no mistake, there’s nothing fancy pants about Vegi Food, a no-frills, hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop shop with a drab exterior and a dining area begging for a makeover. It’s the kind of place that many local eaters likely pass by without notice on their way to the Cheese Board, Off the Grid, or the farmers’ market — let alone high-end joints like Chez Panisse. But it gets high marks from its regulars — many of whom have come for decades — for its inexpensive, healthy chow miens, stir fries, and soups, which feature loads of vegetables and bean curd, and avoid garlic, onion, MSG, eggs, and meat. … Continue reading »

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Chez Panisse contingent head to Cuba, public welcome

A Cuban farmer talks about growing greens with a visitor. Photo: Varun Mehra
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In the last year, Chez Panisse chefs, staff, and alum have embarked on gourmet global diplomacy trips to Japan (in an informal expedition under the auspices of a group known as OPENrestaurant) and China (in a formal affair the restaurant’s owner, Alice Waters,  presided over herself.) Now comes word that a contingent from the acclaimed restaurant are headed to Cuba to plant seeds of change on the food and farming front — and learn a thing or two about Cuban cuisine and growing greens from this Carribbean island country.

What’s more the trip, scheduled for December 4-12, coincides with the Havana Film Festival, and is open to the public. The delegation includes Chez Panisse downstairs chef Jerome Waag, former Chez Panisse pizzaiolo Charlie Hallowell, Steve Sullivan from Acme Bread (a former Chez Panisse chef), and Cuban-American line cook Danielle Alvarez, who will set foot on Cuban soil for the first time. … Continue reading »

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Mountain lion and her cubs spotted in Berkeley hills

Mountain lions have been spotted in the Berkeley hills
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UC police are warning hikers to be on the outlook for a mountain lion and her cubs that may be living near the Greek Theater.

In the past few weeks, hikers have reported several sightings of a mountain lion, including one on Thursday.

“In the past few weeks there have been several sightings of a mountain lion and her cubs near the Switching Station #6 construction site on the western side of Stern Hall,” UC Police said in a safety alert sent out Tuesday. “The latest sighting was of a female mountain lion which occurred on Thursday, July 19th.”

Stern Hall is located on Gayley Road right near the Greek Theater.

Last year, there were several sightings of mountain lions in the hills above campus, according to police. Hikers also found carcasses of deer and other animals, providing further evidence that mountain lions were living nearby. … Continue reading »

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When chocolate met cheese in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto

Berkeley's Bar
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At the Cheese Board on Saturday night, the bar for both chocolate and cheese was raised to new heights. Pairings of high-end dark chocolate with carefully selected foreign and domestic cheeses had local taste buds all atwitter.

The unusual tasting was the brainchild of Leonard Pitt, founder and president of the exclusive Berkeley Chocolate Club (BCC), and Laura McNall, a veteran Cheese Boarder and recent inductee into the BCC. Pitt is well known in the Bay Area for his work as a mime (trained in Paris in the 1960s by the teacher of Marcel Marceau), and his books, including Walks Through Lost Paris (Shoemaker & Hoard), about Parisian architectural history. His latest venture into chocolate is just another of his many autodidact passions.

For April’s BCC meeting, McNall wowed members with a carefully designed cheese and chocolate tasting. The idea was then hatched for a public tasting of her revelatory combinations in conjunction with the Gourmet Ghetto’s annual Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival. … Continue reading »

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Ethnic eats in Berkeley from A to Z: Part 3

High praise for Vanessa's Bistro and its tuna salmon poke. Photo: Anna Mindess
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Over the last two weeks Berkeleyside has listed almost 100 places where you can taste tachos, slurp soba, and make a meal out of momos (catch up with part 1, A to I and part 2, J to P). Down the track, we will bring you the back story to some of the people behind some of these places.

For now, you know the drill: Chime in below if there’s a nosh spot that’s missing from this list or if there’s a signature dish you want to single out at a particular place.

Oh, and as for the definition of ethnic (some readers quibbled about whether French or Italian joints should be in the mix) we’re thinking chefs who want to showcase a style of cooking specific to a region of the world — versus California cuisine or fusion food, though no doubt there’s some crossover.

Enjoy.  … Continue reading »

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