Tag Archives: Picante

Take your dog to dinner: It’s now legal (within limits)

Bill and Sandra Weber, and their dog Annie, enjoy lunch on Picante's pet-friendly patio. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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California is catching up with France: dogs will be allowed on restaurant patios and in other outdoor dining areas when a new law goes into effect January 1.

The change may be unnoticeable in Berkeley, where many restaurants have allowed dogs to join diners outdoors for years. The little-known prohibition was rarely enforced.

“We don’t get a lot of complaints, maybe three to five a year, so we would respond to those to enforce the state law if it was violated,” said Manuel Ramirez, director of Berkeley’s Environmental Health Division. … Continue reading »

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Meals on Wheels supporters feast for a cause

From Pican Chef Sophina Uong: Hickory smokes sturgeon with lemon cream, sweat pea puree, sorghum gastrique, tarragon and popped sorghum seed. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Supporters of Alameda County’s Meals on Wheels program came out in droves last Friday night to Oakland’s Scottish Rite Center to raise money for the agency, which feeds homebound seniors throughout the county.

Organizers announced Thursday that a total of $225,000 was raised, via auctions and donations throughout the night.

The event, dubbed “Five Star Night,” was Meals on Wheels’ 26th annual benefit. Berkeleyside Nosh proud to sponsor the event. Attendees heard stories about how the agency’s work benefits seniors, both through providing nutritional meals — more than 2,100 warm meals each weekday — and also by offering social interaction with volunteers who deliver the food. This year in particular, the non-profit reported needing more help than ever, according to agency Executive Director Cindy Houts: “With the potential for sequester cuts, funding for 50,000 meals might be cut,” she said. “We need to be ready to fill that gap.” (Scroll down to see photographs from the event.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley food blogger serves up gluten-free food for all

Erin Scott
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Food, portrait, and lifestyle photographer Erin Scott, who lives in North Berkeley, is the voice behind the popular blog Yummy Supper, a source for simple, seasonal, and gluten-free recipes accompanied by sumptuous photos that would whet any eater’s appetite — the gluten-free or not.

Scott is also currently recipe testing for her upcoming cookbook, The Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious, and Honest Recipes from a (Gluten-Free) Omnivore.

Many of her ideas feature ingredients picked from her backyard garden, which boasts fragrant herbs, salad and saute greens, and citrus trees.

Scott’s images has been featured on the food porn sites foodgawker and tastespotting and her recipes and photography have gotten nods from sites such as Gourmet Live, Glamour, and Fine Cooking.

With a background in fashion and design, and as the former co-owner of the clothing store August in Oakland, Scott never thought she’d end up spending most days in the kitchen taking pictures.

But her dad gave her a leather-bound Polaroid when she was little so she started snapping photos at an early age.  Scott also enjoyed cooking beside her mom as a young child, and planning, making, and eating a nourishing supper has brought pleasure ever since.

Over nectarine friands and lemon verbena tea, Scott, 41, spoke with Berkeleyside this week about her blog, pending cookbook, and eating well with her husband and two kale-munching kids. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

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POOR SALES FORCE ALKO CLOSURE  Alko Office Supplies, which has been operating in one form or another at 2225 Shattuck Avenue for 104 years, announced Tuesday that it is shutting its doors. Gary Shows, president of the Cliff Radston Company, said in a press release published in the Daily Planet that the store is closing because of declining purchases from UC Berkeley, changes in the shopping patterns in downtown Berkeley, and the perception of shoppers that chains offer better deals than small, locally owned businesses.

“We sincerely regret disappointing loyal retail customers,” Shows said in the release. “We are appreciative and grateful; there just are not enough of them to sustain us.” The retail operation will remain open and “fully stocked” until the building is sold. After that, the company will continue to supply business and Internet customers in a “less costly location.” … Continue reading »

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Ethnic eats in Berkeley from A to Z: Part 2

Thai food abounds in Berkeley. Here a dish from Pin Toh
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Who knew there were so many ethnic restaurants around town?

Last week Berkeleyside chronicled choices from A through I, 32 picks in total, and today, in our second installment covering J through P, we bring you 33 more spots.

Careful readers noticed some omissions, including Cyprus, Dara, De Afghanan Kabob House, and Ethiopia. No doubt there are places missing in the mix here too, so feel free to add any favorites in the comments.

Not every country or region of the world is well represented in restaurants around town. East Bay Express food critic Jesse Hirsch would like to see more Polish and Balkan choices among the glut of sushi spots and curry shops. Hirsch’s two favorite local ethnic places so far — he’s relatively new to town — are featured this week. … Continue reading »

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Gilman Street Gals cook up sweet treats in Westbrae

Another holiday favorite: Clarine's Florentines
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In a teeny tiny, dark commercial kitchen on a small shopping strip on Gilman Street in Berkeley’s Westbrae neighborhood, four full-time, female food artisans, and a few part-timers too, are turning out sweet baked goods that have earned them mad props in the Bay Area.

Think of these enterprising edible producers as the Gilman Street Gals. In the cast: Clarine Hardesty, of Clarine’s Florentines, who holds the lease to the kitchen, which is co-owned by Bob Kelso of Toot Sweets down the block. Joining her behind the stoves: seasoned wedding and specialty cake maker Carolyn Wong, whose signature style is simple, elegant, and artistic. Also in the mix is Anastasia Widiarsih, herself no slouch on the designer cake front, whose main focus these days at Indie Cakes & Pastries is baking scones, cookies, and cakes for wholesale café clients, including Saul’s Delicatessen + Restaurant. Relative newbie in the kitchen crew: Christine Falatico Frey of CiCi’s Italian Butterhorns; her sugary, buttery, cinnamon walnut cookies are featured holiday picks in the December issue of Diablo magazine — along with Clarine’s Florentines and June Taylor‘s christmas cake. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley brothers buzz New York City with their burritos

When Leo and Oliver Kremer were growing up on Alvarado Road, their go-to place for teenage nourishment was Gordo’s, the burrito shop on College Avenue.

Both boys loved the down home nature of the store, with its wooden tables, leather stools, and simple, yet satisfying food. Leo was particularly fond of the chile verde burrito.

While they were in high school at Head-Royce, the Kremer brothers explored the Bay Area for other good burrito places and soon were making regular visits to Picante, Cactus Taqueria, and Cancun in Berkeley, and La Taqueria and La Cumbre in San Francisco’s Mission District.

“I remember the first burrito I ever ate,” said Leo. “My parents weren’t really burrito eaters, but my music friends were really into burritos. I had one, and thought it was good. But then I found I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It is such a subtle cuisine. As you eat it more you learn to appreciate its simplicity.” … Continue reading »

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Homegrown truths: Sunny Side Café chef Aaron French

Aaron French
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Aaron French, a self-described eco-chef, has headed up the kitchen at The Sunny Side Café on Solano Avenue in Albany since it opened in 2004.

For the past two years he’s served up breakfast standards (think pancakes and eggs) and simple lunch fare (burgers, sandwiches, salads) at a satellite café of the same name in Berkeley.

French bounces between the two popular spots several times a day and jokes that the breakfast-brunch shift is the Rodney Dangerfield of cooking (it don’t get no respect).

Still, he’s proudest of his low carbon emissions menu options and his weekend food specials, a short, seasonal list that emphasizes local farms and calculates food miles.

French isn’t your typical chef. Before he cooked for a living he worked as a scientist. His interest in ecology led him to spend two years living among pygmies in Cameroon, where he studied seed dispersal by monkeys and birds.

An avid nature photographer, he’s also written about the relationship between ecology and food for the Bay Area News Group, where he penned the EcoChef column, as well as for Civil Eats and Fungi Magazine. … Continue reading »

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Crab takes center stage at Spenger’s ‘Iron Chef’ contest

Chefs at the Spenger's "Iron Man" cook off had to use crab as the center of their dishes
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The unexpected rain on Sunday in Berkeley didn’t put much of a damper on the 11th annual Spenger’s Restaurant Crabby Chefs Seafood Festival on Fourth Street. The drizzle stopped right before the 2 pm “Iron Chef” cook-off featuring chefs from seven local restaurants, schools, and catering companies.

When I arrived, a little before 2 pm, contest preparations were already under way. Chefs from Picante, Pyramid Alehouse, Origen, A Farm to Table Restaurant, BoilerHouse Restaurant, Continue reading »

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Join the party for Berkeley High at BHS Live! on Sunday

John Sasaki: emcee for the night at BHS Live!
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It’s no exaggeration to say that BHS Live, Berkeley High School’s principal fundraiser held every spring, is a major production. The whole community comes together to orchestrate the gala event — but the effort pays off, as the party always comes up trumps.

This year, BHS Live is being held at the Pauley Ballroom on the UC Berkeley campus. KTVU news reporter and BHS alum John Sasaki will be emcee for the night. An East Bay native, he is proud to say he founded the BHS Men’s Lacrosse team and still plays in the school’s alumni game.

The theme of the night is There’s No Place Like Home” and the hall will decorated as “neighborhoods” of Berkeley. When you’re there, look for our Farmers’ Markets, bucolic scenes of California poppies and Tilden Park, among others.

Picante, a Berkeley favorite, is catering the party with a host of hors d’oeuvres and music will, naturally, be provided by the award-winning Berkeley High Jazz Combo, most recently seen performing at Yoshi’s in Oakland. That’s not all. There’s a poetry slam, and, the main event of the night: the Silent Auction. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: The Bread Workshop’s Bill Briscoe

Briscoe final
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William (Bill) Briscoe has been in the food business for more than 30 years.

He started as a dishwasher, went on to work as a short-order cook in a steakhouse, then did stints in five-star restaurants around the Bay Area and attended culinary school. In 1989, he decided to open a wholesale bakery serving mostly restaurant clients.

The Bread Workshop, which moved to new digs on University Avenue in 2004, now includes a cafe that’s open for brunch, … Continue reading »

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Picante restaurant is victim of credit card scam

interior of Picante
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Picante, the popular Mexican restaurant on 6th Street, has been the target of an international credit card fraud operation, its owner says today.

Thieves from as far away as Russia managed to penetrate the restaurant’s credit card encryption system and steal the numbers of dozens of customers, says Jim Maser, who has owned Picante for 16 years. The thieves then used the stolen numbers to create phony credit cards, which they turned around and sold, he says.

“People are upset … Continue reading »

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