Tag Archives: Spice of Life Festival

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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Berkeley’s Kitchen on Fire booms during economic bust

Dishes prepared by Kitchen of Fire. Photo: KoF
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The two self-professed clowns behind Kitchen on Fire, who like to ham it up with kitchen utensils for the camera, are quite serious about their mission: they want to teach people to cook real food for themselves.

Chefs MikeC and Olivier Said launched the Gourmet Ghetto business in 2005, but it really took off during the economic downturn. That’s when a lot of folks realized they couldn’t afford to eat out as often as they wanted, and they set out to learn how to D.I.Y. dinner at home.

For those who lost their jobs, there was both a hunger and a need to learn their way around a kitchen; some hoped they might pick up skills that could lead to employment, and a cooking school seemed like a good place to do that.

Kitchen on Fire classes now regularly sell out. To meet the growing demand, this summer the kitchen classroom will expand to a second location in West Berkeley, which boasts an even bigger space.

The new kitchen will be housed in the Rocket Restaurant Resource supply store, where, this Sunday, Bay Wolf’s Louis Le Gassic and Corso Trattoria‘s Rodrigo Da Silva will battle it out in an Iron Chef culinary contest, part of a fundraiser for Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.

Earlier this week I met with MikeC, 33, who lives in Central Berkeley, to find out what’s cooking at Kitchen on Fire. … Continue reading »

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Why does the street food scene bypass Berkeley?

Skylite Snowballs will be at Berkeley's inaugural Off The Grid event. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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At Berkeley’s Spice of Life Festival yesterday, for the first time in the event’s eight-year history, street carts were part of the mix. Jon’s Street EatsPrimo ParrillaChairman Bao and Skylite Snowballs were among the dozen or so street-food purveyors who signed up to join Gourmet Ghetto chefs and local D.I.Y. food artisans doling out morsels for the masses.

Normally, though, there’s a dearth of brightly colored food trucks roaming the streets of Berkeley, while Oakland, San Francisco and Emeryville have thriving street-eat scenes. A taco truck or two can usually be found in West Berkeley, a couple of food trucks work the Bancroft-Telegraph corridor near campus, and Cupkates makes a weekly appearance on Fourth Street. That’s about it.

Red tape seems the biggest barrier to food trucks cruising city streets. Sidewalk cuisine purveyors say the cost and bureaucratic hassle of doing business in Berkeley make it less desirable to serve meals on wheels here than in other Bay Area locations.

Some point to the fact that the city is already saturated with brick-and-mortar joints, lacks a light industry customer base, and includes a significant student population unwilling to pony up much cash for food. … Continue reading »

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Nosh

Thousands expected at Berkeley’s Spice of Life fair

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There is a strong case to be made that the food revolution’s ground zero was Chez Panisse on Shattuck Avenue. The area is known as the “Gourmet Ghetto” for a reason.

So it stands to figure that the neighborhood’s annual “Spice of Life” festival centers heavily around the wonderful food offered from purveyors on Shattuck — from Virginia to Rose.

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