Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.
1) The sale of Peet’s Coffee & Tea to German investment company Joh. A. Benckiser is the big news this week. As previously reported in the Express, the publicly-held company’s effort to keep stockholders happy has caused a shift in culture, from laid-back to straight-up corporate. The stock buyout could increase Peet’s’ presence nationally (it currently includes 200 storefronts, plus a robust distribution model). And we all know the East Coast could use more good coffee. Peet’s’ headquarters are expected to stay in Emeryville.
2) Also going private is Rogue Café, the pop-up brunch spot located in a South Berkeley backyard (complete with treehouse). The two-person operation became a private club on Monday, just hours after Berkeleyside published a piece about it. A spate of irate comments from readers about commercial zoning ensued. “We’re taking heat,” said chef-owner Eric Thoreson in a recent email, “and this is the only way to keep it ‘legal.’” To remain privy to Thoreson’s homemade English muffins and silky-smooth pour-overs, email hyperbole (at) oneninetyseven.com.
3) Another hurdle to East Bay food fun: The postponement of the opening of the Uptown Farmers’ Market in Oakland, which, besides the usual market stands, promises a beer and wine garden featuring local brews. The farmers’ market, one of the few in Oakland operated by an Oakland-based company, was set to open in early August, but due to issues of location, the projected opening is now next spring.
4) A number of festivals and one-offs are happening this week. My personal favorite: Outside Lands’ Summer Pairings II, a block party that will be held on Vine Street in Berkeley. Kermit Lynch, Vintage Berkeley, Paul Grieco, and The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen have teamed up to offer two glasses of wine (riesling, rosé, or chenin blanc) paired with grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup shooters. On Sunday, July 29, 4-7 p.m., outside Vintage Berkeley. $30. Call 510-665-8600 for reservations.
5) Just in time for late summer harvest, Oakland’s new Food Craft Institute begins its “Pickles, Krauts, and Ferments” class on Saturday, August 4. The twelve-week intensive course taught by Harold McGee; Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation; and William Pilz of Soda Craft is designed to not only bring your survivalist tendencies to newfound heights, but also to help the hobbyist preserver become a business owner. Includes a two-day small business bootcamp.
6) Our Cuban Kitchen is ending its series of pop-up dinners at Guerilla Café this Saturday. It’s a rare chance to sample some Latin classics like slow-roasted pork and twice-fried plantains off an à la carte menu. No reservations.
7) To celebrate Peruvian Independence day, Berkeley’s BRASA is hosting an all-you-can-eat dinner party in its rose garden with live music on Friday. The husband-and-wife duo Christopher and Veronica Laramie will be serving Pollo a la Brasa with Peruvian sides and sauces. 6-9 p.m., $21.75 per person. Click here to buy tickets.
8) And finally, the closure of Vacaville’s Soul Food Farms has caused many tongues to cluck. The much-loved local producer of pasture-raised chicken and eggs has been a model farm. Farmer Alexis Koefoed told the Chronicle that the closure is heartbreaking for her, but “We’re just really at a crossroad here. We did everything we could think of to make this work. Looking back, the hardest thing to overcome was our lack of diversity. I didn’t have the time or the understanding that a farm has to have diversity. We should’ve planted fields, had vegetables and other animals, so there would be rotating plants and crops. That was a huge mistake, but a part of learning.”