Thursday, June 11, 2020

Blue Bottle Coffee Shuts Shops, Makes Donation, to Support Protests

The Oakland-based coffee group closed its US stores for two days.

by S. Rufus
Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 4:00 AM

IMAGE COURTESY OF BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE
  • Image courtesy of Blue Bottle Coffee

Oakland-based Blue Bottle Coffee shut down all of its US stores for two days in solidarity with protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Founded in Oakland nearly twenty years ago by W. James Freeman, Blue Bottle raised $70 million in a 2015 venture-capital round, according to the Financial Times. In 2017, Nestlé became a majority stakeholder. Blue Bottle's 91 stores are located in California, New York, Washington D.C., and Boston — as well as Seoul, Kyoto, Kobe, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.

As reported at DailyCoffeeNews, the company also announced that it is making a $150,000 donation to be split between three different nonprofits.

“Our Blue Bottle community is in pain. We are a nation in pain. Today and tomorrow ... we are temporarily closing all our US cafes in consideration of the ongoing protests unfolding across the country," read the company's official statement, issued on May 31.

"But we will not be silent.

"We are donating $150,000 divided equally among Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Bring the H.E.A.T. This is just a start. We stand with our black communities all across this nation in solidarity, support, and care. Care to speak up. To listen. To change," Blue Bottle's statement read.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Philly's Best Soon to Open in Oakland

It will be the cheesesteak chain's first Northern California location.

by S. Rufus
Thu, Jun 4, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILLY'S BEST
  • Photo courtesy of Philly's Best

A new Philly's Best restaurant will open near Oakland International Airport this summer.

It will be the first Northern California location for the 28-year-old fast-casual Philadelphia-cheesesteak group, founded in Fountain Valley in 1992 by Bob and Andrea Levey, an ex-Philadelphian couple who missed their juicy, meaty hometown treat.

As reported at the quick-service-industry trade journal QSRMagazine, the Oakland shop will be located in the Hegenberger Gateway Retail Center. Its owners are longtime locals Bruce and Latrina Hopson. Its menu will include cheesesteaks, hoagies, cheesesteak fries, and other Philadelphia favorites.

“Born and raised in Oakland, I know everything there is to know about the city and that includes what it’s missing," Latrina Hopson said.

"Bruce and I fell head-over-heels for Philly’s Best cheesesteaks and there is just nothing in Oakland, and all of Northern California for that matter, that comes close to the taste, quality, and authenticity,” she added, as reported by QSR.

"We take great pride in having the responsibility, and ultimately the opportunity, to introduce the award-winning Philly’s Best brand to Northern California, and we are eager for guests to experience Philly’s Best for themselves.”

The restaurant group operates nineteen Southern California locations.

“We feel very fortunate to have experienced so much success in Southern California; it’s been a goal of ours for quite some time to bring Philly’s Best to Northern California and we’re proud to partner with the Hopsons to make this dream a reality,” said co-founder Bob Levey.

“Philly natives in Southern California choose Philly’s Best when they’re craving a taste of home, and we’re confident Philly transplants in Oakland will find that same comfort in a Philly’s Best cheesesteak," Levey said.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Oakland Restaurateurs Seek Pandemic Support

More than 150 stakeholders sign proposal seeking protection from eviction, liability and more

by S. Rufus
Wed, Jun 3, 2020 at 8:56 AM

A group of Oakland restaurant owners has composed and sent a letter containing a "Retail Recovery Proposal" to the City of Oakland, expressing their collective urgency around saving their businesses while reopening safely and protecting their workers while moving "back into what is hopefully a new and improved 'normal.'"

"Something has to be done immediately to avoid the certainty of mass restaurant closures," reads the letter, signed thus far by more than 150 Oakland-based small-business owners, workers and stakeholders and originally co-authored by Miles Palliser, owner of the Athletic Club Oakland; Chris Pastena, owner of Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern and Calavera (depicted above); Jake Freed, owner of Shiba Ramen; Derreck Johnson, owner of Home of Chicken and Waffles; Melissa Axelrod, owner of Mockingbird; and Romney Steele, owner of The Cook and Her Farmer.

"Small retail businesses, and the restaurant industry more specifically, were already suffering and in need of support prior to this crisis," the letter reads. "These businesses are particularly vulnerable now due to Covid-19. ...

"Restaurants, bars, cafes and nightlife venues are a crucial part of the fabric of any city, particularly Oakland. ... We are in a period of social distancing, but we will again be in a place where social gathering is part of daily life. We need to make sure our public spaces are still standing and positioned to thrive.

"Restaurants are also the driver of a much larger economic ecosystem. Along with thousands of jobs for hospitality workers, we also support vendors, farmers, delivery drivers, cleaners, tradespeople and more. ...

"One thing that is critical for everyone to realize is that 'allowing' restaurants to reopen does not necessarily save restaurants or improve the economy. It does not mean that the public will come out or that we will have jobs for many people to come back to."

Among other requests, the letter asks for eviction protections, increased Covid-19 testing, a Covid-19 improvements fund to finance pandemic-mandated changes and protection "from unfair and unnecessary legal action."

The letter also requests liability protection, given that restaurateurs "could face action from a customer who states that they contracted Covid-19 while on our premises. Our insurance policies do not cover us if a customer sues us claiming this happened."

Other signers of the letter include Cortt Dunlap (Awaken Café); Mayra Velazquez (Xingones); William Tsui (Viridian); Matt Kreutz (Firebrand Artisan Bread); Blake Joffe (Beauty's Bagel Shop); May Seto Wasem (Grand Lake Kitchen); Austin Cheung (Marica); Akara Sutraromluck (Pintoh Thai); Amy Hillyard (Farley's Coffee); Susanne Breen (Downtown Wine Merchants) and many more.

Fremont Water Company Donates to Aid Group

Fremont-based bottled-water brand Pathwater has just debuted a limited-edition aluminum bottle celebrating American heroes—and is donating a percentage of the sale price of each such bottle to Direct Relief, a humanitarian organization providing medical aid and supplies to Covid-19-affected communities nationwide.

Adorned with a boldly red, white and blue design incorporating the American flag and bald eagle, the brand-new bottle celebrates Pathwater's commitment to maintaining all of its processes—from manufacturing to marketing—within the continental United States.

Pathwater is also committed to sustainable practices: After just four refills, its bottles become carbon-neutral. Being made and sold within the USA also raises the bottles' sustainability factor.

"Especially now during these unprecedented times, we're committed to supporting our country, community and the environment with the launch of our new Made In USA bottle," Pathwater co-founder and CEO Shadi Bakour said in a press release.

Released this week amidst shelter-in-place-flavored Memorial Day celebrations, the limited-edition bottles are sold at stores nationwide or on Pathwater's website.

Determined to provide an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic bottles, Pathwater was the first-ever water brand packaged in 100 percent reusable and recyclable aluminum bottles.

The five-year-old Fremont company—whose investors and active brand stewards include celebrity chef Guy Fieri and former San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, and which was introduced at San Francisco International Airport as part of the SFO Zero-Waste Concessions Program—offers three types of purified water. Pathwater Still is filled with water that is ultra-purified through a seven-step reverse-osmosis process and enhanced with electrolytes for a pH-balanced beverage. Pathwater Sparkling is delicately carbonated, and Pathwater Alkaline contains specialty electrolytes with a final pH of 9.5+.

Direct Relief, the organization benefiting from the sales of Pathwater's new red-white-and-blue bottles, equips medical staff with life-saving resources—including money, medicine and supplies—in eighty different countries and all fifty states.

"We are so excited to be partnering with Direct Relief to help raise money to provide much-needed medical supplies and resources to frontline workers and communities nationwide," said Pathwater co-founder and CMO Ali Orabi.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Hangar 1 Vodka Fuels Free-Food-For-Unemployed-Workers Program

500-plus boxes of fresh produce from sustainable farms have been donated to unemployed food-and-beverage workers thus far.

by S. Rufus
Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF HANGAR 1 VODKA
  • Photo courtesy of Hangar 1 Vodka

The Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) and the San Francisco Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) have teamed up to deliver over 500 boxes of fresh produce to unemployed food-and-beverage workers in a new effort dubbed Feed Hospitality.

The 500-plus boxes distributed so far were made possible with support from about twenty spirit companies that made various donations, and Alameda-based Hangar 1 Vodka will help the initiative deliver 1,125 more boxes through its $15,000 donation plus a $15,000 matching program.

"We’re grateful to Hangar 1 Vodka, who has been a longtime contributor to CUESA and shares our passion for sourcing from local farms when it comes to making their flavored vodkas,” said CUESA’s executive director Christine Farren.

“Their generous donation and matching program will really boost the growth of Feed Hospitality. The hospitality community has been there for us all of these years, making us feel so welcome in their establishments and at our events, and they deserve our support in return.”

Providing tens of thousands of dollars in income for local farms which are otherwise suffering under Covid-19 restrictions, Feed Hospitality debuted on April 7, distributing 35 free produce boxes to workers on that first day.

It's not the first partnership between these two groups.

Their cohosted fundraising series, Cocktails of the Farmers Market, has thrived for over ten years.

In a press release, CUESA points out that food-and-beverage workers comprise nearly 40 percent of jobs lost nationally; in San Francisco alone, 59,988 restaurant and food jobs have been lost so far.

Many of the bartenders involved in the program are East Bay-based, and efforts are underway to add an Oakland pickup spot for the boxes.

Further donations to the initiative can be made here. Hospitality workers interested in signing up for boxes can contact feedhospitality@cuesa.org.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Oakland Restaurateurs Ask City for Post-Pandemic Support

Over 150 small-business stakeholders sign proposal requesting protection from eviction, liability, and more.

by S. Rufus
Fri, May 29, 2020 at 4:00 AM

A group of Oakland restaurant owners has composed and sent a "Retail Recovery Proposal" letter this week to the City of Oakland, expressing their collective urgency around saving their businesses while reopening safely and protecting their workers while moving "back into what is hopefully a new and improved 'normal.'"

"Something has to be done immediately to avoid the certainty of mass restaurant closures," reads the letter, signed thus far by over 150 Oakland-based small-business owners, workers, and stakeholders and originally coauthored by Miles Palliser, owner of the Athletic Club Oakland; Chris Pastena, owner of Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern, and Calavera (depicted above); Jake Freed, owner of Shiba Ramen; Derreck Johnson, owner of Home of Chicken and Waffles; Melissa Axelrod, owner of Mockingbird; and Romney Steele, owner of The Cook and Her Farmer.

"Small retail businesses, and the restaurant industry more specifically, were already suffering and in need of support prior to this crisis," the letter reads. "These businesses are particularly vulnerable now due to COVID-19. ...

"Restaurants, bars, cafes, and nightlife venues are a crucial part of the fabric of any city, particularly Oakland. ... We are in a period of social distancing, but we will again be in a place where social gathering is part of daily life. We need to make sure our public spaces are still standing and positioned to thrive.

"Restaurants are also the driver of a much larger economic ecosystem. Along with thousands of jobs for hospitality workers, we also support vendors, farmers, delivery drivers, cleaners, tradespeople, and more. ...

"One thing that is critical for everyone to realize is that ‘allowing’ restaurants to reopen does not necessarily save restaurants or improve the economy. It does not mean that the public will come out or that we will have jobs for many people to come back to."

Among other requests, the letter asks for eviction protections, increased Covid-19 testing, a Covid-19 improvements fund to finance pandemic-mandated changes, and protection "from unfair and unnecessary legal action."

The letter also requests liability protection, given that restaurateurs "could face action from a customer who states that they contracted COVID-19 while on our premises. Our insurance policies ​do not​ cover us if a customer sues us claiming this happened."

Signers of the letter include Cortt Dunlap (Awaken Café); Mayra Velazquez (Xingones); William Tsui (Viridian); Matt Kreutz (Firebrand Artisan Bread); Blake Joffe (Beauty's Bagel Shop); May Seto Wasem (Grand Lake Kitchen); Austin Cheung (Marica); Akara Sutraromluck (Pintoh Thai); Amy Hillyard (Farley's Coffee); Susanne Breen (Downtown Wine Merchants), and many more.

To sign the letter and/or show support, click here.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Fremont-Based Pathwater Debuts New Bottle Benefiting Frontline Workers

The sustainable aluminum bottles celebrate American heroes; a portion of sales benefits a medical-aid nonprofit.

by S. Rufus
Thu, May 28, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF PATHWATER
  • Photo courtesy of Pathwater

Fremont-based bottled-water brand Pathwater has just debuted a limited-edition aluminum bottle celebrating American heroes — and is donating a percentage of the sale price of each such bottle to Direct Relief, a humanitarian organization providing medical aid and supplies to communities affected by COVID-19 nationwide.

Adorned with a boldly red, white, and blue design incorporating the American flag and bald eagle, the brand-new bottle celebrates Pathwater's commitment to maintaining all of its processes — from manufacturing to marketing — within the continental USA.

Pathwater is also committed to sustainable practices: After just four refills, its bottles become carbon-neutral. Being made and sold within the USA also raises the bottles' sustainability factor.

"Especially now during these unprecedented times, we're committed to supporting our country, community, and the environment with the launch of our new Made In USA bottle," Pathwater co-founder and CEO Shadi Bakour said in a press release.

"We are so proud to have 100 percent of our products manufactured  and bottled in the United States and are passionate about supporting our local communities and minimizing our carbon footprint," Bakour said.

Released this week, amidst shelter-in-place-flavored Memorial Day celebrations, the limited-edition bottles are sold at stores nationwide or on Pathwater's website.

Determined to provide an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic bottles, Pathwater was the first-ever water brand packaged in 100 percent reusable and recyclable aluminum bottles.

The five-year-old Fremont company — whose investors and active brand stewards include celebrity chef Guy Fieri and NFL star Vernon Davis, and which was introduced at San Francisco International Airport as part of the SFO Zero-Waste Concessions Program — offers three types of purified water. Pathwater Still is filled with water that is ultra-purified through a seven-step reverse-osmosis process and enhanced with electrolytes for a pH-balanced beverage. Pathwater Sparkling is delicately carbonated, and Pathwater Alkaline contains specialty electrolytes with a final pH of 9.5+.

Last month, Pathwater released a limited-edition leafy-green bottle to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. Proceeds from the sale of the Earth Day bottles were donated to five ecology-driven nonprofits.

Direct Relief, the organization benefiting from the sales of Pathwater's new red-white-and-blue bottles, equips medical staff with life-saving resources – including money, medicine, and supplies — in eighty different countries and all fifty states.

"We are so excited to be partnering with Direct Relief to help raise money to provide much-needed medical supplies and resources to frontline workers and communities nationwide," said Pathwater co-founder and CMO Ali Orabi.

"None of this would be possible without our amazing team," Orabi said.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Restaurateurs Request Massive Aid Package

Owners of Tacos Oscar, Make Westing, The Kebabery, Bar Shiru and other businesses sign "bail out Main Street" document sent to Congress

by S. Rufus
Tue, May 26, 2020 at 9:37 PM

Owners Glenn Kaplan of Make Westing, Brian Crookes of The Kebabery, Shirin Raza of Bar Shiru, Elizabeth Frumusa of Bellanico Restaurant and co-owner Martina Nemling of Modern Coffee are among the East Bay business owners who have joined thousands more nationwide in formally asking Congress to "bail out Main Street" with stimulus funds during the Covid-19 crisis.

Signed thus far by over 12,000 small-business owners nationwide and processed through the Washington, D.C.-based SmallBusinessMajority.org advocacy outfit, the document addressed to Congress reads in part:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has left America's small businesses and entrepreneurs on the brink of collapse through no fault of our own. People are struggling, our businesses are closing or slowing operations, and many of us are being forced to lay off our hard-working employees en masse. Immediate action is needed by Congress and the administration, which is why we call on you to provide a massive and bold stimulus package for Main Street that includes grant assistance.

"Small businesses employ 47 percent of private sector workers in the U.S. That's nearly 60 million individuals who depend on small businesses like ours for their livelihood and the livelihood of their families. If we're going to rebuild our economy after this crisis, we need our elected officials to put small businesses front and center of this relief effort.

"While preliminary action on economic stimulus packages was a step in the right direction, the funds disbursed for new small business loans will just begin to scratch the surface of what we need. We've reached a point now where small businesses need much more than loans to reopen or keep our businesses going—we need an immediate cash infusion. Otherwise we will still struggle to keep our doors open, rehire staff, mitigate supply chain disruptions and pay off mounting debt.

"We urge you to act now to provide immediate cash flow assistance and other important policy solutions to support America's small businesses. This is the only way to ensure our businesses and our economy can survive the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19."

Other East Bay owners who signed the document include Malaka Wilson-Greene of Two Chicks in the Mix, Olivia Colt of Salt & Honey, Oscar Michel of Oakland's Tacos Oscar and Lito Saldana of Los Moles and many more.


A New Mountain Mike's Pizza Opens in Oakland

Covid-19 or no Covid-19, Mountain Mike's Pizza has just announced the launch of its newest location—near the Oakland Colisum and Oracle Arena. It's the city's fifth Mountain Mike's.

"Although we're not able to open our dining rooms just yet, we are proud to begin serving Mountain Mike's signature pizzas to the Oakland community in the safest way possible," said Bhimsen Khadka, one of the new location's three franchise partners.

Although its dining room is closed until shelter-in-place orders are revised, the restaurant offers a full menu of pizzas, wings, garlic sticks, beers, wines and more via contactless delivery and carry-out, as reported by QSR Magazine.

Customers can also place orders through DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Postmates.

Once the 2,200-square-foot restaurant opens its dining room, customers will be able to enjoy its several big-screen TVs.

"We're thrilled to make Mountain Mike's legendary pizza even easier to access and enjoy with the addition of a new Oakland location and are looking forward to the day we can welcome guests into our restaurant to experience our unique dine-in environment," Khadka said. "Mountain Mike's has offered carryout and delivery for over 40 years, and we've recently added enhanced levels of safety and convenience to our process, like tamper-proof packaging, contactless delivery, as well as adhering to the strictest health and safety guidelines set by the CDC and the State of California to give our guests peace of mind when ordering from Mountain Mike's."

Founded in Palo Alto in 1978, the Newport Beach–based Mountain Mike's group now has over 200 locations throughout California, Oregon and Utah.


Los Moles Owner Plans New Walnut Creek Location

Lito Saldana, the owner and chef of Los Moles restaurants in El Cerrito, Emeryville and San Rafael, is now planning to open a new location in Walnut Creek.

Earlier this month, the Walnut Creek City Council approved Saldana's pursuit of a 10-year lease with two five-year options to occupy the ground floor of the city-owned South Locust Parking Garage, as reported at Patch.

The city of Walnut Creek also negotiated a 20 percent rent reduction for each month during the lease's first two years in which gross sales amount to less than $200,000, Patch reports.

Featuring 100 percent gluten-free menus including organic eggs, coffee, teas, sugar, milk, agave nectar and handcrafted corn tortillas, Los Moles restaurants specialize in mole sauce, as the name suggests.

A choice of eight different types of mole—house-made in copper pots—augments meat platters, tacos and "enmoladas." Burritos are served with mole both inside and on top.

Saldana grew up in Jalisco, Mexico, where he was inspired by the culinary skills of his grandmother and other relatives. His award-winning moles include a mole verde containing fresh chile poblano, spinach, cilantro, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Named after Saldana's mother, his Mama Luisa mole is a relatively light red sauce. His personal favorite is pipián mole—made almost entirely of pumpkin seeds, as reported by VisionHispanaUSA.

He launched El Cerrito's Los Moles Beer Garden in 2017. All three locations are currently open and offering pickup/delivery.

Friday, May 22, 2020

A New Mountain Mike's Pizza Opens in Oakland

It's the city's fifth location for the Newport Beach-based chain.

by S. Rufus
Fri, May 22, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Covid-19 or no Covid-19, Mountain Mike's Pizza has just announced the launch of its newest location — near the Oakland Colisum and Oracle Arena.

It's the city's fifth Mountain Mike's.

“Although we’re not able to open our dining rooms just yet, we are proud to begin serving Mountain Mike’s signature pizzas to the Oakland community in the safest way possible,” said Bhimsen Khadka, one of the new location's three franchise partners.

Although its dining room is closed until shelter-in-place orders are revised, the restaurant offers a full menu of pizzas, wings, garlic sticks, beers, wines, and more via contactless delivery and carry-out, as reported at QSR Magazine.

Customers can also place orders through DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates.

Once the 2,200-square-foot restaurant opens its dining room, customers can enjoy its several big-screen TVs.

“We’re thrilled to make Mountain Mike’s legendary pizza even easier to access and enjoy with the addition of a new Oakland location and are looking forward to the day we can welcome guests into our restaurant to experience our unique dine-in environment," Khadka said.

“Mountain Mike’s has offered carryout and delivery for over forty years," Khadka said, "and we’ve recently added enhanced levels of safety and convenience to our process, like tamper-proof packaging, contactless delivery, as well as adhering to the strictest health and safety guidelines set by the CDC and the State of California to give our guests peace of mind when ordering from Mountain Mike’s.”

Founded in Palo Alto in 1978, the Newport Beach-based Mountain Mike's group now has over 200 locations throughout California, Oregon, and Utah.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

East Bay Restaurateurs Request a "Massive and Bold Stimulus Package"

Owners of Tacos Oscar, Make Westing, The Kebabery, Bar Shiru, and other businesses sign "bail out Main Street" document sent to US Congress.

by S. Rufus
Thu, May 21, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Glenn Kaplan, owner of Make Westing; Brian Crookes, owner of Oakland's The Kebabery; Shirin Raza, owner of Oakland's Bar Shiru; Elizabeth Frumusa, owner of Oakland's Bellanico Restaurant; Martina Nemling,co-owner of Oakland's Modern Coffee; Rhamy Kirdani, owner of Walnut Creek's Twisted Times Restaurant; and Matt Dooling, co-owner of Walnut Creek's North Canyon Cider Company, are among the East Bay business owners who have joined thousands more nationwide in formally asking the US Congress to "bail out Main Street" with stimulus funds during the Covid-19 crisis.

Signed thus far by over 12,000 small-business owners nationwide and processed through the Washington, DC-based SmallBusinessMajority.org advocacy outfit, the document addressed to Congress reads in part:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has left America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs on the brink of collapse through no fault of our own. People are struggling, our businesses are closing or slowing operations, and many of us are being forced to lay off our hard-working employees en masse. Immediate action is needed by Congress and the Administration, which is why we call on you to provide a massive and bold stimulus package for Main Street that includes grant assistance. 

"Small businesses employ 47 percent of private sector workers in the U.S. That’s nearly 60 million individuals who depend on small businesses like ours for their livelihood and the livelihood of their families. If we’re going to rebuild our economy after this crisis, we need our elected officials to put small businesses front and center of this relief effort. 

"While preliminary action on economic stimulus packages was a step in the right direction, the funds disbursed for new small business loans will just begin to scratch the surface of what we need. We’ve reached a point now where small businesses need much more than loans to reopen or keep our businesses going—we need an immediate cash infusion. Otherwise we will still struggle to keep our doors open, rehire staff, mitigate supply chain disruptions, and pay off mounting debt. ...

"We urge you to act now to provide immediate cash flow assistance and other important policy solutions to support America’s small businesses. This is the only way to ensure our businesses and our economy can survive the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19."

Other East Bayites who signed the document include Malaka Wilson-Greene, owner of Oakland's Two Chicks in the Mix; Olivia Colt, owner of Oakland's Salt & Honey; Oscar Michel, owner of Oakland's Tacos Oscar; Lito Saldana, owner of El Cerrito's Los Moles; and many more.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Cocktails-to-Go at Spice Monkey

The downtown Oakland restaurant will offer spirits, wines, local beers, and DIY cocktail kits

by S. Rufus
Tue, May 19, 2020 at 6:16 PM

Downtown Oakland's Spice Monkey Restaurant is now launching an innovative new curbside beverages-to-go program. The Spice Monkey Curbside Bottle Shop went live last week offering spirits, wines, beers (especially local brands), hard kombuchas, ciders, bitters, tonics and freshly made cocktails as well as DIY cocktail kits in three different sizes, containing all the ingredients to craft your own at home.

This new program was developed by Ananda Neil, founder of the Oakland-based Craft Bar Services company, which curates drinks for major festivals and sporting events.

"During my 'pandemic gig'—revamping the beer and wine department for [Spice Monkey's adjacent grocery store] Howden Market—Spice Monkey's owner Kanitha Matoury and I came up with the idea to bottle and offer a to-go menu of cocktails," said Neil, a certified sommelier who is also the beverage director for the Oakland Pride Festival.

"The idea is to order online and then pick up the drinks at our sidewalk-accessible counter—or we will literally walk it curbside for drive-up hand-off," Neil said.

Pickup hours will be from 3–7pm daily. An outdoor parklet flanks the restaurant—located in the historic Howden Building, which was built in 1925 and originally housed a floor-tile manufacturer.

The pre-mixed cocktails include Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and Negronis. Containing cups, ice, citrus garnishes and more, and available in 16-, 32- and 64-ounce versions, the cocktail kits allow users to create Pineapple-Poblano Margaritas, Lavender-Cucumber Collinses and Bourbon-Ginger Sours.

A key kit ingredient is Fresh Victor mixers—a local line of seven different fresh, clean-label, cold-pressed juice-based mixers that contain such elements as organic agave nectar and fresh prickly-pear purée—which launched retail distribution throughout the Bay Area late last month.

Since discovering the brand through its cofounder (and his colleague) H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of San Francisco's iconic Elixir Saloon, Neil has used Fresh Victor mixers "almost exclusively" at large events, he said, hailing their "superb quality and consistency."

A Cambodian immigrant who served nine years with the U.S. Air Force and was later renowned locally as a tea artisan and chef, Matoury has helmed Spice Monkey for 13 years.

These strange days call for innovation and reinvention, so Spice Monkey—whose Comedy Oakland stage has thrice won the "Best Place for Comedy" category in the East Bay Express Readers' Poll—stages online comedy performances via Zoom and streams "socially distant performances" by local musicians.

Performing this Friday from 7-8pm online is Oakland-born singer-songwriter Jennifer Johns with a scaled-down band featuring San Francisco guitarist-composer Ben Misterka.

Johns "is one of Oakland's best artists at the moment. Her entire summer tour was cancelled," Neil said.

To place drink orders, call or text 415-264-4866 or email SpiceMonkeyToGo@gmail.com.


Purity is Trippin'

Hip-hop artist Trippie Redd is partnering with the Oakland Purity Organic beverage company to bring refreshing cold drinks to healthcare workers nationwide.

Announced last week, the campaign finds Redd—who at age 20 has already recorded four top-10 albums—personally delivering donated drinks to medical staff and their support networks in New York City, Los Angeles and his hometown: Canton, Ohio.

"This is my way of giving back to the healthcare workers who are working so hard to help people fight off coronavirus," said Redd, whose November 2019 album A Love Letter To You 4 debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

"I just wanted to show my gratitude and do whatever I can to help out all the people who are trying to keep us safe," Redd said in a press release.

Hospitals including UCLA Medical Center, Canton's Mercy Medical Center and New York's Northwell Health are receiving varieties of drinks from Purity Organic—which sells juice-based beverages as well as organic Sweet Leaf teas and lemonades.

Users who make purchases at Purity's website using the special "DONATE" code will receive discounts and, for each purchase, Purity Organic will donate two cases of drinks to local organizations.

"Thank you to Trippie for this donation to the brave men and women working in our hospitals," said Purity Organic CEO Mary Page Platerink.

Most Popular Stories

© 2020 Telegraph Media    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation