Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Los Moles Owner Lito Saldana Plans New Walnut Creek Location

It would be his fourth — joining those in Emeryville, El Cerrito, and San Rafael.

by S. Rufus
Tue, May 19, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Lito Saldana, owner/chef of the 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 ten-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 ground-floor space was formerly occupied by a Tender Greens location that closed in 2018.

The city of Walnut Creek also negotiated a 20 percent rent reduction for each month during the lease's first two years in which the restaurant's 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.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Hip-Hop Star Trippie Redd Partners With Oakland's Purity Organic to Donate Drinks

The rapper is delivering beverages to healthcare workers nationwide.

by S. Rufus
Mon, May 18, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF PURITY ORGANIC
  • Photo courtesy of Purity Organic

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

Announced last week, the campaign finds Redd — who at age twenty has already recorded four top-ten albums in just three years — 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 number 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 Organic'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.

"Trippie is my son's favorite artist, and I love the example he is setting with this donation. We are delighted to have Trippie as part of the Purity Organic and Sweet Leaf Tea Family," Platerink said.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Spice Monkey/Howden Market Launch Curbside Cocktails-to-Go

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

by S. Rufus
Wed, May 13, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF SPICE MONKEY
  • Photo courtesy of Spice Monkey

Downtown Oakland's Spice Monkey Restaurant is now launching an innovative new curbside beverages-to-go program.

Images started appearing today on social media, and the Spice Monkey Curbside Bottle Shop goes live this Friday, May 15 — 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," explained 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 p.m. to 7 p.m. 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 sixteen-, 32-, and 64-ounce versions, the cocktail kits allow users to create Pineapple-Poblano Margaritas, Lavender-Cucumber Collinses, and Bourbon-Ginger Sours.

A key ingredient in the kits 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 and 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."

PHOTO COURTESY OF SPICE MONKEY
  • Photo courtesy of Spice Monkey

A Cambodian immigrant who served nine years with the US Air Force, later renowned locally as a tea artisan and chef, Matoury has helmed Spice Monkey for thirteen 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 p.m. to 8 p.m. and enjoyable 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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dunkin' Worker Starts DIY Craze

They bring sprinkles, frosting, creativity, and doughy fried roundness to sheltering-in-place.

by S. Rufus
Tue, May 12, 2020 at 6:53 PM

An employee at a Dunkin' in Concord has inspired the company's brand-new DIY Dunkin' Donut Kits.

Norma Valkenaar asked the restaurant's franchisee, Matt Cobo, whether she could bring home some donuts, frosting, and sprinkles so that her young nephews could experiment with customizing their own treats.

When Valkenaar reported that this experiment had proven fun and successful, Cobo realized that it might also enliven sheltering-in-place for many families. "The reality of this experience has set in, and we know it's not going anywhere anytime soon," Cobo said in a press release. "Like most parents, we were looking for ways to entertain our kids and bring a little levity to this situation."

Last month, Cobo's Dunkin' shops in Walnut Creek and Concord started making DIY kits — which workers were encouraged to take home and use with their own families and to deliver on the doorsteps of friends and relatives, and which customers can now buy.

Priced at $6 for four plain donuts and $10 for nine, the kits include three different kinds of sprinkles and several different frostings.

"This is our small way of trying to brighten someone's day," Cobo said.

"The simple joy of getting to create your own donut can make kids light up, and if we can be a part of creating that moment, that makes us happy."

Now Dunkin' restaurants all over the USA have started selling donut kits.

Since March 17, service at Dunkin' restaurants has been limited to drive-thru ordering, carry-out, and delivery, with a few locations also offering curbside service. The company is currently donating a percentage of its proceeds from every gift card sold to the Dunkin' Joy in Childhood Foundation — an emergency fund designed especially for nonprofits helping families affected by Covid-19.


Lance Winters Scores Another James Beard Nomination

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Master distiller Lance Winters of Alameda's St. George Spirits has just been nominated for a his fifth straight James Beard Foundation Award in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer category.

Having previously worked as a US Navy nuclear engineer, Winters joined St. George in 1996 after offering its founder Jörg Rupf a sample bottle of his homemade whiskey. Since then, Winters has sparked attention worldwide for such distinctive spirits as St. George Single Malt Whiskey, St. George Absinthe Verte, St. George California Agricole Rum, the St. George gins (Botanivore Gin, Terroir Gin, and Dry Rye Gin), the St. George vodkas (All Purpose Vodka, California Citrus Vodka, and Green Chile Vodka), Baller Single Malt Whiskey, and Bruto Americano.

On May 4 — during what will be remembered as one of the restaurant industry's weirdest and most challenging phases ever — the James Beard Foundation livestreamed via its Twitter account this year's nominations in 60 categories spanning restaurateurship, restaurant design, and culinary media. James Beard awards are among the world's most prestigious food-and-drink-related honors.


Impossible Burger Expands Its Retail Presence

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Impossible Foods, whose huge production facility is in 85th Street in Oakland, has just announced a huge retail expansion, with its popular plant-based Impossible Burger being rolled out this week at over 1,700 grocery stores nationwide.

All of those stores are owned by The Kroger Co., which operates in 28 states under many different brands including Pay Less, Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons, Fred Meyer, and many more.

Impossible Foods' award-winning Impossible Burger — which won a Food and Beverage Award from the National Restaurant Association and which The New York Times has declared America's top plant-based burger — is now available not just on the shelves of these 1,700-plus stores, but can also be ordered online.

"The launch of Impossible Burger at Kroger grocery stores nationwide signals our intention to make Impossible Burger available everywhere America shops — at brick-and-mortar retailers and their increasingly popular online ordering and delivery services," said Impossible Foods' president Dennis Woodside, as reported at Supermarketnews and other venues.

"Our existing retail partners have achieved record sales of Impossible Burger in recent weeks. We expect our retail footprint to expand more than fifty-fold in 2020, and we are moving as quickly as possible to expand with additional outlets and in more retail channels," Woodside said.

The kosher, halal, and gluten-free-certified Impossible Burger is also served at Burger King, the Hard Rock Café, and thousands of other restaurants.

Demand for plant-based proteins is rising as worried consumers seek innovations and alternatives. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control reported that thousands of workers at American meat- and poultry-processing facilities have tested positive for Covid-19.

CSAA Insurance Group Donates Thousands of Free Meals

The Walnut Creek-based company has closed its cafeteria during the Covid-19 crisis, but employs its cafeteria service partners to help feed the hungry.

by S. Rufus
Tue, May 12, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF CSAA INSURANCE GROUP
  • Photo courtesy of CSAA Insurance Group

Employees at the Walnut Creek-based CSAA Insurance Group are currently working from home, so they're not eating in the company's on-site cafeteria.

But the company is nonetheless keeping its cafeteria service partners — those many companies from which CSAA sources its cafeteria food, drinks, and supplies — busy and employed, preparing meals for local food banks and vulnerable communities throughout the East Bay and beyond.

CSAA Insurance Group donates about $25,000 worth of cafe food services per week — and about 500 meals daily — to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano; Trinity Center in Walnut Creek; Putnam Clubhouse in Concord; the Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City, OK; and the Area Agency on Aging in Glendale, AZ.

“We are grateful beyond words,” said Kinsey Crocker, director of communications at the Homeless Alliance.

“CSAA Insurance Group [has] helped us bring comfort to people who are unsheltered by making and delivering 150 sack lunches every day – 750 every week – to us since the end of March to help meet the demand.”

Offering automobile, homeowners, and other types of insurance, CSAA Insurance Group has over 3,800 employees. Its LEED Gold-certified headquarters was opened in 2009.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

St. George Spirits Master Distiller Lance Winters Scores Another James Beard Award Nomination

It's his fifth consecutive nomination.

by S. Rufus
Sun, May 10, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION
  • Photo courtesy of the James Beard Foundation

Lance Winters, master distiller at Alameda's St. George Spirits, has just been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer category.

It's his fifth nomination.

Having previously worked as a US Navy nuclear engineer, Winters joined St. George in 1996 after offering its founder Jörg Rupf a sample bottle of his homemade whiskey.

Since then, Winters has sparked attention worldwide for such distinctive spirits as St. George Single Malt Whiskey, St. George Absinthe Verte, St. George California Agricole Rum, the St. George gins (Botanivore Gin, Terroir Gin, and Dry Rye Gin), the St. George vodkas (All Purpose Vodka, California Citrus Vodka, and Green Chile Vodka), Baller Single Malt Whiskey, and Bruto Americano.

On May 4 — during what will be remembered as one of the restaurant industry's weirdest and most challenging phases ever — the James Beard Foundation livestreamed via its Twitter account this year's nominations in sixty categories spanning restaurateurship, restaurant design, and culinary media.

James Beard awards are among the world's most prestigious food-and-drink-related honors.

Founded in 1986 to honor the pioneering celebrity chef, cookbook author, TV personality, and cooking teacher for which it is named, the nonprofit outfit has halted its usual springtime activities to focus instead on the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund, which to date has disbursed more than $4 million to independent, locally owned restaurants nationwide.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Concord Dunkin' Worker Inspires Nationwide DIY Donut Kits

They bring sprinkles, frosting, creativity, and doughy fried roundness to sheltering-in-place.

by S. Rufus
Fri, May 8, 2020 at 4:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF DUNKIN'
  • Photo courtesy of Dunkin'

An employee at a Dunkin' (formerly Dunkin' Donuts) restaurant in Concord has inspired the company's brand-new DIY Dunkin' Donut Kits.

Norma Valkenaar asked the restaurant's franchisee, Matt Cobo, whether she could bring home some donuts, frosting, and sprinkles so that her young nephews could experiment with customizing their own treats.

When Valkenaar reported that this experiment had proven fun and successful, Cobo realized that it might also enliven sheltering-in-place for many families.

“The reality of this experience has set in, and we know it’s not going anywhere anytime soon,” Cobo said in a press release.

“Like most parents, we were looking for ways to entertain our kids and bring a little levity to this situation.”

Last month, Cobo's Dunkin' shops in Walnut Creek and Concord started making DIY kits — which workers were encouraged to take home and use with their own families and to deliver on the doorsteps of friends and relatives, and which customers can now buy.

Priced at $6 for four plain donuts and $10 for nine, the kits include three different kinds of sprinkles and several different frostings.

“This is our small way of trying to brighten someone’s day,” Cobo said.

“The simple joy of getting to create your own donut can make kids light up, and if we can be a part of creating that moment, that makes us happy.”

Now Dunkin' restaurants all over the USA have started selling donut kits.

Since March 17, service at Dunkin' restaurants has been limited to drive-thru ordering, carry-out, and delivery, with a few locations also offering curbside service. The company is currently donating a percentage of its proceeds from every gift card sold to the Dunkin' Joy in Childhood Foundation — an emergency fund designed especially for nonprofits helping families affected by Covid-19.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

REBBL Wins NEXTY For Cocoa Elixir

The Emeryville beverage company scored laurels for its Mayan cocoa elixir

by S. Rufus
Wed, May 6, 2020 at 11:07 AM

Gold Label Mayan Cocoa Elixir, made by Emeryville-based REBBL, has just won the 2020 NEXTY Award for "Best New Ready-to-Drink Beverage."

Its ingredients include maca, reishi, maitake, turkey tail mushrooms, lion's mane mushrooms, cayenne, and ashwagandha, among others.

"We're thrilled our Gold Label Mayan Cocoa won this year's 'Best New Drink,'" REBBL's chief marketing officer Bonnie Neulight said in a press release.

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"We developed this as the ultimate elixir featuring four premium mushrooms. It's our priority to create organic, plant-based beverages that do not compromise on taste," Neulight said.

Given every year to companies that distinguish themselves as leaders in the natural-products industry, NEXTY Awards are divided into four categories:

Flagship NEXTY Awards are given to one standout product in each of 23 different categories. NEXTY Consumer Choice Awards are given to the top products in each of three categories: Food/Beverage; Personal Care; Natural Living. NEXTY Editors' Choice Awards are chosen by a team of New Hope Network editors. NEXTY Gold Awards are given to a select few brands that for several years running "truly move the mission of the national products industry forward, disrupt the status quo, and make the world a healthier, better place," the NEXTY Awards website reads.

Making ethically sourced, plant-based drinks since 2011, REBBL was co-founded by Dave Batstone, who also founded the Not For Sale anti-human-trafficking nonprofit. A portion of REBBL's net sales support Not For Sale in providing shelter, education, healthcare, legal services, and job training for survivors of exploitation.

Among REBBL's other products is a new Keto Elixir line as well as two new sparkling prebiotic tonics.

Impossible Burger Hugely Expands Its Retail Presence

The Oakland-made, plant-based burgers are being stocked in nearly 2,000 more stores this week.

by S. Rufus
Wed, May 6, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Impossible Foods, whose huge production facility is ion 85th Street in Oakland, has just announced a huge retail expansion, with its mega-popular plant-based Impossible Burger being rolled out this week at over 1,700 grocery stores nationwide.

All of those stores are owned by The Kroger Co., which operates in 28 states under many different brands including Pay Less, Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons, Fred Meyer, and many more.

Impossible Foods' award-winning Impossible Burger — which won a Food and Beverage (FABI) Award from the National Restaurant Association and which the New York Times has declared America's top plant-based burger — is now available not just on the shelves of these 1,700-plus stores, but can also be ordered online.

“The launch of Impossible Burger at Kroger grocery stores nationwide signals our intention to make Impossible Burger available everywhere America shops — at brick-and-mortar retailers and their increasingly popular online ordering and delivery services,” said Impossible Foods’ president Dennis Woodside, as reported at Supermarketnews and other venues.

“Our existing retail partners have achieved record sales of Impossible Burger in recent weeks. We expect our retail footprint to expand more than fifty-fold in 2020, and we are moving as quickly as possible to expand with additional outlets and in more retail channels," Woodside said.

The kosher, halal, and gluten-free-certified Impossible Burger is also served at Burger King, the Hard Rock Café, and thousands of other restaurants.

Demand for plant-based proteins is rising as worried consumers seek innovations and alternatives. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control reported that thousands of workers at American meat- and poultry-processing facilities have tested positive for Covid-19.

“Kroger’s new partnership with Impossible Foods is one more way we are providing our customers with convenient access to popular fresh plant-based meats,” said Joe Grieshaber, Kroger’s senior vice president of merchandising.

“Plant-based food remains one of the fastest-growing categories at Kroger. We’re excited to continue growing our selection, especially as more customers than ever are purchasing meat products made from plants," Grieshaber said.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Ike's Love & Sandwiches Feeds Entire Hospital, Nursing Home Staffs for Free

Healthcare workers also get half-off their purchase orders tomorrow to mark National Nurses' Week.

by S. Rufus
Tue, May 5, 2020 at 4:00 AM

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To celebrate National Nurses' Week, Ike's Love & Sandwiches is offering all healthcare workers with ID 50 percent off the price of their in-store takeout orders tomorrow, May 6.

Boasting over seventy locations in five states — including locations in Berkeley and Oakland — the cult-favorite San Francisco-based sandwich outfit is also donating hundreds of sandwiches throughout the next seven days to healthcare facilities throughout California and Arizona.

Ike's has already provided over a hundred meals for staff at UC San Diego Medical Center and the Pavilion Nursing Home in Fullerton, CA, with many additional donations set for this week.

The donated meals included popular menu items served on Ike's signature Dutch-crunch bread with the company's proprietary secret baked-into-the-bread "Dirty Sauce."

“We want to do our part to help overcome this pandemic by making sure frontline workers are taken care of,” said Ike's Love & Sandwiches CMO Renae Scott.

Founded in 2007 by Ike Shehadeh under the name Ike's Place, the company quickly acquired a loyal following for its hefty, diverse, often pop-culture-inspired sandwiches — such as the recent Team Joe and Team Carole sandwiches based on Netflix's Tiger King series, as well as others named after characters in the Ozark, Love Hurts, and Schitt's Creek shows.

Ike's fans include local sports stars such as boxer Andre Ward, former San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, and Seattle Seahawks (and former UC Berkeley Golden Bears) running back Marshawn Lunch — each of whom worked with Shehadeh to develop their own special sandwiches.

“Supporting nurses on the front line is just part of our commitment to the 'love' part of our 'Ike’s Love and Sandwiches' name," Scott said.

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