Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mixiote and E.E. Cummings-Inspired Cocktails

At Plum Bar, Mixiote, a La Cocina pop-up, has taken up temporary residence serving Mexico City-style mixiotes, as the bar debuts its first in a series of poetry-inspired cocktail menus.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 11:39 AM

Mixiote will be at Plum Bar through February. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIXIOTE
  • Photo courtesy of Mixiote
  • Mixiote will be at Plum Bar through February.

Alma Rodriguez is now bringing mixiotes to the masses at Plum Bar in Oakland. What’s a mixiote, you might ask? Rodriguez, who began her business through the San Francisco food business incubator program La Cocina, wanted to serve mixiotes because they were hard to find in Bay Area restaurants.

“We wanted to bring something a little bit different from Mexican cuisine,” said Rodriguez’s son Arturo Marin, who was a partner in Mixiote — a La Cocina pop-up now at Plum Bar — in the beginning but has recently stepped back to work on other projects. “Even in Mexico it’s kind of rare to find it, because it’s a really tedious preparation.” Marin said that while you can sometimes find mixiotes on the street in Mexico, they’re commonly served at special occasions like quinceañeras, weddings, and family gatherings.

Rodriguez is originally from Mexico City. Her mixiotes are slow-cooked meats or vegetables marinated with dried chiles including guajillo and pasilla, then wrapped in banana and avocado leaves and cooked for several hours. The mixiotes are served along with handmade tortillas, nopales, black beans, and pickled onions.

According to Marin, the lamb and chicken mixiotes, which are marinated in a red chile sauce, are relatively traditional. But Rodriguez is also creating her own interpretations of the mixiote, such as the pork in a green marinade. “That’s really not traditional at all,” said Marin. There’s also a mixiote made with king trumpet mushrooms and vegetables, which Marin said is also unusual.

“I’m trying to innovate the menu here at Plum Bar,” said Rodriguez. Mixiote has popped up at locations including Cala in San Francisco and at the UC Berkeley Student Union, and at Plum Bar (2216 Broadway), where Rodriguez continues to experiment with her menu. She’s serving small plates, including tortitas de papa: fried potato cakes stuffed with cheese and encrusted with bread crumbs. Marin said they’ve been a hit with customers. “It’s more of a homey dish,” Marin said. “She used to make those for us when we were little.”

Mixiote is still in the incubation stage at La Cocina in San Francisco. While Rodriguez originally planned to open a food truck, she’s now shied away from that idea and is deciding whether to operate Mixiote as a brick-and-mortar or as a catering business. The Plum Bar pop-up, Marin said, is an opportunity for Mixiote to gain experience running a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and they’re thankful for the opportunities that La Cocina and Plum Bar have provided. Plum Bar is currently hosting a series of La Cocina pop-ups, each lasting three months.

“Thank you for La Cocina,” Rodriguez said. “This is my dream, you know… [to] introduce our dish.”

Mixiote opened in Plum Bar on Nov. 12 and will stay through February. Kitchen hours are Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

  • Photo by Vanessa Solis
  • Chris Mansury.

Meanwhile, Nov. 12 also marked the launch of Plum Bar’s first poetry-themed cocktail menu, based on the poems by E. E. Cummings. Plum Bar’s new bar lead, Chris Mansury, developed the menu along with Alta Group beverage director Aaron Paul.

“There are pages of poetry lining the walls,” Mansury said, but Plum Bar’s previous cocktail menu didn’t reference poetry at all. Mansury decided to change that. He loves reading poetry, and the first book of poetry he owned was by Cummings. “[It] was gifted to me by my mother. It was kind of my introduction to poetry at a young age.”

Mansury also believes Cummings’ poems are still strikingly relevant today. One cocktail on the menu is called etcetera, made with Laird’s apple brandy, Liquore Strega, and Amaro CioCiaro. It’s named after the poem “my sweet old etcetera,” which is about the experience of a soldier’s family while he was away at war. “I think it kinda reflects a lot of what’s going on right now, where things are difficult, and there are so many people out there that just have a hope for something.”
Mansury said the E. E. Cummings menu is the first in a series of poetry-inspired menus, and the Cummings menu will be available until mid-January.

Mochi Donuts, a Force for Good

The owners of Third Culture Bakery hope to bring joy through their new mochi delight — and through their signature mochi muffins.

by Momo Chang
Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 11:29 AM

All the donut glazes are natural with no food coloring. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THIRD CULTURE BAKERY
  • Photo courtesy of Third Culture Bakery
  • All the donut glazes are natural with no food coloring.

Third Culture Bakery in West Berkeley is not your average Instagram-worthy donut destination. To be sure, there are photo-ops to be had. But the bakery, located in The Berkeley Kitchens (2701 Eighth St.), also hopes to be a sweet beacon of light in these dark times.

Owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu want to bring some joy through their popular mochi muffins and mochi donuts. The two initially met at a bakers’ brunch, started dating, then launched their new business together in 2017.

“We are two outward-facing gay bakers,” said Shyu, the bakery’s brand director. “We just want everyone to feel safe in our space. We see Third Culture and our mochi muffins and donuts as a symbol of acceptance and welcome, and a force for good.”

  • Photo courtesy of Third Culture Bakery

Culinary Director Butarbutar is formerly of Sam’s Patisserie while Shyu ran We the Minis, a bakery catering business in Oakland. Home of the Original Mochi Muffin, which Butarbutar and Shyu patented, Third Culture Bakery also recently started making mochi donuts. The business has expanded quickly and is now selling 12,000 pieces of pastries a week. They’re in about 60 retail locations now, including many cafes and shops in the East Bay.

But a visit to the West Berkeley storefront — which they call their showroom — is worth it. There, you can find an expanded menu and get a first peek at their experimental flavors, like a jasmine milk tea, ube coconut, and strawberry mochi donuts, or their savory, takoyaki-inspired mochi waffles. They also sell custard cakes as well as tea and coffee drinks; their coffee is made with 1951 Coffee Company roasts.

“Customers come in and see all that it takes,” Shyu said. “It is such a labor intensive process.” On a recent visit, their staff members were dipping, by hand, hundreds of donuts into a luminous purple glaze (all their glazes are all natural and with no food coloring, Shyu noted).

  • Photo courtesy of Third Culture Bakery

How did the mochi muffin and mochi donut come to life? When Butarbutar started selling pastries at pop-ups and events, people were asking for gluten-free options as alternatives to his croissants and tarts. He started making the mochi muffins, first selling them in 2014. From there, the mochi muffins took on a life of their own. (Note that the custard cakes have some wheat flour, while the other mochi products are gluten-free).

The muffins and donuts are made with mochiko (rice) flour, from Koda Farms using an heirloom rice and the only sweet rice flour growing in California. The mochi muffin was inspired by a Hawaiian dessert, a baked butter mochi, and Butarbutar infuses Indonesian flavors (he is from Jakarta and New York, while Shyu is from Taiwan and Los Angeles).

“I want our pastries to tell a story,” Butarbutar said.

“We’re third culture kids — immigrant kids who grew up in a different culture from our parents,” Shyu added.
(Note: Third Culture Bakery will be closed Dec. 23-Dec. 27).

…In other food news, Free Range Flower Winery is throwing a holiday party at alaMar Kitchen & Bar (100 Grand Ave., Oakland) and pouring free samplers of its lavender wine, “L,” and introducing the new rose hibiscus wine. Saturday, Dec. 8, 5-10 p.m. (free admission).

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Get Your Cambodian Street Food Fix

Salaw machu kreung, pickled fruit, papaya salad, beef skewers, chow mein, Thai tea, and more are available at the Oakland takeout spot.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 1:59 PM

Best of all, everything on the menu is affordable. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF MALINDA BUN
  • Photos courtesy of Malinda Bun
  • Best of all, everything on the menu is affordable.

There’s a new spot in The Town to pick up Cambodian street food — and it’s aptly named Cambodian Street Food.

Owner Malinda Bun, along with her mother Mach, opened the tiny takeout spot on Nov. 3. Bun wanted to showcase her mother’s cooking and make it available to the community. “Cooking is one of [my mother’s] passions,” Bun said. “She’s been serving at temples every time it’s a traditional occasion. … She’s known to make really good food.” There’s a selection of traditional Cambodian dishes that her mother makes, along with a few dishes that Bun describes as “fusion.” And best of all, everything is affordable — most dishes clock in at $10 or less.

On the more traditional side, one of the top sellers is the salaw machu kreung — a sweet and sour soup made with eggplant, lemongrass, beef, and tripe. There’s also chicken chakreung, a soup made with lime leaves, bell peppers, string beans, and lemongrass.

Another popular traditional favorite is the steak with prahok sauce. Here, slices of grilled steak are served with prahok sauce, made of lime, baby eggplant, fermented fish, and red radish to create what Bun describes as a sour taste. The proper way to eat it, according to Bun, is to wrap the steak in lettuce leaves along with slices of cucumber, then dip the wrap into the prahok sauce. There are even some traditional snacks. One enticing option is the pickled fruit. Here, pickled baby grapes, guavas, and mangoes are served with a dip of sea salt and Thai chili peppers.

On the less traditional side of things are dishes like chow mein, fried rice, and egg rolls. But there are also some dishes people might not typically think of as Cambodian, though Bun said you can find those dishes in Cambodia, too. One of her favorites is the papaya salad.

There’s also larp, made with toasted, crushed rice and your choice of chicken or beef, then topped with fermented fish sauce. It’s served with fresh basil and lettuce for wrapping. There’s also banh xeo — eggy, savory crepes stuffed with onions and bean sprouts, served with lettuce on the side for wrapping, a sauce made of fish sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar for dipping, and optional crushed peanuts to top it off. Wash it all down with a Thai iced tea.

There are also some rotating weekend specials like amok, a steamed curry made with fish. To get updates on the weekend’s specials, you can follow Cambodian Street Food on Instagram @cambodianstreetfood.

Last but not least, Bun plans to roll out some dishes that are commonly served during the Cambodian New Year in April. One is Cambodian shaved ice, where flavored ice is served on top of basil seeds and grass jelly, then topped with sweetened condensed milk. Another is Cambodian rice porridge with chicken and three-layer pork. Bun said that in order to get these foods, “people literally drive from wherever they are to Stockton or Modesto when it’s Cambodian New Year.”

“So instead of having a lot of Alameda County residents … go all the way out to Stockton, just waiting around until April comes, they can just come to my restaurant.”

Cambodian Street Food is at 2045 Foothill Blvd., Suite B. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wed.-Mon., and the shop currently accepts cash only.

Tacos Oscar Gets a Permanent Home

The beloved taco pop-up is about to open its first brick-and-mortar location in Oakland’s Temescal district.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 1:50 PM

Every taco comes on handmade tortillas. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF OSCAR MICHEL
  • Photos courtesy of Oscar Michel
  • Every taco comes on handmade tortillas.

After years of popping up all over Oakland and the East Bay, Oscar Michel and Jake Weiss of Tacos Oscar are gearing up to open their first brick-and-mortar location at 420 40th St., Oakland on Dec. 6. The brick-and-mortar has been in the works for over a year.

Tacos Oscar has popped up at Oakland locations like Temescal Brewing, Cole Coffee, Starline Social Club, and Subrosa Coffee, as well as Flowerland in Albany. While Michel and Weiss are accustomed to working with limited kitchen space, their new brick-and-mortar is much roomier, located inside modified shipping containers. There’s also enough outdoor seating for up to 49 people.
Michel told the Express he plans to keep the menu simple for now. “What I would like to see is people hanging out and drinking beers and just eating tacos like it was a stand in Mexico City or LA,” Michel said.

There’ll be a quesadilla, a carnitas taco, a vegan taco with persimmon habanero salsa, and of course, the fried egg tacos that Tacos Oscar has become famous for. Michel said he didn’t intend for fried egg tacos to become his signature item, although he certainly enjoys them. “I grew up in a Mexican household, and … I’ve had this growing up: a fried egg on a tortilla with some salsa, a little bit of cheese,” he said. But when Michel went to Austin to play music in a band, he became enamored with the breakfast tacos there. “We were looking forward to being hung over so we could get breakfast tacos the next day,” he said.

But back in Oakland, Michel didn’t know of any other place in the area that sold fried egg tacos. Drawing up his logo while working at his desk job as an office manager at Urban Ore, Michel wrote out “Tacos Oscar” in cursive letters, with fried eggs standing in for the letter “O.” Now, customers have come to expect fried egg tacos at every Tacos Oscar pop-up, and Michel says some customers have even brought their own eggs for him to cook.

And every taco comes on the handmade tortillas that Tacos Oscar is equally well-known for. The tortillas are made using masa from La Finca Tortilleria in Oakland, which is hand-pressed and then grilled on the plancha. According to Michel, good tortillas are key to Tacos Oscar’s style of tacos. “It’s like, if you go and eat a pizza … and the crust sucks, it just ruins everything,” Michel said. “It’s kind of the same thing. The base has to be just as good, if not better than the stuff that goes on top of it.”

The bigger kitchen at the brick-and-mortar space will also allow Tacos Oscar to expand its culinary offerings. Michel and Weiss plan to eventually introduce lunch service. They also plan to add sides, salads, and soups to the menu. The brick-and-mortar also has a unique physical layout with high walls, which Michel is thinking of using to screen movies. He’s also considering bringing live comedy to Tacos Oscar.

Tacos Oscar will be open Thursdays through Mondays for dinner only — the exact hours have not yet been determined.

… In other food news, West Berkeley-based Fieldwork Brewing has expanded to a total of six Northern California locations with its new outpost in San Ramon (6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, Suite 1206), which opened on Nov. 8. The space, located within the City Center Bishop Ranch shopping center, features a 2,400 square feet indoor taproom and a 2,700 square feet outdoor beer garden. Also, coinciding with its first anniversary, Copper Spoon in Oakland (4031 Broadway) has unveiled the Golden State Lounge, a revamped back room serving cocktails and a menu of bar bites. Notable offerings from the bar bites menu include a king salmon hand roll, Marin Miyagi oysters, and cauliflower served with fermented hot sauce. There’ll also be a happy hour from 4 p.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lucia’s Pizza Goes Mobile in a Piaggio Ape

The Berkeley pizzeria launches a custom-built, three-wheeled pizza truck, complete with a wood-fired brick oven.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Nov 20, 2018 at 5:20 PM

Alessandro Uccelli (left) and Steve Dumain designed the truck. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGE MARACINEANU
  • Photo courtesy of George Maracineanu
  • Alessandro Uccelli (left) and Steve Dumain designed the truck.

At Lucia’s, there are pizzas for everyone, from breakfast pizza to classic margherita to vegetarian and vegan — and even gluten-free. And if you’ve never managed to make it out to Lucia’s brick-and-mortar location in downtown Berkeley, you’ll soon be able to sample their pizzas at the Grand Lake Farmers Market in Oakland and at Fieldwork Brewing in Berkeley.

Lucia’s pizza is going mobile, thanks to a mobile pizza truck that was custom-built in Italy and designed by Lucia’s owners Alessandro Uccelli and Steve Dumain. The truck is a modified 1981 Piaggio Ape — an iconic, petite three-wheeled Italian truck made by the same manufacturer as Vespa. The Ape gets great fuel economy and is designed for driving through narrow Italian cobblestone streets. As for the on-board pizza oven, it’s a wood-fired brick oven designed especially for Neapolitan pizza, and can reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fans of Lucia’s brunch pizzas will be glad to learn that many of the same options will be available at the truck. There’ll be an American breakfast pizza with applewood smoked bacon, a farm egg, and basil. If your tastes tend toward the more Italian end of the breakfast spectrum, there’s also the Specky Break, made with speck (Italian cured ham), crispy potatoes, beet confit, mozzarella, and a farm egg. The veggie breakfast pizza omits the speck from the Specky Break, and there’s even the option for a vegan breakfast pizza.

As for lunch options, there are quite a few. Purists can opt for the margherita pizza, also available in a vegan version. For vegetarians, there’s also the Shroomy, with mixed wild mushrooms, gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella, and thyme, and the quattro formaggi, a four-cheese pizza topped with smoked maple syrup. And for meat-eaters, there’s the Pepe L’Pig, made with local sausage, pepperoncini, mozzarella, and oregano. For spice lovers, there’s the Lips of Fire, with tomato, mozzarella, spicy sopressata, and a drizzle of fiery ghost pepper maple syrup.

Lucia’s uses a combination of local and Italian ingredients in their pizza. They use Belfiore mozzarella cheese made in Berkeley and Miyoko cashew cheese made in Marin, while their mozzarella di bufala is produced in Battipaglia, near Naples. Meanwhile, the flour is milled from a single-source family mill in Salerno, Italy. That flour is used in Lucia’s pizza dough, which is a high-hydration dough that undergoes a 24-hour fermentation process. There’ll be limited quantities of gluten-free pizza dough at the truck, too.

Lucia’s pizza truck will be at the Grand Lake Farmers Market on Saturdays, from 9 2 p.m., and they expect to begin service starting Nov. 24. Breakfast pizza is available until 11:30 a.m. Pizzas are 10 inches and will cost around $11. Details regarding the Fieldwork Brewing partnership are still in the works. The truck will also be available for private parties and events.

Food Connections

Technology that connects restaurants with workers operate like dating apps.

by Momo Chang
Tue, Nov 20, 2018 at 12:38 PM

  • Photo courtesy of La Bonne Cuisine Catering and Events

Like many restaurant and events workers, Chantil Brown is both looking for well-paying gigs and flexibility. “What I love about doing gig work is I can set my own schedule,” Brown said. “There’s no need to tell an employer I’ll be gone. I can pick up assignments based around my schedule, and that’s what a lot of people who do what I do like.”

A few months ago, Brown signed up for an app called Instawork. Immediately, Brown was able to book a high-end catering gig.

Instawork started in 2015 by co-founders Sumir Meghani and Saureen Shah as a website and digital app to connect restaurants and catering companies with workers. As many East Bay restaurant owners know, staffing is one of the biggest struggles in maintaining a food business. Businesses such as Souley Vegan and The Mixing Bowl in Oakland hire workers through Instawork, which is based in San Francisco and serves the entire Bay Area.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from businesses and workers,” said Lidia Shong, director of marketing at Instawork. “It helps workers get their foot in the door and allows them to show off their skills without having them go through a stressful interview process.”

When workers sign up, they’re screened by Instawork representatives. Once approved, workers book gigs based on their availability, show up, and complete their shifts.

Companies can rate the workers, and the higher-rated workers become “favorites.” The favorites are then matched with the same companies using an algorithm not unlike dating apps.

“It’s hard, especially in the Bay Area, to get quality staffing,” said Fernando Ciurlizza, head of sales and scheduling at La Bonne Cuisine Catering and Events and The Mixing Bowl. “People in the restaurant and catering industry are challenged with staffing.”

Through Instawork, The Mixing Bowl and La Bonne, a high-end catering company also based in Oakland, have booked a total of 381 gigs. Ciurlizza said one of the benefits of using an app is not having to call a bunch of people trying to find someone to work.

Other apps include Pared, which launched in summer 2017, and Wonolo (short for Work. Now. Local.), as well as several Facebook groups.

The apps allow restaurants to find workers in a pinch, such as if their dishwasher calls in sick. They can book someone on the fly to temporarily fill a position. Instawork officials say their app also gives workers a leg up — giving them the power to be selective about what jobs they take. “The balance of power is shifting,” Shong said.

Brown has used other apps and Facebook groups to find hospitality gigs but said Instawork has been the most consistent and has offered high quality jobs. “I’ve been getting a ton of notifications per day,” the Oakland resident said. “There are a lot of gigs.”

Meet Kolobok, a Russian Food Truck and Mobile Restaurant

The Oakland-based eatery focuses on Russian food with a California twist.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Nov 20, 2018 at 11:02 AM

Ellen Doren and fellow chef Bulat Nasybulin. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KOLOBOK
  • Photo courtesy of Kolobok
  • Ellen Doren and fellow chef Bulat Nasybulin.

Professionally trained chef Ellen Doren noticed that, in the Bay Area, food trucks represent countries from all over the world — except for Russia, her home country. “The more trucks I saw, the more I saw that pretty much every single cuisine was represented — except for Russian,” Doren said.

Doren is originally from Moscow, and her culinary resumé is impressive. According to her bio, she’s worked at upscale New York City restaurants including Gramercy Tavern and The River Cafe. She’s also worked as a personal chef; her clients have included several Warriors athletes.

Her latest venture, along with her business partner and fellow chef Bulat Nasybulin, is Kolobok: a Russian food truck based in Oakland that launched in September. “We’re the first Russian food truck in the Bay Area,” Doren said. “[We wanted] to share our knowledge of Russian cuisine. Not many people know how diverse the food is.”

Kolobok’s menu focuses on blini, or Russian crepes. Blini are thicker and heavier than their French counterparts, thanks to the buttermilk used in the dough. For Doren, blini are full of nostalgia. “We grew up eating blini as a snack for after school as kids,” she said. According to Doren, they’re also a long-standing tradition in Russian culture. “Blini … have been made for centuries. They come from pagan culture, to celebrate solstice,” she said. They’re supposed to resemble the sun, with their round shape and golden color.

Doren said the ingredients used in her blini are fairly true to what you’d find in Russia. The Bay Area crepe, for instance, contains kale, mushrooms, peppers, and red onions. “Kale is something that’s very Russian.” The crepe also contains avocado and chipotle sour cream for an added California twist. “Avocados are something that’s not Russian, but it’s something that we really love, and so do [other] people.” The St. Petersburg crepe features smoked salmon, green onions, capers, and sour cream. Along with several other savory crepes, there’s also a sweet crepe on the menu, filled with Nutella and bananas or strawberries and topped with whipped cream. The blini can even be made with gluten-free buckwheat flour.

Aside from blini, the menu also features several regional specialties. Doren said the pelmeni — stuffed meat dumplings — originated in Siberia. The pelmeni are served with a cabbage-jalapeño slaw. Although jalapeño isn’t traditionally Russian, Doren said it serves as a locally available substitute for the spicy peppers you’d find in Russia. There’s also plov, a Southern Russian dish of spiced chicken and rice. As the weather cools down, Doren also plans to offer Georgian and Armenian stews.

Kolobok’s newest venture is what Doren calls a “mini restaurant on wheels.” Along with the regular menu, customers can partake in a tasting menu and sit at the outdoor tables and chairs. The tasting menu starts with a Russian beet and potato salad called venegret, followed by a beet and cabbage borscht. There’ll be a rotating main course, and for dessert, there’s seven-layer honey vanilla cake.

Doren said she’s surprised at the immediate positive reception Kolobok has received. Many of her customers have never tried Russian food before. “They’re very curious to try [it,]” she said. The truck also has a loyal following of Russian customers who text and call and drive long distances. Doren and Nasybulin put a lot of care into their food. “We pay attention to detail, and everything’s made to order,” she said.

Kolobok is also meant to be fun. The truck is named after the Russian fairytale character Kolobok, a ball of dough who resembles the blini and pelmeni. According to Doren, Kolobok often goes on adventures and narrowly escapes being cooked, and he’s always happy. “He’s just a cheery little guy,” she said.

Kolobok will be at Snow Park on Nov. 28, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; at San Lorenzo Street Eats on Nov. 29, from 5-9 p.m.; at the Oakland Museum on Nov. 30, from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; and at Alameda South Shore Center on Dec. 1, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. For more scheduled dates, follow Kolobok on Facebook or on Instagram @kolobokfood.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Fundraise for Camp Fire Victims With The Hog’s Apothecary and 7th West

This Sunday at 7th West, drink beer from local breweries and eat Filipino food from Jeepney Guy to support those affected by the Camp Fire in Butte County.

by Katherine Hamilton
Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 11:43 AM

  • Photo courtesy of 7th West
This Sunday, 7th West and The Hog’s Apothecary are teaming up to host a fundraiser for victims of the Camp fire, which has become the deadliest and most destructive in state history.

According to Hog’s Apothecary owner John Streit, three employees have families impacted by the fire; among them, a total of seven homes and a barn, along with priceless memories, were lost. For the fundraiser, Hog’s Apothecary has secured donations of kegs from local breweries including Sierra Nevada, Wildcard, Faction,
Barebottle, Old Kan, and South City Ciderworks. Meanwhile, Dennis Villafranca of The Jeepney Guy will be serving up his Filipino fare. There’ll also be music from DJ SoMakesSense, also known as Felix the Dog.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation. The fundraiser takes place Sunday, Nov. 18, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., at 7th West, 1255 7th St., Oakland.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

At One Zo, Boba Is Made Before Your Eyes

The Taiwanese chain recently soft-opened its first Northern California location in Oakland Chinatown, and the grand opening is coming soon.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 11:51 AM

One Zo pearls are a lot softer than what you’d find at other shops. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ONE ZO
  • Photo courtesy of One Zo
  • One Zo pearls are a lot softer than what you’d find at other shops.

From matcha to black sesame to taro to red beet, there’s a flavor of fresh, house-made boba for everyone at One Zo Oakland.

And the term “fresh, house-made boba” doesn’t just refer to the drinks. The boba (tapioca pearls) themselves are made in-house, and because the shop has complete control over the boba-making process, boba makers can add ingredients like matcha powder or black sesame seeds to change the flavor of the boba itself.

In the East Bay, where boba shops are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, handmade, flavored boba makes One Zo stand out from the crowd. “It is a lot different from any other boba shop you can get boba from in the Bay Area,” said Neville Yeung, manager of the Oakland One Zo shop.

“The boba that they’re using is prepackaged boba, while we don’t use any pre-packaged boba at all. We make our own boba.”

Most pre-packaged boba is black in color, which Yeung said comes from the black sugar used to flavor it. Most boba shops only offer plain boba, and according to Yeung, pre-packaged boba typically contains preservatives that give it a shelf life of one or two years.

But at One Zo, flavors are added into the tapioca starch during the boba-making process to create a flavored “dough,” and the boba attains the color of whatever ingredients are added for flavor. Black sesame boba is grayish-black; matcha is green; taro is purple; honey is golden; and beet is red. The pearls are also a lot softer than what you’d find at other shops. Yeung said the shop has experimented with making about 15 different flavors, and there are typically five or six flavors available on any given day. Customers can ask to sample the boba before deciding which one to order. The shop has also been experimenting with making boba that contains two or three layered flavors in a single pearl; Yeung hopes to offer multi-colored boba in the coming months.

And unlike pre-packaged boba, One Zo’s boba is made fresh, so it doesn’t contain any preservatives. Since One Zo makes its boba in small batches, they typically have to make fresh boba every day to keep up with demand. There’s even an open area in the kitchen where customers can watch boba being made.

As for the drinks themselves, the current menu is smaller than most other boba shops. There’s still a wide range of choices, like fresh fruit tea, matcha lattes, jade green tea, and taro milk tea. Yeung’s favorite is the caramel oolong latte, crafted with house-made caramel. (Most other shops, according to Yeung, use a store-bought caramel syrup.)

The shop has been in soft-opening mode since October. The grand opening will take place on Nov. 18 and 19 at the Oakland location (362 8th St., Suite A) from noon to 10 p.m. There’ll be free drinks for the first hundred customers on Nov. 18, and on both days, the shop will be running a buy one, get one free promotion.

... In other food news, Starter Bakery has moved from Oakland to Berkeley, and now occupies the former Pyramid Brewing space (901 Gilman St.). The new space is 10 times larger than the previous space, allowing the bakery to expand its list of wholesale clients. The bakery specializes in pretzels, pain de mie burger buns, and laminated dough pastries such as kouign amann. But with the expansion, the bakery also plans to increase its focus on bread. Best of all, there’ll be a retail shop opening up eventually — the date has not yet been determined. And as of Nov. 8, chef Tanya Holland of recently shuttered Brown Sugar Kitchen is serving up a new menu at the Oakland Floodcraft Taproom, inside Whole Foods (230 Bay Place). The menu features snacks like sweet corn and jalapeño hush puppies, small plates such as jerk pork belly sliders, and entrees including fried chicken sandwiches and vegetarian muffulettas.

Inside UC Berkeley’s Food Pantry

The first year the pantry opened, 500 students came in to use it. Now, nearly 7,000 students use the UC Berkeley Food Pantry a year, out of 42,000 students on campus.

by Momo Chang
Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 11:40 AM

Members of the Friday restock team at the UC Berkeley Food Pantry. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GRETCHEN KELL
  • Photo courtesy of Gretchen Kell
  • Members of the Friday restock team at the UC Berkeley Food Pantry.

A study conducted across the UC system shows that 44 percent of undergrads and 26 percent of grad students in UC schools experience food insecurity, according to a report from the UC Global Food Initiative.

The UC Berkeley Food Pantry first opened its doors in 2014 and this summer was redesigned with the help of the College of Environmental Design. It’s located in the basement of the MLK Student Center.

Students who need food are allowed to take what they need in terms of produce and bread, but for shelf-stable foods such as pasta, canned beans, and more, they are allotted about five per visit, with a cap at two visits per month.

The organizers know that the pantry is just one point of entry for those who may have other needs — a short-term, if vital, way of supporting students. Some of them are referred to CalFresh (known as food stamps, or SNAP, in other states). Last year, 1,300 students signed up for CalFresh, and this school year, the Basic Needs Committee hope to sign up 3,000.

Reniel Del Rosario, an art major, is one such student who experienced food insecurity. Originally from the Philippines, he grew up in Vallejo in a family that utilized social security. During his second year, he walked into the food pantry.

That same day, he asked if he could volunteer there. Now, he is one of their star volunteers who helps on “restock” days — Tuesdays and Fridays — when new produce, dry goods, and other items come in. “I feel very satisfied when I do this,” he said.

Produce stand inside the UC Berkeley Food Pantry. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE UC BERKELEY FOOD PANTRY
  • Photo courtesy of the UC Berkeley Food Pantry
  • Produce stand inside the UC Berkeley Food Pantry.

The food in the pantry is high quality and nutritious — staffers worked with a dietician to ensure what they’re ordering or receiving is healthy — and much of it is organic and local. There are instant udon bowls, organic soups, canned wild salmon, boxed cereals, canned organic sweet corn, and more.

By 11 a.m., 30 minutes before the door opens on days where items are restocked, there’s already a line forming.

Del Rosario also hopes to erase the stigma of being on food assistance. “If you need help, then you have a right to get services,” he said on a recent Friday morning while adding boxes of tofu to the refrigerator. “Everyone should have access to food.”

Stella Zhu and Ibrahim Ramoul are two paid student coordinators who manage 65 volunteers. The pantry is largely student-run, and students do the heavy lifting — organizing, restocking, and more. Some get academic credit for volunteering. “I wanted to be involved in tangible way in changing food system,” said Zhu, a senior majoring in sociology and molecular and cell biology.

Vikrem Padda, UC Berkeley's CalFresh Coordinator, with Stella Zhu and Ibrahim Ramoul, UC Berkeley Food Pantry coordinators.
  • Vikrem Padda, UC Berkeley's CalFresh Coordinator, with Stella Zhu and Ibrahim Ramoul, UC Berkeley Food Pantry coordinators.
Ramoul is a public health major and sees working on food systems and equity as a good application of his studies. The student coordinators buy 200-300 pounds of produce a week, with the rest of the produce donated from farmers markets such as the one in Kensington, along with Monterey Market, Daylight Foods, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, individuals, and UC Berkeley’s own farms and gardens.

Students are three times more likely than the average Alameda County resident to be food insecure: 44 percent versus 13 percent of residents at large. And 57 percent of UC students who are food insecure are for the first time.

“There’s something unique about the college experience that’s creating food insecurity,” said Meg Prier, Cal’s Basic Needs food manager.

Berkeley has additional assistance, including a food assistance program that is for students not eligible for CalFresh but who still need funding for food

“The pantry is an emergency support,” Prier added. “We’re really trying to take a structural and systemic approach and take a preventative model. Fundamentally, we know that students are facing food insecurity because financial aid isn’t enough.”

The UC Berkeley Basic Needs Committee, which oversees the food pantry on campus, advocated for several bills in the state alongside other UCs, Cal State universities, and community colleges that allowed students to sign up for CalFresh. Previously, college students were not eligible.

In addition to the food pantry, Berkeley is building a space next door for basic needs. It will offer workshops, help more students sign up for CalFresh or UC Berkeley’s Food Assistance Program, work with homeless students, and more.

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