Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Spinning Bones, A California-Style Rotisserie, Opens in Alameda

This unique addition offers quality meats prepared with California sensibilities and Japanese-Hawaiian ingredients.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 3:13 PM

Downtown Alameda might be small, but its dining scene is incredibly diverse. Within just a few blocks' radius, you'll find Xi'an-style street food, a wide array of Vietnamese food, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, and what's likely the only Lithuanian restaurant on the West Coast.

Now, Alameda has another unique addition to its dining scene: a table-service rotisserie that's charmingly named Spinning Bones. The restaurant, which opened on Nov. 1, is the latest venture from experienced restaurateurs Mike Yakura and Danny Sterling. Up until now, Yakura and Sterling have focused their efforts in San Francisco — they also own Dobbs Ferry in Hayes Valley and Noodle Me in the Financial district. But as a resident of Alameda for the last decade, Yakura is excited to have a restaurant that's closer to home.

"I wanted to live and work in the same place," Yakura said. "I'm gonna feed the people I know. ... I love this community."

At Spinning Bones, Yakura and co-chef Lauren Lambert start with quality meats like Llano Seco pork, Allen Brothers beef, and 38 North chickens. The meat then gets marinated in shio koji, a Japanese mixture of fermented rice, water, and salt that Yakura says helps add umami, depth, and color to the meat. The meats are then roasted on one of the restaurant's eight spits. Each kind of meat gets dressed with a different seasoning and accompaniment.

Meat options include a half chicken with Japanese tare sauce, orange salt, tossed greens, and roti; black pepper flank steak with chimichurri, umami salt, broccoli, and sesame oil; pork shoulder with garlic-jalapeño garum and smashed cucumber pickles; and St. Louis pork ribs with yellow curry salt, Japanese potato salad, and pickled jalapeños. Groups looking to try a little of everything can opt for the Trip's Triple, a combo plate that includes all four meats.

The sides also offer a departure from your typical rotisserie accompaniments. Some options include blistered shishito peppers; corn with shoyu, noru, tofu dressing and scallions; and "party rice" with green tea, hijiki seaweed, carrots, and firm tofu. Rounding out the menu is a selection of starters, including mochiko fried chicken nuggets and a sampler with cashew cheese, smoked baba ganoush, lemongrass falafel, seasonal veggies, and roti. There are also a few salads, plus a rotating selection of desserts like butter mochi and peanut butter granola torte. And contrary to what the restaurant's name might suggest, there are also plenty of vegetarian and vegan offerings, as well as dairy-free and gluten-free options available. There's also beer and sake on tap, plus a list of wines, bottled beer, and sake.

At first, Yakura described Spinning Bones as an Asian or Hawaiian-style rotisserie — and yes, the kitchen uses plenty of Asian ingredients. But now, Yakura prefers the descriptor "California-style." "These are the flavors that we grew up with that we just cook at home," Yakura said. "Soy sauce, sesame, furikake — all those small ingredients ... definitely feel Asian, but then when you get them across the table, they just feel Californian."

Spinning Bones is at 1205 Park St. in Alameda and is open for dinner 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Online delivery will be available starting this week. Look out for future dinner hours on Mondays, plus counter-service lunch hours and catering coming soon. There's also a back patio, which is expected to open this spring. For more information, visit SpinningBones.com.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

First Edition, a Comic Book-Themed Bar, Now Open in Uptown Oakland

Brought to you by the folks behind Jackalope in San Francisco, the new bar promises a craft cocktail experience in a fun, unpretentious atmosphere.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 4:04 PM

Calling comic book lovers and craft cocktail aficionados alike: There's a new bar in Uptown Oakland that might be right up your alley.

First Edition, a comic book-themed craft cocktail bar, celebrated its grand opening on Friday. It's the first East Bay venture from owners Cory Hunt and Javier Ortiz, who also own Jackalope in San Francisco. Both Hunt and Ortiz are pop culture experts who take more interest in the villain than the hero.

"Villains, they're more fun than superheroes," Hunt said. "They're usually darker and sexier."

The two were originally intending a villain-themed expansion of Jackalope, but when plans fell through, they headed to Uptown Oakland. The new space measures in at 4,000 square feet. Above the bar is a series of large comic book-style panels from artist and designer Michael Brennan. Speech bubble-shaped light fixtures hang from the ceiling. Brennan's sinister-looking clown sculpture, nicknamed "Chuckles," greets guests above the mezzanine. One of the bar's two mezzanines features a DJ booth, while the other has a full bar, rooftop access, and plenty of space for hosting private events. Meanwhile, the rooftop offers space for events; the bar owners also hope to eventually add a projector for movie screenings.

Aside from the bar's unique look and layout, the cocktail menu is also laid out differently from most other bars. First Edition's beverage director, Napier Bulanan, was inspired by the James Beard award-winning book Cocktail Codex. The menu is based on the concept that all cocktails are derived from six different types of "root" cocktails: old fashioneds, martinis, daiquiris, sidecars, highballs, and flips. For each of the six cocktails, customers can order three styles: the root, a classic twist, and a First Edition original, which scale from simple to more complex. For example, the root martini features gin, dry vermouth, and lemon; the classic twist is a Manhattan made with overproof rye, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier, angostura, and orange bitters; and the First Edition original, entitled the N.E.W. Gotham, contains Infanta Lambanog, bonal, Mr. Black Coffee, and chocolate bitters. A selection of low-ABV and nonalcoholic cocktails are also on the menu, along with an all-East Bay beer list.

Though First Edition doesn't have its own kitchen, it shares a back wall with Xolo, the Mission-style taqueria located on Telegraph Avenue. First Edition offers an abbreviated version of Xolo's menu, focusing on tacos and burritos with meat, pescatarian, and vegetarian options.

Though First Edition is new to the neighborhood, Hunt said he's received nothing but support from nearby bar owners. Each bar, he said, fills a different void. Hello Stranger is great for dancing, while Bar Shiru and Here's How offer quieter environments for cocktail sipping. Hunt hopes First Edition will be somewhere in-between, combining a laid-back, fun neighborhood bar atmosphere with the drinks you'd typically find at an upscale cocktail bar.

"It's a pretty tight-knit community here. I think we all understand that we don't see each other as competition," Hunt said. "The cliché is the rising tide floats all boats, and I think that that'll continue to be true."

First Edition is at 1915 Broadway, Oakland, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

With House Kombucha, People's Cafe Transforms Into a Kombucha Taproom

House Kombucha founder Rana Lermer-Chang envisions kombucha as a social alternative to alcohol.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 3:46 PM

A decade ago, Rana Lehmer-Chang was a cash-strapped recent law school graduate who started making her own kombucha in the sluggish economy. As it turned out, Lehmer-Chang had a natural knack for making kombucha, which she watched her mom brew growing up. Soon, she started selling her kombucha at farmers markets and in bottles.

Since then, House Kombucha has grown and grown, and its kombucha is available in bottles and kegs in stores and cafes all over the Bay Area. But Lehmer-Chang's vision was always to open a zero-waste kombucha cafe. Last Saturday, her dream came true with the grand opening of the House Kombucha taproom in partnership with People's Cafe in Berkeley.

People's Cafe, at 61 Shattuck Square, now offers eight varieties of kombucha on tap. The rotating flavors served are exclusive to the cafe. Current options include winterberry pie, blueberry litchi, coconut peach ginger, strawberry lavender, and jasmine grape. There's even a CBD kombucha. Customers can order kombucha by the pint ($4.95 for regular, $5.95 for CBD) or by the growler ($12 for regular, $16 for CBD).

Lehmer-Chang envisions People's Cafe as an alternative to a bar, where people can socialize over kombucha rather than alcoholic beverages. She's a member of the Bahá'í faith — which prohibits the consumption of alcohol — and believes kombucha is a healthy, probiotic-filled alternative. (Note that kombucha does, however, contain a small amount — less than 0.5 percent — of alcohol.) It also fills a niche that can't be filled by coffee, which many don't like to drink late at night due to its caffeine content. Lehmer-Chang's kombucha is relatively low in caffeine, particularly her white tea varieties.

To facilitate kombucha's role as a non-alcoholic social beverage, People's Cafe is now open until 8 p.m. Lehmer-Chang said the cafe may extend hours depending on demand. She's also increased the menu to include vegan ramen at an introductory price of $8.95, with a shoyu-based broth and toppings like black garlic oil, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, and spinach. Also on offer is zero-waste boba, available in black or green tea varieties and served in glass jars with metal straws.

Lehmer-Chang also plans to host social events at the cafe. In the works are a Thanksgiving vegan prix fixe menu and an annual kombucha making contest; she'd also like to host monthly interfaith song circles.

Meanwhile, Lehmer-Chang also plans to use the cafe as a testing ground for her upcoming zero-waste grocery store, Eternal Foods. She plans to offer non-perishable products in reusable containers, including olive oil and maple syrup. She also currently has a side project, Eternal Catering, which offers zero-waste catering services (including vegan ramen) at a mid-range price.

To learn more, visit PeoplesCafe.com and HouseKombucha.com, or follow them on social medimedia.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Food Shift Looks to Raise Funds, Broaden Impact

The nonprofit is dedicated to reducing food waste, combating climate change, and reducing social inequality.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 2:25 PM

It's no secret that food insecurity is a huge issue, especially when it comes to access to fresh produce. But though 50 million Americans struggle with food insecurity, 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is wasted, according to Food Shift, which has a way to address food insecurity and food waste while also fighting social inequality at the same time.

Food Shift is an 8-year-old East Bay nonprofit headed by executive director and founder Dana Frasz. Food Shift recovers fresh produce that would otherwise be wasted, then redistributes some of that produce to food banks and other organizations. Meanwhile, Food Shift also runs a paid culinary job training program for people struggling with homelessness, addiction, or histories of incarceration. The rest of the food is used by trainees to gain cooking skills or to fulfill catering orders for Food Shift's vegetarian catering business. Most of those catering orders are provided to local nonprofits at cost; other catering orders come from businesses like Clif Bar that believe in Food Shift's model and are able to pay full cost. The revenue from catering orders, in turn, helps keep Food Shift going.

Aside from feeding people, reducing waste, and creating job opportunities, Food Shift is also combating climate change by rescuing food — a total of 120,000 pounds a year — that would otherwise contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to Frasz, Food Shift's food recovery efforts also save 90 million liters of water per year and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to 70,000 miles of driving.

"Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to climate change," Frasz said. "There's so much methane going into the air from this rotting food because most of it doesn't get composted and recycled."

For the past three years, Food Shift has been based at the Alameda Point Collaborative, a supportive housing community dedicated to combating homelessness and cycles of poverty. Since then, 25 APC residents (out of a total of 200 adult residents) have graduated from Food Shift's six-month job training program. Food Shift continues to support participants after graduation, and many of those graduates have gone on to pursue careers in the food and service industry. Food Shift also recently partnered with the Oakland Private Industry Council, which will allow Food Shift to support a broader pool of participants beyond Alameda.

But as Food Shift looks to expand the reach of its job training efforts, the nonprofit needs more kitchen space access. The kitchen at APC is shared by several other organizations, so in order to support more trainees, offer more job training time, and fulfill more catering orders, Food Shift would either need to rent out the APC kitchen full time or move to a bigger kitchen space. A bigger kitchen would also allow Food Shift to recover even more produce, further reducing water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

To support Food Shift's increased kitchen access, Food Shift launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign on Oct. 22 with a fundraising goal of $40,000. As a token of thanks, donors will also be invited to Food Shift's annual celebration on Dec. 14, where Food Shift advisor and food recovery activist Robert Egger will be a guest speaker. To learn more about Food Shift, donate to its crowdfunding campaign, or request catering services, visit FoodShift.net.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vegan Mob Is an Overnight Hit in the Former Kwik-Way Building

Oakland's new vegan barbecue and soul food joint sold out on its first day in business.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 6:13 PM

Last week, Oakland got a new destination for vegan barbecue and soul food — and it's proven to be an instant hit.

Vegan Mob opened for business in the former Kwik-Way building at 500 Lake Park Ave. on Oct.5. On its first day in business, the brand new restaurant fulfilled over 900 orders, selling out entirely.

Part of Vegan Mob's immediate popularity might be due to its friendly and charismatic owner and chef, Toriano Gordon. Born and raised in the Fillmore, Gordon started cooking at the age of 5 and grew up in a family of San Francisco restaurateurs.

But he's also equal parts chef and rapper. "I don't know what came first — rapping or cooking," he said. Prior to opening Vegan Mob, Gordon was in graduate school studying psychotherapy with a focus on hip-hop therapy. But some self-reflection led Gordon to leave graduate school and pursue a career in the restaurant industry instead.

"I was doing some soul searching, because in psychotherapy programs, they make you think and check in a lot," Gordon said. "I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to do that anymore. I wanted to do barbecue because my uncle, who passed away, always said ... San Francisco doesn't have real barbecue. He's from Houston. And so I said, you know what, I want to do some barbecue. But then I realized, I don't eat meat!" Gordon laughed.

That's how the concept for Vegan Mob was born. Gordon opened his first pop-up in April. Gordon himself is vegan for health reasons, and at Vegan Mob, he wants to promote healthy eating in his community and beyond.

"We grew up eating things that killed us," Gordon said. "I could bring the ... food [that] my people and other people are used to eating and just make it healthier, make it easier to transition to a better life."

Vegan Mob's most popular menu items include vegan gumbo made with vegan shrimp and sausage; combination plates with vegan brisket, ribs, or fried shrimp plus sides including vegan "smackaroni and cheese," collard greens, and slaw; and a fried shrimp po-boy. The menu also features a number of "fusion" items like the barbequito — a burrito stuffed with vegan brisket and smackaroni — and fried spring rolls stuffed with Impossible burger meat and vegan cheese.

Eventually, Gordon hopes that Vegan Mob will grow into an international chain, where he can spread not only his love for hip-hop and plant-based diets, but also a message of positivity and hope. Gordon has struggled with addiction in the past, and though he's no longer planning to pursue a career as a therapist, he still wants to help young people.

"I'm not just serving food, but I'm serving Oakland," Gordon said. "I want people to know that they can do this. I was an Uber driver six months ago, and I was not rich ... and I believed in myself and had faith — and guess what happened?"

"I want to not only spread around Vegan Mob, but the energy of Vegan Mob." 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Chef Tu David Phu’s New Pop-Up, BanhMi-Ni, Softly Opens in Oakland

At the lunchtime-only pop-up at Copper Spoon, the Oakland chef is breaking all the rules and putting his own spin on banh mi.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 4:00 AM

In case you weren't familiar, Vietnamese-American, Oakland-raised chef Tu David Phu is one of Oakland's culinary stars. His culinary career started out fairly traditional, attending culinary schools and working in renowned fine dining restaurants. Eventually, he left that world to start his own series of moderately-priced pop-up dinners called An, where he turned his focus toward Vietnamese tasting menus. From there, Phu began to gain all kinds of recognition and accolades, including being named one of the San Francisco Chronicle's Rising Star Chefs of 2017 and competing on Top Chef Season 15.

But as he reflected upon An, Phu realized he wanted to focus on offering food at a more affordable price. "I started doing more stuff in the nonprofit space, especially with inner city youth and incarcerated folks," he said. "Me being a native of Oakland, I wanted to do stuff where Oakland natives and Oakland folks can enjoy the food."

Last Thursday, Phu softly opened BanhMi-Ni, a weekday lunch-only banh mi pop-up at Copper Spoon. At BanhMi-Ni, Phu offers a creative menu of Vietnamese sandwiches with options like shoyu-poached chashu pork, pastrami, ginger-scallion turkey, and hoisin chicken. All come with housemade chicken paté and shredded carrot and daikon — the ingredients that Phu said are essential to a banh mi. For vegetarians, there's also a paté-less sandwich made with Beyond Meat and ginger-scallion sauce. The sandwiches clock in at $9.95 and come with a side of spicy cucumber slaw or banana blossom and cabbage salad. Housemade drinks like lemongrass, ginger, and mint-infused lemonade and Vietnamese cold brew are also available, plus desserts like banana bread pudding and coconut sticky rice.

Asked why he decided to focus on banh mi, Phu replied, "I'm a really big fan of street food. I really enjoy eating with my hands more than eating on a plate and silverware." Plus, Phu said, he identifies with banh mi on a personal level.

"I'm a third-culture baby — I'm a byproduct of being of two different worlds. Banh mi is definitely a reflection of me," he said. "Banh mi, like myself, is a third-culture product as well, too. You have the French and the Vietnamese, and that comes together and you get banh mi. Without either, you wouldn't have banh mi. I can fold other 'nontraditional, non-authentic' things into that."

One of the biggest departures Phu makes from so-called "traditional" banh mi is with the bread. Rather than using light, crusty banh mi bread, Phu uses a hero roll, which is similar to the bread you'd find on a Mexican torta. "I love banh mi, but I hate all the crumbs that it creates when you eat a banh mi. It kind of gets everywhere," he said.

The bread then gets pressed like a panini, and the sandwich is served warm. That's the origin of BanhMi-Ni's name, which is a portmanteau of banh mi and panini. Yes, it's a nonconventional banh mi — and that's exactly what Phu is aiming for.

"In this sandwich concept, I wanna throw [out] all the rules and just have a good time — as long as the cultural identity of banh mi is still there," Phu said.

BanhMi-Ni is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. (or sold out) at Copper Spoon at 4031 Broadway in Oakland. For more information, visit EatBanhMiNi.com.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Emeryville Public Market Welcomes Mama Lamees and Baby Café

The Palestinian and Hong Kong-style eateries opened this week.

by Katherine Hamilton
Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 4:00 AM

In the last two weeks, the Emeryville Public Market welcomed two new eateries: Mama Lamees and Baby Café.

Mama Lamees, a Palestinian restaurant and caterer, is headed by Lamees Dahbour. Dahbour is an immigrant of Palestinian descent, a single mother of three, and a domestic violence survivor who worked for the United Nations helping refugees before entering the food business as a participant in La Cocina in 2015. Prior to opening at the Public Market, Dahbour ran a catering business and also popped up at events like Off the Grid. The Emeryville kiosk is her first brick-and-mortar restaurant.

As the Express reported back in May, Dahbour is especially passionate about serving Palestinian dishes not often found in Bay Area restaurants. Some of her signature appetizers include musakhan (baked pita bread topped with caramelized onions, roasted almonds, and sumac) and ejja (fritters made out of cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, and onions). The menu also includes other appetizers like hummus, ful modamas (fava bean purée), and musakhan (also known as baba ghanoush) with pita. Entrée options include kebab platters and wraps stuffed with either falafel or chicken shawarma. There's also a rotating cast of weekly specials, plus desserts like knafeh, baklava, and qatayef biljouzz (sweet dumplings with walnuts in sugar syrup).

"I'm so happy to have such an opportunity in this community food hall," Dahbour said in a press release. "There are so many yummy Palestinian foods that are not available elsewhere in the Bay Area. Now, you can visit Mama Lamees in Emeryville and get your fill."

Baby Café, meanwhile, is a Hong Kong-style café. The Emeryville expansion is its sixth outpost, with other locations in Alameda, Oakland, Union City, Newark, and Hayward. The menu at the Emeryville location is much more scaled-down than the restaurant's other locations. Drinks are one of the biggest draws here — it's the only kiosk in the Public Market currently offering boba. You'll also find plenty of snacks to accompany your boba, like popcorn chicken and fried calamari. For entrées, choose from comfort food favorites like Hainan chicken rice, beef stew, black pepper beef, spaghetti with meat sauce and a fried egg, and curry fish fillet over spaghetti or rice.

The Emeryville Public Market is at 5959 Shellmound Street. To learn more about each restaurant, visit MamaLamees.com and BabyCafeRestaurants.com.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Malaya Tea Room Offers a New Getaway for Tea in Alameda

Serving both British and Malaya tea sets, it's a tribute to owner Leena Lim's childhood growing up in Malaysia.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Sep 24, 2019 at 4:00 AM

Think teatime is a thing of the past? Think again. At Malaya Tea Room, teatime is a tasteful, curated throwback to 1920s Malaya — but the experience feels modern, fresh, and relaxing.

Malaya Tea Room opened just over two weeks ago at 920 Central Ave. in Alameda. It's the product of four years of effort from owner Leena Lim, an Alameda resident who grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Lim has fond memories of her mother taking her out for high tea at the Shangri-La in Malaysia — but she also cherishes the more casual teatimes that she shared with her family at home. Teatime in Malaysia can be elegant or informal, Lim said, but without fail, 3:30 p.m. always means it's time for tea.

At Malaya Tea Room, Lim serves sandwiches, snacks, and teas that draw from British and Southeast Asian cultures. Lim said the menu is true to what you'd find at a tearoom in Malaysia. The British introduced the concept of afternoon tea to what was then known as Malaya — but even after Malaya became independent and was renamed Malaysia, the concept of afternoon tea stuck.

Accordingly, you'll find a British tea menu with a choice of two classic teatime sandwiches like smoked salmon and chive, cucumber, ham and brie, and chicken-apple salad. Salad, scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, and an assortment of sweet treats accompany the sandwiches.

Lim invited me to visit Malaya Tea Room to try the Malaya tea menu, which comes with a choice of two sandwiches including curry chicken, pork jerky, kaya (coconut jam) with butter, sardine with tomato sauce and cucumbers, and capelin roe and butter. I tried the curry chicken, which was a Southeast Asian-style curry flavored with curry leaves, lime leaves, and shredded coconut for a fragrant flavor with a touch of sweetness. I also went for the sardine with tomato sauce, which delivered an umami punch. Sweet treats included a light, chewy pandan macaron from local baker Macarons by Natalie, plus a mini fruit tart and pineapple tart baked in-house.

Those who can't decide between the British and Malaya tea sets can order a British-Malaya tea, which comes with three sandwiches; for those looking for a lighter snack, the afternoon tea includes one sandwich.

What's the tea, you might ask? Malaya Tea Room offers 18 varieties of brewed tea, ranging from the signature Golden Monkey (a straightforward, strong black tea), plus more unusual options like Earl Grey with vanilla cream and black tea with grapefruit and cocoa nibs. Herbal tea options include blue butterfly pea flower tea, while green tea options include flowering jasmine tea. But the most unusual — and my personal favorite — is the Malaysian-style pull tea, a street vendor drink made by "pulling" milk tea between two cups to create a frothy tea. Lim serves a basic pull tea option along with one made with fresh ginger, which was creamy, spicy, and subtly sweet.

The atmosphere is another part of what makes Malaya Tea Room special. Malaysian and American pop classics play softly over the speakers. Lim gradually culled decorations for the space over the course of two years from local antique shops, including Pauline's Antiques. Think palm fronds, wooden furniture, golden pineapples, and jaguar sculptures, plus personal touches like a photo of Lim's parents on a (chaperoned) date — after which they, of course, went out for tea.

Malaya Tea Room is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with two-hour seatings starting at 11 a.m., 1:15 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. Prices range from $15 for a kids' tea set to $57 for a British-Malaya tea set. Reservations are strongly recommended, and are required on weekends. To learn more, visit MalayaTeaRoom.com.

Editor's note: The online version of this article has been updated to reflect Malaya Tea Room's new seating times.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Eat Real Festival Returns to Jack London Square for 11th Year

The event is all about celebrating good food that's local, sustainable, and organic.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 3:15 PM

This weekend, the 11th annual Eat Real Festival is coming back to Jack London Square. Part food festival, part street fair, and part block party, the free-entry festival features affordably priced food from local vendors, free cooking demos, private ticketed culinary experiences, live music and DJs, and activities for kids. There'll also be over 30 craft beers, plus local wines, cocktails, and nonalcoholic beverages. The festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 22, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Each food vendor is committed to using a minimum of one to two local, sustainable, or organic ingredients. There'll be over 50 vendors in attendance. A few highlights include Aburaya (Oakland's own Japanese fried chicken), Get Low Dumplings (making creative California-inspired dumplings), Good to Eat Dumplings (Taiwanese-style dumplings), Jollof Kitchen (serving West African cuisine), Kolobok Russian Soul Food (one of the only Russian eateries in the East Bay), Koolfi Creamery (recently profiled in our Queer & Trans Issue for its Indian-inspired ice cream), Old Damascus Fare (specializing in Syrian food), Smokin' Woods (known for its giant beef ribs), and Tacos y Chelas (street tacos on handmade tortillas with house pickles and salsas).

Each day features a different lineup of music and cooking demos. Saturday's bill includes DJ sets from Push the Feelings, VAMP, and B-Side Brujas. Demos include Azalina Eusope of Mahila and Azalina's (two Malaysian eateries in San Francisco) at 1 p.m., Meg Ray of Miette Cakes at 1:30 p.m., Angelo D'Alo of Berkeley's Agrodolce at 2 p.m., a dumpling demo at 2:30 p.m. from Henry Hsu of Oramasama, and a demo at 3 p.m. from Preeti Mistry of Juhu Beach Club.

Sunday's lineup includes music from Push the Feelings, VAMP, and The Fishwives. Meanwhile, there'll be demos from Nite Yun of Nyum Bai at noon, Gerard's Paella at 1:30 p.m., and Los Cilantros at 3 p.m.

For those looking for a private, hands-on culinary experience, Eat Real is also offering a series of ticketed workshops. Options include a fall and winter edible gardening workshop with Ploughshares Nursery, cheese-making workshops with FARMcurious, quick pickling and canning with Happy Girl Kitchen, pickles and krauts with Preserved, and a seafood butchery class with Kirk Lombard the Sea Forager. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

The mission of Eat Real Festival is "to help revitalize regional food systems, build public awareness and respect for the craft of making good food and encourage the growth of American food entrepreneurs." A portion of the proceeds from this year's event support Baykeeper, a nonprofit dedicated to stopping pollution in the Bay. For more information and a full list of vendors, visit EatRealFest.com.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Popoca, a New Salvadoran Pop-Up, Combines Traditional and Modern Cooking Techniques

It's the newest venture from chef Anthony Salguero, formerly of Bardo Lounge and Supper Club and Michel.

by Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Sep 10, 2019 at 4:53 PM

There's a new pop-up in town when it comes to pupusas, yuca, and other Salvadoran fare you might not encounter anywhere else.

Meet Popoca, a thrice-weekly pop-up that started in Oakland in August. It's the brainchild of chef Anthony Salguero, a Bay Area-raised chef and Oakland resident who has years of fine dining experience at restaurants including Plumed Horse in Saratoga, Saison and Commonwealth in San Francisco, and Quattro in Palo Alto. In Oakland, he was the executive chef at Michel and co-chef at Bardo Lounge & Supper Club.

Salguero left Bardo to open Popoca, which he'd been dreaming about "forever." Salguero is Salvadoran and Puerto Rican and he grew up eating Salvadoran comfort food that his father made. But each time he visited El Salvador, his love and appreciation for the food grew deeper.

"There's so much depth to it that I think people don't know about," Salguero said. "It's not a cuisine that's out on the forefront. And I just want to show some other sides of Salvadoran food that people haven't really seen before."

In El Salvador, Salguero's favorite pupuseria cooked its pupusas over a wood fire, or comal. It's a practice that's becoming less common, almost forgotten in El Salvador. But Salguero believes it lends an extra layer of flavor to the pupusas. "The comal just sucks up that flavored smoke after a while," he said. Popoca means "emit smoke" in Nawat, the indigenous language spoken in El Salvador and parts of Mexico. It can refer to the smoke emitted when cooking over a wood fire, but it can also refer to the smoke emitted when lighting a fire as an offering. Since Popoca cooks most of its food over a wood fire — while also paying homage to Salvadoran food traditions — Salguero decided it was the perfect name for his pop-up.

Most of the pupuserias he encountered also ground their own hominy with a molino, or mill, and made their own masa. At Popoca, Salguero uses freshly ground corn for his corn-based pupusas, which gives them a toasty flavor and crunchy texture. He also makes them over a wood fire, which provides subtle smokiness. Other pupusas, like the shrimp and black bean pupusa, are made with rice flour.

While Salguero has a lot of reverence for traditional cooking techniques, he also incorporates "progressive" cooking techniques from his fine dining background. One of the most emblematic dishes is the SV Enchilada, a Salvadoran-style enchilada that's more like a tostada than the Mexican enchiladas most diners might be familiar with. Traditionally, it's topped with black beans, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, and tomatoes. Salguero's version is topped with avocado, house-cured crispy anchovies, and egg yolks that are cured for seven days, then smoked and grated over the top of the enchilada.

Popoca currently has pop-ups three days a week: Classic Cars West on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., The Double Standard on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Ale Industries on Fridays from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eventually, Salguero hopes to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Fruitvale district.

Meanwhile, Popoca also has a bigger purpose: showcasing the beauty of El Salvador.

"I really love El Salvador, and it doesn't always get the best rep despite it being an amazing place with amazing people," Salguero said. "I'm just trying to bring a little of what I love about it here."

To learn more, follow Popoca on Instagram @popoca.oakland or visit PopocaOakland.com.

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