For several years, residents of Oakland's Dimond District have been asking the city to turn the neighborhood's abandoned firehouse into a restaurant. Now, it appears that the old Dimond Firehouse will be home to a second location for one of the city's most prominent Mexican eateries.
Cosecha, the popular Cal-Mexican cafe and taqueria in Swan's Market, has reached an agreement to purchase the building from the city, co-owner Dominica Rice-Cisneros told What the Fork.
The City of Oakland chose Rice-Cisneros and her husband Carlos Solomon's proposal for the space from among the six bids it received, and City Council approved the sale last week. The restaurateurs are currently in escrow with the city. Of course, there are no guarantees: Oakland has been trying to sell the firehouse since 2011, and the space has at various points been attached to several prominent local restaurateurs. Most recently, the Mercury News reported in October of 2014 that the city had agreed to sell the building to the owner of Aunt Mary's Cafe, who had planned to turn it into a Tex-Mex restaurant. That deal eventually fell through.
"We're going to try our hardest," Rice-Cisneros said. "Everything is looking really good right now."
The chef said she was drawn to the Dimond in part because she lived there for several years during the mid-Aughts and felt inspired by the neighborhood's resurgence, which was spurred, in part, by a handful of locally owned, community-oriented businesses that opened around that time — La Farine Bakery and Farmer Joe's Marketplace most prominent among them. These days, Rice-Cisneros said she sees the area as a burgeoning "mini Temescal" — one with its fair share of notable dining establishments. But she said many residents have told her that they wished the Dimond had another full-service, special occasion-worthy restaurant — a place where they could bring Mom or Dad out for a birthday dinner without having to drive to a different neighborhood.
If all goes according to plan, Rice-Cisneros hopes the new Cosecha will be that place. The chef said she expects to serve a similar menu to the one at her Swan's Market stall, which is known for such dishes as its pork belly tacos and its weekend-brunch chilaquiles. Custom items specific to the Dimond location might include mesquite-grilled rotisserie chicken.
Pie Day Beckons
If you're the kind of home cook who prides yourself on making every damn thing on the holiday table — from dinner roll to gravy to turkey-shaped doily — 100-percent from scratch, the lead-up to Thanksgiving might be the most stressful week of the year. Allow me to offer one piece of unsolicited advice: You don't have to bake that pie yourself. Given the quality of bakeries in the East Bay, you might even be better off if you don't.
Certainly, I don't know of too many home bakers who have the same magic touch with flour and butter as PieTisserie (1605 2nd Ave., Oakland), whose proprietor, Jaynelle St. Jean, probably makes the best all-butter pie crust in town — the thinnest, most delicate, and most shatteringly crisp. PieTisserie's Thanksgiving lineup this year includes slight variations on holiday classics (Pumpkin in Chocolate Crust, Spiced Apple, and Blackbottom Walnut) as well as more unorthodox options (Beet, Ginger Lemon Custard, and Brown Sugar Maple).
Each 9-inch pie costs $26. The deadline to put in your pre-order — whether online (PieTisserie.com), by phone (510-859-PIES), or in person — is Friday, November 18.
Do you remember when Bakesale Betty (5096 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) was a full-blown bakery — when, in addition to its famous fried chicken sandwiches, the Temescal standby tempted sweet-tooth owners with an array of scones, quick breads, and pies? Thankfully, the shop will offer at least one Thanksgiving pie option this year: a deep-dish apple pie ($27.50) that features Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, and co-owner Alison Barakat's crackly, well-burnished all-butter crust. The pie will be available for pickup on Wednesday, November 23 if you pre-order (Betty.BakesaleBetty@gmail.com or 510-985-1213) by November 18. It should serve as a reminder that Bakesale Betty was a damn good bakeshop before it ever became a sandwich shop.
Berkeley's Crixa Cakes (2748 Adeline St., Berkeley) specializes in Eastern European cakes and pastries, but regular customers plan their schedules around the American-style pies, which come out of the oven a 1 p.m. sharp and invariably sell out in short order. The bakery's Thanksgiving advance order menu includes a cranberry walnut pie and various seasonally appropriate cakes, but let's be real: In my family, there is no Thanksgiving dessert apart from Crixa's deep-dish pumpkin pie ($24), with its luxuriously creamy, just-sweet-enough pumpkin filling and its abundance of soft, tender crust.
Crixa's pumpkin pie has graced our holiday table for about six years running, and of course I would not pass on the message that — RED ALERT — the bakery expects to sell out of pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving any day now without having first secured my own order.