For a town that’s best known for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s lyrical languishing at their misfortune to be stuck in Lodi (again), it’s no surprise to find an underdog undercurrent running through the vineyards and into downtown Lodi. Over the years, Lodi has watched Napa command the wine spotlight, all the while supplying many Sonoma Valley wineries with grapes. These days, you’re more likely to see Lodi printed on a Sonoma Valley wine label. While the Central Valley residents are pleased that their hard work is finally being recognized, they aren’t afraid to remind you that the recognition is decades late in arriving. Today, outsiders are finally discovering this small town and the charm it’s held onto while thriving in Napa’s shadow.
Beer for breakfast. It wasn’t foremost in my mind when we planned a Sunday trip to Brotzeit Lokal. Nor do I advocate it as a daily indulgence. But we arrived around 1 p.m., so we’re really talking brunch. Also, I was having knackwurst with my scrambled eggs (poached not offered), home fries and toast ($10), and doesn’t a German pork sausage (flavored with juniper) just beg for a beer? Moreover, it was still October, so a pint of Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen ($6)—one of 16 rotating German, American and (a few) Belgian brews on tap here ($4.50–$8.50)—seemed perfectly appropriate.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as passionate about ice cream as Scott Whidden, the Oakland born and raised masterblender at Fentons Creamery and Restaurant. He’s talking about cream; he’s talking about dairy. He’s talking about layers: of flavor, of contrast, of crunch versus creamy, and of bitter versus sweet.
Born and raised in Abruzzo, Italy, Chef Giuseppe Naccarelli, formerly vice president of kitchen operations for Il Fornaio restaurants, opens his very own slice of Italy—Trabocco, named for a fishing pier along the Adriatic coast of his hometown.
Managing a restaurant empire is hard enough work without adding in a regular commute, as Oakland-centric chef-entrepreneurs like James Syhabout, Chris Pastena, and Alexeis Filipello can attest. This may be why, even though San Francisco is just a Bay Bridge trip away, many East Bay restaurateurs haven’t made the leap to expand there—and why the same goes for SF-based empire-builders opening East Bay spots (Daniel Patterson excepted). But as Oakland’s food scene continues to gain traction (and San Francisco real estate prices continue to skyrocket), the East Bay is seeing more glimpses of manifest destiny from the San Francisco restaurant community.
Where does chef Kyle Itani of Oakland’s Hopscotch restaurant get his Duroc pork? From the same company that supplies Charlie Hallowell of Oakland’s Pizzaiolo with beef, Matthew Accarino of San Francisco’s SPQR with duck, and Sarah Kirnon of Oakland’s Miss Ollie’s with chicken.
It seems as though restaurateur/chef Charlie Hallowell can do no wrong. When he started his Italian gem, Pizzaiolo, in Temescal in the summer of 2005, it quickly became a word-of-mouth sensation, filled to overflowing every night, even when it didn’t have an outside sign announcing its location.
Grand Avenue seems to have always been overshadowed by its more happening neighboring thoroughfare Lakeshore Avenue. While cool coffee shops, pizzerias, and bars dotted Lakeshore Avenue, Grand seemed to be stuck in time, filled with quaint, but hardly destination-worthy, mom-and-pop businesses.
In a sprawling Berkeley commercial kitchen, workers pare squash. Chop eggplant. Heft trays of fresh pork shoulder. Scoop snowy mounds of garlic mashed potatoes into the left-hand sides of row upon row of Gideon’s Bible–sized plastic boxes. Whole star anise, bay leaves, and peppercorns dance in the thick braising liquid that simmers in a massive pot.
In the 1880s, famed plant breeder Luther Burbank realized he wouldn’t have room for his expanding laboratory of plant experiments at his gardens in Santa Rosa. So, he looked to Sebastopol, about seven miles to the west in Sonoma County.