IN THE SCENE
Garden of Eating
Aptly named, Epicurious Garden is a playground for the culinary cognoscenti. Inspired by Europe’s gourmet food halls, developer Soheyl Modarressi created an indoor emporium for fine food equipped with everything needed for an impromptu picnic (or gourmet meal) down to the outdoor garden with cascading waterfall.
Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto is a natural niche for a development billed as “the place for people with passion for food and love of creating special moments.” At Taste, a full-service restaurant and wine bar, it is possible to celebrate those moments over $17 1-ounce pours of a $300 bottle of Château d’Yquem dessert wine.
Modarressi handpicked the eclectic group of merchants: Kirala Japanese Cuisine, the soup bar Soop, Dom Petroff Caviar, Ciao Bella Gelato, gourmet chocolate at Alegio, Imperial Tea Court and Socca Oven, which serves Provencal chickpea flatbreads with intriguing toppings. If all of this inspires some home cooking, Kitchen on Fire cooking school offers plenty of classes.
Each venue has a loyal neighborhood clientele, many coming in thrice weekly or more. Greg Estess, partner and wine director for Taste, sums it up best. “Soheyl is a pretty remarkable man,” Estess says, adding nothing at the emporium happened by accident. “There’s a synergy here.” Paul Liau, sous chef, agrees, saying, “This place has potential to be one of Berkeley’s staples.”
Looks like it already is.
For your next culinary adventure, consider Epicurious Garden, 1509, 1511 and 1513 Shattuck Ave., www.epicuriousgarden.com
. —By Leith Steel
ABOUT A RISK-TAKER
hen Joyce Gordon opened her downtown Oakland art gallery, Joyce Gordon Gallery, in 2003, she was called a maverick and a risk-taker. A former hair salon owner who had never curated an exhibit, she opened her space when other galleries were closing and planned to show art from mostly unknown Bay Area artists. But by remaining true to her vision of bringing a diverse range of local art to the community, her gallery is thriving, with exhibition space booked through 2007.
Gordon, 60, who grew up in Berkeley and considered becoming a designer, studied at the California College of the Arts but pursued what came “easy” to her: hair. For 20 years she owned and operated salons and worked as a stylist and even published a hairstyling book, Our Hair, in 1980. Her love of art remained with her, though. Divorced and with two grown children, she opened her own gallery to show the work of her local artist friends, buying a 2,500-square-foot space at 406 14th St. for $75,000.
Diversity is the gallery’s signature style. “You never know what you’re going to see when you come here,” Gordon says. “I just look for artists who are really committed to what they’re doing and have some integrity to themselves and their work.”
The gallery remains dedicated to Bay Area artists, but the doors have opened to artists from across the nation and as far away as Iran. Gordon also offers her space to local schools such as the Oakland School for the Arts, which stages a year-end exhibit.
It’s all part of a bigger plan, she says. “A diverse group of artists is important to me, because it’s a reflection of the community that we live in. And if we can show art together and work together, then at some point in time, we should be able to really come together.”
The gallery changes exhibits monthly, hosts an open-mic poetry night on the third Thursday of every month and can be rented for private events. For more information, visit www.joycegordongallery.com
or call (510) 465-8928.
—By Sarah Thurmond
You're an Oaklander if...
As soon as the final out of the game was made, the players quickly jogged off to their locker rooms and the field lights went dark, a signal to the thousands of eager fans that it was their turn to take the field. Some
folks laid out blankets on the outfield grass while others knelt down to touch the infield dirt, still fresh with cleat marks and smudged chalk. My father introduced my brother and me to this scene as children, and it became something of a ritual in years to come.
We’d hang back near where the dirt met the grass and watch the Mark McGuire-wannabes run the bases, pretending that they’d just hit the game-winning home run. And then the show would start, all eyes would turn toward the sky and thousands of fans, decked out in green and yellow, would stand quietly united, paying tribute to both America and Oakland. —By Amanda Cherrin
Bay Area native Skyler Rodgers makes a homecoming this month when Disney on Ice presents a Disneyland Adventure. He skates into town as Frozone, The Incredibles superhero. The prospect of jumping and spinning before a hometown crowd has the 24-year-old excited.
“I can’t wait. I miss the Bay. There’s no other place like it,” he says.
Rodgers’ first experience on ice was on a middle school field trip to Berkeley Iceland. “I had fun and did well that first time, so I went back the next weekend, and the next… soon I was skating every weekend.”
While the East Bay may not be famous for launching professional ice-skating careers, Rodgers never thought twice about it, saying the sport came naturally, and his dedication led him to the Junior Olympics and a regional championship win. A product of Pennsylvania’s University of the Arts, he danced at Lake Tahoe’s Horizon Casino Resort and skated in Chicago’s Ebony on Ice before signing on with Disney on Ice in 2005.
Catch Rodgers and his Disney pals at Oakland’s Oracle Arena through March 4 or at San Francisco’s Cow Palace March 7-11. For show times and tickets, call (510) 625-TIXS or visit www.ticketmaster.com
. —By Jamie Andrade
Keeping Oakland Dollars Local
Amovement is underway in Oakland to localize your shopping dollar. The brainchild of best friends Erin Kilmer Neel and Annie Campbell Washington—both Oakland transplants who adore their new city—the new service aims not only to celebrate the spirit and impact of Oakland’s independent businesses and artists, but also to keep Oakland’s retail dollars in the city in a bid toward a more sustainable economy.
OaklandUnwrapped to be launched in April with a gala party and Oakland Indie award ceremony, will virtually hook up shoppers with Oakland’s independent retail outlets as well as individual artists. Shoppers will go to the site, then have their pick of a cornucopia of retail delights.
Neel says she sees the new business as a way to keep tax dollars in the community, which keeps cash in the coffers of the city’s social and cultural services, as well as employing locals and keeping small businesses afloat. “Then within that,” Neel says, “there’s the concept of supporting independent businesses. [When locals shop at] chain stores, the money isn’t necessarily going to stay here. And then it’s a community pride thing as well. If you spend your money here, and you pay attention, you start to see all the little hidden shops and artists that are in Oakland.”
And with about 5,000 retail establishments in Oakland and thousands of artists, shoppers will have plenty of gems to chose from. For more information about the company and its Oakland Indie Awards, see www.oaklandunwrapped.com
. —By Elise Proulx
Long before the civil rights movement and Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Sam Bercovich’s family was fighting for social justice in the East Bay and beyond. Oakland-based Bercovich Furniture sponsored regional youth baseball, soccer, basketball, softball and bowling teams for everyman at a time when such generosity and civic-mindedness were both daring and historic. A recent inductee to the Northern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, 90-year-old Bercovich, sharper than ever, talks about his family’s groundbreaking contribution to sports and its courage to bend the rules of the game. Some may not know that your family sponsored more than 4,000 kids in sports (mostly in baseball). That must have been expensive and time consuming. From where did this unique generosity spring?
It wasn’t always easy, but since my dad’s business was doing well, he thought helping kids would be a nice thing to do. All the credit really goes to my dad. You must be so proud of him.
Absolutely, and I’m so glad I was able to continue with his vision. Was it risky to travel to the South with teams composed of white and black players when segregation was still in full force?
It wasn’t exactly risky, but we were made to feel bad on occasion. Even with the prejudice that we sometimes experienced, it was worth it to travel as a team. As a son of Jewish immigrants, did you on some level identify with the prejudice that the blacks were experiencing at that time?
No, I never experienced that problem. When your skin is white, no matter what nationality you are, it’s never as hard as being black. More than 100 of the players that you sponsored eventually ended up playing professionally. Do you feel you share in their success?
I would say that they earned their success but that our encouragement helped them along the way. The wonderful coaches definitely made a big difference in their lives. Do you keep in touch with many of them?
Oh, yes. I still get calls from the old players all the time. It’s wonderful to hear how they are doing now. One of those players, Curt Flood, famously sued Major League Baseball for economic rights.
Were you in touch with him throughout that ordeal?
Definitely. He called me during the trial, and we talked a lot. He said all he really wanted was for the league to modify the rules. He was a reasonable guy. Did you play any kind of sport growing up?
I played a little when I was 15, but I hadn’t had my growth spurt. I really grew after I was 18, and then it was too late. In September, you were inducted into the Northern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. What a great honor.
And a great surprise. It was a pleasure being honored for something I enjoyed doing for so long.
Bercovich Furniture became something of an Oakland institution. When and how did your family get its start?
My dad came to this country in 1901. When he was ready to start a business, an Italian banker who knew nothing about him gave him a loan to help get started. I wish I had asked my dad how much the loan was for. The day of the big earthquake, April 18, 1906, was his first day of business. I read that when you were 5, you saw the KKK marching through the city of Oakland.
After my dad and I saw the KKK marching, he told me to always give preferential treatment to the blacks whenever I could. Seeing Oakland improve has meant a lot, but I’m still concerned about the crime. So what do you consider the most significant transformation in Oakland?
The diversity amongst the residents. And with your view from 90, has the issue of racism improved enough to please you?
It’s improved but not enough. Sadly, I’m convinced that there will always be a problem of discrimination of many kinds. If you were a young man again, what cause would you take on today?
I would focus on the poor people who are hungry and try to help give them incentives to work. I would also try and help the public schools in Oakland. Would you consider the time in your life when you worked in your family business while helping so many youth in sports to be the good old days, or does that period remind of you of difficult times?
Those days were definitely the good old days. I’ve lived during a time when people were really caring. I’ve also gotten to enjoy the company and entertainment of great athletes and entertainers of my day. No regrets there. —By Gina Fawal Jaber