Stateside Bakery: For Nostalgia Sake

Stateside Bakery recently opened in Berkeley reinventing old school cookies and snack cakes using quality ingredients and cutting out anything artificial. The innovator behind this bakery is Kate of CupKates, the first mobile truck serving up delicious cupcakes in the East Bay.
I decided to get a variety of goodies to serve at Christmas dinner. When I arrived to Stateside Bakery on Christmas Eve morning, I was lucky enough to get some “Twinkies,” “Nutter Butters,” “Oreo’s,” and “MoonPies.” I wasn’t familiar with Little Debbie “Oatmeal Cream Pies” so I skipped them and didn’t think “Pop Tarts” served as a dessert.
I first noticed that these treats were pricey, but figured Christmas was a reason to splurge on calories and the pocketbook.

The gourmet “Twinkies” known at Stateside as “Twinkles” is a soft vanilla bean cake filled with whipped cream. The cake and cream were delicious and lighter than the original. They do come in pairs just like the famous Hostess snack.
I got miniature “Peanut Butter Nutter Cookies” to try and they were tasty. These crispy peanut butter cookies sandwiched with a peanut butter filling, didn’t give me the nostalgia of the original. I was also missing the peanut shape famous in the Nabisco cookie.
The “Valrhona Oreoh!” were hands down my favorite. Stateside does a great job of reinventing the cookie but making it much more upscale by using fine chocolate. The giant cookie and filling brought me back to a good place. However, I didn’t eat them like I remember eating them as a kid, twisting the cookies open and eating the cream filling first.
The “Original Marshmallow Sandwich MoonPie” is made up of two graham cracker cookies filled with marshmallow cream and coated with chocolate. Stateside’s “Moon Pies” are dipped in dark chocolate. These were probably my least favorite because I’m not a fan of the texture of marshmallow.
I had a lot of fun sampling all the different treats. The bakery is continuing to reinvent new treats as well. I’m waiting for their version of the “Ding Dong.” If you are looking for some nostalgia and a delicious treat, Stateside Bakery is calling.


Epic Roasthouse: Not Quite Epic, But Certainly Worth A Visit

Last week I had my holiday luncheon for work. It really is the highlight of the year as we venture out to the City and have a great meal. Every year we are fortunate and get to go somewhere really nice. This is actually the third year we have gone to Epic Roasthouse, probably because the food is always excellent and the location along the Embarcadero is beautiful.

The luncheon started with wine or cocktails and some lovely passed hors d’oeuvres. It gives us time to mingle and celebrate with everyone in our department.

For the first course, we had a choice of Butternut Squash Tortellini or the Gathered Greens. I split the appetizer with one of my colleagues so that we could experience both. The tortellini came with cauliflower purée, maitake mushrooms, and a brown butter sauce. This was really amazing. It was a mouthful of deliciousness. Did I really agree to share?
The greens were topped with grilled grapes, sunflower seeds, and a white cheese and champagne vinaigrette. It was a simple salad and paled in comparison to the tortellini. I was actually glad to have half the salad so that I could lighten up my meal.
The choice of second courses were beef, fish, or vegetarian. I couldn’t share the beef with my colleague because she likes her beef well done and I don’t. My Grilled Filet of Beef came prepared close to rare as requested with potato wedges and broccoli rabe. It was a solid dish.
My coworker who was sitting on the other side of me ordered the Wild Striped Bass with butterball potatoes, caramelized onions, basil pesto, and chorizo. I had a small taste of her fish which melted in my mouth. It was moist and buttery and made me think I made the wrong choice for appetizer.
No one at my table ordered the Winter Vegetable Medley which came with roasted acorn squash, wild mushrooms, baby carrots, and beet greens. I’m sure the vegetarians would have enjoyed that nice variety. It definitely sounds like it would make for a nice side dish.

There were two choices for the dessert course so I was back to sharing. The Apple Turnover came with two turnovers so it was easy to split. It came with homemade vanilla ice cream, almonds, and caramel. The warm turnover was light and perfect and had my name all over it.
The Chocolate Pecan Tart was presented with cinnamon ice cream and a pecan tuille. This was much richer than the turnover so again I was glad to split both for better balance. If you enjoy chocolate, you might want to call this one dreamy.
Epic Roasthouse is a nice place to enjoy a great meal while spending time in the City.

Authentic French in Oakland: Michel Bistro

I have passed the French restaurant Michel Bistro (MB) on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland many times. I remember stopping once and looking at the dinner menu and continuing to walk on by. The menu was short and had maybe one or two things I would consider ordering. Today we had book club to discuss The Hundred Foot Journey. My BFF suggested the meeting to be held at MB for brunch, after all, much of the book takes place in France. After looking at the brunch menu online, I was much more excited.

We started with coffee and a complimentary sack of bread. Cute, huh?
My BFF and I had previously discussed sharing a couple of items, one sweet and one savory. We ordered the Pain Perdu which is French for French toast. Their version had pear, house made mascarpone, and a pistachio brittle. It was very moist and eggy on the inside, but still had some crispness in the crust. It had the perfect amount of sweetness and was delicious. I found the pistachio brittle to be an extra nice addition.
MB’s version of Eggs Benedict was the savory dish we chose and it was quite unique. Instead of the typical English muffin on the bottom, they used a crispy potato nest. On top was a poached egg with hollandaise sauce and capers. Instead of salmon, they used cured trout. This dish was light as well as delightful.
Another friend ordered the Duck Confit Hash which came with duck egg, apple butter, duck jus, and mustard greens. I had a bite and thought it was a good choice as well. She enjoyed her dish very much.
A nice thing about MB is that they have a child’s menu at Brunch. There are only a few options, but it gave one of my friend’s kid the opportunity to order a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Can you tell he was pretty excited?
Her other son ordered the Ouef a la Coque, which were two boiled eggs, serrano ham, and brioche. Eating out of egg holders always gives me fond memories of my time in Paris.
Having finally given Michel Bistro a try, I am very happy I did. I realize that this is really the only French restaurant in Oakland. It has a nice vibe, the staff are friendly, and the food is great. I definitely recommend Michel Bistro.

Popping up in Oakland: Pop Sandwich

Pop Sandwich is a one man shop creating sandwiches in the back of a convenience store in the Uptown district of Oakland. The man, Ian opened up this little business a few months ago and he’s getting rave reviews for his sandwiches especially the pork adobo sandwich. My colleague mentioned how she stumbled upon this place a couple of blocks from our workplace.
We went to pay a visit to Pop Sandwich last week and ordered a few sandwiches to examine more closely. I asked Ian how he got to making sandwiches. He worked at restaurants around the Bay Area including Range and Ame and even traveled around Asia before he decided on giving this a try.
I first tried the pork adobo sandwich which is soy and vinegar braised pork shoulder, lettuce, sambal, aioli, carrot, and crispy onion. The delicious French bread first got my attention which Ian gets fresh from a local Vietnamese bakery. On first bite I felt like I was missing some vinegar and pepper flavor that is so present in adobo. As I continued on, I got more of the adobo flavor. By the last bite, the juices appeared like the au jus in a roast beef sandwich and was so good. Here is a quote from one of my colleagues “the Adobo Pork was the best Adobo Pork Sandwich I’ve had. So good. I would go for that over most things at Stags.” (Stag’s Lunchette is an amazing sandwich shop a few doors over.)
Another sandwich we got was the curry squash which was one of the vegetarian options. It’s made of squash, tofu, coconut milk, sambal, aioli, lettuce, basil, cilantro, lime, carrot, and crispy onion. I really liked the flavor profile of the curry sandwich but felt there was something missing – maybe it was meat or fat. Vegetarians would love it.
The mahi mahi sandwich was another sandwich we tried. Filled with confit mahi loin, lettuce, tomato, brown mustard, aioli, carrots, red onion, and cornichon, this was a really hearty sandwich. I enjoyed this one a lot for its uniqueness. Every ingredient appeared important to this sandwich and was really fresh tasting.
It was fun trying the different sandwiches from Pop Sandwich. I would definitely go back to Pop Sandwich when I need to get my adobo fix. It’s great to support small business and someone’s dream.