Paradise Park Cafe: Welcome to the Neighborhood

There is an up and coming neighborhood in North Oakland called Paradise Park that sits on the borders of Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley. I am familiar with the area because I drive through it twice a week when I take my nephews to school at Oakland Military Institute. A new cafe that shares its name with the urban Paradise Park neighborhood opened up last month and I was invited to a media event to check it out.

Paradise Park Cafe serves coffee from local Equator Coffee & Teas from San Rafael. Two thumbs up for the espressos that I have been making with their coffee beans. With opening hours of 7am on weekdays, I am likely to stop by for a morning latte before work. The cafe also specializes in juices. I sampled a few options and using purely fruits and vegetables, they’ve made something vibrant and delicious.
Vegetarians and vegans have quite a few choices at Paradise Park Cafe. They offer a quinoa burger and plenty of salads. I was impressed with their homemade chickpea tofu which is the protein in their vegan wrap and an option to add to their salads. This works really well for the health conscious.
On the other hand, their grass fed burger is served on a brioche bun and topped with Vermont cheddar cheese, fried onions, and a garlic and pepper aioli. It was juicy and packed full of flavor. The French fries held its own.
My favorite item on the menu is the fried chicken sandwich. The chicken breast is marinated, grilled, and then fried in a light tapioca batter. This photogenic sandwich includes fresh carrots, radish, and kale, pickled onions, and a sriracha aioli. It also includes a side of crispy tasty French fries.  
Having a kids menu really speaks to the neighborhood. I would recommend the creamy homemade mac and cheese. For those that care, it’s also gluten free. 
For dessert you can order an ice cream burrito. Ice cream is wrapped in a flour tortilla and flash fried. I would recommend sharing this one and eating it pretty fast, otherwise you might make a hot mess.
I’m sure those in the Paradise Park neighborhood are happy and excited to find a new cafe in town. I would definitely keep an eye on Paradise Park Cafe as they plan to utilize part of their space for pop-ups.  

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Touring Oakland’s Rockridge Neighborhood

Last Thursday I attended the Rockridge Food Tour. It was a tour for “media only.” There were a couple of us that have non-media related jobs and do this on the side for fun. I was in awe that most of these people get paid to eat, but I was happy to be able to participate and eat for free.

The Rockridge Food Tour is run by a woman named Lauren who has a very bubbly personality and is passionate about this Oakland neighborhood. Our first stop on the tour was A16 which I dined at last year on my birthday. A16 is best known for their Neopolitan style pizza from their wood fired oven. The Executive Chef Rocky was there to tell us about the restaurant. The wood fired oven was imported from Naples, Italy and burns almond wood. The pizza crust is simply made with 00 flour, water, salt, and yeast.
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Isaiah made us a potato and onion pizza with smoked mozzarella. To me it doesn’t matter what toppings are on the pizza, it’s the crust that matters most. Taking ninety seconds to make, this one was perfectly crisp and chewy. A16 is beginning a brunch menu that includes a potato leek frittata we also tasted.
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Our next stop was Market Hall. I learned that this market was built in 1986 by the Wilson Family from New Zealand. Juliana gave us a little history including her personal story. She was one of the first employees and started working there after graduating high school.
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Now she is a cheese monger and gets to travel the world to find the best foods. We tried two things. I most enjoyed a burrata with Seka Hills olive oil.
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We continued our tour to Ver Brugge Foods which is a meat market. I actually never have stepped foot in there, but I have seen lines out the door on big holidays. They recently began to sell prepared foods and we tried a sample of a salmon with fennel dish. It was very moist and tasty. If you brought this sous-vide dish home, it can be prepared in 6 – 10 minutes.
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Right next door, we walked into La Farine where we enjoyed a mini morning bun. I’m not sure if the quality failed for me because it was the afternoon and had been sitting around or whether it was the size of the bun. Either way, I recommend the regular sized morning bun because they are always consistently delicious.
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Our fifth stop was Zachary’s Chicago Pizza. In 1983, a Wisconsin couple opened up this original pizzeria. After twenty years in business, they sold the pizzeria to their employees to best preserve their vision. We tried the spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza, the customer favorite and the pizza blanca, a thin style pizza with a garlic, fresh herb and olive oil base topped with mozzarella and ricotta de latte cheeses, garnished with fresh lemon. For us Bay Area natives, we all know Zachary’s is authentic Chicago style pizza and not surprised when it wins numerous awards year after year.
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We ended the tour on a sweet note, at Dreyer’s Ice Cream. I was not disappointed that we didn’t go to a gourmet or artisan ice cream shop. I learned a lot. I didn’t know this was the only retail shop. I didn’t know Dreyer’s invented Rocky Road ice cream. We were fortunate to be one of the first people to try their new line of frozen custards. My favorite was the salted caramel pretzel flavor.
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Although I knew Rockridge pretty well, I never really considered going on this tour. I was pleasantly surprised with the history, the personal stories, and the linkages with the community. I highly recommend the Rockridge Food Tour for visitors or locals.

Grand Lake Kitchen: French Toast Battle

IMG_1063.JPGThis morning my friend and I went to breakfast at the Grand Lake Kitchen (GLK) on Grand Avenue in Oakland. My BFF posted a mouthwatering photo of the French toast she had at GLK a couple of weeks ago which prompted us to go.

GLK is a small neighborhood restaurant with counter bar seating and a couple of tables inside and several tables outside. We arrived shortly after 9:00am and already had to wait. The waiting wasn’t bad because they will offer you a mug to get your self service coffee while you wait. We were second on the waitlist so it took about fifteen minutes for us to be seated outside.
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My friend came to GLK already knowing she would order the French toast with seasonal fruit. Today the fruit was peaches. After reviewing the menu, I thought I would get the savory French toast and we could do a taste test.

The sweet French toast was served with Vermont maple syrup. The texture of the toast was crispy on the outside and custard-like on the inside. The fresh peaches were roasted to a soft, sweet consistency that was delightful. This French toast was amazing. This was going to be hard to beat.
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I have never heard of a savory French toast but I was intrigued by the creativity of the elements going into this dish. My French toast came with rye bread, poached eggs, wild mushrooms, parmesan, arugula, and herb oil. I had the added Prosciutto Di Parma. The eggs were perfectly poached with runny yolks spilling out as you cut into them. I loved the sautéed mushrooms. The arugula, herb oil, and grated Parmesan added freshness and flavor. I enjoyed the additional level of sophistication from the prosciutto.
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My friend was quite clear that her sweet French toast won the battle. I, who would take a bag of potato chips over a cookie, was on the fence. I liked them equally the same. I would like to enjoy both. There was a couple next to us that were each having their own plate of savory French toast. About halfway through their meal, one order of sweet French toast came for them to share. That is what I’m talking about.

I asked one of the employees whether it was the sweet or savory French toast that has the most sales. She indicated it was the savory, but it was definitely close. It’s worth visiting GLK to make your own decision. In the meantime, I’ll be deciding when’s my next visit to GLK and what I’ll try next. They are open everyday except Tuesday from 9am-9:30pm.

Bay Wolf: A Highlight to Piedmont Avenue

Piedmont Avenue is a bustling neighborhood of trendy restaurants, coffee shops, etc. in Oakland. Piedmont Grocery, a neighborhood grocer has been there for over a hundred years and carries a few items that is hard to find elsewhere. Piedmont Avenue is also the street where Fentons Creamy is located.

It’s been several years since I have eaten at Bay Wolf on Piedmont Avenue. Whether it was a business lunch or a special occasion, I remember when it was thee place to go in the area. Restaurants on Piedmont Avenue have come, others have gone, but Bay Wolf remains. My food club visited a couple of weeks ago. It also happened to be Restaurant Week so there was a deal of three courses for $30 which I participated in.

Amongst the three of us, we decided to share the duck liver flan with grilled Acme bread, cornichons and olives to start. The creamy flan on the crispy bread was delicious. This was a nice appetizer to share because it is not only full of flavor, but I suspect full of calories.

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The appetizer included in my three course meal was a citrus and celery root salad with ancho cress and tapenade toast. The salad portion of this dish was really nice, but I could’ve cared less for the tapenade toast. Well, maybe if I didn’t eat the duck flan I might’ve enjoyed it more.

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My entree was the Moroccan-style chicken tagine with spiced couscous, olives and preserved lemon. I enjoyed this dish particularly the chicken, but I think the sauce was a little too salty.

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The dessert I ordered was the chocolate-caramel tart. This was fantastic! The blend of chocolate, caramel, whipped cream, and crust was delectable. It seems this dessert is on their normal menu and I would order it again.

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After all these years, Bay Wolf continues to serve good food in a nice atmosphere.

Aperto: A Great Solid Meal

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A few weeks ago I had dinner with my Food Companion (FC). I have been wanting to try Aperto, the sister restaurant to Bellanico. I previously wrote about Bellanico and I’m proud to call it my neighborhood restaurant. Aperto is also a neighborhood restaurant, but not mine. It’s located in Potrero Hill in San Francisco.

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I started with the Caesar Salad with dressing on the side. (Remember I am on Weight Watchers). The romaine lettuces were left as leaves and came with one large homemade crouton which I thought made a nice presentation.

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My FC ordered the sformato which came with wild mushroom-frisee salad, truffle oil, and manchego. Sformato is a molded dish that is either sweet or savory. I think it’s a cross between a custard and a pot de creme in consistency. I’ve seen it pop onto many restaurant menus in recent years including Bellanico. The mushroom salad was a nice bonus.

They have a daily fish selection of the day as well as meat selection of the day. My FC got the fish and I got the beef.

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We can’t remember what the fish was, but it was a white fish that was very delicate. The flavor was nice which was probably attributed to the broth and onions. He enjoyed his pick.

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The beef selection was prime rib roast. It had been quite awhile since I had prime rib so I went for it. It was perfectly medium rare and came with mashed potatoes and spinach. For $22, I thought this was a bargain. The meat was like butter. Thinking about it now still makes my mouth water. I definitely used up some of my weekly available Weight Watcher points for this meal.

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For dessert, we shared the warm chocolate soufflé. It came with Italian wet nuts and whipped cream. I think the wet nuts could’ve been removed from the plate. Maybe I just don’t like wet nuts. It would have been just fine with the whipped cream alone.

Aperto met my expectations. I hope the next time I go, I am lucky enough to pick the day they make another prime rib roast.

Coach Sushi: An All Around Winner

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The Bay Area has had some unpredictable weather this year. It is finally getting warm. Besides ice cream, one of my favorite things to eat in hot weather is sushi. My BFF and I recently went to a neighborhood sushi restaurant. Coach Sushi is famous for their bottomless saki, but I think they have some of the freshest sushi in Oakland and definitely the freshest in the Lakeshore neighborhood.

At Coach Sushi, you can design your own masu or square wooden box cup. The next time you come, they will retrieve your cup to use again. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to retrieve mine because it was too long since I last visited. My BFF got hers. The “Coach” comes around to make sure your “masu” is always filled to the top.

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One of my favorite things I’ve eaten at Coach Sushi is not even sushi. It left a lasting impression on me the first time I had it that I order it every time I eat there. Nasumiso is baked eggplant with miso. It is very soft and delivers a somewhat smokey flavor that is delicious.

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Another appetizer we ordered was chawanmushi which is shrimp, chicken, and mushroom steamed in egg custard. It was my first time having it and like the nasumiso, I will probably order it every time I go to Coach Sushi. It was that good. Chawanmushi is very delicate and offers a nice balance of saltiness and sweetness. It just melts in your mouth. It also goes very well with rice, especially the sauce which is a mixture of soy sauce and mirin.

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For sushi, I decided on the salmon sashimi. It was plentiful with eight pieces. I was a happy camper.

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My BFF ordered a spicy scallop hand roll and salmon roe. She really enjoyed her sushi.

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We shared the blue shrimp. Having the blue shrimp was a feat for me as I am not that adventurous. I decided to skip on the fried shrimp head and the BFF was happy to eat both.

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If you haven’t been to Coach Sushi, I highly recommend it. Coach Sushi serves delicious food, fresh sushi, and offers a friendly neighborhood environment.

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