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.  


Playing with Persimmons

It’s persimmon season and you are lucky if you know someone with a persimmon tree that will give you some of its fruit. There are two types of persimmon, Hachiya and Fuyu. The Hachiya persimmon is cone shaped on the bottom and has to be completely ripened to a soft mushy point before it is edible. Because if it’s moist texture, they are good for baking. 

 The Fuyu persimmon has a flat bottom with a crunchy texture. 

 I love this time of year when restaurants will add Fuyu persimmon as a seasonal ingredient to salads. Here’s a photo of a delicious salad that I recently had from Cosecha in Old Oakland. 

 Last month I picked up a few Hachiya persimmons that a coworker left in our break room. It took a couple of weeks to ripen. As soon as it did, I was in search for a recipe for persimmon cake. I stopped when I found the recipe for boozy persimmon pudding on Chowhound 
This very moist cake was full of flavor, spice, and brandy. It tasted even better the next day when the flavors enhanced even more. I warmed it up and topped it off with some fresh whipped cream.  
I recently was given one beautiful organic Hachiya persimmon. After some thought about what to do with it, I decided to look for a recipe for a cookie. Today I used the one persimmon and basic ingredients I already had in my kitchen to make persimmon chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is from the website    
These cookies didn’t spread and came out like scones, which isn’t a bad thing. I think it makes for a good breakfast. I liked the balance that the chocolate chips gave to the fragrant spices.    
Now what will I do with the Fuyu persimmons I have?

The Search is Over for Italian in Oakland

When I consider where to go for good Italian fare, Oakland doesn’t really come to mind, at least not until recently. Desco is a fairly new Italian restaurant in Old Oakland that replaced the short-lived Borgo. Desco has been open for a few months and I have gone twice, once for lunch and once for dinner.

The borlotti salad has greens and beans in a light dressing. I enjoyed the heartiness that the plump beans offered.
The biete is another salad made of greens, roasted beets, goat cheese, and hazelnuts. These ingredients make for a perfect salad to start off any meal.
Desco makes thin crust pizzas in their wood-fired oven. On one visit, I enjoyed the margherita pizza with prosciutto on half of it. It had a wonderful crispy chewy crust. I give it two big thumbs up.
On another occasion, I ordered a white pizza with mozzarella cheese, homemade sausage and broccolini. With some extra red chili flakes I added, this combination was wonderful.
I also tried the baked eggplant that was presented in a skillet. This was also good, but I think because it was under the heading of “paste,” I assumed there would be some pasta in it.
The beef loin came with a balsamic wine reduction and grilled potatoes. If you like meat and potatoes like I do, you wouldn’t want to miss this one.
I tried a few desserts at Desco. My favorite was the zabaglione with strawberries and puffed pastry. I like light desserts especially after a big dinner.
Although rich, I did enjoy the panna cotta in a jar. I had a few spoonfuls and thought it was creamy, smooth, and delicious.
The warm chocolate cake with coffee sauce was my least favorite. It was not warm, nothing oozed out, and I didn’t like the texture. It’s okay as next time I can indulge in my own zabaglione.
I am hopeful that Desco can succeed because I need a go-to place for good Italian food in Oakland.