Weekly Dish: Cuban Explosion!

An East Bay St. Patrick's Day; Cuban comfort food coming to Concord; Korean tacos in Pleasanton; Walnut Creek restaurants step up to provide Japan earthquake/tsunami relief; indulge in some chocolate in Danville; and more in this week's Dish!



Looking to get your green beer on this Thursday for St. Patrick's Day? Well, you should have plenty to choose from. We put together a little list of events happening across the East Bay. Restaurants from Tiki (Trader Vic's) to seafood (Walnut Creek Yacht Club) to Cuban (Havana) are showing off their Irish sides...

CLICK HERE to check it out.


Que bueno! There's another Cuban restaurant opening in the East Bay, joining Caña Restaurant in Oakland and the upcoming Havana Cafe in Walnut Creek. Cuba Linda is a new Cuban restaurant in Concord from Linda Swartz, former manager for Danville's The Peasant and the Pear. Swartz says that the inspiration for Cuba Linda, which she hopes to open in downtown Concord by early May, comes from her husband who hails from Cuba and had to flee from the Castro regime with his family during his teens in the 1960s. 

"They all desperately miss their country and its cuisine," according to Swartz, particularly in the Bay Area where there aren't many Cuban food options.

Swartz says Cuba Linda won't feature nuevo Latino or Pan Latin cuisine, but rather authentic Cuban comfort food "prepared the right way with the right ingredients." All recipes come directly from the Cuban women in her family, in particular Swartz's many sisters-in-law and her mother-in-law. It'll be a casual, order-at-the-counter spot, open five days a week, with the same menu for lunch and dinner. That menu will offer plenty of affordable options including Cuban snacks such as ham croquettes and papa rellenas (mashed potato balls stuffed with a savory beef mix), cuban sandwiches, and entrees such as Cuban fried steak and arroz con pollo. And not to worry: "We would not even think about opening without café con leche, made with plenty of sugar." Que bueno...


Looks like there are some new food happenings in the Tri-Valley (thanks to Patch). Kimchi is a new Korean spot near Amador Center Shopping Center that serves, you guessed it, kimchi, as well as rice bowls and Korean-style tacos, burritos, and sandwiches (with barbecued meats). Sounds interesting... Also, it looks like Jose Madriz, owner of El Charro in Livermore, is close to opening his new SasaItalian restaurant on First Street (which will take the place of El Charro's old location on 2020 First Street). Finally, Livermore wine and tapas bar Swirl on the Square opened a next door tasting room called Swirl on the Side featuring mostly smaller, local California wines—$5 for five tastes! swirlonthesq.com


If you're like me, you've probably been closely following the unfolding tragedy in Japan. Well on Wednesday, March 16th, Sasa restaurant in Walnut Creek will be donating 20% of all their proceeds to the Red Cross to go towards earthquake and tsunami relief in that battered country. Sasa, 1432 N Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 210-0188, sasawc.com.

Similarly, Ozumo in Oakland is donating a portion of proceeds to Japan relief. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 286-9866, ozumo.com/oakland.

Also pitching in to help is Prima, which will be hosting a large wine auction in which all the proceeds go to helping victims in Japan. Spearheaded by Prima wine director and co-owner John Rittmasterhe, who along with his wife Anne and business partner Peter Chastain have spent a total of 35 years living in Japan, the silent auction will be held on-line and in-store starting Wednesday March 23rd at 10 a.m. and ending 6 p.m. on Saturday April 2nd. Bids will be solicited in the Prima vini wine store, through their website (primawine.com), Facebook, and e-mail and phone. Only registered bidders may participate, email john@primawine.com or frank@primawine.com for bidding applications. The auction features an impressive collection of donated wines, including a rare double magnum 1992 Cabernet from Araujo Eisele Vineyard—CLICK HERE to see some other wines/prizes available. 1522 North Main Street, Walnut Creek, (925) 935-7780, primaristorante.com.

In a similar vein, next Monday, March 21st, Bravo Bistro on the Pleasant Hill/Concord border will be donating 10 percent of all its proceeds to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Bravo Bistro, 1050 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill, (925) 363-4443, thebravobistro.com.

Finally, donate to a good cause while satisfying your sweet tooth at the Junior League of Oakland East Bay's first annual Chocolate Indulgence event at Danville's Crow Canyon Country Club this Saturday night (March 19th). Chefs from five top local restaurants (Bridges, Élevé, Laurus, Patrick David, and Sasa) will put their most decadent chocolate creations out there for the taste test by several local judges (including your truely). Should be a very tasty night.

Tickets are $45, VIP tickets are $75, CLICK HERE for more information and to purchase tickets. All proceeds will go towards supporting the Junior League's six local non-profits: The East Bay Children's Theatre, Junior Center of Art and Science, Volunteer Center of Contra Costa County, Oakland Volunteer Bureau, Family Stress Center, and Super Stars Literacy.


Speaking of chocolate, it was sad to see that former East bay chocolotier Charles Chocolates called it quits. According to the Inside Scoop, owner Chuck Siegel says his ambitious plan to open up a factory and store in San Francisoc Westfielf Center just never managed to scrape up enough financing, bringing down the entire operation.


A couple of new places are coming to Oakland's Piedmont Ave. Get-A sushi, the super-popular, budget-friendly sushi spot on 41st Street just off of Piedmont Ave. should give it's cramped quarters a little breathing room by opening up another location down the street, replacing Small Thyme Cafe at 4301 Piedmont. 

And just a few blocks down the street, Piedmont resident Megan Burke and her partner David Crombie are planning a new spot called Local Cafe, replacing the McMullen boutique next door to Adesso. Burke is envisioning a family-friendly cafe that will feature all local, organic products where parents and kids can get a healthy and affordable bite to eat. A first time restaurant owner, Burke listed several quality restaurants as influences for her Local Cafe, including Summer Kitchen Bakeshop in and Cafe Fanny in Berkeley. Planned for the menu: fresh pastries, poached eggs, homemade oatmeal, grilled paninis, flatbread pizzas, and "awesome organic salds." She also plans to offer quality coffee and wine, including selections from Berkeley's A Donkey and Goat winery on tap. Burke hopes to open in August, before school starts. 


 

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Wines available for Prima wine auction

• The extremely rare double magnum of 1992 Cabernet from Araujo Eisele Vineyard;
• Magnums of 2007 Maya and 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet from Naoko Dalla Valle a Kobe native, Japan;
• 2008 magnum of red from Amuse Bouche signed by winemaker Heidi Barrett;
• A magnum of 2006 Robert Foley Napa Valley Vineyards Claret from Alamo-native and Napa Valley winemaker Bob Foley;
• Rivera Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Diablo Magazine publisher Steve Rivera (a vertical of every vintage ever produced); and
• Four 750 ml bottles of 1990 Chateau Lynch-Bages from Bordeaux, France from John Rittmaster’s cellar (a vertical);
• Other items includes a dinner with wines for six cooked at your home by Prima owners John Rittmaster and Peter Chastain as well as wine donated by the likes of Carlisle Vineyards, Merus, Joseph Phelps and many, many more.