Best East Bay dishes and drinks of 2015, Part 2

Hear from Nosh editors, food writers, rapper Lil B, a baker, butcher and a brewer on what tickled their tastebuds in 2015.

Dishes ready to be served at Longbranch Saloon, where xxx had his favorite bite of 2015. Photo: Longbranch
Dishes ready to be served at Longbranch Saloon in Berkeley, where Alex Tweet of Fieldwork Brewing had his favorite bite of 2015. Photo: Longbranch

Tuesday we brought you the best taste sensations local chefs such as Sho Kamio of Iyasare, Tanya Holland and Romney Steele had experienced in the East Bay in 2015. In today’s second part, we learn what Nosh editors, two writers, a rapper, as well as a number of food and drink makers enjoyed this year. We’d love to hear what tickled your taste-buds in 2015  — share your choices in the comments.

Alex Tweet, Head Brewer, Fieldwork Brewing Company

Best bite of 2015: Grilled Niman Ranch pork loin, toasted farro and roasted cauliflower salad, grilled broccolini, oyster shooters and a can of Hamm’s Lager at Longbranch Saloon.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: Whatever Jay Porter (of The Half Orange and Salsipuedes) has up his sleeve next.

Kate Williams, NOSH Editor

The albondigas at La Marcha: one of Nosh editor Kate Williams' picks for tastiest dish of 2015. Photo: La Marcha
Thewild board albondigas at La Marcha in Berkeley: one of Nosh editor Kate Williams’ picks for tastiest dish of 2015. Photo: La Marcha

Best bites of 2015: To eat: goat birria at Calavera, wild boar albondigas at La Marcha, hummus at Ba-Bite, pizza with sopressata and Calabrian chiles at Emilia’s Pizzeria, soondooboo at Bowl’d and the short-rib sandwich at Zella’s Soulful Kitchen. To drink: Cherry Kush from Ale Industries, Everett & Jones cocktail at the Hotsy Totsy Club and the Salt Air margarita at Calavera.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: A head-to-head Japanese-style ramen shop showdown between Shiba Ramen and Itani Ramen. Also, selfishly, looking forward to having salads down the street from the office when Sweetgreen opens. And Anvil Brewing because Berkeley will never have too many craft breweries.

Lil B, Berkeley-bred rapper and vegan food aficionado

maple water brands2
Health-food fan and rapper Lil B has been enjoying drinking maple water in 2015. Photo: Stock image

Best bites of 2015: Really the best drink was water from maple tree.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: The food I’m looking forward to is a very clean noodle soup that’s very spicy.

John Birdsall, Oakland food writer

Food writer John Birdsall says 2015 was the year Swan’s Market really arrived — and, he says, it represents the Oakland community at its best. Image: File photo

Best bite of 2015: I started writing about Swan’s Market four and a half years ago, after Cosecha opened in what was then a cold, gray-lit food hall that often felt abandoned — a low-fi urban renewal project flickering on and off like a fluorescent tube with a dying ballast. For years, as Cosecha endured, getting better and better, tenants came and went. This year, with with B-Dama, The Cook and Her Farmer, and Hen House (plus Miss Ollie’s and Rosamunde), Swan’s clicked fully on — I spent a couple of Friday nights and Saturday afternoons this year surfing for table space. This city loves to talk about building community — it’s the scaliest of local clichés — but damn if Swan’s didn’t feel authentically Oakland, a democratic mix of Asian, African American, and inked and beardy whites, all trying to find a seat.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: A correction is probably coming in the restaurant market — it’s doubtful whether Oakland will be able to sustain the pace of restaurant openings it kept up in 2015. But it suggests that the places that do survive will do so on the quality of food and service. In other words, I’m looking forward to the scene ripening.

Tracey Taylor, Co-Founder, Berkeleyside and NOSH

Pescado Crudo (local swordfish with asparagus, fave beans and piquillo allioli at Duende, where Berkeleyside Co-Founder Tracey Taylor had a memorable dinner in 2015. Photo: Duende
Pescado Crudo (local swordfish with asparagus, fava beans and piquillo aioli at Duende, where Berkeleyside Co-Founder Tracey Taylor had a memorable dinner in 2015. Photo: Duende

Best bite of 2015: I really enjoyed a dinner at Duende this year where we ordered nothing but fish and vegetable-based dishes, all of which were scrumptious, washed down by a delicious Tempranillo. I dream of the crispy fish taco at Cancun after I haven’t had it for a while; and I loved discovering the carrot cake at Flour & Co when it opened in Berkeley. I’m putting out a call to The Advocate that they get their Dust Jacket back on the cocktail menu — please. Anything Summer Kitchen makes is the best. If I have to choose, I’d vote for their slow-cooked pork and creamy polenta dish, and their blowtorched lemon meringue pie. Farm Burger: enough said. And I encourage everyone to order the Strozzapreti Bolognese at Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: Looking forward to trying La Marcha, the opening of Red Bay Coffee at the Hive, and Blue Bottle and (hopefully good) ramen in downtown Berkeley..

Monica Rocchino, Co-Owner, The Local Butcher Shop

KronnerBurger's signature burger. Photo: KronnerBurger
For Monica Rocchino, it was KronnerBurger’s signature burger that transported her tastebuds this year. Photo: KronnerBurger

Best bite of 2015: After much anticipation, a delicious burger at the then newly opened Kronnerburger on Piedmont Avenue! Our first date night since having a baby at Penrose on our anniversary. We sat at the bar and had a delicious meal by Chef Julia Shin. Ramen Shop – always a delicious treat.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: The new salad place going into Oscar’s. Going out to eat with our one-year-old will make going out a whole new adventure!

Keba Konte, Owner, Red Bay Coffee Roasters

Red Bay Coffee's Keba Konte's best taste of the year was a cocktail made by Doble Bar. Photo: Doble Bar
Red Bay Coffee’s Keba Konte’s best taste of the year was a cocktail made by Doble Bar. Photo: Doble Bar

Best bite of 2015: The best cocktail I had in 2015 was from the mobile Doble Bar. It was a drink that was a play on the Brown Derby and used coffee-infused rum, grapefruit, lime and honey.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: The opening I am most looking forward to is, of course, the Red Bay Coffee Bar at the Hive. Opening in February.

Eduardo Morell, Baker/Owner Morell’s Bread

Eduardo Morell's best bite of 2015 was a meatball sandwich made by Potliquor using his bread. Photo: Potliquor
Eduardo Morell’s best bite of 2015 was a meatball sandwich made by Potliquor using his bread. Photo: Potliquor

Best bite of 2015: I’ll never forget the meatball sandwich made for me by Jennifer Lynch and Laura McGrath of Potliquor. My bakery is in the Berkeley Kitchens and Potliquor’s kitchen is down the hall. Laura and Jennifer had picked up bread from me the day before for an event. I was baking on Thursday morning for the North Berkeley famers market that afternoon and Laura stopped by and asked if I was hungry. They were making meatball sandwiches with leftover bread. I always love their food — locally sourced and perfectly prepared and presented — so the answer was, naturally, yes. The sandwich arrived just after I’d packed up the truck for the market. I had thought to take it with me to have for dinner, but it looked and smelled so wonderful, I sat right there in the bakery and savored every bite. It was simply delicious. Combined with the kind gesture of the gift of lunch, it has been on mind ever since.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: A couple of things come to mind. In the spirit of that Potliquor sandwich and my own bakery, I hope to see growth in well-made, traditional and simple foods making it onto menus and into the homes of the East Bay. I enjoy fine dining, but a good pizza, burger, taco or meatball sandwich makes me happiest. I’m also re-discovering the sazerac. Along with making them at home using St. George’s very fine absinthe, I plan on visiting a few of the existing and some of the newer watering holes in the East Bay and see how good those bartenders are. I’ve already tried out Longbranch Saloon and Tupper & Reed and am happy to report sazerac success!

Risa Nye, aka NOSH cocktail contributor Ms Barstool

A Sidecar at Shakewell was one of Ms Barstool's most memorable taste sensations in 2015. Photo: Shakewell
A Sidecar at Shakewell was one of Ms Barstool’s most memorable taste sensations in 2015. Photo: Shakewell

Best bite of 2015: I think I’m going to go with my introduction to Kronnerburger — that first burger was a revelation: cooked rare, delicious bun and fixings (pickles, unique dressing, onions, lettuce and tomato) — the flavor combination was terrific. If I can also mention a drink, I’d like to give a shout out to the Sidecar at Shakewell. It’s a classic. Everyone should try it.

Can’t wait for this in 2016: I wish I could predict the next big thing! With drinks, it seems that the crafted cocktail movement is still going strong. I like the way more small batch distilleries are coming on the scene and how folks are experimenting with new products (shrub and bitters, for example) that add something different and innovative to the classic drinks we know and love.

Best dishes and drinks of 2015: The chefs’ picks (12.22.15)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: