A whole rotisserie chicken, roasted potatoes and side sauces from Picnic in Albany, which opens for takeout on Saturday, Dec. 5.
A whole rotisserie chicken, roasted potatoes and sauces from Picnic in Albany, which opens for takeout on Saturday, Dec. 5. Note: Advance orders are required.

Picnic opens Saturday with rotisserie chicken, charcuterie to-go

Two years ago, Nosh spoke with Picnic co-owners Susannah Schnick and Leslie Nishiyama, who at the time, had just announced their farmers market charcuterie business was opening a retail store on Solano Avenue. On Monday, Nosh checked in with the duo about the Picnic brick-and-mortar, which will softly open on Saturday, Dec. 5 for lunch.

The pair said they “hit a lot of road bumps along the way” that set back the store’s opening — with, of course, COVID-19 being the worst disruptor. The pandemic delayed construction and permitting, but also, because Schnick and Nishiyama are mothers of young children, required them to be home when schools closed.

Fortunately, from the start, Picnic had intended to be a takeout business. Everything it sells — rotisserie chicken, salads and charcuterie — has always meant to be taken to-go. But, Schnick said, the pandemic has changed their staffing ability and hours. For now, Schnick and Nishiyama will be the sole store employees, and as they are homeschooling their children and being extra cautious about health and safety issues, Picnic will open with limited hours and offerings, until it is safer and more possible to scale up.

While Schnick and Nishiyama are excited to one day invite guests inside their lovely Old World European-style store, they’ll start Picnic as an order-ahead operation, requiring advanced orders online for pickup at the door during specified time slots. This week, they’ll queue up Picnic’s online ordering system on Wednesday and be at the store Saturday for pickups between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. They plan to expand hours, perhaps being open for pickups one to two days a week at the beginning, but the owners said, for now, “we’re just going to play it by ear.” Picnic will share latest hours and updates on its social media accounts.

Picnic’s menu will rotate based on the season. For its Saturday soft opening, it will offer whole chickens (half chickens will come in the future), roasted potatoes cooked under the spinning, roasting chickens, and choice of two salads: a roasted carrot salad with herby yogurt sauce and pomegranate sauce, and a Belgian endive, fennel, and blood orange salad with shallot, caper and parsley vinaigrette. Picnic will also have its regular farmers market charcuterie at the store, including sausages and its two charcuterie products that were finalists for the 2020 Good Food Awards: chicken liver mousse with bacon and pork pistachio pate. Picnic, 862 San Pablo Ave. (at Solano Avenue), Albany

The Smokehouse has closed again to regroup and reopen on Dec. 7

The Smokehouse (seen here before the pandemic) reopened Nov. 27, but closed Monday evening, with plans to reopen Dec. 7. Photo: Sarah Han

The response to The Smokehouse’s reopening last Friday was so overwhelming, owner Shakaib Shaghasi said, that his family’s Berkeley burger shack decided to end its soft opening on Monday evening, to regroup and reopen again on Dec. 7. Leading up to the Nov. 27 soft opening, the restaurant had planned to operate exclusively through advance orders by phone and third-party delivery app, but Shaghasi said the business experienced technical issues with its point of sale system, internet and phone service, so it had to scrap those plans and serve walk-in orders only. A Nosh reader who stopped by The Smokehouse over the weekend said that walk-up service meant social distancing was difficult, as many guests were standing around the ordering window to be able to hear when their food was ready.

In response to this feedback, Shaghasi said that over the next few days, The Smokehouse plans to hire more employees and work out the kinks in its phone and online ordering options. More staff, he said, will also “enforce social distancing protocols as laid out by Alameda County.” The Smokehouse, 3115 Telegraph Ave. (at Woolsey Street), Berkeley

Cafe Ohlone’s curated dinner boxes

Cafe Ohlone founders Louis Trevino (left) and Vincent Medina. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
Cafe Ohlone founders Louis Trevino (left) and Vincent Medina. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

Last week, Cafe Ohlone shared Thanksgiving thoughts and an update on its curated Sunday Supper dinner boxes, which Nosh first reported about in July. The first round of dinner kits from California’s first and only Ohlone-run restaurant will debut on Dec. 20, but have already sold out. Boxes will include two complete dinners — a mix of prepared dishes and ones that need further assembly and preparation at home — featuring seasonal ingredients, along with a handmade beeswax candle, a curated soundtrack and a password-protected Vimeo message that describes the menu and includes presentations by members of the Ohlone community. If you missed this round, note that Cafe Ohlone plans to offer 60 boxes a month (priced at $300 a kit) for pickup in San Leandro.

Jayna Gyro opens at Public Market Emeryville

Three gyros from new Public Market Emeryville kiosk Jayna Gyro. Photo: Jayna Gyro
As its name suggests, gyros are the specialty at new Public Market Emeryville kiosk Jayna Gyro. Photo: Jayna Gyro

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Jayna Gyro will be the newest food purveyor at Public Market Emeryville. As Nosh reported in February, restaurateur Yusuf Topal of Tarla Mediterranean Grill in Napa, is behind the new kiosk, which will specialize in a variety of gyros and other Mediterranean eats, including salads, dips, spanakopita and dolmades. To celebrate its grand opening, Jayna Gyro is offering guests 50% off gyros on Dec. 2-3. Jayna Gyro, Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville

Free pet food now available at Berkeley shelters

A Berkeley food pantry and two animal shelters are providing free dog and cat food for pet owners in need. Berkeley Food Pantry offers home delivery of pet food on a monthly basis, or in-person pickup at 1600 Sacramento St. from 2-4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Berkeley Humane’s pet food pantry at 2700 Ninth St. is open from 10 a.m. to noon, Friday and Sunday. And Berkeley Animal Care Services asks people to call ahead (510-981-6600) to schedule a time for pet food pickup at 1 Bolivar Drive.

Belotti white truffle menu

The white truffle menu at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland. Photo: Belotti
The white truffle menu at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland. Photo: Belotti

While Oakland’s Italian pasta haven Belotti won’t be able to invite diners inside this year to enjoy its annual white truffle bounty, chef-owner Michele Belotti — who was born and raised in Bergamo, Italy — is not letting the pandemic get in the way of this tradition. This year, Belotti’s special truffle menu will be available for a la carte takeout, which includes choices like a steak tartare made with dry-aged ribeye served with Sardinian carasau bread, Parmigiano reggiano, quail egg yolk and shaved Alba white truffle ($55) and three pastas — tajarin, ravioli and agnolotti ($65 each — that are all finished with the decadent, fragrant topping. A full tasting menu is also available for $185 a person. And should you be interested in incorporating truffles into your own culinary creations, Belotti Bottega on Piedmont Avenue is also selling fresh Alba white truffles and Umbrian black truffles. Call 510-350-7619 for availability and prices. Belotti Ristorante, 5403 College Ave. (at Hudson Street), Oakland

Food people really are the best people

In her new book Food People (Are the Best People), Oakland-based visual storyteller Kristen Loken asks more than 100 California food luminaries to pose for a portrait and share their thoughts on how they’ve been getting through one of the toughest times for the food industry in recent history. Many of Loken’s subjects are notable East Bay food folks, including Alice Waters (Chez Panisse), Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen), Matt Horn (Horn Barbecue), Sarah Kirnon (Miss Ollie’s), Jen Biesty (Shakewell) and Mica Talmor (Pomella), who have thoughtful and insightful reflections about how their professional and personal lives have been altered by the pandemic, the wildfires and calls for social justice reforms.

While there are stories of loss, grief and hardship, Food People is mainly a testament to the strength, hope and resiliency of people in the industry, even during these grueling times. Loken asks each person she interviews to share their joys and what they’re looking forward to in the future. Chef-owner Russell Moore of The Kebabery, for instance, has a hope that I’ve heard echoed amongst some of my peers: “My hope for the end of all this is that Oakland might be able to go back in time a little bit, to when rents were cheaper, and it wasn’t a constant hustle to stay afloat. I think it’s a really good time for an arty scrappy punk rock vibe to come back!” Food People (Are the Best People) was released today, Dec. 1, by Acorn Press.

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Sarah Han was the editor of Nosh from 2017 to 2021. Previously, she worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In 2020, Sarah won SPJ NorCal's...