Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Walnut Lace Cookies from Salt & Straw.
East Bay ice cream fans can score some Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Walnut Lace Cookies this week, when Salt & Straw opens its San Ramon scoop shop. Credit: Salt & Straw/Facebook

Portland-based Salt & Straw will open its first East Bay scoop shop in San Ramon

Since it was founded by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek in 2011, Oregon-based, small-batch ice cream company Salt & Straw has expanded to over 25 locations across the U.S. and picked up funding from folks like Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer. These days, Salt & Straw boasts more outposts in the Bay Area than its hometown — and that gap looks like it’ll keep growing, as its seventh NorCal location is set to open on April 23 at San Ramon’s City Center Bishop Ranch.

The San Ramon Salt & Straw is the first East Bay scoop shop for the chain. While the company lists an Oakland outpost on its website, that venue is a delivery-only operation inside Oakland Food Hall, the ghost kitchen formerly known as Jingletown Eats. The creamery began its Bay Area campaign in 2017, when it opened two shops in San Francisco. It’s since expanded south to Burlingame, Palo Alto and San Jose.

The ice cream company is known for its support of regional producers, which means that menus vary from location to location based on what’s local, seasonal and available. A spokesperson for Salt & Straw told Nosh that in San Ramon, that means a “seasonal flowers menu” with flavors like Hibiscus & Coconut Sherbet and Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Walnut Lace Cookies. Expect other locally focused flavors like Freckled Mint TCHO-colate Chip, made from Berkeley-based confectionery company TCHO Chocolate. Salt & Straw, 600 Bollinger Canyon Rd., Suite 1107, at City Center Bishop Ranch, San Ramon

The Bussdown chef Solomon Johnson is having a very busy year

Bussdown chef and co-owner Solomon Johnson.
The Bussdown’s Solomon Johnson appears on Chopped 420 this week; he’s also launching a jerk shack-inspired spice blend. Credit: Solomon Johnson/Instagram

Left unemployed by the pandemic, Solomon Johnson and Mike Woods launched The Bussdown, a pan-African soul food restaurant, as a takeout and delivery spot inside Oakland Food Hall. At the time, Johnson and Woods were the sole employees of the restaurant, serving up a menu of cross-cultural dishes like sofrito seafood and fried plantains, but Johnson still found time to appear on a cannabis-fueled spinoff of cooking competition Chopped.

The show, called Chopped 420, features four chefs (including Johnson) who compete to prepare the best cannabis-based dish. The production wasn’t the first time Johnson cooked with the ingredient, he told SF Gate, saying, “My love for cannabis obviously grew as my career did, because [of] the aches and pains that come with working the line on a consistent basis, [which] is more or less the reason why I medicate. … I just got more curious the more I learned about food, the more I wanted to try to see what I could figure out on my own.”

So far, Chopped 420’s garnered positive reviews: Decider’s critic said that “it still takes the food — and the weed — seriously enough for hard-core foodies and stoners to appreciate it.” You can watch a trailer for Chopped 420 here, but the full show is available only via streaming service Discovery+.

To coincide with that release, Johnson is also releasing a collaboration with Bay Area seasonings company Spice Tribe called Cali Jerk Smoke. The spice blend, which includes paprika, black pepper, onion, garlic, cassia cinnamon, thyme, habanero, allspice and cumin, is “inspired by my mother’s weekend barbecues,” Johnson said in a written statement. It’s the same blend of spices, Johnson said, that The Bussdown uses on its jerk yard bird dish, and pizza makers the Square Pie Guys also use it on their Bussdown-topped Yardbird Pizza. It’s on sale now, for $9.99. The Bussdown, 2353 E 12th St. (inside Oakland Food Hall), Oakland

Taste of Temescal returns

A plate with two homemade “Oreos" from Homeroom in Oakland.
Homeroom’s homemade “Oreos” are just one of the tastes featured in this year’s Taste of Temescal. Credit: Homeroom/Instagram

The pandemic spurred the cancelation of Oakland culinary crawl Taste of Temescal in 2020, but according to the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District, the 2021 event is ready to roll on Tuesday, May 18, from 5-9 p.m. As in years past, ticket sales for the event will act as a fundraiser for a multitude of local nonprofits and schools, including Oakland Tech, Emerson Elementary, Claremont Middle School, Sankofa United Elementary and La Clinica de La Raza. 

This is the first time Taste of Temescal since the SF Chronicle reported that community members raised questions about the participation of Pizzaiolo, a pizza and pasta restaurant owned by chef Charlie Hallowell. In 2017, a report from the SF Chronicle detailed allegations of sexual harassment from 17 women, a number that eventually increased to 30, the Washington Post reported in 2019. Hallowell released a statement that appeared to be a partial admission after the allegations were revealed. 

It was the Chronicle that also asked why taxpayer money — like the funds granted to the Temescal Business Improvement District — was used to boost “restaurants owned by accused sexual harassers,” citing Pizzaiolo’s prominent placement in Taste of Temescal’s promotional materials. Despite that controversy, Pizzaiolo remains a participant in the event, according to the Taste of Temescal website.

Pizzaiolo isn’t the only controversial participant in this year’s event. The Temescal Plaza location of Bay Area mini-chain Burma Superstar is also listed as part of the culinary crawl, less than a year after the company settled a class-action lawsuit filed by 50 current and former kitchen workers who claimed they faced wage theft, were misclassified and were denied tips and other legally required benefits. According to the Bay Area News Group, an Alameda County Superior Court judge awarded the workers $1.3 million. Burma Superstar owner Desmond Tan told the outlet, “While we strongly disagreed with the allegations in the class-action lawsuit, we settled the lawsuit in order to move on.” (Nosh emailed Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner, the executive director of the Temescal BID, for comment. As of publication time, she has not replied.)

Tickets for Taste of Temescal are on sale now for $50; each ticket covers 24 tastes from participating venues. Unfortunately, tickets purchased for the canceled 2020 event cannot be applied to the 2021 version, its website says, as “we still have not received any funds from Brown Paper Tickets for last year’s Taste of Temescal. And we don’t know if or when we will ever get those proceeds,” so “we cannot apply 2020 purchases to 2021, since that would effectively reduce compensation to restaurants for food and reduce the funds donated to local schools and nonprofits.” You can see all the participating restaurants, as well as what they’re offering as “tastes,” here

Milkbomb reopens its Berkeley location

Two Milkbomb donuts stuffed with ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and sprinkles.
After a year of only offering pint delivery, Milkbomb Ice Cream will reopen its downtown Berkeley location on Saturday, April 24. Credit: Milkbomb/Facebook

The Downtown Berkeley location of Milkbomb Ice Cream had only been open for about six months when the pandemic hit — it held its grand opening with a grand crowd in October 2019. When the Bay Area shelter-in-place dropped in March 2020, the popular ice cream spot shuttered both locations to the public, moving to a delivery-only model of pints or quarts only, and leaving fans of their iconic, ice cream-stuffed doughnuts dreaming of the day they’d reopen.

That wait is nearly over, Milkbomb announced via Instagram this week. Both of Milkbomb’s shops, in San Francisco and in Berkeley, will reopen on Saturday, April 24, with a menu of scoops and those over-the-top, made-to-order overstuffed ice cream sandwiches. Milkbomb Ice Cream, 2079 University Ave. (near Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley

Nora Haron brings her Singaporean-Indonesian eats to Walnut Creek, celebrates one year of pop-up in Oakland

IndoMex's chicken rice dish with a selection of sambal sauces.
To celebrate one year in business, IndoMex will offer its original chicken rice dish with a selection of sambal sauces. Credit: Nora Haron

There was a time when chef Nora Haron was best known for Drip Line, her celebrated West Oakland cafe known for its innovative mix of Singaporean and California cooking. After that spot closed in 2018, she became a partner at San Francisco’s Local Kitchen and launched a pop-up called IndoMex in April 2020. This week, she announced that she’s the consulting chef at Table at 7, a new restaurant coming to downtown Walnut Creek from Singapore-based restaurant Killiney Kopitiam.

Table at 7 will open in mid-June, and will feature a few of Haron’s signature Singaporean-Indonesian dishes on the menu. But the chef tells the SF Chronicle, “It’s not going to be authentic Singaporean-Indonesian food. It’s my take on it. It’ll be very California forward, but flavors of home.” To Haron, that means “seasonal, dynamic, culturally complex menus” featuring dishes that are “contemporary, bold, fresh, veg-rich, fresh herbs and spices-forward, comforting and sophisticated.”

To the relief of her fans in Oakland, Haron’s new gig doesn’t mean she’s dropping IndoMex, her popular collaboration with Mexican fried chicken pop-up Xingones inside downtown Oakland’s Fort Green sports bar. For the past year, IndoMex has been selling out of its Indonesian/Singaporean/Mexican hybrid creations, like slow-braised Indonesian beef rendang, but served quesabirria style, or a coconutty Indonesian-inspired concha and fried chicken sandwich. Haron told Nosh that IndoMex will pop-up monthly at Fort Green for the foreseeable future. In the long term, she hopes to secure a brick-and-mortar spot for IndoMex somewhere in Oakland and turn the pop-up into a permanent operation.

But until then, Haron is just ecstatic to have so much to celebrate. This Sunday, April 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for IndoMex’s one year anniversary, she’s offering a free order of her pandan flan for every pre-order customer (the full pre-order menu is here), as well as a special menu that includes her beloved chicken rice with three different sambal salsas. IndoMex at Xingones, Fort Green, 736 Washington St. (at Eighth Street) Oakland; Table at 7 will be at 1520 N. Main St., Walnut Creek

Potala Organic Cafe has closed for good

The signage at Potala Organic Cafe, at 1045 San Pablo Ave., has come down.
Albany’s Potala Organic Cafe has permanently closed. Credit: Joanna Della Penna

As feared, Albany’s vegan destination Potala Organic Cafe has permanently closed. Nosh reported last August that the spot had a sign on the door that read, “Closed due to coronavirus, we will reopen soon.” Skeptics wondered about the “soon” part, especially after its high-visibility sign was removed last fall. 

Now the SF Chronicle reports that Potala has permanently shuttered, its former space is now for rent and its “team has since relocated” to the Shangrila Buddha Vegan location that opened in Albany this January. As Potala was founded by a chef from the macrobiotic mini-chain (the restaurant has two other branches in North Oakland, one on Telegraph Avenue and the other on Linden Street), this might be as much a closure as a homecoming. Potala Organic Cafe was at 1045 San Pablo Ave., Albany; Shangrila Buddha Vegan, 755 San Pablo Ave. (at Washington Avenue), Albany

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Eve Batey has worked as a reporter and editor since 2004, including as the co-founder of SFist, as a deputy managing editor of the SF Chronicle and as the editor of Eater San Francisco.