New Vegan Cupcakes, New Pinkberry & Dinner by a “Top Chef” Contestant

After a year of tinkering, Sprinkles Cupcakes has unveiled its new vegan and gluten-free versions of the Red Velvet cupcake, its best-seller.

Chef Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles, makes the vegan ones with all-natural soy milk, tofu-based cream cheese and coconut oil. The gluten-free one is made with gluten-free flour and topped with a thick layer of the usual cream cheese frosting.

Find them now at all Sprinkles locations.

Word is that competitor, Kara’s Cupcakes, also is working on vegan and gluten-free cupcakes. Stay tuned….

“Top Chef” fanatics will want to know that Season 6 contestant, Laurine Wickett, will be cooking dinner at Coffee Bar Cafe in San Francisco this weekend, Jan. 30 and Jan. 31.

Wickett, whom some fans thought was sacrificed to keep popular contestant Jennifer Carroll on the show longer, is the chef-owner of Left Coast Catering in San Francisco. She will be cooking a three-course dinner for $35; or $55 with wine pairings. Dishes include cauliflower soup with smoked  potatoes and truffle oil; and panna cotta with citrus compote.

To reserve a seat, call (415) 551-8100 or email:

Brewski — and lots of it — will be showcased at the second annual “San Francisco Beer Week,” Feb. 5-14.

Learn why the Bay Area has become a hotbed for artisan beer-making. Indeed, California has more than 200 breweries and beer companies, the most of any state. Eight of those breweries are in San Francisco.

A bevy of tastings and galas will be held at various venues throughout the Bay Area. Click here for a complete schedule.

Another Pinkberry fro-yo shop has opened in the Bay Area — this one at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

Look for it between Bloomingdale’s and Ralph Lauren.

San Francisco’s Waterbar invites you to try its new “Happy Hour,” 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Dubbed “Come Unhinged,” it features $5 specialty cocktails, $5 glasses of select wines and $3 bottles of Session Premium Lager. Sip those while you enjoy Waterbar’s $1 “featured oyster of the day,” and new bar munchies such as grilled flank steak skewers with chimichurri sauce ($9).

The glam Cyrus in Healdsburg will host a wine dinner, Feb. 2, in conjunction with Peay Vineyards.

Proprietor Andy Peay and winemaker Vanessa Wong will be pouring their Sonoma Coast offerings that will be matched with a five-course tasting menu by Cyrus Chef Douglas Keane. Price is $205 per person.

San Rafael’s historic Falkirk Mansion is the locale of another wine dinner, this one hosted by Chef Christian Caiazzo of Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station, and artisan local winemaker, Eric Luse of Eric Ross Winery in the Sonoma Valley.

Each of the four courses of the dinner will be paired with a different wine from the winery.  Dishes include homemade tagliatelle with sweet Bodega Dungeness crab; and grilled Marin Sun Farms Navajo-Churro  lamb leg with rosemary cannellini beans. Price is $110 per person, which includes a $25 credit to purchase a signed bottle of wine.

For reservations, call (707) 939-8525 or email:

Owners of the popular Bombay Gardens restaurants in the Bay Area and Sakoon in Mountain View have opened their newest venture, Bombay Express in Fremont.

The casual eatery features traditional and modern Indian street food dishes, as well as an inventive kids’ menu.

San Mateo’s AcquaPazza has a deal for you: A three-course dinner for $20, available 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. nightly.

The early sunset dining option offers soup of the day or salad; a choice of gnocchi Sorrentina, Pollo al Marsala, fish AquaPazza or pork chop Saltimbocca; and dessert of either vanilla gelato or tiramisu.

Quince in San Francisco welcomes a new executive pastry chef.

Joel Renno has taken over those duties from William Werner, who has left to pursue other opportunities.

The classically-trained Reno was formerly executive pastry chef at the acclaimed Everest in Chicago.

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