Belcampo Makes A Big Splash in Jack London Square

Feast your eyes on an entire beef short rib -- Korean-style -- at Belcampo in Oakland.

Feast your eyes on an entire beef short rib — Korean-style — at Belcampo in Oakland.

 

Belcampo’s flagship restaurant in Oakland’s Jack London Square may have only opened last month, but the soaring, 7,000-square-foot spot is already packing in the crowds, hankering for its menu focused on the company’s own sustainable meats.

Other restaurants may source sustainable products. But Belcampo takes that much further. It owns its own 25,000-acre ranch at the foot of Mt. Shasta, where it raises all its own organic, grass-fed beef, lamb, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals. It also owns its own USDA-certified slaughterhouse, as well as its own restaurants and butcher shops. That means there is never any middle man involved nor breaks in the supply chain. It’s as farm to table as you can get.

The Jack London Square locale is an ideal one with lovely waterfront views, and mere steps from Belcampo’s corporate offices.

On a recent Sunday evening, I dined as a guest of the restaurant.

Right on Jack London Square.

Right on Jack London Square.

The soaring, light-filled space.

The soaring, light-filled space.

The large, comfortable bar.

The large, comfortable bar.

It’s a lively venue with a large bar with plentiful seats and a lounge area. The main dining room is framed by huge windows that let in a lot of light on a summer day.

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Brown-Butter Mochi Muffins

Made with dark brown sugar, coconut milk, evaporated milk and mochiko flour, these little treats are gluten-free.

Made with dark brown sugar, coconut milk, evaporated milk and mochiko flour, these little treats are gluten-free.

 

Anyone who has followed my blog for awhile knows about my love for butter mochi.

I can’t resist this Hawaiian baked good made with glutinous rice flour, which gives it a wondrous chewy texture like a big gummi bear.

For those with celiac disease, it has the added bonus of being gluten-free, too.

So when I spied a recipe for “Brown-Butter Mochi” in the New York Times a few months ago, I tore it out, eager to try it.

The recipe is from Berkeley’s Samin Nosrat, a writer, cooking teacher and former cook at Chez Panisse, who recently wrote the seminal, best-selling “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” (Simon & Schuster).

She first learned to make butter mochi in a standard large cake pan from a friend’s recipe. But then she started tinkering, rejiggering the recipe to use two muffin tins instead. She also incorporated brown butter, which of course, is always a worthwhile addition.

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Feed Your People Traci Des Jardins’ Chile Verde

Comfort food at its finest -- brothy, tangy chile verde.

Comfort food at its finest — brothy, tangy chile verde.

 

In this day and age when so much in life seems to be driving people apart rather than closer together, we should never underestimate the power of food to bring people to the table with open minds and hearts.

That’s the spirit behind the wonderful new cookbook, “Feed Your People: Big-Batch, Big-Hearted Cooking and Recipes to Gather Around” (PowerHouse Books) by Leslie Jonath with 18 Reasons.

Jonath, a former editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, has teamed with 18 Reasons, a San Francisco non-profit that not only strives to teach people the importance of good food, but offers a free six-week nutrition education program in low-income communities on how to make healthy and affordable meals.

Feed Your People Book

The cookbook features recipes by some of the most well-known names in the food industry, including Bay Area cookbook author Andrea Nguyen’s “Chinese Dumplings,” Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters’ “Minestrone,” Tartine co-founder Elizabeth Prueitt’s Whole-Loaf Garlic Cheese Bread,” and pastry doyenne Alice Medrich’s “Ultimate Butter Cake.”

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Why You’ll Want To Go Back To Octavia Again and Again

That egg, that glorious egg at Octavia.

That egg, that glorious egg at Octavia.

 

There are restaurants that serve comfort food.

And then there are restaurants that are pure comfort.

Octavia in San Francisco is such a place.

Like her first restaurant, Frances in San Francisco, Chef-Owner Melissa Perello has a knack for creating places that are cozy, warm, and understated. They make you feel right at home from the get-go, as if you just settled into the corner of a favorite couch at your best friend’s abode for what you know will be a lovely, relaxed evening.

Well, if only your best bud could cook as beautifully and effortlessly as Perello and Chef de Cuisine Robert Hernandez, of course.

The laid-back dining room.

The laid-back dining room.

To be packed on a Monday night is saying something.

To be packed on a Monday night is saying something.

Even on a recent Monday night, the Michelin-starred restaurant was packed, as I found out when I met a dear old friend for dinner, with each of us paying our tab at the end. What an ideal place for a gals’ night out to catch up with each other’s busy lives.

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Dig A Big Spoon Into Foreign Cinema’s Buttermilk Spoon Bread with Shiitakes, Corn and Scallions

Fluffy and delicious, this buttermilk spoon bread has the fresh taste of corn.

Fluffy and delicious, this buttermilk spoon bread has the fresh taste of corn.

 

I still remember it as clear as day, waiting around at the August 1999 opening party for Foreign Cinema for a helicopter to make its splashy arrival to deposit a massive Jesus statue in the interior courtyard, replicating the scene in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.”

Talk about making a grand entrance into San Francisco’s dining scene.

Unfortunately, after that mega buildup, it actually never came to pass — the statue was deemed to heavy for the helicopter. But the party went on, a prescient symbol of how this restaurant would roll with the punches, not only surviving but flourishing, in the years to come.

Today, when the Mission District has become ground zero for the changes that the booming tech economy has brought to the Bay Area, Foreign Cinema is still going strong. At a time when animosity grows as working-class families are priced out of the neighborhood, new pricey condo complexes get built, and hipster businesses move in, this vibrant restaurant is still embraced and beloved.

ForeignCinemaCookbook

The cavernous space once housed at various times a 99-cent store, a See’s Candies store, a sportswear retailer, medical offices and a shoe emporium. When the properties were connected and transformed for the restaurant, pinewood flooring and metal railing were scavenged from an old Latino theater across the street that was being dismantled, immediately giving it a sense of place.

Gayle Pirie and John Clark took over the restaurant in 2001, when it was teetering on bankruptcy following the dot-com bust and turned it around.

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