Chef-Owner Paul Canales thinks of his new Occitania restaurant in Oakland as the light to his more moody-vibed Duende that’s a mere five blocks away.
Certainly, he — and the rest of us — were badly in need of a little more levity when work commenced on this restaurant in October 2020 during the throes of the pandemic.
Taking inspiration from the Occitania linguistic region of Southern France, Occitania opened its doors in June of this year on the property of the Kissel Uptown Oakland, a Hyatt brand.
At the end of August, the restaurant added a few sidewalk tables, which is where I dined recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. The tables sport large umbrellas for shade, with heaters forthcoming.
In this stressful, challenging time, I scroll social media for glimpses of good news: chefs donating food to hospital workers, folks grocery-shopping for elderly neighbors, and everyday people trying to help lighten the mood with cheery videos and haikus.
I couldn’t be more thankful for the incredible recognition. I share it with the talented team whom I had the privilege to work with to make this book a reality: photographer Eva Kolenko, Clair Mack at Rule & Level Studio, Figure 1, and of course, all the chefs and restaurateurs who participated.
I salute you all with a virtual toast — as well as this easy, addictive recipe from the book to enjoy. After all, times like these when we limit trips to the grocery store, call for dishes that come together with few ingredients.
When one of my testers told me that he’d made the recipe for “Short Ribs with Citrus-Olive Herb Salad” not once, not twice, but five times, I was immediately alarmed.
But then he told me why: It wasn’t because anything was wrong with it. On the contrary, he and his wife ended up loving this dish so much that they couldn’t resist making it multiple times to share with friends.
While I’m fond of all the recipes in this cookbook that spotlights 41 restaurants in the dynamic East Bay, that testimonial convinced me right then and there that this recipe by Chef Jen Biesty of Oakland’s Shakewell was truly a winner.
Because of book-publishing timetables, my friend had to test this recipe at the height of summer. But I patiently waited until winter to give it a test-drive, since long-braised short ribs are so made for this time of year.
This is definitely a comfort dish taken up a level. The short ribs cook up fork-tender in an almost mole-like brothy sauce made with ancho chiles, fennel, garlic, thyme, chicken stock, a little ground coffee, some chopped bittersweet chocolate and a whole bottle of Zinfandel. How can that not be good?
Chef Gloria Dominguez was nearly set to sign a lease
for a restaurant space in Tucson, AZ in 2005 when her architect son Alfonso
called to stop her. He had found the perfect place in Old Oakland, a Victorian
with soaring ceilings and immense possibility. No matter if the neighborhood
was rather a ghost town back then with empty storefronts all around, Gloria and
Alfonso believed in it.
They put their heart and soul into creating Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. They transformed the space into a vibrant oasis with a pressed tin ceiling, vivid canvasses, and artsy white-washed wood chairs that Alfonso made himself. He created what’s thought to be the first Mezcal-focused bar in the area, serving up inventive cocktails to be enjoyed as old black and white Mexican movies projected on one of the walls of the lounge. Gloria attracted crowds, including the coaches and players of the Golden State Warriors, for her authentic chiles en nogada and chicken mole.
But now after 14 years, they plan to close the
restaurant, following notice from their landlord that their rent was not only
going to increase, but that they were limited to a two-year lease.
The restaurant’s last dinner service will be Nov. 30. After that, the restaurant will be available for private bookings through the end of December. The bar will be open during limited hours, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until the end of the year. And a special mezcal and tequila tasting on Dec. 8. Tickets are $55 each.
Very, very difficult. Every day, I couldn’t sleep. It really hurt my son, too.
There are so many beautiful memories here – all the graduations, proposals,
bridal showers and weddings that were celebrated. People have been coming by
with tears in their eyes and choking up.
Sometimes I think that things happen for a reason,
though. I think better things will come along. Some investors who are doing
projects in San Francisco and Walnut Creek have already approached us. We
haven’t made any decisions. We’ll just see how it goes. We don’t want to rush
You still have your other restaurant in Antioch?
A: Yes, Taqueria Salsa, which we opened in 1988, which is much more casual. When we first opened, it was going to be everything with masa – like gorditas and sopes. But then we started selling burritos for the students and the Kaiser employees. Everyone always wants burritos. They are the Mexican burger. (laughs)
When Tamarindo closes, what will you do with your time?
The cookbook spotlights more than 40 top restaurants and bakeries in the Bay Area’s most populous and diverse region, including Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana.
That evening, if you purchase a copy of the book at the restaurant ($32.99), you’ll receive a ticket for special complimentary appetizers, including a taste of shrimp aquachile, one of the restaurant’s signature recipes in the book. You’ll also enjoy a free surprise dessert.