Box and Bells Oakland: The Preview Dinner

Ding Ding! Round One!!

Ding Ding! Round One!!

Lucky enough to secure tickets to this exercise in badassery, a friend and I attended the Box and Bells first preview dinner at Hawker Fare last night. After a welcome from chef James Syhabout, service started to flow. Attention head chef Benjamin Coe: Firing, plating and serving 45 simultaneous dinners is no small feat, so cheers(!) to him and his team. Servers were available here and there to ask for water, more rations or a refill on drinks. The lighting was low- apologies upfront for the crap photos. You’ll get the gist…

Let’s start going a little nuts:

Pepperoni Nuts

Pepperoni Nuts

A crunchy snack of “pepperoni” almonds and sunflower seeds- salty with a little heat.

Potted and Jarred Goods

Potted and Jarred Goods

There was homemade mustard on the table to start. It had a grated quality to it – horseradishy-even. Served with what looked like Texas toast (but was called out as the more elegant grilled pain de mie), these three jars contained: head cheese with green garlic and parsley relish, country style pork rillettes, and chicken liver mousse with apple pie aspic. Bonus points for getting to dessert in the appetizer course!! Alongside were on-trend pickled and fermented veg. (Food snoot alert: I now take these for granted – they are everywhere! Thank you though, for helping me get my healthy servings in!!)

Speaking of veg…

Salad of Gem Lettuces

Salad of Gem Lettuces

There was some kale leaf in here that gave me pause when looking at it and it added some diversity to the salad course. An herbed cultured cream, egg and paper thin radish rounded it out.

Enough healthy stuff… let’s get to the fried part:

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

Boneless fried chicken – all of what you want with none of what you don’t.

The elevating moment:

Raw Oyster Mayo

Raw Oyster Mayonnaise

The raw oyster mayonnaise did the nuggets right. This is hard to explain, like eating a fried oyster po’boy with added crunch and chew from the chicken and no pesky bread to get in your way.

We were gearing up now, pacing ourselves. Ordering an ice cold Singha beer was a good move.



Hell yeah, poutine! It was “Made Our Way” with blood pudding gravy, cheese curds waiting in the depths and onions to finish. I think this disappeared in record time for the meal. Gone.

My photos of the Mussels Tikka Masala fell flat, so imagine them all huddled together in a thin white wine broth, crowned in cilantro- wish I’d had some of the toast to sop up that tikka masala- it just made sense.

In the theme of shellfish:

Roasted Scallops

Roasted Scallops

As I walked by the kitchen, the trays of scallops conveyed caramelization through scent. Set on a bed of meyer lemon spaetzle and hazlenuts, each were cooked perfectly. The “hen glace” was called out on the menu but married so well it helped add to the whole rather than shout out.



Admittedly in the introduction, Chef said it was a meat heavy menu, and he wasn’t kidding. Boudin blanc, sauerkraut and corned beef with parsley sauce put the nail in the mains section. The consistency of the sausage, soft and cooked white on the outer edges and faint rose in the center, was smooth. We were glad we kept the mustard from the potted meats course. The cabbage kept its crunch, and the acid helped- vinegar melted the chiffonade, slightly. The corned beef was a bit dry, and I’m sad I didn’t get more of the sauce to possibly combat that.

The side dishes missed their paparazzi moment. The baked beans were heavy on the molasses and were a nice departure from their overly sweet mainstream cousin. The “Rich Potato Puree” was all that and more- we dove in. Whipped butter with a potato afterglow. I want to swim in those. Really. The brussels sprouts in bone marrow with maple syrup and sherry had a stocky, warm coating and the fried up outer leaves benefitted from the sherry kick. With fullness setting in, we left some bits on our plates, but few.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Dessert showed up as a date cake with apple, vanilla chantilly and a toffee caramel pool so good, I went in for last licks. The dessert was not a chore, thanks to the lightness of the cake.

The chefs were walking around talking with patrons during service, and came out and thanked everyone. This is the food they, as chefs, want to eat after service- so we all got a peek between the late night shutters of a well fed kitchen. When asked about the name, they said there would be a boxing bell at the bar. They are thinking loud, lively eating house- take a box of bells, shake it up!

The timeline isn’t set yet, but this is their direction. A couple more dinners are in the works, so be on the lookout for announcements. This one sold out in five minutes: To the quick come the Box and Bells.

Yet another reason to look forward to Spring 2013 in Oakland!


Love in Oakland: Valentine’s Day 2013

Ah, love is in the air… and even if it isn’t, there are many comforting Oakland dining options to check out anyway! You may just meet someone asking about the specials… Prix-fixe and a la carte options abound Thursday night and all through the weekend. Holler if we are missing any festive offers!

3853 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
They love love there at BayWolf and more than that they love food. Go celebrate hearts, food and wine with them for a delicious three-course meal for $68 per person.

4238 Park Blvd
Oakland, CA 94602

Offering a four course Prix Fixe menu for $65.00 per person with an optional wine pairing.

55 Webster Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Come enjoy the four course Valentine’s menu for two for $45 per person. They also have their regular a la carte menu available.

3917 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610

Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Camino. Romantic dinner for 2 or celebrate with ALL THE ONES YOU LOVE. $80 fixed menu. Optional wine pairing.

827 Washington St.
Oakland, CA, 94607
(510) 272-9110

On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, District in Oakland will be open from 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM serving the regular a la carte menu, plus $1.00 oysters all night (instead of just during happy hour), chocolate fondue for two (from the regular menu), and a special cocktail called the Dolce Valentine ($10) made with vodka & allspice, topped with sparkling wine, & garnished with a dried rose petal. There will also be live musical entertainment from Dirty Cello. Reservations accepted for groups of 6 or more.

44 Webster Street
Oakland, California 94607
(510) 663-4440

Things that come in pairs and aphrodisiac:
CHICORIES – pear, avocado, cinnamon
ROUGET – parsnip, green garlic, roscoe’s potatoes
QUAIL – farro verde, trumpet mushrooms, mustards
CHOCOLATE CREMEUX – banana, almond

1915 San Pablo Ave. @ 19th St.
Oakland, CA 94612

$45 Prix Fixe menu & regular menu available all week long. Now taking reservations!

Lake Chalet
1520 Lakeside Dr.
Oakland, CA, 94612
(510) 208-5253

On Valentine’s Day, Lake Chalet serves the regular lunch & dinner menus plus a la carte dinner specials including Season’s First Delta Asparagus with Prosciutto di Parma, crispy poached farm egg and white truffle oil; Spinach and Ricotta Agnolotti with prosciutto soffritto; “Heart” Beets with Bellwether Farms ricotta, shaved radishes, and balsamico; Grilled Filet Mignon with bone marrow crust, glazed early spring vegetables and red wine sauce; and Chocolate Budino with espresso whipped cream.

Kincaid’s Bayhouse
1 Franklin Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Celebrate Valentine’s Day All Weekend Long – Thursday Feb 14th through Sunday Feb 17th – with a romantic lunch or dinner.

3407 Lakeshore Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610

5-course Prix Fixe Dinner with Bubbly Toast. $70 p/p for reservations before 6:30 pm. $80 p/p for reservations after 6:30 pm.

5655 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618

$95 6 course prix fixe + tax and 18% service charge ~ wine pairings will be available ~ corkage $25

2214 Broadway Street
Oakland, CA 94612

Please join us for a very special price fixe Valentine’s Day Menu at Plum.
Four Courses with options for $70 per person.

Scott’s Seafood
2 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94607

Celebrate Valentine’s Day, and through the weekend, at Scott’s with a delicious 3-course Steak & Lobster entree served with a glass of sparkling wine for $75 per person.

Z Cafe and Bar
2735 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

“MADE WITH LOVE” Dinner: $40/person. Starter: Dungeness Crab + glass of champagne. Entree Choice: Dry Aged Rib Eye, Chicken Piccata, Champagne Risotto. Dessert: Blackberry Sorbet

Chabot Space & Science Center
ASNT-Golden Gate Section Sweetheart’s Dinner

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:00 PM
This is a Public ASNT-GGS Event. Members, Spouses, and our Friends will enjoy an evening of Romance, Astrology, and NDT. The evening will begin with a private catered dinner in the Galileo room at the Chabot Space Center. Then continue about the facility to night school. And then walk about the observatory and take a look at the stars.