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Hayward’s Lucky Dog Hot Sauce is fundraising for Texans affected by the recent winter storm with a contest featuring $1,000 worth of spicy sauces from Lucky Dog and other makers around the country. Photo: Lucky Dog Hot Sauce

Lucky Dog Hot Sauce is fundraising for Texas relief

Last month, Scott Zalkind of Hayward’s Lucky Dog Hot Sauce was riding high on his recent Good Food Awards win. After two years of being a Good Food Awards finalist, Lucky Dog was finally in the company of the winners, nabbing accolades for its extra hot Pink Label, Applewood-Smoked Habanero Pepper Sauce. With the Good Food Awards win came new fans, and this month, Zalkind decided to hit fellow hot sauce lovers on his social media platforms to join him in helping people (and pets) in Texas affected by the recent freezing winter storms. Over the weekend, he started a contest on Instagram and Facebook, urging fans to donate $10 to one of six charitable causes in Texas for a chance to win a set of Lucky Dog hot sauces. Eventually, other hot sauce makers from across the nation saw his posts and asked to join the fundraising effort by donating their sauces to the bounty, raising the value of the grand prize to $1,000.

Lucky Dog Hot Sauce is raising funds for Feeding Texas, Austin Pets Alive, Free Lunch, Crowdsource Rescue, Houston Food Bank and Other Ones Foundation. Every receipt proving a $10+ donation to one of these groups is an entry to win one of two prizes: One heat-lover will win a huge collection of hot sauces and products from Lucky Dog, Bravado Spice, Hell’s Kitchen Hot Sauce, Chef Iron Mike, Angry Goat, Hell Fire Hot Sauce, Eat Beer Hot Sauce, Hot Ones, Culley’s, Burns and McCoy Sauce Company and others. The runner-up will get a full set of 12 Lucky Dog Hot sauces and swag. (Check Facebook and Instagram for full contest details.) Zalkind explained in an email to Nosh, “There’s no requirement to purchase anything from me or any of the companies who’ve generously donated to the prize — we just want to help as many people/animals as possible.” On March 3, Zalkind will use a randomizer to pick a name from entries received via Lucky Dog’s Instagram and Facebook and his Twitter account.

Berkeley’s Espresso Roma is for lease

Espresso Roma on College Avenue is open, but for lease. Photo: Stuart Luman

Several readers emailed Nosh with concern about the giant “For Lease” signs affixed outside of Espresso Roma on the corner of College and Ashby avenues in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood. Cafe owner David “Sandy” Boyd told Nosh over text message, “The reason is simple, the rent is $18,000 a month and the income is $300 a day. Do the math.” For now, Espresso Roma remains open, and Boyd said it will likely remain so until the landlord finds a new tenant. (The Espresso Roma cafe on Hopkins St. remains open.)

Boyd founded Espresso Roma in 1980, starting with the flagship location in Berkeley, and over the decades had expanded his empire of coffee shops across the city and into other college towns like Eugene and Colorado. According to a 2019 Daily Emerald article, Boyd owed a significant amount in back taxes for his businesses, and even before the pandemic began he said he was “trying to keep [his] head above water and make enough money to pay overhead.” Boyd sold some of his cafes, and his other business, Fresh Choice went bankrupt in July 2012.

While it shows its age, Espresso Roma has been a go-to for decades for studious Cal students and other locals looking for a quiet, low-key hangout with affordable coffee drinks. If it closes, many locals will be sorry to see it go. Espresso Roma, 2960 College Ave. (at Ashby Avenue), Berkeley (Reporting by Stuart Luman)

IndoMex pop-up returns to Oakland

Nora Haron’s pop-up IndoMex brunch will feature an Indonesian and Mexican fusion menu, including beef rendang quesabirria tacos and sambal micheladas. Photo: IndoMex

Chef Nora Haron’s Indonesian-Mexican fusion pop-up IndoMex is returning to Fort Green in Old Oakland on Sunday, Feb. 28, for another collaboration with the bar’s standing Mexican fried chicken pop-up Xingones. The IndoMex menu boasts a mouthwatering collection of Mexican-inspired dishes featuring Southeast Asian herbs and spices. Expect quesabirria tacos stuffed with savory, slow-braised beef rendang; Xingones fried chicken, slaw and sauces nestled between an Indonesian-spiced concha bun; churros with kaya (pandan coconut jam) and refreshing and spicy sambal michaladas. Pre-order food and drinks online for pickup between noon and 2 p.m. at Xingones. IndoMex at Xingones, Fort Green, 736 Washington St. (at Eighth Street) Oakland

Black history month jazz brunch

The Cook and Her Farmer’s jazz brunch will feature Drakes Bay oysters. Photo: The Cook and Her Farmer

Swan’s Market oyster and wine bar The Cook and Her Farmer is hosting its annual Black history month jazz brunch this Saturday, Feb. 27. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., diners can choose to order eats to enjoy on The Cook and Her Farmer’s socially distanced outdoor seating area, or take brunch to-go. For those who opt to dine on-site, they’ll be treated to a jazz soundtrack with their meal. The menu features Drakes Bay Co. oysters, shrimp and grits, buckwheat waffles, catfish po’boys, mimosas and cocktails from Swan’s Market neighbor and fellow Black-owned restaurant, Miss Ollie’s. Diners can also purchase jars of Southern hot pepper chowchow from Wanda’s Cooking. The Cook and Her Farmer, 510 Ninth St. (at Washington), Oakland

AKA Coffee to takeover 1951 Coffee Company’s Oakland cafe

Oakland’s AKA Coffee is coming to Rockridge. Photo: AKA Coffee/Facebook

[Editor’s note: This entry was updated on March 1 with comment from AKA Coffee] A sign in the window at 6021 College Ave. — what was last 1951 Coffee’s Oakland cafe and Spasso before that — announces that another local coffee shop will grace the space. AKA Coffee, a small specialty coffee company based in West Oakland, signed the lease for the Rockridge cafe at the beginning of the year. Local java connoisseurs may remember AKA Coffee as Supersonic Coffee, which had to rebrand in 2016 with a new name after fast-food chain, Sonic Drive-In opposed its trademark application. Although AKA Coffee had previous plans to open a retail space in Berkeley, it never did. Instead, the company has mostly sold its coffees wholesale to grocery stores, cafes, restaurants and offices, and directly to coffee drinkers through its website. The College Avenue locale will be its first retail location.

AKA Coffee’s roaster and QC manager Rosie Laird told Nosh that taking over the space from 1951 Coffee was a positive move for both companies. “It gave relief to 1951 to focus on its Channing Way location and it gave us chance to finally have a public outlet. It was a good happenstance moment for both of us. We’re excited to be opening up in Rockridge,” she said. Laird said AKA Coffee aims to open in early summer. AKA Coffee will be at 6021 College Ave. (between 62nd and 63rd), Oakland

Chez Panisse closed this week due to possible COVID exposure

Chez Panisse is closed this week due to a potential COVID-19 exposure. Photo: Pete Rosos

If you were hoping to order lunch or dinner this week from Chez Panisse, you’ll have to change your plans. According to an email sent to its newsletter subscribers, the North Berkeley restaurant is closed through Saturday, due to a potential COVID-19 exposure that happened on Feb. 18. Staffers — some of whom have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — will be quarantining and getting tested during the downtime. Chez Panisse will reopen for its Sunday Market on Feb. 28 (advance online orders can be placed on Friday, starting at noon for Sunday pickup). Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave. (near Vine Street) Berkeley 

Sarah Han is Senior Editor, Food for Oaklandside and Berkeleyside. She has worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Read more stories by Sarah Han on Berkeleyside.