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Oakland’s new worker-led restaurant and commissary kitchenEarlier this month, Oakland Bloom, a volunteer-based nonprofit collective that provides career support to refugee and immigrant chefs, softly opened Understory, its worker-led restaurant, bar and commissary kitchen. Understory gives chefs who are looking to start their own food businesses hands-on experience and supplemental earned income as they continue their training. At the same time, local diners get a chance to taste what they’re cooking. After a couple of weeks of test service, Understory is ready to officially open its doors this Thursday, March 25, from 4-8 p.m. Its regular days of service will be Thursday through Saturday, with a special weekly pop-up event on Sundays, featuring fare from a chef participating in Oakland Bloom’s Open Test Kitchen incubation program. This week’s debut menu features Filipino cuisine along with a kefta burger with fries, but Understory’s offerings will rotate and future menus will focus on Moroccan and vegan Mexican fare. This Sunday’s pop-up will highlight Burmese cuisine by Oakland Bloom chef Pa Wah. Sunday pop-up dishes, such as coconut curry noodle soup (with choice of chicken or tofu), tea leaf salad, banana leaf sticky rice, Burmese sausage and a selection of desserts, can be pre-ordered in advance online. Along with food, Understory refreshes with a wide selection of beverages, including cocktails (including alcoholic boba drinks and a ginger lemon rum spritzer), agua frescas, cold brew coffee, beer and wine. Understory, 528 Eighth St. (between Washington and Clay streets), Oakland
Berkeley Public Library now lends kitchen toolsEver had to pass on making a recipe because you didn’t have the right culinary tools on hand? Well, if you’re a card-carrying Berkeley Public Library member, you now have access to a whole host of kitchen gadgets through its tool lending library. As Berkeleyside first reported in December 2019, BPL put together its kitchen tool collection — the first of its kind in California — by asking the community which equipment would be most useful to them. Many of the available items, such as sous vide cookers, air fryers, Instant Pot, Belgian waffle maker, dehydrators and canning equipment, are expensive to purchase, especially when used only a few times by a home cook. Berkeley librarian Dan Beringhele explains, “This has been an excellent opportunity to fill a need in our community. The Tool Lending Library gives our patrons a way to try out a new gadget without spending money or creating waste. The kitchen tool collection allows for home cooks to explore their creativity and experiment with new recipes and techniques.” Patrons can browse and place holds on the culinary collection (and all other available tools) through the tool lending library’s online catalog. (First-time borrowers will need to call the tool library at 510-981-6101 to learn more about registration.) Equipment can be checked out for seven days. Tool Lending Library at Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch, 1901 Russell St. (at Martin Luther King, Jr Way), Berkeley
An update on Oakland’s Peony Seafood RestaurantOakland Chinatown’s beloved dim sum banquet hall, Peony Seafood Restaurant, reopened its 10,000 square-foot restaurant on March 18 (at 25% capacity). Manager Ming Zhu said that he is grateful for the outpouring of community support and takeout orders (that followed a story in Berkeleyside and Oaklandside), which has allowed him to make it to this day. Peony’s expert chefs are back, fashioning an array of freshly made dumplings, buns and rolls, and even coconut bunnies for dessert. Zhu is looking forward to opening at 50% capacity when allowed in the coming weeks. Peony Seafood Restaurant, 388 Ninth St. (at Franklin Street), suite 288, Oakland (Reported by Anna Mindess)
Third Culture Bakery anniversary specials
Next month, West Berkeley’s Third Culture Bakery celebrates its fourth anniversary. While Third Culture has been growing steadily in popularity for their Asian-inflected mochi baked goods and beverages, founders Wenter Shyu and Sam Butarbutar say that the pandemic nearly closed the business. They credit their strong network of neighbors and customers for keeping them open.As a way to say thanks to their fans, Third Culture is offering a limited number of special anniversary packages, which will include a collection of sweet eats and drinks. The Anniversary VIP Package ($50), includes four daifuku mochi cakes (two dark chocolate truffle and two match truffle), one crème brûlée mochi waffle, two coconut haupia donuts, two tiramisu mochi donuts, two mochi muffins and a lychee soda palm tree drink. The Birthday Cake Package ($44) includes a mini 4” 3-layer dark chocolate birthday cake from Natty Cakes featuring Third Culture roasted matcha buttercream and dark chocolate drizzle, along with a lychee soda palm tree drink. Both packages are available for pre-order online for pickup at the bakery on April 3-4. (Those who order at least 48 hours in advance can skip the line and pick up directly from a concierge out front). Third Culture Bakery, 2701 Eighth St. (between Carleton and Pardee), Berkeley