Pear Street Bistro – Bar & Lounge, Fine Dining, and Fun in Old Town Pinole

The Barrel Flight (1)

By Vickie Lewis

My first real exposure to Pear Street Bistro (PSB) was early last year, soon after its grand re-opening following a kitchen fire that rendered it closed for nearly 15 months.  Although established in Pinole since 2002, it was not a venue that I’d frequented or heard much about. However, after reviewing Pear Street Bistro last year for Contra Costa Marketplace Magazine, it has become one of my favorite local venues. I’ve brought family and friends here on numerous occasions, and each and every person has enjoyed the food, drinks, and dining experience immensely. I was excited for the opportunity to return to PSB for a follow-up review so that I can share with you some of the new and exciting goings on that delight newcomers and keep the regulars coming back for more!

Owner Francisco Flores is the heart of Pear Street Bistro and there is rarely a time that you won’t find him working there, right alongside his staff.  Whether tending tables, bartending, or visiting with customers, he makes sure that the business is running smoothly.  Francisco’s mother, Irma Palacios, assists at the restaurant most mornings, and his younger brother, Makimin, also works there part-time.  PSB has a well-seasoned staff, all of whom are committed to providing excellent customer service.  Regular customers delight in being greeted by and served by their favorite wait-staff or bartenders when they visit. The kitchen staff, directed by head chef, Carlos; sous chef, Magdalena; and assistant kitchen manager, Yolanda, work tirelessly to create and prepare fresh and delicious appetizers, entrees, and desserts to the delight of PSB diners.  Bar manager, Luis, and his team of mixologists, ensures that the bar and lounge patrons are satisfied, and manages the lively crowds that gather there for sports viewing or other social events.

Francisco actively promotes PSB on social media, and frequently sponsors activities and community events to entice new customers to try PSB, and to keep the regulars coming back.  One of the recently added featured events is Paint Night, held on the last Tuesday evening of every month starting at 7:00 PM. My guest and I were fortunate to secure the last two open spots in March for this very popular event. The PSB dining room is transformed for the evening into an paint studio where up to 50 guests don aprons and put their talent to work creating the featured painting of the month.  All supplies and instruction are included for a nominal cost of only $25 (paid to the host company, “Let’s Paint.”) Participants are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the Taco Tuesday special, or any of the many other wonderful available menu selections.  During the event, PSB servers move among the artists, taking orders for drinks or food items to sustain them during their creative endeavors.  Paint Night at PSB is a festive event, and each month, the names of two lucky winners are drawn to paint again for free the following month. During the event, the bar/lounge remains open to customers, and dining is available in the overflow dining/banquet room at the back of the restaurant.  Reservations for Paint Night are required, so if you’re interested in an upcoming event, please RSVP to Francisco by phone at 510-741-8875, or e-mail Francisco@pearstreetbistro.com.

If Paint Night isn’t your passion, perhaps you’ll enjoy one of PSB’s upcoming May featured events. Join Francisco and his staff for a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Friday, May 5th.  A special Cinco de Mayo menu will be available all day (in addition to the usual menu) with specials created by Chef Carlos Pool. From 10 PM to 1:00 AM that evening, guests 21 and over can celebrate Cinco De Mayo with special music and dancing, while enjoying premium drinks and cocktails and appetizers in a festive atmosphere.  There will be no cover charge for the event, and guests are requested to “Dress to Impress!”

May’s second featured event will be on May 23rd starting at 6:30 PM, when PSB hosts a five course Whiskey Pairing dinner, featuring Jack Daniels hand-selected whiskeys.  Each of the five courses of the evening’s meal will be paired with a Jack Daniels whiskey that best complements the food.  Chef Jon from US Foods will prepare the five-course meal, and a local ambassador from Jack Daniels will be present to narrate the event.  Reservations for this event are required and the cost is $65 per person. If you enjoy Jack Daniels Whiskey, you won’t want to miss this special dinner.  Make your reservations by contacting Francisco at 510-741-8875, or e-mail Francisco@pearstreetbistro.com.

PSB regularly features four different spirits that have been personally hand-selected by Francisco.  These include:

• Herradura Double Barrel Reposada, 100% Blue Agave Tequila from Mexico

• Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey from Tennessee

• Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum from Barbados

• Woodford Reserve Personal Selection Bourbon from Kentucky

Each of these hand-selected spirits are bottled exclusively for Pear Street Bistro; they undergo an extra aging process which enhances the richness of the flavors. For only $15, customers can order “The Barrel Flight” which includes a ½ ounce sampling of each of these hand selected drinks. I was treated to a Barrel Flight during my recent dinner visit, an interesting experience for a gal who usually only drinks “foo foo drinks”!  Although my taste for the whiskey and bourbon was not very discerning, I did enjoy the rum and tequila!  The tequila is served with a Sangrita chaser (house made Bloody Mary mix) which was a good end to the “flight.” For beer connoisseurs, PSB also features a hand-selected draft beer, White Hawk Indian Pale Ale (IPA), made in Mendocino. There’s really something for everyone at PSB’s bar and lounge, which offers an extensive menu of cocktails, wines and beers.  My guests and I can attest that cocktails served here are very good—perhaps even bordering on being a little too strong!  Some of the drinks may seem a bit pricey, but you won’t be disappointed with the quality.  Each day, there is a $6 featured drink of the day, and PSB also features Happy Hour 7 days a week (excluding holidays) from 3 PM – 7 PM during which guests can order specially priced drinks and appetizers.

Pear Street Bistro’s dining options also offer something for everyone.  The eclectic menu selections represent primarily European, Asian, and American cuisine.  On each visit, your dining selection can transport you to a different part of the world, if you so choose.  American favorites available include Burgers, Chicken Sandwiches, Roasted Chicken, and Steak.  Asian-inspired favorites include the Thai Coconut Curry Linguine, Teriyaki Chicken, or the Asian Chop Chop Salad. If you favor European cuisine, try the Risotto, Fish and Chips, Tuscan Quinoa Veggie Salad, or the Basa de Medellin. And if you enjoy southern cooking, you’ll want to try the Bistro Jambalaya, Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles, or the Cajun Crusted Catfish. Vegetarian selections are also available, as is a special children’s menu.

To supplement the regular menus, regular daily specials are also available—one for every day of the week–and there is usually at least one other additional featured daily special.   Popular regular specials include Taco Tuesdays, featuring a different taco recipe each week; and 1/2-pound Prime Rib with all the “fixin’s” served every Wednesday. On a recent dinner visit to PSB, my server, Grae, recommended the featured daily special–Parmesan and Gorgonzola crusted Salmon, served with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted tomatoes and sautéed spinach. This was the best salmon I’ve eaten in a very long time!  The presentation was beautiful, and the cheeses baked on top of the salmon formed a golden-brown crust that tasted superb.  That same evening, my guest ordered the Thursday Meat Loaf special, which was served atop garlic mashed potatoes and topped with gravy and a mound of onion straws.  The meat loaf was moist, tender, and delicious!

Brunch is served every Saturday and Sunday at PSB from 10 AM – 3 PM.  The brunch menu has an equally varied menu as the lunch/dinner menus.  It features several breakfast items, such as the PSB Omelet, Brioche French Toast, Benedicts, and Steak and Eggs; also available are entrée salads and sandwiches, and several different sides. During last year’s review, I was intrigued to learn that PSB offered $10 Endless Mimosas for brunch, and decided I should try it out!  So, on a recent Saturday morning, I stopped in for brunch. Parking was a bit challenging due to the Farmer’s Market occupying the rear parking lot; I’ve heard that Sunday brunch parking is also challenging due to nearby church services. The restaurant and lounge were moderately busy that morning, with a steady flow of customers; I understand that Sunday brunch at PSB tends to be much busier. I was happy to have come on Saturday to enjoy the comfortable, unrushed atmosphere.

I sat at a small table facing the open kitchen, which allowed me to watch the cooks busily preparing the food orders. I looked over the menu, and quickly realized that the price of the Endless Mimosas was no longer $10 (as was published last year), but increased to $13—although this is still a good value!  When my server, Erica, asked for my drink order, I ordered a pineapple mimosa from the three flavors available—orange, pineapple, and cranberry—and found it to be delightfully delicious!  Erica returned again and again with a pitcher of mimosas, and ensured that my glass was always full. For my brunch entrée, I ordered the Frittata special, which that day featured Ribeye, mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, and gorgonzola cheese. Who could ever pass up something that sounded so delectable?

All PSB brunch entrees are served with a homemade biscuit and homemade strawberry jam, tricolor home fries, and fruit garnish. As I waited for my entrée, I enjoyed my biscuit and jam, and observed that the Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles seemed to be the popular choice of many nearby guests–a hearty dish, to be sure. This entrée is a crisply fried half-chicken, served atop a brown sugar and bacon infused waffle, served with jalapeno butter and warm maple syrup–definitely something to try on a future visit!  Although most guests were enjoying mimosas, there were also a few drinking “The Bloody Tito”, PSB’s signature Bloody Mary made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, served in a “bowl” with all the garnishments, including thick slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon!  Quite an impressive (and large) drink for Bloody Mary lovers!

My entrée arrived quickly and was beautifully presented.  The frittata was served in four triangular overlapping sections, and the home fries were a colorful assortment of brown, red and white potatoes seasoned and cooked to perfection.  A small bowl of fresh pineapple, melon and grapes garnished with mint also adorned the plate. The frittata was moist and delicious, with small slices of tender, seasoned ribeye steak mixed in with the gorgonzola cheese and other ingredients. As I finished my meal, Erica presented me with the dessert menu, the same one available for lunch and dinner. On recent visits, my guests and I had tried a number of the selections, including the New York Cheesecake topped with the homemade strawberry preserves, Blood Orange Sorbet, Caramel Gelato, and the “make your own S’mores.”  I should have passed on dessert, but decided to try something new that would complement brunch—the Seasonal Fruit Tart. (The 15-minute prep time allowed me time to enjoy one more mimosa!)  The tart was served on a plate garnished with caramel syrup, had a perfectly browned crust, and was filled with apples, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, topped with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato.  It was divine—warm, and not too sweet, with a light, flaky and delicious crust.  Suffice to say that I’ve never tried a PSB dessert that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy (except possibly the Blood Orange Sorbet.)  Make sure to save room for dessert when you visit—definitely worth the calories!

There are a lot of good reasons to try out Pear Street Bistro if you haven’t already done so. Stop by after work for Happy Hour, or gather with friends in the lounge to watch a sports event on one of the several televisions behind the bar.  Celebrate a special occasion with an elegant dinner, or stop by for a casual lunch or brunch. Come try out your artistic talents on Paint Night, or come to a special event and enjoy drinks, appetizers, music and dancing. Consider reserving the spacious private banquet room at PSB for a private business meeting or seminar, or for a special family celebration. Regardless of when or why you visit, the PSB staff will welcome you and provide you with a great customer experience.  And as a special incentive to visit, during the month of May 2017, mention that you read this restaurant review in the Contra Costa Marketplace, and PSB will offer a free appetizer of your choice for parties of four or more.

Pear Street Bistro is licensed by the city of Pinole to host special events, such as the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration, making it possible for locals to enjoy special festivities close to home.  Watch for additional events coming up later this year.  Be sure to stay informed of upcoming PSB events by subscribing to their weekly newsletter and/or by following them on Facebook or Instagram. If you’re a PSB regular, don’t forget to join the PSB Rewards program to earn loyalty points for each visit, which can be redeemed for rewards. Kudos to Francisco Flores and the PSB staff for creating a delightful, hip, and trendy bistro experience in the heart of Pinole.  If you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself to check it out!

Arts Access

image003

By Jade Shojaee

On Thursday Feb 16, some 400 low income students crowded into Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts to enjoy a live production of Charlotte’s Web, presented by Theatreworks USA and Diablo Regional Arts Association (DRAA). Since 2008, DRAA, the non-profit partner for the Lesher Center for the Arts, has made it possible for more than 50,000 Contra Costa families and youth to attend professional, high-quality performances at the Lesher Center through their Education & Outreach program.

Since it opened in 1990, the Lesher Center for the Arts has become a cultural and economic force in Walnut Creek, hosting nearly 1,000 productions and community events a year and selling a record 230,000 tickets in 2009. “With DRAA’s support, the Lesher Center, and other professional arts organizations, have transformed downtown Walnut Creek into an entertainment, dining, retail, and conference destination,” said DRAA’s executive director, Peggy White. “We believe in the power of the arts to enrich lives and we would like to continue to enrich the lives of every qualifying student and teacher in the East Bay.”

It is no secret that increasing state mandates and decreasing budgets have accounted for the significant decline in the presence of art education in public schools. Paradoxically, studies have long shown a correlation between academic performance and exposure to the arts in students. According to a study by the Music for All Foundation, participation in music courses in California alone have dropped by 46% over the past decade, despite increases in total school enrollment. DRAA is working to bridge that gap, and bring the arts back to students who otherwise would not be exposed to them.

“Every student should have the opportunity to experience the magic of live theatre. However, not every student in the East Bay come from families or attend schools that are able to facilitate those experiences,” said White.  “In many cases, this is the first time these students have been able to see a live performance or a visual arts exhibition.”

Qualifying Title I schools are schools in which 60% or more of their students are on the free or reduced-cost lunch program. DRAA provides free transportation and tickets to shows ranging from Theatreworks USA’s children’s production of Charlotte’s Web to Center REPertory’s professional production of A Christmas Carol.  They also provide customized performance activity kits to help teachers tie students’ experiences at the Lesher Center with what they are learning in school. The kits meet the California’s Common Core Standards and offer suggestions for in-class discussions and projects.

“This program was exceptional,” said 5th grade Sutter Elementary School teacher, Vicki McGuire.

“I have been teaching for 30 years and this is one of the very best field trips I have ever experienced. Most of my students have never attended a theatrical production of this calibre in their lives. The amazing actors brought this story to life for my students in a way that reading the book never could.”

“The Arts Access School Time Program provides an experience of awe and wonder outside of everyday life,” said DRAA Arts Education Manager, Jody Cook. “The programs offered are meaningful, and we hear from teachers over and over that their students are inspired.  Sometimes inspired to become an actor or a dancer, and sometimes to consider a dilemma differently.  These are incredible outcomes. To imagine that an hour or two can have a lasting impact beyond the actual experience of a field trip is pretty special.”

For interested teachers and schools, a schedule of school show performances and exhibits, along with an easily accessible, user-friendly application can be accessed at DRAA.org.

Importance of the Arts

QuinanStreetProject1

By Matt Larson

The Quinan Street Project is helping kids come out of their shell.

Story ideas get recommended to us all the time, and we’re happy to come through for you as often as we can. The story you’re reading now began when Catherine Malicdem-Ames’ three young children—a 4th grader, a 2nd grader, and a kindergartener—were yelling “Mama Mia it’s a big pizza!” in the car. “It was then I found out they were taking theatre classes during school time and were practicing their warm up,” she said. “My children enjoy drama classes every week, made possible by The Quinan Street Project—a homegrown organization that our community needs to know, and can be proud of.”

The Quinan Street Project provides theatre education programming to students in West County with curriculum that is crafted to meet the needs of the California Visual and Performing Arts Standards, as well as the need for equity and social justice in a diverse community. With an emphasis in playwriting and Shakespeare, they currently serve students at Lupine Hills, Riverside, Sheldon, and Murphy elementary schools, as well as Collins Elementary School where it all began in 2011.

“I started volunteering at Collins because of our neighbor on Quinan Street! She was such a gifted theater performer as a baby that I knew she deserved to have some theater classes she could attend,” said Anna Smith, Executive Director of The Quinan Street Project, who was born and raised on Quinan Street in Pinole. “I started this because I saw a need for arts education to be put back in our classrooms in this district, and to be brought back to the children of this community.”

Over these past six years Smith has made a difference. Teachers have seen noticeable changes in their students who have participated in The Quinan Street Project’s programming. They remark that these students are more likely to speak up in class, or that their voices are louder and more clearly understood when speaking. “We’ve even had kids overcome stutters over the years,” Smith adds. “We’ve also had some kids speak audibly for the first time that the teachers have heard. There are a lot of positive outcomes for young people doing theater.”

Typical classroom residencies consist of 12 lessons. The first six lessons introduce some of the main theatrical subjects like ensemble, pantomime and tableau, changing their voices for different characters, talking about improvisation and saying “yes” to each other, being supportive of each other in the space, and so on. The latter half of the program puts those concepts into action, resulting in a final performance for the class or invited family members, and for some grades they’ll end up with a brand new play that they’ve written themselves!

Smith is a self-proclaimed Shakespeare nerd, and actually was able to use her writing style to help a student memorize. “I explained each line that rhymed was 10 syllables long, had a rhyme at the end, and had a heartbeat rhythm,” she said. And it worked! “This tool that helped people learn their lines 500 years ago is still able to help an 8 year old today. I just think that’s cool.”

The Quinan Street Project has finally secured its own location on Quinan Street in Pinole. “I really want it to be a community-based project,” Smith said. “I hope that our space can become a safe space for kids who are interested in theater, where they can come to be creative and silly and make mistakes and just grow as individuals.”

With this new space they’ll be expanding their summer camp program this year by offering three separate two-week camps for ages 6-9, 8-11, and 11-14. Financial aid is available and their goal is to never turn anyone away. This spring they’re looking forward to incorporating mindfulness in their lesson plan, and this fall Smith is hoping to expand their after-school programming as well.

There’s much to do! And much to learn about The Quinan Street Project. To stay posted or even get involved yourself, please visit quinanstreet.org or call (510) 691-8089.

Meet Georgia Manesis

IMG_3470

By Jade Shojaee

The lady behind the success of the Pinole Senior Center

This past Valentine’s day, the City of Pinole Senior Center hosted a luncheon like you’ve never seen a senior center host a luncheon; and it won’t be the first time. Some 200 people gathered to fill the center’s exquisitely dressed tables, and enjoy a house-cooked meal served by a team of enthusiastic volunteers.

“The big dining room is where the magic happens,” said Georgia Manesis, the center’s Food Program & Special Events Committee Chairperson. Manesis has been in charge of special events since late ‘92 after retiring from her successful career as a program analyst. “I have a grasp of the big picture,” Manesis said of her ability to throw magazine-worthy events at a humble Pinole facility. “We’re the only center in the area that cooks their own food.”

Manesis has been in charge of special events and fundraising for 20 years, but before that, she worked in the kitchen, and drove the seniors on “van trips.” “Once or twice we’ve been to Santa Cruz,” she said. “We’ve been to Jackson, I mean, we went long ways so I would drive all day. We have our favorite places to eat in Half Moon Bay. I drove us places that I’ve never been before, and I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life.”

“It’s a fabulous ride. We would usually plan a tour or something like a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Manesis. “We always did lunch. The trips got longer and longer and then we’d stop for ice cream on the way home.”

Manesis said that she had to stop driving the seniors when her Driver’s License became invalid in California (she now has an Idaho license) but that doesn’t stop her from driving back and forth to Idaho, to visit her daughter and the log cabin she is currently in the process of restoring. She also drives to Arizona to visit her sister, and boasted that she makes the entire trip in just one day. “I drive it in one day, I don’t know why you wouldn’t drive it in one day,” she said.

Aside from her love of road trips, Manesis has been ballroom dancing for about 25 years. “My Dad belonged to a dance club but my Mom did not like to go, so he taught my sisters and I how to dance.” When asked if she ever thinks about competing she said that it’s not something she has considered. “I probably could but that’s not fun to me,” she said. “I’d rather dance for the sheer enjoyment of dancing.” Manesis dances at the senior center where she said she has learned to lead because “there aren’t enough guys.”

For the time being, she is enjoying being the center’s resident party planner. This year’s Valentine’s Day event included a one-hour entertainment session hosted by Shirley Dourgasian, who will sing “karaoke style, and dress up for the occasion.” Over a chuckle, Manesis recalled that every Halloween, Dourgasian wears a cheerleader outfit, and regales the crowd with the story of how her mother “paid 52 bucks for this sweater, and by-god I’m getting her money’s worth.”

Music and comedy aside, the event featured a dinner of roast beef, dessert and salad. “I mean we really make it nice,” said Manesis. “A lot of people work lots of hours there, they work their butts off.”

Our budget for the center is $250,000, Manesis said that center really pulls their weight in fundraising events. According to Manesis, you can expect to find the seniors partying away almost once a month, in celebration of holidays varying from Christmas to Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick’s Day.

According to Manesis, every third Sunday of the month the center hosts a pancake breakfast, at which local kids volunteer. “People’s grandchildren, the girls on a local middle school’s swim team, De Anza students, lots of kids just show up and say ‘hey do you need some help’.” Furthermore, and this may be a shock you, the center runs a library in which there are no late fees. In fact, you do not even have to check out the book. “Take whatever you want,” said Manesis, “nobody checks you in or out.”

The Pinole Senior Center can be found at 2500 Charles Avenue, and all (old and young) are welcome to join the festivities that are always taking place there.

Artisan Beer Bbq Brisket

bbw.jpg

What you’ll need:

1 brisket

1 large onion cut into cubes

1 tablespoon garlic powder or 6 cloves fresh garlic

1 chopped celery

2 tablespoon of Monterey seasoned pepper

1 tablespoon of kosher salt

1 can of stout beet

8 ounces of bbq sauce (masterpiece has a nice smokey flavor)

¼ cup roasted red pepper, cut into thin strips

2 cups of warm water

1 tablespoon of chipotle mayonaise

1 lightly toasted brioche bun or sourdough bread

DIRECTIONS:

In  shallow baking pan place the brisket fat side up.  Place the onions and celery along the sides of the brisket.  Smoother the top of the brisket with the Monterey seasoned pepper mix, garlic powder (fresh garlic) and salt

Pour the beer on top of the brisket and let it marinate for at least an hour.

Heat up your oven at 225 degrees.  Add the water to the pan.  Add a sheet of foil and place in the oven and slow cook it for about 8 hours (check water level so as not to burn the brisket)

Take the brisket out of the oven, remove foil and discard onion (although I love them with my brisket.

Pour the bbq sauce over the brisket and let it stand for about 15 minutes.

Gentle toast the brioch bun,  spoon the chipotle mayonnaise onto the botton portion of the bun. Slice the brisket into thin slices and put onto the bun. Add the roasted red peppers and salad green if you choose.

Serve it with a nice glass of chilled dark brew and enjoy the rich taste of this melt in your mouth beer brisket  It is one of the most popular sandwiches at the Artisan Cafe.