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Thursday, August 19, 2010 | return to: supplement, readers' choice awards


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Time to Celebrate 1

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Marisa Breall

Oksana Yurovsky

Place for an elegant indoor party

Location, location, location. This real estate mantra is shared by party planners, and for good reason. The perfect event location can turn an everyday party into a celebration to remember. According to j. readers, all you need is a bissel elegance.

Tied for first place in San Francisco are the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the JCC of San Francisco.

With its collection of history and art, the museum lends a Jewish ambiance to any event. The bright and modern Yud Gallery, Grand Lobby and Goldman Hall can be adapted for events such as lectures, parties and fashion shows.

Not to be outdone, the JCCSF offers three large venues fitting for classy events. In the Pottruck Family Atrium, couples can exchange vows in the shadow of two larger-than-life stone tablets inscribed with the words of Anne Frank and others. A skylight illuminates the room from the three-story-high ceiling. Kanbar Hall is the largest room, with high, curved ceilings and richly colored carpets and walls.

The Terrace Room at the Lake Merritt Hotel in Oakland greets visitors with a smart, comfortable interior and charming art deco details. The beautiful railings, light fixtures and drapes would not be out of place in a tasteful home. Oh, and the views aren’t bad, either. Large windows frame panoramic views of Lake Merritt. Across the water, downtown Oakland illuminates the night with twinkling lights.

The Pacific Athletic Club hosts frequent weddings, parties and other special events, with its roomy venues and elegant touches that inspire guests to dust off their tuxedos and fluff up their gowns. The décor is modern and earthy, with high ceilings and large windows that accent ornate event decorations. After dining at one of the banquet-size tables, guests can shimmy over to the dance floor and tango the night away.

Readers celebrating in the North Bay have chosen the main event room at Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael. The space lends itself to elegant evenings, with its parquet floors, high ceilings and exposed beams. You and 300 of your closest friends can comfortably shmooze under four chandeliers. The room is also equipped with theatrical lighting, which event manager Pam Day says really sets the mood: “It can be like a nightclub — chic and wild — or it can be an elegant wedding.”

Coming in second place were City Club in San Francisco, Diablo Country Club in Diablo and Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park and Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, and Trentadue Winery in Geyserville.

 1st Place

San Francisco

JCC of San Francisco

(415) 292-1200

www.jccsf.org

Contemporary Jewish Museum

(415) 655-7800

www.thecjm.org

East Bay

Lake Merritt Hotel

Oakland

(510) 903-3771

www.theterraceroom.com

South Bay/Peninsula

Pacific Athletic Club

Redwood City

(650) 593-1112

www.pacclub.com

North Bay

Osher Marin JCC

San Rafael

(415) 444-8084

www.marinjcc.org

 

 2nd Place

San Francisco

City Club

(415) 362-2480

www.cityclubsf.com

East Bay

Diablo Country Club

Diablo

(925) 837-4221

http://diablocc.com

Beth Jacob Congregation

Oakland

(510) 482-1147

www.bethjacoboakland.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Rosewood Sand Hill

Menlo Park

(650) 561-1500

www.rosewoodhotels.com

Hotel Sofitel

Redwood City

(650) 598-9000

www.sofitel.com

North Bay

Trentadue Winery

Geyserville

(707) 433-3104

www.trentadue.com

Place for a casual indoor party

Apparently, frequent partying isn’t just an activity for the college crowd. Informal get-togethers are a good way to put daily life on pause and enjoy some relaxing time with friends and family. J. readers have chosen several venues to do just that.

JCC of San Francisco has two smaller event rooms that work well for less formal celebrations. The bright oval conference room is used frequently for children’s birthday parties as well as adult gatherings. Large windows overlook the Presidio and downtown. Meanwhile, the Gallanter Hall reception room can be rented for everything from intimate gatherings to large Shabbat dinners. What keeps folks coming back? “The wonderful, friendly atmosphere and wonderful customer service,” says private events manager Valerie Rocklin.

As it turns out, hosting a casual event doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be in a casual setting. In Lafayette, Temple Isaiah’s bright new ballroom features vaulted ceilings and a dance floor. There’s room to mingle, finger foods in hand, or sit down at a table to enjoy a meal prepared in the temple’s new kitchen. A peek outside reveals a glimpse of the Lafayette Reservoir below.

Tied for first place in the East Bay is Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland. Its formal dining room/ballroom is a popular setting for special events. Though there is also a smaller room downstairs, administrative assistant Kathy Hollander says people are drawn to the roominess and formal décor of the upstairs space, which also boasts two kitchens. But the space can be easily adapted. “It’s very neutral, so when decorated it can go from one extreme to another,” Hollander says. Sometimes congregants decorate and cook for a loved one’s event, which Hollander says makes the celebration more intimate.

Ever wished for a pool party during Chanukah? With the Oshman Family JCC’s indoor swimming pool, that’s not such a crazy idea. Or you can gather with friends during the warmer months at the Palo Alto facility’s outdoor pool. A cultural arts center, meeting rooms, an amphitheater and a fitness complex are just some of the rental options.

Tied for first place in the South Bay/Peninsula is the Pacific Athletic Club in Redwood City. There’s something glamorous about being invited to a social event at “the club.” The amenities and smartly decorated interior provide a comfortable setting for casual events with friends and family. There’s also a dance floor where people can boogie away their stress from the workweek.

At the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, three smaller rooms can be joined together by removing their partitions. Event manager Pam Day says the smaller rooms provide an atmosphere that works well for intimate gatherings. The rooms are adjacent to an outdoor courtyard, which is “just lovely,” says Day .

Tied for first place in the North Bay is Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa — and it certainly lives up to its name. Overlooking a canvas-worthy spread of valley, vineyards and the Russian River, the winery also enjoys spectacular nighttime views. “As dusk sets in, we get the twinkling lights from the city,” says co-owner Sonia Byck-Barwick. An upstairs event room features a dramatic fireplace and large windows that draw the scenery in. Glass doors lead out to a spacious deck.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, Peninsula JCC in Foster City and Seafood Peddler Restaurant & Fish Market in San Rafael came in second.

 

 1st Place

San Francisco

JCC of San Francisco

(415) 292-1200

www.jccsf.org

East Bay

Temple Isaiah

Lafayette

(925) 283-8575

www.temple-isaiah.org

Beth Jacob Congregation

Oakland

(510) 482-1147

www.bethjacoboakland.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Oshman Family JCC

Palo Alto

(650) 223-8600

www.paloaltojcc.org

Pacific Athletic Club

Redwood City

(650) 593-4900

www.pacclub.com

North Bay

Osher Marin JCC

San Rafael

(415) 444-8000

www.marinjcc.org

Paradise Ridge Winery

Santa Rosa

(707) 528-9463

www.prwinery.com

 2nd Place

San Francisco

Contemporary Jewish Museum

(415) 655-7800

www.thecjm.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Peninsula JCC

Foster City

(650) 212-7522

www.pjcc.org

North Bay

Seafood Peddler

San Rafael

(415) 460-6669

www.seafoodpeddler.com

Place for an outdoor celebration

Blue skies, ocean views, tree-covered hills, warm nights — just a few reasons why celebrating under the sky in the Bay Area is a favorite local pastime.

In San Francisco, Congregation Beth Sholom’s recently built event venues are a blend of innumerable skylights and modern architecture, as well as traditional Jewish staples — with a modern touch, of course. The Rainbow Courtyard at the congregation’s entrance is an inviting reception place, as is the spacious open-ceiling plaza located at the top of the wide staircase.

After assembling the Brazilian Pavilion for the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition, the country’s representatives weren’t keen on shlepping all those panels back across the ocean. So they donated them to the East Bay Regional Park District, and the rest is special-event history. The panels make up the Brazilian Room’s wood-and-stone hall, which leads into the patio, which in turn flows into a vast lawn, garden beds and tree-covered hills. For facilities supervisor Michael McNally, “being outoors in a really nice setting” is a recipe for making events on the patio special.

From its lofty Saratoga perch, the Mountain Winery overlooks picturesque Silicon Valley and the rolling hills that surround it. The winery is a popular destination for concerts, wine tastings, rock climbing and, of course, private outdoor events. As for the most spectacular spot on the 600-acre property? “Our Chateau Deck pretty much hangs off the mountain,” says Jeremy Rydza, director of corporate sales. And with an on-site catering team, the Mountain Winery also strives to satisfy the taste buds.

The Peninsula JCC in Foster City, which tied for first place in the South Bay/Peninsula, has outdoor spaces to satisfy almost everyone’s tastes. Kick a ball around the artificial turf field or, if you’re adventurous, scamper around in a life-size hamster ball. In the garden, picnic tables are surrounded by palm trees and beds of tropical plants. And if you can’t take the heat but are compelled to celebrate outdoors, head for the pool.

The Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross is a nonprofit organization that brings art, horticulture and history enthusiasts together in the North Bay. The center’s facilites are also a popular setting for outdoor events, with the lush greenery and flower beds providing a backdrop for weddings and other celebrations.

In second place were Dunsmuir House in Oakland and Compass Rose Gardens in Bodega Bay.

 

 1st Place

San Francisco

Congregation Beth Sholom

(415) 221-8736

www.bethsholomsf.org

East Bay

Brazilian Room

Berkeley

(510) 544-3164

www.brazilianroom.org

South Bay/Peninsula

The Mountain Winery

Saratoga

(408) 741-2822

www.mountainwinery.com

Peninsula JCC

Foster City

(650) 212-7522

www.pjcc.org

North Bay

Marin Art & Garden Center

Ross

(415) 455-5260

www.magc.org

 

 2nd Place

East Bay

Dunsmuir House

Oakland

(925) 275-9490

www.dunsmuir.org

North Bay

Compass Rose Gardens

Bodega Bay

(707) 875-2343

www.compassrosegardens.com

Place for a bar/bat mitzvah party

Walking off of the bimah after completing a bar or bat mitzvah is a fantastic feeling, but the fun doesn’t end there. Next up is good food, great company and the Electric Slide. Enjoy the view from that raised chair!

At the JCC of San Francisco, bar or bat mitzvah kids and more than 400 of their guests can celebrate in style surrounded by elegant table settings, textured walls, and lights in Kanbar Hall. Bands or DJs have plenty of room to fill the night with danceble beats on the full-sized stage. If more intimate celebrations are your style, Fisher Family Hall is a bright, contemporary space made for dining and dancing. Frosted glass walls add a unique touch to the space.

Every bar and bat mitzvah wants a party that’s out of this world and, luckily, Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland can make that wih come true. After a show at the planetarium, guests can enjoy dinner in one of the exhibition halls, followed by some good old-fashioned party time. What that means, says marketing and events coordinator Dave Fong, is open to interpretation. “We get creative, but we tailor it to the family,” he says, which has meant posing in the Beyond Blastoff photo booth, Rock Band matches on the 60-foot Dome Theater screen and dancing under the stars. 

Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, which tied with Chabot, has seen its share of b’nai mitzvah. Celebrations can take place in the upstairs or downstairs event room, depending on how big the bash. The upstairs space is larger and more formal — but, says administrative assistant Kathy Hollander, the decor still allows the girl or boy of the evening to make the room their own. Friends, family and other congregants sometimes pitch in with decorations and cooking, which makes for great bonding time, Hollander says.

Only five years old, the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos is at a ripe age for hosting bar and bat mitzvahs. The site has several locations perfect for this coming of age shindig, including the 4,000-square-foot auditorium and the gymnasium. With low rental prices and flexibility in terms of catering (outside caterers can bring in non-kosher food, with the exception of pork or shellfish), this Silicon Valley locale would be the perfect spot for your next Hava Negillah.

The Sheraton Palo Alto, which tied with the JCC, is just a stone’s throw away from Stanford University. In the center of the hotel’s three-piece event room is a glass-ceilinged piazza accented with Spanish tile, arches and mirrors. On either side are areas for dining and shmoozing. A glass wall leads to a serene garden and koi pond. Events usually have creative themes, says catering director Karen Bowne. But the key ingredient for success? “Our staff is great. They’ve been here for a long time,” Browne says.

In the North Bay, j. readers said the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael satisfied all their b’nai mitzvah needs. With its parquet floor and elegant chandeliers, the center’s large event room works well for elegant celebrations, says event manager Pam Day. As for catering options, the center’s own cafe, Mangia Nosh, is just steps away. For more intimate gatherings, three other rooms can be joined together or partitioned off, allowing bar and bat mitzvah kids to revel with their friends while the adults shmooze in an adjacent room.

In second place were Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco, Diablo Country Club in Diablo and Marin Country Club in Novato.

 

 1st Place

San Francisco

JCC of San Francisco

(415) 292-1269

www.jccsf.org

East Bay

Chabot Space & Science Center

Oakland

(510) 336-7421

www.chabotspace.org

Beth Jacob Congregation

Oakland

(510) 482-1147

www.bethjacoboakland.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Addison-Penzak JCC

Los Gatos

(408) 357-7402

www.svjcc.org

Sheraton Palo Alto

Palo Alto

(650) 328-2800

www.starwoodhotels.com

North Bay

Osher Marin JCC

San Rafael

(415) 444-8000

www.marinjcc.org

 

 2nd Place

San Francisco

Congregation Sherith Israel–Newman Hall

(415) 346-1720

www.sherithisrael.org

East Bay

Diablo Country Club

Diablo

(925) 837-4221

www.diablocc.com

North Bay

Marin Country Club

Novato

(415) 382-6700

www.marincountryclub.com

Kosher caterer

No offense to your bubbe, but kosher cuisine looks and tastes a lot different these days. These winning caterers stay on top of the latest trends in food while maintaining the laws of kashrut, capturing the hearts — and stomachs — of j. readers.

Though it has been open only since December 2009, Amba in Oakland’s Montclair District already tastes like success (the kind wrapped in warm pita and with a side of hummus). The restaurant’s kosher catering service has been a hit at parties and events. The menu is flexible, too. “We allow you to work with our team,” says chef Jared Schulman. “We want to give you what you want.”

At Too Caterers in Palo Alto, it’s not just about good food, it’s about good-looking food. For almost 19 years, the subsidiary of Continental Caterers has been dedicated to delivering “interesting, on-the-cusp kosher catering,” says manager Wendy Kleckner. The company is not only serious about food quality — only the healthiest, Kleckner says — but also about presentation and service. “I want it to have a certain awe-factor,” she says. “You’ve got to surprise [the customer] each time.”

Park Avenue Catering may sound like it belongs in New York, but the dishes whipped up in this Cotati kitchen have a distinct local flavor. The certified green caterer uses local produce and sustainable meats, composts and minds its carbon footprint. It also accomodates kosher, pareve, glatt and nonkosher dishes. Owner and chef Bruce Riezenman’s philosophy is simple: “We will take the food we love, or the client loves, and figure out how to do it kosher.” That translates into “contemporary and creative” dishes.

Got room for seconds? Coming in second place were Oakland Kosher, Dina’s Kosher Catering in South San Francisco and Wine Country Kosher in Santa Rosa.

 

 1st Place

East Bay

Amba

Oakland

(510) 339-8000

www.ambafalafel.com

South Bay/Peninsula

Too Caterers

Palo Alto

(650) 322-4189

www.continentalcaterer.com

North Bay

Park Avenue Catering

Cotati

(707) 793-9645

www.parkavecater.com

 

 2nd Place

East Bay

Oakland Kosher

Oakland

(510) 839-0177

www.oaklandkosherfoods.com

South Bay/Peninsula

Dina’s Kosher Catering

South San Francisco

(650) 827-1309

www.dinaskoshercatering.com

North Bay

Wine Country Kosher

Santa Rosa

(707) 206-8686

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Nonkosher caterer

Let’s face it — not all Jews in the Bay Area keep kosher. Whether your event is a lifecycle ritual, a special anniversary or just an everyday fabulous soirée, these winning caterers can whip up an array of amazing dishes to mark the occasion.

Betty Zlatchin Catering in San Francisco is led by chefs who have worked in some of the city’s best restaurants (Zuni and Quince, for example). But it’s not just the chefs who are high-quality. “What makes us special is the team we have working with us,” Zlatchin says, giving high praise to all of her employees and staff.

Italian Colors caters 200 events per year, customizing menus for nearly all of them. The Oakland-based catering business is an offshoot of Italian Colors Restaurant, which owner Steve Montgomery opened 18 years ago. He says the most-requested catered entrée is green scarves lasagna, ricotta cheese–stuffed spinach pasta.

Specializing in upscale California cuisine, Continental Catering cooks up innovative fare. “We’re always looking for new ideas, for example new food presentations and new grains,” says owner Paul Alexander, who is based in Palo Alto. “We do events ranging from nine people to as many as 1,200 or 1,500 for a sit-down meal.”

Delicious! Catering’s name also happens to be one of the company’s guiding principles. “Our philosophy is that by starting with top-quality raw materials, and having a talented chef, the food we produce will be of top quality as well,” says founding partner Jan Goldberg. She says Delicious! Catering is the first green-certified catering company in Marin County — and the only company that uses Goldberg’s grandmother’s recipes, including cheese blintzes, brisket, kugel and chopped liver.

In second place were Sweet Jo’s of San Francisco, Hugh Groman Catering of Berkeley, Cassis Catering of Redwood City and Mangia Nosh of San Rafael.

 1st Place

San Francisco

Betty Zlatchin Catering

(415) 641-8599

www.bettyzlatchin.com

East Bay

Italian Colors

Oakland

(510) 530-0465

www.italiancolorsrestaurant.com

South Bay/Peninsula

Continental Caterers

Palo Alto

(650) 322-4189

www.continentalcaterer.com

North Bay

Delicious! Catering

San Rafael

(415) 453-3710

www.deliciouscatering.com

 

 2nd Place

San Francisco

Sweet Jo’s

JCCSF

(415) 345-0090

www.sweetjoscafe.com

East Bay

Hugh Groman Catering

Berkeley

(510) 647-5165

www.hughgromancatering.com

South Bay/Peninsula

Cassis Catering

Redwood City

(650) 261-1650

www.cassiscatering.com

North Bay

Mangia Nosh

San Rafael

(415) 472-2894

www.mangianosh.com

DJ

The hora, the macarena, the YMCA: All of these dances have become an essential part of a celebration. Whether it’s about twisting and shouting with the Isley Brothers or jumping up and down like all of those girls with Bieber Fever, a top-notch disc jockey really knows how to get the party started — and keep it going. All of our Readers’ Choice winning DJs travel throughout the Bay Area.

With 40 DJs on staff, Denon & Doyle handles an average of 700 weddings and 300 b’nai mitzvahs a year and prides itself on delivering a superior product. “We have a lot of quality control — we audition, train and retrain our employees, and host frequent workshops,” says general manager Dan Ohrman. In addition to offering entertainment packages, including emcees and dancers, Denon & Doyle also can provide photo booths and greenscreens.

 Joel Abramson Entertainment is not only where people go for klezmer music, but is also a Readers’ Choice winner for favorite DJ. Abramson and his five DJs spin at weddings and b’nai mitzvahs throughout the Bay Area — and even in Israel! The musical selection includes tunes from the 1920s onward, and a collection of music from around the world.

For 15 years, AMS Entertainment has gotten partygoers out of their seats and on to the dance floor. AMS has seven DJs on staff. “When you work with AMS, you do not only work with DJs, but you also have a full-time staff in the office that will ensure your event is a hit,” says customer service manager Alexander Hansen.

In second place were Alan Waltz Entertainment and Fiz-Nik Rick.

 

 1st Place

East Bay

Denon & Doyle

Pleasant Hill

(800) 944-9585

www.djay.com

South Bay/Peninsula

Joel Abramson Orchestras & Entertainment

(408) 265-7279

www.joelabramson.com

North Bay

AMS Entertainment

Sebastopol

(415) 823-7359

www.amsentertainment.com/santarosa

 

 2nd Place

South Bay/Peninsula

Alan Waltz Entertainment

San Jose

(408) 243-4931

www.alanwaltz.com

North Bay

Fiz-Nik Rick

Cotati

(707) 664-9383

www.fiznikrick.com

 


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