Town Crier: Duchess is welcome addition to Rockridge restaurant


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Chef Candice Caris and co-owner Caroline Conner pose with the regal, handmade front door of Duchess restaurant in Rockridge, which recently opened for business. (Courtesy of Duchess Oakland)

EASTBAYTIMES.COM: December 29, 2016

In the dimly lit days of winter, we look to make human connections. Rockridge strikes me as a good place to do this. College Avenue has a harmonic energy. Shop owners feed off the pulse of folks eager to support homegrown business.

Caroline Conner and Chris Strieter opened Duchess, 5422 College Ave., two weeks ago, and so far, it’s been a love fest. But beyond the holidays, they hope the warm glow will last year-round at this cafe, pub and local watering hole.

“Think comfort food with people you love,” says Conner, a former pastry chef and cooking school instructor. She met Strieter, co-founder of Sonoma County’s Senses Wines, and creative sparks began to fly. They realized they were “winos” at heart, and started looking for a space to create a neighborhood pub.

Enter the shuttered Pizza Rustica Café and its upstairs Conga Lounge tiki bar. The space had been vacant for almost two years and seemed perfect for what Conner and Strieter had in mind. A place where “everyone’s invited, and everyone can stay,” says Strieter. A place for “regulars.”

Central to Duchess is the food, the creative wheelhouse of Chef Candice Caris, who’s cooked at Google, Apple and even a stint as Steve Jobs’ personal chef. Cards is clearly having fun in the open kitchen at Duchess. Try the double-dipped chicken sandwich and the crab fries if you want to see for yourself. For more information, go to: DuchessOakland.com.

Around town: Road rage never felt so good. The Berkeley Rep’s holiday offering through Jan. 15 is an irreverent look at midlife, through the eyes of NPR personality Sandra Tsing Loh. “The Madwoman in the Volvo” gets you revved up from the first interaction, which is an audience group scream directed at Donald Trump. From there, Loh weaves a hilarious, and often biting story of the joys and pitfalls of letting your emotions drive your life. Here’s a video trailer at: https://youtu.be/5oHPMrm-YQ8.

In remembrance: As we close out 2016, I’d like to remember longtime Montclarion Ron English, who died of leukemia Nov. 19. Ron, 73, lived with a tremendous sense of spirit, logging some 70,000 miles on his Harley, with wife Jane tucked behind him. His severe hearing loss never stopped him. In fact, it drew him to Jane, who was already working with the deaf community. “He came to a meeting that I was captioning and he swept me off my feet,” she remembers.

Ron moved to Montclair in the late 1960s, owned Bay Area Contract Carpets for 20 years and built four local homes as a general contractor. He was also an arbitrator for the BBB and the Pacific Stock Exchange for 17 years, and a member of numerous local clubs. He’ll be remembered for his contagious optimism and playful sense of humor.Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at http://www. ginnyprior.com.

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