“In honor of Dia de los Muertos, the Berkeley eatery blossoms with hundreds of marigolds and hand-painted calavera window decorations. On the night of November 1, party into the night with DJ Jose Ruiz spinning a collection of “death-themed” Latin music.”
This past Friday night, a member our Comal family was brutally assaulted while returning home after his shift at work. Oscar Castaneda has been an important member of our line cook team for the past 2 years, bringing both valued skills and a smile to the job nightly.
After exiting the Ashby BART station, and only one block away from his apartment, two armed men jumped Oscar from behind, savagely punched and kicked him, robbed him of his possessions, discharged a bullet into the back of his neck and left him for dead. Oscar didn’t even know what had hit him. By a stroke of luck, the bullet lodged behind his ear while missing his spine, arteries and other vital organs. Thankfully there was a swift response from Berkeley police and paramedics that were called to the scene by concerned neighbors. Oscar received great care and after one day, has already been discharged from the hospital to begin what is expected to be a swift and complete recovery.
We often talk at lineup about the dangers that restaurant and bar workers face, leaving work late at night and alone, and the importance of having extra awareness of one’s surroundings when heading home. We’ve since learned that there were two similar assaults committed the previous Thursday night in the area around the Ashby BART station. It appears that the same two perpetrators have been preying on pedestrians that leave the station on foot alone at night. While Oscar has been told by the Berkeley Police that they know who the criminals are, they are as of now still not in custody.
It appears that Oscar was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any of those among us in the restaurant and bar industry that work similar hours could have found ourselves targeted under similar circumstances, and perhaps not have been so lucky. It will be difficult for Oscar to overcome the psychological trauma, but he is committed to resuming the routine of his life prior to this shocking disruption. In regards to the more mundane hurdles, we are asking the restaurant community to help us rally around Oscar. He was stripped of his knife roll, backpack, phone and the contents of his wallet including a few hundred dollars, and is now facing some daunting medical bills to add insult to injury. We have set up a Go Fund Me page in his name, with the hopes that our restaurant industry friends will recognize that “there, but for the grace of God, go they”, and that they will help to lighten the burden for Oscar as he puts his life back together.
On Tuesday, August 22nd, Comal will welcome Lucia Gonzales of Del Maguey Mezcals for a special dinner showcasing five of Del Maguey’s offerings paired with a menu of Oaxaca-inspired dishes by Comal’s executive chef Matt Gandin. Dinner guests will have the opportunity to engage in conversation with Lucia and learn first-hand about her extensive experience in the world of agave spirits.
Lucia developed a passion for spirits while working as a bartender at several Bay Area bars including Luka’s, Flora, the Hotsy Totsy Club, Starline Social Club, and Prizefighter. Always eager to expand her knowledge of spirit production, Lucia developed a slight obsession for agave spirits during her nearly five-year tenure at Prizefighter. This passion for mezcal led her to join Del Maguey as the West Coast “juez” (ambassador) in 2015, where she now oversees the juez team nationally.
Del Maguey was established in the 1990’s by Ron Cooper, who is credited with singlehandedly developing the market for single village mezcal in the United States. Since founding the company, Ron has developed relationships with legendary “palenqueros” across the Mexican state of Oaxaca. At present, Del Maguey offers over twenty distinct mezcals made from a diverse variety of cultivated and wild-harvested agaves – all crafted with traditional, centuries-old techniques in small villages across Oaxaca.
This is the latest in Comal’s “Abajo Dinner Series”, an ongoing series of producer dinners (previous dinners have featured Don Amado Mezcal, Mezcal Vago, wine companies like Bedrock, Arnot-Roberts, Unti, and Wind Gap and beer companies like Fieldwork, Henhouse and Social among others) held in Comal’s private dining room, Abajo. All previous events have sold out in advance.
DATE/TIME: Tuesday August 22nd at 6:30pm
PRICE: Tickets are $75 (inclusive of food, mezcals and service charge)
RESERVATIONS: Space is limited – to purchase tickets, follow this link: https://www.ticketfly.com/event/1531305
Santo Domingo Albarradas
Papalote de Puebla
Guacamole, chips and three salsas
Sweet corn-poblano chile soup epazote oil
Beef barbacoa tacos charred Early Girl tomato salsa
Flan Tradicional fresh blackberries