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Asparagus Festival Organizers Announce Plans to Save Garlic Festival, Gilroy Organizers Call Claims ‘Malicious’

Plus this South Bay restaurant is closing due to Michelin star stress and more food news

A bunch of asparagus. Shutterstock
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

The organizers of two vegetable-centric Northern California festivals have gotten caught up in a bit of a social media beef. It all started not long ago with Bay Area residents waving goodbye to the Gilroy Garlic Festival after organizers announced plans to cancel the popular annual event “indefinitely” in mid-April. Then on Sunday the Noceti Group, organizers of the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival, announced intentions to try and revive one of Northern California’s stinkiest celebrations via Facebook post.

On Monday, however, Ken Christopher, Executive Vice President of the Christopher Ranch, the nation’s largest garlic company, reached out to Eater SF to say no one on the board of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association had knowledge of the Noceti Group or its plans. “Our community has been through enough and doesn’t need misinformation from those that aren’t affiliated with our annual homecoming,” Christopher wrote in a text. “If the Noceti Group is earnestly trying to have a garlic promotion in their hometown, god bless them. But claiming to bring back the Gilroy Garlic Festival, without comment or cooperation from our association, is malicious.”

The Sacramento Bee first noticed a post on the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival Facebook letting fans know the event group will host the garlic festival themselves. “We heard the extremely sad news that the Gilroy Garlic Festival will not be holding their annual big Garlic festival. We just couldn’t let that happen!” the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival Facebook post from Sunday read before being taken down on Monday morning. “The Noceti Group is thrilled to announce we will be hosting the Garlic Festival this year. More details to come soon!”

But Christopher, who’s also the grandson of Gilroy Garlic Festival founder Don Christopher, says no one on the board of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association has heard of or affiliates with the Noceti Group. “It looks like the group, at best, is ignorantly trying to use a news cycle to promote a future Stockton based garlic event and, at worst, is using the national press surrounding my grandfather’s legacy to self-promote,” he said.

In subsequent post on Monday, the Noceti Group clarified the reason for Sunday’s garlic-related announcement: “When the historic Stockton Asparagus Festival announced it’s [sic] closing, our family saw an opportunity to keep this important community event alive and the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival was the end result. Our announcement about the closing of the Gilroy Garlic Festival closing was a similar disheartening announcement,” the post reads. Eater SF reached out for comment and did not receive any additional information.

Regardless of potential produce-related saviors, the smaller events the original festival organizers have put together in lieu of the big production, such as the golf tournament scheduled to happen on June 24, are still set to run.

Mission Street restaurateurs set to put pizza back in the portfolio

Kenneth and Anna Zankel, who launched fast casual sensation the Grove in 1995, are bringing New York style pizza to downtown. The San Francisco Business Times reports the couple, who have lived blocks away from their Yerba Buena business for 18 years, have taken over the Delfina Pizza location in the area and that one of the head pizza chefs is coming along with the lease. The new venture will be called Empire Pizza and is set to open this summer.

Berkeley police to crack down on double parking

It’s hard to blame any individual driver for the double parking phenomenon, but the Berkeley Police Department plans to do just that. Nosh reports the 2500 block of Durant Avenue has become near gridlock as DoorDash and Uber Eats workers slide in and out of their cars to get the goods from businesses like Top Dog and Thai Basil Cuisine. This coming weekend, drivers in the area looking to use the “I can park anywhere” lights should anticipate extra attention.

South Bay Indian restaurant closes citing Michelin-star pressure

How heavy is the crown, Rasa Owner Ajay Walia might sigh in his restaurant’s closing days. The Chronicle writes that after gaining much acclaim and one Michelin star since opening eight years ago, the Burlingame restaurant will go dark on May 8 only to reopen as a second location of Walia’s more-casual restaurant Saffron.

Black Native herb shop and garden looks to open in Berkeley

Danielle Benjamin grew up in South Berkeley and wants to bring an apothecary to her neighborhood. The project is called Temple of Earth and she’s looking for fundraisers to support the project, so says her Instagram post. She already sells and swaps plant starters and seeds for staples like chamomile, hyssop, broccoli, fennel, and giant red celery.

Update: May 2nd, 2022, 10:45 a.m.: This story has been updated to include statements from a Gilroy Garlic Festival organizer and information from a Facebook post from the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival.