Lauren Feldman and Shawn Mead started thinking about a business like Vif, their new "community-minded" cafe and wine shop in Fremont, when they became friends working at Campagne in the '90s. In the past decade, they've had many adventures—Shawn became the national sales representative for a wine importer called Louis/Dressner Selections in New York, and Lauren worked as a personal chef for a count and countess who owned a tablecloth given to them by Mussolini. Reunited, they opened Vif in a former Herfy's with huge wraparound windows that Lauren calls "their fishbowl."

When I stopped by, Shawn and Lauren were busily preparing for one of their regular collaborative pop-ups, a fried oyster dinner with the Walrus and the Carpenter. Vif sells wine by the bottle and by the glass, and offers a rotating selection of soups and small plates. They make their own shrubs, which are fruit vinegars that get mixed with soda, and—Nutella addicts will be thrilled to hear—their own dark chocolate hazelnut spread. Lauren was excited about their winter menu's chicken salad tartine, because she plans to serve stock made from the chicken carcasses—possibly by the glass. "We have stuff that hearkens to what you would eat at home," said Shawn. "You don't feel like you're killing yourself with weird fat." I tried one of Vif's honey marshmallows. Dipped in dark chocolate and dusted with orange sugar, it was like a sophisticated marshmallow Peep. recommended