Archives for posts with tag: Berkeley

Markets: 
1. The Berkeley Bowl: The most amazing produce section I’ve ever seen.
2. The Berkeley Bowl West
3. Tuesday Farmer’s Market: Located at Derby St. and MLK Jr. Way
4. Thrusday Farmer’s Market: All organic. Located at Vine st. and Shattuck Ave.
5. Saturday Farmer’s Market: Located at Center st. and MLK Jr. Way
6. Monterey Market

Restaurants:
7. Chez Panisse: Founded by Alice Waters. Serves all local and organic food and started the California Cuisine Revolution.
8. Gregiore Restaurant: French-fusion take out, all organic and seasonal. Great for lunch!
9. The Cheese Board Collective: A worker owned business that is both a pizzeria and cheese store.
10. La Note: Amazing weekend brunch.
11. Thai Buddhist Temple: Thai brunch on sundays as a fundraiser for the temple.
12. Bette’s Oceanview Diner

Bars/Breweries:
13. The Albatross: Berkeley’s oldest pub. It’s super laid back and cozy.
14. The Missouri Lounge
15. Triple Rock Brewery: Awesome beers and tasty bites. Don’t miss Monkey Head night on Thursdays!
16. Jupiter: Handcrafted beers and wood-fired pizza. Enjoy both in their amazing beer garden.

Bakeries:
17. Crixa Cakes
18. The Bread Garden Bakery

Coffee Shops:
19. Elmwood Cafe
20. Peet’s Coffee & Tea: The first location of Peet’s coffee.

Notable: 
21. The Edible Schoolyard: Founded by Alice Waters and located at MLK Jr. Middle School is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom.
22. Michael Pollan: Food author and professor at UC Berkeley.

basil and green pepper seedlings I’m growing a little vegetable garden in front of my apartment. It’s a tiny little plot of earth that I hope will yield a little produce in the coming months. Even though the garden is only about 5’x5′ I’m trying to squeeze as much out of the little space as possible. I’ve planted tomatoes, squash, cucumber, green beans, green pepper, basil, and strawberries.

Today, I transplanted the green pepper, basil, and strawberries that I started from seeds into my garden. I felt like I was sending my kids to college. For the past 5-6 weeks they’ve been living safely in front of a window, indoors. But I today I sent them out into the big world full of snails and who knows what else that could wreak havoc on their tiny leaves. I’m being melodramatic but with such a tiny garden, it’s high stakes. Each plant counts!

This garden is a fun experiment. I don’t have a particularly green thumb and this is my first attempt at growing vegetables. I’m not one of those people that can kill a plant just by looking at it but I do tend to over water and make similar mistakes. When I was little, I tried to plant sunflowers every spring but none of them ever made it.  I would stand over them, in awe of germination and admire their little cotyledon leaves. Inevitably, I would end up petting the little fuzzy leaves. They were just so cute!  But I guess I didn’t pet very gently because I would always end up crushing them. My Mom thought this was hilarious and would have to explain to me through her giggles why my plants weren’t growing. When I told her recently I was planting a vegetable garden, the first thing she said was “Just try not to pet them to death.” vegetable from my gardenI’m trying not  to let my expectations get too high. I am a novice gardener after all, I’m sure there will be mistakes to learn from. But I’m already looking forward to caprese salad with fresh basil and tomatoes, sweet strawberries and cream, and delicious and refreshing cucumber salads. Does anyone have good gardening tips for beginners like myself?

The Mediterranean climate of the Bay Area makes it perfect for ornamental fruit trees. Trees bursting with fresh fruit is a common sight in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, it’s equally common to see piles of rotting fruit beneath the trees. Waste annoys me (plus free food is awesome), so I usually gather what I can from branches that hang over the sidewalk (the law states that any fruit on branches growing over the sidewalk are public). I’m a novice at urban foraging – you won’t find me eating dandelions or acorns – but who would turn down locally grown, free, fresh fruit?

Like growing your own food, I think there’s something equally liberating about finding it in your environment. My first foraging expeditions were with my Mom, when I was small. In the fall we would pick up pecans that grew in a field near our house. Since then I’ve been gathering food from my environment whenever I come across it.olives

My most recent foraging haul was from a mission olive tree around the corner from my house, right next to the Buddhist Temple. Mission olives are a black olive that were originally brought to California by Franciscan missionaries. I’ve been waiting for the fruit to ripen for the last few weeks and been doing some research on how to cure the olives. An unfortunate taste-test taught me that olives ARE NOT edible right off the tree. It was indescribably bitter.

There are many ways to cure or ferment olives to make them ready for consumption, but the method that seemed most appropriate for this type of olive is dry curing. Basically, you pack them in salt for a month. Here’s how to do it:

Dry Cured Mission Olives:

Materials: Crate or box, burlap or cheese cloth, salt, and ripe mission olives (dark purple to black).

1. First, make slits in your crate or box, if it doesn’t already have slits.

2. Line the crate with burlap or cheese cloth. Secure in place.

3. Pour in a layer of salt, then put in a layer of olives. Continue until you’ve covered all the olives in salt.

4. Put the crate over a basin to catch the moisture, or put it outside where it won’t get rained on.

5. Wait one week, then dump the contents of the crate into another container. Shake well and return to original crate. Remove any damaged or rotten olives.

6. Repeat step five every 3 days-1 week for 4-6 weeks. The olives are cured when they are shriveled and smaller in size.

7. Separate the olives from the salt.

8. Dunk the olives in boiling water for thirty seconds. This melts the waxy covering on the olives.

9. Dry overnight.

10. Mix with olive oil and spices and refrigerate.

Dry cured olives

These directions are assuming you harvested a large crop of olives. I followed these same directions on a smaller scale. I used a plastic take-out box instead of a crate and cut slits in the bottom of the container and gave it some air holes on the top.  I set it on a cookie sheet to catch drips, the whole thing fit comfortably on top of my fridge. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Update: The preserved salted lemons turned out pretty amazing. Salty and sour with a note of cinnamon. Expect some recipes with these tasty pickles soon!

cast iron panCast Iron pans, oh how I love you!  I use my cast iron pans everyday-twice a day. I find them invaluable for their versatility and even, consistent heating. They are definitely in the top five of my most essential cooking tools. (In case you’re wondering, the other four are: a wooden spoon, big pot, sharp knife, and measuring cup.)

Cast Iron has been a basic and indispensable cooking implement for hundreds of years but I’ve come to realize a lot of folks are unfamiliar with basic care and upkeep. My Mom told me that she “ruined” the pans she received for her wedding by soaking them in water. I put “ruined” in quotes because you can actually revive rusted pans. The Kitchn has a great article on how to re-season your pans. Some basic rules for cast iron:

  • Keep it greasy! (well-seasoned pans are non-stick and have a shiny surface)
  • Don’t clean it with soap (it removes the seasoning)
  • Don’t put it in the dish-washer
  • Don’t use steel wool (use salt as an abrasive)

Cast Iron pans are pretty cheap, especially if you find one at a thrift store or yard sale. I just picked one up for $20 at flea market here in Berkeley. Plus, they’ll last a lifetime and can be passed on from generation to generation.

One of my favorite things to cook in my small cast iron pan in cornbread.  Cornbread cooks so evenly and browns beautifully in cast iron and it somehow feels more authentic (I imagine southern ladies of olden’ times making their cornbread the same way.)  The cornbread recipe that I’ve been using is both simple and delicious. It comes together quickly and is easy whip up while you’re in the midst of cooking the rest of your meal.

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tbs melted butter
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients
  3. In another bowl whisk eggs, milk, and butter together
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients until well-blended.
  5. Cook for 25 minutes (or until a knife comes out clean and the top is slightly brown)

My birthday was this past week and my sweetie took me out for a lovely dinner at Gather Restaurant in Berkeley. Gather specializes in local and organic Californian Cuisine that can satisfy everyone, from vegan to carnivore. With such a commitment to sustainability you might think they would be a little precious about their food (tiny servings, weird combinations) but Gather does sustainable gourmet that delights your taste buds and leaves you with a full belly and a smile.

Andrew and I split an appetizer, entree, salad, and dessert and It was more than enough food for us both. We started off with mushroom bruschetta which was surprisingly rich and extreamly flavorful.  For the main course we ordered roasted duck with pesto on a bed of duck sausage and pureed artichoke. The duck was so tender and the flavors so complex that I had to close my eyes to concentrate on the taste. The kale salad with roasted carrots, capers, and almonds was a perfect complement to the duck. For dessert we had hazelnut chocolate cake with cashew-cinnamon “ice cream.”  The meal was truly amazing and I enjoyed every mouthwatering bite.

Along with the amazing dinner we had a few fancy cocktails. Delicious dinner, yummy drinks and great company: what more could a girl want on her birthday? Dinner at Gather was real treat. If your looking for a nice evening out in the Bay Area, I recommend you give it a try!

North Carolina with fork and spoonLiving in the Bay Area is amazing but I miss North Carolina. I was born and raised in North Carolina and moved to the Bay Area after college. The Bay Area has some of the best and most diverse food in the world, but to to remedy homesickness I make southern food. There’s nothing more comforting than fried chicken in my book.

I’m more of Southern chef now that I live in California than I ever was in NC. I never made cornbread or fried chicken when I was living in back home. (Granted, I didn’t do much cooking at all in college.) In NC, southern food is the norm; if anything, it’s harder to avoid than find. Here in the Bay Area it’s quite the opposite. Obviously, it’s not the South but there are a lot of us here! You would think it would be easier to find a good buttermilk biscuit in this town. Sheesh.

When I picked up my CSA box this week I was excited to see that collard greens were included. Then I noticed the potatoes and remember that I had some chicken in the fridge and I knew then what must be done… fried chicken, with collard greens, and mashed potatoes! Heck yes!

Fried Chicken

Did I mention I love fried chicken? Because I L-O-V-E fried chicken. After being a vegetarian for almost six years it was fried chicken that brought me back. I’m still learning how to fry chicken but I must say this was a pretty delicious attempt. The mash potatoes were creamy and soothing and the collards were the perfect complement. It tasted like home. My southern boy was happy too; he didn’t stop smiling the whole way through dinner.

What food reminds you of home?

A friend of mine recently turned me on to Kombucha, and man do I love it. Kombucha is a tangy, refreshing, and fizzy drink that is professed to be good for your health. There’s a myriad of claims about the drink: it’s supposed to be good for digestion, detoxify your body, and raise your energy levels. I’m not here to attest to any of those claims, but I do think it is an amazing beverage.

Kombucha BrewKombucha is fermented sweet tea that is cultured with a solid mat of yeast and bacteria known as a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or sometimes refereed to as the kombucha “mother.”  The Kombucha “mother” is a wonderfully icky thing that looks a lot like a jellyfish. The bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar and produce acid, so the final product is not sweet but tart.

There are several commercial brands of Kombucha on the market, but they’re pricey, usually $3.50-$5. After doing some reading on the subject, I decided to brew my own. Home-brewing Kombucha isn’t a complicated process. Once you acquire a scoby, all you need is sweet tea and some glassware. In my first batch, the Kombucha paid for itself. ($16 dollars of equipment for 7 bottles!)

Finding a scoby is a little tricky, I searched a few weeks before I found someone on craigslist to give me one (I traded a scoby for a painting.) You can order them online but I preferred to find one locally. Every time you brew a batch of Kombucha the “mother” culture forms a “daughter.” So after you finally hunt down a “mother” and begin brewing, you’ll end-up with more cultures than you can give away. The cultures propagate so quickly a friend of mine joked that he suspected Kombucha is actually an alien conspiracy to take over the world. (You really have to see these things, the scoby does look like a weird science experiement. My boyfriend doesn’t like to stand too close to the jar that’s brewing in our kitchen.)

If I haven’t scared you off,  here’s what you need to brew your own kombucha:

  1. Scoby or “mother”
  2. One gallon glass jar (Never use metal!)
  3. One gallon of good water
  4. Six tea bags: black, green, or white. (Don’t use the flavored stuff.)
  5. One cup sugar
  6. Cloth to cover the jar
  7. Bottles for the brewed Kombucha.

Here’s how ya’ do it: Make sure everything you use to brew and bottle is clean, clean clean!

How to do it

There are a vast number of tutorials and how-tos on the web, if you’re ready to brew. The Happy Herbalist has detailed the ins-and-outs of brewing. If you’re in the Bay Area, I’d be happy to share one my scobys with you! Just shoot me an email.

Have a great weekend everyone!

It has taken a year and half of living in California for me to work up the courage to try new produce. Growing up in North Carolina, there was not nearly the variety of fruits and vegetables that there is here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing fruits and veggies in NC, but they are much more seasonal and not nearly as diverse.  There is produce at the Berkeley Bowl that I have never in my life laid eyes upon, much less eaten. Most of the time I suspiciously peer at the alien fruits and veggies, keeping a safe distance, before I head over to select some apples and carrots. But this weekend I decided to buck up some courage and buy some of these unfamiliar fruits.

After contemplating a table of very interesting and exotic looking fruit I choose a horned melon, a dragon fruit, and cherimoya. Admittedly, I choose the dragon fruit and horned melon for their visual appeal. I knew I was going to draw them for Illustrated Bites and I couldn’t help but select the most eye catching fruit. I had heard of cherimoya before and decided to try one, even though it wasn’t as flashy as the other two.

Horned MelonThe first fruit that I sliced open was the horned melon. The interior of the fruit is bright green transparent packets of juice, similar in texture to citrus but much more slimy. The flavor of the flesh is slightly sweet. I thought it tasted similar to a cucumber, while my sweetie thought it tasted somewhat like kiwi. I read that the peel is edible but I don’t know why you would try to eat something covered in spikes.

Dragon FruitThe dragon fruit has a beautiful white, juicy interior speckled with tiny black seeds. To eat it you slice it half lengthwise and run a spoon the circumference of the section to remove the flesh from the peel. You can then lift the white part out and slice it. The peel is not edible. I found dragon fruit to be quite tasty but subtle. It was refreshing, crunchy, and only slightly sweet.

Cherimoya I was excited to try the cherimoya after reading a little about them. They are also known as a custard apple and Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to man.” To eat it you simply slice it in half and spoon out the interior. Don’t eat the seeds though, they are poisonous. The cherimoya was very sweet with a bananaish flavor and texture. It was a little too sweet for me, though after doing some reading the one I chose may have been over-ripe.

Overall I’m glad I’ve started to branch out from my usual apples and oranges. However, I don’t think I’ll purchase these particular fruit again. I found them more pleasing to the eye than the palate.  It was a fun taste test but no new favorites yet.

Thai Brunch

Berkeley has many culinary treasures but one of my favorite is brunch at the Thai Buddhist Temple. It is a unique experience that draws a huge crowd every Sunday.  Thai brunch is a fundraiser for the temple but it has become a Berkeley institution. It is extremely popular and tops the list of places to take visitors to give them a real Berkeley experience.

The food is served cafeteria style in a courtyard behind the temple. There is a wide selection to choose from and it is all tasty and cheap. Tents, folding tables, and chairs make up the dining area but it is often so crowded that diners spill into the front yard to sit in the grass.  It is a bit chaotic but it’s a lot of fun.  The temple is tucked in a neighborhood in South Berkeley and I am lucky enough to live around the corner!

This weekend my friends Stephanie and Dakota came over from San Francisco to have a taste of Thailand with me. We got there late, so there were long lines and they were starting to run out of entrees but we were still able to get a good selection of vegetarian curries. Seating was limited, so we took the food back to my apartment to enjoy it on the back porch. It has been unseasonably warm and sunny, so it was a great day for some porch sittin’. The lovely weather and sharing good food with friends made for an excellent Sunday.

If you’re ever in Berkeley on Sunday, I recommend you swing by the temple and give Thai Brunch a try!

Curries

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