Author Archive | Edible East Bay

California Wineries

The Unknown Vineyards of Contra Costa County

Story by Derrick Schneider
Photos by Melissa Schneider

Viognier grapes at Tom Powers’s vineyard

Imagine an upstart winemaker fleeing Contra Costa County’s prestigious but high-priced vineyards for the dirt-cheap farmland in the unknown Napa Valley. In the early twentieth century, Martinez and Oakley, not Rutherford and St. Helena, were darlings of the wine world. The Christian Brothers winery was in Martinez, the world’s largest wine cellar was Winehaven in Richmond, and 6,000 acres were under vine.

Farm conditions were ideal for wine grapes. Sandy soil drained the light rainfall quickly, and vines stressed themselves in their quest for water, which in turn led to character-rich fruit. Hot days ripened the grapes, but each night the Sacramento River Delta took a deep breath of cold air off San Francisco Bay, pushing the temperature down 30 degrees and allowing the fruit to maintain that acidity that sizzles across a taster’s tongue. A maze of microclimates, formed by the folds of hills and the dips of valleys in the county’s center, fostered a number of grape varieties.

The environmental factors that shape Contra Costa fruit haven’t changed. But the area’s reputation has slid into a gully of anonymity.… Read More

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Tortillas

Mexico’s Daily Bread

Story by Romney Steele | Photos by Gwendolyn Meyer

Named by the Spanish, this flat, unleavened corn bread is used for many of the dishes we’ve come to know and love as Mexican food: tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and many other antojitos (snack foods). Not unlike unleavened breads from other cultures, in Mexico, the tortilla is commonly used like a utensil to sop up the sauce from a rich mole or stew or to scoop up beans or a main course. When fried, it is the crispy undergarment for tostadas, and when hand-formed, it becomes a thick, boat-like vessel for shredded meats and vegetables in regional specialties. Tortillas can be layered in casseroles and pies and used as wrappers for a variety of fillings. They can even be ground and used as a natural thickener or reshaped into dumplings. The tortilla, in all its guises, is Mexico’s everyday fast food, served at every meal and in every household. In short, it plays the central role in Mexican cuisine.

Traditionally, tortillas are made from dried white corn that has been soaked and cooked with slaked lime, then stone-ground and kneaded into masa (dough). With the addition of fat, usually lard, this becomes the dough for tamales.… Read More

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Contents Fall 2006

 

On the Cover:
“Backyard Pears” by Cheryl Koehler

EDITOR’S MIXING BOWL

AFTERTASTES
Letters to the Editor

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Life, Death & Bialys
Ripe For Change

ON GLEANING  

TORTILLAS
Mexico’s Daily Bread        

OH NUTS!

WHAT’S IN SEASON        

SEASONAL RECIPES
By Peter Chastain, Executive Chef at Prima

TAPEO BY THE BAY

THE UNKNOWN VINEYARDS OF CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

 

 

 

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On Gleaning

Story and Photos by Cheryl Koehler

 

glean (glēn), v.t & v.i. [ M.E. glenen; OFr. glener; LL. glennare < Celt.; cf. OIr. dīgleinn, he gleans] 1. to collect (grain left by reapers). 2. to collect the remaining grain (from a field). 3. to collect (facts etc.) gradually or bit by bit. (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

The heat and dust of a Fresno Summer were as thick as the Elberta peaches hanging in David Mas Masumoto’s orchard the morning I arrived with a gang of 20 Berkeley Slow Foodies to harvest. With such a vast force of pickers, we easily stripped 1,600 peaches from our six adopted trees, packing them neatly into 100 standard fruit boxes—all before noon. Nothing else was planned but the long drive home, and no one wanted to get back in the car, so we passed another hour lolling about under the leafy canopy, renewing old friendships and making new acquaintances.

As this socializing mood settled over the orchard, I saw that one individual of our group was still at work. Les Blank, a Berkelean known best among local foodies for his 1981 independent film classic Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers, was bent down picking up peaches that had fallen to the ground.… Read More

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Ripe for Change

David Mas Masumoto

Plenty of books on sustainable agriculture have come out in recent years, but if you’ve been waiting for the movie, it’s here. Acclaimed Bay Area documentary filmmakers Jed Riffe and Emiko Omori have produced Ripe for Change, an insightful look at efforts to change the culture of farming in California to a more sustainable model. Ripe for Change introduces us to those farmers, scientists, noted authors, chefs, and instructors who are taking steps toward creating a community in which sustainable agriculture is possible.

Linda Hunt’s emotive narration leads us to the picturesque farmlands in California’s celebrated growing regions. We hear stories from respected and professional activists in our community, and thus we learn the history behind the farm and produce of the region.

The journey begins at David Mas Masumoto’s farm in Del Rey, California. Mas, who has authored many books, including Epitaph of a Peach, reflects on being a third generation farmer. His organic peach and grape farm is not only a symbol of his parent’s and grandparent’s vision, but of the world he wants for his children. Masumoto explains that his dad was a conventional farmer, but nonetheless concerned about the pesticides and other toxins he used on his crops.… Read More

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Food for Thought

Life, Death & Bialys

Review of a book and a lecture series that ask us to ask why “taste matters”

On September 7, 2006, the Judah L. Magnes Museum of Berkeley inaugurated a year-long lecture series exploring the role of food and drink in Jewish culture. Ron Hendel, a UC Berkeley professor of Jewish Studies, led the series with his talk entitled “Food is Good to Think: Altar and Table in Biblical Religion,” looking at the laws and symbolism of food that have been passed down from Biblical times.

It was a lively hour, during which Hendel laid out a set of questions that could be useful in any discussion of food and culture: The oft-asked “What do we eat?” was joined by “With whom do we eat?” “How do we eat?” and “Where do we eat?” These questions help us understand who we are as individuals and as members of society, and will no doubt be relevant throughout the series.
Lecture number two, which takes place November 30 at 6:30 p.m., is a reading and discussion of Life, Death & Bialys: A Father/Son Baking Story by Dylan Schaffer, a professor at Hastings College of Law and an East Bay resident.… Read More

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After Tastes

Letters to the Editor:

“Berkeley’s food revolution began on the roof of a police car in Sproul Plaza on October 1, 1964” is a catchy introduction to Derrick Schneider’s article “Nowhere Else But Here” in your last issue. Unfortunately, he fails to capture the complex local histories of either politics or food.

Schneider’s thesis appears to be- 1) Berkeley became a magnet for radical “troublemakers” in the 60s; 2) the successes of the student movements (Free Speech Movement, etc.) which they led left them with “a humming energy”; 3) which they translated into a food revolution following the philosophical guidance of Mario Savio.

This is a clever construction, but I think the roots of this revolution go much further back than 1964. The Bay Area has enjoyed a century and a half of a vibrant culinary culture. Seafood restaurants like Sam’s and Tadich Grill in the City (and Berkeley’s Spenger’s before it faded), and dozens of Chinese, Italian, and French restaurants set high standards and educated our palates. Long before Acme and Semifreddi, we had the wonderful sourdough breads of San Francisco. Pioneers of the wine industry were producing excellent wines since the 1930s. Books like Doris Muscatine’s “A Cook’s Tour of San Francisco”, published in 1963, and restaurant and food guides produced by various authors over the years attested to the widespread interest in the subject.… Read More

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Editors Mixing Bowl

The first book of seasons at Edible East Bay is complete. One year ago, Edible Communities Inc. commissioned us to create a magazine that “celebrates the abundance of local foods, season by season.” We have not been slack in our duty, and after a whole year of celebrating, it almost feels reductive to honor a mere anniversary.

However, I, for one, am not about to pass up the opportunity to toast. With this Fall 2006 issue, I propose we lift a glass of Alameda County or Contra Costa County wine to the occasion.
“Contra Costa wine,” you ask?

That was just what Derrick Schneider said when I suggested he look into eastern Contra Costa County wine growing and wine making. The results are surprising. You might want to flip right away to page 38 to find out why. Then click here for another east county surprise—the East Bay pecan. Also from the east county area comes some revelry over our local persimmons and pomegranates by Contra Costa Farmers’ Markets merchant Barbara Kobsar. Following her article are several recipes from Peter Chastain, Executive Chef at Prima in Walnut Creek. Don’t miss the magic of those fruits on his Autumn menus at Prima.… Read More

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Contents Winter 2007

 

 FEATURES

VINEYARDS IN BERKELEY?

IN MEMORY OF LAURA JANE TRENT

MY BEAUTIFUL GROCERY STORE
A Grower’s Valentine to Monterey Market

WALKING THE TALK
An Interview with Brian Kenny

A DAY IN A LIFE FULL OF CHOCOLATE

FLAVOR MOST FOWL
A Chicken Saga

DEPARTMENTS

EDITOR’S MIXING BOWL

CUISINE IN TRANSLATION
Jewish Life in Food

URBAN FORAGER
Matsu=Pine, Take=Mushroom

WHAT’S IN SEASON
Kiwi Fruit & Citrus

SEASONAL RECIPES
By Chef Curtis DeCarion of Café Esin

ROADSIDE DIARIES
Sierra Adventures: Part I

COVER: CUPCAKES By Anita Chu

 

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Editor’s Mixing Bowl

Like the majority of people living in the United States today, I do not walk the path of need in my daily existence. I’m driven by motivations to achieve and prosper, which generally involve sifting through myriad options rather than grasping to fill basic requirements.

And so on an afternoon when I was heading into Berkeley Bowl to procure materials needed to test a recipe for this magazine, I was momentarily stumped by the question being sent aloft by a young man with a manual typewriter, who was positioned just outside the door.

“Do you need a poem?”

No literary materials were on my shopping list, and the only services my current project required would be to convene a panel of tasters for the evaluation phase of the dish I was testing. Poetry is a fine thing to have on hand for some meditative moment, but I was in action mode. So after a curt dismissal of the poet’s offering, I grabbed my cart and entered the fray.

While waiting in the checkout line (by Murphy’s Law the line I choose will always be the slowest), it gradually dawned on me that, as the editor of a magazine whose intent is to represent the breadth of our East Bay food experience, I did indeed need some publishable local food poetry.… Read More

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