Author Archive | Edible East Bay

Plant to Plate

Richmond Students Thrive 
in the Kitchen and Garden

Fifteen Richmond high schoolers learned to plant, cook, and arrive on time during a new after-school apprenticeship program that combines gardening, cooking, and job readiness.

“I went outside of my comfort zone to try something new,” says Plant to Plate participant Samuel Solis, now a senior at Middle College High School. Solis appreciated the mindfulness activities at the start of each session, as well as learning how to write his first resume, grow vegetables, follow a recipe, and use an oven.

Plant to Plate is a project of the nonprofit West County DIGS (Developing Instructional Gardens in Schools). Master Gardener Kelli Barram wrote the curriculum and led the teaching, with cooking instruction by Richmond chef Arnon Oren. During twice-weekly sessions over four months, students spent time in the Assemble Restaurant garden adjacent to the Craneway Pavilion and at Oren’s Kitchen, the chef’s eponymous catering business. The students planted radishes, zucchini, and cucumber, and the radishes grew in time for the students to use them in preparing dishes. Next year, organizers hope to start earlier in the fall to allow more time for plant growth.

“The students were interested in learning about nutrition and healthy eating,” says Chef Oren, who taught basic knife skills, simple dishes, and other kitchen fundamentals.… Read More

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Local Art in Bloom at Berkeley Hort

Enjoy art, plants, food, and music at this favorite Berkeley nursery, Aug 26. Read more.

 Apply Now for
Healthy Soils Program GrantsFunding available for California farmers and ranchers. Read more.

 Honey Harvest on the Roof
Watch how it’s done at Alameda Natural Grocery, Aug 24. Read more.
 Fresh Off the Vine

Taste tomatoes at Berkeley’s MariLark Farms, Aug 26. Read more.

 Family Fun at
Rockridge Market HallA 30th anniversary celebration features games, prizes, and cupcake decorating, Aug 26. Read more.
 Thrive Dining Offers
Utensil-Free Meals for Seniors
Public tastings and demos are coming up in the East Bay. Read more.
 Equal Opportunity
Cooking and Eating
Cookbooks can make meal prep easier for people with developmental challenges. Read our book reviews.
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Honey Harvest on the Roof


Join beekeeper Mike Vigo on the rooftop of Alameda Natural Grocery as he extracts the latest batch of honey from their hives. Taste fresh-from-the-hive honeycomb and honey, visit the observation hive, and learn about bees and beekeeping from Vigo of the Bee Ranchers. Once it’s extracted, the honey is bottled, labeled, and on the shelves for sale within a few days.

Read our Spring 2016 story about all the buzz at Alameda Natural Grocery.

Honey Harvest
Thursday August 24, 11am–1pm
Alameda Natural Grocery
1650 Park St, Alameda

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Admiral Maltings


A Terroir for Beer?

Admiral Maltings strives to make Bay Area beer truly local

By Derrick Peterman

It’s a fact that Bay Area brewers preaching “buy local” hate to admit: Their beer may be brewed locally, but the ingredients come from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Much of the barley used for making beer is grown in the Upper Midwest and Canada, with plenty more coming from Europe.

In 2010, Ron Silberstein of San Francisco’s ThirstyBear Organic Brewery wanted to change that. He found a farmer near Sacramento eager to supply him with barley. “I had all this beautiful organic barley from Nigel Walker* of Eatwell Farm,” Silberstein recalls. Problem was, Silberstein couldn’t brew with the grain until it was malted, a process that involves germination to activate enzymes critical for brewing and then drying the grains in a kiln. He wound up sending the barley to a small-batch malting house in Colorado, the closest facility he found available.

“The carbon footprint going into all that was absurd, and so was the price,” says Silberstein, who at least felt gratified that his ThirstyBear Locavore Ale, brewed from this malt, resonated with drinkers at the pub. But it got Silberstein thinking: How might he feasibly brew a true locally sourced beer?… Read More

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Deaf Chefs Compete

Culinary arts instructor Vernon McNece shares a light moment with his students using American Sign Language.

What’s the Sign for Mozzarella Balloon?

Culinary education thrives at
the California School for the Deaf

By Anna Mindess | photos by Nick Wolf

The students’ goal is to create a prize-winning, modernist take on a caprese salad.
(The mozzarella balloon is just to left of and behind the basil leaf.)

High school students dressed in chef’s whites scurry around the kitchen preparing an ambitious Modernist Caprese Salad composed of mozzarella balloons, tomato sorbet, and colorful sliced tomatoes garnished with fried basil leaves, balsamic vinegar pearls, and powdered olive oil. Whenever they struggle with the exacting techniques required for this challenging creation, culinary arts instructor Vernon McNece—who delights in the gels and gadgets of molecular gastronomy—patiently clarifies, demonstrates, and corrects.  

One young woman fries basil leaves in sizzling oil. “Just a few seconds,” cautions McNece, reminding her that thin leaves burn easily. Another budding chef uses a syringe-like device to squeeze droplets of a balsamic vinegar and agar-agar mixture into a tall glass of chilled oil. McNece shows how to position the device at just the right height so the mixture will form little balls that gently sink to the bottom: Too high and the resulting dark pearls will flatten out.… Read More

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They Always Wore Aprons

Lorraine Battle renews a forgotten kitchen tradition

Story and photos By Helen Krayenhoff

“I don’t use an apron.”

Lorraine Battle hears this over and over again as young people walk by the booth where she sells aprons near the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market. Often these same people stop anyway because they are attracted by Lorraine’s smiling, open face or the fabrics she uses.

Then the conversations deepen: “My auntie always wore an apron,” or “My mother has a special one for holiday meals.” Indeed, it seems the women who fed and nurtured them often wore aprons.

Lorraine loves beautiful things, and even more so if they are functional. She told me that aprons evoke ancestral stories, warm memories, and deep emotion. It seems serendipity and coincidence follow Lorraine’s aprons, like recently, when a woman brought Lorraine some special fabric for a custom-made apron. She also brought along some hats from her deceased father that had beautiful buttons she wished to use for the apron’s pockets. When Lorraine delivered the apron, the woman’s mother was there and told about how she had made the buttons on the hats. By coincidence, Lorraine had arrived with the apron on the anniversary of the
father’s death.… Read More

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Roasted Watermelon Radishes

From What’s in Season by Barbara Kobsar  Illustration by Caroline H. Gould


Serves 4

1 pound watermelon radishes, trim off top and root
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon minced thyme, rosemary, or basil (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut prepared radishes into ½-inch wedges. Mix radishes with olive oil in a 2-quart baking dish and dot with butter. Roast, stirring occasionally, until fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and herbs to serve.

Veteran journalist Barbara Kobsar has authored two cookbooks focusing on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. You’ll find her each week at the Walnut Creek Farmers’ Market selling her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies made from farmers’ market produce.

Berkeley-based illustrator and musician Caroline H. Gould is a transplant from Brooklyn, New York. She is especially fond of illustrating desserts.

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Chef Tu David Phu


Chef Tu David Phu prepares a pop-up dinner in the Golden Stateroom.

Flavors of Home

Vietnamese dishes and family stories
come to the pop-up dining table

Story and Photos By Alix Wall

A few months ago at age 32, Chef Tu David Phu was named a “Rising Star Chef” in the San Francisco Chronicle. One could say that Phu’s rise began as this son of Vietnamese immigrants worked under some of the finest chefs in Manhattan—Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, for instance.

But on returning home to Oakland and cooking again in his family home, Phu realized that his mother was an equal inspiration as well as a repository of valuable information, especially when it comes to not wasting food. During the Vietnam War, when supplies were rationed, she learned out of necessity that corn silk could be dried and used as tea or toasted, deep-fried, or sautéed to serve with rice.

“That was a huge turning point for me,” said Phu. “As opposed to looking outward to learn more about food, that’s when I realized I had already learned a lot from my mom.”

Above left: For a first course, oysters on the half-shell were flavored with lime and serrano, plus Vietnamese peppercorns from Phu’s family’s farm in Vietnam.

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What’s in Season?

Story and recipe by Barbara Kobsar
Illustration by Caroline H. Gould

Choosing produce harvested at its peak is your sure bet for flavor and freshness.


Now is the time to buy “shellies” (or “shuckies” or “shellouts,” as shelling beans are sometime called), since you might find some at the “in-betweener” stage at which they are still tender enough to be cooked fresh. At your local farmers’ market, look for fresh speckled cranberry beans (borlotto) and black-eyed peas (cowpeas), as well as pale-green French flageolet, Italian cannellini, and the immature soybeans known as edamame. Left to mature, these same beans will become dried beans, but if you find them now, you’ll know you have the right thing if the pod looks a little dried out but still sports a fresh green stem end. Too green and too fresh means the beans inside are not mature enough to provide optimal flavor and texture. You can refrigerate pods in a plastic bag with a lightly dampened paper towel for a day or two, but shelling as soon as possible is better in order to prevent mildew. If longer storage is necessary, shell the beans and freeze them.


What’s that stubby pear with the short neck, knobby bottom, slightly fuzzy golden skin, and alluringly sweet fragrance?… Read More

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What is a Food Forest?

On Plant Communities and
Food Forests Permaculture concepts in action

By Joshua Burman Thayer

Vicia faba (fava bean) By Susan Tibbon (read more here) Intaglio with pigments Hand-pulled and painted in an edition varee of 50 prints

Plants, like people, thrive in community. As a landscape designer who works with permaculture strategies, I appreciate how nature evolves its plant communities so each member benefits from its associations with the others. That’s valuable knowledge to bring into
the garden.

Permaculture—a term derived from “permanent” and “agriculture”—is a relative newcomer to landscape design. Conceived by horticulture academics David Holmgren and Bill Mollison in 1978, this design process links resources, use, and harvest into a connected whole. Permaculture asks us to consider the numerous harvests and functions we might realize simultaneously from one plot of land. The practice challenges us to shift our ideas away from a farm, orchard, or home garden as a mere place to produce food to an environment where plants, people, and creatures can thrive together.

Permaculture practitioners like to create dense, multilayered gardens or “food forests,” looking toward healthy natural forest environments for clues on how to establish and maintain a healthy plant community. A food forest is surprisingly easy to create at home, but first, let’s visit a hypothetical organic apple orchard to look at how the permaculture approach of “stacking functions” could increase the overall health and productivity of the growing area as we turn it into a
food forest.… Read More

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