Author Archive | Edible East Bay


cropped foods_wheel2BY JESSICA PRENTICE

Jessica Prentice, Maggie Gosselin, and Sarah Klein created the Local Foods Wheel to help us all enjoy the freshest, tastiest, and most ecologically sound food choices month by month. Here are seven of Jessica’s seasonal favorites. You can learn more about the Local Foods Wheel and the group’s other ventures at

A transformative moment in my food-consciousness evolution came about when I was in Paris visiting a friend who was there for graduate school. She invited me to lunch at her university, and I was curious to see what institutional food would be like in the land of gastronomie. As we entered the dining hall, we were ushered to one of the many long and carefully set tables. As baskets of bread, dishes of butter, and carafes of water and red wine arrived, I found myself silently wondering, “Red wine at lunch? Red wine at a university cafeteria?” Then came the main course: enormous bowls mounded with steaming hot mussels. Appreciative murmurs of “moules!” resounded as we ladled the mollusks onto our plates, and like everyone at the table, I devoured mussel after delicious mussel, sopping up the tasty cooking broth with buttered bread and quaffing the wine.… Read More

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Chris Hay at Say Hay Farm (Photo by Tiffany Lin, StoryCorps)

Chris Hay at Say Hay Farm (Photo by Tiffany Lin, StoryCorps)



Is it ripe? Is it ready? Will this one taste better than that one? What’s the best way to enjoy it? How do I grow it?

Whether you’re in your garden or at the market, there are always these questions . . .

Last fall we shared insight on this subject from two intrepid young farmers. Now they are back, this time discussing a different season of crops. Join us as we re-meet these nurturers of our bodies, generous stewards of the land, and the hardest darn workers I know. And pay special attention for a lesson on farmers’ market etiquette included in the peaches section for your edification.


Harvest months:
June through October

You know it’s summer when you see Chris Hay at his Oakland Grand Lake Farmers’ Market booth on a Saturday morning chomping on a raw ear of corn with a wide grin on his face.

Chris owns and operates Say Hay Farms in Woodland, raising certified-organic vegetables, melons, and eggs in an ecologically sustainable manner. He feels that integrating plants and animals in his farm’s ecology results in higher-quality products as well as better land and water stewardship.… Read More

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Sylvan Brackett tends a wood-fueled fire in a kamado oven. (Photo by Aya Brackett)

Sylvan Brackett tends a wood-fueled fire in a kamado oven.


Sylvan Brackett’s
Peko-Peko Japanese Catering

Photos by Aya Brackett

In a tidy, raftered workshop behind his Oakland home, Sylvan Mishima Brackett works a special magic of the Japanese culinary sort. Brackett is the owner of Peko-Peko, a catering company specializing in Japanese izakaya food. Izakayas are like taverns serving items like yakitori, sashimi, hiyayakko, karaage, and other savory dishes that pair well with beer, sake, shochu, and cocktails.

Brackett was born in Kyoto, Japan, and grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where his family lived in a drafty Japanese-style house with two wood stoves and a generator for electricity. Clearly it was a setting with considerable draw for the creative muses, as it produced not only Sylvan, with his artistic and culinary talents, but also his sister, Aya, a widely published photographer whose work is featured on this page.

Brackett caters large and small gatherings, everything from intimate events for Alice Waters and Chez Panisse to luncheons for the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley, or a meal for a group of Japanese mothers doing crafts together. His menus might include California halibut with freshly grated wasabi; steamed Pacific spot prawns with ginger; Riverdog pork dumplings; dashimaki tamago, a folded Kaki Farm egg omelet with freshly shaved katsuobushi; Tomales Bay clams steamed with dashi, sake, and house-grown mitsuba; and perhaps some pickled cherry blossoms that he’s foraged.… Read More

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Planting Justice executive director Gavin Raders tends to a bed of herbs and leafy greens at the Matilda Cleveland transitional housing center in East Oakland. (Photo by Nicki Rosario)

Planting Justice executive director Gavin Raders tends to a bed of herbs and leafy greens at the Matilda Cleveland transitional housing center in East Oakland. (Photo by Nicki Rosario)

Planting Justice creates edible gardens and second chances

By Rachel Trachten

Unlike the vast majority of men released from San Quentin, Kevin Williams left prison with the promise of a steady job. Williams is one of 10 men who have made the transition from San Quentin to employment through Planting Justice, an Oakland nonprofit that is creating green jobs while building fruit and vegetable gardens.

Planting Justice is the brainchild of Haleh Zandi, 29, and Gavin Raders, 30, partners in life and in the organization they’ve nurtured. In 2008, with a shared vision about transforming yards and lawns into sources of nourishing food, the two began a landscaping business called the Backyard Food Project. When their ad on Craigslist brought requests from people who couldn’t afford their services, they went door to door to raise funds. “We always knew we wanted the gardens to be accessible and affordable,” says Zandi. She explains that the business evolved into a nonprofit in 2009. Using income from paying clients plus fund-raising, they’re able to subsidize free gardens for low-income families and community groups.… Read More

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Chef Sunhui Chang

Chef Sunhui Chang


By Sarah Henry
Photos by Nicki Rosario

Sometimes it pays to listen to the females in the house.

For years, Korean-born chef Sunhui Chang listened to his wife, theater director Ellen Sebastian Chang, and daughter, SunIm, encouraging him to open a restaurant serving the kind of Korean comfort food he cooked for them at home. “My dad’s agedashi tofu is just the best,” says SunIm with evident pride as her father’s hands work a bowl of cabbage destined to become kimchi, that signature Korean condiment.

But chef Chang  wasn’t convinced the East Bay was ready for the creative bar food he had in mind. His skewers, sandwiches, and rice plates are rooted in the small-plate foods of the Japanese (izakaya) and Korean (soju bang) casual drinking spots, with overtones of Southern cooking: The guy loves both kale and fried chicken. “I’d never cooked Korean food on a professional level, so it took me a while to come around to it,” concedes the longtime caterer, who typically turned out California-Mediterranean cuisine on request. “But I had this gut feeling if there was a place that it was going to work it was here, in wild West Oakland, which has an adventurous spirit.”

Going with the gut—and the family’s finely honed taste buds—proved a wise move.… Read More

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Protect-your-gardenCALL IN AN EXPERT

Ed Rosenthal’s
Protect Your Garden

Review by Ann Ralph

Oakland’s Ed Rosenthal is a marijuana expert, a grower, researcher, writer, teacher, and activist who stands at the center of a movement to promote the growth and decriminalization of marijuana. As such, he’s had occasion to study and practice gardening principles in challenging conditions for some 40 years. In his new book, Ed Rosenthal’s Protect Your Garden: Eco-Friendly Solutions for Healthy Plants, Rosenthal turns his attention to the common nutrient deficiencies, pests, and diseases that beleaguer gardeners of every kind. The result is a useful, photo-rich, and well-organized compendium of plant problems and solutions, a pared-down version of the Ortho Problem Solver with an emphasis on natural remedies.

Every page of Protect Your Garden contains a revelation of one kind or another. You’ll find such juicy conversation-starters as: how milk can provide a defense against powdery mildew, why breezes promote sturdier plants, and how to make a pepper spray. You can read about the great locust invasion of 1873–1878, the last to occur in the United States, and explore charts explaining the similarities between ants and people, the differences between black and brown rats, and which predator mite attacks which pest.… Read More

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By Sarah Henry

Photos by Paige Hermreck

Mani Niall keeps it sweet in Uptown

Mani Niall keeps it sweet in Uptown

Innovative new restaurants like Hopscotch, Duende, and Hawker Fare have cemented Uptown Oakland’s growing reputation as a dining destination. But until recently the neighborhood has lacked an everyday place, a heart-and-soul business—like a bakery-café—where people could pop in to pick up a sweet indulgence or a savory snack, gather to chat over coffee and croissants, or simply sit and watch the world go by.

Sweet Bar Bakery is well placed to fill that void. Veteran culinary professional Mani Niall’s nascent enterprise occupies a 2,200-square-foot space in a prime corner location at Broadway and 24th Street. It’s on the First Friday Art Murmur stroll; near new condos and the recently resurrected Parkway Speakeasy; within blocks of restaurants like Plum, Picán, and Ozumo; and opposite the Oakland YMCA, where, no doubt, treadmill devotees are jonesing for a post-workout treat as fresh baked scents waft through the air.

The location may not have the village vibe or foot traffic of Rockridge, Temescal, or Piedmont Avenue, but it hasn’t taken long for Sweet Bar to become the neighborhood’s go-to place for bacon Gorgonzola scones, pumpkin cranberry muffins, and oatmeal sour cherry chocolate chip cookies.… Read More

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Les Is Still More


les1When I got the news that Les Blank had passed away on April 7, I was deeply saddened. But not surprised. Word of Les’s inoperable cancer leaked out last fall and everyone who knew him, personally and/or professionally, was shattered. Much-loved Les and his huge fan, friend, and family base made the best of a really bad situation.

Multiple screenings of his films over the next several months brought us all together with Les—perhaps for the last time—and a very moving ceremony at Berkeley City Hall on “Les Blank Day,” January 22, 2013, was fitting tribute to the impact Les and his artistically quirky and brilliant documentary films have had on our community.

When the 1980 film Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers was shown at the Pacific Film Archive last September as part of a retrospective, I showed up of course with my ceremonial garlic chef’s turban. No matter how many times I see the film, it’s always a hoot. Sure, I’m in it in all my youthful and, as I see it today, somewhat awkward allio-centricity. But even more important, for me, is to see, captured on film by Les’s always keen eye, all the characters that inhabited Garlicland (aka 1970s Berkeley) during those days of wine and stinking roses.… Read More

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Sylvan Brackett cooking with Nancy Singleton Hachisu at her farmhouse kitchen in Japan,

Sylvan Brackett cooking with Nancy Singleton Hachisu at her farmhouse kitchen in Japan. (photo by Kenji Miura)



Nancy Singleton Hachisu,
author of Japanese Farm Food,
finds inspiration and friendship
among East Bay chefs and food artisans




It’s Monday evening in Berkeley when I receive a telephone call from Nancy Singleton Hachisu, but it’s already Tuesday lunchtime at her farmhouse kitchen in a semi-rural area of Saitama Prefecture, about two hours from Tokyo. I can hear a clutch of hungry, chattering children eager to tuck into the curry burgers she’s preparing for their lunch.


An aerial view of the Hachisu farmhouse and surrounding farmlands. Saitama Prefecture is a fertile agricultural region, but also an area that has been developing and urbanizing quickly over the past 50 years due to its close proximity and easy public transportation access to Tokyo. (Photo by Kenji Miura)

Hachisu, a Bay Area native, directs an English-immersion school at the organic farm where she’s lived for more than 20 years with her husband, Tadaaki Hachisu, and their children. The kitchen, with its long counters and collections of antique pottery, baskets, and cookware, is the heart of this farmhouse that has been passed down through Tadaaki’s family.… Read More

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The “pickled things”

By Kristina Sepetys

Pickles with a bowl of rice and miso soup is the “quintessential Japanese meal,” Nancy Singleton Hachisu notes in her book.

pickle22Like their counterparts everywhere in the world, Japanese farmers, gardeners, and cooks see an overly abundant yield as an opportunity to preserve the harvest so they might enjoy it when the fields aren’t producing. Pickles made from radishes, ume plums, okra, young ginger, cucumbers, turnip leaves, carrots, and many other items add color and salty, sweet, tart, or piquant flavor to daily meals and snacks. Besides being tasty, tsukemono (literally, “pickled things”) are used to clear the palate before introducing a new course.

Japanese pickles and ferments can be prepared in salt, vinegar, miso, soy sauce, sugar, hot mustard, rice bran, or sake lees. A Japanese pickle press (tsukemonoki) is traditionally wood, though as in other cultures, various containers are used. Plastic presses that fit in the refrigerator are common in Japan and available locally.

Quick pickles, as you might expect, are easy to prepare. Lacto-fermented types are more challenging but worth the effort for their additional flavor and nutritional value. If you’d like to taste some before attempting to make your own batch, pay a visit to Cultured Pickle Shop in West Berkeley.… Read More

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