Author Archive | Edible East Bay

Chocolate Shortbread

From: A Day in a Life Full of Chocolate by Anita Chu

Recipe provided by Caroline Romanski

Makes about 60 cookies

1 ⅔ cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons Valrhona cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 ¼ soft unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
About 2 egg yolks for egg wash
Turbinado sugar for coating

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla extract just until combined—do not overbeat.

Gradually and on low speed, add the sifted flour mixture. Mix to form a smooth dough. Divide dough into two pieces and roll into logs about 15” long. Wrap the logs in plastic or parchment paper and refrigerate until firm. The dough can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Preheat oven to 300°. Remove a log of dough from refrigerator and let sit for about 10 minutes at room temperature to soften slightly. If you only intend to bake part of the log, cut off the appropriate portion and return the rest to the refrigerator.

Make an egg wash by combining 2 egg yolks with a little bit of water.… Read More

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Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe

A Day in a Life Full of Chocolate

Story and Photos by Anita Chu

It’s five-thirty in the morning and the storefronts on College Avenue in Rockridge are dark and quiet, but the kitchen in the back of Bittersweet Chocolate Café is glowing with life. For the next three hours, all the pastries that will be sold today in the Bittersweet stores will be baked and either packaged for a quick delivery to the Fillmore branch in San Francisco or plated up for the display case in the Rockridge store.

As one of Bittersweet’s bakers, I help bake the chocolate chip cookies, the pear ginger muffins, the chocolate cupcakes, the cherry scones, the shortbread, and the coconut macaroons. We fill up boxes with still-warm goodies intended for Fillmore and take them out to the front of the store for the waiting delivery driver, walking past rows of chocolate bars from across the globe lined up on the shelves, traversing countries with every step.

From the name Bittersweet Chocolate Café, people know to expect chocolate when they visit, yet still they are surprised at how many forms of chocolate greet them when they enter. Over 120 varieties of chocolate bars from around the world, representing an entire spectrum of flavor, vie for the visitor’s taste.… Read More

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Walking the Talk

An Interview with Rancher Brian Kenny

Brian Kenny is relatively new to the grass-fed beef business, but he has a great deal of experience in both specialty agriculture and artisan food marketing. He is also a regular contributor to Edible East Bay. We caught up with him recently to discuss Hearst Ranch Beef the growth of the grass-fed beef industry, the dynamics of the beef industry, and the future of food.

EEB: When did you get into the grass-fed beef industry?

BK: Well, I started really paying attention to it while I was farming olives and producing olive oil just south of Redding, California in about 2004. This was right around the same time that Hearst Ranch Beef was picking up steam. Anyway, I met some grass-fed producers at a sustainable agriculture conference and I was immediately struck by the principles that these producers used to manage their herds.

EEB: What in particular grabbed you about their management principles?

BK: I really loved the idea that a herd can be managed by amplifying the innate, natural behaviors of the animals. That is such an intuitive concept but it really flies in the face of standard industry practices in a number of ways.… Read More

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In Memory of Laura Jane Trent

Our farming community suffered a terrible loss with the recent passing of Laura Jane Trent, an extraordinary and humble farmer who died suddenly on September 28, 2006. Laura’s 23-acre Tip Top Farm in the Vacaville region supplied exceptional produce to the Berkeley and Oakland farmers’ markets, and graced the tables of Chez Panisse, Oliveto and other top Bay Area restaurants. Those who enjoyed her okra claim there was no finer okra on the planet. Laura’s tomatoes, onions, garlic, French plums, summer squashes, figs and other crops all stood out among the various wares sold at the markets. Laura loved food as she loved the earth. She created a uniquely beautiful world, surrounding herself with people who shared her love of and capacity for hard work. Laura will be deeply missed.

A memorial fund is being set up to honor Laura’s life, details of which will be announced shortly in this and other publications and at the local farmers’ markets. Until then, we can think of no more fitting words than those of a poet:

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.… Read More

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Vineyards in Berkeley?

Bob Riskin’s Lost Canyon Winery—one member of the East Bay Vintner’s Association.

No, not exactly, but we have plenty of wineries here in the East Bay’s waterside cities—15 of them, at last count.

In the summer of 2006, the East Bay Vintner’s Association came to life with the objective of promoting the wineries located in Alameda, Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. These urban wine makers, who started to meet informally in late 2005 for dinner and drinks, found they had a shared history—most had clocked time in other wineries and wanted to start their own labels, but none had the cash for property in Napa and Sonoma.

“I think land in Napa is $80,000 to $100,00 per acre. Even warehouse space is expensive,” explains Brendan Eliason, owner of Emeryville’s Periscope Cellars and one of the original members of the casual group. Like the others, Eliason found that warehouses close to the Bay offer lower rents, and with refrigerated trucks, it’s easy enough to bring grapes from far-flung vineyards.

The East Bay wine makers went from casual dinner partners to official organization when they planned the Urban Wine Experience, a tasting of East Bay wines hosted at Alameda giant Rosenblum Cellars. The event, held on August 26, 2006, gave visitors a chance to see what’s on offer in our backyards.… Read More

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Cuisine in Translation

Abram Krol, Haggadah, c. 1955, Etching, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Horn, Collection Judah L. Magnes

Jewish Life in Food

To my family fortune, recipe boxes remain from my mother and my great-aunts, adored sisters to my grandmother. Kugels, blintzes and gefilte fish are remembered delicacies, dishes that bring nostalgia and love of family to the table.

Keeping kosher was important to my great grandfather, Menachem Mendal, first American patriarch of the Rabkin clan. He maintained a religious lifestyle and often acted as a self-deputized inspector, scrutinizing back rooms of food establishments for kosher purity. A man of colorful idiosyncrasies and a passion for the simple and pure, he often would suck raw eggs from their shells or eat the thick cream from the tops of freshly opened dairy bottles.

My first cousin, now living in Israel, also observes the kosher laws. She religiously continues this family tradition in ways that seem in contrast to my own life here in California, where the connection to my ancient food heritage has thinned over time and distance from Russia. Perhaps this is what draws me to the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley.

Taste Matters

Recently, the Magnes Museum, the third largest collection of Jewish art and Judaica in the United States, expanded its investigation of Jewish food culture through a new five-lecture series entitled “Taste Matters.” The series uses a cross-disciplinary lens of art, anthropology, religion and history and was developed by Carin Jacobs, the Magnes Museum’s Curator of Education and a serious food study enthusiast.… Read More

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Roadside Diaries

Sierra Adventures, Part I


Story by Cheryl Koehler | Photos by Mark Middlebrook


We don’t have much of a winter here in the East Bay. Rather than a glistening cloak of frigid white, we get carpets of plush grassy green. It makes me feel frisky—like a newborn lamb in springtime.

It was in such a lively spirit that I found myself gamboling up a high East Bay ridge one February morning several years ago. The weather gods had just been out with their mops, dragging all the particulate matter from the atmosphere, making the views in every direction quite stupendous. As I paused for breath at the top of the ridge below Volmer Peak in Tilden Park, I glanced out over the wide green stretch of the Central Valley to the far eastern horizon. Good Lord! It was the Sierra Nevada! The long snowy sawtoothed range appeared just as it might have in the seventeenth century when Spanish explorers came sailing along the coast. Recording this strange new land on paper, these seafarers created the first crude maps of California, noting “las sierras nevadas” well inland.

There was something about this epic vision that caused me to be possessed of a great urge to go skiing.… Read More

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Wild Mushroom Stew with Polenta for a Ski-Touring Dinner

From Roadside Diaries: Sierra Adventures, Part I  by Cheryl Koehler

There is no reason not to have a gourmet feast while out in the wilderness when one can choose a dish like this made with durable lightweight tools and ingredients. The presentation makes a great impression on fellow campers. Serves 4 (or maybe only 2, if they are extremely hungry). (This recipe is adapted from The Cooking of South-West France by Paula Wolfert.)

For the Stew

1 ounce dried wild mushrooms
1 pound fresh mushrooms, one variety, or a mixture
(substitute an additional 2 ounces dried mushrooms if you don’t want to pack in fresh ones)
3 tablespoons olive oil (or duck fat)
3 ounces prosciutto or dry ham (such as Westphalian), chopped
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¾ cup white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 – 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon

For the Polenta

½ cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta (you might want to use the quick-cooking variety)
2 cups water

Place dried wild mushrooms in a bowl with enough hot water to cover. After they have soaked for about 30 minutes, remove from soaking water and set aside as you strain soaking water through a coffee filter to remove the grit.… Read More

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Perfumed Matsutake Rice

From Urban Forager: Matsu=Pine, Take=Mushroom by Anthony Tassinello

3 cups Japanese rice
3 cups water
2 or 3 small “number one” matsutake
1 abura-age – fried tofu (optional)
¼ cup sake
¼ cup soy sauce

Begin by washing the rice in several changes of cold water, repeating the process until the water becomes clear. Drain the rice thoroughly. Add rice and water to rice cooker and let stand for 30 minutes. In the meantime clean the mushrooms of all loose dirt using a firm brush or paring knife. You may peel back a bit of the thin outer layer if overly dirty. Using the large holes of a box grater, shred the mushrooms lengthwise into long strands. Alternatively, if using your hands, pull apart into small rough pieces of the same size. If using the optional fried tofu, cut into strips. Add the mushrooms, tofu, sake and soy sauce to the rice cooker, cover and follow manufacturer’s instructions for cooking.

Serves 6 as part of a larger meal

Resist the urge to treat matsutake in a western style cooking fashion (i.e., sautéing or frying in fat) as the essence of the mushroom will be lost and will result in a bland, tough dish.… Read More

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Urban Forager


Matsu=Pine, Take=Mushroom

By Anthony Tassinello

The idea of finding dinner in the wild is a foreign one to most people, let alone those of us who grew up in the shadow of the big city. Perhaps this is what drew me, some 10 years ago, to forage for a near-sacred wild mushroom that grows, sometimes in abundance, here in Northern California.

This is a mushroom with such great gustatory prowess, culinary reverence and economic implications that people have been known to shield its location with armed guards. No, it isn’t a truffle or even the acclaimed King Boletus; it is the white matsutake.

Now, you are either scratching your head wondering why you have never heard of this interesting fungus or rubbing your hands together in a sinister fashion having just figured out what’s for dinner tonight.

If the name matsutake doesn’t ring a bell, don’t fret. Here is a crash course on this out-of-the-ordinary wild mushroom, from selecting prime specimens in the market to proper handling in the kitchen.

In these times of heightened food awareness, the pedigree of your meal can be just as important as its nutritional value. Derivation can, on rare occasions, even trump taste. But though much has been written about where our food comes from, and though it is an important discourse, this shall remain an account of one meal, built around one day and a location that shall remain unidentified.… Read More

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