Archive | Fall Harvest 2016

Eat.Think.Design at UC Berkeley


“How would you get more people who aren’t eating butter to eat butter?”

Sixty-five UC Berkeley grad students puzzled over this light-hearted question as they vied for just 25 slots in the public health innovations course Eat.Think.Design. Course instructor Jaspal Sandhu likens this class audition to putting together a team or theatrical production and finding “a cohort that will work together in interesting ways.” Butter Day also gave students a taste of design thinking as they brainstormed various angles on butter consumption, including the recent McDonald’s decision to start using butter in its Egg McMuffin.

Once selected for Eat.Think.Design, students spent the semester exploring design thinking (also called human-centered design) to devise solutions for quandaries related to nutrition, food, and farming. This year’s class tackled seven projects that took them from East Oakland down to Monterey County, and across the country to Brownsville, New York. In teams of three or four, students representing 12 graduate programs grappled with issues involving home cooks, farmers, middle schoolers, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and more. Each team’s mission was the same: Find solutions that stick.


Grace Lesser, here with husband Shawn Johnson, spent her semester developing Farmcation, a business that invites city dwellers to savor a taste of farm life.

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Courtesy of Modern Twist

It’s a beautiful fall day—perfect for a hike. I’m trying to stuff a bulky tiffin full of snacks into my mini backpack and secretly wishing I still had one little plastic sandwich bag: the kind I banned from my kitchen a couple years ago in an effort to swear off plastics.

Kat Nouri felt the same way, but she really walks the talk. “It is time for those of us who are producing to be mindful,” says this pioneering Emeryville woman, who launched her company, Modern-twist, 11 years ago. Her newest and most useful product is the Stasher, a food-grade silicone sandwich bag that’s thoroughly washable and durable, BPA- and BPS-free, non-porous, sealable, heat-able, economical, and even attractive. It looks and feels like translucent rubber, and some models come with nifty designs silkscreened onto them.


Kat Nouri with a Stasher full of snacks.

“Most plastic bags are made with petroleum,” says Nouri. “It is time to dig deeper. Plastic never goes away. We are encouraging people to rethink plastic by providing a modern innovative solution.”

When asked if the Stashers are recyclable, Nouri explained that the idea is that they will never have to be retired from use.… Read More

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Contents Fall Harvest 2016








Black Cod and Eggplant with Apple-Miso Glaze
Elderberry Jam
Elderberry Buckwheat Tart
Spiced Elderberry Cordial
Elder Almond Pound Cake
Garden Salad with Tomato-Water Vinaigrette
Pork Chop Pizzaiola
Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes
Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Fig Sauce



















four-seasonsAbout Our Cover Artist: Shari Arai DeBoer

El Sobrante–based painter, printmaker, and book artist Shari Arai DeBoer is fascinated by the beauty found in the natural world and in the minutiae of everyday life. As she delves into her subject matter, Shari finds narrative in the way things interrelate and change through time. This often leads her into a process of visual storytelling. On this and two past-issue covers, Shari tells quiet but powerful stories about how our food is grown, cooked, and enjoyed.… Read More

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Sustainable Fish in School Lunches


It’s an early morning in April, and I’m in the parking lot of East Oakland Pride Elementary School to meet up with Ernie Koepf and Aisling Mitchell for a presentation we are giving together. Koepf has assured me he’ll be dressed in “stereotypical fishing garb,” even though this Oakland resident is semi-retired and now spends more time playing guitar than catching fish. As I spot him in a broad-brimmed hat, plaid shirt, and suspenders, I have to laugh, since he looks more like a farmer than a fisherman—both of which are enigmatic in this East Oakland neighborhood.

Mitchell, who serves with FoodCorps (a national initiative to connect kids to healthy food in schools), runs a garden-enhanced nutrition education program here and in other Oakland schools. She has helped schedule Koepf into the slot normally reserved for her health and wellness classes. “If children have the opportunity to plant, care-take, harvest, and cook their own produce, they are far more likely to not only try new fruits and vegetables but love them and tell their family about them,” she says, explaining her mission.

Local commercial fisherman Ernie Koepf explains the different seafood species caught in California waters to students at East Oakland Pride Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of Bay2Tray)

Local commercial fisherman Ernie Koepf explains the different seafood species caught in California waters to students at East Oakland Pride Elementary School.

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Tools of the Trade

Yoko Kumano and Kayoko Akabori created Umami Mart out of their shared passion for Japanese culture.

Yoko Kumano and Kayoko Akabori created Umami Mart out of their shared passion for Japanese culture.
Made by Kumano’s mother, the hamaya arrows that hang on the wall are meant to destroy obstacles and demons.

At Umami Mart, two friends create a shop (and blog)
that celebrates drink, design, and Japanese culture

By Shanna Farrell
Photography by Flashpoint Collective

Take a seat at the Ramen Shop bar and learn about an often unnoticed part of bartending. Chris Lane, the popular restaurant’s bar manager, has carefully arranged all manner of tools at the bartenders’ stations: tins of all sizes, beaker-like pitchers with fat bottoms, long skinny spoons, and short measuring devices. Each item will be used with purpose; different tools for different drinks. Like many bartenders, Lane has chosen his team’s tools intentionally. And just as with ingredients, there’s a story behind every tool.

Opposite: Chris Lane uses tools from Umami Mart as he mixes a drink at Oakland’s Ramen Shop.

Opposite: Chris Lane uses tools from Umami Mart as he mixes a drink at Oakland’s Ramen Shop.

Now follow Lane to Umami Mart, the place he has shopped for tools since before Ramen Shop opened. Nestled into the heart of Old Oakland at 815 Broadway, the shop is a daily celebration of drink, design, and Japanese culture. The owners import kitchen goods and barware from Japan, offering a thoughtfully curated selection both in the shop and through their online store.… Read More

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Carbon-Conscious Farming


The Bordessas run Holstein cows, an old Dutch breed said to be the most productive dairy cows in the world. Photo by Olivia Vigo

Ranching With A Low-Carbon Mind-set

Free-range perspectives on grass, trees, and water

By Jillian Laurel Steinberger


Tomales, California, is a census-designated place—and perhaps a state of mind. The Coast Miwok people enjoyed the fruits of this fertile land until contact with Europeans in the 1500s. It’s a magical place now, and surely was then. This landscape of lush meadows, pastureland, and esteros (tidal channels that flow through the estuarial bottomlands) is located just a few miles east of two uncommonly beautiful spots, Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay.

Many enlightened ranchers and dairymen—or should we say dairyfolk—run cattle in Tomales, which is where West Marin meets West Sonoma and the census-designated place of equal enchantment called Valley Ford, which is also on State Highway 1. Some of these ranchers are trying to do the right thing by lowering their environmental impact. And many of them are talking about doing this through carbon sequestration—that is, keeping carbon in the soil to begin with or removing carbon dioxide from the air and putting it back in the ground where it belongs.… Read More

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A rendering of the Nautilus Group’s residential and retail development at the prime corner location of Telegraph Avenue and 51st Street in Temescal. (Images courtesy of Nautilus Group)

Urban For-Profit Farms Reach for the Sky

By Sarah Henry

For all the cred that Berkeley and Oakland get as farm-friendly cities, rooftop gardens have never really been much of a thing here. Of course, East Bay urbanites have a little more land to work with than New York city slickers, with their sky-planting hubs in Brooklyn and beyond.

Top Leaf Farms may change that equation. The for-profit business, founded by seasoned farmer Benjamin Fahrer, is set to operate two rooftop production farms atop apartment complexes, one in each town. If these prove successful, more living rooftops producing food for residents and restaurants may follow. “Nonprofit urban farms have access to grant money or startup funds for their mission-driven projects,” says Fahrer, whose vibe is more community-based, chillaxed coastal farmer than edgy, urban edible entrepreneur. “A for-profit farm is challenged in that regard. So without a lot of initial investment, we’re going to start small and build as we prove our model can be profitable.”

A Farm Grows in Berkeley

Berkeley’s first commercial rooftop farm is slated to open in August.… Read More

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Courtesy of The Tea Room

Which type of chocolate—white, milk, or dark—would best enhance the flavor of chamomile tea? This is the type of question that intrigues Heinz Rimann, founder of San Leandro’s The Tea Room. Rimann selected white chocolate to bring out the delicate flavor of chamomile. With an added touch of honey the sweet result was The Tea Room’s Chamomile & Honey Chocolate Fusion bar, recently named a Sofi award finalist for outstanding chocolate by the Specialty Food Association.

“I like creating new things,” says Rimann, who starts by brewing tea to pair later with various chocolates. He creates classic duos like milk chocolate infused with mint tea or spicy concoctions like dark chocolate with Mayan pepper chai. This writer’s personal research on the dark chocolate bar infused with raspberry rooibos tea revealed a delicious fruitiness, creamy texture, and deep chocolate taste.

Rimann grew up in chocolate-rich Switzerland. While working in the U.S. hotel industry and importing loose-leaf teas for clients, he thought about blending tea and chocolate. Ground-up tea leaves mixed into chocolate produced an unpleasant graininess, so he started by steeping tea in cream for truffles, then finally came up with a way to produce unusually smooth and creamy tea-flavored bars without grinding the tea leaves.… Read More

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A Pleasanton Food Tour


Families have been driving (or walking) up to Pleasanton’s Meadowlark Dairy since 1969.


A self-guided food tour
By Laura Ness | Photos by Annie Tillis

Rumor has it that a few folks around Oakland and Berkeley aren’t entirely clear that Pleasant Hill and Pleasanton are distinct East Bay cities, so let’s try sorting it out.

Pleasant Hill is located in Contra Costa County just north of Walnut Creek. A relatively new town, it was incorporated in 1961. Its City Hall and now-demolished CinéArts “Dome” Theater have been architectural notables, but since there was no true downtown where people could stroll, an outdoor shopping mall was designed in 2000 to resemble one.

Pleasanton, on the other hand, was incorporated in 1894 and still has its old downtown with tree-lined sidewalks, including one section that retained the old wood planks. It has a vintage gas station and loads of unique, locally owned shops and restaurants, all within walking range of residential neighborhoods that are truly pleasant. Located at the junction of I-680 and I-580 in Alameda County, it’s within the Livermore Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area). Ruby Hill Winery, first established in 1883, is in Pleasanton.

“Lil” Jon Minnich serves each omelet at Dean’s Café with a smile.

“Lil” Jon Minnich serves each omelet at Dean’s Café with a smile.

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What’s in Season?

By Barbara Kobsar

Illustration by Caroline H Gould

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

Fabulous figs! Fresh figs are among the sweetest and most versatile of all fruits . . . but they’re not really fruits. Figs are fleshy flowers, and there are hundreds of varieties growing throughout the world in places with mild, Mediterranean climates. California is a prolific producer of the most popular types, ranking third in the world after Greece and Turkey. Most common are black mission. They’re small to medium in size, with dark-purple-black skins and sweet pink flesh: a favorite to eat as is, grilled, or baked. Yellow-green Kadota figs are thick skinned and practically seedless, making them a winner with canners and preservers. Brown turkey figs are very moist. Not suitable for drying, they’re perfect for eating fresh: cut up in salads or quickly grilled or broiled. The Calimyrna fig, a pale yellow-skinned fruit with a nutty, sweet flavor, is another good choice for making into jams, preserves, or chutneys. Figs develop sugar as they ripen, but ripening stops when they are picked. At the early stage, a fig offers a light honey taste, with a promise of caramel to come.… Read More

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