Archive | Summer 2013


Miso soup strainer

Miso soup strainer

The square tamago is used for cooking egg omelet

The square tamago is used for cooking egg omelet

Yukihira pot: general use saucepan made of hammered aluminum

Yukihira pot: general use saucepan made of hammered aluminum

Bamboo steamer

Bamboo steamer

Illustrations by Mary Brown

Binchotan: traditional Japanese charcoal. It’s chemical-free, nearly smoke-free, and burns much hotter and longer than American charcoal, making for an excellent sear.

Dashi: broth made from konbu (an edible kelp) and katsuobushi. In her book, Nancy Singleton Hachisu calls dashi “probably the most important building block in Japanese cooking.”

Hiyayakko: a dish of cold tofu set in soy sauce and often topped with chopped spring onions and katsuobushi, or options like ume plum paste, grated ginger, sliced okra, or yuzu rind

Izakaya: like a tavern, a Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food.  “I” means “to stay” and “sakaya” means “sake shop.”

Karaage: bite-size morsels of fried chicken

Katsuobushi: skipjack tuna that has been dried, fermented, and smoked

Kondu: Japanese variety of kombu seaweed

Manju: buns filled with sweet bean paste

Mitsuba: a parsley-like herb used as garnish. Native to North America and Asia

Mochi: rice cake made from short-grain glutinous rice

Myoga: native to Japan and Korea, myoga is a ginger grown for its edible buds and shoots and used as a garnish or topping for foods

Negi: a large, perennial green onion, used like a scallion

Nukadoko: the rice bran mash used to make pickles

Shochu: a distilled beverage typically made from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice

Shottsuru: a pungent fish sauce usually made from sandfish

Shidashi: hot, delivered meals

Shiso: an herb of the mint family

Yakitori: chicken grilled on skewers

Yuzu: A sour and highly aromatic citrus fruit that looks like a small grapefruit with uneven skin

Kamado,” in Japanese, means “stove” or “range.” For millennia, in many parts of the world, earthen vessels, such as the traditional Japanese kamado above, have served as wood-fired or charcoal-fired stoves or ovens.

Kamado,” in Japanese, means “stove” or “range.” For millennia, in many parts of the world, earthen vessels, such as the traditional Japanese kamado above, have served as wood-fired or charcoal-fired stoves or ovens.

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When you’re at the farmers’ market, it’s all about what’s in season.
Choosing from items harvested at their peak is your sure bet for fabulous flavor and freshness.


Cherries and berries show off their stuff in June. Orchards on the eastern edge of the East Bay and beyond, in Brentwood, Stockton, Lodi, and Linden produce star cherry varieties like Burlats, Bings, and the red-blushed Golden Rainiers. Buckets of blueberries from the Apple Hill region (around the town of Camino, in the Sierra foothills) arrive with the telltale dusty bloom that indicates they are super fresh! What to watch for in June: okra, garlic, and figs


This is generally considered “peak season,” since it’s the time when choices are bountiful and quality is superb. Stone fruits are rolling in and each week brings new varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and pluots to try. They invite out-of-hand snacking, grilling, baking, and jamming, and also make great additions to salads. Freshness is key when it comes to sweet corn. Rest the ears on a bed of ice to keep them cool. This guarantees the flavor I savor. What to watch for in July: basil, tomatoes


Tomatoes get better each month through the summer.… Read More

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Illustration by Margo Rivera-Weiss

During a recent airing of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor quipped: “Pleasure is generic and suffering is individual.”

Far be it from me to contradict the “modern-day Mark Twain,” as Keillor is often called, but as images from the films of Les Blank float through my mind, I can’t help thinking Keillor got it backwards. During nearly half a century of documentary filmmaking, Blank captured many memorable scenes of people sharing and perpetuating unique pleasures through their traditions in food, dance, and music making. A Berkeley resident, Blank left our world on April 7. We celebrate his life with a remembrance by two of his local friends and associates in our “Last Bite” on page 52. If you are not familiar with Blank’s films, start by checking out these food-centric titles: All In This Tea (2008), Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980), and Always for Pleasure (1978).

Back in the summer of 2006, I had the pleasure of picking peaches with Les Blank at “Mas” Masumoto’s farm near Fresno. Before we left the orchard, Les gathered up all the fallen, bruised peaches that other pickers had left behind. When I asked how he would use such a plethora of fruit, he told me he would be putting most of it on his homemade granola.… Read More

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Preeti Mistry (Photo by Naomi Fiss)

Preeti Mistry (Photo by Naomi Fiss)


By Sarah Henry

Photos by Paige Hermreck

There’s a new Top Chef in the Temescal, one with a mighty spicy pedigree and a fan base from her days popping up in San Francisco with Mumbai-inspired mobile food—not to mention a following from a certain popular cooking show contest (Season 6, for those who care).

Meet chef Preeti Mistry of Oakland’s Juhu Beach Club, now serving up her take on Indian street eats in a buzzy brick-and-mortar home bedecked with bright-pink paint and trippy wallpaper featuring a funky monkey motif.  Designed by Mistry’s partner Ann Nadeau, the cozy restaurant (formerly SR24), aims to evoke a Bollywood beach vibe. Think fun fare, groovy tunes, sweet space. A Mumbai-by-the-Bay, whose name is a nod to that city’s favorite seaside hangout, where Mistry has spent time with her family, savoring its celebrated street food.

mystrydishMistry serves slider-style sandwiches, known as pavs, which come on custom buns from Brian Wood of Starter Bakery (profiled here, Harvest 2011). The restaurant’s signature taste may well be the vada pav—a slider stuffed with a spiced fried potato puff, pickled red onion, and packing plenty of heat, thanks to a chutney made with ghost peppers.… Read More

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By Sarah Henry

Photo by Nicki Rosario

Tonic and tasty don’t always belong in the same sentence. But try rolling these around in your mouth:

  •  Cold Pressed Juice Elixir No. 1, a blend of kale, romaine, watermelon, cucumber, apple, and mint.
  •  Vegan Milk No. 2, an almond-cashew combo infused with cacao and enhanced by rose petal notes.
  •  Probiotic Kefir Water Tonic No. 2, a refreshing mix of watermelon, basil, lemon, and lime, along with immune-supporting active kefir cultures.

Leave it to the Living Apothecary, a new Oakland small-batch producer, to craft good-for-you elixirs that deliver on the delicious factor as well. These are living libations designed not just for cleanse devotees or the dairy-intolerant but for anyone who enjoys sipping something that is pleasing to the palate and beneficial to health.

Shari Stein Curry and Traci Hunt are the business partners behind this start-up natural foods company based at Oakland Kitchener, the Uptown commercial kitchen profiled in these pages last issue. They became pals while working at Rivoli, the upscale restaurant in North Berkeley. As resident mixologist, Curry had a reputation for making lip-smacking cocktails, while Hunt, a server, was exploring a passion for eating raw and alive foods. The two began kicking around an idea to fill a gap in the East Bay market for cold-pressed juices and came up with a product line of intriguing fresh juice blends, nut milks, and probiotic kefir waters (aka “proktails”).… Read More

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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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