Archive | Winter Holidays 2013

About the Artist

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Melissa Garden (yes, that really is her name,) is a sixth generation California native and Oakland resident, with degrees in illustration from the California College of Arts (& Crafts) and UC Santa Cruz. The core strength of Melissa’s work is her ability to skillfully translate the natural world’s diverse beauty and oddity, her subjects ranging from endangered heritage breed livestock, to rare hybrid tomatoes, to edible bugs.

Melissa’s broad range of skills has brought her an equally diverse range of clients from internationally recognized brands, to local tomato farmers, to Japanese biochemists.
When not focused on freelance illustration and/or design projects at The Compound Gallery & Studios, Melissa tends to her small forest of cacao trees and other neo-tropical plants growing in her Oakland home.

For design or illustration inquiries, to purchase prints, or to see a selection of Melissa’s work, please visit:

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More mushroom recipes

Wild Mushroom Pizza

By Toby Garrone of Far West Fungi

1 teaspoon olive oil
Pizza dough (use pre-made or make your own)
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
4 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Heat oven to 400º. Brush a large cookie sheet with the olive oil and press out pizza dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle. Bake 8–10 minutes or until crust is light brown. Meanwhile, heat butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add mushrooms, cook about 6 minutes, stirring frequently until well browned, then stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Spread cream cheese evenly over crust. Sprinkle fontina cheese over cream cheese. Spread cooked mushrooms over cheese. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over mushrooms. Bake 10-12 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Cool 5 minutes, then cut into whatever serving size you desire.


Matsutake with Rice                                          

3 cups raw rice
Water (appropriate amount for the type of rice you are using)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of shoyu soy sauce
2 medium-size matsutake (approximately ¾ pound), sliced into small, thin wedges
Nori, thinly sliced (optional)
Sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Place rice, the appropriate amount of water, salt, and shoyu in a cooking pot or rice cooker.… Read More

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What’s in Season

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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.


Kiwifruit, those fuzzy little fruits with the big flavor and great nutritional value, are ripe and ready. Cut and scoop a spoonful for a handy snack or slice the glistening green fruit over Pavlova for a dessert that’s as refreshing as it is beautiful. Brussel sprouts come forward for holiday salads and side dishes. Whole stalks dotted with these “little cabbages” are as much a novelty as they are a convenience: just cut them off as needed. If you buy fresh and do not overcook, even naysayers might give them a thumbs-up! Also harvested in December: citrus, rutabaga, broccoli rabe.


Keep digging deep for your favorite vegetables. Many best choices in this season are vegetables harvested from below ground or just above it. Carrots are ubiquitous but not above scrutiny: They should be sweet, juicy, and crunchy, as should celery root. Both are flavor boosters when used in winter salads, soups, and stews. Blood oranges are here for their short season, so don’t miss your chance to indulge.… Read More

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Pie Lady Jaynelle St. Jean puts the finishing touches on one of her creations.

A Random Act of Sweetness
Launches Pie Lady


In February 2010, Jaynelle St. Jean found herself in a funk. Having traveled cross-country after a relationship break up, she’d just moved back in with her mom in San Francisco and was sleeping on the couch. She didn’t have a job. Well into her late twenties, she wasn’t sure where she was headed, professionally or personally. Did we mention it was Valentine’s Day and St. Jean was broke?

She could have thrown herself a little pity party. Instead, St. Jean, who learned how to bake from a high school boyfriend’s mother, decided to make pie to share with strangers. The budding baker stood outside her mother’s home, where she fashioned a country pie walk-up window of sorts, sharing free slices on glass plates to passersby in what she now calls a random act of sweetness. People responded in droves and chatted while they tucked into a slice of blueberry-pear, sweet potato, or pecan pie. It was just the kind of small-town, close-knit community that St. Jean hungered for. The day was a defining moment in her life.… Read More

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Bar Dogwood and Stag’s Lunchette

stags_dogwood_7180Winning combo in the Heart of Oakland


Alexeis (Lexi) Filipello knows how to craft a killer sandwich. Feeding folks in the center of Oakland from sun up to sun down, the owner of Stag’s Lunchette and Bar Dogwood stuffs her signature sammies with local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients in crave-worthy flavor pairings that have people coming back for more.

At Stag’s, they line up for the Pastrami Reuben: smoked organic 5 Dot Ranch brisket, gruyère cheese, piquant in-house dressing, and spicy kraut tucked inside Semifreddi levain bread. Over at Bar Dogwood, home to craft cocktails and house-made charcuterie, the favorite is a grilled cheese on thinly sliced levain. Its secrets are a slather of French butter, a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt, a filling of two blended cheeses (Belton Farms white cheddar for a sharp, savory taste, and Belfiore mozzarella for the stretchy texture that defines a model melted cheese toast), house-made mustard on the side, and add-ons like whiskey bacon chutney or tomato onion jam. Hungry yet?

Filipello, whose family ran a string of what she called “failed” Bay Area restaurants, learned how to cook eggs and make coffee at an early age.… Read More

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Seven Stars of Winter

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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



The older I get, the more I appreciate a glass of wine with a meal, and as a dedicated locavore, I especially like that I can now get excellent wines that were vinified mere miles from my home. The urban wineries of Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda have put the East Bay on wine lovers’ maps. Speaking of maps: did you know that all 50 states now have at least one winery operating? Still, almost 90 percent of American wine is produced in California, and this is a mixed blessing, since profitable vineyards in some California counties have pushed aside other forms of agriculture. Biodiversity is important in any ecosystem, and it demands that pleasure and subsistence each find enough space in our fields and on our tables.

kaleIt seems that everywhere I go people are extolling the pleasures of kale baked into chips or shredded in salads and eaten raw.… Read More

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Feast of the Seven Fishes


7fThe Trend and the Tradition



“Food trends start here,” a friend with a deep knowledge of Bay Area food culture once said to me. But in a more recent conversation, we came up with at least one trend that seems to have started on the East Coast and moved west. It’s the popularization of a Christmas Eve meal called “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” One might guess that such feasts are an Old World Italian tradition, but the name, anyhow, appears to have originated in the early-to-mid 20th century within certain East Coast Italian-American communities (mostly Southern Italian immigrant families).

A New York Feast

“It meant good times and lots of sharing to me,” says John Molinari, a contributor to several Edible Communities magazines in the New York City area. “Everyone speaking at the same time over dinner, lots of wine, sounds of joy, laughter, and eating. My mom would have relatives [Brooklynites and Upstate New Yorkers of Sicilian and Calabrian descent] over to her New York apartment and serve calamari; clams casino; shrimp with pasta; baked cod; little fishes called smelt fried in olive oil, a pinch of hot chile flakes, garlic in a herb vinegar reduction; Sicilian-style swordfish topped with anchovies, capers, olives, and fresh mint with lemon and white wine sauce .… Read More

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Cholita Linda founder Vanessa Chavez

From Farmers’ Market Favorite to Brick-and-Mortar Business

Oakland local Vanessa Chavez, 32, grew up eating fresh, flavorful, often homegrown food in a multigenerational family of multicultural heritage who valued mealtimes. “A meal was an experience, something to come together and share, and the food was the main event,” says Chavez, raised by a Peruvian-Chinese mother who grew produce and a Cuban-Mexican father who fished and hunted. “They passed on their adventurous tastes and joy of cooking and eating well to me.”

Chavez, the youngest of four, also spent a lot of time at home with her maternal grandmother, a legendary home cook who lived with the family. She made Peruvian shrimp chowder, breaded steaks, and a moist, roast turkey beloved by Chavez. “Going to the markets with my grandmother and then coming home to cook with her wasn’t a chore, it was something special we did together,” says Chavez of the way she learned to cook everyday comfort foods at her grandmother’s side. “I didn’t go to culinary school, my apprenticeship was really in my family home, though I did briefly work as a line cook,” she adds.… Read More

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City Girl Farm store

Abeni Ramsey has been hosting pop ups prior to her restaurant opening to test out menu ideas.

Abeni Ramsey has been hosting pop ups prior to her restaurant opening to test out menu ideas.

Abeni Ramsey moves her
mission from Farm to Fork


Abeni Ramsey (some may know her as Abeni Massey) has attracted national attention for her local urban farming efforts. They began eight years ago when, with the help of City Slicker Farms, Ramsey, who was on food stamps at the time, started growing her own food in West Oakland. Times were tight for the then-college-going single mom, but she wanted to feed her daughters well. She sought to swap freshly picked tomatoes for the Top Ramen she’d gotten into the habit of buying at a local market that didn’t sell produce. As she started planting and harvesting her own fruits and vegetables, something clicked for this UC Davis international agriculture major, who had thought she’d use her academic training to work overseas helping low-income people grow their own food. Instead, she found a need for her services close to home. “It’s a revolutionary act to plant a tomato in your backyard,” she’s fond of saying. “I’m motivated by self-sufficiency and economics and the desire for people to have access to real food that can nourish their families and community.”

Ramsey went on to work for City Slicker, helping the food justice group build backyard produce plots in West Oakland.… Read More

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Editor’s Mixing Bowl

It’s coming on Thanksgiving as I’m writing this, so it seems appropriate to take the occasion to reflect on things I’m thankful for. The list is long, and at the top, of course, are all the beautiful and loving people (and dogs) in my life, past and present. Then there’s good health, the astounding beauty of the Bay Area, the closeness of nature, and all the good food that I get to enjoy here each day.

Right at the moment, I’m especially grateful for the mushroom aisle at Berkeley’s Monterey Market. It’s literally an entire aisle, and if I’m forgetting where in the building it’s located, I have only to let my nose guide me down the back of the store and notice at which point I’m compelled to turn right. Before I went through all the pleasures and challenges of editing Jillian Steinberger’s massive mushroom opus for this issue, I had not taken enough time to determine which mushrooms were the most aromatic, which were grown by our local cultivators, and which were foraged. The aisle is a whole new place for me now, and my cooking has benefited from the knowledge. I was disappointed that there was not enough room in the magazine to include all the many recipes Jillian collected from local chefs, foragers, and growers, so if after reading the article you become as mushroom obsessed as I am now, you might want to go to the fourth link under “The Hidden Kingdom of the Blobs” in the contents and try additional recipes.

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