Side Dish

A serving of favorite things from the East Bay community

by serena bartlett










Kitchen Vintage

Its true—we all too often glorify the past, using the phrase “back
in the day” to signify those times when things were simpler, more
understandable. But really, the grass wasn’t always greener, was
it? I find a consistent exception in the area of culinary antiques. I
regularly use my bubba’s pickle jar, her serving utensils, and measuring
cups; and my mother’s copper casserole, flour sifter, and
paring knives. Each of these was made with a lasting quality that
pairs perfectly with the memories of these same tools being used
for generations to prepare delicious family meals. It can be hard
to find the quality or style replicated today except in the high-end
market. Finding such antiques can involve a lot of roaming around,
but on a recent trip to the Niles district of Fremont (where you
might find more antique shops per block than anywhere else on
the planet) I found plenty of shops offering the kitschy and quirky,
as well as the useful and dainty—all at very reasonable prices. I
found oodles of salt and pepper shakers (including some that
were poodle-shaped), Bakelite carving sets, all manner of flatware
(matched and mismatched), hand-cranked beaters, working vintage
toasters, cast-iron pots, baking dishes, and endless other items. The
easiest shopping was at Bite and Browse, where the huge collections,
by different sellers, are all in a row. At My Friends and I, I found the
most elegant displays and a plethora of Swanky Swigs, collectable
patterned drinking glasses that are coming back in fashion. Skip the
mall, with its poorly made imports that are only destined for the trash
heap. Instead, enjoy the hunt and do your part in preserving part of
the past and our ongoing culinary traditions.
For a list of antique shops in Niles, go to

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Grandma’s Wisdom











Lev Kilun couldn’t forget that tart, effervescent beverage his grandmother used to pour
for him. And when he decided to put down the tools of his engineering trade for a new
passion, he was determined to re-create her perfect recipe. Three years and countless
batches later, Lev was satisfied with his version of this healthful drink. He calls it Lev’s
Original Kombucha, but the drink is known by many names the world over: kvass (Russia
and Ukraine), chicha (Latin America), malta (Puerto Rico), ibwatu (Zambia). Kombucha has a magical effect on your digestive system,
which might be why Grandma serves it up. It’s basically a lacto-fermentation of tea (or other
base beverage, depending on the region), and drinking it effectively balances your internal
pH, unofficially aiding in digestion, circulation, energy, and all-around good feelings. Lev says that his kombucha
has the same pH as balsamic vinegar, but you wouldn’t guess that from tasting it. He offers it plain (which looks and tastes like Champagne)
or mixed with Belgian cassis juice for a “kir royale.” (The cassis makes it a little less than local, since cassis is a “forbidden fruit” in the States
because of its invasive growing habits.) Lev’s Kombucha is smooth and easy to
drink—not pungent as others on the market can be. Another plus is that Lev
doesn’t bottle his kombucha, since bottling requires that it be heated, and that
effectively kills the enzymes and probiotics. Instead, he equips his distributors
with a keg that keeps the kombucha fresh and under pressure, so you’ll be getting it
served “on tap.” Prost!

Look for Lev’s bright green signs
at these locations in Berkeley: Juice
Appeal, 150 Berkeley Square; Post
Meridian 1568 Oak View; Soop, 1511
Shattuck Ave; Ashkenaz, 1317 San
Pablo Ave.; Bodywork Central, 1533
Shattuck Ave; in Oakland: New World Vegetarian, 464 8th St; Cafe
Lyon, 5701 College Ave; Green Apple, 3943 Piedmont Ave; and in
San Francisco at Power Source Café, 81 Fremont St. More info: Lev’s
Original Kombucha,


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