Side Dish

A serving of favorite things from the East Bay for seasonal gift-giving

Meal Spinning
Some people say, “Finding local is too much trouble,” but it doesn’t have to be. The Local Foods Wheel, an ingenious tool created by East Bay local foods advocates Jessica Prentice, Sarah Klein, and Maggie Gosselin, was designed to help us identify foods grown in our region, and to know when various foods are in season on a month-by-month basis. The creators tell us to stick it on our fridge, and if we open the door and it’s empty, maybe we’ll be inspired to check out what’s fresh at the local farmers market rather than shlepping off to the chain store.

Local Buzz
At Fernseed, a new store at 3436 Dimond Ave. in Oakland’s Dimond district, “things discarded, unwanted, and unloved become new again, with imagination, a fresh coat of paint and some good, old-fashioned, blue-collar elbow-grease.” It’s also a place to buy Marshall’s “Hood Honey,” freshly made by bees that live in Oakland neighborhoods. How much more local can you get?

Praise Cheeses!
We’ve listened to our friends bragging about their homemade cheeses for a while now, so it’s time to set up a cheese tasting party in order to see how their handiwork stacks up to the pros’. The Cheese Tasting Party Kit, a creation of local author Janet Fletcher and local publisher Chronicle Books, gives us a nifty set of ready-to-write-on signs we can poke into blocks of cheese to identify them, and a deck of cards describing 50 of the world’s famous cheeses that our friends might be trying to emulate. We could easily add a set of cards for the homemade cheeses, telling the tales of all that amazing work with the blessed curds. The kit also has information on buying, storing, and pairing, plus a glossary of cheese terms, which will help us all be the experts.

Chariot on Fire
In this global recession, we’re all cutting back on the scale of our gift giving, and that means you-know-who might not be able to have that fabulous built-to-order outdoor wood oven you promised. But wait . . . now even an apartment dweller can dream that smoke-filled dream—thanks to Fiona and Larry Hughes of Clayton. The couple first learned about the handcrafted Beehive Oven on a trip to Portugal. They decided to go into business as Al Fresco Imports, importing this  adorable, portable, and affordable terracotta oven. They package it with a locally-made (in Concord) iron stand and tools for just under $2K. To find out more, including where to buy it, go to Once you have the oven, you do-it-yourselfers will need to hurry up and cure your own olives so you can make this recipe (compliments of Al Fresco Imports) as a topping for your first Beehive Oven pizza:

Olive Tapenade
to use on pizza or with pasta,
or as an appetizer spread
1½ cups Kalamata olives, pitted and drained (or by all means use your home-cured ones)
¼ cup (or more) extra-virgin olive oil (how about fresh-pressed local!)
2 tablespoons Italian parsley
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
3 grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons capers (optional)
2 small anchovy fillets (optional)
Pulse all ingredients in food processor for several seconds until blended but retaining a coarse texture. Can be stored, covered in refrigerator for up to two weeks.



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