Some of our Favorite Things for Holiday Giving
At Edible East Bay, we spend a lot of time perusing the two East Bay counties for things we find worth writing about, so when it comes time for holiday gift shopping, we know right where we want to go. We especially like supporting the local economy with our purchases.
GIFTS MADE BY FARMERS . . .
Most farmers’ market associations sell gift certificates at their information booths, and quite a few vendors sell their own gift certificates as well. “What’s in Season” columnist Barbara Kobsar, who is herself a vendor at the Sunday Walnut Creek Farmers’ Market, suggests a gift certificate for knife sharpening at the Critical Edge, and she lists specific items, such as bay leaf wreaths, local honey, flavored sugars, dried fruits and nuts, and handmade soaps, all of which can be gift wrapped right at the market at no extra charge. Barbara’s own Cottage Kitchen jams are made with fruits from her fellow vendors, and she can wrap them in a complimentary gift bag that she stuffs with recipes.
Susan Unger, a contributing writer from San Ramon wants people to know about Windmill Farms, 2255 San Ramon Valley Boulevard in San Ramon, an open-air market offering local farm produce, honey, and artisanal products at affordable prices. “You support our local farmers and the community,” she says. “Make up a gift basket with fruits grown in the East Bay, buy a delicious locally made pie, or purchase gift certificates.” (www.Windmillfarmsproduce.com)
. . . AND BY LOCAL FOOD CRAFTERS
Writer, photographer, and musician David Gans, who performs at the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, says that a favorite market ritual for him is schmoozing with Peter Brydon, chocolatier of Oakland-based Barlovento Chocolates, and tasting Peter’s “Logo bars,” which come in four varieties. “The lovely little 64-percent dark chocolates dusted with exotic sea salt are a daily pleasure for me. Every evening as I wash the dinner dishes, I take a small bite and let it melt in my mouth as I work. If I miss buying them at the market, I can find them at the Pasta Shop.” (www.barloventochocolates.com)
Fremont-based contributor Katie Yen, says, “If you wake up to find Boston Baked Beans, Lemonheads, and BB Bats in your holiday stocking, you just may double check the calendar to make sure you haven’t time traveled! It’s the 21st century, but retro candies are still in style at Kiki’s Konfections in Niles [district in Fremont]. You’ll also find homemade fudge, old-fashioned lollipops, and the shop’s signature Lemon Lavender Sugar Cookies.” (www.kikiskonfections.com)
Contributor Sarah Henry goes for the preserves made by our great East Bay jam makers, which are easy to find at small, specialty food purveyors. She likes the bright, tangy, and bold marmalades made by June Taylor at her Still Room in Berkeley (www.junetaylorjams.com ). She says Taylor’s candied citrus peels are perfect stocking stuffers. For conserves that focus on single varieties sourced locally she goes to INNA Jam (www.innajam.com ) for Seascape Strawberry, Polka Raspberry, or Blenheim Apricot. INNA Jam owner Dafna Kory offers local (Berkeley) bicycle delivery. For unusual flavors she goes to Oakland artisan Rachel Saunders for the Blue Chair Fruit Company (www.bluechairfruit.com ), picking the Early Girl Tomato Jam to jazz up a grilled cheese sandwich or the Regina Peach with Sage Jam to pair with a Starter Bakery croissant (www.starterbakery.com ). The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook makes a substantial present for any budding D.I.Y. jammer.
As luck will have it, the winter holidays coincide with the olive harvest, so it’s a great time to give a gift of freshly pressed local olive oil. Pleasanton-based writer Patricia Hayse Haller likes the variety pack from Olivina in Livermore (www.theolivina.com ), which is both inexpensive and beautiful. “The little six-pack contains two 50 ml bottles each of three varieties of olive oil all in a pretty mesh bag. Or try a gift bag filled with two five-ounce bottles, one of olive oil and one of fig balsamic vinegar.
Katie Yen discovered a great online store for urban homesteading supplies. It’s Oakland-based FARMcurious (www.farmcurious.com ), where they offer everything from basic canning kits to tools for fermenting wine vinegar in a French oak barrel. “And if you can’t tell cheese culture from pop culture, they’ll even host an educational demo party for you and your epicurious buddies.”
Katie also likes the Grow Your Own Mushroom Garden Kit from Back to the Roots (www.backtotheroots.com ). “After my morning ritual of espresso, the spent coffee grounds usually find their way to the compost bin, enriching a future harvest. But the folks at Oakland-based Back to the Roots use coffee grounds to grow a batch of pearl oyster mushrooms indoors in a matter of days. Gardeners-in-training (that is, kids!) and green thumbs enjoy watching the mushrooms bloom in real time, while gourmet foodies can pluck the fresh fungi without even making a trip to the garden.”
The Chinese proverb says: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Patricia Hayse Haller, who has two sons and a husband says, “Teach a man to cook a fish, and you’ll both eat well for a lifetime!” She’s giving them gift certificates for cooking classes. Check on the offerings at Pans On Fire in Pleasanton, Kitchen on Fire in Berkeley, East Bay Restaurant Supply in Oakland, or Paulding & Company in Emeryville. (www.pansonfire.com ) (www.kitchenonfire.com ) (www.pauldingandco.com )
MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE
Contributor Rachel Trachten recommends a gift certificate to the Ecology Center store (www.ecologycenter.org/store ) in Berkeley. “They have a huge array of kitchen, garden, cleaning, and personal care products, plus a great selection of books and magazines all aimed at helping us achieve a more sustainable lifestyle.”
Patricia Hayse Haller says, “Forget visions of sugarplums and make the holidays a time for choosing free-range, pastured, sustainable, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and seafood.” Good places to find them include Main Street Meat and Fish Market in Pleasanton, Marin Sun Farms at Rockridge Market Hall, and the fabulous new Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, where they source whole animals directly from farmers within 150 miles of the shop. (www.meat-n-fish.com ) (www.marinsunfarms.com ) (www.thelocalbutchershop.com )
Sustain someone’s hunger for good food reading with a gift subscription to Edible East Bay! You’ll be supporting this magazine as well.
Art and garden editor Helen Krayenhoff suggests heading to your local nursery and filling up a harvesting trug with little gifts for your gardening friends. “Everyone can use a sharp new pair of Felco pruning shears,” she says. “And they also need a hori hori, whether they know it or not.” [A hori hori is a Japanese planting and digging tool.] Make sure to include some Malibu Compost tea bags.
For beginner gardeners, wrap up a nice selection of seeds for the spring veggie garden along with a copy of Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Peirce, which will make their next row less hard to hoe.
“When you see your friend sitting in her overstuffed chair with seed catalogs strewn around—or looking intently at seed company websites—you want to make sure she is sipping her herbal tea out of a beautiful mug made by a local potter,” says Helen. Wrap up the mug with some Grey Dog Tea, a spicy mix of peppermint, Mareko Fana peppers and complementary herbs made by Baia Nicchia Farm in Sunol. Check https://baianicchia.blogspot.com/ for places where it’s available or stop in at their farm stand at the Jazz Café on Main Street in Sunol (10–2 on Saturday or 2–7 on Wednesday).
HELEN’S FAB FOUR FREE SEED CATALOGUES (based on their editorial charm and good selections of seeds)
Fedco Seeds is owned and run by farmers with dry wit. It’s the only company I know of that tells you who grew the seeds. (www.fedcoseeds.com )
Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit actively saving heirloom varieties since 1975. The catalog offers beautiful photography and an excellent selection. (www.seedsavers.org )
Bountiful Gardens, located in Willits, California, offers lots of unusual veggie seeds. (www.bountifulgardens.org )
Kitazawa Seeds, the oldest Asian seed company in the U.S., is located right here in Oakland. (www.kitazawaseed.com )
ART BY PEOPLE YOU KNOW
Take Edible East Bay art off the page and wrap it up! Some of our contributing artists have wonderful gift items for sale.
The watercolor Felco clippers above are by J. Panter, whose work graced the cover of our Spring 2009 issue. She sells cards, watercolor prints, and calligraphy services through www.thistlecreekstudio.com and on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/thistlecreekstudio)
Rosalie Z Fanshel gave us the pencil drawing of a cabbage at right for our Fall/Winter 2009 cover. Look for her hand-illustrated Year of the Dragon holiday cards and more at www.rosaliezfanshel.com to see . Reach her at
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Robert Trujillo, who did the illustrations for the tamale article this issue, sells his fanciful painted light-switch plates, small paintings, and illustrations on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/mrroberttrujillo
K. Ruby Blume, who created the glass piece on our Summer 2011 cover, will have her work for sale at the Institute of Urban Homesteading’s Winter Open House Party and Art Sale December 11 & 12 2011. https://iuhoakland.com/
Margo Rivera-Weiss’s painting of apples was a big hit on our Harvest 2008 cover. Her colorful images of tropical fruit and other produce (such as the one at the top of this page) are available on cards and magnets. Visit her online gallery www.Margoriveraweiss.com to purchase, or find the cards in Oakland at Creative Framing & Gallery or Laurel Book Store. She’s on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/margorw. For a studio visit, contact Margo at incajew(at)rocketmail(dot)com.
Wendy Yoshimura, the wtercolor artist whose bowl of cherries was featured on our Summer 2010 cover at left, sells limited edition watercolor prints and packets of greeting cards by appointment at her studio. Email her at wendy(at)wendyyoshimura(dot)com.
Our Harvest 2010 cover image is an example of Oakland artist Kieren Dutcher’s a unique gouache resist technique. To see the cards and prints she has for sale, go to
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Edible East Bay art editor Helen Krayenhoff sells her watercolor cards at Bells & Whistles in Oakland’s Dimond district (www.bellsandwhistlesoakland.com ) and will be part of the show at Uptown Body & Fender December 2. Explore her work (and get her contact info) at www.helenkrayenhoff.com .
MIMI’S HOLIDAY SURVIVAL GUIDE
By Melissa Shilling
The Hostess Gift: Let some other Jane Doe opt for a boring vanilla candle. Go for power flavor and bring your party hosts some serious local tang. Studebaker pickles. ‘Nuff said. (www.studebakerpickles.com )
The Pre-Party: Maybe I read Valley of the Dolls one too many times, but for me, nothing sets the tone for a good night out better than an ice cream bombe from Ici ice cream shop on College Avenue in Berkeley. I like to eat one in my bedroom while I sip champagne, listen to music, and apply makeup at my vanity. (www.ici-icecream.com )
The Post-Party: We should all support Berg Injury Lawyers who hand out free cab rides on certain holiday evenings, up to $35. The rides cover Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda. Personally I always swing by a taco truck on my way home. (www.savvycities.com/free-cab-rides-home-san-francisco )
The Hangover Cure: So you’ve pried one eye open and you know you need a few things in order to feel human again? Let two of them be the spicy bánh mì sandwich and a mug of hot Roast Coffee Co. coffee at Chop Bar in Jack London Square. (www.oaklandchopbar.com ; www.roastco.com )
Please visit our advertisers during the holiday shopping season, and while you are there, thank them for making this magazine possible!
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