May 31, 2014

Grandma's Homemade will offer their scrumptious jams at Edible Tastings, coming up on June 14 & 15 at the Live Oak Park Fair.   (Photo courtesy of Jan Etre)

Grandma’s Homemade will offer their scrumptious jams at Edible Tastings, coming up on June 14 & 15 at the Live Oak Park Fair.
(Photo courtesy of Jan Etre)

Local Gems

Edible Tastings at Berkeley’s Live Oak Park Fair is just around the corner, and here’s a preview to tempt your palate. We invite you to read on for stories about a nursery makeover, two chances to mix and mingle, a panel for those with entrepreneurial spirit, and the local food journalists who won a coveted James Beard award.

Photo courtesy of Little Belgians

Photo courtesy of Little Belgians

Edible Tastings Serves Up
Handcrafted Local Foods

Saturday & Sunday, June 14 & 15, 10am–6pm
Live Oak Park
1301 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

Edible East Bay hosts a tasting extravaganza at Berkeley’s annual Live Oak Park Fair. Come sample handmade products such as jams, granolas, baked goods, teas, and juice crafted by local food producers. Tastes are offered free of charge, and there’s plenty more to buy.

Photo courtesy of Solidaritea

Photo courtesy of Solidaritea

This year’s tasting lineup is a scrumptious one: delectable jams from Grandma’s Homemade, Charlie Frank’s pies and pound cakes, handcrafted granola courtesy of Not Yer Momma’s, Prickly Pig’s pork sandwiches with tangy sauce, Urban Delights’ brandy-infused honeys, alfajores (cookie sandwiches) from Alfajores Narciso, and Little Belgians’ speculoos (spice cookies). Thirst-quenching beverages round out the menu. Dive into Solidaritea’s fruity iced teas, dazzling veggie and fruit blends from FreeJuice, and creative kombucha made by Mother Knows Best.







Photo courtesy of Urban Delights

Photo courtesy of Urban Delights

Set against a backdrop of heritage oaks and redwoods alongside Codornices Creek, Live Oak Park is a perfect spot to delight in the variety and quality of our local food. The fair also highlights the arts and crafts community, showcasing affordable contemporary art, handcrafted jewelry and accessories, photographs and prints, couture adult and kids’ clothing, handmade quilts and baskets, plus sculptural and functional objects in clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood. All-day entertainment features live music, magic shows, puppet shows, and face painting for kids. Info: here.




Flowerland's owner Carly Dennett

Flowerland’s owner Carly Dennett

Flowerland Redux

By Kristina Sepetys

Flowerland-1I was surprised and a little confused when a friend proposed meeting for coffee at Flowerland nursery on Solano Avenue in Albany. I hadn’t been there in years and remembered it as a tired, worn little neighborhood nursery specializing in lawn care items. I certainly didn’t recall any coffee service. But what a difference a few years and an inspired, creative owner can make! Since my last visit, Berkeley resident Carly Dennett has purchased the space and continues to transform it into a charming, stylish nursery, garden shop, and coffee bar.

I turned up early on a weekday morning and sat outside in the warm sunshine on a wooden bench, enjoying coffee and pastries served by Local 123 (of San Pablo Avenue renown) out of the side window of a 1969 Princess Airstream trailer. Other people sat at colorful bistro tables and chairs placed among hanging and potted plants, working on laptops and nibbling biscuit sandwiches. Several visitors took their coffee to go, wandering among the plants and decorative found objects, some pulling weathered red wagons filled with flowering plants and seasonal edibles. The owner’s kindly old collie sat quietly, looking on among the greenery and flowers.

Flowerland2The indoor shop, which feels like a small, treasure-filled woodland grove, has all sorts of alluring gardening tools and bits: well-designed garden and cookbooks, artisan-made cards, hand-crafted home and jewelry items, locally made foodstuffs, and lots of warm, relaxing sunlight filtering through the windows. Dennett grew up in Mendocino (where her mother owned a store) and worked as a merchandiser at the Gardener on Fourth Street before launching her own plant and garden business. Dennett’s previous experience shows in the well-curated and displayed items for sale, like Kanna Aoki oil paintings of local Northern California landscapes, bug houses by local gardener Joseph Gaglione, Stonehouse Olive Oils, Berkeley-based Juniper Ridge room sprays and trail soap, and jams and drink mixers from Kensington Marmalade Company.

A large wire display rack holds a varied selection of packaged organic seeds from High Mowing and Renee’s Garden. I bought two packets—climbing nasturtium Moonlight and fragrant sweet peas April in Paris—to plant in the freshly amended soil beneath my newly crafted structures for climbing vines. I also took home bagged mulch to mound over rows of spiny silver artichokes, which are finally rooting and shooting in my front garden. Staff were helpful and friendly, cheerfully answering all my seed and soil queries. I was intrigued with some hanging iron planter orbs, a variation on the hanging basket. Frankly, I was intrigued with most of the inventory and hope to find my way back for more coffee, company, and garden meditation very soon.


Photos courtesy of Andrea Balazs Photography

Photos courtesy of Andrea Balazs Photography

Acta Non Verba Celebrates Springtime

Acta-non-Verba-logoSpring of Green
Saturday June 7, noon–4pm
1001 83rd Ave, Oakland

and …

Spring of Green Mixer
Saturday June 7, 6–9pm
7631 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland

All are invited to join urban farm Acta Non Verba (Deeds Not Words) for its third annual Spring of Green celebration. The free community event offers activities for the whole family, with guest speakers, gardening workshops, cooking demos, rock climbing, face painting, and a bounce house.

Speakers include Los Angeles food activist Ron Finley, known as a guerrilla gardener who turns abandoned lots and traffic medians in South Central L.A. into edible gardens. Musician and activist Jennifer Johns and acclaimed chef and author Bryant Terry (promoting his new book, Afro-Vegan) also highlight the event.

Kelly Carlisle, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, started Acta Non Verba (ANV) in 2010 with the goal of involving and inspiring local East Oakland youth. ANV’s quarter-acre farm is planned, planted, and harvested by youth grades K–8, who also sell the produce. All proceeds are placed into individual savings accounts for the young people taking part.

Following the daytime event, community members are invited to support the farm. Join Acta Non Verba for its benefit Spring of Green Mixer featuring tasty bites and craft cocktails made with fresh garden ingredients. For tickets, click here.

Spring of Green Mixer -- Photo courtesy of Acta Non Verba

Spring of Green Mixer — Photo courtesy of Acta Non Verba



Running on Local

Thursday June 5, 5:30–8:30pm
Impact Hub Oakland
2323 Broadway, Oakland


Community members are invited to a lively panel discussion about local entrepreneurship and investment. Three organizations committed to building a thriving local economy have come together as event sponsors: Good Food Web (a project of Vital Systems), the Sustainable Economies Law Center, and Slow Money Northern California. Panelists include Carol Peppe Hewitt, founder of Slow Money North Carolina; Lyle Estill, co-founder of Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro, North Carolina; and Teddy Stray, founder of Point Reyes Compost. For tickets, click here.


Naomi Starkman (left) and Paula Crossfield

Naomi Starkman (left) and
Paula Crossfield

High Honors for Civil Eats

Kudos to Civil Eats, a blog covering sustainable food and agriculture, for its 2014 James Beard Award! The Beard Foundation’s Journalism Committee honored Civil Eats as Publication of the Year, noting its “fresh direction, worthy ambition, and a forward-looking approach to food journalism.”

Founded in 2009 by Bay Area residents Paula Crossfield and Naomi Starkman, Civil Eats highlights stories from around the country, with a focus on the connection between food policy and social justice. In 2013, the founders raised an astonishing $100,000 through a Kickstarter Campaign to bring the publication from a volunteer effort to one that pays writers and editors a fair wage. Crossfield and Starkman are also founding members of the FERN (Food & Environment Reporting Network, Inc.), a non-profit news organization for investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

Writers for Civil Eats include Edible East Bay Contributing Editor Sarah Henry, whose story on Berkeley’s Urban Adamah was recently featured.


Book Reviews

Blogger Cookbooks

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

According to Technorati, an Internet search engine for blogs, as of 2012 there were nearly 17,000 food blogs. One can only imagine how many more have debuted in the two years since. If they’re all publishing a recipe a day, that’s nearly seven million recipes per year! Some of the most popular food blogs have been created by home cooks without professional training. Though perhaps short on schooling and commercial kitchen experience, these bloggers are long on life experience and often really good storytellers. They have a distinct voice or special interest (pastry, gardening, specialized diets, the out-of-doors, relationship navigation), and include lots of lovely photographs; colorful, personal narratives; and tasty recipes that use fresh ingredients. Dishes are generally designed to enhance family life, spark social gatherings, or celebrate the seasons or holidays. As time passes, blogs evolve, recipes accumulate, and some writers move from the blogosphere into print. Below are some notable cookbook offerings from popular bloggers that use seasonal produce easily available to East Bay residents.

The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian
Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods

by Erin Gleeson
(Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, April 2014)

Food photographer Erin Gleeson and her husband moved from New York City into a tiny cabin in the woods south of San Francisco. The natural beauty of her surroundings, abundance of local produce, and her weekly CSA box all serve as inspiration for The Forest Feast, based on her popular blog. The book’s 100 vegetarian recipes are for “dishes that are easy enough after a long day at work, yet impressive enough for a party.” Each calls for only three or four ingredients and equally minimal effort, but yield dishes that are fresh, wholesome, and tasty. Among the recipes, find Eggplant Tacos with Brie and Cilantro, Rosemary Shortbread, and Blackberry Negroni. Photographs of food and Erin’s cabin life, enhanced by her whimsical watercolor illustrations and hand lettering, complement the rustic simplicity of the dishes. (

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman
(Knopf, October 2012)

Home cooking in her tiny Manhattan kitchen led Deb Perelman to launch her award-winning blog, Smitten Kitchen, to demonstrate that cooking should be an easy, always-satisfying pleasure. Perelman, a photographer by training, is a firm believer that there are no bad cooks, just bad recipes. In her bestselling, much-lauded cookbook (winner of the IACP Julia Child First Book Award; among Cooking Light magazine’s Top 100 Cookbooks of the Last 25 Years), Perelman shares more than 100 reliable recipes, beautiful color photographs of finished dishes, and the same cheerful and amusing prose that endears readers to her blog. Try Honey and Harissa Farro Salad, Tomato Scallion with Whipped Goat Cheese Shortcakes, Corn Risotto-Stuffed Poblanos, Shaved Asparagus Pizza, Mushroom Bourguignon, and any of the baked goods for which Perelman is celebrated. (

La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life
by Béatrice Peltre
(Roost Books, February 2012)

For Béatrice Peltre, Boston-based traveler, teacher, mother, and author of the award-winning blog LaTartineGourmande, cooking is about celebrating people and places we love throughout each meal of the day. To do so, she shares 100 recipes, colorful photographs, and memories and anecdotes from her childhood in the French countryside and her worldwide travels. Gluten-free recipes use whole grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and nut flours. Try the oeufs en cocotte (Baked Eggs with Leeks, Spinach, Smoked Salmon, and Cumin) inspired by a dish Peltre enjoyed as a child after collecting fresh eggs from her grandmother’s hen house. Sample the Buttermilk, Lemon, and Poppyseed Pancakes she made every morning in Crete. Enjoy Tartine with Walnut, Lemon, and Ricotta Pesto and Sauteed Mushrooms, or Fava Beans, Poppy Seed Goat Cheese, and Lemon Vinaigrette. Desserts like Lavender Ile Flottantes (“floating islands” of whipped egg whites on flavored, silky crème anglaise), Blackberry Tartlets with Vanilla-Flavored Mascarpone Cream, or Cardamom-flavored Chocolate Crème Caramel, are sublime. (

The Slim Palate Paleo Cookbook
by Joshua Weissman
(Victory Belt Publishing, 2014)

At 15, teenage food blogger Joshua Weissman decided he was tired of being obese, unhappy, and bullied. Through his own initiative, he lost over 100 pounds by turning away from packaged food and diets to preparing his own nutrient-dense meals. Weissman’s cookbook shares 100 recipes, which draw largely on the Weston A. Price and paleo-primal nutrition philosophies. Dishes are free of grain, gluten, and refined sugar; really good; and not difficult to prepare. There’s a particularly tasty Rolled Pork Loin lined with fresh and fragrant herbs, a flavorful Steak and Brussels Sprout Stir-Fry, Braised Leeks and Artichoke Hearts, and Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Fudge. The recipes are interesting and creative, likewise the photographs. I finished the book wanting to know more about how this 18-year-old managed to find his way into such wholesome and sophisticated cooking. (




Peanut Butter Avocado Shake and
Strawberry-Cucumber Ribbon Salad

Images and recipes with permission from The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson, copyright © 2014. Published by Stewart, Tabori, & Chang. Photography © 2014 by Erin Gleeson.


Peanut Butter-Avocado Shake

½ ripe avocado
1¼ cup milk (I use almond)
2 frozen bananas (peel and cut in chunks before freezing)
3 ice cubes
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serves two.



Strawberry-Cucumber Ribbon Salad

Make ribbons from two large cucumbers using a peeler.

Combine with

1 cup sliced strawberries
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
¾ cup sliced snow peas
½ cup sliced toasted almonds

Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Salt to taste.