Author Archives: Mary Flaherty
As we work off the excesses of Thanksgiving dinners and Hanukkah feasts, and anticipate still more over-indulging during the winter holidays, what better time to think about eating less? Specifically, smaller bites of the treats we love. Mary Flaherty set out to investigate local purveyors who offer wonderfully small portions of the ice creams and pastries we can’t live without. (Let us know in the Comments if you know of other East Bay spots that think small. In particular, Mary is still looking for a tidy little blueberry muffin!)
Petit croissants at La Bedaine
The mid-Solano French take-out shop La Bedaine sells sandwiches, tarts and vacuum-packed dinners, as well as pastries.
La Bedaine’s croissant ($2 — pictured above) is about half the size of most American croissants, estimates chef/owner Alain Delangle. It’s also slightly sweet. The pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant) ($2.25) is about two-thirds the size of others in the area, he said.
Asked why he makes smaller croissants, Delangle said, “I’ll show you — it’s very simple.” Reaching behind a counter, the French native pulled out a rolling pin-like device from France that rolls and cuts the croissants into a fixed size. “That’s the normal size for a French croissant.”
La Bedaine, 1585 Solano Ave. between Ordway and Peralta. … Continue reading »
A group of local residents is asking the city to raise funds to turn an old, fenced-off railroad bed in south Berkeley, called the Santa Fe Right of Way, into open space with community gardens and a trail that connects to the Ohlone Greenway.
The challenge is that the parks department is already seriously underfunded. Officials are considering a measure for next November’s ballot for a tax increase of at least $20 on average, just to keep from having to lay off park maintenance workers.
Last Wednesday night, the Park Commissioners discussed the ballot measure. About 14 supporters of the Santa Fe project and several Willard Pool advocates urged the commissioners to fund these large projects, as well.
“We want to make sure that the Santa Fe Right of Way should be among the key — if not flagship — projects on ballot measure,” said John Steere, president of Berkeley Partners for Parks. … Continue reading »
Plans for a bike lane on Tunnel Road — under negotiation for the past year between the city, residents and biking advocates — will be discussed Thursday night at a city Transportation Commission meeting.
Last fall, the city proposed a bike lane on the uphill side of Tunnel Road between the Claremont Hotel and the city line, near Highway 24, a road busy with recreational cyclists as well as bike commuters. The proposal eliminated all parking, making many residents unhappy.
“We take the brunt of all the traffic,” said Jacquelyn McCormick, president of Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association. “To ask one street to give 100% of something is unfair.”
At a meeting Oct. 9, city staff, residents and bike advocates discussed a revised plan, which restored many but not all of the parking spaces along Tunnel Road. Most of the 40 or so residents at the meeting were far happier with this plan, but the sticking point was the block between Oak Ridge Drive and The Uplands, where the road narrows and parking (enough room for up to 20 cars) was still eliminated in favor of the bike lane. … Continue reading »
St. Mary’s College High School got the go-ahead last Wednesday for its master plan to add two buildings and renovate others. The move followed six months of mediation with its North Berkeley neighbors.
The private Catholic college preparatory high school sits on 12.5 acres, surrounded by about 100 homes in North Berkeley and Albany. Although St. Mary’s has a Berkeley street address — 1294 Albina Ave. — it actually sits on the Albany side of the line, so it was Albany’s Planning and Zoning Commission that approved the master plan and a conditional use permit.
The plan for the school of about 600 students includes:
- A new music building of 13,400 square feet, to replace the much smaller current one;
- A new campus chapel, 4,400 square feet, single-story;
- A 14,000-square-foot addition to St. Joseph’s Hall (classrooms, library and offices);
- A larger kitchen at the student center;
- A new drainage plan.
At this time, St. Mary’s has only enough money to replace the music building, according to Vivian Kahn, planning consultant to the school. That construction is not likely to begin before summer 2014, she said. The rest of the master plan could take “10 to 15 years – or more” to build, Kahn said. “They need to raise money as they go.”
It’s been a long process already: in 2006, the school submitted a larger plan, withdrew it in 2008, and submitted the current, scaled-back plan in 2011. Five public hearings were held since 2011, and five mediation sessions since last November. … Continue reading »
Last month a local veterinarian had a Berkeley client bring in a very sick chicken.
“It was almost dead,” said Dr. Lee Prutton, of the Abbey Pet Hospital in El Cerrito. Prutton said he put the chicken to sleep and, wondering if it had a contagious disease, sent the body to the state lab for testing. The results: heavy metal poisoning, mainly lead.
The vet is now concerned that people are raising chickens in lead-contaminated urban soils, unaware that the lead can enter the chickens’ eggs that we eat.
Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, miscarriage, high blood pressure and learning and behavior problems, and is especially problematic for growing children, according to the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department.
Last October, the New York Times reported that “…a New York State Health Department study show(ed) that more than half the eggs tested from chickens kept in community gardens in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens had detectable levels of lead, unlike store-bought counterparts.” … Continue reading »
Berkeley schools are making a renewed commitment to recycling and composting after efforts slacked off over the past five years.
This year, a local non-profit, Green Schools Initiative, has worked with eight Berkeley schools, revitalizing recycling and composting programs. Green Schools was just awarded a grant for next year, so it can work with another eight schools in the fall.
According to Deborah Moore, executive director of Green Schools Initiative, recycling and composting are not only good for reducing landfill and greenhouse gases – they can also reduce the district’s spending.
“The Berkeley school district has potential to be saving $50,000 a year out of about $350,000 spent on trash pickup,” Moore said. … Continue reading »
Berkeley expects to get $12.7 million in grant funding for changes to BART Plaza, Shattuck Avenue and Hearst Street that should make life easier for people using the Downtown BART station and buses, biking to campus and even just driving through the center of town.
On Thursday, May 23, the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) voted unanimously on an initial approval of the city’s grant proposals for the three transit projects. Construction could begin in 2015, said Matt Nichols, principal transportation planner for the city. … Continue reading »
Berkeley schools’ nationally recognized cooking and gardening programs are about to lose funding – once again. But, unlike last year, no last-minute reprieve of federal funds is expected.
Schools representatives met with about 120 parents last Thursday night at Longfellow Middle School to explain why the programs are set to lose $1.9 million of U.S. Department of Agriculture funds, and what potential solutions are being developed.
Every public school in Berkeley — from pre-school to high school — currently has either a cooking program or an edible garden, with 10 schools having both. A series of videos shown at Thursday’s meeting — kindergarteners working with knives and graters, kids watering in the garden and stuffing their mouths with greens — shows just what is at stake. … Continue reading »
The abandoned chickens appeared one afternoon in December, in the parking lot near Tilden Park’s Little Farm. Nine of them, right next to the bus stop. Whoever dumped them had sprinkled feed on the ground, and apparently hoped the Little Farm would adopt them. Not so.
“It’s as much as I can do to keep these animals clean, alive and fed,” said the man known as Farmer Stanley, gesturing to the chickens, cows, sheep and pigs he has taken care of at the farm for more than a decade.
At least two of those abandoned chickens became dinner for the local wildlife, judging by the piles of feathers found on the ground, said park staff. They think – or at least hope – that some of the chickens were adopted, in response to an ad posted, because a bunch disappeared all at once.
The month before the chicken-drop, it was a white bunny, left in a cage at the same spot. Last summer there were five kittens. … Continue reading »
City Slicker Farms, an urban farming group in West Oakland, has bought its own land, and expects to dramatically increase its output of leafy greens, vegetables and fresh eggs for local residents.
With its five existing gardens, the organization sold a total 9,000 pounds of food in West Oakland in 2012. Since its founding in 2001, the yield has been 72,000 pounds of food.
But, with the new expansion, City Slicker expects to double the amount of food it grows, according to Barbara Finnin, the organization’s executive director.
About 120 supporters – and a half-dozen geese — gathered at the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday Jan. 31 in what’s currently an empty, grassy lot at the corner of Peralta and 28th St., not far from the MacArthur Maze. … Continue reading »
A new initiative, spearheaded by Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard Project, aims to put beehives in the city’s three middle schools by next spring.
King Middle School’s one-acre garden, home to the Edible Schoolyard, has already jumped in having acquired a hive of Russian bees six weeks ago, under a program the organizers named Bee Experimental Education in Schools (BEES).
The idea, said Edible Schoolyard Director Kyle Cornforth, is to extend King’s existing hands-on gardening and cooking education to include learning about pollination. … Continue reading »