Author Archives: Sarah Henry

New Edible Schoolyard head Heron plans for growth

Journalist Katrina Heron takes the reins at the Edible Schoolyard Project Photo: Alex Stock
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Veteran writer and editor Katrina Heron — who has done stints at The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, and Wired — was recently named the new director of The Edible Schoolyard Project, the nonprofit started by school food champion Alice Waters which seeks to promote edible education and reform the National School Lunch program.

While taking the reins at the school cooking, gardening, and lunch advocacy organization is a departure from Heron’s journalism career, she has long been associated with the group and reported on a range of food matters for high-profile outlets.

Heron began working with ESYP (then the Chez Panisse Foundation) 11 years ago as a volunteer, joined the board of directors in 2003 and served until 2010.

“When I learned, on quite short notice, that the director role was open, it just seemed like the right time to assume a more active role in advocating for edible education,” said Heron, who follows in the footsteps of several short-lived leaders of the institution, most recently Quinn Fitzgerald, Francesca Vietor, and Brian Byrnes. Prior to that, the post was held by Carina Wong, who departed to work for the Gates Foundation in Seattle. … Continue reading »

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Wine merchant Kermit Lynch celebrates 40th anniversary

Kermit Lynch: Rocker-turned-wine-importer. Photo: Courtesy KLWM
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Following in the footsteps of long-time culinary anchor institutions in Berkeley such as Chez Panisse and the Cheeseboard, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant celebrates its 40th year in business on Saturday Oct. 27 — with the parking lot of its store at 1605 San Pablo Avenue turned into a party venue featuring, of course, fine food and wine.

Kermit Lynch, a wine retailer and importer, is widely regarded for writing one of the best books on the wine business — Adventures on the Wine Route – and is also known for selecting and selling quality pours from small, family-owned estates in France and Italy.

Lynch imports wines from around 140 producers and he’s garnered an international reputation for singing the praises of wines without well-known pedigrees, particularly from France, where he’s traveled the back-roads in search of hidden gems of great value by looking, as he likes to say, where no one else was looking. … Continue reading »

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Chew on this: John Birdsall on Berkeley’s food scene

John Birdsall Photo: Roxanne Webber
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John Birdsall knows his way around the Bay Area’s best food trucks, noodle shops, and unpretentious taco stands. Currently a senior editor at Chow, he was previously the food editor at SF Weekly‘s SFoodie site, and has done two stints as food critic for the East Bay Express.

Along the way he’s penned his fair share of food stories with Berkeley roots, including a profile of Alice Waters for Gilt Taste and an article on the relevancy of Chez Panisse at 40, as well as restaurant reviews, and nods to new food artisans.

Birdsall has a reputation for insightful and stylish — if sometimes provocative — prose. In the flesh he’s soft-spoken and mild-mannered. A professional cook for some 17 years, he switched to the food scribe beat more than a decade ago and, for the record, says cooking for a living is even more all-consuming than food writing. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley acupuncturist finds bliss in seasonal food

Simple sauerkraut: A popular fermented food. Photo: Nishanga Bliss
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“We Americans are eating ourselves to death” sounds like a total Debbie Downer way to begin a book, doesn’t it? But the recently released cookbook Real Food All Year, by Berkeley’s Nishanga Bliss, offers an opportunity to explore seasonal eating in tandem with the principles of Chinese medicine and holistic nutrition in a manner that isn’t overly negative or earnest.

Bliss, a professor of Chinese medicine at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College (AIMC) in downtown Berkeley, where she works as an acupuncturist, nutritionist and herbalist, peppers her book, published by local press New Harbinger, with her professional expertise. She focuses on the healing potential of seasonal eating and cooking to support the health of key organs and overall energy.

So readers will find cheery chapters such as “Feeling Spring,” which encourages eaters to embrace the appearance of fresh, new greens at the market, cleanse, detoxify the liver, and cook for shorter times, with less oil, and lower temperatures than in winter.  … Continue reading »

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900 Grayson: American food with flair in west Berkeley

The restaurant storefront. Photo: Courtesy of Yelp
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From the start, restaurant goers and food critics dug the low-key, west Berkeley breakfast, lunch, and brunch spot serving stylish takes on classic American fare with quirky names like The Demon Lover (spicy fried chicken and buttermilk waffles).

900 Grayson, an unassuming corner restaurant with a maple pink facade, quietly attracted a following for its menu of comfort cuisine made from quality ingredients –  like the natural beef burger with applewood smoked bacon and house-made BBQ sauce — as well as its fresh seasonal fare with Asian undertones like the Ladyboy (a Vietnamese inspired dish with lemongrass prawns, mango, daikon, rice noodles, toasted rice powder and micro greens).

Not long after it opened six years ago, though, the business started by four partners hit some snags. First came the fast departure of chef-partner Sophina Uong (now behind the stoves at Oakland’s Pican). Eighteen months later her former life and work partner, Josh Pearl, followed suit.

A legal dispute over money followed:  The two ex-partners were pitted against brothers Anthony and Christopher Saulnier, who stayed on to run the restaurant. Add to that wranglings with Berkeley’s zoning department over dinner hours — the city had concerns about noise and congestion from the restaurant, which is in a residential area that fronts busy Seventh Street — and the restaurateurs had their hands full.

But the Saulniers weathered that early rough patch and now boast a loyal breakfast crowd, which mostly hails from Berkeley, and a steady lunch-time clientele, thanks largely to nearby businesses such as Pixar, Bayer, Novartis, and a host of smaller companies. These days the kitchen is run by committee, with two chefs, Eric Larson and Nick Spelletich, in charge. Larson was featured serving up 900 Grayson grub on an episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” show for the Food Network.

Berkeleyside spoke with co-owner Chris Saulnier, 43, after the lunch rush last week. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley food blogger serves up gluten-free food for all

Erin Scott
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Food, portrait, and lifestyle photographer Erin Scott, who lives in North Berkeley, is the voice behind the popular blog Yummy Supper, a source for simple, seasonal, and gluten-free recipes accompanied by sumptuous photos that would whet any eater’s appetite — the gluten-free or not.

Scott is also currently recipe testing for her upcoming cookbook, The Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious, and Honest Recipes from a (Gluten-Free) Omnivore.

Many of her ideas feature ingredients picked from her backyard garden, which boasts fragrant herbs, salad and saute greens, and citrus trees.

Scott’s images has been featured on the food porn sites foodgawker and tastespotting and her recipes and photography have gotten nods from sites such as Gourmet Live, Glamour, and Fine Cooking.

With a background in fashion and design, and as the former co-owner of the clothing store August in Oakland, Scott never thought she’d end up spending most days in the kitchen taking pictures.

But her dad gave her a leather-bound Polaroid when she was little so she started snapping photos at an early age.  Scott also enjoyed cooking beside her mom as a young child, and planning, making, and eating a nourishing supper has brought pleasure ever since.

Over nectarine friands and lemon verbena tea, Scott, 41, spoke with Berkeleyside this week about her blog, pending cookbook, and eating well with her husband and two kale-munching kids. … Continue reading »

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Ippuku’s owner: Making Japanese food with integrity

Christian Geideman, owner-chef of Ippuku in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Nicole Rosario
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He’s run a pizza joint in Montana and a Japanese restaurant in New Mexico, but Berkeley-bred Christian Geideman has perhaps earned the highest marks for coming home and opening a stylish izakaya restaurant, Ippuku, in downtown Berkeley.

Izakaya is Japan’s answer to the tapas bar or gastropub: a casual joint to go after work for strong drinks, small plates, and a chance to unwind with friends.

Ippuku opened two years ago on a strip that typically serves the student set and it’s been widely praised since then. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Michael Bauer heaped compliments on the place. Alice Waters is a regular and calls Ippuku one of her favorite spots to dine in town. And local chefs laud the restaurant for its drink list, including shochu (a distilled spirit typically made from barley, sweet potato, rice or black sugar) and craft beers on tap, as well as its authentic, Japanese fare. The restaurant showcases yakitori, or grilled skewers of just about any cut of meat from chicken, including neck, heart, liver, knee cartilage, shoulder blade, tail, gizzards, and skin.

Clearly, Geideman takes the trend of whole-beast cooking to heart. The dish that’s garnered most attention on the menu is chicken tartare. That’s raw chicken, topped with daikon sprouts, Korean chili paste, and a raw egg to the uninitiated — what Bauer described as “a double dose of culinary danger.” … Continue reading »

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North Berkeley merchants want parklets for the people

A parklet in San Francisco's Noe Valley neighborhood. Photo: San Francisco Pavement to Parks
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Businesses in the Gourmet Ghetto are keen to jump on the parklet bandwagon — bringing outdoor seating to the streets for espresso sippers, pizza eaters, and world watchers in lieu of parking spots — but must first wait for the city to come up with a process for making the spaces available.

So-called parklets — slivers of open space sprouting in cities around the globe — are a big trend in urban design, with San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks leading the way locally, and Oakland following suit (a pilot program is under review there.) Berkeley is a little late to the take-back-the-public-space movement but eager to come up with its own ideas to beautify public areas where community members can congregate. Leading the charge is the North Shattuck Association, which is helping businesses in its café- and restaurant-heavy district organize around the concept.

“The parklets pilot project was conceived by the association based on our experience with hosting temporary parklets during past years on Park(ing) Day and the Spice of Life Festival,” said Heather Hensley, executive director of the association.

Park(ing) Day is an international movement conceived to help city residents around the world reimagine the humble parking space. One day each fall, D.I.Y., creative urbanistas are encouraged to transform parking spots into parks, playgrounds, pop-up cafés — anything other than a lowly (though coveted) place for cars. Park(ing) Day parklets have sprouted in Berkeley in past years in front of the Cheese Board Collective and the late Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley serves up an edible education this fall

Graduate School of Journalism professor Michael Pollan. Photo: Fran Collin
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Tonight marks the return of Edible Education at Cal, with solo instructor Michael Pollan kicking off the 16-week course. The class is open to both undergraduate and graduate students — and, like last year, some 300 free seats are reserved for the public. (See details below for nabbing a ticket to these popular sessions, which typically fill to capacity each week.)

The Graduate School of Journalism professor, and guest speakers from the food and farming world, will examine the future of farming and food and explore how the U.S.’s industrialized food system impacts the environment, health, farm and food workers, as well as the culture at large.

“Food politics are in the forefront of students’ minds these days,” said Pollan, known to tackle wonky food subjects in compelling prose in bestselling books such as “In Defense of Food.” “They like hearing from non-academics — activists, farmers, and journalists.” … Continue reading »

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Sketch ice cream returns to Berkeley’s Fourth Street

Sketch will serve its signature soft serve, vanilla bean, organic ice cream.
Photo: Courtesy Sketch
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They’re back: and just in time for the passing of Fogest (that’s August to the uninitiated) and the arrival of real summer in Berkeley and elsewhere around the Bay. Sketch returns today — three years to the day that the popular ice cream spot shut up shop (and as tipped by Berkeleyside in June).

A culinary couple with a fine-dining pedigree, Eric Shelton and Ruthie Planas-Shelton opened Sketch on the busy shopping strip along 4th Street back in 2004 (in the slip of a space that’s now home to a Chocolatier Blue outlet). At the time, the store was one of the first small-batch, organic ice cream purveyors in the area — before gourmet cup and cone businesses took off around the Bay.

The pair weren’t planning to return to Berkeley — let along the same street — when they started scouting around for a new location for their signature sweet treats last year. Shelton, 44, and Planas-Shelton, 31, who live in Jack London Square, had their sights set on an Oakland location, but when a deal fell through, they agreed to check out a space in the new 4th & U complex on the quieter end of 4th Street. It felt like a good fit. So, yet again on the food front, Oakland’s loss is Berkeley’s gain. … Continue reading »

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Alchemy: Co-op café brightens Berkeley strip in transition

Alchemy Collective Cafe: A welcome addition to the 'hood. Photo: Joel Ramirez
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Six baristas, who want to be their own bosses and hire no employees, have set up a slip of a shop at the intersection of Adeline Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in south Berkeley, adding some much needed quality coffee — along with a warm, groovy vibe — to a neighborhood in transition.

Welcome to the Alchemy Collective Café, which opened its doors in February. The co-operative is located in a small storefront next to the Firehouse Art Collaborative in the Lorin District, home to the new Tuesday farmers’ market, the Black Repertory Theater, Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, and other artisan and artsy haunts.

The owner-workers have already attracted a stream of regulars: serious caffeine aficionados who stop by for a rotating menu of single-origin drip offerings and espresso drinks via Verve Coffee Roasters, and signature house blends courtesy of an in-house roaster. The co-op is manned by Chris Myers, Payam Imani, Eric Thoreson, James Parrish, and Rob Wertheimer; the sixth member, Caleb Wolfson-Seeley, mainly handles the finances. … Continue reading »

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News group serves up hidden costs of hamburgers

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An animated short produced by the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) that’s not afraid to address the climate-altering effect of cow farts may do more for the Meatless Monday campaign than any blundering by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Readers may recall that the USDA recently pulled the plug on an inter-office memo that suggested employees could cut their environmental impact by choosing vegetarian options once a week.)

“The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers“, which launched last week on the non-profit’s new I Files channel, takes a detailed look at the real price of cheap beef — and we’re not just talking about Americans’ ever-expanding waistlines. The video also explores the environmental and economic costs of raising cows for industrialized meat production in a country where the average person consumes three burgers a weeks. This fast-food nation, the piece also notes, chows down on three times more meat than any other country.

In its first week live, the video has been viewed more than 58,000 times. The cartoon on cows — which got picked up by outlets from “Marketplace” to Mother Jones — follows on from CIR’s previous animated short, the award-winning “The Price of Gas”.  A 7.5-minute short, “The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers,” combines entertainment and journalism to deliver an abstract, data-heavy subject for the YouTube crowd. … Continue reading »

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After 30 years, what’s next for Vegi Food on Vine Street?

Kim Phuong and My Chan, who have run Vegi Food on Vine Street for almost 30 years, may need to find a new home for their hole-in-the-wall. Photo: Sarah Henry
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My Chan and her husband Kim Phuong have been cooking Chinese vegetarian dishes to a loyal clientele in the small, unassuming Vegi Food in North Berkeley for 28 years. But that may be about to change.

Recently, the building housing the restaurant at 2085 Vine Street (between Henry Street and Shattuck Avenue) changed hands. Chan and Phuong, who rent on a month-to-month basis, are concerned that the new owner is looking to lease the space in this locale on the edge of the Gourmet Ghetto to prospective tenants who have more cash to invest in the restaurant-retail space than they do.

Make no mistake, there’s nothing fancy pants about Vegi Food, a no-frills, hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop shop with a drab exterior and a dining area begging for a makeover. It’s the kind of place that many local eaters likely pass by without notice on their way to the Cheese Board, Off the Grid, or the farmers’ market — let alone high-end joints like Chez Panisse. But it gets high marks from its regulars — many of whom have come for decades — for its inexpensive, healthy chow miens, stir fries, and soups, which feature loads of vegetables and bean curd, and avoid garlic, onion, MSG, eggs, and meat. … Continue reading »

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