Tag Archives: Berkeley

Fermented beverage alternatives

I have been looking for organic wine and beer alternatives (for health reasons) to take to parties, other than sparkling cider. My friend Kira recently suggested kombucha, which I hadn’t drank in a while, and was amazed to find so many new varieties of kombucha in stores.


Has anyone tried the options above?  I would like to try these. I found these while researching on DIY kombucha — which J and I made in Austin and are trying to do again. We first started making kombucha from a SCOBY, from my anthropology professor, Dr. Stross. We tossed it into the compost pile when we moved to Siquijor island in 2004. (FYI, kombucha fans: in the SF E. bay now on sale at Whole Foods by case and by bottle. I bought some to drink and also to use as starter.)  Enjoy.

Photo credit: Home brew via the Kombucha Shop

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Gather restaurant, Berkeley, CA

My husband and I dined at the new local restaurant Gather for the first time, last Saturday night on the second day of 2010. It was packed!  The DJ was playing serious beats and the food had some creative, fresh presentation. It felt like a less pricey, more chill Chez Panisse — updated for a younger generation. The design has clean modern lines with a warm, comfortable wooden furniture, an open kitchen, and warm lighting that was intimate, yet allowed one to see and appreciate the food and dining partner.  It’s about time a new resto like this opened in Berkeley. We’ve been looking for an alternative to Herbivore and Gratitude.

The Gather website says “offerings are 50% omnivore, 50% vegetarian, and a strong vegan component.” Gather focuses on sustainability from its building materials to its food ingredients.  At this restaurant, vegan food is not an afterthought. In fact, the vegetarian food was of high quality and presentation. The SF Chronicle reports that the offerings are from chefs Sean Baker and Amy Pearce from the stellar Millennium restaurant in SF, specializing in vegetable-based cuisine. We are Millennium fans and cook from its Artful Vegan gourmet cookbook for special occasions.

We ordered the house made bubbly water (complimentary), chai cola, special  tuna appetizer, vegan “charcuterie,” tomato pizza, mixed lettuce salad, chocolate layer cake with cashew ice cream, and chocolate Pu-erh tea with soy milk. The vegan charcuterie was made up of intensely flavored, small piles of artfully presented vegetables. Everything was yummy, super fresh, and had a nice presentation.  An extra bonus for us (since we avoid dairy) was that the pizza and chocolate dessert both had a rare combination of being vegan, but also light and flavorful! It was the first time we tasted Numi chocolate tea. It had a delicious deep flavor that had us hooked. (I plan to head over to the Numi tea garden, Oakland to buy some for home.) The vegetarian parts of the meal were the best. There were so many delicious-looking items on the menu. I definitely want to try their house made sodas, house made frites, and heirloom bean ragout on my next visit.

The service was relaxed, cordial and easygoing, but also professional. We were pleasantly surprised to find such a delicious new place close to home with a lively crowd of all ages and good DJ music. We will be back in mid January to try lunch when Gather opens their more affordable, more casual, cafe area.

It was a great first meal out for 2010. Happy New Year!

Gather restaurant
2200 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA

Tips: Reservations are recommended.
Parking:  street, four lots (validation available), outdoor bike parking

Photo: Gather restaurant via Yelp.com



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Green cuisine in Emeryville, CA

Urban Emeryville, CA became our new neighborhood a few weeks ago and I immediately set out to look for local places that serve organic and/or vegetarian-friendly food. There were only a few restaurants listed in the SF bay green business directory. I did some investigating, and was surprised to discover quite a few places tucked into a land dominated by warehouses, businesses, and former factory spaces converted into dwellings.

Organic and vegetarian offerings
Arizmendi bakery +  — A workers cooperative associated with the famous Cheeseboard pizza collective. Offers coffee, food and ingredients made with fair trade and sustainable practices. The rich chocolate cookie made with chocolate chips and a hint of mint was divine. (It happens to be vegan.) The bread made with cherries and dark Guittard chocolate is also recommended for chocolate lovers.
Cafe Biere — In addition to an extensive beer menu, Biere offers organic greens and food from local sources.
Manzanita macrobiotic restaurant — The food here was fresh, nourishing, and thoughtfully prepared mostly vegan fare.

Vegetarian-friendly places
(recommended by friends)
Wally’s Cafe — A tiny, hidden place serving Mediterranean food near the Bank Cafe. Yelp reviewers reported that a poster for the film “Wall-E” by Pixar hung on a wall, and that its employees frequented the place. (The company is a few blocks away.)
Hong Kong East Ocean — Mainly a special occasion banquet and Dim Sum place with a nice view of the bay.
Pamir Afghan cuisine — It’s in the Emeryville Public Market+
I’ve only eaten at Manzanita and Arizmendi so far. I look forward to trying the rest of the places on the list!

Back to Earth +
Paulding +
Amiee Alan

Grow your own

Photo: J. Hanson, via flickr.com

Photo: J. Hanson, via flickr.com

Emeryville Organic Community Garden
I was told by a community member that she’s been on the wait list for years! I plan to sign up for a plot and wait patiently.

Beyond Emeryville: Recent finds in the East Bay
— Best freshest organic falafel I have ever had. Tasty salads too. The menu says: Chickopeas uses over 90% compostable utensils. Organic ingredients when possible. The menus are printed on recycled paper.
Thai Thai — Best Thai food I’ve tasted in the East Bay. Wild brown rice available. Fresh and organic. Take-out only. It is located in the Epicurious Garden building.
Berkeley Bowl West (BBW) market — “About one-quarter of the produce section is organic, with much of it coming from family farms.” Natural and organically raised meat too. Source:“Berkeley Bowl West Opens,” sfgate.com
Tofu Yu vegetarian and organic cafe — Located one block from BBW.
Note: Also see post reviewing Ajanta+ & Zatar+ restaurants in Berkeley.

Burma Superstar, Temescal — Most dishes can be made vegetarian upon request. When I visited, the food was lighter (less oily) and more delicious than the SF branch.

Kaiser Oakland Farmers’ market — I usually shop at the all organic farmers’ market in Berkeley, which was closer to my former home. I found the webpage for Kaiser Oakland organic farmers market, which is closer to Emeryville.

Bon appétit!

+ Denotes places listed in the SF Bay Area Green Business Program directory. These “local businesses comply with all environmental regulations and take actions to conserve resources, prevent pollution, and minimize waste.”


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Delicious olive oils

Yesterday, we walked to Alegio chocolate for a Moveon.org chocolate and wine inaugural party. In the garden, a band played beautiful spanish guitar music to a crowd and the warm air felt like spring. The whole block was buzzing with inaugural celebrations.

We walked by our local celebrated restaurant Chez Panisse. “Congratulations President Obama” was printed on top of the menu displayed outside.  I’ve had the good fortune of dining there for special occasions. Not only does the restaurant have a “commitment to good food, community, and sustainability,” the food is also the bomb. Over the past year I have been buying and cooking the delicious produce from some of their food providers at the all organic farmers’ market located on the same street as the restaurant, on Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA.

Inspired by the delicious, simple style of cooking vegetables with olive oil, and the video of chef Alice Waters in the NY Times making a simple meal from fresh farmers’ market items, I finally got the nerve to call Chez Panisse and ask for the name of the olive oil used in their meals. (Waters reportedly travels with her own olive oil.) One of the chefs  informed me that the primary oil they use is the Italian Oleificio Chianti. I plan to try the Buonsapore extra virgin olive oil for seasoning.  The chefs have also used local organic olive oil from the Stonehouse California Olive Oil Company. She says that Oleificio Chianti is available locally at stores like Monterey Market, Berkeley, CA. It can also be ordered online through local olive oil importers.

Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-educated author and Director of the Program in Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine, University of Arizona, recommends quality organic extra virgin olive oil for its health benefits in his article on olive oil. He uses organic Lucini Limited Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Dr. Weil says, this “oil exceeds all of my expectations for both taste and healthful properties.”

Bon Appétit!

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Smile high

She is quietly massaging my feet, re-balancing my energy points with her magic hands and organic lotion. I am reclining and looking, through orange color-therapy glasses, at the wooden angel hanging below the skylight, hanging in mid flight. Soft contemporary lounge music plays in the background. The woman to the left covers me with a soft fleece blanket and tucks me in.  Colorful, moving mandalas hypnotize me on the screen above as I lay relaxed with my neck cradled by a soft crescent pillow. Is this what first class feels like on Singapore airlines?

The man with the protruding sci-fi glasses to my right sticks a metal instrument in my mouth and painlessly yanks my temp bridge out.  Yep, I’m at the office of the dentist — the Transcendentist, the “first dental office to be certified as a green business.”

I am offered Bose noise canceling headphones.  The Dr. uses a high-pitched instrument to shape my new bridge.

My journey to the green dentist
I am the neo-vegetarian who ate jawbreakers and pop rocks as a child, who found out too late that brushing plus flossing everyday is recommended. I had many visits to various serious, unsmiling dentists. Scenes from the film Little Shop of Horrors took over my brain preceding every visit. I often avoided going for years, even for a yearly check up (not recommended).

Last month, my bridge broke while I was eating a sticky turnip cake at the Slanted Door. I tried to put it into a napkin with subtlety in front of my date. For the rest of the meal, I attempted to be graceful as I tried to eat only on one side of my mouth. I realized that after four years it was time to find a new dentist. I also needed to replace worn-down fillings. Friends sent me some very good recommendations and I interrogated all of them and some holistic dentists with a set of questions about their customer service, costs and green practices.

Since there was extensive dentistry work to be done, I hoped for the best professional, empathetic, and gentle care. The sound of a dentist’s drill alone made me tense. I dreamed of a dentist’s office with a nice environment and “good production value” (perhaps this is because I have worked on film sets). Through research, Berkeley Parents Network, and an article in Yoga Journal, I found my new dentist.

What is a green dentist?
The past couple of times I mentioned my new, green dentist to friends, they all gave me funny looks. Yes, laugh all you want, but I get perks like a massage and herbal tea when I go to the dentist.  I too was skeptical before I went for my first visit, but wanted to at least try it out.  They asked me, what makes a dentist “green?” The office received green business certification from the government’s Bay Area Green Business program, and like other participating businesses following criteria set by the program. In fact, the website lists all kinds of green businesses and practitioners such as attorneys, chiropractors, economists, landscapers, real estate agents, and mannequin vendors.

“General Practices
1. Monitor and record rates of water and energy usage and solid and hazardous waste generation.
2. Provide three on-going incentives or training opportunities to encourage management and employee participation.
3. Inform your customers about your business’ efforts to meet the Green Business Standards.
4. Assist at least one other business in learning about the Green Business Program and encourage them to enroll.”

The program’s website lists these general practices for participants, and also gives specific instructions for these practices.

The doc is a member of the ADA, is a DDS, and uses conventional anesthesia. What is not conventional is that his practice has a “commitment to environmentally sound business practices.” The website lists eco-dentistry practices, including “digital imaging (not traditional x-rays), which means 75 to 90% less radiation for our clients.”

Moreover, the doc’s short biography reads like a movie:

“Dr. Fred fulfilled a life-long dream of studying with a meditation master in India and moved to the Himalayas. While there, he created a Western-style dental clinic and until late 2000, served as personal dentist to a renowned Indian guru and provided dental care to clients from around the world…” [excerpt]

One day, I’ll ask Dr. Fred jokingly if enlightenment improves teeth. (I really am curious.) Better yet, if he doesn’t mind me asking, how were the teeth of the guru?

It is the end  of the appointment. I still feel the masseuse’s hands on the energy points of my feet (though they are no longer there). It’s like the way they feel after a good acupuncture session. The masseuse has covered my feet with a soft blanket. The doctor is checking his work and asking me how I am feeling since he installed my new bridge. I still feel the discomfort when work is done close to nerves — like visits to any other dentist. However, at this office, I definitely feel pampered and more relaxed during and after each procedure. I rinse at the sink where I am provided with an herbal mouth rinse, homeopathic arnica, and a soothing hot towel on a bamboo plate to freshen up.

On my way out, I drink an elixir in the reception area. The reception area feels more like that of a CMT than a DDS. There are herbal tea offerings, natural light, soothing music, and reading selections such as the book Meditative Spaces. I wave goodbye to the yoga pants-wearing staff, and the Iron Goddess of Mercy statue behind them.

The Transcendentist can be found in Berkeley, CA near the Claremont hotel and spa.

To find a green business in the San Francisco bay area, visit the Bay Area Green Business program website
“Over 1,000 businesses and public agencies have been certified since 1997.”

If you have a green business program website and directory in your region, or green business shout-out, please share it in the comments section.  I have been unable to find a national or worldwide directory of green businesses on the web.

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Who is Thimmakka?

We ate at Ajanta Indian restaurant in Berkeley last night with our friends Dan and Allyson. Ajanta serves dishes made with organic and sustainable ingredients. I ordered my favorite dish, Methi Machi (with mahi mahi instead of catfish) along with brown basmati rice. The light red sauce is cooked with dill, spices, onion, garlic and ginger. Yummy. The menu had a sticker on it saying Thimmakka certified green. According to the website:

“When you see Thimmakka’s seal posted proudly in any restaurant, be sure to make a note of it; these restaurants have been certified as green businesses through their efforts to produce less air pollution, reduce the costs of health care and landfill fees, consume and create less waste, and avoid the use of toxic chemicals.”

That was the first time I heard of Thimmakka. I wondered what the difference is between this organization and The Bay Area Green Business Program.  The Thimakka web page History tells the story of an Indian woman by that name who planted lots of Banyan trees, and more:

“…Thimmakka designed its green restaurants program (then known as GER – Greening Ethnic Restaurants) to meet the constraints of the limited resources and the diverse language and cultural barriers of restaurant owners and workers.”

Both sites have lists of businesses they certified.  Ajanta is listed as a Green restaurant on the Green Business Program site too, along with Zatar, our friend Dani recommends as the best middle eastern restaurant in the area.  Zatar offers organic fruits and veggies in their meals, according to its site. We will definitely try that resto next!


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