Tag Archives: organic

Favorite eco-friendly meal subscription service in NY/SF?

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Photo:  via Purple Carrot

 

There are plenty of sites comparing the major players such as Blue Apron and Plated, but not many focusing on the eco-friendly (e.g., sustainably/responsibly sourced, organic, great selection of plant-based meals, healthy, eco-friendly packaging, delicious, interesting) aspect. After reading about the cost-effectiveness of meal subscription services for busy foodies, I would like to try a basic plan for my partner and myself! The appeal of trying new recipes, curated by chefs/nutritionists is also a plus. I’m looking at:

Green Chef

Purple Carrot

Sakara

Sprig (SF)

Terra’s Kitchen

 

  • What is your favorite eco-friendly meal subscription service in New York City and/or San Francisco bay area?
  • If you only tried one: Which one was it? Was it worth it? Did you like it and would you subscribe again?

 

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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!

Caterers
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
Berkeley:
Chickopeas
— 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.

Oakland:
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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Pumpkin pie & creme brulee recipes

The orange kabocha squash has bright orange flesh and a wonderful natural sweetness

The orange kabocha squash has bright orange flesh and a wonderful natural sweetness. This one is from the Berkeley Organic Farmers Market.

Why write about pumpkin pie recipes in the spring?! According to the USDA, pumpkin growing seasons are “from April 1st – July 31st and August 1st – November 30th for California crops.” Pumpkin is a beneficial food, high in antioxidants.

I recently made a delicious pumpkin pie for my husband’s colleague Raph and would like to share that recipe and other recipes. I use organic Kabocha squash in dessert, tempura and soup recipes because of its natural sweetness, depth of flavor, and because it is a favorite among chefs. (The rich gourmet Kabocha star anise soup in the Artful Vegan cookbook is to die for.) In my experience, the Kabocha is superior to the common pie pumpkins seen in markets in the fall. The delicious low-fat pumpkin filling recipe is from top natural chef Nava Atlas and used as a basis for the recipes. Nobody has missed the dairy when high quality ingredients are used.

Easy Vegan Pumpkin or Squash Pie
by Nava Atlas
modified by RB

Makes one nine-inch pie, six servings

2 cups well-baked and mashed Kabocha pumpkin
(Orange is preferable, but green is ok too. See Notes)
3/4 cup silken tofu (about half of a 12.3-ounce aseptic package)
1/2 cup natural granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. each ground nutmeg & ginger)
2 tsp Allspice
9-inch good quality graham cracker or whole grain pie crust
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Tips
Red Kuri squash, or  butternut (less flavorful) squash may also be used.
The best silken tofu is Korean style.
Use all organic ingredients. Freshly ground spices are preferred and liven up the pie.

Instructions

  1. Combine the pumpkin or squash pulp in a food processor with the remaining ingredients (except crust). Process until velvety smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into the crust.
  3. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the mixture is set and the crust is golden.
  4. Let the pie cool to room temperature.
  5. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges to serve.
  6. Optional: Serve warm with delicious Wholesoy vanilla yogurt ice cream on side

Notes
How to prepare the pumpkin: Halve the squash or pumpkin (you need a really good knife to do so!) and scoop out the seeds and fibers. To quick cook the pumpkin or squash, pressure cook on high for ten minutes.

Orange kabocha squash after it is cooked in the pressure cooker. This method of cooking pumpkin saves time and energy.

Orange kabocha squash after it is cooked in the pressure cooker. This method of cooking pumpkin saves time and energy.

Second cooking option: To bake, place the the halves cut side up in a foil-lined, shallow baking dish and cover tightly with more foil. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp and discard the skin. Use any leftover squash or pumpkin pulp for another purpose.

Pie Crust Made with Oil
by Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons milk, soy milk or water

Mix the flour and salt together in one bowl, the oil and the milk in another. Gently stir the liquids into the flour until the dough comes together. Shape the dough in a flat disk, then roll it out between two sheets of wax paper, 1/8 inch thick. Peel off the top sheet of paper, invert the dough into a pie pan, and carefully remove the second sheet. If any tears occur — and they probably will — simply press the dough back together.

RB Tips
Flour options:
a.  Use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour plus 1 cup white flour
b.  Use Arrowhead Mills organic gingerbread cookie mix instead of flour for an amazing cookie crust that goes well with pumpkin pie. (Usually sold in the fall, around the holidays. We ran out of flour for pie crust and used this on a whim — with tasty results.)
c.  Arrowhead Mills also makes a gluten-free all purpose baking mix.

Vegan Pumpkin Custards
Notes: Use the custard ingredients from the superior recipe above.  The following instructions are from Vegan Visitor.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Set a kettle of water to boil.
  3. RB Tip: Add soy milk to pumpkin filling from recipe above to make a more custard-like consistency.
  4. Pour the prepared custard mixture into six 3″ ramekins or similarly sized oven-safe serving cups, about 3/4 full.
  5. Place the cups on a baking dish with raised sides.
  6. Transfer the dish to the oven and pour the boiled water into the baking dish to surround the ramekins, in a bain marie, about 3/4 the way up.
  7. Bake for about 40 -45 minutes or until the centers are fairly firm and no longer jiggling.
  8. Cool before serving and top with soy whipped cream or alternative and a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.

Vegan Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
John’s dad and our nephews enjoyed torching their own custards during the holidays.

  1. Follow the instructions above for the custard, omitting the topping of the cream.
  2. Once the custard cups have completely cooled, evenly top about 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar per cup along with a light sprinkling of ground cardamom, if desired.
  3. Caramelize the sugar to a hard, golden, crackly crust with either a brûlée torch or under close watch, beneath the broiler.

Enjoy!

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Food adventures in the Philippines

(Vegetarian-friendly!)

Can anyone ID this sci-fi looking fruit? Photo: R&J Meyer

Can anyone ID this sci-fi looking fruit? Photo: R&J Meyer

Here are our vegetarian-friendly top picks for Manila, Cebu, Dumaguete, and beyond. One of my favorite things about Filipinos is that they take their meal times and snack times seriously, so there are a plethora of quality restaurants and eateries in the archipelago. I eat fish occasionally, and have dined at these places with my vegan spouse, and veg-loving, meat-loving, Filipino and non-Fil. friends.  These are nice places to take families, dates, and your favorite aunt. Regarding cost information,  when I say a place is expensive that means moderate if you are spending in dollars.

Manila

Though I spent most of my time in the rural areas, the last few times I had business in Manila I stayed at the moderate AIM business hotel. (Tip: If you look remotely Filipino, ask for the discounted Balikbayan rate. You’ll just need to show a form of ID that shows that you are either employed or have some kind of residence in the PI. Places like the Manila Peninsula also have deals for local residents, including meals and room during times like Christmas.)  It is clean and professional and within walking distance of some of the finest dining in Makati City, right across from the Greenbelt mall and a small branch of Rustan’s supermarket.

Greenbelt, Makati area
1) **Max Brenner, Ground Level, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati Avenue. Excellent chocoholics breakfast and a wonderful breakfast/lunch. Convenient walk to the Ayala museum, which would be pleasant to visit after lunch/brunch. We love this place!  By the way, the nearby Ayala museum cafe also has a nice healthy-looking, upscale cafe menu, and modern design. (I’ve never eaten here — only visited museum.)

Max Brenner resto. Photo: R&J Meyer

Max Brenner resto. Photo: R&J Meyer

Euro style breakfast at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

Euro style breakfast at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

Hot choco was da bomb at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

Hot choco was da bomb at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

2) **Kai, Unit 13, Greenbelt 2 (may have moved to GB 5 by now), Ayala Center, Makati City, 757-5209 to 10, 0917-852-3654. Nouveau Japanese, light, expensive. Excellent quality fish and other foods. If you like Bond St and Nobu in NY, you’ll enjoy Kai.

3) **People’s Palace, Greenbelt 3. Modern Thai food.  If you enjoy modern interior design and fine Thai food, you’ll like People’s Palace, another great recommendation from our foodie friend Richard U. of Cebu.

Photo by Chotda, via Flickr.com

People’s Palace photo by Chotda, via Flickr.com

4) Sugi, Greenbelt 3.  Japanese, traditional, expensive. Good lunch specials & high quality japanese food in a nice setting.

5) Zhongnanhai, Greenbelt 3 mall, ground floor, Makati – Chinese restaurant (near Bizu pastry shop & Sugi Japanese restaurant). Has nice teas and tasty tofu dishes. Nouveau Hong Kong style with pleasant modern atmosphere. Moderate prices.

6) Hue, Greenbelt 3, Makati – Vietnamese cuisine. Light. Try veggie crepes. Vegetarian

7) Chimara, Simple, delicious Neo *vegan* fast food eatery, Greenbelt 3, top floor, cinema level. Good pre-movie quick food or light meals. We ate here many times! There is also a smoothie/fruit shake place one floor down.

8)  Dencio’s, Power Plant mall location, Philippine food. Good quality chain restaurant. Ask for the delicious meatless version of kare kare, as well as vegetable side dishes.  My aunt Peggy took us here and recommended this place.  It was the nicest, newest Dencio’s we saw on our last visit.

9) Bizu, Greenbelt 2 & other locations. Café/Patisserie. 02-757-2498. French style amazing desserts & coffees. Try the tea service with three levels of tea delights. Not vegan. Eat here sparingly 🙂

Tea service at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

Tea service at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

*Rich* French-style pastries at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

*Rich* French-style pastries at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

UP / Ateneo area, Quezon area – Vegetarian
Simple but good, clean places serving healthy Philippine food.

1) Greens vegetarian restaurant and cafe, 92 Sct Castor (between Scout Tuazon / Tomas Morato, near Max Chicken House), 02-4154796 – Veggie restaurant recommended by Dessa (fellow veg, native of Manila). This is in UP/Ateneo University area.

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Photos via: Greens

 

2) Likha Diwa, C.P. Garcia, Krus na Ligas, Metro Manila, Quezon City, near University of the Philippines campus Tel: 02-9255522 – Veggie eatery featuring healthy Philippine cuisine. Who knew veg. Phil. cuisine could be so tasty. It is cozy and has an outdoor eating area, but beware it is near a busy, polluted roadway. (Charita, this is the place where we dined with Deb, Hannah, and John.) Recommended by Dessa.

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Photo: via Likha Diwa

 

Shopping for healthy food
1) Rustan’s supermarket – a chain that sells regular supermarket items as well as imported goods. Best one I’ve seen is in Glorietta mall. It has an organic section and also sells soy milk.

2) Healthy Options – next to R’s supermarket in Glorietta. There are other branches at other malls. These small stores specialize in health food and natural beauty items (rice milk, shampoos, insect repellent, sunscreen, organic flours, organic pancake mix, etc.) imported mostly from US. Largest selection is at this branch. Get discount card from them (Green card). They also have soy milk from the US, but it is cheaper to get this locally at most major supermarkets. (Please, somebody open up a version of this store with organic Philippine goods for the city people!)

Outside of Manila
The Farm
, San Benito (2 hours south of Manila) Here’s the upscale new spa/resort (written up in the NY Times) with a live foods restaurant. It’s owned by the same company who owns the eco-luxe hotels in Bali. I haven’t been yet, but if I win big at the lotto, I’ll invite all of my friends and family to go there with me!

There’s a chain called Bodhi in many of the malls, that serves vegetarian, Chinese fast food. It serves dishes mainly with fake meat (wheat gluten or tofu) with veggies. The veggies aren’t that fresh, but ok if you are in a hurry. My cousin  took us to the best Bodhi, that was a new, stand alone restaurant. (Mutya where was this again?)

Cebu

Thanks to our friend, Cebu-native and sometime Austin, TX resident Richard for introducing us to all the best restaurants and wine bars in Cebu.

Crossroads – Outdoor mall featuring veggie-friendly restos: Persian Palate, Banri noodles (Japanese), and some Thai places. At Persian Palate, We avoided the yogurt products at all locations because they disagreed with our stomachs. The Crossroads is five minutes away from Ayala mall by taxi. On same road as Gaisano country mall (halfway between Gaisano and Ayala).

Yumeya Kihei — Pacific Square Building, F. Cabahug St., Mabolo, Cebu City, in Castle Peak hotel area (it is on 1st floor of office building, look for name of ofc bldg or you might miss it), 032-231-7886, 234-2388.  Authentic Japanese restaurant with extensive menu. Recommend: tofu dishes esp. yudofu, agedashi tofu, miso soup, veggie sushi rolls.

Various Korean restaurants around town. (There seems to be many Korean businessmen in Cebu for some reason.) Ask for vegetarian Bi Bim Bap, rice topped with egg & various veggies, served with a hot past and sometimes served in a stone bowl. Foodie friend Richard knows of small eateries, but recommends the restaurant in Lahug as best one (where business men eat).

Big Mao, Ayala Mall — A healthy, clean Chinese restaurant with really good fried tofu with steamed mushrooms and bok choy.  Note: Aside from Starbuck’s, we have tried and generally avoided the other Ayala mall food.

Bok choy & mushrooms

Bok choy & mushrooms at Big Mao. Photo: R&J Meyer

Fried tofu at Big Mao

Fried tofu at Big Mao. Photo: R&J Meyer

Golden Cowrie – Good quality, inexpensive Filipino food. May accommodate requests for veggie versions of Filipino dishes. Locations all over Cebu including SM mall.

Supermarkets
Gaisano – Ayala mall
SM supermarket  – SM mall
Koreana – Cesar’s Foodland Building, corner Gov. M. Cuenco Ave. & Paseo Saturnino, Banilad,  A Korean supermarket. Next door is a little Korean restaurant.

Healthy Options – Health food and beauty product store. Ayala center location in Cebu is good, but has smaller selection than Manila branches.

 

Dumaguete

When in town, the best place we have found to stay is Coco Grande. It offers a/c, cable, warm décor, clean rooms, marble bathrooms, a friendly staff who remembers frequent visitors, and a good lounge for meeting friends. Look at rooms in order to choose newly renovated rooms. Best/campus downtown option. The restaurant not recommended, unless the European chef returns for a special appearance.

Restaurants
Persian Palate – Lots of veggie options, like hummus. We avoided the yogurt products at all locations because they disagreed with our stomachs. Close to pier, around corner from La Residencia hotel.

Why Not — The bar, restaurant and internet stations are generally populated with older European men and their young Filipina companions.  However, the cafe has less of this scene most of the time and has good quality European cafe food. (Of course the only times the sexpats were out in full force at the cafe was the time I brought my mom and she was super uncomfortable.)  Recommended: breakfasts, apple strudel, chocolates, tofu schnitzel.

Desserts (local non-vegan favorites)
Ana Maria – beside DHL office. Coco Amigos & Grande order their cakes from here
Sans Rival – Local desserts

Stores
There are no health food stores in Dumaguete that I have visited.  However, at Lee supermarket, one can find good coffee, organic brown rice grown in Negros made for export, soy milk, organic spaghetti, and meusli.  There was also a Japanese store near La Residencia that sold quality soy sauce, nori, and soba noodles.

 

Siargao

We visited to learn how to surf and found some wonderful places. Restaurants at the small, family-run Sagana, and Ocean 101 inns are good.  Sagana’s chef prepared amazing fresh, thoughtful pan-asian and European-influenced light, satisfying foods.  The friendly staff and owners are local, Australian, and Japanese.  The architecture is breezy, modern, and clean. (The photos of the cottages on the website don’t do the place justice.) This was our favorite place to stay and eat.

Curry at Sagana. Photo: R&J Meyer

Curry at Sagana. Photo: R&J Meyer

Ocean 101‘s restaurant is an inexpensive option for both food and lodging (though the cement block room made me feel somewhat claustrophobic). Pansukian, a fancy hotel inland was also recommended to us, but we never had the chance to try it.

Read about vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines at Happy Cow.

Of course, most of the food we usually had was very simple and some of the best food we’ve had was made at our hut or at homes of friends.

Pita pizza at Batad. The chef was trained by a backpacking Israeli. Photo: R&J Meyer

Pita pizza at Simon’s, Batad. The cook was trained by a backpacking Israeli. Photo: R&J Meyer

The most fresh Japanese-style seafood & veggies I've ever had. At the Harada's house, Siquijor. Photo: R&J Meyer

The most fresh Japanese-style seafood & veggies I’ve ever had. Dinner at the Harada’s house, Siquijor. Photo: R&J Meyer

Andreas prepares the fire pit for our fresh fish and shish kabob dinner in his backyard. Photo: R&J Meyer

Andreas prepares the fire pit for our fresh fish and shish kabob dinner in his backyard. Photo: R&J Meyer

Dinner at Andreas' with Hannah & Shiva the dog. Photo: R&J Meyer

Dinner at Andreas’ with Shiva the dog and Hannah. Photo: R&J Meyer

 

Happy Eating! Enjoy! Click on “comments” below to let us know about your experiences at these places, updates, and if you’d like to recommend more delicious, healthy restos from your travels through the Philippines!

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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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Vegetable clothes

Reusable bags i use at the Farmer's market

My reusable produce bags

New fashion for your greens

Yesterday, I was shopping at the weekly Berkeley organic farmers’ market.  As I was picking up some beautiful shitake mushrooms at the Solano mushroom stand,  a shopper next to me mentioned that he liked my cotton produce bags, especially the mesh ones.  (I have reusable mesh and solid ones.)  He asked me where I bought them. I was happy to spread the environmentally-friendly info and said they are available locally at the Berkeley Natural Grocery. Later in the conversation, I found out that he sits on the board of the farmer’s market and very soon plastic bags will no longer be available at the market. Also, there is a move toward using compostable plastics at the market.

Most of the shoppers at the Farmers’ Market carry reusable shopping bags.  Surprisingly, I’ve only seen two or three other people use reusable produce bags in the environmentally-conscious Berkeley area, at the farmer’s markets and stores.  Most people are still entrenched in the usual shopper’s habit of ripping the plastic bag off a hanging roll and bagging each type of fruit or veggie.

The next step in the reusable bag movement is using reusable produce bags for fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Why should I care?

“All of these “free” bags ultimately cost both consumers and the environment plenty:

  • Each year billions of bags end up as ugly litter.
  • Eventually they break down into tiny toxic bits polluting our soil, river, lakes and oceans
  • Production requires vast amounts of oil.
  • Countless animals needlessly die each year.”

Source: Reusablebags.com

“Americans use 50 billion to 80 billion plastic bags a year.”
Source: Whole Foods Chain to Stop Use of Plastic Bags, NY Times, January 23, 2008

My husband and I have been using reusable shopping bags for many years. However, I became conscious of our small produce bag waste after I realized that we were using about 200 plastic produce bags per year for fruits and veggies!

The reusable produce bags I like are organic cotton and are washable. The mesh bags are good for veggies and fruits, and the solid ones for smaller items like nuts and seeds. I hope to see these bags made with renewable, low-impact hemp in the future.

Flaco's vegan Mexican food in my reusable, recyclable meal container.

Flaco's vegan Mexican food, from the farmer's market, in my reusable meal container.

Where to buy reusable produce bags

Reusablebags.com
Note: Sells organic Cotton Mesh Produce Bags and organic Cotton Net Produce Sacks.  Made with Fair Labor/Fair Wage. Machine washable. The vendor also sells cool Reisenthel shopping bags.

East Bay area (California):
Natural Grocery
Note: They sell organic Ecosac’s GardenSac mesh and net see-through produce bags. They are located on a stand behind a register near the book shelves, and near the produce aisle.

Related articles

Plastic Bags: Switching to Reusable Cloth Bags by Kay Bushnell, SierraClub.com, Accessed November 7, 2008.

SF supes vote to ban plastic bags in stores, San Francisco Chronicle, March 27, 2007

An Inconvenient Bag, Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2008

40 percent of Laysan albatross chicks die each year from plastic, montereybayaquarium.org, Accessed November 7, 2008.

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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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Why should we care about disappearing frogs?

A story about extinction

When I was working on my film on Siquijor island in the Philippines in 2004-2005, I met a fellow scholar in my fellowship program, herpetologist Cameron Siler who was studying for his PhD. Cameron was based on a neighboring island called Negros, in the city of Dumaguete.  He studied frogs and other amphibians throughout the archipelago. He collected and preserved hundreds of them for his university.  Cameron explained in a recent email that researchers have to follow “very strict collection permits that were given to us by the Philippine government.”

“The main purpose of our research is to document and understand the full diversity of an area.  So we attempt to conduct really detailed surveys and collect voucher specimens that can represent these unique and amazing species in a museum.  Usually this amounts to only 2 or 3 individuals for a species, and so we are confident that we minimize our impact on their populations.”

The biodiversity of frogs and lizards in the country is incredible.  I saw so many in daily life.  Inside the hut where I lived or whereever I stayed in the country, there were little insect-eating lizards hanging on the walls and ceilings, as well as geckos the size of my hand.  Each morning, while we ate breakfast outside, a giant monitor lizard we named Larry the lizard passed before us. He was probably on his way to snacking on the chickens or chicks, who were feeding on our compost pile in the yard.

During our occasional visits to Dumaguete, Cameron would tell us about his adventures to far-flung islands finding sometimes exotic large frogs or wrestling with monitor lizards which grew to the size of adult humans. He showed us his photos of them on his laptop and told us about how he preserved their bodies for scientific study, which were stored in his room.

As he told us about his research, I wondered why the study of frogs should be of any significance to my life. I started to answer this question for myself after being told a few more stories.  Cameron recalled a time when he was in the rice fields around the city of Dumaguete. He found frogs growing extra legs.  He guessed that this condition may have been due to the pesticides applied to the rice fields.  From then on, I vowed to try only to buy the locally grown organic brown rice, which was mainly grown locally for export to Japan.

In the Aug. 12, 2008 article published last week Dying frogs sign of a biodiversity crisis by Rachel Tompa in “UC Berkeley News,” David Wake, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley mentions climate change as a cause of mass deaths and says,

“Amphibians have been around for about 250 million years. They made it through when the dinosaurs didn’t. The fact that they’re cutting out now should be a lesson for us.”

Tompa reports:

“In an article published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers argue that substantial die-offs of amphibians and other plant and animal species add up to a new mass extinction facing the planet.”

In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for ways to step lightly on the earth and reduce my own contribution to climate change — and extinction.

Articles on this topic:
Dying frogs sign of a biodiversity crisis
Link to Global Warming in Frogs’ Disappearance Is Challenged
‘Last wave’ for wild golden frog

Related articles (updated):
To save ourselves, we need to need to understand why primates face extinction
‘Only 50 years left’ for sea fish
UN issues ‘final wake-up call’ on population and environment

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