Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bar Crudo Benefit Tomorrow

Last week my co-worker and constant reader Kurt sent word of the car accident that killed one of the employees of Bar Crudo and severely injured two others. The whole story can be read here.

I'd been trying to find time in our Sunday to attend Crudo's benefit since it was first mentioned in the Chronicle, but had neglected to promote it here. However, a reader left a comment last night that prompted me to. So, the details:
Sunday December 10 from 12-6
Bar Crudo

Suggested donation $10 - $25
Proceeds will go to the victims and their families.

We'll be serving oysters, crudo, wine, beer, and guest hors d'oeuvres. Hog Island Oyster Company has generously donated 800 oysters to be served at this event (that's a lot of oysters people, we need your help!), Range, and Le Petit Robert will also be donating food, with other restaurants and business's soon to join in support of this benefit.
My co-worker also asked if I knew any of the people involved, and I don't really. But I was struck by how quickly someone can go from holding up two sea urchins and asking me and a friend which one we wanted to eat, to finding themselves in a hospital, un-insured and in need of surgery, with a broken jaw and ribs. To say nothing of how quickly someone can go from bringing a meal to a table to being violently dead. The truth is that you know all of these things already, that the world is a brutal place and that there are greater calamities befalling people even as we type and read, but something about this particular incident overwhelms base cynicism.

There's something I'd like to say about how unique the food and atmosphere of the place is, that ultimately this is a reflection of the people involved. About how few places I've eaten in the last year where I've interacted with a chef to this degree. I think you get the idea.

What I will say is that among other hypocrises of eating well in the bay area, very few of the people who prepare and serve the food we appreciate so much have insurance or retirement plans that folks who can afford to eat out regularly may or may not be taking for granted.

If you get a chance to drop by on Sunday, please do.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lots of Citrus For the Taking

Wanted to take a minute to encourage my less far-flung readership to get themselves to a farmer's market this weekend, and take home some citrus (though I'd certainly be intrigued to hear what's available in Haifa, Singapore, and parts of Australia?). I'll run down some of the options available to you if your farmer's market of choice happens to be the venerable Grand Lake.

Hamada Farms has Satsumas, Navels, and Cara Cara oranges for your peeling pleasure. They also have "Buddha's Hand" Citrons and Meyer Lemons. No link to my post on satsumas would be complete without a disclaimer that it is somewhat out of character. As for the Navels, if you've been eating Pixies, Kishus, and other obscure orange things, a really good Navel Orange may surprise you. Meanwhile, Cara Cara oranges continue to have pride of place in our house. I grabbed four for the week, and we have one to get us through the next 5 days. Something's gotta give.

Lagier Ranches had Paige Tangerines this week. Last year, it was Satsuma before Paige for them. Not sure what givces, but will try to find out this Saturday.

Many of these varieties were around until April of last year, so there's no hurry. But for the first time this year, the variety and quality of the fruit on offer are heading toward critical mass - just in time for those of you planning holiday dinner parties, preparing food-based gifts, and otherwise on the prowl for seasonal goods.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Kegger

Thanksgiving snuck up on this year. We were pretty sure we'd wind up as guests, offered instead to host, and in the week-long uncertainty leading up to the big event we bought a boneless leg of lamb. Complicating matters considerably, our sink was refusing to drain. There was also our newborn, and his many and diverse needs.

As every frat guy knows though, there are few party-planning complications that cannot be overcome by a keg of beer.

You may recall last year's post on New Belgium's "2° Below Winter Ale". Here's the description our friendly neighborhood Bay Area Beer Ranger provided at the time:
A bright warming blast of Sterling and Liberty hops along with tawny-roasted malts. We push 2° Below into a final, nearly freezing, state which gives its ample structure developing brilliant clarity. Dry hopping during fermentation creates a rosy, floral nose with a hint of pepper spice and subtle estery undertones. 6.6% abv with 30 IBU's.

The beer bought time for the lamb and our friend Jenny's turkey to get just done enough to serve, and side dishes were accounted for by talented friends and strangers.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Your Meal Plan May Vary

Among our friends, we've either come late to the baby-having party or are breaking new ground. So, some of the social rituals associated with having kids in the Bay Area (elsewhere too no doubt) are unfamiliar to us. One of these social rituals is the meal plan - wherein friends sign up to bring take-out meals to new parents. No fewer than three friends swore that meal plans preserved their marriage in the early days of parenthood.

I consider it a validation of our way of life, or maybe just our division of labor, that instead of take out we were treated to a crate of food. Carrots that found their way into mire poix for an oxtail braise, mangos that became sorbet, tomatoes that were blended into gazpacho. The riches of Berkeley Bowl delivered to our door step along with a bassinet - belated thanks to our friends Maya and Leo.

There would be more food gifts. Home made preserves and a tomato relish from my new boss, a pot of meatball and chard soup from our friend Jenny. We shared the soup with her as we watched Iron Chef America - just like old times.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This Summer's Harvest

Back in June we picked up a bunch of vegetable plants for the garden from Home Depot.

In the past I've gone whole hog and raised heirloom varieties from seeds, but time was of the essence this year. Planting season snuck up on us before a Seeds of Change catalog did. We managed a lot of tomatoes that palpably paled in comparison to the many splendors of Wild Boar tomatoes.

Our peppers were first rate though. We had sweet and spicy varieties and the quantity and quality were better than we could have expected. I hope to experiment with drying techniques this week, any sage advice would be appreciated.

Just for the heck of it: Teas' Tea

If you are reading this blog and have given birth at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, chances are your friends or loved ones brought you goods from the Whole Foods down the street. I have a weakness for the Tea's Tea packaging and, even though Honest Tea was on sale, I grabbed a couple of bottles of Teas' at Whole Foods prices.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bacon Dripping Ginger Snaps

Last year, my wife spotted a recipe for bacon-fat ginger snaps in the New York Times magazine. When Prather Ranch began regularly stocking bacon, we started socking away bacon fat - storing up the 3/4 of a cup required for the recipe.

We faced some hurdles along the way, including a package of bacon that was virtually fat free. Not surprisingly though, Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch was down with the bacon fat cookie cause. He contributed a package of bacon that was almost entirely fat.

Amy baked the first batch yesterday. The cookies are incredibly savory and that crisps up like you wouldn't believe. As you eat, you can feel the cookie bits melt in your mouth. As our friend Sarah pointed out to her partner Victor,"That'd be the fat."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

About 'A Milk War Over More Than Price'

The New York Times ran an article this morning on a new Walmart house-brand of organic milk. Because the article was in the business section, the motivation and character of Walmart's interest in selling organic milk goes more or less unadressed - there's a market, and they are delivering product to it.

According to a market researcher working with Walmart they are even expanding the organic consumer market, “They’re creating incremental users because they’re removing one of the big inhibitors to buying organic, which is price." I wonder what the persona room (pdf) for your typical Walmart organic buyer would have in it?

I'm still inclined to think that any interest in the organic food movement is a good thing, but some early adopters have been done with the organic label for years now because it's virtually meaningless - you can bathe lettuces in bleach and still sell them as organic.

Which is why it sounds like such a cop out when Aurora Organic Dairy, Walmart's organic milk supplier, says they,"are in full compliance with Agriculture Department standards for organic dairy."

Aurora are also feeding their cows hay, silage, corn and soybeans. I can't sling any mud at soybeans or silage, and grass-fed cows face perils of their own, but if you are feeding a cow corn then you've given up your right to make claims to your interest in that animals health and welfare.

Photo credit: Matthew Staver for The New York Times

Monday, September 04, 2006

Black's Tea-Smoked Sea Salt

Whenever she travels, our friend Sarah brings us back foodstuffs. Hot sauce and tamarind marinade from Puerto Rico, Turkish Delight from Istanbul. Most recently, she visited family back east and returned with this tea-smoked sea salt.

Sarah's brother Danny is the executive sous chef at Blacksalt restaurant in Washington D.C., where the salt is sold in an adjoining fish market.

The salt is redolent both of smoke and floral black tea scents, imparted over a fire of cherry and maple woods. It's a complex scent. I haven't had a chance to try the salt with fish, but am eager to give it a whirl in both raw and cooked preparations.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

First Weekend for Bronx Grapes

After a year of blogging, and over a hundred posts I occasionally struggle with what my core M.O. is. I don't think I have the sheer photographic or culinary chops of Keiko over at Nordljus, or the consistent voice and perspective of Alder over at Vinography. I still struggle with an appropriate photographic technique for meat, and occasionally I'll lose all perspective and post something like my overly-personal entry on satsumas. If my ambitions include one or more flavors of a career in food, these lapses describe the degree to which I am still more enthusiast than expert. So do these photos of four freakin' pounds of Bronx Grapes.

We got ours at the Lagier Ranches stand, at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market, where the "Rolls Royce of table grapes" is yours for the consuming, and will only set you back $3.00 a pound.

Bacon For the Foreseeable Future

Back in May, on an otherwise ordinary Saturday, Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch told us that the following weekend he'd have bacon. I'd been keen on some organic and old school bacon since seeing a post on Highland Hill Farms Bacon over at Meathenge. My wife and I arrived the next Saturday only to have our BLT-dreams dashed. We were so visibly disturbed that Doug gave us consolation sausage. The following weekend we headed up to Portland. During the two bacon-free months since I figured that we'd missed out on this year's magic bacon weekend.

Not so. For the past several weeks now we've picked up a package of the most intensely meaty and smokey bacon I've ever thrown in a skillet. I'd lobbied for this week's package on the grounds that we never did make the Bacon Dripping Ginger Snaps we'd seen a recipe for during last year's holiday season.

We did pick up a package this week despite assurances that the folks at Prather Ranch hope to have bacon on an ongoing basis. I'll let you know how the cookies turn out.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Wild Boar Farms

There are two times of year when we come dangerously close to just handing over twenty dollar bills to vendors at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market. The peak of grape season is one of them, and the height of tomato season is another. For grapes we lean toward Hamada Farm's concords, for tomatoes it's Wild Boar Farms.

Brad Gates has been breeding tomato plant varieties for eight generations now, and has refined several varieties with unique names like,"Berkeley Tie Dye" and "Evan's Purple Plum". An associate of his in New Zealand also plants crops of these varieties, giving him essentially twice the number of tomato plants to cull seeds from.

This weekend he showed us samples of one variety that had an oblong shape he'd noticed last year. Working to refine the varietal, he'd expected to wind up with orange and yellow striped oblongs. Instead he wound up with a single plant bearing oblong fruit in just about every tomato color you can imagine. Rather than sell a single color, he'd brought them all. Gesturing toward a bin of striped green, red, and yellow fruit he said,"I mean, which of these would the tomato world be better off without?"

Then suddenly, fried okra.

Tip Top Farms has great okra right now. Green, red, and white varieties at the pea of freshness and flavor. I totally dredged and fried that okra.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Ceviche Three Times a Day

It's been about a month since my last post. During that time, my wife and I travelled to Ecuador - spending a week and a day in the Galapagos Islands. A people after my own heart, Ecuadorians eat ceviche at every meal. They even have cevicherias.

Breakfast ceviches might include smoked mussels, dinner ceviches could include everything from octopus (pulpo) to lobster (langosta). While commercial fishing in and around the Galapagos is forbidden, locals are allowed to fish for commercial purposes, subject to seasons. Lobsters were off limits while we were visiting, as indicated by this sign at the airport on Isla Isabella.

It'll be business as usual here in a day or two. We've been to the farmer's market a couple of times now, and there's plenty going on there. Wild Boar Tomatoes are back. We're happily eating peaches, plums, and pluots. The Hamada Farms folks have a couple of varieties of grape, though it'll be a while before their concords are available.

Photo Credits: San Cristobal Cevicheria, A.Moore. Isla Isabella Airport, A.D. Mehta.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sour Cherries

Sour Cherries can be any one of several cherry varities including Montmorency, Morello, and Early Richmond. According to,"Montmorency is the most popular of the sour cherry varieties the U.S. and Canada providing 95% or more of the sour cherries on the market."

Prior to this year I was unaware of the distinction between sour cherries and sweet cherries. We grabbed these on a whim at the Lagier Ranches stand at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market. Dumb luck tends to be its own reward at times like these. I did not have to suffer through, for instance, a period of deep and intense wanting.

Sour cherries are smaller than more familiar varieties, and get sweeter the longer you hang on to them. Their tart flavors stand up to the sugary rigors of desserts. While harvest of these cherries is generally associated with July, the folks from Lagier Ranches indicated that last weekend was the last weekend they'd have them.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Market Recap: Week 20

Last week's Market Recap went unreported while my wife and I visited friends and family in Portland. The week before there had been more cherry varieties than I could reasonably bring home, early season pluots didn't taste like much of anything, and Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch had no bacon.

A week later several stands had quit selling cherries. While confirming that the season was over for them, the guy working the Hamada farms booth pointed out that next weekend would probably be the last weekend for their apricots. Apricots which offer up ample squirming proof of their organic credentials.

A few stalls down someone was selling cherries from a single crate at 7.00 a pound. Second only to 10.00 a pint blueberries in terms of sheer pricing chutzpah. We were relieved to find that Lagier Ranches still had Rainier Cherries and also Sour Cherries. I'll have more to say about sour cherries later this week, in the mean time here's a photo.

In a rare break with Market Recap protocol I'll also offer up this photo of Sour Grapes, even though my wife stumbled upon them at Berkeley Bowl.

Still no word on Prather Ranch bacon. Though the appearance of Highland Hill Farms Bacon over at Meathenge seems encouraging. Suppose there's always the off chance it came and went while we were up north...

Just for the heck of it: Shrimp

It's been a while since we ate shrimp. I prepared these with olive oil, fresh herbs, a basic kosher salt and some sliced garlic scape. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Cannard Farms Pepper that found its way into the dish. Tough not to think of this as a ringer ingredient, but doing so when referring to a dish that features garlic scape would be kowtowing to celebrity rather than obscurity. I'm not that kind of guy.

A minute a side on the grill and they were done, but I prefer this photo of the shrimp pre-skewer.

Incidentally, this was one half of a surf and turf combo featuring Buffalo Ribeye.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Market Recap: Weeks 17 and 18

Flavorful stone fruit were everywhere at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market last week. I tend to associate good-tasting examples of these with later summer months, and after a long wet spring, they seemed were both welcome and unexpected. Sweet and rich peaches, tart and chewy apricots, and all kinds of cherries (King, Rainier, and Tulare varieties). There were blue berries as well.

All were more expensive than they tend to be later in the year, but the taste makes the premium palatable.

After an absence of nearly two months, County Line Harvest Farms was back at the market. Their arugula is the best I've tasted with the exception of Knoll Farms. It lacks that grown-wild shape and color, but makes up for it in piquancy.

This week's new arrivals included black berries at Lagier Ranches. These should be excellent in a couple weeks; now they taste more tart than flavorful. There were also a few varieties of Pluot. I didn't taste these after my wife waved me off.

Of course, most of these fruits have been available for some time, and for less money, at Berkeley Bowl. Some consideration of the philosophical differences between people who are, and are not, swayed by that sort of thing is something I intend to address eventually.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Blanxart Chocolate Negro Con Almendras

According to an entry at Global Province, "Blanxart is a small artisanal chocolate company located in Sant Joan Despi, a town just outside Barcelona. Its owners make over 100 types of chocolate and pralines, all by hand, using traditional recipes and select cocoa beans from South America and Africa, which are roasted and blended in the atelier." While their Chocolate Negro Con Almendras can be found at both Dean and Deluca and La Tienda, my wife picked up two bars for me at The Spanish Table in Berkeley.

The taste of the bar is curiously bright. It is packed with small chunks of almond, and the fruit taste of almond (akin to marzipan) nearly overwhelms the acidity of the dark choclate.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus)

Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) are a winter staple here in northern California, and figure prominently in Italian dishes like Bagna Cauda. Of the ten recipes for cardoons over at Food Network, nine are associated with Mario Batali.

Until a recent meal at Aziza, I had somehow managed to go fifteen years in the bay area without having eaten a single bite of cardoon. There they served a pungent salad of cardoon with crushed garlic, olive oil, and meyer lemon.

Reproducing this salad at home was more involved than it might sound. To prepare cardoons you have to first remove the leaves, and then the spines that that dot the outer most rib on either side of the stalk. Once you've done this, you need to remove the ribs off the back of the stalk, using a vegetable peeler. To get the stalks tender, you also need to boil them for thirty-five (35) minutes.

According to the folks at Tip Top Farms, cardoons are closely related to and taste a lot like artichokes - I don't find this to be the case. There are portions of the plant that smell like an artichoke smells, but after you've variously peeled, boiled, and chilled, they don't taste like much of anything. Meaty celery maybe.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Market Recap: Week 16

It's been about a month since I've posted a Market Recap. This past weekend there were a lot of summer fruits and vegetables to be had at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market. Two weeks ago a single stand was selling cherries for $4.00, now there are a handful of stands selling them for as little as $2 a pound. We were particularly happy to find cherries at the Lagier Ranches stand; the first fruit they'd had in over a month. I would have photos of these cherries, but we have eaten them all.

Likewise the small ufo-shaped peaches we picked up. My wife and I both feel as though we've been burned by stone fruit in recent summers. These were great though, deeply flavorful and intensely sweet. The only indication that it was May and not, say, July was a slightly mealy quality to the flesh. At the same stand, we picked up squash blossoms.

The Tip-Top Farms folks had what looked like the last of this year's Cardoons and also Garlic Scapes. Scapes, which I think will be next year's green garlic, are supposed to be at their curly and tender best between mid-June and July.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Coming and Going: Volume 02

A few months ago I posted my first Coming and Going entry - a kind of minor-league Inside Scoop. This time around I met my sources at a grand opening party for Mignonne, a new store in downtown Oakland. Here's what they had to say:
The folks who run Dona Tomas and Tacubaya, will be opening a Tequila Bar on the New Amsterdam stretch of Telegraph Avenue, not far from Uptown. While these details are new, I first heard about this from our friend Penny early last month.

The rights to open a restaurant in the boat house on Lake Merrit have gone to the owner of Luka's, who intends to open a steak house there. Incidentally, Oakland institution Everet and Jones appears to have missed out on the spot, following a rare City Council vote by outgoing Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

The owners of B will open a third restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Clouds, in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center. They also operate the Boxed Lunch Company.

Tamarindo Antojeria will feature more seafood dishes as summer picks up, including a dish they sampled the other night of raw shrimp marinated in citrus juices and chiles, served with cucumber and avocado slices.

Orlando, so much to answer for.

Been a bit since I've posted. There was a winter's worth of neglect to undo in the backyard, then work led me to Orlando for a week. We stayed at the Omni Hotel. There were five restaurants on the hotel grounds, each with a distinct ethnic focus. Not a frequent domestic traveler, I first noticed this phenomenon in Las Vegas — the hotel as a kind of culinary microcosm of the world. At the Omni, there were American, Italian, and asian fusion restaurants. — each had the same wine list.

Each restaurant also seemed to get a piece of the equation for success right. Zen was intriguingly designed, Trevi's had just updated most of their menu to eliminate food that was more American than Italian, David's dished up intensely flavorful plates. By day four it added up to well less than the sum of its parts. This wouldn't have been so disconcerting, but they were clearly trying hard to do serious food.

Back safe in our culinary bubble, we're looking forward to the Farmer's Market this weekend. My tomato plants are starting to take off, the citrus trees out front have tons of new leaves and blossoms. I've almost completely blocked out the memory of a tempura-fried crab wrap that was fried whole rather than stuffed with deep-fried crab.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Aziza Restaurant in San Fracnciso

Went with a friend to Aziza last night. In light of my New York Times reading habits, I'd somehow missed the considerable local buzz over this place. I had, in fact, never heard of it. As we approached I was convinced that the place was closed. The front door is made of an exceptionally dark glass that obscures light.

The food was good, and we ate a lot of it. There was an unusually long pause between our starters and the main courses. Long enough that our server felt compelled to bring us one of the desserts as a "palate cleanser" - a roasted meyer lemon sorbet. He attributed the wait to our having ordered one of four dishes that the chef plates himself. The table behind us apparently did too, but worked the system for a free dessert during the dessert course as well.

All told we ate:

• mariquita's cardoon
• marin roots farm wild arugula
• prather ranch kefta skewers
• grilled spicy lamb sausage
• paine farm squab
• devils gulch ranch rabbit

The specific preparation of each dish is available on the Aziza website's menu page. The sides, sauces, and seasonings did generally have a mediterranean aspect that wouldn't necessarily be evident looking at the dishes themselves.

We also ate dessert. I brought my wife home two of the most delicious dates I've ever tasted, and a perfectly ripe Pixie Mandarin. I even managed to bring home some of my rabbit.

The wine list tended to have several reasonably priced bottles ($70.00-$40.00)in a variety of styles, and one decidedly more expensive bottle ($70.00+/-) in each style. This seemed like some kind of trap.

Something about our experience prevented me from actively wanting to head back with my wife. I'm not sure that Bar Crudo is really operating on a similar plane in terms of sheer culinary sophistication, but after my first visit I was eager to head back.

The Aziza leftovers made a pretty strong case though. I expect to be back soon.

Berkshire Pork Shoulder-cut Chops

Berkshire pork is enjoying a lipid content-fueled vogue, at places like Momofuku in New York - where two re-interpreted Berkshire Pork belly Pork Buns will set you back $8.00. In addition to the amount of marbling it exhibits, the meat is also incredibly rich in pork flavor. Jonathan Kauffman over at East Bay Express, describes it as the foodie breed of the moment in his review of B.

We buy ours from Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market, though I supsect you can also get it at the Prather Ranch retail shop in the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

My wife is not a big fan of fat, and will purposefully separate meat from fat no matter how much I dim the lights before dinner. How then did we come to purchase two shoulder-cut chops, weighing nearly a pound each?

When I asked for two chops I was buying mostly out of Berkeley Bowl habit. The shoulder-cut chops were relatively cheap, and Doug had indicated that they were his favorite on the dry-erase board that he uses to list available cuts of meat.

When he set them down on the counter for us to look at, I knew that the marbling and large band of fat along one side would not go without comment. Still, Doug insisted that most of the marbling would "cook out".

After grilling, the meat was predictably moist. The sheer pork flavor of the chop was intense, and brought to mind bacon or even sausage. Searing the band of fat over high heat, allowed slow cooking to reduce the fat to a liquid-like state trapped inside a crispy outer shell.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Market Recap: 2006: Week 12

The weather forecast called for rain this weekend, even thunderstorms for Saturday morning. The wet weather never materialized though/ We arrived at the market around 10:30am after a trip to Berkeley Bowl, and had to park several blocks away.

At least four stands were selling strawberries. They don't have the deep strawberry flavor of mid-to-late season fruit, but hey - it's April.

As we made our way through the market, I saw Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms. I've waxed enthusiastic about his tomatoes before, but figured he'd be selling lilacs. I was surprised to find that he's selling tomato plants for his rare tomato varieties.


Ramps (Allium Tricoccum) are a type of wild leek which smell slightly of garlic. Unlike our domesticated leeks they also have edible, broad green leaves.

Ramps are found in North America as far south as the Carolinas, and as far north as Canada. Their season is short, and runs from March to May. They are availble now at Berkeley Bowl for $9.50 a pound. You'll find them piled in a plastic bag along the eastern wall of the produce section. One word of caution, the roots will be muddy.

I first saw ramps on Iron Chef America, where Mario Batali was using them in a dish. The website for his restaurant Babbo, featured ramps as an ingredient of the month. They also offer up this recipe.

Stringless Snap Peas

You'll be able to find good snap peas at Berkeley Bowl well before they find their way into most Farmer's Markets. Stringless edible-pod peas are more expensive than other varieties, selling for between 3 and 4 dollars a pound.

Discerning pea enthusiasts will probably want to remove the stem end of the pod before eating. Still, these are so crisp and sweet right now that I ate several pods whole while prepping them.

We dropped them in boling water for two minutes, transferred to an ice bath, and then served over a pool of romesco sauce. They are also great in soups, as they do not require shelling.

Purple Carrots

As a college undergraduate, I was introduced to the practice of serving radishes before meals. The first time I ate at Chez Panisse, that small dish of radishes with a few leaves still attached was a sure sign that I wans't in Kansas anymore.

Since then radishes have fallen in and out of favor in our home. While two bunches a week used to be no problem, we can go months without eating one. We were introduced to the multi-colored carrot variation on this theme by our friend Penny.

Berkeley Bowl makes it easy to throw together an attractive plate of these salt vehicles. They stock them in red, yellow, and orange varieties. They are very sweet, and taste intensely of carrot.

Red Carrots

More multi-colored carrots from Berkeley Bowl. The red color of these carrots is limited to their skin. Inside, a more typical orange color contrasts sharply with the red blush of the skin.

Navel Orange (Heirloom)

Berkeley Bowl has a good selection of interesting citrus varieties, including these heirloom Navel Oranges from the Rising C Ranch folks who operate According to their website, the oranges are grown using "Old Line" Washington Navel Trees and a combination of sweet and sour rootstock.

Grow Quest offers this useful account of the Navel orange's introduction to the United States,"In 1873, taking advantage of the North American diplomatic services established in Brazil, technicians specialized in citrus production in Riverside, California, received three seedlings of Bahia orange, from which came the seedlings that would later be spread all over the United States and other parts of the world with the name of Washington Navel. Therefore, the citrus exchange between the two countries is over a century old, and the Bahia orange was a fundamental base for that exchange."

Here's the Rising C Ranch write up on their approach:
We only use "old line" Washington Navel trees combined with sour and sweet orange rootstock. Both rootstocks are out of favor with most growers because of different inherited problems, but no other rootstocks can produce a better tasting piece of fruit.

While the flesh of these oranges is unusually pale, they are intensely flavorful.