Wednesday, April 29, 2009

James Seedlings: SUCCESS!

Last night, I went to James' house to check out his garden and seedlings. He has already put in posts for his tomatoes - he is doing Florida Weave but on 3 sides of his garden so that the tomatoes are all along the outside edges, with beans and stuff between the tomato plants.

The seedlings he started from my saved seeds look MUCH better than mine - so I hope to get some good seedlings from him once they are healthy.

I was also treated to my favorite vegan Japanese dishes - I especially adore the way he makes hijiki with tofu pocket slices -- it was such a nice gardening & dinner evening with a good friend.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ravioli, Redux!

Another round of Stinging Nettle & Wild Chanterelle Ravioli from the Millennium cookbook - why? Because it's AWESOME! This time, I made up a very big batch of candy cap balsamic reduction well in advance - two bottles of balsamic and 1/2" oz of dried candy caps later, I've got a decent 2 cups of syrupy reduction to add to dressings and sauces.

The ravioli turned out amazing - even though two of my guests couldn't eat wheat, I saved the filling for them to eat with the salad and they pronounced it delicious. In fact, one guest said "This is the best meal I have ever had!"

The ravioli were served on a bed of mixed greens (I'm in love with mizuno), and a salad of roasted beets with candied pecans and arugula. Homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Strawberries & Berkeley Earth Day

I swore I would stay the heck away from Berkeley Earth Day - but when I was out with a couple of friends to check out garage sales, well - we somehow ended up there and it was fun. It helped that we got there early and the crowd wasn't very big. I even managed to find a nice organic hemp/cotton belt with lots of grommets!

Swanton Berry Farm was there - so I bought a flat of strawberries - some were nearly as big as a tennis ball (most were bigger than golf ball size). Oh yeah! Berry goodness! Strawberry season has ARRIVED!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vietnamese Spring Rolls & Scrabble

I am beginning to think that there is just no way to screw up Vietnamese spring rolls. The rice flour/tapioca wrappers are cheap and you can just do so much with these! A group dinner & Scrabble night at a friend's seemed like the right occasion for DIY spring rolls. I had to do all the chopping at their house - so we had all these yummy ingredients to put inside:

- Vietnamese rice stick noodles
- red bell pepper slices
- fresh peppermint
- fresh chopped cilantro
- chopped peanuts
- smoked tofu
- sliced mango
- chopped green onions
- sliced avocado

We put together some dipping sauces - and guests also helped themselves from other fixings put out for salads to put together their spring rolls. Some of the wrappers really fell apart - and some folks preferred to just do taco style - but most of us got the burrito style rolling technique down. Nobody went hungry, that's for sure!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New North Oakland Restaurants!

Awesome news from Becks' blog -- we're getting Burma Superstar and a Champagne Bar in Temescal!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The importance of a good hot soak...

This past weekend was spent at Harbin Hot Springs - I need hot water and spring wildflowers in greater doses, please! Weather was outstanding - it was absolutely beautiful. I passed giant fields of lupin off of Hwy 101 -- thanks to the late spring rains, we have some kind of show going on in Northern California!

I spent hours in the very hot pool this weekend - and it really helped my neck. This makes me realize that it really a muscle tension issue which can be resolved with more time in hot water. The problem is that I have not lived in a place for 5 years which has an adequate bathtub. My current abode of 3 years has such a small tub that I can't straighten my legs and to get hot water on my neck, I have to stick my legs in the air on the wall over the faucet & taps - and even with a completely filled tub, that means my chest is not covered (and I'm not that big - about 5'10" with a 32" ribcage!).

Indeed, I have always been the soaking queen - I would have one good hot soak every week with bath salts, candles, book and music. I would get so hot that I'd be all flushed and red and rest on my bed with a dizzy head for five minutes in my robe with a towel on my hair. But in the last five years, my soaking opportunities are limited.

About 2 years ago, my friends who gave me free access to their hot tub in the Berkeley Hills behind the Claremont started suffering a series of mechanical failures and it became to expensive for them to maintain the tub. Soaking at local bathhouses is spendy - $20 for 1 person for an hour at Piedmont Springs ($30 for 2 people).

I'd consider putting in a bigger tub in my current apartment - at my own expense, even - but the bathroom just isn't big enough. And, yes - I have been looking around for alternate apartments -- basically since I moved in here (well, at least I have heat now) but the market is just that bad. I don't want to live with roommates (3 cats - remember?), I can't afford much more than I'm paying now ($1200), I do love my neighborhood and my yard...

so, how can a girl get her weekly hot soak on? My neck & stress demand it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Leather Question - Where Green & Vegan Butt Heads

Eddo's First Trip to The Wall

A dear friend & yoga instructor, Chris, gave me this fantastic vintage women's racing suit - it's about 35 years old, leather and has all the shoulder, back, hip and knee armor in it. It fits me perfectly - and, aside from a few high stress points where threads are occasionally going out (near the zipper bottom on the jacket front, first the left, then the right) and the failure of the pants zipper -- I imagine I'll be wearing this for a very long time.

As a vegan and as someone who tries to be "green", I do not buy new leather. The processing of leather is toxic -- cruel both to animals and to the people working in the industry. Regardless of what people may think, leather is not strictly a by-product of the meat industry.

However, as someone who believes in re-using and re-cycling, I don't think it makes sense to purge your wardrobe of every animal product. What good will that do? The animal has already suffered -- and truly, I cannot afford to buy a new motorcycle suit and it makes little sense to jettison 12 year old cashmere sweaters (it's all I can do to keep the moths off of them). I will continue to hang onto my old leather coats - and shoes - and wear them until they completely fall apart or I find a new homes for them with people who can give them better use.

How do you reconcile your concerns for animal with your concerns for the environment where they intersect and may conflict?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Brunch & Back on the Bicycle!

SUNRISE EASTER RIDE to Mt Tam on motorcycles is a long and growing Easter morning tradition. Many of my friends and acquaintances got up (or stayed up) to meet at various locations in the East Bay and SF to ride up to the top of Mt Tam. I, however, did not - I slept in! The idea of riding en masse, in the dark and fog and chill, on unfamiliar roads, totally did not appeal.

Instead, I opted for being the bearer of a nice bottle of champagne to brunch at the home of two nearby friends and heard all about the ride while eating yummy food. After a long leisurely brunch, much relaxing and story telling, which lead to giving a friend a massage - we found ourselves back at Barlata.

I have to say - I am really becoming a huge afficionado of Barlata - the atmosphere is pleasant, the staff are charming and timely, the food is delicious and the chef is happy to feed me though I don't eat animal products (unlike that other tapas place). I'm a big fan of their patatas bravas - way better than the other place, and they have some excellent grilled mushrooms, grilled bread with garlic & tomato and fantastic, affordable wines. What more could a food loving vegan ask for in a restaurant to share with her meat eating friends?

Despite the problems with the economy, it seems like restaurants are doing pretty well in Oakland and people are still eating out a lot!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pepple's Donuts Brunch


"Come this saturday from 10am to 1pm to china cafe, home of pepples donuts at 14th and peralta in sweet west oakland for a vegan soul plate. hashbrowns, mushroom gravy, avocado, and dave's killer bread from oregon. dollar donuts and dollar wok roasted coffee. radically green. ride your bike and bring your own cup."

-- Josh Levine, Facebook Status Update (4/9/2009)

Well! How can you refuse an offer like that? Brunch at the headquarters of the best vegan doughnuts in the Bay Area - Pepple's Donuts!

I told everyone I knew, in the hopes that at least one friend would go with me. To my delight, my friend Scott was up for it and despite getting a bit turned around trying to find Josh's West Oakland location, we found it!

Pepple's Donuts is based in an old Chinese cafe called "China Cafe." Here, he makes vegan donuts and distributes them to cafes and grocery stores all over the Bay Area. They are delicious. Brunch-goers were squeezed in at a short counter and two tiny tables where we were served the most fantastic homemade mushroom gravy on homefries. I brought a jar of plum habanero jelly to share with the toast.


The grilled tofu was a bonus - and all food was terribly delicious. I was so satisfied and stuffed after hoovering my plate full of yummy food - but still wanted more because it was so good! Let's not forget the donuts - Josh was making fresh donuts, on the spot - and we got to eat super delicious warm donuts. I even bought some to take home!


Good job, Josh & Rebecca!

Rudy's Can't Fail

RUDY'S CAN'T FAIL: after a late night on Friday, I woke up late on Saturday, did housework and realized "I forgot to eat!" My friend met up with me to head for a late lunch/early dinner at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe. Not only did we have the entire place to ourselves, but we were treated to the entire "Workers Playtime" album on the sound system. The food there is always tasty - plenty of vegan options and they are really great about veganizing things. Eyes being bigger than stomachs, we ordered off the lunch menu:

  • Buffalo tofu - chunks of grilled tofu slathered with sauce (yum)
  • Crunchy Asian tofu salad - I got the "small" size and it was too much to eat!
  • Mile High Sandwich (not vegan) with fries (vegan!)

I was really impressed with the salad - it had plenty of good veggies and it was all crisp and fresh with a nice dressing that wasn't overpowering. Their french fries totally rule, too!

After finishing our meal, we went for a ride in the Berkeley Hills on our motorcycles to enjoy the lovely weather. Yums.

Friday, April 10, 2009


After a ride in the Berkeley Hills for sunset and a few drinks at The Graduate, I marched across the street with three friends for dinner at Wood Tavern, the restaurant of a darling young chef named Max DiMare. Wood Tavern focuses on rustic, hearty fare in the flexible and varied nexus of local-sustainable-California.

I first met Max right when he moved out to California - I worked with his Uncle Bill as a freelance consultant, and we'd go dine at Max's restaurant whenever Bill would be in town. Max is funny, smart and an all around great guy as well as a fantastic chef. He also loves spicy food and I remember going for dinner at a divey Vietnamese joint on Polk with him and his uncle several years ago - Max had been experimenting with habanero salsas and was pouring on fiery yellow salsa and sweat was rolling off his scalp, but he was loving it!

Fortunately, Max knows his limits are different from the rest of us mortals, but certainly if you want spice, Chef Max is the one who can kick it up and challenge your taste buds.

You might not think that a dinner at Wood Tavern would be the first choice for a vegan. Max assured me that he could make me delicious vegan food and my meat eating friends would all be happy to not be eating Thai food yet once again...

I love the interior of Wood Tavern - it's just warm, inviting brick and wood, with sparkling lights and glass. Together, the four of us slayed two orders of frites, bread and olive oil and a wonderful green salad with a blood orange vinaigrette. My friends had a couple orders of the crispy pork belly and an order of cold cuts (salame or venison or something).

The pasta dish Max whipped up for me was delicious - shells with shiitake mushrooms and asparagus was just fantastic - it had a delicious sweet-savory broth for seasoning and was far and beyond any vegan dish I have been served at other "meat" restaurants (Salt House hates vegetarians who like to eat dinner with their meat eating friends, btw).

For dessert, I had the most amazing strawberry sorbet, and two of my friends dared to have the affogato at 11pm! - a concoction of espresso, chocolate and ice cream that would keep anyone up for several more hours!

A delicious, satisfying and not ridiculously expensive meal for 4 people (including wine) was around $100 including tip. Yums!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Seedling FAIL!

GARDENING UPDATE: First round of seeds did not germinate - I tried to germinate them outdoors, putting the seed tray in the solar dehydrator. I suspect it got too hot in the day, too cold at night.

Sunday I spent some time replanting the seedling tray. I also put all the kales into the ground: Chinese kale (which looks like broccoli), broccoli rab, lacinato kale and black kale. I even got a couple of tomato plants at the farmer's market to put into the ground since my tomato seeds aren't doing so well.

Other items planted include: garlic, cilantro, endive, parsley, peas, fennel & dill seeds sowed directly in the ground.

The potato condo continues to look stupdendous, and I am sprouting more potatoes for the bald spots. I can't figure out how to get more water down to the bottom of the condo - the top is quite moist and I'm finding the occasional mushroom growing (oh, yay for wood chips in the organic soil).

Monday, April 06, 2009

George Kitty now home...

George kitty has had some problems over the last several weeks. I took all the kitties in for a check-up Friday before last, and the vet said they all looked fine. But then more problems - he would strain in pain, throw up and then urinate on the floor. Or strain in the litterbox and throw up - really a mess. Saturday morning, he was in a lot of pain - he strained and stayed in a strained squat for more than 20 minutes so I got things together and walked him up to the vet. Quite a stressful morning, actually.

George spent all weekend at the vet's office - and pulled his catheter out early Monday morning while he plotted his escape. Tests show no kidney damage, and only "grit & goo" - but no crystals. Special diet and lots more water in his future - poor thing, this happened just after his 4th birthday. The vet says that urinary tract blockages are common in male cats between 4-9 years and then they "out grow" it.

Meanwhile, he's keeping his accidents mostly on throw rugs, but has also had one on the top level of the kitty condo where he most likes to sit. Poor buddy!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunny Oakland Spring Brunch

I love this weather! Today I got up in time for 9AM yoga class, had a ride up in the Berkeley Hills then came home and made up brunch: oven roasted potatoes with herbs de provence, fig-pistachio bread from the farmer's market with my own preserves, chai, fresh fruit and nuts - and played backgammon for 2 hours in the backyard with James. It was quite a lovely afternoon and perfect weather - almost too warm and I put a canopy over the two clotheslines adjacent to the picnic table in the yard. And, because I could, I went for another ride up to the Berkeley Hills. Yeah, spring!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Kitty Hooch Catnip

No matter how hard I try, I cannot grow my own catnip. The cats always get to it - whether indoors or outdoors, my cats or cats on the block. They ALWAYS get to it. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources - and when I was in Portland last fall, I bought some at the Saturday market. The catnip is big dense clumps of leaves and flowers that smell really delicious and fragrant even by human standards. Kitty Hooch "white lightening" is proving to be a favorite with my kitties and with the neighbor kitty, Bobo. If you find yourself at the Porland market - I highly recommend you look for these folks and pick up some of their catnip for your feline friends.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Stand-by Salsa Combos

SALSA & GUACAMOLE are two of my favorite things to make to dress up a salad or a dish or just for a meal. Bruschetta is one of my other favorite things, but that merits its own post, as does guacamole! Here are a couple my favorite combinations - vary proportions based on your preferences and availability of fresh or local ingredients.

Salsa 1: honeydew melon, pomegranate seeds, cilantro (and a little mint), lime, jalapeno, white onion and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Salsa 2: roasted red pepper (in broiler, peel and remove seeds), fire roasted corn (in broiler), roasted pasilla pepper (same as red pepper) & white onions, pan seared tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, lime, jalapeno

For this one, use a VERY sharp knife to cut the corn off along the rows. Once you get the first 1-3 rows out, it'll be fairly easy to pry out the rest of the kernels.

Salsa 3: persimmon, jicama, parsley, habanero pepper, red onion (soaked in vinegar to soften) and toasted pumpkin seeds

Salsa 4: mango, toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro, lime and finely minced red onion and jalapeno.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Garden time!

SEEDLINGS: I confess - I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I started my seeds too late, for one thing. And, I used the wrong medium to start the seeds - it's been almost 3 weeks and NADA! The seeds are NOT coming up. I'm going to buy some more dirt and put together the seed tray from scratch. I just hope I still have some seeds for some of the varieties of tomatoes I wanted from last year.

GARDEN PREP: This is the only thing I've properly managed. The garden is all broken up - a friend with a contracting business loaned me a couple of his workers on a rainy day when they couldn't do their regular work. Best $84 I have spent all year. Today, someone is going to finish up the job and break up the dirt clods so it's nice and soft and I can actually plant seeds.

GROWING THINGS: Last Saturday, more greens went in - more parsley, lettuces, arugula and cilantro.

After a couple months of inactivity, the potato condo is showing promise - there are big green vines coming out some sides and shorter vines on top. I'll get some good pictures and get them up soon.

COOKING: Since I am on a diet, haven't been cooking a ton - though I have been eating a lot of banh mi from Little Saigon Express ($4 for a tofu sandwich with daikon & pickled carrots!). I recently passed along a frozen quart bag of persimmon pulp to a friend so she could try her hand at making persimmon jam. Mostly I have been eating lots of kale and greens - and brought home some avocados and strawberries from Gilroy to make salad with local arugula and peppercress for dinner this week.

I did pull a pretty good April Fool's prank last night, though...