I Heart Temescal

The husband and I have one night a week that we designate as our eating out night – gotta stay true to our food budget without compromising nutrition or quality. And we go big on this night; if we have a Google Deals coupon at our favorite Indian street food spot in Berkeley (Vik’s Chaat Corner, baby)? Then that’s where you’ll find us. As those of us thinking we are well-versed in the ever-evolving culinary scene of the Bay Area know, their are plenty of spots to hit up to get amazing food on the cheap. And then there are the splurges…

Doña Tomás is not just a Mexican restaurant. It is one of the establishments guilty of starting the Temescal District revolution… creating something very, very special in an otherwise forgotten and downtrodden area of Oakland. The husband had never been, and I have always loved it. The atmosphere is perfect, and having just been to Oaxaca over the holidays, it felt even more authentic than I thought it always was. The clean, white stucco walls with what look like vintage Frida Kaho tunics sparsely adorning the walls make their way through the hallway separating the bar area and main dining area. The bar feels like members of the Buena Vista Social Club will be setting up soon to play in the corner. It has deep, deep red walls, making you feel really comfortable and ready to settle in. Their thick and crispy chips with cotija cheese crumbled atop and thinner, smokey salsa is a perfect starter. We also ordered the following to share:

Quesadillas con Betabeles:  house-made tortillas filled with goat cheese, beets, fennel and thyme, topped with tomatillo-guajillo salsa
and kumquats

The kumquats added an perfect sweet to the savory

Sopes con Platanos: crispy masa cakes topped with fried plantains, black beans, crema and epazote

I heart plantains. Check out Sol Food in San Rafael for more plantain goodness…

Chile Verde: a stew of Niman Ranch lamb with potatoes, poblanos and avocado leaves, topped with crema and cheddar,
served with green rice

The food was, as always, amazing. I usually always go for the carnitas, but decided to venture out. With no room for dessert, we were satisfied. Until. Wait, wait. As we know, this side of the street has a great line-up of places to rival any Mission or Meat Packing type district have gone up around Dona Tomas, as well:

Bakesale Betty – BEST apple and pecan pie I have ever had, and when you are standing in the 20+person line on a sunny afternoon, they’ll bring out fresh baked cookies while you wait, on the house.

Article Pract – I just want to pile their yarns in beautiful hues and textures and dream away – and I gotta get back into knitting and purling myself.

Pizziaolo - I believe a few veterans from the Chez Panisse kitchen started this up, so it was sure to be good from the get go. I have never actually been, but it’s one of those place that has been on my short list WAY too long. I will for sure forgo my gluten issue for a slice of this pie.

Scream Sorbet – we aren’t talking your Dreyer’s rainbow weirdness here. With flavors like Almond Pink Peppercorn (the nut makes the cream base – there’s not dairy!) and Hazelnut Chocolate (better than I would imagine frozen Nutella to be – AND CREAMIER) this place rocks my world. Hard on the budget, but a MUST for the senses.

You get my point. This particular block is the place to be. And down the street we’ve got one of the East Bay versions of Burma Superstar and Lanesplitter’s Pizza. How can you go wrong? On the contrary. You can’t go wrong, but you can find a welcoming surprise inside…the street. Sitting pretty behind the lineup is a modest alley way that I believe was first opened to the public via the Temescal Alley Barbershop. The shop welcomes you to peer in to see the notably attractive barbers in hipster jeans and checkered shirts (my husband is the most attractive man I know, but this is like Blaine from Glee attractive). And as you head past a few of the sandwich boards, alluring one’s curiosity, you must also notice a unique finds vintage furnishings shop, a jewelry and home goods shop and much more to be perused. See the lineup here and make your way down there on a warm summer evening after dinner for music and open doors to the shops. Oakland Art Beat posts such happenings on their calendar online. Many neighbors were also sharing the fruits of their labor along the alley (pictured below).

So sweet. The women who grew these whispered to me about her mispellings, but I just assumed it was mistaken because of her excitement to share!

I took this picture earlier in the week when I was in the neighborhood for lunch. Another way to think about “urban gardening,” or even a moveable garden installation. If it had had a chicken coop? Heaven.

This was such a perfect end to the evening. There were homemade doughnuts being served outside as a small band played what sounded like a mix between Fever Ray, The Postal Service and Air. And as our friend Tim would say in response to being told about a meal or scenario that satisfies his…?                                                       “Perfect.”

Looking into Temescal Alley towards the band.

Got Goat? You Should!

Sorry for the long pause in posts. One day I was looking up information on Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move campaign (a great initiative – I just wish she could teach the FDA and USDA a thing or two) and my computer was literally eaten by a crazy virus. I have never had that happen before. Talk about a freak out. My computer was hospitalized for 10 days (Geek Squad) and is on the mend. Still a few more glitches to work through but we are close to normalcy. I am not a huge techie, but man was that scary.

Now on to the tasty stuff. I have grown to love goat cheese more and more lately. I have also grown to love butter again; a substance which brings to mind Paula Dean and her recent news of having been diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago. I feel for Paula, as I feel for many Americans that don’t cook with butter or oils in moderation – and who cook them at high temperatures, damaging the fats. There is a great series of lectures on the topic of fats (lipids) and the Lipid Hypothesis called Big Fat Fiasco. This link will take you to part one of a series. I highly recommend perusing them on a day that you plan on frying up some bacon (it won’t make you feel guilty, just informed!). It may surprise you.

From gnolls.org

Back to goat. I’ve discovered a product that I have had to reign in my love for: goat butter. It is expensive, but worth it every once in a while (oh man, is it worth it). I have found myself eating chunks of it like cheese, plain. Yup – not afraid to say it. This isn’t anything like Country Crock, my friends. Nor is it like cow milk butter. It’s got an amazing taste, and has that extra bite that goat cheese has, while still being subtle. Meyenberg is the company that has very reputable goat products (much of the goat milk you see at Safeway or other supermarkets is Meyenberg). When cooked right and eaten in moderation, it can MAKE a recipe. I have been incorporating it into my homemade pate (courtesy of one of my teachers, Laura Knoff), remembering that organ meat is better for you than muscle meat. I have used it in baked goods and especially on top of buckwheat pancakes (from a few posts ago).

Some regular butters will taste incredibly bland once you have tried the goat, especially because it is cultured. To compare the two, goat butter has a  lower melting point than cow, ideal for slow food cooking. “Goat’s milk is more easily digested by some because its protein molecules are sized differently than cow’s milk. It packs as much calcium as whole cow’s milk and contains more tryptophan, an essential amino acid,”  says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. The Meyenberg goat butter is European style, or cultured. This process is much like what happens in the process of making yogurt, where probiotics, or good bacteria, are grown and made present in our foods, and the product is not pasteurized. We often eat sweet cream or pasteurized butter in the US, which rids the butter or dairy products of this healthy bacteria, much needed by our body to make good gut flora (probiotics) to oust the bad, aiding in digestion. Cultured butter doesn’t last as long as those tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, but that’s alright with me. You can’t believe it’s not butter? That’s because it’s not real. Nor is it food…and that’s kinda scary, isn’t it? EMBRACE THE FAT (good, whole food, undamaged fat, that is).   :)

“Food Angel” Reporting for Duty

My mother gave me a new book by Tyler Florence for my birthday, Family Meal. She has become quite enamored with his story and his food, not to mention his kitchen store in Mill Valley (which we plan on hitting up before or after climbing the Dipsea Trail). The book also has a unique ode to family dinner, incorporating recipes that Tyler collected from neighbors that he invited over for a family dinner potluck one evening in Mill Valley (intimidating? Not for epicurean Bay Area folk). A grid-like photo montage in the book of each “family,” with culinary creations to share in hand, really inspired me – and my husband and I hope to host our neighbors, friends and family in a similar way sometime soon. If they are pumped to sit on the floor, we are pumped to cook and nourish! In this way, and others, my husband and I have decided to get more active in our new neighborhood (we are moving!). We hope to be useful and meaningful contributors to our new community by being active in different ways…one being preparing healthful and tasty food for our neighbors and friends.I signed up to be a “Food Angel” at our church, which I was really excited about. Getting an assignment to cook for a family in need of some comforting grub? Right up my alley. And it gives me an excuse to try out new recipes.

The family I was assigned to were going through some physical trauma, so I decided to go for a warming and healthful meal. A particular hearty, winter soup recipe caught my eye, after perusing one of my favorite cookbooks given to me by my nutritionist (and mentor, really) Catherine Ziegler of Crave Health: a pinto bean and yam soup, adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook (they have a great blog, as well)

The grocery run (I went with canned tomatoes and beans which I try not to do too often – BPA lined cans – watch out!)

2 cups dry pinto beans, soaked overnight (if you do not want to cook your own beans then use 3 cans of organic beans)
6-8 cups water
4 cloves garlic, peeled
one 2-inch piece kombu seaweed (optional, if cooking beans)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small garnet yams, diced (leave skins on)
3 carrots, cut into rounds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
8 cups bean cooking liquid and/or water
1 28-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes (or plain diced tomatoes)
1 small bunch kale, finely chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced (optional)
2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt

Rinse and drain soaked beans, place into a 6-quart pot with the water, garlic, and kombu; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for approximately 1 hour, or until beans are soft. Remove pot from heat. Drain beans and reserve the cooking liquid.

To make the soup, heat olive oil in a large 8-quart pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for about 5 minutes. The add the garlic, yams, carrots, cumin, paprika, and chipotle chili powder. Saute and sir for another 5 minutes then add water. Mix well to remove any spices that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Lots of chopping

Smelling delicious


Add the cooked beans, bean cooking liquid or water, tomatoes, mix well. If the soup needs more liquid, then add more water. Cover pot and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Then add chopped kale, chopped cilantro, lime juice and sea salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust salt and lime juice if needed. Enjoy!

One for me, the rest for you

The deets on why certain ingredients are helpful to the system overall:

kale: DARK, LEAFY GREENS ARE GOOD – need I say more? Full of manganese and has tons of vitamin A, K, C. Kale full of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates. Without sufficient intake of such antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised, which we call “oxidative stress.” It only takes 100 calories of kale to provide us with 25-35% of the National Academy of Sciences’ public health recommendation for the most basic omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA). And they are a great source of fiber.

pinto beans: great contributors of fiber, folate, magnesium and potassium. It has been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily value (DV) of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year by 10%. Just one cup of cooked pinto beans provides 73.5% of the recommended daily intake for folate. Pinto beans are also a good supplier of magnesium, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and potassium, an important electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles.

In addition the dietary fiber found in pinto beans helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, pinto beans can provide steady, slow-burning energy. *Pre-soaking has been found to reduce the raffinose-type oligosaccharides, or sugars associated with causing flatulence.

cumin: is an excellent source of iron, a mineral component to hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is a part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Additionally, iron supports the immune system. Research has shown that cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, compounds necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation.

Thank you whfoods.com for your ENDLESS amounts of relevant information on the world’s healthiest foods!

Warm and ready for delivery

The truffles – healthy fats and a little sweet to finish off the meal

I included a mixed greens salad with goat cheese, apple slices and homemade mustard vinaigrette dressing to toss together, and my raw almond butter, coconut and honey truffles for dessert. The thank you note said it all: “we would LOVE the recipe, please!” EMBRACE YOUR NEIGHBORS!

Neighborly love note