It’s 5 o’clock, and you’re leaving the office in search of some post-work libations and snacks before dinner. You could go the traditional happy hour route — where you’re limited to a few drinks and small bites within a short window of time — or you could up the ante and visit a Japanese izakaya.
My passion is exploring the connection between food and culture. I write regularly for Oakland and Alameda Magazines and Berkeleyside's NOSH. My blog, East Bay Ethnic Eats, gives me an excuse to track down the only Bay Area baker making fresh filo dough or learn to stuff a dried eggplant with help from a Turkish immigrant. Culture is the thread that ties together my several careers. As a sign language interpreter, educator and author, my study of Deaf culture has taken me around the world, where I fell madly in love with seed-strewn Danish bread, attacked platters of French shellfish with a small arsenal of tools and sampled a Japanese breakfast so fresh it wiggled. I'm also an epicurean concierge for Edible Excursions Japan town tours (that I lead in either English or ASL). And when I conduct in-depth cultural trainings for foreign workers being transferred to the Bay Area, I am sure to discuss the delights of doggie bags and the mystery of American restaurants serving ice water in the dead of winter. I can be found tweeting @EBEthniceats
Anna Mindess's Latest Posts
Marcus Samuelsson, the award-winning chef and cookbook author who seems to be everywhere at once–including NPR’s Fresh Air, The Today Show and the New York Times’ Best Seller List–spent two days last week in the Bay Area, being fêted at Camino and Jardinière, and reading from his new memoir, “Yes, Chef,” at Book Passage and Google. Bay Area Bites caught up with Samuelsson at Jardinière for an interview…Fried Yardbird (chicken) recipe included!
Soul Food Junkies, a new film by Byron Hurt which will be featured on KQED’s Independent Lens series, had its West Coast premiere in Oakland. Soul Food is both a beloved part of African American culture and a leading cause behind the epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. The film details the historical and social influences on soul food and efforts by many to change the eating habits of a whole generation.
Thy Tran’s classes in Asian cooking focus on techniques to empower her students. Besides imparting the secrets to making tasty dishes from a range of Asian cuisines, the knowledgeable chef and author includes history, culture and science.
Raising rabbits and goats not only provides appealing pets, but their poop turns a garden into a sustainable urban farm. A recent tour of 7 East Bay farms sponsored by the Institute of Urban Homesteading demonstrated how even tiny backyards can produce prodigious amounts of food with the help of chickens, quail, bees, rabbit and goats.
A shopping trip to Richmond’s Pacific East Mall Travel takes your palate on a trip to far-off lands with a huge array of Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Thai restaurants and foodstuffs. Lose yourself exploring the aisles of 99 Ranch Market, where you can buy almost any ingredient needed for an Asian meal.
Kyoto is known for its refined cuisine. Besides dining out, I want to take a hands-on approach to sampling its delicacies.With the help of Kyoto Free Guides to translate, I take classes in pickle, soba and sweet making and finally a five course cooking class in a home kitchen.
Video interview (in ASL) with Melody and Russ Stein, of Mozzeria, San Francisco’s first deaf-owned restaurant, highlights not only their traditional and creative pizzas and innovative Italian fare, but the impact of this popular new eatery on their deaf and hearing diners.
Foods that trick the eye and please the palate appeal to caterers Simone Fung and Sebastian Mendieta of S+S Gastro Grub. Their inventive dishes, which often use the techniques of molecular gastronomy, sous vide cooking and spherification, surprise and delight diners at pop ups, underground dinners and fundraisers around the Bay. They also do a succulent roast pork on their mobile pig roaster.
While Middle Eastern restaurants abound, Zaki Kabob House in Albany is one of the few that serve specialties of Palestinian cuisine, like spheeha, maklouba and mensaf. Family-owned and run by Fayza and Kameem Ayyad and their children, Zaki offers tastes of another world, plus warm hospitality.
Persian New Year (Norooz or Nowruz) is a 3000 year old celebration, observed around the world on the first day of Spring. Its many traditions include a table of 7 foods that start with “S” in Farsi, and jumping over bonfires. Monier Attar of Zands Market is busily preparing everything her Persian patrons will need for the holiday, from a creamy pudding of sprouted wheat to flower-shaped chickpea flour cookies.
Eating with the hands is more than just a way to maneuver food to the mouth. It embodies cultural values including, a sensuous connection to the food, the feeling of sharing and community, practicality avoiding waste, even prolonging a delicious meal by enjoying the lingering aroma of it on the fingers. Many cultures, such as Indian, Arab and African have dined this way for thousands of years. In a video-clip, the writer receives a hands-on lesson in eating with the hands — Moroccan style.
Get a retro sugar rush at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. Sugar coated nostalgia in candy you remember from your childhood (from Boomers to Millennials) and even turn of the last century tasty treasures from Abba-Zabba’s to Zotz.
At an event to mark The Year of the Dragon, Grace Young, prize winning cookbook author and wok missionary, explains why 2000 years of cooking in a real wok is the soul of Chinese cuisine.