Fresh from the West
This pandemic has made it infinitely clear how fortunate we are to live in the Bay Area—so close to the source of wonderful fruits, veggies, cheeses, and meats that supplies much of the country. While other regions are having difficulty getting fresh produce and grass-feed beef, our shelves have been well-stocked these weeks.
This newsletter is a celebration of the bounty of California and the richness of our culinary experience. We will start by listing some of our favorite local products that are made from locally-grown produce, and when added to your dishes will highlight the flavors of the fresh, local ingredients you cook with.
Tapanade and Bruschetta
McEvoy Ranch makes some of our favorite. They are located just 30 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County on a 550-acre working, organic ranch, that is committed to sustainable farming practices.
Artichoke Almond Tapenade is a creative twist on this Provençal spread, this Artichoke & Almond tapenade is pure California. Delicious in stuffed mushrooms, as a sandwich spread, in appetizers, and it makes a great topping for quiche.
Classic Italian Bruschetta—rub fresh garlic on grilled bread and then top with this scrumptious spread. It is also tasty as a dipping sauce for meatballs, or for extra kick to your sandwich.
Artichoke Lemon Bruschetta is made with fresh artichokes, olive oil, capers, and lemon juice. Mix it into pasta with shaved Parmesan, as a topping for Petrale Sole, or spread on toasted baguette slices.
Cucina & Amore products are favorites among both our staff and customers, and their artichoke hearts are the perfect ingredient for so many dishes. All their artichokes are hand-selected before they bloom to ensure maximum freshness & superior taste.Then they are marinated and brined to perfection. Great with pastas, salads, pizzas, as is, and in many dishes.
We have their
Whole Grilled Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Marinated Quartered Artichoke Hearts, and
Whole in-Brine Artichoke Hearts.
Pacific Pickle Works
UnBeetables Pickled Beets
with unbeetable heat are the winner of the 2019 Good Food Award. Spread a dab of creamy goat cheese on a crostini, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, and top with an Unbeetable beet slice and a basil leaf for a tasty and stylish platter of hors d'ouvres!
Katz Farm Artisan Vinegars come in a wonderful array of delicious flavors to liven up any dish. Well-made vinegar acts as the yin to the yang of good cooking. At its best, it should balance and brighten flavor and create contrast to produce delicious food. Most dishes benefit from the addition of a splash of vinegar to balance out the richness in your recipe.
Sparkling Wine Vinegar has crisp and pleasant acidity, hints of vanilla from the oak and subtle nuances of melon and cucumber in the finish, its clean taste lends itself to a myriad of culinary uses.
Trio Red Wine Vinegar is made by blending selected lots of Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a lovely garnet color with nuances in the flavor of sweet ripe berries.
Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Vinegar is almost sherry-like in color and complexity with hints of vanilla from the wood, sweet apricot, fig and pear from the late-harvest grapes…all with a strict backbone of crisp acidity from the vinegar base.
Late Harvest Zinfandel Vinegar with a garnet, port-like color gives way to lots of plum and fresh berry overtones and a pleasant, crisp finish.
Gravenstein Apple Cider Vinegar is a pleasant, traditional elixir, redolent of baked apples, honey and sweet spice balanced with a solid backbone of acidity.
Premium Dried Wild Mushrooms
Wineforest Wild Foods maintains a love and respect for the forest ecosystem from which the mushrooms grow. These Northern California-based foragers sell to top chefs in the Bay Area and beyond. We carry many of their mushrooms, and almost always have these in stock:
Dried Porcini Mushrooms should be on every pantry shelf. Their legendary rich flavor is just a 15 minute water or broth soak away. Once tender they are ready for a quick sauté and to be added to everything, from pasta sauces, to soups. Porcini will elevate something as simple as meatloaf into the extraordinary.
Dried Black Trumpet Mushrooms are one of the least used and most wonderful of all dried mushrooms. They rehydrate very quickly. Delicious layered between potatoes in a gratin and always over fish and pasta. Drying any mushroom will transform its texture and intensify its flavor. Black Trumpets are not only transformed, they're improved upon.
Dried Wild Lobster Mushrooms are like no other wild mushroom. The flaming coral color and crustacean aroma are a fine firm-textured addition to pasta sauces, chowders, and seafood dishes. These pair up beautifully with lemongrass and saffron. Lobster mushrooms once rehydrated will have a very clean flavor and meaty texture.
Dried Chanterelle Mushrooms
are ideal for infusing into vodka, stocks, and sauces. These have a mild, earthy flavor with a hint of dried apricot, and will rehydrate with intensity of flavor plus a wonderful meaty texture that make them ideal for incorporation into vegan dishes, soups and stews.
A Staff Favorite
The artichokes this season have been delicious and the season is still going strong. We love them on the grill or steamed. Click the link for a Tarragon-Lemon Aioli that makes a great dipping sauce.
Originally brought here the Italians, all US artichokes are grown in California. Fresh artichokes should feel heavy for its size and have fleshy, green leaves. Scars and blistering from the first do not indicate a lack of freshness and will not affect flavor.
Butter Dipping Sauce with Lemon and Thyme
Use this dipping sauce right away while the butter is still melted.
News & Events
We have just updated our temporary store hour during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders so that we are now open until 8 PM.
Please note that it is now required by the County of Alameda that everybody wears a face covering while in the store. So, please bring one with you when you shop. And, we are still required to distribute disposable bags. So, leave your reusables at home.
We are still closed on Thursdays for deep cleaning and will continue with our morning senior shopping hour.
Temporary Store Hours
• Daily (Friday through Wednesday) from 10 AM to 8 PM
• Special shopping hour for seniors 9 AM to 10 AM
• Closed Thursdays for deep cleaning and restocking
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
A Gracious Plenty
One of the greatest things about living in California is that we have access to the best produce in the world. Literally. California is one of the largest if not the largest producer of fruits and vegetables for the planet and most of that is grown about an hour’s drive (depending on traffic) away. So it should come as no surprise that while other regions of the country are currently struggling to put produce on their shelves because of logistical issues, here in the golden state, we’re doing okay.
Right now our produce department looks great. The bins are full of fresh leafy greens and, due to a bit of luck that could only happen because of a pandemic, we just got some outrageously good oranges in that would normally be bound for Japan. If I had to choose the item that has been brightening my day for the past few weeks though, it would be the bright colors of the organic heirloom tomatoes. They call to me like a siren song every time I go down that aisle and I am unable to resist taking at least a couple home. But even those beauties don’t hold a candle to the ones you grow in your own garden which is why, over the weekend, we planted a garden.
It’s been a number of years since we’ve planted a veggie garden for a few reasons. The biggest roadblock was time. The number of hours we spent running around going from this place to that—sometimes staying overnight—made tending a garden impossible. And, then there are the critters. Chickens, you may be surprised to know, can be as destructive to plants as locusts and don’t get me started on the squirrels…
Now that we’re doing a lot less running around we decided to give a garden a go. Of course, something ate my pepper plant the first night but the tomatoes are still there. We chicken-proofed our planter bed and it seems to be working for now.
The plants are already thriving so I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll have a good harvest. In the meantime, I remain thankful for all that we have access to an look forward to the coming weeks and the start of the stone fruit season…
A Staff Favorite
Have you tried Tuscon Tamales? You might just get hooked!
We discovered Tuscon Tamales at the Fancy Food Show last February and they are some tasty tamales! Grab a couple of flavors to keep in the fridge for easy meals. You won't regret it.
Tuscon Tamale Company crafts high-quality and consistently delicious hand made tamales. They are made with organic, non-gmo corn and without lard. They make everything themselves and you can taste the difference.
Here is what we have at the store:
Green Chile Pork & Cheese
Slow simmered pork, Hatch green chile, and cheese wrapped inside white corn masa. The pork is antibiotic and hormone-free pork. A customer favorite!
Green Chile & Cheese
Hatch roasted green chiles and cheese wrapped inside sweet corn masa. The traditional "Green Corn". If Tucson had only one tamale, this would be it.
Chorizo & Cheese
Spicy pork chorizo, potato, and cheese wrapped in red chile masa. Everybody's favorite Mexican breakfast wrapped up in a tamale! Add a fried egg and you have a version of Chorizo con Huevos.
Black Bean & Corn
Spiced black beans and organic corn wrapped inside red chile masa. Texas Tamale gently cooks their black beans in their signature black bean seasoning to spice it up just a bit. Then they mix in organic whole sweet kernel corn and a hint of orange. This delightful mix is wrapped in red chile masa. Perfect for breakfast with a fried egg, and of course, lunch and dinner!
A Cookbook Recommendation
by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg
Winner, James Beard Award for Best Book in Vegetable-Focused Cooking
Named a Best Cookbook of the Year by the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Bon Appétit, Food Network Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, USA Today, Seattle Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Library Journal, Eater, and more.
Joshua McFadden, chef and owner of renowned trattoria Ava Gene’s in Portland, Oregon, is a vegetable whisperer. After years racking up culinary cred at New York City restaurants like Lupa, Momofuku, and Blue Hill, he managed the trailblazing Four Season Farm in coastal Maine, where he developed an appreciation for every part of the plant and learned to coax the best from vegetables at each stage of their lives.
In Six Seasons, his first book, McFadden channels both farmer and chef, highlighting the evolving attributes of vegetables throughout their growing seasons—an arc from spring to early summer to midsummer to the bursting harvest of late summer, then ebbing into autumn and, finally, the earthy, mellow sweetness of winter. Each chapter begins with recipes featuring raw vegetables at the start of their season. As weeks progress, McFadden turns up the heat—grilling and steaming, then moving on to sautés, pan roasts, braises, and stews. His ingenuity is on display in 225 revelatory recipes that celebrate flavor at its peak.
If you’re finding pantry cooking to mean too many uninspired pots of beans, might I suggest Six Seasons? [It] both highlights a perfectly ripe plan…and shows you how to transform slightly less peak-season produce (yes, the cabbage lurking in the back of your fridge right now counts) with heat, spice, acid, and fat.
Never before have I seen so many fascinating, delicious, easy recipes in one book…[Six Seasons is] about as close to a perfect cookbook as I have seen…a book beginner and seasoned cooks alike will reach for repeatedly.
Some Online Gems
News & Events
Keeping our minds active and feeling like we are engaged in some culture during this shelter-in-place can be challenging. Luckily, we have put together a few resources that we found on the internet. Check out these three lists that will keep you interested and entertained!
Perhaps you have a little extra time on your hands and would like to experience some online learning? Maybe you want to enhance your career or maybe explore an interest you have been curious about? Here is a great way to engage your mind while we wait out this shelter-in-place order.
We have stumbled upon a few and there are still more out there
—but this is a great start. Some of these courses are always free and others are being offered at no-cost in response to the Coronavirus.
Soothing the Savage Beast
We may not be able to get out of the house to attend concerts, but there are some great ways to bring live and recorded concerts into your home. Both individual artists and organizations are uploading concert footage to the internet for free. And, others are streaming live or concert footage. Check out this list we put together to get you started listening.
After the first 40 or so days (forty days!) of shelter-in-place, our online movie options are beginning to feel limited. But, with a little research, our staff has put together a list of online film festivals as well as two local theaters who are continuing to show their scheduled features.
So, get out the air popper and pull up a seat. There is some great stuff out there for viewing.
A Staff Favorite
This staff pick of sparkling rosé is perfect to go with a spring dinner or Mother's Day brunch. We have selected three bottles in three price ranges.
Chandon Brut Rosé $24.99
This aromatic, dry sparkling rosé reveals a gorgeous shade of pink in the glass with aromas of fresh strawberry, watermelon, and cherry that proceed through the palate and finish.
Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé by Taittinger $39.99
This wine expresses great balance while emphasizing fruity and floral characteristics. On the nose, it reveals aromas of wild strawberries and rose. Flavors of peaches and lime blossom with a long, silky finish.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvé Rosé $68.99
A rich rosé Champagne, offering seamlessly woven flavors of baked black cherry, candied pink grapefruit peel, brioche, and pastry cream. Vibrant acidity and a finely detailed mousse send this dancing across the palate.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
Still We Rise
I struggled with bread making for years. It was only in the last few that I figured it all out. Since then I have mastered a couple of recipes,
Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread
Hearty White Sandwich Bread
. And, have experimented with others with a decent amount of success. Lately, since I seem to have a little more time on the weekends, I have branched out to make some of the harder stuff. And, by harder I mean those beautiful crusty loaves that you would normally purchase from people who know what they are doing.
The most difficult thing about baking bread right now is finding the flour and even the yeast. I was fortunate to be able to order a 10# bag from the King Arthur website but I had to keep checking to see if they had stock before I got lucky. I willsay that we have been able to get some flour in here at the store, though it’s been spotty. (But, it’s getting a little better.) Yeast is a different issue. The good news is thousands of years of bread making on this planet have taught us that you don’t need foil packets of yeast to make bread. It’s in the wild, man…
There have been a number of recipes popping up that require using “wild yeast” which for all intents and purposes means making a “starter”. The most obvious example is a sourdough starter. I have mostly tried to avoid making sourdough during my bread making journey because of the requirement of using a starter. Starters can be labor-intensive. They require daily feeding to keep them active. It can take over your life and become a real chore if you have an active calendar. As my calendar has become less active in recent weeks, I was working up the courage to start the process but I was saved by a friend of mine who not only dropped of a tasty loaf of her rosemary sourdough but some of her starter as well. This is a common practice amongst sourdough bakers. You gotta do something with the “discard” so why not dispense it to your friends? You can only make sourdough waffles so many times.
Because I am unable to share my starter with all of you I am sharing a few recipes for your viewing pleasure. The first is a fairly basic
recipe for a rustic sourdough
. Please note it does use packaged yeast as well as starter. And here are
instructions for how to get your started going
. If you are unable to get yeast, I encourage you to do a little research about natural yeast. (The
King Arthur Learn
section of their website is great.) Yeast from dried fruit is a very old but effective method of baking bread and might be a good option. ( It’s also a great science lesson for your kids.)
The recipe below is a fantastic peasant bread for those who want crusty loaf but aren’t big into sourdough. I made this one last weekend and it was so tasty. Also, remember that these recipes and ideas require time. Good news is, right now, we have that time…
News & Events
Local gardening resources
It appears the victory garden has made a popular resurgence during this time of COVID-19. And, now is the perfect time of year for planting a vegetable garden.
As so many of us are spending much of our time at home this is a great project to boost our morale as well as enjoy some amazing fresh produce. We also now know that soil microbes not only improve the nutritional content of our food but they also
help regulate our emotions and immune response
So, get out there and get your hands dirty from digging in the garden—whether you are gathering a bunch of containers for your balcony, double-digging some raised beds, or plowing up the back 40.
We have compiled a list of local nurseries that are open for business during this time.
From our blog, The Cocktail Post
This light, springtime cocktail is perfect for serving at a weekend brunch or sipping on the patio. Honey, lemon, and orange flower water strike a delicate balance in this vodka cocktail.
News & Events
Show Your Love For Piedmont Avenue is an online store that supports small businesses on Piedmont Avenue. With your support, we can get through this challenging time. Show our local business owners that you care. Browse the online store for gift cards and certificates, make a purchase, and support your favorite Piedmont Avenue businesses.
The online store will be available through May 5th at 10 PM. All proceeds go directly to the business.
Gift cards and certificates will be available for pick up after May 5th or after the shelter-in-place is lifted. Alternatively, the card can be emailed or mailed. The business will contact you to make arrangements to get your item.
About Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association
Piedmont Avenue is a lively collection of shops, restaurants, and services in the heart of beautiful Oakland, California. The Merchants' Association is made up of local business owners and volunteers.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
Holed Up for the Holiday
Easter is going to be different this weekend. To be fair, we’ll still do most of the same things we would normally do. There will be Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies (though they may be a bit smaller). There won’t be any fancy clothes, which frankly, won’t upset too many of us. We’ll just put on our “good” pair of sweats. There will be Easter dinner but there will not be the traditional purple goblets that my grandmother always used. Well, at least not at my house. My sister will probably use them while also wearing her “good” sweats.
But what to cook?
During the first full week of the shelter-in-place order, I was thrilled to know that HoneyBaked Ham was still up and running. So I walked up the street and bought a bigger ham than I needed and a couple of their soup and chili mixes. We ate ham for dinner and had sandwiches for days. I used the bone to make a fantastic soup and put the rest of the ham in the freezer for later use. We happily devoured that ham but it left me with a problem for Easter. We normally do ham on Easter but at this point, my family can't even look at it. And, I agree which means we’re going with door number two…leg of lamb.
Lamb for Easter is a no-brainer. It’s springtime—and few things are more synonymous with springtime than lamb. There are a number of ways you could choose to prepare your lamb. I’m opting for a butterflied leg, to make it easier to slice. Growing up my grandmother would do a full, on the bone, very traditional leg of lamb that she studded with garlic cloves and then roasted in the oven. (Yes, there was mint jelly.) It was fantastic. But, I’m just not feeling it. Maybe I’m bored, maybe I’m rebellious. But, I want something with brighter bolder flavors so I’m throwing mine on the grill.
This recipe has a decidedly Middle Eastern flavor with Aleppo pepper and lemon. Feel free to substitute what you don’t have. I’ve had to do a lot of that lately. Every meal has been a bit of an adventure. The pepper can be swapped for hot paprika or even straight-up red chili flakes. I would encourage you to use as many of the fresh herbs as possible though I get it. They may be hard to come by. If you can find them rejoice. That bright, happy, fresh flavor is something that everyone could use a little of right now!
Recipes from Our Archives
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
We have assembled a collection of fruit and vegetable-rich dishes from our archives to help you celebrate the bounty of Central Valley produce.
In the mood for a little indulgence? Add sautéed shrimp at the end. If you’ve never made risotto before, don’t be intimidated. It’s not difficult!
This recipe makes a dish that is so delicious, it might be considered addictive. Our recipe says it serves four, but you just might want to double it.
This salad is the perfect blend of all things summer: corn, tomatoes, and avocado. Plus, it has cumin in it and everything is better with cumin.
Making your own dressing is pretty easy. Though, we have to say the freshly-made dressing we have in our cheese department is even easier…..
This salad recipe is basically an appetizer platter in a bowl.
This recipe is filled with all the favorite flavors: tomatoes, basil, balsamic, and caramelized onions….and don’t forget the blue cheese!
These fritters are so good—be warned you can’t just eat one. They are best served while still warm alongside your favorite BBQ.
These Zucchini Pickles are an interesting way to use up your squash harvest. And, they make for a nice change from the usual summertime backyard dill pickles. It’s nice to have choices…
The chocolate in this bundt cake recipe makes it popular while the apples keep it nice and moist. It’s a delicious ending to a meal.
You can assemble it the night before and leave it covered in the fridge. Then, all you have to do is pop it in a warmed oven about 45 minutes before it is time to eat.
Clafoutis is a baked French dessert of fruit arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter.
A favorite way to eat cherries is tossed in a salad with some nuts and goat cheese. It’s a perfect lunch or light dinner for when the weather gets hot.
Jamaican jerk seasoning is a blend of chiles, thyme, garlic, onion, and spices, and gives the grilled fish a reddish-brown finish. It’s a supermarket staple now; look for it in the spice aisle.
There is never a bad time for this cake and you can enjoy the left-overs with a cup of coffee in the morning.
The chicken is good, but the real reason to make this is for the peach salad. It’s such a great match for anything grilled.
Since fresh peaches are not yet available, these are still great if you use good-quality frozen peaches.
This beautiful dessert can dress up any occasion. It is named in honor of the Russian ballerina.
Freezer jam is great if you have an abundance of fruit and you can do it if you find a free hour. And, it is especially delicious when you spoon it on warm, fresh biscuits.
From our blog, The Cocktail Post
This three-ingredient classic cocktail drink is as refreshing—and Italian—as it gets. The story of the Negroni is its invention at Caffè Casoni in Florence, when Count Camillo asked for a bolder retelling of the Americano, with gin replacing soda water. The ruby-toned cocktail has inspired countless riffs, including the Boulevardier and the Kingston Negroni.
This simple and sophisticated aperitif is satisfying to enjoy before a meal and features gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The sweetness of the vermouth offsets the bitterness of the Campari for a well-balanced flavor.
The Negroni is very easy to mix and the only trick to making it taste great is using good-quality ingredients.
Vendor of the Month
Acme Bread Company is a Berkeley culinary legend. And, they have proven themselves once again by filling our shelves wth fresh bread daily—every day during this COVID-19 epidemic when other suppliers were unable to deliver.
Acme Bread is phenomenal. It is always fresh, made from delicious, top-quality ingredients, and affordably priced. And everything they make is good…so good, we sometimes find it hard to stop.
Piedmont Grocery carries many of their breads including their Sourdough and Rustic Sweet Baguettes, Sourdough and Rustic Sweet Batard, Pain au Levain, Ciabatta, Upstairs Bread, Cranberry Walnut Loaf, and Olive Bread.
Temporary Store Hours During Shelter-in-Place
10 AM to 8 PM
Special shopping hour for seniors
9 AM to 10 AM
We will update you with any new hours as the shelter-in-place situation unfolds.
4038 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611
Visit our recipe blog to learn what Amy, our VP and resident foodie, is cooking up in her home kitchen.