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Monday, August 30, 2004

You MUST see the photograph associated with this story: Berlin bear's break-out bid fails (, 8/30/04).
Juan the Andean spectacled bear first paddled across a moat using a log for a raft, then scaled a wall.

Finally he appeared to commandeer a bicycle, before zookeepers with brooms cornered him, and a colleague picked him off with a tranquiliser gun.
I know there are many more important things happening in the world, but any bear + bicycle story has my full attention.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:39 PM

I'm giving up on eating cheese enchiladas in salsa verde at restaurants AGAIN. It's just not safe for a vegetarian.

Yesterday, on the way back from a camping trip, we stopped at an attractive Mexican restaurant in a small town and perused the menu. I was going to order the chile rellenos, even though I love roasted chilies but don't like eggs. I was just hoping that the batter used to make the rellenos would be relatively non-eggy, when S suggested I go for the cheese enchiladas verde. I haven't ordered that dish in years - the last time I tried, I found a big piece of meat sticking out of one end of an enchilada, and was grossed out. But it sounded good, and was a "special" (unlike the cheese enchiladas in red sauce), so I ordered it.

My stomach resented me for that decision until at least 6 p.m.

There were a few things wrong. The menu didn't announce that it was lard-free, which meant it wasn't. All dishes came only with refried beans, which is dangerous in combination with that first item. And yes, this time there was a piece of pork sticking out of one end of one of my cheese enchiladas.

Finding animal parts in food is to vegetarians what finding insect parts in food is for most omnivores: it implies contamination.

In this instance, I chalked it up to poor spatula technique or rigorous food-throwing in the kitchen. I honestly thought there would be no problem once I removed the offending chunk. But... even some canned green enchilada sauces are made with chicken fat to make them... ickier but perhaps thicker. And, though the meal was tasty and in a very generous serving size, it didn't agree with me, so my historic wariness was justified.

So no lunch recommendations this time.

I will mention that there are some gorgeous fruit stands within five minutes of Hendy woods, and you should be sure to have cash on you (unlike me) so you can explore them if you're in the area this time of year.
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:54 AM

Before the movie last night, I went with my 3 companions to Buca di Beppo, a chain restaurant specializing in family-style dining (large, shared orders) of Southern Italian food. (I was unaware that they are a national chain.) The waiting area was packed with representatives of large groups (one group was expecting 40 guests!), but the restaurant is very large, and had plenty of room for small groups such as ours. (Separate from the large groups, no less.) As soon as my friends arrived, we were seated.

The atmosphere is very casual. We were repeatedly advised about the family-sized portions, and that we should share them. We ordered three "large" dishes: two appetizers and one pasta, each serving 3-4 people. ("Small" dishes serve 2-3.) It was the right amount of food for our group of 4.

The food was pretty good. The caprese salad of whole milk mozzarella was tasty - different from the flavor I'm used to, perhaps made with a different sort of milk - and served with generous servings of fresh basil leaves, firm tomatoes, and a few decorative roasted bell peppers. The garlic bread was half of a 12 inch round loaf, providing a very generous serving for each of us. When we ordered cheese ravioli, our waitress recommended that we order the more interesting baked version, topped with additional cheese and bruschetta sauce. It was quite satisfying!

I think this would be a fine place to take large, noisy groups who can easily agree on shared dishes. The food is superior to most other chain restaurants, almost none of which I would voluntarily eat at unless hopelessly desperate.
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:38 AM


Movie thoughts: Hero

Last night I went with friends to see the lovely, epic drama Hero, starring Jet Li. ( The film centers around disputes between heroic figures over the king whose armies eventually unified China. It's directed by Zhang Yimou, who has a history of directing some tragic films with unhappy women in them, like Raise the Red Lanterns and To Live, but whose use of scenery and color is wildly gorgeous.

It was a lovely movie to watch.


There were several implied potential moral lessons to the story, and one of them was a bit disturbing: the idea that empires established through military domination are beneficial to the empire's subjects, because they end warfare between smaller groups. A friend from China who watched with me suggested that this was an okay lesson, because the Chinese people benefited from the end of regional warfare that a unified China brought. My friend is a member of China's dominant ethnic group.

Groups that come out on top in such wars often think that the wars were good. So this isn't really surprising. But if it's a good moral lesson, than it should really apply to a wide range of situations. And there it becomes sticky.


After all, the Soviet Union had the same mythology. And surely being oppressed by one empire prevented wars between expanding rival groups in the region. But that wasn't enough to make it a good arrangement: at the end of the cold war, as soon as the unwilling member states were given a choice, they all chose independence.

The British Empire, claiming to bring "civilization" to countries by redirecting their resources to the benefit of Britons, was dissolved by unwilling subject states. Most other European empires suffered the same fate.

The Nazis of 1940s Germany trumpeted plans to "unify Europe," conveniently under their own rule. That may have stopped inter-European wars. But you didn't see all of Europe signing up for that one.


The United States has a 'greater good' sort of rationale for this nation's past acts. Our cultural mythology insists that the land the U.S. currently occupied was meant to be ours (through 'manifest destiny'), that the current 50 states were meant to be united, and that this arrangement has benefited everyone. For this to unfold required wholesale genocide of the peoples who already lived here, denial of the existence of the survivors of the genocide and denial of the genocide itself to this day, and a civil war at the cost of more than 500,000 lives on military battlefields. It's difficult to argue that these events benefited everyone. (The native peoples who used to live freely across my home state didn't benefit from being displaced and restricted to less valuable land so that more Americans could have tract housing and large-screen TVs.) Especially not those killed.


There's a great article about the idea of killing for "the greater good" called The Moral Case Against the Iraq War, by Paul Savoy (, 05/31/04 issue) which says:
There is no social entity called Iraq that benefited from some self-sacrifice it suffered for its own greater good, like a patient who voluntarily endures some pain to be better off than before. There were only individual human beings living in Iraq before the war, with their individual lives. Sacrificing the lives of some of them for the benefit of others killed them and benefited the others. Nothing more.
The follow up is that the winners write the history books, and have the warm fuzzies about how inevitable the victory of their cause is. So, since the north won the Civil War, we say our unity is the greater good. If the South had won, they'd say their fight for independence resulted in the greater good. If Hitler had succeeded in "unifying Europe" under his rule, we'd all be talking about how Europe was meant to be unified, and how many wars Hitler's actions must have prevented, all for the 'greater good.' The groups and people who were killed wouldn't have a voice in the debate.

So it's great that China was unified - for the groups that came out on top. But "the greater good" is whatever our own interests are, not a moral absolute.

I think we need to be skeptical about our national mythologies. They serve a lot of purposes, including justifying dark passages in our histories. Killing is a moral crime, and cute rationalizations don't correct the injustice done.

posted by Arlene (Beth)4:26 AM

Monday, August 23, 2004

This article caught my eye because of it's misleading title: World commemorates end of slavery (, 08/23/04). The article discusses celebrations marking the end of the transatlantic slave trade, but also describes the modern forms of slavery still oppressing people around the globe. There are still people kidnapped and forced into servitude; servants who are treated like property to be inherited; and all sorts of bonded servitude in which people are never released from imaginary or inflated debts.

So slavery hasn't ended, but has changed form to be more secretive, subtle, and often local. This is a good article on an important subject.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:24 PM

105-lb Woman Eats 38 Lobsters in 12 Minutes ( One of the U.S.' top speed eaters, Sonya Thomas, has done it again. 9.76 pounds of lobster. Wow. Yipe. Wow.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:51 PM

Sunday, August 22, 2004

round, yellow-orange tomatoes Yesterday I went to the Alemany Farmer's Market. The summer produce has just been getting better and better, and I can't resist buying ultra-fresh, gorgeous fruit directly from farmers. The prices are fabulous, the selection is amazing, and everything is so crisp and sweet!

S and I went to the Sukhi's Quick & Easy Indian Foods booth, as usual. The usual gentleman was there, arranging piles of naan bread. He looked up, saw us, and said, "Ha ha! YOU!"

I feel honored for my food fanaticism when things like this happen. :-)


green and red spotted plumThis weekend's treasures included:
-green and red spotted plums with a sweet, bright red flesh
-round yellow-orange tomatoes
-pale green striped bell peppers
-Yukon gold potatoes
-purple, pointy ended onions, shaped a bit like Xmas ornaments
-piles of crunchy, wrinkled, long green chilies
-3 baskets of strawberries (just a buck each!)
-firm, white nectarines (which seem to be sweeter than the yellow-fleshed ones)
-2 ultra-ripe cantaloupes
-4 pomegranates with pale pink insides (I've already forgotten the technical term for the little ruby gem parts)
-kettle corn
-and naan, spinach parathas, pumpkin parathas, smoked bharta (eggplant) spread, and spiced okra relish/spread from the gentleman who recognized us.

I resisted the Asian pears, which are perfectly ripe; gold colored plums; habañero chilies, and many other things. But they'll be there next week!


gold bell pepperThe kettle corn was a selection from S, who I have been tormenting with kettle corn experiments at home. I make very good popcorn, using a wok and olive oil. (Mmmmmm. Olive oil.) But kettle corn, which includes sugar during the popping process, is very tricky the first time. The recipes on line make it sound simple - equal parts oil and sugar, plus the popcorn - but it's very easy to scorch it all because of the sugar. The sugar, supposedly added just as the popping begins, burns SO easily.

The first time turned out well. The second time was AWFUL. My wok STILL smells vaguely of burning sugar, even though I've washed it twice since the last try.

I had better luck with the microwave. A ceramic bowl, equal parts sugar and oil, plus slightly more popcorn than sugar+oil in volume, covered with plastic wrap, and microwaved for... nearly 9 minutes!! The results tasted good, but it alarmed me that it took so long (it was a very heavy bowl), and that molten unpopped kernels would periodically be launched through the plastic wrap (I'll use a glass plate next time). There were a lot of unpopped kernels, due to my paranoia about burning the mix. I shouldn't have worried - not a single kernel had scortched.


Kettle corn is fun to research, but not as much fun as the Dakshin recipes I've been trying. The yellow-orange tomatoes I bought made a wonderful tomato rasam. .. I really need to buy a copy of this book!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:50 PM

I love eating out, and I love cooking, but I don't ever think about opening a restaurant. It's a lot of work, and the odds of the restaurant succeeding, no matter how good the food, aren't so great. Here's an interesting economic profile of a local restaurant, Foreign Cinema: Economics of running a restaurant / Tireless chefs do double duty as bean counters (, 08/22/04).

I had no idea that one posh Mission District restaurant could employ 70 people! And I hadn't really pondered how many of them make a living working part time, most for minimum wage.

The general economic statistics that every restaurant wishes to avoid contributing to:
A quarter of all new restaurants in the United States flop in the first year, according to a study by Cornell University and Michigan State. That rises to 50 percent after three years, and 70 percent after 10 years.
Ouch. Despite such odds, there are countless restaurants here, in improbable proportions to the resident population. And many of them are tiny, and great! I think many succeed by NOT employing 70 people, though, but by working immediate family members until they can't stand up. :-
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:11 PM

Friday, August 20, 2004

This is completely unrelated to food, but I can't stop staring at it: I love this photo of a fish I took at the Steinhart Aquarium in it's temporary downtown location:

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:21 PM

I haven't posted any new salsa recipes, because I haven't been entirely satisfied with my recent experiments. A mango/tomato/serrano/onion salsa I blended recently is a lovely color, but a little watery in flavor (wet tomatoes).

So to comfort myself, I've just been eating lots of the Dakshin dishes, which are so fully of heavenly spices that I lose all despair.

For variety, between southern Indian meals I've been making pinto bean chili, ratatouille with provolone melted onto fresh bread, simple pastas, and other foods with less chili peppers than the sambars and rasams. Just for contrast.


Tasty dessert if you can find it: tequila lime sorbet from Seattle Sorbets. It's lime flavor is VERY refreshing.


Which reminds me: one of my friends brave enough to try out my Indian dinner experiments brought by not one, not two, but THREE flavors of frozen desserts from Ciao Bella Gelato. Pistacio ice cream, mango sorbet, and raspberry sorbet.


The next time I'm hovering near the dessert shops in Ferry Building Marketplace, I know where to go... Though I wish to try them all.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:11 PM

I got some fan mail! Better still, it's from someone with a great food blog: kitchen diary - how to find happiness in a food blog (yasuko-san-style). Each day Maia provides links to great food sites, and menus for her house's tasty-sounding meals. I think she'd get along well with my pals: note that both coffee AND capuccino appear on her lunch entry for today...


Her lovely link collection is a reminder that I'm slacking. My occasional links just aren't as convenient for your surfing pleasure. I'll work on that.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:09 PM

A promising recipe: The New York Times Magazine > Food: Pride and Produce "Summer Fruit Crisp". (Yes, it's an article gushing about California produce.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:02 PM

Arundhati Roy came to speak in Berkeley. I completely admire her - she uses such incredible language craft, and describes political situations so accurately/harshly/poetically, it can just take your breath away. (She spoke of how our nation's poor are fighting a war on behalf of corporate interests in which, regardless of the outcome, they will never benefit from, and put it so well that the guy in front of me actually said "Woah!" out loud.)

She was asked about our upcoming presidential election, and provided an interesting example from her home country, after remarking that our opposition party doesn't even make an effort of pretending to be in opposition to anything the current administration does. In one Indian state, progressives were given a choice between the hard-right BJP Hindu nationalist party, and the Congress Party, whose economic policies were devastating the region. The progressives chose not the campaign for the Congress party - the fact that they were less extreme than the BJP wasn't enough to make them appealing to anyone. The BJP won, and chose to continue all of the Congress party's horrid economic practices. Which was something the big parties had in common that they weren't exactly advertising...

Roy then provided a witty comparison between the U.S. presidential candidates, using a laundry detergent analogy that had us laughing HARD.


The presentation ended just a few minutes before Udupi Palace closed for the evening. But we made it in, and ordered ahead of the rest of the post-lecture rush. And my rasam tastes close enough to theirs that I think Dakshin is a work of magical genius. Though S thinks I should actually take credit for having some skill. Perhaps it's both a very good cookbook, AND I have some skill...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:44 PM

Even bears know better than to drink Bud: - Bear guzzles 36 beers, passes out at campground - Aug 19, 2004:
It turns out the bear was a bit of a beer sophisticate. He tried a mass-market Busch beer, but switched to Rainier Beer, a local ale, and stuck with it for his drinking binge.

posted by Arlene (Beth)6:25 PM

Monday, August 16, 2004

Oregano and avocado pasta sauce

This may just be a variation of another recipe I've posted, but I'm writing it down here so I'll be able to make it again, just in case.

-2 tablespoons per person of fresh oregano leaves, washed (no thick stems!)
-1/2 or 1 small clove of garlic per person, peeled
-enough extra virgin olive oil to blend the above
-1/2 to 1 avocado per person.

Blend the fresh oregano, garlic, and olive oil. Toss with hot pasta, especially hot artichoke spaghetti, and spoon fresh avocado over the pasta. Serve with freshly ground pepper.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:18 PM

Dakshin is proving to be a VERY good cookbook. Last night I tried out its recipes for mashed green gram dal (which is sambar-like but doesn't have the sambar powder mixture in it), garlic rasam (20 cloves of garlic!), potato masala, and rice. It was all fabulous. I could have done a better job with the garlic rasam -- by frying the whole cloves of garlic in a bit too much oil, I made the final product a little too oily.

I may have to purchase this cookbook, especially since the copy I'm borrowing from the library has about 30 pages missing. The entire dhosa section, it appears.

That is so wrong.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:15 PM

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Yesterday, after a quick trip to the local market for yogurt-making materials, I was ready to try out a menu from "Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India," by Chandra Padmanabhan. Ever since my visit to Udupi Palace in Berkeley, I had been eager to try more Southern Indian food. My extensive spice cabinet almost prepared me, and my trip earlier in the week to Bombay Bazaar for dal and a few whole spices completed my collection. I sent out a short-notice e-mail to a few friends, and started cooking.

These recipes are great!


Advance preparations: Ms. Padmanabhan advises that all South Indian meals contain a sambar (a thick, savory stew), a rasam (a thin soup), yogurt, and rice. Many optional snacks, pickles, and vegetable side dishes may compliment this basic menu. To make the sambar, you need sambar powder, for which she provides a recipe that makes nearly 5 cups. So I halved that, as well as the recipe for rasam powder (which starts off asking for 2.5 cups of coriander seeds, a volume I'm not in the habit of having on hand). These spice mixtures, toasted and ground, smell wonderful. I only had sneezing fits three or four times, mostly while grinding the chilies and black pepper. The aroma was incredibly good.

The book also explains how to make yogurt: namely, by boiling a few cups of milk, adding a few tablespoons of yogurt, and putting the mixture somewhere warm for 6-8 hours. Though I tried this, I think "warm" in San Francisco is insufficient to make the yogurt animals happy. Next time I'll try a gentle, double-boiler arrangement, since my warm bath setup (the yogurt sat in a bowl, which in turn sat in a bowl of warm water) was insufficient. Though the cultured milk that resulted makes tasty shakes!


The recipes are designed to serve four people in a multi-course meal. So once I was up to a party of four, I served sambar ("Ordinary Sambar") with my choice of okra and red bell peppers, rasam ("Ordinary Rasam"), cabbage poriyal, Basmati rice, garlic papadam (also spelled papadum; purchased and toasted at home), yogurt mixed with a garlicky cilantro chutney, and Zawadi African "Safari Spiced Chai" with milk.

The fresh, hot chilies I used, along with the many chilies in the powdered spice mixes, made an impression: everyone was warm, S noted that his face was sweating, and we all blew their noses during the meal. But we kept eating! I thought it was all JUST right. "Ordinary" isn't really the word to describe these fabulous, deeply flavored staple dishes. I look forward to trying the many variations of sambar and rasam, especially the garlic rasam which contains 20-25 cloves of garlic!!!


There was one thing misleading about the recipes: each provided a time estimate for preparation and cooking, but these estimates completely excluded dal preparation times. One half hour recipe started out with instructions to cook dal for 1.5 hours!! So prior to making one of these, it would be wise to read it all the way through and plan your time accordingly.


The recipes in Dakshin look intimidating, but they're not as complex as the lengthy ingredient lists suggest. Nearly every recipe has the basic ingredients, plus additional spices that are toasted or sautéed in oil and added late. It's not that hard to do, and the results are quite tasty. I haven't yet tried those that ALSO have a freshly ground spice paste. If you can multi-task, you'll be able to prepare these without spending all your time on one dish.


The basic recipes I tested were wonderful. Now, I just need to figure out which of the non-ordinary sambars and rasams to try next!
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:42 AM

I have returned to Bombay Ice Creamery to engage in important research : to determine whether their cardamom ice cream is every bit as heavenly as the idea suggests.

Results: Oh, yes. Yes yes yes. It is heaven.

First, I had some chaat. Bombay Ice Creamery has a small portable steam-table like cart full of savory snacks. I had chole puri, crispy little deep fried puffs of bread, covered with spiced garbanzo beans, minty chutney, and raita. Mmmmmmm. S, who I had lured there, had cauliflower curry with rice and raita. The serving sizes are good, and the food is tasty.

Then it was time for ice cream. S ordered first, and chose the cardamom. I felt like he was copying me, knowing that cardamom ice cream was the entire point of this trip, but he apparently had been thinking about it ever since I came home ranting about it the prior evening. So my evil plan of corrupting his tastes has succeeded!

Bombay Ice Creamery's cardamom ice cream is just one of many wonderful-sounding flavors available (ginger! rose! saffron with nuts!). On Valencia near 16th. Go.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:34 AM

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I checked a Southern Indian cookbook out of the library, and have been very eager to try its recipes. I lacked sufficient coriander and the right dals, though, and so I tried to figure out where to go to stock up on Indian dry goods.

When I lived in San Bruno, I went to India Foods on East San Bruno Avenue. They had EVERYTHING in their large store, including spices which they packed and dated themselves, paneer, kulfis (Indian-style ice cream), frozen breads - EVERYTHING. The hours the store was open were mysterious, but the shop had a great selection.

But San Bruno is out of the way to go for beans and spices. I figured there MUST be a place in the City that I just don't know about. I recalled a place on Valencia, but it had clothes in the window, and I couldn't be sure they have what I want. So I turned to the web, and wound up at, a site set up for people relocating from India who want the GOOD stuff from back home. And the site confirmed that there are at least three shops in town, and Bombay Bazaar on Valencia is one of them.

So I went, and they had everything I needed, plus a brand of backpackable pre-cooked Indian foods in pouches with more flavors than I've seen elsewhere, plus garlic papadam.

Next door is the Bombay Ice Creamery, which has cardamom ice cream. If there was ever proof needed that there is a benevolent power of some sort looking out for us, that is it. (Ironically, I was too full to have anything more than a beverage, but I will return for research purposes.) I had a sweet lassi, which was JUST PERFECT, and headed out into the heat to get some fresh herbs.

La Loma Produce had cilantro galore, plus various fresh peppers I'll need, a sack of habañero peppers which made my eyes water just to look at it, and delightful smelling, thick, home-made looking corn tortillas. Which I knew would be the perfect thing to go with the hot bean chili I made two nights ago.


My afternoon in a nutshell: riding the bus home with a bag full of Indian dry goods and a bag containing aromatic, fresh, thick corn tortillas, and passing a Senegalese restaurant, daydreaming about Senegalese food... I love this town.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:48 PM

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I've just read Slow Food: The Case for Taste by Carlo Petrini, translated from Italian. It's a short and delightful book about the international Slow Food movement by one of its founders. Slow Food promotes foods which are healthy, local, and produced in sustainable ways by artisans who are paid appropriately for their labors. It is the opposite of fast food, which is unhealthy, produced in environmentally unsound ways and sent over long distances, and which involves countless, underpaid workers who develop few skills while assembling prepackaged pseudo-foods.

The book provides a fascinating history of the movement, its victories, its growth around promoting the village wines of Italy, and the zeal of local farmers who banded together to promote local products that were at risk of fading into obscurity. The movement promotes a more attentive, meaningful way of eating and living.
The pleasures of the table are the gateway to recovering a gentle and harmonious rhythm of life. Go through it and the vampire of advertising will lose its power over you. So will the anxiety, conformism, and suggestive power of the mass media that the shifting winds of fashion impose....
By really paying attention to healthy food and how it is produced, by really knowing about it as we enjoy it, we can alter our relationships with our land and communities.
No product can be plucked whole from the context of which it is itself a cultural expression.
Factory farming, processed foods shipped from distant lands at extraordinary environmental costs, and monoculture crops are damaging our world and limiting our options day by day.
In the last hundred years, 300,000 plant varieties have vanished from the earth, and the process is continuing at the rate of one variety every six hours. Every year 17 million hectares of forest disappear; since the beginning of the 20th century we have lost 75 percent of the genetic diversity of our agricultural products, and today fewer than 30 plants nourish 95 percent of the world population.
Industries that plant one variety of one crop around the world are devastated when that crop fails under pressure from disease or other challenges. The solution in the past has been to return to alternate, disease resistant varieties preserved by local communities. But industry is wiping out those traditional varieties. Slow Food seeks to preserve them.

While primarily about the organization and its development, the book is filled with fascinating facts about exemplary models of community development and cultural treasure revivals. It even includes an appendix of traditional Italian foods, a list of the international projects its members are promoting, accomplishments of its award winners (though brief)....

I got a lot out of it. Including a link to Slow Food USA, which promoted itself just before the index.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:01 PM

Monday, August 09, 2004


Wonderful Food In Berkeley

I haven't written much about restaurants in Berkeley, though there are several I like very much.

Zachary's Pizza (on College semi-near Rockridge BART; on Solano near Peet's) makes a thick, double-crusted, almost lasange-like pizza that takes about 40 minutes to bake at their cash-only (!!) restaurants. The spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza is HEAVEN, as is their Mediterranean. (It's a shame the spell-checking function is down at blogger. I'm not at my most accurate tonight.)

Plearn (on University, a short walk from Downtown BART) makes a famous Pad Thai J, and a green curry that is heavenly hot.

Long Life Veggie House (also on University) makes pot stickers the size of my fist (which wouldn't be saying much if my hands weren't so long, but there you go) which are quite tasty. Mmmmm. Potstickers.

And now I've tried Udupi Palace (1901 University, on the corner at MLK Jr. Way), a vegetarian place specializing in the wonderful foods of Southern India. This place is famous for its dosas (or dosai, or dhosa), delicious, slightly crispy crepes filled with fabulous savory fillings (like curried potatoes), and sevred with heavenly side dishes, like dal, a tasty pickle, and/or yogurt. Dosas are as satisfying as burritos, but tidier and made with a tastier wrapper.

Uthappam, which are puffier crepes served with pizza-like toppings, are also heavenly and VERY filling. (See this gushing Examiner review for more details than I recorded, written by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable reviewer.)

Two people with healthy appetites found that three dishes were too many, though the food was so good, we stuffed ourselves nearly to bursting with one dosa, one uthappam, and saag (which was also fabulous). The dishes were all reasonably priced. I'll need to go back to decide whether this is my NEW favorite restaurant in all of Berkeley! It's definitely in the running.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:13 PM

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Heart of the City Farmer's Market at Civic Center Plaza is filling every nook and cranny of the public space on Wednesdays this time of year. I went this week. As usual, the Sukhi's Indian specialties booth was too much to resist -- I couldn't even make it through my reconnaissance walk around the plaza before walking away with two bags of their food.

There are bitter melons the size and shape of one of my thighs, with a blue-white frost over their green skin. They frighten me.

Goodies I couldn't resist: huge, yellow "cling" peaches with mango-like flesh in texture and color; more long, wrinkled green chilies, good with everything, imbuing dishes with a fresh, green taste; okra! (for a soup I make); blueberries! (fresh on cereal this morning); Korean melons, yellow-gold with shiny veins; crisp lettuces; kale (I barely got one -- everywhere they appeared, they were snapped up); avocados, still in small volumes; and heirloom tomatoes, including huge yellow and red ruffled tomatoes, plentiful and reasonably priced.

Herbs, eggplants, bitter melons & their leaves, squash, fresh chilies with the greens still attached, honey, nuts, olive oil, and fresh cut flowers were also abundnant. But my arms were full.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:50 AM

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


One week of hiking in the Emigrant and Yosemite Wildernesses

The air down here in the City is FULL of oxygen! And water comes out of taps! And I don't have to carry all of my belongings on my back! And there are all of these ridiculously noisy people everywhere! It's amazing, incredible… it's the "Return from the Wilderness Adjustment Period."

S and I just hiked more than 60 miles in the Stanislaus National Forest's Emigrant Wilderness. Starting at 4700 feet of elevation near Cherry Lake, we climbed ridges and descended into valleys filled with granite lakes and waterfalls, to climb again to the next valley. At our highest pass, we reached 9800 feet, and descended into the Yosemite Wilderness to follow Falls Creek back toward our starting point.


Every few hundred feet of climbing and descending the dramatic, granite canyons influenced all of the flora around us. Every climb brought us closer to winter, as if we were moving back in time: by the time we reached the highest meadows, we were back in spring, and the lupines were a sea of fresh, purple blossoms.


Marmots and eagles and bears, oh my!


The landscapes were improbably beautiful. Stark, harsh, and lovely. Glaciers did an incredible scouring job in Emigrant's valleys, leaving brilliant, polished stone canyons. Waterfalls glide down their surfaces. Cleaved hills leave cracks and ramps for hikers. Boulders the size of houses lay where they fell. Lakes pool in depressions. Plants and animals live where they can, but never in excess. The only thing in abundance is stone.

Once we left the Cherry Lake reservoir, with its motorized boating and car campgrounds, the only modern mechanical sound to interrupt our long, hot climbs on switchback trails was the sound of passing planes. It's amazing, how many planes pass overhead during the day. The sound echoed strangely in valleys otherwise filled with vibrations only from wind and water.

On the Yosemite Wilderness side of our highest pass (Bond Pass), the glaciers had done less scouring; moraine lakes had created long, lush meadows; there were plenty of trees attempting to spread into the center of the valley; and moraine ridges, dumped by the glaciers, dramatically interrupted our downhill journey.


We needed TWO bear cans to contain our 21 meals for this trip. We eat lavishly while backpacking, unlike many of the long-distance hikers who subsist entirely on granola and instant chili.

We had three Indian meals of three items each, thanks to the brilliant aseptic packaging of Tasty Bite entrées. Now, both rice and a tasty entrée come with their "ready meals" in sealed envelopes heated by boiling, and so we had various combinations of peas paneer, sprouts curry, "vegetable supreme," and Kashmir spinach over either basmati rice or Trader Joe's new precooked wild rice, in a similarly clever aseptic package. Yes, these entrees are heavy to carry. Yes, these items are worth it.

We had two kinds of pasta, both tossed in olive oil with pesto sauce mixed in.

We had several flavors of rahmen noodles, the kinds made in Thailand and China where there are multiple flavor packets, including an oil-based packet which added valuable fat calories. Chinese onion, tom yum, chili pepper…

We also had instant oatmeal, berry-cereal breakfast bars, dried pineapple, salted cashews, TJ's Matterhorn trail mix (with white chocolate, cranberries, dried pineapple, and peanuts), dried mangoes, Balance Bars, and a few Clif Bars.


Unlike our backpacking trip at Henry Coe State Park, I worked out our planned caloric intake VERY precisely. We would each get almost exactly 2,000 calories per day. While our caloric needs might be higher (due to climbing a few thousand feet on daily 10 mile hikes), we both have been a bit soft around the middle, so I figured that we should meet only our minimum requirements. I also brought along multi-vitamins for myself, since my body is easily thrown out of whack when I don't get fresh fruit daily.

This worked out rather well, though I felt neurotic telling my partner how many handfuls of nuts we should eat each day, or how many handfuls of nuts are appropriate if we ate fewer energy bars, etc.

The heat of the lowest elevations, near our starting and ending points, drove us out of the forest a meal and a half early, so we wound up with a slight trail mix surplus. But we both feel strong and healthy. (As an added bonus, I feel arthritic, but that's not related to food. That's due to old age.)


My dear partner had started making his restaurant food cravings known by about day 4, which was cruel – it's not like there were Mediterranean crepes (stuffed with eggplant, roasted peppers, feta, artichoke hearts, and more) within reach. So by the time we left, we had richer foods and larger servings, prepared by other people, on the brain.

We reached Groveland on Highway 120, and were tempted by the wonderful restaurant at the Hotel Charlotte, which we've enjoyed before, but it wasn't yet open. (Last time: garlicky bruschetta, salads, and a savory stuffed crepe in a rich sauce.) So we visited Cocina Michoacana, a fabulous Mexican restaurant which thrilled us. I had the two chile relleno dinner, with red sauce, rice, beans, and corn tortillas. It was HEAVENLY. I was completely blissed out.

I was also amazed at how large restaurant servings of food are. I rationalized that our muscles were recovering, and so we needed the calories (and especially all the protein) and we'd skipped lunch so we were really eating two meals, but as S observed, we were easily consuming an entire day's worth of calories. (This observation was repeated this morning, at breakfast/lunch at our local crepe restaurant, where we were finally able to consume the crepes S had been craving for days.) If we were able to hike 10 miles and climb a few thousand feet on gradual trails on exactly 2,000 calories per day, surely we can get by with that OR LESS at home? We will both be watching our portion sizes in light of this realization.


On the way home: fruit stands beckoned us from along the sides of 120. Perfectly sweet green-yellow plums (which S insists are NOT pluots [plum-apricots]), perfect nectarines, and purple plums all accompanied us home.

posted by Arlene (Beth)6:27 PM

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