poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Quick Post: What do you insist on buying organic?

Hey there! A quick Thursday morning post in the midst of Moving Madness 2011.

Some of you might remember a list that was published earlier this year about which fruits and veggies take in more pesticides. The take home message is that these fruits and vegetables should be bought organic/pesticide-free whenever possible.

My view has always been: buy what tastes good. I’ve found that organic produce, while being more expensive, often tastes a lot better. Also, it’s not just free of pesticides, but organic produce is often grown in nutrient-rich soil, and so the result is more nutritious and better tasting fruits and vegetables.

Last month, my sister JS and I had a discussion about this as she was getting ready to put sweet potatoes in the oven. She insists on buying sweet potatoes organic, as they taste a lot better than conventionally grown ones. For me, I’ve noticed a tremendous difference in carrots and apples. I’ve also found that organic green onions last a lot longer than their conventional cousins (surprisingly), and that organic garlic is much more robust and easier to peel. Of course, based on what I’ve read in the news, I always buy organic berries since they are most susceptible to taking up pesticides, and very toxic ones at that.

Anyway, so my question is: what do you insist on buying organic? Please sound off in the comments!


Market Report: Monterey Market

Disclaimer: This is the first time I’m blogging using my iPhone, so apologies in advance for weird spellings, missing links, etc.

I wanted to title this post,”Look at what I got at Monterey Market for less than $10!” but I thought that was too braggy. But really, this is what I got for less than $10:


Clockwise, from top left:
Bananas, organic
Shittake mushrooms
Carrots, organic and local
Murcott tangerines, local and organic
Fuji apples, local and organic
Green onions, local and organic
Napa cabbage, local

Ok, so I’m bragging a little but I really love this market. I also love that it’s within walking distance. Monterey Market is definitely one of the gems of Berkeley!


Gather ’round

A few months ago, LF and I went to try the hottest new restaurant in Berkeley, Gather.  In their own words:

We see food as a gift and a privilege. Every time we sit down at the table we recognize that food travels to us through the efforts of many. Each meal is the result of hundreds of farmers who spend their lives cultivating fruits and vegetables and raising animals, others who pick, pack, ship and sell their bounty, and those who prepare, cook, and serve our meals. These human efforts combine with the elements and cycles of nature to bring us our daily harvest. When we add to this list all of the people who designed and built Gather, the furniture, the dishware and every other aspect, we see more clearly the true privilege of every meal.

So very Berkeley. So very Omnivore’s Dilemma. I was excited to check it out and see what the hype was all about. The space is clean yet rustic; a mix of stainless steel and weathered wood. I liked its spaciousness and streamline aesthetic. I was also impressed by their cocktail menu, and made a mental note that, should I crave an after work artisanal cocktail, I will stop by Gather and take a seat at the gorgeous bar. (I should tell you that Gather is less than a 5 minute walk away from lab.)

LF and I shared the kale salad, vegan charcuterie, and wild boar. The kale salad, which was served with roasted heirloom carrots, pine nuts, Fiscalini cheese was tasty, but, unlike the other dishes, too voluminous. Both LF and I love kale, but we couldn’t finish it. There is such a thing as too much kale. At least we were sharing it — I shudder to think that any single person would have to tackle so much kale on their own.

Kale salad: too much of a good thing?

This is LF, before she overdosed on kale. Looking extremely happy is one of the signs of an impending kale overdose.

Next: the vegan charcuterie. This sounded the most unique out of all of the offerings, though I did have to keep telling myself that it’s not a regular (i.e. meat) charcuterie dish, so as to reign in expectations.

Vegan charcuterie. Very unique, but I would've liked a double portion.

The morsels featured in the charcuterie vary, depending on what is seasonal. Luckily, I kept the menu so I can actually tell you what we ate. From left to right:

  • Marinated clamshell and king trumpet mushrooms, saffron tomato sumac “mayonnaise”
  • Garbanzo panelle (a polenta-like cake), braised walnut miso puree, Cabernet sauce, black cumin
  • Grilled asparagus, broccoli di ciccio, snap peas, “tonnato” sauce, olive vinaigrette
  • Roasted beets and heirloom carrots, cashew creme fraiche, pistachio green garlic pesto, fried carrot tops
  • Shaved fennel with radishes, cucumber, Sausalito Springs watercress, cherry basil puree

I really enjoyed the mushrooms, and LF thought the garbanzo panelle was her favorite. We were both underwhelmed by the fennel.

Finally, we shared one of their specials: wild boar pork loin on top of more meat (pork again?) with greens and some sauce. (Sorry, since it was a special, I don’t have the details.) Again, it was really good but I could’ve eaten twice that amount.

Meat on top of more meat. A stark contrast with the vegan charcuterie and kale salad.

My final verdict? I thought the presentation, ambiance, creativity of the menu, and service were all superb. On the other hand, I thought portions were pricey for what they were (though, to be fair, we did order small plates and it is all organic, local, sustainable, etc.). I left with my stomach grumbling, even though I had just shelled out at least $35 (including one glass of wine and tip). Next time, I’ll go back and try one of their large plates. The burger is a reasonable $13, so that might be next on my list.