Camping Out In Carlsbad



Campfire––a farm-to-table restaurant from the owners of Ironside and Craft & Commerce––nails their camping concept in highly refined ways.

One of my favorite things about coming home from camping is jumping into the shower and rinsing the campfire out of my hair. The scent of smoke brings me right back to sitting around a fire pit with a plate of grilled meat in my lap and a glass of red wine in my hand (yep that’s how I roll).

As I wash the smell of blazing embers out of my hair I reflect on fond memories one last time before sliding back into the real world of living and cooking indoors.

Campfire, the hottest restaurant to hit Carlsbad three years ago, aims to spark memories such as these, taking the term “glamping” to a whole new level. campfireTwo roaring Santa Maria style wood burning grills, and a smoker big enough to crawl inside, sends smoke up into the sunny San Diego blue sky and charred goodness down on to your plate.campfire Almost everything on the menu is prepared over an open fire. Combine that with an inviting communal vibe and you’ve got a campground fit for a foodie.

campfireFire and locally grown ingredients fuel the majority of the menu. Blistered wax beans, piled high, act as a base for succulent spiced hamachi garnished in micro cilantro. Smear the 63 degree poached egg that’s thoughtfully placed on top with your fork for an instant rich and creamy sauce.

Blistered Wax Beans with Hamachi and Brisket Sandwich

That brisket sandwich though… If I close my eyes, the aroma and feeling of buttery, fatty meat melting between my teeth brings me back to Taylor, Texas eating salt and pepper brisket off butcher paper in a smoked stained BBQ Shack like Louie Muellers. That peppery bark hanging out of two chargrilled slices of baguette, chili aioli oozing, will make any Texan smile.

Brisket – green tomatoes/mustard greens/garlic/onion/gruyere/baguette

The Peruvian style ceviche is refreshing and delicate. Chunks of mild rock fish swim with chunks of crunchy cucumber, creamy avocado and shaved onion in a lightly spiced “leche de tigre.”

Ceviche – “tiger’s milk”/cilantro/avocado/onion/cucumber

The mixology program at Campfire is reason alone to camp out. If I could have one thing every time I visit, it would be the Roasted Beet cocktail.

Roasted beet infused gin balances pungent house made ginger syrup, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of honey brilliantly. The aromatic thyme sprig placed strategically on top of the glass, so that your nose is in direct alignment on every sip, makes the drink pure perfection.

The Big Texas is also stellar. It comprises ingredients like brown butter, vanilla and cinnamon in a way that makes you feel like you are eating a rye bourbon infused cinnamon bun. If you’re the type who orders your dessert in a glass, this one’s for you.

Big Texas (left) and Roasted Beet (right)

And speaking of dessert, what could be more fitting than a S’more Sundae? Chocolate ice cream settles into a paint stroke of torched, creamy marshmallow. Drizzled chocolate sauce, crumbled graham cracker and a few sprigs of woodsy thyme seals the deal. I was on cloud nine.

If chef were to throw a disc of meringue into this dish I would have immediately been transported to my favorite dessert in San Francisco––the Vacherin at Loretta Keller’s Coco500 (now closed). These two desserts remind me of the home made Sundaes I used to make as a kid. I’d lay on the couch swirling Hershey’s chocolate syrup, ice cream and nuts around in a bowl until the concoction resembled soft serve.

S’more Sundae – chocolate ice cream/graham cracker/chocolate sauce/marshmallow/thyme

A glass of Cryptology––a mystery varietal red wine blend from Cloak and Dagger–– pairs perfectly with the S’more Sundae. We loved it so much we bought a bottle to bring home.

Cryptology by Cloak and Dagger

campfireMy hair didn’t smell like smoke in the shower the day after we dined at Campfire, but the memories of that meal lingered just the same. I thought to myself how well the owners have managed to transform a rustic kitschy concept into pure elegance. I didn’t want my meal to end.

I bet these guys have created a problem for themselves. Their concept is so dialed in they probably have campers sticking around every night.

campfire**Pro tip: Check out Campfire’s new sister restaurant one block down the road––Jeune et Jolet. This 1920’s themed novelle french bistro, named after the owners’ daughters, looks like a cozy, romantic spot. And if it’s anything like Campfire it has amazing food to match.

Campfire, 2725 State St., Carlsbad, CA 92008, (760) 637-5121

Ulu-Kiawe Cornbread

ulu-kiawe cornbread

ulu-kiawe cornbread

I developed this ulu-kiawe cornbread recipe for my last Pupus With A Purpose  event to highlight ingredients that are both local and invasive to Hawaiʻi. To make a gluten-free cornbread (or any kind of gluten-free bread for that matter) takes a bit of tinkering. AP flour brings a lightness to breads and pastries that gluten-free flours can’t. To avoid creating a dry hockey puck I treated this bread like a cake. How do you create a super moist cake? You add fat.

So, in addition to high quality ulu and kiawe flours, and locally grown and milled cornmeal, I incorporate a good amount of coconut oil into this recipe. I also use a lower glycemic monkfruit sugar instead of refined sugar to make it even healthier.

Lastly, I bake this bread in a well seasoned cast iron dutch oven passed down from my aunt who used it for years before me. This helps steam the bread a bit while giving it a nice crust. Plus, everything tastes better coming out of a family heirloom.

This may be a difficult recipe to make if you don’t live on Oʻahu because the ingredients may be tough to source. But, if you are lucky enough to live here I invite you to please indulge.

Ulu-Kiawe Cornbread

Use organic, local ingredients whenever possible. 

Cuisine Gluten free
Keyword cornbread, cornmeal, gluten free, kiawe, ulu
Servings 16 servings


  • 2 cups cornmeal Counter Culture Organic Farms' 'Nalo Orange Cornmeal
  • 2 cups milk whole
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1.5 ounces kiawe flour Waiʻanae Gold
  • 5 ounces ulu flour Manaʻe Farm or Kahumana Farms brand
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup monkfruit sugar
  • 2 each eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil plus more for greasing your pan


  1. Pre-heat oven 400 degrees.

  2. In a small bowl combine cornmeal, creamed corn and milk; let stand for 15 minutes. 

  3. Grease a cast iron pan with 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil and place in the  oven while it's pre-heating. 

  4. In a large bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and monkfruit sugar. 

  5. Whisk in cornmeal mixture.

  6. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and coconut oil until well incorporated, and then whisk this into the rest of the cornbread batter. 

  7. Remove the cast iron pan from the oven, pour in the batter, level it out with a spatula and place back in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

  8. Let the bread cool in the cast iron pan for at least 30 minutes. Invert the pan on to a cutting board to remove the bread, continue to let it cool on the cutting board for another 30 minutes, and then slice into 16 pieces or as desired. 

  9. Serve with soft butter, honey and jam or all on its own. 

Variety Showcase Comes To Oahu

variety showcase

variety showcase

Farmers, chefs and food geeks flocked to this year’s Variety Showcase on Oahu. The annual event, which usually takes place in Portland, came to Hawaii for the first time this year on March 13, 2018.

The event gives attendees the opportunity to taste vegetable, legume and grain varieties, that are still being tested. It gives chefs the opportunity to cook with these ingredients and collaborate with plant breeders––which in turn gives the plant breeders an inside look at consumer preferences.

These plant breeders develop seeds that thrive under organic farming conditions, produce excellent flavor and can handle specific growing conditions.

Once the new varieties of crops are bred they are sent to the farmers to test along side other varieties that they are already growing.

I remarked when I first got to the event how I have noticed that the variety of ingredients being offered at the farmers markets has increased dramatically over the past few years. Kathy from Mohala Farms agreed, saying she believed that, “the new generation of farmers in Hawaii are the ones who are responsible for bringing all of these exciting new crops to the island.”

Jay Bost from GoFarm Hawaii and Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network, an organization whose mission “is to build community among plant breeders, farmers and consumers to improve culinary and agricultural quality” hosted the event at Kapiolani Community College. KCC is well known for it’s outstanding culinary program and weekly farmers market, sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau.

At the event, each ingredient was represented by either a farm, co-op or representative of the University of Hawaii that grew the ingredient along side a chef showcasing several varieties of each ingredient to try on their own, as well as in a prepared dish.

All of the dishes prepared were innovative, expertly crafted and delicious. To put it bluntly, I thought the chefs f*cking brought it!

Thanks to GoFarm, The Organic Seed Alliance and farms like Counter Culture who pushed to bring this event to Hawaii, we got to experience something truly unique, special and delicious. I would not be surprised if this event shows up again next year, three times as big. It was a huge success.

Here are some of the highlights (although truly, each table was just as good as the next):

One of the most promising and exciting crops being bred for tropical and organic growing conditions is the mild habanero pepper, since peppers are notorious for being hard to grow in Hawaii.

Bryan and Natalie, the owners of De La Mesa Urban Farm, highlighted the habaneros in two dishes: A pureed habanero salsa made with guijillo and arbol chiles (this would make a killer taco sauce) served with tortilla chips that were made with hand ground Waimanalo yellow corn and a ceviche made of fresh marlin, Kauai shrimp, pickled habaneros, jicama and pineapple.

Chef Ed Kenny offered us a side by side comparison between two different polentas. One made with Guisto’s, a respectable northern California brand and the other made with a polenta made with Nalo orange corn, bred in Waimanalo. The polenta made with Nalo orange corn was noticeably sweeter, had more character and a rounder flavor.

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef Keake Lee from Pig and the Lady created a dish of pickled purple winged beans and cold “Poamoho dark long” eggplant marinated in a black vinegar dashi broth, garnished with fresh basil. Everything Pig and the Lady does in my option is bold, creative and crazy delicious.  This dish was no exception.

variety showcase

The crew from Counter Culture had a strong presence, with several tables. They presented a mind boggling selection of legumes, jicama, and bananas.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef David Gunawam from the Farmer’s Apprentice came all the way from Canada to participate in the event and cook. He prepared Hirayama kai choy, paired with a slice of raw skipjack, seasoned with a house-made vinaigrette made by simmering skipjack bones with seaweed and soy sauce.

In addition, he presented two types of beans grown by Counter Culture: black beans marinated with culantro and charred scallion, and chickpeas flavored with Hawaiian shallot and herbs from Green Rows Farm.

variety showcase

Chef Scott Nelson of Vida Farms also cooked for Counter Culture. He prepared a crepe made “sourdough style” with fermented jicama, and stuffed it with raw slices of sweet jicama and hibiscus jam. It was divine.

variety showcase

Lauren Tamamoto, instructor at KCC blew everyone’s mind with her cauliflower chocolate mousse made of cauliflower, cocoa powder, coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract. It was velvety smooth and tasted like the chocolate pudding of your childhood (and I mean that in the best possible way).


Chef Jenn Hee from Juicy Brew grated cassava, soaked it in golden milk, turned them into hash browns and wrapped each piece in a piper sarmentosom leaf to showcase yellow cassava.

variety showcase

Chef Stacey Givens from the Side Yard Farm & Kitchen came out to represent Portland with her spiced carrot cookies stuffed with Side Yard Farms goat cheese, fig leaf dust and crispy fried carrot tops. Again, mind blown.

variety showcase

Chef Edward Domingo from Roy’s Beach House made a dish I could eat all day long. Moringa fried rice with lechon lomi lomi. Crack an egg on top and you’ve got the perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner in my opinion.

An award winning variety of cacao, called Easton was presented by Skip Bittenbender of University of Hawaii. Manoa chocolate made a decadent 70% chocolate bar for sampling.

variety showcase

Robynne Maii, chef/owner of Fete, showcased broccoli using my favorite preparation, roasted with chile flake, garlic and lemon. I love the crispness and the nuttiness of this dish. Robynne made it even more complex by adding capers, golden raisins and crispy parmesan on top. She also presented Tromboncino squash pickled and served with local mint, roasted kukui nut and feta cheese.

variety showcase

Nina, from Nina Cucina Health (who’s food I miss dearly at the farmers market), took us on a journey of turmeric. Several varieties were pickled and put out for sampling and to wash it all down she made a lovely soup made with turmeric and coconut milk.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Hannah Vernon, from Home Cooked With Love, presented  Manoa and Leopard lettuces with a vegan creamy Italian dressing made with local herbs, Dijon mustard and olive oil for dipping.

variety showcase

On my way out the door I luckily caught Gabe Sachter-Smith, banana expert and farmer for Counter Culture, showing off his several varieties of tropical bananas.  Chef Janna Rose, from the Mossback Restaurant in Washington was scooping up banana ice-cream and vegan banana-chocolate chip cookie right along side him.

I had just talked to Gabe the Saturday before the event at the farmers market. He was the one who got me the most excited about the event in the first place. So it was fitting that, I ended the evening on a sweet note, wrapping the night up with him.

variety showcase

I’ve never seen so many happy faces in one room. The passion for high quality ingredients was swirling that night. Everyone involved in the event was there for the same reason––to continue to push for a healthier, tastier and more sustainable food system in Hawaii. One with a lot of variety.

Did you have an amazing time at this year’s Variety Showcase too? What did you learn, what inspired you? What was your favorite dish and why? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavorefor more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on March 18, 2018 and has since been updated for accuracy. 






A Year of Ingredients

year of ingredients
year of ingredients
Photo by Ketino Photography

2017 was a year of new discoveries after moving from San Francisco to Honolulu. But, I have only begun to scratch the surface of what these beautiful islands have to offer.

In 2018 I am starting a new project, that I am calling, A Year of Ingredients. A project inspired by the talented Bay Area artist, Windy Chien, who in 2016 introduced The Year of Knots.

Windy surprised me in Waikiki, the day before New Year’s Eve, gifting me with one of her famous knots (they are works of art really). And not just any knot, the star knot. A knot she admittedly had such a hard time learning she had to resort to watching a YouTube tutorial before throwing in the towel. At the time I marveled at its beauty but hadn’t yet realized its significance.

After hearing all about Windy’s inspirational journey of committing to her art every day without fail for an entire year I sprung out of bed the next morning knowing in my gut what I needed to do.

I needed to commit to my passion for local food on another level, in order to become the expert I wanted to be.

Starting January 1, 2018 follow me on Instagram as I introduce a local Hawaiian ingredient, and how to prepare it, every day for a whole year.

It might be one of the most challenging projects I have ever committed to, but I’m doing it for the knowledge, for the love of food and for my deepest appreciation for all things local. And I couldn’t be more excited.

Join me here for A Year of Ingredients on Instagram.



The Big Island of Hawaii

Big island of Hawaii

Big island in Hawaii

Hawaii is the magical place created by volcanic eruptions and shaped by gods and goddesses.

Legend has it that the Polynesian earth goddess Pele is responsible for creating the islands formed by these volcanic eruptions. She is now said to be living in the crater of Kilauea on Hawaii Island, after traveling from island to island in the same order as the progression of volcanic eruptions.

Although the youngest, the island of Hawaii is the largest of all the Hawaiian Islands which is how it earned its nickname, the Big Island.


The mana (spiritual essence) is strong here. You can feel and see the island’s aliveness at every turn. The Hawaiians don’t just see land as something that can be bought or sold, they see it as life.

The Big Island of Hawaii
May be one of the many rock formations on the islands representing the ex-lovers of Pele frozen in stone.

Active volcanos, snow capped mountains, crystal clear water, tropical rainforests, sacred historical temples made of lava rock and some of the most epic waterfalls on earth make up this island. Climates range from hot to cool, to snowing in some areas. It is the only island in the world where you can find white, black and green sand beaches.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

When driving across the island on highway 2000 there are so many changes in landscape that you feel like you are driving cross country.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

One minute you are amongst lush rainforests and the next minute all you see are scattered, tiny, neon green leaves sprouting up through black volcanic lava rock. Amongst the craters and dry desolate empty land you can sometimes feel like you are on another planet. Oh, and there are goats everywhere.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii


The motto aloha ‘aina––meaning to love and care for the land, is engrained in the culture here. Natural farming, humanly raising animals and sustainable fishing practices are revered and promoted throughout restaurants all over the island.

Hilo –

Hilo, Hawaii
Hilo, Hawaii

The Locavore Store – This store kicks ass. Read my review of it here.

Conscious Café offers fare for both vegans and meat eaters alike. Bowls, tacos, burgers and salads all made of organic produce, grass-fed beef and local line-caught fish. They also have an extensive kombucha bar, offering a wide selection of Big Island kombuchas, and a tiny gift shop area.

Conscious Cafe
Conscious Cafe

Hilo Shark’s Coffee is a great place to stop for coffee, an acai bowl or a sandwich. They have a large covered outdoor patio if you are eating “in” and is a good place to grab some souvenirs.

The Moon and the Turtle, although closed during my trip, is said to be one of the best restaurants on the island from locals and visitors alike. An always changing menu of locally sourced food and cocktails with a bumping happy hour and great service. Reservations recommended.

The Hawaiian Style café was also recommended to us. Locals love their enormous portions of classic Hawaiian comfort food. There are locations in Hilo and Waimea.

Waimea –

Village Burger is a quick service restaurant in a strip mall offering Parker Ranch pasture-raised grass-fed beef burgers using fresh local goat cheese, fresh baked bread and produce from neighboring vendors.

Big island brewhaus – Besides craft beer you can find a menu loaded full of local fresh line-caught fish, grass-fed beef and organic produce. Their spent grain from brewing beer and food waste is used to feed local cows and pigs. They are a platinum level ocean friendly restaurant and the second restaurant on the Big Island to be Blue Zone approved. Simply put, their aloha ‘aina game is on point.

Merriman’s – Farm-to-table, high end dining in a cozy non-pretentious atmosphere. The Mai Tais are amazing here.

Mai Tais at Merriman's Waimea
Mai Tais at Merriman’s Waimea

Waimea Butcher Shop – Mom and pop butcher shop specializing in sustainably raised and locally sourced meat and charcuterie. They are a nose-to-tail operation that cuts meat to order and has an extremely high standard in quality.

Waikoloa –

Daylight Mind Coffee – Na’auao is the Hawaiian word for enlightenment and literally translates to Daylight mind. This company chose their name because they say it “weaves together a love of scientific exploration with a deep respect for the wisdom and strength of its Hawaiian roots.” Although they use western techniques they draw from their culture to keep themselves grounded and stay true to the land. They pour locally grown coffee sourced from several different farms and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner menus with a farm-to-table sensibility.

Breakfast at Daylight Mind Coffee
Breakfast at Daylight Mind Coffee

Farmers markets line the perimeter of the island on a daily basis. They are a great way to learn about Hawaiian culture and sample foods grown locally. Click here to find one near where you are staying. I visited the Hilo farmers market and although it runs daily the Saturday market is the largest all week.

White Pineapple
White Pineapple. So far I’ve only seen this on the big island.


 The Kona side of the island is known for snorkeling. Crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches make access easy and inviting.

Beach 69, named after the mile marker it is located at, is a local favorite for snorkeling in the Waialea Bay. The white sandy beach is covered with large shady trees and the reefs are full of beautiful fish.

Beach 69
Beach 69, called 69’s by locals
Beach 69
Beach 69

If you are looking for a snorkeling excursion by boat I recommend Hilo Ocean Adventures. You can arrange a private tour where you will have your own captain and snorkel guide to take you to all the best spots, prepare you snacks and take a video of your entire experience. You may even swim with sea turtles and have a school of dolphins riding along side the boat with you on your way out.


For a boat tour to see the lava flowing into the ocean go to

Otherwise do what we did and take a self-guided tour by car through the Hawaii Volcano’s National Park.

The Big Island of Hawaii
Hawaii Volcano’s National Park

Here you will see Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano and mountain on earth accounting for more that half of the island’s land mass (most lying underneath the ocean). The mountain is constantly growing with its continuous stream of lava flow adding to its mass.

Mana Loa
Mana Loa

You will also see the shield volcano, Kilauea. Remember Pele? This is the volcano which has lava streaming steadily into the ocean. It is one of the most active volcanos in the world.

Driving around this park you will see volcanic craters and rainforests and have the ability to hike over miles and miles of lava rock.


If you are in Hilo here are some falls you won’t want to miss…

The Wailuku River spanning 18 miles long is the second longest river in Hawaii and is so powerful it can at times create flash flooding. It is also home to beautiful waterfalls.

Rainbow falls is an 80 foot waterfall that creates a rainbow on sunny days and a constant mist on rainy days. It is over 100 years old and pours from the Wailuku river in front of natural lava caves.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

Boiling pots is 1.5 miles above rainbow falls. They are pot shaped holes made of lava rock that fill the Wailuku river. During storms the river rises and water appears to be “boiling” in these lava pots.

Pe’epe’e falls is to the left and upstream boiling pots.

The Kolekole stream produces some very impressive waterfalls as well. The most impressive is Akaka falls. At 442 feet tall it is twice as high as Niagra Falls. Kahuna and Uluhi falls are just downstream of Akaka.

Trail to Akaka Falls
Trail to Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls


Since I have only been to this island once so far I only have one place to recommend. It is a wonderful VRBO in Hilo called The Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat with an east meets west sensibility.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
One of the many temples at Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

The property is full of meticulously manicured zen gardens, orchards and lily ponds.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

It also has a sweet little outdoor kitchen perfect for cooking all meals on site.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

The money shot however is the infinity pool and hot tub which overlooks the ocean lined with lava rock walls.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

Inside you will find local art, wood furniture and high end fixtures. The owner of the property Dan, has not forgotten any details large or small. He made my day when he brought me over a coconut and a drill one afternoon. Although far from town, this is a wonderful place to stay. If you are looking for a little seclusion this is the spot.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Coconut palms at Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

If you are looking for a baller vacation rental check out the properties managed by Elite Pacific Properties

Like this one called Fairway #1 North located on the north of Kona.

Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental

I look forward to heading back to the big island of Hawaii sooner rather than later. More recommendations to come.


How Eating Local Food Supports Your Health And Community

support local

support local

Eating local food is very important to me. When it comes to what I eat I try my best to select foods that are whole or minimally processed, organic and local. This practice results in eating seasonally as well.

Sometimes finding foods like these can be a challenge depending on where you live. Not everyone places this much importance on the foods they eat. If there isn’t a demand in a particular area there is often low availability. Cost and climate can also be factors. This is why if you have a farmers market pop up in your area or see local food in your neighborhood grocery store it is important to support it.

I believe eating local food is important for two reasons. It promotes good health and it strengthens your community. These are both very strong values of mine and something I encourage everyone to at least consider when buying food.

Eating local food for your health

This idea does not involve micro and macronutrients. However, food grown near to you, eaten soon after it has been harvested is more nutritious than commercially grown foods shipped from long distances. So, even though organic apples grown in California are just as nutritious as ones grown in New York, if you live in California and eat the locally grown apples they will be more nutritious because of the length of time between harvest and consumption.

Aligning yourself with nature

As I mentioned above, this idea is more than just getting the most nutrients out of your food. It is also a matter of aligning yourself with your environment or, living in harmony with nature. Eating local food ties you to the land you live on.

When I decided to leave San Francisco to move to Hawaii I had to prepare myself for the fact that my diet was going to change. Sure, I would no longer get to enjoy the bay area stone fruit season and Hass avocados but instead I would get to taste fresh lychees strait from the tree and make interesting dishes with breadfruit. I didn’t see it as a challenge or something I would miss but rather an exciting opportunity.

Eating for your climate

San Francisco in general has a very cool, dry climate. I would start every morning with warm lemon water, drink hot tea everyday and eat hot cereal, soups and stews to keep me warm.


One of the things that drew me to Hawaii was the climate. As a person who tends to run cold and dry, San Francisco’s climate was not a good balance for me. The warm humid climate in Hawaii already has my skin looking healthier and my immune system feeling stronger.

My diet has shifted here. I am constantly mindful of staying hydrated and regulating my body temperature using water and food. I now drink room temperature water in the morning instead of warming it first. I crave iced teas instead of hot teas. I eat more salads, fish and rice. I eat completely different types of fruit. I seek cold or room temperature foods as opposed to hot foods. I crave ice-cream way more.

Even though the weather doesn’t change as dramatically throughout the year, like the Midwest or east coast, San Francisco still has seasons that determine which fruits and vegetables are available. Hearty squashes and Brussels sprouts in the winter, asparagus and artichokes in the spring, heirloom tomatoes and melon in the summer are all examples.

Seasonality is significant because nature produces what will make your body thrive during that time of the year. Heartier vegetables keep you warm in the winter and lighter produce like lettuces, cucumber and stone fruit cool you down in the summer.

Giving your body what it needs in order to thrive in the environment you live in is very important for your health.

Balancing our bodies with food

Our bodies are constantly looking for balance. It is one of the reasons why we have cravings. All of the foods we eat have the potential to create warming, cooling, drying or moisturizing effects in the body. It is up to you to understand what you need in any given moment in order to thrive. This is the principal of yin and yang, opposite energies that compliment each other and create balance.

By being in tune with your body and environment you can choose foods that bring you back into balance. Alternatively, ignoring those two things can bring you out of balance with nature and have the potential to make you sick.

Eat with the seasons and let your climate determine diet. If you live in a warm climate and continue to eat foods grown in cold climates it could cause an imbalance. For example, a diet rich in red meat, high in fat and alcohol could overheat someone living in warm climate. However, if you live in a cold climate you need foods that pack more eat. Living off fish and raw vegetables may not keep you warm enough.

Here are some examples of foods that are cooling (ideal for warm climate) and foods that are warming (ideal for cold climate).

Cooling foods –

– Sweet spices (chai, fennel, elderflower)

– Mint

– Cucumber

– Lime

– Light proteins like chicken and fish

– Dark leafy greens

– Raw fruits and vegetables

– Chocolate

– Cabbage

– Watercress

Warming foods –

– Red meat, pork, duck

– Hot soups and stews

– Ginger

– Garlic

– Onions

– Oatmeal

– Winter squashes

– Peppers

Eating local food for the health of your community

Buying food from the local farmers market brings us closer to our community and environment, which results in a deeper connection to our food.

By buying your food from local farms and artisans you are supporting your neighbors and strengthening your local economy. This act unifies people, it keeps people employed and it allows you to really know where your food comes from.

Eating foods that are shipped in from somewhere else (at least on a regular basis) alienates us from our environment. You may not be physically equipped to consistently eat these foods and over time doing this may confuse your body and weaken your immune system. By doing this you are also supporting the excessive use of fossil fuels which is unfriendly to the environment.

Support local. Support community. Support your own health. It just makes sense.

For more information on how to eat local food in Hawaii check out my Hawaii Local Food Guide.

Osprey, Your Local Seafood Market

Osprey local seafood market
Osprey local seafood market
Osprey Seafood in Napa, CA

Where is your local seafood market? Have no idea? Chances are if you are a seafood lover and a home cook you may have struggled with this problem before.

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of butcher shops, farmers markets or health food stores these days but even here in San Francisco I find it very difficult to shop for seafood.

Outside of dining in a high end seafood restaurant or purchasing seafood wholesale (the perks of being a professional chef) there really isn’t many local seafood market options in the bay area.

Last month I wrote about my favorite fishmonger in the bay area, Mike Winberg-Lynn. He is my number one trusted source here locally.

His market, Osprey Seafood, in Napa has an amazing selection and is amongst the freshest you can find around here.

What’s great about Mike is he’s been in the business a long time so he has good relationships with the fisherman and really knows his product.

I spoke with him recently regarding a few issues consumers struggle with when buying seafood. Here are his tips on how to become more confidant when selecting seafood….

Farm-raised vs. wild fish

I asked Mike what his opinion was on farm-raised fish. His take on this topic was simply this, “there is not enough wild fish in the world to feed everybody.”

He says “the argument with farmed fish has always been about the practices. The cleanliness, antibiotics, the amount of wild fish needed in order to feed farmed fish, fish swimming in their own shit. These practices took place in the 90s. The industry has evolved since then. They aren’t perfect but they are learning and their practices today are tons better than they were 10 years ago. Right now the ratio that they have to feed is 1-1. That’s 1 pound of wild fish to grow 1 pound of farmed fish. That’s even better than what it is in the wild. I visited a farm in Canada where the tidal flow was so strong and constant that I thought, there’s no way these fish could be swimming in their own shit.”

Although Mike agrees that wild fish is always the best option he admits that in places like the U.S., Norway, Scotland, Canada and Scandinavia they are producing respectable farm raised fish. He warns to stay away from fish farmed in South America where giving fish antibiotics isn’t regulated.

Basically when it comes down to it, if you took away farmed fishing it would tax the wild fisheries way too hard.

Which fish are sustainable to eat.

As you may recall from our last article together, Mike hate’s the word sustainable.

But to answer my question he said, “The United States is deemed sustainable, if you buy domestically or from New Zealand and Australia you can feel good about what you are buying”.

He says, “Every single domestic fishery has a managing group looking at everything it has found. (this is why domestic fisheries are so good). They count the catch to see how much volume they are bringing in so they can know when they have hit a maximum. Last year they were catching a lot of squid and the government stepped in and said that’s enough.

There’s no way to know how much fish is really out there. We can’t count them all, we have methods of maybe counting them but other than salmon, which we have a really good method of finding out how many are out there, we have no clue. Sometimes fish disappear because the water is too warm (like in the case of el nino). If you move 2 or 3 degrees your gonna lose a whole eco system.”

Mike says to stay away from buying fish caught in China and Japan who don’t always follow the rules.  And besides shrimp he avoids buying seafood from the gulf of Mexico because of frequent algae blooms due to high heat.

Seafood species found locally in the bay area.

Mike says that around summer and fall you can find rock fish, salmon, ling cod, petrale sole, sand dabs, mackerel and anchovies. Salmon season closes in October.

In March they hold hearings and decide when they are going to open salmon season and which salmon fisheries may be in danger. He explained that, “Salmon live their life in the ocean 5 years, give or take. At the end of that time period they go back up the river they came from to spawn. Certain populations of salmon will decrease. Right now the stress point where we are is the sacramento run. We try to stay away from all the sacramento river fish. As they started their migration back to the river we shut down areas to avoid fishing them. That was in July, no fishing in July because we want to make sure these salmon make it back to the river.

Sardines, anchovies and squid only show up during certain times, so sometimes you might get lucky and sometimes you may not. 

Most fish are seasonal meaning we get them just when they appear, like black cod. Its been a great year for black cod, but you will soon see that start to disappear. Albacore, same thing. We see them in the summer and that’s great but then by October they’re gone. But with El Nino everything flips. This year we didn’t hardly see any white sea bass.

Crab season starts mid November and lasts until early summer. There are times when the demonic acid levels are too high and they have to shut down crab season. This year it’s looking good.”

What to look for when purchasing seafood.

Mike thinks that in the bay area we do a pretty good job in general of offering good quality seafood. He says, “In the bay area the demand of quality is high. If you walk into a store and it smells like fish walk out. If it smells a little bit like fish give them a break it is fish. If it smells rank or overly bleachy walk away.”

Additionally, I would also say to look for clear eyes, firm skin and flesh and a nice vibrant color.

Local seafood markets Mike recommends. 

Mike says, “Besides Osprey Seafood in Napa I recommend, Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley, Hapuku Fish Shop inside Market Hall in Oakland,  Antonelli Bros in San Francisco  and even Whole Foods does a decent job. Programs like CSFs (community supported fisheries) are good. They will give you good fish. I don’t know if you want to eat as much sardines as they want to give you but they are usually using hook and line local fish.” An example of one of these would be Real Good Fish.

Favorite seafood restaurants in the bay area.

I asked Mike, when he goes out to dinner where are some of his favorite restaurants in the bay area for seafood. He said,Perbacco, Staffan (the chef/owner) knows more than any chef I have ever worked with, his knowledge of seafood and food in general is incredible, Gotts roadside, who is one of our accounts, their quality is very good, Swan Oyster Depot really knows their fish, Coqueta, Bottega, Hurley’s (just about any restaurant in Napa, really), Wood Tavern and Walnut Creek Yacht Club

Why I buy from Mike.

As I said before, I trust Mike over anyone else when purchasing seafood. I purchased fish from him wholesale when I was a chef in the restaurant business and I continue to purchase from him for my private chef clients and personal use.

Besides knowing the fish business inside and out Mike is a friend. He has a wonderful wife and family and has a wonderfully silly sense of humor.

Want to see just how knowledgeable and funny Mike is? Check out his educational video on oysters here. I laughed my ass off.

My favorite quote from Mike is this, “I had a fellow fishmonger say that when he retires he will be buying his fish from me. The reason is that we know quality and I love fish. My idea of a perfect day is to work with fish. I hate business. I am a poor business man, but I love working with fish. My brother Pat is better at the computer than me.”  Whenever I read that it makes me smile.

So where is your local seafood market? It’s time to get out there and take a look around. Help out the little guy. Support your community. And in doing so, support your own health and the health of the environment.

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

I also would love to invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore, for my weekly newsletter. I am so grateful for this community, thank you for being part of it!

Mike and Susan
Mike and his lovely wife Susan

Mike and his lovely wife SusanAs a physiological psychology graduate from UCSB, Mike looked forward to a professional future in the laboratories of the Bay Area. Newly married and with high hopes, he moved his family to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco only to find a hiring freeze up and down the peninsula. After several months of selling wedding presents to make rent, his life took one of those turns. Upon a chance meeting with a neighbor who owned the fish store across the street, Mike begged for any job at all. The neighbor, Peter Bird, hired Mike as a driver for $5 per hour. It was September of 1983 and Mike fell in love with the business from the very start. As he learned the day-to-day operations, his passion for fish and the people who worked with it grew. In December of 1986, Mike excitingly took the plunge and purchased a major share in Osprey Seafood. By 1989, Mike invested all he had in Osprey Seafood and became the sole owner. Since then, Mike’s goal to serve the entire Napa Valley area has resulted in the retail store at Wine Country Avenue. 29 years later and he still loves fish.

Local Spotlight – Dave the Butcher

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at Soul Food Farm

I am hoping that after reading this article everyone starts googling the phrase “butcher near me”.

David Budworth, also known as “Dave the Butcher”, is one of those butchers who has changed the way people have looked at buying meat over the last several years.

He runs a modest shop in San Francisco called Marina Meats, where he embraces the farm to table movement and relationships with his customers.

His colorful past and liberal opinions are both hilarious and inspiring.

Here is his story

Dave started his butchering journey in 1989 working at Ashbury Market in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Seeing the older butchers break down whole animals intrigued and inspired him. But as a self-proclaimed “fuck up” he was not yet ready to settle down in a career.

So, off to Australia to live and work in the jungle he went. This is where Dave worked on a farm for tattooed, bearded bikers picking fruit. He said, “I lived in a tent for 6 months and half the time thought these guys were going to kill me”.

But they didn’t. And instead they inspired Dave even more to become a butcher and more knowledgeable about where his food came from.

The bikers raised wild pigs on their property. Dave would help slaughter them with his boss, Weed, to sell the meat off to nearby neighbors. The first time Weed strapped on his belt of knives Dave’s eyes lit up. He thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen.

In the evenings Dave and the bikers would head out (highly intoxicated) in a pick up truck to hunt crocodile. He learned that in Australia there are wet and dry seasons. In the wet season it floods and in the dry season when things dry up tiny ponds form where crocodiles get trapped and have to live in until the wet season returns. They would find the crocs in these ponds in the middle of the night, shine a light on them and shoot them, bringing them back to the farm to slaughter.

When Dave’s outback adventure came to an end he moved back to San Francisco and landed a job at The Real Food Company on Sutter street (which is now closed) working the meat counter. By a stroke of good luck the manager was getting ready to quit and in a bind offered his position to Dave. Dave, still not really knowing the art of butchery, saw an opportunity and accepted the position.

In the following months he became Bill Niman’s (formerly of Niman ranch) first butcher shop wholesale customer. Up until then Bill had only sold his grass-fed beef to Chefs at high end restaurants. He also brought on farms like Atkin’s Ranch for lamb. He said that he would order meat from Bill Niman and Atkins Ranch and then ask them how to cut it. The farmers trained Dave on how to cut their own product. And little did Dave know, that at the time, he was at the forefront of a food revolution that would surge several years later.

But in pure Dave fashion he grew antsy. With a pocket full of cash from his manager’s job he took 6 months off and moved to Amsterdam to grow pot.

Upon returning from his sabbatical he found himself living in the east bay where he stumbled into what would eventually become his true butchery training ground, Ver Brugges.

It was at Ver Brugge Foods where Dave learned the true meaning of hard work and what it took to be a real butcher. He worked long hours, never got weekends off, would get constant shit from the older butchers and cut his fingers daily. During the holiday season he remembers cracking crabs until three in the morning only to come home, drink a couple beers and go back to work a couple hours later at 6am.

He was the youngest butcher at the shop by 30 years. He had to fight to get taught what they knew and would often get pushed off on to the customers while the older butchers did the actual butchering in the back.

He would ask the customers if they wanted anything special done to the cuts of meat they were ordering from the case, such as boning out legs of lamb or trussing chickens. As with most of his butchering career Dave’s skills were self taught.

But, what he did learn from the owner of Ver Brugges was how to run a profitable butcher shop. Which became immeasurable later in his career.

A big reason why the owner preferred the more seasoned butchers to break down meat was that he had zero tolerance for waste. He had to. It was all about his bottom line and if Dave cut steaks while still learning and produced a lot of waste it was money taken out of his pocket. It was there that the idea of “clean bones” was instilled in Dave who went on to take pride in butchering meat leaving no waste behind.

Although Ver Brugge was a great shop Dave longed for the days when he got to watch guys break down whole animals which was something that they did not do there.

Dave found a shop in Santa Cruz that was doing just that. He called them every week for months until Shopper’s Corner finally gave in and offered him a job. Dave came in on fire getting quickly promoted to assisting the assistant manager on what he calls the “main block”. The manager would cut meat and Dave would clean up his “trim”. All. Day. Long.

Dave kept up his relentless butcher’s schedule until finally burning out. Making a significant change in lifestyle he moved to Berlin, opened a yoga studio and became a certified coffee roaster.

Although he loved his new life and Berlin Dave had this constant nagging feeling of wanting to be behind a butchers counter. Alas, he found himself back working at Ver Brugges only three years later.

During his second stint working at Ver Brugges he got divorced from his wife, his dog died and his car got broken into and stolen twice. Feeling depressed and defeated he returned to Berlin with his “tail between his legs” to his old barista job.

He was there for 6 months. Life was easy. Too easy he thought.

Dave traveled to Spain where he says he “scared himself” to the point of returning yet again to the bay area.

He ran a shop called The Fish Lady in Santa Cruz where he re-did their meat, cheese and beer programs. He couch surfed and eventually landed back in San Francisco where his career had started.

By this point Chefs had made butchering whole animals trendy and accessible to everyday people. All of the sudden being a butcher was “cool” and farm to table was all the rage. What Dave had been doing for over twenty years and not getting any recognition for was now big business.

After a long awaited and much deserved recommendation from Ver Brugge, Dave settled in at a new butcher shop that had just opened in the Marina called Marina Meats, which he still calls home today.

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at Soul Food Farm

Dave the Butcher is born

2009 was an exciting time to be a butcher. The NY Times had just put out an article titled, Young Idols With Cleavers Rule the Stage and butchers now had rockstar status.

Chefs like Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats where becoming known for whole animal butchery and the farm to table movement was in full swing.

Having already had 20 years experience as a butcher, Dave was in a prime position by the time he entered back into the San Francisco scene.

Dave started getting approached left and right to do demos at festivals, “meet your butcher” dinners and butchery competitions. He was getting up to speak at large events about factory farming and supporting small farms. He joined forces with other local butchers to support them and build his brand as, Dave the Butcher.

Dave on labeling

Now that people were taking notice of butchers again and having a desire to know where their meat was coming from  more and more meat starting popping up in grocery stores labeled as “organic”, “free-range” and natural. The demand was now there.

So, what is the difference between, what butchers like Dave, are offering and the organic meat you find in a supermarket? Luckily for us one of Dave’s best virtues is that he does not hide his opinions or sugarcoat them.

I asked Dave how he felt about companies who label their meats as “all natural” and this is what he had to say…

“It’s a crock of shit. I think the organic, all-natural, free-range labeling is fucking bullshit. It’s a scam in a sense. They are all buzzwords.

I know farmers who go beyond organic, like Alexis at Soul Food Farm, but can’t afford to label themselves as such because of the cost of licensing. When Alexis was certified organic she had to source feed from Japan. The costs were threatening to put her out of business. Corporate factory farms have the money to pay the organic fees. For them it’s just marketing.

I look for animal welfare certification when I purchase meat because a company can say they have organic chickens but then go out and beat the crap out of them everyday. As long as they feed them organic food they can call them organic. “Free-Range” chickens? They leave the door to the coup open. Most of the chickens don’t walk outside and if they do its on to a four by four fenced in area. The pastured birds that I get for Marina Meats are certified heritage and pastured for 140 days and are what chickens should taste like.”

Dave on grass-fed vs. grain fed beef

I asked Dave if he has seen a shift in what customers are looking for as far as beef goes these days. For many years marbled, grain-fed beef was revered by chefs and consumers for providing  juicer and more delicious steaks. These days the promise of a healthier meat option is delivered with grass-fed beef.

Dave said, “There were no grain-fed marbled steaks before WW2. That all started with the industrial corn revolution. It’s what we were all raised on. That too was a marketing ploy.

All cows start out for their first year on grass so you can technically call a factory farmed product grass-fed. After a year it gets auctioned off and goes to a factory to live the rest of its life on cement. It was the industry standard. That was back when everyone trusted the government and the food industry not to poison us.

Five years ago people in their seventies would come in and scoff at the price of grass-fed beef. Now those same people are asking for it. It’s one of those things where if people vote with their dollars shit will change. That’s what is starting to happen now. Grass-fed is the new healthy trendy thing and people want to be told what is healthy for them.

Back in the 70’s we were told fat was evil and  everyone started buying diet this and diet that. Now it comes out that all that shit was a big scam, just marketing. With those ideas still engrained in customers brains they ask me for steaks with less fat on them. I tell them the fat is not the problem. In the beef I sell the fat contains a lot of nutrients. It’s the fat from factory farmed meat that you want to stay away from. It is there where all of the chemicals and antibiotics that were given to the cows are stored.  

There only used to be choice and prime labels for beef. When a carcass was run through the slaughterhouse the USDA guy looked at one spot on the carcass and if it was marbled he would label it prime. These meats were more rare so they were sold at a more expensive price. 

Now there are three choices of beef – select, choice and prime. Select used to be called “no roll” because it meant that it didn’t get rolled with the USDA stamp. It was non-graded meat, below human consumption level, but fine for dogs to eat. Safeway lobbied to have select become a grade. They re-labeled everything in their store as “Safeway Select” and turned it into a brand name that people now trust.”

The Philosophy at Marina Meats

The demographic at Marina Meats can change with the time of the day or day of the week.

Dave gets everyone from Italian grandmothers cooking old school classics like petrale sole and meatballs to busy parents looking for convenient pre-made products like crabs cakes and marinated chicken breast to the guy walking in on the weekend who just bought a green egg and wants to smoke a whole brisket.

Dave’s favorite time to work is the weekend. He cranks up fun music like disco or reggae and shoots the shit with the customers who are more relaxed and in a friendly weekend mood.

He says his philosophy and the philosophy of the shop are one in the same. To source humanely raised, non-factory farmed meat and support small farms.

He buys whole animals from several small farms spreading the love around.

But coming from a background such as working at Ver Brugge he has also learned the importance of making a profit. So because of that he tries to blend what he calls the “old world” with the “new world” butcher shop ideas.

He says, “the new world idea of only buying whole carcasses, supporting only small farms and doing everything in house isn’t completely sustainable from a financial stand point. You have to charge a lot and there isn’t much profit to be made.

So to get around that I combine that model with the “old world” approach which is to still offer cool stuff but to also bring in some pre-cut product at a lower cost.

Many “craft” butcher shops won’t sell things like boneless, skinless chicken breast. I’ll bitch and moan all day about selling it but at the end of the day it’s what many customers want and it makes us money.

Offering that boneless, skinless chicken breast gets people into the shop on a daily basis and allows me to build a relationship with them. I am then able to guide them towards purchasing other off cuts that they might not of ever tried before.

Instead of alienating those people I engage them. I figure if one in every ten people buys a pork belly or a beef shank or some off cut that nobody used to ever buy, sweet!

I may go through a ton of boneless, skinless chicken breast but I’ve also converted many people in the process. And that’s why I am able to afford to buy and butcher whole carcasses. It supports my business.

Instead of being snooty and telling people that they should just get on the “craft butchery” train right now, when they clearly aren’t ready, I just try to make the train more enticing. That’s my theory.”

The choice is yours. 

Living in the bay area I have to remind myself all the time that we live in a bubble. Not everyone across America has access to pastured meat or are near a small local farm.

But I know in my heart that if we stop filling the pockets of factory farm corporations it will make an impact on the kinds of foods that grocery stores everywhere sell. Like Dave said, when people “vote with their dollars shit will change”.

So go ahead, close out this blog and google “butcher near me”. You never know, there could be a Dave the Butcher of your very own working right around the corner.

What kind of meat do you want to eat and feed to your family?

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at The Eat Real Festival

Dave the Butcher

David Budworth AKA “Dave the Butcher” started his career in 1989 at the Ashbury Market in San Francisco. With the 2 words on a poultry box “Edible Feet”, he was hooked. He landed in the jungle outback of northern Australia where he worked on a farm for some bikers learning to slaughter and process wild pigs. He has since worked under many local butcher masters, cut meat at Avedano’s Holly Park Market and was the butcher for Fatted Calf’s weekly Pork Happy Hour. Dave is now the manager and head butcher at Marina Meats in San Francisco. You can also catch him teaching lamb butchery classes at the San Francisco Cooking School. Dave is a bartender of a butcher- full of facts, recipes and butcher lore. 

Learn more about David Budworth on his websiteAsk Your Butcher

Or visit him at –

 Marina Meats 

2395 Chestnut ave. SF

(415) 673-6700

Local Spotlight – Eric Miller on a Cheese Mission

Local cheese

When you look at lists of America’s favorite foods cheese is always ranked way up there. In fact pizza lands in the number one spot on most polls.

Local cheese
Top left to right: Local cheese plate, Eric at Weirauch Farm in Petaluma, Cheese class at The Cheese School of SF, Eric competing at the Cheesemonger Invitational. Bottom left to right: House-made duck rillettes and quince paste, Eric at Preston Family Vineyards, Wheels of Pleasant Ridge Reserve at Uplands Dairy, Wisconsin. Photo by: Page Berteisen

That’s pretty interesting seeing as there are millions of Americans with a lactose intolerance.

So is it our obsession with cheese that’s making us intolerant and sick or is it the type of dairy we are consuming?

This week I sat down with Eric Miller, a local cheesemonger who promotes high quality cheeses made by local small farms.

We chatted about his top 3 favorite local cheese makers, Mission Cheese where Eric currently works and Makers Common, which is the highly anticipated sequel to Mission Cheese expected to open next year.

I couldn’t help but to think, if Americans ate cheese like the ones Eric promotes would we be healthier with less lactose intolerance? Not to mention the impact we could make by spending our dollars supporting small dairy farmers and cheesemakers versus the factory farmed dairy industry. And finally, what if we all ate artisan cheese made from pastured animals off of a plate with a fork and knife like civilized human beings instead of cramming commodity dairy processed cheese into our face with no thought at all?. Things that make you go hmmmmm…..

Makers Common
Recipe testing for Makers Common, left to right: Dutch baby with caramelized pears, Truffled egg toast, Focaccia with leeks and mushrooms, Fresno chili hot sauce, House-made coppa cotta and Llano Seco beans with poached egg. Photo by: Page Berteisen

How did you get interested in cheese?

EM: I’d have to say it was an experience eating Saint-Marcellin (which I loved) and Petit Livarot (which I hated – at the time.) I just started eating a lot of cheese, bringing cheese to parties, cooking with it at home. I won’t say I was obsessed but a lot of money was spent on cheese at home.

Do you have any formal cheesemongering education?

EM: I’m not sure there’s much in the way of formal education. I’d say most of the people I know started at a cheese counter or a restaurant that had a good cheese program. There are some great books like Mastering Cheese by Max McCalman, or Cheese Primer by Steve Jenkins. They’re good companions to the on-the-job training, which is going to be your best resource.

How long have you been working as a cheesemonger and how did you get into the industry?

EM: Eventually, work got to a point where I thought that it was time to get out of my industry and get into gourmet food. I started volunteering in the Murray’s Cheese classroom in New York as an assistant and spent over 100 hours there learning whatever I could. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the change at that time – nothing was available and I wasn’t ready to take the huge pay cut. A couple of years later it was time to make the jump and leave the cubicle behind – money be damned! San Francisco was the place and Mission Cheese is where I got my start. It really counts as my first job in food. I’ve been working with Mission Cheese for over five years at this point. I’m definitely a cheesemonger.

Do you make any cheeses yourself?

EM: I’ve only made a few fresh cheeses myself. Making super small batches of cheese is more complex than you’d think when you only have a five-gallon pot at home.

In your opinion, who are the top 3 cheese makers in the bay area right now?

EM: Such a difficult question! The Bay Area really crushes it on the cheese front these days. If I had to pick a few that are shining really bright at the moment I’d roll with Bleating Heart – they just took 2nd place at the American Cheese Society’s annual conference for Buff Blue. Barinaga Ranch who took 1st place in their category for Baserri. It’s bittersweet for the industry because Marcia Barinaga is retiring. And I was just snacking on some cheese from Garden Variety – it’s been a while since I’ve had any of their cheese and it’s still amazing!

What are they doing that makes them stand out from the others?

EM: Bleating Heart is really creative and making some truly inspired blue cheese that’s different from everyone else. I love the different blues they make. They really stand out. Barinaga and Garden Variety are some amazing farmstead cheesemakers that not only love their animals, but they love their land just as much. They know that if the land isn’t cared for you’re not going to have the best cheese.

What are your favorite cheeses of theirs?

EM: Right now, Buff Blue from Bleating Heart, Baserri from Barinaga, and Black Eyed Susan from Garden Variety.

Tell me about Mission Cheese.

EM: Mission Cheese is here to celebrate they amazing work of American artisan cheesemakers. The American cheese movement is relatively young in comparison to the industry in Europe and for years has been grossly underrepresented at cheese counters in America. The owners of Mission Cheese, Sarah & Oliver, have really made it clear that we’re here to support this industry in every way we possibly can. So we serve up beautiful cheese flights, grilled cheese sandwiches, and killer Mac n Cheese, and more. I started our pickling and in-house charcuterie programs several years ago and it’s been doing really well.

Do you carry any local seasonal cheeses there? What would be an example of a seasonal cheese?

EM: All the cheeses that I mentioned before would be examples of seasonal cheeses. Pretty much all of the sheep’s milk cheese we get is seasonal – sheep aren’t as cooperative at breeding outside of their natural cycle like goats and cows. There are a lot of cow and goat cheeses that are seasonal but probably almost as many that are made year ‘round.

Tell me about Makers Common.

EM: I’ve partnered up with Sarah and Oliver to open Maker’s Common and couldn’t be more excited! We’re going to take everything we’ve done at Mission Cheese and expand upon it. We’ll still focus on American artisan cheese, charcuterie, wine, and beer but will also have a full kitchen, and a dedicated retail area with a cheese and charcuterie counter and more.

We’ve already signed a ten-year lease in downtown Berkeley and construction will start in the beginning of November. The space is about three times bigger than Mission Cheese and will have a nice big outdoor patio. This will allow us to do family-style dinners, produce more in-house charcuterie, and increase our pickle production.

We’re still raising money through a Direct Public Offering so anyone in the state of California can actually invest. To date we’ve raised over $400,000 that has come mostly from the Bay Area. I encourage everyone to check out the Maker’s Common website and get involved. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

What is your role going to be there?

EM: Well, it’s a small business so it’ll definitely be some of everything, ha! But I’ll be taking the role of GM, Culinary Director, and Charcuterie Guy. Of course, the plan is to get someone on board that can take on more menu development and such but I’m working on the opening menu. I’ll also have to become a state certified Meat Processing Facility Inspector for our charcuterie production. Jealous?

That’s cool! Which local vendors will you be using at Makers common?

EM: We work with a lot of cheesemakers directly in the Bay Area but we’ll also use Tomales Bay Foods, Cream & The Crop, Food Matters Again, Chef’s Warehouse, and a few others for cheese and charcuterie. For produce we’ll do as much farm-direct as we can. For meat we have some great relationships with some of our cheesemakers that keep hogs but also look forward to working with Llano Seco as much as possible. We haven’t even gotten into the wine and beer side!

Tell me more about the charcuterie program you are developing for Makers Common. 

EM: We’ll have cooked items like pates, terrines, and such but for fermented items like salami or whole muscle cuts like a coppa I want to make everything we do transparent. It drives me crazy that there are still so many restaurants that make delicious meats but keep it all hidden from the inspectors – and the public! Having staged at Olympia Provisions as well as Trou Normand in production makes me want to make the best product I can make.

I hope to work with Llano Seco as well as some local farmers that will be able to hook me up with some of their hogs, lambs, and goats.

What is your favorite thing about working in the restaurant industry in San Francisco?

EM: I really love that every one I’ve worked with shares their techniques, recipes, and processes. This is how we all learn to be better cooks and producers. We’re all trying to up our game and you just can’t do that if you’re not willing to explore ideas with others. When you work in a vacuum you’re working with one hand tied behind your back. You need people around to provide inspiration.

After talking with Eric besides, being hungry for cheese, I was inspired. People like him and restaurants like these are the driving force behind supporting your community and farm to table foods. I am in love with Mission Cheese and can’t wait for Makers Common to open.

I know when I am in the mood for some cheesy goodness I would much rather eat a product that was made by hard-working people who take pride in their work and care about the impact they are making on our environment than something that resembles rubber and is made from sick animals. But hey, that’s just me.


Eric Miller
Photo by: Page Berteisen

Eric is the director of the in-house charcuterie program and cheesemonger at Mission Cheese. After escaping his former cubicle life, he is now creating traditional charcuterie with an American flair, along with pickles, and desserts, and other delicious items as part of his new project, Maker’s Common. A native New Yorker, Eric has spent numerous hours helping educate the masses about the art of meats and cheeses at the legendary Murray’s Cheese. As an enthusiastic transplant to the west coast, he’s always excited about bringing his New York know-how to San Francisco’s fresh food scene.

To learn more about Makers Common click here or shoot Eric an email at

Clean, Natural and Healthy Meals From Your Kitchen

Notice in the title of this article I said your kitchen. Eating clean and healthy is not hard to do but you have to know what is in your food in order to do so. Even the seemingly healthy restaurants may sneak something in on you that you wouldn’t normally eat. The only way to really know what you are eating is to prepare it yourself.

The first step you should take toward better health is to eliminate the processed, pre-packaged and fast foods from your diet. The second step should be to learn to recognize and prepare clean, natural and healthy foods for yourself and your family.

Choosing to eat “clean” and healthy meals is not so much about restricting what you eat, but rather about making better choices and eating better quality foods. Starting with more natural foods containing natural ingredients and eliminating chemicals and additives. The fresher the foods, the better.

Simplify your foods and meals. Choose almost any package in the grocery store and take a look at the long list of ingredients, most are unrecognizable, and many are made in a laboratory. Clean foods have very few ingredients with familiar names. If you can’t pronounce it or have know idea what the ingredient is you probably don’t want to eat it. The simplest clean foods are in fact known as “single ingredient” foods like a banana, a carrot, quinoa or a chicken breast. These are the types of foods to incorporate into your clean eating recipes.

Eliminate refined sugar. Adding refined sugar to your food means consuming empty calories. Alternative sweeteners like stevia, honey and maple syrup are more natural, but use them sparingly as they too will feed your sugar addiction. In the end, sugar is sugar not matter if it has health benefits, like in the case of honey, or not.

Choose local and organic foods. When choosing ingredients for your healthy home cooked meals, shop your local Farmer’s Market and choose organic products when possible. These foods are more nutritious and don’t contain any pesticides, hormones and chemicals.

Cooking your own meals. Stop buying meals or entrees in a box, learn to cook meals from scratch. It is not no as hard as it sounds. Whole foods need little preparation other than chopping and sautéing to make simple yet satisfying, delicious meals you and your family will love.

Planning and preparing clean meals in the kitchen. Start with combining simple and delicious single ingredient foods as meals.

For breakfast try two eggs with onions and peppers served with sliced avocado and tomato. Or, plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup of home-made granola and fresh berries.

Lunch could include a spinach salad with apple cider vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil dressing, walnuts, goat cheese and any vegetables you prefer.

A sample dinner might be a brown rice bowl with roasted chicken breast and vegetables with a squeeze of lime and some sesame seeds.

Notice in these examples, the list of foods is also the list of ingredients.

Your kitchen doesn’t have to be the room of the house you dread being in. Keeping things simple and enjoyable will make cooking seem less like a chore and more like a routine that makes you feel and look great.

What are your easy go-to recipes for a healthy meal?