Thursday, November 20, 2008

Santa Cruz Delights

Santa Cruzans might wince when I say this, but Santa Cruz is little like a mini-Berkeley. It is full of a variety of places to find good eats, from cafes and restaurants to farmer’s markets and health food stores. Stores selling green products abound, as do all manner of biking, hiking and surfing possibilities. Even though the water is cool in this part of California, surfing is huge here, so on any given day you will see all sorts of people mostly in wet suits (some hale and hardy die-hards still “trunk-it” sans wetsuits…brrr) trying to catch the perfect wave. The beaches – all public access – are huge and beautiful. Dolphin sightings are fairly common so keep your eyes peeled if you are walking along the beach. If you felt so inclined you could walk almost thirty miles on the sand beaches from Capitola to Monterey. But be cautioned – there can be bad fog along the coast especially in the summer months…

While touring the Pacific Avenue part of Santa Cruz, I came upon a flyer in the Eco Goods store advertising an upcoming lecture about “Wifi-Stress”. My friend asked me, “What do you think this means?” I said, “That’s what I have – wifi stress - because I can’t find any darn wifi in California!” However the lack of abundant wifi was not the subject of the lecture, but rather about the potential hazards of electromagnetic fields (EMF) from cell phones and wifi. We proceeded to have a serious conversation about the other form of wifi stress that has to do with our insta-society and kids being glued to their cell phones constantly texting and yacking… making us wonder what the combination of the EMFs and the addiction to technology would bring us in the coming years.

And speaking of my kind of “wifi Stress”, I found relief at Verve, 816 41st Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-475-7776, a sweet coffee and tea café with good! wifi available when you purchase one of their delicious drinks or treats.

The weather was glorious while I was in Santa Cruz, although I was told not entirely normal for this time of year when they should be having more rain. I did not complain. While there are all sorts of great places to frequent in the area, I have listed below some of the places I discovered. Enjoy them if and when you find yourself in the Santa Cruz area.

River Café and Cheese Shop, 415 River Street, Santa Cruz; 831-420-1280. As the name implies, this is a café serving light meals for breakfast, lunch and snacks, as well as selling local delicacies – cheeses, canned local organic pears, apricots and other fruits, fresh breads, local olive oil and more tucked into a tiny space with a larger outdoor dining terrace. If you are a frequent River Café eater, you can purchase their $1,000 CSA-like share for the year so you can have a virtual prepaid charge account while supporting this local endeavor committed to organic, fresh foods.

Chocolate, 1522 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; 831-427-9900;; Open 11am-11pm. A full scale chocolaterie with all manner of chocolate drinks and eats plus delicious, organic, local soups, salads, sandwiches and traditional Mole dishes. Lovely outdoor dining as well as indoor seating.

La Vie, 429 Front Street, Santa Cruz; 831-429-6746;; Open seven days a week. La Vie offers Raw Foods (dairy & gluten-free too), vegan, vegetarian and sustainable seafood as take out and a restaurant.

New Leaf Community Markets are large, full-service natural foods stores that carry a wonderful variety of local products with five stores in the Santa Cruz area –

Way of Life, 1220 A 41st, Ave., Begonia Shopping Plaza, Santa Cruz; 831-464-4113;; Good selection of vitamins, supplements, herbs and homeopathics, as well as gift items, located in the same mini-mall as one of the New Leaf Markets.

Farmer’s Markets -
Think Local First -

You can probably picture the myriad of yoga centers around Santa Cruz, and you would be correct. One such place is the Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine and Chi Center, East Cliff Shopping Center, 21511 East Cliff Drive, Suite B, Santa Cruz; 831-465-9088; The Center offers classes throughout the day of yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi and meditation, as well as a full Integrative Medicine Clinic. I took a delightful yoga class here one morning with Kristin Lansdale as my teacher. She specializes in Yin Yoga, as well as a gentle, restorative yoga, which left me feeling deeply content.

Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; 831-423-0900;; Open 9am-10pm, Fridays and Saturdays until 11pm. A large independent bookstore selling new and used books. Santa Cruz: A Guide for Runners, Joggers and Serious Walkers, Journeyworks Publishing is just one of the thousands of good finds available at the store.

Eco Goods, 1130 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; 831-429-5758;
Purveyor of organic cotton and hemp clothing, bedding, and other eco-products. Look for the notepads and ornaments made out of elephant “poo”.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fab Fresh Food

Here is the tiniest peek at what the fresh, local organic produce looks like at a small Farmer's Market here in Santa Cruz, California----inspiring...

Gluten-Free in California

You have to love the food in California. It really is an oasis of fresh, abundant food. There are at least five local Bay-area brands of Gluten-free foods that make goodies ranging from breads to cakes, brownies and pies, granolas and more: - particularly delicious brownies :) - grainless, gluten and sugar-free bars, granola and crackers

Most of these companies use organic rice flour which is important if you want to minimize your arsenic intake (see blog post Just When You Thought it was Safe to Eat .....Rice.... at:

These brands are readily available in the immediate San Francisco Bay area at health food stores and grocery stores.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I have just spent hours walking along a sandy beach watching surfers in the Santa Cruz area. I am sun-kissed and feel great with sand between my toes. This is supposed to be the rainy season, but global warming is bringing magnificent weather. It is a little more summer for this Vermont girl and I love it. Between this and the other fab things out here like copious organic and fresh food, no rust on the cars, diversity, large areas of protected land, it makes you wonder why everyone wouldn’t move to California, except I have found some reasons.

For one, when you are on a highway, or the “freeway” as they call it out here, you think that possibly everyone HAS moved to California. It is crowded!

A few other issues – fires – a real problem. Fires are burning in Southern California as I write and I visited a friend near Monterey who had fires almost reach his home in the mountains around Carmel. Of course, there are earthquakes. In fact, one house I stayed in had child-proof latches on their kitchen cupboards, but no small children. When I asked why, they said, to keep the dishes from crashing to the floor in an earthquake….hmm.

And the driving, there is plenty of that here, which is what I don’t like in Vermont. How can the United States be so behind in public transportation? Is it just too large a country? It certainly seems that the priority is not there. I have been traveling without a car and it is has been very difficult to get anywhere on public transit that is not a major city.

So here are a few pictures – some of the great and no so great of the California life.

a little bit more Berkeley

The Fourth Street Shopping District is in a corner of the city where upscale, boutique stores flourish and some even have outlet-like offerings. Ironically, amidst the high-end retail stores, a stone’s throw up an alley street, is the SEVA Foundation, dedicated to “selling” gifts of service to help people in need around the globe. Since 1978 SEVA has helped indigenous people with health care and environmental and social justice issues.

The city buses in Berkeley cost $1.75. While the machines take bills, they do not give change, so if you are in a pinch with two dollars, but no change, you can still take the bus, but will have donated .25¢ to the transit authority. As far as I am concerned that is a cheap remedy for the anxiety of trying to find someplace to give you change. FYI – the buses in San Francisco are 1.50 and the same applies, although I was lucky enough to have someone behind me with 1.50 – so I put my 2 dollar bills into the machine – she put her 1 dollar bill and gave me the .50¢ change – an easy solution suggested by the bus driver who must have lots of experience with creative bus fare financing. The BART metro cards are not usable on the buses.

Just a few spots in San Francisco

While the Marketplace in the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco is considered a tourist attraction – it is a rather impressive one. Store-like stalls line the massive, renovated 1898 landmark building and are filled with organic and specialty foods and products. The local chocolatier, Scharffenberger, and Stonehouse Organic Olive Oils are some of the delicacies available. Farm Fresh to You is a deli and gourmet food store full of local and organic foods.

Farther down the waterfront at Pier 39 you can hear and see the Sea Lions sunbathing on the docks. The Sea Lions chose the docks as a favorite hang out after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Today hundreds choose Pier 39 as their “home”. The sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Marine Mammal Center, a non-profit organization, rescues and rehabilitates injured marine mammals. They have an information center and shop at Pier 39.

The ruins of the Sutro Baths are a fun place to visit in the city and then you can head out along the beaches and parks for walking or biking. Once a bathhouse in the tradition of European Thalassotherapy (seawater) spas, the Sutro Bathhouse now looks more like a Roman ruin with nothing but cement and rock foundations by the crashing ocean. The site is now under the auspices of the National Park Service.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Bounty in Berkeley

It will come as no great surprise that Berkeley, California has some great spots to eat and explore. Having left a grey and frosty Vermont a week ago, I am thrilled to find palm trees, deep purple flowers and green grass here in sunny, balmy California. After walking through some residential neighborhoods, I found on one of the main avenues, La Note Restaurant Provencal, with a promising menu. I had the special, “Rustique Au Saumon” which was an open face sandwich on fresh, herbed levain bread (yes I broke my gluten-free diet for this incredible meal). One half had goat cheese with a pile of smoked salmon and grated onions with capers, the other half also had goat cheese, but with three slices of roasted, fresh tomatoes and garlic, all served with a side of fresh, mixed salad greens. All I can say is, c’est magnifique! Hmm, was that good! My neighbor got a classic French bowl of a divine smelling latté, which was very tempting, but I stuck to my caffeine-free mode.

After walking around for another hour, I stopped in at Herbivore, and my waiter, Gaston, was a delight. It was warm enough for me to sit at one of the outside café tables and drink my vegan smoothie and indulge in a slice of berry pie. When in Rome do as the Romans, so I had them add spirulina to my fruit packed drink adding a little virtue to the affair.

At Pegasus Books selling new, used and remainder books, I picked up the EcoMetro Guide for $20. Most of this thick guide is filled with coupons to local eco-minded stores in the Berkeley-Oakland area, including a 20% discount at Pegasus Books! The first fifty-six pages of the guide offer tips about reducing your carbon footprint with handy area maps of local eco-stores, the days, times and locations of the local farmer’s markets, and public transportation information and coupons. While not comprehensive, the EcoMetro Guide is a great tool in helping to discover all the green possibilities in the area. The coupon section is extensive, and the coupons are pretty generous so you can quickly recoup some of the $20 cost of the book.

Whole Foods super markets are plentiful in the area and there is one in Berkeley at 3000 Telegraph Avenue, a bit south of the main drag. The local health food superstore, around since 1977, is the Berkeley Bowl, so named because it is housed in a former bowling alley. It is a massive store lined with aisles of natural and regular foods and a fairly extensive bulk section. For organic dried mango lovers, buy your supply at the Berkeley Bowl as I have found the Whole Foods variety to be lacking in taste. Elephant Pharm, a full service pharmacy selling natural as well as allopathic remedies also carries a variety of natural foods, green cleaning products and gift items.

There are groovy café’s and restaurants galore including the famous Chez Panisse, whose founder and chef Alice Waters was at the forefront of the slow and whole foods movements; Venus restaurant serving slow, organic meats, seafood, grains and vegetables; Cafe Gratitude, The Café Muse at the UCBerkeley Art Museum, Raw Energy Juice Café, and countless others dot the city serving up organic and local foods. The Bread Workshop on the corner of University and Acton streets is just that – a bakery and eatery with something unexpectedly rare in Berkeley, free wifi. Here you can watch them bake while you eat - the fresh bread smell is intoxicating. And for dessert or a late night treat, the Gelateria Naia is really not to be missed. They offer delicious gelatos made from local ingredients and serve traditional dairy based flavors, as well as sixteen dairy-free flavors, four of which are soy–based and the remaining twelve are fruit sorbets. Chocolate lovers take note - the Scharffenberger soy-based gelato is heavenly!

The other eating boon in Berkeley is the wide variety of ethnic options, from Turkish, Brazilian, Thai, Mexican, Salvadoran, Ethiopian, and more. Suffice it to say that you will not go hungry or get bored of eating in Berkeley!

In addition to an abundance of organic and healthy places to eat, second-hand clothes and books are fairly plentiful. Out of the Closet is a chain of thrift stores that has supported HIV/AIDS health care since 1990. Goodwill is up University Avenue (#2058) just west of Shattuck Avenue and the Salvation Army is also on University (#1824). Serendipity Books, selling used and rare books, is farther west on University Avenue by Chestnut Street. Consignment stores are profuse as well. The Crossroads Exchange is a chain of consignment stores throughout CA ( with a large store at 2338 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, and there is also the Buffalo Exchange (

There is a large interest in Buddhist and Tibetan philosophies in Berkeley, and there are close to two thousand Tibetans living in the area. The Tibetan Nyingma Institute has public programs on Sundays. There is a Tibet Justice Center, countless, small boutiques and gift shops selling Tibetan goods, and the BCA (Buddhist Churches of America) Bookstore at the new Jodo Shinshu Center selling a range of books on Buddhism. Om Treasures in the heart of things on Shattuck Avenue (#2278) is crammed full of Tibetan and Himalayan goodies and a sweet Tibetan man runs the store. The Asian Museum in San Francisco has an impressive collection of Buddhist artifacts from all over Asia.

Berkeley is a happening place – enjoy it if you get here.

La Note Restaurant Provencal, 2377 Shattuck Ave. (near Channing Way), Berkeley, 510-843-1535;

Herbivore, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste Street), Berkeley, 510-665-1675; (Herbivore also has two locations in San Francisco)

Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510-548-5525

Raw Energy Organic Juice Café, 2050 Addison Street (by Shattuck Ave), 510-665-9464

Venus Restaurant, 2327 Shattuck, 510-540-5950

Gelateria Naia, Shattuck Ave.; (locations in San Francisco and Walnut Creek also)

Café Muse, 2625 Durant Ave, Berkeley; 510-548-4366;
Berkeley Bowl Marketplace, 2020 Oregon Street (by Shattuck Avenue); 510-843-6929;

Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Avenue (at Cedar Street), Berkeley; 510-549-9200; (two other locations as well)

Bread Workshop, 1398 University Avenue, Berkeley; 510-649-9740;

Out of the Closet, 1600 University Avenue (at California Street), Berkeley (they have stores throughout California)

BCA Bookstore, 2140 Durant Avenue, Berkeley; 510-809-1435;

Serendipity Books, 1201 University Avenue, Berkeley; 510-841-7455;

Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, 510-649-1320; (Pegasus has another location in Berkeley and one in Oakland)

Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Place, Berkeley; 510-809-1000;

EcoMetro Guide –

The free East Bay Natural Pages is a semi-annual guide available at many stores –

The Beauty of Wind Power

Here are some beautiful wind power sites - these were off the highway in Nebraska and the demo "fre" mill was in a park in Cheyenne Wyoming.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trying to Eat on Interstate 80

Driving across the United States on Interstate 80, a predominantly trucking route, is a challenge for anyone interested in eating remotely healthily. The mission was to get a car and dog from Vermont to Truckee, California. I-80 is not only direct, but happens to run right through Truckee, hence the choice of routes.

My original plan was to sort of hop from one Whole Foods to the next, thinking that these would be the most accessible natural foods stores. If we had timed our travel days slightly differently, we might have been able to do just that. There is a Whole Foods in University Heights near Cleveland, Ohio, another in Omaha, Nebraska, two or three in Salt Lake City, Utah, and another in Reno, Nevada. However, between the dog and our driving patterns we seemed to miss all of these except the one in Salt Lake.

Instead we found a nice health food store in Erie, Pennsylvania interestingly enough called Whole Foods Cooperative Market, but not part of the chain. It is a full service, local natural foods store. Our next food stop was a day later in Des Moines, Iowa at the New City Market, another lovely full service market in a residential area. Here we got the best, fresh green beans I have possibly ever eaten – sweet, crunchy and delicious. We bemoaned getting only one bag of them the next two days of driving.

Cheyenne, Wyoming was our next food stop and what we found was It’s Only Natural, tucked in a strip of large malls, The store had a large gluten-free selection and supplement section, but other than that was quite sparse and not terribly friendly. I couldn’t discern if that was the shopkeeper’s temperament or as a result of my Obama pin attached to my purse. We persevered and found a cute little juice and wrap bar on one of the funky downtown streets of Cheyenne called Rubyjuice, where we had hot soup and wraps. While the place was great, we could have waited until Laramie, not that far up the highway, since Laramie is a University town (always the best towns to stop in as they have the most variety and usually at least one health food store), where we could have stockpiled some food. Indeed, Laramie, Wyoming has two health food stores: Medicine Bow Health Foods and Whole Earth Grainery.

Between Laramie and Salt Lake City Utah there is really nothing in the way of health food stores or restaurants… well for that matter that there isn’t much in the way of anything but wide, open land. The same is true between Salt Lake and Reno – vast salt flats and then a whole lot of sagebrush, so be prepared if you drive the route and stock up on food and water.

As far as places to stretch your legs, we found a magnificent state park in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Presque Isle Park has miles of bike and walking paths along Lake Erie and on the other side of the peninsula miles of sand beaches – well worth an hour or more detour for the experience. In Cheyenne, Wyoming we happened upon a sweet little botanical garden within a park. The plants were dormant this time of year, but you could picture the flowers in their glory during the warmer months. Interspersed on the paths and in the beds were memorial blocks with wonderful quotes.

While we only saw them from the car window, there were what seemed like hundreds of windmills in Nebraska – good thing as the wind was howling away.

Once in Truckee, the final destination for the car, dog and dog owner, I made my way by my favorite form of transport – the train - to San Francisco. This is an experience not to be missed by train lovers and history buffs. The double-decker train, which originates in Chicago, climbs slowly after leaving the Truckee train stop up and through the Donner Pass. The train takes longer than by car, but is different route as the train is far higher than the highway, which you can look down on at certain intervals in the trip. There are magnificent views, and Amtrak provides a guide offering historical tidbits and trivia over the loudspeaker system. The train, called the California Zephyr, runs once daily between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area, a two day trip if you ride the whole route.

Needless to say, once you get to the Bay area of California, finding health food restaurants and stores is no longer a problem as they seem to be at almost every turn.

Erie, PA: Whole Foods Coop Market, 1341 W. 26th Street; 814-456-0282;

Des Moines, IA: New City Market, 4721 University Ave; 515-255-7380

Cheyenne, WY: Rubyjuice, 113 East 17th Street, 634-3022 – soups, salads, wraps, smoothies, fresh juices

Truckee, CA: Truckee is just north of Lake Tahoe, and has a renovated historic downtown area with stores and various historical buildings. One of which includes a “Rocking Stone”, one of twenty-five such stones known in the world. Native Americans used the 17-ton stone for ceremonies and for preserving food.
Outside of downtown Truckee you will find The Cedar House sport hotel, built with environmental standards using natural materials, energy efficiency, and natural fiber bedding. Food served is from local and organic sources. The Cedar House, 10918 Brockway Road, Truckee, CA; 866-582-5655;

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Healthy Drink on the Road

When I travel I am always on the look out for a refreshing drink that doesn’t make me drowsy (from too much sugar), but also isn’t super-hyped with caffeine. As my son likes to tell me, “Mom, you can’t hold your caffeine.” This is very true. I am a lightweight when it comes to caffeine. If I drink a decaf coffee after dinner (which I am only tempted to do when I am dining out, which is more often when I am traveling) I will be awake until 5 in the morning. So I must forfeit, having learned from harsh experience - such is the sad life of a decaf-cappuccino deprived, late-night diner.

Some kind of herbal tea is all that I can substitute for my post-dinner café, but while I am on the road, or walking through cities, I have found the perfect beverage for reviving me sans sugar and caffeine.

Brain Toniq is made with carbonated water, organic Agave nectar, and five "super" nutrients: Choline, Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng), Rodiola Rosea, DMAE, and Blue-Green Algae. Personally I find Agave nectar, touted as being low-glycemic, to be true to its word. I do not get the sugar-grogg with Agave, but it satisfies the taste buds. You might think that with the list of ingredients that Brain Toniq would taste tres-revolting, but on the contrary, it is delicious and refreshing.

Brain Toniq is available on the web or at health food stores around the country, although presently not in Vermont or New Hampshire -- I discovered it while traveling.

Brain Toniq -