Spargelzeit

Spargelzeit, Germany’s annual homage to all things asparagus, is one of the greatest food crazes around the world. Although the average green variety is available all year round, Germans prefer the seasonal white variety, or “white gold,” grown only between mid-April and June 24th. The end date, the Christian celebration of the nativity of John the Baptist, is harsh and nonnegotiable, spurring residents to double down on consumption while they can.

Paying tribute to the tender young stalks, there are asparagus peeling contests, festivals, road side asparagus booths, beauty pageants, farm tours, asparagus seminars and of course, cooking classes. Traditional preparations are very plain, the most popular of which being butter-poach asparagus with a heavy cloak of hollandaise sauce. For such a versatile vegetable, though, this is just the start.

Last year, I had the great fortune of experiencing spargelzeit firsthand, traveling to Beelitz, which is also known as Spargelstadt (asparagus city.) Producing the most highly regarded spargel in all the land, they also lay claim to an asparagus museum and dedicated asparagus restaurants. It was back in Berlin, however, that I really got my fill.

On one fateful crisp spring evening, a small crowd assembled in Goldhahn & Sampson around closing time. We weren’t there to flip through cookbooks or ogle truffle oil, though. Donning aprons as the front lights dimmed, we set our sights upon countless bundles of asparagus, fat and thin, green and white, fresh as can be.

Nothing was lost in translation when cooking with Boris Lauser, despite mild language barriers. Best known for his work in the realm of gourmet raw food, this unique culinary background inspires a more creative approach to cooking, incorporating elements of juicing and dehydrating right alongside conventional baking and sauteing.

Lining up hit after hit on the menu, we quickly got to work breaking down a small fortune of “white gold” for the luxurious veloute. Warm, but still raw soup enriched with cashews contrasted sharply with an unexpected dollop of sweet yet tart rhubarb compote. By equal turns soothing and invigorating, it was unlike any take on asparagus I had tasted yet. Lavished with a sprinkle of truffle oil, it hardly needed such an extravagant finishing touch… But I can’t say it detracted from the experience, by the same token.

Bacon-wrapped asparagus is exceptionally popular even among the pickiest omnivore, and I have a feeling that they would be just as smitten with Boris’ imaginative plant-based twist. Eggplant, sliced into paper-thin sheets, takes on a crisp, smoky character after a few hours of slow, steady dehydration. Topping shaved, raw spears of the verdant green vegetable, it’s the kind of dish that could feed either a dozen, or just one, if you don’t pay close attention to portioning. It’s compulsively snackable, especially with the potato chip-like crunch of that eggplant.

Relinquishing the spotlight temporarily to another vegetative star, zucchini schitzel took shape in a blazing hot cast iron pan, encrusted in breadcrumbs.

Pumpkin gnocchi, served alongside a shock of green pesto sauce, come together with a secret ingredient not typically found in the pedestrian potato variety: psyllium husk! Lending a surprising chew, they’re a bit denser and more like dumplings, but quite satisfying all the same.

The dish I was most excited for, an idea so crazy that it just might work, turned out to be a slight disappointment, but not based upon the actual eating experience. Listed as “asparagus panna cotta,” I was slightly let down to discover that it was merely a typo on the agenda. It was, in fact, a simple almond-based custard topped by fresh berries, cacao nibs, and almonds, not a stalk in sight. While it was perhaps a better complement for the overall meal, I can’t help but wonder what an asparagus dessert might taste like… But some things, like asparagus liqueur and asparagus jelly molds, are better off left untasted.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like another trip to Germany will be in the cards for this particular spargelzeit, but I fully plan on celebrating the season at home. Raw or cooked, there’s no wrong way to enjoy asparagus.

Wie isst du gerne deinen Spargel? (How do you like to eat asparagus?)

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One in a Trillion

There’s no stopping culinary creativity, even during a pandemic. Innovative eateries are still opening up everyday, ranging from low-cost to high-brow, but the latest wave all have something in common: They share the same dining room. Your own home dinner table is now ready to host! Meal delivery services are the new restaurant experience, filling the gap for those who love food but may not be as wild about all the labor- or dishes- involved. Another uniting, but less palatable factor, is that none of these options take specific health needs into consideration.

WeTheTrillions takes an entirely different approach. So named for the trillions of cells, bacteria, and other living beings that make up our microbiomes, the goal isn’t just to feed, but to nourish and flourish.

Using plant-based foods as tools to address specific conditions and wellness goals, these bespoke meals offer powerful nutrition in genuinely delicious packages. A quick quiz helps determine which menu is best suited for your situation, but it’s not all anonymous algorithms guiding the way. A real, live person (!) reviews the results, following up with additional questions about your health history. The goal is to design a menu that you’re guaranteed to love, with real, tangible benefits. Some of the programs deal with tackling diabetes, menopause, IBS, PCOS, Endometriosis, fertility, anemia, and more, customized to your tastes.

Okay, but what about the fun stuff: The FOOD? If you’ve been around the Bay Area long enough, you may recognize some of the edible offerings from the now defunct leCupboard. Living up to that memory, if not exceeding it, these dishes are simply delicious, crafted for flavors without compromise. In fact, downtown workers have been eating it up before thinking about the nutritional implications. There’s a literal hole in the wall, down a small alley in the Financial District, where you can purchase grab-and-go meals a la carte.

Landing right at your doorstep on demand, delivery is clearly the way to go for the majority of those hungry for a change. Packages arrive absent of fanfare in plain cardboard boxes, focused on the inner contents rather than exterior appearances. Personalized touches distinguish every aspect of the service, setting it a world apart from other companies claiming to put their clients first. Handwritten tags label every glass jar, packed by people, rather than shrink-wrapping machines.

If you’re so fortunate as to pay a visit, appropriately socially distanced in person or virtually, at home, may I recommend The Madrid? Designed with the mushroom-lover in mind, slow roasted shiitake and cremini tumble together in a tangle of zucchini noodles, coated in impeccably fresh, slightly spicy walnut pesto. This was a favorite back in the day, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be reunited at last.

Exploring deeper into unknown territory, while The Tangiers Stew isn’t one I was familiar with from previous visits to the brick-and-mortar establishment, it would have easily made my hit list for repeat orders. In fact, it was so good, I willfully flaunted reheating instructions to eat it chilled, straight out of the container! Mercifully, for hot days ahead and blisteringly busy schedules, everything included is fully cooked and ready to eat. Sauced and spiced zucchini dazzles with the ginger-lemon sauce saturating every cell, perched atop a bed of toothsome black forbidden rice. Slivered, toasted almonds remain as crisp as can be, lending a resounding crunch to the harmonious ensemble.

Translucent kelp noodles from The Ha Long Bay glisten in the sunshine, glowing with the golden hue of simmered carrots and parsley pistou. Wok this way (or just sautée) for a Vietnamese-inspired twist on New American Cuisine, drawing inspiration from the tenets of the raw food movement. Kelp noodles, made without flour or starch, are a rare find on any menu. Their unique texture is an ideal blank canvas for such an innovative palate of spices and herbs. Tender mushrooms and zucchini are woven between strands, playing umami chords for a completely symphonic eating experience.

Struggling to get down enough greens is a constant challenge even in the best of times, let alone given difficulty accessing enough fresh produce en masse. Gulp down a few sips of Cancun Juice to win this battle with ease. Swampy green from spirulina, thick as a blended smoothie, the taste is pure pineapple refreshment despite the intimidating appearance.

Appeasing the sweet tooth, breakfasts and desserts seemed interchangeable to me, as it should be when only natural, nutrient-dense sweeteners are involved. The Barcelona, a berry and hemp parfait, stacks up layers of creamy custard and fresh strawberries, that actually retain their textural integrity. It’s a small but noteworthy element; you’ll never find that in a frozen meal solution. Meanwhile, The Nancy is aptly named only because I continuously transpose the letters to call it The Fancy. A coconut base bursting with roasted blueberries, pistachios, and flax seed crumble would be right at home in any high-end hipster enclave. A bit simpler but no less impressive is The Manchester, flawlessly smooth and creamy, a strawberry pot-de-creme made possible only with flawless fruit as the foundation. While the The Bordeaux Chocolate Mousse was most clearly intended for an after dinner treat, but the fact that it’s made up dates and yams suggests that it’s an equally suitable morning starter. Chocoholics, rejoice; you can indulge in all the cocoa goodness your heart desires, deep and rich and silky, without any regrets later in the day. These tiny but mighty little jars contain the fuel to start out strong and end up satisfied.

Of course, any decent diet must include snacks, and the midday morsels included here don’t disappoint. The Marrakesh Jewels take two juicy, soft Medjool dates and stuff them to the brim with pistachio praline and cashew lemon chia, respectively. If hunger begins to nag like a petulant child between meals, a little bit goes a long way with these potent bites.
Genuine cookie monsters can find a more conventional pastry replacement in The Istanbul Cookie, a tahini-rye chocolate chip cookie that boasts an impressive 80% of your iron requirements per day. You’d never know it based on flavor, which is evocative of pure childhood comfort, hold the butter and eggs.

WeTheTrillions invites you to embrace your cravings. Acknowledging that “clean eating” is a misguided fallacy, the ultimate goal is to satisfy the need for comfort food without sacrificing wellness, or sanity, for that matter. Flavor is the foundation of what makes a healthful meal.

This is one establishment you’ll never regret visiting. Give it a try, make it a routine, and throw away your other takeout menus. This one has genuine staying power.

Get 10% off your order with the code HANNAH10, today!

This review was made possible as a collaboration with WeTheTrillions. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Dine Out at Home

Jamaican – Brown stew jackfruit, curry, rice and peas, calaloo, hot sauce, and sorrel

Separated by physical distance, against all odds, communities have drawn closer together in the face of extreme adversity. This is how we survive; together, collectively, this is how we win.

Early Spring – Stewed red lentils with berbere, roasted beets with poppyseed dressing, rice pilaf, and potato chowder

Deftly shifting gears from in-person dinner events and cooking lessons, chef Philip Gelb of Sound & Savor began offering takeout and delivery without missing a beat. Now those same world-class meals arrive direct to diners’ doors, with new menus offered twice a week. Critics are raving not just about the food, but the service itself. At a time when the world is shutting down, the fact that such a service can continue without any perceptible decline in quality is a testament to the chef himself.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, hot and sour soup, kung pao cauliflower, garlic choy sum, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chili oil

Generous donors have gone above and beyond the order form to afford those less fortunate with free meals, too, myself now included. Just being able to mark the calendar with the event, looking forward to this gift, has given me a reason endure another interminable, grueling week.⁣

Ital – Roots soup, rice and peas, jerk cauliflower, stewed black eyed peas, sorrel, and oatmeal cookies


Receiving a warm bundle of homemade of Jamaican jerk cauliflower, or fiery Sichuan mapo tofu, or Ital coconut stew is absolutely life-affirming. Nothing lifts the spirits like a staycation in a spoon. Tasting the world without leaving home is a true luxury, especially when you may or may not even find plain dry rice on grocery store shelves.

Cantonese – Tofu with choy sum soup, black bean asparagus, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chocolate chip cookies

No matter the culinary destination, it’s impossible to go wrong with Phil’s food. Pitch-perfect every time, for a comforting dinner at home, with all the finesse of a chef’s touch.



Indian-Jamaican Fusion – Roasted asparagus with cumin, dal, stewed jackfruit, rice and peas, and oatmeal cookies

Fresh menus are posted regularly on Facebook. Don’t check DoorDash or UberEats or GrubHub or whathaveyou; it’s one-stop shopping with dedicated, unaffiliated delivery to Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Danville Alamo. Send Phil an email to give yourself, someone you love, or someone that’s struggling the same delicious gift today.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon and lotus roots

Supersize My Citrus

Almost 50 years ago, it was the illustrator B. Kliban that published a cartoon depicting a man being served an outlandish platter of nondescript, indecipherable mound of food. “Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head,” proclaimed the caption- rather flatly for a humorist, I might add. While that’s generally sound wisdom, especially when presented with a garbage heap of questionable edibles, there’s an exception to every rule. In this case, that exception goes by the name of pomelo.

If you’ve seen these supersized citrus before, you’d know they can grow to monstrous proportions. The average weight is somewhere between two to four pounds each, with particularly robust specimens tipping the scales at ten to twelve pounds, all told.

Don’t let their daunting size deter you. Beneath that thick rind, neatly sealed away in pockets of thin membrane, lie juicy segments that combine all the best best aspects of grapefruit flavor. Bright, floral, acidic yet somehow lacking that characteristically bitter, mouth-puckering sour taste. While they can be treated just like more common lemons and limes to make vinaigrette, marinades, lemonade, and more, their distinctive texture lends them to preparations that utilize the full flesh, rather than just the juice.

Segments separate easily into networks of pods that bear droplets of the sweet, tangy liquid. They’re firm enough to mix into salads while maintaining their structure, which is the most common way pomelos appear in Southeast Asia, where they thrive. In this case, though, they form the base of one salsa that melds all five tastes, to balance perfectly on one chip. Sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory, there’s no prepared mixture that even comes close.

Pomelo salsa is a prime appetizer to serve with tortilla chips of course, but its full potential goes way beyond the first course. Use it to top tacos, stuff burritos, or complement any range of grilled meatless proteins for a quick, satisfying meal.

Were he still around today, I would challenge Mr. Kilban to reevaluate his statement after trying these oversized fruits.

Continue reading “Supersize My Citrus”