As you know I’m a Bay Area gal and I live on the Oakland-Berkeley border. The area is most well known as home to the UC campus and its rather significant population of professional protestors, hippies, and homeless [See Jon Stewart’s clip on Code Pink]. However, in reality, it’s not that bad. Sure you’ll run into some crazies and be asked for money on most days, but B-town and neighboring Oakland has an awesome amount of culture and variety, which can keep you honest and on your toes as long as you don’t get sucked into a tree sitting vortex.
With all this variety, the food scene here is top notch. While we have San Francisco just across the bridge the East Bay certainly holds its own in the culinary world (See Alice Waters, The Local Butcher, Alegio Chocolate, etc). We’re also growing by the day as the city slickers move over to our side since
1) Rent is cheaper
2) Chef’s are figuring out that not all the East Bay folk want to trek out to the city every weekend if they don’t have to (LAZINESS FTW!)
But the real epicurean gem in this here parts is Berkeley Bowl. I’ve never seen a more impressive and reasonable (whooo!) array of produce, meats, bulk foods, prepared foods, spices, etc. in a single place. Whole Foods has nice stuff and all, but it’s called “Whole Paycheck” for a reason. In addition to the stunning array of veggies that Berkeley Bowl has on a daily basis they also have the Bargain Bin.
Now the Bargain Bin is the most magical place ever. I try my best to live out of the darn thing. All the produce that is getting to the end of its prime gets bundled up and placed in the bargain bin at sub-dollar prices. Now the Berkeley Bowl standard for “end of it’s prime” often passes as Safeway’s normal stuff. Some of it is a tad soft or fuzzy, but with a little elbow grease you can just pick out the nasties and you have just fine produce.
I’ve had several shopping trips where I easily can get 90% of the produce I need for the week in the bargain bin. Whenever this happens I spam people with images of my grocery cart haul, while they are likely doing important things at work.
Obviously, I don’t always get to pick what I’m getting because it’s where all the randoms end up, but this is great because it forces me to come up with new recipes and it keeps the meals a changing. Variety is the spice of life! The bargain bin is my version of other people’s produce boxes from CSA’s or only eating seasonally, which in California is more or less a foreign concept : )
Great food always comes out of the bargain bin such as
any tomato recipe , random attempts at paleo banana breads, or smoothies.
And that is my story on the Bargain Bin at Berkeley Bowl. It really is the most magical place on earth.
If you’re in the area go check it out, because the Bargain Bin is always filled with winning and really who doesn’t like winning?