Posts filed under ‘Organic Eats’

Are You A Coffee Addict? Get Ready to Take the Puerh Challenge

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Love the wake-me-up aroma of coffee but hate the caffeine jitters?  We’ve all heard that green tea is a gentler, energy-boosting substitute, but sometimes you just need something a little stronger.  Though I do treat myself to an organic Bluebottle mocha as a Monday morning treat, I’ve found a wonderful alternative to coffee for the remainder of the week – Numi’s Puerh tea blends.

Puerh, which is an ancient fermented tea touted for its healing properties, contains 32 percent more antioxidants than green tea and has a richer, malty flavor that will satisfy coffee-craving taste buds.  Numi’s organic Puerh leaves come from wild-harvested tea trees that are up to 500 years old, and are fermented for 60 days (though, according to Numi, Puerh can also be compressed into bricks and aged, like fine wine, for months, years or even decades). Add in the fact that Puerh’s caffeine punch reportedly lowers cholesterol and normalizes metabolism, and you’ve got a tasty beverage that promotes overall wellbeing.

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I had the chance to sample the Chocolate Puerh at Numi’s tasting room in Oakland and the smell was intoxicating and unique.  However, for a more day-to-day tea, I ended up purchasing the organic Magnolia Puerh, which I highly recommend.  While still rich in flavor, the taste is smoother and balanced – and I can drink multiple cups a day without feeling like I’ve had too much.  An additional perk: each tea bag can be brewed up to five times.

For diehard coffee drinkers, Numi has created “The Two-Week Pu-erh Challenge.”  The gist?  Switch your daily mug of java to a cup of Puerh for two weeks and see how you feel.   I have a hunch you’ll be pleased with the results…and the absence of coffee breath.

Want to learn more about Numi? Check out my recent article on the company’s impressive sustainable and fair-trade business model.

April 13, 2011 at 4:24 am Leave a comment

Local Company Numi is a Greenista’s Cup of Tea

Who would’ve thought a calming oasis exists right off a busy freeway in Oakland. Amidst warehouses and concrete buildings lie the headquarters and tasting room of local tea company Numi. Founded in 1999 and run by brother-and-sister duo Ahmed and Reem, the inspiration for Numi was driven by their passion for tea, which included fond memories of a cultural tradition of drinking a dry desert lime tea as children, and the need to tap into their creative spirits.   From the unique mixtures (green tea and brown rice, black tea and vanilla) to the artwork for the packaging (Ahmed takes pictures that Reem transforms into art), the homegrown business is leaving its mark on the tea scene.

From a photo concept to artwork to the final packaging

Housed in a former cotton mill with intact caverns still winding their way underground, the company is one of the top three importers of fair-trade product in North America.  With tea leaves coming from all over – Rooibos from Africa, Puerh from China and Chamomile from Egypt, to name a few – Numi’s conscientious business model not only brings quality, organic tea to customers, but also ensures that tea farmers are paid a livable wage 30-40% higher than what they receive from tea traders.

Numi’s twist on the triple bottom line objective – People, Planet and Pure Tea – isn’t fancy green marketing speak.  It’s real, and one of the best examples of a sustainable business I’ve come across.  Numi sources organic, fair-trade tea leaves that are of the highest quality, which is possible as the quality control department visits suppliers frequently.  Since the company doesn’t do business with traders, there’s no guessing game as to where the product comes from.   Numi knows it has the coveted leaves and buds in its tea bags.

Ahmed and Reem, Courtesy of

It doesn’t stop there.  Numi also does not use any oils or flavorings in its product lines.  I didn’t even know this was a common practice until I checked the ingredients of the mainstream tea I had lying around.  Sure enough, there were natural flavors, oils and even dyes listed on the package.  That tea was promptly composted.

Numi’s green consciousness also extends to its packaging (100% recycled material, soy ink-based, no cellulose plastic – it’s even GMO-free) and its support of local communitea organizations.  If you haven’t guessed by now, this company is undoubtedly my cup of tea.  I’ll be posting a review of my favorite Numi teas later in the week, so get ready to start brewing!

April 8, 2011 at 1:01 am 1 comment Deals for the Eco-Minded

Image Courtesy of Shopsland

Deal sites like Groupon and Living Social are great for exploring your city on a budget.  We’ve signed up for everything from photography classes to buying a mini-freezer’s worth of Let’s Be Frank hotdogs. Occasionally we’ve even come across an organic spa deal or a natural foods grocery store discount – but they alone weren’t enough to satisfy our green needs. We secretly hoped for a deals site that took into account our pocketbooks along with people and the planet.

Well, two gradates from the University of Southern California must have heard our prayers., which defines itself as “the hatchery for responsible shopping,” is the perfect deal site alternative for the Greenista crowd. With offers that let you save up to 80 percent on three deals per week (sent via email, like the other popular sites), you can indulge in organic chocolate or buy sunglasses for a cause with the knowledge that your purchase is supporting an environmentally and socially-responsible enterprise.  In addition, 1 percent of everything purchased on is donated to the nonprofit of your choice.

One of Greenista Girl Sasha’s favorite purchases from was…

Click here to read the rest of my guest post on

February 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm Leave a comment

Eco Inspirations: Greenista Chat with Sue Conley

If you a have a bottle of biodymanic vino lying around, grab it!  It’ll pair nicely with the final guest in my Greenista chat series: Sue Conley, co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery –a Point Reyes-based company that makes delicious artisan cheese.

Sue is a restaurateur-turned-cheesemaker.  She opened the successful diner Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley in 1982 with her husband, and co-authored a cookbook featuring the restaurant’s menu. Eleven years later she decided to make the switch from pancakes to cheese.  She relocated to Point Reyes and started Cowgirl Creamery, which now has two stands in the San Francisco Ferry Building (I stop by frequently for their tasty and unique breakfast sandwiches) and sells a selection of their signature cheeses to Whole Foods and other Bay Area gourmet spots.  If you haven’t tried Cowgirl Creamery, you must!  It is the ultimate treat (their Mt. Tam cheese is a frequent indulgence in my household).

So whether you’re vying to be a small food producer or are curious about the life of a cheesemaker, read on for Sue’s insight into cooking up your own business.

What inspired you to start Cowgirl Creamery?  Have you always had a passion for cheese?

I have a passion for small food businesses, cooking and farmland preservation.  Cheese is the best vehicle for bringing these things together.

How would you describe the mission (or higher purpose) of Cowgirl Creamery?

Cowgirl Creamery is committed to the production, sale and distribution of artisan and farmstead cheese.  The higher purpose is to help small producers, including ourselves, survive and thrive in the marketplace.  This will help support small farms, which will help preserve agricultural lands in perpetuity.

In business, it’s important to find and nurture strong alliances and relationships.  How did you meet your business partner Peggy Smith and what is your team dynamic like?

Peggy and I met in college.  Our division of labor/responsibility is divided in the following way: Peggy is in charge of wholesale and retail sales, and is our de-facto COO.  I am in charge of production and marketing, and am the de-facto CEO.  One of my friends once described me as the “gas pedal” and Peggy as “the brakes.”

Starting a business, especially a food-related business, is hard.  What obstacles and challenges have you met and overcome?

Financing and compliance with permits and regulations have been our two biggest challenges.  We have financed this business with our own money, loans from friends, and family and bank loans.  Last year we took in equity money from individuals.

We have also developed good relationships with government officials and have used our county representatives and UC Davis Ag advisors as resources, along with non-profits including the American Cheese Society and the California Artisan Cheese Guild.

After you initially came up with the idea of Cowgirl Creamery, how long was it until you began producing and selling your cheese?

Three years…due to delays in bank financing and county permitting.

Now that you’ve seen tremendous growth, have the production methods and sourcing of ingredients for your cheese changed?  If so, how have they changed?

Not too much.  We built a new creamery in Petaluma that is closer to good roads and affordable housing.  The new creamery has larger vats and they are elevated, so we don’t have to lift the curds out of the vat and into the forms, but instead they flow with the help of gravity into the forms.  This saves backs, but the process is exactly the same as in our original creamery in Point Reyes.

Though we have slowly grown over the years, we are still a very small producer of artisan cheese.  We make approximately 1,000 pounds of cheese per day.  The largest commodity cheesemaker in America, Hillmar, produces 1 million pounds of cheese per day.

Your cheese is now sold all throughout San Francisco – at Whole Foods and even at my local bakery Arizmendi.  How many stores do you currently have contracts with?

We have no contracts with stores.  We sell to approximately 500 restaurants and 300 retail stores, primarily in the SF Bay Area.  The average value of a delivery is $100.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I work in Petaluma on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Point Reyes on Mondays and Wednesdays and San Francisco on Fridays and Saturdays. Once per quarter I travel to Washington DC to check on our store there.  My day usually entails 4 hours on my computer, 2 hours in meetings and 2 hours on marketing projects.  I also serve on the board of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and the Sonoma County Agriculture and Open Space District.

Why is it important to source locally and how do you choose your suppliers?

It is important for quality control and consistency in supply.   It’s all about forging long, trusting relationships that are mutually beneficial.  We are distributors and producers of artisan cheese.  The other artisan cheese that we sell is sourced primarily from the US (80%) and 20% from small producers in Europe…Global/Local.  We know our dairies and our cheesemakers.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking to start their own artisanal food company?

Be prepared to work hard for small margins.  There will be a big return in satisfaction for a product that is delicious and well made.

February 1, 2011 at 3:51 am Leave a comment

Not Your Typical Holiday Fruitcake

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Holiday traditions are important (and fun) markers of the season.  Whether long-established or recently conceived, pick an activity that you can joyfully call your own.  Make vibrant wreaths or sew a quilt for the local homeless shelter – the options are endless!

This year, I decided to take a page out of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” and try my hand at baking delicious fruitcakes for our family’s Christmas Day luncheon.  The store-bought versions with their strange neon-colored fruit bits have never appealed to me, so I was excited to come across this fabulous homemade recipe from the Beekman Boys (Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge).  Substituting as many organic ingredients as I could, my two fruitcakes are currently “finishing,” which is essentially leaving them alone at room temperature for a few days so the dough becomes moist from the rum-soaked fruit.

It’s not too late to bake your own organic fruitcake for the holidays.  Finishing can be anywhere from 1-3 days, so soak your fruit tonight, bake tomorrow morning and be ready to serve for Christmas dinner on Saturday – or save it for New Year’s festivities.  Bon appetit and happy holidays!

December 23, 2010 at 11:38 pm Leave a comment

Local Buzz: Beekind Opens Shop at the Ferry Building

The latest buzz at the Ferry Building is the opening of Beekind, an outpost of the Sebastopol-based honey operation that sells natural, raw and pesticide-free products.  Officially open today, the stand offers a selection of honey sourced locally from eco-conscious beekeepers throughout California – from locales such as Point Reyes, San Francisco and Greenbrae– as well as a few exotic regions including New Zealand.

Beekind Stand at the San Francisco Ferry Building

Throughout the year, 52 different seasonal varieties of honey line the shelves of Beekind, so you can sample the nuances of sage, eucalyptus or sunflower nectar to see which fits your cup of tea.   Prices are average (I paid $11 for 16 oz of California Sage honey), but it’s the knowledge of the Beekind staff that definitely gives additional value to your purchase.   Whether you need to know the ideal honey for drizzling on oatmeal or the best immunity booster, their recommendations on the “nectar of the gods” are spot on.

Golden California Sunflower Honey at Beekind

The California Sage honey I purchased is delicious.  Full-bodied but slightly drier than sweeter varieties, it pairs well with both my afternoon green tea and blueberry-topped yogurt (and tastes great by the spoonful, too!).  So the next time you find yourself in need of the sweet stuff, head to the Ferry Building for this local treat and be kind to your health, the environment and the busy bees working hard to bring you quality California honey.

For more information and to make online purchases, visit  The stand at the Ferry Building is located at One Ferry Building, Suite 21B (415.307.8682) and sells honey and beeswax candles.  If you’re interested in beekeeping or want to go on a bee farm tour, head out of town and visit the Sebastopol location for additional bee-related activities and fun.

July 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm 2 comments

How To Homestead

For a slice of the homemade life, check out the short documentary films on How to Homestead – a rural-cum-urban project run by Melinda Stone, co-founder of StoneLake Farm and associate professor in the media studies department at the University of San Francisco.  Offering a series of how-to-videos ranging from the intriguing, such as concocting the Elixir of Life (honey and yeast added to apple cider for fermentation), to the squeamish (composting your own excrement), the activities help wanna-be homesteaders cultivate self-sufficiency whether home is a tiny studio apartment or 50-acre ranch.

You can start off small by making calendula tea or jump right in and slaughter your own chicken for dinner.  The simple videos are meant to inspire both beginners and those more experienced in the art of homesteading to dabble in whatever piques their interest.

For city folk looking to meet like-minded individuals, How to Homestead holds various get-togethers throughout San Francisco, complete with food from homegrown businesses, a raffle and local entertainment from groups such as the Sk8 Sisters.

I was able to attend the Hayes Valley Farm fundraising event a few months back sponsored by How to Homestead.  For $13, I scored an entry ticket, popcorn (covered in homemade maple bacon or chocolate-spiked butter), cup of authentic lemonade (you could detect hints of the rind, if you know what I mean) and chair seating for the night’s movie showing of “Dirt!” Those who opted out of chair seating spread picnic blankets on the paved parking lot ground.

The evening had a folksy, free-spirit vibe reminiscent of an impromptu community get-together – no pretentiousness and no rigid schedule.  How to Homestead is currently on hiatus for the summer, but I’m regularly checking their schedule of events to get a glimpse of the fall lineup.  Until then, I plan to ease into my novice homesteading skills with a simple herb garden and homemade strawberry jam.

**Check out this quirky video on making your own Elixir of Life and start brewing!

July 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

Call of the Wild: ForageSF Supper Club

Only in San Francisco could the secretive allure of a speakeasy be applied to…foraged food?  You bet.  Though whispered passwords and member-only keys have been replaced by an email list, the ambience of discretion and diverting from the mainstream makes The Wild Kitchen Dinner a thrilling experience.

Run by Iso Rabins, founder of and the SF Underground Market, the alternative dining experience serves up an eight-course meal made with local ingredients that either come from Bay Area businesses, personal harvests or have been collected from the wild (or in some cases, “gleaned”; which I eventually was told is a fancy word for “stolen”).

On the day of the event, an email is sent out with the supper location, which can be anywhere from an old warehouse to a swanky apartment building.  The dinner I attended last Friday was in a nondescript loft in the Mission.  Dozens of candles illuminated two long communal tables that were set with eclectic, mismatched dinnerware and decorated with lovely foraged arrangements by SabineFlowers.  The made-from-scratch meal was prepared with ingredients such as miners lettuce from McLaren Park and lemons from Santa Cruz, in addition to various course components provided by local food startups and chefs, i.e. flatbread from Sour Flour and homemade mozzarella from Jordan Grosser of Alembic.

From beginning to end, the entire meal was incredible.  Each course was fresh, distinct and creatively incorporated a local, foraged ingredient – candy cap mushroom ice cream with gleaned orange preserve, anyone?  As the evening wore on, conversations with perfect strangers became increasingly relaxed and enjoyable.  Though the dinner did run a little off schedule – it ended two hours late due to stove issues – breaking bread in such an unconventional way was so much fun, it’s made this SF secret quite hard to keep.

To buy tickets, you must be a member (signups are available on the site).  The eight-course dinner is $75 per ticket and drinks are BYOB. Make sure you come hungry, as portions are sizeable.

A sampling of ForageSF courses to feast your eyes upon…

Soup of Crisp Wild Onion and Local Wild Nettle

Wild Nettle Flatbread by "Sour Flour" with Homemade Mozzarella by Jordan Grosser of Alembic

Nasturtium Flower Pesto over Fresh Potato Gnocchi

Chorizo Stewed Mussels with Foraged Citrus and Wild Onion Flowers

Wild Rosemary Marinated Marin Sun Farm Beef Tenderloin with a Balsamic & Black Trumpet Mushroom Reduction and Pan Fried Wild Radish Greens and Mashed Heirloom Potatoes

May 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm 3 comments

America’s Lunchtime Lesson: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

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Who would’ve thought that fighting a revolution could mean picking up a fork and knife?  One Brit has set out to do just that.  Jamie Oliver, known as The Naked Chef (or Savior of the School Lunch – whichever suits your fancy), has made it his personal mission to investigate and change the food system in public schools across America while educating teachers, parents and children about what really lies on their colorful plastic trays come noontime.

After seeing initial success in the English town of Rotherham, teaching everyone from hairdressers to bricklayers how to cook a healthy proper meal, Jamie made his way across the pond to the small town of Huntington, West Virginia (aka the place with the highest obesity and weight-related deaths in the country).  “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” show, which aired in March, has since wrapped, but full episodes are still available on and I highly recommend watching them.  From butting heads with Southern school cook Alice to showing kids what actually goes into a chicken nugget, the show pointed out the disturbing flaws in our synthetic food system and offered solutions that can be implemented in schools and homes to create healthy and lasting change.

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While watching Jamie whip up tasty meals for the kids, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on “Jamie’s Food Revolution” cookbook.  The book provides simple and classic recipes that are healthy and quite easy for anyone to make, along with a challenge to all readers who choose to partake in the Food Revolution: pass it onAs in, pass on a few recipes in the book to at least four people.  That’s it.  So below are the recipes for two of Jamie’s yummy dishes (the Spicy Moroccan Stewed Fish w/Couscous from the book and the Asparagus and Pesto Risotto from his iPhone app Jamie Oliver) that I would like to pass along.  Let’s honor his movement to spread healthy eating by getting back into our kitchens and rediscovering the simple pleasure of a home cooked meal (while incorporating as many local, organic ingredients as possible)!

**For more information on this eating movement, consider joining Slow Food USA, see the latest about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, or read about third graders writing to senators asking for meals that aren’t packaged and frozen.  And be sure to sign Jamie’s petition on!

Spicy Moroccan Stewed Fish with Couscous

Serves 2
20 minutes
Found in “Jamie’s Food Revolution” cookbook (Pg. 26)


1 cup quick-cook couscous
olive oil
2 lemons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chile
a bunch of fresh basil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 X 6-oz white fish fillets (*Used tilapia with the skin and bones removed)
½ pound large shrimp, raw peeled (*Substituted more Tilapia as I’m allergic to shellfish)
1 X 14-oz can of diced tomatoes
2 handfuls of fresh or frozen peas, fava beans or green beans (or use a mixture)


Put the couscous into a bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Halve the lemons and squeeze in the juice from two of the halves.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Pour in just enough boiling water to cover the couscous, then cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap.  Let the couscous soak up the water for 10 minutes.

Put a large saucepan on medium heat.  Peel and finely slice your garlic.  Finely slice your chile.  Pick the basil leaves off the stalks.  Put the smaller ones to one side and roughly chop the larger ones.  Add a couple of lugs of olive oil to the hot pan. Add the garlic, chile, basil, cumin seeds and cinnamon.  Give it all a stir and put the fish fillets on top.  Scatter over the shrimp.  Add the canned tomatoes and the peas and beans.  Squeeze in the juice from the two remaining lemon halves (**Note:  I found that two lemon halves are bordering on overwhelming, so I recommend just using one half).  Put a lid on the pan.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

By the time the fish is cooked, the couscous should have sucked up all the water and be ready to serve.  Spoon the couscous into a large serving bowl and give it a stir with a fork to help it fluff up.  Top with the fish, vegetables and juices from the pan, sprinkle with the reserved basil leaves, and tuck in!

Asparagus and Pesto Risotto

Serves 2
40 minutes
Found on the iPhone Jamie Oliver App under the “Simple Risottos” Tab


1 medium bunch of asparagus (*Bought fresh and organic from my local farmers’ market)
2 heaping tsp good-quality pesto
1 small red onion
1 stick celery
2 pats butter
5 oz risotto rice
1 ¾ cups vegetable broth (*Used closer to 2 ¼ cups)
1 oz Parmesan cheese
½ cup white wine
1 lemon (*Used just half the lemon)
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper


Preheat your oven to the lowest setting and place your plates in the oven to warm.  Place a large saucepan on low to medium heat.  Peel the onion and trim the celery stick, then finely chop or coarsely grate them.

Add 1 pat of butter to the hot pan with the onion, celery and a splash of olive oil and a splash of water.  Cook over a low heat for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft.  Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, then turn the heat down to low.

Snap the woody bases off the asparagus spears and add them to the saucepan of broth.  Slice the remaining tender stalks right up to the tip then leave the tip whole.  Put to one side.

Finely grate the Parmesan cheese.  Once your vegetables are very soft (but not browned) add the rice to the pan.  Stir and fry the rice for a minute until translucent.  Then add the wine and keep stirring until all the wine has been absorbed by the rice.

Turn the heat under the rice up to medium, then add a ladleful of hot broth, avoiding the asparagus stalks (they are there for flavor only).  Stir constantly and continue adding broth, one ladle at a time waiting for the rice to soak it all up before adding more.  Continue until you’ve used two thirds of the broth.

Once two thirds of the broth has been added, stir the sliced asparagus and tips into the rice.  Keep adding the broth until the rice is just cooked and the risotto has a nice oozy consistency.  If you run out of broth, use boiling water.

Take the pan of risotto off the heat and stir in the remaining pat of butter, 1 heaping teaspoon of pesto and half the Parmesan.  Cut your lemon in half them squeeze in a little juice.

Taste the risotto and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Cover the pan with a lid and serve onto warmed plates when ready.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the risotto and top with pesto.

**For more recipes, visit

May 4, 2010 at 4:57 am 2 comments

Eco Grub: Lunch at Kitchenette SF

Foodies in this town thrive on the unexpected.  Whether they are of the more daring San Francisco Food Adventure Club elk or get their thrills eating crème brulee from a street cart in the Mission, the City doesn’t disappoint when it comes to satisfying (and testing) a diverse selection of palate thresholds.

A new player on the novel-eating scene is Kitchenette SF, a small restaurant hidden among industrial warehouses in the Dogpatch area that bills itself as “spontaneous organic covert nourishment.”  Its spontaneity is demonstrated by the fact that a small number of organic dishes are prepared each day based on the creativity and cravings of the staff.  And as for covert, just try to find it behind rows of parked cars and loading docks, with just a small store sign to tip you off that you’ve reached the spot.

The local and made-from-scratch menu reflects the availability of fresh ingredients and the culinary tastes of the Kitchenette SF chefs, whose combined resume includes stints at top-notch eateries like Chez Panisse, Incanto, Zuni Cafe, Eccolo, Ad Hoc and Fog City Diner.  The selections change daily and include sustainable and quirky options such as the Fatted Calf Fennel Sausage sandwich (w/house-fermented sauerkraut and whole-grain mustard) or the California Ranch Chicken sandwich (w/slow smoked pork belly, avocado, pickled mustard seed ranch dressing, smoked onions and arugula).

My lunch order included the crispy Spring Vegetable Pan Bagnat, which was made with grilled asparagus, bellwether farm fromage blanc, peas, knoll farm fava greens and shaved fennel olivada that I washed down with a refreshing glass of Kitchenette SF’s housemade lemonade.  The prices are average (roughly $7.50 an item) and the food is definitely worth trying for a welcome change to the typical grab-and-go lunchtime experience.   So employ your sleuth skills and seek out this tasty, kitschy eatery.

Kitchenette SF is located at 958 Illinois Street in the American Industrial Center.  Food is served from 11:30am – 1:30pm Monday thru Friday.  This is a cash-only restaurant, but there is an ATM machine at the Sundance coffee shop around the corner if you find yourself out of $$.

April 6, 2010 at 3:41 am Leave a comment

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