It’s Alive! This Richmond-based probiotic kefir water tea company is on the rise

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By Matt Larson

When you go to a health food store and pick up a beverage, chances are that you’re not used to reading “crafted and bottled in Richmond, California” right there on the front of the label. Well, get used to it! As that’s what happened to us after purchasing a bottle of The Living Apothecary’s Hibiscus Apricot probiotic kefir water tea, on a whim. After taking it home to enjoy, that’s when we noticed the label, and we contacted them immediately!

In September of 2012, The Living Apothecary began at Kitchener Oakland, a fully operational commercial kitchen for startup food businesses to get off their feet. They moved to their current Richmond facility in 2015, and it seems they’re here to stay.

“Looking for space we quickly realized that Richmond was the best place,” said Co-Founder Shari Stein Curry. “My business partner [Co-Founder Traci Hunt] said it’s a really cool community, it’s up and coming, and a lot of cool businesses are going to move there. And she was right!” Curry adds, “I couldn’t be more grateful. The community that we have around us has embraced us. It was the best move for our business, for sure.”

Curry is a Bay Area transplant, like many of us, and originally hails from just outside of Philadelphia. She grew up with a lot of city pride, and now feels that same pride here in the East Bay. They want to be loud and proud about where they’re producing this wonderful product, and putting Richmond in big bold letters on the front of the label is a great way to do that. “We’re all about community; shopping local, supporting local,” she said. “The support that we’ve had from the local community from the Bay Area, with the customers that have stuck by our side through thick and thin for years—it’s the only reason we are where we are.”

For the first few years The Living Apothecary only existed here in the Bay Area. You can find their products in a variety of health food stores all around the Bay, including Whole Foods. The closest location to us would probably be the El Cerrito Natural Grocery, as their facility in Richmond is only used for production. They opted against going the brick-and-mortar route from the beginning, but you can still find them at the Urban Village Temescal Farmers’ Market on Sundays in Oakland.

After years of dedicated work, The Living Apothecary has finally expanding into Southern California as of March this year. They’re also pushing into Arizona, Las Vegas, Oregon and Washington, with potential to move into New York City’s five borough marketplace, as well as Colorado, Texas, you know … the world! And it’s all based right here in West County.

For those unfamiliar with kefir water, it’s one of the world’s oldest naturally fermented beverages. The Living Apothecary blends it with loose leaf artisan teas resulting in a drink that is naturally dairy and gluten free, low in sugar and calories, non- or gently carbonated, delicious, and great for your immune system. Plus, it is a living liquid! Containing probiotic strains that are constantly evolving and “keeping your gut guessing” as each batch they make may have a different beneficial probiotic strain taking a more dominant role than the others. “In general, with kefir water, there’s usually around 45 beneficial bacteria strains in the bottle,” Curry explained. “It changes all the time, and that’s what’s amazing about it.”

Probiotics have certainly been on the rise with the cultural takeover of kombucha these past few years, but kombucha has a very distinct taste that can be difficult for some to get used to. The Living Apothecary’s kefir water tea has very similar health benefits, yet it’s much more mellow to drink and they’re mostly caffeine free. With flavors like Hibiscus Apricot, Passionflower Lemongrass, and Red Raspberry Leaf Ginger, you’re sure to find something you like.

To learn more, read their blog, and find local retailers to purchase a bottle, head to http://www.livingapothecary.com. And take Curry’s advice: “A healthy gut, is a happy body.” Bottom’s up.

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Striving to Build Lifelong Health Through Community Partnerships

 

carson_resizedBy Jeannie Howard

Through a series of partnerships and mergers with other smaller healthcare centers and private practice providers, LifeLong Medical Care has grown from its original location, Over 60 in Berkeley, to fourteen locations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Expanding from the original goal of offering elderly and aging care to individuals over 55 years old to provide care for all ages, patients are now able to receive healthcare for everything from prenatal, pediatrics, and primary care, to senior care and day services, metal and behavioral health as well as dental and urgent care.

Throughout the consistent expansion over the past 41 years, LifeLong Medical Care has never faltered in their mission of helping to ensure everyone in need of healthcare, regardless of their ability to pay, is able to receive the care and services they seek. “The services are available to everyone regardless of their immigrant status or ability to pay,” says Lucinda Bazile, deputy director, who has been with the organization for more than twenty years.

A growing perspective in healthcare is that of whole patient care, meaning the healthcare of an individual is addressed along with other social factors at play in their lives; this is a perspective that LifeLong Medical Care has been practicing for more than two decades. A core element of whole patient care, especially when treating individuals who are a part of underserved or low-income communities, is housing and how that relates to successful medical care. The housing first idea “means that in order to begin to have someone feel safe and healthy they need to be housed,” says Bazile. Through its Supportive Housing Program (SHP), LifeLong Medical Care is able to partner with subsidized affordable housing facilities and programs to help individuals with histories of homelessness receive medical care. “We are taking healthcare services into supportive housing programs where those individuals are probably recovering addicts, or have some addictions, and who are probably not getting the healthcare that they need,” she explains.

According to Bazile, the goal of the SHP is to have their patients be able to transition into permanent housing and, since housing and health go hand-in-hand, LifeLong Medical works not only in a medical capacity but also through outreach efforts to create the most effect outcomes. “With our healthcare providers in the housing units, we work to build a bridge and connect with the patients to meet them where they are,” she says. “We are providing case management and other service for them as well as helping them with clinical needs.” Servicing nearly 600 individuals throughout Oakland and Berkeley, the SHP has been a rather successful program with close to 95% of participants retaining housing and most of them are receiving medical care as well.

In an effort to keep an ongoing pipeline of individuals passionate about working in public health, LifeLong Medical Care has been a long-time participant in AmeriCorps. Through the 10-month-long AmeriCorps Health Fellows Program, “participants help with a lot of our innovative program outreach supporting our mission,” explains Bazile. “So it’s an opportunity for individuals interested in healthcare to serve and to learn about primary care.” Because the competitive grant funding provided by the program does not allow LifeLong Medical Care to replace an employee with an AmeriCorps member, program participants have become an integral component in the organization’s creative new programs for improved patient care. “It was an AmeriCorps member that started our pharmacy program which has become an interregnal part of our drug assistance program,” says Bazile. “This year we are working with program members on focusing on how to help patients with transportation.”

LifeLong Medical Care strives to foster the same environment of partnership and collaboration with their patients as they do with the counties and other medical facilities. Through the Patient Voice Collaborative, championed by Bazile nearly 10 years ago, patients and executive level staff are able to come together through feedback and the exchange of ideas. “It’s a group of patients, usually on from each of our locations, who meet every month to talk about their experience with the organization as a patient,” Bazile details. “The patients love doing this; they feel that they are a part of advising and guiding the organization.” This monthly meeting is in addition to the quarterly patient survey the organization sends to all patients.

Often times when working with underserved communities the perception may be that those receiving the services should just be thankful for whatever help they receive, but this is not so with LifeLong Medical Carae. “People are proud, they don’t want to take handouts and they just want to be respected. They may not feel that they can or want to give a negative opinion because it’s already free or that they may be treated poorly,” she admits. “But we work to break down those perceptions and really ask for true feedback.” Bazile explains how the Patient Voice Collaborative is a give and take, allowing for patients and the organizational staff to better understand eachother’s goals and challenges, which leads to more effective healthcare.

Through continued outreach at a variety of community events people who may have never heard about the organization are able to learn about how it can help in their lives. “We also have community members come to tell us how much they love their doctor and how they are so glad they found us,” she says. “I am in the unique position of being an administrator but also able to be out in the community and hear about the impact our organization and services have made on members of the community.”

Girls Inc.®

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By Samantha Larrick

Girls Inc. supports girls from kindergarten through 12th grade, teaching them to be “strong, smart, and bold,” and allowing them to explore subjects that interest them. Operation Smart is one program that allows girls to express themselves. Operation Smart allows the girls in the program to explore interests in science, technology, and math, three fields where women are underrepresented, and teaches girls they can go on to whatever profession they desire.

Girls Inc. is a network of non-profit organizations that serves girls ages 6 to 18 across the United States. The nationally affiliate program was founded in 1864 to help girls through the aftermath of the Civil War. Since then, programs have changed to accommodate the changing needs of girls and the needs of girls in specific communities. In 1975, three women saw a need for Girls Inc. in Contra Costa County. Stefana Huran donated her beauty salon as a center, which is still in use today as the Girls Inc. headquarters. National provides the Girls Inc. name, training opportunities, and eight programs for each affiliated chapter to use. Besides the eight programs provided by National, Girls Inc. also creates programs based on the needs of their community.

College Bound Girls is one program the Contra Costa chapter created because they saw a need. The program shows girls in grades 8th through 12th the college options available to them. Representatives from Girls Inc. take the girls on college tours, give them volunteer opportunities in the community, mentor them through the college application process, and help them find scholarship opportunities. Girls Inc., with Richmond Young Scholars, takes up to 20 kids on college tours across the United States. They’ve gone to southern California, Washington D.C., and are looking at doing a southern U.S. tour. This program allows girls to see their options after high school and gives them resources to work towards their goals.

Another program Girls Inc. offers, Media Literacy. It focuses on teaching girls how to objectively look at the media and how it portrays women. This is a program for all girls kindergarten through 12th grade, but programs are broken up into age groups to focus on subjects appropriate for their age range. At De Anza high school, about 20 students signed up at a table for a Media Literacy class with a Girls Inc. representative. The class started with introductions, which included how each student’s day was going and any exciting plans the student may have had. Then they jumped into how media portrays women, how they want the media to portray women, how they can advocate for that change, and how students can use media to portray themselves. They spent time deconstructing magazine and TV advertisements based on message, audience, stereotypes, images, and more. The Girls Inc. representative created a space where the students were free to discuss any topic, no matter how sensitive, and gave them a fresh perspective on how to look at the media.

Right now, the representatives from Girls Inc. run their programs out of local schools during the school year and in the center during the summer. Tiffany, the executive director, says they’re trying to hold more programs at the center throughout the school year to create a pipeline where girls finish one program and move up to the next, rather than taking sporadic programs through their school.

Girls Inc. is focusing on making sure the programs are catered to the girls in this area, like College Bound Girls and their new pilot program Body Positive, which focuses on teaching middle school girls to love and appreciate themselves no matter what their size or how they look. Many of the women who work at Girls Inc. have lived in Richmond their whole lives and some, like Tiffany, have even gone through the program. Their focus is on empowerment, sisterhood, and making sure girls have the tools they need when they leave high school.

girlsinc-wcc.org

Energy Bars, Almond Marzipan Style

Energy Bars, Marzipan Style

by Jennifer Cote

Makes 12 servings or so.

What you’ll need:

1 c. oatmeal

1 1/2 c. raw almonds, soaked overnight*

1/4 c. coconut oil

1/3 c. honey

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. almond extract

1 TBS. bee pollen

DIRECTIONS:

1. Process the oatmeal into flour in a blender (or food processor). Use: 1 c. oatmeal.

2. In a hot, dry skillet, toast the oatmeal until golden and fragrant, stirring constantly.

3. After soaking the almonds overnight, drain off the water and pop the skins off them. Use: 1 1/2 c. raw almonds.

4. Add almonds to a Vitamix (or other blender); process into almond butter. Add: 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted, 1/3 c. honey, warmed, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. almond extract.

5. Turn mixture out of blender, into bowl. Add the following, kneading some with hands to mix, as the dough will be very stiff. Use: Toasted oat flour, 1 TBS. bee pollen, blend ingredients.

6. Press into loaf pan and chill until firm before cutting. Slice and wrap in wax paper; store in jar in fridge.

*Or use already-blanched almonds

Recipe provided by Jennifer Cote of the New Deli Café,  624 San Pablo Avenue, Ste A, Pinole. 510-724-5335.  Jennifer@gratefultable.com

The New Deli Café Pinole’s “Not-So-New” Fine Food Venue

French Onion Soup

By Vickie Lewis

As the title of the article implies, The New Deli Café is anything but “new!”  In fact, it has been established in its current location for 32 years, nestled inconspicuously on the north side of the Del Monte Plaza in Pinole, next to the 99 Cents Only store. It’s one of many well-established and popular venues in the local community that I’ve driven by for years but didn’t know of its existence. I was totally surprised when co-owner Jennifer (Jen) Cote told me that she and her husband, Tom, originally opened the café in 1985. And while The New Deli is no longer “new” to the community, it was certainly new to me, and it just may just be new to you too. Read on to learn a bit about the evolution of The New Deli Café and the many reasons you’ll want to add this venue to your favorite eateries in the New Year!

Jen learned the art of cooking at a very early age from her mother who made nearly everything from scratch. As a child, she helped with the cooking, and at the age of 10 compiled her first construction paper “cookbook” and gave it to her Mom for Mother’s Day. Cooking and baking became second nature to her, and she continued it into adulthood.  She married Tom at the age of 17, and the newlyweds aspired to someday open their own restaurant. The road to opening The New Deli began when Jen assumed ownership of a small, local vegetarian burrito business in 1982. She made hundreds of burritos, sandwiches, and salads out of their small home which were delivered daily to Bay Area health food stores. After three years, the business became too big to manage out of their “cottage,” so Tom quit his job and the couple sought out retail space, and The New Deli Café soon after became a reality.

Committed to offering a “new” style of delicatessen food, and building off of the burrito business, the menu initially boasted plenty of vegetarian fare, including homemade soups and salad dressings. Over the last 30+ years, The New Deli’s menu has undergone numerous changes based on trends and customer feedback but the menu still includes numerous vegan and vegetarian options, unlike many delicatessens. The current menu is primarily lunch fare, but when The New Deli Café first opened, they served breakfast and even dinners. In the early days, Jen and Tom offered various elaborate foods to continue to attract and retain customers.  They even had an espresso machine (well before Starbuck’s became popular), which was popular with customers, but understandably, this has long since been retired. Eventually breakfasts and dinners were discontinued because the business was not sufficient to sustain the long hours, Jen and some of her staff do most of the cooking at The New Deli, and Tom is the “brains” (and brawn!) behind the operation. Although his responsibilities are many, he often works as a cashier, and keeps the café stocked with inventory at all times.

Over two-thirds of The New Deli’s current menu–sandwiches numbered 1 through 27– have been offered since The New Deli Café first opened.  These include fourteen Vegetarian and thirteen traditional sandwich selections, many of which are not creations typically found at other delicatessens.  For example, the New Deli’s vegetarian menu includes a Mozzarella Roast, made with eggplant and peppers, served on wheat toast with lettuce and sprouts; and a Mideastern Burger, made with falafel, Tahini, cucumber, tomato, onion, and sprouts on a wheat bun. The traditional menu includes a fresh Meatloaf sandwich, served hot or cold, with house-made thousand island dressing and “the works” served on a sesame seed roll; and a Bacon/Mozzarella sandwich with roasted peppers, eggplant, and lettuce, served on wheat toast.  There are, of course, many traditional favorites, as well as their own separate menu of Specialty Sandwiches.  With so many choices, there is certainly something to tempt everyone’s palate. At The New Deli, nearly all of the foods offered are made from scratch using wholesome ingredients. All of the chickens used for sandwiches and salads are cooked on site, and they also roast their own beef daily. And although they used to make their own bread, they now source their breads fresh daily from the popular Richmond-based Maggiora Bakery.

The menu also includes nearly a dozen large green salads, as well as half-salads, which are served with your choice of fresh house-made dressing on the side (unless specified tossed) and buttered baguettes. All salads are freshly made to order, and the variety and uniqueness of choices is pretty impressive for small café. There is also a daily home-made pasta salad available, perfect for a sandwich accompaniment or simply to eat by itself!  Home-made soups are also a specialty at The New Deli. The standard menu includes French Onion Soup and Black Bean Chili (with or without cheddar cheese.) But there is also at least one featured Soup of the Day, and sometimes, there can be up to three or four featured specialty soups.  Most of the soups are gluten-free and vegetarian, and many are also non-dairy.  And what could be better on a cold winter’s day than a hot bowl of freshly made soup?  Customers are encouraged to call ahead to find out about the daily soup specials.  Jen creates a variety of appealing soups that you’ll surely want to try!

Rounding out The New Deli Café’s extensive menu are three popular hot pasta entrees:  Chicken Alfredo, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Pasta Carbonara. All three are made fresh daily and feature Jen’s homemade sauces.  Although I did not have the opportunity to try any of these dishes, any one of these paired with a half-salad seems like it would be a very hearty and delicious meal.  Jen and staff also make several “grab and go” homemade desserts to satisfy one’s sweet tooth after partaking of one of their many healthy lunch selections.  The standard dessert offerings include the ever-popular Chocolate Chip cookies, Oatmeal Shortbread cookies, Brownies and Lemon Bars.  When I visited, the café offered Lime Bars instead of Lemon Bars, as one of the employees had shared a plentiful harvest of limes with Jen. I was lucky enough to partake of one of these luscious sweet treats, and it was scrumptious!  It was pretty sweet, yet had just a slight hint of tartness. I should also mention that the crust was melt-in-your-mouth luscious—a “must try” for those who enjoy something sweet after lunch.

I visited The New Deli Café one weekday afternoon as the lunch rush was winding down. From the outside, the deli looked rather small, so upon entry, I was surprised at how much space and seating was actually available inside. Eight glass-topped tables with tablecloths line the inside perimeter of the café, each of which seats two to four patrons each. On warm days, additional seating is available outside to accommodate patrons who choose to dine at the care. Just inside the door is the order counter, above which hangs four large menu boards suspended from the ceiling, highlighted with track lighting.  The kitchen/preparation area is visible behind the order counter, where staff busily work as a team to prepare customer orders. The workspace is cozy, but I observed at least 6 – 8 workers clad in The New Deli Café T-shirts and aprons, bustling busily in that small space. That same small space sometimes accommodates up to thirteen workers during extremely busy times!) There is a refrigerated unit next to the order counter which holds salads and other items. After ordering, patrons proceed around the corner of the order counter to the cashier, where they can select beverages, chips, or desserts to accompany their lunch, and pay for their selections.  The overall atmosphere of the café is casual and friendly. Picture frames on the walls feature past news articles about The New Deli Cafe, and miscellaneous pictures of the staff and their families.   

After introducing myself to Jen, she offered me the opportunity to try something from their menu. With so many options available, I asked Jen for a recommendation to expedite the process, or I may have spent the next 15 minutes reviewing the menu!  Jen mentioned that the Reuben sandwich had been very popular lately, and since I love Reuben sandwiches, I happily accepted her suggestion.  The sandwich was prepared within minutes and delivered to my table. It was served warm on marbled bread and was grilled to a crisp perfection. Between the slices of bread was a generous portion of tender sliced pastrami, accompanied by an equally generous amount of sauerkraut.  The thousand-island dressing used on the Reuben sandwiches is made in-house, and the natural sauerkraut used was mild and delicious.  Every bite was delightfully crisp, and there was no greasiness or dripping dressing.  It is one of the best Reuben sandwiches I’ve ever eaten!  The side order of pasta salad that I’d ordered to accompany my sandwich was made with corkscrew pasta and was topped with fresh Parmesan cheese.  Although the salad seemed not to have as much dressing as I would prefer, it was still very delicious. I found the salad to be a little dry, but it was still very flavorful.  Although I did not order a drink that day, I noticed that the drinks offered were mostly soft drinks, bottled water, and other bottled beverages.

The New Deli Café does a robust take out business. Orders may be phoned in to the deli ahead of time, or customers can e-mail their orders in advance to:  jennifer@thenewdeli.com, preferably 24 hours in advance. All e-mail orders should receive a response confirming receipt of the order; however, if no confirmation is received, customers are encouraged to call the deli during business hours to confirm receipt of their orders. The e-mail ordering works especially well for large orders, which the deli staff is happy to accommodate. While they no longer cater large, formal events, such as weddings, The New Deli Café is the “go to” provider for quality, freshly prepared foods for many local school events and business luncheons.  Although the café does not open until 9:00 AM, staff members arrive as early as 6:30 AM to prep the day’s ingredients and prepare special orders.  Their website provides a list of available catering options and pricing.

The New Deli Café’s business hours are currently Monday through Fridays from 9 AM to 3 PM. Until recently, the café was also open on Saturdays; however, in September 2017, a decision was made to close on weekends. The business hours have understandably changed over the years as the deli has responded to customer demands as well as the needs of family and staff members. Jen and Tom have two adult sons, Miles and Tyler, who essentially grew up at the café. As the boys grew older, Jen and Tom once before had closed the deli on Saturdays to allow them time to keep up with school and extra-curricular activities. The deli later reopened on Saturdays; but now, the owners have once again opted to close on weekends to spend more quality time with family and friends.

With the New Year upon us, most of us naturally resolve to making a fresh start, including shifting to healthier eating habits and getting into shape. This is an especially wonderful time to try The New Deli Café to help you stay on track. Choose one of their fresh salads or homemade soups, or indulge in one of their healthy vegetarian sandwiches. Jen and Tom and their entire staff are dedicated to preparing and serving high quality and delicious meals to local patrons. The New Deli Café is recognized as an excellent food establishment and a pillar in the community by those who have patronized them for many years. In addition to owning and operating the café, Jen regularly shares recipes and publishes a newsletter on The Grateful Table website at gratefultable.com. She is also the author of published cookbooks. The most recent, From the Land of Milk and Honey, is available for sale at The New Deli Café, and is chock full of wonderful recipes and information about food and cooking.  Jen has also contributed many wonderful recipes to the Contra Costa Marketplace Magazine in the past. Look for her latest contribution in this month’s issue! Happy New Year to all of our readers!