Every day is Earth Day for an
By H. Glenn Rosenkrantz
A drive down Highway 4, the main
artery through a mostly agricultural territory in Contra
Costa, reveals an organic farmer surveying his land.
It's an early morning ritual for
Rick Knoll, forty-seven, who came of age in the sixties and
retained his anti-establishment ideals by creating a farm that
he says stands in contrast to the
pesticide-and-chemical-dependent enterprises of many of his
"They're not monsters,"
he says, "but they are victims of the chemical industry.
My radicalism was spawned by that industry--with its chemical
spills and its exploitation of third-world agriculture. I
wasn't going to be a part of it."
Although other organic farms have
sprouted up in the area, most notably Frog Hollow Farms, the
ten acres of Knoll Farms are surrounded on all sides by
nonorganic growers. "We are like a little island
ecosystem surrounded by the desert," he says. "It's
a very honest way to live and farm."
Northeastern Contra Costa is a
province of big-business industrial farming; most of the land
is in winter hibernation until the weather turns. Thousands of
sprawling acres of muddy earth stand empty next to Knoll's
green acres--row upon row of fig trees, apricot trees and
artichoke plants, interrupted sporadically by verdant rows of
green garlic, rosemary and salad greens.
In a sweatshirt, sweatpants and
boots, his Doberman pinscher, Junior, pacing a few steps
behind, Knoll walks through his fields. Stopping to pick some
blades of the grass-like green garlic that is a staple of his
harvest, Knoll puts his ear just inches from the ground near
holes dug by earthworms--his form of farm equipment. "I
can hear the land breathe," he says. "I've got
thousands of little cultivators on this farm." He pokes
at some of the clumps of castings left behind by the worms as
they dig through the dirt.
It's on regular morning walks like
these that Knoll says he connects with the land, takes stock
of what needs doing and derives his daily dose of energy.
Fencing needs to be erected. Piles
of dirt need moving. Fruit trees need pruning. And work
beckons on a house Knoll is renovating on the property. But
"I'm scattered," he
admits, listing the chores that need attention but will have
to wait until he has more energy. "I like to do five or
six things at once instead of one thing start to finish. That
The day before Knoll loaded his
white Toyota pickup truck and hit the Produce Mart in the
warehouse-strewn end of San Francisco, as he does twice a week
at about three o'clock in the morning to deliver farm goods to
some of the distributors, restaurateurs and retailers who
depend on his organic produce. Berkeley's celebrated Chez
Panisse restaurant, Rainbow Grocery and Molly Stone's Market
in San Francisco-- all meccas for the organically minded--are
Alice Waters even sent Knoll an
autographed cookbook. The farm has supplied her restaurant for
about a decade now, a relationship that began after Waters
tasted some of Knoll's harvest at Berkeley's Monterey Market.
Each year Knoll delivers thousands
of pounds of organic produce that's been picked, packed and
loaded by him and his farm workers to the Produce Mart. But
owing to the weather, this week's delivery was small--just a
few boxes of freshly picked green garlic, salad mix and dried
"The rain prevents us from
picking," he says, as he weaves his truck through the
maze of delivery trucks and piles of cardboard produce boxes
that invade the produce emporium each morning. "So it's a
smaller delivery than normal."
Knoll's trips to the Produce Mart
give him an opportunity to mingle and network with other
growers, distributors and buyers. There's talk of families,
new delivery outlets and upcoming organic-farming conferences
as Knoll unloads his truck and hands his clients invoices.
This day, the ruddy-faced Knoll is
tired from his early-morning delivery runs and content to
spend time checking on some of the farm hands who help work
his land. One worker is spotted in a thicket of apricot trees,
spraying an organic solution of calcium and diluted sulphur on
branches to drown out rot from the rains. If not controlled,
the rot could threaten growth later this year. No synthetic
herbicides or pesticides are used on Knoll's farm, or on any
certified organic farm like his, as governed by the California
Certified Organic Farmers.
After an exchange in Spanish
between the two, Knoll moves on to a small, wooden house--more
of a cabin, really--that serves as his office.
Inside, his wife, Kristie, is at
work on the computer, tracking inventory and notifying
distributors of upcoming deliveries. While Rick tends to the
hands-on work of tending the farm, Kristie anchors the
business end of the operation in a partnership that has
endured for twenty-two years.
The two met when they were living
in the same Southern California apartment complex back in the
early seventies--she was going to school and working, while
Rick pursued a graduate degree in plant chemistry. They
married in 1974 and moved north eighteen years ago, when they
spent $110,000 for ten acres in Brentwood. At that time it was
just an abandoned alfalfa field, but the land offered a
welcome change from the congestion that was overtaking
Soon afterward, they planted a
grove of six hundred trees and planned to live off the land in
a chemical-free way. They drew their techniques from Rick's
study of plant physiology and from a mutual desire to live in
a pesticide-free environment.
"We were ego-centered,"
Knoll says, as he makes tea in a rustic kitchen adjoining the
office. "It was prophetic. We were surrounded by chemical
farmers. I'm a Catholic, and I thought God had sent me up here
to change things."
Relations with his nonorganic
neighbors suffered. At one point, Knoll recollects, he stood
on his land with a rifle, threatening helicopters that swarmed
over neighboring farmlands spraying pesticides. "I didn't
want any of it drifting over here," he says. "I was
in a revolution, and there are no laws in a revolution."
All the while, Knoll was also
working in biochemical research at Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory to support himself and his wife. "It was a
dichotomy," Knoll says of working at the lab, which is
known for its nuclear weapons research. "But I saw myself
in an organic revolution. There were no rules. You did what
you had to do. It wasn't hard to rationalize. But it was hard
to go to work."
Back on the farm, the work yielded
success--the Knolls quickly discovered they were producing
more food than they knew what to do with. Loathe to waste any
of the figs, apricots, tomatoes, artichokes, salad greens and
seasonal vegetables that dotted the farm and flourished under
the Knoll's organic methods, they began selling to emerging
and established grocers, restaurants and distributors that
were ready, enthusiastic buyers, predisposed toward organic
To Rick Knoll, the revolution has
become a way of life. Although he's not pointing rifles in the
air any longer (he believes his neighbors are using
less-potent pesticides), he is ready to spread his philosophy
to anyone who is willing to listen. "We have the
potential to produce food that has the power to sustain life
and reduce problems," he says. "That's the challenge
in this polluted environment."
It keeps the Knolls busy. On the
two days prior to his visits to the Produce Mart, he and his
field workers do nothing but pick and load the Knoll Organic
And then there's the harvesting
that has to be done to put food on the Knoll's dinner table.
Most afternoons, Kristie dons a hat and coat, grabs a basket
and heads to the fields to pick arugula, kale and beets, among
other items, for the evening meal. This day is no different,
as the fog continues to blanket the farm and rain drops begin
to fall lightly. As Knoll leaves the cabin to tinker around
with his tractor, his wife walks ahead in the distance,
shopping from the earth, shadowed by Junior.
"It's a very honest
life," he says. "Come back and visit us sometime and
we'll sit under a fig tree and take it all in."
San Francisco freelancer H. Glenn
Rosenkrantz last wrote about transporting nuclear materials,
"What a Waste," in January.
Brentwood tries to mix farms with
One day this summer, Rick Knoll was
riding his tractor down Highway 4 near Brentwood when an SUV
full of kids, with the driver talking on her cell phone,
screeched behind him. Angered by Knoll's pace, the driver
swerved across the double yellow lines to pass and indicated her
disgust with a universal gesture.
For Knoll, the moment illustrated
the conflict building for the past 10 years between residents
searching for affordable homes and farmers struggling to eke out
a living from the soil being lost to those houses.
"This is the most viable place
to conduct agriculture because it's so close to the biggest
market in the world – San Francisco," said Knoll, who
grows figs, tomatoes, rosemary, basil and pears on a 10-acre
farm that supports 15 workers year-round. "Northern
California soils should be preserved, but, unfortunately, it's
not being preserved."
Development versus agriculture has
been a battle in Brentwood ever since the city seemed to take it
upon itself to satisfy the Bay Area's voracious appetite for
housing. The city's population has grown from 7,000 in 1990 to
31,500 today, and Brentwood plans to top off at 75,000.
The area's roadsides show ample
evidence of the conflict: huge colorful signs posted along the
two-lane highways advertise the latest housing subdivision next
to small, easy-to-miss brown-and-white signs telling drivers
they are now in Brentwood's Agricultural Core.
Ron Nunn, a fourth-generation farmer
and, more recently, a developer, grows tomatoes, corn, garlic
and apples on his farms that total an estimated 2,500 acres,
according to press accounts. He also co-developed Summerset, the
2,000-unit Brentwood senior community. Nunn, who would not say
how many acres he owns, opposes the efforts to
"preserve" farmland, saying agriculture needs to stand
on its own.
"Agriculture will survive only
if it's flexible, only if it can roll with the punches, find new
avenues to sell, find new niche markets," Nunn said.
"It's a complex problem. I'm not against farming and I'm
not against growth. They could both coexist if the public
agencies and environmentalists would let them."
A year ago, Brentwood adopted a plan
designed to allow the two to coexist by protecting 11,000 acres
to the south and east of town. Called the Agricultural
Enterprise Preservation Program, the voluntary program offers
farmers the option of selling conservation easements on their
land to a land trust, which would allow the farmers to farm
their land but not develop it.
The program also grants transferable
agricultural credits to farmers who guarantee their land will
never be developed. The credits are worth two units of density
for every acre permanently saved. If the farmer has property in
Brentwood, for example, he can increase the housing density by
two units. If he does not own property, he can sell the density
credits to a developer who does.
So far, no farmer has signed up to
take advantage of the program.
"The program recognizes that we
have some of the best ag soils in the area, with quite a bit of
class 1 (soil)," said Mitch Oshinsky, the city's community
development director. "It recognizes that ag is a major
component of the economy. Over $200 million to $300 million is
generated by ag in Brentwood."
About a third of Contra Costa County
– 148,000 acres – is devoted to agriculture, including
grazing. Some 28,400 acres is planted with fruits, nuts, corn,
vegetables, hay, wheat and apples. The value of the county's
agriculture output was $97.5 million in 2001.
Gregory Gee, the chief deputy
agricultural commissioner for Alameda County, is quite familiar
with the problems in Brentwood, having watched the same thing
happen to the agriculture business in Southern Alameda County as
houses encroached upon the fields of gladioluses.
"When people think about moving
to the country, they have this bucolic scene of roosters crowing
and cows mooing. But ag is an industry that has noise and smells
and dirt," Gee said. "What makes it work is
understanding. Otherwise, the conflicts will result in the
farmer selling off his land. That land will be developed and
then the neighbors will have all the problems of urban
State Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla,
D-Pittsburg, represented the Brentwood area as a county
supervisor and frequently found himself in the middle of
development disputes. Canciamilla says it takes education so
that the SUV driver will understand the upside to having a
tractor in front of her, even if it is slowing her down.
"It's no rougher than if
another 300 homes were built on that property and the person in
the SUV had to deal with another 300 people on the road instead
of a tractor."
Reach Conrad at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.
You are young and French and think you're the center of the universe.
Think again. The culinary capital is here. Welcome to the east bay, home of
the world's freshest fare.
By Bill Staggs
When Martine Labro moved to Berkeley in 1967
from her native Provence; the home of mesclun salad and soupe au pistou;she
despaired over the Bay Area's paltry selection of public markets and
The dearth puzzled her. So much about the region
resembled her Mediterranean home: the gentle coast, the long, dry summers so
perfect for growing, the gentle rains of winter, the olive trees, the
expanses of vineyards and orchards. But in five years of living here and
even shopping in the health food stores and produce markets; she never came
across ingredients that inspired her to cook as she had at home. In Provence,
above the French Riviera, she had always cooked with produce from the garden
and products from the thriving street markets.
When she returned to California recently to help
her old friend Alice Waters celebrate twenty-five years of her Chez Panisse
restaurant, Labro was surprised at the many changes that had been wrought in
the local food landscape.
"I was amazed and overwhelmed," says
Labro, a painter and coauthor with Waters of Chez Panisse Pizza, Pasta and
Calzone, after a recent visit to the local farmers' markets. "I wanted
to buy everything. They have real mesclun now, wonderful vegetables and such
Labro's excitement doesn't end there. She
rattles off superlatives in her Provençal accent, cataloging the wonders of
a Bay Area that has finally seen the light. She lauds Berkeley's Monterey
Market and calls breads from Acme and others around the bay "as good as
the best in France." She thinks the Bay Area's food revolution stands
in sharp contrast to what is happening in France. "We've gone the other
way," she laments. "We have to grow our own lettuces at home,
because now they are selling fake mesclun."
Labro had not visited her Northern California
friends since 1987, so the transformation seemed to her a revolution, not a
surprising assessment for a town with a reputation for big ideas and strong
But that's Berkeley.
Here in Contra Costa, so few miles from
Berkeley's political and culinary ferment, revolution drops the R.
"Evolution more than revolution describes
the food scene in Contra Costa, and it's a slow evolution at that,"
says Michael Dellar, a twenty-six-year resident of Orinda and partner with
chef Bradley Ogden in Walnut Creek's Lark Creek Cafe.
While Berkeley and San Francisco have been in
the national culinary spotlight since the seventies, the changes east of the
Caldecott are just becoming evident. In both zones, however, the path to the
table begins in the dirt.
Down on the Farm
Contra Costa County has a long and rich
agricultural history. Vineyards and orchards once covered hillsides from
Brentwood to Pleasant Hill; the Christian Brothers built their first winery
in Martinez. Today only a few small farms remain active, most of them in the
east near Brentwood, where the valley's heat and fertile soil produce
succulent stone fruit and berries. For decades Bay Area residents have
driven to the Delta to pick fruit for canning. But rapid development is
gobbling up farmland, and even the "U-pick" growers have seen a
decline in business.
Kristie Knoll, co-owner with husband Rick of
Knoll Organic Farms in Brentwood, says U-pick sales have fallen off. The
Knolls grow stone fruit; apricots, nectarines, plums and cherries; as well
as figs, green garlic and herbs. They truck produce from their ten acres to
restaurants and retail outlets, and when they've inundated their traditional
wholesalers, they drive to the farmers' market at Ferry Plaza in San
Francisco for a busy Saturday of selling direct to the public.
Al Courchesne, proprietor of Frog Hollow Farms
near Brentwood, sells succulent organic peaches and nectarines to Chez
Panisse and other restaurants, as well as at farmers' markets. He despairs
over the future of farming in his area, seeing development as a death knell
for the little that remains of small-scale agriculture. But still,
"there are people here who care about good, fresh nutritious
food," he says. "They just need to teach their children."
To Market, To Market
Fueling the food transformation is the array of
produce grown in surrounding counties. And it's not just tomatoes and
peaches. Small farmers are producing organic milk, specialty cheeses, virgin
olive oils, mushrooms and, of course, wines that challenge the best of
France and Italy.
Although a portion of their produce goes
directly to restaurants, much of these small farmers' business comes from
selling direct to the consumer at farmers' markets, where many shoppers,
reacquainting themselves with foods they had forgotten or never encountered,
buy what the season furnishes; no raspberries in January, no celery root in
July. Typical is the day when a dozen or more chefs prowl stands with their
restaurants' lunch and dinner menus in mind.
Just a few years ago there were fewer than fifty
such markets throughout the state. Today, according to Lynn Bagley, founder
of the Marin County farmers' market, there are three hundred statewide;
sixty-six in the Bay Area alone.
The local movement began in 1983 with the
opening of farmers' markets in Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. And those two
original markets have done well, especially in the past few years, as have
the markets that followed, in Pleasanton, Danville, Concord, Antioch,
Richmond, Martinez and El Cerrito.
"They are living up to their purpose,"
Bagley says, "which was to keep the small farmers alive, to give them
outlets while putting the consumer in direct contact with the farmer."
Bagley also praises the markets' leadership in food trends: "Farmers'
markets test-market every day. They plant a small crop of something new,
they let people taste it and if it's a hit they grow more and then more. It
sells, and the restaurants pick it up and then the stores. To me that's a
sign of the markets' strength. Just look at the items we now see as
commonplace that started at the farmers' markets: kiwifruit, fuji apples,
heirloom tomatoes, mesclun salad mix.
"Shopping at farmers' markets is an
adventure," Bagley insists. "It's experiential. It will subtly and
deeply change your whole life."
The markets have their devotees, among them
longtime Walnut Creek resident, cooking teacher and author, Marion
Cunningham. She started her culinary career in the sixties after taking a
cooking class from that icon of American eating, James Beard. When Beard
died, Cunningham settled into her own place in the home-cooking pantheon.
She twice revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and wrote The Breakfast Book,
The Supper Book and Cooking with Children. And today she is on the verge of
a deal that will bring her classes on cooking with kids to television.
"The farmers' market is such a wonderful
way to spend part of your Sunday morning," says Cunningham, "with
lots of old friends, both customers like myself and the farmers. I've seen
the same people for so many years. It's a real community, and Sunday
wouldn't be complete without it. The farmers' markets don't have that
clinical, businesslike feel of supermarkets. It's so easy just to stroll
along and talk to someone, or to listen. You find out what's been great, or
what to wait for."
Cunningham is heartened by the recent popularity
of the markets. "For the longest time," says Cunningham, now
seventy-five, "it seemed all I saw at the market was older folks like
myself. We all have such vivid memories of food that was picked fresh to eat
and not to ship. Tasting these wonderful things in season and ripe off the
vine or the tree takes you right back to those taste memories, which are
some of the strongest we have."
But for all her enthusiasm about farmers'
markets, Cunningham still defends the supermarkets as essential and
"This summer I had the hardest time finding
the right plums for a tart I was making," she says. "The ones at
the farmers' market just didn't have the flavor and the sweetness. But then
I found the perfect ones at Safeway. So I think you can't count the
supermarkets out. They're trying, and sometimes they do a lot better than
the farmers' markets."
She's also a stickler for farmers hewing to what
their communal markets are meant to be: "It's been disappointing to me
that many farmers don't harvest ripe. Some harvest to hold. And I think that
even though the markets have been useful in educating the public, they have
often been victims of trendiness, growing things because they're stylish.
Who wants a pretty tomato with no flavor?"
Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables is a
cookbook based on shopping at farmers' markets. "The Bay Area has the
most and the most beautiful, and wholesome, produce I've seen," Waters
says. "I remember when there were just three or four vendors at the
Center Street market in Berkeley and now there must be thirty. "People
just need to learn how to use the markets; how to buy things at their peak
and support the farmers. That's how we create interest and demand."
Always the missionary, whether for better greens
or better school lunches, Waters maintains that the markets are about much
more than making a meal: "Farmers' markets are the most positive and
spirited movement in the country. There's this unbelieveable learning that
happens through the markets, almost by osmosis. It all comes from just being
part of the farm-to-market process. We learn about seasonality, the work
that farmers do. The kids learn too, by smell, by taste. It's an essential,
Like her French friend Labro, Waters has watched
the decline of markets in France: "In France, you have to go way off
the beaten track to find the kinds of wonderful things you used to see. Not
long ago we found a tiny little market in the Dordogne, and there was this
one little guy. He had a few squash blossoms and a handful of haricots verts,
some potatoes he had dug up that morning and some mushrooms he had gathered.
But he's a rarity now except in the remotest corners.
"It used to be," she says, "that
every time I went to France I'd bring back seeds for mesclun. But now I see
my friend Martine looking for seeds for all the wonderful tomatoes we have
here. Today it's our Bay Area markets that have the diversity and the
wholesomeness. Who could have imagined that?"
What's in Store
At the Oakville Grocery Company in downtown
Walnut Creek, the tables and shelves are stacked high with breads from the
Bay Area's best bakeries. Display cases feature dozens of cheeses, deli
meats, imported and local olive oils, flavored vinegars, Californian and
European wines, along with chef Richard Hoff's array of prepared foods, from
grilled wild mushroom polenta to roast salmon.
"Opening here has been an education,"
Hoff says of the two-year-old store. "In the beginning people came in
and looked at all the prepared food in the cases, and many of them just
didn't know what to do with it, how to use us." But customers have at
last grown comfortable with the way of food shopping so prevalent in Europe.
Around the corner on Main Street, the Good
Nature Grocery sets forth what is probably the county's best selection of
Dina Izzo, who oversees the organic produce
department with produce manager Mark Mulcahy, finds that many shoppers are
young women with children who no longer want to feed their kids foods with
chemical histories. Izzo has seen the customer base for organic produce
expand at least 30 to 60 percent every year. She is convinced that as the
population of the county grows, so will a demand for better food:
"People with kids want to feed their children food that's good, that
tastes good, that has nutritional value."
Andy Powning, spokesperson for organic-produce
wholesaler Greenleaf in San Francisco, a supplier to Good Nature and many
restaurants, confirms Izzo's belief that Contra Costa's food consciousness
is inching higher. "Our sales in Contra Costa County are
burgeoning," he says, "increasing 25 percent in the past year.
Alameda County is steady with continued growth, but nothing like the
increased demand we're seeing in Contra Costa."
Even the folks at Safeway are seeing an
increased demand for organic produce. Safeway spokesperson Debra Lambert
isn't sure whether it's from their customers' exposure to farmers' markets
or concern for their families' health, but the company; with 220 stores in
Northern California; is seeing a "teeny but steady" increase in
the call for organics.
"We're seeing greater quantities available
to us so we can offer it consistently," she explains, "and an
increase in the number of requests we get."
Powning and other food professionals acknowledge
that this shift in food consciousness is embryonic and needs nurturing. That
fragile, nascent consciousness can go bust in a county whose demographics
and family pressures can contribute to the demise of ambitious food
In Orinda's Theater Square, produce professional
Gary Gentry closed his Orinda Produce early this year after a four-year run.
Gentry is not bitter, but he doesn't hold back on his theory about food's
sometimes tenuous place among economic priorities: "Many people are so
busy and so highly leveraged that buying great, fresh food; especially more
expensive food like organics; is a low priority. Those pressures mean
they'll spend $40 on prepared foods to take home and heat up, but not $40 on
prime fruits and vegetables in season. Plus, everybody's too tired to
Chez East Bay
But the biggest buyers from small farmers are
still restaurant chefs. Contra Costa diners have witnessed the emergence of
restaurants modeled on the bistro or trattoria style, small, neighborhood
places with changing menus and a seasonal focus.
At Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland's Rockridge
district, chef/owner Paul Bertolli sees the farmers' markets as essential to
keeping his changing menus attuned to what's happening on the farm.
"The markets are busier than ever; full of
people," says Bertolli, who joined Oliveto after ten years as chef at
Chez Panisse. "Part of the reason that people love seeing things in
season is that they are bright, vivid and tasty. People respond to that
simplicity. I remember we found these remarkable blue lake beans, big, with
no fiber. We boiled them in salt water, tossed on some shallots, olive oil
and sherry vinegar, then served them cold. There's such a power to food with
that kind of simplicity, a kind of nostalgia about what was really good when
people were young."
Bertolli carps about high prices but contends
that, if a visitor shops smart, a good deal can be found. "Bargaining
is not forbidden," he says. And though he may be a good negotiator,
Bertolli admits that high-profile restaurants such as Oliveto have a
built-in advantage. "A grower will save a special case of peaches or
beans for us," he admits.
South along I-680 in the hills beyond
Pleasanton, at Wente Vineyards Restaurant near Livermore, President Carolyn
Wente and Executive Chef Kimball Jones have just celebrated the tenth
anniversary of their vineyard-edge operation. Like their neighbors to the
north, they have built their repertoire on the best of the season, and enjoy
the extra luxury of offering wines from the adjacent cellars, and extra
virgin olive oil from centuries-old trees on the property.
Jones scours the countryside from Livermore to
Brentwood for produce, visits the farmers' markets and serves an
American-style menu with Mediterranean influences and an ethnic edge.
"Our food looks and sounds Mediterranean, inevitably, because that's
the kind of growing region we're lucky enough to live in," Jones says.
His customers come from flourishing business parks in the area, from new
residential developments and from the steady flow of tourists through the
Yet Wente is quick to point out that our quiet
valleys are seeing a bloom in more than man-made works. "A mile down
the road from us," she says, "one farmer is planting a hundred
acres of olive trees to make the finest, Italian-style oil."
At Walnut Creek's Lark Creek Cafe, chef Bradley
Ogden tells of a similar dependence on small farmers for the flux in his
menus. He changes the menus every three or four months but leaves room to
take advantage of the changing goods at the markets. "I've been using
farmers' markets since I worked at Campton Place," Ogden says.
"They are a big inspiration to me." He sees the markets as being
here to stay. "In the Bay Area it's become part of the lifestyle.
People have been exposed to the best in food, markets and restaurants.
They're demanding it now because they know how things should taste."
Ogden's partner Michael Dellar sees the demand
for freshness showing up in the fast-food world as well as in finer
restaurants. He points to the success of places like World Wrapps and
food-to-go counters in restaurants as signs of the demand for "portable
foods" in a frenetic era: "I think what's happening with food in
Contra Costa is only going to get better. There's a lot of disposable
income, a high level of education. People here travel widely. They know good
food from very good food and good food from fair. And the people here are
demanding, at the very least, good food."
Bill Staggs is a private investigator in
Emeryville. In his spare time, he writes for the New York Times, Health and
Saveur. This is his first piece for Diablo.