Companies I Support

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The Oakland Chocolate Company - the award winning chocolate company - is owned by one of my oldest friends, Nancy Nadel who entered the chocolate making field with a big splash when she wrapped up her career on the Oakland City Council. The website is This is small-batch, hand-made single-source artisanal chocolate. The cocoa beans are from the parish of St. Mary in Jamaica where Nancy is working with the Jamaican farmers to form a cooperative, worker owned model whose members are building an organic fermentary with a green energy drying facility. The cooperative’s chocolate is marketed and sold and the workers have a strong link to the candy maker in Oakland. Please go to the Oakland Chocolate Co website (, and read about Nancy’s work and her chocolate, and order as much as you can! It is an excellent product – preservative-free – all handmade and addictively delicious.

Kandarian Farms. Organic beans. Heirloom beans. I owe my love of beans to Kathy Patton. She introduced me to the joy of cooking beans oh so many years ago. When she first told me about the joys of cooking beans I just wasn’t so sure.  But she was super enthusiastic.  I thought it a bit odd.  I smiled when she gave me a package to take home.  I promised I’d make the beans just like she told me to.  I really didn’t have an intention to actually cook the beans but then I had promised after all and I love Kathy – I couldn’t lie to her.  I knew she’d ask…..   So, as directed, I made a mire poix. I followed the recipe in the Rancho Gordo book that Kathy had photocopied for me but instead of water I used homemade vegetable stock (Bittman’s roasted vegetable recipe). Brought it to a boil for 5 minutes and baked for 2 hours at 350 degrees – just like the book said and bingo, beans.  And I was hooked. A little olive oil, a sprinkle of parmesan, maybe a squeeze of lime and sublime.  Once again, Kathy was right.  Beans rock. Finding freshly dried organic beans was a huge frustration until I met Larry Kandarian at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. The first day I met him at his booth I had run out of cash and he gave me a bag of beans and said I could pay him any time. Amazing.  Larry has an amazing assortment of organic beans and grains. Try them. And also, my Aunt gave me a beautiful ceramic bean pot when we were in Oaxaca visiting her many years ago. So now I’m all set for beans. Here is a photo of my pot:

The Gourmandise cooking school While on jury duty – but not called for actual service – I took 2 cooking classes.  One was on cake decorating and the other on cupcake making.  So much fun!  I highly recommend.  The owner/teacher is Clemence and she’s really great.  Take her classes.  You’ll learn a lot.

Amy Neiman