by Anneli Rufus
Two food festivals this Sunday will fill Berkeley with tacos, gelato, crab, cheese, and puppets; you can't eat the puppets.
Berkeley's eighth annual Spice of Life Festival, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p .m. Sunday on Shattuck Avenue between Virginia and Rose streets, packs Gourmet Ghetto with outdoor booths offering everything from Hapa SF organic Filipino cuisine to Argentine-style Lush gelato to irresistible made-in-Berkeley Clarine's Florentines to Tru Gourmet organic dim sum.
As if Gourmet Ghetto wasn't already gourmet-ish enough all year 'round, the festival brings together dozens of vendors and artisanal food purveyors from far and wide. This year's participants include Tutmak Coffee, Live for More Fudge, the Saturn Cafe, and street-cart extraordinaire Jon's Street Eats, among many others.
"We worked hard this year to seek out more participants that reflect our neighborhood business' and community's values, commitment to sustainability, and local character," said Heather Hensley, director of the North Shattuck Association, which stages the festival.
"Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto is the birthplace of several food movements. Our neighborhood has a long history of embracing chefs and collectives that do things differently, food revolutionaries that have shaped the current culinary scene. We really want to recognize how the artisanal food-cart movement is doing just that, so we're inviting a range of local street food vendors and pop-up chefs, with an emphasis on sustainable, seasonal sourcing," Hensley said.
Live entertainment this year includes folks from the Berkeley Jazzschool and Berkeley's eco-themed Big Tadoo Puppet Crew; local collective galleries ACCI and Firehouse North will present exhibitions; local winemakers will pour tastings on Vine Street, and the Acupressure Institute and YogaKula will do demonstrations and bodywork.
"In addition to inviting the region's artisanal street food vendors to Berkeley" — due to the city's Health Deptartment's rules, very few food carts normally operate here — "we were also able to include more DIY participants this year, to encourage people to do their own backyard edibles." The festival's Chef Stage will feature speakers such as Vanessa Barrington, author of DIY Delicious, and local beekeeper Khaled Almghafi will display his hives in the Farmers' Market area.
"We'll also have a Rock the Bike pedal-powered blender on the Chef Stage, and we think audience members will love the opportunity to jump onstage and power the bike for Chef MikeC, Olivier, and their guest chefs. Rock the Bike is a Berkeley business, and Chef MikeC's Kitchen on Fire is in the heart of this neighborhood. (If you're into bikes and ride your own to the festival, a team of "bike valets" is prepared to park it for you.)
"Celebrating the 'Spice of Life' has become all about bringing together upscale and scrappy ways of looking at things and experiencing the best in life — food, drink, art, music, learning, health, community."
Upscale and scrappy are no longer mutually exclusive, Hensley said.
Is Sunday chow-down day in Berkeley or what? Running concurrently with the Spice of Life Festival — from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto — is the tenth annual Crabby Chefs Seafood Festival.
Benefiting a camp scholarship program sponsored by UC Berkeley's Recreational Sports Development Fund, the festival will include an Iron Chef-style cooking competition starting at 2 p.m. between local restaurants (full disclosure: I'm one of the judges) that involves crab and a secret ingredient to be revealed at the last minute, and culminates with a Crabby Chef winning the trophy. Outdoor food booths will sell cooked crab, crab cakes, clam chowder, beer, and more, accompanied by live music onstage.
Monday, you can hit the gym.