Last Friday was the day I was supposed to meet Blessing Horowytz, creator of Kale Chips, my current favorite snack food.
Here’s what happened: Multi-tasking mama that I am, I decided to quell my cravings for Kale Chips (not to be confused with roasted kale) and satisfy my curiosity about the brand new Berkeley Bowl West, which opened a couple of weeks ago, so I set off in pursuit of both.
If you live in Berzerkeley, the Bowl needs no introduction. If you hail from further afield, the Berkeley Bowl is a food mecca with devotees from around the Bay Area who flock to the store for its extensive produce section, cheese selection, and bulk food bins. The original location has a rap for long lines at the checkout (where people wait in a relatively Zen state) and aggro road rage in the overflowing parking lot (so much for the peace-loving people of Berkeley.)
Fortunately I can report that at BBW bigger is better — more parking, more produce, and wider aisles. It is, frankly, massively impressive. The Bowl is the kind of place where you can buy a bottle of balsamic vinegar for $1.99 or $31.99 — and just about every price point in between. At the new locale, some drivers still pull crafty maneuvers to nab a park, but that may just be a bad habit from years of circling the original store’s lot. I take a quick spin through the store, pick up Kale Chips by Alive & Radiant Foods, and then head to the checkout. THERE IS NO LINE. Unbelievable.
What’s not to like about Kale Chips? They’re fun, crunchy, finger food. I’m partial to the “quite cheesey” flavor which taste, ah, quite cheesy. They have impeccable cred: Raw. Vegan. Dehydrated. They’re mostly kale. One of my all-time favorite veggies (but you probably figured that out already.) Just six ingredients: Curly kale, red bell pepper, cashews, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and Himalayan crystal salt. Okay, if I had a quibble, they’re exxy — $6.99 a packet. On a good day I can eat a whole bag as I stroll the length of the farmers’ market, where I usually buy ’em. Un-cooked food takes a lot of time to produce. Time is money. Such is life.
After introducing my son and me to these bagged greens, my friends Naila Siddique and Kia Afcari sprang for a dehydrator (around $300) and now make their own for their family — especially their daughter Sabeena, who’s reluctant to eat almost any veg. More on this wee one’s food preferences in a future post. My kitchen is too tiny for a dehydrator and I’m too lazy to make my own, but if you’re keen, here’s a recipe.
Driving home happily munching away I decide on a whim to call in on the good people who turn out this satisfying snack. The Kale Chip “factory” is literally just down the street from my home. If you blink you’d miss the non-descript little building that houses this busy kale biz. I meet Blessing, who graciously gives me an impromptu tour. (Basically, four large Excalibur dehydrators — she could use four times as many — and a storage space.) Business is booming: Blessing sells her snacks to hundreds of stores across the country. Her small staff crank out Kale Chips constantly but the dehydration process can’t be rushed, so it’s a challenge to keep up with demand.
Blessing has been selling her specially-spiced kale (sourced from Riverdog Farm) and un-baked cookies for more than six years, at farmers’ markets, natural-food grocery stores, and health-food shops such as Whole Foods. An early adopter in the raw-food movement, she’s also a former Silicon Valley recruiter and, at one time, a dream worker. Making Kale Chips is not about producing greens on the go to rake in the greenbacks, says Blessing. She produces raw goods for the greater good, to feed the mind, body, and spirit.
No surprise then, after a free-ranging chat, that a handshake is out of the question. Blessing gives me a hug and sends me on my way with, well, a blessing.
Photos: Sarah Henry