About Local Lemons

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That’s me, Allison Arevalo, writer and creator of Local Lemons, and co-owner of homeroom restaurant in Oakland, CA.

Local Lemons is all about simple, beautiful food. My original recipes use as much local produce as possible, and are free from processed, artificial ingredients. I cook from scratch, and I cook from my heart. My feelings dictate my menus, and while I rely on cookbooks for technique, I rarely follow a recipe. Follow me to farmers’ markets around the East Bay, and see how easy it can be to create natural, healthy meals from your local bounty.

Homeroom will be opening in Oakland sometime in late 2010. As a community restaurant focusing on nostalgic foods, we’ll be serving all different kinds of macaroni and cheese using local California cheeses. When you come by you’ll also find salads made with goods from the farmers’ market, craft beers, local wine and desserts like homemade Oreo cookies and peanut butter pie. We also hope you’ll take a moment to get to know our farmers, who will be featured throughout the restaurant.

I am available for freelance writing gigs, recipe development and catering opportunities in the Bay Area. Contact me at allisonvalo@gmail.com with questions about Local Lemons or homeroom.

More about Local Lemons:

When my husband Alejandro and I moved from Brooklyn to Berkeley, we knew we’d find warmer weather,  greener pastures and a simpler way of life. We had no idea we’d be in for year-round produce, the likes of which I’ve only seen in Italy.

The decision was not an easy one, with family and friends living in New York – but something about the daily subway ride into Manhattan and the supersonic speed of life told us it was time for a change. So, we quit our jobs, packed our things and set out on a two-week cross-country adventure that brought us to our new home in sunny California.

One of my favorite things about living in Berkeley, besides the food, is the smell. Every time I walk outside I breath in citrus and roses – hence, Local Lemons. It makes sense that you’d eat well in a place with such sweet air.

I take advantage of as much local produce as I can in my recipes. I shop at farmers’ markets in Berkeley and Oakland, while making stops at Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market. Using organic, unprocessed ingredients is as important to me as shopping locally. When I was living in Brooklyn, Whole Foods or Fairway was my supermarket of choice. Now, even though I live a few blocks from one, Whole Foods is usually just an afterthought.

As often as I can I cook from scratch. I make bread, pasta and tortillas by hand. Preparing food like this gives you a greater appreciation for what you’re eating, and is undoubtedly better for you. When time is not on my side, I rely on store-bought whole wheat or grain ingredients, and very rarely use white sugar or flour. While I do include meat and poultry in my cooking, I use organic and local. I am more interested in fish and vegetables anyway.

WeddingI love recipes that have me in the kitchen all day, with hours of kneading, stirring, roasting, braising, boiling or baking. I read cookbooks like others read novels, though I rarely stick to a recipe. Technique and ratios, rather than strict measurements. My kitchen skills are mainly self-taught, though my love of fresh foods came from my great-grandmother, who ventured to New York from Grassano, a small town in Puglia, Italy.

I am married to an extremely talented artist, musician, writer and woodworker. Alejandro and I had a classic Brooklyn wedding at Rebar, with incredible cupcakes from Baked. The wedding followed a fairy-tale proposal, where Alejandro sang the words, “Will you marry me?” while we were on top of Mounserrate in Bogota, Colombia, with the sun setting behind us.

Living in Berkeley goes beyond the food. It’s about recycling, reusing, composting, saving energy and supporting local businesses. While I tried to do these things (except composting) in Brooklyn, my efforts fell far short of what I accomplish here. Living for the environment and for your community is more rewarding than I ever imagined. You have to live it to understand.

Unfortunately I cannot consume myself with food all day long, as I work as a communications manager at a credit union in Oakland. I do have the pleasure of riding my bike the 4 miles to work everyday, and strolling around the Old Oakland farmers’ market during my lunch break on Fridays.

Ema2This is Ema. The cutest little terrier you’ve ever seen. Alejandro and I rescued her in December and she has brought us an unbelievable amount of joy.

Flavors I Love:
Sicilian olive oil, garlic, onions, capers, olives, anchovies, pine nuts, walnuts, dark leafy greens, chickpeas, good vinegar, pecorino, sun-dried tomatoes, chilies. I’m sure there are many more…

Kitchen Equipment I Use Most Often:
Cast-iron pots and pans, clay cookware from Colombia, anything Le Creuset, pestle and mortar, salad-spinner, colanders of all sizes, tongs, fish spatula, grater.

A Few Favorite Chefs:
Alice Waters, Marcella Hazan, Sarah Jenkins, Julia Child

My Favorite Book about Food: Animal. Vegetable. Miracle. by Barbara Kingsolver

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

maggie July 14, 2009 at 7:04 am

Looking forward to reading your blog! Just so you know, not all the pictures on this page are coming up for me on firefox.

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Zahavah July 28, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Just found you via Twitter (via @MsGourmet). I’m another transplanted New Yorker who loves Europe and the Mediterranean. One of my best friends lives in Berkeley and has lemon trees in her backyard — I love to visit! I’m enjoying your blog.
- Z

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mau July 30, 2009 at 12:45 am

i too found you through nanette’s twitter.the place where you live sounds idyllic! i live in gozo (malta), the tiny island in the middle of the mediterranean where nanette’s parents come from. i wish we took more care of our islands as people do in berkeley but we’re still light years away from having that kind of awareness and respect for our environment. in any case, i love your blog…keep the posts coming!

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Angela@spinachtiger August 21, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I knew it. We are sisters in food. I LOVE Alice Waters and Marcella.In fact I have a cook along group doing Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking, so I could really “get” it. I also love the salty, savory tastes, especially pecorino. I am going to enjoy every minute of your blog.

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Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. September 2, 2009 at 8:34 am

Berkeley IS a great place for food lovers.

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Rich Alonso September 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Love the website! I’m very happy for you!!

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EJ Sebian September 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

You GO, girl! I miss you both but am glad that you are doing so well! keep it up! REPRESENT! :)

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Cheryl September 11, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Love your website, Allison!! It’s so beautifully written and those photos are amazing. You’ve always been a foodie (a skinny one you bi-otch) and I’m so happy to see your works come to life!

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Cate October 9, 2009 at 3:25 am

I love your approach to food and life! Your photos are gorgeous, and I can’t wait to try your recipes.

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Mama JJ October 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I found you via the foodbuzz list. You have a beautiful blog—lots of zip and authenticity. I, too, love Barbara Kingsolver’s book (all of them, in fact). I read it to myself, and then again, out loud to my husband.

I hope that your time in New York is meaningful even though it doesn’t sound like it will be easy.

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Laxmi November 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Congratulations on your nomination! Your love and passion for fresh produce is an inspiration and a winner.

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Walton Dale November 10, 2009 at 6:27 am

Allison, I’m so happy to have found your food blog. I had no idea that you were so involved in your food. Sounds like everything is going well in Cali for you. I’ll be checking for recipes often!

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heidileon November 21, 2009 at 4:08 am

wow, you and your blog are gorgeous; so bright just as lovely local lemons!. Already subscribed.

h

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DocChuck December 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm

How long have you been in this country?

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Lauren January 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

I love your outlook on food and cooking… can’t wait to read more!

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Mikey January 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Hey I love your blog. You seem to have boundless energy coming through your writing. Your pics are great and I’m digging the Italian connection. I’m gonna blog roll local lemons.
Beautiful.
mikey

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laurel joy nymann March 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I enjoyed the article you wrote about “Dinner Confidential”. They sound like something I might explore. But I have a question, how do you shave an asparagus? I know it sounds funny but I have never seen that in a recipe.

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Allison Arevalo March 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Hi Laurel,
Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Shaved asparagus is SO tasty, I definitely recommend trying it. The easiest way to do it is with a vegetable peeler. “Peel” the whole stalk though, not just the skin. It’s great in salads too, I just read a recipe for one in the new issue of Food & Wine mag, here’s the link: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/shaved-raw-asparagus-with-parmesan-dressing

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ladyleet March 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

cute pic of you in the kitchen! totally reminds me of julie and julia! :)

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Daniel Pak June 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

I can’t wait to eat at Little Mac!!! Best of luck :)

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Flavia June 7, 2010 at 7:09 am

Hi Allison, I am so happy to have found your blog! I also wholeheartedly agree with your philosophy about food and cooking. I grew up going to Italy every summer to visit my paternal grandparents and many relatives, so I understand the concept of eating locally and getting to know your food purveyors. My paternal grandparents had a HUGE yard with a huge garden, fruit trees and chickens. Most of the fruits and vegetables we ate at every meal came from the back yard! It was heaven. I loved the Bay area when I was there several years ago and I would live there in a heartbeat. I’m looking forward to continuing to read more of your blog!

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iphone 5 April 18, 2011 at 7:45 am

Well, we are pretty sure customer are going to see a plethora of iPhone 5 contracts which will really whet the appetite of potential customer. We will not have too long to wait, as it has been suggested that Apple will have more news of the next handset as early as April.

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Laura Valente April 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

HELLO! I just stumbled on your blog and LOVE it. I just started my own and am stalking other blogs for inspiration, advice and general interest. I love your story. I currently am in Boston and am actually trying to get out to San Fransisco now. Everything you wrote about fresh and local foods speaks to my heart. Keep up the great blogging!

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I can’t wait for MW3 to come out for Xbox 360!!!!!!!

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Pat D November 18, 2012 at 9:38 am

I am not sure this site is still active…sad to say. I have sent an email to Alison today and hopefully we will find that she is still blogging. I found this site a couple weeks ago and realized that the recipes are from 2010. Let’s hope she is still active.

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HealthyOut July 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm

What a fantastic, heartwarming journey! We at HealthyOut are thrilled to hear that a cook such as yourself who is dedicated to the best and freshest ingredients the Bay Area has to offer has opened up a restaurant! We are creating a mobile app called HealthyOut that helps you find healthy dishes nearby your location that match your taste and nutrition preference, and after reading your blog we can’t wait to features some of your dishes on our app. We’d also love to feature your story on our blog to publicize this amazing “food’venture” of yours! Let us know what you think :)

Stay Healthy!

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