Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jun 19, 2009 11:35 PM

Berkeley's "Community-Supported Kitchen," Three Stone Hearth

Ever heard of a Community Supported Kitchen (CSK)? I hadn't until this Tuesday, when I went, along with my Natural Chef class from Bauman College, on a field trip to visit one in Berkeley called Three Stone Hearth.

What is a CSK? It builds off of a growing trend in community-supported food suppliers, though the more commonly known version is a CSA, or Community Support Agriculture. The website LocalHarvest provides a handy central resource for anyone looking for more info on CSAs, which they define as:
"...a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season."

We were given a background talk on Three Stone, toured the facilities, and spent four hours helping in the kitchen. To add to its one-of-a-kind vibe, Three Stone is in the cavernous space that previously housed my favorite Thai grocery store, Tuk Tuk (as in the mini-bus like vehicle used in Thailand). Half the space is still filled with Thai groceries and an actual Tuk Tuk bus. The other half is Three Stone Hearth, buzzing with music and volunteers, and saturated with slow-cooked, nutrient-rich food scents.

Our field trip also introduced me to Dr. Weston A. Price, a diet guru called the "Charles Darwin of Nutrition." A Cleveland dentist in the early 1900s, Price traveled the world studying isolated human groups showing healthier traits and observing their diets in a quest to understand the causes of physical degeneration (including dental decay). Three Stone Hearth "follows the guidelines for human nutrition that were developed and discovered by indigenous and traditional peoples around the world and recorded by Dr. Weston A. Price." Among the guidelines Price set forward:

Nutrient density
Liberal use of traditional fats
Raw and cultured dairy products
Whole grains that have been soaked, sprouted, soured or naturally leavened
Use of natural and unrefined sweeteners only, balanced by fats and proteins or lacto-fermented
Animal products from pastured livestock
Avoidance as much as possible of processed and chemical ingredients and toxic substances

None of these guidelines seem revolutionary. If we weren't all eating so much processed food of uncertain origins, we wouldn't need constant reminders of what "real" wholesome food is. But regardless, it's clear that Three Stone's food is high quality, and that they are extremely careful about sourcing ingredients. We were told some customers use them as a stepping stone from eating vegetarian back to eating animal protein, because they can be reassured Three Stone's meat is of the best quality. For individuals who want delicious, wholesome prepared foods but don't cook, I could also see Three Stone being a good option. Or for someone who's ill and looking for food at its most nourishing.

Three Stone does a weekly menu they post to their site. My favorite thing was the Meaty Pint... exactly as it sounds, a delectable pint of extremely meaty stew. In our case, it had tons of chicken spiced with a Moroccan blend and studded with olives and raisins. We also made incredible coconut macaroons that were wheatfree and sugar free. I notice they have cherry cheesecake on this week's menu -- my all time favorite dessert. Unfortunately, their food, due to its quality, does not come cheap. One tin of cheesecake will run you $20. Three Stone is an exciting new type of food business with scrumptious offerings though, and one that those living close-by should consider checking out if their budget allows

Natural Chef Shosh

Three Stone Hearth
1581 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94703

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In what way is Three Stone Hearth a new type of business? I don't see how it's any more "community-supported" than any other takeout / delivery place.

    Weston Price was a quack dentist who propounded a lot of nutritional nonsense:

    8 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      oh boy. I'm not going to get involved,

      but I do notice in their online "buy local" section, they sell several processed food from other continents (salt and palm oil).

      So I suspect they're "all local with a few exceptions" - their ingrediant list for some dishes includes salt and palm oil.

      1. re: bbulkow

        I am sure their ingredient list also includes such non locally produced items like spices e.g. black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cardamon etc. BTW Morton's Sea Salt is apparently harvested in Spain.

        1. re: wolfe

          I think bbulkow meant that they actually *sell* French sea salt, Italian basil, West African palm oil, Thai palm sugar...and a local foods wheel. Oh well, I wish them luck, though I somehow don't see myself buying soup in returnable jars.

          1. re: Glencora

            "their ingrediant list for some dishes includes salt and palm oil."

            1. re: wolfe

              I meant that they both resell non-local ingredients, and *use* non-local ingredients.

              I have never figured out how people can get so excited about local eating, build themselves a belief system around it, then not do it all the way. We have salt here. Use a different sugar than one from *thailand* or a fat from africa. Don't use pepper or cloves - or get them grown here.

              "not for me", I guess

            2. re: Glencora

              Agreed that Three Stone is not for all. I myself was taken there on a fieldtrip and won't be purchasing from them on a regular basis, simply because it's $. But it is still an impressive group effort to create a community business, and the food I tasted was really good. I can tell you from seeing their pantry and raw ingredients, lots are sourced local. They said they do their best to get everything from within 100 miles. It's virtually impossible to use everything local.

              You can no doubt sense my skepticism also in my post about Weston Price. I'd never heard of him before, and the guy was a dentist. Plus, have our eating habits degenerated so much that we really need a guru to tell us to eat more nutrient rich and less processed food? There's more to it than that I'm sure... but still.

              Bottom line: I'm not trying to preach a Three Stone gospel, but simply thought others would be interested in hearing about my experience.

              1. re: shoshanad

                Could you clarify what a "community-supported kitchen" is? All you said was that it "builds off of a growing trend in community-supported food suppliers..." but I'm still not clear what that entails. Just how are they "supported" by the community differently than any other retail business? Do they sell shares, like a CSA?

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Seems more about their attitude than anything else. The five owners describe themselves as a worker-owned cooperative, though they hire dishwashers and recruit volunteers. In addition to running a fairly conventional takeout and delivery business they sometimes have classes and lectures.

      2. Hey so has anyone had the food, how does it taste?

        The bread looks like old fashion hippie bread (Uprisings Bakery) but with a little science.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          I have been a semi-regular TSH customer over the last year - Been very satisfied with the food itself. Yes, it is pricy, but it's all nutritionally dense and all the ingredient labels note where they come from wherever possible (at least the main ingredients), and the vast majority of it is within 100 miles. And I actually like the fact the food comes in glass jars; it's more recyclable than most of the plastic packaging that's out there now.

          With the price tag, it's not for everyone (wish it was). FYI - The bread in most cases is supplied by Grindstone Bakery up in the North Bay - their breads are yeast-free so it's dense.

          1. re: ML8000

            Admittedly, haven't been since they opened so maybe they've changed their recipes since then, but I was really unimpressed with the food I tried. Loved the concept, and the pedigree of ingredients sounded great, but the technique was just way off. I tried buying their beef broth and it had a thick layer of fat on top. They said it was to preserve the nutrient rich fats, blah blah blah, I think it's just a way to rationalize being too lazy to skim your broth. Also tried a few prepared items, can't remember what exactly, and I though the flavors were really boring. Tried it out three times, just to see if I was missing something, and had the same reaction every time: these folks need to stop fixating on nutrition and start thinking about food that tastes good.

            BTW - they originally had a CSA style model where you had to subscribe, set up an account with them, and put in a regular order with some type of minimum. They also sold a lot of cooking staples like pastured eggs, meat and raw milk, broth and rendered fat, etc. Not sure how all of this has changed since they opened up in the old Tuk Tuk space.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Actualy, the fat is part of the Weston Price thing. High cholesterol is healthy, so you should eat lots of meat, lard, butter, cream, whole milk, palm oil, and coconut oil.

              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                "I think it's just a way to rationalize being too lazy to skim your broth."
                Actually MtM the broth is separated by draining through a spigot at the bottom of the tilt skillet. It is then measured into jars and the fat is then added to cover. It is done by hand and rather than lazy is rather light labor intense.

            2. My neighbor was a subscriber or whatever they call it, and I tried some of their stuff about a year ago. From what I recall, there was a hippie vegetarian curry that was okay (in a quart jar for maybe eight bucks), some fermented beet borscht drink that was delicious, a minty yogurt that was tasty but shockingly expensive, and something snacky that I really liked but I don't remember what it was.

              The founder of Three Stone Hearth, Jessica Prentice, is also purported to be the person who coined the term "locavore." She put on some kind of Full Moon dinners for years, which I never attended but that involved some sort of community cooking and communing and perhaps singing Kumbaya at table. I find career arcs such as hers fascinating--she is so able to dream up and market ideas that tap into the zeitgeist--but their success isn't only (or necessarily at all) a measure of their cooking talent.

              2 Replies
              1. re: heidipie

                I don't see any vegetarian entrees on their current menu. The entrees in the quart jars cost $16-17 plus $1.50 deposit on the jar.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  This was about a year ago. And maybe it wasn't vegetarian, but whatever it was, it wasn't terribly meaty.

              2. True there are many quacks and fruity concepts in foodland-- but the more you understand about food, the more you will appreciate Three Stone Hearth. I would run out and support any food institution that takes its cues from Weston Price and Sally Fallon, but as far as I know, there is only one in the East Bay. You can be sure that at 3 Stone Hearth you will eat the highest quality fats and oils (no trans-fats/ burnt/ racid oils) the grains will be soaked/ sprouted/ fermented properly and the cheeses, meats, vegetables, fruits and grains will be of the highest quality.

                I was there today as they cut open a round of Parmagianno Reggiano, the finest most authentic parmesan cheese made only from the raw milk of organic pastured cows that graze on Spring and Summer grass. This may sound like a lot of foo foo for some, but if you truly understand the science and tradition of the culinary arts, you couldn't ask for a better representation of a well-prepared and nutrient dense food.

                If you think their prices are high, you don't understand the product you are getting. Ask them, for example, how they prepare their granola and your jaw will drop.

                Couldn't be more recommended.

                Three Stone Hearth
                1581 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94703

                2 Replies
                1. re: exgringo

                  By law, Parmigiano Reggiano must be made from raw milk, but but most is not organic. Even the organic producers make cheese every day year-round, and feed their cows both grass and hay.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I joined a couple of weeks go.
                    They deliver fresh eggs and raw dairy products to my house!!!!!!!

                    Given that I really don't care if they have salt that is further away then 100 miles.

                    I read the Price stuff. Interesting nut nothing new. That said, in a world where people don't cook and eat frozen (sometimes organic!) , frozen, processed foods, there just cannot be too many people screaming from the mountain top that people are killing themselves.

                    I like it.