4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the category “Berkeley”

Back to the Bay (by Carmen)

The glorious Dolores Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon in San Francisco

The glorious Dolores Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon in San Francisco

Ok, we are a bit behind. And by a bit, I mean a lot. We’re steering away from the trip tips and cost analysis for now to focus back on what we love most: travel stories and food photography. To kick things off I’m going to write about a trip way back in April, shortly after returning from our gastronomical adventures in China. It was a journey that included hyperactive bhangra dancing, hiking, beers, pottery painting, jello shots and non-jello shots, custom made t-shirts, wine and a veiled crown with inappropriate ornaments. Yes, it was our bachelor and bachelorette parties! I can’t reveal any specifics but I was so happy to be surrounded by wonderful friends to celebrate bachelorette-hood. As it happens most of these friends live in the city by the bay, San Francisco.

Manish slaving away at the stove

Manish slaving away at the stove

A wonderful and welcoming vegan meal

A wonderful and welcoming vegan meal

Manish welcomed us back from our round the world journey with open arms and a very tasty meal at his apartment in North Beach. While we regaled him with tales of travels far and wide, he graciously cooked us up a vegan meal of green beans, lentils, rice and stuffed flatbreads – just like his momma taught him (quick shout out to her homemade handvo!). We talked, shared a couple growlers and joined friends in what was a great first night in the city.

Pizza and wine at Preston Winery in Sonoma

Pizza and wine at Preston Winery in Sonoma

Preston Winery tasting area

Preston Winery tasting area

The next day our friend Nalat whisked us away to be her guests at Preston Winery. It is one of the best wineries in the region but has a completely unpretentious atmosphere. You do not have to be a wine snob to enjoy their delicious reds, whites and roses in a classic farmhouse setting. On the day we visited they were serving up some pizza made with local ingredients. Let me tell ya, they take local seriously around here. As in they grew their own wheat on the estate that they then milled into flour for the pizza dough which was baked it in their wood-fired oven. It’s hard to beat that.

Joe’s Sliders

Joe’s Sliders

Over the next week we transitioned from friends in SF to our lovely hosts Kristen and Mark in Berkeley. While we waited for them to return from work, Nathan and I stopped by one of our favorite Berkeley snack shops: Joes’ Sliders. This small cafe does excellent burgers in miniature. It’s such an easy concept, I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before. Sometimes you just want a bite of juicy patty or portobello cap with good quality cheddar, sauce, and sesame seeds bun. This way you get a taste without a full burger commitment.

Vine Street Wine Shop

Vine Street Wine Shop

The vast board of cheeses at Cheese Board

The vast board of cheeses at Cheese Board

While we were in Berkeley, we couldn’t resist a chance to have a final pot luck with our dinner party crew. We had posted about our previous dinner party which honored foods from the Bay Area. But this time we were all pressed for time, so we went with a three ingredient theme, inspired by the cooking show Chopped. To get supplies, we visited three of our fave Berkeley food shops that we dearly miss: Berkeley Bowl (the best grocery store in the world), the Cheese Board (a co-op that has no less than 5 types of feta in addition to pretty much any other type of cheese), and the Vine Street Wine Shop (all wines are well described and under $25…need I say more?).

3 ingredient dinner party

3 ingredient dinner party

My contribution to the three ingredient dinner party was 1) a dish of cantaloupe wrapped in sage in proscuitto and 2) ricotta mixed with herbs and olives on toast. Nathan created a salad of roasted carrots, arugula and avocado (a simplified version of this excellent recipe from Food & Wine). Add in a roast chicken, a cauliflower “risotto”, more greens and a cobbler and we were well fed and happy.

Dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge

Dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge

It was great to be back in the Bay Area yet China was still fresh in our memories. The noodles, and dumplings and tofu…oh yum. I never tire of it and wanted more. Fortunately, our friends were on the same page so six of us gathered round a table for dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge. Our table was soon laden with steamer baskets full of delectable treats on par with the dim sum we had recently enjoyed in HK.

In our visit to the Bay Area we were fortunate enough to spend time with many more people than I have mentioned here. For all those who hosted us, dined with us, drank with us and/or danced with us, we take a bit of you with us wherever we go. And by a bit, I mean a lot.


A Dinner Party to Honor the Bay Area (by Nathan)

When we lived in Berkeley we cooked a lot of food.  We had friends that also cooked quite a bit.  It was natural for us to want to cook for each other, and thus the beginnings of frequent feasts.  One Saturday afternoon Nalat, Brenda, Carmen and I embarked on a long and strenuous hike in the Berkeley hills.  We did not expect to be so hungry, but after hours of no food we wanted to cook something.  That night we made a feast of fresh sushi, sashimi salad and onigiri.  Rubbing our bellies and sipping on sake we decided to begin the regular dinner party.

The potluck would be alternated between three apartments on a rotating theme chosen by one of the chefs.  For almost two years we would have a party every two to three weeks.  The themes ranged all types of cuisines, cooking methods and styles.  We cooked Chinese, Thai, Japanese (not sushi), French, Indian and we insisted on something stuffed, fermented, barbecued, lucky, vegan or using squash.  Some meals required drink pairings, another, a jug from Preston winery as the highlight, a few dinners featured homebrewed beer made by Brenda and Drew.  We even had a dinner inspired by the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water.  Each dinner was a highlight to our week, a highlight to our month and an experience bringing us closer as friends.

Our dinner party feast

So, when we returned to Berkeley for a few days, there was one thing on all of our minds: when is the dinner party? And more essentially, what would be the theme? Carmen and I chose the theme “Missing the Bay Area.”  The idea was to cook something that we could not live without from the Bay Area.  The general theme among all of us was the freshness of the ingredients.  The produce available here is unparalleled, farm to table is actually possible; I walked from talking to North Bay farmers at the market to the Brenda’s kitchen knowing exactly where my vegetables came from.

Battered squash blossoms over tomatoes and avocados

Humbolt Fog, honey and almonds

Highlighting the freshness of the ingredients, I made stuffed squash blossoms over early girl tomatoes and avocado.  I also picked up a slice of Humbolt Fog cheese that we smothered in sliced almonds and honey.  Carmen contributeda lemon, almond tea cake based on one from Tartine Bakery.

Rancho Gordo beans

Fig, raspberry and chocolate tart

Rancho Gordo beans are delicious, Brenda stewed a handful of ingredients together into a salty savory concoction deserving of seconds and thirds.  She also made a David Lebovits inspired fig and raspberry tart with Tcho chocolate drizzled over the top.

Nalat’s chapino

Oysters on the half shell

The abundance of seafood in San Francisco is amazing.  Nalat recreated a chapino that she loves from the North Beach neighborhood with mussels and crab legs.  We cracked open a few oysters and topped them with a mignonette.

Fig, prosciutto and arugula pizza

Drew put together a fig, prosciutto and arugula pizza and shared some of his hoarded Siduri wine.

We ate, we drank, and then we had a little more.  As always, the meal was a feast of delightful cuisines and treats.  We slept overly full, but dreamt hungrily of our next dinner party.

Berkeley Bites (by Carmen)

Last time I wrote a about Berkeley it was to say goodbye to a city that had treated me well.  Seven months later we have returned, not as residents but as visitors.  After we attended the Sonoma wedding we ventured back to Berkeley to stay with friends and revisit old haunts.  It was wonderful to be back in a place I’m so familiar with, where it feels like I know every nook and cranny.  But as I walked around the sunny, tree lined streets, I didn’t feel regret about leaving.  I appreciated the good food and easy walkability of Berkeley but was confident I had made the right choice to move on.

Berkeley Farmer’s Market

River Dog stand at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market

There was only one moment of weakness.  On Thursday evening we attended the organic farmers market and were reminded of the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available in California. After the market we made our traditional stop at Vintage Berkeley to be tempted by their excellent selection of wines, all of which are priced under $25. We also made our way to the best cheese shop in the world, The Cheese Board Collective. The woman behind the counter was totally excited for our idea of stuffing squash blossoms with ricotta and immediately brought us some amazingly delicious samples to try. Following this routine with a home cooked meal constitutes what I consider to be a perfect Thursday evening, one we enjoyed many times while living here. Aside from all the friends we sorely miss, this foodie path pulled on my heartstrings the most.

Produce at Berkeley Bowl

Heirloom tomatoes!

And then there is Berkeley Bowl.  My love of food and cooking was awakened in Berkeley and I feel that this wondrous grocery store played a role.  To be sure, it is not for everyone.  The enormous variety of good quality products at low prices, not to mention their glorious produce and bulk sections, makes it popular.  With so many people there is a certain amount of jostling to be expected, especially near the bottleneck by the berry section.  But Nathan and I had a strategy: 1) divide list based on sections of the store, 2) enter, we each pick up a basket (carts will just slow you down) and try cheese sample, 3) Nathan goes to deli counter, I head over to dairy, 4) meet up around yogurts (or, more often, retrieve Nathan from nearby wine section), 5) Nathan selects meats and seafood, I find packaged and canned goods, 6) Nathan gets nuts, flour, etc. from bulk, I start in on the produce leaving my basket in a nearby aisle in order to increase maneuverability, 7) Nathan joins me in produce to select fruit, 8) get in the check-out line and breathe!  Oh how I miss it.

In fact most of the things I miss about Berkeley revolve around food.  So with that in mind I present my personal Best of Berkeley list.

Zachary’s Roma Pizza

Zachary’s Chicago Style Pizza

Best Place for Deep Dish Pizza: Zachary’s.  This place is right up there with any Chicago deep dish restaurant.  Actually, its rich tomato sauce beats out any competition.  The Bay Area deep dish debate generally revolves around Little Star (cornmeal crust) vs. Zachary’s (flaky crust), with the occasional Paxti’s lover thrown in.  I can appreciate both styles but for ambiance, employee benefits (Zachary’s is a co-op) and satisfaction guaranteed, I will always head to Zachary’s.

Thin crust from The Cheese Board

Cherry corn scone and english muffin from The Cheese Board

Best Place for Thin Crust Pizza: The Cheese Board Collective.  Another co-op run pizzeria (hey, this is Berkeley!) makes my Best of Berkeley list.  Quite simply, it serves the best veggie pizzas with lots of garlic and herbs piled on a chewy crust.  Plus they give you the bonus half slice with each order. Go to the shop and bakery next door to sample any cheese you can think of a grab a cherry corn scone.

Chilaquiles Verdes from Picante

Best Place to Get Over a Hangover: Picante.  When does good Mexican food not make one feel instantly better?  And for the perfect pick me up, I have two words: chilequiles verdes.  A tangy tomatillo sauce is scooped onto two fried eggs accompanied by rich black beans.  Sop it all up with fresh tortillas.  Wash it down with a cinnamon sweet cafe de olla.  Heaven. Evidence of its excellence: Nathan and I ALWAYS order different dishes at restaurants in order to share and have more variety.  When it comes to Picante’s chilaquiles verdes, we do not share. We each order our own.

ACME Bread

Best Place to Buy Bread: ACME.  In a tiny little bakeshop on the corner of Cedar and San Pablo, the glory of good bread is celebrated.  Everything is good here.  Puts all other supermarket breads to shame.

Brazil Cafe

Tri-tip sandwich at Brazil Cafe

Best Place to Eat Al Fresco: Brazil Cafe.  Walking past this cheery food stand with the Brazilian music blasting round the clock, it’s hard not to stop.  They rope you in with lots of grilled goodies, either stuffed in sandwiches or on top of rice. And then they drizzle on a tangy green garlic sauce that takes it to a whole other level.

Yes, more pizza. This time at Gather

Best Place to be a Localvore: Gather.  The inventive cuisine at Gather is already well known as it was one of the first to really push eating locally.  And they do it in style, with plenty of great vegetarian and vegan options that are packed with flavor.  Their pizzas are excellent and have these special crusts in which the dough is somehow pinched to create pearls of bread around the pie. Yum.

Bakesale Betty sandwich with a strawberry shortcake

Best Place to That Sells Only One Thing: Bakesale Betty.  Ok fine, it sells maybe 5 things and is technically in Oakland.  But you really only go there for one thing – the fried chicken sandwich.  It’s perfectly crunchy and crispy and topped with well-dressed jalapeno coleslaw that rocks.  Followed with a strawberry shortcake or cookie, it’s a decadent treat perfect for a sunny afternoon.

Salsas and tacos at Comal

Best Place to Feel Like You Are In SF: Comal.  This restaurant opened in the 7 months that we were gone and we are already sad that it wasn’t here sooner. Berkeley has some great food but for that buzzing, urban cool ambiance we usually head across the Bay to SF.  But this place was hopping on a Monday night, maybe because their sophisticated cocktails are hard to resist.  As for the high-end Mexican food, we were pretty much licking the plate.

View of the Golden Gate from the Berkeley Hills

And of course there’s more. Phil’s Sliders for its perfectly proportioned gourmet mini-burgers. La Note for its scrumptious French style breakfasts. Ippuku for its awesomely authentic Japanese izakaya cuisine. La Mediterranee, for its completely addictive, savory sweet chicken filo rolls.  Cafe Coulucci for its Ethiopian stews to be sopped up with the spongy, sour injera bread.  I could never name all the places.  All I can say is thank you, Berkeley, for supporting my eating habit with such good options!

What Now? (by Nathan & Carmen)

Returning to San Francicso

Nathan’s favorite restaurant: Sol Food in San Rafael

When we initially thought of traveling for six months to a year the idea was more of a dream than a reality.  Traveling internationally becomes an addiction, some call it the travel bug, but our need to travel became a living necessity after our first trips to Europe.  The symptoms are rather subtle at first: excitement to review photos, enthusiasm when returning to our jobs and enjoyment to fall back into the routine of ordinary life.  Fast forward a couple months and the restlessness initiates the ideas of another big trip start forming.  We typically settle the anxiety through a scattering of weekend trips and hiking adventures.  Eventually the urge to travel becomes so intense that we busy ourselves planning the destinations of our next multi-week exploration.

Carmen on Barcelona steps (2006)

Returning to California meant some big choices.  While there were seemingly endless possibilities of what to do next, for us, it really came down to two.  Option 1 is to settle down somewhere and start job hunting.  “Somewhere” is still to be determined which is both scary and exciting.  Option 2 is to keep going and take the full year off to travel, explore, meet new people, hike, and eat delicious foods.  After much thought, financial analysis and discussion, we decided there was really only one responsible choice.  We simply had to find out what was behind door number 2.

Carmen enjoying a rosé and a perfect lunch at Prune in NYC (2011)

New York street art and bicycle (2011)

So we finally committed to a full year off.  Woo hoo!  Then the challenge was to figure out what the rest of the year includes.  First we made a fantasy list of all the places we would ever like to go if money and time were no object (i.e. the fun part). Next we cut down that list to what we could realistically do (i.e. the less fun part). Now we are in the midst of doing all the planning required to make the dream come true.  The rough itinerary for the rest of the year is as follows:

  • Summer 2012 :: USA
  • September – October 2012 :: Europe
  • November 2012 :: India
  • December 2012 :: Southeast Asia
  • January 2013 :: China

The blog continues! And we will be sharing and documenting the details right here for everyone to enjoy.  Here is a teaser of the things to come:

Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park (2010)

In 2010 we hiked embarked on a week-long expedition into the canyons of Southern Utah.  We discovered majestic scenery and seemingly painted landscapes.  Our enjoyment of the canyons of Cafayate and the beautiful rocks of our Salar de Uyuni adventure enticed us to go and see one thing – The Grand Canyon.  There will be more hikes, more food and more red canyons.

New York density (2011)

Chicago highrises (2011)

Our United States tour will continue from vertical cliffs to vertigo skyscrapers as we explore New York City and Chicago with friends and family.  From there we trade in the tallest buildings for the tallest rows of corn, Nebraska here we come!

Hiking with Manish in Muir Woods (2010)

Having a laugh outside Bouchon Bakery

We return for the best of California summer where we will be posting about the best spots in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  You can expect hiking and all of our favorite restaurants.

Gaudí’s Casa Batlló (2006)

The real excursion happens in September.  With our passports in hand, clothes freshly laundered we will be climbing aboard another jet plane for another five months of adventure.  First stop Spain.  There are just some activities that would never happen unless we took a year off to travel.  Thus, let’s put a our four feet to the test as we will be walking 500 miles across northern Spain on the Santiago de Compostela trail.

Nathan on the Thames (2010)

London’s historic architecture (2006)

Spain is not the only European place we want to see.  We’ll tie in our favorite city, London, France, Germany and some great wine excursions along the way.

Indian lunch while in Singapore (2009)

But nothing will be as bustling and exciting as what we expect to find in our next country.  We are both excited and almost giddy to begin our exploration of India.  We can’t wait to experience the intense flavors, markets and crowds that are unlike anything we have ever seen.

Thai cooking by 4FEET2MOUTHS (2011)

Our love of Thai food and our love of our Thai friend brings us to this beautiful country.  From boat-side street food to dancing octopus we will be trying to stay cool while eating chilies in Thailand.  Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will conclude our exploration of the Indochinese peninsula.

Shanghai nightscape (2009)

Pan-fried Soup Dumplings at Yang’s in Shanghai (2009)

Asia would not be complete without seeing more of the wonders of China.  Carmen and I fell in love with the authentic and varied cuisines during a vacation in 2009.  From then on we have been obsessed with Sichuan cuisine.  We are looking forward to hardcore negotiating at the markets, mouth numbing delights from street side vendors and, of course, much hand waving and pointing.

Hong Kong density (2009)

Dim sum craziness in Hong Kong (2009)

We could not forget Hong Kong!  This city packs a punch with more fifty story buildings than anywhere else, delicious food and a perfect blend of East and West.

The Great wall of China (2009)

How about that for a year of travel?  We will explore four continents, over sixteen countries, all the while creating profound memories.  As much as possible we are going to try to meet up with friends along the way.  We will walk, we will eat and 4FEET2MOUTHS travels on – see you on the road!

Forbidden city cauldron handle (2009)

Southern Migration (by Nathan)

The Andes between Santiago and Buenos Aires

Finally this day has come- the day where my feet leave the ground in California and touch down on the other side of the world.  Today I am in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It has been a migratory event in some sense, a need down through my core to get out of town and see the world. Not just the travel itch, but a gnawing at my inner being to grab a hold of some culture and consume it, devour it until I was satisfied.  This must be what birds feel too, a calling and a deep need to fly south, a need to voraciously flap their wings for weeks straight to be there to consume the ripest fruit.  This year the world would not ripen without me being there to eat it. 

I was quite lucky that Carmen felt this too.  No wings, but this year you will find us walking and eating our way around the world. Not physically walking around the world, but our 4 feet and 2 mouths will travel to destinations that our inner being wants us to explore.

Berkeley was an amazing place to live.  There were so many aspects to Berkeley that touched my core values in architecture, food and the outdoors. The Bay Area allowed me to design amazing buildings, hike in beautiful mountains and enjoy farm-to-table meals everyday and all year.  But…in many ways the lacking public transit and small ethnic neighborhoods were not enough.  There are only so many times that a Bart ride to the Mission or Chinatown would satisfy my desires to travel.  And there were those times that while eating dim sum at Dol Ho where I experienced the crazy cart-driven yelling that I enjoyed so much in Hong Kong.  If I liked it so much then why not go back to Hong Kong?

And friends! I have some truly amazing friends in the Bay Area.  I have friends that like me, think a perfect day is a farmer’s market, shared bottle of wine and a Cheeseboard pizza. I have friends that time and time again feed me, educate me, entertain me (sometimes a little to much), and even nurse me back to health.  I drool thinking of our dinner parties– potlucks to an unprecedented gourmet level.  I will miss all of these friends and they know that they are always welcome to visit and stay with us at our home.  That is, when we finally get a home somewhere.

That’s right, we are homeless.  Carmen and I gave up 70% of our stuff and moved out of Berkeley.  It is a crazy feeling purging everything you own to the last morsels of what you think is important.  The sentiment is the worst for me- both getting rid of things that emotionally tug at me and the things that I think have some actual value.  The end result: I sold a few things on Craigslist, gave away a lot of stuff and trashed quite a bit too.  No turning back now, I’m glad I did it.  I’m still impressed that I fit all that 30% in my little Nissan truck.

BA Architecture

Stepping onto the Buenos Aires streets created such a fantastic sensation throughout my body.  It was as if my soul was tingling- reminding me that this is happening, this is really happening.  No job, no apartment, no bills, just Carmen and I, a camera and our backpacks and four months to explore South America.  The rest of the year we’re traveling too. Where should we go?

A new chapter (by Carmen)

Two roads diverge in a wood, as Frost wrote.  In my life, the traveled road is on the right.  This is the one where I’m supposed to find a good job and save up for a house and get settled in. On the left is the less traveled road.  It’s hazy; I can’t tell exactly where it goes.

The majority of my adult life has taken place in the San Francisco Bay Area – from college to my first long-term job to grad school.  It has all been a somewhat logical path to follow.  But now the future holds a big question mark.     ?      Should I search out fellowships, look for jobs, just travel?  Where? For how long?

What I do know is that I booked tickets to spend four months(!) in South America.  This trip is kick starting this new chapter in life.  With it, I want to start a new project – this blog.  For me, the blog will be a centered way to document my travels, food, thoughts, adventures and just life in general.  Actually, it’s not just mine.  It’s Nathan’s adventures, too.  He’ll be giving his own posts with his point of view on things.  That way, all our friends, family and travel enthusiasts can come to one site to get the latest update on us.

Over the next few months we will be posting about our experiences in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.  Our travel style generally involves us walking around until our feet hurt in search of awesomely delicious food and drink, hence the name of this blog.  Expect to see some parrilla in Buenos Aires, capirinhas in Rio, saltado in Lima, wine tasting in Mendoza, and more.  We will also throw a bit of history, culture and architecture into the mix.  Ooh I’m getting excited!

The previous post was about feeling grateful for the life I’ve led so far.  This post is about embracing the future and all the uncertainty that comes with it.  It may be somewhat cliche but Frost’s poem makes me feel ready to take on the world.  Let’s go.

Goodbye to Berkeley (by Carmen)


The lovely view from our Berkeley apartment.

I hate goodbyes in any form.  I dislike finishing a good book because I have to bid farewell to the characters I met.  I dislike ending jobs because I have to leave the co-workers I’ve spent so much time with.  The worst goodbyes are when you don’t know if you’ll ever see a person or place again.

Now I must say goodbye to the Bay Area, where I’ve lived for the better part of 9 years.  There are many things I will miss.  The view from my apartment, for instance.  I absolutely love the view.  The bright blue sky contrasts with the tree leaves.  The branch that curves in such a way to give me privacy from neighbors (at least when there are leaves in spring). The squirrels that scurry along the telephone wires.  I’ve been a grad student for the past few years and like to work at home. The beautiful view has kept me company through many hard months and for that I am grateful.

My view, however, is not the thing I will miss most.  My wonderful, amazing and irreplaceable friends top that list.  You guys rock. I will also long for the fresh and delicious produce available year round,  the proximity to wine country in the north and mountains to the east, the great selection of restaurants, the ease of visiting family in Southern California.

I will miss Berkeley itself, to an extent.  As an urbanist, I form relationships with cities.  I guess you could say I have theoretical conversations with them.  For example with San Francisco it’s something like, “I like you, I really do.  Great food, lots of parks.  You’d be even better if dropped that car habit of yours.  Look, I can see why so many people leave their hearts with you.  It’s just I don’t feel that spark between us, you know. Let’s just be friends.” My favorite city, London, on the other hand, “It’s never a dull moment with you. You really have it all – history, great culture, and the Underground.  Oh how I love the Underground.  That  6 month fling we had was magical.  Do we really have to stay apart just because your prime minister is anti-immigrant?”  Hong Kong, “You’re so intriguing.  I love your style – mixing old with new, east with west.  Let’s get to know each other better over dim sum.”

I’ve known Berkeley intimately for so many years.  I’ve been to most of it’s restaurants, bars, cafes, farmers markets, theaters, stores.  I met Nathan here.  It has been a good city to me, even if a bit quiet for my tastes.  But now this era comes to an end…time to say goodbye…I’ll keep it simple.

“Goodbye, Berkeley.  It’s been great but we always knew it wouldn’t be forever.  I’ll see you around sometime.”

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