4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the tag “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.

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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!

Goodbye to Berkeley (by Carmen)

Berkeley_View

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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