So I recently visited the Bay Area to help my youngest sister move into her dorm and to
eat food err… meet with friends I haven’t seen in over 1 year! So all my friends, by virtue of either having studied in the Bay Area for the past four years and thus converted into foody-ism or have been born and raised in the Bay Area and thus automatically born a foody, love LOVE food. So, “meeting up with friends” became the same thing as “trying different foods.” Two birds with one stone? Yup, and a nice bird-soup to go with that afterwards. To share, of course.
Oh, Berkeley. I’ve been reminiscing so much on the good things about Berkeley that I completely forgot about the smell. I know, I seem slightly obsessed with the olfactory (Cf. post on trip to Paris, “Eau de Paris”) but Berkeley has its very own distinctly liberal, humanitarian and 60’s scent. It’s a powerful mix of not yet collected compost, garbage, and recycled items, of the ever-present homeless people, and, as with all cities, stale urine.
It’s not all bad, though, I promise! I love Berkeley and wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else for my four years of university. Where else could I have encountered such a diverse and eclectic mix of people or have garnered an appreciation for great, fresh food? (Well, I could name a few actually…)
And now for the foodstuffs (which is what everyone cares about, really):
A close friend insisted that we needed to try these awesome scones before we left to take the Bart to S.F. for lunch. I think I ate at least five times that day, hobbit-style. I forget the name of the place (typical) but these raspberry scones were quite nice despite the fact it made me miss proper English Cream Tea. with clotted cream. and jam. and a plain sultana scone. I found a recipe for making one’s own clotted cream (a.k.a. Devonshire Cream) online and hope to share my success with photos, if not the actual clotted cream, sometime soon.
For lunch, we went to Il Cane Rosso (The Red Dog) at the Embarcadero. We got their Warm Egg Salad Sandwich, and this photo does not do it much justice but believe me, it was good. Light and warm without any gross egginess to it. Nomnomnom. Since we found out that there was a Happy Hour at the Hog Island Co. on that day, we waited about three hours and came back to the Embarcadero to partake of half-priced oysters. I’ve been having a strange oyster-craving for the past three to four years, so I was really excited at the prospect of finally eating raw oysters. I had no idea that this excitement would turn to a complete meltdown!
So, a bit of the backstory. One very important thing about me is that I need to feed myself regularly or I turn into an angry tired imp with an attitude. The hobbit-style eating habit that I mentioned a bit earlier? Well, it’s not just hobbits who eat so frequently; so do I. Breakfast at 8am, Lunch at 12pm, a snack at 3-4pm, and dinner by 6pm sharp or I will fantasize about resorting to cannibalism. My fascination with this oft frowned-upon social practice does not reassure my fellow diners. Or shall I say dinners? (Cf. a previous post on cannibalism).
That day, after lunch at Il Cane Rosso, we walked all around the main shopping area in SF waiting for Happy Hour to start at 5pm. By the time we got back to the Ferry Building, my stomach was in the process of eating itself, after it had devoured my other internal organs of course. When we arrived at the Hog Island Oyster Co., there was a line that was as long as the one at Ici’s! For non-Berkeley/Bay Area residents, this is an amazing Ice-Cream shop in Berkeley where the lines are as long as the ones for roller-coaster rides at Universal Studios.
I tried. I really did. I tried to keep my inner five-year old inside and silently wait until all the other diners finished their delicious-looking oysters ’til it was our turn. But I couldn’t help it. My complaints, “There are no more freaking oysters left in the ocean!” and “Oysters are extinct now! Extinct! ” punctuated by moans, “I’m so hungry that I can resort to cannibalism”, “I completely understand what happened with the Donner Party,” until my friend couldn’t take longer and left me. It wasn’t as heartless as it actually sounds because she went to grab some demi-baguettes at Acme Bread (can I live there?) to shut me up. I apologize to my food-buddy and to the other people within shouting-distance from us. I’m sorry.
But you know what? It was worth the wait. Those little slimy mouthfuls of ocean: amazing. Why are they appetizers? I want them to be the Main Course. Of my life.
The week was long and the eating continued despite my nervousness about regaining the near-twenty lbs. from my grad-student diet at Oxford. I had a short but imperative list of restaurants that I needed to
stuff my face at *ahem* grace my presence with at Berkeley.
My most memorable Paris-moment, which of course involves food, was when we tip-toed over to a charcuterie near our hotel. There were so many choices and unfamiliar names that we had no idea what to choose, but followed the advice of the lady behind the counter and got some Parma Ham and different types of salami. That parma ham was so good it was almost enough for me to grab a random Parisian and propose marriage (to acquire a visa to live in France, as one does). But I remembered P.i.Q., a small Italian café in downtown Berkeley, so I refrained in hopes that I’ll be able experience another meat-induced ecstasy à la Teresa of Avilà but without the floating in air part.
Pictured above? The Caprese at P.i.Q. I was so hungry at the time (again, N.B. set meal times, please!) that I barely tasted it but I could tell that this piece of prociutto was nothing like the one I had in Paris. Well, I wasn’t going to cry but I was a bit disappointed.
The next day, I went to the fail-safe and always delightful Cheeseboard, where I have fantasized about working for the past three years. I love Cheeseboard not only for their always-delicious vegetarian pizzas, but also for their philosophy of giving the customer no choice. Not only does it decrease costs on their end, it saves me so much time and worry because I don’t have to decide what to order! Whenever I’m faced with a long and complicated menu, I feel like I need to read and study every single possible option before making a choice! I mean, I came to a restaurant so that I didn’t have to choose the ingredients, menu, or presentation. I came to just. relax. and. pay. you. to. feed. me. NOW.
Last but not least, my favorite hole-in-the-wall French sandwich shop, Grégoires. I brought my sister here for a late lunch during one of my last days at Berkeley. My baby sister is pictured below— so cute, so sick, and so tired after all the excitement and dampness of Bay Area weather. She was surprised that I ordered the crispy potato puffs because it was deep fried and obviously not “healthy”, but really— who cares when each bite of the crispy-on-the-outside and fluffy-on-the-inside spheres of goodness make your eyeballs flip out?!