The East Bay is home to a LOT of Ethiopian restaurants. You might think this is a good thing, but it literally took me eight different restaurants before I was able to find enjoy. After two visits (one good, one not so good), I’m ready to make a bold statement–I like me some Dareye Ethiopian.
I heart cupcake pron. What else do you need to know? Love At First Bite is in North Berkeley, around the corner from Chez Panisse.
More cupcake pron after the jump.
Gather is a “new American” style restaurant in Berkeley, California that dabbles a bit in vegetarian and vegan foods, as well as food for meat lovers, so when my parents came into town (one is a vegetarian, the other a meat lover), I knew we had to try it out.
We started with the vegan charcuterie, an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one, but surprisingly delicious. I really liked the mushroom tartare (front and center in the top photo) and the carpaccio of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and “tonatto” sauce (a play on an Italian tuna sauce). I wouldn’t say they could replace meat on a regular basis in my life, but I definitely did not miss meat while eating them.
More food porn after the jump!
In the heart of North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto lies The Cheeseboard Collective. This is the cheese mecca of the East Bay, and quite possibly the entire Bay Area. Simply entering this shop is a learning experience, one that is bound to be full of tasty samples and cheese “a ha” moments.
That’s right. Cheese “a ha” moments. Oprah doesn’t own the term, and I’m pretty damn sure she’s had some cheese “a ha” moments of her own, judging by the looks of it. I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’.
My particular cheese “a ha” moment on this trip was with an olive oil marinated goat cheese. HOT D A MN is all I can say.
My food bestie Matt’s “a ha” moment? A sexy little triple cream he picked up at the shop.
Cheese pron galore and info on the Cheeseboard Collective and it’s sistership, the Cheeseboard Pizza Collective, after the jump.
I recently had the pleasure of dining at Chez Panisse Cafe, and not nearly a week later, I was invited to go try the restaurant downstairs out with new friends. What are the differences, you may ask? Well, the cafe is upstairs, less formal, and has an a la carte menu. The restaurant is downstairs, more formal, and has a set four course meal the chef changes daily. Cafe more affordable, restaurant more expensive.
The first course of the evening was awesome—a refreshing and light tomato salad with ricotta salata and cucumbers. The tomatoes were juicy and tasted as only a tomato can taste in season, at it’s ripest, simply perfect. The salad had a cooling effect, which was great, especially considering that Berkeley was having a freakishly and untypically hot 100 degree F evening.
More food porn and info on the meal and sticking to seats after the jump.
Chez Panisse. The big Cheese Penis in Berkeley. Run by one of the America’s culinary greats, Alice Waters, this place has been on my radar ever since I picked up a Ruth Reichl book (my food writing idol,Ruth Reichl, worked at Chez Panisse in the 70s when it first opened). Chez Panisse, and it’s slightly cheaper but equally tasty counterpart, the upstairs cafe, pride themselves on serving simple, local, seasonal food.
The concept is almost overdone in restaurants today, but for good reason—it tastes great, and Chez Panisse was certainly one of the first to cook by such a credo in the U.S. But the Cheese Penis, it don’t come cheap, so it had to be saved for a special occasion.
So. Much. Food Pron. And yes, I mean food pron. After the jump!
When I moved to the East Bay in late 2009, one of the first shops I noticed nestled in the adorable Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley was Ici ice cream shop. It’s hard NOT to notice Ici, which seems to have a line at least 20 people long at all hours of the day and night.
One day while I was waiting in line, a hippy chick on a bike rode by and screamed, “You know there is Ben and Jerry’s too!” Of course there is, and on days when I don’t feel like waiting in line for really really good ice cream made with slightly more local and less processed ingredients as Ben n Jerry’s, I will happily walk down to Safeway and buy myself a pint. But I happen to feel upscale organic ice cream has a place in this world, damn it. Especially when they put bacon in ice cream form.
More food porn from Ici after the jump.
Right on the border of North Oakland and South Berkeley is a strip of Ethiopian restaurants as far as the eye can see. And if you know me? You know I loves me some Ethiopian food–the perfect blend of spices that isn’t as bold as Indian food, but somehow melds together to this harmonious blend of heat and spices you probably never use you in your kitchen. Paired with the sour-dough-flavored spongy injera bread, and I could easily eat this stuff every day of the week.
See that in the photo? THAT was not scallop. That was a freaking perfectly cooked revelation from the sea, otherwise known as the tandoori scallop at Ajanta restaurant in Berkeley, California. This is a perfect example of a (sort of) new restaurant trend across the country, upscale Indian cuisine.
Technically speaking, upscale Indian cuisine can go by many names, anything from fusing Indian ingredients and recipes with another country’s cuisine, modernizing traditional Indian recipes, or using Indian ingredients with non-Indian cooking techniques. Examples? So glad you asked…
In my five years as a food writer, I’ve met and worked with a fair number of chefs. Chefs that like to yell and chefs that like to surf. Chefs that work quietly and chefs that get so excited just telling you about a new recipe or vendor they found, their passion is contagious. It feels like I’ve met every kind of chef that exists, and yet every now and then, I get a pleasant surprise.
You can’t live near Berkeley, love food, and NOT visit their farmers market. It’s not quite illegal (yet), but I’ve heard a band of local yippies will bombard your house with useless pamphlets about water conservation (don’t flush the toilet after each use? YEAH, THAT IS NOT GROSS AT ALL) at all hours of the day.
Consequently, the homeless will also ring your doorbell, minus the water conservation pamphlets and add a little “Need Money” sign. But unless you are planning on feeding them, the homeless don’t give a shit if you go to Berkeley’s Farmers Market.