Eating Our Way Around Berkeley (and some of Oakland)

February 21, 2012

One thing I love about my friend who was in town this weekend is that she isn’t daunted at all when I present her with an eating itinerary for the weekend.  As you all know, I have FOMA for myself and for others and in no area is my FOMA worse than when it comes to food.  So, given that my friend was only in town for a little over 2 days, I had to make sure she got to experience lots of yummy food.  It’s also still amazing to me that despite living here for so many years, there are always new places to discover, so I try to combine that with my trusty standbys.  Here’s our whirlwind food tour:

Saturday:

  1. Philz Coffee – My friend always likes to try different coffee places when she travels, so we went to Philz.  I wasn’t particularly impressed by their Chai, but it wasn’t bad.
  2. Cheese Board – Obviously we had to go to Cheeseboard.  It’s one of my most favorite places in Berkeley.  Mmmmm.
  3. Masse’s Pastries – The cassis french macaroon was delicious and the coconut cookie was very coconut-y, but I wouldn’t say this is a must visit in Berkeley.
  4. Bakesale Betty – Their fried chicken sandwich is delicious and their tofu version is almost as good.  I almost always get their ginger cookie, which is delightfully chewy and crispy at the same time.  Their lemonade slushy and strawberry shortcake are also both divine, but they didn’t have either when we went.
  5. Donkey and Goat Winery – This local winery is super cute.  My friend is a wine connoisseur, so she wanted to check this place out.  I’m glad we went.  It was my kids’ first wine tasting … just a little tasting, don’t worry!
  6. Kermit Lynch – I think this store is kind of pretentious, but we always stop by when my friend is in town.
  7. Country Cheese – Despite living in Berkeley for 7 years, I had never been to Country Cheese because really, it’s hard not to just go to Cheese Board.  I’m glad I went, but Cheese Board still can’t be beat.  They just don’t have the obvious love of cheese that the people at Cheese Board do.
  8. Monterrey Market – Despite recent controversy about taking business away from neighborhood specialty shops, Monterrey Market is still a good place to get good produce.  We picked up some delicious grapes and more cheese!
  9. Sea Salt – Sea Salt is usually a reliably solid seafood place and the crab risotto did not disappoint.  It was delicious.  The short ribs, though, were a little too salty, and the coriander crusted tuna was only okay.  I guess it wasn’t a great night, but I would still return.

Sunday:

  1. Local 123 – We stopped by to pick up coffee for my friend and it filled my car with amazing smells.  Much better than Philz.
  2. La Bedaine – French bakery that also sells vacuum packed meals.  I’d go back for their chocolate croissant and mushroom quiche, but probably not the almond croissant.  The filling was more of a custard than your typical almond paste filling, which is what I want when I get an almond croissant.
  3. Home Room – Seriously good mac and cheese, but not the type of place you can go too often … unless you’re not afraid of clogged arteries.  They also had an “experimental” drink that was 3/4 cider topped with stout that was surprisingly delicious.
  4. Berkeley Bowl West – The greatest grocery store that ever existed.
  5. La Mission Mexican Grill – We stopped by for a quick taco snack before going home to make dinner.
  6. Pizza Dinner Party – We had people a bunch of people over for dinner.  We prepared a super simple pizza dough, tomato sauce (Cheese Board recipe), and some toppings (various types of tomatoes, mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, spinach, goat and mozzarella cheese) and people assembled their own pizzas, which my partner than grilled on our BBQ (grilled pizza comes close to brick oven pizza and is far superior to pizza baked in a regular oven).  People also brought over sides and dessert and voila, we had dinner for 10!

Monday:

  1. Local 123 – We went here to grab a quick breakfast.  The sausage and biscuits with herb butter were pretty tasty and you can’t really go wrong with granola and fruit.  Yum, yum.

That’s it – how to eat your way through Berkeley and some of Oakland in a little over two days.

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Yummy Things: Berkeley, CA (and some Oakland)

March 14, 2011

Visiting Berkeley?  Check out my eating recommendations here and here (also includes some in Oakland).


Berkeley Favorites

March 13, 2011

Last weekend, four of my college roommates came to town for a reunion.  There are 7 of us who lived together in college who now live in 5 different states and 2 different countries, so when we are able to get a critical mass together, it is a truly special event.  Since I was hosting and because I have FOMA, I packed the itinerary with lots of my favorite Berkeley eating/grocery spots.  I am definitely not as good at taking pictures of food when I’m at home, but here’s a list of my favorite places to get food in Berkeley.  I’ll try to update with photos later:

Cheeseboard – This cooperative is my favorite place to buy cheese, bread, and pastries.  The people who work here know an incredible amount about cheese and are completely unpretentious about it.  They expect you to taste lots of cheese before deciding what to buy and appear genuinely happy to tell you about cheese.  They also bake their own bread, which is delicious.  My favorites are the plain baguette (the word “plain” is a misnomer.  This baguette is the best one you will ever eat and I have eaten baguettes in many European countries!), the chocolate thing (a brioche type bread with chunks of melted chocolate inside), the cherry corn scone, the cheese scone, and the Berkeley bun.  They also have a sister cooperative next door by the same name that serves a different type of DELICIOUS vegetarian pizza every day.

La Note – There is ALWAYS a line out the door for breakfast on weekends, but it is worth it.  My favorites are the La Note Pain Perdu (semolina french bread sprinkled with lavender honey) and Les Oeufs Lucas (eggs lightly scrambled with goat cheese, chives, served with roasted tomatoes).  I’ve never been here for lunch or dinner, but if it’s anything like breakfast, it’s delicious.

Berkeley Bowl – This is the greatest grocery store on earth, especially the bulk and produce sections.  There are actually two Berkeley Bowls now.  I go to Berkeley Bowl West, which is a little nicer because it was just built in 2009, but both are great.  Berkeley Bowl West also has a pretty good cafeteria.

Vintage Berkeley – This wine shop is adorable and unpretentious.  The knowledgeable staff never fail to give me good wine suggestions (I know pretty much nothing about wine.)

Gregoire – The potato puffs at this tiny little “restaurant” are delicious!  It’s mostly a to-go place, but they have a few small tables if you want to eat there.  The other food is pretty good too, but I often just pick up some potato puffs to go.  Yum.

Picante – Their watermelon agua fresca, salsa verde, and guacamole are SO delicious.  I usually get the vegetable burrito or the fish tacos, which are great and if you eat meat, the carnitas tacos are wonderful.  It’s a super family friendly restaurant and the service is super fast, so don’t be deterred by long lines.

Sea Salt – If you’re looking for a fancier restaurant, this is one of my favorites.  The grilled squid is terrific.

Yogurtland – I know, I know, it’s a chain, but Yogurtland is a FOMA sufferer’s best friend.  I love tart yogurt and there are so many different flavors to choose from, but you don’t have to choose – you can have them all!

Berkeley is an unpretentious foodie’s paradise.  Enjoy!