Friday, January 10, 2014

Foodie Adventures: Berkeley, CA USA

Destination: Berkeley, CA USA
So i'm a Foodie, so of course my destination posts are all about FOOD! This time, Berkeley, CA was my playground. I started the day off just scanning the area around the University. Of course, those who think of Berkeley always think of Cal, the beautiful University right off University Avenue. But what I came to learn, was that Berkeley is actually sectioned off into 4-ish areas, Marina, Telegraph, Downtown and the University. Now, don't get me wrong, there are probably tons more hidden gems that I didn't find. Cut me some slack, it was just 1 day! :) 

First Stop: Since i've already taken the campus tour for UC Berkeley, I decided to skip on the University end of things this trip. I did walk through Sproul Plaza on my way to my favorite little cafe: Caffe Strada. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture (oops!) I was sooo mesmerized by my Americano, I forgot to snap some photos. 

With my Americano in hand, I decided to hit the streets. I finished up the last of my shopping "needs" by hitting up American Apparel, Urban Outfitters and this cute place called, Bancroft Clothing Co. They had tons of "Cal Berkeley" school apparel, but also had some adorable sweaters. Being that it's still winter, I had to get some... duh! Shopaholic problems. :( 
This probably wraps up the "University Area" since Caffe Strada and all these shops were adjacent to campus. 

Then I moved my car out of the precious 2-hr metered parking zones and headed over to Telegraph. A little background on Telegraph. Telegraph Avenue is known for it's "60's inspired feel", with it's excessive amount of beautiful graffiti art everywhere, you literally feel like you're transformed back to hippie / disco-loving era. 

It makes sense that I literally found my favorite store of all time right in Telegraph. It's called, Lhasa Karna. Remember my candle making post? All of those essential oils were bought here. In addition, I bought some super reasonably priced lavender that I plan on using in these Lemon Lavender shortbread cookies i've been thinking about. The sales associates are super friendly and patient. They let me smell almost two dozen oils before I bought like 3.

With my oils and lavender in hand, I walked across the street to a bookstore. Yes, there are still bookstores out there! I almost couldn't believe it myself either! This one is called Shakespeare & Co. . I found an original edition of Julia Child's ever famous "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" for only $7! All the pages were there and there were no signs of wear and tear on the cover either. It's like the greatest find! I also found an complete set of Mozart Sonata's for the piano in a consolidated book. I know, weird and random finds. But they all play into my many interests/hobbies, so it works!

Due to all that shopping, what I really needed was coffee.  So I was walking through and after I grabbed a Hot Gingerbread Almond milk coffee from Philz Coffee (which is amazing by the way) and headed to the Marina. 

Now that I was freezing cold from walking down the Marina, I was also starving. I headed back into "town" and  stumbled upon what may be the quintessential "hole in the wall". Many would consider this gem in "North Berkeley" but I still will put it in the "Downtown" category. Don't all you natives get all upset now, it's just the way my categorizing went. It's called Gregorie. It's more of a shack than a restaurant. Upon entering the front door you stumble upon the cook. Literally. Right there, he's just standing there smiling and meticulously creating his delicious, organic food. So you walk up to the counter and order and leave. There are roughly 6 seats in the entire location. About 3 of them are right there next to the cooking station in a "bar" format. The other 3 are outside on these two tables adjacent to the window. Coolest thing, the window is actually opened where you can quite literally see behind the bar area and watch all the behind the scene cooking. 

So with every Foodie Adventure post, I will always "separate" my courses between multiple restaurants, to give you a review of the most restuarants I can in one day/post. 

So Gregorie was my destination for course 1: Soup. The soup of the day was Tomato Balsamic. It had the correct amount of balsamic that didn't make your mouth "pucker" but really enhanced the old fashioned Tomato Soup. I'm so happy the chalkboard A-frame a block down had a sign saying "Tomato Balsamic Soup Today" or I may have never traveled up the hill to the cutest "to-go" restaurant my eyes have ever seen. 

My next course was about a block away at Chez Panisse  This restaurant has a very interesting set-up. There is both a "top restaurant" and a "bottom restaurant". The top acts more like a "cafe" and the bottom is the more of a fancy attire, reservation type of restaurant. I ate on the top level. This did not seem like the venue to pull out my camera, and a comment had been written on the bottom of the menu discouraging the use of cell phones in the dining area. So in order to be considerate to my surroundings, I do not have a photo of my meal. But trust me when I tell you, I ate an enormous crab salad. It was a bed of dungeness crab with belgian endives, radishes and a Meyer lemon emulsion. Along with this salad, my server recommended a white wine. I got the a 2010 Ojai Sauvignon Blanc from Mcginley Vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley. It was a great pairing with the salad! You should keep in mind, Chez Panisse only cooks with seasonal, organic vegetables. So their menu is changing, daily. 
 Final meal was at Gather. This restaurant I would like to throw back to the University area. You should see this place. It has everything! Pizza, vegan dishes, starters (that are so artistically crafted, it's a shame to eat them. But they're soooo good!). It was so chilly outside that I had to order more soup. I tried a non-Paleo favorite, Split Pea. The menu said this soup was "Gluten-free and Vegan" so I had to try it! A split-pea soup, made without cream? Could it be? Yes. It was exactly as expected, and a very large portion. Sometimes you go to these high-end restaurants and think that they're going to give you a $12 soup in a shot glass as a "shooter". But not this place, it was a generously large bowl and the soup was piping hot as if it just left the stove top.

 I also ordered a Kale Salad, off of their shareable menu. If I was with someone and they wanted to "share" this salad, I literally would claw it out of their hands. Everyone needs to go to Gather and buy their own Kale salad and just inhale it into their mouth. Because it may be the greatest salad/meal of your life. So don't just order one, order 2, or maybe 3 or maybe 4 and shove one in your purse. Yeah, 4 sounds good. On top of the super tender kale was an moroccan marinade called Charmoula, some diced sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds and some crunchy toasted cashews. I'm telling you... claw it out of your partners hands. 
 With my belly stuffed and my wallet emptied, it was time to head back home! Until the next Foodie adventure!


Any suggestions on places to visit?? Comment below.

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