Bay area eats!

I’m sure you guessed with my last entry that I was out of town.

The past week I was at a multi-media workshop at Berkeley’s Knight Digital Media Center. Our sessions were super intense – we were working from 9am to about 9pm. I learned a lot and can’t wait to put into action all the skills I learned. Don’t worry, it wasn’t all work and no play. Towards the end of my trip I had a chance to explore.

First up, my friend took me to his favorite taco truck in Oakland. He thinks it’s the one that Anthony Bourdain might have gone to during his Bay area episode. I’m not sure if this was the one but I can definitely tell you it was really good.

The tacos were slightly smaller than the Los Angeles tacos but it was really flavorful. My friend talked me into getting the al pastor, pollo, asada, and carnitas… yes, FOUR tacos. And yes, they were all very good. Afterwards, we went to Cafe Van Kleef to meet some friends for drinks and I had the tastiest greyhound. I am not a fan of grapfruit and this place made me craving more. Well done.

On my last day, I went to the Berkeley Farmers Market. It’s not as big as the farmers’ market in San Francisco but it has a lot of character and I discovered some awesome bakeries.

One of the reasons I love this time of year is because of all the fruits in seasons… strawberries, cherries, apricots… My senses were going on overdrive just walking around and smelling all the sweet fruits tasting all the flavors.

Walking around, I got a little hungry and found this bakery booth. The first thing that caught my eyes was this shortbread sandwich. The baker said the cookie cutout is an antique she found.

What I ended up getting was this salted praline brownie. I felt a bit guilty eating it because it was basically my breakfast that day. There was a nice salty/sweet aftertaste after the first sugur rush bite.

I washed that brownie down with this homemade yogurt with blueberries. It was super creamy so I don’t think it was too healthy but it was worth it. The best part is that the yogurt stand charged a fee for their reusable containers.

I can’t wait to hit up the LA farmer’s market for some tasty treats. Perhaps I’ll make another tart!

Two words: Chez Panisse!

Indulgence. I don’t get to do it much since I live paycheck to paycheck like most people. But today I decided to be selfish and indulge in a meal in the restaurant that changed California’s culinary arts: Chez Panisse.

For those who haven’t heard of Chez Panisse, it’s the birth of California cuisine and an eating institution that many well-known chefs got their start  (i.e. Mark Peel, Suzanne Goin, Jonathan Waxman…). The restaurant prides itself in sustainable cooking – they’ve been doing this before the Food Network and celebrities made it cool to eat local. Tucked away in Berkeley, Calif. between shops and other restaurants is the rustic exterior that welcomes foodies and those celebrating a special occasion who have made reservations in advance.

Tonight we sat at the downstairs restaurant and let Alice Waters‘ team of chefs guide us on a culinary trip through California’s seasonal delicacies. But first, let’s take a tour through the kitchen. Oh yeah, that’s one of the coolest bits about this place – you’re welcome to stroll into the kitchen and peak at the chefs at work and chat with them.

Savory dishes station. I wish my photos had smell-o-vision because the aroma was amazing! Mix of garlic, onions, meats… I think I might have gotten slightly full just inhaling what was happening inside the kitchen.

Pastry chefs at work!

The chefs were nice and the servers were super helpful when asked about ingredients and wine. What made this dining experience special was the pace. I never felt rushed to eat or leave. I was able to savor each bite and enjoy the conversation with the people I was dining with.

The atmosphere was was friendly and you could tell people came to Chez Panisse for a reason… whether it was for an intimate birthday dinner, a special date (cute college couple next to us couldn’t stop exchanging glances and holding hands on the table), or out-of-towners who made the pilgrimage for a delicious meal (ahem! yours truly)… we were all there for a special reason.

The flavors I tasted were not complex – it was simple and clean. So what did I eat? This…

I wish I could indulge more but I suppose if I did, experiences like tonight may not be as special. Then again, if food can be this good everywhere, I don’t think I’d ever take good food for granted.

Good food prevails in California!