CULI­NARY BO­HEMI­ANS

DINE and Destinations - - CALIFORNIA - By Adam Wax­man

“Ev­ery time you’re go­ing to the gro­cery store, you’re vot­ing with your dol­lars. Sup­port

your farmer’s mar­ket. Sup­port lo­cal food. Really learn to cook” —ALICE WA­TERS

How did we be­come so in­ter­ested in food? From out of the Wood­stock gen­er­a­tion and the free­dom of speech move­ments in Berke­ley, a small con­sci­en­tious com­mu­nity shared a be­lief that our con­nec­tions to food could af­fect our qual­ity of life and bring about so­cial change. This culi­nary ecosys­tem of ar­ti­sans de­vel­oped the par­a­digms that have spun off into what so many pas­sion­ate and con­cerned con­sumers fol­low to­day. “Go­ing lo­cal” from “farm-to-ta­ble” be­gan in Berke­ley’s Gourmet Ghetto. A food tour of this neigh­bour­hood by Ed­i­ble Ex­cur­sions is un­like any other, not merely be­cause of the high expectations of au­then­tic­ity, but be­cause of the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural mi­lieu that gave rise to it and to which it ul­ti­mately gave rise.

The Cheese­board Col­lec­tive is the hub of ac­tiv­ity. A jazz band plays while pa­trons line the block for a slice of to­day’s thin crust sour­dough pizza. I can’t hide my grat­i­fi­ca­tion while crunch­ing into this steaming hot mar­garita with fresh lo­cal moz­zarella, toma­toes and basil. More than 70 breads are listed. How many dozens of cheese va­ri­eties? No one seems to know. At Saul’s Del­i­catessen, sand­wiches of slow-cooked or­ganic tur­key and grass-fed, house-smoked and brined pastrami hits all the notes, and pairs with house-made cel­ery soda. Soop wows with a range of flavours in its weekly menu of soups from Kiel­basa and Cab­bage to East In­dian Lentil to White Light­ning Chili. Or­ganic and chock full of fresh in­gre­di­ents, I want to sam­ple them all. Cup­cakes mean love. Love at First Bite

had me at ba­nana, chocolate chips and peanut but­ter cream topped with a chocolate peanut but­ter ball. I also de­vour a sweet potato and burnt marsh­mal­low cup­cake. Made with or­ganic flour and sugar, th­ese are supremely moist.

Good ideas be­gin with good cof­fee. When Al­fred Peet couldn’t find any, he roasted his own, and opened Peet’s Cof­fee and Tea—the pro­gen­i­tor of spe­cialty cof­fee in North Amer­ica. Peet’s states, “True qual­ity can­not be achieved with­out so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity.” We un­wind with dark roasts from Su­ma­tra and Ethiopia.

Each butcher at The Lo­cal Butcher Shop is a trained chef. All their meats are sea­sonal, lo­cally sourced and sus­tain­ably raised. They buy whole an­i­mals, and even of­fer butchery classes. Our Sando of the Day is a hearty corned beef and potato latke in a roll. Gre­goire Restau­rant has earned cult sta­tus for potato puffs that taste like fluffy mashed pota­toes in­side crisp French fries. From this garage-turned-high-end French take­out restau­rant, I or­der duck con­fit and potato hash with poached eggs on a grilled baguette to go. From bean-to-bar, Ale­gio farms its own beans in São Tomé and Principe from which they make their own uniquely in­tense chocolate. A 73 per­cent ca­cao bar mixed with nibs is lux­u­ri­ous. What’s the scoop? Lush Gelato of­fers fat-and-dairy free op­tions, but I’m fine with a gelato of Stout beer and chocolate waf­fle cone pieces. This is also a se­duc­tively aro­matic walk­ing tour.

Alice Wa­ters’ Chez Panisse Restau­rant, Steve Sul­li­van’s Acme Bread Com­pany, Ker­mit Lynch Wine Mechants and other lo­cal pi­o­neers and col­lec­tives cre­ated Cal­i­for­nia cui­sine. They are lauded Berke­ley in­sti­tu­tions. The new trend car­ries this legacy for­ward to­ward fine din­ing. Grand chan­de­liers il­lu­mi­nate the peace sign on the floor as we en­ter the el­e­gant but un­pre­ten­tious FIVE Restau­rant in the Ho­tel Shat­tuk Plaza. Chef Stephane Ton­nelier en­tices with a del­i­cate touch to craft com­plex dishes. Dun­geness and rock crab salad with av­o­cado crowned by or­ange and grape­fruit seg­ments are dis­tinct lay­ers of flavour and tex­ture that co­a­lesce har­mo­niously. Pan seared and glazed sweet bread slid­ers with fried maitake and quail eggs are bril­liant bites of savoury deca­dence. Ton­nelier’s team pays at­ten­tion not just to com­po­si­tion, but also to the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween spe­cific in­gre­di­ents and qual­i­ties that cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence ap­peal­ing to all five senses. Plump scal­lops are buoyed by bro­ken rice in tomatillo puree and lav­ished in a cala­mari and green olive lemon rel­ish, re­veal­ing a kitchen ca­pa­ble and ea­ger to el­e­vate the bounty of lo­cal in­gre­di­ents at their fin­ger­tips to the far-reach­ing in­flu­ences of their imag­i­na­tion. This is the new Berke­ley, prog­eny of a so­cial move­ment, bol­stered by North­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s sun-kissed pro­duce, vaulted for­ward by great chefs with global in­spi­ra­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.