Not having to unbutton the top button of my pants or having my friends roll me to the car after our nine restaurant tour of North Berkeley, was a surprise and minor accomplishment. Although in recent years the population of gourmet restaurants has increased in many areas, the cluster of restaurants in North Berkeley is unique and historic. Known as the Gourmet Ghetto, this neighborhood offers some of the most well-known and respected organic restaurants in California and the nation. From high scale food court to butcher shop, high-end gourmet restaurant to small cupcakery and pizza collective, the Gourmet Ghetto can please any food craving or cultural experience in just a few blocks.
Love At First Bite Cupcakery ~ Ginger Mini
Speaks true to its name. In just one small bite of their Ginger Mini cupcake, I felt I was put into a cartoon world where all of my emotions were drawn around me. Hearts were circling my head as fireworks exploded in my eyes. The love connection between my mini and me began at the moment my teeth glided through its cloudlike frosting, passing through its moist brown cake, ending with a sweet little taste of ginger jelly at the bottom. This mini appeared to be sweet and kind but after my first bite, I realized it had quite the personality. Sophisticated with a small candied piece of ginger on top, you would never know this mini was actually quite loving and had great sense of hospitality. It welcomed my senses with a light spicy zest that tickled my tongue. Its frosting was soothing and refreshing covering my mouth in a cream-like blanket. It was a blissful two-bite affair that had me dreaming and hoping for my next encounter with that little dessert soon to come.
SOOP ~ Thai Lentil Soup
Located in the Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Garden, SOOP gives each of their customers a steaming cup of fresh ingredients and heartwarming feeling of a home-cooked meal. After receiving my cup of Thai Lentil Soup I peered over the rim in curiosity. The soup had a thick strong scent that reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. It was awfully peculiar, before taking a taste I studied the contents of the cup. The soup was a deep rich red color like bricks of an old building. Scratching my head I took a huge inhale of the steam and strong hearty scent of the soup filling my lungs to full capacity. It hit me! I asked Chef Marc with a little bit of apprehension
“Would it be odd if this smelled exactly like Yellow Thai Chicken Curry?”
Through excited eyes and a large smile Chef Marc replied, “Not at all. It contains many of the same ingredients.”
I whispered to myself, “Yesss” my inner cooking ego was floored and did a small victory dance. After further discussion it was the coconut milk and lemon grass that were the culprits of my Yellow Thai Chicken Curry flashbacks. As I dipped my spoon into the brick red concoction and savored the coconut milk and lemon grass I was reminded of the special occasions of ordering Thai food take-out for family dinners. Each swallow of my soup made me envision pouring the spicy neon yellow soup over a large scoop of sticky white rice.
What I assumed to be a basic lentil soup, was not so basic. So many ingredients you would think to be overwhelming, but this soup was a balanced and pleasing surprise. Each ingredient stood out and could be identified with each slurp of the spoon. Organic red lentils, vinegar, lime juice, lemon grass, coconut milk, onion, chives, and cilantro are only but a few of the ingredients. After scraping at what was left of my soup, I found myself wanting to connect with my inner Oliver Twist and ask Chef Mark, “Please Sir, may I have some more?”
The Cheeseboard ~ Pizza of the Day
Established in 1967, The Cheeseboard is an iconic Gourmet Ghetto restaurant. This restaurant is like no other pizza place I have ever been to, and I have been to a few. The Cheeseboard keeps it simple only offering ONE pizza each day… One could assume that it would be impossible to please a large number of customers with just ONE pizza. Well those people are completely wrong. Even though there was no empty table or chair to be found, I was informed that this was at low occupancy for The Cheeseboard. The whole concept was a bit odd to me, “how can you offer just ONE pizza, and customers be lined up around the block?”. It was in that split moment of ignorance that the steaming hot fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza appeared out of the corner of my eye. From then on it was a series of slow motion events. Grabbing at the crunchy sourdough crust and pulling it into reach, the tip of the triangular slice separated from the others as melted cheese stretched into thin spider web-like strands. I carefully maneuvered the hot slice into my mouth. My eyes became as wide as golf balls, unable to control myself I let out a loud, “Mmmmm”. Luckily I wasn’t the only one in our group. It was as though it was an orchestrated choir of satisfied eaters. The sliver melted perfectly together as I enjoyed the cheesy, sourdough twang, and salty garlicky juices. The toppings of onions and mushrooms were strong filling all of my senses with flavor. The Cheeseboard’s pick of the day was more than just pizza, it was a collective gathering of simple, organic ingredients that together made a juicy, cheesy, flavorful combination held together by a modest sourdough crust.
Pete’s Coffee: Major Dickenson’s Blend & Phoenix Mountain Oolong Tea Alegio Chocolate: High End Premium Chocolate The Local Butcher Shop: Ham Sandwich Poulet: Adobo Chicken with Roasted Butternut Squash Salad and Quinoa & Barley Salad Grégoire: Potato Puffs with Chipotle Aeoli Lush Gelato: Honey Rosemary Gelato Impereal Tea Court: Organic Dim Sum and High Quality Teas Asha Tea House: High Quality Tea House