Results tagged Berkeley from David Lebovitz

Zuni Café and Chez Panisse

Zuni hamburger with blue cheese

I tried. I gave it my best shot to try and make it through the list of the new places that were on my radar for my visit to San Francisco, the one that I’d been scribbling down for the last few month. But getting felled by a bout of whatever it was that I picked up on my flight sapped me of a bit of my energy. Fortunately, midway through my trip, I was able to rally back and proved myself to be the trooper that I knew I could be. But apologies to the folks who came by to meet me at my event, for the laryngitis that prevented me from expressing my enthusiasm for meeting you! And thanks for braving the cold temperatures to come out and say hi.

Even since my last visit just a few years ago, a bunch of bakeries, chocolate purveyors, bread places, and restaurants have opened in San Francisco that pretty much knocked my socks off. I was also thrilled to see that the city has implemented a city-wide composting program, to deal with all the kitchen and food scraps that normally get tossed. Seeing that has prompted me to take another look at options in my own kitchen in Paris, since it pains me to throw things that can be reused away. (The worm-based composters, which seem to be the best option for apartment-dwellers, make me a little uneasy. I have nothing against worms, but am not sure I could sleep soundly at night with a big container of them wriggling around nearby.)

Zuni burger

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Chez Panisse at Forty

Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary

Before I started working at Chez Panisse, way back in the early 1980s, I didn’t really know all that much about the restaurant. Prior to moving to California, I’d read an article about “California Cuisine” and of all the places listed, the chef of each one had either worked at this place called Chez Panisse or cited it as inspiration. So I’d picked up a copy of The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, which listed menus and the recipes featured in the restaurant.

As I read through the book over and over, I was intrigued by this place where people injected tangerine juice for multiple days into legs of lamb then spit-roasting the hindquarters so that those syrupy-sweet juices not only moistened the meat but caramelized the outside to a crackly finish. There were descriptions of salads of bitter greens drizzled with walnut oil that were topped with warm disks of goat cheese, which were made by a woman who lived an hour north of the restaurant and had her own goats.

Thinking about it now, I am sure that I’d had goat cheese on backpacking trips through Europe, but never really paid attention to it. But these fresh disks of California chèvre that oozed from the bready coating that were part of one of the menus in the books sure sounded pretty good. And a tart made of sliced almonds, baked in a buttery crust until toffee-like and firm, and meant to be eaten with your hands, along with tiny cups of strong coffee alongside. I kept that book on my nightstand for bedside reading for months.

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Eat At Bill’s: Bill Fujimoto of Monterey Market in Berkeley

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Bill Fujimoto is the unsung hero of the food revolution and a candidate for one of The Nicest People in the World. I remember sorting through cases of gorgeous produce at his shop, Monterey Market in Berkeley, which was a chef’s dream. Most chefs have to rely on their produce delivery, and what comes in can be less-than-optimal. But Bill opened up his walk-ins for everyone: I’ve even seen customers poking around back there along with chefs in search of the most extra-special fruit and vegetables.

Bill would often tell me to put something back that I’d selected, then emerge from the back of his truck with a big grin, hefting a few flats of something magical, like the sweetest rosy nectarines I’d ever tasted, or pears picked at their peak of ripeness with a rose-like aroma and a texture so meltingly-sweet, I resisted doing anything to them but encouraging customers to dive right in and dig out their sticky-sweet nectar-like flesh with a spoon.

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Great Addresses for Food and Eating in San Francisco

I was trying to explain to a French friend what a ‘foodie’ is, and he was looking at me like I was nuts. I guess when you live in a country that’s full of people that live to eat, the concept of people not into eating is a bit odd.

So, for lack of a better introduction, here are my ‘foodie’ addresses for places that I visited and good things that I tasted while in San Francisco:

Charles Chocolates

When someone handed me an unusually heavy sack emblazoned with the name ‘Charles Chocolates‘ on it, I wanted to run home with in and dive right in! I’ve been jealous reading reports of Chuck Siegel’s magnificent confections from other bloggers and let me tell you: Chuck’s chocolate are worth the wait.

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My hands-down favorites were the Triple Chocolate Almonds; California almonds roasted and enrobed in both milk and dark chocolate. Superb! There was a stack of tablets of chocolate in there too, flavored with caramelized rice and candied ginger that I’ve schlepped back to Paris to share.

But the most stunning were two heavy boxes, crafted entirely of chocolate, and filled with a luscious selection of Chuck’s best and more dazzling creations. One was his Tea Collection with tea-scented chocolates (think Osmanthus blossoms and charcoal-fired Oolong tea), while the other had such diverse tastes as passion fruit and salted peanut butter. They were so good, you’ll want to eat the box. Luckily you can.

Charles Chocolates
Westfield San Francisco Center
3rd Floor, Bloomingdale’s side
(888) 652-4412

panna cotta

Delfina

This is my must-stop restaurant when I come to San Francisco. The problem is, I can never get in. Luckily my good pals came to the rescue and we dined like celebrities (like Jake Gyllenhall, who was seated across the dining room, unnoticed by everyone but us. I thought Joy was going to drop her kid right then and there.)

Starting with marinated sardines, moving on to heaping bowls of pasta, then finishing with perhaps the best version of Panna Cotta I’ve ever had, it’s hard to have less than a stellar meal at Delfina.

And having charming, if distracted, company…and Jake Gyllenhall to look at, certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Delfina
3621 18th Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 552-4055

Nopa

This is my newest must-stop restaurant in San Francisco (I’m allowed a couple…aren’t I?) And by the looks of things, I’m not alone. Laurence Jossel paid his dues at some of the best dining spots in the city before opening Nopa and he’s got a winner on his hands. In a formerly dicey area (my old neighborhood), diners and chefs from other restaurants now come from all over to gather at the large table to share dinner, or to cozy up in a booth. (Warning: The noise level can be daunting. Request upstairs if you want some calm.)

How can you not love starting a meal with a frosty martini alongside perfectly-salted, hyper-crispy French fries with harissa dipping sauce ending with a bowl of sugared donut holes? Nopa makes me almost want to move back to San Francisco. If I could only persuade Laurence to open in Paris…*sigh*

Nopa
560 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 864-8643

Citizen Cake

I’m sure I’m not the only one anxiously awaiting Elizabeth Falkner’s upcoming book, Demolition Desserts. But for those of us who’ve been enjoying Elizabeth’s desserts for years, we’ve been relishing her tasty treats at Citizen Cake.

(Disclaimer: I have a major crush on Elizabeth Falkner for years.)

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Ici: Ice cream shop, in Berkeley

Thanks to everyone who came to the ice cream tasting and booksigning at Ici last weekend. In French, Ici means ‘here’…and although by now I should say I was definitely ‘there’, it was nice to meet so many of you nonetheless and glad you all got your licks in!

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I hadn’t tasted Mary Canales’ ice creams and sorbets in her jewel-like shop, which I’d heard so much about (and I got one of her prime recipes for The Perfect Scoop.) But one lick of her smooth, uber-dreamy Chicory-Chocolate Chip and a few quickly-stolen spoonfuls of Coconut Sherbet I managed between signing books, and I could see why she’s got anxious lines out the door from opening until closing.

Appreciate the big turnout at Ici, and for those of you who live in the Seattle area, I’ll be heading up there this coming weekend teaching classes at Sur La Table on Friday and Saturday, as well as conducting a booksigning and chocolate-tasting on Saturday afternoon at Theo chocolate.

See you there!

(Also, I’ve been posting photos of my trip on my Flickr page, if you’d like to see how much fun I’ve been having and some of the great food and folks, including chefs and food blogger friends, I’ve encountered on my tour.)