Thursday, February 14, 2008

Whiling away on the east yay

For anyone I already managed to lose with the title, what I meant to say might go something like this: "A lovely afternoon spent on the East Bay"

Yesterday afternoon the lady and I rode bikes around Oakland and Berkeley, doing some fun food geek stuff (yeah I said 'food geek' - why are we wine geeks but 'foodies' instead of 'food geeks') at various points along the way.

Our first stop was Bakesale Betty, an awesome bakery started by a CPU (that's Chez Panise University) alum. Many of the east bay's top spots are run by folks who used to work for Alice Waters - you might call her the Coach K of the Bay Area restaurant community. Anyway, we were given a gingerbread cookie each while waiting for our mouthwateringly delicious fried chicken sandwich. Said sandwich consists of perfectly fried chicken filets, served atop fresh green cabbage mixed with lemon juice, red onions and a bit of chopped jalapeno peppers. It's all crammed into a crusty torpedo shaped roll and served on an aluminum baking pan. We headed outside to grab a seat at one of the ironing board tables and enjoyed sitting in the Oakland sun, eating fried chicken sandwiches, washed down with a perfectly tangy lemon ice - that's the way to spend a day off.

After lunch we headed to Rockridge to say a quick howdy to Mark at Paul Marcus Wines, buy some truffle oil at the Pasta Shop, and then drink the famous hot chocolate at Bittersweet. We opted for the less chocolatey, slightly less rich, more cinnamony Mexican champurrado. It was delicious - sweet, spicy, and just enough cocoa. With the hominy flour element it also tasted more nourishing than your usual hot chocolate, but maybe that was just because I associate corn with nourishment? Very tasty hot chocolate at Bittersweet.

After relaxing times in tony Rockridge, we hopped on our bikes and headed west, to West Berkeley. We went into an Indian market for some spices, a large bag of CTC black tea, and some other sundries. [A quick question to any readers out there experienced in Indian cookery: should fresh curry leaves smell like car exhaust? The ones we bought smell that way and I do not know whether or not to use them].

We enjoyed a beautiful last few moments of sunset on the bridge heading out towards the Berkeley marina. This is easily one of the best views I have seen since moving to the Bay Area - the glowing houses on the Berkeley Hills behind you on the east, the downtown San Francisco skyline at around 10 o'clock on the west, the Golden Gate straight ahead, Marin headlands due north at around 1 o'clock, and an illuminated downtown Oakland to the south.

To all the lovers out there Happy Valentine's Day.