berkeley days

Saturday I meet Shizue in Berkeley. But not before checking out the Ferry Building at Embarcadero, in between the cable car and dear ol’ bart.

I suppose it’s lucky I forgot my camera that day, otherwise there would be many boring photos of grapefruits and avocados, foraged mushrooms and cheese.

S shares the plan for the day. She is a master make-happener, and also hilarious. A good sage friend I made my last year at school.

First we scope out the market. Notable finds include blueberries, sugar snap peas, a perfectly ripe succulent avocado, some olives and sauerkraut, stone fruit crumble, and a potato and spinach galette with goat’s cheese. We eat the latter two for breakfast.

Next up: a tour down Telegraph ave., a rifle through Amoeba records, and a walk across the UC campus.

Soon it is time to round out our lunch vittles – nothing a quick jaunt through the so-called ‘gourmet ghetto’ can’t help. A couple Cheese Board gems later and we are ready for potato puffs from Grégoire – potatoes mashed into roux, fried, eaten hot and fluffy with aioli. Absolutely insane. We watch the cooks work while we wait and it is definitely half the fun.

Walking up into the Berkeley Hills, it gets quiet quickly, just us with our cheese and our fried mashed potatoes.

The Rose Garden is our destination. Nestled in a sunny slope it is perfumed outrageously and quite the spot for a languorous mid-afternoon lunch. I have no idea of the time.

Greens, sourdough baguette, fruit and berries, avocado, cheese, olives, sauerkraut with celeriac and meyer lemon, and (believe it or not) foraged nasturtiums. We can’t escape them, not in Berkeley or anywhere in this horrible, horrible bay.

And on the way back down, a spot of tea at the first Peet’s ever. As Shizue rightly reminds me, “you wouldn’t be able to have Blue Bottle and things like that without Peet’s.” Before Starbucks, before the whole ‘coffee revolution’, Peet was making it happen, starting out in Berkeley. The power in the Cheese Board / Chez Panisse / Peet’s trifecta.

Ever planning for the next beautiful bit of fun, S takes me to Masse’s, her favourite cake shop, and believe you me it is stuff worth falling over.

Strawberry rhubarb. Chocolate opera cake with almond and espresso. Riesling-poached pear, bavarian cream, dark chocolate. They are intricately sculpted, marvellous.

We meet back up with Bennet. Did I not mention Bennet? He is Shizue’s friend from Chicago. He goes to Deep Springs. He’s visiting for the summer, working with S’s mom.

Slacklining in the park. Someone else! He is far better and I flail embarrassingly.

The ‘Speare Bearer asks us to be his audience and we get the opening of Hamlet in the best sylvan grotto.

O Chamé: S’s favourite Japanese restaurant. Pretty remarkable stuff. Fresh water eel and belgian endive; roasted oysters and artichokes with horseradish. The textural affinities, the sulfurous thing, the broth, the explosion. Brine and sweetness. Crunch and richness. A round of umeshu, on the rocks, please.

A stop at a small wine shop yields a strange bottle of Hungarian muscat that despite the steward’s solidarity was still too sweet. We drank it anyway and ate the cakes in quarters, sweetnesses transferring osmotically around the air, pine-smelling, and slowly losing warmth like bread.

The next day, Sunday, we hadn’t had enough and spent the whole day together again. Ugh hard life.

We had to do chores. Chores included going to the San Rafael Farmer’s Market to do the shopping.

San Rafael is in Marin County, the northern bit of land where the golden gate goes. Marin is warmer than everywhere else. The fog burns off quickly and you can feel the heat. Pants and sweater weather in Point Richmond mean shorts and tanktop weather in San Rafael. I did not learn this until being in San Rafael.

Breakfast: the most important meal. Especially when it’s fresh waffles.

What? Oh right the shopping.

Mr. Berry Man.

By the time we’re done, we’re laden with tote bags and woven bags and flats of fruit for the week. Man the Roche-Adachis know how to work the market.

Once home, we go for a hike up the hill to work up an appetite for lunch.

That is Point Richmond.

This is Shizue. Lovely woman.

We climbed trees.

We talked in twos and threes. Then we lay upside down on a picnic table to reverse the land and sky. Then we admired the view silently. And we walked back down the hill.

Making lunch began even before we made it back.

More nasturtiums! Who’d have guessed?

We made a salad.

And emptied the fridge of many of its choicest condiments for a canapé spread fit for the princes and princess of Point Richmond.

Shizue broke out the fresh tomato juice – a revelation.

Get ready –

It’s canapé time.

Mustard, pâté, quince paste.

Cream cheese, hot-smoked salmon, pistachio, rosemary, chive blossom.

Nuts and herbs and cheese. And cherry jam.

Brie, rhubarb-cardamom compote, endive. My favourite of the lot, I think.

There were many more. We eat and lounge and bathe in the sun for a good couple hours.

Afterwards, a swim. The sun is just coming down more sideways than up.

We clamber around a point of tidal rocks from the public beach to the private. We are the only ones. The water is cool, soft, and abrupt, like the first taste of oyster.

We still don’t know the time.

The rest of the day fills itself with knitted throws, roland barthes, and a twilight that slows asymptotically to perpetuum.

More chores: a trip into town for wine (B requests Pouilly-Fumé and is obliged). He has the windows down, Jelly Roll Morton tinkling away into the fuzzy light.

Dinner is a simple affair of steak. Perfect steak.

Before we know it it is late. The city feels far away. I sleep over.

How lucky I am, the good friends that I have.

This entry was published on Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 12:22 am. It’s filed under adventures, events, food, general, restaurants, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “berkeley days

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