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Sep 4, 2006 09:59 PM

My very brief jaunt to SF/Berkeley area (a little long, a little travel tippy, and some questions)

So arrived in the Bay Area from S. CA. I had already arrived too late for the Ferry Landing farmer's market, so too bad once again I didn't get the chance to try the Fatted Calf and some of their beef jerky and rilletes, etc.

I got off in the Dublin/Pleasenton area where there is the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station (anyone know if there are some good eats in D/P or is it a culinary wasteland?). I got on the BART and took it to North Berkeley, I also had to transfer onto another BART train, but oh well, I actually only had a few hours to spare so I had to cluster around sections that had a bunch of food options.

I arrived in North Berkeley (I think after a good hour or so ride until I got there). I asked the BART dispatch lady if I was near fourth street and she said to just walk on down to University Ave and take the bus from there down University towards the Berkeley Marina (i didn't know berekeley had a marina). Instead, I just walked the brisk mile or so to Fourth St. It looked a little industrial by the bridge that stands near there, where 4th St and University cross (also, as a side note, is that the big Berkeley sake company where you can do sake tastings right by Brennan's on 4th St? I'll have to try that next time).

So I started to walk down 4th St and it really opened up. What a trendy, commercial, upscale section of Berkeley and there on the right hand side tucked between a storefront and a bigger building is the tiny Sketch Ice Cream. I quite enjoyed the little old-fashioned ice cream cart standing outside the bite-size shop. I walked inside took a look at the flavors and ordered up a triple of coffee, vanilla, and burnt caramel. Oh, and one of those infamous chocolate pudding cake.

The gelato-style ice cream was very good and very smooth, but more like ice milk, but really really good ice milk. I think my favorite was the coffee of the trio. Is it the best ice cream in the known world? Most likely not, but the jury is still out on that one. I did enjoy it though. and for what it's worth I thought it was too sweet, becuase in the past I have heard that Sketch serves less sweet ice creams. Oh, and one more thing about the ice cream before I forget is that it really does melt on the tongue and dissolve instantly and there is no butterfat residue, or rather almost none. On the other hand the chocolate pudding cake was merely an ultra-rich very very moist brownie. It was just a brownie, when you really think about it. And I'm not a brownie fan so it was a disappoint for me. Oh, and what's with the wooden spoon a la the old fashioned Carnation ice cream truck.

Then it was off on the 51 to the Gourmet Ghetto, I reached Gregoire for an early dinner, and ordered up the hanger steak with horseradish cream which was the only thing on the menu that sort of excited me. The counterperson said it would take a good quarter hour for the steak to arrive so I visited the infamous Epicurious Garden in the meantime.

I first noticed the separate storefront for the wine restaurant, Taste. Then I walked into EG, and boy was this joint tiny. I had envisioned a huge complex filled with multiple organic fine food stands in a fast food environment. I saw soups but didn't stop for a taste, and noticed Kirala 2 which is primarily pre-packaged sushi and didn't look too appetizing, is there also a Kirala 1? Then I stopped by Socca Oven and had a lamb/eggplant socca which had nice lamb with the flavor and heay gaminess of real lamb along with some nice eggplant chunks and a supremely good spicey tomato sauce. The filling was good, but the socca itself left a lot to be desired, way too gritty and too grainy and with a horrible mouthfeel, either I don't like Socca Oven's soccas or maybe I just don't like them altoghether. Anyways, just trying to maximize deliciousness before getting back to San Mateo for a dinner party.

Then back to Gregoire's where my dinner was waiting. I opened up the crazy ocatongal cardboard box (these things are so weird, what's the point???) and dug into the steak, it was not the best piece of meat but doctored with a little of the horseradish not bad. someone mentioned before about the sandwiches and the burgers, maybe that's more of where it's at. The steak wasn't tender but did had some flavor, i did like the charred yellow tomatoes which is something reminscent of what you can get at a fine Persian restuarnat. I washed it down with some Dad's root beer, they don't serve Coke, i guess the root beer counts as organic or maybe because they make this soda with pure cane sugar instead of corn syrup.

Then back to EG for a couple chocolates, I tried a sample of the chile chocolate, which was nothing special and a sample of the skotch variety. Also, nothing that great. after asking about sea salt chocloate caramels, I ordered up an espresso caramel and an ecudarion chocolate. Both were ok, but nothing special once again (Frances Bakery in LA if you ever happen to get there knocks the socks of these chocolates).

Lastly, I went to taste and had a few small samples of wine. I remember a 2001 Barberesco and a Rioja from Spain.

that was primarily it for the day. except for loads of kababs, fesenjan, a wide variety of rice dishes, and desserts later on.

I'll continue soon.........

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  1. Pleasanton's pretty much a culinary wasteland, at least it's one of the last places in the Bay Area you'd go if you were looking for good food. Since you live in Southern California, Santa Maria-style BBQ probably isn't a big draw.

    That is Takara Sake with the tasting room.

    The origianl Kirala is a largish restaurant on the south side of town, near the Berkeley Bowl. Decent sushi but not worth standing in line, plus maybe the only robata bar in the area.

    Hanger steak is never tender, it's chewy but has more flavor than tender cuts.

    1. The best thing on the Gregoire menu is the chicken wings. We get 2 orders to go and then hop on down to Barney's on Solano for their chinese chicken salad - it makes for an easy take-out dinner for two

      2 Replies
      1. re: chewonthis

        Why go to the Barney's on Solano when there's one half a block from Gregoire's?

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I know, I know, I know..we like to waste gas.. no, really, we're just used to the one down there and it's on the way home.

      2. Yes, the Sake building near Brennan's is Takera Sake USA, and they do free tasting.

        The three main purposes for the Gregoire boxes are: insulating heat, easy stacking for large orders, and absorbing grease. They seem kind of pointless when you eat there but they are crucial for take out orders.