Berkeley is known as the home of ‘California Cuisine’, largely due to the pioneering of the Slow Food Movement in the USA by Alice Waters, who has run Chez Panisse in downtown’s ‘Gourmet Ghetto’ since 1971. Read about and watch my experience at Chez Panisse here.
Berkeley is full of community spirit and art – the University of California is the centre of the city, so it runs like a typical Uni town – full of people, creativity and life. Read more
San Francisco is full of culinary (and other) delights. From Boudin Bakery, the purported home of the famous San Francisco sourdough, to the gourmet markets held at the Ferry Building every day, there is enough to fill a foodie’s lifetime and more.
What to wear when you go to San Francisco? Flowers in your hair of course. Read more
Serendipitous moment in San Francisco. I was taking a photograph of the Ferry Building with the huge San Francisco sign, when all of a sudden through my viewfinder I see a tram glide into shot that looked like a Melbourne tram. I looked up and lo and behold, it WAS a Melbourne tram! It was one of the vintage trams that run on the line past my house back at home, along the tourist precinct of Chapel st. Read more
Alice Waters has been called the mother of American food. Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, open in Berkeley since 1971, has been said to have pioneered Californian cuisine. As a supporter of organics for the past forty years, she has had a great influence on the local area and its focus on organic, local produce.
Chez Panisse was consistently ranked amongst the World’s 50 Best Restaurants from 2002 – 2008, and Waters is said to have been one of the most influential players in the food scene of the past 50 years.
We had reservations at Chez Panisse for lunch. We got to the gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright style building, with an abundance of rich woods and a beautiful huge overhanging tree. I got the obligatory tourist photo underneath the Chez Panisse sign, but we then went on to walk in for lunch. Read more
One of Berkeley’s most popular brunch spots has a wait for a table on a Monday morning. La Note had couples, mums, groups, singles and uni students spilling out the door and lining up on the sidewalk. Read more
The pastrami. Reading review after review, I was continually confronted with raving fans of Saul’s house-smoked, spice rubbed pastrami. So off we set on a 30 minute stroll into Berkeley’s ‘Gourmet Ghetto‘, an area of Northern Berkeley in which the ‘pursuit of quality is absolutely uncompromising’. Alice Waters’ (the president of the Slow Food US chapter) was largely responsible for this foodie revolution with the installation of her restaurant Chez Panisse in the area in the early 1970’s. But nowadays, you can find some of California’s most well known and celebrated food revolutionaries and a stack of remarkable quality dining options.
At Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen I ordered the toasted celery seed vodka, simple syrup and lemon cocktail. At US$8, I was tempted to keep ordering them… still used to Melbourne cocktail prices of around AU$18. The bloody mary was made with house pickle juice, but was definitely a meal in itself. Read more
Petaluma is one of those towns that not many people would think of as a tourist destination. But on the road back to San Francisco it was a great overnight foodie stop at the end of the Sonoma Cheese Trail.
We were a little sick of cheese by the time we got there, so the many Zagat and Michelin recommended restaurants serving pies, chocolate, sandwiches, soups and pastas were a welcome relief. The Petaluma Pie Company decorates the walls with cut out pie tins, and do sweet and savoury pies in every flavour you can think of. Viva Cocolate have chocolate to take away, eat in, and they also offer chocolate classes.
On the way into town, we saw this little guy watching us from afar. As we got closer, we realised he had one brown and one blue eye. He was so calm, a little sad, and all alone. I am sure his owner was near, but I wanted to bundle him up in my jacket and take him home. Read more
Known as ‘the heart of artisan cheese-making country’, it’s been called the Normandy of Northern California. Artisan cheesemaking is experiencing a resurgence, and the Marin and Sonoma counties are home to the largest concentration of artisan cheesemakers in California.
22,000 acres of land are dedicated to making cheese and fermented milk products in the region. The free Sonoma Marin County Cheese Trail map guides you through the dozens of cheesemakers in the region.
Local cheesemakers say the salt air, cooling fog and abundant grasslands make their cheeses unlike any other.
In Point Reyes, we stopped in at foodie tourism destination Cowgirl Creamery (also known as Tomales Bay Foods) to pick up some local cheese and have lunch.
The grilled cheese seemed the best way to get the full cheese experience, and it was quite possibly the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten. With honey maple mustard and caramelised onions, on a soft, local sourdough: simple foods are so often the best.
We had a side of hot-smoked trout potato salad, and I picked up an amazing maple-smoked chevre to take home.
Point Reyes Seashore is well-known in California and worldwide for its Lighthouse, perched atop a cliff on one of the prettiest seashores in the world. We stayed out in an adventure hostel near the ocean last night, in the middle of the national park and head into town, Point Reyes Station, this morning to start our foodie adventure. There are some beautiful hikes and walks in the area, but I was there for the stores and farms that are the stuff of foodie fantasies.
A good way to start is at Toby’s Feed Barn, a community-minded, family-run grocer that has been serving the area since 1942. Home to a yoga studio, coffee bar, community garden and world famous farmers market, we grabbed a latte to drink while we browsed the huge range of local, organic produce available in the store.
From soaps, heirloom beans, local baked goods, to hand knitted scarves and gloves and organic fibre totes made in Australia – Toby’s is packed to the rafters full of interesting and diverse foodie products.
We browsed all the other cute little arts and crafts stores on the main street. Point Reyes Books has a huge selection of interesting food books – there are a few local recipe and cooking books, along with food literature and works from Alice Waters and Michael Pollan.
The town had an abundance of cute (yet a little odd) knitted head accessories.
Marin Sun Farms on the outskirts of town is a butcher that serves Grass-Fed, Pasture-Raised meats by the pound in their restaurant. Select your meat at the table and they cook up as much or as little as you want. They pride themselves on a complete ‘pasture-to-fork’ experience.
The highlight of the town is definitely Tomales Bay Foods (also known as Cowgirl Creamery), the middle point and possibly most well-known stop in the Sonoma Marin Country Cheese Trail. Check out the next post for the Cowgirl video and post!
Driving into Point Arena along California Route 1 Coastal Road, the town doesn’t differ much from the few before and after. Small, quiet, and fairly unexciting (except for the stunning ocean views), it was a pleasant surprise to discover Franny’s gorgeous bakery. A group of chatting women stand in a pink kitchen, rolling out cinnamon and chocolate pastries, tying Christmas cake up with twine, and putting hot buttered rum apple pies in the old-fashioned deck oven. Jams and preserves line the front wall in flavours that would make any foodies mouth water: Apricot chipotle, mint and strawberry, carrot cake, blubarb (blueberry and rhubarb).
Housemade chocolates in flavours like Poire Williams (pear liquor) and earl grey infused ganache, and Thai red curry peanut butter sit perched above cute, handmade cupcakes, tres leches cakes, cookies and slices. Read more
After our first day lounging on the beach in Mendocino, California, we head up to Fort Bragg to visit the Sea Glass Museum. Yes – a museum dedicated to glass whittled down into smooth pebbles by the neverending churn of the ocean. Started by a retired sea captain, it is now staffed by a enigmatic older gentleman in a white cable knit sweater. Read more
We got into Mendocino late last night from the Napa Valley.
It is a beautiful seaside town on the cliff, the start of our trip down the scenic California coast road. We drove into the town only to see a tiny, quaint town filled with old houses and inns, lit up with fairy lights. We found one as we came in and were given a cute loft in an oceanside cottage. Read more
I left the comfort and safety of my home, left behind all the friends that I had forged into family, left behind the town I loved from rooftop to gutter. There is so much for me in Melbourne, but I left because I wanted to see what (and who) else the world had to offer.
I left to meet new people, cook, hear stories, share food, laughter, wine.
I flew in to the USA late sunday afternoon, my first stop on my new life of adventure, and on Monday I was fortunate enough to go to Davis, California, to stay with Francisca Rodriguez. She is an inspiring woman, full of stories of the old days when she worked at the Berkeley Food Collective with her Chilean husband. Francisca is from Mexican descent, and together, along with the other Latin American workers, they contributed one Latin American recipe each to the menu. Francisca learnt how to make empanadas there, both in the Chilean way and the Argentinian way, and I was blessed to have her spend the day showing me how to make them. My first day away from home, and I was launched straight into my new life with a bang – what better way than to be taught empanadas in California from such an interesting, amazing woman. Read more