Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, feeding squirrels + sad teddy bears.

Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, feeding squirrels + sad teddy bears.

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.
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California cuisine + lunch at one of the world’s top restaurants.

California cuisine + lunch at one of the world’s top restaurants.

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.
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Of house-smoked pastrami and toasted celery seed vodka.

Of house-smoked pastrami and toasted celery seed vodka.

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.
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