March 27, 2011

Summer Kitchen in the Spring

If you've ever walked down College Ave in Berkeley you know that every restaurant claims to be high-end, the best, at whatever they do. However, I can only say from experience that only a few of these spots are worth going to....

As I was waiting in line at Ici for an ice cream, I peeked into The Summer Kitchen and Bake Shop. This place prides itself in using as many local ingredients as possible, with a full pastry bar and a variety of sandwiches and fresh brick-oven pizzas... I had to try it!

I had a Blue Bottle Donovan dripped Coffee and a Walnut-Coffee Bread, this slice was thick, moist and perfectly sweet. (they use local walnuts and Blue Bottle Coffee in their recipe)
My friend had a Salted-Caramel short bread cookie...I think the picture captures the taste...

If you are not much of a sweet person, Summer Kitchen has pretty amazing lunches and dinners to choose from, this is their menu ...
 (I was told by another customer that their sandwiches are to die for and the scent of freshly baked pizza was mouth-watering)
 On the left: Organic Egg Salad with Chives and on the right: Diestel Turkey, Onion-Cranberry Marmalade, Provolone, Lemon Aioli, Poppy Seed Kaiser Bun 
Orzo Pasta Salad, Roasted Peppers, Feta Cheese, Pickled Onions 

Summer Kitchen has a great selection of dishes, desserts and packaged local goods like Happy Girl Kitchen pickled veggies and Blue Bottle Coffee... The people that work and eat here give this place a very warm and home-like atmosphere, I can't even imagine how much warmer it could be if it was only Summer! ah...


Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce, its name comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec dialect) word mulli or molli, "sauce" or "concoction". It is a very rich and flavorfull paste. This paste is a mixture of spices, chilli peppers and chocolate...between 20-30 different spices are used!

Depending on where you eat Mole around Mexico it will taste different...sometimes spicier sometimes more on the chocolate-side...

I recently had dinner at El Huarache Azteca where they make their own Mole paste from scratch and they serve it in the two most traditional ways, on top of a piece of chicken with rice and beans or poured over some Enchiladas (soft tortillas filled with chicken). Now this place might not fit exactly into our definition of "local" but it does stick to the traditional way of cooking this dish in Mexico and the restaurant is located in the heart of the Latino community in Oakland ( Fruitvale). In my opinion, some dishes just might need a touch of their home-country in order to taste as delicious as the original.

Enchiladas de Mole, served in the traditional way with some Arroz Mexicano and Frijoles Refritos, always topped with Crema (sour cream) and Queso Fresco

 These Enchiladas had more chocolate-flavour and were less spicy than other ones I've had, nonetheless they were as delicious as eating them in Puebla, Mexico. El Huarache Azteca sticks to traditional dishes, their menu ranges from Flautas and Tlacoyos to Pozole, Birria and Huaraches of course. So if you're in the mood for some REAL Mexican food, don't hesitate to stop by this little nook!

March 21, 2011

Forget the milk, Bittersweet !

A cup of coffee...or a cup of hot chocolate...or perhaps both?
Maybe it's the everchanging weather in the past few days that has got me changing my morning beverage preferences but I shall not complain...
I visited Bittersweet Cafe this morning and decided to start with an Americano and a Morning Glory Muffin...

The muffin was as moist as a bran muffin can get, with delicious golden raisins and a very hearty texture

As I sipped on my coffee ( which is roasted at this very location), I couldnt help but be surrounded by the smell of chocolate...Bittersweet's main attraction. They have a variety of  truffles and chocolate bars, which are also made right behind the counter! Lets not forget that all their cacao is sourced from single farms and cooperatives and are organic of course! (this is the link to the specifics of the farms they use)

So the scent of chocolate brought me back to the counter...What would it be? Salted caramel hot chocolate?  hmmm I decided on the Spicy Hot Chocolate...infused with a cayanne dark chocolate ganache, this is one of their more bitter hot chocolates.

Two drinks, one pastry and a lot of samples... Chocolate crave:SATISFIED

Oh yes! They also had samples of one of their sandwiches:

 Black Forest Ham with Brie, Pepper Jam and Dijon on fresh Ciabatta...I must confess...I don't eat pork but THIS sample almost made me change my mind.

So if you're in the mood for a hot chocolate...or a truffle...or a milk shake...or perhaps you want a light lunch, Bittersweet Cafe has a little bit of everything coming out of their kitchen!

March 13, 2011

De la boulangerie à la boulangerie

I dont know how many bakeries I can go to in one day... but if I could I would do it all day...I went to La Farine on College in Berkeley, Their baguettes and morning buns are pretty delicious and they always have samples in the morning!
But if you ever need  a cake or a fruit tart for a party...this is the place to go! I recently had their GENÈVE  which is a moist chocolate genoise cake, layered with rich milk chocolate mousse, finished with a bittersweet chocolate ganache...if you are into chocolate, seek no more! and i also had their CHAMONIX  which is a moist devil's food cake layered with creamy white chocolate raspberry mousse and fresh raspberries, finished with white chocolate buttercream ( in case you are looking for  some fruit in your cake).  And let's not forget about their famous fruit tarts ready to take home....Mmm 
Berry Tart
Poached pear tart
On to another bakery....if that didn't make you salivate enough...
Apple harvest cake

Sweet Adeline's is your friendly neighborhood bakery locate don Adeline right by the "Here and There" sign in between Oakland and Berkeley.  If you come here a few times you will start noticing the regulars. You can always find the owner helping around the kitchen and making sure this cute little bakery is running smoothly. I would recommend their ginger scone, their vegan oatmeal cookie, and last but deifnitely not least their apple harvest cake, filled with more apples than bread, perfectly soft and crunchy and sweet...if you are into apples, this is definitely a must!  

And to finish this neighborhood bakery tour, my kitchen ! This is a recipe I found online for Bran Muffins, I changed it up a little, adding some California Honey, Flax seeds, local walnuts (grounded up), cinnamon, and nutmeg all to taste!

These are perfect breakfast muffins or as a healthy snack, very hearty!

Et maintenant notre voyage a terminé!
Hope your sweet tooth was satisfied !

March 5, 2011

Saturday Ferry

If you've never ventured to the Ferry Building in San Francisco on  a Saturday morning, I suggest you pencil it in for your next weekend. The Ferry Building on Saturday mornings becomes a place where local farmers, food conoseurs and hungry people all mingle together and create a unique Bay Area experience.
The view from the the Ferry Buidling, Bay Bridge and Treasure Island in sight.

Frog Hollow Farms specializes in delicious fruit preserves. Apart from never missing a farmers market,they have their own cafe and bakery at the Ferry Building which serves delicious freshly baked goods and coffee. Lets not forget the many samples you can try !

The Market has plenty to choose from, at the front of the building (East) you will find mostly produce and flower shops; if you dare venture to the back (West) you will find many more produce vendors and prepared foods.

Perfectly crispy and flavorful Asian Pears from K & J Orchards.

One of the permanent shops at the market is the Boulettes Larder,The daily changing menus at Boulettes  reflect the chefs commitment to using conscientiously produced farmstead ingredients and applying her research and curiosity in pursuit of spices and artisan oils, vinegars and grains.

The smell of Roti Roti will inexplicably draw your eyes to the slow roasting meats... and perhaps the thirty plus people wait to get a freshly sliced sandwich... If you're a meat-eater or a sandwich-eater, this is the place to get your crave satisfied.

And to wind-down my day I purchased a bran-cherry muffin paired with an Africano from Blue Bottle Co. Their three different locations in the Ferry Building speak to their excellent service, and never dissapointing coffee. Using organic, local and single-sourced beans when available.

Cherry Bran with a view of the Bay.
If these pictures don't convince you then you should stop on by one Saturday and satisfy whatever craving you have, I  guarantee the Ferry Building will satisfy...

March 3, 2011

Taste the Remedy

This is my coffee shop of choice in the North Oakland/ Berkeley area. ALL of their coffees are can watch the cooks preparing their scones daily and smell them as they bake away....they are made with ALL local ingredients (they even have a list of the farms they use). Those are two reasons why its on top of my list...Reason three...Remedy Cafe has a french-press special daily and day-old scones in case the freshly-baked ones are too much to handle,so you can always save some $!
Today's special was their Guatemalan coffee from Finca la Merced; infused with cherry, apricot and lavender, I paired this with their Meyer-lemon scone...Mmm...this is one way to start the day and begin working on the solutions to some daily problems...tasks...or perhaps you can just come and enjoy the flakiness of your scone and the ever changing music and good vibes from this coffee shop!

March 2, 2011

Corner coffee and No internet? Cheers!

If you're looking for a semi-free laptop spot with delicious Americanos check out Elmwood Cafe on College in Berkeley. Lets not forget their variety of local pastries...from your typical Oatmeal cookies to Rhoubarb coffee cake,  Their Menu has all local ingredients and as local as coffee gets!
I had their Roasted Diestel Turkey sandwich which has the perfect crunch from their Granny Smith Apples and an intense Cheddar flavor, all sandwiched in thin and juicy Turkey slices...