Such a short trip, but I wanted to report back on two stellar dining experiences.
The first was at the cafe at Chez Panisse.
I ate for lunch:
A light, perfectly dressed avocado and beet salad, with preserved lemon, cumin and cilantro.
Chicken 'al mattone' (cooked under a brick) - boneless chicken leg and thigh, served with polenta, baby broccoli and a chopped olive dressing. The chicken was superb - moist, tender, with the crispiest skin I've ever had. The skin was a touch salty, but other than that, perfection itself.
Blood orange sherbet served with minced candied orange peel and a coconut tuile. The tuile did not taste like coconut, but was still crisp and sweet. The candied peel was some of the best I've ever had, and the sherbet was simple, fresh and refreshing.
The meal cost nearly $50 after tax and a generous tip (the service was attentive, warm but not clingy). Expensive, but worth it.
For dinner I went to O Chame. The roundtrip taxi cost me almost as much as the meal (couldn't figure out the bus system) but again, it was worth it for the experience. I had:
A grilled shitake and lotus root salad. The mushrooms were creamy and yielding, and the lotus had been simmered in some soy-sake concoction which tasted assertive but not overpowering.
A light fish broth with wakame, bean sprouts, roasted oysters and soba noodles. The oysters weren't at all shrivelled by the roasting as I expected; they were plump and soft and salty-smoky tasting. A soul-calming dish.
I finished off with a sherry custard, one of the few dishes prepared in the restaurants. The flavour of the sherry was intriguing; sweet, but resonatingly woody and complex. The custard consistency was not perfectly smooth, but the flavours were so perfect that I finished it off in no time.
Oh, and I grabbed a bite to eat at the little hole-in-the-wall pizzeria next to the Cheeseboard Collective (opposite Chex Panisse on Shattuck Ave). I had a hot slice of the pizza of the day. That in itself was a revelation - I can't think of many places in America where a pizza shop would have just one type of pizza to go by the slice, especially not a complex, varied pizza like the one I had today. But in Berkeley, everyone's a foodie, and will eat it secure in the knowledge that whatever it is, it will be good.
Thank you Berkeley - I will see you again soon!
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