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Berkeley - Talavera Café & Bakery – great tortillas & free canneles


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Berkeley - Talavera Café & Bakery – great tortillas & free canneles

rworange | Dec 28, 2005 12:34 AM

The cheery Talavera Café opened last Friday. The café serves Mexican food and the bakery serves European desserts with the focus on canneles.

The owners, Bobbi & Robert Henderson, were looking for a spot to open a bakery when they saw the space that housed the former Frishman’s Deli. The owner would only lease the space to a restaurant. Mexican food is a favorite of the Hendersons … so voila … Mexican food and European bakery.

Bobbi spent a year refining her recipe for canneles. She said she was thinking of giving free samples at the beginning because most people are not familiar with these small vanilla cakes with a moist custardy interior and a crunchy, carmelized crust. She bakes them in the traditional manner in small copper molds lined with beeswax. There’s a picture and some history on canneles in the link below … it’s in French though.

There were no canneles yet, so I tried the Mexican food. The smoky, spicy Tlapano soup had a whole chicken breast, chunks of sweet carrots, celery, a few potatoes, a little cabbage and some hominy. Four thick, hot from the griddle corn tortillas come with the soup. These are the best restaurant tortillas I have had ever. I think they have a woman who does nothing but make the tortillas.

This would have been a major meal in itself. Since I ordered a small bowl of soup, I also ordered a crab taco and a mole negro tamale. The meal came with a dish of average chips and two nice salsas – a thick smoky salsa roja and a thin green tomatillo. It was a lot of food.

The crab taco was covered with corn, black beans, cilantro and a few chopped tomatoes. I’m not sure what type of crab it was, but it had the taste and texture of Dungeness which I just don’t like. I’d order a different type of taco next time.

The tamale is standard Mexican tamale that was a lovely light pink. I asked Omar, the cook, why that was. He said he used food coloring in the tamales so people could tell what type they were without having to open them up. Tamales are available by the dozen in addition to single orders.

There were four aqua frescas today – pineapple, strawberry, tamarind and Jamaica. The Jamaica was good and not overly sweet. The Mexican hot chocolate is a good deal, served in a huge mug and sprinkled with cinnamon ($2). It is not overly sweet and pleasant.

I took home a piece of an impressive looking apple pie. It was a homey pie with a buttery crust and about two inches of sliced apples flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. I thought the pie could have been baked a bit longer so the apples were a little softer, but it was very enjoyable.

There were some cookies and muffins available. The only Mexican style baked goods will be flan, tres leches cake and a Kailua cheesecake.

The restaurant is colorfully painted with lots of Mexican tiles and Talavera pottery. There are whimsical Mexican art pieces. Winged angels and goblins fly from the ceiling.

In the upper back loft, a metal skeleton with a sombrero is perched. High up in the front of the restaurant, a huge (real) bull/s head greets visitors. Bobbi says that bulls heads are considered lucky in Mexico (as long as you are not a bull).

Keeping an eye over everything is a large mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

There are four tile tables with about 20 inside seats. The two terra cotta colored tile tables are next to huge windows look out on a pretty park.

On a nice day there will be some outdoor tables. There are two more green tile tables, each seating six. Colorful chairs are pink, yellow, blue, green, turquoise and orange. Fresh red roses top each table.

The menu includes some moles that come with rice, beans (refried, black or pinto) and green salad with lemon and cucumber dressing.

Chicken with poblano mole
Pork with green mole
Beef with mole negro

Other dishes include:

Puerco Pibil – Yucatan slow roasted pork
Chille Rellenos
Tilapia with fruit salsa
Snapper Vera Cruz
NY Steak – Tequilla marianated with cilantro, chile and olive oil
Grilled fillet with chimicharri style sauce

The salads (green, chicken or shrimp) sound good. They have avocado, jicama, toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds, roasted fresh pepper and pumpkin seed dressing.

Tacos fillings are: carne asada, pollo asada, al pastor, desebrado (roast beef), chorizo, pescado (grilled tilapia), camarones (grilled shrimp) and cangrejo (crab).

Tamales include: puerco rojo, pollo verde, mole negro, raja (green chile and jack cheese), and a sweet tamale with raisins and cinnamon.

There are plans to open at 7 am. However, the Talavera currently opens at 11:30 am.

Talavera Café & Bakery
1561 Solano Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707

Current hours
Daily: 11:30 am – 9 pm

The food network on canneles



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