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How about some Mother's Day reports?

Ruth Lafler | May 13, 200208:45 PM

I'll start:

Because my Mom was singing in a concert Sunday, my sister and I (in our family mother's day is strictly a mother/daughter bonding experience) took Mom to Carrera's in Downtown Oakland for lunch and then toured the Scharffen Berger factory in Berkeley.

This was my first meal at Carrera's and it lived up to it's billing. I had the best grilled chicken sandwich I've ever had: juicy chicken with caramelized onions and a red pepper sauce spiked with horseradish on well-toasted slices of bread (ciabatta?). The thin fries that came with it were tasty, but could have been crisper. My sister's mushroom sandwich also looked good, and came with some nice salad greens in balsamic vinaigrette (we shared her salad and my fries). Mom had baked polenta with goat cheese and asparagus and a huge whole calabrese sausage. It was kind of a weird presentation, with the long curved sausage balanced over the square of polenta, but it was tasty. Prices were in the $8-9 range.

Knowing we were on the way to Scharffen Berger we skipped dessert, but I did have a vanilla gelato shake made with Ciao Bella gelato that reminded me how good vanilla can be.

Since we're all tea drinkers we appreciated the interesting selection of loose Peabody teas served by means of pouring hot water into glass mugs with single-serving tea balls. Not perfect, but better than dunking bags in lukewarm water.

Scharffen Berger was interesting, and well worth the price (free!). From the moment you walk in you are enveloped by the smell of melting chocolate (although our guide says the smell is even stronger during the week when they are roasting the beans). The large part of the tour is a lecture (with tasting) on the making of their chocolate, from bean to bar, followed by a quick tour of the small (noisy) factory itself just to get an idea of what it actually looks like. Lots of samples -- in fact, she insisted we clean the sample trays, explaining that by law she can't keep the samples for the next group. Highly recommended for any chocolate lover.

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