January 19, 2003

Had a great Saturday, from start to finish.

Act I. The Farmer’s Market
Met my friend Brian at the Farmer’s Market on Green and Embarcadero. Not a lot of fruits during this season, but there was a plethora of vegetables–lots of rich leafy greens and Swiss chards. Tons of cheese of course, of note were towers of fresh chevre and a heavily-accoladed goat cheese with ash in it called Humboldt Fog. Have yet to try it. After walking around mesmerized (as always), we feasted on a late breakfast of crepes–a simple sweet one of lemon, butter and sugar and a more hearty buckwheat crepe filled with Brie, pesto and slices of tomato. Washed down with a green tea chai.

Act II. Scharffen Berger
We drove over the Bay Bridge into Berkeley with the intention of crashing a tour of Scharffen Berger, one of the best chocolate manufacturers in the country. Walking into the gift store, the aroma of chocolate was pervasive. On a table to the right were things to nosh on–chunks of dark chocolate sandwiched in baguettes among other indulgences. Unfortunately, the company was closed down for a private party, so no tours. We resolved to come back next week and had a swig of hot cocoa on the way out.

Act III. The Spanish Table
Brian and I stopped at a little store on San Pablo Avenue–a purveyor of all things Spanish–from quince paste to 5-foot-diameter paella pans. Amazing collection of wines, incl. a four hundred dollar bottle of Porto. Hello? In the end, we walked out with a bottle of red from Tarragona (in the Catalan region of Spain) and some dark chocolate truffles–some filled with cava vinegar and others with a saffron cream inside. Both were amazing. Chocolate and vinegar do go well together. The innards of the saffron truffles reminded me of a sunset (color-wise).

I absolutely love driving around the tree-lined residential streets of Berkeley. The architecture is so charming–mostly Craftsman-style bungalows or least approximations of them. Lots of little wooden houses with simple designs, an abundance of vines and unruly gardens within the borders of their front yards. If I stayed in the Bay after graduating, would def. be tempted to live here.

Act IV. Layover at Brian and Anthony’s place.
Flipped through Gastronomica to the rhythms of Django Reinhardt while waiting for Anthony to finish getting ready.

Act V. Dinner with the Niman Ranch pholk.
Went with Brian and Anthony to a barbeque at one of their co-worker’s houses, a small cottage with a manmade pond in the backyard. Let me just tell you that every time I hang out with people who work for Niman Ranch (the company that Brian and Anthony work for), we talk about meat and we eat meat. Niman Ranch is a small, independent meat producer in Oakland with high ethical standards and a strict code of husbandry principles. Their livestock are humanely treated, fed with natural feeds, never given growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics, and raised on land that is cared for as a sustainable resource. The result is excellent meat. Among their customers are Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Emeril Lagasse, not to mention some of the best restaurants in the Bay.

So you can imagine what eating dinner with these guys is like. We started with a coffee-crusted New York steak and onion jam as an appetizer. A great way to whet the appetite, to be sure. The rest of our dinner consisted of spareribs with a Low-Country barbeque sauce and corn pancetta relish. Amazing. Even more unbelievable was the 10-pound mound of pull pork called such because after the five hours of roasting it, the meat is so tender it pulls of (falls off, really) the bone. Wow. There was a five-pound bag of sweet sausage links in the backyard that we never got to. Of course, there were some greens and fruit salad mixed into the menu somewhere, but the most salient part of the dinner was def. the meat.

Anyway, so I ate well today. Nice way to end the week.

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