Jul 21, 2007

oldie but goodie!

An update that should have taken place waaay back in May, in which we return to our Mecca - Gregoire!

The much-loved potato puffs. We were informed by Priya (who lived less than a block away from Gregoire last semester!) that the month's dipping mayonnaise was top-notch. I sank my teeth into the mayo-dipped, crispy, steaming ball of potato and I had to agree. The mayonnaise was especially flavorful that month - very garlicky. Yum! I looked over at Lindsay and puzzled over her quite different dipping sauce for her own order of zee puffs. It was a white sauce with tiny flecks of black throughout. She said, "Hmm.. my sauce is different from yours. Ooh! It tastes very interesting, almost sweet! I like it!" I inspected it closer, tried a bit, and then realized that she was mistakenly given creme anglaise (rightfully paired with that night's bread pudding) instead of the mayo! After a bit of confusion and letting one of the chefs know, all was set right. In my mind, at least - I think Lindsay might have been a bit too delighted by the flavor combination of salty potato + vanilla cream.

Since we'd never gone to Gregoire for dinner before because of the price (the items on the dinner menu are more than twice as expensive as the lunch items) and because we were already filling up on fried potato, Lindsay and I shared an entree - a Morroccan chicken dish with onions and snap peas (I think), and served with a slightly creamy, refreshing cucumber dipping sauce. It was very tasty, but I wish it had come with more veggies or maybe a bit of the orzo salad they serve with their lunch dishes.

And because I love bread pudding, I indulged in dessert. Strawberry bread pudding served with creme anglaise (much yummier on this than on the potato puffs!). Sooo good. The top was crispy and the insides were moist, with chunks of fresh strawberries throughout. The creme anglaise added another layer of richness. It was the perfect size and very satisfying. I need to find a good recipe fur realz.



2109 Cedar

Berkeley, CA 94709

Jul 19, 2007

Tartine, Mon Amour

Prepare yourself, I'm going to get sappy for this post is about one of my (Jen) favorite little places in the world:

Tartine Bakery has been praised repeatedly (Mark Bittman of the New York Times called it his "favorite bakery in the United States"and has more than 600 (mostly positive) reviews on Yelp--for good reason. Nearly everything I've ever tried there has been amazing.
I love it all--from the homey, rustic french bakery atmosphere to the intellectuals sitting at their variously sized tables to the mysteriously good-looking staff behind the case of even better looking pastries and cakes.

After reading and researching all about the bakery (its goods and its owners) late last year, I knew I had to go. This place quickly became a place of escape (from school, people, shitty dorm food, work, you-name-it) and relaxation for me.

Thanks to a summer internship, for nearly twice (as of last week, three times) a week for the past two months, I've gone there with just those intentions of escaping and relaxing. Each day, I look forward to the moment the clock hits 12:00, I race down the steps of my building, hop onto the bus for a 15 minute ride, jump off at the stop, and whisk down Guerrero street. Armed with a good book, a fully loaded I-Pod, and a silent "thank you" to my mother for supporting me in my gourmet addiction, I order some treat(s) and prepare to be delighted with whatever delights I've decided to try that day.

Initially, I wasn't planning on including my experiences at Tartine in the blog. My lack of a working camera and laziness to write coherently (who wants to wax poetical about baked goods and sandwiches all summer??) were the main culprits. However, I soon realized that I'd regret not including Tartine in the blog. So forgive me if the few pictures are blurry (they are with my mom's old camera and were taken a while ago before it finally decided to give up--hey, it HAS survived falling into an asian-style toilet AKA hole in the ground) and the writing sucks (I've decided to just jot down my disjointed thoughts because I only remember certain things and I will have to write a lot since it has become my goal to try EVERYTHING on the menu--forcing my normally unadventurous self to try new things) but hopefully this will be helpful to those that want a taste of what Tartine has to offer...

Devils Food Cake- $4.50 Slice (picture coming soon)

3 layers of Valrhona dark chocolate butter cake, layered with caramel and chocolate ganache, topped with a dusting of large cocoa powder, Served at room temperature
Appearances can be deceiving. At first it didn’t seem like much and I was pretty positive it would settle easily and comfortably in my stomach (I even considered getting something to go alongside it). Happy I didn’t. Extremely decadent. Should be savored slowly and not with the side of the fork smashing through each layer every two movements (as I did). I enjoyed the fact that it was cooled when it was initially given to me (nice, toothy texture), but as it melted, the chocolate flavor was intensified and released even more. Milk definitely required. As much of a stomach ache as this gave me, there was nary a moment of regret as I hobbled up guerrero.
Rating: 8/10

Coppercake- $4.50 slice
Three thick layers of ganache surrounded by various lightly peppery, mocha levels, beautiful texture, not too sweet, envelops the tongue which chocolateness upon contact
Amazing flavor in the beginning, but the non-chocolate flavors just weren’t interesting enough to warrant repeated fork stabbing, in the mad rush of pastry purchases, this was the clear winner, definitely worth trying again
Rating: 6/10

Chocolate Chip with oatmeal and walnuts- $2.00
(see Bunrab's picture of it here)
Large, crisp, not too sweet, chocolate chips melted into rest of flat, ever-so-slightly bendable disk.
Tore bits and pieces off, but wasn’t interested enough to finish the whole thing. For those with “mature” tastes, this is the perfect thing to go with their Mr. Expresso coffee. For me, not really worth getting again.
Rating: 3/10

Passion Fruit Lime Bavarian- $4.50 Slice
Lime moistened genoise with passion fruit bavarian cream topped with sweetened cream
Though I could tell that everything was first rate, the tartness and the lightness of the cake just isn't what I was looking for to soothe my sweet tooth. My sister couldn't get enough though. It definitely got ignored during the passing of the pastry boxes. At least the white chocolate flakes on the outside were yummy.
Rating: 2/10

Banana Cream Tart-$5.50 (there are a bunch of pictures on Yelp)
Hard, flaky pastry coated in thick layer of dark chocolate and caramel. Filled with banana pastry cream and bananas. Topped with lightly sweetened cream and thick chocolate shards
Definitely lives up to the hype. Looks overwhelming at first, but any ideas of just eating half quickly disappear. Should be eaten there, on a plate, for the full experience. The combination of hard, buttery crust, dark chocolate, and the hint of caramel create a gourmet candy bar experience. Banana slices scale the entirety of this delicious Mount Everest of a dessert. The chocolate shards are a highlight. Only con is that there may be too much whipped cream, had to push some aside towards the end. Don't even think about sharing--the devil inside you will come out! It’s a meal in itself.
Rating: 9.5/10

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart-$5.50
Rich, dark, chocolate filling in a sweet pastry shell with toasted oregon hazelnuts.
Shared, it’s the perfect ending to a rich meal. The whole flavor was like whiff of a gourmet, less sweetened nutella. Delicious. Tart shell was a little hard and crispy. Literally broke the lovely plastic fork that came with it. Who cares? Makes it even easier to lift up to the mouth. The hazelnuts that were embedded into the ganache were a surprise texturally and taste-wise. Made me wish I drank coffee.
Rating: 7/10

Pain au Chocolate-$3.25 (picture coming soon)
A warm, ever so crisp-on-the- outside, fluffy-on-the-inside casing of croissant dough surrounding two lanes of Sharffenberger chocolate
After growing up on chocolate croissants from Safeway, I literally gasped when I tried tearing a piece of the croissant. Crisp, buttery, and light, I just kept smiling as my fingers tore off piece after piece of the crispy, soft, gooey, soft, crispy layers. Any warm chocolate that managed to escape from my fingers and the dough onto the plate were quickly consumed. Yes, I liked my fingers and then wiped the plate. No, I don’t regret a second. Like the devils cake, this is surprisingly filling. Should eat/enjoy there if you can.
Rating: 9/10

Reviews of other pastries (frangipane crossiant, bread pudding, etc) and sandwiches (percorino and almond, gruyere and pastrami, etc) coming soon!


Tartine Bakery

600 Guerrero Street

San Francisco, CA94110

Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen

I've lived in California all my life, and I like the concept of "California cuisine," which I imagine to be defined as food that's fresh, locally grown, innovative, tasty without being heavy, and plays with the flexibility of flavors given by the ethnic diversity found here. Still, there's something in me that really likes the idea of Southern comfort food. I don't think I've ever tried a dish with Southern origins that I didn't like. And while I've only ever travelled horizontally across the US and haven't yet ventured down into the southern states, it's places like Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen that gives Californians a little hint of what the South has to offer. Cause sometimes you really do just need food that sticks to your ribs!

I found Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen on Yelp, where lots of satisfied Yelpers sang its praises, one proclaiming it "better at this than anything west of the Rockies has a right to be." Sounds good to me. So I asked my friend Priya to join me, and as we walked down Shattuck and chatted we almost walked right past the restaurant. Inside, it looked like this:

Fairly small and dimly lit, with a flashy mosaic alligator hanging on the far wall. Perhaps not the most charming of decor, but the atmosphere was cool in a funky, casual kind of way. We got great service right from the start - our waiter was really nice and very attentive, and also pretty hilarious (I think he called me "my lady" the whole time), and the owner of the restaurant noticed that we were students and asked us how we found out about the restaurant. He even gave us a kind of discount coupon, if we spread the word about the restaurant to other students. So what if it may feel like cult recuitment? Free food is free food!
The menu was interesting even starting with the drink menu. I wondered what "Swamp Water" was and was informed by the waiter that it's half-lemonade, half-iced tea! I'm confused now as to this drink's origin, though, because I saw Ina Garten call the same drink "California Iced Tea" yesterday on TV, as she proclaimed that "they love this in California." Huh. Well, in any case, while I'm sure I would love it, I opted for the Sweet Tea instead. And it was sweet indeed, so much so at first sip that I squeezed the heck out of my lemon wedge to cut back on it. But as the meal went on and the ice cubes started to melt and water it down a little, it actually became quite tasty. Iced tea is probably my favorite beverage, and I love plain lemony iced tea with a simple syrup so it's sweetened throughout. I think the way sweet tea is traditionally made, however, is with the sugar mixed into the hot water so there's no need for a syrup. Anyways, it was good. I'd get it again.
Next came the hush puppies. Lots of Yelpers seemed to consider these to rival Gregoire's mighty Potato Puff, which makes me think of an animated hush puppy vs. potato puff battle, all cutesy and anime-style, with corn meal and potato spewing out from the battle arena and grease stains everywhere. Don't they just sound like they could be the names of Pokemon characters or something? Anyways. I love hush puppies. There aren't many things more satisfying than essentially a fried cornbread ball dipped in something yummy! Served with honey butter, these were awesome. Just perfect as an appetizer between two or three people.
Our entrees came out pretty speedily. I got the penne pasta with chicken in a blue cheese cream sauce. Fried oysters can be subsituted for the chicken, but because I was curious about the fried oysters (I had originally planned on getting one of their po' boys) I asked for them to be added rather than substituted. Oh, sweet gluttony! I liked my dish well enough, but the blue cheese flavor was very dominant. I should have guessed as much, but for some reason I expected a subtler flavor. Still, it was tasty, and the oysters were yummy as anticipated, and the portion was so huge I didn't even make it through half of my plate and packaged the rest.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a clear picture of Priya's Jambalaya, but she loved it. See the joy on her face? It was pretty standard Jambalaya, with I think chicken, shrimp, and andouille. Tasty!

When dessert time came around, we were really, really stuffed. But we'd come too far to turn back at the last moment, and I'd heard great things about the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding. Oh. My. Goodness! SO GOOD. The picture is terrible, but it was seriously just so delicious. I'd come back just for a piece of it and nothing else. Warm and gooey, with a sweet, sticky, burnt-sugary topping. I generally like my bread pudding a little on the dry side, because I don't like it too mushy. But somehow this bread pudding managed to be both puddingy and cakelike at the same time, moist, but dense and firm. Covered in caramel. Good grief.

I really, really liked our meal there. I'd definately say our expectations were met, and everyone was happy, even Jenn and Lindsay who couldn't make it but who I brought back extra hush puppies and bread pudding for. Nothing like fried food and dessert to get you through studying.


Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen

2261 Shattuck Ave (between Bancroft & Kitteridge)

Berkeley, CA 94704

Jul 10, 2007

Hello to our few but loyal fellow foodies -

Apologies for the lack of gusto on our part in updating this here blog, but Blogspot is doing strange, strange things to our posts and it makes us sad and angry. Double-spacing and changing font and size unnecessarily, etc. We end up tweaking a post forever to make it semi-presentable, then realizing we've forgotten to include something and having the whole thing ruined again when we add it.

Is the blog appearing okay for you? Are there tinytiny blurry lines of print after some photos, are things randomly double-spaced? I'm interested in seeing whether it's my laptop that has something to do with the madness. So comments would be helpful!

Until we have Blogspot figured out, we'll still be posting, but forgive us if it comes out a little oddly.