Berkeley Provisions

There is an amazing little collection of shops along Hopkins Street in Berkeley, CA where one can find a great selection of produce, seafood, and meats.  All of these independent sellers have their unique strengths and offer a nice afternoon of shopping.  It’s part of a great Berkeley food scene that includes the Cheeseboard on Shattuck and Spun Sugar on University that I got to visit recently, topped off with another great dinner at Gather.

Monterey Market – sells a wide assortment of fresh produce and dry goods.  The produce is relatively inexpensive – herbs for $0.99 instead of $1.99 at Whole Foods, cara cara oranges for $0.79 per pound instead of $2-3 per pound.  The selection of produce is outstanding.  There is an entire aisle devoted to an incredible variety of mushrooms.  The parking lot and store are a bit cramped, but the selection and prices make up for it.

Monterey Fish Market – very good selection of fish and seafood.  The source of seafood including location and method of capture is prominently displayed.  On the day I went they had live scallops and razor clams from Massachusetts and Opah from Hawaii.

Magnani’s Poultry – neighborhood butcher with very good selection air-chilled local chicken and meats, deli, olives, and other goods.

The Cheeseboard – a collectively owned and operated cheese shop/bakery/pizza place that is a Berkeley institution.  Check out the incredible selection of cheeses on the board for purchase.  The staff is very knowledgeable and will give out samples of any of the cheeses.  There is a bakery that makes great scones, breads, and cookies.  Cheeseboard also serves creative, fresh vegetarian pizzas that change daily.  Recently, the Roasted cauliflower, Roasted onions, Cheddar cheese, Mozzarella, Pistachios, Italian Parsley Pizza was delicious.

Spun Sugar – I have written about this store before, but they have many hard-to-find baking supplies and ingredients like fondant, gelatin sheets, Valrhona and Guittard chocolate, and flavored extracts and oils.

Restaurant Review: Gather

Vegan “Charcuterie” at Gather in Berkeley, CA

Gather is my new favorite restaurant in the Bay Area.  It showcases local, sustainable food in a very creative and delicious menu.  The restaurant is located in the heart of Berkeley, across the street from UC-Berkeley campus.  There is a warm open seating area around a central open kitchen, a bar off to the side, and outdoor seating as well.  The vegan charcuterie ($16) is an incredible dish, with four different sophisticated preparations highlighting the possibilities of seasonal vegetables and fruits.  The grilled Cetriolo heirloom tomato was the best tomato I have ever eaten.  Beautiful heirloom melon with an interesting peanut shiso pesto.  The roast chicken had well-seasoned, crispy skin and flavorful meat ($22).  The goat milk semifreddo ($6.50) was creamy and rich and accompanied by a sweet, almost candy-like poached peach, fresh plum, and cashew crumble.  There were so many other interesting dishes on the menu that I did not try but hopefully will soon.  There is something for everyone of the menu, with a variety of vegan and gluten-free options, as well as seafood and meat.  Service was both attentive and unobtrusive.  For vegetarian dishes, Gather compares favorably with Ubuntu in Napa City, CA.  Gather has won many well-deserved accolades, including Food and Wine chef of the year in 2010.  Highly recommended.

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