Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Typical Berkeley Weekend

Saturday morning, I met up with Laurie, my ex-roomie, in the East Bay. I promised to indoctrinate her with delights from the Cheeseboard (http://cheeseboardcollective.coop/), which we did promptly after her arrival. I grabbed a Zampano (a sourdough roll sprinkled with parmesan & red pepper flakes), a Cheese Roll (oodles of delicious cheese baked into this roll), and a Cherry and Corn Scone (which is self-explanatory!) Needless, to say, we were making gurglings of pleasure on our walk down Shattuck Ave.

After our leisurely stroll, I had the idea to go to the Downtown Berkeley Farmers' Market, which I have not visited since the olden days when I was a mere undergrad lass. It still has the same flavor it has always had--all things Berkeley do actually, except perhaps 4th Street. What do I mean by this? Well, all different sorts of people, lots of children, many interracial couples and families, and one or two naive souls from CalPirg trying their darndest to make a dent in environmental policy.

The veggie stalls looked great, many were CSAs, which I feel compelled to support because they are small, ethical farmers who grow mostly organic food. As with most farmers' markets in the area, there were also several stalls dedicated to artisan goods. One stall was patrolled by a man constantly handing out minute bread samples for ducking in an assortment of amazing olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Behind another stall sat a post-hippie woman with perfect skin, peddling natural soaps made from local foliage with the odors of incense cedar, sage, and pine. A few other stalls sold things like flavored honies and mouth-watering goat cheeses. I was in a browsing, not buying, mood, so we settled for a couple of baskets of fresh strawberries, revealed to be as sweet and delicious as they looked.

In the middle of the day, I helped Anne & Sami move to a new place, still in Berkeley. I also joined them for some pizza and beer at Lanesplitter (San Pablo & University). This place wasn't around when I was an undergrad, but it might not have mattered anyway. There is a distinct thirty-something vibe about it. I guess as we grow older, we are finding new, more appropriate places to patronize. The pizza is nowhere near as brilliant as Gioia (on Hopkins & Monterrey), but it's probably an unfair comparison anyhow. Lanesplitter's pie is a decent ultra thin-crust with a wide array of toppings. They've got a solid selection of beer on tap, too. I've found that , if you're into this sort of thing, it's a good place to watch a Giants' or A's game in a leisurely, not-so-dedicated way. The best reason to frequent it? They've got a special called the 7-10 split, which gives you two slices of pizza and one pint of beer for a measly $7. Not bad, I'd say.

I woke fairly early Sunday morning and cleaned the house. It was in urgent need of vacuuming. I had been putting it off so long, it felt extremely gratifying to hop to it finally. The treat following this onerous activity was Thai Temple (Russell near MLK next to the Berkeley Tool Lending Library). Yum! Yum!

For those of you who are newbies to the Thai Temple experience, let me just say that there is almost nothing that gets my mouth watering on a Sunday morning than thinking of paying homage to the flavors of Thai food. Anne & Sami feel similarly, and we had vowed on Saturday night to meet up at 10am on Sunday. Alas, we all made it on time and felt invigorated by the short wait for the dishes at that hour. If you arrive closer to noon, you'll find a mob of people patiently spying their forthcoming meal a good while before consuming it. The Thai Temple is, afterall, a real Buddhist temple, and members put together the brunch as an ongoing fundraiser. Service and speed, though not lacking, are certainly not the priority. What is a distinct feature, besides the food, is that it is cheap. For a measly number of tokens (one token equals a dollar), you can get a wide array of Thai teasers.

Though I'm addicted to my routine of curry plus sticky rice, I have vowed to branch out. The Temple offers what looks like a very hearty noodle soup, an arse-kickin' papaya salad (don't ask for it "normal" unless you can handle really hot food), Thai-style barbeque chicken, spring rolls, and sweet and savory coconut dumplings. There are also the standard Thai beverages, the iced coffees and iced teas. The food is suprisingly consistent, and sometimes just stellar. For instance, a few weeks back the Temple had added the purple sticky rice to the mango sticky rice ensemble, which resulted in a sublime experience for me. The only viable critique I've heard about the food is regarding the Pad Thai. It's okay, but doesn't match up to quality of the rest of the food.

Good Pad Thai is quite possibly a metaphysical issue. What is the meaning of good Pad Thai? How and where can we find it? Does it exist a priori? My morning's visit to the Thai Temple has sparked my interest in a search for good Pad Thai. In the coming months, I'll attempt to taste-teste and return with ratings of the best and worst of East Bay's Pad Thai.

Let me also sign out on a weekend of pure belly- and eye-pleasing joy. Until next time . . .

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