North Berkeley Gourmet Marathon

    I’d never thought I would walk an over-two-mile round trip just for food. But Carolyn Jung at Food Gal convinced me that A Taste of North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto just sounded too good to ignore, and with a mere $25 ticket it was well worth the ankle exercise. Granted the weather turned its cold back on us, we couldn’t drag our feet to all 27 locations, nor were we enticed by the smell of wine, we felt good at the end of the day knowing that our tummy was full, a beggar’s tummy was appeased (with a cup of Greek soup from Soop, a lime-chipotle drumstick from Poulet, and a square of brownie from Andronico’s), and we found a new favorite.

    The marathon started off creamily with Bistro Liaison‘s Quenelle souffle – salmon and scallop mousse in a lustrious shrimp sauce. Captivating from the very first bite. Oh, guess what? It’s not on the menu.

    Taste of HimalayasMost Generous Tasting “Sample” ever. We were allowed full freedom to load our plate with whatever our eyes desired.

    Taste of Himalayas - Lamb momo and orange dessert

    Taste of Himalayas - vegetable samosa, momo, and pakora

    Both the lamb and the vegetable momos (dumpling) are adorable pockets of goodness. The pakora (deep fried vegetable) hits the grease spot. The samosa is utterly beany. The unidentifiable bright orange dessert feels like fish roe.

    Crepevine – The Least Expectable Taste. Its cute facade sugarcoats a trendy menu with international crepes that fare more or less like Subway sandwiches: edible, not bloggable.

    Crepevine - Salad and Greek crepe with feta cheese, roasted almond, spinach, and calamata olives in tsatziki sauce

    Chick-O-Pea’s (in Barney’s) – The Nicest Service. We arrived just as they ran out of falafels, and the owner offered Mudpie a beer while waiting for the new batch.

    Chick-O-Pea's/Barney's - Falafel with hummus, tahini, and zachuq

    (We didn’t take the offer.)

    Cha-Am – what can I say, Thai food is comforting.

    Cha-Am - chicken pad thai

    Chocolate Tasting at M. Lowe & Co. JewelersMost Beautiful Sample.

    Chocolate tasting at M.Lowe & Co. Jewelers

    The taste? See’s Candies‘ truffles are better.

    Alegio ChocolatéMost Educational Tasting. Also our first try of whole Chile finest chocolate bean, bitter just like a roasted coffee bean. The enthusiastic host is a man of hand and mouth, as we Vietnamese would say: chopping and crushing chocolate bars into bits, speaking expeditiously about each kind’s origin and composition, grabbing onlookers’ quizzical attention with the busiest, most irresistibly chaotic display of the brownish hues.

    Alegio Chocolaté - chili pepper dark chocolate

    The 80% dark chocolate flavored with chili pepper pictured above is only for the bravest. We took the challenge. Then Mudpie sheepishly tasted a darling chocolate covered peppercorn and felt sick for the rest of the journey. Lesson learned: sometimes cute looking things can kill you.

    Also snuggled in the Epicurious Garden with Alegio Chocolaté are the aesthetic Chinese Imperial Tea Court, where we had a taste of puerh tea and some uberspicy hand-pulled noodle…

    Imperial Tea Court - cold noodle and onion pancake

    …and the beautiful takeout Kirala 2, with a sample of sake maki (tuna) roll, Californian (crab and avocado) roll, and potato croquette.

    Kirala 2 - California roll, sake maki roll, and potato croquette

    Soop – housing the Most Expensive Banh Mi’s.

    How about Soop with banh mi?

    Unfortunately the banh mi wasn’t on the tasting menu. Instead, the 4oz greeting of Avgolemono soup is undeniably proper: Greek soup with shredded chicken and long grain rice in enticing lemon flavored chicken stock thickened with egg.

    GregoireBest Dessert of the whole event. Possibly the best dessert I’ve had in a long time.
    Gregoire - Clemetine mousse with chocolate sauce
    It’s just a takeout, but it’s not just a takeout. Despite the chilly breeze, people queue up for its delicious fine tastes, changing seasonally, and perhaps for a friendly joke or two with the chefs to warm up your mood.

    “So Mai, just what is your new favorite?”, you may ask. The pork belly sandwich at Trattoria Corso. Look out for a post on this Florentine exquisite in the near future.

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