Taste of North Berkeley

On a recent afternoon, we borrowed a friend of ours and strolled to Shattuck for the 5th Annual Taste of North Berkeley. I can tell you now, it tastes GREAT. Our friend – let’s call him…. Dread Pirate of the North – gamely allowed us to photograph him along the way, so we set off in high spirits.

The Taste of North Berkeley is a great opportunity to sample all of the delicious offerings both from Gourmet Ghetto fixtures like Gregoire and Saul’s and from relative new-comers like Le Petit Cochon and The Local Butcher Shop. With one $25 ticket, two can make themselves quite ill on curly fries, gelato, sushi, and mango sticky rice. The generous sizes and array of foods comfortably fed four on two tickets (plus two of us got a fancy bamboo spoon and a tote bag out of the deal!).

We began our journey at Saul’s, the first stop on the winding map. A choice of mini pastrami sandwich or egg salad was a delightful way to begin, followed shortly afterwards by a cookie and an oyster (what are they trying here, eh?) at the new barbershop next door. A whirlwind tour of the Epicurious garden – sushi, soup, mini burgers and killer french fries, gelato, and chocolate – followed by samosas and then muffins at Andronico’s and then – finally – a much, much needed water break. We regrouped in the parking lot, eyeing the long list of samples yet to explore.

The Dread Pirate was ready to press on, tackling two kinds of pad thai – Cha-Am, a favorite, and Dara’s – as well as a delicate, peachy pastry from Gregoire with the type of grit and determination one would expect of a fearsome pirate captain. We all rallied as we crossed the street: ahead lay headcheese and pickles and pâté from our local butchers. Standing on the sidewalk, we traded plates of meat and paper boats stuffed with curly fries from Barney’s. The sun had started to sink closer to the horizon, spurring us on to the next stop and my favorite place on Earth: Philz Coffee. They were handing out cups of one of their many, many custom blends. I went with full cream, although the kind and supernaturally patient staff will give you any milk/sweetener combination you can think of. Down the block, ACCI Gallery tempted us with local brews on their back patio where we indulged in a glass of Trumer Pils to combat the caffeine surge.

Nearly overcome in the face of so much variety, we picked up desserts at both Thornwall Properties (not normally specializing in food, but a great business anyway) and Virginia Bakery before diving back into the fray with Indian food at Taste of the Himalayas. This stop is one of my favorites along the gourmet strip of Shattuck. Staffed by welcoming servers offering delicious bowls of palak paneer and hot chai, the restaurant was a regular feature of my life when I lived in the area. Finally, stuffed and foot-sore, we wandered into our last stop: Le Petit Cochon. A popular choice with UC staff (especially with their generous 10% discount for students and employees!), they serve up a selection of French options, from quiches to salads to cheeses, alongside a fine array of wines. We enjoyed the carrot-ginger soup (although, as you’ll notice, the Dread Pirate’s enthusiasm for candid shots had wavered by this point) and made our delighted but weary way back to the car.

All in all, the adventure was worth the money and the travel. It was a treat to experience the normally-overwhelming range of culinary choices at once and to wander the streets as a group – all of us neighbors and friends sampling some of the best our city offers in the soft, summery evening light. The event is highly recommended!

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