Last month, I blogged about my “24-hour layover in San Francisco” and I thought I would continue the series– East Bay style. I never travel to the East Bay. This is no competition of “San Francisco is so much better than the East Bay.” I’m just lazy. REALLY lazy. I know it’s not that far and BART makes it extremely convenient to travel to Oakland and Berkeley. But, there is just so much to do (and eat) in San Francisco that I never feel the need to venture out across the Bay Bridge. That being said, I know the East Bay has superb food so I finally got my act together and decided to explore my culinary options with my awesome friends.
My friends and I had Martin Luther King, Jr. day off. Unfortunately, many restaurants are closed on Mondays, including the famed pizza at Cheeseboard and my favorite lemon chiffon cake at Katrina Rozelle. Despite our “limited” options, I think we did pretty well.
Started the day off by taking BART to the Rockridge station and our first stop was La Farine. La Farine makes the best morning buns. Hands down. Tartine Bakery in San Francisco is a close second, but their morning buns have an orange flavor. I’m a morning bun purist. Don’t tamper with the delicious cinnamon and sugar swirling in a buttery, crisp croissant-like pastry. It doesn’t need that extra citrus flavoring. La Farine knows how to stay true to the morning bun. My 2nd favorite item at La Farine are their almond tea cakes. Can we discuss how amazing these little tea cakes are? These sun-shaped cakes have almond extract and ground up pieces of almonds mixed in. I love love LOVE the consistency of these bad boys. The “points” are slightly crunchier but the middle is moist and cake-like. La Farine is worth a special trip to the East Bay (which I have totally done before) and I walked out of the store with two morning buns and six almond tea cakes.
I had been DYING to try Southie’s crab sandwich ever since Tasting Table featured this $18 roll in their February 2011 daily email. Yes, this place has been bookmarked on my list of places to eat for almost a year now. Located two doors down from La Farine’s Rockridge location, Southie is a super casual restaurant with counter seating and high chairs and tables. I watched in delight as they buttered Acme and La Farine bread and toasted them in special-looking ovens. My crab sandwich was decent. It was bursting with fresh Dungeness crab and while I liked that it wasn’t overly mixed with mayonnaise, something was missing. I felt like it was missing an acidic element (more lemon juice? more coleslaw?). However, this didn’t stop me from devouring the entire sandwich. I was a much bigger fan of the meatball sub. The meatballs were fatty and tender but didn’t completely fall apart into a mess while you were eating them. You could tell that they used excellent ground pork and beef and the sandwich wasn’t lacking in the cheese and sauce department. I’m really glad that I got to try Southie’s crab roll, but I wouldn’t need to order it again. I would TOTALLY order the meatball sub again and I really want to try the pork belly sandwich because it looked amazing. Would I make a special trip to Southie? No. But, I would definitely go back, especially because La Farine is just two doors away.
From Southie, my friends and I walked over to the California College of the Arts in Berkeley and checked out their cool campus. We saw these creepy sculptures (seriously, it was like the graveyard of unwanted sculptures) and got to see a really fantastic view of San Francisco from the campus. If you have some time to kill, I would totally recommend the 25-30 minute walk to CCA. We passed by really cute boutique and thrift stores and it also gave us a chance to digest our food.
It was time for 2nd lunch! We walked over to Burma Superstar and ordered the tea leaf salad, rainbow salad and coconut chicken soup. My favorite dish at Burma Superstar is actually their rainbow salad, which has over 22 different ingredients in it. I just love how refreshing this cold, noodle salad tastes with its tamarind sauce. I personally like it better than the tea leaf salad (the tea leaves taste like olives to me… I don’t know why). The coconut chicken soup reminds me a thai coconut curry in soup form (so not as thick) and was hearty.
Right next to Burma Superstar is Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, which serves a limited number of extremely unique flavors. When I was there, they had allspice, egg nog and camote (I had to look up what that was). The camote/sweet potato ice cream reminded me of pumpkin ice cream with a hint of cinnamon mixed in. I got it in their ice cream cone with black sesame seeds mixed into the batter. I loved the cone (although I’m not sure how well the sesame went with the camote), but I wasn’t over the moon with my flavor choices. They only serve like 5-6 flavors so I feel like you could come on a day with really amazing flavors or meh flavors. Again, that being said, it didn’t stop me from eating my entire ice cream cone (Are we noticing a trend?). Another one of my favorite ice cream places in Berkeley is Ici. Ici also has unique flavors but has more options and their homemade ice creams cones are SOOO delicious. Their cones taste like Belgian galette cookies and the bottom is filled with a small, delicious bite of chocolate. I’d probably recommend Ici over Tara’s.
Finally, my day ended with a trip to Market Hall. Market Hall is an absolutely gorgeous market that sells high-end produce, but it is also home of the Pasta Shop. I adore their roasted tomato sauce (it just tastes so fresh) and their cheese ravioli. They were out of ravioli that day and I settled for spinach gnocchi (FYI, not as good as the ravioli). Despite my epic day of eating, it didn’t stop me from going home and making myself a plate of fresh pasta.
Overall, our East Bay adventures were a huge success. I know there’s still so much left to explore (and Cheeseboard pizza to eat), but I think you’d be happy if you tried any of these places!
P.S. If you’re noticing an improvement in the clarity in my pictures, it’s because I totally splurged and bought a brand-new Canon PowerShot S95. It’s the first camera that I’ve bought in over 5 years and I can see the difference! It makes me even hungrier when I look back at these photos.