I’m trying to think of how this fits in with either Phyllis Diller or wine, but it doesn’t. Rats. But it’s too much fun to let it go.
Berkeley has a lot of fun, unusual places. I’m wondering if all University towns are this eclectic. Or maybe it’s just cause it’s California. Probably a combination. In any case …
I have many “favorite places” in Berkeley: There’s Fourth Street, a shopping street with the cutest little boutiques you’ve ever seen in your entire life (insert teenage squeal here). Papyrus — a favorite card and stationery store — is sandwiched between Z Gallerie and a furniture store where you can buy a lovely $850 sofa, although it costs ten times that much. There’s a garden store with imaginative little statues and fountains and wrought iron patio furniture, none of which will fit in my suitcase — or my budget. But fun to look. And, of course, restaurants and shoe stores and baby clothes and …
Back on Shattuck Avenue is The Cheese Board, a cheese co-op/bakery which reminds me of the old butcher shop with the long counter and all the wares on display behind the shiny curved glass. The Cheese Board has hundred of cheeses and they give samples. For those of us who have a hard time making decisions, it’s a little bite of heaven.
“What would you like to try?” the man behind the counter asks.
“Um … a blue cheese.”
We walk 8 feet down to where the blue cheeses are displayed. “Something not too sharp,” I add. He cuts a tiny sliver off one of the scores of cheeses. “A little salty,” I say, and he says, “try this one,” and slivers off another tiny taste of a cheese wedge.
Of course, I never ask the price of any of the cheese and walk out with four or five little hunks of cheese and a baguette of French bread still hot from the oven, and a LOT less money in my purse. (When I was in Berkeley last time, my friend Lonnie paid for all those cheeses and I felt sorta bad when I heard the total for less than a pound of cheese. Shoulda just bought caviar — it couldn’t have cost much more!)
Now on to the Monterey Market to gather some mushrooms!
The Monterey Market is far and away my favorite haunt in Berkeley. It’s actually, I think, in Albany — slightly farther north. Never mind — it’s an adventure and I love it. They have the most unusual, divine food ever, mainly produce from local farms. And the mushrooms! Oh. My. Gosh. Mushrooms of a sort that most people have never heard of. At least not people who live where I live. Perhaps people who live in a university town are used to these multiple choices.
And are they expensive? Um, yes. BUT, mushrooms don’t weigh much so even the ones that are $15 or more a pound really aren’t all that expensive considering you’re only going to buy a couple of ounces. And now you’re going to ask me what KIND of mushrooms these are. I can only tell you they are delicious. Whoever heard of these black elephant ear thingies? Or the cute little hen-and-chicks. You know they’re going to be great.
“Oooh, fresh morels!” The lady next to me grabs a bag and gently begins loading it with the small black mushrooms. “They’re picked locally, you know,” she confides in me, (I didn’t) and you can only get the fresh ones in May.” Well, I gotta have some of those for sure.
“Lucinda,” she calls out to a friend, “Come quick. It’s morel season!”
The rest of these, I’m clueless. Sure I’ve heard of Shitake and even Oyster mushrooms, but the rest of these are all new to me.
I think I could move to Berkeley just to be near the Monterey Market. When I got home, I sauteed them in butter and put them over omelets. With mushrooms like these, who needs bacon?
As Julia Child would say, “Bon Appetit!”