Gather in Berkeley

Today is day 7 of me rejoining Weight Watchers. I am carrying some extra weight that I hope to shed. I have been carrying those extra pounds even through running my recent half marathon. I realize that if I lose those pounds, I could PR! (Personal Record or beat my previous time.) My first experience with the Weight Watchers Program was over four years ago and it was a good one. What I like about Weight Watchers is that I can still eat good food, but in moderation.  

A large portion of my daily points today was consumed during brunch at Gather in Berkeley. Gather is a restaurant focused on sustainability which was the perfect location for my bookclub to discuss Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us.” The book makes you think about the carbon footprint we leave behind.  
Since I was doing pretty well the past week and was combining breakfast and lunch, I ordered a Bloody Mary. It was a nice treat and thought it was well worth the five points.  
Our group decided to share a breakfast pizza which included bacon and eggs, caramelized onions, and oregano. This was my first time having pizza at Gather. I requested a slice with egg and enjoyed the runny yolk. It definitely felt like breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised by the slight kick. I also liked the shape and edges of the pizza crust which left for more crispy opportunities. 
For my main, I was looking for something that didn’t have too many carbohydrates. I decided on the hominy & bean soup. This was both vegan and gluten free. I actually enjoyed the flavors very much. Honestly after having the one slice of pizza, the soup was both filling and satisfying.  
One of my friends had the shiitake mushroom scramble which came with crispy potatoes and a wonderful shallot herb buttered toast. She mostly enjoyed it as the eggs were a bit overcooked.
Two of my friends at the table ordered the walnut French toast with fresh berries and house made mascarpone. The plates were left clean, so I know how they felt about their French toast.  I had a small bite to taste and loved the flavor, but was not fond of the density.  

I thought the Amber wheat pancakes that my best friend ordered was the star of brunch. It came with poached apricots and house made ricotta. After a sample taste, I decided to eat the last bite when my meal was over because it was like ending with a fabulous dessert or a sweet note.
I estimated 5 points each for the Bloody Mary, the small slice of breakfast pizza, and the hominy and bean soup, and 1 point each for the small sampling of pancake, French toast, and herb buttered toast. That totals 18 points which isn’t too bad for an event where I was combining breakfast and lunch.  All in all, it was a great place to Gather.  I would just need to be mindful about dinner.


KaSoy Pop Up: Mien Noodle Soup

A month ago I attended a pop up dinner at the home of my Instagram friend @dishingoakland. The theme was Mien food cooked by Instagrammer @laneylaneyfong.  
Our appetIzer was a broiled chicken wing with asparagus spears and came with an unforgettable Mien sauce. The sauce had very similar ingredients to a fresh Mexican salsa, but used roasted tomatoes that really made it pop.  
The main was KaSoy which was the reason for having the pop up. KaSoy is a popular and traditional Mien noodle soup. The dedicate and flavorful broth used for KaSoy is cooked with bone marrow for a number of hours, way before we arrived. The bowl of rice noodles, beef balls, vegetables, and fabulous broth is topped with a signature saucy ground pork mixture. There was a communal plate of chopped green onions, cabbage, bean sprouts, and cilantro if we wanted to add more. Individually we were also given chicharrones and a lime wedge to add to the KaSoy.
Chef Laney also prepared our soup bowls with hot chili sauce. I definitely thought it was spicy, but not so much that I couldn’t handle it. There were two diners that needed their bowls prepared with less spice. We recommended that this be self administered in the future.
At the end of our meal, our host baked some cupcakes and quickly whipped up some homemade strawberry frosting for dessert. It was light and was a nice treat to end the meal.
I was fortunate to attend this small pop up dinner where I was able to experience KaSoy noodle soup for the first time. As a noodle soup lover, I enjoyed it very much.  It was also great fun to meet others that enjoy good food. Follow @dishingoakland or myself at @510foodie on Instagram to find out about potential KaSoy pop ups in the future.  

My First Half Marathon: Post Race Meal

I ran my first half marathon exactly one week ago. I participated in the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon San Diego with two friends whom I went to college with at San Diego State University over twenty years ago. It felt gratifying to be able to complete 13.1 miles in under two and a half hours. I trained for ten weeks, increasing my distance every two weeks.  

I enjoyed running through the various neighborhoods of San Diego, being cheered on by strangers, military folk, and high school cheerleaders, and being met at the finish line by friends. I felt a great accomplishment that deserved a celebration meal.

I made reservations for dinner at Juniper & Ivy (J & I), a Richard Blais restaurant. Chef Blais is well known from the TV show Top Chef and introducing the mainstream to molecular gastronomy. I walked into the restaurant proudly wearing the three medals I received. I obtained the first medal from running the 5K on Saturday, a second medal from running the half marathon on Sunday, and a third medal for running both. The staff at J & I brought each of us a free glass of champagne. It was such a nice gesture and definitely made me feel special.

One of my friends pulled a nice bottle of wine from her “cellar” at home and packed it into her suitcase so we could enjoy it after the race. The vintage 2007 Le Chanceux Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was delicious and a nice treat.

J & I’s menu is categorized by snacks, raw, pasta, toast, small plates, and plates. There were four of us and we decided to share a variety of items. I have never had a deviled egg like the ones at J & I. The filling of yolk mousse and mustard seed caviar are piped into a meringue shaped to look like egg white. It was a super cool concept, but I personally prefer my egg whites boiled instead of whipped.

My tablemates enjoyed the foie gras cookies as I declined to eat them for principle’s sake. I haven’t had foie gras since the California ban in 2012. Although the law is in appeal, I have decided to give it up. However, I was informed that the cookies were amazing.

The green beans were tempura fried and complimented with a ramp ranch dip. This was pretty boring, but the only reason we ordered it was to substitute the littleneck clams that had run out.  

The pea “socal fredo” was a pea linguini with charred shrimp and soft boiled egg. As it was being tossed, I could already envision the luxuriousness of this dish I would soon enjoy.

The burrata was accompanied by golden tomatoes, Persian cucumber, and croutons. This was light and refreshing.  

We ordered the stone crab toast which was like an open faced crab sandwich that came with beefsteak tomatoes and avocado. Even after cutting the toast into fours, I felt I was getting a significant amount of fresh and flavorful crab.  

The chicken liver came with cherry pecan bread, pickled cherries, and candied pecans. I thought it was overly sweet and the bread was too dense.

Another beautifully presented dish was the Spanish octopus. It came with black eggplant purée, shishito peppers, fennel, and green chickpeas. It was one of my favorites. 

I put in the order for the New York Strip. It was prepared with confit Alaskan potatoes, marinated tomatoes, blue cheese butter, and chimichurri. It was perfect for sharing four ways as it was a large plate.  

We shared two desserts. We had the “banana cream” which had caramelized pineapple, vanilla wafers and banana curd and the “almond joy” which was made with soft chocolate, marcona almonds, coconut sorbet, and pavlova. Both desserts were awesome and a perfect way to end the special meal. 

Although I didn’t think everything we ordered was perfect, it was the exact way to enjoy a shared meal with friends. Dinner at Juniper & Ivy was a fun and enjoyable experience.