Eating Vicariously at Ippudo Berkeley

Ippudo is the name of an International Japanese ramen chain. With two ramen shops in New York City, Ippudo opened its third U.S. location on Friday in Berkeley. My friend dined there on Saturday and gave me a play by play in real time so I figured I would share the details.

She strategically arrived at Ippudo at 3:50pm for a meal (not sure whether to call it a late lunch or an early dinner).  There were close to forty people waiting in line in front of her and she waited 45 minutes to get seated. This was not bad as other patrons had waited up to three hours to be one of the first people to eat at Ippudo.She started with the Ippudo chicken wings. They were well seasoned and had the perfect fried crispy skin. The black pepper honey glaze made them finger licking good. She claims them to be the best chicken wings she has ever eaten.
While she was thoroughly enjoying her wings, her bowl of ramen came out. She had let the bowl sit there and after seven minutes, the manager came over to take it away because he felt the quality was compromised. It wasn’t until she finished her chicken wings that her new bowl of ramen came out. The Shiromaru special was ramen noodles with a tasty pork belly cha sui, a soft boiled egg, and a rich and delicious Tonkotsu, pork based broth. She thought the egg was a little over done. 
She ended her meal with a double scoop of creamy black sesame ice cream.  
All in all, she enjoyed her meal. She does want to return at some point to try some other items, including the spicy ramen. Maybe at that time, I will be done with my thirty day no carb, no sugar diet and will join her. I love me a good bowl of ramen.

Lucia’s: A Pizzeria with Heart

It’s hard to imagine life without Neopolitan pizza. Lucky for me, this style of pizza is popular all over the Bay Area so I don’t have to travel to Naples, Italy to enjoy it. In my eyes, to master this pizza you would need a wood burning oven, authentic flour to produce a light chewy dough, and fresh ingredients including a high quality tomato sauce.  
Lucia’s Pizzeria in Downtown Berkeley opened late last year and serves Neopolitan pizza. I was invited to dine there a couple of months ago with a friend. We met with co-owner Alessandro Uccelli and his wife Elizabetha who were friendly and hospitable as soon as we walked through the door.  

We started with the Vegetarian Fritto Misto with lemon mint aioli. Fritto misto translates to mixed fry and is essentially the Italian version of Japanese tempura. Lucia’s version includes zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potato, red pepper, and sage leaves. The batter was coated well to keep a solid crisp on the vegetables. The assortment of vegetables provided a fun way to start the meal.
My friend and I agreed to share the Kale Salad which had very few ingredients – kale, walnuts, and pecorino cheese. It was dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and a hint of sriracha. I thought the salad was a nice companion with the fried vegetables. I enjoyed the simplicity and the nutty flavor.
The pasta of the day was Gnocchi Bolognese. Elizabetha made the pasta and Alessandro made the sauce bringing together a rich and hearty combination. These handmade potato dumplings were truly a family affair.  
Of course we had to order a pizza. We ordered the Lips of Fire, which is a basic Margherita pizza with added toppings of hot soppressata, ghost peppers, and maple syrup. Taking about 70 seconds to cook in the wood burning oven imported from Naples, the pizza came out with signature blistering bubbles. The flour and tomatoes they use are from Compania, Italy.  Biting into a slice, I enjoyed the flavors and heat. As I the neared the end of the slice, I was delighted with the soft chewy texture. That’s amore!
For dessert we got the housemade cannoli with ricotta and chocolate chips. It came out room temperature and I think if the filling was colder I would’ve enjoyed it much more.
Lucia’s offers Double 8 Dairy, a local buffalo milk gelato made in Petaluma. I asked if I could have a small taste of it and it was absolutely delicious. I visited their website and am impressed by their list of restaurants that serve their gelato.
Lucia’s is a pizzeria with heart. The owners are genuine and that shows in the food, service, and the overall experience.

Limewood’s New Dinner Series: Dining on the Deck

Limewood is the new restaurant located inside the Claremont Resort & Spa in Berkeley. The restaurant is introducing a new dinner series called “Dining on the Deck” which features a four course meal with drink pairings. Me and a guest were invited to attend the first of the series which was held last week. A four course meal prepared by Chef Joseph Humphrey would be paired with Pueblo Viejo Tequila, which is produced at San Matias, one of the oldest distilleries in Jalisco, Mexico.
It was a beautiful evening so we were able to dine on the deck. As we entered, we were offered a special cocktail made with tequila. It had a floating piece of jalapeño that represented the kick it would provide. I really enjoyed it. I actually felt like I was attending a party as we were meeting new people and socializing.  

We had a couple of passed hors d’oeuvres before dinner started. Of the two I tried, I really liked the shrimp toast. The flavor running through the shrimp was absorbed onto the buttered toast while remaining crispy. 
As dinner was approaching, I snatched a seat with one of the best sunset views overlooking the Bay Area. Actually there were no bad seats here. Carmen Villarreal, the owner of Pueblo Viejo Tequila was on-site to introduce us to the family tequila which has been around since 1886. Their tequilas are made from 100% Agave and aged in Oak barrels.  
The first course was grass fed lamb tartare with fried Hog Island oysters. This was an amazing start. I loved the complexity of this dish which included the raw minced lamb meat, the fried oysters and the fresh avocado. Course one was perfectly paired with Orgullo Anejo.  
The second course was roasted halibut with toasted pine nut mole and charred sugar snap peas. The halibut was delicious, but I felt overwhelmed by the mole. I thoroughly enjoyed the sugar snap peas which brought some additional lightness and brightness. This course was matched with San Matias Tahona Blanco.  
The third course was smoked duck breast with roasted parsnips in vanilla butter and black licorice. The duck was a perfect medium rare with a nice layer of crispy skin. The parsnips were a little sweet for my taste. This dish was paired with the San Matias Grand Reserve.
The final course was dessert which was a strawberry margarita mousse. We definitely ended on a high note here as I couldn’t get enough of this. Dessert was paired with Rey Sol.
The tequila from Pueblo Viejo were all very smooth and enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised how well tequila could be paired with food.  
Limewood will continue its “Dining on the Deck” dinner series through the end of the year. For a fun evening of food and pairings, check it out. 

To see more of my food adventures, follow me on Instagram @510foodie.

What I ate after the East Bay 510K

photo by @cwpiequeen

It was a perfect October morning in Berkeley to run the East Bay 510K. This morning, about 2,000 runners started at the Northeast end of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in Berkeley to either run a 5K or 10K. 5K runners began at 7:35am while 10K runners began at 8:05am. I ran the 10K with two friends. We ran a loop around Cesar Chavez Park, down towards the Berkeley Marina, headed south on Frontage Road, made our way across the pedestrian overcrossing to the other side of Highway 80, down Bolivar Drive connecting to Berkeley Aquatic Park to Shellmound Street, which lead us to the finish line located at Bay Street Mall in Emeryville.

photo by @cwpiequeen

I completed this race last year for the first time and earned my very first medal. Today I have a personal record that I am ecstatic about. According to race officials, here are my stats:

  • Overall position: 366 of 1,322
  • Female position: 138 of 845
  • Total time: 59:41
  • Average time per mile: 9:37

With a medal and t-shirt showcasing the Port of Oakland with cranes and containers, designed by Oaklandish, the East Bay 510K is a cool race to participate in.
After running 6.2 miles this morning, we deserved a good brunch, right? With the help of Yelp, we walked half a mile to Doyle Street Cafe in Emeryville for pancakes. The waitress mistakenly seated another party of three ahead of us. I didn’t make it a big deal because it was only a few extra minutes that we waited and my party had passed the three women walking when we arrived. Luckily we got there when we did because the restaurant had to start putting names on a list. It seemed we weren’t the only runners that made their way to Doyle Street Cafe after the races.
I am not a huge fan of pancakes, but once in awhile I get in the mood for it. The offering of pumpkin pancakes at Doyle Street Cafe set me in the mood on this October Sunday. We all got the combination plate which also included eggs and bacon or sausage. I ordered bacon and thought it could have been cooked to a better crisp. The texture of my pumpkin pancakes were thick, fluffy, and moist. They were topped with whipped vanilla cream and powdered sugar.  The flavors were robust and gave me the sense of Fall. The combination breakfast at Doyle Street Cafe was satisfying to all of us after a successful race day.

Imperfect Produce: I Eat Ugly

My BFF introduced me to a company called Imperfect Produce based in Emeryville that offers fruits and vegetables subscriptions. The produce they offer does not meet the gold standard set by grocery stores because of the way they look. The fresh fruits and vegetables may have cosmetic defects compared to their siblings. They could be irregular shaped or have spots on the outside, which does not negatively impact the flavor of the produce.  Sometimes they can even taste better!


Why wouldn’t I just want to have perfect produce? Buying into imperfect produce allows you to save about 30% compared to the grocery store. It also allows you to make a positive impact on the environment by reducing food waste and water usage. It’s a win-win situation. For me personally, it allows me to afford organic fruits and vegetables as it is not always an option I want to pay for when I shop at the market.  

I went online and customized my first box and it included organic cantaloupe, peaches, plums, pears, grapefruit, tomatoes, arugula, mushrooms, and potatoes.  
The first evening I had my box I cooked up some of the vegetables. After peeling and chopping the vegetables, I could not tell they were “rejects.” Could you?
My first box was heavy on fruit by choice. I found that they were perfectly sweet and juicy. Two colleagues standing several feet away could smell the aroma of my peach that I bit into. Later in the week with my abundance of plums and peaches, I bought some puff pastry dough and made a weight watcher friendly dessert. 
Imperfect Produce serves and delivers to the East Bay and has select drop-off spots in San Francisco, Lafayette, and Concord/Walnut Creek. You can also pick up from their warehouse located in Emeryville which is what I did. The best advantage for my BFF is that she gets her box of fruits and vegetables delivered to her door and doesn’t have to step foot into a grocery store.  This way she has more time to travel, geocache, and blog.
With my Imperfect Produce subscription, I am not only incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my nutritional diet, but I am having fun with it. It’s like playing a creative game of Chopped.  Imperfect Produce is a beautiful thing!

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.

Exploring Fournée Bakery in Berkeley

Located on Domingo Avenue in Berkeley across from the historical Claremont Hotel, is a small business community of food and shops. Tucked in this neighborhood is a French bakery serving some of the best croissants. It was about a year ago when my friend introduced me to Fournée Bakery when she brought me two croissants – the ham and egg croissant and a traditional croissant.

A true test of a good French bakery is to examine the traditional croissant. The croissant at Fournée was perfect – light, flakey, and buttery. It transported me back to Paris. The ham and egg croissant is a best seller that I enjoyed. The ham is cut thick and cooked to a crisp giving you the impression that you’re eating bacon. With the egg in the center, you have a full breakfast in your hand. A medium cooked egg would be my preference.  


Since the introduction, I have been back to Fournée a few times. I normally enjoy savory items, but I have a weakness for chocolate croissants. The pain au chocolat at Fournée are to die for. It has the right amount of chocolate in the center of the flakey, buttery exterior.  


Fournée also serves two kinds of pizza – one vegetarian option and a Pepperoni. I had a slice of the pepperoni pizza. Although I had to pat down the pizza with a napkin to remove some of the excess oil, I still enjoyed it. A good bakery can definitely make a good crust.


Aside from traditional items, I appreciate the fact that Fournée also makes seasonal items. Recently, I had a delicious pastry filled with asparagus and scallions. I did not leave a crumb as I took delight in cleaning up the bottom of my bag which was filled with sunflower seeds and crispy pastry flakes.


There is so much more to explore at Fournée that I feel like I have just begun. My tip is to go early because they do run out of items. At the same time, don’t fret as whatever you are left with is another chance to explore something you may not have tried.