Weekday Breakfast at 900 Grayson, Berkeley

This month has been full of birthday meals for me. 900 Grayson is the address and name of a popular spot for weekend brunch in Berkeley. It has been a few years since the last time I attempted to eat there. I recall that the wait time was very long for Saturday brunch so my party dined elsewhere. My birthday landed on a weekday so it was a good time to finally try 900 Grayson for a birthday breakfast as my friend and I didn’t have to wait for a table.
I like how 900 Grayson names all their plates. I have heard so much about the fried chicken and waffles that I had already planned on ordering this. The description of the Demon Lover is spicy buttermilk fried all natural chicken paillard, buttermilk waffle & old-fashioned cream gravy or Vermont maple syrup. I actually ordered both the gravy and the syrup as I didn’t want to miss out on one or the other. Two huge pieces of fried boneless chicken breast fillet arrived on top of a buttermilk waffle. The chicken had a crispy outer batter and was moist on the inside. I cut bite sized pieces of the chicken and waffle and dipped them into gravy, syrup, and hot sauce. This gave me a well rounded flavor burst of savory, sweet, and spice.  

 My friend who lives in Berkeley frequents 900 Grayson regularly and ordered her personal favorite, the Tom Boy. The Tom Boy is poached eggs, potato, Fuji apple & parsnip corned beef hash, and Acme bread. I am a big fan of corned beef hash as well so I was a bit jealous as her plate arrived. I had a sample of her dish. The chunks of beef were hearty and delicious and I enjoyed the unique addition of using apple and parsnips. I can see why this is her favorite. 
 

900 Grayson is run by two brothers, Chris and Anthony. This family owned neighborhood restaurant maintains it’s popularity by continually putting out great food and providing great service. Breakfast at 900 Grayson was a perfect beginning to a happy birthday.

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Time for Breakfast: Cock-a-Doodle

On Washington Street in Old Oakland, there used to be a restaurant that served authentic french crepes like the ones made in Brittany, France. I really miss the savory crepes that they used to make. For a while now, the location has been home to Cock-a-Doodle Cafe serving traditional American breakfast/brunch. I never really considered going there for weekend brunch until one of my friends suggested it. I agreed since it would be new to me and I really had to get over the loss of the crepe place.

After careful review of the menu, I decided to be bad and get the fried chicken and graham cracker crusted french toast. There was not much of a coating on the fried chicken, but the flavor was nice and it was good use of herbs on the chicken. Although the fried chicken wasn’t anything to write home about, the french toast was excellent. I believe the graham cracker coating on the french toast not only adds a unique flavor, but helps keep its texture. The ends were crispy, but overall dense and chewy.
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My sister ordered the strawberry ricotta stuffed french toast which was even better! It added a little tartness and a lot of creaminess. Who says you can’t have dessert for breakfast?
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Although I just had coffee, the waitress was promoting their mexican hot chocolate and their mexican mocha. It seemed to be customer favorites.
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Our table enjoyed these drink selections.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Cock-a-Doodle Cafe enough to come back and try their lemon ricotta pancakes and their belgian waffle.

Grand Lake Kitchen: French Toast Battle

IMG_1063.JPGThis morning my friend and I went to breakfast at the Grand Lake Kitchen (GLK) on Grand Avenue in Oakland. My BFF posted a mouthwatering photo of the French toast she had at GLK a couple of weeks ago which prompted us to go.

GLK is a small neighborhood restaurant with counter bar seating and a couple of tables inside and several tables outside. We arrived shortly after 9:00am and already had to wait. The waiting wasn’t bad because they will offer you a mug to get your self service coffee while you wait. We were second on the waitlist so it took about fifteen minutes for us to be seated outside.
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My friend came to GLK already knowing she would order the French toast with seasonal fruit. Today the fruit was peaches. After reviewing the menu, I thought I would get the savory French toast and we could do a taste test.

The sweet French toast was served with Vermont maple syrup. The texture of the toast was crispy on the outside and custard-like on the inside. The fresh peaches were roasted to a soft, sweet consistency that was delightful. This French toast was amazing. This was going to be hard to beat.
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I have never heard of a savory French toast but I was intrigued by the creativity of the elements going into this dish. My French toast came with rye bread, poached eggs, wild mushrooms, parmesan, arugula, and herb oil. I had the added Prosciutto Di Parma. The eggs were perfectly poached with runny yolks spilling out as you cut into them. I loved the sautéed mushrooms. The arugula, herb oil, and grated Parmesan added freshness and flavor. I enjoyed the additional level of sophistication from the prosciutto.
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My friend was quite clear that her sweet French toast won the battle. I, who would take a bag of potato chips over a cookie, was on the fence. I liked them equally the same. I would like to enjoy both. There was a couple next to us that were each having their own plate of savory French toast. About halfway through their meal, one order of sweet French toast came for them to share. That is what I’m talking about.

I asked one of the employees whether it was the sweet or savory French toast that has the most sales. She indicated it was the savory, but it was definitely close. It’s worth visiting GLK to make your own decision. In the meantime, I’ll be deciding when’s my next visit to GLK and what I’ll try next. They are open everyday except Tuesday from 9am-9:30pm.

Casual Eating in Aptos, California

I just got back from a conference at the Seascape Resort in Aptos, California which is near Santa Cruz. The space is beautiful and right off the beach where we could see dolphins swimming. My colleagues and I were able to have a few meals off-site and I wanted to write about two of those meals.

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Before we arrived to the resort, we stopped for lunch at The Farm Bakery and Cafe. The place is right next to Cabrillo College. It’s a cute casual place that even has a gift shop. We ordered our food at the counter and found a table as we waited for our food. One of my colleagues ordered a Chicken Caesar Salad while another ordered the chicken wrap. I ordered a Chinese Chicken Salad and a fruit salad to share.
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I find that the key to a good Chinese Chicken Salad is usually the salad dressing. In this case, I especially enjoyed the chicken. The chicken was so moist that I think it may have been poached. My colleagues enjoyed their lunches as well. We all nibbled on the fresh fruit salad which was nice and sweet. My first impression is that The Farm is a great place to stop for a quick lunch if you are in the area.

Another off site meal I had was breakfast at The Hole in the Wall Cafe. The photos and review of the huevos rancheros were great so my colleague and I both ordered it. The blend of a fried egg, beans, chorizo, avocado, sour cream, green onions, and sauce on top of a slightly crisp corn tortilla was delicious. The crispy hash browns were excellent and went well with the sauce that was oozing out of my huevos rancheros.

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Our other colleague had the eggs benedict. These were picture perfect and she finished off her plate so my assumption is that she really liked it.

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Again we shared another fruit salad. Whenever I am traveling at a conference, I want to make sure I have an adequate amount of fruit when possible.

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The Hole in the Wall Cafe is definitely worth stopping by for breakfast.

Kitchen 388 in the Oakland 510

There is a small restaurant located on Grand Avenue in Oakland that I have passed by hundreds of times in the past two years. Early on, I had heard good reviews about Kitchen 388. I had wanted to go there, but couldn’t figure out when they were open. It would appear open one day and then it would be closed for months at a time. I noticed that it seemed to be open more consistently lately, so I thought I would finally give it a try.
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This morning I brought my seven year old niece to Kitchen 388 for brunch. She started with a glass of orange juice and I started with a cafe au lait. Kitchen 388 is proud to serve Roast Co coffee, which I thought was just ok. I did like the fact that my coffee was presented in a big bowl. I’ll have to give Roast Co. another chance since they are an Oakland roaster. Maybe I had a bad cup or a bad barista?
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I decided that I would order two dishes for us to share as well as a side of fruit salad. The waitress brought out our fruit salad to nibble on while we waited for our dishes to come out. The fruits included blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, mango, and pineapple. I loved the freshness as well as the variety.
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One dish we had was the baked eggs. Two eggs were individually served in ramekin dishes with olive oil and basil. It came with cherry tomatoes and levain toast. This dish was very simple, but a combination that I enjoyed. I don’t tend to eat out a lot for breakfast because I like to make my own basic breakfast foods. I think baking eggs the way Kitchen 388 may be added to my own repertoire.
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My niece loves fried chicken and she loves waffles, but I was pretty sure it was her first time having the two items together. The waffles were a little pale in color, but it had great texture with a good outer crisp. We got two large pieces of fried chicken. It was extremely juicy and flavorful. I was quite impressed. My niece ate about half of the plate, so I know she enjoyed it as much as I did.
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Another dish on the menu that caught my eye was the pork chop. I love pork chops for breakfast. I saw a waiter bring out two of them and couldn’t keep my eye off those grill marks. I’ll be going back to Kitchen 388 for weekend brunch and having the pork chop.

To help clarify, here are the hours: Kitchen 388 is open Wednesday through Friday from 9am to 3pm for coffee drinks, empanadas and pastries. They have full dinner service Wednesday through Friday from 5pm to 9pm. And of course, weekend brunch is every Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 3pm.

Aunt Mary’s Serves Up Breakfast

During the episode of Master Chef when the contestants had to cook up eggs four different ways – poached, soft boiled, sunny side fried, and an omelet, I wanted to be a part of that. I’m pretty good at cooking up breakfast food, so I don’t tend to go out to eat breakfast very often. When I do, I am looking for something special.

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Aunt Mary’s in the Temescal area of Oakland is pretty special. Even Guy Fieri thinks so.
He was at Aunt Mary’s a while back to shoot Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. A friend of mine and I recently paid Aunt Mary a visit. We waited about twenty minutes before we were seated, an unusually short wait according to yelp. The time went by quick as we were able to help ourselves to coffee.

Many things on the menu looked good. My friend and I decided to share a few things. We had the Pain Perdue, which is a Cajun style French toast made with baguettes soaked in a whiskey laced custard served with white wine fresh fruit compote. This dish is baked to order and takes 20 minutes. It seems like it might be a really heavy dish and really sweet. It was soft and light and had the perfect amount of sweetness. It was delicious.

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The other main dish we ordered was the Southern Bubble and Squeak which are potato-Southern greens cakes with pot likker gravy, topped with eggs, with a biscuit, and a side of greens. I liked this a lot more than my friend. It was pure comfort melting in my mouth. They must call it pot likker gravy because you will want to lick it up.

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In addition, we ordered two sides. We had a side of sausage. The added fennel in the pork was nice. My friend liked it a lot and reminded her of eating a Chinese pork dish her mom makes.

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The other side was grits with cheddar cheese. I actually like my grits to be on the runny side with a poached egg next to it. It was tasty, but I’m not convinced that this is something I will ever be a big fan of.

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Aunt Mary’s is a great place for breakfast and I will be back to see her when I don’t feel like cooking up my own.

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Celebrity Chef: Cat Cora

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Whenever I travel for work, I would alway pack my tennis shoes and gym clothes, but rarely end up pulling it out of the suitcase. This time while I was in Florida, I did pull it out because I had to get my Weight Watcher activity points in. I found that our hotel the Swan and Dolphin had a one mile loop walking trail. I could loop around three times and earn three activity points. It’s a good thing I did because that is how I discovered Kouzzina, Iron Chef Cat Cora’s restaurant located on the Boardwalk. I had to dine here just because she is the only female Iron Chef. The restaurant is open for dinner as well as breakfast. I tried both.

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Kouzzina means kitchen in Greek and serves Mediterranean food. Although I was excited to be having dinner here, I knew I was in Florida and wanted to play it safe. I would start with my favorite Greek soup, Avgolemono. To me, lemon and chicken is like peanut butter and jelly. They go well together. Chef Cora’s soup did not have the exact consistency or texture that I expected, but it was still good. It was a tad thicker, had a more pungent lemon flavor, and had orzo when I expected rice. I now realize that you can use rice or orzo to make this soup. The Asian in me likes the rice.

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My friend who enjoys Greek appetizers ordered the Kouzzina sampler as her entree. It came with lamb meatballs, shrimp skewers, marinated olives, spiced cashews, dolmas, hummus, and pita. The platter of items was very mediocre. My favorite thing was the spiced cashews.

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I continued to play it safe and ordered the wood-grilled rib eye steak which was topped with an herb salsa and came with broccolini and potatoes. This was great. I wiped off some of the herb salsa, but everything else was delicious and met my expectations.

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The one thing I noticed about Kouzzina was that they could work on their plating. Plating was a hot mess. I guess in Florida they care more about abundance than they do presentation.

I came back the next morning for breakfast with my colleague. We shared two items. One was the French toast baklava, which was grilled fig and anise country bread with honey, walnuts and cinnamon. It also came with a side of chicken sausage.

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The second item was the warm phyllo filled with semolina custard and cinnamon sugar.

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Chef Cat Cora proved she could do breakfast. These Greek influenced breakfast plates were well worth my second visit and three more loops around the walking trail.