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.

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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.

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.

Authentic French in Oakland: Michel Bistro

I have passed the French restaurant Michel Bistro (MB) on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland many times. I remember stopping once and looking at the dinner menu and continuing to walk on by. The menu was short and had maybe one or two things I would consider ordering. Today we had book club to discuss The Hundred Foot Journey. My BFF suggested the meeting to be held at MB for brunch, after all, much of the book takes place in France. After looking at the brunch menu online, I was much more excited.

We started with coffee and a complimentary sack of bread. Cute, huh?
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My BFF and I had previously discussed sharing a couple of items, one sweet and one savory. We ordered the Pain Perdu which is French for French toast. Their version had pear, house made mascarpone, and a pistachio brittle. It was very moist and eggy on the inside, but still had some crispness in the crust. It had the perfect amount of sweetness and was delicious. I found the pistachio brittle to be an extra nice addition.
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MB’s version of Eggs Benedict was the savory dish we chose and it was quite unique. Instead of the typical English muffin on the bottom, they used a crispy potato nest. On top was a poached egg with hollandaise sauce and capers. Instead of salmon, they used cured trout. This dish was light as well as delightful.
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Another friend ordered the Duck Confit Hash which came with duck egg, apple butter, duck jus, and mustard greens. I had a bite and thought it was a good choice as well. She enjoyed her dish very much.
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A nice thing about MB is that they have a child’s menu at Brunch. There are only a few options, but it gave one of my friend’s kid the opportunity to order a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Can you tell he was pretty excited?
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Her other son ordered the Ouef a la Coque, which were two boiled eggs, serrano ham, and brioche. Eating out of egg holders always gives me fond memories of my time in Paris.
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Having finally given Michel Bistro a try, I am very happy I did. I realize that this is really the only French restaurant in Oakland. It has a nice vibe, the staff are friendly, and the food is great. I definitely recommend Michel Bistro.

Spooning Up Korean Brunch in Berkeley

Every time I make my way to Berkeley Bowl West to go grocery shopping, I pass by a restaurant called Spoon Korean Bistro. Each time I pass it, I become intrigued. Today I asked my sister and BFF if they wanted to have brunch at Spoon and then go grocery shopping. They both agreed.

The menu at Spoon was interesting because it had items that I had never experienced at other Korean restaurants. For instance, I have never had Korean porridge. Spoon’s version is made with rice, quinoa, mung bean, and milk. If you order porridge, you get the side dishes or banchan and you get a choice of an add-on that gets cooked into the porridge. We chose mushrooms. The porridge was thick and creamy, a cross between jook or Chinese rice porridge and oatmeal. It felt very comforting to eat and the mushrooms added a distinct flavor and texture.
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Another “new to me” dish were the kimchi pancakes. They were mild in spice and crispy. I thought these were really good and a great choice for a brunch item.
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My BFF requested we get the glazed potatoes which were deep fried potatoes in a sweet glaze. If you order these potatoes, you are warned there is a 7 minute wait. These came out piping hot and were both crisp and sweet on the outside. It almost felt like I was having a dessert.
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We also ordered the appetizer size veggie jhap chae. Jhap chae is a dish made up of sweet potato glass noodles stir fried with vegetables including mushrooms, carrots, onions, and sesame oil. I always enjoy eating jhap chae and this one was not any different.
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We didn’t order anything with meat, so decided to go with the Korean BBQ beef short ribs. We devoured these as well. The BBQ flavor was tasty and they were grilled well.
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We enjoyed Spoon very much. We got to eat outside and enjoy the nice weather, the service was great, and the food was authentic and delicious. I recommend brunch at Spoon and then grocery shopping afterwards. Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry!

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.

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.