Delinquent From the Road
It must be summer vacation, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a post go up this late on a weekday before. Sorry about that. The three hour time difference between the East Coast and West Coast is a bit more challenging to deal with than I imagined. My thought was that if I woke up early enough, I could bang out a post and get it up by 9am or so.
I don’t know what I was thinking. California must have already softened my mind.
But that’s easy to do, because everything is gorgeous out here. The weather is gorgeous. The strawberries are gorgeous. The scenery is gorgeous. The tacos are gorgeous…um, actually, I still haven’t had a taco. How can that be? I can’t even blame the diet, because the diet has completely gone to hell.
The following is part travelog, part food diary, and part personal reminder of what I still have left to eat before we head back east on Wednesday morning.
You already saw the Chic-Fil-A chicken on a biscuit, which was my super early morning snack at the Pittsburgh airport. In Phoenix, I ate some kind of KIND bar with almonds in it, and had a Samuel Adams Boston Lager on the plane to SFO. It’s like bread in a can.
So when I arrived in SF, I was a bit peckish. Instead of eating at the airport, I rushed to Berkeley as fast as I could to meet ADS. It was torture to take the BART past the SF Mission, knowing some of the area’s best burritos were just yards overhead. But I soldiered onward.
Popping out of the Downtown Berkeley BART station, it felt almost as if time had stood still. Everything looked the same, if perhaps just a bit dirtier, and I felt a desperate urge to visit one of my old haunts, Arinell’s Pizza, for a slice.
Is it the best slice? No. But when I was living in the area, it was the best NY style pizza you could get. And getting a slice of it on this visit was like stepping back in time. It was fantastic. The perfect blend of crisp bottom, tender end crust, and hot, greasy, salty cheese. But it’s all about the crust.
ADS then took me to the Cheeseboard, where we selected a bunch of stuff to bring home to the gang. But I had to crack into one of their cheese bread rolls right on the spot. Man, the bread is great here.
Which reminds me, I need to eat more bread.
We went back to Alameda and ate a shocking amount of cheese. So much that there was no room for dinner.
Saturday I woke up to a breakfast of locally made sausage, backyard eggs, and challah. ADS still poaches the best eggs. Then it was off to Berkeley again. We were on the hunt for meat to cook for a party back on the island.
But first, lunch. Which took us to Vik’s Chaat. Another one of the old stomping grounds. I’ve been on the hunt for a bhatura that can rival what Vik’s pumps out from their open kitchen for years, and never have I found anything that is as thin, crisp, and delicious as this time-tested institution.
Even though I was stuffed from the Indian street food, at Cafe Rouge (the butcher shop) there was a gorgeous porchetta on the counter, and I couldn’t leave without a slice. So we got that in addition to the 15-pound happy brisket.
I ate a few bites of that in the parking lot and licked all the glistening pork fat and shards of shattered pig skin off my fingers, lest any little bit of that goodness be wiped away with a napkin.
Saturday night was a feast of Thai takeout. There are lots of little children running about these parts. I did get to stop into a beer store and picked up a few bottles from small local breweries, with the help of the owner.
The beers were fine, but that Thai food was divine. I’d never had a crispy rice salad, Thai stewed pork, or crab pad thai before. The green curry on black rice was also a standout. Had I been a better practitioner of my diet, I would have taken small portions of everything and been happy. But I went back for a second plate. And then later that night, I finished off the pad thai straight from the box.
Sunday was farmers market day. And that meant we took the boat to Jack London Square. All I wanted was a flat of amazing strawberries. We picked those up after lunch. But at lunch I discovered the amazing beers from Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing Company, which were on tap at the restaurant. I had the farmhouse saison with mussels and was in heaven.
Then on the boat ride home, I was eating fragrant and sweet organic strawberries that were red all the way through the core.
Back at home base, dinner preparations began for the big BBQ. The brisket in the smoker was basted, corn was treated to the Ad Hoc cookbook’s creamed corn recipe, heirloom tomatoes were cut into a salad, beer was poured, cocktails were made, and another childhood friend who grew up in Miami and lived as an adult in California showed up from the airport.
It was a fantastic day. And with luck today should be too. We’ll head up to the Russian River Brewing Company, so I can finally taste their beers. Mrs. Fussy is talking about visiting the Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg which used to be a regular stop on our roadtrips north. And hopefully there will be a way to get some walking in, so I don’t gain 20 pounds in these few days.
We’re packing in a lot of stuff. I wish I could pack in more. But this is as much a family reunion as it is a food adventure.
That said, I’m not leaving without tacos.