“SLOW COOKING’S” BIRTHPLACE: A VISIT TO BERKELEY


By Yael T.
Today (Sunday) on the way back home from Napa Valley to the Oakland Airport I decided to take a slight detour to Berkeley, where  Alice Waters’ concept of “Slow Cooking” was born.  She is a revolutionary figure in the cooking world and has made a global impact with her cookbooks, international cooking schools in Europe and her influence on our cooking culture.  She was the pioneer of eating organic, local and sustainable foods.

Berkeley has an area called the “Gourmet Ghetto,” which you could say is “really a state of mind. On the one hand, it’s the section of Shattuck Avenue bordered by Rose Street on the north and Hearst on the south. On the other, it’s an approach to life (and to food, which is probably more important to a true Gourmet Ghetto-ite) in which the pursuit of quality is absolutely uncompromising. Every bit of food must be well chosen for the dish, at its peak of flavor, organically grown (preferably by a small grower personally known to the cook), and prepared in a way that showcases its best qualities.”  For additional information read this Berkeley article listed below.

I had an hour to kill, and I decided to go to check out Cafe Fanny, owned by Alice Waters.  Her famous restaurant Chez Pannise is closed on Sundays.  Cafe Fanny has a small seasonal menu with French flair.  I loved my cappuccino and my chevre salad.

I had to go next door to ACME Bakery, which I fell in love with years ago when I visited the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero in San Francisco.  This is the original location of what is now four bakeries in Northern California.  The owner worked for Alice for years as a bus boy, and he decided to bake breads in his spare time. At Alice Waters’ request he began to bake bread in the Chez Panisse kitchen in 1980.  In 1983 he and his wife, Suzie, opened their first, now legendary, bakery. To this day, Acme Bread is the bread exclusively served at Chez Panisse.  I bought their famous cinnamon bread.  I call it the gooey, cinnamon, walnut bread oozing with sugary caramel.  Their must be at least a billion calories of heaven in this thing.  I could smell the cinnamon from outside the store.  I also bought a Pain au Levain, a Rustic Sweet Dough, a cinnamon roll, an apple tart that I  inhaled before I got to my car- divine!

Everything at ACME is made from organic flours and ingredients.  The bakery prides itself on using organic flour, organic olive oil from Tunisia and Spain. They use organic walnuts (Franquette, Poe, Hartley, and Chandler varieties) from Lake County, California. They also use organic raisins, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds that were locally sourced.  They recently made a switch from Challenge to organic butter from Petaluma Creamery in California.
See above for some great pictures.
http://www.sfgate.com/neighborhoods/eb/gourmetghetto/
www.acmebread.com, http://www.cafefanny.com

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