I’ve just spent a week up the in San Francisco Bay area and am experiencing major withdrawal symptoms. Of all the places I’ve ever been, I feel most at home in San Francisco, which is weird because I’ve never actually lived there. But I love the pulse of the city. I love the mindset. The proximity to Napa. And how the people love food! Cheerfully queuing for blocks at a time to experience the latest culinary delight! The way their eyes light up when we talk about eating! I guess the way to my heart really is through my stomach.
We were up north visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who are expecting their first child next month. So, it was going to be my last chance to invade their space for a while. They live in Oakland, in a cute little part conveniently situated near the BART, so the kids and I went into the city quite a bit — and I even got to have a night on the town with some friends sans kids at a Michelen-star restaurant (I’ll save that for another post).
I was planning on going into the city at night, so during the day I took the kids on a 1.3 mile walking excursion into Berkeley.
Estimated wpm (whines per minute): 48.7.
Pilgrimage destination: Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop. Here’s an excerpt from their website:
Summer Kitchens were used for preserving the bounty of the farm before the days of air conditioning. This was where the harvest was transformed into delicious meals and preserves were made to last the winter. These small buildings found behind large farm houses were the center of communal cooking and gathering.
Our Summer Kitchen, in the heart of Berkeley, is a modern interpretation of this classic idea. We strive to be our community’s summer kitchen-a place filled with ingredients from local farms, delicious meals cooked fresh daily, and local food craft created by us and artisans we admire.
You can see their full menu here.
The restaurant is cozy, cheerful and packed with people of all ages. The girls and I ordered a pizza, half Black Mission Fig, La Quercia Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola and Wild Arugula (for me), and half Tomato, Mozzarrella and Fresh Basil (for them…ok, maybe me too). We bellied up to the counter to wait. The crazy look in her eyes is because she’s ravenous. I just started reading The Passage and am pretty sure this is how vampires look when they’re about to go for the jugular.
Meanwhile, our pizza was being birthed before our very eyes.
These are the deft and capable hands of Paul, one of the owners of Summer Kitchen. Except that at the time I didn’t know him as Paul, only as the guy who I probably creeped out a bit by taking so many pictures.
Here’s a picture of Paul where he’s trying to figure out whether it’s time to call the cops on me. To his right, our pizza baking in the oven.
Wouldn’t this oven look so nice in my house?
I imagine that little elves are back there stoking the flames to optimize the flavor.
And then, our pizza was done.
Isn’t she beautiful? I just had to stare for a bit and take in the aroma (and more pictures).
Let me tell you how good this was.
The sweetness of the figs and caramelized onion were perfectly balanced by the sharpness of the gorgonzola and the saltiness of the proscuitto. The arugula gave a nice peppery tone to the symphony of flavors. And the crust! So thin, so crispy, so aromatic…all the things you’d want to be if you were a girl in Southern California. It was spectacular. The kids devoured their pieces, and my younger one said, “I think this is the best restaurant in San Francisco.” (Which might be true if only it were actually in San Francisco.)
I only got a bite of the Margherita half, and it was lovely.
I would have wept if I hadn’t acted strangely enough already.
We stuffed our faces. We gushed about the pizza. Paul, no longer afraid, came over to chat with us. We revealed that we were from the land of Legoland, and unaccustomed to such culinary delights. He revealed that he and his son once did a day trip to Legoland. As a side note, Legoland has pretty good food for a theme park.
We finished our food and got ready to head out. As a kind parting gift, Paul gave the girls a big chocolate chip cookie which brought them great joy and made the walk home far happier than the trek in.
So if you find yourself in the East Bay, do check out Summer Kitchen. I hear their fried chicken sandwich is to die for too.
Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop
2944 College Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705