Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tea Tasting and More on Fourth Street Berkeley

Virginia came to visit for a week in April.

 On her first full day here, we headed to the Fourth Street shopping/restaurant district in Berkeley for a tea tasting at Téance and some wandering around. Harriet came in from San Francisco to join us in our explorations.

 For lunch, we debated between Zut!, Café Rouge, and Bette's Oceanview Diner...all good options. Bette's won!

Harriet had the French Toast with Yogurt and French Fruit.

Virginia and I had Tuna Melts.

...a tasty lunch in a vintage diner setting. 

 Bette's was one of the first restaurants in the neighborhood when it began to be gentrified several decades ago.  It still is very very popular. They serve breakfast and lunch daily. We put our name on a waiting list about an hour before we planned to have lunch. When we arrived at noon, we are seated almost immediately, rather than having to wait. 

 Tea tasting at Téance is always an interesting experience.

It's a shop that sells many varieties of tea, tea accessories, and books about tea. At the tea bar, people come an go, stopping in for simply a pot of tea and some conversation or to do a more formal tea tasting as we did. We each got to choose two different teas from their extensive list. Virginia had never tasted Matcha and chose that for her first taste. Matcha is a powdered Japanese tea which is first whisked with a small amount of hot water with a bamboo whisk in a small bowl.

Our server explained that you have to whisk the powder with a small amount of hot water until it does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Then he added more water and Virginia got to taste.

 Her second choice was a Pu-Erh, a black tea which is the only kind of tea that is fermented. It actually gets better with age, just like many wines. Her particular Pu-Erh was one that had been fermented for at least 5 years.

As for me, I started with a green Lu Shan Clouds and Mist and then went on to Yunnan Gold, a red tea.

With each brewed tea, our server did two infusions of the same leaves.

It is possible to resteep the leaves up to five times, but twice was sufficient for us to experience the taste changes with successive infusions.

 Some other people were sipping cups of tea while we were tasting.

When they ordered the fresh Mochi for a little something sweet to accompany their tea , we decided to follow suit.

Mochi is a Japanese sweet made with a glutonous rice outer shell and filled with a bean paste and nut filling. It can also be filled with ice cream (that version available at Trader Joe's).

We then found out that one of the people who had ordered the Mochi is the chef who makes them fresh for Téance and who had just delivered them before stopping for her cup of tea.  Her bean paste version is truly special.  If you go to Téance, be sure to ask if they have Mochi to go with your tea.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tasting Tea: An Article on Sally's Place

Just a quick post to share that I've written an article for the Sally's Place web site. It is called Tasting Tea and is focused on how to taste tea and a few places to taste tea in the San Francisco area.

 My sister and I recently did a tea tasting in Berkeley at Teance...I'll be doing a full blog post about it soon.

 Check out Sally's Place for all sorts of information about food, drinks, travel and everything else that makes life so pleasurable.

 Many years ago I was a regular contributor to Sally's Place and continue to enjoyed the information that she shares with her followers.

Celebrating Ted's 70th

Our good friend Ted would have turned 70 this month. Last night, with Ray and Liz, we celebrated this landmark with Pizza at Skipolini's in Clayton, just as Jim and I had done with him for many birthdays.

 Unfortunately, the fifth member in our "Always Remembering Ted" group, Mary Ann, had other obligations and could not join us this year.

 It was a balmy northern California night so we could comfortably dine on their outdoor patio.

 The menu was the usual: Salad, a few Pizzas, wine, beer, lemonade

and, for a birthday cake, some mini cupcakes that we brought along.

A relaxing evening with good friends and good memories.

Ted, we will always miss you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Phoenix Area Getaway

Yes, it's hotter than blazes in Phoenix at this time of year, but my friend Lois is there for a few weeks and I decided to make a short visit to spend time with her.

As always, we did a lot of shopping.

On one of our three days, we headed to Cave Creek, an Old West town about 25 miles north of Phoenix. Cave Creek has one main street which is the main route through town.

Our first stop was at The Town Dump, a store that one of Lois's friends likes and which describes itself as "A wild and crazy store" that meanders inside and outside and is piled high with decorative items, pottery, and lots of southwestern "stuff."

Next stop was at Valerie's Furniture and Accents, where Lois has bought many of the decorative items for her Arozona home. We all found things to buy here.

Our next stop was for lunch at Tonto bar & Grill at the Rancho Mañana Resort and Golf Course.

Tonto has a beautiful dining patio that overlooks the mountains and which is kept comfortable even in today's over-100 degree weather with overhead fans.

Both Shiela and Lois ordered 8-ounce burgers which looked amazingly delicious.

I chose a meal-sized salad from the creative Salad menu.

First you decide what kind do salad you want. And then you top that salad with an Accompaniment.

I chose the Cowboy Cobb salad and topped it with Crispy Crackling Calamari Rings.

While delicious, my salad was so enormous I couldn't finish it.

Despite the large servings, I'd certainly return to Tonto for another meal. The food is fresh, well prepared and delicious. And the setting is lovely and relaxing.

We made one final shopping stop in Cave Creek at Buffalo Biil's to look at cactus sculptures for Lois's atrium. They had several that she might be buying.

Our very last stop was in the next town, Carefree, at the Adelante Gallery, a lovely art gallery that features art by local artists.

And so ends a carefree day in Arizona.