Slow food. Organic, artisanal, sustainable. Locally grown, seasonal, farm to table. Many would recognize these buzzwords as primary concepts that have provided a framework and a marketing bent to the hottest food, dining and lifestyle businesses today.
But not as many know that these concepts are nothing new—in fact, they have been around and have been practiced for many decades now. In the ‘60s and the ‘70s, Berkeley was synonymous with counterculture ideology that shaped everything about the community’s culture, from politics to fashion, from the arts to commerce. In fact, the food scene in Berkeley is so radical that it fueled what‘s known as the food revolution in America.
While large public protests are not a common occurrence anymore, the Berkeley community and the lifestyle of many of its residents are still influenced by progressive, artistic and epicurious leanings. If you’re visiting Berkeley, you can best experience this through Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto.
The Gourmet Ghetto is located in North Shattuck, an area that boasts of a large concentration of restaurants, cafes, shops and other venues where one can sample the famed urban order, revolutionary cuisine and mindful living in Berkeley.
Get to taste “mushroom soup so intense and untamed that it was exciting rather than soothing,” as much-loved food writer and editor Ruth Reichl describes it, at Chez Panisse, named as the best restaurant in America and founded by Berkeley rock star Alice Waters. If you don’t have a reservation, you may try renowned favorites in the neighborhood such as Peet‘s Coffee & Tea, Cesar, the French Hotel Café, LoCoco’s Sicilian, Masse’s Pastries, or even enroll in cooking classes at The Kitchen on Fire.
If you love beautiful things, you may shop for jewelry, clothing, furniture and shoes from local designers. The shops are located along Vine St. and Walnut Square. There’s also an impressive number of galleries in the neighborhood, and most of them sell and display artworks and wares created by local talent.
If you’re there purely for the experience and not to shop, you won’t run out of events to attend and join, from yoga and meditation sessions, culinary tours, farmer’s markets, workshops and seminars, to book launches and more. The Gourmet Ghetto website publishes an updated calendar of events, so be sure to check that out while planning your visit.
Speaking of planning, make your reservation at the DoubleTree Berkeley Marina early. Know that a place that with a rich cultural and historical heritage is best savored without hurry. Like the slow cooking movement that Berkeley has cultivated, your visit to the city should take at least a few days for you to get a fulfilling experience.
*Photo courtesy GourmetGhetto.org