Friday, March 31, 2006

SF Day 6 & 7: Scharfenberger, Moroccan Feast & Monterey


Wednesday, thanks to John's sister, we had a car to use to go adventuring. We jumped in and headed to Berkeley with an afternoon goal of a 2:30 tour of Scharfenberger Chocolates. We started at the factory even though it was long before our tour just to make sure we could find it and then convinced ourselves to have lunch there at Cafe Cacoa. John went for the all chocolate lunch while Grace and I had quiche and a ham and gruyere pannini. He started with a bowl of Scharfenberger Mocha as big as your head. Then he proceeded on to a grilled pannini filled with chocolate, pulled from one of the factory vats. He finished off his all chocolate lunch with a triple chocolate cake that we shared. They must warm the top before it comes to the table because the smooth ganache frosting shone like patent leather. We fit in a visit to the Berkeley Bowl, which is a large, amazing produce and grocery store. I have to say I have never seen so many varieties of one thing. They must carry 20 kinds of oranges, from tiny honey tangerines and fresh mandarins, to blood oranges and red navels. We bought some citrus and some muscat grapes that taste great. I have never seen Muscat grapes in the Midwest. One of the culinary, legends of the restuarant world is in Berkely - Chez Panisse. I wish I could say I ate there but I have to save that for another day. I did a drive by though. It looks very inviting and it is across from a really great cheese store and bakery called The Cheese Board that we did venture into. The cheese case there is full of hundreds of kinds of cheese. As we stared at the cheeses, a baker came by with a hot tray of cheese baguettes, followed by some fresh from the griddle english muffins. We knew we couldn't keep any cheese cold so we settled on english muffins for the next day's breakfast and some great scones.

The factory tour was more chocolate lecture than tour. It started with an entertaining lecture on the production of chocolate, including tasting different percentages of dark chocolate and including passing around cacoa beans before and after roasting and tasting of the nibs from inside the bean. You'll have to go on the tour to get the rest of the story. We ended with a walk through the factory, and then with some chocolate tasting back in the retail store.

I really enjoyed Berkely and would like to go back and check out more of it.


We ended the day with a fabulous meal at a Moroccan restuarant called Aziza Everything we had was delicious. We met my friend Tom there. The setting is just what you would want in a Moroccan restuarant - dark walls, secluded booths. We started with beef and grape skewers, a trio of mediteranean spreads and a salad of cardoons. Cardoons are kind of like really large celery stalks, with a taste that is a cross between celery and artichokes. All the appetizers were great. For our entrees, we shared Couccous with Seasonal Vegetables and raisins and nuts, Prawn Tangine with house-made Preserved Meyer Lemons, Devils Gulch Ranch Rabbit over a parsnip puree with dried cherries. All three were excellent. The dessert menu was as tasty and intriguing as the rest. We shared 3 desserts starting with Ruby Red 3 Ways - a sorbet of grapefruit juice, brûléed house made zest jam with fresh fruit segments. It was not an inexpensive evening but it was worth every penny!


We took a road trip toMonterey to see the aquarium. The food was uneventful - lunch in the aquaium cafe, except for the garlic fries, which were a big, hot, freshly cooked pile of fries, smothered in raw garlic and chopped parsley. The aquarium was huge and fabulous. We spent many hours wandering back and forth. Just whenwe thought we had seen it all we would stumble on another exhibit.

The drive to Monterey was one of the big reasons to go and I was rewarded by seeing the artichoke crop at it's peak in fields close to Monterey. I made the mistake at not stopping at any road side stands on the way there. They were all closed on the way back. But it was quite a site to see, with the misty mountains off in the distance out one window and the ocean and dunes out the other.