berkeley birthday

In contrast to the chilly October weekend that just passed, my twin brother and I celebrated our birthday last year in sunny California. Between hiking along the coastal beaches and under sequoia canopies, and roaming the hilly street of San Francisco, we spent a night and a day with most of our family in Berkeley.On our birthday-eve (not something we typically celebrate!), we wandered through town in time to hear the tower bells on campus, and back too late for the farmer’s market. Upon having our ID checked at Jupiter, we were challenged to a birthday beer race by our server (we lost, obviously). There were birthday candles floating in our stout which was a big enough win for me. We ate pizza and then my brothers and I fell asleep while watching Harry Potter in the motel room; a great way to ring in another trip around the sun.

Before driving across the bridge to San Francisco the next day, we had a late lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe. I will attribute the same-day reservation that my parents made to being a birthday miracle.

My mum had introduced me to the name Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse many years ago. When the assigned reading for my high school French class was Marcel Pagnol’s Marius & Fanny, the connection to the character named Panisse, in my mind, was the Californian restaurant. I thought it was an exciting coincidence at the time. (It’s not a coincidence, of course.)

The significance of Alice Waters’ influence on American cuisine is expansive – extending far outside of Californian kitchens, into farms, schools, and global communities. Many more skilled writers and cooks than I have described her impact in the industry and beyond. I’ll just add that it was a real treat to sit in the sunlit café on my birthday, with some wonderful people, eating delicious, simple food that was a testament to all the good things I had heard before getting there. Another birthday candle, this time in my persimmon pudding, was icing on the (birthday) cake. I can’t wait to go back.cali bday (1)
We left with one of Alice Waters’ cookbooks, with recipes ordered by season and ingredients. It’s almost encyclopedic, and wonderful to flip through for inspiration. The recipe I’m sharing is certainly not Continue reading

Highway 1, California

bigsurWith views hazy from the ocean spray and the Californian sunshine, everything in Big Sur seemed more dreamlike than it already is. Winding and steep at times, Highway 1 was by far the most scenic drive I’ve ever been on (kudos to Dad behind the wheel); and we made frequent pauses along the side of the road to take it all in. Mile after mile, the scenery didn’t get old. Those massive waves crashing over huge, jagged rocks like they’re just little pebbles that stand between them and shore – it’s the kind of scene that reminds you just how powerful nature is. Even from way up above on the bluffs, the swirling ocean looks like billowing clouds before a storm (under the least threatening cloudless blue sky). It’s a dangerous kind of beauty.bigsur1bigsur2

“So that later when I heard people say “Oh Big Sur must be beautiful!” I gulp to wonder why it has the reputation of being beautiful above and beyond its fearfulness, its Blakean groaning rough-rock Creation throes, those vistas when you drive the coast highway on a sunny opening up the eye for miles of horrible washing sawing.” –Big Sur, Jack Kerouac

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