Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

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Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Last Supper

SFO and Beyond

I just took my brother Thomas and his wife Gretchen to San Francisco International Airport. They are returning to southern China to teach English for a second year. Before they left, we had dinner at my place with her parents. Thomas' request for his last meal in the USA was for Cheeseboard Pizza. I went by the Cheeseboard after work and picked up a "lightly baked" pie. Today's pizza had fresh corn, green chilies, parsley, feta and mozzarella.

If you have never had a Cheeseboard pizza, you don't know what you are missing. They sell the pizza from the counter in a tiny little shop in the "Gourmet Ghetto" in Berkeley on Shattuck Avenue between Cedar and Vine. You can buy it by the slice or by the half or whole pie. They only offer one kind of pizza a day. It is always a thin crust and made with wonderfully fresh vegetables and great cheeses. The Cheeseboard shop is two doors down and it is a fabulous co-op with 100's of cheeses(domestic and imported) that you can sample before buying and delicious breads, scones and other baked goods.

There is always a line snaking out of the pizza shop whenever they are open. Often there is a jazz trio entertaining the customers as they wait or while they munch on their pizza and sip their wine, beer or Oranginas. Another nice thing is that they give you an extra sliver of pizza with your order. To me that sliver is my favorite part. It feels like a little bonus gift and I always eat it first when my taste buds are eager for the flavor sensations.

A few tables fit inside next to the piano and there are a few more outside. People grab a seat where they can or just stand out on the sidewalk and chat with their friends. Some people cross the street to the grassy median and plop down there under the trees. A sign saying something along the lines of, "Don't use the median" doesn't deter the happy diners. In fact someone altered the sign to say, "Don't use the media, covering the 'n' in median," which seems very Berkelyesque.

The flower stall next door adds color and cheer to the scene. On the other side of the flowers is Bank of America so you can fund this culinary trip. The next door down is the French Hotel which is known for their cappuccinos and the artistic way they decorate or dot the foam with espresso. You can shop at the Cheeseboard for bread and cheeses and olives and then go next door to produce market to fill out your menu. Across the street is the world renown Chez Panisse and the tapas bar Cesar. Down the block from them is a good Thai place called Cha Am. Around the corner is another tiny gem called Gregoire which serves the best French food to go (or you can try to grab a seat at one of the two tables outside or two stools inside.) Gregoire has a way with potatoes that render them irresistable. I could go on and on. They don't call this the Gourmet Ghetto for nothing.

But I digress. I just was trying to say what we had for dinner and then I got carried away. To my dismay, the Cheeseboard shop was closed for the week. The pizza part was open, but I had told Thomas that I would pick up some bread for him to take on the plane. In Emeryville there is a sister store called Arrizmendi which sells the same pizzas and breads. I made a detour there on the way home and picked up another half pizza and baguette pieces and scones for them. To my surprise (and delight!) I noted that they were serving a different kind of pizza. To get 2 kinds of cheeseboard pizza in one day is almost more than I could believe. This one was topped with red potatoes, red onions, smoked mozzarella and olive tapenade. What a treat. I served the pizzas with a peach, pine nut and spring mix salad and white wine. For dessert I had some homemade chocolate shortbread heart cookies.

After dinner we had a quick photo op, some last minute repacking of carry on items and good byes with Gretchen's parents. Then we hopped in the car and headed to the airport. The fog was in thick over some parts of the bay tonight but the Bay Bridge was clear and sparkling. There was no lines at the toll booth and traffic was light all the way there. I love driving over the western span of the bridge, especially if the traffic isn't bad. The city is so lovely from that angle. The Ferry Building and all of the piers around the bay with the steep streets running down the hills to them look so picturesque. Tonight the moon shone bright and almost full. When we passed the curve around Candlestick Park (or Monster Park now) the moonlight spilled across the water on the bay. The beauty of it silenced us for a moment. What a wonderful last drive for them before they go back to China.