Tuesday, June 9, 2009

“Sustainable and Affordable” – Bread Workshop in Berkeley

It’s ironic how between my food styling classes, the food writing workshop, and my efforts to enhance my food blog, I don’t have time to eat anymore. Ironic, but not funny. I love to eat, and I miss the experience. Anyone in my situation living in a less food-friendly area would be reduced to eating deli sandwiches or salads from a salad bar while driving. I am lucky to live in SF Bay Area, where they don’t let even the busiest foodie to starve.

The food writing workshop with Dianne Jacob in the Writing Salon in Berkeley runs every Tuesday from 7 till 9:30 pm. I rarely get off work in Novato before 6. If I make an effort, I can get off at 5:30. The drive takes about 40 minutes. So there is very little I can do for dinner. I am becoming a pizza expert. A pizza eating expert.

The first time I went to Berkeley, I made an effort, left early, drove to Novato Farmers Market (4-9 pm Tuesdays, Downtown Novato), and got a wonderful thin crust “market” pizza, with thinly sliced spring onions and zucchini, cooked in a booth right in front of me. The only thing is, I couldn’t really enjoy it, being worried about my unfinished work, the traffic on the bridge, and getting there on time.

So the next week I went straight to Berkeley, exceeded the speed limit just a little bit, and parked in front of the Strawberry Creek Design Center on Bonar Street, a bidonville-like historic building that hosts the salon, a few art-related businesses, and a yoga studio, 30 minutes before the class started. The original Andronico’s market is just two blocks from there, so I went out to see if they have a deli or a café that would feed me.

But just as I was about to cross the street to Andronico’s, a smell of fresh-baked bread from an open bakery door captured me, and drew me, helpless, almost against my will, into a little café.
The place is called Bread Workshop, they bake and sell buns, pizza bases and focaccia breads, make good espresso drinks, and serve bistro-style lunches and dinners, mostly to students. Every customer had a book or a paper she was working on.

Like any café in Berkeley, they have a philosophy, promoting sustainable food, while keeping the prices low. The coffee is fair trade organic, the vegetables are locally grown and seasonal, half of the menu is vegetarian or vegan, and the other half (the one that’s of interest to me) has the name of the ranch and a description of their good practices next to each chicken, pork, or buffalo dish.

I went for the pizza from the day’s specials chalk board, of course. Last week’s was pesto, potatoes, pine nuts, and mozzarella. This week it’s salami, mozzarella, mushrooms, and marinara sauce. The pizza base is fluffy soft focaccia dough, just a little crunchy on the edges. The size is perfect for a hungry busy 120-pound food writing student who only has 30 minutes.

The prices are from $3 for vegan sides to $9 for meat dinner entrees. This made my whole dinner check a $12 + tip, and this proves that I can still eat like a student.

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