It’s really hard to not fill up on bread when it’s this good. There’s hearty, earthy 100% rye topped with a generous smear of salted Clover butter. And a classic country loaf jazzed up with whole-wheat flour sliced thick, so it’s easier to appreciate its tender, chewy crumb.
We’re at Morell’s Bread, the first stop on Berkeley’s newest food tour, A Taste of West Berkeley. Baker Eduardo Morell is talking to us about his sourdough starter and gluten development. I sneak a few more bites of the rye and butter while I watch Morell’s wife and business partner, Tamsen Flynn, shape country loaves on the large bakery counter behind us.
Morell’s is based out of The Berkeley Kitchens, the southernmost start of the food tour, which will take us up Fourth Street to Vik’s Chaat, and then to nearby Cultured Pickle Shop and the June Taylor Still Room before a drop into Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Room and Café Rouge. It’s the second week for the fledgling tour, which is operating as a part of Bay Area Green Tours, an Oakland-based food and agriculture tour company. Bay Area Green Tours invited Nosh along as a guest to check out the tour.
West Berkeley resident Terry Betts is our guide throughout the afternoon. She’s a longtime resident of the neighborhood and a chef in her own right. (Most recently, she’s been the chef-in-residence at Josephine and works as a private chef and caterer.) Betts is knowledgable and inquisitive, but she generally lets the food makers run the show.
At Vik’s, we watched as a cook fried up a cholle bhature (aka the “big puffy thing”) before digging into plates of vegetable samosas and pakoras. Sweet and spicy chutneys were a must for dipping.
At Cultured Pickle Shop, we listen as co-owner Kevin Farley talks about the difference between sauerkraut and Japanese tsukemono pickles, the benefits of lactobacillus bacteria, and the wide array of possibilities when it comes to kombucha. Samples of ‘kraut, whole pickled carrots and wondrous fermented garlic cloves are abundant.
Nearby, June Taylor of the eponymous preserve company shares her thoughts on small-batch preservation and looking locally, very locally, for flavor inspiration. “You just have to look and be and maybe grow things,” she says.
Taylor pours out small tastes of syrups from teensy bottles — we slurp cypress tree and rosemary, obsidian blackberry and lemon verbena, and Sonoma bay and rose geranium. She also passes around off-the-cuff samples of heirloom plums and peaches she’s ordered for last-minute preserves.
At the end of the afternoon, we had walked over 2 miles, but were well-fortified with some of the best food West Berkeley has to offer.
For a closer look at the tour, follow along in the slideshow, below.
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