This week

Gumbo at Angelina’s
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Crab melt at Pacific Catch
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Jack Satan margarita at Comal
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Iyasare

Iyasare
Fourth Street
Berkeley

iya1

This tasteful Japanese-inspired restaurant has taken the place of the former O Chamé, my one-time favorite restaurant in Berkeley.iya2

The new place retains the furniture and feel of O Chamé. I’m disappointed they covered up the fresco buddha in the main dining room; for feng shui  it was carved into the wet plaster with a fork.iya3

Service was excellent. My waiter was attentive. iya4My salmon was perfection. More food pics.

Iyasare isn’t cheap, but neither was O Chamé. The menus and pricing reflect what came before.

I’d love to see them resurrect O Chamé’s bowls of soba with great toppings.

I’ll be back.

 

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Decadent dessert

To finish lunch at Il Davide in San Rafael, I ate a lemon semifreddo to die for.

semimIt was served on a block of salt!

 

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Windy day at Internet Time Lab

We awoke this morning to find tree-sized limbs from our redwoods littering the new redwood deck in back. No major damage done.

Deck after storm

Deck after storm

Deck after storm

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The new travel experience

trip logo

Go to TripAdvisor

berkeleyPick a place you know

trip3Select someone with hundreds of reviews

trip4Click “Rating” to dredge the bad reviews to the top

Read this stuff — and the replies from the struggling hotel manager

Some reviewers are sick people

Other reviewers are the competition in disguise

trip4

Click “Rating” again

Can this be the same place?

still

I’m scouting out places to stay in Zurich and Berlin next month

You know it ain’t easy

You know how hard it can be

 

 

 

 

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La France

I spent the last week in October in St. Jeannet, about half an hour out of Nice, with my fellow adventurous eater Philip. The eating was memorable.

Aphrodite, David Faure’s restaurant in Nice, is serving an insect menu. Note the worms protruding from this foam creation:

Nice - eating bugs

And a few crickets and foie gras:
Nice - eating bugs

And cod with tiny worms:
Nice - eating bugs

All matched with the proper wines:
Nice - eating bugs

The overall experience was great fun. Service at Aprhodite was excellent. As for the food, it might better be described as a menu with bug garnishes.

Despite the lovely bugs, Aphrodite can’t compete with my next fantastic meal.

bruno

Bruno is the Emperor of the Truffle. Five of us enjoyed an all-truffle meal at Chez Bruno, a lovely place out in the countryside. We started with truffle toasts:

Chez Bruno

Next up, a chestnut velouté with foie gras and truffles:

Chez Bruno

Then a potato in truffle sauce, topped with white winter truffles:

Chez Bruno

Pigeon with truffles and celery remoulade:

Chez Bruno

And the pièce de resistance, truffle ice cream:

Chez Bruno

And a few shots of vieux calva:

Chez Bruno

A glorious meal.

Chez Bruno

Chez Bruno

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Osteria Stellna, Point Reyes Station

Delicious Italian take on fresh local ingredients. Worth a detour.

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Pricey: 3-course lunch with a carafe of house white set me back $115.

I prefer this place to the Station House Cafe, and coming from me, that’s an immense compliment.

The water buffalo gelato (safran and plain) was out of this world. The oysters tasted perfectly fresh. The fish stew would be better described as simply steamed shellfish but I finished every lovely bite and wiped the bowl with Stellina’s crunchy bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tab for lunch with a carafe of house white wine, two appetizers, two mains, and two desserts came to $115, a bit pricey for farm country.

 

 

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Uh oh. Internet Time Lines implicated in NSA intel shipments

Tourists failed to notice as the NSA began secret shipments of compressed Palantir streams and TOR logs into secure storage in bunkers in the Swiss Alps.

bus

Switzerland’s Alpine hideaways contain more servers than Google’s worldwide computer centers. One tank car of compressed intel is enough to change world history in significant ways.

talk

More on the NSA story at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaycross/

pigs

 

 
This is n-gauge. That’s tiny.nscale

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Google Account Activity

Forgive me, I’m thinking about digital nourishment at the moment.

Google can  report your monthly emails sent and received, events scheduled, # of searches, YouTube videos watched, and most popular YouTube contributions.

I send about 300 emails/month and receive 10 times that many. I scheduled only 22 events – a slow month. I searched the web 756 times.

I watched 111 YouTube videos (really?).

922 people watched video’s I’d uploaded. 27% of them chose this relic from 2005. That’s 250 people.

It blows my mind that I’m not a social media maven yet 38,707 people have watched this 10-minute video on experiential learning.

I just watched it again for the first time in years. It’s quite compelling. In your face but prescient. It leads people to an obsolete URL.

10 minutes used to be short but now it’s ponderous. I will re-cut this into 2-minute chunks, put the year on them, and give a modern viewpoint alongside. News at 11.

Anyhoo, the point is that your Google account stats can be enlightening.

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Tragedy

ZoneTag Photo Monday 7:55 pm 5/12/08 Berkeley, California
Saturday I decided to treat myself to lunch at my favorite restaurant in the whole world, O Chamé. “Japanese-inspired cuisine” says the website but O Chamé is much, much more.

Twenty years ago I worked at a medical software start-up three blocks down the street, before Berkeley’s Fourth Street became trendy. I celebrated triumphs with a hearty bowl of tofu skins or roasted calamari and soba (buckwheat noodles) in a smoky fish broth. Maybe a glass of dry French white wine.

Lunch with Kevin at O Chame

Over the years, I’ve taken friends and clients and family and investors to O Chamé at least a hundred times. I would explain how the fresco of the Buddha on the wall and ceiling of the front room was executed with a fork, ironic since chopsticks are the usual implements here. We’d begin with the cucumbers with radishes and shiso leaf and usually go for soba with oysters or smoked trout or maybe duck.

O Chame

O Chame

The place was hopping when I arrived at high noon. All the outside seats were taken; several dogs were tied up in front. Inside was full as well. I took the last available seat at the bar.

ochame

I ordered squid with soba and a glass of Côtes du Rhone white. Delish! It doesn’t get much better than this. And then the woman sitting next to me says to the bartender, “I hear this is O Chamé’s last day.”

“Yeah, we’re closing for good this evening.”

OMG. No more vinagared cucumbers and radishes, no more scallops with udon, and no more caramel balsamic ice cream. Sob.

O Chame

scallops

O Chame

David and Hiromi Vardy, the founders of O Chamé, have gotten tired. A new restaurant will take its place. The waitress and bartender could not say what was coming or when.

I recall dozens of fantastic meals with friends. This one’s going to be impossible to replace.

O Chame

O Chame

O Chame

O Chame

Lunch with Kevin at O Chame

Lunch at O Chame+, March 2012

I fear O Chamé’s site will go dead, so I’m going to copy and paste some reviews, the dinner menu, and the restaurant’s story here.

REVIEWS

“For 18 years, David Vardy has been a pioneer in fusing east and west. His food has a fresh, light Japanese sensibility with a gentle California vibe. The interior of the restaurant evokes a serene oasis, a sharp contrast to its location on the increasingly bustling Fourth Street shopping area in Berkeley. The stucco walls, rustic chairs and large communal table in the middle of the dining room feels like it could be someone’s home. The udon noodle dishes are pure comfort.”
San Francisco Chronicle – food & dining

“Anyone who loves Japanese food will warm to David Vardy’s menu at O Chame in Berkeley. His combinations are fusion, but with a gentle California twist.
When the air picks up a damp chill, as it inevitably does this time of year, I hanker for the udon noodle soup at O Chamé in Berkeley. Lots of places in the Bay Area offer this bracing elixir, but David Vardy’s version tops them all.
Even after 16 years, Vardy continues to cook with passion – and restraint. O Chamé illustrates everything that’s right about “fusion” cuisine.”
Michael Bauer – Chronicle Food Critic

“David Vardy takes the awkwardness out of Asian fusion cuisine, assembling dishes that look Californian but taste more Japanese.”
East Bay Express

“Completely original. It never disappoints. The giant bowls of soba with tofu skins or smoked trouts or whatever… dreamy.”
www.zagat.com

“We’ve been coming here for years — O Chame is consistent in both service and quality of food. There is a reason O Chame has stayed on the San Francisco Chronicle’s top 100 restaurants list for all these years — best bowl of udon noodles you can find in the San Francisco Bay Area. Monterey Bay squid is my favorite flavor, with smoked trout and simmered pork shoulder being close seconds.”
www.yelp.com

“Unagi appetizer is simply divine.”
www.foursquare.com

“Chef-owner David Vardy brings a high aesthetic and considerable prowess to everything he prepares.”
www.diablomag.com

“Spare and plain in its decor, this spot has a meditative air to complement the traditional, experimental, and extremely fresh Japanese-inspired cuisine.”
www.frommers.com

“Absolute highlight, aside from the appetizers, are the desserts, particularly the sherry custard and my favorite, the caramel balsamic gelato–a must-try.”
www.thefeast.com

“Their main entree selection always includes delicious roasted salmon, but you can also easily fill up on a bowl of soba or udon noodles with fresh, wholesome fixings (think roasted oysters, sea bass, and tofu skins).”
travel.nytimes.com

“Wonderful place to eat outdoors on a warm day or night. Incredible sashimi, and very laid back.”
www.dine.com

“The ingredients are perfectly prepared and cooked, then assembled so that the pork retains its flavorful tenderness and each element preserves its fresh flavors and character. The noodles are springy and chewy, the broth is full flavored with the essence of the sea – the dish is frankly sublime.”
www.foodhoe.com

“This restaurant never ceases to amaze me. The purest broth and simplest dishes taste sublime.”
travel.yahoo.com

“Come here when you’re craving a bowl of fresh, delicate noodles.”
maps.google.com

DINNER MENU

  • Appetizers & Salads
  • 8.5Roasted Oysters with Artichokes
  • 10.5Grilled Fresh Water Eel with Belgium Endive
  • 7Seasonal Vegetable Tempura
  • 14.5Seared Yellowtail Sashimi with Braised Leeks and Horseradish Sauce
  • 9.5Wild Arugula Salad with Golden Beets and Salted Egg
  • 4.5Pickled Napa Cabbage with Preserved Kombu
  • 8.5Yukon Gold Potato and Snow Crab Croquette
  • 9.5Braised Karubi Pork Ribs with with Ginger and Lemon
  • 7Fried Tofu with Hijiki Seaweed in Clear Fish Broth (Agedashi Tofu)
  • 8O Chamé’s Signature Pancake with Seasonal Vegetables
  • 7Blanched Spinach with Sesame Dressing
  • 7Vinegared Japanese Cucumbers with Red Radishes and Shiso Leaf
  • 7.5Mixed Baby Salad Greens
    … with Yellowtail (Hamachi) Sashimi14.5
  • 4.5Miso Soup with Wakame Seaweed and Green Onions
  • Soba or Udon Noodles in Clear Fish Broth with …
  • 16.5Grilled Breast of Duck, Spinach and Takuan
  • 13.5Tofu Skins (Aburage), Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach
  • 15.5Shrimp Tempura, Wakame Seaweed and Daikon Sprouts
  • 13.5Roasted Chicken Breast, Spinach and Enoki Mushrooms
  • 15.5Roasted Oysters, Wakame Seaweed and Daikon Sprouts
  • 15.5Seasonal Grilled Fish, Wakame Seaweed and Daikon Sprouts
  • 15.5Smoked Trout, Spinach and Enoki Mushrooms
  • 15.5Braised Beef, Spinach and Takuan
  • 14.5Simmered Pork Shoulder, Spinach and Takuan
  • Main Courses
  • 29.5Grilled Wagyu Bavette Steak with Green Chard, Edamame Beans and Trumpet Mushrooms
  • 26.5Grilled Salmon with Broccoli-Rabe, Wakame Seaweed and Enoki Mushrooms
  • Please Call for Specialty Items of the Day

Not all vegetable dishes are Vegan. Some dishes contain fish broth.

STORY

David and Hiromi Vardy, owners of O Chamé, met in Tokyo, Japan, in 1982. David had just arrived in Japan after spending time in Taiwan studying Buddhist and Taoist philosophy, cooking, foraging and practicing martial arts at 18 Lohan Temple, just outside of Taipei. A three-year commitment at the temple was shortened to six months due to visa issues, resulting in deportation by way of boat to Okinawa. Island-hopping by ferries eventually led him to Tokyo, where he met a few Israeli soldiers studying the martial art of Ninjitsu with Hatsumi Sensei in Noda City.  Two months playing the part of punching bag for the Japanese and Israeli forces persuaded him that returning to the ‘softer’ martial art of Tai Chi Chuan was imperative. His friends referred David to Hiromi, who, at the time, was teaching Tai Chi Chuan and practicing Shiatsu in Tokyo while working as a performance artist. She had recently returned to Japan after studying theatre design in London.

David became Hiromi’s Tai Chi student and close friend. Each was also interested in traditional Japanese tea cuisine, Eastern medicine, philosophy and aesthetics. Within a year they married and for the next five years lived in Tokyo with Hiromi’s extended family, while raising their two sons, Daniel and Oscar. Hiromi continued her practice of shiatsu massage. David taught English and hotel management courses at the Tokyo International Hotel School and in 1987 spent the winter in the northern city of Morioka learning to bake Nambu teacakes, a delicate wheat-based cracker baked with an assortment of nuts and seeds, both savory and sweet. The Vardys hoped that Americans would appreciate these ‘sembei’ because they were made of wheat, not rice, and tasted richer than the typical rice cracker due to the high quantity of nuts and seeds in them. They decided to open a teacake bakery and tea-import business in June of 1987 in Berkeley, California.

The Vardys created Daruma Teashop, a temple-like oasis in the midst of a tilt-up structure at the corner of 6th and Gilman streets. Daruma Teashop became a respite for locals of Berkeley, attracting those interested in tea and Asian cuisine with their Nambu Teacakes, Japanese Teas, and Bento Box lunches.  Soon enough, people from all over the Bay Area came to enjoy the exotic and balancing Nambu Sembei.

In 1990 Denny Abrams, the developer of Fourth Street Shops, invited the Vardys to create O Chamé at 1830 Fourth Street. The Vardys and Mr. Abrams designed O Chamé, essentially an offshoot of Daruma Teashop, into an elegant, comfortable full-service restaurant, much like a Meiji-period Tokyo cafe. It was adorned with plastered walls etched by Mayumi Oda and craftsman-style furniture designed and constructed by Lewis Meyers. O Chamé, literally translated, means ‘eyes of tea’, but colloquially it means ‘playful little one’, a reference to their newborn daughter, Lia. Once precocious, O Chamé has, after 21 years in business, become a magical oasis for locals and travelers of the world.

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