Chef’s Night Off – Berkeley Bowl

We are now living in a time of “gourmet” grocery stores in every neighborhood and organic produce selections available in WalMart. This was not always the case, and certainly not in 1977 when Berkeley Bowl was founded. So, why, now that I have Whole Foods, Dean & Delluca, and Fairway Market available to me daily – not to mention that I work just blocks from the abundance of NYC’s Chinatown, would I want to make a special trip to a grocery store while on vacation?

Where else would you find these a selection like this in the same place?
Where else would you find these a selection like this in the same place?

Simple. This is no average “gourmet” grocery store. This is a produce wonderland. Every type of tomato, squash, melon, and green bean imaginable (and an assortment of other colors as well), a rainbow of peppers, more varieties of pluots than I even knew existed, and a selection of Asian fruits and vegetables that included things I thought I’d only find in Asia (not even in NYC’s Chinatown) – and plenty of things I’ve never seen or tasted (always a source of excitement for me).

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Even better – despite its recent growth, the staff remains the same – friendly Berkeley-types who care about the food and the people buying it. When I was “caught” snapping pictures in the produce department, I was expecting the produce police to force me to delete the shots I took of their displays (don’t laugh – it happened to me in Whole Foods!). Instead, I got a little tour of the department, lots of questions about NYC, and directions to another market in the area that was also a “must see”.  Welcome to California you jaded New Yorker, home of “happy cows” and happy produce managers!

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