Growing Up in the Gourmet Ghetto


Before Chez Panisse, when I was a little girl, there were places in our North Berkeley neighborhood such as Lenny the Butcher (see my last post), Pig-by-the-Tail Charcuterie, which sold the most amazing cookies (in addition to the French-style cold cuts that gave it its name), and Peet’s, helmed in those days by an imperious and informative Mr. Peet. My mother likes to tell the story of how she went into Peet’s when we first moved to Berkeley in 1967 and asked for coffee ground for her percolator. Mr. Peet took her in hand and explained why that was wrong and we have never looked back. I think he sold her a big glass contraption that looked like an enormous test tube which was how the fancy people made drip coffee back then.

But most of all, there was the Cheeseboard — a cheese shop that to this day boasts a variety of cheeses that rivals anything you will find in the best shop in Europe.

Ah! For the days before we knew about “lactose-intolerance!” Ask about any cheese behind the counter and one of the nice people who worked there would plane you a sliver of whatever you fancied. To this day, I believe they give you a taste of your purchase before completion, treating cheese like the fine delicacy that it is. One of the original owners (and they are all owners there — the Cheeseboard is a collective) said that in their early days, my Dad practically kept them in business single-handedly. His arteries would later pay the price but I suspect he would have said it was worth it!

I don’t remember when the Cheeseboard added ovens and started baking but even though I have lived all over the world — including in France — I still maintain that their baguette is the best I have ever tasted.

But the real star of the Cheeseboard bakery? The sourdough, cheddar cheeseroll. This greasy, crunchy, soft, chewy little friend is the exact savory corollary of a donut, shot through with aged, tangy cheddar, so much that pools of it collect around the edges and harden into crispy cheese chips. The cheeseroll is dangerously addictive. I used to say that I could never live more than 10 miles from the Cheeseboard because of it and I really knew I had a problem the Saturday that they ran out of cheeserolls and I waited 45 minutes for a fresh batch to come out of the oven. After that wake up call, I tried to restrict cheeserolls to an occasional indulgence. Nowadays, I am theoretically unable to eat them at all.

Cheeseroll...Mmmmm....

In theory!

My fractured foot has kept me from the oven but back to baking and recipes ASAP so stay tuned.

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About bakingnotwriting

I'm a writer who is always baking! Or a baker who is always writing...No. Other way around.
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2 Responses to Growing Up in the Gourmet Ghetto

  1. kellybone says:

    I know that disappointment when they just run out of what you want (need). I feel the exact way, but my vice is the Sticky Pecan Roll and a half dozen English Muffins… which I can eat in one sitting…

    • Oh my GOD! Do not get me started on that sticky pecan roll! It’s like crack pastry! I can’t even eat those SOMETIMES, for fear a serious addiction will occur. My mother adores the English muffins and so does my nephew from Chicago. I’m also a huge fan of the Zampanos and the wee olive pizza things they call focaccia. If you really want to lose your mind, have you tried the hot cheddar cheese spread they make there? In the case on your way to the register? Eat that with a whole bag of English muffins and know true bliss…Unless you are a lac-tard like me!

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