memory served

After being away from somewhere for a very very long time, what would you do if you had the chance to visit once again?  I was faced with this question upon passing through the Oakland/Berkeley area recently — a few hours to spend, what should I do?

Food memories were the first to come to mind. Don’t we all associate certain foods with places we’ve been? And so, my first stop had to be for peanut butter cookies at the small yet delicious, Bread Garden Bakery2912 Domingo Avenue, Berkeley

I have seriously dreamt of these cookies. They are that good. I don’t know how else to describe them other than they’re almost like eating a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter right out of the jar but in cookie form. They are dry, and chewy, and stick to the roof of your mouth. After 20 years, they do not disappoint. Oh my, are they good!

With a box of cookies tucked safely away in my suitcase, a proper lunch is in order. So it’s off to Cactus Taqueria 5642 College Avenue, Oakland. This little Mexican joint, long before the days of Baja Fresh or Chipotle, was my staple go to place for a simple and inexpensive meal on a student budget. Still here, expanded to a new location down the street, everything is authentic, made from scratch, and fresh tasting beyond what any chain restaurant offers up. I can’t resist having a simple cheese quesadilla and a house salad made with tomato salsa, fresh jicama and lime dressing and a glass of cinnamon spiced horchata. I don’t know if it’s the sense memories or something special about the authentic, fresh ingredients but this simple meal makes me very happy. I savor every bite!

Pleasingly full, there is just one more stop I wish to make before heading out of town. However, I can’t help but spy a few new additions to the street and so make a couple of quick detours. Right next to Cactus Taqueria is an exquisite homewares shop, Maison D’Etre — 5640 College Avenue, Oakland

A mix of antiques and newly minted items, the shop is filled to the brim with everything from baby blankets to kitchen towels. An impressive assortment of goods that is most inspiring.

On the way back to my car, I am drawn into a small little clothing boutique, Fit5707 College Avenue. I strike up a conversation with the owner who informs me she has just been voted the best clothing shop in Oakland and I see why. Her eye is impeccable. She has pulled together a nice mix of casual to elegant goods from American, Japanese and European designers. The style is clean and simple with an unmistakable California ease. I can’t resist a pair of hand made sandals by Cydwoq and I wear them right out of the shop.

Finally, it’s on to Tail of the Yak2632 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley

I’ll never forget walking into this magical gift shop for the first time — It was like a fantasy come to life that provided instant chills through my entire body. Caged Love Birds (yes real ones), hanging lanterns, paper flower garlands, ribbons, bows and trinkets abound. The shop is a mix of mostly French and Mexican items you never thought you would need but somehow can’t resist. It’s a girl thing but I just want to squeal with delight, everything is so beautiful.

What a nice stroll down memory lane for an afternoon. I only lived in the area for a couple of years while in art school but an impressive couple of years they were. And it’s nice to see that time has only made this little area known as Rockridge, even better.

Maybe I’ll get back again one day, who knows?

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