our gourmet ghetto food tour turns 10!
10 Years of Food Tours in the Gourmet Ghetto
Love at First Bite served its first red velvet cupcake made from scratch using Guittard cocoa ten years ago on Valentine’s Day. Likewise, our first Gourmet Ghetto tour in North Berkeley started 10 years ago this month at ground central for California cuisine, where the focus hovers on homegrown, farm-to-table and of course deliciousness. Our guests tell us again and again that this tour is their favorite.
From day one, we’ve explained the history of the area, which is vibrant with art as well as worker collectives, which are businesses that aim to do things differently from pay and hours to decision making. When we showcase the birthplace of Peet’s coffee, it’s because this is the place that really kicked off the nation’s drive to drink coffee daily. Other stops for the roving tour cover wine, cheese, potato puffs (at Gregoire’s), pastrami sandwiches, celery soda, single-origin chocolate, cupcakes + more.
Our tour originated with some wine at Vintage Berkeley, a water-pumping plant station that is now a wine shop. Vintage's owner, Peter Eastlake, was behind the idea to create a food tour for the neighborhood. We’re so glad for his vision as well as North Shattuck Association for seeking out Edible Excursions. His name may be familiar if you read Food & Wine magazine, which awarded him “Sommelier of the Year” in 2013. A Gourmet Ghetto food tour wraps up with a carefully curated bottle of small-batch wine that ends the tour on a celebratory note. Guests love learning about a wine shop that sells bottles of quality vino that are all under $30—tour guests receive a 10% discount so they often leave with a bottle to enjoy with dinner.
Edible Excursion’s CEO Lisa Rogovin also worked with Dan Marengo and Barbara Hillman of Visit Berkeley, which is dedicated to helping people visit the city for travel—popular reasons include Cal events (including prospective students), business, and fun. They created a microguide on Gourmet Ghetto that you can check out here.
Another important part of our Gourmet Ghetto community is Heather Hensley from the North Shattuck Association. Heather also helped us design and promote this tour. Like the others involved with creating this tour, the excitement & enthusiasm can be contagious. This collective passion in turn helps guests get a rich and layered understanding of the stories about the people, businesses and organizations that make up and support this historical neighborhood.
Many of the original stops for our twice-weekly tours are still in place. At Cheeseboard, owner-worker Cathy Goldsmith always has a seasonal cheese to showcase, and there’s the smell of fresh bread and aromatic cheese from around the world. Artisan chowder, soup, stew and chili warm bellies at SOOP (save a spoonful of Thai red lentil, please!)
Guests grow chatty and enthusiastic with questions over at Alegio, where the notion of single origin chocolate is explained and explored complete with maps, photos, video and tastes. Alegio is all about the famed chocolate maker Claudio Corrallo, so much so that they are now partners in his chocolate business based in Sao Tome.
At the first (ever) Peet's, guests are often stunned to learn that buying and drinking coffee is a relatively new phenomenon for Americans, having launched by Alfred Peet in 1966-this is like visiting a coffee museum.
Our guides are really ambassadors for the neighborhood. Krissa was an owner-member at Juice Shop as well as one of our newer guides, Rebecca, who has serious culinary skills — both are passionate about food and the area, and enjoy sharing history and knowledge on the tour.
Another highlight is the sustainably sourced pastrami with house-made celery soda at Saul’s Deli. The business is currently for sale, and the owners, Peter Levitt and Karen Adelman, are waiting for the right fit before they sell—they have owned the restaurant since 1996.
The Local Butcher Shop is owned and run by husband and wife Aaron and Monica Rocchino, who are passionate about working closely with local ranchers. Aaron has worked at Oliveto, Le Bernardin and Chez Panisse restaurant (THE place where many feel California cuisine was born in no small part because of the passion of Alice Waters). Local Butcher Shop does “nose to tail” whole animal butchery, which is a respectful practice that uses as many parts of the animal for food. Aaron’s work was memorably showcased at Slow Food Terra Madre in Torino, Italy during his Chez Panisse days… we’ve converted many vegetarians here, who can’t resist the sandwich of the day. There’s a reason why we warn folks to not have big dinner plans after they take this tour….