Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Reduced expectations

I hate when a romantic idea is squashed by the reality of life. I had read about a personal chef who would visit Monterey Market in Berkeley (1550 Hopkins Street) to gather ideas, and purchase the best and freshest goods available for that night’s menu. I envisioned the white coated, Dansko Clog wearing chef chatting with staff. He would taste and touch, taking home the day’s provisions to the awaiting guests. Berkeley’s reputation as laid back Bohemian enclave would support my vision. Well, burst my bubble!
It all started out well. We arrived in lovely tree shaded neighborhood on Saturday about 10 am. The weather was spectacular and anticipation was high. Then we got to the parking lot. Where’s a Traffic Cop when you need one? High-end sedans and massive sport utility vehicles vied for a very few narrow parking spaces. The parking gods were good to me and we found a space about three blocks away. We passed a number of small food related stores and found our way into Magnani Poultry. The display case was filled with appealing prepared foods. Fresh artisan breads and, of course, poultry. Downside, the place was packed to the gunnels. Take a number please. We thought we should come back later.
It was on to Monterey Market. The outside courtyard held an array of multicolored fruits and vegetables. Inside was a sea of humanity. Crowed aisles, shopping carts, long checkout lines, screaming kids, and harried shoppers. The food displays were great, but if you paused more than a second the crowd swarmed you. The final straw for me happened when a woman used her child in a stroller as a cowcatcher to push me out of the way while I eyed the particularly nice display of fresh herbs. Exit stage left.
In fairness, my expectation that I would stroll unfettered through the stores on a Saturday was less than realistic. I was told that during the week I would find a much different food experience. Sometimes life’s a learning curve. Enjoy!

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