Today I had my first potato puff and fell in love with the bread pudding from Gregoire’s in Berkeley. I feel very accomplished. I actually came by Gregoire’s the night before. They had closed at 9pm and I walked past just 15 minutes after, hoping I could make it in time to purchase an order of their Fig Bread Pudding with Ginger-Honey syrup. To my dismay, the lights in this small takeout restaurant was dark, though I managed to catch one of the (rather fine looking!) cooks walk out the back door.
“Too late for bread pudding?” I inquired hopefully.
“Aw you just missed it,” he said with an almost wistful like grin, “but come back tomorrow, we’ll be sure to save some for you.”
And so I did.
I returned right after lunch at Cheeseboard (previous post) for dessert and started to place my order with the same man I had seen the night before. He nodded in acknowledgement that he remembered me and took my order before I even needed to say the words, “bread pudding!”
It’s a small place designed for primarily for takeout, although there’s two little tables outside for those who wish to dine under the cooling autumn sun. I took a seat at the table nearest the open kitchen window so I could watch the food being prepared. They normally call out your name when the order is ready and you’re supposed to walk back in to pick it up, but maybe because it was a slow afternoon or because the guy was in a good mood, he tapped the back of my shoulder through the open window and delivered the bread pudding. Now that’s customer service!
The pudding had the most delightfully crusty top sinking into a warm custardy mass of soft sweet bread stained a lovely hue of purple by the nibbles of fig here and there. Every forkful with a provided a myriad of textures from the crunch of the crust and the meltingly tender figs and custard of the pudding. The honey-ginger syrup, similar to that which accompanies the warm Chinese dessert of dofu fa, was unnecessary, and only made the pudding achingly sweet. So I tucked into my warm dessert bite after bite – bread, milk, eggs, sugar and couple of figs for the feast. That’s all we really need.
However after finishing my pudding, I couldn’t help but notice that every customer who came in ordered the Crispy Potato Puffs. Intrigued, I stuck my head through the window (when there were no customers, of course!) and inquired about the mysterious potato puffs. A great fan of soft textured foods and potatoes in general, I was easily sold on the idea of fried balls of mashed potato. Who could ever find something like that disagreeable? These balls come nine to an order, arranged in a circle surrounding a mound of roasted pepper aioli. I must tell you, the first five were delicious – literally, hot puffs (like magic, they disappear!) of mashed potatoes with a crunchy deep fried shell. The aioli surrendered and melted right on, providing a creamy spice taste to the otherwise flavorless but texturally decadent potatoes. But come the sixth, seventh, and eighth potato, these puffs grew very boring. I suppose you can only eat so many deep fried balls of potatoes before you lose interest. This dish is meant to be shared…and I would have been delighted to share it with you…if only you were there!
2109 Cedar Street
Berkeley, CA 94709