Berkeley: Potato Puffs and Bread Pudding at Gregoire

Saturday, November 4, 2006 14 No tags Permalink 0


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!

Gregoire
2109 Cedar Street
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 883-1893

14 Comments
  • RON
    November 5, 2006

    you’re on the north side of the UC campus. I can tell because the elarged pic shows the Livermore Berkeley Lab on the hillside. Use to be a nuclear cyclotron or sumpthing. Yes, I had to double-check with a map where Cedar street was just to be sure. The Berkeley area is quite creative with food from way back already. One place featured deep-fried battered mushrooms puffs, artichoke hearts puffs and brussel sprouts puffs. Incidentally, who’s those two girls on the menu?

  • Kathy YL Chan
    November 5, 2006

    Hey Ron!Wow! You know Berkeley REAL well! Did you used to be a student there?Oh man, brussel sprouts puffs? I like them plain, but deep fried? that’s a whole nother mouthwatering heaven! hehe :)

  • anonymous
    November 5, 2006

    Whoa Kathy. I have just come into my love for bread pudding. And potato puffs, count me in. But all those wierdly intricate flavors scare me, most especially things with mayonnaise in them. Jess

  • Kathy YL Chan
    November 6, 2006

    Hey Jess!Yes! Another bread pudding convert – it’s magical!! :) The thing is, bread pudding gets better and more interesting with different flavors, but in the end nothing hits home quite like a warm custardy plain square with good creme anglaise!

  • J. Lo
    November 6, 2006

    Kathy, Bouley was amazing. I want to buy their bread cart — mmmmmm, saffron bread with little bits of walnut……the waiter said that they give single diners one complimentary entree….he brought a plate of the foie gras with candied prune and sweet onions…..on the house!oh, and the grape fruit foam….mmmmm….and the sables and chocolate truffles and passion fruit macaron and…..that was an experience. so much wining and dining i had a hard time convincing myself to leave.and then when you leave the restaurant they have this room leading out to the street that is filled with fresh apples stacked one on top of the other…..it’s like a dream world!

  • Chubbypanda
    November 6, 2006

    Figs in bread pudding. I need to try that. Were they the dried ones or the fresh ones?- Chubbypanda

  • Kathy YL Chan
    November 7, 2006

    Hey Justin!Oooh, I’m glad you had such a delicious time :) Sorry we can’t meet on Friday but I assure you I will be back – and Babbo’s it is!Hey Chubbypanda!Fresh ones chopped into quarters…so good! :)

  • Kat
    November 7, 2006

    Wow Kathy! I”m so jealous, you get to eat all these wonderful foods! Are the potato puffs sorta like the Japanese croquette? This summer they had croquette makers from Japan at Shirokiya and there is almost nothing better than a fresh “burn da mout” croquette with katsu sauce! Anyway, the bread pudding looks divine too and I’m so glad you enjoyed it (having read that there have been a few that disapointed you).

  • anonymous
    November 9, 2006

    kathy, those potato balls look awesome. the closest thing i’ve had was in japan…they were actually filled with squid. yeah, i agree that 5 of anything is too much in one sitting.

  • Kathy YL Chan
    November 9, 2006

    Hey Kat!They’re exactly like croquettes, except in little balls! I LOVE Shirokiya – EVERYTHING is there is heaven! :) Did I ever tell you I once worked at the Saint Germain downstairs during high school? I don’t know how good of a sales girl I was, but I sure ate a lot of their pastries!Hey Henry!Oh god, the squid ones, I had them at Genki Living in Rowland Heights once, and man, they were good! Even better is when they fill it with kimchee and pork! :)

  • Kat
    November 9, 2006

    Kathy, Hi, don’t know if you ever ate a Minato, but I really like their shrimp katsu. Anyway, something I decided to try on a whim was their takoyaki. Ok, so I’m not a takoyaki expert but I think theirs are really good. I’m not sure how they make it, whether it’s fresh from scratch or frozen and reheated (I doubt it’s the second way) but it’s always piping hot when served. I tried the takoyaki from Shirokiya, when they have the people from Japan come and make it, and I think Minato’s is way better! I dunno, the shirokiya ones were mushy. The Minato Takoyaki are crisp on the outside, almost making me believe they are fried somehow, but soft with chewy tako bits inside.Anyway, just passing a tip to try it when you’re back on Oahu. It’s fairly cheap too for an appetizer.

  • Kathy YL Chan
    December 1, 2006

    Hey Kat!I will! I will! I love takoyaki, but never had it in Hawaii before. There’s a couple places in LA that have pretty good versions, but oooh…Minato’s is on my winter Break list! :)

  • anonymous
    July 10, 2008

    Good Job! :)

  • Amy
    March 29, 2011

    I love Gregoir and their bread pudding, too- such a nice place. I like how they change the menu every month so I don't get bored :)

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