Noah’s Bagels isn’t just for breakfast any more

I did not think to photograph our sandwiches, but I grabbed this off their website.

Of course I’ve been to Noah’s dozens of times to get bagels, but I’d never gotten lunch there before. Until now. To be honest, I almost skipped it, having never considered it an eating establishment.

We moseyed in just after noon and there was no line. I guess most people, like me, don’t think of Noah’s when they’re deciding what to have for lunch. So the service was speedy.

I had kind of assumed that lunch there automatically meant some sort of meat stuck between two bagel halves slathered in cream cheese, which is of course delicious but high in calories. (Foolishly enough, my other resolution for the new year was to lose weight, which may seem somewhat at odds with my quest to eat my way down Solano Ave.) But there were many options that were less bulky. I had a delicious Tuscan chicken pesto sandwich, served on a “thintastic” bagel, which is a slim 140 calories compared to their regular bagels, which weigh in at 260. Dave had one of their thintastic egg whites and said he was “pleasantly surprised.” Besides the cooked egg white on the thintastic bagel, there was asparagus, mushrooms, and swiss cheese. And there were lots of other choices that sounded good as well, including soup, salads, paninis , and open-face melts. Who knew?

The lunch comes with your choice of one side. I got the fruit cup, which was four or five chunks of honeydew melon, a few grapes, and a bit of pineapple, which was fine. It was perfectly filling and only $6.99. (Dave got his a la carte.)

I asked for a take-out menu, but they don’t make them. The guy behind the counter really wanted to make me happy, though, so he gave me one of their catering brochures. The next time you find yourself hosting a big casual gathering early in the day, go no further than Noah’s. They can fix you up with coffee, o.j., cream cheese, lox, and, of course, a wide variety of bagels.

My verdict? It was a healthy, inexpensive, quick, tasty lunch. It would have been perfect for a picnic. Or you could just do what I did, which was bring it home and eat it while watching Bob’s Burgers on Netflix.

Chuck Brodsky a consummate storyteller

Last week I was lucky enough to sit in the middle of the third row at the Freight & Salvage for a Chuck Brodsky performance. Even though I had a perfect seat for taking photos, I was so engaged in listening to his songs that I completely forgot to snap even one! (So I snatched this one from his website.)

Chuck Brodsky is a singer/songwriter like no other. He has a wry sense of humor and puts a lot of himself into his lyrics but not in the standard way. For instance, he wrote a song about his GPS, which was funny and certainly relevant to a modern audience. But it was also a sideways glimpse into his failed marriage. His now-ex-wife provides the refrain “You listen to her more than me!”

He also has not one but two CDs of baseball songs, which I was surprised to find quite entertaining despite my loathing for professional sports in general. But he’s not writing about the score or spouting stats—he’s writing about the people and the times they lived in. His song about Richie Allen was a little bit about baseball and demonstrated racism among fans in the 60s, but it was also about his father taking him to baseball games to see his childhood idol play and not booing him along with the crowds. (It’s a great story. If you’re interested, you should listen to him tell it. Then there’s the amazing account of Dock Ellis who pitched a no-hitter while on LSD.

Chuck Brodsky uncovers stories from all over the world and turns them into songs, including a heartbreaking piece called “Lili’s Braids,” which is based on a soldier returning after WWII to his hometown to retrieve the only remains of his family—his little sister’s braids—which are now exhibited in a holocaust museum.

Once you’ve listened to Chuck Brodsky on stage, you feel as if you know him—a talented guitarist and songwriter who loves baseball, visits Ireland every summer, and hates disco.

Ajanta truly serves dinstinctive Indian cuisine

Ajanta outside

I confess that I was predisposed to like Ajanta. I’ve eaten there before and always had good experiences. But I tried to look at it with fresh eyes and fresh taste buds.

As soon as you walk in, you know it’s not your run-of-the-mill lunch spot. The Ajanta cookbook lying on a table at the entrance hints at the possibilities ahead of you, and the white tablecloths beneath full place settings promise an elegant dining experience.

But the real test of a restaurant, after all, is its food. Soon after we were seated, we were served crispy papadam and a fresh cilantro sauce, both good. Dave got a lunch special that came with an appetizer, so I got to try his samosa, which was delicious and perfectly cooked. George had bheh khumbi, a vegan dish with lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, and peas, which he’d had before and loved. (George is a regular customer there and chats easily with the owner.)

ajanta inside

I ordered one of the dishes under the “New this month” section—chicken biriyani. It was organic boneless chicken in a curry sauce over rice with nuts, golden raisins, chickpeas, and caramelized onions. So many wonderful distinct flavors that complemented each other perfectly! I don’t even know what was in the  delightfully spicy sambal that accompanied my meal, but it sure was tasty. I felt as if I got quite a feast for only $10.

I don’t eat lamb, but Dave loved his lamb rib chop. (Though I thought the portion seemed a tad small for $13.) There were more dessert options than I’m used to seeing in an Indian restaurant, but I’m trying to take off those extra holiday pounds, so I didn’t order dessert. However, Dave got the mango mousse, so of course I had a few bites. It was refreshing, light, and not too sweet.

The service was excellent. I am granting them bonus points for refilling my water glass three times without my ever having to ask.

The lunch portions are slightly smaller and less expensive than dinners, but otherwise the menus are identical. Ajanta features cuisine from all over India and regularly updates its menu with new dishes but always has the popular standards as well. Because its offerings are extensive, the take-out menu I requested to take home had to use type normally reserved for the fine print of contracts, so be sure to get out your magnifying glass before attempting to read it. But the in-house menus are much bigger and easy to read. Although I caught a few typos, they weren’t egregious or confusing.(If I’ve seen the plural of entrée written “entrée’s” once, I’ve seen it a thousand times…)

It is green certified, which definitely boosts its appeal as far as I’m concerned. This is Berkeley, after all. And the bathroom was clean and lovely.

When the check came, Dave was delighted to find individually wrapped toothpicks on the tray. Dave is easily pleased.

Ah, Ajanta, don’t ever leave us.

Whaddya want? It’s a buffet…

Khana Peena 1 saucesOur third outing took us to Khana Peena, which was doing a pretty good business the day we ate there. Before entering, we passed under a tacky neon sign advertising cocktails, although it wasn’t flashing when we were there, presumably because the bar isn’t open for the lunch crowd.

We arrived quite hungry, so we opted for the $8.99 all-you-can-eat buffet.

I took a picture of the salad bar for two reasons: 1) to show just how green the mint sauce was, and 2) to show the color of the melon. I asked the waitress what kind of melon it was because it tasted like watermelon, but it was not the color of any watermelon I had ever met. She either didn’t know or didn’t feel confident enough in her English skills to communicate because she referred me to someone behind the counter, who confirmed that it was indeed watermelon. One mystery solved…

I realize that by not ordering off the menu, I am truly unable to relay any specific information because most of the food in the buffet either wasn’t labeled or had very little information about the ingredients. But I recognized the chicken tikka masala, which was fine, and I’m pretty sure I had some baigun barta (mashed eggplant) which was perfectly edible. Dave said the tandoori chicken leg was dry and flavorless and the curry was on the salty side. But as you can see from the photo (below) that I took of his plate, he ate everything but the mint sauce.Khana Peena empty plate

I never had to flag down the waitress to refill my water glass, although I did start drinking Dave’s water before she filled it the third time.

Dave reports that the bathroom was fine but it housed a ladder. Not a stepstool—a full-sized ladder.private dining room at Khana Peena

There are a few small private dining rooms in the back that are curtained off from the rest of the restaurant. I imagine that this option has great appeal for people who want to bring a date, especially if that date is married to someone else.

Because I had to look up the spelling for baigun bharta, I accessed Khana Peena’s website where I learned that they serve eight different kinds of naan, including one stuffed with dried cherries and coconuts. I might have to return for a cocktail and a naan-fest.

So the food wasn’t exciting, but it was fast and cheap. And sometimes that’s just what you need.



Sometimes you just need to look at a garden…

I just wanted to share a blog that I have followed for ages. Unlike other blogs that I read, this one just provides me with the opportunity to stop, take a breath, and appreciate something beautiful. I hope you enjoy it too. Follow the link below for many more gorgeous garden photos.

A zen view
reposted from Serenity in the Garden

Thumbs Up on Bangkok Jam Thai Restaurant

Bangkok Jam Thai frontNumber two on our list of lunch spots on Solano: Bangkok Jam Thai Restaurant, with a tag line on their menu that declares “Live healthy eat healthy.”

This time our friend George accompanied us, which means we get to taste a bigger variety. Because the extensive menu took a while to look through, I ordered some fresh veggie rolls while we all decided what to order as our entrees. For those incredibly picky diners who can’t find something to eat from the more than 40 items offered, they can order from the box labeled “organic organic” (because one organic just isn’t enough), which allows you to create your own dish by choosing which veggies you want (or hormone-free chicken) and add one of five sauces.

By the time we’d figured out what entrees to order, our appetizer had arrived. And those rice paper rolls stuffed with noodles, veggies, and mint were darn good. It served three people just right and only cost $6.50. And my Thai iced coffee was sweet and refreshing on that unseasonably warm January day.

The décor was fun—three modern-ish chandeliers lit the main dining area, and the entryway sported these decorative orbs of light laden with leis. Some loungey music played at a low volume, creating a pleasant atmosphere.

pad thai
Not my actual dish because I forgot to take pictures, but this was on their website and looked pretty much like what I ate.

Our entrees arrived within fifteen minutes, which was perfectly reasonable, especially since we had the veggie rolls to munch on while we waited. I had decided to go with a classic Thai combo that was one of  their organic lunch specials—pad thai and chicken satay. And they were both delicious. Dave got tom kha soup and a Thai crunch salad and was very happy with his choices. George opted for a BBQ pork dish that had a name that sounded vaguely German, but I tasted it, and I can assure you that it was indeed Thai and not German.

My entrée was accompanied by the obligatory boring American green salad, which I chose not to eat because it looked like the dressing might have mayonnaise in it, which I avoid if possible. Bangkok Jam(It’s not even because of the high fat content—I just personally find mayo disgusting.) But everything Thai was great.

I was excited to discover that after 4:30, they will deliver (free for orders of $25 or more). I’m sure I will take advantage of that in the not-too-distant future.

As we ate, I recognized a Gershwin tune playing—”But Not For Me.” Au contraire, Bangkok Jam is definitely for me.

My lunch trek begins…

JOK photoMy first lunch out in 2014 was with my husband, Dave, to Jerusalem Organic Kitchen at the tip-top of Solano, right at the Alameda on the north corner. I suppose because it was my first time, I didn’t think to take any photos, which would have made a nice accompaniment. I will try to do better in the future. But here’s a photo I got from SF Gate via Google images. (Thanks, SF Gate!)

It’s one of those places where you order your food at the counter and they bring it out to you. The first thing we noticed was the cashier, who looked like a younger version of Alan Arkin. Dave ordered the skewer platter and specified that he wanted beef. The Arkin look-alike explained that the platter had three skewers—beef, lamb, and chicken. Dave pointed to the menu where it clearly read: “Lamb, Chicken, or Beef served with Rice or Couscous, and Jerusalem Salad.” The man shook his head and insisted that there was no choice involved—the platter consisted of one of each. Dave is pretty easy-going, so he accepted the combo despite the incorrect usage of a very common conjunction.

While I found a place to sit and got out my little notebook to start jotting down my impressions, Dave made use of the facilities upstairs. He reported his findings back to me upon returning: A handmade sign hanging in the restroom reads “Bathroom for washing hands and #1 only” followed by a smiley face. Heaven help the poor customer who climbs those stairs just to have to come back down again to search elsewhere on Solano for plumbing that could handle #2, to use the restaurant’s language.

While Dave and I were there, we were the only customers dining in, but a few people ordered take-out. Windows on two sides make for a sunny dining area that ends up being trapezoid shaped because of the building’s position on the corner. As far as decor goes, Dave noted that the place could use a coat of paint, but I thought it was cozy and appreciated the vase of tulips in one of the windows.

Our food arrived in 17 minutes, which seemed reasonable. Dave had ordered the most expensive item on the menu at $12.99, which is a little bit more than I would generally pay for lunch out. But he seemed to like it, and it was a generous if not huge portion. I thought my chicken shawerma was just as tasty and a better deal at $6.99.

There are many items to choose from, and they are all are capitalized on the menu, I imagine to show their importance. After all, it is a restaurant, and there’s nothing more important than food at a restaurant, is there? It’s mostly middle Eastern fare, such as falafel, dolmas, and babaganoush; but you can also order french fries, a variety of burgers (including the “Lamb Jerusalem Burger”), and a “Hebrew National Hot Dog” (their italics). I was curious about the chicken soup based on its description: “Chicken, Vegatables, and Wheat, Served with Pita Bread.” I’d seen this alternate spelling of vegetables, but I’d never encountered wheat in my chicken soup before.

JOK menu

Part of the fun in going out to eat for me is reading the menus. I suppose it is the editor in me who delights in humorous misspellings and enjoys the challenge of finding wayward apostrophes. But it also interests me how many ways the word hummus can be spelled in English, since it is transliterated from a language with a different alphabet. At Jerusalem Organic Kitchen, it’s Humos. How many ways can one spell hummus, do you think?

I will probably go back to Jerusalem Organic Kitchen one day, but I wouldn’t write home about it.

Wait, I am home, and I am writing about it. Well, you know what I mean.

Documenting my days in 2014

2014-01-12 12.07.45

Maybe I’ve gone a bit overboard, but I decided I want to be able to account for my time in 2014, and I no longer trust my memory. How do I ensure that I actually do the things I say I’ll do? Write them down.

So what do I want to do? I want to get organized. I love reading and writing (not so much the ‘rithmetic), so I should spend real time doing both of those things. I’ve also renewed my goal to lose weight and adopt a more healthful diet. And I’ve always loved movies.

but I’ve become forgetful, which results in receiving Netflix titles in the mail that my husband informs me we’ve already seen.

So I took advantage of Pegasus’s wonderful annual calendar sale. (Our terrific local independent book store offers any three calendars for $10 beginning January 1.) I picked up a page-a-day notepad calendar that provides me with a daily to-do list, a fun wall calendar featuring art from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are for the kitchen (for family events &  appointments), and finally, a handsomely designed journal/calendar with lots of room for me to track everything: how many hours a day I read and write, what movies I’ve seen, which books I’ve finished and when, and how much exercise I get. I bought the Plan & Track Journal from Weight Watchers for my nutritional documentation, and I’m using a cute little blank book to take with me to all the restaurants I’m visiting this year in my quest to lunch down Solano.

I am ready to keep track of my life. And by writing that here in my blog to the world, I hope that this won’t be a project that’s a faint memory by March. Wish me luck!

New year, new project: Lunching Along Solano

Solano Avenue, which begins in Berkeley and cuts through Albany

It’s fun starting a new project, right? But who has extra time in the day to devote to yet something else? But I’ve come up with a project that combines two things that I already do with regularity: eat and write. And since going local is the new thing now, that can factor in too. Are you ready for it?

The year 2014 will be the year that I eat at every lunch spot on Solano Avenue. And since I’m also trying to get in more activity this year, I will walk to each one.

Before I started my quest, I did a bit of research. According to the Solano Avenue Association website, this street that’s just over a mile long boasts 65 restaurants. But I’m limiting my project to places that serve lunch, so a few of those 65 will be knocked off the list. (I wonder if Rivoli’s would consider opening for lunch…) Without doing too much math in advance, that probably means eating lunch out on Solano about once a week. And of course with the way eateries come and go along this famed Berkeley thoroughfare, some may disappear before I reach them this year, and more might pop up. I thought about approaching my lunching alphabetically, from Ajanta’s to Zand’s, but decided instead to start at the top of Solano where it intersects with the Alameda and eat my way down to San Pablo by year’s end.

Now I’m no gourmand, but I have eaten pretty much all my life, so my experience is considerable. In general, I plan to give my opinion on the food, service, prices, and even the décor. I may even include completely unrelated bits of information and personal anecdotes that you would never see in a reputable restaurant review. But I can do that because it’s my blog, and I’m paying for my own food. (Well, technically my husband will probably pay most of the time since he’ll be coming along too, but it’s the same bank account anyway.)

Hope you come along on this epicurious journey with me.

The Google Earth version of Solano Ave.


Poetic pursuits can be playful

A friend introduced a new game to us recently. She didn’t know the name of it, but I’m calling it Poetic Pursuits.

Each person (we had seven, which worked well) takes a sheet of paper, writes one word at the top, and passes it to her/his left. On the second round each person writes two words below the first one, then folds the paper so that the third person only sees what the person immediately to her/his right has written. This continues around the circle with three words, then four, then three, two, and finally one. Each time the person writing sees only what is just above and no more. After the seventh word is written, everyone takes turns opening up the collaborative poems and reads them aloud to the group.

I have to admit that at first I was skeptical that we’d come up with anything but nonsense, but I was pleasantly surprised by some of our end products. Here are a few from that evening.


bound by’

limits of time

are immeasurable because they

keep on expanding

till daybreak



moments forgotten

are rarely very

tumultuous, even on Sundays

and their lives

flowed on



for trying

not to blink

when any man would

offer his own

forlorn perspective



beyond breakdown

she rose up

to honor the memory

of everything sublime

and baffling


So what do you think? Is there a collaborative poetry fest in our future?