Berkeley is the granola crunchy, dread lock wearing, free loving little sister of the super clan known as The Bay Area.  It may not be as posh or as posturing or as money loving as its more famous siblings, big sister San Francisco, or big brother, Palo Alto Stanford Campus. but Berkeley is an intellectual powerhouse.  This little sister loves everyone who loves her, and sometimes she brings some unsavory boyfriends to the family’s Thanksgiving dinner table…

Hotel Shattuck is a fine boutique hotel (Travelocity, $111 USD/night), with a reasonable rate, and a very personal hospitality and very cheerful color palette.  Hotel Shattuck makes it feel like you’re at home, without a hint of commercialism, which is what I appreciate the MOST.  And, of course, they have excellent linens and toiletry, free high speed internet, and an iPOD docking station.  You won’t find anything too over the top but it’s luxurious.  The walls are little thin for a light sleeper.

The front desk MBA student at Haas launched into a 15 minute session of drawing on the campus map to show me how to get from the Hotel to the Business School, because he wanted to demonstrate where the most scenic routes were.

Please, are you kiddin, dude, the next day, I found out that the ENTIRE Berkeley campus is a scenic route.

And when you travel, you eat all kinds of junk.  Why, don’t need to do that around Berkeley — there are plenty of places to grab a healthy bite for staying hydrated, regular, and light.

You notice the three most commonly used words in advertising on the streets: organic, farm, food.

Gather is an omnivore’s restaurant 3 blocks from Hotel Shattuck, which means that they do an excellent vegetarian selection.  I had the legendary “vegan charcuterie.”

Ready?

Vegan “charcuterie” $14 USD
– Mushroom pate, endive, romanesco broccoli, grilled Maitake, walnuts
– Roasted winter vegetable bread salad, Martin’s arugula
– Beets, tardivo, purple haze carrots, kumquats, mint, cashew “ricotta”
– Avocado seaweed salad, “Rio Star” grapefruit
– Chickpea puree, fried parsnips, breakfast radish, lemon, paprika oil (v, gf*)

Yeah, I know, over the top granola crunchy California organic overload, right?

So, WOTV, what was this masterpiece like?

Basically it’s an ensemble of 5 little mounds of food arranged on a wooden board.  It looks like you’re eating 5 mini entrees, each as beautifully and artistically constructed like Japanese art, with BOTH vertical and horizontal components like origami, jewelry, miniature architecture show pieces. .  When it finally arrived, I was literally stunned speechless because I had NEVER imagined that vegan eating could be this…extravagant. obscene.

Then I had the split pea soup with cashew essence.  That’s when I think I melted to the ground.  The server brought a check without a credit card charge, and revived me with the dinner bill, $14 + $7.