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A trip to the East Bay Area and Berkeley makes for a wonderful weekend getaway. Fly to Oakland and take the Richmond BART train from the airport into Berkeley. Seven easy blocks north of the downtown Berkeley BART station is what's come to be known as the Gourmet Ghetto.

Truth be told: Berkeley is a lot more than the radical left-wingers at the University and the dreadlocked hippies along Telegraph Avenue. On a tree-lined section of Shattuck Avenue bordered by Rose Street on the north and Hearst on the south, a host of fine restaurants are gathered to offer the best of food and drink to discerning diners.

The grandmother of them all is Alice Water's fabulous Chez Panisse and Cafe at Chez Panisse restaurants. But other equally worthy choices abound that treat the preparation, serving and ingesting of food and wine as an art form: There’s the Cheeseboard Collective, nirvana to any cheese-o-phile, and Cheeseboard Pizza, the best vegetarian pizza around. Poulet, a darling French cafe specializing in chicken, and Cha-Am, the distinctive Thai Restaurant. Lastly, don’t forget Gregoire, a pricey yet delectable catering and take-out restaurant with potato puffs to die for!

For any type of palate or culinary desire, there are more than enough choices here to overwhelm even the most devout foodie. And the brisk Bay breeze and multicultural milieu will add intrigue and exotica to the potential for glorious gluttony.

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