•Algorithm Coffee, 1122 University Avenue, Berkeley; +1 (510) 280-5153
THEN TO LUNCH at a restaurant we've always liked but rarely gone to, mostly because there's another place in Berkeley we feel we need to monitor more closely. Today we have a particular reason to return here: the restaurant is closing at the end of the month, the victim, apparently, of the extreme difficulty finding excellent workers. The San Francisco Bay Area has so many good restaurants competing for staff, and is so expensive an area to live in, that restaurateurs are hard pressed.
Normally I've lunched here with one friend or another. There was a time when this was a fairly regular routine, and we always enjoyed ourselves. It's a lively place, with a full bar and a first-rate butcher shop — for a number of years the only decent one for miles around.
Today lunch was noisy, with lots of tables of three or four women, out perhaps doing the Christmas shopping, or just getting together for the holidays, who knows. My Companion and I ordered exactly the same: the green salad, then the bavette steak with French fries and beurre rouge : butter, shallot, red wine. A little tough, the steak was, but tasty. We'll miss this place.
THEN IT WAS ON to The City for a museum show and a concert. We were stuffed from lunch, which had after all been The Principal Meal Of The Day, but knew we'd have to fortify ourselves for a three-hour piano recital. So we stopped in at a very favorite place for tea and cake. (The Contessa substituted mulled wine for the tea.) What a cake! Doboš torte, the requisite seven layers of génoise interleaved with perfect chocolate butter cream, an eighth layer at the top covered with caramel and tipped on edge.
Normally we have a Russian Honey Cake here, and it's an extraordinary thing too. But I have a soft spot in my heart for the Doboš torte; I made it for birthdays a couple or three times when the kids were little, and I know how demanding it can be. The people at this café are highly skilled and a lot of fun, and we drop by when we can—
•20th Century Cafe, 198 Gough Street, San Francisco; +1 (415) 621-2380