Summer Kitchen Bake Shop is only two stores away from the gourmet ice cream store, Ici.
Created by Chef-Owners Paul Arenstam and Charlene Reis, the Summer Kitchen Bake Shop just opened up at 2944 College Avenue at Ashby in mid-October. My friend Jing and I were fortunate enough to be taste-testers and learn more about the restaurant from Paul. The chefs are quite experienced: Charlene was a pastry chef at Berkeley favorite, Chez Panisse, while Paul is the executive chef of Hotel Vitale’s Americano in San Francisco. Drawing inspiration from the set-ups of traditional New England farmhouses, the restaurant gets its name from the kitchens that were separate from the actual houses and were used to cook for guests as well as can and preserve fresh fruits during the warm summer months. Unlike a typical eatery, the Summer Kitchen Bake Shop provides patrons with entrees, side dishes, and desserts to take home to complement a home-cooked meal. Here are some photos of the restaurant’s window display and interior.
Customers order and pick up their food at the counter.
The owners put special emphases on using local ingredients and sustainability. All of the ingredients used in the plates either come from near-by farmers’ markets or local businesses. They also only use hormone-free beef. They have eco-friendly lighting, low-flowing water, corn-derived packaging similar to the cups and utensils found in Cal dorms, and are proud composters. They harp themselves on having low prices, great-quality wholesome food, and a different menu every day.
Carrot and pecan salad (left) and cole slaw (right)
We began our taste-testing with two delicious salads: cole slaw with celery seed dressing and carrot and pecans with pickled sultanas and ginger. Considering our lack of affinity towards cole slaw, we were both a bit hesitant to try the first dish. Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised. Instead of some mayo-drenched cabbage and carrot slaw typical of fast food chains, we were served a mayo-free, chopped cabbage, onion, and carrot mix that can be described as nothing short of fresh, healthy, and crisp. The slaw easily balanced a bit of sour with the natural sweetness of the vegetables, while unifying the diverse flavors quite nicely. We then dug our forks into the carrot and pecan concoction. All of the elements that went into the carrot dish provided a good balance for our palates: the pecans added textural dimension, the sultana grapes supplied a nice coolness, and the dish overall had a delicate sour touch.
Doesn’t this margherita pizza look delicious?!
Onto the main entrée: a traditional, made-to-order, twelve-inch margherita pizza with a Neapolitan-style crust, cheese, basil, and tomato sauce. Cooked in an in-house brick oven and ready in four minutes, this pizza completely embodied the adjectives healthy and light. The thin crust was appropriately firm; in other words, Goldilocks would have approved (not to hard and not to soft). The sauce had an indescribable flavor that gave the pizza an overarching sweetness that surely arose from its natural ingredients. This will certainly be a Cal student favorite.
Last, but certainly not least, was dessert. We tasted two dishes: banana walnut bread and pumpkin ginger bread. The banana walnut bread could only be described with positive adjectives like moist, soft, unique, and “really good.” The bread had a subtle sweetness and a banana flavor that was far from overpowering. The pumpkin bread was also quite a treat. Apart from the bread’s overall homemade taste and moist texture, Jing felt that the ginger added a bit of coolness that toned down the richness of the pumpkin. They also had a mouthwatering selection of cupcakes that were grabbed up before we even noticed.
Coupling their quick, grab-and-go service with friendly owners, great customer service, and simply scrumptious home-cooked food, it is no wonder why one regular customer joyfully told us, “this place rocks, totally rocks!” For more information about Summer Kitchen Bake Shop, feel free to visit their website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
Thank you Summer Kitchen Bake Shop for the wonderful meal!