Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Last Berkeley Tournament

If you've noticed that I have been (somewhat) regularly updating my blog recently, it's only because I've had a set of posts scheduled to publish without my needing to write them day by day. In reality, I've been insanely busy going to tournament after tournament. The first weekend of February was the Stanford Invitational, in which I semifinaled in Expos, and just this weekend was the Berkeley Invitational, in which I also semifinaled in Expos. It was kind of sad, because as a senior, this is the last time I'm ever going to be competing in these tournaments, but luckily, Berkeley isn't all just work, it's also known for it's incredible food, which I am going to share here. I was too stressed on the first day to remember taking pictures, but I did get some from my fellow exposer friends (specifically Hannah, hi!) and I tried to remember as much as possible to take pictures on the rest of the days. For the Berkeley specific eateries, I rated them on a scale of 1 to 10, a "1" being "would not eat there ever again," to "10" being a "must-have." Enjoy!


Lunch: Top Dog (6/10)
I remember going to the Berkeley Tournament my freshman year and not having any friends to hang out with because a lot of them were scared to go to travel tournaments. I ended up having to travel with an adult chaperone the whole time, which actually wasn't that bad because she took me to all the good places for food between the hotel and the campus. The first place we went to was Top Dog which, as the name suggests, is a mouthwateringly delicious place for hot dogs. However, it was a lot smaller than I remembered it to be (probably because I've grown, thankfully), and the food wasn't as amazing as I had thought, but maybe it was because I was in such a rush.

For some reason, it was also crazily hot all weekend, despite the previous weekend being torrential rain. We went and got Jamba Juice to cool down, and it was such a nice relief.

Dinner: Smart Alec's (9.5/10)
Smart Alec's is a burger place at the corner of Telegraph and Durant, and it was just as good, if not better, than what I had remembered. I got a regular beef burger and regular fries, and they were all cooked to perfection, especially the fries, which were just the right size and combination of soft insides and crunchy outsides. A medium fries is enough for three people after a burger each, so I had quite a bit left over afterwards, but they got cold too quickly to eat later.

Afterwards, we went to get Yogurtland for dessert. I wasn't too hungry, so the three samples I tried were actually plenty enough!


Brunch: Savory Crépes from Crépes-A-Go-Go (8/10)
I woke up late on Sunday because I thought there'd be a wake-up call or knock, but there wasn't so all four of us in the hotel room were scrambling to get ready. By the time we were finished, it was too late for breakfast, so the exposers all went together to Crépes-A-Go-Go. A Berkeley tournament experience is not complete without a taste of their heavenly crépes. They come in two kinds, savory and sweet. Since it was almost lunchtime, I went with the savory option, getting a spinach, egg, cheese, and ham crépe. It was the size of my face, and so filling, I hard time finishing it. Ashlyn got a sweet crépe, which is just as good, and I had one of those on Monday as well. Here are our happy faces with our crépes, and the crépes themselves as well.

Dinner(ish): King Pin Donuts (4/10)
I wasn't too hungry for dinner after the third prelims round, and I didn't want to get a huge bowl of ramen like Hannah and Ashlyn, so I got a sugar donut (as usual) to have sugar (and more importantly energy) for quarters round. King Pin donuts luckily was open, but it was meh in quality, but that might only because it was so late in the day and the donuts weren't as fresh anymore. They still were really large and fluffy.


Breakfast: Sweet Crépes from Crépes-A-Go-Go (9/10)
Finally it was time for the breakfast crépes. By this time I had known that I'd broken into semi's, but there was some initial panic with the coaches over when the semi's round was, as expos had broken directly into quarterfinals the night before. Luckily, the semifinal round didn't start until later, so I had time to go with my roommates for breakfast at Crépes-A-Go-Go again. I went all out, with a Nutella, strawberries, bananas and whipped cream crépe. I thought I had taken a picture of it but I guess not. It was so scrumptious though, and I would not mind having to eat that every week.

Lunch: Blondie's Pizza (7/10)
I had heard about Blondie's the first time I had gone to Berkeley, but had never actually tried it. As we were waiting for finals breaks, the exposers headed out there for lunch. Pizza is the speech and debater's staple food, but most tournament pizza is usually kind of stale and cold. Luckily, since this was a proper restaurant type deal, the pizza was fresh and hot. You can order a whole pizza, or one that's just by the slice, but either way, they come right out of the oven. I got a Hawaiian pizza, which I always get no matter where I am (yea, I know, kind of lame, but it makes the decision process a lot easier). I liked the garlic bread-esque crust, and it was a decent meal that wasn't too greasy and just filling enough.

After finding out finals breaks (I did not break into finals), we headed out for consolation ice cream sandwiches from C.R.E.A.M. This ice cream sandwich store isn't exclusive to Berkeley, but the exposers had made a pact that the Berkeley tournament experience wouldn't be complete without it. I got the mint chocolate chip in macadamia white chocolate chip cookie, and Ashlyn and Hannah had both gotten green tea ice cream in red velvet and macadamia white chocolate chip respectively. I knew that C.R.E.A.M. was popular for a reason, but was so much better than I had ever expected. Two warm cookies smushed on both sides of a cold, fresh, scoop of ice cream was an experience beyond description. You'll have to try it yourself to see what I mean. I would have liked it if the cookie was a little softer and chewier, as it kind of fell apart as I ate it, but that's just how the cookie crumbles.

Surprisingly, for all this food, I spent a total of less than $40 the whole three day weekend. The food itself wasn't too expensive, but I can see how easy it would be to get carried away living in Berkeley all the time. I'd literally spend my time planning out meals so I could try every single option in every single restaurant, and even then, I'd still probably miss something. ◊

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