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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Foodie Field Trip: Rockridge’s Market Hall

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 9:16 AM


Hop on BART in the Mission and it’s just a $4 fare to get to Rockridge, a sunny slice of Oakland just south of Berkeley. As you pull into the station, you can see the roof of Rockridge Market Hall on the main drag, College Avene. It’s a hive of activity, and a destination for people who love food: stores within sell coffee, baked goods, fresh produce, wine, meat, and fish.

In the center of it all is The Pasta Shop, a place where specialty foods of every kind share space with prepared foods, fresh pasta, and a swoon-worthy cheese counter. Still going strong after twenty-seven years in business, The Pasta Shop has succeeded by offering the best ingredients – often produced by smaller companies – all in one place.

As the name says, this shop will satisfy your urge for pasta, whether dry or fresh. As you enter from College Avenue, a selection of dried pasta spans the right-hand wall. You can choose from many shapes and sizes, some in bulk; you can also choose Community Grains pasta, made from locally grown organic wheat. Another option, available exclusively at The Pasta Shop: Primo Grano Pasta, created by a pasta maker in Abruzzi using the same heirloom wheats his grandfather grew at the turn of the (previous) century.

If you are craving fresh pasta, there are multiple flavors cut to order in widths ranging from capellini to pappardelle. The filled pastas, though, are difficult to pass up. Fall/winter flavors are here, carb-lovers, so think about dropping by for winter squash and sage ravioli in sage pasta, vegan roasted butternut squash and chestnut ravioli in pumpkin pasta, or autumn’s perfect comfort food, pumpkin gnocchi. Fresh pasta sauces can be found in the nearby refrigerated section.

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Prepared foods lure many to the salads, sandwiches, entrees, and side dishes; every effort is made to use local and sustainable ingredients, changing with the seasons. Right now, you might want to try the brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnut butter as a take-home side. Or you can grab a container of slippery Asian noodles for lunch and eat in on the sunny sidewalk outside.

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Two things The Pasta Shop is passionate about are olive oil and cheese. You will always find oils that are being tasted with chunks of bread, often alongside vinegars. The oils come from California, Italy, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia; many are made in small batches by artisan producers. Each year’s harvest is different, similar to wine. The cheeses are, likewise, displayed and tasted to encourage appreciation of artisan products. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive cheese department in the Bay Area, and you probably won’t walk away without sampling a lovely goat cheese you’ve never heard of, or something soft and oozey that has reached perfect ripeness.

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Taking a field trip to The Pasta Shop can make you a bit dizzy; so many wonderful things compete for your attention. Local honeys and jams; esoteric baking ingredients in handy small portions; salts and spices and condiments from across the globe. There’s even a corner stocked with drinking vinegars, tonics, and bitters for when you’re in that cocktail mood. Treat yourself to something special, something that perhaps is only sold in this store. You can savor it on your leisurely BART ride back to the city.

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Julie Kramer

Julie Kramer

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