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Continental Gardens

10 October 2003

I belong to a daily poll email list, where questions are asked daily, and the results from the previous day are posted to the list for everyone to see (well, only the best ones). The question today was ‘describe your perfect brunch’, and instantly I thought of Continental Gardens in Berkeley. Here is my post:
There was a restaraunt in Berkeley — about 6 years ago now it closed — called ‘Continental Gardens’. This was the sort of place that looked like crap from the front, and you’d NEVER go in if you saw it on the street, but if you were fortunate enough to have a friend ‘in the know’, you’d get invited to breakfast, and then you became an instant convert. They had the most awesome breakfast/brunch in the world. The main dish was called ‘The Blue Max’, which came in two sizes: ‘Large’ and ‘Not As Large’. It was a heaping plate of Rostii (swiss-cut) potatoes, with either spinach or ham, plus swiss cheese mixed in, one or two poached eggs, and smothered in the most awesome Hollandaise sauce ever invented. It was the perfect combination of buttery, lemony goodness, with just a slight kick of cayenne. I’ve tried to reproduce it — it’s impossible. Roman, the owner/chef was a PRO and he’d come at you with a meat cleaver if you asked for extra hollandaise and didn’t finish it all. And if that were not enough, he would make personal bread loaves baked fresh, with homemade strawberry jam, and fresh squeezed orange juice from the oranges that grew on the patio of the restaurant, which was this amazing urban garden courtyard. It was invisible from the street, surrounded by red brick walls, had exotic plants, and wooden benches and trellaces. I miss that place intensely. I cried the day it closed. Roman was forced out of business by the landlord who wanted to offer the property up to a new tenant that would pay him x2 the rent. They wouldn’t even allow Roman to sell the business to a new owner. He owned that place over over 25 years, and he said he had no plans of reopening in a new spot. He’s probably doing construction work now. My perfect brunch would be at Continental Gardens, with all the friends I know that loved that place, and with Roman taking a moment to sit and talk with us like he used to. *sigh*

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