Note that these blogs posted during the sheltering-in-place period of the coronavirus crisis
are meant as a virtual escape. Hopefully, the information will be of use to you
when it is safe to travel again.

September 10, 2014

Berkeley: Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; things to do + restaurant review

80 North

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive  MOVED -- update 
2626 Bancroft Way/College Ave.  Free 1st Thursday of month.

Many visitors think that this museum building itself is as interesting and unusual as its contents.

interior of Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

Built in a Modernist style of architecture, it is strikingly reminiscent of New York’s Guggenheim--except that it is angular instead of circular.  The Berkeley Art Museum’s permanent collection stresses modern and Asian art and includes a large collection of paintings by Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann.

"Hofmann by Hofmann" show at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

A current show—“Hofmann by Hofmann”--displays some of the colorful paintings Hofmann himself gave as a gift to U.C. Berkeley.  It runs through December 21.  Another show, “Forrest Bess:  Seeing Things Invisible,” displays small paintings by this Texas artist through September 14.  Bess depicts his gender identity issues—he was born a male but identified as a hermaphrodite--in his work.

elephant god in show at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

“Deities, Demons, and Teachers of Tibet, Nepal, and India” displays a glorious grouping through September 14.

gallery 2 prepping for show at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
Gallery 2 prepping for folk art show
Beginning October 1, “American Wonder:  Folk Art from the Collection” will show portraits, weather vanes, and decorative sculptures from the BAM/PFA collection. 

The Pacific Film Archive has one of five world-class public archival film collections in the U.S.  It has the largest collection of Japanese titles outside of Japan and one of the world’s largest collections of silent and early films from the former Soviet Union and pre-1960 Eastern Europe, plus hundreds of experimental movies by West Coast filmmakers.  Film programs span world cinema from the silent era to the present.  Screenings take place at the PFA Theater at 2575 Bancroft Way.  The theater is clean, the sound system excellent, and the audience well mannered.  No snacks are available.

Babette cafe at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

On the basement level, Babette opens to a courtyard and grassy expanse where children, especially, enjoy a good frolic.

quiche at Babette cafe at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

It offers a very limited and weekly-changing breakfast and lunch menu based on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, and scrumptious house-made pastries are always available.  At brunch, my dining partner enjoyed the quiche of the day, while I ordered the entire a la carte menu:  two eggs over easy, perfectly roasted potatoes, tasty apple-smoked bacon, and housemade bread toasted and served with yummy plum jam.  Quirky policies include no salt and pepper shakers on the table, but if you request them you get the cafe’s single communal pepper grinder and a tiny open bowl of salt (this is Berkeley).  Also, no catsup is available, nor is a paper receipt—you must print out your receipt at home (I find this ridiculous in the name of saving trees, because if one was printed out at the counter it would be on a tiny piece of paper but at home it is on a full-size 8½” by 11” sheet).  Adding to the pleasant atmosphere, mellow background music sometimes radiates from vintage vinyl records played on an old-time turntable, and at other times it comes from a plugged-in iPod.  Though pricey for a counter-service cafe, the food is extra good. 

t-shirts at Cal Student Store in Berkeley, California

After my museum visit, we strolled down Bancroft Way towards Telegraph Avenue, passing the Cal Student Store, that is temporarily here selling Cal t-shirts and caps, and the San Francisco Soup Company, which is a great place for take-out or take-home.  We turned the corner onto Telegraph Avenue, and checked out two new fast-food spots.

Sheng Kee Bakery  2307 Telegraph Ave./Bancroft Way, (510) 848-8200.  Daily 7am-11pm; $.

This bright, spacious bakery is part of a Bay Area chain.  It will suck you in when you see the mouth-watering array of pastries both sweet and savory.

interior of Sheng Kee Bakery in Berkeley, California

chocolate cream buns at Sheng Kee Bakery in Berkeley, California

I chose several to take home for dinner, among them a ham-and-cheese croissant (yummy) and a chocolate-frosted cream-stuffed bun (not as tasty as it was beautiful).  Next time I’ll try the Purple Romance, consisting of soft taro bread stuffed with creamy taro.  The system is self-serve, so pick up a tray and tongs and select what you like.  Baked goods are kept in heated compartments behind glass.  Sandwiches, refined pastries, and boba milk tea are also available.  No seating is provided.

In case you want even more sweets, a branch of Santa Cruz’s Pacific Cookie Company is next door.  You can’t go wrong with the white chocolate-macademia nut or the oatmeal-raisin.

cookies at Pacific Cookie Company in Berkeley, California

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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