Monday, August 4, 2014

SQIRL - the best french toast ever + words of advice

I can't believe Summer's going by as quickly as it is. In a few weeks, I'll be on a plane to San Francisco and I'll be starting a new chapter of my life. I don't know if I ever told you this, but Berkeley was NOT one of my top choices. In fact, I applied to the school merely because my college counselor told me to. I was set on NYU, and although I got in, I would have been in an astounding amount of debt after my undergraduate education, so I committed to Berkeley on a whim - with barely any research at all. When I attended orientation in early June, I was terrified that I had made the wrong decision, but a day and a half of exploring the campus and surrounding areas, and meeting my fellow classmates assured me that I had made the right choice. However, I still had no idea how I would manage the ropes of Freshman year, so I looked to a fellow Cal student for advice.

My friend Kathleen attended Cal last year, and as soon as she heard I had committed, she kindly offered to meet for lunch so she could tell me the "do's and don'ts" of college. When trying to decide where to meet, I asked her how far she was willing to drive for a good meal. Her answer? "For food?! I would drive to New York!" 

Happy I'd found someone to embark on long, traffic-ridden journeys to discover great food around LA, I happily accepted her offer to drive us, and we set out to SQIRL, a cafe in East (I think) LA. I didn't find this out until after my visit, but SQIRL has been featured in Bon Appetit and other food magazines, heralded as a rising star in the LA food scene. 

When I set food in the tiny, packed cafe I had no idea I was about to devour the most delicious french toast I had ever tasted in my entire life. I mean, I love pancakes, but when it comes to breakfast foods, french toast definitely takes the cake in my eyes. I LOVE a good french toast - thick bread with a crispy exterior and the perfectly custardy egg mixture. And the topping is key, too. At home, I opt for Pannetone french toast with a hint of orange zest in the egg mixture, topped with real maple syrup, a touch of butter, and confectioners' sugar. 

I'm literally drooling right now.

After poring over the menu, I went with my gut and chose the french toast. It didn't matter that it was 2:00 in the afternoon. And I definitely made the right choice. The brioche slice was absolutely massive, cooked to perfection and topped with whipped creme fraiche and a delicious apricot jam. By the time I'd plowed through about half of it, I was feeling full. My stomach was screaming "no!" but my head was telling me "you won't have another french toast as good as this for a long time." I gave in and pushed my way through my fullness as I proceeded to finish the entire thing. Very ladylike.

I don't regret a thing. And I'd do it again, a thousand times over. I even got an iced mocha to round out my healthy meal. God, it was so delicious.

While I contentedly stuffed my face with french toast, Kathleen opted for pesto rice topped with poached eggs and prosciutto. Unfortunately, I couldn't taste hers because I'm allergic to nuts (pesto has nuts), but she loved it as well. I guess we'll both be going back there very soon.

After our meals, we waddled back to the car and headed further downtown for even MORE food -yes, the price of having foodie friends. She took me to one of her favorite boba spots, Boba 7, and we chatted some more - about Berkeley of course...

All in all, I had such an amazing time with Kathleen. We caught up on our past year's experiences and she gave me some words of advice on navigating my Freshman year of college. I have no doubt that with her help in mind, I will have a fun-filled, exciting year at Cal. Oh, and when we get together again, you had better believe that we'll drive more ridiculous distances for food like this. 

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