by Amanda Polick
A slight drizzle began as I approached Lauren Herpich, who leads locals and visitors alike on her Rockridge Food Tour. As people arrived, Lauren handed out food tour maps, water bottles, and morning buns from La Farine French Bakery. As soon as the soft dough and sugar hit my lips, I knew that even in the rain this three-hour tour would be well worth the three-mile walk.
What started as a love for history, food, and leading walking tours in Chicago led Herpich to start Rockridge Food Tours in June 2014 after moving to the area. Momentum has built steadily, and her tour is already listed as one of the top things to do near Berkeley on TripAdvisor.com. Tours are offered twice a week on Thursdays at 2pm and Saturdays at 11am for $49 per person, and Herpich donates a dollar from every ticket to the Alameda County Food Bank.
I was surprised at the amount of history packed into three miles. Herpich hand-picked six stops including family-owned shops like Amphora Nueva, where we sampled a variety of olive oils including a fusion with North African green chili. The company is over 90 years old and still operated by the family; they mill and infuse their own oils so they can oversee the process every step of the way. At The Pasta Shop in Market Hall, cheesemonger Jason Plunkett gave tour members tasty bites of Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagon Wheel and Challerhocker from Switzerland. All the stops on the tour, which also include Zachary’s Pizza, La Farine, Ver Brugge Meats & Seafood, and Dreyer’s Ice Cream Parlor & Café, are places where Herpich regularly fills her own shopping bags.
Between eating at the designated stops and strolling to the next tempting location, Herpich pointed out additional local landmarks, such as Star Grocery founded in 1922. She also led the group on a detour through residential streets where she noted the architectural style of the Bay Area’s own Julia Morgan.
Three hours was barely enough to truly delve into Rockridge, and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and the treats along the way. I was surprised by the richness of history and culture in Rockridge and happy to eat and explore my way through the neighborhood.