April 12, 2010

A Meal at Chez Panisse

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As I mentioned yesterday, I got to fulfill a pretty major foodie fantasy during my trip to California a couple weeks ago. I had lunch at Chez Panisse.

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In case you haven’t yet made yourself acquainted with Chef Waters, allow me to introduce you to her eversobriefly, courtesy of the Chez Panisse website itself:

Alice Waters, chef, author, and the proprietor of Chez Panisse, is an American pioneer of a culinary philosophy that maintains that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. She is a passionate advocate for a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.” Over the course of nearly forty years, Chez Panisse has helped create a community of scores of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients. 

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“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.” ~ from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Alice also created The Edible Schoolyard program at a local middle school in Berkeley. By involving the students in the growing of their own garden, she has created an “eco-gastronomic” curriculum that teaches healthy, sustainable eating habits. You might also recognize her from Slow Food International, “a nonprofit organization that promotes and celebrates local artisanal food traditions and has 100,000 members in over 130 countries.”

I think you get the picture. But just in case you don’t, I have a few to share. :)

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Chez Panisse’s Cafe is cozy—hardly the crisp, intimidating atmosphere I expected. I should have known better. It is in Berkeley, after all. I probably should have gone whole-hog and worn something made of hemp, rather than worry about looking out of place in blue jeans.

The kitchen is even open for observation.

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I could have stood right there and made a meal for myself, but I thought better of it and sat down with my parents at a table complete with menus and everything. ;)

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Right off the bat, the bread was amazing. Again, I could have feasted on simple sourdough and butter, but I paced myself. A good thing, too—little did I know that my appetizer would be the highlight of my meal!

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It was a pizzetta topped with leeks and black trumpet mushrooms. I don’t know what kind of cheese it had, but no matter—this dish knocked our socks off. I say “our” because, as you can see by the photos, I immediately gave away slices to both parents so they could taste it too.

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For my entree, I ordered the spring vegetable stew, which was a vegetable curry topped with basmati rice and dill raita.

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This was delicious as well, despite the fact that it didn’t make my eyes bug out of my head the way the pizza did. (My eyeballs were grateful for that—they’ve had a rough time of it lately, and not just when I taste amazing food.)

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For dessert, we ordered the apple-cherry tart with vanilla ice cream; a plate of chocolate with dates and candied orange peel; and a flourless chocolate cake that came with a special cream (I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember what was special about it—I was still thinking about the pizza).

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But trust me, it was plenty tasty.

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While I’m jealous that my parents live within an hour’s drive of Chez Panisse, I can’t complain about them putting down roots nearby—now I have a place to crash between my many future visits. Right, parents? Many! Hint, hint.

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And yes, I know they’re reading this. I can hear them narrowing their eyes.

Have you ever been to Chez Panisse? Ever heard of Alice Waters? I only learned about her once I had my finger on the pulse of all things foodie-licious, but right now I’d much rather have my finger on Chez Panisse’s bread basket…

17 comments:

Mom said...

No problem with the "many" visits. Make it easy on yourself -- just come on down! Go West, young woman, Go West.

elise said...

omg, chez panisse is on my dream restaurant list. im very jealous.
i want to go to there.

Lele said...

Asking me if I've heard of Alice Waters is like asking me if I've heard of FOOD. I am an Alice Waters groupie 4 lyfe. I'm so so jealous you got to eat at Chez Panisse! And that pizza looks so intense woah.

Erica said...

Wow! This place looks great. I'm having a hard time deciding what looks best, but am going to go with the stew. I bet the rice made it just perfect. Glad you got to have this experience!!

elise said...

that WF ww naan is seriously my downfall...i eat the entire packages is one sitting, so now i can ONLY let myself buy it at the hot far in limited portions, haha


your trip sounds SOO fun. where are your parents exactly? i see nor cal reunions in our future...

greensandjeans said...

Oh my gosssssssssh! So jealous!

Hollafoodzone said...

ooohhh I'm green with envy! I've always wanted to go and your pictures just confirm what I've always suspected - awesomeness!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Wow,Diana! Nice eats. holy moly!

As for the comment you left me re having goals and not necessarily always jumping into something big OR just doing something, even if it's "small" but still doing it..but also feeling motivated seeing others do their goals....I totally loved the whole sentiment that i just poorly paraphrased but you get my drift.

loved your message!

Diana said...

The food looks delicious!

Simply Life said...

WOW! What an incredible meal out! You should send them your post! You just introduced me to this and now I really want to go someday!!!

Gabriela said...

SOOOO jealous of this meal!! That pizette looks incredible, and don't even get me started on the dessert...what a foodie dream!!

Katie said...

My mouth is watering. I've always wanted to go to Chez Panisse! I'm a little obsessed with Alice Waters.

Fayinagirl (means Free One) said...

OMG! Living vicariously isn't working...my tastebuds are crying out. ;-)

Christine (The Raw Project) said...

Wow, I've never been, but it's totally on the agenda for my next road trip to Berkeley! Amazing pics.

Shannon said...

ooh, looks like an amazing opportunity! that pizza? i'm sure you'll share the recipe when you recreate it, right? :)

Sophie @ yumventures said...

LOVE ALICE WATERS!! So jelous :)

Astra Libris said...

Oh my goodness, you got to dine at Chez Panisse!!! I'm soooo jealous - in a really good, happy for you way, of course... :-)