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.
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.
“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. :)
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.
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. ;)
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!
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.
For my entree, I ordered the spring vegetable stew, which was a vegetable curry topped with basmati rice and dill raita.
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.)
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).
But trust me, it was plenty tasty.
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.
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…