Saturday, August 9, 2008


A few months ago I bought from my local bookstore « Alice Waters and Chez Panisse » the romantic, impractical, often, ultimately brilliant making of food revolution. By Thomas Mcnamee.
Being a French, I was not aware of who she is and what she has accomplished for more than three decades. I was intrigued by the name of this restaurant ( So French), related in some articles or other Food bloggs. But that was it.
This book was a revelation about Alice’s story and the food revolution she made in the USA.
I myself, is trying to educate people how to eat well and healthy through Cooking Classes, and as a Personal Chef. So her words were wonderful to me because, living in Southern California where people are spending a lot of time in their car, working long hours, taking care of their family and children is tough on everyone. No time for cooking. Mothers around me do not like to cook and buy whatever their kids ask when going to the Grocery shop, they end up with a cart full of junk food, sodas, cookies, frozen food, ready-food or they stop by at any fast food or worst the fake “ home cooked” meal from Super Supper, Dream diners and other impostures.
This book is wonderful and every family should have it in its private library.
Anywhere it was with great expectation that I had Lunch at Chez Panisse Café last Saturday. Our dear friend was running the San Francisco Marathon, and I wanted to offer him, his daughter and his wife something special. They have been wonderful friends and helped us a million of times. My husband and my kids were there also.
I called Chez Panisse Café on July 2 around 10 am to make the reservation ( you need to make your reservation 1 month in advance)
Last Saturday was a perfect day to drive over Bridge toward Berkeley. The weather was sunny and fantastic, around 80’s which is wonderful for San Francisco area.
I wore a lovely French Beige” robe chemisier” bought in Paris and my Basque espadrille shoes from Saint Jean de Luz. It was like having a date! Even my husband was teasing me :“ You are not going to sleep the entire week before your lunch at Chez Panisse”.
Anywhere, we were driving in Berkeley and I was surprised to see such a lovely community, cute little cafes and bistros, restaurants, people having picnic in the alley located in the middle of the street. People looked radiant and happy. I was wondering if it was from Alice’s magic. She is a wizard.
We were running a little late, the reservation was made for noon for seven people, so I decided to jump out of the car and go straight to Chez Panisse while my husband was looking for a car spot. And there I was in front of Chez Panisse, my heart beating a little faster than usual. I was almost running up to the stairs to join the Café upstairs. Few people were awaiting to be seated. I was waiting for my turn patiently already spotted our long table ready by the entrance. On the right far from the entrance there was a little terrace covered with wines and in front of the entrance the bar, and on the left more tables and the open Kitchen! The floor was wooden, the tone was brown, a little dark but soft. Then my turn arrived and a friendly lady showed me the table and handed me the menu du jour! I was reading fast.. so many options and choices… I was glad I was the only one of my party… alone in this almost sacred place. Then everybody joined me. As I mentioned on the phone when I reserved the table we were having two young kids with us. Two leather boosters were ready for them. The table was simple with white tablecloth. Because of the wooden floor the restaurant was never noisy and people were not talking loudly as you can see in other restaurants. You have the feeling that customers appreciate to be there, and respect the place. A bunch of people tried to get a table for lunch without reservations but of course this is not possible.
They cancellation policy is tough but fair, if you do not show up they charge $ 25 per person.
Then everybody started to look at the menu. I could not see really anything for my kids so when our server showed up I ask for a suggestion. He proposed a simple tomato-mozzarella pizza, when I ask if they could add some Goat cheese on it because my daughter loves it he said: “ you can order the Goat cheese salad”, I was thinking yes but this is an extra $ 10 my daughter love only goat cheese not garden lettuces.. yet.
Anyway, I ordered a large pizza for the 3 kids and a Goat Cheese salad for my daughter.
The pizza was served with an extra thin crust, it was a beautiful pizza I could taste some of it and yes it as delicious.
Back on my menu, it was hard to make up my mind I wanted to try everything.
For my lunch I chose first : Roasted pepper and romano bean salad with almonds an ricotta salata for $ 9.50.When the salad arrived it was colorful, with green, white, red. I looked a moment at my plate trying to see all the ingredients and the perfect presentation. Then I taste it. It was so pure, so simple so delicious. The pepper was perfectly roasted with full of flavor and sweet, the whole almonds gave a nice crunchy, the beans were perfectly cooked and the Ricotta salata was very thin and salty. The dressing was light with olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs. D-E-L-C-I-O-US and refreshing.

Then I opted for the California white sea bass with green beans, eggplants, yogurt and mint at $ 22.The plate arrived, simple with every ingredients placed in one specific order. The fish was very light, white, pure and soft in your mouth, the eggplant, the yogurt with mint was a such surprise and it was so good with the fish. This is something I will serve for sure with my next fish. The quantity was perfect, but I was almost full. I was eating very slowly every spoon. I was in heaven. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Then the dessert. I could not decide between the farm peach and berry cobbler with king pluot ice cream, or the bittersweet chocolate pave with caramel cream, or the farms strawberry sherbet, ella bella Farm strawberries and langues de chat, Crème fraich ice cream with blackberries, raspberries and ossi dei morti…Everyone opted for the Strawberry sherbet, even the kids, but my husband and myself went for the Crème Fraiche Ice Cream at $ 8.75The texture was creamy not too sweet. The ice creams balls were surrounded by Blackberries. Raspberries marmalade and an “S” shape almond cookie was along the plate. I liked the taste of it but it was too dry. I tasted the strawberry Sherbet it was very refreshing almost like eating fresh fruit, it was really delicious the color was gorgeous.
It was a F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S way to end up our feast.

For the wine I had a Bandol Rose Domaine Tempier 2007 a little pricey but really worth it, full of flavor and light at the same time $ 16.23 the glass.

We had some espresso to end up the meal.

During the entire meal I could not stop looking at the lovely water carafe engraved “ chez Panisse” it was too lovely. I regret I did not ask if I could buy one I should have.

The only thing I did not like is that our Server was a little snob and not very nice, I was expecting a more warming service. I guess it was just professional, and everyone working at Chez Panisse looked the same.

I was not the only one to prize my lunch my friends and also my husband loved everything and every moment of it …

Overall it was an amazing lunch, with amazing friends, in a amazing place. A moment I will cherish for long time.


Laurie said...

Bravo Bravo Celine!!
What an amazing time you had and a fabulous review!!
I am so impressed with all your details, this was wonderful to read! :)
I was so anxious to hear about your trip to San Francisco and your lunch at the cafe of Chez Panisse!

You look like you have always been a Southern California girl! :) You are so young and gorgeous! :)

Hugs to you and I can't wait to look for that book
"Alice Waters and Chez Panisse"!


Flo Bretzel said...

Voilà un joli récit de ce déjeuner gourmand, il est vrai que Panisse fait figure de légende!