Saturday, April 5, 2008
Yesterday my mom, Uncle Steven, Zack and I all went to lunch at Chez Panisse. For those of you who don't know, Chez Panisse is a world renowned restaurant in Berkeley, CA, started by Alice Waters, a champion of local foods and all around amazing lady. It is very "California" with strong French influences. It is one of those foodie destinations, and as some one who grew up 20 minutes away from it and has only visited once (on my 21st birthday), it seemed like time to revisit.
We went to the cafe upstairs for lunch (they have a set menu downstairs for dinner and a cafe upstairs that's all "a la carte." One of the things I love about Chez Panisse, is that when you walk in, it really just feels like a home in Berkeley. Sure, it's a restaurant, but it's also like the places that my friends grew up in (plus gourmet food). We sat down and picked a variety of things (all local and seasonal and delicious). I started with the avocado and grapefruit salad with citrus vinaigrette.
It was really nice and light - very California flavors, with the citrus and the avocado (my photo is a little overexposed, but what can you do). I was a little embarrassed taking pictures there, but I sucked it up and did it anyways for all of you. The waiter noticed and my mom told him that I had a food blog, and I think he tried a little harder because of it (not that he wasn't good before, but you know).
Zack had this awesome pizza starter: Pizzetta with sorrel, brandade and egg.
Sorrel is a plant (and what my parents originally wanted to name me. Seriously), brandade is a kind of salted fish thing that tasted almost exactly like crab, and you know what eggs are. You cut a slice of pizza and dipped it in the egg yolk. Amazing! (I'm skipping my mom and Uncle Steven's starters - they were really good, but you can see them anywhere - fresh oysters and baked goat cheese salad)
For mains, I got the Soul Food Farm chicken leg al mattone with grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes and salsa rustica. I know, normally one does not order chicken in a restaurant, but I didn't feel like seafood and the other mains were already spoken for and I wanted as much variety as possible. Plus, Chez Panisse is amazing and they wouldn't serve it if it wasn't good, right? Of course, right.
So, here it is. It was really great! The salsa rustica was made of chopped hard boiled egg and parsley (it took me forever to figure out what the egg was and finally, I had to ask. It tasted like egg, but I also thought maybe it was cheese curd? I liked it).
Zack got Spaghetti with wild mushroom ragu and peas. It was probably my favorite main course. It had some sharp cheese grated on top and as Zack said "the mushrooms taste like beef!"
My mom had Cauliflower soup with orange zest and marjoram (not technically a main dish, but whatever). It was a nice puree with some milk (not cream) and chicken stock.
Uncle Steven had this sirloin sandwich with artichokes and shoestring potatoes.
I really like the fried potatoes. Normally, shoestrings aren't so wide, and I thought that was really neat.
For dessert, we all split coffee-espresso brittle ice cream (which meant there were bits of espresso beans and crystallized coffee - kind of like coffee rock candy - in the ice cream) and rhubarb tart with ginger ice cream. Here they are:
The ginger ice cream was really good - not too strong at first, but it kind of kicked you in the aftertaste.
All in all, it was a great visit to Chez Panisse! Some day, I'll have to go back and get the "fixed" menu - but that'll be another post.