Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chez Panisse

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Chez Panisse is one of my favorite restaurants, and I can always get my son Cooper to come along too. It has been known as one of the top restaurants in the United States for over 20 years.

Chez Panisse opened its doors in 1971, founded by Alice Waters and a group of idealistic friends. A neighborhood bistro, it is named after Honoré Panisse, a character in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s movie trilogy about waterfront life in Marseille (Marius, Fanny, and César), as an homage to the sentiment, comedy, and informality of these classic films.

From the beginning, Alice and her partners tried to do things the way they would like them done at a dinner party at home, with generosity and attention to detail. The Restaurant, located downstairs, is open for dinner Monday through Saturday, by reservation only. The fixed dinner menu consists of three to four courses. The menu which changes every night is designed to be appropriate to the season and composed to feature the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry.

Prices for the restaurant are $60 on Monday, $75 Tuesday through Thursday, and $95 on Friday and Saturday (not including beverage, a 17% service charge, and 9.75% tax). Monday night’s menus are typically simpler and more rustic or regional than on other evenings. Friday and Saturday night menus are somewhat more elaborate.

The Café at Chez Panisse, located upstairs, opened in 1980 offering an alternative to the set menu served in the Restaurant downstairs. The Café serves a moderately priced à la carte menu for both lunch and dinner. It has an open kitchen along one side of the room with a charcoal grill and a wood-burning oven. The menu is inspired by the market and changes every day.

Alice and Chez Panisse are convinced that the best-tasting food is organically and locally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. The quest for such ingredients has always determined the restaurant’s cuisine. Since 1971, Chez Panisse has invited diners to partake of the immediacy and excitement of vegetables just out of the garden, fruit right off the branch, and fish straight out of the sea. In doing so, Chez Panisse has established a network of nearby suppliers who, like the restaurant, are striving for both environmental harmony and delicious flavor.

David and I spent Bastille Day, Wednesday, July 14 at the cafe. For starters we had a glass of cava and Canard Farm rocket with anchovy, garlic, and egg (David) and Pizzetta with tomato sauce, Monterey bay squid, and aioli (Kristy picture above).

Next was a bottle of 2007 Saumur-Champigny with Liberty Farm duck leg confit cooked in the wood oven with frisee salad, fennel, roasted figs, and sage (David) and Rigatoni with shell beans, tomato, pancetta, savory, and ricotta salata (Kristy).

Finally, Blue Bottle coffee with Frog Hollow Farm Blenheim apricot tart with noyau ice cream (David) and Mint-chocolate ice cream with bittersweet chocolate sauce (Kristy).

Everyone should experience the wonders of Chez Panisse, and now they are even on open table!

Dinner? I am making Spanish Garlic Soup with an egg. It is olive oil, garlic (it is Bastille Day), homemade chicken broth, paprika, cumin, saffron, a few slices of stale bread and two eggs that will be cooked until just set, right in the soup. It is delicious, very healthy and light and neither one of us could really eat much more than that!