I don't really have a bucket list, per se, but if I did, eating at Chez Panisse would have been on it. I can't even remember when I first heard of Alice Waters or her trend-setting approach to food. But once I read the book Alice Waters and Chez Paniesse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution, by Thomas McNamee I knew I had to come. So when we started planning a trip to San Francisco, I started planning a jaunt over to Berkeley.
We opted to go just a few of us adults to Chez Panisse rather than all 9 members of our traveling party (including small children who I'm sure would have left a lot of crumbs to be scraped up by the crumb scraper).
It ended up being a lovely outing for me, my mom, and Tyler. We ubered over the Bay Bridge, saw a tiny bit of actual fog (finally!), and arrived right on time at the unassuming restaurant where we were greeted by a peace sign fashioned out of innumerable heads of garlic.
We ate in the café upstairs instead of the restaurant downstairs which is a prix fixe menu. In the cafe we were able to order a la carte which meant a chance to sample a variety of options.
What struck me about the entire dining experience - the food, the wait staff and host, the decor and music and even the wallpaper - was how simple and unassuming it is. Very straightforward and clean, without gimmick or frills, without complication or distraction. Very plain. Refined, I suppose. But also delicious (the food) and inviting (the ambiance).
chilled beet soup with yogurt, chives, and dill
fattoush: tomato, purslane, cucumber with mint and flat bread
pizza with wild nettles and sheep's milk ricotta
grilled eggplant with garlic cream, Provençal tomato, stuffed squash blossom with tapenade, and mesclun salad
hand-cut green noodles with Elliot Ranch lamb ragu, marjoram, hot pepper, and Parmesan
blackberry sherbet with Zee Lady peaches and an ossi die morti
summer berry shortcake with mascarpone
Ruby Grand nectarine galette with vanilla ice cream