Chez Panisse Cafe

by janet on October 20th, 2009

YEEEEES.  Chez Panisse (Cafe).  On someone else’s dime, best part!  Of course, any proper foodie knows about Alice Waters and her Slow Food movement.  Absolutely, clearly, the most famous, basic knowledge that any proper foodie knows.  [I am not, by any means, wiki-ing it right now.]

OHHHH ok.  Apparently it’s “Slow” food in contrast to fast food.  So, basically, a movement toward, well, wait damnitall I’ve already forgotten.  Cut and paste:

“Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.”

I get it – like putting on a condom.

Well anyhoo, this is the mecca of foodie food, so I was jumping out of my seat with excitement.  My stomach was also chock full of nothing but caffeine and I was mistaking that gnawing nausea as hunger.  The bread was not warm but the butter was thick like cheese so I forgave.

I did not forgive the appetizer – a fish concoction pictured top.  [I was with new people and they are work people so I couldn’t be in 100% blogger mode and thus “fish concoction” is the best you’re gonna get with the food descriptions.]  The greens – overdressed.  The tapenade-esque glop on top – overdressed.  The dollop of fish – exceedingly pleasing in terms of texture with the crostini, but yech!  Soooo fishy!

My friend Checkers got an arugula salad and I stole one bite and froze.  The sodium from the dressing had made every neuron in my body have an action potential and I was momentarily incapacitated.  Not too incapacitated to not notice our neighboring table sending theirs back.

Off their game? Coasting on Alice’s name and cred? Or were my expectations impossibly high?

I told our server that I was contemplating the quail, and he told me that I should definitely order it and that everyone would be jealous.  That’s exactly the tone I wanted to strike with new co-workers (be jealouszors of my food betches) so I ordered it.

Amusing side story #1: I had brought Service Included to lend to one of my new co-workers to try to win her over.  She left it sitting on the corner of the table in a very conspicuous manner, completely un-diabolically (she is sweet to the core) but I was LOVING the glances and double-takes we were getting from the entire front of house staff.  Fully three servers asked us what the book was, and indeed, as a result, our service was five-star stellar. Good pointer for eliciting good service at any resto, though it requires a waitstaff that gives a shit.

Amusing side story #2: Checkers, who I gave a ride back to SF, is Nigerian. She told me many stories on the way home, but my favorite was how she likes to eat chicken bones and quail bones but understands that it can weird people out.  She told me about how in her office at Harvard, which she shared with an officemate, she would eat the chicken part and then nonchalantly wait until her officemate left to consume the bones.  On one chicken day she noticed her officemate getting distressed.  Upon asking what the matter was, her officemate said, “Checkers, I know you are embarrassed about eating your chicken bones so I try to leave when you’re having them for lunch.  But today I’m so busy and I have a deadline and can’t leave.  So please, go ahead and eat them in front of me.”  LOLit (lol, literally).

My quail was really good.  No one was jealous (just Checkers’ eyes bugging out, which I now understand was because she wanted to nom on my bones [winkety winkety]).  I couldn’t help but think, however, that putting a crunchy, deep-fried batter on anything will make it delish, whether or not it was part of a Slow Food movement and prepared lovingly by Alice.

Dessert – Meyer lemon sherbet with moscato dAsti and a tuile.  [I have this description because they are serving it tonight and thus on the website.] I had seen the magic (from the Berkeley farmer’s market) that Kashiwase Farms casts on their fruit, and indeed the taste of this captivating little dessert was intense and enchanting. A lovely cleanse of my palate given the…less than exceptional meal so far.

Gosh, I hate to be one of those downer blogs where they love to trash famous places.  But that salad was inexcusable, even for, like, a McDonald’s.  I should have stopped at the butter and basked in the good service, which was enough to fill me up.  This is an annual dinner so I’ll be back in five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred miiiiinutes and see if this night was a fluke.  Stay tuned (for a very long time)!

Chez Panisse Cafe
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California 94709
510.548.5049

2 Responses to “Chez Panisse Cafe”

  1. Kim says:

    Dude if you go to the Chez Panisse Cafe and do not order the baked goat cheese, there is something seriously wrong with you. I cannot speak to any of their other appetizers, because I get it every. single. time. (read: the 3 times I’ve been there)

    IT IS AMAZING. THE GOAT CHEESE THE BAKEDNESS THE OMG. The recipe is online somewhere, and we have it in our Chez Panisse cookbook, and it involves soaking the cheese in olive oil overnight before coating it in breadcrumbs and baking it until it’s orgasmic.

    Go back just for that. Please.

  2. janet says:

    OMG I <3 Goat Cheeeez! I bet it's panko breadcrumbs!

    OK, well there's no way I'm not going back, and I'm excited to try a tried-n-true one 🙂

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