“Take a picture of that butter.” Maybe we were just caught up in the moment but even the butter tasted better than average butter. Is that possible? I have always wanted to eat at Chez Panisse, despite Anthony Bordain’s friendly gripe about the restaurant’s founder and head chef, Alice Waters. Personally, I think Alice is baller. Not only does she push the importance of organic and local food, she started doing it way before it was trendy. Now chefs across the globe are striving to use local ingredients and you’re seeing seasonal menus popping up everywhere. With all of that said, let’s just say that I was a tad bit excited when I heard we had a reservation in the downstairs dining room nestled in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley.
Despite Chez Panisse’s semi-permanent standing as one of the top 50 restaurants in the US, there wasn’t that expected pretentiousness. The wait staff was very knowledgeable without being stuffy and the dining room was dimly lit and warm—a nice contrast to the chilly, foggy air outside. In a way that I haven’t experienced many times, the setting transported me into a rustic farmhouse kitchen in the French countryside. Our meal started with a cherry infused processo. Chilled and refreshing. The next course and overall favorite of the evening was the almond soup. Silky smooth with nutty and earthy flavors. It was simply fabulous and has been added to my “Best List”. The rest of the meal included halibut tartar with fresh mint, squab ravioli with eggplant ratatouille, beef tenderloin with squash blossom butter and plum nectarine cassata. It may have been a once in a lifetime meal for me but. . . check it off the bucket list.