finally did it.
i've lived in no. cal for 19 years this month. i'm a food and travel writer. berkeley is only 15 minutes away. but prior to last tuesday, i'd never dined at chez panisse.
i've long had an issue with alice waters. perhaps that's what's kept me at bay. she gets far too much credit for eating the way europeans have eaten for, like, ever. it annoys me. she annoys me.
when i lived in france, jeanette, the woman i lived with, took her little canvas bags to the outdoor market daily, bought was was good/fresh/in season and a crusty baguette or two, and that's what made it a table. not revolutionary, my friends. pretty basic. logical, even. so, why does this broad alice continue to get heaped with praise, awards, accolades and worship for laying claim to what's been going on forever in places outside mid-century american suburia? she hung out with the obamas at the white house, fer crissakes!
now that i got that little rant off my chest, i can say without hesitation, that chez panisse rocks! totes.
i've read so much about the importance alice puts on the correct way to wash and dress greens that i had to start with a simple "garden lettuce salad." while it was in no way mindblowing, it was perfectly simple and simply perfect. there was a respect awarded those greens. they didn't need goat cheese or figs or even a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato. they were just themselves, doing their thing with a perfectly restrained amount of oil and a hint of lemon. they were fresh, textural, alive. no dressing pooled beneath them. they had dignity.
on to the main course -- the "nortern halibut with chevril, spring vegetables and meyer lemon butter sauce" was otherwordly. why can't i make a piece of fish taste like that? i'd eat it every f'n day. once again, restraint was key -- as in not a heap of vegetables or a pile of pureed potatoes beneath -- just tender little sprigs of asparagus and peas bathed in Meyer lemon butter. perfectly cooked, perfectly executed.
dessert -- bittersweet chocolate pave with Earl Grey cream and a Brooks cherry tart with vanilla ice cream -- was shared among the table of six, so i only had a few ethereal bites.
ok alice waters, i know you haven't been losing sleep trying to win me over, but regardless, you did. chez panisse is everything i've heard it would be. but the hero worship and revolutionary status, i'm still not buying it.
i'll reserve that for antoine et jeanette my french "parents," who were eating and living that way before AW could say "organic, sustainable, home-schooled carrots."
*thanks marlowe, too good not to steal...