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Lunch at Chez Panisse

I had lunch at the culinary mecca Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley with Kris on August 22, 2008.   Just getting around to blogging about the experience now.

Eggplant and cherry tomato salad with walnuts and marjoram
Chez Panisse

We shared this salad as our starter.  A perfect opening to our summer luncheon.  All the produce was perfectly fresh worked together in harmony.  The eggplant was melt-in-your mouth tender, with its spongelike texture soaking up the olive oil in the vinaigrette.

Side order of anchovies
Chez Panisse

I LOVE oily fish.  We ordered these to munch on and to go with our bread and butter while we waited for our main courses.  Unlike your everyday canned anchovies, these babies were meaty and fresh-tasting, not just oily and salty.

Our server, Andrew informed us that there was a delay with our main courses (below) due to unspecified “fish issues,” so we just leisurely noshed on anchovies and bread and sipped our cava (nothing quite like bubbly in the afternoon, or any other time for that matter).

California white sea bass with green beans, saffron, tomato and aïoli
Chez Panisse

I guess in unpretentious California, “haricots verts” are just plain green beans.  But I’m glad they said “aïoli” and not “garlic mayonaise,” which I guess is literally what it is, but just doesn’t sound as tasty.  The aïoli was fantastic, I wish I could have a vat of that stuff to schmear on bread or to dunk french fries (“pommes frites” if you want to continue in the Francophone theme) in.  I would probaby would have licked the creamy, garlicky aïoli off the plate if I had not been in a restaurant.  Seriously, that good.

Wood oven-roasted squid and pimientos with rosemary and garlic
Chez Panisse

Our other main dish was also in the South of France meets California theme.  The little roasted pimientos were adorable and the squid perfectly tender.  At this point I was in heaven.  You really can’t go wrong with the holy trinity of fresh seafood, garlic and wine.  I’m drooling just thinking about this meal as I blog about it.

Andrew offered to give us a free dessert, so we went ahead and ordered two:

Plum tart with cardamom ice cream
Chez Panisse

Bittersweet chocolate pavé with hazelnut cream
Chez Panisse

The chocolate pavé is like a flour-less brownie, but much better than a brownie.  Chocolatey goodness.  The plum tart was amazing too.  Some of the best buttery tart crust I have ever tasted.

And just when you thought the food-porn another surprise freebie:

Mulberries and Pluot
Chez Panisse

The fruit was at the peak of freshness.  It was my first time trying mulberries and a pluot.  The mulberries reminded me of blackberries.  The plot is a hybrid of 3/4 plum and 1/4 apricot.  A perfect finish to a sublime meal.