Monday, August 31, 2009

Chez Panisse A Cult I'm Glad to be a Member Of

My third and final lunch at Chez Panisse was a perfect farewell to a wonderful week of great eating.

It was made all the more special to be able to share it with Neil (my bf of 22 years). It was his business trip out here that allowed me to tag along (albeit a few days earlier).

Maybe it was because I had requested it or maybe we just got lucky, but today we were able to sit on the porch, which I had been coveting since first laying eyes on it at my first lunch last Tuesday. In an earlier post I was grumpy about why it was the reservationist wouldn't promise it to me (pushy New Yorker) of course having been in the restaurant business for so long I certainly understand the need to keep things flexible and be able to respond to the dynamics of the day.

So it was with giddy delight that we were lead out to the porch to be seated. Not only did we get to sit there, but for the first 30 minutes of lunch we were the only people on the porch - our own private dinning room! Admittedly it only has three tables, but still...

The first thing the charming waiter did was bring us a bowl of complimentary olives, then we ordered. Neil had two appetizers a local albacore tune lightly seared on a bed of Cannellini beans with herbs and I believe some tomato concassé. His second dish was the daily pizzette which featured a house made brandade for which they salted their own Halibut. Now I can't wait to get home to salt my own Halibut. I love salted Cod the traditional fish that would be used in a brandade, but my feelings, as have been well explored here before is that Cod is not a fish we should be eating, over fished for years it has been off and on many endangered species list even caught locally I wouldn't buy it.

The pizzette was simple and tasty, with dollops of brandade generously dropped on the tomato sauce and cheese base, with a few red onions sprinkled about for good measure.

I opted for the $24 prix fix, a simple green salad to start followed by a small cazuela filled with a ragout of cranberry beans, pork belly and two very small back eggs with a side of heavenly garlic toast.

My favorite part of the meal came next, compliments of the house, on a hammered copper pedestal dish, sitting on a fig leaf, two small bunches of Bronx grapes (a small very sweet local grape) and a peach cut in half. Brilliant just brilliant so simple and so perfect. The grapes were little sugar bombs and the peach was perfectly ripe, but not over ripe and tasted perfectly of peach. Which seems like a strange thing to say, but in our detached grocery store no season culture it is easy to forget what real fruit, freshly picked in season can taste like: it was a revelation.

And as if that wasn't enough, I had my mulberry sorbet and citrus shortbread and Neil had coffee almond ice cream that with a generous dousing of dark chocolate sauce with some shaved chocolate thrown in for good measure. My sherbet had fine dice of home made candied citrus peel as a garnish which was a lovey, clean and fresh way to finish this wonderful and most memorable meal.

Thank you Chez Panisse.


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