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“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it taste like what it is. That is what we’ve learned at Chez Panisse after years of sourcing, preparing, and tasting food. Food taste naturally delicious when it has been grown with care, harvested at the right moment, and brought to us immediately, direct from the producer.”
I love history, and I especially love good food.
I enjoy immensely learning about the origins of something, how it came about, how it has lasted for so many years, the pillars upon which it has stood and the journey it has traveled. And if has anything to do with delicious food, my ears and appetite perk right up without hesitation.
As I shared earlier this week, in April, I began making plans to visit San Francisco, and at the top of my places to visit was to lock in a reservation at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant, the main dining room, for one evening during the trip.
Chez Panisse was first introduced to me when I stepped into the blogging world in 2009 which led me to learn about pastry chef David Lebovitz, turned food blogger (he joined me on The Simple Sophisticate podcast for episode #182), who was once a pastry chef at Chez Panisse. Through my many readings of biographies about Julia Child as well as other well-known food icons – M.F.K. Fisher and James Beard, as as well as Elizabeth David, I learned, many, if not all, had dined at least once, if not more than once, at Chez Panisse during their lifetimes. And then the icing on the cake has been Samin Nosrat of James Beard award winning fame for her outstanding cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, who, like Lebovitz and many other trusted and highly respected chefs, cooked at Chez Panisse. And that is just a taste of why I was drawn to this restaurant (pun intended ;)).
Fundamentally, Waters’ approach to food and cooking, spoke to me immediately. After picking up her cookbook The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution which was published in 2007, I found myself nodding profusely in agreement. And her love for the French culture didn’t hurt either.
“Good cooking is no mystery. You don’t need years of culinary training, or rare and costly foodstuffs, or an encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisines. you need only your own five senses. You need good ingredients, too, of course, but in order to choose and prepare them, you need to experience them fully.”
Waters earned her bachelors degree studying French Culture at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1967, and subsequently studied abroad in France where she began to fully appreciate the farm to table concept.
In 1971 she began with financial partners the restaurant Chez Panisse, serving one set menu each night, different each night, sourced locally, organic and in season. Forty-eight years later, this approach continues in the main dining room at the same location. In 1992 Chez Panisse was awarded Outstanding Restaurant and Waters was give the Outstanding Chef by the James Beard awards, and beginning in 2006 running through 2009, the restaurant earned a single Michelin Star.
Although the Michelin Star may not around at the moment, the restaurant has stood the test of time, and continues to offer multiple course meals, congenial service and impeccable presentation.
Now, let’s get into our meal.
First of all, how to acquire a reservation: pick up the phone and call exactly one month to the day prior to the day you wish to dine at the restaurant. So, for example, we made reservations for June 18th. I made a call on May 18th to secure our reservation. It was that simple.
The restaurant is closed on Sundays, but open every other day of the week. Mondays through Thursdays are less expensive than Friday and Saturdays (there is a set price per person), and on Mondays, it is a three course meal, as opposed to a four course meal every other night. You can also add wine by the glass, the bottle or pay for a flight in which every course will have its own wine pairing (we chose this option, but split the flight). An additional artisan cheese course can be added as well to be enjoyed just before dessert (I had to do this as well, and was glad I did).
Since the menu is different each day, the chefs prepare it one month in advance, and sometimes make changes a week or a few days before depending upon the food availability, the menus are for the guests to keep (see below).
For more than two hours, we dined, we relaxed, our appetites were satiated and delighted but not overwhelmed, and the evening was one I will not soon forget.
I have pulled together a video to take you through the entire evening, complete with each course’s description (except the amuse-bouche and apéritif course, as I was just took dazzled yet to settle in – my apologies :)). I do hope you enjoy.
“Plan uncomplicated meals. Let things taste of what they are.”
~chilled cucumber soup with fried squash blossoms~
“To become a cook you only need a few essentials: appetite, ingredients, a kitchen to work in, a few tools, and a few ideas about what to cook.”
~looking through the dining room. In the far background is the kitchen.~
~Seasonal Berry Savarin with candied pistachios and Chantilly cream~
~the facade and entrance of the building was classic and unassuming and quietly sophisticated, as well as welcoming all at the same time.~
~we arrived early as the trip across the Bay Bridge was quite swift even though it was rush hour, which gave me ample time for pictures taking.~
~Visit Chez Panisse’s website to learn more, view their menu and make a reservation.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~View TSLL’s Travel Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area which includes a map of all of recommendation destinations.
~Listen to episode #256 of The Simple Sophisticate podcast which shares our itinerary for the 72 hours we spent in the city and surrounding area.
~Be sure to check out TSLL’s Cooking Show – The Simply Luxurious Kitchen! The second season premieres on Saturday September 7, 2019 and each Saturday for eight weeks.
~All images were captured by TSLL, and all of the quotes are found in Alice Waters’ cookbook – The Art of Simple Food