Chez Panisse. My preference for the cafe over the restaurant is three-fold. 1). It’s a much more casual environment. 2). It’s not as expensive. 3). I get to order what I want.
It was my Food Companion’s Birthday and I decided to take the FC out for a nice meal to celebrate at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley. I was quite surprised that I was able to get a 7:30 reservation on a Saturday night about 10 days ahead of time.
I started with the avocado and marinated beet salad with citrus vinaigrette. It was simple and delicious. It is a dish that defines what Chez Panisse is all about – fresh and in season.
My FC had the pizzetta with wild nettles, black olives, and ricotta salata. I’ve always enjoyed their light and crisp pizzas and this one did not disappoint.
I was torn between ordering the chicken and the squid dish for my entree. The waiter convinced me to order the grilled Riverdog Farm chicken al mattone with fried onion rings, sweet corn, and basil. Al mattone means cooked under a brick and it makes the chicken skin crispy, crackling, and golden brown and the chicken remains moist. The sides were awesome too and provided for an altogether delicious plate.
My FC ordered the ricotta and green garlic pudding soufflé with asparagus, morel mushrooms, and thyme. I had a taste and it was delicate and delightful. It reminds me that I need to master the soufflé!
For dessert, the waiter brought my FC the Rhubarb and raspberry trifle with creme chantilly with a candle and a cute “Happy Birthday” tag. This was really good and the sweetness of the cream complimented the tartness of the fruits.
Although my first thought was to skip dessert because I was so full, I ended up with the Irish whiskey ice cream with bittersweet chocolate sauce and a chocolate wafer. The flavor was quite interesting and I enjoyed it. The cookie was light, crispy, and yummy.
Chez Panisse Cafe is a special occasion place and I look forward to more special occasions here.