Indulgence. I don’t get to do it much since I live paycheck to paycheck like most people. But today I decided to be selfish and indulge in a meal in the restaurant that changed California’s culinary arts: Chez Panisse.
For those who haven’t heard of Chez Panisse, it’s the birth of California cuisine and an eating institution that many well-known chefs got their start (i.e. Mark Peel, Suzanne Goin, Jonathan Waxman…). The restaurant prides itself in sustainable cooking – they’ve been doing this before the Food Network and celebrities made it cool to eat local. Tucked away in Berkeley, Calif. between shops and other restaurants is the rustic exterior that welcomes foodies and those celebrating a special occasion who have made reservations in advance.
Tonight we sat at the downstairs restaurant and let Alice Waters‘ team of chefs guide us on a culinary trip through California’s seasonal delicacies. But first, let’s take a tour through the kitchen. Oh yeah, that’s one of the coolest bits about this place – you’re welcome to stroll into the kitchen and peak at the chefs at work and chat with them.
Savory dishes station. I wish my photos had smell-o-vision because the aroma was amazing! Mix of garlic, onions, meats… I think I might have gotten slightly full just inhaling what was happening inside the kitchen.
The chefs were nice and the servers were super helpful when asked about ingredients and wine. What made this dining experience special was the pace. I never felt rushed to eat or leave. I was able to savor each bite and enjoy the conversation with the people I was dining with.
The atmosphere was was friendly and you could tell people came to Chez Panisse for a reason… whether it was for an intimate birthday dinner, a special date (cute college couple next to us couldn’t stop exchanging glances and holding hands on the table), or out-of-towners who made the pilgrimage for a delicious meal (ahem! yours truly)… we were all there for a special reason.
The flavors I tasted were not complex – it was simple and clean. So what did I eat? This…
I wish I could indulge more but I suppose if I did, experiences like tonight may not be as special. Then again, if food can be this good everywhere, I don’t think I’d ever take good food for granted.
Good food prevails in California!