Take 36 - Café Chez Panisse - A meal to remember
A little while ago, I was about to celebrate a birthday so I asked my husband to be treated to a Birthday Lunch at Café Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Chez Panisse is widely known because of the quality of its food and also because of its owner Alice Waters, who has been a guiding light and innovator of the farm to table movement, eating locally and organically here in California. The restaurant is also well known because of the fact that so many great and talented people worked there and went on to do wonderful things in the food industry. The two that immediately come to mind are David Tannis, who has at least two exceptional cookbooks that I know of and David Lebovitz, who has been living in Paris for the past decade, has a blog at davidlebovitz.com, and who has so many great cookbooks that I have stopped counting. But I digress, so back to Berkeley. There are two establishments at Chez Panisse: the restaurant and the café, both located in the same building. The downstairs restaurant is only open for dinner and the café, on the second floor serves lunch and dinner. Going to either requires some planning since you need a reservation which cannot be made any earlier than a month in advance. My husband was willing to treat me to this lunch but not to slave over the long process of getting a reservation. Since I tend to pick my battles, I made the reservation. (Get all of the details at chezpanisse.com.) A word of warning, you have to be patient. On the given day, one month before the chosen date I called and just like when you were a teenager and there was a contest on the radio and you kept dialing and redialing and kept getting a busy signal but kept dialing, thank goodness for the redial button these days and when suddenly there was no more busy signal and you held your breath hoping this would be the right time, well it was finally my turn. I spoke to someone, stated my business and was transferred to the reservation person. And finally, there I was with my date and time. The building is a beautiful one in downtown Berkeley on Shattuck Avenue. The architecture reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie houses. The decor is simple and muted but with a distinctive style. The food was sublime and the service was impeccable and attentive. Needless to go into what we ate since the menu changes regularly and you can rarely get the same dishes. An appetizer, a main course, with a glass or two of wine, a dessert and an espresso completed this wonderful meal. However, this kind of greatness will cost you. For us, it was over $150.00 but no regrets here since it was perfect and a long time dream on my part to visit this establishment. Not your everyday kind of indulgence but I hope to do it again in this lifetime.