11 October 2011

My Dream Lunch and a Winner!

There is a restaurant I’ve wanted to visit since I first read about it when I was in grad school. It just ticked all the boxes for me, and I’ve had it on my list of things to so ‘someday’ ever since. 

Whenever we came to the Bay area I tried to get reservations, but I was always too late. This trip, however, a friend of Dan’s invited us for lunch. He’d managed to get the reservations by staying up till midnight and at 12:01on the day they were available he pounced. Needless to say, I was thrilled! 

When we arrived, we were shown to the dining room, shaded against the strong California sunlight. It was simple but elegant, with Craftsman-style details and glassware glowing in the filtered light.

I love glassware, especially when it’s backlit. I had some trouble taking photos, because I had my point and shoot camera (the Nik-ette) and the light was dim. But I did my best! 

The waiters were veryvery good, and not hard on the eyes either. 
After we had ordered I wandered back to the open kitchen to investigate. Everyone was extremely friendly and open to answering questions. I was a little surprised at that, since they were also extremely busy. But they never missed a beat--they kept on working and chatted away at the same time. The atmosphere was calm, collected and veryvery professional. But warm and California-friendly at the same time. 

I was fascinated by the wood-burning pizza oven. The fire was burning hothot inside, and the pizzas cooked in minutes. But they also used it for other things--roasting peppers in this case. I was especially interested in how they started the fire and how they put it out when they were finished cooking for the day. The chef explained to me that they brought the andirons to the opening in the morning and built the fire. Then they pushed it back to the side for the day. It burned for the whole time they needed it with the fuel they had used to start it. At the end of the day they just let it die out and re-started it the next day. 

You want to know what I ate, don’t you? Of course you do. I started with a warm goat cheese salad. It came as a plate of beautiful greens with two warm rounds of goat cheese. Where I live this salad is a classic, and I eat it often. This was the best I’ve had. As expected, the greens were sparkling fresh and perfectly dressed. The goat cheese was mild and just warm enough. Perfect! No photo, though. I’m sorry. I promise to do better.
For my main course I had Chicken al Mattone, which is the thigh and drumstick, de-boned and cooked under a weight. This makes the skin crispy and ensures even cooking of the meat. It was served with some sugar snap peas and a salsa made from tiny yellow tomatoes tossed with chopped herbs and vinaigrette. There were also some paper thin slices of potato deep fried till they were crispy. We fought over those. I DID take a photo of this plate, though. I apologise for the lighting. 

Dan and several others at our table had merguez sausage with poached eggs. They said it was wonderful. 
For dessert I had bittersweet chocolate ice cream with salted caramel sauce. I was so excited about the first chocolate I had eaten since June that I forgot to take a photo. Sigh. I guess I won’t be getting the blogger-of-the-month award...
On the way out I took some more photos, though, just for you...

Have you guessed where we went? Of course you have!

Yes, it was Chez Panisse. It turns out that it was too easy for you all. I never should have given you that hint! In any case, we have a winner. I wrote all the names of the correct guessers on pieces of paper and put them in Dan’s hat. With much ceremony he shuffled them around and drew out.........Sam at My Carolina Kitchen. 
Congratulations, Sam! If you send me your address I’ll get your chocolate in the post to you. As soon as we land. 


All Things Yummy said...

Wow, that's awesome you went there for lunch.

Susan Lindquist said...

What a tour! Thank-you, Kate!

The Gypsy Chef said...

Yum! I'm now starving! great pics! Glad you had a great time!

Carol at Serendipity said...

I went there for lunch a few years back. I called and talked to her "person" and Alice and I had lunch together. Unbelievable! She had prepared samples of lunch and dessert. Unforgettable. Glad you loved it.


Linda said...

You lucky girl! Thanks for the lovely pics!
I know you enjoyed every bite!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I can't believe I've won. Wow. Thank you so much. My life has been hectic the past two weeks with a death in the family, more family followed us home, then house time to visit my friends.

I'm so glad your dream came true. Looks like an amazing place.

Barbara said...

Wonderful tour, Kate! And congrats to Susan!

Valentina said...

How intimate it look. Fell in love with the cooker. And the lovely water jugs. Or are they carrafes? I've read so much about Chez Panisse. It was lovely to have had a peak without really being there. Loved your friend's move to get a table. Should do the same to get a table at Dinner, the Heston Blumenthal restaurant in London.

Joan Corey said...

HI Kate,
My neighbor just came over and showed
me how to post a blog. Enjoy the pictures of Chez Panisse. Sounds scrumptious. Also went to CIA back East and it was an experience. So envious of your Florence trip! With my 96,000 United miles, I hope to visit soon. Love, joan