Eating at Chez Panisse

My daughter was visiting with my brother in law in Oakland and I was excited about the possibility of their eating at Chez Panisse, Alice Water’s restaurant.

I talked with my brother in law and he seemed willing to make that part of their plans and we made reservations for them. Even weeks out, we were unable to get a table in the restaurant, but were able to book one in the café. We later found that the café accepts reservations up to one month in advance.

That day they visited the Asian Art Museum and War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. The dinner reservation was for 5. They drove into Berkley and parked down the street from the restaurant.

Chez Panisse is a part of the neighborhood near the Cal-Berkley campus. At the restaurant, you enter up the stairs to the café. The main dining room is downstairs.

The cafe is divided into two areas seating 40-60 folks at different sized tables. They had a table along the back wall in the busy, bustling room. A waiter worked through the menu with them.

My daughter had a butternut squash soup, salmon and berry tart. The soup was a spicy summer soup served cool and seasoned to have a bit of bite. This was my daughter’s favorite part of the meal. The salmon was served with vegetables and a light topping, similar in flavor to sour cream. The dessert had a light crust and tart blackberries.

My brother in law heard the folks at the next table raving about the lamb, so he ordered it.

While they enjoyed their meal, there was no sign of owner Alice Waters and no outward appearance of the “eating local” revolution she’s led….other than the food which the menu notes “is inspired by the market and changes every day. Alice and Chez Panisse are convinced that the best-tasting food is organically and locally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. The quest for such ingredients has always determined the restaurant’s cuisine.”

On the trip, my daughter also had dim sum in Chinatown, crab Louie in a restaurant in Tiburon overlooking San Francisco Bay and ate at the Fat Lady at Jack London Square in Oakland with my brother in law, father in law and his wife. She loved her trip to California and called us to ask if she could stay longer. We wanted to spend time with her before she heads to college and asked her to come home.

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