Monday, April 12, 2010

Chez Panisse and gardens

Although the weather was frightful the day was splendid, thanks to Linda and Chez Panisse in Berkeley. This restaurant is THE place to go thanks to it's owner Alice Waters. Alice Waters, chef, author, and the proprietor of Chez Panisse, is an American pioneer of a culinary philosophy that maintains that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. She is a passionate advocate for a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.” Over the course of nearly forty years, Chez Panisse has helped create a community of scores of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients. In 1996, Waters’s commitment to education led to the creation of The Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School: a one-acre garden, an adjacent kitchen-classroom, and an “eco-gastronomic” curriculum. By actively involving a thousand students in all aspects of the food cycle, The Edible Schoolyard is a model public education program that instills the knowledge and values we need to build a humane and sustainable future. The program is nationally recognized for its efforts to integrate gardening, cooking, and sharing school lunch into the core academic curriculum. Alice established the Chez Panisse Foundation in 1996 to support the Schoolyard and encourage similar programs that use food traditions to teach, nurture, and empower young people. The success of The Edible Schoolyard led to the School Lunch Initiative, whose national agenda integrates a nutritious daily lunch and gardening experience into the academic curriculum of all public schools in the United States.

So that gives you some background on the food of this restaurant, it's all organic, all fresh and all exquisite. I took pictures of everything (naturally) and the colors of the food were as striking as their flavors. I started with a beet and avocado salad that was a visual feast as well as flavorful one. I was engrossed in the remaining oil and beet combination seeing the plate as a real masterpiece. Shame they had to wash it off, it could've been 'framed'. My main course was the halibut with spinach, artichokes, meyer lemon, and chervil. Light, simple, delicate and perfect. The rhubarb tart with vanilla bean ice cream was the grand finale to be sure. The colors of this dish again dazzled me and they even gave me a candle with a "Happy Birthday" banner. I floated out of this haven, literally feeling a buzz from the good food and good times. Sadly Linda had to go back to work but we did stop off at her house to photograph her garden in all it's splendor. Linda is a master gardener, she takes care of the whole garden by herself and let me tell you this is a big garden. I had a field day taking pictures and I was tromping about in my white pants and beige boots in the puddles and rain. Too funny! A delightful day and one I won't soon forget. I must go back to Chez Panisse and for any of you who have yet to go I highly recommend it. Just don't forget to bring your camera. Thanks Linda for a fantastic lunch!