Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Special Gift

For Christmas, My Beloved's daughters gave us a gift certificate to a very special dinner. For my birthday, My Beloved added a little dinero to their gift and took me to Chez Panisse - downstairs.

Upstairs at Chez Panisse is a lovely bistro with well-cooked, beautiful food. I happily accept all invitations to upstairs. Downstairs at Chez Panisse, however, is a whole other experience. Downstairs, there is only one choice on the menu (although they do let you preview the menu and either change your reservation or change any part of the menu that doesn't work for you) and each course is the best those ingredients could possibly deliver. Downstairs at Chez Panisse is a revelation.

The food is simple, you'd say. For example, after the world's freshest little salad, we started with a fish course of a small square of rockfish surrounded by four tiny manila clams and swimming in a pool of fish broth sprinkled with just a few coral-colored steelhead roe. The broth was deceptively mild but carried a punch of fresh ocean, highlighted by leeks, anise and green garlic in the soup. It retained such a bright, mint green color that I knew at a glance how fresh it would taste. The rockfish was absolutely perfectly cooked. The tiny clams were earthy (or would that be oceany?) and rich.  The roe popped gently in the mouth, flooding it with rich flavor. No foam, no sous-vide, no bullshit. I all but licked the plate.

The whole meal was like that - a leisurely parade of perfect flavors with small surprises to delight the tongue. Such as the creamy gratin that was served with our grilled rib eye steak - it looked like scalloped potatoes but was actually made with black truffles and turnips. Turnips! I took a bite thinking I knew what to expect and loved being subtly surprised.

I could go on and on, waxing lyrical about one of the best meals of my life. Instead, I'd just recommend that you save up your shekels for an admittedly pricey splurge and go find out how the very best local restaurant can surprise you. That is their special gift.

7 Comments:

Blogger Namastenancy said...

I treated myself and my best friend to a dinner then when I retired. I probably still have the menu in a box of memorabilia. As you say, every bite is perfect.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014  
Blogger Diane said...

Oh what a perfectly wonderful treat. And your description of your pleasure in each bite is a delightful read.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, I was amazed - they have been doing perfect bites for 40 years!

Diane, thanks. If you come out this way, you really should treat E to this place! :-)

Thursday, February 20, 2014  
Blogger Greg said...

Good times! Still a hit after all those years.

Thursday, February 20, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, yes, they have not rested on their laurels - it's as fresh as when it began.

Thursday, February 20, 2014  
Blogger Namastenancy said...

Even Michael Bauer thinks that Chez Panisse is still on top: http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/diningout/article/Restaurant-review-Berkeley-s-Chez-Panisse-still-5238616.php

Thursday, February 20, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, yes, we read that review right after we had been to Chez Panisse, and basically agreed with every word he wrote, for once.

Thursday, February 20, 2014  

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