The Café at Chez Panisse

April 1, 2014

On February 12, 2014, Herb and Dorie invited us to lunch at The Café at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

The café occupies the upper floor of this fabled restaurant. The main room downstairs is only open in the evening, with set menus that change every day and with prices that increase during the week. Those menus for the week are posted in front on the fence.
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The front part of the building was destroyed in a fire last year and has recently been rebuilt.

The upstairs café is long and narrow, with an open wood-burning oven and charcoal grill in a partial kitchen behind a counter. The main kitchen is downstairs.
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We started with glasses of prosecco. From the eclectic wine list we chose a bottle of 2012 La Clarine Farm “Cedarville” Mourvèdre from the Sierra Foothills; enjoyable and right with the cuisine.
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Freshly baked sourdough bread arrived.
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A good regional specialty.

Dorie’s first course was
CAULIFLOWER, PRESERVED LEMON, AND MARINATED BEET SALAD WITH FRESH TURMERIC AND GINGER
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She liked this and said that the fresh-crunchy textures were bright. She enjoyed using her sourdough crust to sop up the extra vinaigrette, which counterbalanced the natural sweetness of the beets.
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The rest of us started with
HAND-CUT STINGING NETTLE PASTA WITH WILD MUSHROOMS, CRÈME FRAÎCHE, AND GREMOLATA
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The nettle leaves flavored the broad pasta noodles. Their vegetable flavor melded well with the mushrooms and nutty crème
fraîche. The gremolata sprinkled on top added some zing. This was a very good dish.
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Linda’s main course was
TRUFFLED SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH GARDEN LETTUCES AND GRILLED BREAD
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She said that the scrambled eggs had a lovely flavor and the combination was excellent.
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The main course for the other three of us was
FISH AND SHELLFISH STEW COOKED IN THE FIREPLACE WITH SAFFRON, WILD FENNEL, AND AÏOLI
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The generous portion of seafoods was fresh and flavorful, nicely enhanced by its preparation, sauce and garnishes. We would have enjoyed a bigger serving of the excellent aïoli.
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Linda’s dessert was
BOB’S TANGERINE SHERBET WITH CANDIED KUMQUATS
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She said that the tangerine sherbet flavor was superb.

Herb’s dessert was
BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CUSTARD WITH TOASTED ALMOND CREAM AND PAIN D’AMANDE
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He said that he loved the bittersweet balance (not too sweet) and its well-complemented cream. 

Dorie and I had
ARMAGNAC ICE CREAM WITH BLOOD ORANGES, PRUNES IN ARMAGNAC, AND BISCOTTI
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Nicely balanced unusual flavors.

We were all happy with our desserts. 

We finished with a pot of coffee, made the old fashioned café filtre way.
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On the way out we stopped at the downstairs kitchen where prep work for the evening had started.
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The service, pace, noise level and general ambience were all good. The meal was excellent, making us want to return to Chez Panisse in the evening on our next trip to the Bay Area. Thank you Herb and Dorie for the idea and the invitation.

http://www.chezpanisse.com/about/chez-panisse/

The cover for the day’s menu evoked the Marseille of Panisse.
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