Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse opened its doors in 1971, founded by Alice Waters and a group of idealistic friends. A neighborhood bistro, it is named after Honoré Panisse, a character in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s movie trilogy about waterfront life in Marseille (Marius, Fanny, and César), as an homage to the sentiment, comedy, and informality of these classic films.

From the beginning, Alice and her partners tried to do things the way they would like them done at a dinner party at home, with generosity and attention to detail. The Restaurant, located downstairs, is open for dinner Monday through Saturday, by reservation only. The fixed dinner menu consists of three to four courses. The menu which changes every night is designed to be appropriate to the season and composed to  feature the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry. (This is from the Chez Panisse website).

When I decided to go to San Francisco anticipation was building the month before my trip. I did not want to miss the reservation date. I missed the my first date so when I scored my reservation for my last night I screamed like a little girl. Now I had to wait to see the menu, which is posted for the week on Sunday. My night was  the all fish menu. The first course was a onion tart with mesclun and fresh anchovies, next up Grilled shellfish with cherry tomatoes and scallion and squash blossom salsa, the main course California white sea bass with rouille , wild fennel and tomato gratin, and roasted fingerling potatoes and if that was not enough dessert is presented and it was blackberry ice cream with meringata with peaches.

San Francisco’s BART transit system takes you to downtown Berkley and after a short walk there I was standing in the door way of “the” restaurant. Dinner was at six and as always I was a little early so I found a bench in front of a very popular pizza joint that have live jazz.

 Eyes to the watch six o’clock finally arrived and I was seated in the dinning main room. The menu printed was on the plate in front of me. From the first course to the last it looked amazing. The restaurant is set up with an open kitchen. I watched with fascination it was the quietest kitchen I have ever encountered. The only thing you could hear besides conversation was the chopping of the herbs. As I chatted with my server he invited me back once I was finished with dinner. As I was eating my fish the was a little commotion in the kitchen. And, there she was, Alice Waters, in the kitchen getting ready to sit down for her meal in the kitchen as well.  As promised, my server took me back in kitchen and watched the quiet symphony of the chef and staff prepare the dishes. As I walked deeper in the work area past the main stove and back to the pastry area I walked by Alice. She smiled at me and because she was eating I did not want to bother her and of course I was tongue tied as usual. She did smile at me at that made my night, no it made my trip.

I want to go back to San Francisco  and when i do the countdown to get my reservation in will start.

The entrance styled in Craftsman style

The printed menu

The very quiet open kitchen

This was the grilled shellfish with cherry tomatoes

California white sea bass , wild fennel and tomato gratin with fingerling potatoes

oooo, there she is behind the peppers

Blackberry ice cream meringata with peaches

cocoa coated almond and a salted caramel

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