Berkeley, February 21, 2011—WE CLIMBED THE STAIRS again tonight to eat in the Café, because we have to be here tomorrow anyway for meetings, and because Henry is flying out of Oakland at six in the morning, and spending tonight in Berkeley. Odd, to eat three dinners in this restaurant in five nights, but there it is. It could be worse.
We began with a dozen of those delicious little Tomales Bay oysters again. Fun, to watch a granddaughter carefully eat her very first oyster on the half shell, wrinkle her pretty nose, and put the whole thing off, I suspect, for another few years. But she's game.
Then we went on to puntarelle with anchovy, garlic, and hardboiled egg. What a delicious dish this is, always taking me back to Rome, with the earthy taste of the chicory-stalk heightened by the anchovy and garlic, transporting me back to the Campo dei Fiori. And what a beautiful egg, and beautifully cooked.
Then the main course, a ragoût of pork shoulder braised with red wine and fennel; with cannellini beans, rapini, and salsa verde. Slow cooked, probably partly in the pizza oven, it was deep and rich, a fine dish for a cold cold night.
Dessert? I was content with my soft, sweet, dusky dates and kishu tangerines, but there were four others at table, so we wound up with apple and prune-Armagnac tart with crème fraîche; bittersweet chocolate ice cream profiteroles with espresso praline; ruby grapefruit sherbet with candied citrus and a tuile; and white plum-blossom ice cream with lemon madelines. We'll fast tomorrow. Well, day after tomorrow.
Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525