Friday, April 29, 2011

Chez Panisse

Berkeley, April 29, 2011—
LUNCH TODAY IN THE car: a tuna sandwich, made by the delicatessen counter at Ralph's supermarket in Castaic. Gloppy, with tuna of some kind, "mayonnaise", mustard (!), lettuce, tomato, on a sesame-seed roll.

But dinner! One of the best I've had in months. After a couple of apéritifs, welcome after a windy drive up Highway 5, and an amuse-bouche of pork rillettes and green olives, we had a beautifully balanced salad: frisée, leeks, artichokes, and smoked cod. Then a "Billi-bi," a sort of Norman Boston-style chowder but with mussels rather than clams, shallots rather than onions, no potato, and a discreet amount of sorrel. This is a delicious and neglected dish. The execution was perfect and I was taken back to the 1970s.

Main course: grilled Alaskan halibut with tarragon butter dauce, asparagus, deep-fried spring onions, and gigantic leaves of tender sweet mâche. And then, after tangerines and dates, a classic rhubarb tart with strawberry ice cream. Spring looking forward to summer; rhubarb commenting on tarragon recalling sorrel; intelligence and knowledge informing technique and careful, knowing marketing. Everything a fine restaurant meal should be.
Sancerre, Chavignol "Les Monts Damnés," 2009; Pedro Ximénes, Priorat, Odysseus, 2009; Chardonnay, Lioco (Carneros), 2009. All quite wonderful wines, and the Lioco an amazing one: I'd have sworn it was a Puligny-Montrachet.
Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525

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