Monday, February 20, 2012


Eastside Road, February 20, 2012—
DROVE DOWN TO Berkeley for Monday night dinner Chez Panisse, to score with not one but two of the Hundred Plates.
Chicory salad with chanterelles and winter vegetables
Bouillabaisse à la Panisse
Tarte Tatin with Calvados ice cream
So there you have them: Bouillabaisse — gee, I do like typing that word-- and Tarte Tatin: two of the hundred great dishes.

About bouillabaisse there are two controversies, at least in my mind. One is the pronunciation of the word. For some reason most of the world seems to say something like bool-yah-base, or sometimes bool-ya-bez. What I say is more like bwee-ya-bess. Well, I say wah-cah-mo-lay, too: call me pedant.

The other controversy is the presence or absence of Wrong Shellfish. Sea-creatures with feet, that is: lobster, crab, shrimp. Bouillabaisse à la Panisse turned out, tonight, to have Wrong Shellfish, so I had an alternative, and it was very tasty — bass, I'd say, fennel, leeks, aïoli; with a few baby squid to make things interesting, along with sweet little mussels and tasty clams. Saffron, of course.

In my view bouillabaisse requires at least three kinds of fish, all of them preferably found fresh only within forty miles of Marseilles, perhaps some clams, perhaps some mussels. Squid seems inauthentic; Wrong Shellfish with feet completely out of the question. I know full well there are published "authentic" recipes involving crabs and lobsters; I know there are perfectly authentic Provençaux and -çales who throw such animals into the bouillabaisse pot. But I think this is done to make up for the lack of authentic fish.

Well, what the hell. Four weeks from tonight I'll be eating in Nice. I won't have bouillabaisse, probably: but I hope I'll have a soupe aux poissons. Maybe the night before, a little further west, I'll have bouillabaisse. I'll let you know, you can be sure. In the meantime, Bouillabaisse à la Panisse — surtout "ma façon", without feet — is pretty damn good. So was the Tarte; so was the ice cream.
Chardonnay, Domaine Labet (Jura), 2010; Rosé, Domaine Tempier (Bandol), 2010
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

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