Berkeley, July 3, 2012—NO FAST TODAY, no indeed: we're in Berkeley; let's go to the restaurant. Chef's putting on menus from the south of France, "west of Marseille." Nîmes, that means, and the Camargue. We can fast tomorrow.
We began with salad: green beans and cucumbers tossed with cherry tomatoes, basil, and crisp-fried little anchovies, in a drizzle of soft olive oil.
Then risotto — why not? the Camargue's noted for its rice — with roasted squid stuffed with breadcrumbs, squash blossoms, and scallions, a colorful dish with a fine mix of textures…
Then pork loin from the spit, in its rosemary-laden jus, and accompanied by a quick braise of peppers, zucchini, and eggplant — yet the effect was French, not Italian. Well, maybe a teeny bit Comté de Nice. Oh: and those marvelous little potatoes, buttery, crisp-edged, soft-centered…
Then, taking us back west of the Rhône, cherry clafoutis, one of my very favorite desserts, with a scoop of Kirsch-flavored ice cream. A marvelous dessert, just like Lindsey used to do in the old days.
We ate at my favorite table downstairs, in the kitchen, between the pastry and the salad stations, attentive to the intense yet easy focus this fine crew brings to its work. What a pleasure; what a distinct pleasure.
Txakoli, Ameztoi (Basque) (herbal, very dry, spritzy, very pleasant); Languedoc, Château La Roque Clos des Bénédictins (Marsanne, Roussanne), 2010 (smooth, deeply flavored, rather unctuous, perfect); Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Azienda Agricola Cos (Sicily), 2009 (a favorite winery of ours, beautiful varietal character, carefully made yet full of personality, deep, long-lasting)• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525