Friday, December 14, 2012

Downstairs at Chez Panisse

Berkeley, December 12, 2012—
IT WAS ABOUT AS perfect a meal as you could ask, understated but in its modest way very intelligent. We began with a subtle salad: red lettuce leaves with small quartered hard-cooked eggs — pullet's eggs I'd say, if it weren't December — with tasty little beets roasted in the coals, then slipped of their skins, and curlicues of anise hyssop, dressed in a soft vinaigrette.

Then while others had a fish-shellfish brodetto I made do with a very nice butternut squash-and-chestnut soup, rich and warming, a perfect look-out-winter's-coming dish.

And then quail stuffed with chestnuts, pancetta, and sage, in a perfect reduction sauce, with soft little turnips and parsnip chips on the side.

Think of it! I ate beets, butternut squash, turnips, and parsnips, all in the same meal, all vegetables I absolutely detest, and found them all delicious! Something is terribly right here…

Dessert: apple-and-quince tarte Tatin. I've eaten a lot of tarte Tatin in my day. This was as good as any I've had, anywhere.

White: Petite Arvine, Rovettaz, Grosjean (Valle d'Aosta); Rosé: Marsannay, Château Audoin, 2010; red: Brouilly, Fleurie, Clos de Roilette, 2010. All true to type and well matched, and the white a particularly interesting and memorable wine
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

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