Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year's end

grilled pigeon with couscous
Berkeley, December 31, 2014—
FOR NEARLY FORTY YEARS we've dined on New Year's Eve with the same couple of friends, going to their house in the even-numbered years, having them to our table in the odd-numbered years. It's the kind of tradition that makes sense of the ever more quickly passing years, I think. It's familiar, warm, reliable, grounding.

Last year, though, we broke the tradition — we were in Portland for a daughter's birthday (January 1). We suggested that our friends fly up for dinner out, at a local steakhouse, and join us for Giovanna's birthday party next day; and they quickly accepted; and we had a great time, as you can read here.

This year, our friends suggested we dine out again, in Berkeley, at Chez Panisse. Since it was their turn to host we were in no position to object, so at 5:30 we met downstairs, on a cold, clear night, to a fine, understated, beautifully conceived and executed dinner:
Amuse-bouches: endive leaf with a scallop and black caviar
     Champagne: Tarlaut, NV
Feuilleté with black truffle and mushrooms on winter mesclun
     Riesling, Schossburg (Alsace), 2012
Ravioli filled with ricotta in butter (my reward for being unable to digest what liiked like marvelous Half Moon Bay spot prawns)
     Chablis, Patrick Pluze, 2013
Grilled pigeon "marocain" with Barbi dates, little carrots in cumin and couscous flavored with salmon
     Bandol, Chateau la Rouvière, 2005
"Bombe glacée tropicale": tropical fruit ice creams in a baked meringue
     Beaumes-de-Vénise, 2012, half bottle
The wines were interesting, true to type, and nicely calibrated to the meal, which developed and deepened as it went along — a very satisfying evening at the table.

•Chez Panisse
, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-848-5525

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