Alice Waters, Chez Panisse.
1517 Shattuck Ave
Phone: (510) 548-5525
Persecco flavored with elderberry blossoms
Sheep’s-milk roicota and squash blossom pudding
souffle with rocket salad, cherry tomatoes, and piccolo fino basil.
2013 Weissburgunder Niedrist Südtirol Eisacktaler
Seared sea scallops with parsley and new garlic sauce
and fried leeks
2005 Bourgogne Blanc Clos du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet
Spit-roasted pork loin with lemon and rosemary’
romano and shell bean ragout and wild mushrooms
2014 Arnot-Roberts Syrah, Sonoma Coast
Peach Melba with boysenberry
2011 Jurancon ‘La Magendia de Lapeyre’, Clos Lapeyre
Dinner and Pairing Price: $125.00 dinner, $65.00 wine pairing plus 9 1/2% tax and 17% Service charge.
Comments: When I heard that Ray was planning a trip to Berkeley, California, I could not resist suggesting a meal at Chez Panisse. I have heard and read about it for years and knew about the difficulty of getting reservations so we called a month ahead and were successful. They serve a different menu every day and we didn’t know what was being served until the Monday before when they publish the menus for the week. The restaurant has an unpretentious inviting look even on the outside, but when you enter, the ambience is even nicer with well spaced tables, and a cozy, intimate feeling. The menu was set and we bought the wine pairing that went with it.
The dinner started with a aperitif of Prosecco that had been flavored with elderberry blossoms. Unusual and very delicious! Our first course was sheep’s-milk ricotta and squash blossom pudding soufflé with rocket salad, cherry tomatoes, and piccolo fino basil. The presentation teased the eye while the flavors and combination of textures pleased the palate. The wine that accompanied the first course was a light Pinot Blanc that was perfect with the delicate flavors of the soufflé.
Seared scallops with parsley & new garlic sauce and fried leeks came next and was accompanied with a white Burgundy. The scallops were perfectly seared and the sauce delicately flavored to complement and not overwhelm the scallops. The floral and mineral aromas in the wine set the stage for a pairing that perfectly intertwined the food and wine.
The main course was spit-roasted pork loin with lemon and rosemary, romano and shell bean ragout, and wild mushrooms that was paired with a California Syrah. The pork was tender and moist and went well with the complex flavor of the romano and shell bean ragout. We had never had romano beans, let alone a ragout like this, so it was a real treat. We were VERY surprised that the pork was paired with a Syrah; but the California ripe fruit taste was seductive and it was quite savory Syrah that in the end went surprisingly well with the pork.
For dessert we had peach melba with boysenberries that was served with a sweet dessert wine. The flavors of the ice cream and peach blended beautifully and the cool finish to our dinner was perfect with the wine.
Recommendation from the tasting: Our dinner at Chez Panisse was a huge success and we would go again soon if we did not live so far away. Everything about the experience was top notch; the ambiance, service, food, and wine. Our servers were attentive without being overbearing, they did not hurry us at all, and offered just enough conversation to make us feel welcome. When we showed an interest in the wine pairing our sommelier took time to describe the wines and why she had selected them. The fresh food was top quality as was the preparation and presentation and the wines were well paired. One thing that gave us pause for thought…why were three of the four wines we were served from Europe when the restaurant is located so close to the heart of United States wine country and the restaurant is known for using local products? Seems a bit ironical but it is not a big deal and in no way diminished our experience or enjoyment. We can’t wait to return to Berkeley, for sure we will make a reservation and return for another MEMORABLE dinner.