Trip to San Francisco
Posted 10 August 2002 - 11:31 PM
First off, parking in Berkeley is horrid. I would suggest that if you do go to visit, make sure you plan for it. We did, so we arrived 10 minutes early for our 11:30 lunch reservation. We sat in the wooden benches and watched the crowd gather. The doors opened on time, and we walked up the stairs to the cafe. We were seated at the far end of the cafe overlooking Shattuck street. There was a gently breeze to cool off the torrid heat, and we admired the restaurant. Lots of wood, not exactly fancy, but rustic. It's definitely in line with the cooking being done.
Cherry tomato soup with creme fraiche ($6.75)
Orangish red color, dollop of creme fraiche in the center of bowl. Great soup. I wished the soup could've been cold, as it would've been really refreshing considering the heat. It was very tomatoey, but i think a little more could've been done to accentuate the sweetness of the tomatoes. IT was also a little too creamy for my taste.
Albacore tuna and tomato salad with paprika, capers, and marjoram ($9.75)
My girlfriend ordered this. Man, was it amazing. To me, this dish, along with the fresh peach dessert really defined Cafe Panisse. Deceptively simple and all the flavors sang out. The tuna was cooked confit style and little shreds of it was mixed with the chopped, assorted tomatoes. Astounding. The whole thing was dressed with a Tuscan olive oil. Little bits of capers were tossed in along with a hint of paprika. Girlfriend said that it got a little too spicy for her after the whole plate, but we still smeared the bread (sourdough) and soaked up all the remaining oil. Probably the greatest dish I ate on my trip.
Eastern skate with romano beans, beets and chive mayonnaise ($18.50)
This was my first encounter with skate. It's kinda hard to describe. It's not the firmest fleshed fish I've ever eaten, but it's not soft and mushy either. I believe it was half a skate wing. It was coated with lightly seasoned flour, and then pan fried. Beets were roasted, then cut into slices. These were sooooo delicious especially considering I roasted my first batch of beets a few days earlier and I could really appreciate how perfectly they were done. Beans were fresh, and I think i tasted a hint of lemon juice. Skate was garnished with the chive mayonnaise. They served too much of the mayonnaise with the skate. Maybe some people don't like to taste the flavor of the fish, but I do. I used it sparingly and found they really matched well. Very tasty. The ingredients were prepared simply and I think that was the right choice.
Crostata di Perrella with goat cheese, mozzarella, prosciutto, garlic, and herbs. ($17.00)
Think pizza with a lid. I didn't have too much of this, but what I did have I found a little salty because of the goat cheese. THe crust was really good tho.
A Dry Creek Farm white peach and Bob's raspberries. ($6.50)
The peach was stunning. Perfect. It literally just gushed juice when I put it into my mouth. Nothing more to say. Raspberries were very disappointing. They had no flavor. I thought it was just me, but my girlfriend said the same. They tasted like nothing. I was really confused considering the reputation Chez Panisse had for getting perfect produce. The peach was sure good tho. It was served on a copper pedestal, with a leaf under the fruits.
Rio Oso Gem peach and mulberry tart with vanilla ice cream ($8.50)
Didn't have too much, I was too busy savoring my peach.
Service was very friendly. Very low key, easy going. All my questions were answered satisfactorily. When i asked what kind of olive oil was used to finish the tuna, a young man brought out the bottle, explained, and told me where to find it in berkeley. I don't remember exactly what it was, didn't take notes, but i could recognize the bottle if I had to. We didn't drink much, just a couple glasses of 2001 Navarro Gewurtztraminer grape juice ($4.25 a glass). Thick, syrupy, I think i tasted a bit of tropical fruit. Coulda just been my wacky taste buds. I also had a glass of 200 Sancerre, Domaine des Vieux Pruniers ($8.25). Can't really say too much. I'm not much of an oneophile. Sorry. :-( Kitchen was even nice enough to make me chocolate milk! And for free! That's about it. Any questions? I'll try to put up La Folie and Farallon tomorrow.
Have to add, I have trouble saying that this might've been my favorite meal considering it was the least expensive, but the two of us agreed that this was our favorite. Oh, and prices include tip.
Posted 11 August 2002 - 10:14 AM
Duck and Oxtail Consomme with a Foie Gras Flan and Seasonal Vegetables ($12.50) I've included a la carte prices for those who might be interested.
The bowl was brought to my table with a little ceramic lid. The lid was removed to reveal some baby carrots, beans, baby turnips (I think), slices of oxtail, and the foie gras flan. The broth was poured over the solid items. The consomme was nice and clear with a pronounced duck flavor. Vegetables were not cooked to my liking. Too crunchy. I think raw vegetables should be crunchy, and cooked vegetables should be a little soft. This was a problem throughout the evening. Foie gras flan was interesting. When I first placed it into my mouth, I just noticed the spongy texture. It wasn't until after I swallowed that I noticed the flavor of the liver. Nice dish. I like starting out with soup. My girlfriend got the Parsley and Garlic soup with a Ragout of Snails and Shiitake Mushrooms ($12.50) I really liked the garlic flavor but it was a bit too creamy. Nice presentation tho.
Foie Gras Terrine, Housecured Duck Ham, Tomato Raisin Chutney, Sauternes Vanilla Reduction ($21.50)
For me, this, along with dessert, was the dish that made the evening. There was a slice of the terrine of the left side of the rectangular plate, a drizzle of the reduction in the middle, a dollop of the chutney, and on the right side was 5 little slices of the duck with a tiny bit of micro greens on top. It was served with toast. The duck wasn't too great. I found it kind of irrelevant. The terrine smeared on the toast with the chutney was sooooo delicious. Bright red tomatoes with golden raisins. The vanilla reduction was good too. Pale off white, with flecks of vanilla bean. Really great. My girlfriend got the duo of lobster and albacore, citrus lobster salad with shaved fresh hearts of palm and micro greens, albacore tartare on a fennel apple salad ($24.00) It was really two appetizers in one. On the left was the tartare, the right was the small salad. She really liked it. Other appetizers I considered were the roast quail stuffed with foie gras with hazelnut vinaigrette salad, wild mushrooms and garlic jus for $23.50, and the seared hudson valley foie gras with figs and szechuan peppercorn in an aged balsamic vinegar sauce ($22.00).
Sauteed "Loup de Mer" Mediterranean Sea Bass with Summer Truffle Gnocchi, Chanterelles & Fava Beans, Jus de Poulet ($40.50)
The jus was far too salty. The bass was nicely cooked, crispy skin. Gnocchi were soo delicious. Just slightly crispy on the outside. Fava beans were mealy and unappetizing. There were morels along with the chanterelles. All in all, an okay dish. Not particularly interesting. I love fish, so it was okay tho. My girlfriend got the "Spiced Butter" Poached Lobster on Confit Tomatoes, Peas and Fava Beans, Citrus Beurre Fondue ($43.50). THe lobster was delicious, vegetables were undercooked. Annoying. I didn't have too much so I'm not going to comment.
Trio of Rabbit (Loin, Rack and Braised Leg) roasted with Spring Vegetables, Roast Garlic Natural Jus ($36.50) I really liked the loin and leg components of this dish. THe loin was made into a sausage like item. Rabbit skin encased a cylinder of loin and vegetables and garlic. Leg was also well done. It was stuffed with morel mushrooms. Rack was soo annoying to eat. They left the rack whole. There was so little meat to eat. I wish I could've picked up the rack and started sucking the meat off the bones, but not in the formal setting of a restaurant. Undercooked vegetables. MY girlfriend went with a cheese plate. Five different french cheeses, garnished with fig bread, honey, walnuts glazed with anise, grapes, and apples. Really fun to mix and match cheeses. I regret that I do not remember the names of teh cheeses, but there was a brie, blue cheese, a goat/cow milk cheese, a sheeps milk cheese with herbs and some funky really smelly cheese. This was available for a five dollar supplement.
Desserts were fun. I got coconut tapioca with passion fruit sorbet, coconut tuille and basil infusion. Mind boggingly good. The basil really worked well. The girlfriend got a mixed berry terrine with balsamic soaked strawberries and mascarpone cream. I swear to god they used jello to hold the terrine together.
Okay, what else. Umm, they served tomato consomme with goat cheese for the amuse. I could've swore there was some smoked meat product flavoring the liquid. For a palate cleanser before dessert, they served mint and lime granite. I think there was also a liberal helping of basil in there too. They also gave us petit fours, blueberry scones, chocolate hazelnut cookies and some cherry square. It was like a square of fruit essence. Kinda jelly like. My favorite tho. I should mention there was a truffle option. For 25 dollars an ounce, the chef would shave truffles over a dish. They brought a giant basket of truffles to the table to show us and to let us smell. Pacing was slow. This was good to let us rest our stomachs between courses. There was a lot of food to be eaten. Didn't really like our waiter too much. He always seemed to want to be somewhere other than helping us out. I liked the busser Jorge tho. He was a nice guy. I don't know what else to tell. Any questions? I'll get to Farallon later.
Posted 11 August 2002 - 07:39 PM
Posted 12 August 2002 - 07:41 AM
Posted 12 August 2002 - 08:51 AM
This was a fun restaurant. The decor, for those of you who don't know, is simply amazing. THe whole interior looks like an undersea playground. I can't describe it, it must be viewed with the eyes. We walked in for Saturday lunch and were seated no problem. We later learned that this was slow for a lunch. I'm not very good at conveying ambiance and all that so i'm just gonna get straight to the food.
I decided to go with the lunch five course tasting for $38 dollars. My girlfriend decided to do the lunch three course for $19 and toss in the softshell crab main course. Needless to say, all the seafood was exceptionally fresh.
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Tartare with blue lake beans, nicoise olives, orange, quail egg.
I'm a huge fan of fish tartares and this reminded me why. The tuna was cut chunky as opposed to the fine mince job lots of places do. I like to be able to sink my teeth into a piece of fish and chew it up. The olives were a nice touch. They were pureed and small drops were placed around the plate. I didn't much like the raw egg. The yolk was nice, but the egg white just added a gooey sliminess. The presentation was a bit sloppy. The tartare was served in the typical cylinder shape, but it wasn't as 'tight' as I've seen it at other restaurants. Great dish to begin lunch with. My girlfriend got a sweet corn soup with lobster oil and tarragon. I thought this was a bit salty on my first spoonful, but once I had a bite with kernals of corn, the sweetness of the corn tempered the salt to a certain extent. very rich soup.
Osetra caviar ontop of sweet corn ravioli, truffle jus.
A single round ravioli filled with sweet corn (i think there might've been a touch of crab in there too?) sorrounded by truffle broth with a bit of chopped truffle in it. The pasta was a little too al dente for me but maybe I'm just used to overcooked, flaccid pasta. This was my first time eating truffles. Kinda gamey. Not in a bad way tho. Interesting flavor. My girlfriend sat this course out, as she had a total of four as opposed to my five.
Seared Mediterranean Rouget with lobster mushrooms, cranberry beans, torpedo onion soubise.
The filet of rouget was the smallest fish I've ever seen. Literally, it was the size of my thumb. THe soubise was terribly salty So were the beans. I don't recollect much else about this dish. A little disappointing. My girlfriend got her Chesapeake Bay Softshell Crab with potato gnocchi, toxbox tomatoes and tarragon. Another first, softshell crabs. It was breaded in cornmeal, and fried. These things are really good. It was a nice textural contrast with the fluffy gnocchi. Can't say much more as I didn't have all that much.
Tender Shortrib of Beef with black truffle macaroni & cheese, watercress, natural jus. THe beef was really solid. It had that gelatinous tender texture I love. The red wine flavor in the beef was a little too pronounced. It could've been a bit more subtle. The mac and cheese with truffle was more like mac and cheese with the truffle broth from the aforementioned ravioli dish. Loved the beef tho. The gf got an amazing roasted local king salmon with baby roasted fennel, cranberry beans and aioli. The fish was perfectly done. Seasoned on both sides, perfect crackly skin, and the interior was a little rare just the way we like it. The aioli was nice, and I loved the baby fennel. So sweet! The accompanying liquid at the bottom of the bowl was a little salty tho. All in all, I really enjoyed this dish.
Verbena Panna Cotta with figs and almond raspberry biscotti. I was supposed to get the Plum Upside Down Cake with pecan praline anglaise, and black plum ice cream, but I told the waiter I wasn't the biggest fan of plums and he arranged it so I could order whatever dessert off the regular menu I wanted. The figs were terrific. I had never had a panna cotta either. I dunno how to describe it. Really really really creamy. I assume it's italian. Biscotti were wonderful dipped in coffee. I couldn't taste raspberry at all, but I think i noticed some fennel seed. My girlfriend got the summer berry pavlova with strawberry sorbet, mixed berries and vanilla anglaise.
The waiter we got was extremely friendly. We were the last one's in the dining room, so he chatted with us for a while, and he even brought over a copy of the restaurant cookbook for us to flip through. Just a real standout. If we ever go back, which we probably will, we're going to try to request him. Any questions?
Posted 12 August 2002 - 08:55 AM
No chance at Fleur de Lys. It's a little too expensive after all my spending this weekend! And we're out of teh bay area too. We drove back to Sacramento on saturday afternoon after lunch. We are plannign to go back to Farallon for lunch if we can get our waiter. He's that good.
Posted 12 August 2002 - 09:37 AM
If you get a chance sometime, try the Bouelevard restaurant. My meal there was outstanding. One of the best meals I ever had.
Glazed Sweetbreads ($12.95)
-Ruby cresent potato, Fava beans & Roasted Onions, Frisee Salad w/ warm Pancetta Viaigrette.
Excellent combination. Sweetbreads were preped and cooked perfectly. It was tossed in a light veal demi, not too overpowering just enough to coat the sweetbreads.
Wood Oven Roasted Veal New York Steaks w/ Gorgonzola Butter, Veal Cheek Braised in Red Wine ($28.50)
-Assorted spring vegetables, Soft Polenta w/ Marscarpone, Herbs & Roasted Garlic
Some of the most tender veal steaks ever. I love to order veal out. There are so many ways to tenderize and prepare it. This was one of the best. Only thing that I regret is fact that I treated my palate to some similar flavors. Both dished consisted of a similar demi glaze. I think I would have liked to try something else. But that was a result of my mis-ordering, and the fact that I am automatically drawn to veal dishes.
Valrhona Chocolate Mousse ($9)
-Layered w/ Caramel and Whipped Cream, Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brandy Snaps, Coffee Ice Cream
It was served as a sampler platter. Everything was great. Come on, who could resist warm, out of the oven, choc. chip cookies.
Caymus Connundrum 1997 (?)
I know your going to say "with veal???" and I'm going to reply w/ yup. I reccomend wines to people all the time to compliment there dishes. This time I personnaly deviated w/ that and drank what ever I had the erge for and it was great. The 97 has a strong oak edge once it warms up and I like that w/ a strong veal sauce.
Best part of the meal was chatting w/ the chefs. I ate at about 6pm on a weekday, when they weren't that busy and sat up at the service bar counter where all the line cooks are doing there thing. Fun to watch and good conversation. Not to mention you can survey all of the outgoing dishes.
Posted 12 August 2002 - 10:03 AM
We were thinking about BOulevard, but the fact that they didn't serve lunch on saturday, and that my girlfriend is a seafood freak ruled them out. I'd like to go sometime tho, i got a menu in the mail and it looked interesting. it looks a little complex tho. i really liked chez panisse for the simplicity of the dishes. are you in the industry? did you visit boulevard on a visit or are you in the area?
Posted 12 August 2002 - 11:48 AM
I have a copy of their lunch menu, but I'm not sure what days they serve. Looking at the menu, it did look slightly complicated, but after eating there I was pleasantly surprised to notice no off beat combinations or preperations.
I also ate chez panisse, but had to eat upstairs on last minutes notice. I didn't enjoy it that much at all. But i'de like to try it again sometime.
I was just visiting the bay area. I am from NY (upstate) but currently working in Louisiana for past 2 years. Unfortunately in Engineering, not in the food industry. I used to work in a few good restaurants in college, now I just test out dishes and menu's for my friends. I am actually getting ready to drop this engineering stuff and head up to the CIA in NY (coincidentally 5 min from where I grew up).
Currently applying for some scholarships and grants. Know of any good ones?
Posted 17 August 2002 - 02:09 PM
Thanks for the great notes on the meal at Chez Panisse. I grew up in Berkeley so I always like to hear that this outstanding institution of CA cuisine is still going strong.
If you have the chance, go for dinner at the restaurant downstairs. I have only been a few times, but both were exceptional. (The cafe was as fancy as we got when I was growing up.) I love the fixed menu--something is always included that I would NEVER order a la carte, and I enjoy expanding my horizons.
I agree that the environment is wonderful. Not too fancy, so you can feel relaxed, but still special.
Looking forward to trying Farralon on a future trip up North. Any chance you could share the name of the great waiter?
Posted 18 August 2002 - 08:09 PM
we're thinking of heading out to the downstairs restaurant for a meal there. i think i like the upstairs tho. i mean, i like being able to choose what i eat. don't get your hopes up about eating at farallon. i mean, the food's nice, but it ain't gonna knock your socks off. don't get me wrong, it's still pretty good food in general.
Posted 19 August 2002 - 04:57 PM
Posted 19 August 2002 - 05:45 PM