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Chez Panisse Bans Bottled Water


Pontormo
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Those of us who watched the conversation between Michael Pollan and John Mackey at Berkeley know that the CEO of Whole Foods believes that Omnivore's Dilemma cost his business around two billion dollars in sales.

Are the heads of Evian and San Pellegrino the next to watch their profits go down the drain-- thanks to the journalist's book?

According to a report on NPR tonight, Chez Panisse stopped selling still bottled water to its patrons months ago. As the general manager of the restaurant explained, the environmental impact of bottling and shipping water from Europe was of concern, especially since a perfectly good alternative comes out of the faucet.

More recently, the restaurant installed a machine that carbonates the water to the same rather light degree as the effervescent import they no longer carry. I don't remember if the webcast of the Berkeley debate included a glimpse of Alice Waters in the audience, but her friendship with Pollan is common knowledge. Her business's move is very much in the spirit of one of the author's major arguments for eating local as much as one can.

Still, it never even occured to me that there might be a locabibe movement.

Many restaurants in my city promote their strong ties to local farmers just as Chez Panisse does. While no one would be crazy enough to instruct sommeliers in this area to go local, I have to wonder if the new policy out in Berkeley will have an influence.

If you don't live close to a natural spring, will those of you who order bottlled water make do with tap instead? The same stuff the dishwashers use?

I decided to post in this forum since it addresses a decision a restaurant made for its diners. However, I also wonder if you might think twice about buying bottled water when you shop for groceries--and thus, compromise John Mackey's prosperity even more.

* * *

Henry Lo: Please note a new item to add to your list of banned foods. :wink:

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Stuff like this makes me want to die. I don't even order bottled water but for a restaurant to ban it? Seriously?

There's talk about a restaurant in New York by the name of Varietal that recently got slammed pretty hard hard for being too pretentious. To me, choosing to ban something as basic as bottled water is downright offensive. Claiming to have the environmental upper-hand/moral high ground makes almost as nauseous as the decision in the first place.

Yes, there's the whole vote with your feet thing, which I'm a huge proponent of, but a decision like this just makes me angry. I won't be visiting Chez Panisse anytime soon so there's little I can do about this (besides post on internet web boards).

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I'm a little puzzled by the idea that bottled water is basic in the U.S., other than places with horrible tap water, like Santa Barbara. In Europe, yes, as mineral water, but in the U.S.? I also don't relate at all to the idea of boycotting a restaurant in a city with good tap water because it refuses to serve bottled water. Just how is that such an important issue to you?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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If anything, I'd say that serving bottled water is more pretentious than refusing to serve it. Personally I think the idea of paying for something I can get for free is just absurd, and I've never really seen the purpose of bottled water, aside from foreign countries maybe. The environmental impact on top of that just makes it a stronger argument.

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There might be some confusion because of word choice here. Is Alice Water just no longer serving bottled water at Chez Panisse or does *banning* mean something else here?

Restaurant owners, like all business people, are entitled to make decisions based on conscientious political or social belief. Refraining from turning an easy but maybe ecologically regrettable profit on bottled water, which anyone can buy at the Andronico's across the street from Chez Panisse, is hardly outrageous.

Though I have to admit, I'm with the others who think it's nonsense to purchase bottled water when tap water is potable, harmless and tastes just as good .

Just my 2 p.

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If anything, I'd say that serving bottled water is more pretentious than refusing to serve it. Personally I think the idea of paying for something I can get for free is just absurd, and I've never really seen the purpose of bottled water, aside from foreign countries maybe. The environmental impact on top of that just makes it a stronger argument.

There are lots of places in the US where the water coming out of the tap is not very unpalatable. Clean, maybe, but not pleasant smelling. If I could get clean, fresh smelling water out of my tap for free, I would forego purchasing bottled water. Unfortunately I can't, so I shell out a few bucks for the bottled stuff.

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I am really interested to hear about the carbonation machine - for me the extra interest added by the bubbles is the main factor in ordering bottled water over tap in a restaurant. Has anyone had it?

Catherine

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Bottled water is a huge issue in my province these days and I find it interesting to see that the debate is taking root in the US as well.

In many ways, bottled water is often tap water placed in a bottle. People pay for the bottle which in turns creates garbage and unecessary energy use for transport. This is certainly a problem... On top of that, I have read recently that bottled water is often of lesser quality than tap water.

There are, of course, places where tap water is simply disgusting as many mentionned here. Public authorities in these places should provide a better service instead of simply collecting the tax revenues from bottle water sales and from the increased commerce they engender. Increase commerce of bad stuff is hardly a good thing.

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I always thought the practice of being greeted in restaurants with an offer to select from a variety of bottled waters (as if the tap didn't exist) was somewhere between pretentious, at best, and a cynical attempt to reach further into my pockets, at worst.

I'm glad to have found another reason to abhor the practice, frankly.

Banning the practice seems a bit extreme, and I am concerned by the trend toward politcal correctness where it is convenient that seems to have taken hold recently in the restaurant industry. I'd just prefer to let an educated consumer make the decision that works best for them.

In any event, it will be fun to take a poke at the practice by pointing out the example that has been set at Chez Panisse.

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More recently, the restaurant installed a machine that carbonates the water to the same rather light degree as the effervescent import they no longer carry.

I'm glad to hear that. I would be annoyed if I got to a restaurant and found out they didn't have any kind of sparkling water. But then I always feel that restaurants don't have enough good nonalcoholic drinks.

I live in the US and I do consider bottled water a fairly basic item to have in a restaurant, but in a way that makes me respect Waters's decision more. If that's what her conscience tells her to do, good for her. There are sound arguments behind what she'd doing and, for whatever reason, I don't doubt her sincerity.

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Bottled water is, to me, one of the great environmental scandals. At least when you have something like a coal-burning power plant, you get electricity out of it -- something useful. Bottled water is a complete and utter waste of resources. They schlep millions of gallons of water from places like France and Fiji, the plastic and glass bottles, the fuel for transport, it's all so wasteful, yet if you do a blind tasting against tap water filtered with a Brita filter most people can't tell. You've got to crack up at environmentalists who drink eight little plastic bottles of Poland Spring water a day and drive gas-guzzling SUVs. Sure, there are some places in the Western world where the water is kind of lousy tasting, so in those places you need more complex filtration systems -- but they're still surely preferable to shipping water from somewhere else.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Banning the practice seems a bit extreme, and I am concerned by the trend toward politcal correctness where it is convenient that seems to have taken hold recently in the restaurant industry.  I'd just prefer to let an educated consumer make the decision that works best for them.

I have no doubt that some recent decisions by restaurant owners are pure political correctness or bandwagon-jumping. With this type of issue, though, Waters is not a bandwagon-jumper. She is the bandwagon.

"Let the educated consumer decide" does sound nice, but what does it really mean, when you are talking about running a restaurant? Let the customers tell you what to serve? And how do you decide which consumers are educated? If you are an important chef, you are supposed to be a tastemaker. Why should you be expected to ignore your own conscience?

People talk about this sort of thing like it's an issue of personal freedom. What about the chef's freedom? If they are blindly doing something like boycotting an ingredient because its use is frowned upon, then they are not acting freely, but the opposite. That doesn't mean, however, that every single time a chef stops serving something, it's a knee-jerk decision. Sometimes, there is a good reason for it.

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We have lamentable tap water. No, it won't poison you but the taste is off-putting and does nothing to enhance a meal. But I am tired of schlepping water and then schlepping the by-products (bottles or cans) to recycling and still feeling guilty about the environment impact of the whole process, so I'm in the market for a filtration system of some sort.

In restaurants I order sparkling water because I like the way it cleanses the palate. I am intrigued by the idea of 'charging' regular water. That would certainly work for me and at a lower price both financially and environmentally. So I'm with Catherine . . . has anyone tried the manufactured sparkling water?

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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If you've tasted a few different brands of sparkling water, you've tasted manufactured sparkling water. There are not very many commercially viable sources of naturally sparkling water in the world. Even when water is taken from naturally sparkling springs, additional carbonation is often injected before bottling.

I haven't done extensive research on this, but if you check around the web you'll find explanations like this one:

Carbonation: For those mineral waters which are bottled and sold as carbonated or sparkling waters, the following information is declared on the label: (a) "naturally carbonated mineral water" or "naturally sparkling mineral water" means water whose carbon dioxide content is from the same or adjacent source as the water. (b) "carbonated natural mineral water" or "sparkling natural mineral water" means natural mineral water to which has been added carbon dioxide of an origin other than the water table or deposit from which the water comes. © "carbonated or sparkling water" means water to which has been added carbon dioxide of an origin other than the source water.

http://home.san.rr.com/rj/pmsw/faqs1.htm

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Bottled water is, to me, one of the great environmental scandals. At least when you have something like a coal-burning power plant, you get electricity out of it -- something useful. Bottled water is a complete and utter waste of resources. They schlep millions of gallons of water from places like France and Fiji, the plastic and glass bottles, the fuel for transport, it's all so wasteful, yet if you do a blind tasting against tap water filtered with a Brita filter most people can't tell. You've got to crack up at environmentalists who drink eight little plastic bottles of Poland Spring water a day and drive gas-guzzling SUVs. Sure, there are some places in the Western world where the water is kind of lousy tasting, so in those places you need more complex filtration systems -- but they're still surely preferable to shipping water from somewhere else.

I guess you could say the same for soda and other soft drinks. If they are important enough to you, set up a fountain system in your home. There's no point in trucking in a product that is mostly water from distant bottlers.

For that matter, produce is a big environmental suck. Even up here in the farm-riddled Hudson Valley, our supermarkets are full of Florida and California vegetables, even while we export our own wonderful produce to New York City. Makes no sense to me...

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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There's at least some rational justification for getting produce from somewhere else: it's usually either cheaper or in some other way preferable to some people for some reason. That's not to say it's environmentally wise. But at least you get something in return for the destruction. With water you get nothing.

I do buy bottled water, though. Every few months I get a few bottles so I can fill the bottles with water from my Brita pitcher. After reusing the bottles a hundred or so times, they get kind of gross so I buy new ones. I'd happily buy them without the water in them, but that doesn't seem to be an option.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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With water you get nothing.

That's completely not true. Many bottled waters are, for me and many others, a value added proposition. The water I get from my San Pellegrino bottle can't be replicated in my home without expensive equipment. I have a whole house filter (at the tune of over $1000, plus yearly filter costs of about $500), and my water still smells bad and contains e. coli (I have a well). For me to clean it up, add just the right amount of minerals and carbonation, then package for convenience is a non-trivial cost in both time and money. The people who buy bottled water are not all just suckers being led to the slaughter by big corporations selling what they get for free. People find value and quality in what they buy. Just because you get results with your New York city water and Brita filter doesn't mean that others will see the same quality results.

Water isn't "just water".

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Anthony

I have to say it never occured to me to set up a diet pepsi machine in the house.....

this could be dangerous/interesting

oh yeah our well water is really good but it did turn orange once

tracey

edit to spell my name right

Edited by rooftop1000 (log)

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With water you get nothing.

That's completely not true. Many bottled waters are, for me and many others, a value added proposition. The water I get from my San Pellegrino bottle can't be replicated in my home without expensive equipment. I have a whole house filter (at the tune of over $1000, plus yearly filter costs of about $500), and my water still smells bad and contains e. coli (I have a well). For me to clean it up, add just the right amount of minerals and carbonation, then package for convenience is a non-trivial cost in both time and money. The people who buy bottled water are not all just suckers being led to the slaughter by big corporations selling what they get for free. People find value and quality in what they buy. Just because you get results with your New York city water and Brita filter doesn't mean that others will see the same quality results.

Water isn't "just water".

Woah, nobody is trying to make you drink bad water. If you have a bad water supply, and simple filtration doesn't do the trick, by all means you should get your drinking water elsewhere. Getting it from Scotland seems gratuitous, but sure, get bottled water. If you love a particular sparkling mineral water because of its specific flavor and bubbles, great -- buy it. But if you already have a good drinking-water supply, purchasing drinking water from halfway around the world is just a big stupid waste.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There might be some confusion because of word choice here. Is Alice Water just no longer serving bottled water at Chez Panisse or does *banning* mean something else here?

Let me clarify: I chose the title of this thread for the sake of drama, but also to complement another current topic on Wolfgang Puck and foie gras here in this forum. The word "ban" also has become a part of the culture of eGullet especially since foie gras was subject to legislation in Chicago.

Bottled water is simply not purchased or served at Chez Panisse, possibly with one exception. Those who caught the story may have heard the general manager mention one patron who pleaded that a case be purchased and reserved just for his visits. He was assured that someone would run across the street and buy a bottle of water the next time the guy returned for a meal.

* * *

Years ago before a friend married him and they moved away from Manhattan, a guy I know had seltzer delivered to his apartment in really cool glass bottles. He said it was common practice back in the day of egg creams at the corner drugstore. I assume this kind of fizzy water was locally produced?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Years ago before a friend married him and they moved away from Manhattan, a guy I know had seltzer delivered to his apartment in really cool glass bottles.  He said it was common practice back in the day of egg creams at the corner drugstore.  I assume this kind of fizzy water was locally produced?

At one time, seltzer delivery was common not just in New York, but in Philadelphia and other large US cities (or at least US cities with lots of Jews.) As far as I know, it was always locally produced, and by independent producers: I suppose you could call it an artisanal product.

Oddly, there don't seem to be many eGullet threads on seltzer delivery, but here's one. I remember a few years back listening to an NPR interview (transcript here) with one of the last remaining seltzermen.

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HA- when the price of bottled water is far more per gallon than GASOLINE, I think it is certainly time to make a change. evian=$10 per gallon... and gas 'round here is about $2.59 right now i'd say?

lead the way, Miss Waters

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If you've tasted a few different brands of sparkling water, you've tasted manufactured sparkling water. There are not very many commercially viable sources of naturally sparkling water in the world. Even when water is taken from naturally sparkling springs, additional carbonation is often injected before bottling.

I haven't done extensive research on this, but if you check around the web you'll find explanations like this one:

Carbonation: For those mineral waters which are bottled and sold as carbonated or sparkling waters, the following information is declared on the label: (a) "naturally carbonated mineral water" or "naturally sparkling mineral water" means water whose carbon dioxide content is from the same or adjacent source as the water. (b) "carbonated natural mineral water" or "sparkling natural mineral water" means natural mineral water to which has been added carbon dioxide of an origin other than the water table or deposit from which the water comes. © "carbonated or sparkling water" means water to which has been added carbon dioxide of an origin other than the source water.

http://home.san.rr.com/rj/pmsw/faqs1.htm

Sorry, I didn't use the right words. I realize most sparkling water is augmented but assume the restaurant-sized equipment (versus a massive bottling plant), coupled with whatever might be going on with the tap water there, might not yield the same results. I have thought of getting a co2 cartridge apparatus for home use but, again, our water is sufficiently bad tasting that I can't imagine it would do that much good. I'm pretty insane about going to great lengths to get the desired result but filtering and then charging water - in the quantities that I consume - would require more waking hours than I'm willing or able to give. If the restaurant-scaled equipment weren't prohibitively expensive, it might be worth finding space for.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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