At KKDL, we’ll be the first to admit: we’re a little spoiled in Sacramento. As the Farm-to-Fork capital of the world, we’re sitting on some of the yummiest, freshest ingredients imaginable. From farm-grown veggies to craft breweries, we’re at the helm of organic nibbles. Still though, we get an itch every now and then to venture to other places with renowned eats. On a recent trip to Berkeley, we had the pleasure of dining at Chez Panisse Cafe, a culinary masterpiece crafted by the famous chef Alice Waters. Ms. Waters has been in the restaurant industry for nearly 40 years and her devotion to farm-fresh ingredients and food education is exemplified in her one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Chef Waters started a food revolution in 1996 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School with the Edible Schoolyard, a one-acre garden adjacent to the school that served as a gardening center, classroom, lunch spot, and a model for educating kids and young people on what they eat, how it grows, and how they can create a sustainable planet through their food choices. The success of the Edible Schoolyard served as a launching pad for her next project, the School Lunch Initiative, a national agenda focused on integrating healthy food curriculum into schoolchildren’s everyday academia. Ms. Waters has been recognized several times over for her outstanding work and is a prolific author and chef as well.
Chez Panisse is situated in such an unassuming way, you almost miss the wooded entry. Once in the dining room you can take a look at the menu, which is prepared each day with only the freshest ingredients– The date is even printed at the top to showcase it’s total freshness! Everyday the menu evolves and changes and we were delighted to see our courses for the evening: a fig rocket salad, tomato bread soup, steak, salmon, and a creamy dessert. We uncorked a bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose and began our culinary exploration.
The first course, a fig salad, was simple yet so satisfying. They say the proof is in the pudding, but in this case, it was in the fig. Refreshing and refined, the fig salad was the perfect introduction to the rest of our meal. A piping hot bowl of tomato bread soup came next, reminding us of the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese combo we know and love, just a little more elegant. The yummy ripened tomatoes shown through in this dish, making a tough case for which was better: the soup or the salad.
For our main courses we were treated to succulent sliced steak and a delectable salmon dish. Decorated with bright, colorful vegetables and steamed in a fig leaf with a tarragon dipping sauce, the salmon was decadent. A perfect pink color and heavenly texture made us forget we were eating something that was actually good for us! If you’re a meat eater, we highly recommend coming to Chez Panisse for the beautifully grilled steak. A hearty steak sampling combined with a savory sauce, fried shoestring potatoes, and a healthy heap of summer squash rounded out our main courses. The food was delicious and the portions were just right, perfect because we were definitely ready for a sweet treat. A chocolate sherbet and vanilla ice cream meringata with bittersweet chocolate sauce and toasted pecans graced our table for the final course, accompanied by a sweet Italian coffee. To say we were extremely satisfied would be an understatement! The staff were also very friendly and informative, making it even easier to fall in love with this wonderful dining experience.
We highly recommend this dining experience to anyone who enjoys fresh, succulent ingredients, beautifully crafted dishes, and a lovely sit-down dinner in a quiet, beautifully decorated space. Now excuse us while we go make a reservation for another dinner at the wonderful Chez Panisse!