Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An anniversary dinner to remember

Detail of wallpaper at
Chez Panisse.
Photograph ©2014,
Lori Korleski Richardson
We were due to be in Berkeley on the day of our 25th wedding anniversary, so there was one restaurant that immediately jumped to the top of our list: Chez Panisse.

And we were not disappointed. Although a printed menu comes to each table, there was more to each dish than what was described. Each course seemed somewhat small, but by the time we were done, we were quite full. We ordered a glass of Spanish sparkling rosé (a 2011 Cava Rosado) for each of us to start, then I had a glass of chardonnay (2010 Votes du Jura, Peggy et Jean-Pascal Buronfosse, France) with the fish course, and Jim had a pinot noir (2011 Ponzi Tavola, Willamette Valley) with the duck (we shared sips).

After we were seated in a room that had been redone after a fire closed the restaurant last year, and presented with menus and a wine list, a basket of rustic whole wheat and a pain d'epi came, with a small butter bell and some fleur de sal. A server then came by with a few green, unpitted olives that had been marinated in orange and lemon zest.

 Here are the menu items, followed by photos.

Porcini mushroom and celery salad with fava beans, mint and new garlic vinaigrette. The favas were mashed and spread on a delightful crostini; the sprouts and radish were also nice additions. Much to my delight, the celery was absolutely fresh and not overpowering in quantity.

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson
King salmon in saffron brodetto with agretti greens. The broth was made from halibut and the little yellow orbs were cooked and peeled yellow cherry tomatoes. The poached squid was amazingly tender and tasty. Agretti is a salt-tolerant plant that is native to the Mediterranean, but tonight's greens were locally sourced. They had the look of rosemary, the taste of spinach and the texture of a delicate seaweed.

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson
Grilled Salmon Creek Ranch duck breast and leg with sage and pine nut salsa, wild rocket and squash tian. As you can see from the photograph, a couple of spears of peeled asparagus slipped in, along with a generous grate of parmesan. The sage was muddled with the pine nuts, rendering it an amazing seasoning for the duck. The leg was exceedingly rich, having been cooked confit style then crisped, while the breast was grilled in the fireplace until just warm. It was so melting tender that practically dissolved on our tongues. The tian was like a light, crustless quiche. Side note: Wild rocket, indeed. Just try keep arugula in the garden.

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson

Star blueberry tart with candied Meyer lemon.

I stopped taking photographs before dessert arrived, so I'll try to describe it the best I can. The tart was a slender slice, with a light, whole wheat crust. The candied Meyer lemon was in tiny bits scattered on a side drizzle of honey and a goodly number of raspberries. On the other side was a dollop of vanilla-bean crème anglaise. It was pure heaven.

After dinner, our server stopped by with the restaurant's version of an Almond Joy: two tiny coconut macaroons and two almonds dusted in cocoa.

What could we say but yum! And we'll be back well before we celebrate our 50th.