A meal at Chez Panisse has been on my bucket list since interviewing Alice Waters last year for The Guardian. Her influence has spread around the world championing local, seasonal and organic produce.
Fans and locals all come to pay homage at Waters’ unassuming restaurant tucked away in Berkely which is about 45 minutes from San Francisco by train. In the evening the downstairs restaurant operates a set menu but by day you eat in the upstairs “café” which is more formal than the name implies with starched tablecloths and a retro 70s feel thanks to lots of heavy wood panelling. They do take walk ins and I just turned up at about 1pm on a Friday and got a table straight away.
Waters’ food is executed simply. There’s a bravery in garden lettuce lightly dressed and served with two small rounds of creamy baked goats cheese rolled in bread crumbs to add crunch ($12). It really lets the lettuce and cheese shine.
Even confit duck ($26) while perfectly executed, has an almost home cooked feel to it. This rich dish is perfectly balanced with the bitterness of chicoroy and green beans. Chanterelle mushrooms and a sticky fig relish add depth.
Figs are in season here and the most tiny figs I have ever seen appear again for dessert, slow cooked and sweet on a galette ($26).
Even though this meal was a few weeks ago now I still can’t stop thinking about it. It was a master class in simplicity and flavour. Certainly worth ticking off the bucket list.
Details: Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck avenue, Berkely, California, United States
Gourmet Travel Tips
- I flew to San Francisco with Qantas via Los Angeles. Tickets are about $1,600 return. It’s then about a 40 minute trip on the train to Berkeley.
- In San Francisco I stayed at Nob Hill Inn ($2oo a night) and the Marriott ($500 a night) on this trip.
- Must dos include travelling on the cable cars, riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and heading to Alcatraz. I’ve also done a hiking yoga tour and Avital food walking tours which were both great