Tuesday, February 23, 2010

San Francisco Food Adventures

It's not a recipe, but I feel that my recent trip to San Francisco warrants its own post! I had the great opportunity to dine at Chez Panisse, the restaurant of Alice Waters. At this restaurant, Waters invented what's known today as "California cuisine". It features "the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry." Naturally, with such fresh and high quality ingredients, the food in simply incredible. The four of us ordered the following dishes with a bottle of Côte de Brouilly and then a few glasses of dessert wines:

First course
Cannard Farm rocket with marinated beets, shallots, and mustard flower
Hand-stretched mozzarella with Kaki Farm asparagus, prosciutto, and black olives
Half a Dungeness crab cooked in the wood oven with fennel salad and Meyer lemon
Pizzetta with chanterelle mushrooms, wild nettles, and Parmesan
Artichoke soup with crème fraîche and mint

I got the beet salad which was really good…the beets were so tasty and amazing! Wonderful with the rocket too. Our favorite was the pizzetta. Amazingly good. I really hope we get nettles this summer from our CSA in Chattanooga, TN so that we can somehow attempt to replicate this!

Bellwether Farm ricotta ravioli with green garlic, artichokes, peas, and black truffles
Grilled Liberty Farm duck breast with butternut squash purée, roasted vegetables, and sage
Suisun Valley Farm pork alla milanese with celery root rémoulade, watercress, capers, and little potatoes
Pizza with tomato sauce, spicy Monterey Bay squid, marjoram, and aioli

I got the ravioli which everyone agreed was the best. Kelly and Ed said Chez Panisse's pasta dishes are always the best. Homemade, obviously, and just super tasty and flavorful. Perfect balance and blend of flavors. Delicious with the truffle on top!

Pink Lady apple and huckleberry tart with crème fraiche
Blood orange upside-down cake with cardamom cream
A plate for two of hazelnut-almond chocolates, Barhi dates, and candied Cara Cara orange peel
The blood orange cake perfectly represented and conveyed the flavor of the blood orange. It went just beautifully with the cardamom cream!

The little copper lamp and S&P grinders that were on every table

Chez Panisse's website says "Alice and Chez Panisse are convinced that the best-tasting food is organically and locally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations." Sounds very nice in theory, of course. This may be easily realizable in California, a state where the growing season lasts year round. Yet this is much harder in other parts of the country and the world where this is not the case. Also, food produced this way tends to be more expensive--another significant hurdle in promoting the widespread consumption of organic and locally grown food. Thoughts and comments are much welcomed and and appreciated!


  1. Looks like you guys had a fabulous dinner!

    I think you're right to point out the feasiblity of locally grown produce in the climate of California. Local food cuisine is still do-able, but less spectacular in other climates. I hear nature writer Bill McKibben (author of The End of Nature, among other works) has written about cooking primarily local, seasonal foods in upstate New York. I'll have to hunt around and see if I can find that piece.

    While I agree with the ideals behind the local and organic food movements, I think you are right to point out the logistical and financial hurdles. At present our agricultural system is organized around large scale commodity crops (corn, soy beans, dairy, meat) that may not serve us best in the goals of providing people with nourishing (and tasty!) food. It remains to be seen what impact the presently small scale local and organic foods movements will have on our on society as a whole. Who knows, maybe in thirty years the name Alice Waters will have a ring like that of Rachel Carson.

  2. i've always wanted to eat there, but it seems like our classic conundrum - do you pay a lot for really good food that you could cook at home? what is your new perspective?

  3. Definitely worth it, I'd say! Though Chez Panisse's equivalent up here...je sais pas, moi!

    And I completely agree, Chris, about the current structure of American agrobusiness. Though, that's a big topic that's probably better reserved for another post...perhaps one next week after hearing Robert Kenner, the producer/director of Food Inc., speak Sunday night!