Another day, another dozen cups of coffee! Where did we leave off in “Farm to Berkeley Part One“? Oh yes: BREAD. We really could leave it there and you’d probably go to Chez Panisse, but just in case you don’t love bread as much as us (we all have our deficiencies), read on to hear the conclusion of our Farm to Berkeley excursion and debate.
The Part About Wine
Oh how Scout and my eyes widened when Daniel requested the wine pairings! Scout’s telling me that he knew wine pairings were the plan all along, but he so did not know that. (Then again, Scout did sneak off to Napa for a sommelier class in early March…) Scout and I agree that delicious food speaks for itself so rather than do this meal injustice, we’ve shamelessly furnished you with photos of dinner paired with our daily allowance of fermented fruit.
Scout and I agree that delicious food speaks for itself.
Scout and Daniel’s favorite dish of the evening was also our first dish of the evening: Bellwether Farms sheep’s-milk ricotta with artichoke fritters, radishes, and fennel. For a brief moment, the herbal aromas wafting from the plate took Scout back to his days as a young bunny hopping free among the… desert sands in scorching Nevada heat? Yeah… that flashback ends in death and starvation. With an unsettled shake of his helicopter ears, Scout just asked if I’d sprinkle fennel in his dinner bowl on occasion. As for the wine, it was red, delicious and tasted like an Italian vacation.
Up next: BEWARE THE STINGING NETTLES! Okay, Scout retracts that comment, but it was his first thought when he was presented with: Seared sea scallops with nettle risotto and pancetta. I fear that I’m partially to blame for Scout’s apprehension since I’ve often related a rather suspenseful story of a time in Oregon with my sister where we climbed a tree and ended with a rash from none other than STINGING NETTLES. When Scout was just a small rabbit, I told him this story as a cautionary tale much like Chileans warn of the flesh-eating chupacabra. (In retrospect, I probably just should’ve told him to steer clear of large floor vents or cyanide pellets.) After some reassurance, Scout finally took a small taste of that creamy, green risotto and never turned back.
I ate the seared scallops that were utter perfection paired with white wine that tasted like the tears of baby dolphins. (Happy tears. Not Japanese dolphin hunting tears. More like, “OMG. It’s the birthday party for our baby dolphin in our family of cuddly baby dolphins on YouTube” tears.)
Now we’ve arrived at a controversial dish: Spit-roasted Rancho Llano Seco pork loin with fava and cannellini bean gratin, wild mushrooms, and wilted escarole. This is where Scout’s love of fine food and his vegan nature collide in an existential crisis that rivals British royalty’s love of pastel blazers and the nagging suspicion that the money could be better spent elsewhere. This was the big one. Nevertheless, Scout is not unfamiliar with John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism so he conceded that since protein is central to human survival, he would partake of the beans, mushrooms, and escarole while Daniel gave us the assessment of the pork. Daniel’s assessment: “Delicious.” Who can argue with such a resoundingly confident one-word review? Scout says that he could argue, but Daniel is his favorite so he won’t. (Now Scout’s just being vindictive about the stinging nettles thing.)
Well, all good meals must come to an end and since we were pushing 8:00 p.m., it was time for dessert. If you know anything about Berkeley, you know that crepes are a bit of an institution there. What donut shops are to Los Angeles, creperies are to Berkeley. This is why all three of us, Scout, Daniel, and myself, were delighted to finish our meal with none other than: Crêpes suzette paired with dessert wine.
The pictures really speak for themselves: warm, refreshing, and utterly satisfying. As for the dessert wine pairing? It’s creamy finish bathed our citrus infused palettes. Wait… What are you talking about, Scout? On that uncomfortable note, let’s just keep moving forward.
It’s creamy finish bathed our citrus infused palettes.
Where were we? Oh yes, Scout and I were telling you about dessert… As the meal ended, Scout thanked Daniel and I for joining him for dinner which was confusing since he joined Team Frymire for our romantic early anniversary dinner. When I clarified this at dinner, Scout just chuckled. Then he thanked us again for joining him AND for making him laugh. I was pretty positive that Daniel booked the restaurant and invited me, but then again… Maybe we did join Scout?
The Uncomfortable Question
Scout wants you to know that he’s a little offended by my question. You know the one. The one that goes, “When did farm-to-table become too good for us chip-eating-plebeians?” I think it’s a fair though (slightly) sarcastic inquiry. Since I know you’re pining to get in on this debate, I’ve included a transcript of sorts for your reading pleasure:
Anna: Farm-to-table has become elitist. I thought the movement was about appreciating local farmers’ craft, eating healthfully, and enjoying food instead of masking it with a bunch of chemicals. (To be fair, microwave ramen is 99% chemicals and admittedly delicious so I might be biased toward chemicals on some occasions.)
Scout: Anna is exaggerating and conflating snobbery with farm-to-table instead of recognizing them as two mutually exclusive entities. Farm-to-table IS about changing the way we view food and appreciating the slow, thoughtful creation of meals that are both delicious and nourishing.
Anna again: I agree that’s what I want from a farm-to-table restaurant, but those restaurants are so expensive and I feel like the instagrammers have taken over and ruined it for the rest of us. It’s all become pretentious and inaccessible. (Scout didn’t want you to know this, but I have to tell you that THIS comment gave him pause.)
Instagrammers have taken over and ruined it for the rest of us.
Scout after a suspenseful moment of reflection: Fresh food is expensive and thus it’s expensive to serve. Also, when you visit an exclusive restaurant, you’re not merely paying for the ingredients, but for the chef’s ability to perfectly prepare those ingredients. This is why many, but certainly not all, farm-to-table restaurants seem overpriced. In fact, healthy eating is becoming more accessible as more consumers demand healthy choices. (Now Scout gave ME pause.) I felt a little like the guy in the background of this photo.
This transcript could go on, but we really digressed in the conversation and began researching the best way to earn thousands overnight in an effort to better support our eating habits. In the end, we didn’t come to any real conclusion on the farm-to-table movement or on making thousands overnight. Perhaps we’ll pick up on the discussion another time. Or perhaps you, good reader, want to weigh in with us? Scout can get a little argumentative when people disagree with him, but he doesn’t bite to kill so please, comment away!
The Part We’ve Been Waiting For
This, captive reader, is the close of our daunting task: reviewing downstairs dinner at Chez Panisse. Scout hopes that he’s succeeded as he introduced you to one of his favorite culinary icons and her sublime tree fort nestled among the streets of Berkeley, CA. A quick search of Alice’s name will yield reviews by the most acclaimed food authors from across the country and world, but this is the very first time Alice has been subjected to the harrowing scrutiny of a culinary savant rabbit. Thus, it is with great pleasure that Scout declares:
Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse is most definitely a #5 on Scout’s Foreboding Five-Point Scale:
Scout says, “Grab your tribe and form a line!”