Chez Panisse hosted Sierra Nevada Brewing Company at the CP Café last week. The meal and the beer were absolutely fantastic.
We started the evening with a tasting of Sierra Nevada’s new Estate Ale. The party grouped around Chez Panisse’s small outdoor courtyard and sipped this very light almost airy brew. The Ale is brewed entirely on Sierra Nevada property with 100% all natural hops and barley grown on site. CP had placed out a serving bowl of rosemary-spiced nuts which were a nice accompaniment to the beer.
Upstairs, we broke down into parties of four or six or eight and ate at the regular seatings in the upstairs. The Café menu was the same with three special additions made with SN brew.
Our four ate family style. And thank god for that because the food, almost every dish we sampled, and the beer were fantastic and filling.
None of the menu appetizers were made with SN beer which surprised me. We sampled four: the Bellweather Farm ricotta with roasted Japanese eggplant, mint and cherry tomatoes (the ricotta and tomatoes were dueling packets of sweet explosions; the eggplant sliced thin and sautéed to a nice softness, but not mushy); the Cannard Farm rocket with smoked Paine Farm squab and persimmons (our least favorite dish – the squab tough and the Persmissons just plain bland); the baked Anedante Dairy goat cheese with garden lettuces (the goat cheese was dusted with mild herbs and then gently baked; so deliciously warm and comforting and the lettuces were young, tender and tossed with a bright lemon dressing. I think the favorite appetizer…except for….) and the pizzetta with gypsy peppers and torpedo onions (thin crust pizza with wonderful burnt edges and topped with angry red but surprisingly mild peppers and thinly sliced sweet onions. Wonderful).
We paired the appetizers with three different beers, one of which I can’t remember. The Estate and the SN Blonde - a very mild, pale-colored ale -- both were perfect for the variety of dishes we enjoyed as appetizers.
We then shared four mains: the Becket Lane Farm pork braised with the Blonde Ale served with a squash puree, fennel and apple relish (I normally HATE HATE HATE fennel but in this dish it was a soothing background note in the relish; the pork was REALLY PORKY which I hadn’t tasted in what seems like eons. Delish. Almost like a belly but with no fat; it turned out to be shoulder and I couldn’t believe it); rockfish fried in SN Blonde batter accompanied with green beans, marinated beets and tartare sauce (the batter coated fish was so light and sweet; the fresh beans and beets a perfectly cooked side – just al dente) sweet corn polenta with grilled peppers;, shell beans and chanterelle mushrooms (cheesy corny polenta, what more can you ask for?) and grilled chicken with mushrooms and rosemary shoestring potatoes (the chicken was not memorable, but honestly those potatoes were shaved, I kid you not, and then cooked to perfection perhaps in butter and oil – we gobbled them up)
We then shared a cheese plate – sumi; herbillette and Comte Reserve des Granges (three great cheeses but typically CP – no accompaniments - no bread, no fruit, nothing but the cheese)
The final was a SN Stout milk chocolate ice cream with cocoa meringue (yummy, but by then I was puffy with good food). I enjoyed a blue bottle coffee and then we trundled out the door and home.