We enjoyed another spectacular Monday night dinner at Chez Panisse last night. Attracted by the description of Chevreau Printanier on the website, I called just a week in advance and got a table for 3 at 8:30. As soon as we entered the dining room, we spotted two (cleaned but very recognizable) goats rotating on spits above the open fire. There is a visceral, almost spiritual reaction that occurs when one sees a large animal being slow-roasted over dancing flames. We sat down with great anticipation.
We were served some salted radish slices to whet (tease?) our appetite, and invited into the kitchen to take a closer look at the goats. They had been roasting for 2 hours and our server said they would soon be coming down. Of course we took him up on the offer, and were barely able to pull ourselves away. We also spied bowls full of gorgeous purple asparagus and green artichokes and knew they too were destined for our plates and tummies.
After re-sitting we recevied our appetizer, a delightful crostini with mashed potatoes and line-caught cod, served with a salad of rocket, celery root, and thinly shaved asparagus. The flavors were all light and the vegetables, as one would expect, were deeply flavorful.
With appetizers out of the way, our excitement grew. After a seemingly long wait that could not have been much more than 10 minutes, our plates finally arrived. On one side were the nettle flan and the spring vegetables (peas, artichokes, chard). On the other side was a large pile of assorted goat meat in a pool of vibrant juices. Each of us recieved a nice assortment of different cuts, highlighted by a double rib with crispy crackling skin on one side and moist meat falling off the bones on the other side.
The lone woman among us initially thought she would not care for the goat ribs, perhaps put off by the unmistakable anatomical connection. After eating the rest of her meat, he asked the other two of us (whose plates were licked clean) if we would care for her remaining goat. We foolishly suggested that she at least try the rib meat, which she did, promptly deciding that she had no interest in sharing with us and within moments had devoured each morsel and was sucking on the bones.
When the waitress came to clear our plates, we hopefully inquired about the availability of seconds. Unlike the Cassoulet night 6 weeks ago, this request met with a knowing smile and a promise to "See what she could do." Several minutes later she came back with a communal plate for us to share, complete with a flan, some vegetables, and some new cuts of goat that had different textures to our first servings but were no less delicious. All the goat had a deep, rich flavor that was something like lamb but both lighter and more interesting at the same time. Most of the goat I have eaten in my life has been older goat, typically stewed or braised with strong spices (ie Caribbean or Malaysian dishes) but I came away a big fan of young spring goat. We drank a very reasonably priced Westrey Pinot Noir (Oregon) that was juicy and balanced and went very nicely with all the food.
Dessert - tangerine sherbet and blood orange granita, with some delicious tangerine segments - risked being a bit of an anti-climax, but managed to be appealling and refreshing in its own right, a nice mix of tartness, sweetness, and even a little bitterness.
We left as happy with a meal as can be - a completely unique and special feast at reasonable prices and with minimal fuss and formality. We vowed to return soon, and certainly hope to be back for the same meal next year!
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