First off, let me just say, Napa Cal-here I come!!! The wife and I were in town to secure a place to live, and as our trip coincided with our anniversary (either the third or thirteenth, depending on how you look at it) we opted for a Saturday night dinner at Chez Panisse.
I have read those who say they don't get what the big deal is about CP. Having been there about half a dozen times now, I can only say-whats not to get? Pristine ingredients prepared simply and perfectly. The meal started with warm olives and a slug of white wine fortified with a house made orange liquor. Appetite awakened, we were next presented with a salad of white asparagus, baby heirloom beets, those perfect CP baby greens, and big chunks of chilled lobster, all bound with a very delicate tarragon flavored mayo. A perfect match was the Sinskey Pinot Blanc "Los Carneros" 2000. Next came a very flavorful sugar pea broth with lambs-milk ricotta gnocchi and fresh morels. I have a serious morel fetish, and this dish did not leave me wanting-a wonderfully complete spring dish (at the end of spring, no less!). The main course was Elliot Ranch lamb cooked in the fireplace, and served with baby turnips and a fava bean gratin. Every few minutes you could hear the popping crackle of lamb shoulder as they crisped the skin just prior to service-the smell coming out of the kitchen was intoxicating. Speaking of intoxication, our lamb was punctuated by the Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 1988 I brought from my own collection (88 being the year Bianka and I were set up on our blind date). The merlot was admirably concentrated and very Bordeaux-like. I at first thought the wine was passed its peak but after an hour and a half (!) in a decanter much of the funk blew off revealing a powerful and graceful wine, with a suprising cedar and spice nose (again, quite Bordeaux-like). The meal ended with an uncomplicated but delicious Bombe Tropicale-sort of like an ice cream cake made with coconut, passionfruit, and mango ice creams.
Someone once told me that they thought Chez Panisse was like very well executed home-style cooking, which is true to an extent, but the home cook would be very hard pressed indeed to acquire ingredients that shine like those used at CP. The white asparagus was by far the best I've had all season, the lamb was incredibly succulent and mild.
Overall, a perfect dinner to celebrate a special occasion.
Peace and Grub y'all.
P.S. Brandon, I saw that you borrowed my "tag line" a while back. Gee, I didn't know you cared! Hope to be meeting all the hounds in NoCal very soon. Peace!
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