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Chez Panisse, Zuni, Oliveto: worth the money?

Robert Lauriston | Feb 26, 200512:57 PM

Making the love-hate discussion more restaurant-specific and strictly local.

Consider Thursday night's menu downstairs at CP:

- Tomales Bay oyster ragoût with leeks and lemon sauce

- Winter vegetable feuilleté with wild mushrooms

- Spit-roasted Hoffman Farm chicken with black truffles, fried potatoes, and mâche salad

- Warm buckwheat crêpes with candied tangerine ice cream and blood oranges

I could make all those things at home, if I started a couple of days ahead. But I'd be spending the evening in the kitchen rather than at the table with my friends. And I probably can't get mushrooms or truffles as good as they can. And I don't own a wood-burning oven with a rotisserie. And I'd have to clean up afterwards.

Or this selection from Oliveto's upstairs menu last night:

- Knoll Farm Cardoon and Potato Soup
- Charcoal-Grilled Sierra Mackerel with Jerusalem Artichoke Purée

- Potato gnocchi with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Fava Beans
- Raviolini of Willis Farm porchetta
- Trompetti with Calabrese Sausage ragù

- Spezzatino of Sonoma Lamb with polenta

- Spiced Persimmon Ice Cream
- Warm Fig and Frangipane Crostata with Anise Ice Cream

That's some very challenging shopping, plus some advanced and labor-intensive cooking.

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