Our meal at Chez Panisse took place last night (Sat.)when we were treated by a friend who takes us out to thank us for taking her in on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The menu was as follows:
We started with a small glass of delicious prosecco flavored with Mayer lemon.
Beef consomme of Magruder Ranch grass fed beef with ginger and (the menu said basil but there wasn't any) what looked like fresh porcini mushroom pieces. It was pretty good but not anything nockyersocksoffish. The best thing was the slivers of ginger which lent a much-needed punch to the soup.
We ordered a half-bottle of Merry Edward's Sauvignon Blanc to go with the next course. There were 4 of us, but my hubby is a light drinker and we each had the perfect amount. This stuff is really tasty. My sister ordered her Pinot Noir at Olivetto last time we were there and (altho she's usually a BIG FULL CABERNET type, she loved this pinot) so she was disappointed that they didn't have the ME Pinot. The waiter said "Well, we DO have her S.Blanc..." the rest is history.
The soft shell crab (of which I've never been a fan) turned out to be magnificent. It was deep fried and crispy, with a red pepper sauce that was piquant but not overpowering. The rubber bandy-ness I've disliked in other ssh crab I've had was not evident at all. I could have eaten at least one more.
Now we ordered the 1997 Cornas Domaine Auguste Clape. Very tasty and delicious. I was a bit disappointed that they didn't have the wine with "sang de cailloux" on the label, because I've always wanted to drink blood from stones, but the Cornas was reallllly good. A thank you to Robert L. for the push in the right wine direction.
Our main course was smoked duck breast fanned out on the plate and accompanied with fresh peas, turnip greens, turnips, and asparagus. I was a bit worried about the smoked part because smoking can sometimes overpower. This was, however, tea smoked and cooked rare. The menu said the dish also had pancetta, but none of us got any on our plates. This dish is an example of CP's forte. There was no cream or truffles or champagne sauce. The plate looked Spartan, just the fanned out duck breast and the veggies on the side. But the taste was just perfect. All of us were "mmmmm"ing. I once picked up a plate and drank the rest of the sauce upstairs in the Cafe, but I was just too chicken to do so downstairs. The sauce was that good. Oh, and I don't usually like turnips.
The dessert was a Pavlova with blackberries and boysenberries and creme fraiche ice cream. Say no more, say no more. Suffice it to say that I could have happily eaten all of the pavlovas at our table and those at the next. I hadn't had a meringue in years and never a Pavlova w/out kiwi fruit.
All in all it was a really delightful meal. We weren't stuffed, but we were totally satisfied. I sometimes get irritable about Alice W's "roasted Far Wind Away Farms beets with Frodo Baggins hand-fed chicken saute" menus, but after I thought about it, I realized that this was giving these folks a thank you for providing the great produce, meats, etc., and that she has given publicity to these guys and now they can make a living raising/growing things organically.
Our friend has now scored big time two years in a row...last year we went to Incanto and had a great meal.