I suffer from a freakishly excellent memory for great meals.  I can recall meals from decades ago, the people that shared my table, and the surroundings that helped to make the evening extraordinary.  When I lived in San Francisco, I would regularly dine alone in extravagant dining rooms, creating an extensive journal of my dining on the front covers of books that I brought along.  It was well before the advent of blogging, and I have a huge library of these former meals.  On more than one occasion, I was mistaken for The San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic, as the chefs and staff could clearly see me taking notes throughout my dinner.   The best meals, however, have always been shared with family and friends, filled with equal amounts of chef talent, professional service, and good company.

Each week, we will begin offering up reflections on just such meals from the previous week.  It might be in the dining room of one of our own clients, perhaps an out of town adventure, or maybe even a meal enjoyed in the home of a friend.   We have but one rule here: ACKNOWLEDGE GREAT DINING!  There is no catty criticism, no snarky blogger telling a professional chef or barman how to do his job.  Rather, we lift up these professionals, and offer up our experiences with them as a small way of thanking them.  This is, after all, why we do what we do.  And why we love it.

First up, Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley, California.  We traveled to San Francisco last week for a cookbook tour.  And, of course,  we managed to eat.   We ate very, very well, indeed.  A late dinner the night of our arrival at Zuni Cafe was delicious.  The following day found us astonished by lunch at Pizzeria Delfina and an exquisite dinner at Spruce in Pacific Heights.  As we left to drive back to Los Angeles, our final meal together was shared at Chez Panisse Cafe over lunch.   And what a lunch it was!

We noticed something very interesting during the course of this lunch – Silence swept over our table as each course was delivered.  First, we would inspect, smell, and dissect the dish.  But soon after, we were both just so astonished at how wonderful every single dish that arrived tasted, we were repeatedly rendered speechless.  Of course, you can expect that I will ruin a quiet moment in seconds with moans and sighs with each bite.  So here is our lunch, in photos and few words, just as we enjoyed it at the restaurant.

Hog Island Clams cook in the wood oven with sherry, saffron, and romesco sauce

Roasted Duck from Salmon Creek Ranch with hazelnuts and frisee salad

Cannard Farm cardoons, potatoes, and egg

House-made rigatoni with tuna confit, tomatoes, black olives, capers, and hot pepper

Riverdog Farm chicken breast wrapped in pancetta with autumn squash puree and kale

Interestingly, I noticed after our meal that an LA food blogger had commented on my check in at Chez Panisse, offering “I still remember a cauliflower soup that I had at lunch fifteen years ago…incredible!”  I suspect I’ll still be talking about this one in fifteen years, too.

Thanks, Alice!

Chez Panisse, Berkeley California

The DCPR dine out series.

Episode One.