Over Memorial Day weekend, I had the chance to go to Alice Water’s acclaimed restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. A friend had given me a gift certificate for Christmas (thanks Jo!), so I have been waiting for the opportunity to come up – since we live in Santa Barbara, it would have to be on one of our visits up north to the Bay Area. We had lunch in the Cafe, and it was everything I had imagined, and more! We shared a salad of arugula with kumquat and seared duck breast, Matt had a dish of chickpeas and fava with poached eggs and harissa, I had ricotta and wild nettle pizza, and we finished with blueberry peach cobbler with almond ice cream. Oh, and a glass of lemon green tea that was perfect. Delicious!!!
What is so special about this particular restaurant, you ask? Well..
Alice Waters was one of the first people to use locally-grown ingredients in her restaurant. Back in the 70’s, I guess this was unheard of in the fine dining world, so she was a bit of a revolutionary. She only serves what is in season from farms in the Bay Area, and all of their meat/poultry/fish is also locally sourced. The menu is somewhat limited and changes daily – dinner in the restaurant is one fixed-price menu of several courses, while the cafe has an a la carte menu.
In addition to the restaurant, Alice Waters has been a major force behind the Edible Schoolyard project, which works to get local fresh food into school cafeterias and teaches students how to grow food and how to prepare it. It seems so common sense, and yet if you look at the way students are fed in the schools today, you can see how far we’ve gotten away from buying and eating food grown close to home. To learn more about Chez Panisse, click here, or go visit the restaurant yourself the next time you’re in Berkeley (but call for reservations first!).
And on a local Santa Barbara note, I visited the Burger Bus last week for lunch. Owners Cheryl & Michael retrofitted a short yellow school bus into a mobile burger stand, which they park at a different location each weekday. They use ONLY local ingredients – bread from Our Daily Bread, cheese from Spring Hill Cheese (my personal favorite at the farmer’s market -their garlic cheese curd is to die for!), beef from Shalhoob’s that is 100% grass-fed, hormone free, and vegetables fresh from the farmer’s market. They also have homemade falafel for those of you not into burgers. I didn’t even have time to take a picture of our burgers we devoured them so fast! So check out their website to see when they’re at a location near you, and support this innovative new local business.