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May 19, 2010

Chez Panisse

IMG_1946 Thirty days ago, Peter ran frantically into the house.  He and Kelsey had just come home from her First Communion Retreat and he was anything but calm.  He was muttering and sputtering, and I couldn't get a word in edgewise.  I started fearing the worst, and finally he came up with,

"I swear, 30 days before, I swear, I was up at 6 a.m.!"


"I swear, I went to Open Table, I clicked on May 17, a table for two, it was ONLY 6 A.M. and it was fully booked! How could this* be?!"

I was taken aback.  I knew this anniversary celebration would be important, given his upcoming deployment, but never guessed in my wildest dreams that this was in the offing.  Yes, I had mentioned it now and again, but I didn't expect him to remember that there was one place I really wanted to try.  A local establishment just down the road, a homey yet rustically chic kitchen known for its gastronomic delights. 

  IMG_1957 IMG_4550 Peter was trying desperately to get reservations for Chez Panisse.

I hadn't said anything in months, and with everything else that was going on, it was now the last thing in my mind...but not his.  He was so worried that I would be upset if we went on May 18, instead of May 17.  I couldn't get over the fact that we might actually enter the restaurant with reservations for one of the famed seating times. 

He planned a new attack.  He set his alarm for 11:59 p.m., kept Open Table up, and clicked on the 6:00 p.m. slot the minute the clock struck midnight.  Success! 

Four weeks later and several hours later, the sitter was here,  the kids had their salad and pasta, and we headed up to Berkeley.  Despite hitting traffic, we arrived in good time, and snagged a parking space only yards away just as the meter struck 6 p.m.   The restaurant blended well with the neighborhood, a simple brown building dressed primarily in greenery.  We stepped through the door and began our journey to slow food heaven.

IMG_1952IMG_1953I cannot say that I am a food critic of any sort, but one would have to be hard-pressed to have a single complaint about the meal.  The halibut tartare melted in our mouths.  The garlic soup was so light, but the touch of the poached egg and toasted bread stretched it close to a meal.  The quail was tender and juicy, petite, yet filling and perfectly paired with the fava beans and greens.

The slow food was just as it should be...prepared from local products with such care, spread out so as to not overwhelm, and completed with a just a hint of dessert (oh, the strawberries...).  Our waiter, Howie, was available when necessary, but unobtrusive and exceedingly skilled with wine pairings.  It truly was an evening to remember. 

Oh, sweetie, thank you for such an incredible treat.  Next year, same place, same time?  I'm only half-kidding....

Note: Please ignore the grainy photos, there's only so much an iPhone can do...

*It is a little known fact, but Chez Panisse does not give reservations more than 30 days ahead of time.  It is probably a more widely known fact that they book up quickly.  Thus the only way to ensure a time at the restaurant is to book the moment the clock strikes midnight.  You could try and call the next day....but I wouldn't wait that long!


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Oh, Jen, what a truly adorable blog entry! Oh, poor Peter! How was he to know that he would run in to such a thing? The restaurant being booked THIRTY DAYS in advance?

I must admit, I've never heard of such a thing, either!

So glad you guys got to go! But poor Peter... what a cute blog post...

Glad it went well. I've always wanted to go there. I'm a bit surprised they employee someone named Howie, though.

@K, I think he underestimated its popularity!

@Zoe...so were we...very surprised when we saw that on the bill.

A special treat for sure. I must say that I am impressed that your husband remembered the restaurant and to book it in advance. That is really amazing. With the way our lives are right now, we don't make reservations because it just leads to some sort of disaster in our lives...maybe someday.

What a great evening and such a fine restaurant! Happy anniversary-again!

Thanks for the good times, LOL!


amazing. I have every one of Alice Water's cookbooks and others. They are simple and elegant. I've been dreaming of dining here for as long as I can remember. I'm glad you guys had such a memorable time. It sounds LOVELY.... I've always found perfect meals to be life affirming. Happy Anniversary. That's gonna be hard to top!

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