To know it, is to love it.
We hung the walls with old French movie posters advertising the films of Marcel Pagnol, films that had already provided us with both a name and an ideal: to create a community of friends, lovers, and relatives that span generations and is in tune with the seasons, the land, and human appetites.
So writes Alice Waters of the opening of Berkeley's Chez Panisse Café on April Fool's Day, 1980. Located above the more formal Chez Panisse Restaurant, the Café is a bustling neighborhood bistro where guests needn't reserve far in advance and can choose from the ever-changing à la carte menu. It's the place where Alice Waters's inventive chefs cook in a more impromptu and earthy vein, drawing on the healthful, low-tech traditions of the cuisines of such Mediterranean regions as Catalonia, Campania, and Provence, while improvising and experimenting with the best products of Chez Panisse's own regional network of small farms and producers.
In the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook, the follow-up to the award-winning Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters and her team of talented cooks offer more than 140 of the café's best-recipes--some that have been on the menu since the day café opened and others freshly reinvented with the honesty and ingenuity that have made Chez Panisse so famous. In addition to irresistible recipes, the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook is filled with chapter-opening essays on the relationships Alice has cultivated with the farmers, foragers and purveyors--most of them within an hour's drive of Berkeley--who make it possible for Chez Panisse to boast that nearly all food is locally grown, certifiably organic, and sustainably grown and harvested.
Alice encourages her chefs and cookbook readers alike to decide what to cook only after visiting the farmer's market or produce stand. Then we can all fully appreciate the advantages of eating according to season--fresh spring lamb in late March, ripe tomato salads in late summer, Comice pear crisps in autumn.
This book begins with a chapter of inspired vegetable recipes, from a vivid salad of avocados and beets to elegant Morel Mushroom Toasts to straightforward side dishes of Spicy Broccoli Raab and Garlicky Kale. The Chapter on eggs and cheese includes two of the café's most famous dishes, a garden lettuce salad with baked goat cheese and the Crostata di Perrella, the café's version of a calzone. Later chapters focus on fish and shellfish, beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, each offering its share of delightful dishes. You'll find recipes for curing your own pancetta, for simple grills and succulent braises, and for the definitive simple roast chicken--as well as sumptuous truffed chicken breasts. Finally the pastry cooks of Chez Panisse serve forth a chapter of uncomplicated sweets, including Apricot Bread Pudding, Chocolate Almond Cookies, and Wood Oven-baked Figs with Raspberries.
Gorgeously designed and illustrated throughout with colored block prints by David Lance Goines, who has eaten at the café since the day it opened, Chez Panisse Café Cookbook is destined to become an indispensable classic. Fans of Alice Waters's restaurant and café will be thrilled to discover the recipes that keep them coming back for more. Loyal readers of her earlier cookbooks will delight in this latest collection of time-tested, deceptively simple recipes. And anyone who loves pure, vibrant, delicious fare made from the finest ingredients will be honored to add these new recipes to his or her repertoire. xo