Most of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die are monuments, cities, or other areas of interest. Its rare to find a shop or business as one of the destinations you must absolutely see before you kick the bucket. However, in Berkley California, one restaurant has the distinguished honor of residing on this list. Chez Panisse, the world famous restaurant opened by chef Alice Waters over 30 years ago is named "the restaurant that changed the way America eats" by this book.
On one of our many trips to the Bay Area, we decided to get ourselves into this famous American restaurant and were lucky enough to snag a reservation at the Chez Panisse Cafe located on the upstairs level. On the outside, the restaurant looks like a private club. Large beautiful trees hug the walls of the building and only a wooden sign above the entry way tells you where you are. Inside on the ground floor you can get a glimpse of the kitchen with chef and sous chefs prepping meals. We showed up at a time between lunch and before dinner. We had been lucky enough to get the very last reservation of the lunch period. We were seated at a table by some windows where the branches of the trees outside reached inside. Its as if the trees are trying to reclaim the building.
The menu, which is never the same from visit to visit, presented an amazing list of dishes with fresh vegetables, recently caught fish, and local meats. This is what Alice Waters, and her restaurant are famous for. She is credited for introducing the concept of fresh organic eating to the American dining public. Critics have rightly pointed out that her reputation has reached somewhat of a ridiculous level of crunchy granola eating proportions. I can see the point of her critics but on the other hand, I've also had her food. Its wonderful. Each of us chose a different dish and shared bites from each plate without fear of ridicule. I could go into detail about each dish, but then you'll never be able to get them in the way we did on that day. When you go, the menu will be different and the presentation altered.
What I can promise is that you'll find a gourmet meal that feels familiar yet reborn. There are no foreign sounding alien ingredients. Simple foods from local sources. As with the many cities we've visited where I've thought, "this is what life should be like," eating at Chez Panisse is the best way to introduce yourself to the way we should all be eating. I realize that in this review I'm not going in to detail about the individual tastes in each bite of food I had but really, I don't know how I could. Dining at a restaurant of this caliber with this attention to preparation is something we all need to experience for ourselves. The feelings and emotions a good meal stirs are personal and unique to every person. Chez Panisse truly is deserving of its spot on the list of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die.