40th Birthday Dinner #7: Philip Calls it Chez

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006 | 40th Birthday, Food, Friends

Philip and I had dinner at Chez Panisse last night. He’s buddies with one of the cooks, so we ate in the kitchen at the “chef’s table.” After sticking our noses in the fridge to see all the little piggies hanging from hooks, and being seated, everyone, one at a time, came up to us and greeted us and chatted as they shuffled about to prepare their dishes. They were all calm, having fun, no sweat. There seemed to be no exertion at all in preparing what was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had.

We started off with a salad of heirloom tomatoes served with a grilled sardine and couscous. The couscous, we both agreed, didn’t make much sense, other than as a diverting texture, but actually, come to think of it, the other flavors, which were bright and fresh, were made in a way more brilliant by the couscous, and it served as the perfect medium to carry the juices and olive oil from plate to mouth, so never mind what I just said about it not making sense. A lamb course followed, marinated lamb served with okra, wild greens, beans and a hint of coriander. The sauce was light and infused with soft lambiness. The wine that was paired with it was a dynamite Spanish wine, a 2000 Rotllan Torra priorat reserva. It smelled of earth, a soft sulfuric volcanic nose that led to blissful cherriness and soft fruit, like rolling around in a dusty field while kissing a spanish youth and slowly unbuttoning his shirt while eating an apple. Sue, the pastry chef, really knocked my socks off, transforming the ordinary with such little gestures into the extraordinary. She served us deep fried mission figs served with a ginger-infused cream, raspberries, and drizzled with honey. Simply amazing. Every taste bud sang a song of love. Thank you Philip! Do you have any buddies at The French Laundry??

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