Chez Panisse Cafe was pretty much packed last week on Monday when Jasmine and I got there. I had read that they were doing beer pairings all week and we were already going to do a East Bay beer day for SF Beer week, so why not have a fancy lunch? Unfortunately they didn’t have formal beer pairings, like we had expected. They did have some special East Bay beers on tap and a few different bottles then usual. The waitress was willing to give pairing them a shot for us, but I thought it would be fun to come up with our own.
We started with the Rye’d Piper, from Ale Industries (Concord, CA). We’ve never had this one before (or anything from Ale Industries at all) and it was great. It is one I am going to watch for. Distinct dark rye flavor. We paired it with a Pizetta with tomato sauce, egg, and sausage. The pairing was OK – but both parts, the pizza (pizetta makes it seem small but it was pretty big for an appetizer) and the beer on their own were great. They did not hurt each other really, it just was not an “Oh My!” pairing. But damn that pizzetta was good. The egg on top was ridiculously tasty.
Next we tried Drake’s Denoggonizer IPA and Linden Street’s California Common. Go East Bay! I have had both of these beers before and like both. It almost made me giggle to try them at the Chez Panisse Cafe. Something about the intersection of great beer and great food. We had the Drake’s with the Squid, leeks, and potatoes roasted in the wood oven with romesco sauce. Pause and think of all the amazingness in that sentence. I know it’s hard, you weren’t there, but let me tell you this worked. It all came together. I thought the Drake’s would be too much for the squid but the way it was roasted, and with the sauce, meant the meatiness of the dish went so well with big beer.
We weren’t sure about the next pairing but decided to try the Scrambled eggs with black truffle, herb salad, and grilled garlic toast with the California Common. The pairing just wasn’t really there. My fault really. The hops were a bit too much for the oh so soft eggs. Seriously, they were subtle but amazing. We scarfed down the eggs and licked the plate, then finished the beer.
We were drawn to the Persimmon pudding with caramel sauce and creme chantilly. I bet I could have found a beer to go with it, but we had plenty of beer still to drink that day, so we instead had some coffee. They also have a Drake’s Imperial stout milk chocolate and vanilla ice creams with candied pecans, and bittersweet chocolate sauce on the menu. Maybe they will keep making it even after beer week.
Walking out of the restaurant we spotted Michael Pollan coming out of the restaurant next door. Not that surprising to see him dining in Berkeley, but still amusing to me. It was a great afternoon of simple, delicious food, a beautiful dining room, and local fine beer. Beer with lunch is usually a good idea, and for us, last Monday, it was especially true.