chez panisse

December 8, 2011
Just as a warning: this post is photo heavy. It's pretty standard for me to go somewhere and take a lot of photos, but I have to be really in love with the photos to share the majority of them.

That's where Chez Panisse comes in. If you haven't heard of world-famous Chez Panisse, I won't judge you. I didn't know what the restaurant was up until a few months ago but it turns out my parents used to eat here a lot in the late 80's, early 90's.

Norris, one of my dearest friends, was an intern for the Office of Alice Waters and wanted to show me and Jamie where she worked (and what she got to eat every day for lunch).

walls of menus past
the menu

This restaurant was all about the details. The etchings on the glass carafe, old prints of former Chez Panisse menus all over the walls, the fact that the waiters carried around wooden boxes to hold silverware.

nettle & pecorino pizzetta
crab & scallop endive salad

We ate family style. We ordered two appetizers, three entrees, a dessert and shared everything:

Crab and scallop endive salad (my favorite)
Nettle and pecorino pizzetta
Mushroom and pea ragu pasta
Quail and squab with persimmons and herb toast
Fried rockfish with potatoes and celery root
Chocolate meringue and mocha ice cream drizzled with espresso caramel sauce

It was the best way to taste everything without getting too full too quickly (which was inevitable anyway).

mushroom & pea pasta
quail and squab
fried rockfish
chocolate merengue, mocha ice cream & espresso caramel sauce

After taking a long, leisurely lunch in the cafe, Norris took us on a little tour of the restaurant and of Alice's office. Each of the spaces was humble and small-- a real testament to their rustic meals and their approach to food. The kitchen was crowded and busy, humming with warmth.

For an entire week, Chez Panisse only needs two standard sized garbage cans. (You know, the kind that can fit one adult in it and no one else.) Everything else is either composed, reused or recycled. How amazing is that?

restaurant kitchen
cafe desserts of the day
in alice's office

And then we walked into Alice's office. Alice's office. An entire wall dedicated to cookbooks. Lemony soap in the bathroom. Striped twine for sending out books to friends. It made me happy to think that even though she's become so well-known for "pioneering California cuisine," she still takes pride in the beautifully simple things.



  1. awww I'm glad I stayed up late enough to see this post go up! Looking back, we had three entrees instead of two. I had trouble remembering the pasta because I think it came way earlier than the other two entrees!

    I can't believe you picked up on ALL the little details that you did about the restaurant and the office. it makes me really happy because those are the details that make Chez Panisse such a special place to me and it's hard to describe it to people but you've managed to do that perfectly with your words and photos : ) That little tidbit about the trashcans--I tell that to everyone I give a tour to but I think you're the first to understand why I think it's an important detail to share in the first place!

    The photos are gorgeous. I especially like the set of three ice cream photos. Must share this on Facebook! Please don't mind <3

  2. Your parents passed on their foodie genes. Well done, Noche family, well done.

  3. that place looks ridiculously good.

  4. i just slid off of my chair and onto the floor and melted secret life of alex mac style. everything looks wildly delicious and your photos are beeeautiful.

  5. Yum <3 great food & photos!

  6. i ate here over the summer. oh my god it was amazing!!!! everything was so fresh and beautiful and delicious! and Alice came over to our table! great photos!!!

  7. Norris, apparently I can't count. I'll go edit that now hahaha.

  8. oh my gosh! i was so excited/jealous while reading this. Alice Waters is one of my mother's, and by extension, one of my idols. I even have an old Chez Panisse poster from the 80s in my kitchen. Everything looks so beautiful and delicious!

  9. i love this restaurant! when tom and i got married my co-workers at the time bought us a gift certificate there. we went on our one month anniversary and brought a bottle of champagne. it was the most delicious meal ever!

  10. i heard about chez panisse & alice waters a while back. looks just as delicious as npr made it sound! also whatever my dinner will be officially pales in comparison :)

  11. Mmmm.....this post made me hungry!

  12. aaaahhhhhhhhhh! I'm over here drooling.

  13. oh GORGEOUS photos you have !! new follower right here. especially love the first two :D

    really beautiful overall blog!

  14. My god, the food looks soooooo good!

  15. beautiful photos, beautiful blog:) yay!

  16. Beautiful photos! I love them.
    P.S. The font you asked about is called 'Dancing Script.' It's a font option in blogger.

  17. Gosh... I just finished a heaping bowl of pasta with cauliflower, garlic, and anchovies yet this post is making me hungry all over again. Thanks for letting me vicariously enjoy your Chez Panisse meal! It must have been amazing to be in Ms. Waters' inner sanctum, and I love how they are able to keep their waste down to two cans a week (which is what some families manage to produce each week).

  18. This all looks sooooo delicious!!

  19. i always get excited when you put the "this post is going to be photo-heavy" disclaimer on a post. i love love love the way you take pictures.