You can’t escape reading about “organic”, “sustainable”, “local”, and “ethical farming” everywhere these days–in newspapers and magazines (not just food ones), and it’s getting big coverage on TV too (food scares, the obesity “epidemic”, farm subsidies, discussions about Michael Pollan’s best-selling The Ominvore’s Dilema” etc.). Trying to eat food that is real is one of the hot button issues of our times. Living in the Bay Area we have a huge privilege over most of the U.S. due to our proximity to some of the best, and most diverse, produce growing regions anywhere (and that includes grapes grown for wine!).
The feedback we get here in our office on what’s become a constant basis from magazine and newspaper editors, as well as TV producers, is “What authors and books do you have that talk about organics, and sustainable, locally grown foods?”. We have various books that have come out in recent years that have either been ahead of their time, or quite recently released and totally in line with people desiring food that’s fresh, not treated with toxic chemicals, and that hasn’t been flown from 5000+ miles away to get to you Tomatoes in February? Forget it.
These food issues are truly on my mind on a daily basis (it is impossible not to when you’re directly connected to the world of food in the early 21st century!).
It had been a little under a year since I last ate at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and I can say that it’s the first time since moving to Berkeley in 1995 that I had an intensely heightened sense of all parts of the hot-button OrganicSustainableLocal triumvirate. Even though many people might balk at trying to adhere to these methods of eating/sourcing these types of ingredients due to perceived elitism or financial privilege, what it all comes down to is getting the critical mass to start eating REAL food again–non-processed or artificial. It seems so logical to me that it’s frustrating that the convenience of buying food in the mad rush of these times has eclipsed people’s enjoyment of it!
The highlights of the meal (enjoyed with two first-timers visiting from Toronto, who truly made the pilgrimage to Chez Panisse one of their necessary stops on their vacation):
a bottle of Navarro Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2005
a bottle of J Vineyards Pinot Noir 2002 (we brought that!)
Pizzetta with rocket salad and prosciutto
Celery soup with chervil and crème fraîche
Local white sea bass roasted in the wood oven with gypsy pepper salad, almonds, and tzatziki
Sonoma County duck breast with green beands, turnips, and summer truffle
Ram Das Orchards Santa Rosa plum tart with cardamom cream
Coffee chocolate-almond ice cream with bittersweet chocolate sauce (I wonder who’s chocolate they use? Hmmm…)
SUBLIME–the food is always exceptionally fresh. Cooking with this sort of lovely directness is something to aspire to at home; what Alice Waters and company established 30+ years ago hasn’t lost an ounce of relevance–preparing simple, elegant food, pure in delectable flavor in line with the growing season is not only sensible and good for you–it’s what tastes BEST.
Quite excitingly for Chronicle Books, we will for the first time ever be publishing a book with Alice Waters about The Edible Schoolyard, in Fall 2008. More to come on that in the not-so-distant future…
Senior Marketing Manager | Food & Wine