After finishing law school in Wisconsin, Nancy and I migrated to the Bay Area. It was the best compromise between the cosmopolitan city to which I aspired and the natural beauty that Nancy craved. Within a year we had moved from San Francisco to an East Bay hamlet that does not exactly appear on any maps: Broakley. Broakley is a far Northeastern section of the City of Oakland that is, in many ways, more connected to Berkeley than it is to Oakland. At the cultural center of Berkeley (and, it might be said, Broakley) was Shattuck Avenue. And at the beating heart of Shattuck Avenue was and is Chez Panisse.
At the time I did not know exactly what Chez Panisse really meant. Upstairs at the cafe was all that we could afford on our own. Downstairs was reserved for special occasions when my parents came to town. I may not have understood what Panisse and Alice Waters meant in the arc of American culinary history but I tasted it. And it was everything.Alice and Chez Panisse are convinced that the best-tasting food is organically and locally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. The quest for such ingredients has always determined the restaurant’s cuisine. Since 1971, Chez Panisse has invited diners to partake of the immediacy and excitement of vegetables just out of the garden, fruit right off the branch, and fish straight out of the sea. In doing so, Chez Panisse has established a network of nearby suppliers who, like the restaurant, are striving for both environmental harmony and delicious flavor.
The mark of Waters’ and Panisse’s impact on the American culinary scene may best be shown by the fact that this Mission Statement on the Chez Panisse website sounds somewhat trite today. It was revolutionary in 1971. With her emphasis on sustainable agriculture and locally sourced seasonal ingredients she helped fundamentally change the way American’s think about food. It is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that Waters was the founder of the modern American farm-to-table movement. It did not exist as a movement of import before her and it has ever since.
On Saturday, December 7 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Chino Farms (6123 Calzada del Bosque, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067), Waters will be signing her newest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food II. A beautiful vegetable-focused book with 200 new recipes, Waters shares her passion for the many delicious varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that one can cultivate in their own kitchen garden or find at a local farmer’s market. The book showcases flavor as inspiration and embodies her vision for eating what grows in the earth all year long.
Also signing the newly released 25th Anniversary Edition of his classic book, Adventures on the Wine Route will be Kermit Lynch. Lynch was born and raised in California and in 1972 opened a retail wineshop and later began importing and distributing nationally. “Wine is above all, about pleasure. Those who make it ponderous make it dull … If you keep an open mind and take each wine on its own terms, there is a world of magic to discover,” says Mr. Lynch. In 1988, he published Adventures on the Wine Route, which won the Veuve Clicquot Wine Book of the Year Award. The “magic” of wine is Lynch’s subject as he takes the reader on a singular journey through France’s countryside, especially its wine cellars. In this 25th anniversary edition the wine lover will find wisdom along with vibrant portraits of the people and the terroir. Alice Waters describes Lynch as a “revolutionary wine merchant who almost single handedly has brought about a new understanding of wine as a unique expression of land, tradition, and people”.
As part of this double book signing, East of Echo will be playing a soulful music mix for steel pedal guitar, banjo, bass and trumpet; Bottaro Woodfired Pizza will be making custom pizzas using seasonal Chino produce; Kermit Lynch selected wine samples will be served and Ballast Point Brewery will pour beer tastings.
Mayonnaise is something we take for granted in this country. Its something, we seem to assume, that comes out of a jar. Not in my world…and not in Alice Waters’ world either. Mayonnaise is one of the many ubiquitous condiments in the American diet that can be homemade very, very easily and with results vastly superior to the jarred, store-bought stuff. Here, typically, a trip to the herb garden guides Waters’ recipe. Pounded basil makes a beautiful green mayonnaise. Serve it with grilled fish or a tomato salad.
Makes 1 cup
Pick the leaves from:
½ bunch of basil (about ½ cup lightly packed)
Coarsely chop the leaves and pound them to a paste in a mortar with:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
Whisk the yolk, water, and basil together. Into a cup with a pour spout, measure:
1 cup olive oil
Very slowly dribble the oil into the egg yolk, whisking constantly. As the egg yolk absorbs oil, the sauce will thicken, lighten in color, and become opaque. This will happen rather quickly. Then you can add the oil a little faster, whisking all the while.
If the sauce is thicker than you like, thin it with a few drops of water. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.
• Substitute ½ teaspoon lemon juice in place of half the water.
• Instead of basil, use a mix of other tender herbs such as chervil, parsley, chives, tarragon, or very tender thyme or anise hyssop.
• Pound 1 or 2 cloves of garlic in the mortar before adding the basil leaves.
• If your olive oil is especially pungent, substitute vegetable oil for part of the total quantity.