I suspect that 65% of my readers know who Alice Waters is. For the rest of you, don’t feel bad- before a year ago, I only had the vague sense that she would get angry if I went to Taco Bell.
Alice is the reigning queen of the local, organic, sustainable food movement. She is a larger-than-life, polarizing figure, whose unyielding adherence to her principles has led critics to deride her as elitist, unrealistic and preachy. Anthony Bourdain had these choice words:
“Alice Waters annoys the living sh*t out of me. We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic.”
Despite her fierce dogmatism, I believe in everything she supports. It’s obvious that huge agri-conglomerates are destroying family farms, the quality of our foods, our health, etc. But more than her ideals, I’m interested in her food.
Alice’s iconic Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse is one of the most legendary and well-regarded restaurants in the country. I can’t read a food book without being hit over the head with some ripple this place caused in the Restaurant Sea (lame metaphor). At some point, I stopped thinking of Chez Panisse as a real place. When you read about something so much, in such epic terms, it becomes mythic, like Narnia or the Gulf of Mexico.
So when SK suggested we just pop on over to Chez Panisse on Memorial Day, I thought “AS IF!” There was no way we could get reservations without 7 months of advance warning, never mind the prices… Wrong. Berkeley ain’t New York.
Without batting an eye, SK snagged same-day reservations at Chez Panisse’s more casual, upstairs cafe. Granted, the reservations were at 1:45 pm (not exactly prime time), and the entrees were around $20 (not exactly a steal) but it was still within our grasp…
Part one of two